For the lovely (and crazy) ladies of JetC8!
Captain Janeway decides it's time to set some new parameters in her relationship with Chakotay.
Paramount owns the show and the characters, who in turn own too much of me.
I'd love it! All constructive criticism welcome.
Captain Janeway had tried desperately for an entire week to figure a way out of going to tonight's Holiday Party on the holodeck. She hated parties, always had.
Standing in front of the viewport in her Ready Room, she mused over a cup of lukewarm coffee. She had decided to take a break from the unending reports and finish her cup of coffee before it turned completely cold. She hated cold coffee, but she ended up drinking it that way more times than not.
Parties were diversions. She had never needed diversions; she had been a Captain on a mission for nearly as long as she could remember, and things such as parties were merely stumbling blocks. She always felt they were designed to personally slow her down. And she hated it when events outside her control slowed her down.
Now to top it off, Neelix had sent a bulletin stating that Starfleet uniforms were not allowed at this party. She sighed. Worse still. Trying to find something to wear. She HATED trying to find something to wear. Uniforms made it so much easier. There was nothing to worry about, and focus could be paid to other, more important, issues.
But neither Neelix nor Chakotay were going to allow her to crawl into a hole and stay away tonight, no matter how much work she told them she had to do. For over a week now she had made excuses, and they had told her that, as Captain, she had to show up. It was that simple.
This was a shipwide party, the sixth such Holiday Party this crew would celebrate together as a displaced family, and she had to make an appearance. She had to show her support, and provide a morale boost for those who were still having difficult times over being lost in the Delta Quadrant, especially during the holidays.
One problem was, however, that she was having her own problems dealing with the holidays. She had sworn to herself last year at this time that she would do everything within her power to ensure that her crew would be home this year and not have to endure a sixth year away from their families. And she had failed. Yes, they were closer to home. Yes, they had just recently been in touch with Starfleet Command; she herself had spoken to Admiral Paris only weeks ago.
Yet here they were, still in the Delta Quadrant, and home was in the Alpha Quadrant. And she was expected to go to this party tonight.
Kathryn closed her eyes and sighed deeply. It was time to admit to herself that she had lost the battle with Chakotay and Neelix. It was time to be a good sport; she had to go to the damned party.
Kathryn moved from the viewport and sat tiredly on the couch, putting her coffee cup on the table in front of her. She just wasn't in a very festive mood, and there wasn't anything she could do about it. Every mention of the word "holiday" was, to her, a jarring reminder of their predicament, the predicament she had gotten them into. And she certainly didn't feel like celebrating THAT.
But SOME members of her senior staff weren't making it easy for her to beg off.
Closing her eyes, she leaned her head against the back of the couch. Time to accept the fact that she had to go, she reminded herself yet again. Damn, she hated it when she lost . . . anything. A battle, an argument . . . losing wasn't something a Janeway did with very much dignity.
Suddenly, she smiled in spite of herself. Chakotay had once told her that she was brave and strong, and fierce and determined. Nothing could force her to stand down when she believed in something. Until she lost a battle. Then she sulked and seethed until her anger at her own failure either revived her, and she won the war, or it was her undoing and she lost by a long shot.
Well, he was right.
She used to find it unnerving that Chakotay had gotten to know her so well. He had told her a few years ago that he needed to know her spirit. She hadn't understood what he'd meant at the time, and she had even been uncomfortable with his directness, but now she realized that he had needed to feel comfortable with her being in command. During those times when he disagreed with her, when she kept things to herself from time to time and didn't consult him, he needed to know deep inside himself that she had the wellbeing of her crew at the forefront, that she was doing the best she could do given the circumstances, whatever those circumstances happened to be at the time. But now she found his knowing her so well . . . well, still unnerving! She pulled herself upright. Damn him! She really didn't want to go to this damned party!
Just then the door chime sounded. Gathering herself together, Captain Janeway stood from the couch and moved down to her desk as she called, "Come."
Commander Chakotay entered and moved to the front of her desk, with a padd in his hand. His visit didn't surprise the Captain at all; she'd been expecting him. After all, he had to make sure she hadn't thought of yet another excuse for not attending the party.
