"Something Out Of The Ordinary"
Light n frothy early season/character fluff. Ah, but isn't hope a wonderful thing? Written years before the total J/C strangers the killer B's tried to foist on us in seasons 6 & 7 and the subsequent tears of "Endshame" - that's my excuse, and I'm sticking to it :)
Disclaimer: Paramount and the Viaborg own the Characters taking part, but the story is mine. I'm not making any money off this, just having some fun. If you'd like to reproduce this story elsewhere, please contact me first :)
Finally, after a busy but routine shift on the Bridge, Captain Janeway handed over to Lt. Davies and headed for her quarters.
The last landing party of tired, frazzled crew had just beamed down to Jayaarn 3 on shore-leave. They were all exhausted after two days of gathering fruits, seeds and roots - exhausted but happy. The first thing Harry Kim had said when Neelix had left the Bridge for his own R and R that morning was, "Please God, don't let him find any Leeola root!" Silently, Kathryn had added her own 'Amen' to that. Still, it was a huge weight off her mind to know that they'd at last filled the Ship's storage containers with fresh, delicious produce, with more to come from the seeds they had.
Kathryn wasn't going to join the landing party herself today though ; she'd already enjoyed a couple of hours off the ship in the first information gathering Away-team. But, she did have definite plans for herself. First, she was going to enjoy a long, long soak in her bathtub, using disgusting amounts of hot water and bubble-bath. Then, she was going to get into soft, comfortable clothes and work on her water-colour while she enjoyed a whole pot of real coffee all to herself. Bliss!
Entering her quarters, she engaged the security lock and just stood with her back against the doors, savouring the peace and peace of mind for a moment or two. Calling for the computer to playback some of her favourite music, she went into the bathroom, pulling off her uniform as she went. Singing along loudly to the music, she filled the bath and added half a bottle of bubble-bath.
In the room right next to Kathryn's, Chakotay heard her singing and chuckled to himself. He just knew that she was going to have a long luxurious bath - he didn't need the sound of running water to prove him right and he guessed that she would follow up with a pot of real coffee too.
After trying again to concentrate on his meditation, he gave up. Her tuneless singing and smiling face kept slipping into his thoughts. Way too distracting.
He liked knowing that she lived just next door, he found it comforting to hear her moving around. Probably a hangover from their time of New Earth. In the last six months they'd managed to recapture that closeness and she'd gradually allowed him to see the real Kathryn again. He'd seen her at her lowest - very upset, furiously angry, frightened, vulnerable, lonely and feeling isolated. She came to him when she needed him now, too. He didn't have to track her down and badger her into telling him what was bothering her any more.
And of course he'd seen her happy side too. They teased each other a lot, flirted and played juvenile games and pranks. He sometimes told her that he loved her and although she wasn't entirely happy about that, she seemed to have resigned herself to his feelings and the fact that they weren't going to go away. He also knew that deep down she had feelings for him, but felt she couldn't allow herself to give into them.
As he tidied away his medicine bundle, he thought about inviting her to join him for lunch down on the planet. A long afternoon of relaxation in the sunshine and fresh air would really do her good. None of them knew when the next planet suitable for shore leave would be found.
"Hello, Kathryn. Would you like to join me for lunch down on the planet?"
And she'd reply,
"No thanks, Chakotay - I've got plenty to do here."
So, that wouldn't work. He needed something out of the ordinary - a hook of some kind. Something unexpected and so tempting it would throw her off balance for a few vital seconds and make her forget her standard, rehersed reply.
Settling back on the couch, he rolled his eyes and chuckled again at the sound of her singing coming through the wall. Forcing himself to concentrate, he rehearsed different 'invitation scenarios' in his mind. After a while he sat up and smiled.
Kathryn emerged from the steamy bathroom and dressed herself in soft, white leggings and a matching tunic top with three-quarter length sleeves. After adding a long necklace of polished river stones that Chakotay had made for her on New Earth, she quickly dried her hair, pinned the front and sides as usual and braided the length into a loose plait.
Crossing to the replicator, she ordered a pot of her favourite coffee blend, rocking back and forth on her bare feet while she waited. As soon as it materialised, she grabbed for it and poured herself half a cup. Savouring the first, rich mouthful for a moment, she swallowed and sighed. Draining the cup and replacing it, she gathered up the tray and carried it across the room. Putting it down on the coffee-table, she threw herself full length onto the couch and wiggled her toes for a while, thoroughly enjoying being free of her boots and her uniform. Then, sitting up she poured herself another coffee to enjoy quietly before she started work on her water-colour.
While she sipped, she played with her necklace and idly wondered what Chakotay was doing. She knew he hadn't gone down to the planet for R&R either - other than in her earlier away-team.
She smiled broadly to herself as she remembered his easy, relaxed manner with some of the nervous young Ensigns who'd made up the team. They'd obviously been in total awe of 'Captain Kathryn Janeway' and although she'd tried to put them at their ease, they were too far gone in Hero Worship Syndrome or 'H.W.S'.as Paris called it.
Her smile became a chuckle as she remembered one of them in particular, a gorgeous twenty-
two year old boy by the name of Ensign Joe Williams ; a real heartbreaker if ever she saw one. She'd only asked him if he was enjoying the sunshine and if he'd picked up any interesting readings, but looking up at him she was surprised to see that all 6 feet 3 inches of him had developed a crimson blush and a severe, nervous stutter - just for her!
