Disclaimer: they are not mine! May 20, 2000: Thanks to KateF who helped me locate another story.
* ~ * ~ *
Muttering something under her breath, she answered her door. Tonight was supposed to be her night off.
For three weeks in a row, it seemed as if Voyager was falling apart under their own eyes: one system after another stopped working, and they had been desperate to get replacement parts.
For the past three weeks, Kathryn and B'Elanna helped by Seven and Joe Carey had been trying to keep the ship flying, while the others could only offer support. It seemed that the ship all of a sudden was low on everything except Leola Root.
Morale had been low, so low that even Neelix had seemed depressed.
Kathryn honestly thought they would end up stranded in the DQ. Not even on a planet, but just stopped dead in space.
The Laxarian ship hailed them, asking them if they were in need of assistance. Neelix, of course, had never heard of them; they'd been outside his realm for quite some time now. Kathryn at first didn't believe her ears when Harry told her about the hail. Chakotay had told the Laxarians that they indeed needed help, quickly, and before they realised what happened the tiny ship pulled them along.
Tuvok had objected against Chakotay's easy acceptance of the aliens' help, saying that they might get stuck with a sold ship, and no chance of ever getting off the planet. Kathryn simply told him that she'd rather be stuck on a planet than dead in space.
The Laxarians were indeed very kind. Their spacedock offered all the materials they needed so badly, and she had even seen B'Elanna with a smile on her face: her first in weeks.
The crew had been ordered to relax and enjoy some well-deserved R&R.
* ~ * ~ *
24 hours later, Captain Kathryn Janeway was enjoying her first night off in a long time, and she didn't want to be disturbed. She had her evening all planned: first a soak in her tub, then curl up with one of her books, accompanied by some whisky.
She'd done the tub, and was now looking through her collection of 'trashy' novels to see if there was one that would help her relax. Just as she had poured herself some whisky, her door chimed.
Damn, damn, double damn. Who would be foolish enough to spoil her evening?
Only one man was brave enough to even come near her quarters in times like these.
"Come in, Chakotay."
"Good evening, Kathryn. How did you know it was me?"
"Well, Chakotay, you seem to be the only one on this entire ship who fails to understand that this is my night off. I do not want to be disturbed."
"I'm sorry, but I'm here on a mission. I can see now, however, why they chose me to invite you."
"A mission? And they chose you? I should have known by now that our crew is made up of a bunch of cowards. So, where do they want you to take me?"
"I don't really know. Paris came up with the location: he planned a celebration of sorts, and wanted you to be there too."
"How did they expect you to convince me with so few details?"
"I don't know, all B'Elanna said was to use my 'natural charm'."
"Aha, spoken like B'Elanna."
"Is it working?"
"Commander, you just keep smiling like that, and your 'natural charm' may end up taking you to places you have only ever dreamed of."
"I'm sorry, just something I read. I thought I'd use it sometime."
"Will you join us? It is very important for the crew that you're present tonight. They feel as if they have you back again, you know, after all we've been through in the past year."
"Did Paris mention a dress code?"
"He did say something about dressing warmly. It seems that the location he chose isn't known for its tropical temperatures."
"Well then, I should be ready in 10 minutes. Pick me up?"
"I'll be there."
* ~ * ~ *
10 minutes later she was ready for Chakotay to take her to the party. She felt all giddy inside, like a young girl ready for her first date. Chakotay had contacted her to tell her to also wear something waterproof, because Tom had warned him that the weather conditions had changed dramatically: all for the best however, at least, according to Tom. When her door chimed again, she was all ready to go. She draped her coat over her arm, which proved difficult, since it was her father's old, but trusty and waterproof, long wax-coat. Her clothes were simple, but very relaxing: just some old jeans, and a big woolly sweater with a turtleneck: no way was she going to get cold or wet!
Chakotay looked simply dazzling. Why is it that men, especially tall, dark and extremely handsome men, looked splendid in cream colored sweaters?
"I can see you came prepared as well."
He pointed at her coat, which resembled his.
"Yup, I can still hear my father telling me that no matter how old this coat is, it will never let me get wet: it's his 'trusty' wax-coat. Where did you get yours?"
