Disclaimer: Paramount reigns supreme. Me - I'm just a lowly fangirl.
Summary: I thought it was about the right time to write a 'last night in the DQ' story. This is what came out. In three words - they get together. Or make that four - finally they get together.
It was supposed to be a funny story. It isn't really. It was supposed to have a plot. It doesn't much. If anyone finds my ability to write stories with actual plots floating around somewhere, please direct it back my way. Thanks awfully. Until then, here's some J/C meandering for your enjoyment.
Kathryn could hardly believe that it was happening. The looks of elation - and of concern - on the faces of her crew as they raised their glasses to echo her toast.
"To the crew of Voyager. And to home."
Chakotay materialized from nowhere at her shoulder as he always seemed to do just at the precise moment when she was attempting to sneak away. She cast a quick glance around the room, noting the different clusters the crew had formed, trying to capture the image in her mind. Our crew, she thought, filing away the picture.
"I think I should."
He made a face - a half smile, a half grimace. "It's early. Why don't you stay a while? Neelix said he's making more punch."
"You're trying to induce me to stay, right?" Kathryn chuckled softly as she regarded the bustling Talaxian. Even now, on the last night of their stay in the Delta Quadrant, Neelix was rushing around trying to make the rest of the crew more comfortable.
She shook her head. "I'll let them let their hair down a little without me around."
Chakotay took her by the elbow as if he intended to forcibly lead her back towards the celebration. "And here I was hoping you'd stop doing that before we got back."
She feigned ignorance. "Doing what?"
"Slipping off early from every party. Like you're the chaperone. Or someone's mother."
He slid his hand from her arm and took another sip of his drink.
"I guess some old habits die hard," she said unthinkingly.
Chakotay raised an eyebrow at her oblique comment but didn't reply. Old habits, she thought, she had developed a lot of new old habits during their time on Voyager. This routine with Chakotay was one of them. They both knew she would leave. She didn't want to think about the rest of their habits though, not tonight.
"There was a nasty rumour among some of the crew earlier that Neelix was going to try and use up all of his remaining supplies tonight," she said. "I suppose it could be entertaining."
"Could be", he replied.
"On the other hand," she said, "strange visions of leola root desserts are already turning my stomach."
"You shouldn't spend this night alone", he said bluntly, ignoring her attempted joke.
I'm always alone, she thought. Instead, she said, "Good night", and turned to leave.
"Wait." He put his drink down on the nearest flat surface he could find then turned back to her. "I'll come with you." At her startled look he added, "I mean, I'll walk you back to your quarters."
Mind reading, she thought. He's started mind reading now.
"You don't have to do that," she said.
"I know." He grabbed her hand and leaned towards her conspiratorially. "But who am I to deprive the crew of their last chance for some good command team gossip?"
Kathryn laughed softly and let him lead her from the room. The few crewmembers who saw them leave made no comment but smiled to themselves. Tom Paris, it goes without saying, was one of those who noticed. He quickly swept his eyes across the room until he found B'Elanna, then gestured with his head towards the door.
"Did you see that", his expression seemed to say.
She grinned at him, raised her glass, and mouthed something back. He thought it might have been "Bets are off, helm boy".
Neelix did make another batch of punch. Then another one. The party continued on well into the next morning. Someone even got a sing-along started. It was that sort of night.
Kathryn found conversation difficult as they walked along the deserted corridors. Voyager's familiarity felt strange tonight now she was armed with the knowledge that she wouldn't be walking down this corridor again tomorrow, or anytime soon. Maybe never. It felt surreal. As they drew closer to Chakotay's quarters she unconsciously slowed down, unwilling to end the evening just yet. He still held her hand. Now she looked down at their entwined fingers, reluctant to break the physical contact between them.
"I suppose this is goodnight," she said quietly when, short of suggesting another lap of the ship for old times' sake, she could no longer delay their inevitable arrival. Chakotay made no move to let her go, but ran his thumb over her knuckles instead.
"Why don't you come in for a drink?"
"Alright", she said, the word out of her mouth almost as soon as his sentence ended. If he noticed he made no sign, but let her fingers slip from his as they stepped inside.
The door slid shut. Another familiar sound to be filed away in her memory. Swoosh. Chakotay's door.
"What can I get you?"
Kathryn was inspecting his quarters as though it was her first visit and it took her a moment to realise he had spoken. "Sorry?"
"To drink?" Chakotay gestured to the replicator. "Some wine? Or something else? Coffee on my rations, for old times' sake?"
