The 60th Rule*
By Maquis Leader
Author’s note: Set during The Voyager Conspiracy. Thanks to Ralkana for the title!
Inside the cargo bay, Kathryn paused as she spotted Chakotay standing next to Seven’s alcove. What is he – stop being silly, Kathryn! Squaring her shoulders, she walked over to him.
He looked up at her and then back down at his tricorder. “I picked up a power surge coming from the cargo bay.”
“I detected the same thing. You think it’s the enhanced alcove?”
"Could be." Chakotay kept his tone neutral.
"Let's take a look." Moving past him, she looked pointedly at the phaser at his waist. "Are phasers standard equipment on board now?"
Her tone was casual, but he noticed the phaser clipped to Kathryn’s belt and a chill ran through him. “Must be.”
Looking at the alcove’s display, Kathryn frowned. “The data buffer's been activated."
"I wanted to make sure it wasn't malfunctioning." Even to his own ears, he sounded guilty.
Turning to face him, Kathryn put her hands on either side of the alcove. “You should be careful." She hesitated for a second before adding. "Someone might think you were trying to delete a few files."
"Why would they think that?" He frowned at her.
"Some of those files could contain sensitive information." Stepping down from the alcove, she put her hands on her hips.
"If that's true, somebody might think you were trying to do the same thing."
They looked at each other for a moment, both aware that they were dancing around the subject. It was the elephant in the room that nobody wanted to look at.
Kathryn took a deep breath and looked the elephant square in the eye. "That catapult out there – it's a powerful piece of technology. If the Maquis ever had access to something like it, they might have been successful."
So that’s what she thought? Or is that what Seven told her? "And if we had, your mission to the Delta Quadrant never would have gotten off the drawing board."
Kathryn shook her head. So that’s what he thought? Or is that what Seven had told him? "What are you talking about?"
"The mission you've been on for the last five years." Tossing out the suspicion, he waited for Kathryn to debunk it.
"My only mission is trying to get Voyager home!" She held out her hand as though she just needed Chakotay to give her one more puzzle piece to see the whole picture.
"Seven showed me the sensor records.” He offered up more of Seven’s theory. “I saw the tractor beam."
"She showed me the same thing. But she implicated you in some kind of Maquis plot." Relief poured through her, and a smile tugged at the corner of her mouth.
"Same evidence. Two different theories." And we both bit like hungry fish.
“It all started with those damn photonic fleas. She was downloading Voyager's database – “ Rolling her eyes, Kathryn allowed her embarrassment to show through. “I can’t believe I fell for that.”
Chakotay laughed softly; he had known Kathryn wasn’t planning on using the catapult to pull in an invasion fleet, but there had been just enough truth in Seven’s ‘facts’ to throw him. From the look on Kathryn’s face, she felt just as silly as he did. He reached out to pat her shoulder.
He rarely touched her as she did him, and Kathryn treasured every touch, counted them and kept them locked away within her heart. This time, however, her emotions were too close to the surface and she backed away. If he touched her, she might throw her arms around him.
The hurt in Chakotay’s eyes as he let his hand drop almost broke her resolve and her heart. Ruthlessly, she shoved her feelings behind the tritanium of her command mask.
“Are you afraid of me, Kathryn?”
“Of course not.” Afraid of losing you. Afraid of myself. “Don’t be silly, Chakotay.”
He took a step toward her, and she backed up a matching step. “You are.”
“You’re carrying a phaser.” Kathryn knew her cheeks were flushed with embarrassment at the lame excuse. “You believed her, too.”
He had already admitted to his gullibility on that subject, but Chakotay felt the cracks in his heart widen as he once again realized how gullible he was when it came to Kathryn Janeway. “I’d never flinch from your touch, Kathryn. Never. The sad thing is, you could have me in restraints and hand me over to the Cardassians, and I would still crave your touch.”
They were moving toward dangerous ground, and she shifted them to a safer topic. Since when is mutiny a safe topic, Kathryn? “I’m sorry, Chakotay. It all seemed so damned logical. A little bit of a lie with – “
“Mixed with just enough truth to make it believable.” And she’s right; you are wearing a phaser, heyoka!
Kathryn laughed suddenly. “I once told you one of the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition: A good lie is easier to believe than the truth.”
“When did you tell me that?” The conversations he and Kathryn had had over five years covered a variety of subjects, but the Rules of Acquisition?
“I can’t tell you.” Kathryn grinned at him. “Temporal – “
“Prime Directive. Where have I heard that before? Don’t answer – “ He held his hand up as if to ward her off. “Rhetorical question. Now I have a headache.”
Kathryn took the two steps across the wide chasm that had opened between them. She laid her hand on his chest over his heart. Chakotay leaned into her touch and covered her hand with his.