As Kathryn sat in her chair, she noticed again the relaxed, easy way Chakotay dealt with everything, and everyone. In her current mood, it didn't make her feel any better.
"I thought you might want to look over the crew assignments for beta and gamma shifts before I post the final copy, Captain. I want to be sure everyone has a chance to enjoy the party tonight," he said, smiling, as he handed her the padd.
Kathryn sighed heavily, flashed him her best annoyed look and took the padd from him.
"The party. Commander, every conversation I have been involved in for the past week has, in one way or another, concerned this party." She perused the padd, while Chakotay tried to cover his grin.
"I can see your attitude about it hasn't changed, Captain." This time he couldn't keep the amusement from his voice, no matter how hard he tried.
Approving the contents of the padd, the Captain handed it back to her First Officer.
"And I can see your attitude hasn't changed, either," she said, with a none-too-pleased expression on her face. But then she paused, and her expression softened. "You're still driving me crazy about this, you know," she added quietly.
"It's not intentional, Captain," he answered, knowing full well that she was stubbornly hanging onto her displeasure at having to attend the party.
"Oh, it isn't?"
"Not at all."
Kathryn stood and looked at him over her desk.
"Well, it feels like it," she said, then turned and moved up to the viewport, turning her back to him.
Chakotay's smiled slowly disappeared. He knew she didn't want to go tonight. And he knew the reasons why. It bothered her a great deal that this crew was about to celebrate yet another holiday season without their families. She still carried tremendous guilt over stranding them here in the Delta Quadrant all those months, and years, ago. Her guilt was as strong as ever, Chakotay knew, and sometimes he thought her guilt grew even stronger as time passed.
He had tried for over a week to make light of the upcoming holidays for her sake, but he knew Kathryn Janeway well enough to know that she simply was not going to let go of her foul mood easily.
Sighing, Chakotay walked up to the viewport and stood slightly behind her. He spoke gently, knowing she was hurting inside.
"Captain, I know that you don't want to go tonight, but it could be an enjoyable evening if you would just allow it to be."
"I can't imagine it being enjoyable. And I don't want to go," she said, reminding him of a spoiled child who was sulking because she had to do something she didn't want to.
"Even though you don't want to go, Captain, I know that you also understand the significance of your showing up, if only for a little while." He paused, but Kathryn didn't respond. He sighed. Sometimes 'stubborn' was just not a strong enough word to describe Kathryn Janeway.
"Kathryn," Chakotay continued, "if you won't come to the party for the sake of crew morale, then do it for me. Please." Again the Captain remained silent, so he decided to finish the thought. "I'm not in the habit of asking you for favors, you know. But I've been looking forward to having a few minutes of your time away from . . . work."
She turned to him then, with an innocent expression on her face.
"Why?" Maybe she truly didn't understand.
"Do you mean 'what else is there?'" His look was caring and appreciative, and his eyes showed her clearly that he knew there was something else in life other than what they were currently sharing together.
She regarded him quietly for a moment, then turned back to the viewport. After another moment, she said quietly, "What am I supposed to wear?"
Chakotay lowered his head, then smiled to himself. She could see every reflection in the viewport glass, and he didn't want her to see how relieved he was that she was going to try to be a good sport, after all. He let out his breath quietly, then looked back up.
"I don't know, Kathryn. Something . . . dressy."
"Hrumph." She was clearly not very happy about this.
"Neelix said to wear something . . . wintery, to go with his holiday motif" he added, trying to be helpful.
She turned to him.
"Yes, I read that part, too, Chakotay. What the hell does that mean? A snowsuit?"
Her irritation at what to wear was so endearing that it was suddenly more than Chakotay could keep inside, and he laughed aloud.
"Ah . . . why am I asking you?" She moved away from him, clearly agitated. She walked over to the replicator, with a purpose. "Computer, coffee. Hot."
"Why NOT ask me?" he asked, turning to watch her. He intentionally ignored the nearly empty cup of coffee on the table in front of the couch where she had left it earlier, and the fact that this was probably her second cup of coffee in less than an hour.
