Rating : G
Disclaimer : Paramount owns the names, but the story is mine :)
The Astrometrics Lab
"So that's your advice? Oh, I really have my doubts about all of this 'come clean' business. It may well be too little too late. Hell, I survived the Borg, the Kazon, Vidiians, you name it - and what's a broken heart compared to that?"
Captain Janeway looked away from the face of her former fiancee as the doors to the Astrometrics lab slid open. She watched with interest as her XO walked in holding a padd in one hand in which he appeared engrossed. Clearing her throat in order to get his attention she watched as the colour slowly drained from his features. His gaze switched back and forth between the man on the screen and Kathryn Janeway, his lips moved, trying to frame an apology as he began backing towards the door,
"I forgot…the monthly alpha quadrant exchanges…. Sorry Captain."
"Wait there, Commander." Voyager's Captain raised her left hand in a familiar gesture and turned to look at Mark, a slight smile playing across her expressive face. She was beginning to believe in Destiny.
"Captain?" Chakotay too, looked up at the big screen version of Mark Johnson and then back to his CO.
She could see how bad he was feeling ; big, awkward, out of place but she was enjoying herself. His presence was unexpected and yet she was reluctant to lose the opportunity to see both Mark and he together at last. What would Mark think of him?
"Mark, I'd like you to meet my Second-in-Command here on Voyager, Commander Chakotay. He's had the unenviable task of keeping me in line all these years. Chakotay, this is Mark Johnson…the man I never did marry.."
Mark bowed slightly from the shoulders and smiled, "Ah, good to see you Commander, Kath's had quite a bit to say about you." He paused whilst she rolled her eyes and crossed her arms. Only Kathryn Janeway could make this look like an aggressive stance. Meanwhile, Chakotay was at a loss for words.
Janeway could see Mark looking speculatively at the pair of them as they stood side by side. She knew him well enough to know what he was thinking and there was that mischievous glint in his eye. Damn leprechaun, she thought to herself, fondly. Things were about to get interesting.
"I was just asking Kath if she had found someone else. It must get awfully lonely out there. What do you say Kath? Have you finally managed to forget me and find love in the Delta Quadrant?"
"Love in the DQ, Mark? It sounds like a crappy romance novel to me." She looked across at Chakotay who had turned a deep shade of umber. Could he be embarrassed?
"Evasive maneuvers, Kathryn? Doesn"t sound like any Janeway I know," he teased, but softly, pushing her.
She nodded and came to a decision. If he wanted an answer, she would give him one. Evasive maneuvers indeed.
"Well then your answer is 'yes'."
Chakotay and Mark both looked up at the same time. Mark assumed a bit of a Janeway pose, which, considering he was an old friend of the family, was not at all surprising. He was seated behind a large desk, resting his chin on his hand, elbow resting on the desktop.
Chakotay tried to swallow past the lump in his throat and glanced towards the doors. Kathryn could see that he didn't want to be there, was desperate to get away, but hell he had been putting her through a similar form of torture, just not quite so deliberately.
"You are in love?" Mark's eyes were happy but with a hint of sadness, or wistfulness. His Kathy was in love with another man.
"Yes." It was getting easier to say.
Pause. Mark watched Chakotay some more, looking for a reaction.
"Well this is great news, Kathryn. Isn't it, Commander? So tell me about him, is he good-looking?"
"Good-looking? That"s a bit superficial don't you think?" She allowed for the comedic timing to take full effect, "He's absolutely devastating, inside and out. I guess you could say I've had a hard time resisting his charms."
"Bun of steel not doing its job?"
"As you can see."
"All joking aside, Kath, does he love you…because if I find this guy has hurt you….well I don"t know what I'd do really. Maybe I'd find a way to get to the Delta Quadrant, or perhaps I'd have to wait for you to get home but I sure as hell would have a lot to say….."
"You're rambling again, Mark."
"Wait! I have an idea. Commander Chakotay can be my representative out there. How does that sound Commander? Can I rely on you to keep an eye on your Captain's beau? Not to stand by her bed and hold her hand, of course…oh, or the bathtub...well, you get the idea. I'll leave it entirely to your discretion. Do we have a deal?"
Chakotay looked up and into Mark's mock serious eyes. This was one hell of a day. Kathryn could tell that he had no idea who he was supposed to be keeping an eye on. Maybe he had assumed she meant Jaffen but if that was the case why was she letting Mark run on this way? When had all this happened? Perhaps he had been so absorbed in his new relationship with Seven that he'd missed the whole thing? It didn't take an empath to see that the emotions inside him were threatening to surface and he wondered how much longer he was going to be able to maintain his composure. Mark was waiting for a response but he was going to have to make do with a nod because anything else was quite clearly beyond Chakotay at that moment.
"Excellent! We have a deal. A man of few words, I like that….gives me extra talking space! Tell me, Kathryn, does the lucky man actually know about any of this?"
"No." She smiled that lopsided smile and Mark just about did the same. She communicated so much with just a look ; all the sadness for what might have been and all the hope for what might be…one day. They were both having a great time at Chakotay's expense, but she knew she was just prolonging the inevitable.
