It started with a kiss
by Jinny W
Disclaimer: Paramount owns everything Trek. The title comes from E. Brown's song (which also explains the title of the other story, for those who asked), taken, as usual, a wee bit out of context.
Summary: This is one of two stories I wrote in response to "Spirit Folk" - this is the longer and more serious story. In which more than the holodeck is not working right...
Some of you will be happy to note that I have eventually - and uncharacteristically - obeyed Kerry's rules for fanfic. Hurrah! (It's that bloody prime directive I always have the most trouble with.) Unless you count deleting Michael as killing off a character, which I don't think would be contrary to the spirit of her guidelines :-) Got you interested yet? Read on!
Chakotay smiled and leaned forward, pressing his lips gently against hers. She closed her eyes and returned the kiss. As his arms encircled her and pulled her against his chest she felt as though she was sinking inside an incredibly lovely dream. Only this wasn't a dream. This was really happening.
She pulled him down onto the bed, letting his body mold against hers ...
One month earlier
Kathryn was late. Usually she was a fairly punctual person, but today had been hectic. Each tardy appointment bumped the others down the line. Until now. She strode down the corridor towards the turbolift, nearly sidelining a hapless crewmember on her way. She smiled her apology and walked on a little more decorously until she rounded the corner. As Kathryn reached the turbolift doors she sighted Chakotay strolling toward the lift from the other direction. He broke into a smile and called out a greeting.
"Hi yourself", she replied, as they stepped inside.
"Quite a day", Chakotay said conversationally.
"You can say that again." Kathryn ran a hand through her hair and sighed. B'Elanna had been having trouble with two of the gel packs all morning.
"Where are you off to?"
She smiled. "Just paying a little visit to Fair Haven."
Chakotay's cheek muscle seemed to twitch for a moment, then his face was still.
"Oh. You're not dressed for it tonight."
Kathryn shook her head. "No, I'm already running terribly late. My holodeck booking will run out if I take time to change. Besides, Michael knows what I look like in my uniform. I'm sure he won't mind."
At that a small smile threatened to crack Chakotay's neutral expression.
"I've always thought it suited you."
"So. How are things going?"
It was an innocent sounding question, yet Kathryn had the unnerving feeling that he was carefully scrutinizing her reaction.
"'Things' are fine Commander, thankyou."
She paused then continued. "I don't see you in Fair Haven very often, Chakotay. I know I had to rescind Tom's open door policy, but I still bump into Harry and Tom drinking there occasionally. You're welcome to join us."
He stared at her, blinking his eyes slowly, then looked away. "Thankyou, Captain, but it's not really my style."
"The drinking or the program?"
"Let's just say I find it a little too sanitized for my liking," he said.
"No dirt, no poverty. Everyone cheerful all the time. It feels like one of those cheesy 'historical recreation' parks. No offense, Captain, I know you like it there."
"None taken. Each to their own."
The lift stopped and the doors slid open. Kathryn stepped out, then threw over her shoulder, "You're free to fill your programs with as much squalor as you like."
Chakotay smiled politely. But as the doors closed he sighed, the mask of nonchalance slipping away, to be replaced by one of wistful gloominess.
"Sure", he said, to the empty air.
As Kathryn stepped into the holodeck she pondered Chakotay's remarks. It was unnaturally clean in Fair Haven. It wasn't meant to be an accurate historical representation after all. Who would want to go and relax somewhere where it smelt like sweat, dirt and poverty? She shook her head. Surely that wasn't what Chakotay meant. Why had he been studiously avoiding the program then?
Come to think of it, he had been studiously avoiding her lately too. Not obviously but in a myriad of small ways. Finishing his meals quickly when she arrived in the mess hall. Being busy with reports whenever they sat side by side on the bridge. Refusing invitations to join her for a drink.
She shook her head again. Why did that last one bother her so much? It wasn't as though she came here to drink with him. In fact, she thought, she couldn't possibly imagine the sort of conversation that Chakotay and Michael would have. Could it be that she would really rather be spending her free time with Chakotay? She pushed that thought away quickly. She came to this program to get away from Voyager, not to start fantasizing about her first officer.