"Remember the time I had run out of rations, so that you had to buy me coffee, instead of the other way around?"
"You mean, last week?"
"Ha, ha, very funny Kathryn. No, about a year ago."
"O right, B'Elanna's birthday present. How could I forget?"
"Well, I had given her one of these and replicated one for myself as well. That way we could always go out on the holodeck to scream in the rain."
"Scream in the rain? Are you taking up a new profession, counsellor?"
"I might. You know the feeling when you just want to scream at the world and at all the people on it? Well, it seems that B'Ela and I share a passion for rain and screaming, so when we were in the Maquis, we used to team up once in a while, and scream in the rain. The reason why I thought she'd like this coat is because she hates the getting-wet-part."
"That's a really sweet gift, Chakotay."
"Hey, what can I say—"
"I know, you're a really sweet guy."
He took her coat, and gestured for them to leave. Taking him by surprise, Kathryn put her arm around his back, and gave him a small hug.
"Thank you for being such a good friend."
He put his arm around her shoulders and returned the gesture.
"It takes one to know one."
* ~ * ~ *
Paris had chosen a magnificent location. They found themselves looking out over a valley with green lush grassland, and a small river running through it. As the sun was setting, they could see the dark clouds moving in. The sky rapidly turned a dark grey-blue, and the rolling of the thunder could be heard in the distance. They all realised why they had to bring waterproof clothes as the first drops of rain started to fall.
As they approached the group, Chakotay reluctantly released his hold on Kathryn, and just as he expected her to put some distance between them, she scooted closer, not willing to relinquish the warmth they shared.
Paris had not been joking when he told Chakotay to dress warmly.
Someone handed them some tea and they could hear Tom trying to get everyone's attention.
"I guess most of you finally have proof that I am indeed madder than the Mad Hatter. Of all the places to come on your first day if R&R, right Captain?"
He was delighted when he had seen her earlier in Chakotay's company. It must have taken the big guy quite some persuading to get her to agree to come here tonight, he mused.
"The reason I asked y'all to come here is a simple one: for days, weeks, sometimes months on end we find ourselves stuck on a starship. While most people would relish the chance to live on a starship for longer periods of time, most of us lived on an ordinary planet before Voyager became our home. So it is not unusual that although we have realised that she is the place we're going to be living in for quite some time, we also miss being planetside. As we all know, our favorite command team do their best to grant us as much shoreleave as we want - when we finally find planets without murderous inhabitants - some things just cannot be created just anywhere. When the magistrate told me that this part of the planet is famous for its rain and thunder, I just couldn't let the opportunity slip. As it happens I know of some people who just love the rain, and who especially love screaming in the rain. I'm hoping they will lead us in the next couple of hours, because I for one would like to see Chakotay and my lovely B'Elanna perform their unique and special ceremony."
Everybody cheered, and they were ready to tell them to go up there and show the crowd what Tom meant, when the first lightning bolt took them by surprise. There were screams as the thunder crashed.
Kathryn was surprised as well, and clung to Chakotay as the storm set in. Feeling the rain on her face was exhilarating, and she couldn't help but start laughing. Chakotay was just a surprised as she was, and simply put his arms around Kathryn's small frame. At first, when he felt her shake, he was afraid that she was cold after all, despite all her clothes and the coat, then he realised that Tom's words must have struck a chord, and that she was crying, but when he looked down at her face, Kathryn tilted her head up and he saw that she was laughing. Not knowing what she was laughing about, the confusion showed in his face. By now, a steady stream of raindrops was falling off his lashes and down his face. Kathryn stopped laughing and leaned into his embrace. She slowly raised her left hand and wiped away some of the rain from his face. Her hand lingered, and their eyes never lost contact. She moved her hand up until it was hovering over his tattoo. By now, their coats were dripping with rain, and their hair was soaking wet. Kathryn had opted to keep the hood of her coat down, and she was already beginning to regret it when she felt the first raindrops making their way down her back. Snuggling closer to Chakotay, her hand resumed its path, joined by the other one.
