The Voyager Festival of Love

by Jinny W
December 2000




This story was written for Addy's "Kiss me Kate" Valentine's Day contest.

Disclaimer: Paramount owns Voyager and all of its characters. They don't appear to have Valentine's Day in their grasp though. I think that belongs to Hallmark. Lyrics used below belong to Harry Nilsson.

Summary: Neelix decides to organize a week long Valentine's celebration. Our favourite couple get dragged into things despite their best intentions. I've thrown in a Valentine's day gift exchange, a crew party, scheming, crossed wires, and blatant use of 20th century music. Makes this hard to categorize, but more fun. Enjoy!

~~~

Kathryn was trying to be a good sport about the whole thing. Honestly she was. At first Neelix's idea had sounded like such a good one. He was fond of resurrecting old earth holidays and turning them into occasions for the crew to celebrate. They had all gone rather well in the past. Well, perhaps with the exception of last year when one young crewman had liberally spiked the Prixin punch with Saurian Brandy. She winced at the memories from that night - Neelix's singing, Harry's tap dance routine, the impromptu conga lines. Not to mention the morning after, when she had awoken on the floor at the foot of Chakotay's bed, her party dress embellished by a Santa hat and a "Merry Prixin" banner that had previously adorned one of Voyager's corridors.

So when he'd come to her with a proposal about Valentine's Day, she had said yes, without asking too many details. That was her mistake. Had she known that Neelix would be planning nothing less than a week long "Voyager Festival of Love" she might have had a different reaction. As it was now, with a week of festivities looming, she was trapped. What possible reason could she give Neelix for rescinding her permission at the eleventh hour? Because I'm the Captain, and I'm not in love, so why should anyone else be? She suspected that wouldn't go down too well.

Kathryn gritted her teeth as she looked through the detailed plans Neelix had just sent her. It wasn't as if she minded being alone - most of the time - she amended. She was perfectly happy with her own company. She didn't need someone else to make her feel complete. She was just annoyed by knowing that she'd be spending the whole of Valentine's Day surrounded by clingy couples, ostentatiously displaying their happiness for everyone else to see. She also knew that the week leading up to the big party would be full of "valentine" exchanges, both secret and indiscreet. And she would have no part in it. Who was she kidding? She felt left out, solitary, and awfully alone.

Kathryn sighed and put down the padd, picking up her half empty mug of coffee.

"At least you'll never leave me", she said to the mug, then took a long drink.

Wonderful, she thought. I'm speaking to my coffee. Things just couldn't get any worse. Then her door chimed.

~~~

"Isn't that great news?"

She stared dumbly back at Chakotay for a minute.

"I'm sorry", she said eventually. "I'm not sure I heard you properly."

"I said it's a request from Ensigns Cook and Kimball. They want you to marry them on Friday."

Kathryn grunted. "That's what I thought you said. Why so soon?"

Chakotay shrugged. "Because it's Valentine's Day I guess. They thought it would be more romantic to have the wedding then."

Kathryn rolled her eyes.

"Kathryn?" he asked, automatically stepping closer to her. "Is something wrong?"

She let out a breath before shaking her head. "No, of course not." She tried to shrug off her grumpy mood. Why should she begrudge other members of the crew happiness, just because she'd lost two fiancÚs already? "Friday is fine. More than fine, it's great. Neelix will be pleased", she added.

Chakotay grinned as he sank into the couch. "You bet. I don't think I've seen him this excited since... well, since the last Prixin celebrations actually."

Kathryn forced a small smile, hoping that it looked vaguely genuine. If Chakotay dared mention the word banner, she thought, she'd have to find some excuse to put him on report. She grabbed the rest of her coffee and the padd containing Neelix's plans and plonked down next to him.