She pushed open the door to Sullivan's and stepped inside, blinking to adjust to the relative dimness. Michael stood behind the bar, wiping out glasses with a cloth, and whistling. She let the door slip from her fingers and strode to join him.
He looked up and smiled. "Hello Katy, it's good to see you."
His eyes seemed to linger for a moment on her uniform, but he made no comment.
"I'm sorry I'm a little late. I got caught up in work today. I couldn't get away any earlier."
Michael shrugged. "You're not late."
"Oh." Kathryn realised then that she had activated the program at the set time of their date. Of course Michael hadn't been waiting for her. He'd been inside the holodeck computer, deactivated. She smiled to cover her discomfort at the thought.
"No of course not. Well, I'm glad I didn't keep you waiting. I thought perhaps we could go for a walk."
"Sure. Let me get my coat."
They fell in step beside each other.
"Tell me something about your day", he began.
Kathryn opened her mouth to respond, unthinkingly about to launch into a tirade about the bio-neural circuitry. Unable to cope right now with that conversation, she said, "Actually I've had quite a hectic week since I saw you last. Where to start?"
Michael stopped and looked at her, astonished.
"A week? Katy, I saw you last night. We went to the Nickelodeon show."
She stared back at him blankly, trying to recall her last visit to the holodeck. It had been just after a meeting with Neelix about problems with the hydroponic food supply... She broke off the thought, aware that Michael was watching her strangely.
"Of course. It would be only last night to you."
"To me?" He shook his head, and continued walking. "I forget that time passes differently for you on that ship of yours."
She tried to keep her voice light. "It's not so different."
"I think it is," he said slowly.
This time they both stopped.
"I mean, I can get used to the fact that this time travelling machine of yours usually only goes one way, that you can visit me here but I can't come to see you in your home."
Michael halted, obviously struggling to put the thought into words.
"But that means that you can spend a day, a week, or a month away from me in your world, and then come back and see me, and as far as I'm concerned only a day has passed by."
Kathryn nodded. "I suppose you're right. Does that bother you?"
"To be honest with you Katy, it does."
"Well for one thing, while you're talking about this ship of yours, I feel like we don't have so much in common as I once thought. You do come from a completely different world to me."
Kathryn was silent, listening.
"But mainly", he sighed, "it makes me feel... I don't feel like you're really sharing your life with me."
She reached out to touch his arm. "What does that mean? Michael, you know I care about you."
"And I for you. But sometimes, Katy, I feel that you're still a stranger to me."
They walked on in silence. Although she knew it was her imagination, Kathryn felt as if the country air had suddenly turned noticeably chilly.
B'Elanna glared at Harry across the console. He sighed and put the padd down.
"Look, I didn't do this B'Elanna. I'm just reporting it to you."
The engineer snorted. "I don't care who did this Harry. This stupid program shouldn't be running so often in the first place."
"The captain did close the open door policy," Harry offered.
"Big difference that's made." B'Elanna gestured irritably at the padd. "If these figures are correct the good citizens of Fair Haven are going to start noticing the degradation of the program before too long."
"We could fix it."
"I don't want to fix it," she snapped.
"No Harry, this is ridiculous. This program has congenital errors. The data stream is too big. And too many people use it. We'd just be running around patching up the holes. This has to stop."
Harry rolled his eyes. "Well you can tell the captain."
B'Elanna bit her lip. "I will," she said, less forcefully.
"Look," Harry began, "if we just added an extra protective algorithm to the buffer circuits..."
He trailed off at the expression on B'Elanna's face. "It could work," he added defensively.
"Yes it could. And we could be back here talking about the same problem a month from now. Harry I have better things to do with my time." She gestured to the pile of padds on her console. "I have important things to fix, things that we can't run the ship without."
"Like I said, you tell it to the Captain."
Harry left her glaring at the warp core. It hummed melodically, blissfully unaware of the problems of B'Elanna's universe.
