Written for the 2011 Secret Drabble and Ficlet exchange. Gates Hepburn gave me my first line so this is her story. 🙂
Thanks to Kim J for the beta.
Disclaimer: CBS/Paramount owns everything. No infingement intended.
“What’s so amazing that keeps us stargazing? And what do we think we might see? Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection, the lovers, the dreamers and me.”
It was a rare pleasure to hear him sing and crossing her arms loosely over her chest, Kathryn smiled and leant back against the wall just inside the Mess hall doors.
The picture he painted tugged at her heartstrings. He was over by the viewports with Naomi on his knee, swaying back and forth as he hummed the vaguely familiar melody.
Another meteorite lit the planet’s night sky and Kathryn’s smile broadened at the sound of his chuckle as the little girl squealed and clapped excitedly.
Clambering to her feet, Naomi stood on his thighs and pressed her enraptured face closer to the glass of the viewport to watch the light show.
Shouldering herself away from the wall, Kathryn made her way towards them.
As she came into his field of vision, Chakotay looked up and smiled before nodding towards the night sky. “Did you organise this diversion?”
She huffed a laugh. “Oh, if only my powers allowed me to manipulate the cosmos.”
His grinned as he stood, but kept an arm wrapped securely around Naomi’s middle to support the wriggling toddler as she balanced on the viewport ledge.
Naomi frowned at the interruption and, in a tone vaguely reminiscent of her captain’s, demanded, “More stars, Kotay, more stars.”
He whispered quietly in her ear. “Keep watching, little one. There’ll be more.”
Appeased, she stared intently at the night sky.
Kathryn smiled. “I hear that you volunteered to give Samantha a couple of hours break. Two-year-old molars and an erupting brow spike – poor little thing – you’d think there’d be an easier way.”
“You’d think so…” He shrugged. “But thankfully, her molars are through and the spike is almost there. By tomorrow she should be out of the woods.”
Leaning forward, Kathryn gently swept a lock of hair away from Naomi’s forehead. There was an angry looking swelling just below her hairline heralding the arrival of her fourth and final brow spike – a legacy of her Ktarian heritage. “Oh, that does look sore.”
Kathryn’s proximity caught Naomi’s attention and she turned and pointed to the night sky. “Stars, cap’n, big stars. Look, look.”
Unable to help herself, Kathryn chuckled and stroked Naomi’s unruly mop of curls. “They’re very pretty, aren’t they?”
Another streak of light lit the sky and Naomi pressed her nose against the glass. Awestruck, she whispered, “Pretty.”
Kathryn met Chakotay’s amused eyes over the toddler’s head and sidled a little closer. Shoulders touching, they stood in companionable silence watching the spectacular light show in the skies over this unknown planet.
Voyager’s stopover had been an unscheduled one – the concept of ‘scheduling’ being something of a lost art in the Delta Quadrant – but, following a month of constant skirmishing with yet another band of indiscriminately aggressive aliens, Voyager was in desperate need of an overhaul. Finally escaping their enemies’ territory, they’d stumbled across this paradise of a planet with its abundant raw materials and spectacular scenery. Confident that they were well out of harm’s way, Kathryn decided to land the ship.
As unplanned as this stopover might have been, the respite was a godsend. Everyone was exhausted and a few weeks reprieve was just what the Doctor ordered – literally. They’d touched down four days ago and repair work on the engines and hull was moving along nicely. B’Elanna was keeping the engineering staff on their toes and Tuvok was on hand to crack the whip when needed – they made a great team.
Comfortable leaving the bulk of the organising in their capable hands and with the Doctor’s nagging still ringing in her ears, Kathryn was taking advantage of her lighter workload. On hearing via the grapevine that Chakotay was on babysitting duty and with the evening to herself, she’d decided to come to see if he needed some help.
She should have known that he’d have the situation well in hand. Every woman on the ship, including those under two it seemed, were putty in his hands. Typical!
