The Way You Look Tonight by D.A. Kent


E-mail:

D.A. Kent

Date:

March, 2001

Series:

VOY

Rating:

PG-13

Codes:

J/C

For:

All my JetC friends who know beyond question that the Captain and the Commander belong together.

Summary:

When Chakotay and Tom Paris decide to play a game of pool in the holodeck, the Captain joins them unexpectedly, and Chakotay can't take his eyes off her all evening.

Disclaimer:

Paramount owns the show and the characters. Unfortunately.



Commander Chakotay leaned against the bar and stared across the room. The Captain was talking with several of the beta shift crewmen, not at all realizing the sort of reaction she was getting from them. While they were used to obeying her orders during working hours, this was different. This was a social occasion. They were nodding at her words, but Chakotay saw more than that. They were admiring her, and not just as a Captain, but as a woman. Maybe it helped that they were all wearing civilian clothing, which had been Neelix's idea, and the Captain was wearing a simple beige dress that accentuated her nearly flawless figure, a figure carefully camouflaged by her usual uniform.

She had been right all those years ago when she'd told him she always looked better in beige. Right now, he couldn't imagine her in any other color.

No sooner had the thought entered his mind than he felt a raw surge of jealousy, a jealousy that he had no right to feel.

Chakotay knew that Captain Janeway always preferred wearing her uniform to group functions, and complained to him mightily whenever an announcement came down that a certain event would require civilian clothing. She was one woman who hated trying to find the right thing to wear.

Certainly no one could fault her decision to wear this dress tonight. It was simple, classic.

And that was what made it so sexy.

Chakotay finally calmed himself with a deep breath. He knew she wasn't here tonight for the party; she was putting in an appearance because she was the Captain. If it were up to Kathryn, she'd prefer catching up on weekly reports. She'd told him that very thing only this afternoon, and she'd meant it.

Besides, she couldn't help the way she looked in that dress. To Kathryn Janeway, it was a simple beige sleeveless dress, with a straight skirt and matching beige shoes. To her, it was serving a purpose, and that was all. But to Chakotay, it was much more than that. It was a showstopper.

"Say, how's it going?"

Chakotay closed his eyes; now was not a good time for Tom Paris to agitate him. "I'm fine, Tom, what's going on?"

"Oh, nothing much. Just thought I'd stop in for a bit, get a glass of something cold. B'Elanna's having too much fun in Engineering to join me." When Chakotay turned away and stifled a laugh, Tom turned to look at him. "No, seriously, that's what she told me. 'Too much fun' are her words, and frankly, I think she meant it."

"I'm sure she did," said Chakotay, remembering the many days and nights B'Elanna had spent in the closet-sized Engine Room on his Maquis ship, trying to maintain thruster power with nothing but nuts and bolts, spit and a welding iron. But somehow, she'd always managed to get them out of bad situations. Until they met up with Voyager.

Chakotay looked back across the room at Kathryn. He was still reserving his opinion about that last one, he thought, warily. Some days he would rather die than not have met Kathryn Janeway, and other days, he'd kill just to have not met her.

Tom followed Chakotay's subtle glance. So, Chakotay was experiencing a little jealousy this evening. It was certainly nothing new, but Chakotay was probably more aware of it tonight than usual. The party atmosphere allowed one's sense of duty to linger behind other things that might be happening. "So...how about going next door to Holodeck Two for some pool?"

"What?" Chakotay turned back to Tom.

"Pool. Remember Sandrines? I've been spending some time there again lately, brushing up on my game. My shots are getting better and better. Thought maybe I'd ask the Captain for a re-match - uh, after I've brushed up a little more." Tom noticed Chakotay's sudden interest at the mention of the Captain, but then he'd already turned back to watch her again. "So, how about it?"

"How about what?" Chakotay asked.

"Pool. A friendly game of pool."

"Now?"

"Sure. Why not?" said Tom. "The party's rolling here, and we can have a game or two without anyone even noticing we're gone. We can stop back later."

