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Kathryn smiled indulgently as she watched Chakotay prepare their dinner. He appeared to be completely unaware that she was watching him, probably assuming that she was thoroughly engrossed in the PADD she was supposed to be reading.
In actuality, she was sitting in a chair in the corner, her feet tucked up under her, the PADD long discarded on the small table next to her, both hands wrapped around a cup of coffee. Occasionally she'd take a sip, inhale the aroma, but her eyes never left him.
There was something very relaxing about it. While she hated cooking with a passion, he seemed to enjoy it with equal passion. He moved confidently in his preparations, never messing up in any way, although he wasn't rushing. He moved at a consistently steady pace, enjoying himself every step of the way.
He was humming something she didn't know the name of but had become accustomed to hearing since they'd set up home here. She was positive that he didn't even know he was doing it, and although she desperately wanted to know what the song was, she didn't ask for fear of him realising what he had been doing and so would refrain from doing so in the future.
Of course, he also cut an extremely attractive figure in that clothing. He certainly looked nice enough in his Starfleet uniform, but there was something about his off-duty clothing...more flattering, perhaps. Usually natural colours - brown, deep greens - that suited him so well. And he knew it. Not that he ever played up to it or used it deliberately, but he knew it.
Then a near tragedy occurred - he dropped a carrot. He bent over to retrieve it and Kathryn nearly sighed, masking the sound by taking another sip of her now lukewarm coffee.
Continuing to work, he moved about the preparation area for a few more minutes.
Eventually, he spoke, and when he did she could hear the humour in his voice. "Well?"
Kathryn frowned, utterly at a loss for a response. "Sorry?"
Turning away from the cutting board and placing the knife on the counter, he faced her. She thought it odd that even an apron looked good on him.
Chakotay was grinning. "You've been staring at me for the past fifteen minutes, Kathryn. You must obviously want to know something."
She briefly considered denying it. She briefly considered asking him just how he knew. Then decided against it. He was a man with...talents...that she had barely begun to explore.
Lowering her cup down onto the table that the PADD was resting on, she smiled. "I suppose I was just wondering how you can enjoy cooking so much."
Still grinning, he looked down briefly, considering an answer. "I like working with my hands. One of the problems with the twenty forth Century - especially aboard a Starship - is that everything is automated. If you want something to eat, you ask a replicator. You can spend a whole day just working on a console, and by the time you go off duty you don't want to do anything complicated; you just want a quick meal and fall asleep on your bunk. You don't do anything creative with your hands." He held them up, trying to make his point. "Which is a shame, because that's exactly what they're there for."
Unfolding her legs, she lowered her feet to the ground but remained seated. "An interesting theory. I can understand. While I was never particularly good at it...I did enjoy painting. It's a shame that I don't share your interest in cooking."
Grabbing a tomato from a collection on the side, he walked over and kneeled in front of her. "Your problem, Kathryn, is that you view it as a chore. Something to get through rather than something to enjoy."
"Usually because I don't have the time," She countered. "As Captain I worked a lot of hours."
"But you're not Captain anymore," He pointed out, "And even when you were we both know you worked more hours than were necessary."
This sounded disturbingly like it was going to turn into an argument. Deliberately trying to ease the moment, she smiled. "For the sake of argument, let's just say you're right." She chose to ignore the raised eyebrows that comment created. "What's your point now?"
He conceded her change of topic. "Now that you have the time, maybe you should give it another go. I'm not trying to convert you, but it can't hurt." When she said nothing, he apparently took that as encouragement. "Here, take this," He told her, holding out the tomato.
Kathryn regarded the fruit dubiously before reaching out to take it.
"How does it feel?"
Fighting the urge to laugh, she studied the fruit. Its layer of skin was soft to the touch, so soft. If she pressed a little harder her fingers would leave an indentation that would vanish almost immediately. "Gentle," She told him inanely, almost blushing when she saw how much he was smiling. She quickly handed it back to him. "I meant soft."
"Of course you did," Chakotay retorted, standing up and moving back to the other side of the room. "Come and look at this," He suggested.
She rocked back and forth on the edge of her seat for a few moments, before finally giving into her compulsion to move and stepped over to him.
When she arrived he placed a carrot in her hands. "Now, what impression do you get from this?"
Kathryn raised an eyebrow at him.
He rolled his eyes. "Aside from the obvious phallic similarities."
She looked at it. "It's a carrot, Chakotay. What do you want me to say?"
"We grew this, Kathryn. We're going to eat this. Doesn't it give you any sense of satisfaction?"
Raising the carrot up, she pointed it at him. "Correction: *you* grew this. As I recall, all I grew were the tomatoes."
"Which are also looking wonderful. Or gentle," He pointed out, grinning. "Besides, you didn't just 'grow the tomatoes'. You helped dig, weed, and fertilise other areas. Just because you focused more on the tomatoes doesn't mean it wasn't a join effort with the carrots."
Shaking her head at him, she chuckled and let him win this one. "Well if I grew the tomatoes...and we both grew the carrots...who grew the lettuce?"
"The monkey," He deadpanned, only moving when she slapped him on the arm. "Actually," He continued "I'm not sure it wasn't him who grew the carrots, especially after ogling you in the bath."
"Chakotay," She warned, waving the carrot at him menacingly.
He took care of that by biting the end off.
Wide-eyed, she stared between him and the recently-decapitated vegetable as he chomped cheerily.
"You ate my carrot."
"It's going to be chopped up anyway," He shrugged, taking the carrot from her and deftly cutting it up on the chopping board.
She watched intently, her eyes never leaving his hands. How the hell did they move so fast?
"Experience," Chakotay responded, answering the unspoken question. Scraping the carrot remnants to one side of the board, he placed the tomato on it and then handed her the knife. "Here. You have a go."
Kathryn didn't hesitate, taking the knife from him carefully and situating herself right next to him.
He spoke. "Now you have to be very careful-"
"Contrary to popular belief, Chakotay, I have chopped fruit and vegetables before."
Holding his hands up, he apologised. "I'm sorry. That was presumptuous of me. Go ahead." He moved away from her personal space and Kathryn pursed her lips, determined not to let him know that she missed him being there.
They remained in silence as she slowly but certainly chopped the tomatoes, automatically pulling on another one after the first was done. Eventually, she spoke. "You know, this is just the kind of thing Neelix would insist we put on his show. 'And now we have an *extra* special treat for those members of the crew who enjoy watching the Captain embarrass herself. The Captain...cooking!'"
He chuckled. "You do an extraordinarily bad Neelix impression."
"I don't plan to make it a common event."
Pulling out another chopping board from under the counter, he found his own knife and continued chopping carrots. "Anyway, I don't see what's so embarrassing about you doing this."
"Oh, no," She said, leaning towards him. "Chopping is one thing. Cooking is an entirely different matter."
He moved on to the next carrot. "Tell you what...I'll make you a deal. I'll bet you you'll be able to cook a terrific meal by the end of this week...and you'll enjoy making it."
Her curiosity was most definitely piqued. She paused her chopping. "And if I don't?"
Chakotay shrugged. "Name it."
Kathryn almost gaped. Oh, he had left himself wide open for attack with that one. Lowering the knife, she grabbed a carrot from the pile in front of them and prodded him under his chin with it. This was just what she needed to get something she'd wanted for weeks. "Just you...me...and a bowl of coffee ice cream."
He laughed. Even knowing the strain on the replicators, he agreed. "Fair enough."
Removing the carrot, she returned to her chopping and said almost absently, "Oh, and no clothing either."
He damn near lost a finger.
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