In the end she told Chakotay instead. She was halfway through the fourth sentence explaining holo-emitter corrosion when he held his hand up to stop her.
"B'Elanna. I'm no engineer. I have no idea what you're talking about."
She sighed. "Alright, but before you tell me to take it to the captain, let me give you the short version."
"The Fair Haven program is malfunctioning again. I think we should shut it down, for good this time."
B'Elanna watched his face carefully for a reaction, but couldn't read his expression.
"Will you tell the captain? She won't listen to me."
Chakotay raised his hands in frustration. "What makes you think she'll listen to me?"
"You're the first officer. You're her friend."
At that he turned away. "Right. I'm her friend."
B'Elanna touched his arm. "Chakotay? What is it?"
"I'm just... " He shook his head and turned back to her, his face carefully neutral again. "Kathryn hasn't really been confiding in me much these days."
"She still needs to know about this."
"Of course. This is business. But she might also shoot the messenger," he said with a humourless grin.
She returned the smile wryly. "Why do you think I came to you?"
"Maybe I'll shoot you first."
"If that would make you feel better."
B'Elanna intended the words lightly, but couldn't help but see the flicker of sadness in her old friend's eyes.
"This is about the Irish boyfriend, isn't it," she said softly.
Chakotay shook his head wordlessly.
"I really don't want to talk about this."
"Alright," B'Elanna said. "But you know where I am, if you do want to."
Chakotay sighed as the doors hissed shut behind her. There were times he really hated being the first officer. This was a prime example. He threw the padd B'Elanna had brought him irritably against his couch. It bounced off a cushion and slid to the floor.
"You too," he grumbled, bending to retrieve it. Perhaps he should just get it over with.
She was silent for nearly a minute. It felt like a lifetime. He shuffled his feet and stared at the carpet, wishing himself anywhere else on the ship. He would even settle for the mess hall, and a giant bowl of Neelix's latest concoction if it would let him out of her ready room right now.
"Perhaps we should abandon the program", she said into the silence.
Chakotay stared at her, startled by the response. He had expected an argument, a request for options at the least.
"Maybe it's just not working anymore", she added. Chakotay was unsure if she was still referring to the program itself.
"I think -", he began, then broke off.
"What do you think?" She held his gaze, her blue eyes intent.
He took a breathe and let it out slowly. "I think you're right. B'Elanna is right. It's time to let it go." He knew that he wasn't talking about the program.
She nodded, but her mind seemed elsewhere. "I'll let B'Elanna know."
She was silent for a few moments more. He was about to request permission to leave when she spoke again.
"Michael and I -"
Chakotay felt his stomach clench at the use of their names so close together.
" - had an argument the other night. Well not really an argument, a more civilized discussion," she amended. "But I can't stop thinking about it."
She sighed. "He said that we come from different worlds."
Chakotay shifted uncomfortably, unsure exactly what type of response she wanted to hear.
"You are." He settled on eventually.
"I know, I know. I just think maybe - maybe our relationship, it isn't what I thought it was all along. Or what it could have been."
Chakotay bit his lip. "I'm not sure I'm the right person to be advising you here, Kathryn."
"Because you don't think Fair Haven is 'real' in the first place," she accused.
He sighed, the decision made.
"I'm not so sure that your relationship was real either."
"What do you mean by that?" she said sharply.
"Do you remember when the program became corrupted last time, and you said to me 'my boyfriend's malfunctioning'? I thought it sounded odd. But it wasn't the malfunction part, but your use of the word boyfriend. He isn't a real person, Kathryn."
Kathryn's eyes flashed. "You wouldn't say that about the doctor."
"No but that's different. The doctor doesn't exist in a fictional world, where the storyline has been determined by someone else, where characters, events, and scenery can be altered at will."
"I took away my ability to change Michael." Her voice was dangerously quiet.
Chakotay shook his head. "You can't change what he is. When you started this relationship with him, there wasn't the same risk as there is in real life, it was safe for you."
"You're saying that I was using him as a crutch."
"Don't put words into my mouth."
"That's what I'm hearing from you, Chakotay."
