Dedicated with love to everyone on the JetC10 mailing list. Special thanks to everyone who has e-mailed me - you've been a great inspiration.
Disclaimer - Paramount own (almost) everyone in this story. Please don't sue me, I can't afford it.
FRIENDSHIP AND PECAN PIE
She supposed it was inevitable really. She had secretly hoped that it wouldn't become an issue, but she had known all along that she would have to face it eventually. There was no way something like this would go unnoticed by the crew. It's not as if anything had really happened, but she was part of a tightly knit (not to mention small) community. The rumours were bound to start.
The turbolift doors swished open and she stepped onto the bridge trying not to sigh as she did so. "Report." she barked, making everyone on the bridge wonder what had put her in such a foul mood.
Each section reported in - Tuvok on security, Paris on helm, and Harry on Ops. Everyone reported normal operations. Good. At least that was one thing off her mind.
The door swished open again, and then he walked in. She knew instantly who it was. She'd developed a knack for knowing when he was around, not least of all when he was staring at her hair. Then she noticed that everyone else seemed to have developed this skill as well.
Tom was doing his best to look like he wasn't staring at them (no easy task when he was faced away from them), and she was sure that Harry and even Tuvok were doing the same.
Chakotay sat down in his usual chair to her left. He nodded at her and smiled slightly. "Captain."
"Commander." she replied crisply, then quickly turned to the small console on her right and started pressing buttons at random having no idea what she was looking at. She didn't see the small frown that marred his forehead as he sat back into his seat, but she knew it was there. She could just imagine that way his tattoo crinkled up slightly at the side.....suddenly she stood up and headed towards her Ready Room. "You have the bridge Command-" the remainder of her sentence was cut off as the doors shut behind her.
As soon as they closed, it all slipped away - her pretence and the stress she was causing herself. Her shoulders slumped slightly at the relief and she rubbed her right hand over her face.
Paris watched in amusement at the reflection in his console of the Commander. His gaze kept wandering from the PADD he was holding to the Captain's Ready Room door. Finally, all of 15 seconds after Janeway has entered the room, Chakotay followed her, mumbling to Tuvok that he was in command.
There wasn't a person in the bridge who didn't know what he'd gone to say.
She had just settled down in her chair when her door beeped. Damn. Putting aside her feelings, she called out "Yes?"
The doors opened and it was who she knew it would be. Chakotay stepped inside, but waited until the door closed before speaking. He took a step forward and simply asked "Kathryn, what's wrong?"
Oh God he said my name. "Nothing's wrong. Why do you ask?"
"Come on Kathryn," there it was again "everyone on the bridge knows that something's bothering you."
Reluctantly she smiled. She should have known.
He could see the tension ease from her shoulders and a real smile lit up her face for the first time that morning - the kind of smile he wanted to see every day for the rest of his life. He couldn't help but smile in return.
She leant back in her chair, her lips pursed slightly.
"It seems," Kathryn began "that there are some...rumours...about us."
Up went his eyebrows. "Rumours." Resisting the urge to smile, he asked "Really?"
She stood up and rested the palms of her hands on the desk. "Yes. I've heard from...a very reliable source," she paused slightly then continued "that the crew seem to be paying very close attention to our personal lives."
Chakotay slumped down in the chair opposite from hers. He wasn't really surprised, it must have been obvious to everyone on board how he felt about the Captain. But he had hoped that the rumours wouldn't start until something had happened between him and Kathryn. Although he supposed that there had been some incidents that would cause the crew to gossip about them. Most notably among these was New Earth. He didn't want to think about that right now, so he tried to think of something to say to her.
"So you think the best way to deal with this is by....acting like you're annoyed with me?" he asked too innocently.
She sighed in frustration, and started walking to and fro behind her desk.
"No. I'm not acting like I'm annoyed with you. I'm just...trying to put some distance between us _in public_ so that the crew will think that nothing's going on."
As Tuvok would say, she was being illogical. He sat up. "But Kathryn, the way you're acting...how do you think it will affect the crew eventually? It's not good for morale. It's as if we've had an argument. Almost like you were a spurned lover."
Her eyes widened. "I beg your pardon..."
"And how will this affect our real relationship?"
She sat down and rubbed her hand over her face. "Well it shouldn't affect it at all. Whenever the crew's not around, we'll just act as we normally do around each other."
"I don't know if you've noticed Kathryn, but this isn't a very big ship. Most of the time we see each other we're around other members of the crew. No matter how hard we try, that's going to put a strain on our relationship. I don't want to risk that." he said earnestly.
She immediately leaned forward. "Believe me Chakotay, that's the last thing I want. You know how much I depend on your support and your friendship. Tuvok's a good friend, but you're the only one I can really talk to." She frowned briefly, as if the thought bothered her. "Maybe I should rectify that..."
"So what should we do?" he asked, interrupting her wallowing.
She looked back at him and his words finally made their way through. "Oh..well..seeing it from your point of view....my idea could promote the speculation about our relationship even further. If the crew do think that we've had some kind of lover's tiff.." she tried not to smile but failed miserably "it would make our relationship seem even more romantic than it is." She instantly wanted to slap her hand over her mouth. Dear Gods. What did I say? Even more romantic. Indicating that their relationship was romantic in the first place. Her only saving grace was that he didn't seem to notice.
"Well you're dismissed then Commander. I have work to do." she told him, a bit more playfully than she liked.
He smiled and stood. "Aye Captain." He headed towards the door, but then turned around and faced her. "Oh, by the way....who did you hear about the rumours from?"
"Captain's prerogative Commander, means I don't have to tell you anything I don't want to. Let's just say the person is very reliable."
B'Elanna groaned. Who could be at her door at this hour? She instantly thought of Tom, but then remembered he was on duty. Maybe it was Chakotay, for another one of his visits that he pretended were to check up on her, but she knew full well that he wanted to know how her relationship with Tom was going. He should talk. She was dying to know what was going on between him and the Captain, but he wouldn't talk. And she didn't believe half of the gossip she heard about them either.
"Enter." she called, standing up from her chair to greet whoever it was.
She couldn't have been more surprised. "Captain!" she nearly squealed.
B'Elanna frantically wracked her brains for any reason why the Captain would need to visit her. All Engineering systems were working fine, she hadn't broken any noses lately....
