Disclaimer - Paramount should own them.
Third season. One swear word.
"Ask you a question?" She said quietly, trying to look busy with her work and not at all interested as to what his answer might be.
They were on the upper level of engineering, tinkering with a few consoles.
"Sure," He answered "Just as long as it isn't the question about where babies come from."
Appreciating his attempt at levity, she produced a small smile before that quickly fell away. Her fingers stopped moving over the console for a moment but she still didn't look at him. "How can you still be so hopeful?"
"About..?" He prodded gently.
Moistening her lips for a moment, she hesitated. She needed to phrase this just right. He was her closest friend, but there were some things that he found difficult to talk to anyone about. "I...I saw you in the mess hall the other day."
He frowned. "I'm in the mess hall everyday-"
"No, I..." Closing her eyes, she frowned. She hadn't thought it would be this difficult. "With her." Finding the courage she needed, she finally turned her head and looked at him. "You were with her. And...it was so *clear* Chakotay. I don't think it's ever been that clear to me before. Maybe I didn't want it to be, but..." Shaking her head she looked away again.
She lost count of how long he stood there, hunched over his own console, saying nothing. Eventually he sighed, turned around to rest his rear on the edge of the console and stared at the wall. "That clear, huh? That obvious." Chuckling, he ran a hand over his face and through his hair. "Shit, I guess it would have to be."
Smiling but wide eyed, she turned and matched his wall-staring pose. "You don't mind talking about it?"
"You're my oldest friend B'Elanna. I know I can trust you. Besides, if it's *that* obvious...it's not much of a secret anyway."
Crossing her arms over her chest, she regarded him with raised eyebrows. "Nice try. But I know better than that."
Shaking his head affectionately, he smiled at her. "Okay, so it does bother me. But there isn't much I can do about it now, is there? And you're still my oldest friend."
"Not so much of the 'old' if you don't mind." She retorted, leaning towards him slightly. After a few more seconds of wall-staring, she continued. "I mean it, though. How can you still have hope? I know how you feel about her-"
"How, exactly?" He interrupted softly, not unkindly. "How do I feel about her? How do you see it?"
"How do I see how you see her?" She queried, wrapping her mouth around the sentence. Lowering her eyes she pondered for a while until finally uttering a single word: "Sacred."
The sides of his mouth moved upwards, the dimples coming into full force. "I think you may be imagining that I'm more noble than I am, B'Elanna."
"So you're saying that's not how you see her?" B'Elanna countered.
The smile remained in place but his gaze turned introspective. "There is that element to it, I suppose. I've managed to get through some of the worst days of my life simply on the scent of her hair, the memory of a special moment together, the way she says my name..." Seeming to realise that he was running on, he looked at her again "...but I'd be lying if I said there wasn't a part of me that wanted to throw her against something particularly sturdy and-"
"Please Chakotay," B'Elanna held up a hand "Stop right there. I don't want or need that particular image in my mind."
Smirking, he whispered. "How about Harry and Neelix?"
"Chakotay!" She yelled, trying not to smile.
"I'm sorry. Neelix and Tuvok?"
She whacked him on the arm. "Stop it!" Unable to stop herself any longer, she grinned. "And you still haven't answered my question." The moment passed, the humour faded. "I know...you know...she won't commit to a relationship to anyone other than Voyager out here. How can you be so full of hope when you know that about her?"
Shrugging, and not looking in the least bit despondent, he spoke. "I'm having a hell of a good time B'Elanna. Do you know what it's like waking up with a smile on your face every morning?"
No. She envied him that most of all. "No."
He nodded his head once. "She gives me that B'Elanna. She makes my days brighter and gives my dreams more meaning. She can have me grinning for days just by something she said or did. She can make it feel like there's a hole in my chest when she's injured, then make my stomach lurch when she wakes up and smiles at me, *just* for me. Would you even try to deny yourself that?"
She honestly didn't know. "I've never felt what you do, Chakotay. I couldn't say."
Reaching out he tugged her arms away from her chest, lowered one of her hands to the console and placed his over the top of it. "Promise me. Promise me that when you get the opportunity you won't waste it."
Wanting to say so much all she could offer was "I'll try," before looking down at their hands.
"What is it?" He asked.
Frowning and smiling at the same time, she almost shrugged. "It's just...she does that. She does that to you."
Chakotay smiled easily and squeezed her hand. "She's my friend, B'Elanna."
"I wish she could be more than that for you," She whispered.
B'Elanna blinked as Chakotay's com badge suddenly chirped, but he remained sedate as always.
"Janeway to Chakotay."
Raising his eyebrows at B'Elanna, he spoke. "Go ahead."
"Please report to my ready room immediately."
"On my way. Any particular reason?"
Her voice was warm when she responded. "You'll just have to wait until you're here to find out Commander."
Grinning, he chuckled. "Aye Captain. Chakotay out." Looking back at B'Elanna, he squeezed her hand one more time. "I'd better go. Dinner tomorrow?"
Releasing her hand he nodded and stood. "Good. See you later." Without looking back he headed to the ladder and started climbing down.
Watching until he was completely out of view, she then turned back towards the console and didn't resume working for fully ten minutes. Thinking.
She just knew he was going to be smiling all the way to Janeway's ready room. It probably should have bothered her, but all she could do was smile.
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