"He's certainly been busy," she admitted. "As well as the Valentine's Day party... sorry, the 'Voyager Festival of Love' party," she corrected, "he and Tom have arranged a series of romantic holo-films for the crew to watch on Wednesday. Then, let's see", she went on, scrolling down the list. "There's a special cooking competition tomorrow night. 'Make your most romantic meal'. Needless to say I won't be entering that one".

Chakotay smiled politely.

"Then there's the holodeck competition, 'Design the most romantic program', due in by Friday morning. Harry's in charge of running that. There's some poetry readings on Tuesday night. Tuvok seems quite keen to get involved there," she observed.

"I can't wait", Chakotay said, straight faced.

"I'll tell him you're interested in hearing him practice too, if you like", she offered.

"You're too kind".

Kathryn continued reading. "Then there's the doctor's suggestion. 'Choose your favourite romantic song'. That runs through the week and they'll play the most popular selections at the party. B'Elanna has offered to co-ordinate the valentine present exchange all week long too, for those who want to remain anonymous."

"B'Elanna?" Chakotay seemed surprised.

Kathryn chuckled at that. "She said that she didn't trust Neelix to keep any of the secrets. And that Tom would be bound to use the information to his own advantage somehow."

"She has a point there."

"And finally, there's the big party on Friday night", she concluded.

"It looks like the crew is really getting into the romantic spirit", Chakotay observed. "So, what are you going to be doing this week?"

"Me?"

"You're the Captain. Shouldn't you be setting the example by participating?"

"I'll be performing the wedding ceremony", she pointed out.

Chakotay snorted. "That's not what I meant and you know it."

She shrugged, suddenly uncomfortable. "I'm not planning on serenading anyone, if that's what you mean."

"Who said anything about serenading?" Chakotay leaned towards her, his eyes warm. "Why don't you help me design a holo-program?"

"Me?"

Chakotay smiled. "Yeah, why not? I'm not that good at program design, but I have a few ideas. We could work on it together. Enter it as a joint effort."

She thought about that for a moment. "You don't think that would give the crew the wrong idea."

He looked at her, the corner of his mouth twitching. "The wrong idea about what?"

Kathryn made a face at him. "You know exactly what I mean. They'll think we're... romantically involved." She tried to ignore the flush she felt rising to her face at having to say that phrase.

"Will they?" His eyebrows shot up innocently.

"Of course they will. They speculate about us anyway, you know that."

"Do they?" he said.

Kathryn sighed, realising he was deliberately pretending to be dense.

"If they already think that", he went on, "then what difference will it make?"

Kathryn sighed. It was true. None of the crew seriously believed that their commanding officers were "just friends".

"I don't know. None, I guess."

"Great!" He leapt off the couch and moved to the door. "Let's get started tonight. My quarters for dinner, at 1900?"

"Dinner?" she frowned. "Shouldn't we be in the holodeck writing the program?"

"We have to talk about our ideas first".

She had to smile at his enthusiasm. "Okay."

He flashed his dimples at her. "See you there".