She recovered and asked the Captain to come further into the room. The Captain thanked her and stepped in. She almost looked nervous.
"Would you like a drink?" B'Elanna asked cautiously. That seemed like neutral ground.
Knowing how famous she was for her love of coffee, the Captain smiled.
After she got the two drinks, B'Elanna indicated that they both sit down and handed the Captain her drink.
"So..." she began, wondering what had brought the Captain to her quarters of all places.
Kathryn took a breath and started talking. "Well, we've been out here for almost three years. In that time I've been trying to keep a slight professional distance from my crew. After all, that is what Starfleet recommends. But...we're in a very unique situation, and I've come to realise that I need more friends."
"Everyone on this ship sees you as a friend." B'Elanna interrupted.
"Perhaps, but not a close friend. Let's face it, most of the crew sees me as the Captain first and Kathryn second. Most of the time that's just fine, but now that we're out here...the few exceptions are Chakotay and Tuvok. I depend on their council and friendship a great deal. Although I've known Tuvok longer, I'm closer to Chakotay - probably because he has also commanded a ship."
B'Elanna had her own ideas about why they were so close, but wisely remained silent.
"Even so," Kathryn continued "there are some things that I can't talk to him about, or that I think he wouldn't appreciate me discussing with him."
"And so you came to me? Why?" B'Elanna was stunned.
Kathryn took a sip of her coffee. "When we were first forced together we were adversaries. It was no secret that you didn't like me, and to be honest, I wasn't too fond of you either. But we overcame that. We came to respect and even like each other. I think we can build on that."
"Okay." B'Elanna replied, still too surprised to say anything else.
"So you're willing to try?" Kathryn asked.
"Why not?" she smiled.
Kathryn smiled as well. "Well B'Elanna, now that we're officially friends, would you care to give me all the dirt on you and Tom Paris?"
"You will never guess who came to my quarters last night." B'Elanna told him excitedly.
Tom Paris leant back in the chair and put his fork down on the plate that was holding Neelix's latest creation. Raising a cocky eyebrow in a pale imitation of Tuvok, he innocently asked "Hmm....was it the Captain by any chance?"
"How'd you know?" B'Elanna demanded crossly, upset that her surprise has been ruined.
"Well look at it this way," Tom said simply "who is the last the person you'd expect to turn up at your quarters? The Captain. Who's the last person you'd want to turn up at your quarters? The Captain."
"That's not true!" B'Elanna interjected.
"Maybe not completely," Tom agreed "but she's not exactly your best friend."
"Well she's not exactly my worst enemy either." she told him angrily.
"Exactly! So we're agreed." Tom pointed out. "Anyway, back to what we were talking about. Who would get you so worked up about turning up at your quarters? The Captain." Satisfied with himself, he picked up the fork and gingerly took another forkful of his breakfast. Scrunching up his nose as he examined the mustard-coloured jelly-like substance, he asked B'Elanna "Don't you think Neelix's cooking has gotten worse over the years?"
She quickly shushed him and looked around furtively to make sure Neelix wasn't around. Tom wondered if she knew how cute she looked at that moment. He decided it was best not to ask her - he didn't want to have to visit sickbay anytime soon. He got the impression that the Doc was getting tired of seeing him turn up to have some injury treated every other week.
"You have to be quiet about Neelix's food, especially lately. I made a comment about his latest Leola Root recipe and by the end of the day I swear he knew all about it. There's nothing more annoying than an upset Talaxian. That man must have a spy network on this ship that rivals even yours." Abruptly changing subject she asked him "So you figured out who it was that came to my quarters just by my reaction?"
Slowly chewing his food Tom replied "Well there's that and the fact that Jenny saw her coming out of your quarters last night."
"Jenny Delaney?" she immediately asked.
"Yeah. Why, are you jealous?" he asked cockily.
"Don't be ridiculous. I was just curious. There are plenty of Jenny's on this ship."
Holographic Doctor's Personal Log, Stardate 5.*****. After the incident with Ensign Vorik and Lieutenant Torres I informed the Captain that I was considering making a further study of various cultures mating behaviour.
Now, however, I have decided to study another topic that is much more interesting - that of relationships, particularly those that are romantic in nature.
I have debated whether or not to tell the Captain about this latest study, and for the meanwhile have decided against it. The relationship between herself and Commander Chakotay has almost always been more than just the concern one officer has for another, and I am not sure she would appreciate my insights.
Kathryn entered the holodeck to see that Tom's Sandrine program was already running. B'Elanna had challenged her to a game of pool, and she was surprised to see that Chakotay and Tom were there. Standing next to the pool table, cues in hand, they looked around and both greeted the Captain as she came in.
"Evening Captain." Tom said.
"Kathryn." Chakotay added. She saw Tom smile as Chakotay used her name, and made a mental note to throttle him when she was next alone with him. The most infuriating thing was that he knew exactly what he had done, and was looking extremely pleased with himself.
The doors opened behind her and B'Elanna entered, also looking extremely pleased with herself. "Good evening Kathryn." There was her name again. She resigned herself to the fact that she'd have to get used to it. It was her problem - no one elses. "I hope you don't mind me inviting the boys," B'Elanna added "I thought it might be more fun if we had a two-on-two game."
Kathryn nodded in agreement, knowing exactly why B'Elanna had invited 'the boys'. It was well known that she and Tom were becoming a couple, and B'Elanna seemed to want the same to happen between her and Chakotay.
They started the first match and to begin with it was men vs women. She had a great time with B'Elanna, goading the men about their pitiful pool skills.
After the first three games though B'Elanna not so subtly suggested that they split into mixed teams - B'Elanna and Tom, and Kathryn and Chakotay. If she backed out now, it would look like she was trying to hide something, so she decided to play along.
Halfway through that game Tom started speaking to the Kathryn. "So...Kathryn," he still looked a bit at odds saying her name "you seem much more relaxed that you have been acting lately. I take it you've resolved whatever it was that was bothering you?" He was acting way too innocently.
B'Elanna suddenly found the green felt on the pool table fascinating, and Chakotay wasn't even bothering to hide his amusement, a wide grin appearing across his face. Kathryn sighed as she eyed her first officer. God that man irritates me sometimes. But he does have cute dimples. Not to mention a cute...