To hell with it. Giving in to the urge, she pulled him into a hug. “I’m sorry, Chakotay.”
“Me too.” They rarely indulged in hugs, close contact being tacitly understood as something they had to limit. Chakotay pulled her close until her breasts brushed his chest, before he began rubbing his hands up and down her back.
Sighing, she put her arms around his waist and laid her cheek on his chest. Chakotay’s head rested on her shoulder, and his breath whispered against her hair. They stood quietly, enjoying the rare feel of their bodies pressing together. It was always a special moment for them, a momentary lowering of barriers and protocol, and drawing strength from each other.
The last time she had held him was after the Equinox. Or rather, Chakotay had held her. A week had passed since they had hung Voyager’s dedication plaque back where it belonged. A week of quiet, friendly lunches and dinners before she had broken down one night and cried in his arms.
Chakotay’s friendship was important to her, and the realization that she had almost lost him had come crashing down in the middle of dinner when he’d joked that she only kept him around to steal his rations for coffee.
Stroking the soft, raven hair at the nape of his neck, Kathryn splayed her other hand across his back and pressed closer to him. The steady beat of his heart against her breasts and the earthy spicy scent of him soothed her frazzled nerves. His damn phaser, however, was spoiling the mood. “Chakotay, your phaser is digging into my belly.”
Biting his lip to keep from laughing, Chakotay slid his hands down to her lower back and pulled Kathryn tightly against him, something he’d never dared do before. Lifting his lips to her ear, he whispered softly. “That’s not my phaser.”
“I – oh…” Her face was warp core hot. Has it really been that long, Kathryn? So long that you don’t know the feel of a man? Brushing a kiss across his cheek, she stepped back. Chakotay’s arms tightened, not letting her move away, holding her pressed snugly to him.
The smoky blue eyes were wide and questioning, but there was no fear. He smiled and brushed a kiss on her cheek before letting her go.
“Have dinner with me tonight?” They had already agreed during their morning meeting to have dinner together tonight, but Kathryn felt the need to reaffirm with him.
“Of course.” The dimples flashed. “Do you want me to bring a dagger for your back?”
Her heart skipped a beat as it always did at the sight. “Just bring your phaser.”
His eyebrows went up at the double entendre, and his own heart jumped at the crooked smile he loved so much. Kathryn put a hand on his shoulder and gave him a gentle push toward the door. “Let’s go track down – “
The cargo bay doors slid open, and Naomi Wildman came rushing in. “Captain, Commander, I have a report for you.”
The little girl was stiff and serious, without the usual twinkle to her eye. “What is it, Na – Crewman Wildman?” Kathryn asked.
“There’s something wrong with Seven. She – “ The little girl frowned. “She said my father is Ktarian, which is in the Federation but they have sympathies for the Maquis. Then she asked if I was working for you or for Commander Chakotay.”
Chakotay shot an alarmed look at Kathryn over Naomi’s head. She raised an eyebrow but gave him a subtle shake of her head.
“I’ve narrowed it down to three possibilities.” Naomi held up her index finger. “One, an alien taking over her body. Two, an alien pretending to be Seven.”
Despite the situation, both Kathryn and Chakotay found it difficult to keep a straight face. Naomi was so very serious and determined – when she was normally such a mischievous and playful child.
“Or three, and what I think is the problem.” Naomi paused dramatically. “Her Borg implants are malfunctioning.”
They shared a look over the little girl’s head once more. A child figured it out before we did. How bright are we?
“Naomi, what makes you think that Seven’s implants are malfunctioning?” Kathryn asked her, matching her serious tone.
“Seven just installed the new alcove.” She tilted her head toward where it stood. “Commander Tuvok says the most logical place to begin an investigation is at the last point of change.”
“Very logical, indeed.” She patted Naomi’s shoulder. “Commander Chakotay and I just came to that very conclusion.”
Naomi was smiling now, her sunny nature breaking through the serious attitude. Chakotay picked her up and kissed her cheek. “Commander! It’s not appropriate for a crewman to be picked up and kissed!”
“Not so.” Kathryn brushed a strand of blond hair back from Naomi’s face and smiled at Chakotay. The flash of pain in his eyes made her heart ache. “Any crewman under a certain age is entitled to specific privileges, including carrying, kissing, and cuddling. Tickling however, is currently under review.”
“See there? Official policy.” Chakotay kissed Naomi’s cheek again. “Part of my duties.”
“I hear he does damsel rescuing on the side, too.” Kathryn patted his shoulder as they walked out of the cargo bay.
“You didn’t poison the coffee, did you?” Chakotay paused and looked down into his cup.
“No more than usual.” Kathryn shrugged. She watched him over the rim of her own cup as he pretended to hesitate before taking a drink. Grinning, she took a sip of her coffee.
