Categories: Ship, Het, Angst, Romance
Characters: Janeway, Chakotay
A/N: Set after Endgame with no regard for the novels. Written because I was in the mood to write a bit of angst. What resulted is formulaic, cliched, shippy angst, not to be confused with a serious attempt at sci-fi or literature of any kind.
Credits: Thank you to my giant pile of broken computers for generating the bad mood that created this fic.
Disclaimer: I don't know why I keep cleaning up after Paramount. The pay sucks.
Chakotay had never visited Indiana. He'd utterly failed to notice this omission from his travels, until it became the one place in the galaxy he most longed to visit. He could recall the exact moment when Indiana transformed from that little shape so easily confused with Illinois in childhood geography classes into the place where all of his dreams would come true, if only he could reach it.
He cherished the memory. Kathryn always looked beautiful by candlelight, especially when she smiled. That night, she'd told him about the woods near her mother's home, her eyes sparkling with laughter as she recounted her youthful adventures. "I'll show you when we go home to Indiana."
When we go home to Indiana. The words hung in the air, a beautiful promise for the future. She held his gaze for a moment and smiled softly to let him know she meant it, then turned their conversation to other things.
For nearly five years that promise had sustained him. His fantasies had lacked the steady gray drizzle that met him now as he stepped off the public transporter pad, as well as the need to ask for directions. He'd always assumed they'd arrive together. No matter. A little dose of reality lacked the power to spoil his good mood.
Bloomington, a traditionalist farming community, lacked public transportation, so he had to walk, but he felt too happy to mind, even when the rain soaked through his clothes. He looked forward to seeing Kathryn again. A whole week had passed since he'd last seen her, and they hadn't spoken privately in nine days.
He'd called her several times, hoping to squeeze a dinner into their hectic schedules, but he'd missed her each time, and she hadn't managed to reach him either. He'd missed her return call by only minutes the day before. When her new yeoman told him that she'd gone home for the weekend, he'd decided to join her without waiting for an invitation. Between the helpful office staff so thoughtfully provided by Starfleet and the convenient messaging system installed absolutely everywhere on the planet, weeks could pass before two people who lived and worked in the same city managed to actually speak to each other.
He recognized her house even before he checked the address. It looked exactly like her descriptions of it, and for the first time since Voyager emerged from the Borg transwarp conduit, he felt like he'd really made it home. He practically ran up the walk, took the porch steps two at a time, and rang the bell.
A little boy answered the door.
"Hi," Chakotay said. "Is Kathryn here? I'm her friend Chakotay."
The boy's expression turned sullen. "You're a bad man."
This declaration shocked him, and it took a moment to find a response. "I think you're confusing me with someone else. Is there a grown up I could speak to?"
"Go away and play with your tulip."
"What? Is your mom here? Or your grandma?"
"They're busy," he said firmly. "You can't come in. You're a bad man."
"No, I -- "
"My mom says you're no good. You made my aunt cry and I don't want you to do it again. Go away."
The pieces fell into place and crashed down on him in a wave of self loathing. "I'll go," he said softly. "Tell your aunt I'll give her a call."
"You leave my aunt alone!"
"Eddie, who are you -- " Kathryn froze. "Chakotay."
"He can't come in," Eddie insisted. "He's a bad man."
"No," Kathryn said. "He's really not. It's not his fault."
Eddie looked unconvinced. Kathryn stepped around him and onto the porch. "What can I do for you?"
"I think we need to talk," he said.
"It's okay, Chakotay, I know you would have told me yourself if not for the timing." She gave him her most diplomatic smile. Anyone else would have thought it genuine. "I'm sorry Eddie was rude to you, I think Phoebe gave him the wrong impression."
"Kathryn." He wanted to take her hand or pull her into his arms. He'd caused the pain he read in her eyes, and he hated himself for it. "I never meant to -- "
She held up her hand. "Save it. It's water under the bridge. Now I assume you came for a reason?"
"I came because I haven't seen you in a week, and I want to take you to dinner, or at least out for a cup of coffee."
"They have coffee in San Francisco," she said. "You didn't need to come here for that."
"I did," he said. "There's nowhere else in the galaxy I'd rather be, and I don't have the slightest interest in coffee, or anything else for that matter, without you."
"It's too soon." She avoided his gaze and her voice sounded strained. "I need some time to myself before we're friends again. Just do me one favor, and don't invite me to the wedding."
"Wedding? There's no wedding. Whatever gave you that idea?"
"There will be," she said softly, turning to go.