"Yes Tom," she replied, an evil grin spreading over her face. "Everything's just fine."
And she promptly sank a yellow ball.
"'Night Tom, B'Elanna." Kathryn called out as they went their separate ways from the holodeck. Tom was on his way to the mess hall, and B'Elanna was going with him most of the way until she had to divert to engineering.
"'Night Kathryn." they yelled back in unison, walking off arm in arm.
Kathryn smiled as Chakotay joined her and they walked towards the turbolift.
"Walk you home Kathryn?" he asked gently, that devilish gleam in his eye.
"Why of course Chakotay. And they say chivalry is dead."
The door swished open and they stepped inside. "Captain's quarters." she called out, and the 'lift started moving.
They remained in silence for most of the journey, but it was a comfortable silence. She was glad for that, a sign of a good friendship was when neither of you had anything to say, but neither of you felt uncomfortable either.
That was until the 'lift stopped and the lights went out.
"Janeway to bridge. Report."
"Captain," Kim replied "it appears that one of the bio-neural gel packs in the turbolift has burst, causing a disruption in turbolift functions. Emergency bulkheads are in place, so you're not going anywhere. We could try and beam you out..."
"Negative Mr Kim. I won't waste energy by using the transporters to get us out of here. Assuming life support is still functional we'll wait it out until we're rescued. Neither of us has to be on duty for a while. Estimated time for repairs?"
"Approximately two hours Captain."
She wanted to sigh but thought it best not to do it over her commbadge.
"Okay Ensign. Keep us updated as to any developments."
She heard Chakotay chuckle from the other side of the turbolift.
"What is it?" she asked.
"Nothing really, I was just thinking." In fact he was thinking how ironic this whole thing was. He'd daydreamed about just such a turbolift malfunction but now that it had actually occured, he wasn't at all sure what to do.
He heard her clothes rustle as she sat down and he decided to join her. He was almost glad the lights were out, he didn't want her to see the expression on his face. Although it did strike him as a bit odd that the emergency lights weren't working either...
Chakotay felt a hand lightly touch his shoulder and jumped slightly.
"It's alright Chakotay, I was just finding out where you are."
He could hear the humour in her voice.
She shuffled over beside him and took his hand. "I hope you don't mind," she asked "I'd just like to know where you are. I've never been overly fond of the dark."
He smiled at her admission. "Well to tell you the truth Kathryn, neither have I."
She sat in silence for a long while, and Chakotay wondered what he had said or done wrong.
He hadn't actually done anything wrong. All he had done was innocently say her name. She'd gotten used to it by now, but he'd never said it in such a confined space before. It was also the way he said it. Let's face it, she told herself the man's got a sexy voice. Unfortunately for her, that wasn't all she found sexy.
The group of them sat around one table in the mess hall. Paris went over to see what all the excitement was about.
"Haven't you heard?" one ensign exclaimed. "The Captain and the Commander are trapped in a turbolift together."
"You're kidding." Tom replied, a massive grin slowly making it's way across his face. If this was true he was about to earn a huge amount of replicator rations.
"Kim to Torres."
Torres put the tricorder she was holding down and slapped her commbadge.
"Torres here. Go ahead Harry."
"We need an engineering team to report to turbolift one at deck 6, section 11A. The Captain and Commander are trapped inside."
B'Elanna was bemused. "Are they hurt?"
"Nope. No injuries and life support is functioning. They're just stuck. The Captain doesn't want to waste energy by beaming them out."
Yeah right B'Elanna thought. "Okay Harry, I'll bring a team up there myself. Torres out." She turned around and faced her engineering crew. "Hanson, Maguire...I've got a terrific job for you."
The Doctor hovered over the readouts that were appearing on his monitor. Ensign Kim had reported no injuries, but just to be safe he had instructed the computer to run a medical scan on the occupants of turbolift one.
"What is it Doctor?" Kes' gentle voice asked as she entered from the Doctor's office.
He turned towards her to indicate the readings. "Oh I'm running a bio-scan on the Captain and Commander to make sure there are no injuries. I'm getting some...very strange readings."
"Well both of their heart rates have quickened and perspiration has risen by 12 per cent. But there seems to be no medical cause."
"Maybe it's something simpler than that. Although I don't know if 'simpler' is the right word..."
"Something simpler...?" the Doctor queried, completely baffled. His eyes widened as realisation dawned. "Oh....well this is fascinating then. I may have to add this data to my study."
Kes grinned. Having some telepathic abilities made her all too aware of what was going on in the turbolift. Unfortunately it wasn't quite what the crew was hoping for, but it was a start. However, if they were left in there for much longer the crew might get just what they were hoping for (not to mention betting on).
"Did you hear about the Doctor's new project?" Chakotay asked, if only to break the silence.
"Project?" she replied, trying to stop herself from the insane urge to giggle.
"Yeah." Then Chakotay realised that this was not a good subject to be bringing up when he was stuck in a dark turbolift with a woman he was attracted to, not to mention being the only woman he had ever loved. He had started however, and he had to finish. Maybe some part of his mind wanted her to find out how he felt...
"You remember you told me that he was thinking of studying the mating behaviours of different species?"
"Well the word is that he's started a new study on...romantic relationships."
"Romantic relationships? How did you find out?"
"The Doctor told Kes, Kes told Harry, Harry told Tom, Tom of course told B'Elanna and B'Elanna told me." He failed to mention that he had got some very impressive teasing from B'Elanna that he and Kathryn would turn up in the study. She had soon shut up when he had mentioned her relationship with Tom would probably show up.
"Huh. Can't these people keep anything to themselves?" she asked, a bit more roughly than she had intended.
"You should know by now that almost no one can keep a secret on board this ship. We're a community - and we've got nothing else to do."
She was awfully aware of how close he was. That was her fault of course, she'd been the one who had sat next to him. Kathryn was drawn from her line of thought as a loud thump sounded through the bulkhead.
"Janeway to Kim. What's happening?"
"Nothing to worry about," came the young ensign's voice. "B'Elanna and an engineering team are trying to get you out."
"Alright Mr Kim. Janeway out."
Harry smirked as he ended his conversation with the Captain.
"Mr Kim," Tuvok enquired "do you find something amusing?"
"Not at all sir, I was just thinking." If you only knew...