Chakotay turned to look at Kathryn again. Tom watched him watch her, and sighed. He understood it all too well. He wouldn't soon forget how it had felt to watch men fawn all over B'Elanna, once upon a time. The Captain sure did look good tonight, too. It was easy to tell what Chakotay had on his mind. But Chakotay was always interested in the Captain. Things just seemed different this evening. The "Spring Party" announcement from Neelix specifically stated that "civilian attire" was mandatory. And on the rare occasion the crew enjoyed themselves in civilian clothing, the atmosphere seemed charged with a different set of neutrons.

Tom shook his head. He would have to look for another pool partner tonight. From the looks of things, Chakotay wasn't going to be able to take his eyes off the Captain all evening.

"Sure," said Chakotay, just as Tom was turning away.

"Beg your pardon?" asked Tom, certain that he hadn't heard Chakotay right.

"Let's go. I could use some diversion."

"Okaaa---ay. Then let's go." Tom turned toward the door, and Chakotay followed him.

And the Captain watched them leave.

*

Tom and Chakotay entered the holodeck next door, and Tom activated the Sandrines program. Immediately, the holodeck grids disappeared and the usual patrons of Sandrine's bar began to mill about. They drank and talked to each other, and drank a little more.

Chakotay noted that there were fewer dance hall girls than there used to be, and grinned. It must be a matter of Tom's being married that had changed that part of the program. The ones who were around were quite busy with other patrons, and weren't paying much attention to the two men who had just walked through the doors. Well, that was fine with him. He just wanted to be left alone anyway. He and Tom had an important game of pool to play. Tom needed the practice, and he needed to think of something else besides Kathryn Janeway. And as he watched Tom set up the game, a look of concentration on his face, Chakotay decided that Tom had meant what he'd said earlier. He looked like a man who was determined to win a game of pool.

Chakotay got them each a glass of sparking water and lemon, and Tom accepted his with a smile. "Never thought I'd see this day, Chakotay. Soft drinks, and hard pool. It was always the other way around for me."

"And which do you prefer?" asked Chakotay.

Tom looked at him. "This," he said. "No question."

Chakotay watched him break. It was a good break, and Tom began calling out the name of each pocket and the numbered ball that would go into each one. And each one did go precisely where it was supposed to. Tom had gotten quite good at this game since the last time Chakotay had played with him. "I see you've been spending a lot of time here, Tom."

Tom grinned. "B'Elanna doesn't like pool much, and as you know, she spends a lot of time in Engineering, even in the evenings, so I decided that the one thing I really want to do before we reach home is beat the Captain at her own game. Just once."

Now Chakotay smiled. Tom still didn't quite understand that no one beats the Captain at her own game.

"What's so funny?" asked Tom.

"Nothing," said Chakotay. "My turn?"

Tom started to hand Chakotay his cue, but Chakotay picked out one for himself. "I have my own, thanks."

Chakotay took his turn, and managed to hold his own against Tom. Tom seemed pleased. "I see you haven't forgotten how to play, Chakotay. But I'm just getting warmed up."

And Tom proceeded to show Chakotay just what he meant. Tom had definitely been practicing lately.

Just as Tom was completing his second win against Chakotay, the holodeck doors slid open, and Kathryn Janeway walked casually into Sandrines. She glanced around quickly, taking in the scene, and her eyes lit up as she saw Chakotay and Tom beside the pool table.

Chakotay's breath caught in his throat as she moved toward him. It was like seeing her for the first time tonight, all over again, and he couldn't take his eyes off her. Kathryn Janeway was a beautiful woman, and Chakotay appreciated that about her every day, but tonight she was especially attractive. He was glad he wasn't drinking anything more than lemon water tonight; Kathryn was intoxicating enough.

"Good evening, Gentlemen," she said to Chakotay and Tom, and smiled at them both.

"Captain," said Chakotay in greeting. He tried not to make direct eye contact with her. His heart was thundering in his chest, something he had worked diligently over the years to control whenever he was near her. And just now, the past seven years of forced self control and steady discipline had flown out the window.

"Kathryn," she said to him.

"I beg your pardon?" he managed to ask.

"We're not in uniform tonight, Chakotay. Let's relax a bit, shall we?" And without waiting for an answer, she turned to Tom Paris.

"I see you're still playing pool, Tom," she said, and began to move slowly around the table, ascertaining the best shots on the tabletop.

