Warning: Dialog related to the loss of a family member.
Categories: Ship, Het, Romance
Pairings: Janeway/Chakotay Telfer/Celes
Characters: Tal Celes, Billy Telfer, Janeway, Chakotay
Spoilers: Hunters, Good Shepherd
A/N: Written as my entry in the Mixed Doubles contest at Anne's Rose Garden. Set shortly after Good Shepherd. I think this is my least favorite of all my fics, as it lacks tension and the character motivation is too weak for sufficient plausibility.
Disclaimer: Paramount owns the universe and all who are unfortunate enough to dwell within it. I own a semi functional computer by the name of Tea-Maker Eddie, with which I attempt the liberation of that universe.
"Are you free tonight?" Captain Kathryn Janeway smiled at her first officer across the ready room desk. "It seems we have a dinner invitation."
"We do? Who would want to eat with us?"
"Ensign Tal, apparently."
"Is there an occasion?" He didn't care. An evening with Kathryn hardly required an occasion. Any excuse was good enough for him.
"Not to my knowledge; I'm a bit curious myself. Pick me up at nineteen hundred hours?"
"It's a date."
"Does the table look alright?"
"It looks lovely. Relax, Celes."
"Do you think the casserole's okay?"
"Of course it is; you're a great cook."
"You're not just saying that, are you, Billy?"
"Of course not. I would never lie to you. Now relax; it'll be a lovely evening."
"Everything's delicious, Celes," Janeway said.
"It certainly is." Chakotay grinned at the ensign. "Don't tell Neelix you can cook like this."
Celes blushed. "Thank you. More wine?"
Food was enjoyed and small talk exchanged. Eventually, the conversation circled around to the purpose of the evening.
"I wanted to share something with you, Captain. Something to show you how grateful I am to be on your ship. I didn't used to think I belonged on Voyager; now I know that I do, and I wanted to thank you."
"I'm glad to hear that, Celes. I'm glad you're happier."
The ensign nodded. "I really am happy, for the first time in my life. My whole life, I never felt I had a place where I belonged. Growing up on Bajor, I lived in the shadow of my sister. She was better at everything. That's why I applied to Starfleet Academy. She wasn't interested in space travel. So if I could get into Starfleet, I'd have something that she didn't.
"I know I was only accepted into the Academy because I'm Bajorin. I'm sure they would rather have had my sister, but they'd take pretty much any Bajorin that applied. I knew that, and I used the politics. Perhaps that was wrong, but I wasn't looking to command a starship. I just wanted to be a part of Starfleet. If I spent my entire career cleaning plasma injectors, that was just fine. I could still wear the Starfleet uniform through the streets of Bajor and hold my head up, because I was doing something with my life."
Celes shifted a bit uncomfortably. "Of course, as it became clear that the Cardassian threat wasn't over, wearing a Starfleet uniform through the streets of Bajor was the last way to gain respect."
Everyone was quiet for a moment. Janeway tried to ignore the familiar pang of guilt over Starfleet's policies regarding the Cardassians. Chakotay placed a hand over hers.
"It was those wearing Maquis leather that were admired," Celes continued softly. "My sister joined the Maquis. She was killed at Tevlik."
"I'm sorry," Janeway said. "I didn't know."
"I didn't tell anyone except Billy. It was hard, hearing about that and being out here. I felt like I'd failed my family again. My sister was dead and I couldn't even be there to mourn properly. Billy was such a comfort then; his friendship really helped me through that."
The man in question slid his arms around her shoulders. "I'm just glad I found out."
"So many people on this ship lost someone at Tevlik," Chakotay said. "When we get back to the Alpha Quadrant, I think there are many who would like to visit there and face the grief. It might bring us some closure."
Celes nodded. "I think that would help very much."
"I'll make sure you all get the chance," Janeway said softly. She squeezed Chakotay's hand. They'd get that chance if she had to steal a ship to give it to them; Starfleet owed them that much.