Tuvok regarded Ensign Kim with his usual Vulcan restraint. The incident with the turbolift had seemed to start of a fresh batch of rumours regarding the Captain and the First Officer. Once they were safely out of the turbolift and were back on duty, he would have to inform the Captain of the new rumours as he had done two days previously.
Kathryn regarded Kim's last statement and refrained from sighing only because Chakotay was there. This was all she needed - knowing that B'Elanna was outside the 'lift. She was going to have a great time with this one.
Chakotay regarded Kim's last statement and refrained from sighing only because Kathryn was there. This was all he needed - knowing that B'Elanna was outside the 'lift. She was going to have a great time with this one.
B'Elanna grunted as she tried to pull the circuitry out of its slot. The bio-neural gel pack had leaked over the components, leaving a sticky situation - and an impossible to move circuit board.
"Oops." The word had come from Maguire.
"What is it Pete?" she asked, trying to flick some of the bio-neural gel from her hands.
He looked nervous. "Umm..you might wanna tell the Captain and Commander to take off their jackets."
"Why?" she asked, even as the picture began to form in her mind.
"Well..er..it's quite funny if you think about it..."
"Just tell me."
"I accidentally cut the connection for the environmental controls inside the turbolift. And as we're so close to the warp core..."
"It's going to get hot in there."
Chakotay tugged at the neck of his uniform. "Is it my imagination or is it getting hot in here?"
"No, I think you're right." she replied.
"Torres to Janeway." her commbadge spoke.
"You may have noticed an increase in temperature Captain."
"You could say that."
"The connection for environmental controls has been.....damaged. And as we're so close to the warp core..."
"It's going to get hot in here."
If it's not one thing, it's another, Kathryn thought.
"We'll do our best to get you out of there as soon as possible. Torres out."
Kathryn had no doubts that B'Elanna would do her best to get them out of there as quickly as possible, she was just hoping she'd be able to hold out that long. Already she could feel the temperature rising by another five degrees. What the hell, we're in the dark. It's not like he can see anything anyway. She took her jacket off.
Chakotay's imagination was going into overdrive. He knew she wasn't stripping off completely, but just the implication was enough to give him some interesting dreams for the rest of the month.
He decided it was best if he kept his jacket on for now.
"Chakotay?" her voice floated across the darkness.
"You haven't taken your jacket off."
"We don't need you suffering from dehydration. It would be best if you took it off."
He wanted to object, but knew that she would make it an order if she had too.
Resigned, he undid his jacket and shrugged out of it. He had to admit that he felt cooler, although it was still warmer than normal. A drop of sweat ran across his forehead and he wandered what was causing it - the increasing heat or the proximity of a certain woman.
He wiped the sweat away and slumped back. Hearing his movements she asked,
"What are you doing?"
"Oh...just wiping some sweat away."
"Oh." She should never have asked. She didn't ask where he was wiping the sweat from; her imagination was doing a good enough job of that as it was. Besides, it would either be more exciting or less exciting than what she was thinking of, and she wasn't sure what would depress her more.
"I'm raising my bet by ten replicator rations." Tom declared.
"Why?" Ensign Soto asked suspiciously.
"I just have a feeling..." Tom replied mysteriously. He didn't mention that B'Elanna had just contacted him to inform him about the current situation in the turbolift. To his way of thinking, rising temperatures lead to clothes removing, which lead to...other things.
"I'm beginning to think that I should let Harry beam us out of here." Kathryn told him, fanning her face with her hand.
"I think that's a good idea." Chakotay agreed fighting the urge to take off the grey vest he usually wore under his jacket.
"Janeway to Kim."
"Could you beam us out of here now? I don't think we can take the heat for much longer."
"I'm afraid not Captain." Came the Ensigns reply. "The gel has now spread into all the systems directly surrounding the turbolift. It's interfering with the transporter sensors."
"Understood. Janeway out."
That was the last straw. She yanked her grey vest off and threw it in roughly the same area as her jacket. Unfortunately it landed on top of Chakotay's face. He wondered what had landed on him and was horrified when he realised what it was.
Suddenly the turbolift jolted to life and started to move. The doors swished open and Kathryn and Chakotay gawped in horror at their chief engineer who was staring down at her Captain who was wearing only a bra, and the First Officer who was peeking from under Kathryn's top. He wanted to die of embarrassment.
B'Elanna stood there open-mouthed at the sight that greeted her. How was she going to get through this without laughing? The only cover Kathryn had for the top half of her body was her bra, which although it was standard Starfleet issue, didn't do all that much to preserve her modesty. B'Elanna wondered where her vest had gone and got her answer when her gaze turned towards Chakotay. He was wearing her vest. Or to be more precise, the vest was resting on top of his head. He was peaking out from under it, like a little school boy who had been caught doing something he shouldn't.
Kathryn bolted up and grabbed her vest from Chakotay's head, carefully avoiding B'Elanna's gaze. Covering up what she could of her chest with the short grey vest, she faced Chakotay and said "Thank you for looking after my top Commander." And practically ran out of the turbolift. She nearly knocked Maguire over in her eagerness to get away.
The last they saw of her was as she disappeared around the corner of the corridor, trying to quickly put her top on while still trying to hold onto her dignity.
The chief engineer turned back and faced the First Officer, who was still leaning against the wall of the turbolift. His head was in his hands, and B'Elanna thought that she could hear a small moaning sound.
Slowly he pulled his hands away from his face to reveal a grin that only faltered slightly when he squinted into the light. "Don't tell me that was any turbolift malfunction. How long have you and Tom been planning this one?"
"What?!" she replied. "I don't know anything about that! As far as I'm concerned it was just an accident."
"Yeah, right," he muttered as he pulled himself up, picking up the jacket that was lying next to him. Then he noticed that his wasn't the only jacket that was there. In her hurry to get away, Kathyrn had left hers there. Well this was going to be awkward. Did he give it back to her? It would save her quite a few replicator rations if she had to replicate a new one. Deciding to think about it later, he rolled her jacket up inside of his, hoping that B'Elanna didn't see anything.
He stepped out and saw that Maguire and Hanson were there. Great, this would be all over the ship in no time.
"So.....did you have a nice time?" B'Elanna asked innocently.
"Don't even start."
