How do you alleviate boredom? Playing games!
Disclaimer: So they own the characters. That still doesn't make them the Rulers of the World.
Ever tried drinking 2 cups of strong black coffee with heaps of sugar 1 hour before going to bed? Don't!!
(Unless of course you want to hear the neighboring church bell herald every hour twice)
* ~ * ~ *
Kathryn was already seated in her chair when he reached command level.
"I see you've managed to beat me again, Captain. You win, but I still want to know your secret."
For the past three weeks Voyager was travelling through an uneventful part of the Delta Quadrant. To alleviate boredom, the two senior officers had come up with a game. They would meet in the Messhall for breakfast every day. Two minutes before the start of their shift, each would take a different route to the Bridge and whoever was arrived first, won. So far, Kathryn had won four days in a row.
"My secret, Commander? I have no secret. I guess I'm just faster."
"Right. Captain, we both know I'm the faster one, yet you manage to be here before me."
"Commander, you may be the faster one, I mean, it's obvious you have longer legs. Maybe I can be fast as well."
"Still, it doesn't seem possible."
It took him another week to discover she had been using one of the more obscure maintenance lifts. Whereas Chakotay was forced to wait for turbolifts during Voyager's peak hour, Kathryn was the sole user of the other lift. Using that lift meant she did have to crawl through a Jeffries tube to get to her Ready Room, but it was worth the effort if she could continue winning their game.
The day she was sure to win for the 15th time, her pride had taken over. While she exited the tube in her Ready Room, she forgot to duck and hit her forehead hard against the frame.
Chakotay was sitting in his chair when she came on the Bridge. He noticed her rubbing her forehead and saw the bruise beginning to appear. As she sat down he leaned over.
"The Great Captain Janeway, defeated at last!"
"Gloat all you want, Commander. Your victory won't last long." She scrunched up her eyes as the mother of all headaches came out in full force.
"Captain, are you alright?"
"I'll live, Commander. I guess my pride took a nasty hit."
"Looking at the color of that bruise you're sporting, I'd say it was your forehead that took the hit."
"You're right. I did hit my forehead. That's the only reason you won today."
"Captain, you realize you can't always win."
"I know, but I can try." Her face showed a quirky lopsided grin, which vanished as soon as she felt the thumping in her head.
"Why don't we go down to Sickbay, Captain?"
"Excellent suggestion. Tuvok, you have the Bridge."
Tom Paris, together with the rest of the bridge crew, had been listening to the conversation. Unbeknownst to the command team, his betting pool had been resurrected. So far, Captain Janeway was 79 for 2, and Tom realized he could finally cash in on his winnings today. Together with Seven. After all, she had told him the chance of the Captain keeping her route a secret from Chakotay.
He was just in time to see them enter the turbolift, Chakotay's hand on the small of the Captain's back. Maybe it was even time to restart another old betting pool.
That evening they agreed to stop the game. Later, alone in her quarters, Kathryn realized she had missed this playful flirting between them. It was harmless, after all. She grinned as she remembered the look of surprise on Chakotay's face when she had won for the third time. That's when he started questioning her about her secret. He continued to ask her every time and on their way back from Sickbay, she had been tempted to tell him. He had unleashed his most threatening dimpled smile on her when they were in the turbolift.
When it came down to resisting his smile, she was a professional.
But when did it become second nature to resist his smile? What woman wouldn't give herself over to this man when seeing that smile?
Of course, it wasn't just his smile she was attracted to. His looks had already given him an A+ in Voyager's 'Sexiest Male' poll. And she most definitely shared that opinion. Then again, looks weren't everything. She could never be attracted to a pretty face alone. There had to be a greater connection. And her connection to Chakotay was about as strong as they get. She'd never felt like this before. Justin was her first real love, but she knew now it would not have lasted. And Mark, well, let's just say he was more of a good friend.
Chakotay was her friend too: her best friend. But there was so much more.
She was a fool for keeping him at bay this long.
They exited the turbolift to the Bridge together. Too preoccupied with their conversation, Chakotay didn't notice the small blue box on his seat, until he almost sat on it.
"Looks as if Santa came early for you, Commander."
"It does seem that way. Anyone know where this came from?"
Tom turned around in his chair. "Why from Santa of course. Or don't you believe in him?"
Kathryn had to laugh at Tom's feigned indignant expression. From behind him, Chakotay could hear Harry's snicker. "Something funny, Ensign Kim?"
"No, sir. Maybe it's not from Santa Claus, but from a secret admirer?"
Chakotay smiled when he heard Kathryn's laughter float around the Bridge. "Captain, you laugh so loud. Don't you think it could be from a secret admirer?"
"Of course, Chakotay. But which one? There seem to dozens of young ensigns fawning over you."
"Dozens? And how would you know? You're not the president of my fanclub, are you?"
"Not any more. I didn't get reelected this year. Now, aren't you going to open it?"
As he lifted the lid off the box, he saw the oval rock. It was dark blue with two marks in white lines on either side.
"What is it, Chakotay?"
"It's a carved rock, Tom."
"Well? What's the carving like?"
The rock showed a capital A on one side and a triangle on the other side.