Kathryn pulled at the edge of her sleeve, wanting to keep her fingers busy. "I don't really feel like anything, actually."
Chakotay smiled. "Me neither," he admitted. "It's a big night," he went on, watching her pace methodically around the room. "Want to talk for a while?" He signaled toward the couch but Kathryn's wasn't looking and missed the gesture.
"I'd like that," she said, running her fingertips over the coffee table. She couldn't help thinking that she really hadn't spent a great deal of time in his quarters. That struck her as strange, given their close friendship. That and the fact that she slept right next door. She had always believed that you could tell something about a person by the spaces they created for themselves. Chakotay's space reflected his sense of stillness, she thought - his patterned cushions, the woven blanket tossed over the couch, and his akuna - all reminders of who he was. She filed that image away in her head.
"You've been quiet tonight," Chakotay observed as she continued her survey.
"Have I?" Kathryn came to rest in front of the window, gazing aimlessly out at the stars. "I guess there's too much to say."
He watched the way her shoulders hunched. "I almost can't believe that we've fixed the slipstream drive for the last damn time. Finally we'll be home. It doesn't seem real somehow."
"Finally," Kathryn echoed. She turned to face him, her back resting against the windowsill. Chakotay eyed her carefully, searching for some indication of her mood. Shoulders back, mouth tense, eyes flickering.
"Want me to start?" he said eventually, when it seemed clear she would not.
Her eyebrows pinched together uncertainly. "Start what?"
"The conversation. Too many things to say, remember?"
Kathryn nodded. "Yes. Of course."
"It's okay." Chakotay smiled and moved towards her. "It's all a little overwhelming, I understand that. But there probably are some important things we should talk about before we get back. Things we haven't had time to go into yet," he added, recalling the discussions they had been having all week, most over coffee in her ready room. Starfleet admirals. Field commissions. Crew reports.
"So, where should we start?" she said softly, as he came to rest in front of her.
"I just wanted to say - that is, I wanted - oh hell." He broke off in frustration and shook his head. "Just this," he said.
He reached out with his right hand and cupped it under her jawbone. Then he lowered his face and kissed her gently on the lips. He moved his mouth against hers, aware that she appeared to be tentatively responding. As he pulled back they stared at each other, each trying to read something in the other's eyes.
"I thought about doing that so many times," he said.
Kathryn thought it best not to mention how many nights she had imagined arriving on his doorstep with those intentions in mind, evenings that inevitably ended with a bitter recitation of reasons why such a nocturnal visit would not be a good idea. Feeling his breath on her cheek now, the tactile warmth of his palm on her face, she realised just how difficult she would have found it to put distance between them again. Chakotay's lips, she thought, eyeing them. Too late. They were already filed away.
Chakotay ran his fingertips along the edge of her jawbone as he drew back his hand.
"Sometimes I felt as though someone else was holding me back, looking over my shoulder and editing parts out of my life."
(Note to readers: This is my obligatory dig at you know who for doing you know what to certain scenes over the years. Sorry. It's out of my system now. Back to the action.)
He paused and shook his head. "After tomorrow, there are so many uncertainties. I don't want to regret never having kissed the most incredible woman I've ever met."
With some effort Kathryn managed to keep her voice steady. That was a hard line to come back from.
"I thought you might want to talk about the Maquis," she said lamely. Fat chance. Been there - field commissions, crew reports, Starfleet Admirals. Done that.
He allowed himself a small smile. "You're more interesting. Besides, there will be plenty enough of that talk later on. And there's nothing I can do about it."
Kathryn felt her rapid blood flow echoing in her ears. It had been a long time since he had even stood this close to her, never mind - she broke off the thought, aware that he was watching her with painful uncertainty etched on his face. He wasn't mind reading after all, she thought. A stupid thought, of course he wasn't.
"So," she said softly, "my turn to say something?"
With only a few heartbeats hesitation she leaned forward and returned his kiss. This time he pulled her quickly towards him, wrapping his arms around her and deepening the embrace. They stumbled against the wall, Kathryn's back pressed uncomfortably against the hard surface. She didn't notice. When they broke apart Chakotay rested his forehead against hers.
"This probably isn't the most sensible thing to do right now," he said quietly.
That look in his eyes, she thought. I know that look. "Do you want me to leave?" she said.
"No," he whispered. Stupid question.
"Then I'll stay." Better answer.
Suddenly it all seemed very simple.
Chakotay's shoulders, she thought at some later stage of the night. He had the most amazing shoulders. Funny she'd never noticed that before.