* ~ * ~ *
B'Elanna was looking out over the valley, and pointed out something to Tom.
"Look, Tom, there, you see that?"
Tom didn't reply, because his attention was focused on something else, well on someone else.
"Hello, Tom, are you there?"
"Sorry, B'Ela, did you say something?"
"Well, I guess I was, but it doesn't matter anymore. What has you hooked?"
"Look at them, B'Ela, look."
She turned towards the couple. "I knew it! That is 3 months of rations you owe me, Helmboy."
"No, B'Ela, we have to do something. Don't you see?"
"No, why do we have to do something? I mean, for the past 4 years we have been trying to do something to bring them together; I think we should let them do this their own way."
"That's not what I'm talking about. Have you noticed anything different in their behaviour towards each other recently?"
"No, why? Should I have?"
"It's just that I think this is not what either of them came down here for. I have the feeling this could be one of those 'first' moments, you know, and I think the Captain is going to regret it when she finds out her first kiss with Chakotay was witnessed by the entire crew. Heck, I would not be surprised if lightening would strike right when they would, you know. Help me, B'Elanna. We have to do something."
"I see what you mean. I can hear the jokes already. Okay, you get Harry and Tuvok over here and explain, and I'll think of something."
Tuvok was expecting Tom to come over. He also had been watching Kathryn and Chakotay. Glad to find out that Tom felt the same way, the two men came up with a plan.
Just as another thunder burst came rolling in, Tom yelled at the top of his lungs to get everybody's attention. B'Elanna had wandered over to Chakotay, who had seemed to have come out of his reverie. Kathryn seemed to recover quickly as well, and B'Elanna was glad that she didn't have to start on her plan B.
"Well, that was close, wasn't it?"
Kathryn and Chakotay momentarily thought that she was going to mention their near-kiss, but B'Elanna continued looking up into the sky seeing if there would be more electricity bursts between the clouds.
"I hope you two enjoyed yourself tonight."
The evil, but well-meant, grin on her face made Chakotay seriously consider killing his friend. Kathryn didn't seem to mind.
"I see that you're wearing your birthday present."
"Of course, Captain, I mean I wouldn't want Chakotay to think I didn't like it: it's wonderful. I think Tom was actually considering 'borrowing' mine for tonight."
"Tom has certainly surprised me tonight. I never thought he would be able to get this many people together to enjoy standing in the rain and listening to the thunder."
B'Ela smiled at Kathryn's surprise.
"I know what you mean. He told me that after I had mentioned our rain-dances, he figured that after the last couple of weeks, the holodeck would not suffice, so he went and looked for the real thing."
"Then why haven't I heard you scream in the rain yet, B'E?"
"You know why, I wasn't going to look like a fool on my own. I was waiting for you to join me, but then you obviously found someone else to play with." With a cheeky wink at the Captain, "Before I forget, this get-together is almost over, there's not going to be any more thunder coming through this region, so if you're smart you ask for a beam-out. That way you won't have everyone watching the two of you!"
* ~ * ~ *
Kathryn was glad they had so tactfully been brought back into the real world. She realised if B'Elanna and Tom, and who knows who else was involved, hadn't been successful in both diverting the crews attention, and getting their attention, she would have been seen kissing her XO. Horror! Not that she didn't want to kiss him, oh no, he was more than kissable, but it was just that she rather kept her personal life just that: personal. Even though by now she had gotten the impression that most crewmembers weren't against a relationship between Chakotay and her, it still frightened her more than she wanted to admit. Various 'what if' situations came to mind, and she was already beginning to argue against her own decision to finally give into this 'something' between Chakotay and herself. It was too obvious to ignore any longer, and even though they had kept a distance, Kathryn realised that she was only postponing the inevitable: somehow this strange mission to capture the Maquis Captain had given her an opportunity to live life to the fullest. After all, how often did you meet the one person who could very well be your soulmate?
While Kathryn was working out her feelings, Chakotay had already guided them back to the beam out point. He figured that he should let Kathryn set the pace, and he noticed that she was taken aback by the fact that just over 5 minutes ago she was ready to kiss him in the presence of their entire crew.
