The Slip of the Sheet
Dedication: Sorcha encouraged me to do J/C. So this is for you. Queco, Stacy, and Monica, enjoy it. Suz Voy for beta-ing it, and telling me what was wrong and right.
Disclaimer: I dont' own the characters, I just thought they needed a good time. I own the story, however.
Author's Notes: Shifting POV. Watch for it.
When I left B'Elanna's room, I headed straight for yours.
It wasn't a conscious decision. I got on the turbolift and called your deck number. Stood there, just thinking about what I had done. Honestly, trying not to think about it at all, but the images didn't stop coming. Her taste. Her feel. Her smell. The way she said the wrong name.
Nothing kills the moment like that. Not that she said it during, of course--B'Elanna isn't that crass. She said it after, when she was sleeping, with a little smile. Her dreams must have been pleasant.
She didn't wake up from them with that look on her face. I pretended I was asleep-- I was trying to figure out a way to leave without disturbing her, and she woke up. Sat bolt upright, staring straight ahead. Then looked down on me. She made some kind of sound, I didn't know what exactly. I closed my eyes, hoping my arm blocked my face, so she couldn't see that I had been looking at her, wondering how the hell it happened.
I mean--*B'Elanna*. Of all the women on the ship, I just didn't expect I would ever find myself in bed with her. Ever. But there I was, in her bed, perfectly aware that I hadn't made love to B'Elanna at all. I'd made love to you. It's becoming a bit of a habit, I think. These days, you don't even have to be here for me to do it.
He left. I guess this is the part where I feel dirty and horrified by what I did, but it just doesn't happen that way in real life. I really didn't feel anything--except maybe a little afterglow, and sore as hell.
Tom. I had to think about that for a moment, though. I couldn't pretend it was the alcohol, though God knows we had enough of that. It had been something else, something I can't put my finger on. No, nothing like revenge, though that's probably what you'll think. And I don't love him and I know damn well he doesn't love me.
When he slept, he said her name. B'Elanna. And his arm tightened around me. I wonder what he was dreaming of.
So what happened last night?
I was still thinking like that when the door chimed.
So after she left, (and she dressed in record time, I might add) I got dressed and left too, just hoping no one saw me. There are enough rumors for the rumor mill, after all. I didn't get very far on your deck before I heard about you and Paris in Sandrine's.
There has got to be irony here somewhere, but for the life of me, I just can't figure out what it is.
I arrived at your door and actually raised my hand to activate the chime when I realized what I was doing. Basically, the same thing B'Elanna was doing. Running to confess. And why the hell was I confessing, anyway?
Though I always do confess, you know. Every time. And you sit there and listen. Every time. Seska. Reilly. A couple of others I could name, but I just don't feel like doing that right now. Suffice to say, I always told you. Always waited for absolution, God knows why.
And here I was again, waiting to confess. What does that say about me?
I stood there for what seemed like an eternity, half-hoping that a crewmember would walk by me and I'd have an excuse to turn away, return to my own room. Then I hit the chime, and waited for you to answer.
You were there, at the door.
It wasn't a surprise, exactly. A shock, yes, but not a surprise. And my hand tightened on the sheet around me and I tried to figure out something to say that wouldn't sound too corny.
You weren't dressed. Just a sheet wrapped around you. And you looked like you expected me. Hell, you probably did.
Never ceases to amaze me, the way you know your crew. You stood there, waiting for me to come in, with that cool look of certainty on your face.
Those rumors about you and Paris were right. I knew that look. Written all over your face. I could see above the edge of the sheet the traces of red, where you'd put the dermal regenerator to work. Apparently, Paris has learned a few things from B'Elanna. I hadn't thought to check if I had any visible--um, well, you know, but apparently I did, because your eyebrow lifted a little, and you just motioned to the bathroom.
Tom and I thought to fix our evidence--you didn't, and I'll bet neither did B'Elanna.
It's one thing to know, from a computer, where you spent your night. It's quite another to see the visible proof above your uniform collar. Did you forget deliberately, maybe to drive the knife in deeper? Damn, I can't seriously be hurt you were with her. Can I?
I stood there, trying to figure out why you were here. You always confess to me. I have no idea why, never have, never will. Sometimes only minutes after you see me, some times you seek me out days later. To tell me what I'm missing? I know exactly what I'm missing. I've known since New Earth.
Maybe you're just reminding me that I don't have any rights over you in the personal department anymore.
I wish I knew.
I came back out and you were on the couch, drinking something, and your eyes looked into mine. You smiled. No one smiles like you do, Kathryn, not with that combination of charm and authority.
"You want to talk about it?" You, asking me to talk about it. Isn't that my line to you? I'm always wanting you to talk about it, and you always shut me down. Yet there you sat, sipping whatever the hell that was you were drinking, waiting for me to yet again spill my guts in front of you to examine and pronounce clean.
Your head tilted a little, and you smiled again, before hiding it behind the glass. Coy. I never thought I would see the day you'd look coy, but there it was, plain as day. You wanted me to break first.
"How was your night?" I asked, trying to put you on the defensive. I thought I saw your hand shake a little, before you looked at me, sitting the glass down so it wouldn't betray you further.