Kathryn let out a small chuckle as an old memory flickered across her mind. What a thing to be thinking about now, of all times. She sat up, pulling the sheet around her. Chakotay followed her, running his hands up along her back then wrapping his arms around her from behind. She nestled back against him.
"What is it?"
"This is going to sound crazy."
"As crazy as tonight?"
She smiled and shook her head.
"Try me," he said.
"I was thinking about a play I was in once."
She could imagine his look of surprise. "I though ballet was your thing."
"It was a school play. I didn't want to do it but my father talked me into it. He said I should make sure I should try other things before I gave my life so completely to science."
Chakotay readjusted his grip around her waist and prepared for a story. "How old were you then?
He chuckled. Kathryn picked at the sheet as she tried to explain the situation. "Once he'd guilted me into it, he got so enthused about the idea. He kept asking me how rehearsals were going, insisting he'd fix his schedule so that he could come and see his daughter perform. I couldn't back out even though I desperately wanted to."
"Did he come?"
"Oh he did better than that. He insisted that he, my mother and Phoebe all sat in the front row to encourage me."
Chakotay laughed again. Kathryn rested her hands on top of his and kept talking.
"I was terrified, you have no idea. When I stepped out onto that stage I felt so dreadful. All of my lines just flew out of my head. I couldn't remember a single one."
"Did you have many?" He was interested now, trying to imagine where this was going.
"I had seventeen. I remember that much. Seventeen. I was supposed to be a supporting actor. Comic relief, I think. Anyway, I was standing there on the stage, my mouth so dry that my tongue was welded to the roof of my mouth. My heart pounding like it would burst right out of my chest." Kathryn thumped on one of his hands for emphasis. "Then I saw them, sitting there in the front row watching me. My mother, father, sister."
She sighed at the memory. "I opened and shut my mouth a few times - a little goldfish impression - then started to speak. I found my voice. I remembered the lines."
"So you were good?"
"I was awful."
She didn't sound particularly upset, so he laughed again.
"Afterwards everybody was being so polite. My father - even Phoebe - trying to pretend I'd done a good job. I didn't believe a word of it." She gesticulated in the air. "I tripped over the plastic mountains for heaven's sakes. I knocked one of the boys playing the trees so hard that he almost fell off the stage."
"They were probably trying to make you feel better," he said.
Kathryn shook her head, her hair tickling his face. "I didn't feel that bad about the play. I just wanted them to be honest. If I'd failed at something I thought I could do - something I'd felt capable at - then I would have felt bad. But I knew I couldn't act. I wanted someone to say it."
He kissed her on the shoulder absently. "What happened then?"
"When I couldn't stand it anymore, I slipped off into the kitchen. My mother followed me there. She didn't say a word, just watched me. Eventually I snapped and said, 'Well?' She said, 'Well what?' I said, 'Come one, Mom, tell me what you really thought."
"She looked at me for a long moment, then she said, 'Kath, your costume was beautiful. But your timing was unbelievably woeful."
He smiled, finally seeing the point of the story.
"She was so right", Kathryn twisted her head around so that she could look at him. "My timing is still unbelievably woeful."
He groped for words. "I'm not asking you to promise anything. I know this isn't the best way that we could have handled this. But I'm not sorry."
"The time that we've wasted-" she began.
He cut her off, brushing hair back from her face with his warm fingers. "Being your friend wasn't a waste of my time."
"I should have -"
"Don't say that, Kath. Don't start. There'll be enough second guessing in the next few months to last you a lifetime. Don't add me to the list."
She stuck out her bottom lip ruefully. "Too late. You're already at the top of it."
Chakotay sighed. "We both made choices, you had your reasons for all of your decisions."
"Huh. Funny. I don't remember what they were right now." She turned her head away again and ran the fingers of one hand up his forearm. "I wish some playwright would write us a script for the next few weeks. Not knowing what's going to happen, not being in control-".
He nuzzled closer to her ear. "Want to knock over a few plastic Admirals?"
She laughed shortly. "I might do, depending on what they have to say."
"In that case, I'll help you."
"Deal. But if you want the analogy straight," she said, "you trip into the plastic Admirals. You knock over the ones dressed as trees."
He laughed again, warm against the side of her face. "Alright. I'll try to remember that."
Kathryn rested back against his collar bone and let him pull her into down onto the bed. Maybe a written script wasn't such a good idea, she mused. At least this way she could have a little say in what happened tomorrow. And whatever happened tomorrow, at least she would face it with one less regret. That had to be something worth writing home about. She smiled at the thought.
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