"Thank you, Captain," Celes said. "But I didn't invite you here to talk about Tevlik. I wanted to celebrate happier news."
Janeway smiled. "We could always use some good news."
"I'll start from the beginning, then. I was attracted to Billy almost from the first moment I set foot on Voyager. We became friends, and I needed his friendship very much. I didn't have alot of friends, and only one on Voyager.
"I didn't pursue a romantic relationship with him; I couldn't. How could I risk losing my only friend? I was no better at romance than I was at math. I'd screw it up and be out here all alone. I couldn't stand to be alone like that. So I said nothing."
The ensign's words struck a chord within her captain's heart. Her own failure in the romance department had kept her from dating at the academy. It had taken a lecture from Admiral Paris to get her to acknowledge her attraction to Justin, and after his death it had taken Mark years to wear down her defenses. And as for being alone? She shuddered as she tried to imagine this journey without Chakotay by her side.
"Then there was that away mission," Celes continued. "Billy almost died."
Janeway nodded. Telfer's experience with the dark matter life form had shaken her up as well. She hadn't realized how Celes had felt about him at the time. Her heart went out to this shy young ensign whose first away mission had been so traumatic.
Chakotay's thumb caressed the back of her hand. He knew exactly how this was affecting her. Bless the man; he always knew exactly how she was feeling.
Celes was gazing at Billy Telfer, her love plain on her face. "He never would have known how much he meant to me. He never would have known that I loved him. I saw then that I had to take the chance; I had to tell him. Else, something could happen and we'd have lost our opportunity."
Both Janeway and Chakotay swallowed hard. How often had they feared losing one another without having shared their feelings?
"I would have thought that telling Billy how I felt would have been the scariest thing I could imagine, and I was nervous, but it couldn't compare to the cold terror I felt when I almost watched him die. I went to him and told him I loved him." Celes smiled. "Turns out, he felt the same way."
"Funny how life works," Billy said. "I almost died that day, and it turned out to be the best day of my life. My near death experience cured my hypochondria and I gained the woman I love. I owe you my thanks as well, Captain, for not letting me weasel out of that mission. My life began that day."
Janeway was fighting a losing battle; she was going to have to surrender soon, and wipe her eyes. She was very happy for these two crew members, but if she was completely honest with herself, she had to admit she was also a bit jealous. The story was too familiar. For all the differences, the parallels were striking.
But Billy and Celes didn't have to worry about protocol. Neither was in command, and they worked in different departments. Now she understood why Celes had politely refused a transfer to engineering. As miserable as Seven probably made her in astrometrics, it meant she and Billy weren't breaking the rules if they pursued a relationship.
Celes watched her captain's struggle discreetly. She had known precisely what effect her words would have. Question was, what to do now? She summoned up every ounce of courage she possessed, and borrowed a bit from the man beside her as well. "Captain?"
"It's too late for protocol. The rules are meant to keep personal feelings from affecting judgement. But it's too late for that; you already have feelings, and no one can expect you to suppress them for thirty years. Tell him."
Janeway stared in disbelief at the shy ensign's brazen words.
"Tell him, Captain. You can work it out. Nothing worth having comes without a bit of work. You won't be sorry."
"No," Kathryn said softly. "I expect I won't." She turned to Chakotay, and slowly met his gaze.
"She's right, Chakotay." Her hand came up to stroke his face. "I love you."
His smile would have blinded a Nyrian. "I love you, too, Kathryn. I always have."
She laughed softly as he reached to brush away the tears she had been holding back so valiantly. "Let's go back to my quarters. I think we have some things to discuss."
Having bid their guests goodnight, Tal Celes and Billy Telfer snuggled together on the couch in her quarters.
Celes smiled. "So how do you think the captain feels about my unconventional thinking now?"
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 are Registered Trademarks of Paramount Pictures. No copyright infringement intended. No profits made here. © Spiletta42, August 2002.