Chakotay - always atuned to peoples feelings - had come over to join them, stepped-in and coaxed Williams away in such a charming, natural way, making him feel his opinion on some tri-corder readings was badly needed and invaluable. Glancing back over his shoulder as he lead the relieved Ensign away, he'd given her a theatrical wink and a knowing smile.
Somehow, she had to find time in her overloaded schedule to meet regularly with people on the lower decks ; people who didn't come into contact with her often enough.
And Chakotay? She still didn't know what was she going to do about him, about his feelings for her.
When they were alone, he still told her or showed her how he felt - a look, a few words or a gesture. He was always very careful when there were other people around, though and she had to admit, if there was anyone on the ship she'd choose to be loved by, it was him.
He had a strength of character and personality that easily matched her own. He wasn't intimidated by her which was a rare thing indeed for her, especially where men were concerned. He was always there for her when she needed him. He was someone she could be herself with too, especially when the pressures of Command got to her or after the death of one of the crew. It was at times like that, that she appreciated him most.
Just a month ago, when they'd gone to her quarters straight after a memorial service for young Ensign Reine, he'd taken one look at her face and just silently held his arms open to her and she'd quietly stepped into them, needing him to hold her and soothe her while she wept and raged against the fates - and herself - for stranding them, "In this damned quadrant!" She knew he read nothing into her need to be held. At times like that he was simply one friend giving comfort to another, and for that she was grateful. He always made her smile eventually too. It might take him a while, but he always managed to find a way to lift her spirits.
His twisted sense of humour was legendary and she'd often been on the receiving end of some of his more adventurous pranks - all thoroughly deserved, because she was so adept at winding him up.
He was somehow much more than a friend, but much less than a lover ; an unusal relationship,
but it worked, due in large part to Chakotay's total lack of selfishness than anything else, she suspected. Sadly, she didn't love him. At least, not in the way he wanted her to. She couldn't allow herself to love him, there were just too many reasons why.
Her door chime rang out, startling her out of her musings. She knew it would be him... like the Devil, summoned by her thoughts.
"Computer, disengage lock. Come-in, Chakotay."
The doors swished open and there he was, looking good enough to eat in white jeans, white T-shirt, white deck shoes and a deep-blue cable sweater. He was carrying a large hamper-type basket and his tanned face was mischevious as he walked towards her. Oh, gods - that crazy smile! Not for the first time, she realised that his smile might one day be her undoing....
"Hello, Kathryn. How did you know it was me?"
"Nobody else would dare to gatecrash my free-time in the way you do."
"I see." He grinned and joined her on the couch, 'just' invading her personal space.
"If you'd rather be alone, I'll leave. But then you'll never know what you missed and it might just haunt you for the rest of your life."
He spoke in a teasing, near-whisper. Oh, help! He could be so seductive when he wanted to be.
"No don't leave, you're here now. What do you want, and what's in the basket?"
"I just dropped by to see if you'd be interested in joining me for lunch. In the basket, I have warm, fresh, crusty bread, vegetable pate, a Talaxian tomato salad made with sliced mozarella and crisp cucumber, garnished with olive oil and fresh basil - all of that's from me and lovingly prepared by hand, I might add. From Neelix, there's some of your favourite cream cheese with herbs, and crackers. Kes gave me black grapes and pitted black olives, Tom donated a bottle of Chianti, Harry made pasta bow salad, garnished with black poppy seeds... Uh, what else? Oh, yes for dessert a special surprise from Tuvok, Kes and I, and something extra special from both Tuvok and B'Elanna. The Doctor sent his best wishes, with instructions for you to 'Enjoy yourself' "
"Alright Chakotay, you've got my attention. Now, what's the catch?"
"Lunch will be served down on the planet. I'll even throw in some witty conversation for free."
"It all sounds delicious, but I really wanted to work on my water-colour. We could always eat here?"
Chakotay shook his head. "No, we couldn't. A lot of people have gone to a lot of trouble, and this food deserves to be enjoyed in sunlight and fresh air. You deserve to enjoy it in sunlight and fresh air. The others agree with me, especially Tuvok. How much do you have left to do on your painting? Do you mind if I take a look?"
"No, please do."
He got up, went over to the easel and lifted the dust cover.
"It's beautiful, Kathryn. You've really captured the feel of the place."
Beaming and blushing she went to stand beside him.
"Do you think so... really?"
"Yes, really. I almost feel as if I could step into the picture. The depth, the perspective is spot-on and the colours you've used for the trees and the flowers are stunning. I see you couldn't resist putting your bathtub in." Draping an arm lightly around her shoulder he hugged her to him. "Who would've guessed an old dyed-in-the-wool scientist like you could paint this way."
Blushing to a deeper red, she laughed. "Thank you. I think? But, less of the 'old' if you don't mind. I can still wipe the floor with you at Velocity."
"You've nearly finished this painting, though. Why not come down to the planet with me and capture some more happy memories? You could bring your water-colours and your easel and make some sketches and colour notes for your next painting. The light quality will be just right at this time of day, too. Hey, I'll even pose for you if you like. I'm shy but I respond well to kindness. What do you say?"
Chuckling and shaking her head in exasperation, she knew she was lost.