He grabbed her arm. "Maybe, but not without you. Kathryn -- "
"Don't tell me I'm your best friend and that you need me there, because -- "
"If I ever have a wedding then you'd better be there," he said. "It's pretty hard to have a wedding without a bride. There certainly isn't anyone else I'd marry, and anyone who told you differently is either a liar or a fool. Or quite possibly both."
"You and Seven -- "
"Had exactly two dates," he said. "Both were interrupted early, for which I'm eternally grateful. I'm not in love with her, I'm not involved in a relationship with her, and I'm certainly not engaged to her." He stepped closer to Kathryn. "I never meant to hurt you."
"I know you didn't."
"Do you want the whole explanation, or can I just blame Neelix and skip right to kissing you?"
She stared up at him. "I should say something witty."
"Just tell me everything's right between us."
"It is." She wrapped her arms around him and buried her face in his chest. "Thank God it is. I thought I'd lost you."
"Never." He held her tightly.
"Why are you all wet?"
She pulled back slightly and looked around. "So it is. Come in and I'll get you a towel." She opened the door. Little Eddie stood guard, glaring suspiciously at Chakotay.
"Mom!" he bellowed.
An angry woman materialized from parts unknown. "Kath, you can't be serious! You haven't invited him for dinner, have you?" She looked Chakotay up and down. "How dare you turn up here, after what you did to my sister!"
"She may be too proud to say it, but you broke her heart, running off with that top-heavy trollop, and if you -- "
"Phoebe!" Kathryn stepped between them, reminding Chakotay of that first day, all those years ago, when she'd kept him from breaking Tom's nose on her bridge. "It was all a misunderstanding. Chakotay isn't to blame. It seems my source was somewhat less than reliable."
Phoebe glared at him some more. "So you were never with the trollop?"
"Not really," he said. "It's complicated."
Phoebe snorted and turned to her sister. "Once a cheater, always a cheater. You can do better."
Eddie continued to regard Chakotay with open hostility, and an older woman came down the stairs to do the same. "Ah, the famous Commander Chakotay. Did the blonde tire of you already?"
Kathryn sighed. "Her name is Seven, Mom." She turned to Chakotay. "I hope that offer for a complicated explanation is still good, because I don't think these two are going to let me fetch you a towel without it. What did happen between you and Seven?"
Chakotay shifted uncomfortably, not really wanting to share the details with a hostile audience, but he did owe her an explanation. "I dated her for almost a week, as a favor to Neelix."
"Oh this should be good. Why would Neelix want you to date Seven?"
"Because the Doctor's in love with her."
Kathryn nodded. "I see."
"Well I don't," Phoebe said. "His excuse is that he wanted what he couldn't have, and you're smiling?"
"You don't know the Doctor," Kathryn said.
"Exactly," Chakotay said. "Neelix had this theory that the Doctor wouldn't seek a relationship with Seven until after she'd dated someone else. He asked me to date Seven for a week or two, and then break it off before things got serious. I didn't want to do it, my feelings for Seven are lukewarm on the best of days, but he made me an offer I couldn't refuse."
Kathryn nodded. "Neelix offered to meddle in our lives once he finished with theirs, didn't he?"
He cringed. "Yes."
"I see. And when she told me you were getting married, she was lying."
"Seven told you -- "
"No, the admiral. She told me that in her timeline, you two got married, and that Seven died in your arms, and that you were never the same after that."
He watched the pain flash in her eyes again. "That's why you agreed to go through with her plan? For me?" He pulled her into his arms.
"I just wanted you to be happy," she said. "You'd do the same for me."
"There's nothing I wouldn't do for you, Kathryn. I love you."
"I love you too. I hope that offer for a kiss is still good?"
"Always." He drew back and smiled at her.
Chakotay had forgotten their audience.
"You aren't gonna kiss now, are you?" Eddie crossed his arms and scowled at the very concept. "That's how you catch cooties."
"I've waited a very long time to kiss your aunt," he said. "A few cooties aren't going to stop me."
Kathryn laughed. "Let's go get that towel I promised you."
"Phoebe can get the towel," Gretchen said. "I still have some questions for the two of you."
They followed her into the living room.
"Oh no," she said when they started to sit on the couch. "Kathryn, you sit over here. We need to discuss this situation without any distractions."
Chakotay suddenly remembered running laps in his dress boots as a Starfleet cadet.
Phoebe returned and thrust a towel into his hands. "Do you like dogs, Commander?"