"Really Doctor, I'm fine." Kathryn insisted as she tried to swat away the hypospray. He sighed. Kathryn regarded him, remembering that he had been based on his creator. The man must have been insufferable.
"Captain, you are suffering from mild dehydration. Considering the temperatures that you had to sit through, I'm not surprised. It would be much safer for your health if you agreed. And if not....I can make it an order."
"Oh very well." Kathryn snapped.
<hiss> She felt the slight tingle as he applied the hypospray to her arm.
"So Captain...." He began seeming almost nervous. That was ridiculous. How could a hologram be nervous?
"Yes?" she replied, curious as to where this was heading.
"What was it like in there?"
"The turbolift? Hot."
"Not just that, but...."
"Just spit it out Doctor." She demanded.
"Being in there with Commander Chakotay. You see even before the temperature rose I was monitoring your vital signs. Your heart was beating faster and you were sweating over 10 per cent more than usual. I was wondering what your views were."
Kathryn stared at him, horrified. Could he really be planning to use her in his study?? No way was she going to let her personal life become a series of numbers and percentages.
"Doctor, let me make something clear. You have always been short in tact and this is not an exception. You are not to use my personal life in your study. Is that clear?"
"But Captain, it would provide an invaluable resour-"
"I've made my decision. No more. Understand?"
Kathryn nodded, glad that an annoyance had been dealt with. Unfortunately she was unaware that yet another annoyance was about to land right on top of her. Literally.
"The vest was on top of his face?!!"
Tom was having the best time of his life. He'd heard all about what happened in the 'lift thanks to various sources - Pete and B'Elanna being among them. Now he was relating the whole sordid tale to the group of people eagerly awaiting news in the mess hall.
He nodded in answer to Soto's question.
Ensign Soto herself was stunned. This was like something out of a bad romance novel. It was what they all wanted to happen, but no one thought it would (especially not like this). She wondered who could have been behind it - she very much doubted that it was a 'turbolift malfunction'. The crew had been waiting for this for far too long to believe in anything other than what they wanted to believe in.
Turning her attention back to Tom, she asked him something. "So what do you think really happened in there?"
Tom regarded her, and put his teasing nature aside. "Truthfully?"
"Nothing. Or at least nothing so drastic as what we're imagining. I heard all about it from B'Elanna, and from her description nothing 'physical' happened between them. But she was only an observer after the fact. They might be good at hiding their feelings. I know the Captain is, but Chakotay? Forget about it. The man lets the whole ship know what he's thinking without saying a word."
Soto agreed, it was pretty much evident how the Commander felt about the Captain. He had this quiet intensity about him that always seemed hidden just beneath the surface of his likeable exterior. He was friendly with everyone, but she'd be interested to see what he would do if somebody hurt someone he was close to. If she was right, there would be hell to pay.
She desperately wanted the Captain and Commander to be happy, but she could also understand the Captain's point of view in not expressing feelings she might have. Captain Janeway was the leader of a ship; a community. She'd never really spoken to the Captain that much herself, but she could tell that she was fiercely dedicated to her crew. She would do almost anything to get them home. Perhaps that was the problem.
Kes looked at the Doctor's furrowed brow and tried to explain to him what he had done wrong.
"Doctor....you could have had a little more tact."
"That was no reason for her to be so rude." he replied, half-ignoring her as he filled up some hypospray vials with different medicines.
"With respect Doctor, that was a very good reason for her to be...upset. Some humans tend to get very offended if you try to peek into their personal lives. Perhaps she could have been nicer about it, but she did have a reason."
He leant back in his chair, raising a hand to his chin as his program told him to simulate looking like he was in thought.
"But what about Mr Paris?" he queried, his eyes unfocused.
"What about him?"
He leant forward, moving his hand back down to the vials. "Well he doesn't mind at all talking about his relationship with Ms Torres. In fact he takes every opportunity he can to point out to someone that he's involved with her."
"Like I said Doctor, some humans get offended. Other don't mind talking about their relationship. In fact, some people talk about it non-stop." she added with a wry smile.
The Doctor wondered what she was talking about, then his memory circuits reminded him that she had recently broken up with Neelix. He always did seem overly-protective of her from the Doctor's point of view.
"I wonder what it is that makes each person act differently..." he pondered.
"Well from what I've experienced Doctor, which admittedly isn't much," she paused for a brief smile "it's a combination of the individual's personality and the situation they are in at that specific time. Look at it this way. It we were back on Earth and the Captain met the Commander, would they start a relationship? I think that, providing neither of them were otherwise attached, there would be a good possibility. But we're not there. The Captain feels she has to put the concerns of the crew above her own."
"The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one or the few..."
"Besides, if we were back at Earth Chakotay would most likely be in prison for being a member of the Maquis. I don't think any of us would want that to happen."
"And I may never have been activated." the Doctor added, once again moving into a simulation of deep thought.
"Exactly. You could have missed out on all of your experiences over the last three years. Making friends, falling in love, meeting entirely new alien cultures.....it's so amazing out here. We're lucky to be here."
"There are endless possibilities."
"Untaken roads - that's what it's all about Doctor."
He broke out of his trance and looked up at his protegee.
"When did you realise all of this Kes? You have some amazing thoughts for one so young."
"It's precisely because I am young that I think like this. I can't afford to waste any time. I'm not upset that I've only got six years at most left. In a way, it helps, because I know I must and will live every moment to it's fullest. Most people don't think about that."
"Hmm...I suppose you have a point Kes. I have never really considered my own lifespan because as a computerised being I could, in theory, live longer than the average human. Or Delta Quadrant resident - whatever happens to be in the area. But that's only as long as I have a power supply."
Kes nodded thoughtfully. "In many ways you're like a biological being. You have the ability to learn, to produce offspring and can only function as long as you have a power supply - much the same way that we need food to survive."
"When you put it that way, it seems we have more in common than I thought."
"Does it make you feel better?" she asked, her elfin features a picture of hope.
"Oddly enough it does." he told her, partly because he wanted her to know she had helped, and partly because it was true.
"Good." she replied, happy that she could help someone.
He turned back towards his equipment. "Anyway, this has been a fascinating discussion Kes, but we both have to get back to work."
"If you want to talk about this more I'll be glad to talk to you after my shift ends. Would you care to join me on holodeck one at 1100 hours?"