"You, shy? Oh, alright, you pest - I surrender. Sketching and painting in the sunshine does sound lovely. You get to carry everything though. If you want my company that badly, you won't mind working for it, will you?"
"Fine by me. Could you manage the picnic basket though?"
"No, I couldn't. I'll have my hands full."
"Full of what, exactly?"
"My sun-hat of course. I freckle easily in bright sunlight, remember? I'm not going through that again."
"I like your freckles."
"Well, I don't. I was teased unmercifully about them at school. I didn't need you constantly reminding me about them. Come on then, chop, chop! Start packing everything up before I change my mind. I'm going to flask up my coffee. I'm not wasting that, even for you."
Ten minutes later they were on their way through the door - Kathryn gliding ahead, gracefully swinging a large white picture hat with a long, emerald green scarf knotted around the brim and Chakotay so loaded down, he could hardly see where he was going. Too late, he realised they could have asked to be beamed to the surface from her quarters. He was so pleased that she'd agreed to join him though, he wasn't really thinking straight.
They'd chosen a spot about ten miles away from the nearest landing party and
re-materialising on the planet, they found themselves just at the edge of a small,
deciduous wood. Behind them, lush, flower-filled grassland swirled and rolled away to blue-grey mountains on the horizon. After looking around for a few minutes, they decided to walk through the wood and see what they found.
Before they set off, Kathryn relented and with a cheeky grin took her picnic rug and her coffee flask from the top of the pile in Chakotay's arms, pushed them into the basket and took the basket from him too. That left him with just her painting box and the awkward easel to carry.
They strolled along, talking and teasing each other in an easy, relaxed way. Now and again they stopped to examine insects, flowers and foliage or just to stand for a few minutes in the dappled patterns the sunlight made on the ground as it streamed through gaps in the canopy overhead. There were hundreds of tiny birds to watch and listen to - most of them just a brief whir of wings and a blur of jewel colours. After listening to them for a while, Chakotay cleverly imitated some of their simpler song, which totally confused the birds and enchanted Kathryn - until he translated and started to sing, "This is my tree, my tree, go and find your own tree."
"Philistine. Now I'll never be able to listen to bird-song again without thinking of you singing that."
"Mission accomplished then," he laughed, ducking away to avoid the cuffing slap she aimed at his head.
As they walked deeper into the trees, Chakotay found everything eerily reminiscent of their wood on New Earth. Once or twice, glancing at Kathryn's face, he saw that she was off somewhere else too.
"New Earth?" He asked quietly.
"Am I that obvious?"
"Only to me."
Smiling to each other, they walked on.
Soon, they came to fallen tree blocking their path. Hoisting the easel and the paintbox over it and down onto the ground the other side, Chakotay climbed over first. Taking the basket from Kathryn, he added it to the pile, then turned back to offer her his hand. Holding her hat in her left hand, she gave him her right and climbed over the tree, but just as she reached the other side, she realised that her tunic had caught on a twig. Still holding Chakotay's hand for support, she freed herself and looked around, curiously. She could hear running water.
Chakotay continued to hold her hand in his for at least another twenty seconds before she suddenly realised. She quickly looked at their hands, raised one eyebrow and looked at him.
"Can I have my hand back now, please? I really need it to carry the picnic basket."
He smiled at her, but continued to hold her hand.
"I just wondered how long I could get away with it before you noticed."
"I was distracted."
"So was I." He kissed her fingers before he finally let her go. "Come on, slowcoach - over this way I think." He picked up her things and strode off.
Shaking her head and smiling ruefully, Kathryn picked up the basket and followed him, muttering to herself. The man was a born flirt! If they got home anytime soon and if the Investigating Officer in charge was a woman, he'd probably flirt his way right out of a prison sentence and into a promotion, or some cushy desk job.
After walking for five minutes or so, they suddenly emerged from under the trees and out into a sun-drenched, grassy clearing at the top of a small cliff, overlooking a fast-flowing
river. Opposite the cliff, about two hundred feet away was a small, but powerful waterfall breathtakingly covered in a cloud of white, misty spray and tiny rainbows. Putting down their things, they walked in awe towards the edge of the cliff.
"Oh, my God!" Kathryn gasped, "It's beautiful."
"Glad you came now?" Chakotay asked with a wink.
"Yes, very glad. You're still a pest though."
Standing side by side, they watched the waterfall and pointed out birds and flowers to each other for a while. Just as Kathryn turned away from the view to move towards their things again, Chakotay did the same. Their eyes met and he pulled her into his arms, hugging her tightly for a moment before letting her go.
"Thanks for coming today, Kathryn. I hope you enjoy yourself."
Kathryn wasn't startled by his sudden hugs these days. She'd grown used to them over the months since their return from New Earth and she smiled at him to let him know that she didn't mind.
"Oh, I intend to, don't you worry about that. Thank you for being a pest, Chakotay. I really wouldn't want to have missed all this wonderful scenery."
"Good," he smiled back. "Are you hungry?"
"Yes, I am."
They turned again and looked for a place to have their picnic, eventually settling down in semi-shade at the base of an ancient tree, set well-back from the edge of the cliff, but facing the waterfall.
Kathryn took the big rug, shook it out and spread it on the ground as smoothly as she could. Chakotay arranged the food on plates, passed them to her and opened the wine. When everything was ready, she shimmied around until she was leaning against the trunk of the tree and kicked off her shoes. Chakotay kicked his off too and sat facing her. After pouring the wine, he handed her a glass and said,
"A toast... to good friends who are working hard so that we can be down here ; to good food ; to excellent company, fresh air and sunshine."
