A/N: Written for the third prompt of the Fictober 2018 list, "How can I trust you?" Also includes Caesar's Palace prompts "teeth" (Vivid Challenge), "silk" (Panem Challenge), "insouciant" and "tergiversate" (Caesar's Level Two). Set after "Parallax".
big thanks to Emmi for the beta!
A light breeze blew across Chakotay's face and he opened his eyes to find himself in the usual setting of his vision quests: the taiga forests of his home world. He suppressed the flare of anger that these lush woods were now no more, thanks to the Cardassians, and went in search of his spirit guide. Strangely enough, she was not there to greet him as she had always done.
After several minutes of looking, he located her dozing in the shade of sprawling branches. "Here you are, sister."
The wolf opened one eye, then both, and yawned. As he reached out to stroke her head, she rolled to her feet, evading his touch. His second attempt to pet her resulted in her backing just out of his reach, her ears flattening out to the sides.
He frowned in confusion at her odd behavior. "Are you angry?"
Why would I be angry? Her tail flickered back and forth with a restless energy. That is your constant state of being.
The suppressed ire flickered back to life at her insouciant tone. "Shouldn't I be? Especially now that we're seventy thousand light-years from home. Unless we come across a miracle shortcut, I'll never be able to keep the promise to avenge my tribe—my family."
So, you blame her.
Chakotay sighed his frustration. His guide was good at the verbal game of tergiversation. What little they had seen of the Kazon thus far was enough proof to him that they were as bad, if not worse, than the Cardassians. "Part of me wants to," he admitted. "But, on the other hand, I find it difficult to place blame. If the decision had been mine, I would have made the same choice."
Therefore you trust the alpha female's decision, even though it is denying you the revenge you are living for?
"When you put that way, yes."
And the other decisions she has made?
"She has been...fair." B'Elanna's promotion was the prime example that sprang to mind. Yet, he still couldn't shake the little voice that told him to keep his distance. "But she is still Starfleet. How can I possibly trust her?" Even as he uttered the question, he found himself reminded of the discussion that had led to the beginning of their uncertain partnership...
"How can I trust you?" Her blue eyes pierced him across the space between them. Surely, she had to be feeling some form of uneasiness—using her desk as a barrier was proof enough of that, but she showed no other sign of it outwardly.
He kept his tone calm. "I don't see that either of us have much choice in this situation."
The wolf lifted a hind leg to scratch at one ear. Does trust not go both ways? When he remained silent, she continued. How did you learn to trust me?
Chakotay frowned again. "I don't understand."
Did you not ignore my advice the first several times you sought me out? And did you not begin to accept my guidance after you learned to trust me?
"I already admitted that I was wrong..."
Amber eyes narrowed into a hard stare. That was not my question.
"Oh, all right," he muttered in exasperation. "I ignored your advice because I didn't know better."
A faint growl emanated from her throat, accompanied by a slightly curled lip and a flash of sharp teeth. An acceptable answer, but not what I was looking for.
He resisted the urge to growl back. "I had to learn to listen, to trust you."
And is it not the same with the alpha female? Despite her status as enemy, you have entrusted her with pack leadership.
Once again, she had neatly trapped him with her words. After a long pause, he conceded, "You have a point."
He started at a sudden nudge against his hand. The wolf was now by his side, nuzzling her muzzle against his palm. Taking care to gauge her mood, he ran his fingers lightly through the soft fur above her brows. She pushed her head harder into his touch, her tail beginning to thump against the ground. He knelt next to her, leaning his head against hers and felt the silky drag of her tongue against his cheek. "How do I silence the voice inside that tells me to keep her at arm's length? That she may not be what she seems?"
Has she not proven her worthiness to remain alpha?
Or do you intend to depose her, as some of your former pack has alleged?
"Of course not!"
"Of course not!"
Then what have you to fear, dear brother? She flopped next to him with a whump, rolling to expose her belly to his petting hand and stretching her upturned head into his lap.
As he obliged with her unsaid demand for attention, his hands threading through the thick coat to scratch and rub, he finally understood. His guide was right, as usual. The process of learning to trust Janeway—and earning hers in return—was going to be another element of their journey.