"I'd like that very much." he told her.
She grinned and left his office to work on her growth cultures that were awaiting attention in sickbay.
After she left the Doctor leant back in his chair again, thinking about what Kes had said about roads not taken. He was positive that the Captain and Chakotay would be perfect for each other, but they had decided to take a different road. How was he going to direct them back to the right one?
The beeping noise slowly pulled Kathryn out of her sleep. She'd dozed off whilst reading over PADD after PADD of boring information, determined to put thoughts of her First Officer behind her. Invariably her thoughts wondered to just that topic, but eventually her own exhaustion overwhelmed her and she fell asleep.
She finally woke and as she did so she remembered parts of the dreams she'd had about Chakotay. She frowned. Even her subconscious was working against her.
"Come." she ordered as she stood, desperately hoping that it wasn't him. It wasn't, but to Kathryn's way of thinking it was almost as bad.
"Do you want to talk?" the dark-haired engineer asked from the corridor.
"Come in B'Elanna."
"Thanks Kathryn." she said and entered, the doors swishing shut behind her. They were silent for a few moments before Kathryn suddenly asked
"Do you want a drink?"
"Oh I'd love a ractageno thanks."
Kathryn headed over towards the replicator and B'Elanna helped herself to a chair and sat down.
Kathryn ordered the drinks, then sat down opposite from B'Elanna placing the drinks on the table between them. She picked up her own mug and wrapped both hands around it, drawing some much needed warmth from the object.
B'Elanna picked her own up and sipped it slightly, waiting for it to cool. There were a few more moments of silence and then Kathryn said "I'm sorry."
B'Elanna was confused. "Sorry for what?"
"Well I was the one who suggested this…but....well it's harder than I thought it would be. I don't know if I can talk about it."
B'Elanna smiled, understanding Kathryn but being frustrated with her at the same time. "Kathryn, if you're going to talk to me, you're going to have to be honest to me. But first you need to be honest to yourself."
"I know." Kathryn whispered. "But I'm afraid."
"Of Chakotay?" B'Elanna asked, amazed. "You know that he'd never hurt you."
"I'm scared of what he represents."
"Yes." Kathryn instantly responded.
B'Elanna smiled. "Well at least you admit that much. Come and see me when you're ready to talk." She stood to leave and as the doors opened she paused and looked back at Kathryn.
"You know what he'd go through for you, don't you?"
"And he does have a great butt."
Kathryn smiled a wicked smile. B'Elanna left, laughing to herself as she did so leaving Kathryn alone in the room.
"That he does."
She was bored. Kathryn paced backwards and forwards in her quarters, wrestling with her feelings with Chakotay. She'd been doing this for the past two hours and still hadn't gotten anywhere. Frustrated with herself she decided that maybe now was the right time to talk to B'Elanna - she hadn't gotten very far by herself.
She was sure that B'Elanna didn't expect to see her again this soon, but hell, she needed someone to talk to.
Now that she had a purpose, something to work on, she was happy - this was something to concentrate on.
Determinedly she headed towards the door and it swished open....and then swished shut as she fell backwards, arms and legs tangled with her First Officer's.
He was the first one to break the silence. "Well this is awkward."
Kathryn lay there, thinking over the recent events. The last couple of days had been particularly ironic....and now this. She was in serious danger of losing it. She could feel the laughter building up inside of her and didn't even bother to hide it. Yeah, she'd definitely lost it.
Chakotay raised himself up slightly and looked down at Kathryn. She was laughing, one hand rubbing over her face as if she couldn't quite believe this was happening. It was a position he wouldn't mind staying in, but he knew that once she stopped laughing she'd realise how they were laying and get embarrassed.
He extracted himself from the criss-cross of various limbs and studied his Captain from the new perspective. What did she find so funny?
She squealed and started laughing all over again. Eventually the laughing ceased and she tried to speak between taking huge gulps of air.
"I'm..sorry Chakotay, it's just that..." and another giggling fit started. Chakotay had never seen his Captain quite this out of control. He liked it.
Eventually she got control of herself and sighed, wiping some moisture from her eyes. She looked up to see his handsome face looking down at hers, a bemused smile on his face.
"Are you finished?" he teased.
She smiled back at him, a wonderful feeling of warmth spreading through her. They weren't even close to each other, but just his nearness made it an incredibly intimate moment. Why was she fighting this?
He indicated the jacket she was now laying on. "I brought that back for you. You left it in the 'lift after...well…you know what."
She nodded and sat up, pulling the jacket out from under her. Holding it up and examining it, she made tutting noises. "Hmmm...do you think the crease look is back in this year?"
"I'm not sure, but I'm sure if you wear it it will become the height of fashion."
She grinned up at him. "Perhaps you're right. Being in command does have certain advantages."
They both laughed and he pulled her up. They stopped laughing. The expression on his face said far more than his words ever could.
She didn't know if she was ready for this, and then it didn't matter because it was happening.
Their faces moved closer together until they were breathing each others breath. He placed his hands gently on either side of her face and pulled her closer, as she wrapped her arms around his shoulders and tilted her face up slightly.
She could feel it in the pit of her stomach - the anticipation. She'd been waiting for this for just as long as he had but had never admitted it. The feeling grew and her stomach clenched as they moved closer and their lips met....
"Tuvok to Chakotay."
They froze, looking absurd now that they had stopped moving. His left hand was still touching her face, but his right hand had been raised, on it's way up to caress her hair. Now it hovered in mid-air with no where to go.
Dammit, not again. How did Tuvok always know when to interrupt them? He rested his forehead against hers with his eyes closed, savouring the feeling.
"Go ahead." His voice echoed through the room.
"Can you please report to the bridge? I've something important I'd like to discuss with you."
"On my way. Chakotay out."
He sighed. "I'd better be going." What else could he say?
"Yeah." she said almost reluctantly. "I hope it's nothing serious."
He grinned down at her, almost rubbing noses. "I'm sure you'll find out eventually. You are the Captain after all."
He slowly lowered his hands and briefly rubbed her arms. "See you later Kathryn."
"Uh-" was all she could manage to say.
He smiled at her again (he seemed to be doing that a lot) and left the room.