"All right," she sighed, taking the fresh cup of coffee from the replicator slot, then closing her eyes and taking a good, long sip. "Then tell me," she said, somehow managing to keep her voice restrained. She turned to look up at him. "What should I wear tonight?"
"Well . . ."
"You have no idea." Kathryn realized she sounded smug, but she just couldn't help it.
"Kathryn, I know exactly what you should wear. And I will tell you if you'll give me an opportunity to speak."
She nodded abruptly in his direction, then started for her desk.
"Fine. Go ahead."
He took a deep breath.
"An emerald blue gown that fits the shape of your body and stops at your ankles, just above matching high-heeled sandals. A dress that shimmers when the light hits it. A dress that has the power to make a man want to promise you the universe and all that's in it when he looks into your eyes."
Kathryn stopped midway to her desk, and her breath caught in her throat. She suddenly felt a wave of dizziness wash over her, but it was gone as quickly as it had surfaced.
She took a deep breath to steady herself, then turned toward him slowly. She didn't trust her voice to speak, but she had no words to say anyway.
He'd said this much, and it was too late to undo it now. Chakotay looked at her across the room as steadily as he could manage, hoping he didn't appear as weak as he suddenly felt. He took a deep breath and continued.
"Four years ago, you wore that gown to a celebration ball on the K'Tumi homeworld." He paused just long enough to swallow the lump that was suddenly in his throat. He hadn't taken the time to think about what the impact of remembering that time aloud would be like, let alone reminiscing about it to Kathryn. "I haven't seen you wear it since that night." He paused, but when she didn't respond, and merely continued to look at him, he decided to end the one-sided conversation. "And since you asked my opinion, I think you should wear that."
Kathryn continued to look at him from across the room. She didn't move, didn't drink her coffee. She just stood and looked at him, until he began to feel uncomfortable.
Then, as he was searching for something else to say, she whispered softly, "You remember that night?"
Chakotay sighed inwardly with relief. Maybe he hadn't stepped as far out of line as he was beginning to think.
"Of course I remember that night, Kathryn. I could never forget it." That was the truth. He thought of that night still, even after four years. The Spirits knew he had tried to forget . . . tried to forget not only the dress, but the woman who had worn it. But it wasn't meant to be. Kathryn Janeway was the only woman who could move him, no matter how hard he tried to forget her.
He walked down to Kathryn's level, and looked into her eyes. In for a penny, in for a pound. It was a ridiculous expression, but he could understand the implications.
"I would like to see you wear that dress." He felt his heart beating quickly in his chest. This conversation was now about much more than what the Captain should wear to the Holiday Party tonight. "That night you wore your hair up. With little . . . curly things . . . around your face."
She was meeting his gaze directly, and now she smiled that crooked little smile that he loved, and her eyes actually sparkled.
"My goodness, you do have a good memory, Commander," she said softly.
"For some things," he replied, continuing to look into her eyes, completely aware of the fact that they were only inches apart, and definitely not talking about ship's business. Her sudden change of mood surprised him, but he paid it no mind. He was going to drown in her eyes for as long as she would let him.
"Well, my hair was longer then," she said in a low, throaty voice that nearly drove him crazy. "But I do remember wearing it up that night."
"It's just as lovely now, and I'll bet you could still pin it up the same way." He didn't know where the words came from, but he heard himself say them.
"Maybe." She clearly wanted to hear more.
"I remember thinking you had never looked more beautiful. There was just something special about the way you looked that night." His voice was steady and warm, and they were both lost in the incredible attraction that had become like a magnet between them. Somehow it was easier and easier for both of them to become trapped in these feelings as the years passed, although they both tried to ignore them.
"And although you refused to dance with me," he continued, attempting to lighten the mood, and knowing he had to say something before he did something he would regret, "I want you to know that my broken heart did heal."
"Did it?" Her voice held a hint of playfulness, although the tone was as sultry as it had been a moment before.
"Eventually," he whispered. His throat was becoming tighter and tighter, and he had completely lost himself in her eyes. There was no way out now; he belonged to this woman fully. He was at her mercy forevermore.
"Maybe I wasn't sure it was such a good idea to look 'special' to you that night, Commander," she said in the most seductive voice he had ever heard. "And being in your arms might not have helped matters."