Kathryn sighed again as the door closed. Designing a romantic program with Chakotay? Perhaps not the best way to make her feel better about the coming week. But then, she mused, maybe it would distract her from the flurry of romantic activity around them. She peered into her empty cup, wondering idly what Chakotay's idea of romance would entail. The possibilities kept her amused for the rest of the afternoon.

~~~

"Chakotay! There you are."

B'Elanna hurried along the corridor to reach him. "I've been looking for you."

He slowed to let her walk more comfortably by his side. "Something up?"

"Not really. Not ship's business anyway. This is something personal."

Chakotay grinned at her. "Need help choosing a present for Tom?"

"No. He's rather easy to please", she admitted. "But I did want to talk to you about the presents. It's private though," she added, looking around them.

"Oh? I'm intrigued."

"I was wondering", B'Elanna hesitated, then stopped, fishing for the correct words.

"Come on, B'e, spit it out", he said. "It can't be that bad."

"I've been put in charge of coordinating the valentine gifts for people who want to stay anonymous", she said. "I've already had a lot of takers. And I was wondering..."

"What?"

"Are you going to give her anything?" she said bluntly.

Chakotay frowned. "Who?"

"Don't be asinine, Chakotay, you know very well who I mean."

"I don't think we should have this conversation."

B'Elanna glanced around the deserted corridor and lowered her voice. "I know you still care about her. Call me a hopeless romantic, but I think this would be a good opportunity to do something about it."

"You're a hopeless romantic", Chakotay said quietly.

"And?" she prompted.

"And what?"

"Are you going to give the Captain something?"

Chakotay rolled his eyes. "Where have you been for the last seven years, B'Elanna?"

"Watching you two. Amongst other things," she retorted.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"You can't give up on her, Chakotay."

He clenched his jaw before responding in a low voice. "Just because I don't want to embarrass her with an unexpected and unwanted display of my feelings doesn't mean I've given up. I'm just being realistic."

B'Elanna opened her mouth to say more, but he held up a hand to silence her. "I don't want to argue about this. My mind's made up."

"But I know that she's feeling-"

"B'Elanna", he said, with a tone of warning in his voice. "Leave it."

B'Elanna let out her breath slowly, then shook her head. "If you say so. But I think it's a mistake."

"Noted", Chakotay said shortly. "Now, I have work to do, so excuse me."

He broke off and stepped into the turbolift. B'Elanna watched him go, her face twisted thoughtfully.

"Leave it. Yeah right. Men!" she muttered in exasperation, and stalked off down the corridor.

~~~


"Eballian silk. A bud vase. Flowers. Chocolates."

"Leave them alone Tom".

"I was just looking", Tom protested. He peered over the pile of gifts B'Elanna had sprawled across the table.

"Keep your beak out of it", she replied. "These are supposed to be secret. I can't let you start spreading rumours."

"They're not labeled anyway," he groused.

"Not yet", she said, waving a padd at him. "But I have the names of all the givers and givees here on this padd. "And you", she added quickly as his eyes lit up, "are not going anywhere near it."

"Spoilsport". Tom sighed melodramatically and continued poking over the pile. "Coffee beans?" he said, holding up the small clear package. "Now who could these be for?"

"Put them down Tom", she snapped.

Tom hefted the beans in his hand thoughtfully. "It's not really that much of a romantic gift, but if you were addicted to coffee, I suppose..."

"That leaves about half the ship."

"Any one I know?" Tom tried to peer at her face.

"You know every one on the ship. Now stop poking, and let me get on with this."

"Geez, you make a crabby Santa", he observed, putting the bag back on the table.

"This isn't Christmas", she said, "it's more personal than that. I don't want to get anything mixed up, or anything wrong. It all has to be just right. I can't give secrets away."

"Not even to me?"

"Especially not to you."

Tom grinned. "So you're not going to tell me if those beans are a gift for the Captain?"

B'Elanna glared at him. "Tom. Do I have to kick you out of here?"

"You wouldn't".

"I would."

"That isn't very romantic", he pointed out.

"Tough", she said. "Stay out of my way."

"Okay. But I'm still free to speculate", he added, and threw her a mischievous look. She sighed. This was going to be one long week.

~~~

Kathryn stared incredulously at B'Elanna's outstretched hand.

"Are you sure there hasn't been some sort of mistake, Lieutenant?" she said.

"Positive. I've been very careful not to get anyone mixed up."

Kathryn reached out and took the small tissue-wrapped package. "But who-"

"I'm sorry, Captain. I'm forbidden to reveal anything. Not even to you."

"Of course", she nodded at the half-Klingon woman. "I just didn't expect-" she trailed off, her fingers cradling the gift. "Thank you."

"My pleasure", B'Elanna grinned. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a pile of other presents to deliver."

"Bye," Kathryn said.

As B'Elanna left her quarters, she sank down onto the couch. A valentine gift for her? From who? She quickly unwrapped the pale blue paper, revealing a small bag of coffee beans and a rectangular shaped card. She picked up the card, running her finger along the smooth edge. In neat lettering, someone had written:

"For the first day of the Voyager Festival of Love. Don't think for a minute that you've been forgotten."

Kathryn frowned. She didn't recognise the writing, and the message itself gave little away. Neither did the gift, she thought. Anyone on the ship could have guessed that she would enjoy some real coffee beans. But who would say she hadn't been forgotten? Obviously then it was one of her friends, not just any member of the crew. Perhaps she could ask Chakotay at dinner. She started at the thought. Chakotay? Could they be from him? She wasn't sure, but for some reason she found the possibility a happy one.