"And to First Officers who just won't take 'No' for an answer." Kathryn laughed, before taking a long sip of fruity, red wine. "Oh, my... this is good stuff! Where did Paris get his hands on so much real alcohol, his supply seems to be never-ending?"
"Harry says he actually managed to out-fox a Ferengi barkeeper called Quark on DS9. There was something about this Quark illegally selling pebbles as precious stones. Harry didn't actually say the word 'Blackmail' but I got his drift. Paris rescued him just as this Quark got indignant... he let slip that his father is an Admiral and the Ferengi was suddenly willing to do anything to get rid of him. I heard Paris joined Voyager with a large amount of cargo luggage - all of it clinking!"
"Well, perhaps it's not seemly for a Captain to say this but, what the hell, 'Here's to Paris... and his private cellar.' "
They clinked glasses and sat for about an hour chatting, laughing, eating and drinking - both of them really enjoying the other ones company, the food, sunshine and scenery.
When she really couldn't manage another bite, Kathryn sighed with contentment. "Chakotay that was really delicious. You have a definite talent___"
"I don't like to brag about it, but___"
She threw a grape at him. "I was going to say, 'a definite talent for cooking and combining flavours.'"
"Oh, I see. Well, yes... I suppose I do that very well, too." Ignoring her groan, he continued, "You're welcome. You know how I like to see you eat well. All that coffee and more coffee you exist on can't be very good for you."
"It's very good for everyone else though. I'm not a very nice person to be around without my coffee, or at the very least, my coffee-substitute. That's something you haven't witnessed yet. I pray you never do. Is there any wine left?"
"About a glass, I think. You have it... I've had enough for now". He topped up her glass. "When you've finished that, do you want to go for a walk or are you going to paint?"
"After what I've just packed away, I don't think I could walk very far at the moment. Maybe later. I'll rough sketch and make some colour notes, I think."
"Okay. Well, I'm going to doze here quietly in the sunshine."
"Before or after you pack away the dishes and the left-overs, Commander?" she teased as she reached across him for her hat. "
"After, I suppose. No room to stretch out otherwise. Are you sure I can't make you reconsider the hat? I really adored those freckles, you know."
"I know, Chakotay. I remember you telling me that almost every day back on New Earth. I really think it's kinder of me to wear the hat. Think of all the time and effort I'm going to be saving you."
"It's my time and effort. I used to dream about kissing every single one, you know."
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to embarrass you."
Reaching over, she lightly stroked the back of his hand. "I'm not embarrassed. You can't help who you fall in love with. Life would be simpler for both of us if it hadn't been me, but I'd never be embarrassed by, or ashamed of your feelings for me, at least... not when we're alone. What worries me is that we have to go back to the ship later. We have to work together in front of the crew and if you were to slip up and say something like that in front of them.... Well...."
"I know." He lifted his free hand and stroked the side of her face. "Don't mind me, Kathryn. Go on, go and sketch. I'll see you later."
Smiling, but unable to look at him, she got up. Taking her hat and her wine with her, she walked barefoot across the lush grass to her things. Setting her glass down on a flatish stone, she arranged her easel, opened her paint box and put on her hat, all the while trying to convince herself that she was doing the right thing when it came to Chakotay.
Meanwhile, Chakotay busied himself clearing away the remains of their lunch and packing up the basket before tugging off his sweater. Scrunching it up, he laid it at the base of the tree to use as a pillow. Lying back on the rug with his hands behind his head, he watched Kathryn become engrossed in her sketching until his eyelids grew heavy and he just couldn't keep his eyes open anymore. He drifted off to sleep thinking how relaxed and beautiful she looked, how much white and green suited her and how much he loved her.
Slowly he swam through warm, inky darkness and up into bright sunlight. Something was tickling his ear and he made vain attempts to bat at it with his hand. Everytime he thought he had it though, it moved, so he flicked at it again and again. Reaching full consciousness he heard a quiet, muffled giggle and peeking through his eyelashes, he caught her - kneeling beside him, and just reaching out with a blade of grass towards his ear. Closing his eyes again before she caught him watching her, he allowed himself to consider grabbing her wrist, pulling her over on top of him and kissing her until he couldn't breathe. Oh gods, Chakotay - don't go there.' Reluctantly, he pushed those thoughts aside and said aloud,
"I wouldn't do that if I were you."
He felt her jump at the sound of his voice and heard another throaty laugh, then a softly spoken,
"Hello, sleepy-head. I thought you were going to sleep all afternoon."
"How long was I asleep?"
"Oh, simply ages Mr. Van Winkel. So long in fact, those pants are back in fashion. Did you know you talk in your sleep? We had a very nice chat. I now know all the co-ordinates for your Maquis bases in the Alpha quadrant. I've also done a lovely sketch of you wearing my hat, with a pink flower tucked behind one ear, too. You lied, Chakotay. You're not shy at all."
"About two hours, I think."
"I hate waking up after an afternoon nap. Could you pour me some of that coffee you brought?"
"Of course. Do you need help sitting up, Old Man?" she asked, too sweetly.
He didn't need to open his eyes to see her cheeky grin.