Tom was thrown a bit off guard, trying to decide whether the Captain's timing was good or bad. "Uh, not much, Captain. I've visited Sandrines a few times lately. B'Elanna has some project she's working on in Engineering, so there hasn't been much else to do in the evenings."

"Chakotay, did you hear what I just heard, or am I imagining that Tom Paris is truly settling down?"

Chakotay grinned. "I was thinking the same thing." And as his eyes met hers, Chakotay thought his heart would explode through his chest. She held his gaze an extra moment; not a Captain's gaze, but the locked gaze of an interested woman. He swallowed hard.

Tom noticed the way the Captain and Chakotay were looking at each other, and suddenly realized that the Captain hadn't asked him to call her "Kathryn" tonight. Maybe they ...nah, it hadn't happened in seven years, and it wasn't likely to happen tonight, either. They'd been down that path many times in the past seven years, but it was pretty common knowledge that the Captain wouldn't go the distance with Chakotay. There was the Prime Directive, and Starfleet protocols, or some such. Tom never really understood it, and was sure he never would. In his mind, all that was important was the way those two had looked at each other a moment ago.

And Tom had to admit, the Captain sure looked great in that dress. Chakotay would have sweet dreams tonight!

"Would you two be interested in a threesome?"

Chakotay and Tom both jerked themselves back to the present, and looked at Kathryn. She was smiling. "A game of pool, Gentlemen?"

"Uh . . ." Tom caught himself quickly. He'd gotten pretty darned good at this game over the past few weeks. He had even initiated the training program tutored by the Grand Master of Pool himself, Isaac Ipthar, and had learned to use his natural skills to become good at the more difficult shots. He took a deep breath, then grinned. Tonight he was going to show the Captain what he'd learned. Yes, tonight might turn out to be a great night, after all. "Sure, Captain, I'd be interested in a game." He smiled a winning smile. And she returned it.

"Chakotay?" she asked, as she walked over to him. "What about you? Are you interested?" She looked him right in the eye, and there was no mistaking her meaning.

She'd stopped right in front of him, too close for comfort tonight. Chakotay could smell her perfume, the scent that he'd fallen in love with a long time ago, and more than that, he could see the look in her eyes. It was a different look, one he thought he saw in her eyes on rare occasions, but as soon as it appeared, it was gone again. And, in retrospect, he never really knew if it had been there at all. But tonight it was there, all right. Tonight, she wasn't pretending she wasn't a woman.

His heartbeat quickened even more and he felt a bead of sweat break out on his upper lip, but Chakotay forced himself to maintain eye contact. "More than interested, Kathryn," he said, and her eyes softened. He'd answered her real question.

"Good," she said and moved back toward the table. "Tom, why don't you rack them up?"

"All right," he said. "But I insist you shoot first, Captain. After all, you're our guest."

"Thank you, Tom," she said sweetly. And then she turned back to Chakotay.

"My stick, Kathryn?" he asked, handing his cue toward her.

"Thank you, Chakotay. I was just going to ask if I could borrow it." Her smile was soft, seductive, as she took the cue from him.

"It's yours any time you want it, Kathryn. It's all yours." If she wanted him to know how she felt, he would do the same. But she was much better at this than he was, he decided, as she moved away from him and back to the pool table. She held him in her hand, and she knew it. And he knew it, too. And he didn't give a damn. It was exactly where he wanted to be.

Kathryn was most definitely not the Captain tonight - she was all woman. And, thought Chakotay suddenly, that was the difference. She moved like a woman, smooth, soft, flowing, seductive. Yet Kathryn did share one thing with the Captain: there was still that underlying self-confidence in her walk, and in everything she said and did.

And she didn't do or say anything she didn't intend to.

Chakotay closed his eyes and shook his head to clear it, then opened them again. They were here to play pool. At least he and Tom were. He glanced at Kathryn again, as she rounded the table. On second thought, maybe Tom was the one most interested in pool.

Tom had listened to the Captain and Chakotay flirt with each other behind him on the Bridge for seven years. And he'd watched them give each other "the eye" as Harry and B'Elanna called it, but they were way past that tonight. He didn't know when they'd bridged that gap, but right now he wondered if the Captain was going to flirt with Chakotay tonight or play pool. He was going to beat her this time, but he wanted her to play her best game. Otherwise, it wouldn't count.