"Might not have helped matters in what way, Kathryn?" He could hardly believe she was finally acknowledging their attraction of that evening so long ago, the first time they had both realized how very serious their relationship could easily become.
But Kathryn didn't answer his question. Instead, she pulled her eyes from his and forced herself to move away. She walked slowly to her desk and sat, somehow managing to place her second cup of cold coffee carefully on the desk without spilling it. Her hands were shaking, but she felt her breathing begin to return to normal.
"Commander," she said softly, "please." She motioned to the chair in front of her desk, indicating that he should sit.
Chakotay felt physically weakened the moment Kathryn had moved away from him. Now, he forced himself to walk to the front of her desk, then to sit in the chair she had indicated. They remained quiet for a time, each thinking separate thoughts, comfortable with each other in a way that only two people who have experienced so much together could be.
Kathryn had settled her head against the headrest of her chair and closed her eyes. She was trying to quiet her beating heart and regain her perspective, but damnit, sometimes she envied Tuvok his Vulcan ability to control his emotions.
The fact was, right now she didn't know what to say to Chakotay. There was nothing to say, really. The time for the two of them to ignore their feelings of attraction for each other was long past. The only options left were either to walk away from those feelings the best they could, and as they had been doing, or to act upon those feelings, and she wasn't sure she was ready to do that, either.
But something had just happened between them that couldn't be ignored. Someway, somehow, some time they were going to have to talk about this. But not now. Just not now, she thought to herself, as she continued to take long, deep, deliberate breaths. Her eyes remained closed, as she took another much-needed moment before she could even look at Voyager's First Officer.
Chakotay, on the other hand, was watching Kathryn. He had long ago discovered an inner peace that came from simply watching her. When they had been stranded on New Earth together, now so many years ago, he had learned to find peace within his own spirit through watching her. It was difficult to explain, if he had ever found the need to explain it to anyone. But he knew this woman as well as he knew himself. And he loved her as he had loved no one else. When she found peace, he found peace.
And in watching the expressions cross her face now, and knowing that she was searching for a way to categorize and file what had just happened, he could experience his own tensions melt away. It didn't matter that she was trying to once again push her feelings for him away. All that mattered was that she had felt it, too. She still felt the attraction, too.
Yes, Kathryn Janeway was the key to his inner soul. She didn't completely understand how things were for him, of course. But that was all right. She was his light, his way, and whether she knew that or not was not important.
After a few moments, Kathryn opened her eyes and looked over at Chakotay. She sighed inwardly, then turned toward her desk, and him.
"Chakotay . . ."
"Yes?" His voice was soft, understanding. He could see the resolve that had surfaced in her voice and in her countenance. It pleased him that she had needed to struggle so hard to bring herself under control. Yet she was stronger than he; he was still trying to calm his body, and his soul, from the experience they had just shared.
She paused, then fought to maintain her element.
"Commander, I appreciate your suggestions about what to wear tonight. I will give your ideas . . . consideration." She paused, and finally looked away. "I'll see you tonight."
Chakotay realized she was dismissing him. This was how she was going to handle the situation, then. That was all right. The day would come when he wasn't going to make it so easy for her to push him away. But right now she didn't need anything more on her plate. Today, she had to get through Neelix' Holiday Party, and he wasn't going to make things more difficult for her.
Chakotay took a deep breath, then rose from his chair and looked over at Kathryn.
Finally, she met his gaze, knowing full well that he would stand in front of her desk until she did.
"I'll see you tonight then, Captain," he said in that soft tone that nearly drove her crazy with desire.
She nodded her dismissal, averted her eyes quickly, and Commander Chakotay left the room.
Kathryn allowed herself to fall back into her chair. She felt her entire body slowly being drained of all energy. No one was here, no one could see her weakness . . . no one would know how much she was hurting.
'Chakotay . . .' she heard herself murmur his name . . . and she felt tears threaten to spill down her cheek.
Suddenly, Kathryn Janeway stood from her chair and shook her head to clear her thoughts. She would not allow unspent emotions to control her. She had to be strong and resist her First Officer's charm. She had managed so far, and she would continue to manage. Alone.