“Not bad.” He set the cup down. “Much more subtle than the arsenic I put in the stir fry.”
“Here I thought that was just heartburn.”
They laughed and Kathryn reached across the table to pat his hand. He caught it and squeezed her fingers. “You know, I would have come to you and talked to you about the things Seven was saying.”
“I know.” She laughed again, more softly this time. “So you wouldn’t have staged a mutiny?”
“No more than you would have tossed all the former Maquis in the brig without coming to talk to me.”
There was an emphasis on ‘former’, subtle but there. “I won’t tell if you won’t.”
“It’s a deal.” Chakotay squeezed her fingers again. “The last thing I need is Tom Paris getting a hold of such a juicy piece of gossip.”
“Especially when the current rumor is that we were aware of the problem from the beginning.” Kathryn patted his hand again before picking up her coffee cup for another drink.
“The coffee is good, but it’s a little late for me.” He pushed his cup aside. “Some of us don’t have the resistance to caffeine as some people do.”
“Weakling.” She said affectionately. “Why don’t I get us some wine?”
“That’d be nice.”
“Something light – I know your resistance is low there as well.” Getting up, she patted his shoulder as she walked past him. “Why don’t we move over to the sofa and relax a bit?”
Seems like I have no resistance to anything you offer. On impulse, Chakotay picked up the candles and carried them with him, setting them on the coffee table. Unzipping his jacket, he pulled it off and laid it over the back of the chair he’d come to think of as his.
Kathryn was carrying two glasses and a bottle of pale blue wine. She stepped in front of him to set the glasses on the coffee table. The back of the sofa hit his legs as he backed up a step, and Chakotay decided to sit down rather than fall down. The resistance is low if you only have to look at a bottle of booze to get falling down drunk.
“Here, open this, would you?” She handed him the bottle as she sat down beside him.
A soft berry scent wafted from the bottle as he opened it. Chakotay poured wine into the glasses and handed her one. Setting the bottle on the table, he picked up the second glass.
“To good friends.” She raised her glass.
“To trusting good friends.” He touched his glass to hers with a soft chime. The wine was light and sweet, but not overly so. Kathryn knew his weaknesses; of that, there was no doubt.
“Trust.” Smiling, she took a sip. “This is better than coffee, but you didn’t hear me say that.”
“We never had this conversation.”
She patted his leg. “I knew I could trust you.”
Kathryn was sitting closer than usual. Not so close as to make either of them uncomfortable, but much closer than she ever had. Than she had since – “Do you remember the story I told you on New Earth?”
“About the Angry Warrior?” A smile softened her face. “Of course I do.”
“I’m still at your side, Kathryn.”
“I know.” She took a sip of her wine. “That’s what frightened me.”
“Today?” A frown crossed his face. “That I was close?”
“No. That I might lose you.”
He smiled. “That will never happen, Kathryn.”
“You know… “ She took another sip of her wine before setting the glass on the table. “There’s more to the legend. The woman warrior needs her angry warrior as much as he needs her.”
Chakotay set his glass down beside hers. “Does she?” The way Kathryn had said ‘her warrior’ made his heart beat faster.
“Yes.” Slowly, she raised her hand up, palm out. “Very much.”
Her hand was trembling, not enough that anyone would notice. Anyone who didn’t know Kathryn Janeway well. Chakotay pressed his palm to hers for a moment before sliding his fingers between hers. The simple movement of his fingers pushing between hers was somehow more intimate than any other touch he’d known.
They sat for a moment, hands clasped, looking into each other’s eyes. Transported back to a small shelter on an empty planet.
“Kathryn, why do we keep changing course?” He asked softly.
He pretended to think that over. He knew Kathryn wanted to get the crew home. But she hadn’t talked about getting herself home in a long time. “Could it be that maybe we don’t want the voyage to end?”
“Maybe.” A smile crooked the corner of her mouth.
“Maybe I’m already home.” There was a question hiding in her voice.
Her hand trembled in his. “We’re home, Kathryn.” Slowly, Chakotay leaned toward her. “We’re home.”
The black velvet eyes showed the depth of his love, told her everything he had never said aloud. Save for that single precious legend. As always, Chakotay was leaving the decision up to her. Allowing her to take that last step. Trusting her.
Leaning forward, Kathryn met him halfway, letting her lips hover a scant inch from his. Closing her eyes, she waited, hoping he would understand.
Breathing in the sweetness of Kathryn’s breath, Chakotay wondered if she were teasing him or if she was afraid. The first wasn’t likely and the second? She tru – He smiled as he pressed his lips to hers. Trust.
*The 60th Rule of Acquisition: Keep your lies consistent.