But as the Captain turned her attention to the balls on the table, a very familiar look crossed her face, and Tom smiled. It was the look she gave her worst enemies, and on occasion, Tom Paris. She was going to play to win, all right, and that was just the way Tom wanted it. He had to beat her fair and square.

Kathryn rounded the table slowly, looking it over and mentally lining up her shots. Tom felt a moment of panic, but then pushed it away by reminding himself of his recently expanded skills.

"Seven ball into the side pocket," she said, and proceeded to put it directly in there.

Tom took a deep breath. He'd just have to bide his time. He glanced over at Chakotay, but Chakotay wouldn't even know his own name just now. He was clearly mesmerized by the Captain. Tom looked back to watch her, too, as she sank a few more shots. He sighed.

*

Chakotay watched as Kathryn sank shot after shot. He didn't much notice the balls, or anything about the game. He watched only Kathryn - the way she moved around that table, and leaned over it, making each shot she called. Her arms were long and lean, yet muscular.

Kathryn walked to the end of the table nearest Chakotay. He watched her hands as she slowly ground the end of her cue stick into the square of chalk. Her hands were soft, yet firm, just the way he liked a woman's hands. He knew how they felt, all right, from the few times she'd held his hand for one reason or another. And the thing he loved most about them was the fact that they were long and narrow, shapely, yet not small. For a reason he couldn't quite understand himself, he found them to be incredibly sexy.

Now she slowly leaned over the edge of the table to line up the shot. Right now, Chakotay was watching her with more interest than he'd ever watched anything in his life. Her skin was like porcelain, and he knew that it was soft and smooth, too. Every part of her that he'd managed to touch over the years had been soft and smooth. And perfect.

Kathryn moved to within half a meter of him, and he tried in vain to hold his breath. He knew she would smell of wild flowers and lilac after a gentle rain. He'd had to endure sitting next to her for seven years, inhaling her scent, dreaming of it at night. And, now he inhaled the same scent, not able to tear himself away from any part of what she was offering him tonight. He looked up, and straight into her eyes.

"Are you all right, Chakotay?" she asked gently.

"I'm fine," he lied.

She smiled, and looked right into his soul. "You seem distracted."

"I was just thinking about something that has nothing to do with the game," he said. "I apologize if I've broken your concentration." He forced himself to hold her gaze.

"That's all right. I don't mind." Then she moved back to the table and continued to put the balls into their respective pockets.

How she did that, he had no idea. But he did know that Kathryn Janeway was determined and hardheaded. If she wanted a particular ball in a particular pocket, then that's where it was going to land. Maybe it wasn't practice that made her perfect; it was stubborn defiance and an intense refusal to fail. He felt himself grin at the thought.

As the next ball rolled willingly toward its designated pocket, Chakotay took a sharp breath. Kathryn slowly leaned over the edge of the table opposite him, and he caught sight of her cleavage as she lined up her next shot. He'd always known there was a lot more there than her uniform showed, but it was increasingly difficult to remember New Earth these days, and the time they'd spent there together, out of uniform. While he would never completely forget New Earth, the memories of it were slipping further and further away. The closer they got to the real Earth, the further away New Earth became. Ah, but just now, some of those old memories were making their way back to the surface.

Chakotay suddenly felt tears rush toward his eyes, but he forced himself to return to the present, and watch Kathryn move around the table again. He glanced at the scoreboard on the wall, and realized that Kathryn had somehow managed to win two games so far. Neither he nor Tom had even been at the table.

But then Kathryn's ball rounded the outside of the pocket and jumped back out rather than falling inside it, as it was supposed to do. Tom grinned and Chakotay motioned him toward the table. Tom could shoot next. Chakotay barely knew what game they were playing just now, and he was certainly in no condition to actually take a shot.

As Tom moved toward the table, Kathryn walked over to Chakotay. He moved slightly on his stool, but knew he couldn't exactly stand and run from her like a schoolboy. Oh, but he wanted to. He wanted to run fast and far. The only other option was taking her into his arms and crushing his lips against hers. So, given the two, he knew Kathryn would much prefer the first choice.