Crossing up to the viewport, she watched the stars streak by outside. They were traveling at Warp 5; she knew they were traveling at Warp 5 without checking ship's systems or communicating with the Bridge. As Captain, she knew these things, could judge these things by simply watching the stars streak by.
And, as a woman, she knew when a man was attracted to her, and when she was attracted to him as well. But she had never felt an attraction like this one; a part of her was terrified that if she and Chakotay came together, they might ignite a fuse that would lead straight to a stick of dynamite. And when that dynamite exploded around them, the effect would be all-consuming. There would be no going back to the Kathryn Janeway who had existed before.
She had spent years trying to stop that fuse from igniting. It was a tiring vigil, but she told herself it was necessary.
But - what if that fuse were ignited, what if the entire cache of dynamite blew sky high, what then? She felt a tremble run through her. That was something she had never truly considered. And why not? Fear. She had never allowed herself to consider it out of Fear. Fear of what the crew would think? Fear that Starfleet would disapprove? No. Fear from losing herself in a relationship that would be more powerful, more all encompassing than any she had known.
Kathryn Janeway took a deep breath, then another. She was suddenly having trouble breathing again.
Turning away from the viewport, she placed her hands palm down on the arm of the couch and leaned forward, closing her eyes and concentrating on taking long, deep, calming breaths.
She had spent entirely too much of her life trying to hide from soul-searching truths.
Kathryn took another deep breath, and felt her body begin to calm down. Finally, she began to breathe regularly again.
She didn't do this often enough, she thought vaguely. Stop. Think. Breathe . . .
Suddenly, she opened her eyes quickly, the realization hitting her squarely. She never allowed herself to stop long enough to think, long enough to stand in one place longer than it took to decide attack strategy, evasive maneuvers, repair plans . . . long enough to take care of the Captain's concerns . . . of Voyager's immediate needs.
But what about the Captain's counterpart? What about the woman who longed for a certain man to hold her, to kiss her, to caress her . . . Kathryn closed her eyes again and concentrated on breathing.
No. The Captain and her duties had to come first, especially out here in the Delta Quadrant where her one and only concern was to get her crew home again.
She hadn't allowed herself to want, to need, someone in so very long now . . . No, that wasn't entirely true. She had NEVER allowed herself to need someone else. But somehow, she had developed a need for a certain man anyway. He had crept into her life and her heart, and no matter how hard she tried, she couldn't stop wanting him. She couldn't stop loving him.
The word actually planted itself into her mind. She loved him. She loved Chakotay.
Of course she loved him. She'd known it for years now.
Kathryn's eyes flew open and she turned and slammed her fist into the wall behind her, managing to bruise her hand, but otherwise doing no damage.
She could NOT wear that emerald blue dress to the party tonight!
Or could she?
That thought brought her up short. After a moment, she had to force herself to breathe normally again, after realizing the last thought had made her hold her breath.
That particular dress had been put into the back of her closet, never to be taken out again. So, why had she kept it?
Oh, she really didn't want to go to this party! Now she was being forced to think about things she didn't want to think about. Well, no one was better than Captain Kathryn Janeway at drawing parameters, and right now she had work to do. She would think about what to wear later.
The damned party was going on as planned tonight, whether the ship's Captain was happy about going or not. She sighed. Might as well try to make the best of it.
And for the next several hours, Captain Kathryn Janeway tried with all her might to keep her mind on ship's business and ignore all those intruding thoughts of Commander Chakotay that kept making their way into her head.
At 18.00 hours, just as the Captain was thinking of getting another cup of coffee (her first in several hours, she reminded herself), her comm badge chirped. She glanced up from her padd at the chronometer on her desk. How did it get so late anyway?
"Commander Chakotay to Captain Janeway."
"Yes, Commander," she replied, knowing full well what was coming.
"Captain, would you like me to stop by your quarters around 19.00 hours to collect you for the Holiday Party?"
Kathryn sighed. She couldn't help but shake her head and smile, though. She might be stubborn, but her First Officer was relentless.
"That won't be necessary, Commander." She wasn't going to make this easy for him.
After a pause, his voice responded.
"I just want to be sure time doesn't get away from you, Captain, and you spend the rest of the evening in your Ready Room."