I just took a breath, that's all. I didn't expect you to attack like that.
How was my night? Good question. The jury's still out on that one. I had great sex, Chakotay, and it wasn't with you, even in my mind. Really great sex with one of my junior officers who also happens to be at least a decade younger than me. Incredible sex with my Chief Engineer's lover.
When I put it like that, it sounds bad, doesn't it?
"Why are you here, Chakotay?" I didn't answer your question. You know. I can see it in your eyes.
"To see how you're doing," you answered, leaning back in the chair. "I didn't see you at Sandrine's."
"That would be difficult, because you weren't at Sandrine's," I answered coolly.
"No, I wasn't," You just wanted to make me look away, I know it. And I did. "I was with B'Elanna."
"I know." And somehow, my voice remained steady. You started a little. "You left your communicator on."
You gaped, just a little.
First rule of not getting caught on Starship Voyager, by the way--don't cart your communicator around with you for trysts. Just a big mistake any way you look at it. I sometimes wonder if the lower decks crew randomly call out names to the computer to verify their location *just* to find out where they spend their down time. Explains why they always seem to win the replicator rations pools. Someday, we should get that little computer problem fixed.
So I looked at my Captain, my friend, and waited for you to tell me how you entertained yourself without me. I know, of course, but I want to hear you say it, just like I had to say it.
"Tom was here."
Maybe I didn't want you to say it, after all. Something in me clenched. And you didn't bat an eye, just watched my reaction with that same cool regard I've seen you turn on any subordinate who doesn't perform up to specs--your specs, that is.
You screw around with Paris, and you want me to feel guilty about B'Elanna. Well, I did. And you didn't look like anything out of the ordinary had happened.
"It was a mistake, me and B'Elanna," I said, a little more harshly than I intended, and your eyebrow went up. You didn't believe me. What a surprise. "She already went to talk to Tom."
"He knows," you answer, picking up your glass again and taking another drink.
So did you two check up on us before you decided to get naked? I gotta wonder. And I knew I didn't want to know whether you found out before or after--though from the way the rumor put it, you were a little more than just dancing at Sandrine's. Hell, a lot more than just dancing. I admit it, I listened to those crewmembers talk. They are pretty reliable after all. Harry and Sue always are.
So we looked at each other for awhile, trying to find words. Because this isn't a situation covered by protocol. I know. I've checked.
I wondered whether B'Elanna was the only one who didn't know now who had been playing with whom. Of course, Tom wouldn't tell her who, but she's not stupid. One walk down the hall and she'll hear the rumors about Sandrine's. That's all she'll need.
We just sat there, sipping our drinks because neither of us knew what to say. Trying to say something that wouldn't sound too vulgar, or too melodramatic, or too--juvenile.
"Why B'Elanna?" I asked, and regretted it immediately. You started, spilling the liquor over your sleeve. I watched you wipe your arm on your pants without saying a single word more. Waiting for me to break, I guess.
Sometimes, I think that is all we do, fight for power in this subtle, chilly battle for dominance. Captain versus First Officer. Janeway versus Chakotay. It hasn't always been like this--but it has been around for awhile. Since Seven, actually.
"I don't know," you answered, a little roughly. "Why Paris?"
I bit my tongue. I'd asked myself the same question, over and over, since Tom left. There's only one answer to give, and its as close to the truth as I can get these days.
"Because he was here."
I've been here. I've been there. I've been damned well everywhere, and you never --damn, never mind. He was here. That's the answer. What the hell did he have that I don't? Stupid question. He doesn't have anything--except you last night. I've got to wonder why.
So we looked at each other, just waiting again for someone to say something, and then I stand up and tell you goodnight. You watched me leave without another word, standing up to go to your bedroom, and the sheet slips down your back. I could see the line of your spine.
Funny, when I walked away, I had the answer, and it wouldn't have done any good for you to hear it. Why Tom. Why last night.
Why just once, you didn't look at me as only your Captain. As your rival, maybe sometimes even an allied enemy. Maybe it was the trust.
Or more truthfully, he was the safest thing on this ship. He's in love with someone else, and after he left tonight, I knew there wouldn't be any temptation for him to come back, ever.
Very safe. Very much in my control, and that's what it comes down to, doesn't it? Control.
I turned around just as you stepped out the door and then, you stopped.
I'm such an idiot sometimes.
When I turned around, you were looking at me, with that look that Tom must have seen, Kashyk must have seen--I saw on New Earth. That vulnerable look.
The look where you're not in control.
"If I had been there last night--" I began, and stopped, because somehow, I know that even if I had been there, nothing would have happened. For any of us. "I think we need to talk."
And your blue eyes just widen for a moment, and I watch you shut down.
"About the Equinox," I tell you. And there it was, every muscle relaxed instantly, though it shouldn't have.
You choose your battles. I'm willing to take what I can get.
Because there will be another night. Because it has to happen. Six years is a long time, Kathryn. I've waited and waited and tried to forget and let you forget, because you were so important to me, I couldn't risk it. I just couldn't.
But gambling is an art. I can learn it. And it's been long enough.