Chakotay was puzzled. Who would give him something like this? His first thought was Kathryn, but she had been too surprised. Of course, she could just be a really good actress, but even she wasn't this good. It took him the better part of the morning to work out what the other symbol meant. Naturally, it had been Seven who pointed out it was the Greek capital for the letter delta. That made the A stand for alpha. Of course, the Alpha and the Delta Quadrant. This revelation still didn't help him figure out who had given him the rock.
The next morning Kathryn was actually 5 minutes late for her shift. Chakotay had spotted the blue box the moment he sat foot on the Bridge, but he hadn't opened it yet.
"Commander, a second gift? Any luck on finding the anonymous giver?"
"I haven't a clue."
As she sat down, she noticed he was in no hurry to open it. "Well?"
"Don't keep us in suspense. Open it already!"
"Aye, sir!" The cheeky grin he shot her was enough to make her knees buckle. Luckily she was sitting down. Kathryn realized that ever since her midnight musings, she was once again hopelessly lost when Chakotay smiled at her.
When he saw the carvings, he knew Kathryn was not the one giving him these rocks. Today his rock was light brown mixed with darker spots. One side showed what could be interpreted as mushrooms, while the darker side had crude drawings of coffeebeans. Kathryn would never be that blatantly obvious.
Sandrine's was in full swing when Chakotay entered. It seemed as if everyone was there to witness the unpacking of his third gift.
Earlier B'Elanna had called him saying a gift addressed to him had been left on the pooltable. It was still there, and a crowd had formed around the table. Kathryn and Tom were racking up the balls.
"So nice of you to join us, Chakotay. Would you mind removing your gift? Tom and I would like to finish at least one game tonight."
While her voice may have sounded annoyed, her smiling face told him a different story. As he picked up the blue box, he looked at Kathryn more closely. She was wearing the blue dress she'd worn so often on New Earth.
The rock was dark green. He was shocked when he saw the drawings: a monkey on one side and a bathtub on the other. He put the rock away and gazed at Kathryn.
Tom had left her with a difficult shot and she was studying her options, not noticing Chakotay's stunned expression.
Back in his quarters he placed the three rocks in front of him. The third rock had given him the identity of his 'secret admirer', unless of course someone had read their personal logs.
But why would Kathryn give him these rocks? He decided to let her make her next move.
A loud scream invaded his thoughts. Kathryn! Within seconds he used his override code to gain access to her quarters. He found her in the middle of the room sitting on the floor, cursing the tools in front of her. Noticing the blood coming through the cloth she was holding against her finger, he grabbed a dermal regenerator. He crouched in front of her and healed the cut.
She looked up to him. Her hair was disheveled and her face was streaked with tears. But she smiled at him.
"This wasn't the way I had planned this, you know."
He wiped away her tears with his thumbs, slowly tracing her face.
She picked up her latest carving. "My plan was to leave this in your quarters tomorrow, and then you would find it after your shift."
"Then? I hadn't planned that far. I guess I would have come clean by then."
"I see. Sound strategy?"
"You think so? I think I left some gaps here and there."
'Well, we can't be all strategic specialists."
"I guess not. I bet you're wondering why I did all this."
She led him over to the couch and told him what she had come to realize the other night.
Chakotay took the unfinished rock from her hand. It was dark red. The markings of his tattoo were clearly visible, but the other side didn't have an image yet.
"What were you going to carve on this side?"
Kathryn smiled sheepishly. "I planned to draw a rose, but those tools didn't seem to agree."
"I see. Kathryn, I'm very flattered, but I don't want to rush into this."
"I had that coming, didn't I?"
"Yes. I want to be sure of your motives. You know, it's no picnic having these feelings for someone only to have them rejected time and again. I need to know if you realize what you're getting yourself into. This time, Kathryn, it's all or nothing."
"What do you suggest we do?"
Looking at the serious expression on her face, Chakotay knew he had finally gotten through to her. "Well, for starters I think we should not tell the crew, just yet. But I do want to publicly spend time with you."
"Sounds alright. Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but don't you think we're being too logical in our approach?"
"I thought that's what you wanted?"
"Me? Why do you think I used these rock depicting emotional scenes from our lives? Not because they were logical."
"Right. Time to make things easier for myself. Kathryn, what do you want?"
She leaned over and kissed him on his nose, before standing in the middle of her quarters. She looked at Chakotay. "I want to be swept off my feet!"
"B'Ela, Harry, I'm telling you. Just as I walked past the Captain's quarters, I swear you, I heard her yelp!"
"Tom, the Captain would never yelp."
"I have to agree with Harry there. Still, did you hear anything else?"
"You're mean, B'Elanna. First you don't believe me, but then you do expect me to provide further information."
"Well, did you hear more?"
"Okay. Right after the Captain's yelp, I heard her laugh with Chakotay."
"So? It still doesn't prove anything."
"Just you wait. Mark my words, I think it's time to start betting on a possible relationship between our Captain and Commander again."
"Yeah right, Tom. Sweet dreams. Let's go, Harry, the pooltable is waiting for us. Your turn to break."
(Author's note: I'm so ashamed of myself. I actually had to look up the Greek symbol for the capital delta. I'm sorry, Mrs. Van Eldik, for six years you taught me the ancient language of the Gods, but all knowledge has been lost!)