"Don't push it, Kathryn, just pour the damn coffee!"
By the time he'd stood up, stretched, and walked out the kinks in his back, Kathryn had their coffee ready. She was sitting, leaning against the tree again, so he sat down facing her and just to her right. Sipping his coffee and looking at her properly for the first time since he'd woken up, he had an idea - just a little something to pay her back for the tickling and her teasing. He peered at her intently until she noticed.
"I don't know how to tell you this, Kathryn... the hat was a waste of time. Across your nose ... you have lots and lots of freckles."
"What? You're not serious. Have you got a mirror? No, of course you haven't got a mirror. How many?!"
He leaned forward and pretended to count.
"... Sixteen, seventeen... seventeen I'm afraid. Oh, I missed that one, Eighteen. That's not so bad Kathryn, just a light dusting across your nose, really. Very cute in fact. You look younger than Harry now, though. Are you sure you're old enough to drive a Starship, young lady?"
"Paris drives it," she scowled. "I just tell him where I want to go."
"I'm sure Paris would be pleased to know he's a glorified space-chauffeur."
Her head came up and she looked him straight in the eye. "I haven't got a single freckle, have I? Tell me I haven't, Chakotay."
"No, you haven't," he grinned. I'm sorry, I couldn't resist. That's what you get for winding me up just now though, okay."
"Truce?" She said.
"Truce." He agreed. "We'll call that one a draw. Would you like some dessert now, I think you'll enjoy it?"
"I might. What is it?"
"See if you can guess. Close your eyes."
Reaching into the basket he brought out three sealed containers. Opening the first one, but keeping the contents hidden, he said,
"Still got those baby-blues shut tight?"
"Yes. Hurry up before I doze off."
"Okay, okay, keep your freckles on Katie. Right, open your mouth... just taste this."
Her eyes flew open. "Fresh Strawberries?! Where did you get them? Oh, I adore strawberries."
He gave her the container and she dived in, picking out the biggest one.
"Neelix found that emergency ration-pack strawberry jam in ships stores a few months ago, do you remember? Well, I remembered you telling me ages ago that you loved strawberries and that got me thinking. The jam wasn't seedless..."
"And so you sifted out some seeds and forced them to germinate. That was sweet of you, Chakotay. Thank you."
In her delight at his thoughtfulness, she reached out and briefly caressed the side of his face. Somehow, he managed to stay very still until she took her hand away.
"That's okay, you're worth it. Kes and Tuvok helped me, actually. Kes showed me how to germinate the seeds and grow the plants on, and then later Tuvok showed me how to cross-pollinate the flowers so they'd fruit. We have some raspberry and blackcurrent jam in ships stores too and both will be good natural sources of vitamin C eventually, so Kes is going to work on those. I'm sorry we had to keep it a secret from you, but it would have spoiled the surprise."
"You're more than forgiven," she managed after taking a bite out of another large berry. What's in the other containers?"
"Cream and chocolate-fudge sauce, courtesy of Tuvok and B'Elanna. So, ' Knock yourself out', as Paris would say."
"Oh, Mercy! I've died and gone to heaven. Everyone's been so kind and thoughtful, especially you. You deserve a special reward for today, Commander. What would you like? How about I name the next uninhabited planet after you?"
Taking another strawberry she leaned back seductively to enjoy it and Chakotay almost choked on his coffee. He knew exactly what he wanted for his reward, but he briefly pretended to consider her offer.
"A planet named after me? That's extremely tempting, but what I'd really like is a kiss."
She gazed at him, her eyes suddenly wide and a little dewey. Her voice - when she found it - was husky and barely more than a murmur.
"Chakotay, why do you keep putting yourself through this? Can't you see that a kiss will only make things worse instead of better. Harmless flirting is one thing, but a kiss..."
Taking her free hand in his, he stroked his thumb over her palm. "I can't help it Kathryn. You know how I feel, and I know that I'm never going to stop loving you, kiss or no kiss. It's just that, well... if you don't ask, you don't get. You look so lovely sitting there, and I can resist anything except temptation. Besides, I'd rather ask and be turned down graciously than make a grab for you and get my face slapped."
It had been such a wonderful day. Everything - the food, the wine, scenery, sunshine, her painting and most of all his company had conspired to make her more relaxed than she'd been in a very long time. She did have deep feelings for him; it wasn't just her own lonliness that drew her to him. He was an incredibly attractive man and he had a very definite affect on her senses - in fact, several times since they'd become close, she'd had to make a quick exit before she gave in to her needs or his 'harmless' flirting, hugs and caresses.
They'd teased and flirted with each other in private almost constantly after returning from New Earth. It somehow seemed safe to do so on the ship, whereas it hadn't on the planet. She knew that she was as guilty of it as he was and that they both knew exactly where 'the line' between playful flirting and seduction was situated. He flirted because he loved her and wanted a reaction or a sign that she was ready to return those feelings. She flirted because the game was fun and yes, if she was honest, it excited her. She was always careful not to go too far though, because she'd realised a long time ago that she was more resiliant to hurt than he was. He tended to take things very much to heart and she'd never want to hurt him. That was why his direct request was dangerous. He was vulnerable to rejection and that made their Command relationship vulnerable. Crunch time. She always knew it was going to happen one day. She knew too that one kiss would lead to others - maybe not here, but once that step had been taken it would be difficult to refuse him again. Like his first hug had opened the door to many more since, this kiss would certainly lead to others and she'd find herself accepting and enjoying yet another level of intimacy with him.