The thought made her laugh.
His head snapped towards her. “What’s so funny?”
“Nothing. It was just a silly thought.” Before he could press further, Kathryn changed the subject. “Do you have any plans for dinner tonight?”
“Nothing special. A date with the replicator.”
“Well, cancel it. My quarters, 1900.”
“Sounds great. I’ll bring the wine. Red or white?”
Kathryn frowned in thought. “Red.”
The Mess hall doors opened and they both turned.
After a friendly wave, Neelix wended his way through the tables. “Captain, Commander. I’ve come for Naomi. Samantha sends her thanks but it’s time for her bath.”
Chakotay propped the little girl on his hip. “Look who’s here, chaska.”
She grinned and pitched forward, arms reaching for her favourite uncle. “Unkanix.”
Shrugging as he hoisted the toddler into his arms, Neelix smiled indulgently. “Close but not quite.” He looked back towards Chakotay. “How has she been, Commander? Not too much trouble I hope.”
Chakotay stroked Naomi’s hair and tickled her neck with the back of his finger, smiling as she giggled. “She’s been perfect. The Captain was good enough to organise a meteor shower, so we’ve been well entertained.”
Neelix looked towards Kathryn. “Why, thank you, Captain.”
After giving her First Officer a sideways glance, she turned back to the Talaxian with a warm smile. “The Commander is rather overstating my abilities but Naomi has been happy to stargaze and behaved beautifully.”
“She always behaves when she’s with you, Captain.” Neelix assured her.
With a wink, Chakotay nodded. “Yes, because she’s knows it’s Brig time if she doesn’t.”
Kathryn’s eyes narrowed menacingly but a spark of amusement lit their depths. “Speaking from experience, Commander?”
His gaze held hers. “You know I’m always on my best behaviour with you, Captain.” The tenor of his voice suddenly dropped. “I live to serve under you.”
Kathryn’s eyes widened at the blatant innuendo but a quick glance at Neelix reassured her that it had gone unnoticed.
Seemingly oblivious to the sudden tension in the room, Neelix gathered up Naomi’s carryall, bid a distracted goodnight and thank you to Kathryn and Chakotay before heading towards the door.
They stood in silence as they watched him leave.
The hiss of the closing doors sounded loud in the quiet and the strained tension only increased once they were alone.
Taking a step away from Chakotay, Kathryn endeavoured to re-establish her equilibrium. However, the uncharacteristic breathiness of her voice undermined her intentions and she silently cursed herself as she husked, “See you at 1900, Commander.”
Chakotay nodded slowly and leaning a fraction closer, spoke softly, “I’ll look forward to it, Captain.”
Kathryn spun on her heel and headed towards the exit but just as the doors opened – and before she could stop herself – she glanced over her shoulder.
Damnit! She hadn’t meant to look back but the impulse was beyond her control.
Their gazes met for a briefest of moments but long enough for her to see the light of recognition and the merest glint of triumph in his eyes. Kathryn gave him a lop-sided smile before turning away and striding the last few steps out of the room.
Once the doors had closed behind her, her pace faltered and, after taking a deep breath, she strolled in thoughtful silence back to her quarters.
What had she been thinking? Harmless flirting was one thing but this was something else entirely. There’d been nothing timid or hesitant in his look. He knew exactly what he wanted and much to Kathryn’s dismayed delight, she wanted the same. Frissons of nervous expectation trickled over her skin.
They were playing a perilous game but a delicious one all the same and one where the rules had suddenly changed.
She’d never met anyone quite like him. There was something dark and dangerous but ultimately irresistible about him and at the same time, he was one of the gentlest and kindest men she’d ever met. A man of contradictions.
There was no one she trusted, or whose opinion she valued more; he was her closest and most cherished friend. But why after years of keeping a tight lid on her feelings, did she suddenly feel the need to acknowledge them? Perhaps it was simply time to admit to herself that she was in love with him and ready to do something about it.