She threw his name out like an accusation.
"Then you're not hearing me Kathryn. In a relationship both people need to contribute something, it should be about sharing your lives with each other."
She closed her mouth, her angry response forgotten. "What?"
"Don't shoot the messenger, please", he said, thinking about his conversation with B'Elanna earlier. "I'm telling you this because I care about you."
"Right. Because you care."
She glared at him, her arms crossed tightly over her chest.
"I don't know what else to say to you Kathryn," he said helplessly.
"I think you've said enough."
Chakotay swallowed hard. "Permission to leave."
He swiveled on his heels and strode from the ready room. He didn't hear Kathryn's tearful words, choked out at his back. "Just leave."
She went to say goodbye to Michael. Perhaps it would have been easier not to have paid this visit, after all, he wouldn't know. Wouldn't miss her, or wonder why she never came to see him anymore, once he was locked safely inside the computer. Or deleted all together.
But to not go would have been cowardly. Kathryn Janeway was many things but not a coward. Not about this at least, she told herself, as she entered Sullivan's bar for the last time.
And in the end Michael didn't seem surprised. It was awkward, as goodbyes often are. But once it was over, when she huddled crying in her sonic shower, she didn't think it was Michael she was crying for at all.
And when she curled up into a ball under her sheets that night, it wasn't Michael's face she imagined, but another pair of sad brown eyes watching her. Just watching.
Later, days later, they spoke more civilly. He came to her quarters for a drink. Perched on the edge of her couch, he told her in clumsy words that she had done the right thing.
The silence stretched on and on, until her soft voice replied.
"I know. But I still feel terrible."
"I'm sorry. Not about the program. You know I won't miss it. But I'm sorry anyway. For you."
He hesitated, then decided to plunge ahead. "There was another reason I never spent any time in Fair Haven."
Kathryn shook her head.
"I know you think it was all artificial."
"No, it wasn't only that."
He sighed and put his drink down on the coffee table. "It was you Kathryn," he said simply.
She looked at him, not understanding.
"How can you not... " he broke off, imagining the different ways that sentence could end.
Want to touch the skin of someone real...
Know that he was wrong for you...
Know that I love you...
Chakotay shook his head and started again.
"It was watching you convince yourself all over again that you're alone on Voyager", he said instead. "You'll admit that you have friends here. Sometimes you'll call us family. But then you'll go and do something like this. Pretend that you can't connect to any of us. That it would be too difficult."
Kathryn watched the play of emotions over his face, feeling her heart beat faster at the intensity of his words.
"I'm sorry that I reacted that way last week", she said, finishing off her drink and placing the empty glass down next to his.
"You were right about Michael being wrong."
Chakotay shrugged off the apology. "I didn't enjoy being right."
"It still doesn't solve the problem."
He frowned. "What problem?"
"Take away the holographic boyfriend the captain was using as a crutch, then what happens?" She tried to make it sound like a joke, but her voice cracked anyway.
Chakotay reached over and clasped her hand, folding his fingers gently over hers.
"I don't know Kathryn", he said softy, "but you'll see. You should trust yourself that things will be okay."
And he kissed her.
It lasted five seconds at most, just a brush of his lips against hers, held gently for a moment, then pulled away.
"Maybe you could take a risk in the real world," he said.
She seemed surprised but not shocked.
"Chakotay, I don't know..."
A finger on her lips silenced her objection. He traced her lower lip with his thumb before retrieving his hand.
"We have a lot to talk about. But we can do that some other time."
He pushed a stray lock of her hair away from her face, adding, "I just want you to think about the possibility."
Kathryn's silence seemed to imply dismissal. She was staring down at her hands, lost in thought. When she eventually looked up, Chakotay thought she was going to say something.
And then she kissed him. For more than five seconds this time.
And then there wasn't any talking for a while.
"it started with a kiss
I never thought it would come to this
it started with a kiss
I never thought it would come to this..."
words by E. Brown, sung by Paul Kelly, used completely out of context of the rest of the song here, just because I like them :-)
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