The Voyager Festival of Love, part three
by Jinny W
Disclaimer: see part one
This place looks great", Chakotay remarked. "I thought Neelix couldn't top the events of the week, but it looks like he has."
"He certainly deserves brownie points for effort", B'Elanna agreed.
She took a sip of her drink and surveyed the room. At the moment Neelix stood by the drinks table, eagerly dishing up a glass of punch to the Captain. She didn't appear quite so eager, forcing a smile that disappeared whenever the Talaxian looked away. B'Elanna frowned. Surely the Captain didn't think the punch was spiked again this year? Neelix had been so mortified after her last Prixin reprimand that he had borrowed a tricorder to monitor the chemical content of the bowl.
"Hey", she said to Chakotay, "what's up with the Captain? She doesn't look like she's having a very good time."
Chakotay glanced around towards Kathryn, then nodded. "Yeah, I noticed. I stopped by her quarters earlier to give her a valentine gift, and she had the oddest reaction. She didn't even look remotely pleased."
B'Elanna's mouth dropped open. "You what?"
"I gave her a gift. What? Why are you looking at me like that? A week ago you were telling me I should be showing her that I care."
"Oh Kahless", B'Elanna slapped her hand on her forehead. "What have I done."
Chakotay looked puzzled. "I don't know. What have you done?"
"I think I can answer that for you, Chakotay."
B'Elanna flinched as Tom stepped up to them from where he had been loitering nearby. "I've finally figured out what she's been up to this week."
"Go away Tom", B'Elanna muttered.
"No, don't go away Tom", Chakotay said, looking from one to the other. "Tell me what's going on here."
"I meant well", B'Elanna mumbled, before Tom could begin.
"I'm sure you did", Tom said to her, then looked at Chakotay. "She's been giving Captain Janeway romantic gifts along with the rest of her deliveries. I imagine the Captain thought the gifts were being delivered on behalf of somebody else. Someone a little closer to her," he concluded.
"You what!" Chakotay's eyebrows shot up. "You pretended they were from me?"
"Not exactly", she began, "well, yes, I did", she admitted. "I didn't actually say they were from you, I just hinted at it in the messages, that's all."
"You gave her fake messages as well?" Chakotay's voice was dangerously quiet.
"I'm sorry, Chakotay! I didn't know you'd go and give her another present today", B'Elanna said.
"I will deal with you later", Chakotay said softly. B'Elanna winced as he walked away.
"That's not good", she said, "That reaction is definitely not good."
"I thought he was going to yell at you", Tom offered.
She gave him a withering glance. "You don't know Chakotay like I do", she said. "He's furious."
"If you say so".
B'Elanna sighed. "Get me another drink Tom. Not the punch, something alcoholic. No wait, make that two. I'm going to need it."
"Everyone, may I have your attention please", Neelix called out.
The boisterous crew ignored him, until Tom grabbed a glass and began clinking on it with a spoon.
"Pipe down people", he yelled.
"Thank you, Mr. Paris", Neelix said. "Now, it's time to announce our prize winners. I know you've all tried hard this week, so I just wanted to start by saying a big thank you to everyone who has participated in this festival. It's been a lovely week."
This statement was greeted with polite applause.
"As you know", he went on, "we had our cooking competition on Monday night, which was won by Ensign Murphy with his exquisite seafood extravaganza."
More applause and a whoop from somewhere at the back followed.
"And on Tuesday night we had a wonderfully - extended - evening at our poetry night." Neelix waited for applause, and finding none, quickly added, "Not to mention movie night on Wednesday, which I hear was a great success also."
Tom held up his hands as the crew clapped him. "Thank you fans", he called out.
"And now", Neelix continued, "Mr. Kim is going to announce the winner of our holodeck competition."
"Thank you Neelix", said Harry, as he stepped forward. "We had some tough competition, but the judges all agreed that the winner is", he paused while Neelix cued the drum roll sound effect, "the joint entry by Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay."