"No need for concern, Commander. I'm just finishing up now. And I fully intend to take a long, relaxing bath before joining the party."
"You're sure you don't want me to stop by for you, Kathryn?" Ah, now it's Kathryn.
"I'm positive." Then she changed from her command voice to a much softer tone that she knew he wouldn't be expecting. "I won't forget about the party tonight, Chakotay."
She heard him sigh on his end of the conversation.
"All right, Kathryn. I'll see you when you get there."
"See you then, Commander," she said, as she broke the communications link.
Kathryn smiled to herself as she lay her head back calmly against the headrest behind her. All afternoon thoughts of Chakotay had danced around in her head and for the life of her she hadn't come up with one good reason not to move forward into a deeper relationship with him. If he was still interested, as he had shown her this afternoon, then damnit so was she! The physical attraction between them was certainly still there. And she knew they had the utmost respect for each other. Everything else was just icing on the cake for now, until they had the time to develop a deeper personal relationship. But she knew how easy that would be, given how well they knew each other. She felt herself smile. Oh, yes. They were both ready to set some new parameters for their relationship!
Thoughts of losing Chakotay when they arrived home had come into her mind today. She had somehow always thought there would be time for them when they finally got home. But today she had considered another scenario, one where they lost the sense of closeness they had already developed, where the spotlight on their return to the Alpha Quadrant brought too much attention to new matters, and forced them to close all the doors behind them. No. Today she had decided that she wouldn't allow that to happen.
She would not simply stand by and allow events to control her, or her destiny. She had never allowed them to before, and she wasn't going to now.
The time for excuses was past. Voyager was much closer to home now, and getting closer every day. With continuing luck and perseverance, it wouldn't be long before the crew was reunited with loved ones again. Perhaps this would truly be the last Holiday Party they would celebrate aboard Voyager in the Delta Quadrant, after all.
For the first time in the years since she'd destroyed the Caretaker's array, Kathryn Janeway felt a sense of inner peace and calm. Maybe the holiday festivities wouldn't be as difficult to face this year as she had imagined. Instead, maybe this party would prove to be a celebration of hope and faith, a time to be thankful for all the things they had accomplished while on this mission, and a time to look forward to the new year with joy and anticipation, not apprehension.
And maybe it would be a time for new friends and new relationships.
Maybe she would enjoy this damned party after all!
At 19.30 hours, Voyager's Captain left her quarters and headed for the turbolift that would drop her off on Deck 6, not far from the holodeck.
Captain Janeway had a swanky, graceful movement that many of Voyager's crewmen appreciated, but that was nothing next to the svelte movements of the beautiful woman who moved down the corridor in a beautiful deep blue gown with matching high-heeled sandals. Her hair was up in a lovely twist, with a few tendrils delicately framing her face.
She moved with surety, passing only a handful of crewmen on the way to the party. Nearly everyone on Voyager was either already at the party or working their duty shift, with plans to join the party later. Nevertheless, the crewmen she did pass gave her startled, unexpected looks. It was rare indeed that Voyager's Captain let her hair down (or put it up?) and dressed in a manner more appropriate for an evening on the town rather than for a day on the Bridge.
Kathryn Janeway took a deep breath just before the doors to the holodeck opened in front of her. She wasn't nervous, and she wasn't apprehensive. She was simply excited about what lay before her. And she hadn't felt this way in far too long. Truth be known, she had never felt quite this way before.
She smiled as she entered the beautifully decorated room. Voyager's Chief Morale Officer, Head Chef, and Ambassador to the Delta Quadrant had certainly outdone himself once again! The holodeck looked spectacular! Fresh flowers were in cut glass vases throughout, but they somehow did not look out of place with the other winter holiday decorations. Seemingly endless tables of food were everywhere and the smell of pinecones made the atmosphere festive and inviting. And couples were already taking advantage of the dance floor Neelix had arranged.
Ah, but Voyager's First Officer was going to see a change in his Captain tonight!