Both were so caught up in their own little world that they didn't notice that they were back where they had started: Kathryn's quarters. Startled Kathryn went in, and the doors closed behind her before she realised that she hadn't even said goodbye to Chakotay, let alone invite him in. She ran out again, only to bump into the solid form of her XO.
"Oh, hi, sorry."
He smiled at her obvious confusion, "Forgot something, Kathryn?"
"Eh, yes, actually, I wanted to thank you for taking me to the planet, and well, that's it I guess."
"You're very welcome, I had a great time, even though I think I missed most of the natural phenomena."
Kathryn finally found the nerve to look into his eyes, and couldn't help but laugh with him, "Yes, I guess we were working on something else that is natural."
"Kathryn, I think we need to talk about that other natural thing."
"I know. And I also know that this is going to sound very lame, but I think I need some time to think this over. I guess I just surprised myself tonight."
"You surprised yourself? What about me? But okay, I'll give you some more time, but this time you're getting an ultimatum. I don't think I can wait much longer hanging around to see what you decide, okay?"
"An ultimatum? Oh, well, I probably deserve that, right?"
"Yes, you do. Now, I want to know what you want from us, and I'm giving you 24 hours. By 22:30 tomorrow night I want to know exactly where you want me in your life."
Kathryn was still too confused from the events of that evening to even become upset over Chakotay giving her an ultimatum. He figured he might as well press his luck and gave her only 24 hours, enough he thought, after all she had already taken over 4 years to even agree to think about it.
* ~ * ~ *
As she entered her quarters - alone - she knew that this was going to be one of those nights in which her bed would never see its owner. One of those nights in which her mind would be getting ahead of her heart at full speed. She had to stop herself from already giving up on the idea of a relationship between Chakotay and her. Damn it, she wanted it. She could just see the lines in one of her trashier novels: deep down inside Elizabeth knew that the handsome stranger that had been put on her doorstep was someone special; the dangerous look in his eyes told her that she was not going to be able to keep him away from her secret much longer—
O well, no need to get carried away. She was pretty certain she loved Chakotay. She knew she was in love with him, why else would her heart and stomach do flip-flops every time she saw him. Her face would light up with a silly smile if she even thought about him: it had put her in some strange situations.
Just the other day, after Chakotay had checked up on B'Elanna and her, she felt B'Ela's eyes on her and knew that she was smiling that crooked grin of hers. B'Elanna had teased her about it, but decided to let it rest: no need to bother a Captain who is having second thoughts about Protocol in combination with a certain First Officer, when that Captain's ship is falling apart in an uncharted region of space. Life was difficult enough as it is.
Who had she been kidding? Their whole crew seemed to be rooting for them, so why not go ahead and be happy?
But what if they returned to the AQ tomorrow? What would Starfleet say?
"Well, Captain Janeway, congratulations on successfully finishing your mission, you have captured Captain Chakotay. Why won't you hand him over?"
"Sirs, you see, something happened along the way, and I guess I usually don't imprison the man who holds the key to my heart."
That would really go down well!
Her family and friends would probably understand. She'd already thought out the various scenarios in which Chakotay would meet her mother and Phoebe. He'd charm them; they would like him and tell him that they were very thankful that he'd looked after her. Then they would show him her baby pictures, and make a fool of her: Chakotay would listen intently - too intently - and tease her about it later. He would get on with them tremendously, and they would all live happily ever after.
On the other hand...
Their lives were too dangerous out here. What would she do if she had to send him out on a mission and he didn't come back? She could never do that!
Or could she. She had already acknowledged to herself that she loved the man. Still, she'd been able to send him on away missions numerous times, even the really dangerous ones. And if he didn't come back one day? She'd had to live her life in the present, not the future: who knows what could happen!
Would he be too protective of her? He already was, and still she didn't feel smothered by him. He would let her go on away missions just as easily as she would let him. It didn't change the fact that they were scared something might happen, but they knew they were professionals: they knew what they had gotten themselves into when they signed up for their entrance exams for the Academy.
Then why has it taken me more than 4 years to even reach this point? Has he finally taken away all the bricks in my wall and diminished my resolve?