She had to stop playing games and tell him how she felt. He had a right to know - to actually hear her say it.
"Chakotay, I can't let myself love you. Not in the way you love me. I'm your Captain."
"I know that, Kathryn. But, you do have feelings for me. You constantly show me that you do, and I think if you came out from behind that wall of protocol, pride and fear you've built around yourself and acknowledged that you need someone in your life, you'd be a lot happier. I've seen more sides of you than anybody else on the ship and, well, you're very lonely aren't you? So am I. There's no shame in admitting that. Friendship is all well and good, but we both need more than that, now and for the future. Just give yourself permission to at least try and I think you could fall in love with me. The crew will survive and we'll get home when we get home, regardless of our feelings for each other. Who knows, maybe even because of them."
Her mind raced as she looked into his face. All her well rehearsed arguments and reasons 'why' she couldn't fall in love with him seemed trite and petty as she met his eyes. What was she holding back for anyway? So she could report to Starfleet H.Q. in maybe forty or fifty years if they were lucky and say, "I've been a good Captain. My life is over, I'm as miserable as hell. He's as miserable as hell too, but we've both been good!" Mark? No, she couldn't even use Mark as an excuse these days. The Crew? Possibly. But she already knew that they wanted this strange relationship to be happily resolved as much as he did. Last, but not least, there was her faithful, "Command Protocol." No, even that wouldn't come to her rescue, any more. She'd always told herself that she couldn't afford to be second-guessing herself where he was concerned, that she couldn't afford to be deeply worried about him in dangerous situations, but she'd found herself worrying anyway - just as she did about the rest of the crew. Deep down too, she knew that both she and Chakotay were fully capable of handling a private relationship and a Command relationship at the same time. Weren't they actually doing that already?
He was right when he said that she was lonely. She so missed that comfortable closeness with a man she loved. He did what he could to ease that longing and keep her occupied, but she'd put up so many barriers around herself, he could only ever be part-way successful in trying to help her. Alright, so be it. She'd never been one to hang around once she'd made a decision. This wouldn't be just, 'a kiss'. This would be an acknowledgement of the relationship they'd started to build on New Earth. Maybe even the beginning of something deeper....
Reaching out her right hand, she slowly stroked the side of his face with her fingers while her thumb lazily traced the outline of his mouth. Leaning forward and placing her other hand on the other side of his face, she pulled him towards her. Slowly and softly, she covered his mouth in shy kisses. A wave of pleasure ran down her spine and before she knew what was happening, he'd slipped one hand around her waist, the other under her knees and lifted her onto his lap. With her head resting in the crook of his left arm, he kissed her deeply. She felt herself run her fingers into the short hair at the back of his neck and time drifted....
Seconds, minutes later - she wasn't sure which - he pulled away. She smiled at him and he smiled back. He gathered her to him and held her tightly for a few moments before easing her back so that he could look into her eyes and caress her face.
"See", he said breathlessly, "That wasn't so bad, was it?"
"Not bad at all. I need to double-check though - Captain's perogative and all that...."
Pulling his mouth back down to hers, she kissed him again. The kiss went on and on, until suddenly, she became aware of the small sounds she was making and the obvious effect she was having on him, and she panicked. Breaking the kiss she tried to wriggle free. ""I'm sorry, Chakotay." She rolled off his lap, moving to sit on a corner of the rug.
Chakotay took her place against the trunk of the tree to give them both a few minutes before reaching over to take her hand. "Come and talk to me... just talk, I promise."
She hesitated, but then she smiled and nodded. Getting up onto her knees, she moved to his left side and sat down again, leaning back against him.
When she was settled, he reached both his arms around her waist. "What are you thinking, Kathryn?"
"I'm thinking, what the hell have I done?" she sighed. "I'm thinking, why didn't I do it sooner? Why did it feel so good, so fast? And why didn't I do it sooner?!"
"There'll be no recrimminations from me if you think it was a mistake. It can just be
a moment of genuine affection between two intimate friends - if that's what you'd like it to be. I want you to know that I really didn't bring you down here with this in mind. I promise you that. I hoped we'd get closer, but I really did just want to see you relax and have some fun in fresh air and sunshine. Trouble is, I'd forgotten just how damned seductive you can be all on your own, without any help from me."
She turned to look into his face, her expression incredulous.
"Oh, so it's all my fault! Chakotay, you touch me at every opportunity. You hug me at the drop of a hat, and who held and kissed my hand when we climbed over that tree? Who caressed my face when I said I wasn't embarassed by your feelings for me? And, as if isn't enough, who struts around looking tanned and relaxed with that seductive smile and that even more seductive tattoo? And down here, You fall asleep looking like Adonis catching forty winks between Vestal virgins and you have the cheek to call me seductive? You really have no idea how close you came to being kissed awake!"
"I'd have enjoyed that," he laughed. "What stopped you?"
"Left alone to think straight I can control myself."
"Do I have the same effect on you when I'm in uniform?"
"Strangely, not if I'm uniform, too. Well, at least not on the Bridge. Probably because we're focused and surrounded by other people. How about you?"
"Same here, although I sometimes catch myself looking at you on the Bridge - when things are quiet."
"Only sometimes? Get real, Chakotay."