Just before the doors to the holodeck opened, Tom Paris had been goading Commander Chakotay at the holographic bar. Chakotay seemed even more quiet than usual this evening, and Tom suspected the reason had something to do with the Captain not being at the party yet. He knew that Chakotay and Neelix had badgered the Captain about the party all week. And no one knew better than Tom Paris that one did not badger Captain Janeway!
"Chakotay," Tom was saying, "I know you're a moody kind of guy, but there is always an underlying reason for being quiet and unresponsive, you know."
"Tom, I'm not playing this game. There is nothing the matter that I wish to discuss with you." Chakotay was standing next to Tom at the bar, nursing a glass of some sort of punch Neelix had made. It was far too sweet for Chakotay's taste, but holding the glass gave him something to do instead of decking Tom Paris. Besides, he was giving Kathryn exactly five more minutes to show up, or he was going to go collect her himself. She had promised to attend the party, after all.
And Tom was still talking.
"I understand, Chakotay. But everyone needs someone to talk to . . . Holy Cow!" Suddenly, Tom stopped talking, and Chakotay sensed a change in the mood of the entire room. Tom whistled softly and appreciatively, then leaned over to Chakotay.
"Chakotay," whispered Tom, "I think maybe you should turn around and take a look at what just walked through the holodeck doors."
"Tom, I have no interest in gawking at every female who walks into the room out of uniform."
"Ah, . . . Chakotay, I really think you should turn around. She's, uh, well, she's headed our way. And, uh, I think you might want to look at the view."
Chakotay sighed, but his curiosity got the best of him. Tom wasn't usually so gullible as to be struck nearly dumb by the mere sight of a nice looking female. Turning in his chair to face the door, Chakotay caught his breath at the site of her. The woman of his dreams was slowly making her way toward him, yet taking the time to greet others on her way across the room.
Kathryn had never looked more beautiful. And she was turning to catch his eye from across the room. Then she smiled at him.
Chakotay couldn't move. He couldn't even acknowledge her smile. Truth be told, he didn't think she would wear that dress at all. He thought their discussing it this afternoon was as far as it would go, and maybe, if he were lucky, they'd bring that memory out of the closet again in a few more years, then after a quick acknowledgement of their attraction, carefully tuck it all away again.
And now here she was, merely a meter away, and he still couldn't move, couldn't find his voice to tell Tom Paris to be quiet, couldn't think. But he could feel. And in one quick second he reaffirmed his promise to himself that he would wait for her forever; he would wait for Kathryn Janeway to come to him and to invite him to spend his life with her, if it took the rest of his life for that to happen.
Suddenly, she was directly in front of him, and his heart was beating so loudly he knew that if she spoke he wouldn't be able to hear her above the noise of his own heartbeat. But she didn't speak, she just looked deeply into his eyes and smiled that crooked heart-stopping smile that melted his heart, his very soul.
"Geez, you look incredible, Captain!" gushed Tom, from beside Chakotay. Someone had to say something, after all. The way those two were looking at each other was getting downright embarrassing for Tom.
"Thank you, Mr. Paris," replied the Captain, without moving her eyes from Chakotay's.
"Captain, can I get you something . . ." continued Tom.
"Nothing, thank you, Mr. Paris." Still, her focus was on Chakotay.
"Uh, well . . ."
"Would you excuse us, Mr. Paris?" Her voice was gentle, and she was still looking at Chakotay, but Tom knew that any conversation he might hear between the two of them would now take place from another location.
"Uh, sure, Captain." Tom turned and took his drink from the bar. "See you two later," he said. "Maybe." He threw the last word over his shoulder as he took his leave, shaking his head.
During the brief interchange between Kathryn and Tom, Chakotay had somewhat managed to collect himself.
"You do look incredible, you know," he spoke in a low voice.
"Somehow it sounds different, coming from you," she spoke in a low, husky voice, and Chakotay felt a tremor run through his body. "And you look pretty nice yourself, Commander." Chakotay was wearing a subtly cut black tuxedo with a simple white shirt beneath it. It was the best he could do since formal attire was not something he felt very comfortable wearing.
"Would you . . . like something to drink?" he asked. He somehow knew he'd better bring them both to the present. The room already seemed to have grown quieter around them, but he wasn't sure if it was real or if it was his perception of things that had changed. He couldn't be sure, and he wasn't going to tear his eyes away from hers to find out.