Her arms were still up in the air as if she could almost feel that his body was still there. Slowly she wafted them in front of her as if she could catch some part of the essence of the man who had just been standing there.
Absently she realised that the whole time she'd been holding onto her jacket in her left hand. She stared down at it, as if wondering how it got there. He had given it to her, that's all she could remember about that. She remembered everything about the almost-kiss, the way he.....
Frustrated she threw herself down on her chair, screaming as she buried her face in the jacket.
B'Elanna sat in her chair, thinking about her latest argument with Tom. Why did they always have to fight? The truth was in her DNA. Her damn Klingon side always had to make things harder for everyone, didn't it?
Tom had gone a long way in helping her to overcome her own doubts about her Klingon half. He had started doing it a long time ago, when the Vidiians had kidnapped her and turned her into two people - one fully Klingon, the other fully human. She'd never appreciated a human's strengths and weaknesses before. Ultimately she'd realised that she couldn't survive without her Klingon half, both for medical and psychological reasons. Whether she liked it or not, her Klingon side was an intergral part of her personality.
Even so, sometimes she hated her fierce nature.
Her door beeped. She had a feeling about who it was.
Kathyrn literally ran into the room, looking breathless, strands of hair escaping from her pony tail.
"We have to talk!" she exclaimed.
B'Elanna jumped up from her chair, fascinated as to what was so urgent.
"What is it?"
"We kissed!" she replied, arms flailing all over the place.
B'Elanna's mouth widened into a massive grin and her eyes were alight. "You kissed??!!"
"Well...almost...Tuvok interrupted us..." she admitted, obviously frustrated at the Vulcan.
"So you almost kissed," B'Elanna said, slightly disappointed "it's a start. So what exactly happened?"
Kathryn stopped her pacing and turned to face B'Elanna.
"Oh it was wonderful. The almost-kiss.....God it was so romantic. I still feel like I've got a ball in my stomach."
"So there's definitely some chemistry between you two?"
"You mean you didn't know already?" Kathryn asked.
"It certainly seemed that way, but now that you've experienced it...almost experienced it....well It's nice to know. You have no idea how much the crew wants to see you together."
"Oh I think I do B'Elanna."
And that was all she said about the matter.
"So tell me everything that happened." B'Elanna insisted again.
They both sat down, Kathryn leaning forward excitedly. As she told the story, B'Elanna would interrupt occasionally either in fits of laughter or to shout "You're kidding!"
Kathryn sighed. "And then....he reached up with both his hands and gently cupped my face." She raised her own hands to her cheeks in an unconscious imitation, a wistful smile on her face. "We moved closer, our lips touched....and then Tuvok interrupted us."
B'Elanna, who had had been literally on the edge of her seat, whacked the arm in frustration. "That Damn Vulcan! How does he always know when to hail one of you?"
"I don't know," Kathryn replied glumly. "But I can tell you that it's beginning to get annoying."
"So that's it?"
"More or less."
"More or less?"
"Yeah..well...after he left, I felt as if I could keep ahold of part of him. Almost like he was still there. It sounds silly."
B'Elanna disagreed. "No, it's not silly at all. I can't tell you how many times that I've thought Tom was still in the room. It's like....they leave something behind."
"Yes!" Kathryn agreed enthusiastically.
B'Elanna pondered her comment. "Like they're marking their territory."
The turbolift sprang to life as Chakotay desperately tried to stop himself from doing the same. His feelings and his hormones were both running rampant.
The 'lift stopped and he entered the bridge. He headed towards the security chief who was in command at the moment.
"What is it Mr Tuvok? I was in the middle of something important."
"I am sorry for the interruption Commander. Perhaps we should discuss this in private." he added, indicating the Captain's ready room. Chakotay, curious as to where this was heading, agreed.
"You have the bridge Mr Kim." Tuvok instructed as he and Chakotay entered the ready room.
"Aye sir." replied Kim, sitting down in the seat. He felt almost dwarfed, like the chair was ten times bigger than he was.
In the ready room Chakotay turned to face Tuvok.
"So what's the problem?"
"I have already informed the Captain of this, but it is now appropriate for you to know. It seems that the crew have been spreading some very colourful rumours regarding yourself and Captain Janeway."
"I know." Chakotay replied simply.
"Indeed." His left eyebrow raised slightly.
"Yes. The Captain and I have discussed this and we have agreed that we won't let these rumours interfere with the command structure or our working relationship."
Tuvok nodded his head slightly. "I had no doubt that you would come to such an agreement. However, I have just been informed of some more rumours, and I believe that I should consult you before discussing it with the Captain. I would rather not bother her unless it was necessary."
Chakotay regarded the Vulcan. "Incredible."
Tuvok was perplexed, although his face showed no emotion. "What is 'incredible'?"
"You. Vulcans claim they are able to surpress their feelings, in part so that their feelings can't affect their judgement. Yet here you are trying to protect the Captain from these rumours so she won't be upset by them. I mean, you come to me of all people!"
"You were the logical choice."
"Why was I the logical choice? I find it illogical that a Vulcan, especially one who has known Kathryn as long as you have, would try to hide rumours from her."
Tuvok stood in silence for a moment, then turned his gaze pointedly onto Chakotay.
"You are the logical choice Commander, because you are in love with her."
Chakotay didn't even bother to deny it.
Tuvok continued. "Because of your feelings for her, I believed that you wanted to protect her. Perhaps I was mistaken..."
"No. I do want to protect her, but protect her from danger, not from the truth. Just how bad are these rumours anyway?"
"It appears to depend on your point of view. The person I heard it from seemed to think it was very bad."
"Who was the person you heard it from?"
The Vulcan nearly sighed. "Mr Neelix."
Didn't anything get by that Talaxian? Come to think of it, didn't anything get by Tuvok?
"According to Mr Neelix, Jennifer Delaney was walking past the Captains quarters and saw you at the door, holding the Captains jacket."
"That's true." Chakotay admitted, the reflection from the stars outside the window shining in his eyes.
"She then went on to state that the Captains door opened whereupon you and Captain Janeway fell to the floor in what Mr Neelix said she described as an extremely passionate embrace. He also informed me that Ms Delaney has started telling the rest of the crew."
"So what do you want to do now?" B'Elanna asked.