Yet, there was something different about her tonight...but he wouldn't allow himself to think about it.

Chakotay forced himself to look at her. He smiled. Gods, she was beautiful.

She pulled an empty stool over next to his - close, but not too close. "You're awfully quiet tonight," she said softly, moving the stool a bit closer, and then slipping onto it.

"Just watching the game," he whispered, and took a long sip of his lemon water.

"You seem a million miles away tonight," she said, and her voice was getting silkier and sexier as the evening progressed.

Chakotay smiled. She'd noticed. "I can't imagine what I was thinking," he said, "since I've spent most of the evening admiring the way you shoot pool."

She smiled. He'd noticed. "Thank you."

They both turned to watch Tom sink a few shots. He was definitely getting better at this game.

Chakotay saw Kathryn take a sip from her glass of water. She handled herself differently tonight. She even sipped her drink differently, and she certainly wore that dress differently than she wore her uniform.

Kathryn crossed her legs and Chakotay took another deep breath. But he couldn't look away. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn't look away. Her legs were long, shapely, and smooth. They were also muscular, and when she slowly ran her hand down one of them and looked sheepishly in his direction, he felt goosebumps rise on his entire body.

"My feet are killing me," she said in a smoky voice, dangling one shoe from her toes. "I'm not used to wearing high heels."

"Your Starfleet boots have heels nearly the same height," he managed to say, trying to focus on the facts, and not on the things his heart and his body wanted him to think about. He forced himself to take another long drink of water to cool his parched throat.

"Boots are different than shoes," she said simply, and stood from the stool, as her foot slid easily back inside the shoe. "You're up."

"I beg your pardon?" he asked quickly.

She smiled, and her eyes twinkled. "Your turn at bat."

Chakotay looked over at Tom Paris, who had moved away from the table, a look of dismay on his face.

Tom sat slowly on a stool near the opposite end of the table. He'd missed the easiest shot on the table! The one thing he was good at was not cracking under pressure, and a minute ago he had done exactly that! He was a top-notch pilot. He could stare at an armed torpedo bank through the viewscreen and still manage to keep his wits about him, remember how to finesse Voyager around it, and through any disastrous situation. He was married to a half-Klingon female, and had even managed to stay alive so far. But every time he saw Captain Janeway with a cue stick in her hand, he was suddenly no match for whatever she had in mind.

"You two play, and I'll just watch," said Chakotay. "There's no need to waste my time walking up to the table for a couple of shots this evening, at most. Besides, someone has to commit this rematch to memory. For the archives, of course."

"You do that," she said, and then turned away slightly and lowered her voice. "I want Tom Paris to remember this evening for a very long time." Chakotay looked at her quickly, and saw her smile. He grinned back. Sometimes Tom had to be knocked down a notch or two, and Captain Janeway was the one who could do it best.

Kathryn walked over to the table, poised her stick and broke, then proceeded to spend the next fifteen minutes putting each ball into the appropriate pocket. Tom watched her in awe, but then quickly accepted the fact that this evening wasn't going to pan out the way he'd intended. He also told himself he couldn't feel too badly about losing tonight when he was so completely out of his depth with Captain Janeway as his opponent. He took a deep breath as the last ball on the table moved deliberately toward its destination.

Tom shook his head and reached for his water glass, then trained his eyes back on the Captain. Maybe if he couldn't beat her, he could learn from her. So much for Isaac Ipthar . . .

*

Twenty minutes later, the game was done, and Tom Paris walked over to his Captain. He grinned and offered his hand, and she took it. "I haven't always been such a good loser, Captain, but I do admire true talent when I see it."

"As do I, Tom, when I watch you at the Helm each day." She smiled at him, and Tom felt a lump suddenly form in his throat.

"I'm glad I didn't play tonight," said Chakotay, stepping in to alleviate any discomfort Tom might be feeling. "At least I don't have to admit to losing to the Captain. Again." He grinned at Tom.

"Hey, at least I tried, Chakotay," said Tom lightly. "I didn't see you do much more than...watch." He looked at Chakotay with meaning.