"Of course," he said quickly. "I plan to get Kathryn a puppy as soon as possible. I know how much she misses having a dog."
"You'd better," Phoebe said. "My sister keeps trying to marry men who don't like dogs. You can't trust a man who doesn't like dogs."
"People are entitled to their feelings," Chakotay said. "I never met Lieutenant Tighe, but Kathryn loved him, so I know he was a good man. I'd appreciate it if you refrained from speaking ill of him."
Phoebe looked suitably embarrassed. "I only meant -- "
Gretchen interrupted. "Tell me, Commander, do you plan to marry my daughter?"
"Nothing would make me happier." It took some effort not to fiddle with the ring in his pocket. He still hoped to salvage at least part of his fantasy and propose the right way.
"Yet you haven't so much as spoken to her in a week?"
"It's been a hectic week, and we kept missing each other. If I'd -- "
"That's my fault," Kathryn said. "I've been avoiding him. I only returned his calls when I knew he was out."
"So I wasn't being paranoid when I thought security was watching me?"
"I'm sorry, but I just couldn't face you. I -- "
He knelt before her and took her hand. "It's okay, I understand, and I'm so sorry you had to go through that."
"It's not your fault." She reached out and touched his face. "I have only myself to blame. Quite literally, in fact. I should have known she was lying. I might have done the same thing. Actually, I guess I did, didn't I?"
"Don't think about it, Kathryn, it'll give you a headache."
"Tonight would be a bad night for that, wouldn't it?" She bent down to kiss him.
Gretchen cleared her throat. "I don't think we're done here."
Kathryn sighed. "Mom, I appreciate that you only want what's best for me, but trust me when I say that Chakotay is what's best for me. I love him, deeply and completely, and I want nothing more than to share my life with him."
"Very well," Gretchen said. Her voice dropped an octave. "Hurt my daughter again and you won't get a third chance."
"Come on," Kathryn said. "Let's go for a walk."
The rain had stopped, and the sun was experimenting with the idea of emerging from behind the clouds. Chakotay slid his arm around Kathryn's waist as they strolled down a path that wasn't quite wide enough for two people.
"Here it is," Kathryn said. "My castle."
Chakotay eyed the pile of rocks dubiously. "Castle?"
She chuckled. "I was six."
"We're alone now," she said. "I think we can sneak a kiss without another interruption."
"I don't know," he said. "Tuvok might decide to stop in for a visit."
"He's on Vulcan."
"Glad to hear it. That means I can do this." He dropped to one knee and pulled the ring out of his pocket. "Kathryn, will you -- "
A great crack of thunder shook the very air around them. The sun fled in terror as half of Lake Michigan fell from the sky.
"Follow me." She sprinted up the path and led him to a cave of quite respectable size, at least from the perspective of a six year old. "Somehow it looks smaller than I remembered."
"We'll manage." He scooted backward into the hollow and patted his lap. "Too bad it's not bitter cold. Then I'd be forced to keep you warm."
She grinned. "I'm freezing."
"Get in here then."
She climbed into his lap and he stroked the wet hair from her face.
"I can finally tell you how very beautiful you are," he said.
"And I can finally do this." She kissed him, her lips stroking his with the lightest touch, their breath mingling. He groaned as she nipped his lower lip, and they melted into one another. When oxygen eventually became an issue, they broke apart gasping.
"Yesterday I thought I'd never get to do that," she said. "I thought of all the times I could have kissed you, but let protocol hold me back. I thought that maybe I deserved to lose you."
"Of course not," he said. "You didn't deserve one moment of the pain I caused you this week. When I think of what you must have gone through -- "
"It's over now."
"If we'd gotten home, and I somehow thought you'd run off with Harry Kim -- "
"Harry Kim?" She rolled her eyes.
"Makes about as much sense as me running off with Seven. She's half my age, and we have nothing in common. I'm a bit hurt that you'd even think I could be happy with her."
"She's beautiful and intelligent -- "
"She's not you. I love you." He kissed her again, and all other thoughts faded away.
"So." Kathryn shifted in his arms as they watched the rain from their inadequate shelter. "What do you think of Indiana?"
He looked around at the mud and the gray sky, and then at the woman in his arms. "It's better than all of my fantasies. It's paradise."
This transformative work constitutes a fair use of any copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. Star Trek™©, Star Trek: The Next Generation™©, Star Trek: Voyager™© and related properties exist as Registered Trademarks of Paramount Pictures. No copyright infringement intended. No profits made here. © Spiletta42, July 2005.