Mark reflected her sudden seriousness, but his face softened under the force of Chakotay's misery. He took a deep breath. "He's quite attractive if you like that whole bronzed, tattooed thing. A bit more macho than I expected perhaps, but then that's your choice Kath."
Kathryn bit her bottom lip to keep from laughing out loud at his cheek, and then experienced a sudden rush of apprehension. Had she been reading too much into Chakotay's obvious discomfort? She knew about Seven. The Captain had her sources, after all. So she was not entirely confident that her chances had not all passed her by. Clearly Chakotay still had some feelings for her and she wanted to know now exactly what those feelings were. In any case, what she really needed was to clear the air.
Suddenly she was tired of being ashamed of her emotions, burying her feelings, and tiptoeing around her First Officer. Speaking with Mark had made her remember that love is a good thing, a strong thing, so bright and beautiful. It felt like flying into the sun, fresh and pure. It must be possible to draw strength from her emotions, not view them as a weakness. It was good for her to see Mark again and to hear his voice. He understood, knew that she was a woman too and not just a Captain. Just a Captain? Where did that come from?
Chakotay was staring at Mark, and Mark was smiling back at him. "Oops, time's up…do me a favour, Commander, invite me to the wedding…best man maybe…" Then to Kathryn, " He'll do fine Kathy, he's taken pretty good care of you so far and his heart seems to be in the right place…."
The link broke leaving the two of them alone in Astrometrics, on board Voyager, somewhere in the Delta Quadrant. The abrupt silence was deafening.
She blew out a breath and wiped the moisture from her eyes.
"You want to tell me what that was all about?" Chakotay asked, his voice characteristically warm and melodic.
I bet he can sing, she thought, smiling. He has such a musical voice ; so warm, conveying so many shades of emotion. His voice was like a painting by Monet ; lights and darks, pinks, greens and completely dazzling.
She studied his dark face carefully, expecting to see anger there, or resentment, disbelief, betrayal, but he was calm, peaceful and there was that hint of humour ; the half dimple. He shook his head and moved slowly towards her when she didn't answer him. He placed the padd he had been clutching onto the Astrometrics console and wiped away the sweat from his hands onto the legs of his uniform. He leant a little closer and the silence enveloped them.
It was a comfortable silence and they were both content just to smile, for a while. Here it comes, she thought.
"Did I hear you say that you were in love with me?" He spoke slowly, as if to a child.
She looked down at their hands, which had mysteriously joined, and shook her head. "No, that was Mark."
" I see."
"He was right, though. He reads me like a book."
"I'm glad to hear it because I obviously don't."
"Actually I'm a little lost myself, Chakotay, and I was hoping you might help me out here. Am I too late? Is there still a chance for us?"
Carefully, he guided her into his embrace, obviously savouring the feeling. He rested his cheek against her head and she could sense that he was smiling.
"Do I still love you? How could you ever doubt me? Yes, I love you."
She smiled at the feel of the sound vibrating inside his chest. "What about Seven?"
"Who? Chakotay that's not like you."
" I suppose not. Honestly, Kathryn, she scares the hell out of me, I don't have a great history with the Borg and I know that makes me sound like a bigot but it's something I was trying to work through. Maybe treating her like therapy wasn't fair on her either. It just doesn't seem to matter anymore. I'll tell her what's happened immediately if that's what you want?"
"Yes, I'd like that, Chakotay. Could you?"
"Of course, but first there are some things I'd like to say to you. I never thought I would see this day, had given up all hope that you, that we, would ever find this kind of happiness. I love you Kathryn. You bring out the best in me. With you I have peace, a calm centre from which everything else flows and takes shape. If you had known me back when I fought every day of my life against who and what I am….well, I don"t think you would have liked me much, or even recognised me. Sometimes it takes another person to show you what you are capable of becoming, with their trust and respect, and their love. Having said that, have you any idea what you just put me through? You make quite a pair, you and Mark. I think I spent the last ten minutes praying we'd hit a spatial anomaly or be attacked by the Vidiians, anything to get me out of here."
"Shut up and kiss me, Commander."
"That an order?"
"Damn straight it is."
"Did I say that?"
"Yes, you did."
Later that day, on the Bridge:
Captain Janeway rose up from her command chair, surveyed her crew and ordered a ship-wide announcement. Tuvok nodded for her to proceed.
"This is Captain Janeway, just letting all the busy-bodies on this crew know that the Paris betting pool on the Commander and myself is now closed."
Tom Paris, seated as usual at the helm, closed his eyes and dropped his head dramatically. There go the rank pips again....
"Commander Chakotay and I are now officially an item. Would Ensign..." here she paused to inspect the padd she was holding, "... Samantha Wildman, please report to the lieutenant to collect her winnings."
A moment of stunned disbelief followed her announcement and then a thunderous round of applause was heard.
Kathryn Janeway turned and took the hand of her First Officer, smiling broadly. "Seems we have the crew's blessing, Chakotay."
Chakotay took a moment to enjoy the euphoria, "So this is what it feels like."
"What's that, Chakotay?"
"Love in the Delta Quadrant of course!"
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