"No, thank you," she said softly. "But I would like to dance. With you."
Chakotay's heart stopped.
He felt silly asking her to repeat it, but he had to be sure he wasn't dreaming.
"Come," she held her hand out toward him. "Let's dance. The music sounds lovely and there are already people dancing. We can blend in with the group."
Chakotay put his drink on the counter and took her hand. He smiled at her.
"Kathryn, there's no way you and I are going to just blend into the group."
"Does that bother you?" she asked softly.
"It never bothered me, Kathryn," he replied, and she knew it was true. They looked into each other's eyes a moment longer, the physical contact somehow making things seem more real. "Will it bother you?" He needed to know.
"No. Never again." And they both knew that was true, as well.
Kathryn turned and led Chakotay through the crowd and onto the dance floor. They were oblivious of the turned heads, stares and smiles that followed their every move. Somehow, it just didn't seem to matter anymore.
Kathryn turned and slid her right hand into Chakotay's left, and he gently placed his right hand on her waist. She moved toward him and placed her left hand on his right shoulder.
"Is this all right?" she whispered, as they began to move together slowly.
Chakotay pulled her body closer to his, and closed his eyes.
"I want to kiss you," he whispered into her hair. He couldn't help himself. Kathryn was quiet for a moment, and Chakotay thought she hadn't heard him.
Kathryn rested her head on Chakotay's chest as they moved together on the dance floor. She couldn't remember ever feeling more at peace, yet more physically in-tuned with another being.
"How long do you think we should stay at this . . . Holiday Party . . . tonight?" she asked, with a hint of an invitation in her voice.
Chakotay pulled away from her just far enough to look into her eyes. Had he imagined the tone of her voice? But her eyes told the same story.
"Kathryn . . ."
"I remember you telling me earlier today you'd like to have some time with me away from work."
"Yes, I did . . ."
"Well, I happen to know for a fact that Holodeck II is available right now, and that it's going to be available all . . . night . . . long." Her voice was driving him crazy.
"All night?" Chakotay swallowed hard.
"Oh, yes. I made sure of it. I don't think lovemaking ought to be rushed. Do you?"
"Kathryn, do you know what you're . . . suggesting?" His heart was pounding again, and he was trying desperately not to hang onto the word she had just used.
"Oh, Chakotay, I'm doing more than merely suggesting. I'm trying to tell you I want to make love with you. Tonight."
Chakotay stopped moving and looked deeply into Kathryn's eyes.
"Are you sure, Kathryn? Because there'll be no going back."
"I only want to move forward, Chakotay." Kathryn had never been so sure of anything in her life.
"In that case, I need to bring up only one other item that might be of interest." He tried desperately to swallow the lump that was again in his throat.
"And that is . . . ?" she whispered softly.
"You do realize that if the two of us leave the party together, then spend the night with each other, there will be a lot of replicator rations exchanging accounts tomorrow morning." He grinned.
Kathryn looked at him very seriously.
"And if there is a power overload, I'll kill Tom Paris personally."
"And I'll watch." They grinned at each other then, and Kathryn held her hand out to Chakotay as she had done earlier.
Taking her hand, Chakotay led the way across the dance floor. Miraculously, no one stopped them, and they walked through the holodeck doors, and into the corridor. They didn't stop moving until they had turned the corner. But then Chakotay stopped and turned to Kathryn. He needed to know that she felt the same way outside the festivities of the holodeck, here in Voyager's corridor, and what he saw in her eyes told him all he needed to know.
"Chakotay? What is it?" She moved closer to him, but didn't pull her hand away from his. "Is everything all right?"
"Shhhh." And as he pulled her into his arms he whispered, "I am going to kiss you, Kathryn."
And with that, Voyager's First Officer moved his hands gently to his Captain's face, looked deeply into her eyes, and as her arms slid gently around his neck, he slowly brought his lips down to meet hers.
And neither of them noticed the small parade of on-lookers that Tom Paris had brought out of the holodeck to witness the scene on his behalf. Seven long years of betting on those two was going to pay off tomorrow!
But a lot more was going to change than just that.