By Maquis Leader
Author’s note: Set after Basics part 2.
“Chakotay – Chakotay, can you hear me?”
“I hear you.” He wiped sweat off of his forehead with the back of his arm. “I’m almost done here. Another hour – maybe two.”
“Maybe?” Kathryn knelt beside the open hatch and peered down the access tunnel to where Chakotay crouched next to a damaged relay. “You need to rest.”
“Chakotay, you’ve worked through three straight duty shifts. Even I only worked through two.”
“I’m fine.” He repeated, setting the spanner onto a scorched bolt.
“Don’t you think you’re overdoing it?”
Kathryn sighed and sat down. She was bone tired, even after the four hour nap that she’d forced herself to take. Chakotay had to be exhausted.
They had recovered Voyager from Seska and the Kazon, but it had been anything but a clean victory. Five dead, four in sickbay, the ship in a shambles and barely capable of defending herself if more Kazon ships appeared.
And one first officer working himself to death. “Chakotay, don’t make me order you into bed.” She bit her lip at the accidental double entendre.
Normally, he’d give Kathryn a look that would let her know she wouldn’t have to order him to her bed. But today he felt too hollow to play the game. “There’s work that needs to be done.”
She didn’t answer, and Chakotay resumed working. The damage was his fault and he should do as many of the repairs as he was able to do. If he dropped where he worked that was justice.
“Working yourself to death isn’t going to help.”
The soft voice so close startled him, and Chakotay jumped, causing the spanner to slide off the bolt. Cursing, he sucked on a skinned knuckle.
“Neither is beating yourself up.” Kathryn took his hand and eyed the scrapes. “Not too bad, but it wouldn’t hurt to stop by Sickbay.”
Kathryn had crawled along the access tunnel until she was close enough to say what she felt she had to say to Chakotay without worrying that someone working nearby would hear.
“This isn’t your fault.” She held up a hand when he started to protest. “I made the decision – I did – not you.”
“Because of me.”
“Because there was a child in danger – an innocent child – a baby, Chakotay. I couldn’t leave a baby to be murdered – especially when he might be killed just because of who his father is.”
“Except that I wasn’t his father.” The bitterness surprised him. When Seska had first told him of the child, he’d been angry and resentful. Even after speaking with his father in a vision, he’d had no real feelings for the child.
Seeing the baby, even for the few moments that Seska had allowed him, had sparked something inside of him. This was his child. His son. Only he wasn’t. The runaway shuttle ride of emotions had left him numb and unsure what to feel.
“She played us – played all of us.” Kathryn squeezed his hand before letting go. “You – me – Cullah – we were all pawns in her game.”
“Kathryn, I had a relationship with Seska. We were together for almost a year before I ended it.” Chakotay picked up the spanner from where it had fallen inside the access panel. He felt uncomfortable talking about his relationship with Seska – especially with Kathryn. “How could I not see her for what she was?”
“Because you weren’t looking. You weren’t yourself at the time – you’ve said as much yourself.” She stopped him as he tried to work on the damaged relay again. “Chakotay, there was no way for you to know.”
“I still – “
“No – no more.” Taking the spanner, she tossed it into the tool kit beside him. “I want you to go to your quarters and rest.”
“I don’t have – “
“By rest I mean a shower, hot food, and at least eight hours of sleep.” Kathryn ignored his protests, raising her voice just enough to talk over him. “If I see you outside your quarters before twelve hundred hours – I’ll have Tuvok put you in the brig.”
A raven eyebrow arched up. “The brig?”
“At least then you’ll get some rest.” Her tone softened. “Chakotay, later – once this crisis has passed – we’ll sit and feel guilty together. But right now, we just don’t have the time.”
“All right. I’ll go get something to eat and try to sleep.” Kathryn was right; they didn’t have the time or luxury for him to work himself into total exhaustion. “But I’ll be on the bridge at oh eight hundred hours.”
“Ten hundred.” She countered. “And you’ll stop in my ready room for coffee and a roll.”
“Only if we use my rations.”
“I wouldn’t dream of protesting.” There was a twinkle in the smoky blue eyes. “Go on. I promise, the first chance we get for some leave, we’ll lock ourselves in and have a private pity party for two.”
“It’s a date.” The words came automatically, but the feeling wasn’t there.
Showering was easy enough; it was surprising how grimy and dirty a damaged starship could be. Eating was harder – the food had no taste, and Chakotay pushed it away half finished. Sleep was impossible.
Closing his eyes allowed images of Seska and her child to roll through his mind. For Seska, he felt nothing. She had been dead to him for some time. But the child…
Chakotay wasn’t sure how he felt. Sad, relieved, empty? Sitting up, he threw off the covers and got out of bed. Guilt was the only true emotion he could lay his hands on.
He had bedded a snake and never noticed her scales. Seska had coiled herself around him, feeding his hate and anger until he was blinded to her real form. The entire crew could have died because he had let her deceive him.
If not for Paris – Chakotay laughed at the irony. Once again, Tom Paris had saved his life. Soon he’d owe his firstborn to pay the debt. Irony again. He had thought he’d seen his firstborn.
Walking into the main room, Chakotay opened the cabinet that held his medicine bundle. Speaking with his father had helped soothe his spirit when Seska had first told him – lied to him yet again – that she carried his child. Perhaps his father would come to him now.
He settled himself comfortably on the floor, spreading out the contents of his medicine bundle before laying his hand on the akoonah. Tension flowed out of his body until he felt lighter and nearly weightless…
Something coiled tightly around his chest and Chakotay gasped for air. His arms were pinned to his sides, trapped by the slowly moving bonds.