"I don't know." Kathryn moaned. "I mean…I know.." she hesitated. "I know I have...feelings for him."
"But you think that you need to put the crew first." B'Elanna stated.
"Exactly. So you agree?" Hope lit up her voice.
"Not exactly, but I can understand why you would think that. I know you feel guilty for getting the crew trapped out here, but Kathryn, we've accepted it now. Why can't you?"
She stood and turned away from B'Elanna. "Because I need to believe that I will get the crew home. I can't afford to put my feelings first."
The half-Klingon grabbed her arm and swung her around, her Klingon nature increasing her anger rapidly.
"Why the hell not?"
"Because I can't!!!" Kathryn shouted.
B'Elanna took a step back in surprise. "Dammit Kathryn don't do this to yourself! It's always back to the same old excuse isn't it - you have to isolate yourself for the good of the crew. It's time that the crew need to see you as a person, not as some icon who commands their ship. They also need to see you happy." She lowered her voice. "Kathryn, seeing you happy makes them happy. Morale has been good lately, but if you keep this up it's going to take a serious dip. And before you say that someone will object to a romantic relationship between yourself and Chakotay, I know for a fact that it's not true. We watch you every day wondering when you'll finally acknowledge his interest. We've also come to realise that it's only natural that couples will start to pair off. Even a Captain can't be alone forever."
"Its not forever," Kathryn whispered "it's only seventy years."
B'Elanna nearly growled. "As isolated as we are out here, it might as well be forever." She paused, and studied Kathryn's grim expression. "Alright Kathryn. Don't do it for the crew then. Don't do it for me, don't even do it for Chakotay. Do it because you want to. I know how much you want to be with him."
She let go of Kathryn's wrist, her dark eyes flashing. Kathryn lowered her gaze to the red marks on her wrist that were slowly disappearing.
"I know," she replied, her voice catching on the tears that threatened to spill over "it's just that it's..."
"Hard?" B'Elanna suggested.
"Harder than I ever thought it would be."
B'Elanna stepped forward and wrapped her arms around Kathryn, who gratefully accepted the hug. Was this really the same woman who had faced down the Borg?
She spoke softly. "What's going to be harder Kathryn? Spending the next seventy years with the man who loves you, or spending the next seventy years alone?"
"But that's not what happened!" Chakotay insisted.
Tuvok regarded him. "I have no doubt about that Commander. If you and the Captain were involved in a secret relationship, I am sure that you would both be more careful about being seen."
Chakotay slowly went over the news in his mind and made his decision. "She has a right to know. And if we don't tell her she'll find out anyway and be annoyed at us for not telling her."
Tuvok nodded his agreement. "You could well be correct."
Chakotay tapped his commbadge.
"Chakotay to Janeway."
Kathryn jumped slightly as her commbadge sounded. Since leaving B'Elanna's quarters she'd been doing a lot of thinking.
"Kath...Captain, I have some information here that you might find interesting."
"Understood Commander. I'm on my way to the mess hall. Why don't you join me there?"
He paused. "Captain, it may be for the best if this information was discussed in private."
She smiled, a decision forming in her mind. "Understood Commander. I'm on my way to the mess hall. Why don't you join me there? Janeway out."
She entered the mess hall to see that quite a crowd was already there. Did they somehow know that this is where she had been headed? It wouldn't surprise her.
Most of them had big grins on their faces. No doubt they has heard some more rumours. Maybe these ones were true.
She headed towards the replicator.
"One slice of pecan pie, two forks." She ordered.
The food materialised and she picked it up. Turning to find a table, she noticed that everyone was looking at her. Ignoring her paranoia, she resigned herself to the fact that she was going to have to get used to it.
Sitting down at a table need to a window, she tried to overcome the nervousness that was building inside of her. She's never felt this tense, not even when she and Chakotay had almost kissed.
The doors swished open and her head jerked up. Damn. It wasn't him.
Lowering her head again she picked up one of the forks and slowly poked the food with it.
"Playing with your food? You should be scolded."
Her face shot up at the sound of his voice.
"Chakotay." If nothing else, her smile would have given her away. "I didn't see you come in."
"I came in right after Mr Hanson."
"Please, take a seat." She insisted.
He sat, wondering why she was smiling so much. He loved seeing her smile, but this was out of the ordinary. He was also wondering why she had two forks.
"So Chakotay, what was this important news?"
"Well since you insisted on meeting you here, I suppose I'll have to tell you. Ms Delaney saw us…fall into your quarters, and now has everyone convinced that we were in a passionate embrace." He said, indicating the audience behind him.
"Ah...I wondered what they had heard. They did seem a bit more interested then usual."
"Kathryn, you don't seem that bothered."
She raised her eyebrows impishly. "That's because I'm not. It's practically the truth anyway."
The look on his face was hard to define. Certainly there was shock. But there was also amusement, confusion, and silent thanks.
It sounded to him as if she was ready. But ready for what exactly?
"I tell you what," Kathryn whispered teasingly. "Let's give them something real to talk about."
She stood up, leant across the table and kissed him gently on the cheek. She lingered there far longer than was necessary.
She sat back down and smiled at him, a rebellious glint in her eye.
"Well you look like the cat who caught the canary." He told her.
She giggled at the description, for it was a very fitting one.
Kathryn picked up the fork and handed it to him.
"Pecan pie Chakotay?"
"I'd love some Kathryn. But do you mind it I add some coffee ice cream? It always tastes better with it."
Her grin grew even wider.
"I love coffee ice cream!" she exclaimed.
It was a match made in heaven.
Ensign Maguire watched them from his table at the other end of the mess hall. He smiled as she leant over and kissed him. It looked like his plan had worked. It was no accident that had caused him to sever the environmental controls in the turbolift.
Harry Kim entered the mess hall and saw that the Captain and Commander were sitting together looking downright friendly. In fact they looked more than friendly. Good. It looked like his plan had worked. He hadn't caused the turbolift to malfunction, but he had giving it a helping hand by causing the emergency lights to go out. He couldn't wait to tell Tom.
Tuvok watched them from his position in the doorway. He felt no happiness from the fact that he created the turbolift malfunction that helped them start a relationship. It was only logical, after all, that the two most senior members of the crew were happy. Their well-being affected everyone on board.
And if he did have another reason, he certainly was not going to acknowledge it.