"Days Of Wine And Roses"
see part 1 for summary & disclaimers
As they entered the shade of the beach-house, Chakotay guided Kathryn across a large, airy room with white-washed walls decorated with brightly coloured Chaeraan paintings, pottery and ceremonial masks. The simple terracotta-tile floor felt wonderfully cool to her bare feet after the heat of the beach, and while there were no chairs or sofa's in the room, there were huge, luxurious piles of cushions dotted here and there. Beautiful, free-standing glass candlesticks as tall as she was, and low, elegantly carved white tables stood around the room, and there were large windows at the far end of the room dressed in a sheer, snowey-white material which lifted and fell lazily in the sea breeze.
For the very first time, Kathryn Janeway felt envious of someone else's life-style and possessions.
"Chakotay, it's beautiful. How the hell did you manage to get billeted here? Did you use a year's pay to cover it or something?" She slowly turned around in a circle as she admired the simple, uncluttered elegance of the room. "If you did, I must be paying you too much. Even I couldn't afford this place."
He tapped his nose with one finger. "Let's just say I know someone who knows someone, and the first someone owed me a favour."
Her eyes widened in surprise. "Our Neelix?"
"Yes, our Neelix. His new best buddy, Ambassador Mysol and his family use this place as an official Summer retreat. He doesn't need it while the Government is in session because he has spacious family quarters attached to his office and so, to cut a long story short, I did Neelix a huge favour recently." He leaned forward slightly, a slow, cheeky grin forming. "I helped him pick out a rather classy Ambassador's uniform, remember? Um... you're looking a bit green around the gills there, Kathryn. Are you feeling okay?"
"I'm fine, thank you very much," she grouched. "Just show me to my room, Chakotay. I need to shower, change clothes and indulge in a large drink before I can deal with your suffocating smugness."
He tried to look contrite, but the twitching corners of his mouth gave him away. "Yes, ma'am. Right this way. You haven't seen the best bit yet, you know."
He took her hand again and she tagged along just behind him, shaking her head and thinking that his Spirit-guide animal had to be a cat of some kind, judging by the way he always managed to land on his feet.
Just as he stopped in front of a bamboo screen door and turned the handle, she reached up, tapped him on the shoulder and asked, "So, does this mean my tab is clear, again?"
"No, Kathryn, it doesn't mean anything of the sort. You still owe me." He turned to wink at her as he pushed the door open. "In fact, when you see your en-suite bathroom, you're going to owe me for the rest of your life. There's a powerful hot-water shower, and I think you'll love the bottles of exotic oils, creamy soaps and natural sponges and... what else?" He rubbed at his chin for a moment, thinking hard, "Oh yes, how could I forget the shell-shaped bathtub?"
"A shell-shaped bathtub... in there?"
She squeezed past him into the room and a few seconds later he heard a loud gasp, quickly followed by a laughing, but awe-inspired,
"Oh. My. God. It's huge!"
Snorting softly, pleased that he'd decided to take one of the smaller rooms and leave this larger, en-suite one for her use, Chakotay called out, "Don't be too long. I'll be in the kitchen. It's on the far side of the house, at the back, alright? Kathryn...?"
For several seconds the sound of running water was his only answer. Just as he was about to turn away and head for the kitchen, Kathryn re-appeared in the doorway, smiling radiantly as she shrugged off her grey turtleneck.
"On the far side, at the back. Got it. Give me fifteen minutes just to shower and change - twenty minutes, tops." She started to step back into the bedroom and close the door, but paused to say, "And, Chakotay... thank you."
"Well, amongst other things, for your patience and also for sharing all of this with me... for giving me the largest bedroom with the best view and the biggest, deepest bath-tub I've ever seen."
He folded his arms and leaned his left shoulder against the door frame. "Oh? And how would you know that this is the largest bedroom with the best view and the biggest, deepest bath-tub?"
"Because, I've seen the external dimensions of the house. It just isn't big enough to have another en-suite bedroom of this size, with a window that faces the sea and because, love..." she leaned forward and kissed him lightly on the mouth, "I know you. I'll see you in twenty minutes. Don't forget now, large glasses." She disappeared back inside and closed the door, muting the sound of
Chakotay could only stare at the closed door and for one cold, scalp-tingling second wonder if he was still aboard Voyager, in the midst of a powerful vision quest or a dream.
No, this was real. This was finally real!
Turning away, he made his way to the kitchen, musing over the events of a morning that were about to change his life forever. Kathryn Janeway had surprised him yet again. Just when he thought he understood her motivations, she up and shocked the life out of him. He'd always known that she was unpredictable, and that a life spent beside her would be a life full of change and uncertainty - a life lived in a constant state of flux, but that had always been the life he'd envisioned for himself as her First Officer and friend ; together, but somehow distant and remote at the same time. As long as his feelings for her had been his deep, dark secret that distance had allowed him to do his job - especially when she seemed hell-bent on having every last one of her atoms smeared across the quadrant. Would he still be able to keep that professional distance and do his job if they decided to ditch protocol and became lovers? He wouldn't know until that time actually arrived. And that scared him - he'd be a fool to claim otherwise - but, then he supposed there was only one way he was going to find out.
On To Part Four