He spoke to parts of her that neither Justin nor Mark had ever touched and they’d melded almost seamlessly. That wasn’t to say that they didn’t have their differences but those differences only made their relationship more energizing and vital. They’d also had their fair share of disagreements, coming to loggerheads on more than one occasion but he was her equal – and more – and she’d quickly come to respect him and his principles. They’d achieved an easy give and take in their command style and she honestly didn’t know what she would do without him.
More than once she’d asked herself if she would have coped so well with the stresses and demands of her command if he hadn’t been by her side, and each time she’d come to the same conclusion – no.
His predecessor, Cavit, although a thoroughly satisfactory First Officer, had been a stickler for the rules, uncompromising and unimaginative. That sort of command style wouldn’t have got them very far in the Delta Quadrant and although she ran a ‘tight ship’, Chakotay’s tempering influence had kept her in check and they, as a crew –‘Fleet and Maquis – had found a way to work within the malleable framework of Starfleet rules and regulations.
As she stepped through the doors of her quarters and headed towards the replicator to program their meal, the realisation of what she was about to do hit her square in the chest. Tonight she was going to rewrite those rules once more. From a purely practical standpoint, strict interpretation of Starfleet regulations just didn’t work in their situation. They upheld the basic tenets and the prime directive was adhered to without compromise but some of the less stringent regulations had to be bent and reshaped to fit their circumstances.
What they were experiencing was something unique and unprecedented in Starfleet history. The responsibility for their safety rested solely on her shoulders so Kathryn felt she had the right to do some reinterpreting of the rules. If they were going to survive out here – body, heart and soul intact – there had to be some room to manoeuvre. She and Chakotay had already discussed the need for replacement crew and unless they started shanghaiing individuals from planets along the way or conjuring crewmen out of thin air, they would have to have children to take over the running of the ship when the time came for the original crew to retire. Their journey home was a lifetime’s commitment and as such, she had an obligation to ensure they made it through.
Staring at the replicator, Kathryn was surprised at how calm and confident she felt about this decision. Their mission would never be an easy one but it would be easier with the man she loved by her side, both on and off the Bridge.
The doorbell chimed and quickly cancelling her original replicator request, she ordered a picnic basket with all the trimmings before turning towards the door. “Enter.”
Chakotay stepped through the opening, a bottle of wine in one hand and a peace rose in the other.
Kathryn’s face softened into a dazzling smile. “For me?”
He nodded. “Naomi helped me pick a few earlier. This was the lone survivor.”
“She’s going to be an interesting young lady.”
Chakotay noted the picnic basket and raised his eyebrows in question. “Been ‘fixing’ your replicator again?”
Kathryn flicked his chest playfully with the back of her hand and snorted. “No. But as this is a special occasion, I thought we might take advantage of being on solid ground and have dinner under the stars.”
“A special occasion?”
Despite all the ruminating she’d been doing, Kathryn hadn’t really put much thought into how she was going to broach the subject of their deepening relationship with the man in question. But looking into his eyes, she could see that as always he was on the same page. So without preamble, she stood on her tiptoes and pressed her lips to his.
“A very special occasion. You’re moving, Commander.”
“Uh huh. When we get back, we’re packing your things and bringing them to my quarters.”
“But where are you going to live?”
Momentarily confused, Kathryn blinked.
Chakotay grinned and took a step closer.
She glared. “Oh, very funny.”
The rumble of Chakotay’s laugh lightened her heart but before she could say anything more, he gently cupped her face between his hands and whispered, “I love you, Kathryn Janeway.”
“I know and I love you too. You’ve kept me almost sane for these last four years.”
“Almost is good enough for me.” His thumb brushed across her lips before he leant forward and covered her mouth with his.
She slowly opened her eyes as he pulled away. “I’ve just thought of another place for a picnic.” Grabbing the basket with one hand and his elbow with the other, she grinned as she tugged him towards the bedroom.