Harry's announcement was swallowed by rowdy cheers and wolf whistles. B'Elanna glanced over at the Captain and then the Commander, who were quite noticeably standing on opposite sides of the room. They both nodded graciously and managed polite smiles.
"Starfleet training", she muttered to herself, taking another swig of her drink.
"And now", Harry went on, waving the crowd to silence, "in honour of their victory, the doc thought it would be appropriate to start playing some of the romantic songs that the crew chose."
"Dance! Dance!" one of the drunker crew members yelled out from the back of the room.
Oblivious to the look that Kathryn was directing towards him, Harry (who admittedly was slightly tipsy himself) beamed and added, "Why not. Let's get some dancing started people. Captain? Commander? Would you like to start us off?"
"You're an idiot, Harry", B'Elanna whispered to herself. "Not that I can talk", she added.
"Neelix", another crewman hollered, "what's on the program?"
Neelix shook his head. "I don't know", he admitted. "I haven't seen it yet."
"Play the program. Play the program", the first crew member chanted.
Neelix glanced at Harry, who shrugged. "Why not?" he said, "We're in the holodeck already."
"All right people", Neelix announced, "we'll hold off playing the music for now, we're about to get a look at the winning entry."
"Computer", Harry said, "run program Chakotay: Valentine's Day One."
Only B'Elanna, who happened to be looking directly at Chakotay at that moment, noticed the horrified expression on his face. He threw a panicked glance towards Kathryn, who was still smiling politely, her Captain's mask firmly in place as she walked over towards him. As she reached his side the party room shimmered and disappeared, and the new program materialised. Kathryn looked around her, then gave Chakotay a puzzled look.
"This isn't the picnic spot we designed", she whispered. "I think they've made a mistake."
Chakotay swallowed but didn't reply. B'Elanna tore her eyes away from the obviously distressed first officer to inspect the holo-program. They were standing amid a luscious garden, on a neatly trimmed lawn that seemed to extend from a large house. By a combination of moonlight and glass-shielded candles she could see that the entire grove was ringed by flowering bushes of red, purple, yellow and blue. Behind the bushes taller trees were growing. Each one also bore the hanging glasses containing candles. The effect was magical.
As B'Elanna turned in a circle to survey the yard, her eyes were caught by a small cluster of holograms at the front of the garden. A group of musicians were playing softly, tuning their instruments, while a woman swayed in front of a sound projection device.
"It's a garden party", she whispered to herself. "How lovely".
She glanced back towards the Captain and Commander who were both also surveying the scene. What was the matter with Chakotay, she wondered. Before he had been angry - at her - she reminded herself. Now he looked as if he wanted the holodeck floor to open up and swallow him.
Kathryn leaned over and nudged Chakotay's elbow to get his attention. "Do you think they got our names mixed up on the entries?" she said. "Although that doesn't seem like something Harry would do."
"No, they didn't", Chakotay said shortly. Kathryn stared at him, noticing for the first time the miserable expression on his face.
Observing her scrutiny, Chakotay took a deep breath and decided on a partial truth.
"It's my program", he explained. "I designed it. But it wasn't supposed to be entered into the competition. I don't know how Harry got hold of it."
Kathryn remembered the chip she'd found on the floor and nodded. "You dropped it", she said softly. "I thought it was our entry, so I gave it to Harry."
Kathryn watched him, waiting for him to say more. She couldn't help noting that Chakotay wouldn't meet her eyes.
"But why did you-"
Her question was cut off as the holographic singer began to speak into the microphone. "I'm going to sing a special song request now, and I want to see you all dancing."
Kathryn glanced at Chakotay again, surprised to see a pinkish flush spreading across his dark cheeks.
"This is a song for a very special woman," the singer went on, "from the man who loves you more than he has words to say. He wants you to know that you will never be alone."
Kathryn wondered if Chakotay would feel obliged to ask to her to dance, for the sake of appearances. It was supposed to be their collaborative program after all. As the music began to play, Tom cupped his hands and bellowed to the rest of the crew, "All right people, time for you romantics to get dancing."
As the hologram began to sing, Kathryn's mouth fell open in surprise.