Hell, I love him!
It only took her mere seconds to reach Chakotay's quarters. She pressed the chime. There was no answer. She pressed it again. Nothing.
"Computer, location of Commander Chakotay."
"Commander Chakotay is in his quarters."
Pressing the chime again, she grew more and more curious as to why he didn't answer the door.
Finally she heard some movement in his quarters. The door opened.
All tousled up, and with obvious sleepy eyes, Chakotay beckoned her in.
"Oh, I'm sorry, Chakotay, I didn't realise you were asleep. I'll come back tomorrow."
"No need, Kathryn, just give me a couple of minutes and I'll be awake. Can I get you anything from the replicator?"
"Some tea, please."
Still somewhat unsure she sat down on his couch. He came over and handed her the tea.
"So, what brings you over at 3 in the morning?"
"3 am! I'm sorry, I guess I lost track of time, and thought that I could still talk to you."
"You can always talk to me, Kathryn. You know that."
"Still, I wouldn't have woken you up if I had checked the time before I came running here."
"Yes, well, I thought I'd talk to you, you know, about that thing between us."
Chakotay was starting to get worried about Kathryn. She never acted this confused normally, and now that she was ready to talk, his mind was still slightly dazed from his restless sleep. 'Thing'. She called their attraction 'thing': that was not good. She was probably going to tell him that all they could be was friends and nothing more. After all, he had given her 24 hours and here she was, ready to talk to him about it.
This meant that he was free to move on, but he knew that he would never really 'move on', not while she was still constantly on his mind. His father had told him that if he was patient she would come to him, but his father had obviously been wrong. Kathryn would never let him into her life. Maybe if they found a way back tomorrow he'd still have a chance. Then again, being back in the AQ probably meant she had to choose between Starfleet and him, and she would always be loyal to Starfleet first: that's how she was raised. Hell, if he hadn't joined the Maquis, Starfleet would have come first for him too!
Kathryn sipped her tea, willing herself to calm down and relax. If only she had waited to see what time it was, then she wouldn't have woken him up. Maybe she could still weasel herself out of this, and then tell him when the ultimatum was up.
No. She would do it tonight. She'd get cold feet if she waited any longer.
"Chakotay. I realise that I have been stringing you along for some time now, and I'm sorry about that. I never meant for you to be hurt by anything that I did, or didn't do."
Chakotay wasn't really paying attention. He figured that if he kept some sort of imaginary distance, the rejection wouldn't cause him so much pain.
"Are you listening?"
"What? Oh, sorry, just thinking. Go ahead."
"Thank you. Well, it's just that I did some major thinking tonight, and I guess that I finally figured it out."
Here it comes, she is once again going to tell me that no matter how much she cares for me, she is still the Captain and I am the First Officer.
Kathryn put her tea down next to Chakotay's. Straightening her shoulders she took one of his hands in hers. She'd always pretended not to notice how well their bodies were attuned to each other, but tonight she relished the feeling of their fit.
"Chakotay, I won't say that I'm not afraid anymore. Afraid of what could happen to either one of us, or afraid what will happen when we get home, but I finally realised that I was only postponing what my heart has known all along."
Searching his face for some emotion, she was surprised to find that he didn't seem to want to look her in the eyes. With her other hand she guided his face so that she could look into his eyes. Chakotay wore a mask on his face.
She had taught him too well.
Whenever they ended up discussing their feelings, Kathryn had always been the one to put on the 'mask of command'. Now Chakotay was showing her that this was her final chance. What had she done to him?
Hesitantly stroking the tattoo on his forehead, she felt him relax under her touch, and he leaned into her hand.
"Chakotay, I do love you, you know. And I am sorry for not telling you sooner, but I had all these horror scenarios to get rid off, so—"
He kissed the palm of her hand, and his whole face lit up with a beautiful smile: the one that she recognised from their time on New Earth.
"This time I won't need a story: I love you too, Kathryn Janeway."
Slowly they moved towards each other, both not sure which way to turn their heads.
"It only took you 4 years to figure it out, right?"
He kissed her.
She kissed him.
"Yes, only four years."