He wrapped his arms around her shoulders while they laughed quietly.
"What made you give in now then," he asked, pointedly. "Surrendering after years of giving me the protocol brush-off?"
"I haven't 'surrendered' yet. I'd hardly call two kisses a 'surrender'.
"You know what I mean."
"Sunshine and red wine have always done things to me, I'm afraid," she chuckled. "But seriously... none of my old excuses came to the rescue anymore. I think I've known for a long time where we were headed and I honestly couldn't see any reason why it shouldn't happen now - sooner rather than later. And, just recently, when we're on duty on the Bridge and I catch you 'not looking at me', I sometimes wonder about the future... my future. What if we don't get home soon? What if, in thirty years time, I'm still pacing the Bridge and you're still watching me with your heart in your eyes? But... all over the ship, wherever we go, we find ourselves knee-deep in other peoples children and couples - our second generation - kissing hello and goodbye in the corridors. Apart from maybe Tuvok and the Doctor, we're the only two on the ship who can't pair off with a crewmember ... or someone whose joined us along the way. This isn't a pleasure cruise, is it? Everyone has to pull their weight and one way or another, they all report to you, and you report to me. So it's 'us' or no-one. I can't think of anything more tragic. Not so much for me, but for you. I've got my Command and my ship and... I think if you didn't love me, it would be enough, but it upsets me to think of you being alone in twenty, or even thirty, years time. We have no guarantees that we'll get home anytime soon. We may never find a wormhole."
"I think it would be just as tragic for you, Kathryn. Your career isn't the only thing in your life. You obviously needed your relationship with Mark. You had a choice in the Alpha quadrant and you chose to have both. The fact that you're here in the Delta quadrant doesn't diminish your innate need to love and be loved. I'd hate to know you were just living from day to day, burying yourself in your work - and then, when it was too late, found yourself looking back over your life with regret." He hugged her tighter and she allowed her head to fall back onto his shoulder where he kissed her cheek, held his face against hers and half-whispered into her ear, "You had your reasons - sound reasons from your perspective. I've been through the Academy, I've commanded and captained other ships, and I know the dangers of a love affair with someone under your Command. I think it's only even possible for us because our situation is unique. We're so far away from home, we're almost like a small, insulated town in space. The inhabitants genuinely want you to be happy though, Kathryn. You did know that, didn't you? So many of them worry about you... B'Elanna keeps me up to date on what their mood is or how they interpret our decisions. Did you know there's even a large betting-pool on exactly when we become an item? They haven't even bothered with 'If' - they've gone straight to 'When'."
"Yes," she laughed, "I did know all that actually. Harry is the one who secretly keeps me up to date."
"So, where do we go from here, Captain? I know I don't want to lose your friendship because that's more important to me than anything else."
Turning to look at him again, she kissed him lightly. "I appreciate that. Your friendship's become very important to me, too. At times it's been the only thing that's kept me sane. But, I'm also very aware of being attracted to you... times when you've been so damned flirty and seductive, I've been 'this' close." she held up her hand, thumb and index finger a hairs-bredth apart. "Unfortunately, lust is no respecter of rank or responsibility, Chakotay. When they pin on your Captain's pips, they don't ask you to hand over your libido for safe keeping in a vault, until you retire."
They laughed hard at that then quieted for a while, until Kathryn sighed, "Chakotay, you're right... I do have deep feelings for you, but I don't love you in the way that you love me, and the last thing I'd ever want to do is hurt you. You don't deserve that. I think I've spent so much time trying to keep my distance - to keep our Command relationship intact above everything else - it's become second nature. I'm pretty confused. Can you understand that?"
"Yes, of course I can. I know it's going to take a while, but I think time spent together off the ship like this will help." You said that you have deep feelings for me... not love yet, but close I think. We enjoy each other's company, we laugh at the same things, I think I do a fair job of keeping you grounded and you give me a purpose, something bigger than me to believe in and to work for. In short, we're already comfortable together. I love you. I hope it won't be long before you can tell me that you feel the same way. Can I ask you about Mark, though? I've been meaning to ask you about him for a while now."
"You haven't told me how he fits into all this - or even if he still does. Kathryn, as far as I'm concerned, once we start a proper relationship there's no going back. It's for keeps. What I'm trying to say is... we could find a worm hole somewhere and be home in less than six months. What happens then?
"I still have feelings for him, Chakotay, but I've had to let him go. He was one half of my life for a very long time. He balanced the driven side of me with so many other wonderful things. You're very similar, actually. I know Mark would never charge off and lead a rebel force like the Maquis, but he hates injustice and he'd fight it in more conventional ways. He's a very calm, centred person too - just like you've become." She glanced at him and returned his grin before continuing. "He's also passionate about things that matter. Like you, he's very open to new people and new experiences. But... unlike you, he's not a man who enjoys his own company and solitude very much. In fact, if I was ever going to be away for more than a month, he'd virtually move in with his brother and sister-in-law. They have three young children and he'd make himself useful after work, babysitting at home so they could go out for the evening, or he'd take the children out to the park on a Sunday morning, so they could have a lie-in. He hates being on his own for too long. I realised a long time ago that I had to let him go. It's been three and a half years and I know in my heart that he's grieved for me and moved on with his life. I know he's happy in another relationship by now... and I really do want that for him. I've said goodbye and I've grieved for him and for us. When I think of him now, I see him happy and content."