"One is the loneliest number that you'll ever do
two can be as bad as one
it's the loneliest number since the number one..."
She stared at Chakotay, who in turn was staring steadfastly at his feet.
"This is my song", she said unthinkingly. "I mean, this is the song I was playing the other day when you-".
Chakotay nodded and finally looked up at her. "I know. That's why I chose it."
Kathryn frowned. "What do you mean?"
"This was supposed to be for you", he said. "I made this program for you. It was supposed to be part of your valentine's gift today, but then I couldn't find the chip."
She continued to stare at him, her heart beating faster. What did that mean? That even though the secret valentines weren't from him, he did still care about her? Judging by the expression on his face, he was feeling much the way she had been earlier in the afternoon. She reached out and took his hand.
"Let's dance", she said simply.
Chakotay let her pull him closer then wrapped his arms around her. He shivered as he pressed his face against her hair, his mind racing. This was a beautiful song. Did Kathryn really feel this alone? He thought back to his conversation with B'Elanna almost a week ago. He'd said he didn't want to embarrass Kathryn with an unwanted display of his feelings. Were they really unwanted after all? He ran his mind over the events in her quarters earlier, the way her mood had changed so suddenly. What was it that he had said to her - "that way it wouldn't be misconstrued?" What an idiot!
All week she must have been thinking that he was giving her romantic gifts. Until this afternoon. Then on realising her mistake, had appeared flustered, and kept trying to turn her face away from him. Well, no wonder. What must she have been thinking then? That the valentines had been some kind of hoax?
Disappointment. That was it. Disappointment and embarrassment. With a start he realised that they had spent every evening together that week, and all that time she'd thought he was sending her the valentines. And she hadn't pulled away. Hadn't told him it was inappropriate, hadn't tried to retreat back to the safety of friendship. He remembered something else B'Elanna had said. "I know she's feeling-" He'd cut her off before she could finish the sentence. Feeling what? Left out? Or ready to acknowledge her feelings for him?
He glanced down at Kathryn's neck, noticing that despite what had happened, she was wearing his necklace. In that moment Chakotay made a decision. He shifted his head slightly so that his lips were next to her ear.
"It was B'Elanna", he said softly.
"What?" She started at the tickling sensation of his lips against her skin, and pulled back a little.
"The secret presents. It was B'Elanna's idea. She was trying to do me a favour because I-" He had been about to say "didn't want to", but realized that might not be the best choice of words. "I didn't want to push you", he whispered instead.
She looked up at him, confusion evident in her eyes. Confusion, and something else.
"But the two of us got our wires crossed along the way. She thought-" he stopped, then shook his head. "If I'd thought for one second", he murmured softly, "that you would be happy to accept gifts like that from me, then I would have done it a long time ago. And not just for a week, for every day of the year. That's why I made this program."
Kathryn's eyes widened slightly but she didn't look away. "So what are you saying?"
His lips started to curve up into a smile. "It's like the singer said. I love you more than there are words for."
She stared at him for what felt like an eternity. Then instead of replying she pulled him closer and let her lips brush against his. Chakotay slid his hands down to her lower back, pulling her closer as the kiss deepened.
"You're not worried now that we might give the crew the wrong idea?" he mumbled, when his lips were free.
She chortled and pulled back slightly. "They wanted us to dance, remember."
"Poor fools", he said, "they have no idea what they've started."
Kathryn threw back her head and guffawed at that. "Come on", she said, with an elated smile, tugging on his hand, "let's go request something a little more cheerful."
As she led him off the grassy dance floor, B'Elanna watched them with relief, then waved across the garden to Tom. He looked in the direction she was pointing, to the Captain and Commander who were hand in hand, reconciled and obviously happy. A broad grin stretched across his face. He made his way through the dancing crew members towards her, then swooped down to gather her into his arms.
"After all my schemes came to naught. You're the queen", he declared.
"I know, I am rather, aren't I," she grinned back at him. "Oh Tom", she sighed and squeezed his arm.
"I just love a happy ending".
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