~~~

"I was thinking of something a little more simple."

"What do you mean by simple?"

"Well," Chakotay frowned, "not so ostentatious. Something that could be special without requiring as much planning." He thought for a moment. "Like somewhere natural rather than man made."

"Uh-huh". She pressed a few buttons on her padd. "What about a picnic spot?"

"A picnic spot?"

"Well, I mean somewhere you'd go and just sit and it would have the right mood without you having to do any of the arranging. Isn't that what you meant?"

Chakotay nodded. "Yeah. I guess I do. So next we need to start making lists of all the beautiful places we've been, and what we liked about them."

Kathryn yawned, covering her mouth with the back of one hand. Chakotay glanced at the chronometer.

"I'm sorry, I didn't realise it was so late."

"That's okay. I didn't realise you were so obsessed with lists."

"It helps in my job. So, more coffee, or do you want to call it a night?"

"Coffee, please", she said. As Chakotay went to the replicator she suddenly remembered the coffee beans. She watched his back, wondering if there was any way she could bring up the subject of the gift. After all, he hadn't even dropped any hints to see if she'd received one. Surely if he had given it to her he would be curious about her reaction?

Kathryn shrugged off the thought. Sometimes she found her first officer easy to read, but that didn't mean he was incapable of keeping a secret from her. She rolled her shoulders to relieve some of the tension that had gathered there, then smiled to herself. She had forgotten how much she enjoyed spending off duty time with him.

"You look miles away", Chakotay's voice broke into her thoughts. She looked up to see him holding out a cup of steaming coffee. She took it, smiling her thanks.

"I was just thinking about this week."

"The first annual 'Voyager Festival of Love'? It's going to make interesting reading in our logs."

She chuckled. "I hadn't thought of that. And I don't know about the 'annual' bit either. I was just thinking that so far it hasn't been as bad as I thought."

"As bad?" He frowned. "What do you mean by that?"

Kathryn took a sip of her coffee. She let the warm liquid swirl around her mouth for a moment, then swallowed, deciding on honesty. "Well, just that I wasn't really looking forward to being surrounded by happy romantics. But so far, it's been kind of fun."

He watched her thoughtfully. "I thought you looked a bit unenthusiastic this morning", he commented. "Anything specific change your mind?"

"No", she lied. Spending this much time with you, and a gift from someone who may or may not be you. Neither felt like particularly appropriate responses. "It just seems to have put everyone in a good mood."

Chakotay smiled at her. "Well, just wait until Tuesday night. See how a little Vulcan poetry affects them."

"Oh", she groaned. "I'd forgotten about that."

"How could you forget?"

"Convenient repression mechanism", she retorted with a grin.

"Are you going to come along?" he asked.

"Of course. As long as you sit next to me and elbow me in the ribs if I start snoring."

"Deal."

Kathryn grinned and stretched her legs out onto the coffee table, taking a deep drink from her cup. Chakotay watched her relaxing, struck by how content she appeared this evening. Maybe B'Elanna was right, he mused. Perhaps this Festival was finally the time to settle things between them. But what exactly should he do to let her know that he still had feelings for her? It had to be something special, something original. He rested his head back on the couch, with a small smile of anticipation creeping across his lips, and began to plan.

~~~

please go on to part two of the story