Looking down, he saw the thick body of a snake wrapped around him. The childhood fear of snakes came rushing back and he cried out, struggling to free himself.
One arm pulled free, and he shoved at the coil holding his other arm. “Father! Father, help me!” If he died in a vision – would he wake up? Or would his body die also?
“Chakotay, how many times must I tell you to stop fighting?”
“Father?” Chakotay looked up to see his father sitting on a log a few feet away. “Help me!”
“You must help yourself first.”
“I’m trying!” He slapped at the snake’s scaled hide as it tried to pin his arm back down.
“You must stop fighting.” Kolopak’s eyes were sad. “You are always feeling one way when you should feel another.”
“Help me – lecture me later!”
“I can’t – “ The serpent’s massive head reared up before him. “It will kill me!”
“Of course it will!” Chakotay grunted as he finally freed his other arm and caught the snake’s jaw with both hands.
“Chakotay, you must stop fighting – stop struggling against your past and embrace it.” Kolopak shook his head. “Only then will you be able to seek your future.”
It went against his nature to give in – to let the snake win. Nature… my nature… Chakotay let go of the snake’s head. He closed his eyes and waited. The snake would eat him or –
He fell to the ground, his father’s laugh ringing in his ears. “And B'Elanna thinks my sense of humor is warped.”
“I wasn’t laughing at your struggle.” Kolopak reached out and took Chakotay’s hand, pulling him up to sit on the log next to him. “Sprawling in the dirt – that I found funny. You should, too.”
“Should I? Should I laugh or cry?” Chakotay rubbed his face. “I accepted the child – you were right – his conception wasn’t his fault.”
“Of course, I was right. I’m always right.” A dimple flashed in his cheek. “One of the advantages of being on this side – there is so much to see!”
“The child wasn’t mine – you know that already, I suppose?” At his father’s nod, he continued. “I feel – sad, but I should feel happy. Loss – but why? A child with her would be wrong – but I feel – empty – “
“Chakotay, always so contrary. It is your nature, true, but you cannot allow it to rule your life.” Kolopak laid an arm around his son’s shoulders. “When you were born, feet first – “
“You’ve told me that story, Father.”
“Have I?” He raised a hand to stroke Chakotay’s hair. “About how you were blue? And how I breathed life into you?”
“No – never.” Being born feet first was a tale told often to show proof of his contrary nature. But he had never heard that he was nearly stillborn. “You never spoke of it.”
“It pained your mother. Even though you were fine, and grew to be a strong and healthy child.” A smile of loving indulgence for his wife’s feelings. “I held you – wet and slippery from your mother’s womb – and still as death.”
“My emotions were as scattered as yours are now, Chakotay. Joy at the birth of my first child – sorrow – rage – fear – love – all these things.” Kolopak gripped Chakotay’s face and looked into his eyes. “My nature is to think – just as yours is to be contrary. I looked deeply into every experience of my life – explored them to the fullest.”
“How is that wrong?”
“It isn’t – but if I had taken time to explore and examine all those conflicting emotions – “ He caressed his son’s cheek. “My child would have died. So I resisted my nature.” He pulled Chakotay into his arms and cradled his head on his shoulder.
For a spirit, his father was very solid and very strong, but he had no reason to resist. Relaxing against his father’s side, Chakotay looked up into the gentle brown eyes and smiled at the love there.
“I breathed life into you, Chakotay. Gave you my breath.” Kolopak lowered his head until his mouth hovered over his son’s.
His father’s breath was sweet and pleasant, and Chakotay began to feel lightheaded. Closing his eyes, he let the feelings wash through him. He shifted slightly, into a more comfortable position, and he felt like a small boy once again. Safe and secure. Loved and protected.
“I love you, Chakotay, my contrary son.”
Chakotay’s eyelids were too heavy to hold open as he reached up to touch his father’s face…
Blinking, Chakotay saw the akoonah come back into focus. He felt refreshed – stronger and more at peace than he had been in a very long time.
“The past in the past, and I can’t change it.” He picked up the medicine bundle and put it away. “The child is with his father, and Seska must deal with her own fate. And I must try to be less contrary.”
He walked to the view port and stared out at the stars. His face was reflected in the transparent aluminum, the black inked lines standing out on his temple. Reaching his fingers to the image in the glass, Chakotay traced the lines. “I love you, my father.”
“Good morning, Kathryn.”
Looking up from her repair report, Kathryn smiled at Chakotay as he entered her ready room. “It’s almost eleven hundred hours! I was thinking about sending a rescue team.”
“I decided to take your advice and get a good night’s sleep.” He picked up a sweet roll off the platter she’d replicated and took a bite. “Good – lots of icing.”
“You look better.” He looked damned good, Kathryn had to admit. Black velvet eyes twinkling with humor and a smile on his face. “What’s your secret?”
“Don’t fight the snakes.”
“Don’t fight – is that an old Indian legend of some kind?” She shivered. “Because I hate snakes.”
“So do I.” Grinning, Chakotay licked icing off his fingers.
“It means that the past must remain in the past and that I need to look to the future.” He allowed himself to look over Kathryn’s body in the black and red uniform. “And not allow my contrary nature to keep me from what’s mine.”
“I – “ Kathryn flushed as she read the double meaning in his words. “We need to go over the repair reports.”
“Have dinner with me tonight?”
“I’ll bring the wine.”
He took the PADD she handed him, his fingers brushing hers for a moment longer than was proper. The future was full of opportunities now that he had a clear look at it.
*Kolopak's actions in Chakotay's vision was inspired by a conversation with Ralkana when she said "You'd think Chakotay would have suffocated being born feet first like that." Thanks Ral!