Chakotay knew exactly what Tom was referring to. It was true he'd watched the Captain a whole heck of a lot more than he'd watched the game. "I won't tell if you won't," he said.

"Don't worry, Tom," said Captain Janeway, ignoring their bantering. "Your game has improved a great deal. I had to work much harder to beat you this time."

"Oh, that's good to know, Captain, because you sure know how to hide your frustrations," he said, knowing full well that she did, in fact, know how to hide them. "Well, I'm going to call it a night. Maybe B'Elanna will even stop playing in Engineering and come home early tonight." And besides, maybe if he left the holodeck these two would make good use of some time alone, for a change. "Goodnight, Captain, thanks for the rematch. But don't think I've given up. I intend to invite you to another one before we reach home."

"I look forward to it, Tom. Good night."

"Commander."

"Good night, Tom," said Chakotay.

Just as Tom reached the holodeck doors, Kathryn stopped him. "And Tom?"

"Captain?" said Tom, turning back.

"Don't waste your time with Isaac Ipthar's instruction manual."

"How did you..."

"You were imitating Ipthar's style, Tom, and not using your own. Find someone with a similar style to yours to learn from."

Tom considered her words. "I'll do that, Captain. Good night."

As Tom exited the holodeck, Voyager's two topmost commanding officers turned to regard each other. Kathryn smiled at Chakotay and held the cue stick toward him. "Thanks for the use of your stick, Commander."

Chakotay smiled. "I wish I had the same luck with it that you do," he said, taking it and replacing it in the rack on the wall.

"Luck?" she asked, striving to sound incredulous. "I'll have you know I spent many sleepless nights at Starfleet Academy in training for more than just Captaining a starship." She took a sip from her glass of water.

"I can see that," he said, grinning. "And I apologize; I should have said 'I wish I had the same skill with it that you do.'"

"Ah, that's better," she said, putting her glass down and stepping closer to him. "I'd be happy to spend some time teaching you what I know."

Chakotay was hoping he understood her true meaning. "Would you?" he managed to whisper.

"And maybe you can teach me some things, too," she said in a voice of honey and spice.

"Kathryn," he said, swallowing hard, "We've always been forthright with each other..."

"Yes we have," she said, and took a deep breath. "Chakotay, pending an unexpected disaster, we're going to be home soon." He nodded, and after a moment she continued. "For the past seven years, I've braced myself for the fact that, at any time, you might find someone to share your life with. In fact, I fully expected you to. But you haven't."

"No," he said softly. There's no one but you, Kathryn, no one but you.

"Yet through all of our ups and downs, you and I remain...close."

"Yes."

"Why is that, Chakotay?" She nearly whispered the question and Chakotay's heart skipped a beat.

He swallowed hard and forced himself to answer her. "Because in many ways, you and I are the same. Our tactics might be different, and we might not see eye to eye every step of the way, but we have the same principles, we strive toward the same goals."

"And what are those goals?"

"To get our people home, Kathryn."

"And after that?"

Chakotay stopped short. They'd never ventured further than this in all of their conversations, in all of these years. Kathryn never wanted to discuss what would happen after Voyager was safely home again. But now that they would more than likely reach home soon, perhaps she was starting to think about the future, about life after Voyager. "What would you like to see happen after we get home, Kathryn?"

"I think I'd like to take a rest, consider my options. Maybe relax a bit."

Chakotay smiled. "Kathryn Janeway? Relax?"

She smiled back. "Oh, I've been known to muck around in the dirt with a Talaxian tomato plant on occasion." When she saw the emotion that crossed his face and darkened his eyes, she continued, forcing back a lump that had suddenly become stuck in her throat. "Chakotay, for years now, in the back of my mind I thought you would move on with your life, that you would find someone to love. But you haven't." She paused. "And selfishly, I'm glad of that." She looked down, needing to break eye contact.

Chakotay had never seen Kathryn quite like this before, and he didn't want to miss a moment of it. "Kathryn..." He gently lifted her chin so their eyes could meet once more. "Tell me," he whispered.

She reached for his hand, knowing she couldn't think about what she needed to say if she felt his hand on her face for very much longer. "I've been thinking that since we're so close to home, and since neither of us has someone special in our lives right now..."