Chakotay heard a little edge of pain in her voice, but saw that she was smiling and that the smile reached her eyes. "I won't lie to you, Kathryn. I'm sad for your loss, but I'm relieved too."
She nodded. "That's understandable. So, would you like to go for a walk now?"
"Sure. Maybe we could work our way down to the river? You could choose a special stone to add to your medicine bundle, and I'd like to look up at the waterfall. Where did you put your shoes?"
Three months after their picnic on Jayaarn 3, Kathryn invited Chakotay to dinner in her quarters. They usually ate their evening meal together in the Mess Hall, but tonight she had something to show him and she thought it best to do so in private.
Meeting him at the door, she kissed him 'hello' and asked him to open the wine while she finished replicating their meal.
"Is this another of Paris' DS9 stash?" he asked as he eased the cork from the bottle.
"It looks genuine."
"Yes, well spotted. I did him a favour so he owed me one. Do you remember I authorised that re-jig of the duty-roster and B'Elanna's shift last week so they could spend some more time together. He gave me that as a 'Thank you' "
"Captain Kathryn Janeway allowed herself to be bribed?!"
"No, I did not! I did it as a simple favour and he gave me that afterwards, in simple gratitude."
After dinner they moved to the couch to finish their wine.
"Come-on then," Chakotay demanded. "I've behaved myself. I can't stand the suspense any longer. What did you want to show me?"
"Why don't you get us some coffee and I'll fetch it."
Chakotay busied himself at the replicator as Kathryn disappeared into her bedroom.
He took the coffee-tray to the couch, sat down and poured out two cups. Sitting back with a contented sigh, he waited. Suddenly, he was aware of her standing just behind the couch and he felt her circle one arm around his neck. He tilted his head back, and looked up at her.
"Your coffee's ready."
"I know. Are you?"
"Yes. I suppose so."
"Do you remember Jayaarn 3 and our picnic... the day we kissed for the first time?"
"I remember it like it was yesterday. The beautiful water-colour you gave me helps, too. I see it every morning on my wall and it brings it all back."
"Do you remember falling asleep and me tickling you awake?"
"Yes," he answered slowly. "Why?"
"Look what I found yesterday. It was hidden at the bottom of my paint box and I'd forgotten all about it."
She held a large, neatly creased piece of paper up in front of his face. He groaned and then he groaned again. It was a very clever, accurate head and shoulder sketch of a certain First Officer, fast asleep, in a large sun hat with a flower tucked behind one ear.
"I thought you were joking."
"What do you think Paris would swap me for this, Chakotay?"
"You wouldn't dare...?!"
"Oh, I might. I think it's worth at least one bottle of genuine Champagne, or maybe even..."
In one lightening fast movement Chakotay put his cup down on the table and vaulted himself over the back of the couch. Shocked by how fast he'd moved Kathryn shrieked and skittered away, laughing nervously.
"Give me the sketch, Kathryn. I won't destroy it... I'll just keep it under lock and key in my quarters."
As he spoke he slowly stalked her around the furniture. She was wide eyed and jumpy, but laughing as she tried to navigate the room, walking backwards.
Chakotay was laughing too, but his eyes were very dangerous.
"Give it to me now and I'll go easy on you, Starfleet. If I have to catch you and take it from you, you'll regret it - I promise."
"Oh really, Maquis? You'll have to catch me first, and I don't think you will. I'm a lot more nimble on my feet than you are and I don't think you've got the staying power. You'll get bored of this long before I do."
That did it. Deciding on an old Maquis tactic of advance and withdrawal to confuse her, he took several minutes to manoeuvre her around the furniture and into a chosen corner of the room. Then, without warning, he grabbed a high table away from the wall, charged at her and boxed her in. They were both laughing hard, but by then her laughter was almost hysterical.
Realising that he had her trapped and that there was nowhere to go, she decided that unconditional surrender was her only option. Gasping for air between giggles she managed, "Here, take it! You surprised me, Maquis... I didn't think you'd do it."
He took the sketch, folded it neatly and put it in his pocket. Pushing the table out of the way he pulled her into his arms, kissing her so slowly and so sensually that she melted against him. Slipping one arm around her waist and the other under her knees he picked her up and still kissing her, slowly carried her across the room. Her eyes were closed and her arms were wrapped around his neck.
She was so intent on their kiss it took her a few moments to realise that they'd stopped moving. She smiled languidly, slowly opened her eyes and looked into his as he lowered her feet to the floor and started to laugh, which started him off. After a few minutes she tried to speak, but she only managed to wave her finger at him in mock anger. Finally, she got enough control of herself to say, "I hope you like cleaning duterium tanks and exhaust manifolds, Mister. Because for the next seventy years, you're 'it'."
"Kathryn, you obviously wanted to play - so we played."
"I still think it was an underhand thing to do! I'd never do that to someone who'd gone to all the trouble of inviting me to a special 'I love you' dinner."
"The Maquis have always done 'Underhand' rather well, that's how we... what did you say?"
She smiled innocently - too innocently.
"It was a rotten, underhand thing to do."
"No, after that."
Her smile was like a sunrise. "I love you."
"When? How long? I mean___"
"Long enough to be sure."
She didn't get to say anything else as he gathered her up onto his lap and kissed her for a very, very long time.