"Yes?" He was prodding, he knew, but he couldn't help himself. He wanted to hear her say the words. And he also noticed that she hadn't released his hand after she'd taken it from her face.

She looked deeply into his eyes. "I thought perhaps we could...explore some possibilities..."

"Together?" He had to know.

"Yes. With each other," she said softly. She held his gaze steadily, wanting to see his reaction, needing to see it.

He felt the tears sting his eyes, and as Kathryn lifted her free hand to his face, he turned his head toward it, smelling the familiar scent of lilac he'd grown particularly fond of over the years, and brushed his lips over her wrist.

"Chakotay?" she whispered his name, then took his face in both her hands. "Look at me." Both their eyes were moist. "I can't make you any promises at all right now, not until we get home. But I think it's time for us to consider some future possibilities - if you would like to."

"If I would like to? Kathryn," he felt his voice crack, "You were wrong about there not being anyone special in my life. You've been that special someone for a very long time. No matter what I do, or how hard I try, I can't move on without you." He watched Kathryn intently, as one solitary tear escaped and rolled down her cheek. His sense of déjà vu was so intense, for he remembered another time when a single tear had fallen down her cheek, yet he knew and loved this Kathryn Janeway even more than the angry warrior had loved his female warrior some six odd years ago. This woman had become only more special to him over the years. And he couldn't begin to imagine life without her.

They grinned at each other through moist eyes. "Well then," she said, trying to get them back on firm ground. The look in his eyes, and the familiar feeling in the pit of her stomach, was sending red alerts throughout her body. "Why don't you walk the Captain to her quarters and we'll continue this conversation at a more appropriate time."

"When we get home?" he asked.

"Yes. When we get home."

Chakotay took a deep breath and nodded. They'd made an agreement, and it was the single most important moment of his life. "I'd be more than happy to accompany the Captain to her quarters," he said with as much light-heartedness as he could muster. I'm a bit reluctant to leave Kathryn behind, though, since she's captivated my soul with that beige dress."

"Has she?" she asked in the most seductive voice Chakotay had ever heard.

"She has," he said, forcing the words over his strained vocal cords.

"Hmm. Well then, perhaps she'll wear it again someday."

"When we get home?" he asked with a grin.

"When we get home," she said softly.

Chakotay swallowed hard. "I'd like that."

"So would I," she said, and they both knew they were talking about a lot more than a simple beige dress.

And then, before he knew what was happening, Chakotay became aware of Kathryn leaning slowly toward him, her head tilted upward, her eyes smoky and full of innuendo. And suddenly, her lips brushed his, ever so gently, ever so softly, and far too quickly. His heartbeat quickened, and the faint scent of lilac filled his senses once more. Her breath was sweet, with the faintest hint of lemon, and he wanted to immerse himself in her forever. Nothing else mattered . . .

And then before he knew it, it was over, and Chakotay knew that everything he had done up to this point in his life was simply a way of getting to this moment. Kathryn Janeway was his moon and his stars. She was his reason for getting up each morning; she was his Destiny.

And when they were home again, they would talk about that, and a few other things.

Chakotay took a deep breath and smiled at the beautiful woman in front of him. And if he had once believed, for even a moment, his own lies about falling out of love with her, he knew he would never believe them again.

And Kathryn looked into the eyes of the kindest, gentlest man she had ever known. Yes, they were more alike than not, and she couldn't begin to imagine herself with anyone else by her side. He was her rock, her port in every storm, and she would do everything in her power to make him happy. When they got home.

They looked into each other's eyes a moment longer, knowing that something important had been decided tonight.

Forcing himself to move away from her, Chakotay held out his arm for her to take. "How about that escort to your quarters, Captain?"

She smiled, placing her hand on his arm. "Thank you, Commander," she said, "I'd like that."

As the Captain and Commander exited the holodeck that evening, they were unaware of Sandrine, who was wiping the bar behind them with a smile on her face. So many declarations of love had been made in Sandrine's over the many years she'd been in business, but she felt particularly glad about this one. She'd just won another bet with Tom Paris. And to Sandrine, there were few things in life that gave her as much pleasure . . .

THE END


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