Categories: Ship, Het, Romance, Humor
Pairings: Janeway/Chakotay, with references to Neelix/Nicoletti, Henley/Harren, Brooks/Lang, Paris/Torres, Tal/Telfer, Jenny Delaney/Dalby, Megan Delaney/Chell
Characters: Janeway, Chakotay, mentions of everyone
A/N: Written for In Short at Purple Comet. Word count is exactly 2,000, which meets the 'approximately 2000 words' requirement in this particular fic contest. The commanding officers enjoy a picnic and some gossip.
Credits: Thank you to Kim and to Squirrelly for the beta jobs. Thank you to Anne Rose for suggesting that the bit of slash be expanded upon.
Disclaimer: Sometimes I wonder if Paramount's intent is to eliminate its fan base. Then I watch an episode of Enterprise and I don't have to wonder any more. I mean, really, a beagle in space?
"Shore leave?" Kathryn looked up from her PADD. "But - "
"Kathryn, look at the contest rules. If we waste words on the usual argument, we won't have time to enjoy ourselves."
She smiled and put down her reading. "In that case, let's go."
They beamed down to a secluded white sand beach. Chakotay took a moment to appreciate air that moved; air that hadn't spent the last seven years in a continuous recycling loop. His eyes took in the landscape, the open sky, and finally the woman beside him. The breeze caught her hair, blowing a wisp across her face. That never happened on the ship either.
Kathryn smiled and took his arm. "It's beautiful."
He managed not to tell her that she was beautiful as well, although he couldn't help but tuck the loose strand of hair behind her ear. "Ambassador Urusthesa assured me that we wouldn't be disturbed here."
"Where's the crew?" She didn't acknowledge his presumption.
"There are other beaches in addition to shopping and cultural centers. Everyone will have a chance to enjoy themselves." He grinned. "And only Tom knows where we've gone."
"Because Tom knows what I'll do to him if he interrupts your shore leave."
They strolled along the edge of the water, grateful for the quiet and the company. Kathryn found some smooth stones perfect for skipping on the lake. He watched in admiration as she sent one dancing across the water.
"My sister and I used to skip stones on Lake George," she said. "Someone told me that the Federation record was thirty skips. I spent an entire afternoon trying to beat it."
He smiled at the image of a young, determined Kathryn Janeway driven to make an accomplishment out of an idle summer activity. "How close did you get?"
"Twenty-seven," she answered. "Then I had to go back to the cottage for dinner, and when I looked it up I found out that there wasn't a Federation record for skipping stones."
"At least you looked it up," he said. "You might have been skipping stones for days."
"You know me too well." She retrieved another stone and sent it out over the water. "Thirty-one," she announced.
Eventually Chakotay led her to the picnic he had laid out. "Not a leola root to be found," he assured her as they settled down. He handed her a large thermos of coffee.
She rewarded him with a radiant smile that made the depletion of his replicator rations worthwhile. He loved the way she closed her eyes to take that first sip, and the way the pleasure spread across her face.
Her eyes opened and she met his gaze. The silence stretched between them. So easy to fall into those blue eyes.
"So tell me," she said. "What's the latest gossip?"
He fumbled for a moment as his mind translated the question. "Neelix and Susan Nicoletti have shared holodeck time three times in the last month."
"Icheb swears they were running the Flotter program."
She put down her coffee mug. "Do I want to hear this?"
"Unfortunately there isn't more to tell, at least not yet. The rumor mill doesn't seem to have the whole scoop. Last night's dinner is as of yet unconfirmed."
"Keep me informed," she said. "It sounds like a good opportunity to test a theory I heard recently."
"What theory is that?"
"Opposites don't always attract," she said. "But when they do you'll save a fortune at the movie house."
He laughed. "You've been listening to Ensign Henley."
"Actually, I heard it from Mortimer Harren, although I seem to recall that Henley's grandfather was the original source."
"Henley's spreading more of her grandfather's wisdom," Chakotay said. "Anything else new?"
"I heard that poor Harry struck out again."
Chakotay chuckled. "He asked out Sue Brooks."
"What's so funny?"
"Harry isn't really her type."
"Not her type? He's bright, attractive, and most importantly a good man. Any woman -- "
He couldn't help but laugh at her righteous defense of Harry's virtues. "Not any woman, Kathryn."
"Okay, not any woman, but she's his age and they both -- "
"They certainly do have one thing in common."
"Kathryn, don't you know?"
She shook her head. "Apparently not. What don't I know?"
"Harry and Ensign Brooks: They both like girls."
She was briefly silent. "As in...Oh."
"She and Deborah Lang have been an item for a while now. I guess only you and Harry hadn't heard the story about the two of them in the turbolift." He watched the adorable blush spread over her cheeks. "It seems Vorik heard the whole thing first-hand."
"He was in a Jefferies tube. He told Joe Carey that he found it most illogical."
Kathryn laughed. "Has Tuvok heard this story?"
"That's almost the best part." Chakotay couldn't help but grin. "Neelix told him. I'm told his ears turned distinctly green."
"Vulcans don't blush."
"Hey, I'm just the messenger."
"Poor Tuvok." She shook her head and took another sip of coffee. "So how are Tom and B'Elanna adjusting to married life?"
"Tom's still breathing, so I'm guessing pretty well."
She laughed. "He certainly seems happy. They both do. It's nice to see them happy."
"I remember a time when B'Elanna almost never smiled. I have to admit it: Tom's been good for her."
"Love does that for people," Kathryn stared into her coffee cup. "Makes them happy."
"It does." He swallowed. He wanted nothing more than to give Kathryn that same happiness. Someday she would let him. He just had to be patient. The last thing she needed, considering their situation, was pressure. "Have Celes and Billy set a date?"
She nodded. "Next month. At this rate, the whole crew will be married off by the time we get home."
"You may be right. Kenneth Dalby told me he's proposing to Jenny Delaney tonight. He thought she might like to have a double ceremony with Megan and Chell."
"She might, at that; they share so much." Kathryn wrinkled her nose "I wouldn't want to share my wedding with my sister. Phoebe would insist on long white dresses with plenty of lace."
He caught her eye. "I'd love to see you in a long white dress with plenty of lace."
"In your dreams," she quipped, a catch in her voice.
"Always." He caught her hand and kissed her fingers softly. Aware that he was nudging his toe over the line of protocol, he changed the topic swiftly. "Speaking of fashion, have you been to Sandrine's lately?"
"Someone fiddled with the program, and now all of the holographic patrons are dressed as jockeys."
Her laughter chased the lingering tension. "Any suspects?"
"I think it was Tuvok. After what Tom did to the monks in his meditation program, I think he's entitled to a little revenge."
A wicked grin crossed her face, doubling his pulse rate. "That wasn't Tom. Sam told me that Harry did it."
"And you let him get away with that?"
She shrugged. "Hardly an offense worthy of the captain's attention." She swallowed and looked down.
He realized that he still held her hand in his. His thumb was caressing the backs of her fingers. He watched, transfixed, as it failed to stop.
Her hands were small, with an elegant strength. He had seen these hands do many things in the last seven years: cradle a cup of coffee, tap at a PADD, dig a handhold on a rocky alien mountain, care for an infant, aim a phaser, hold a tricorder, repair scientific equipment, pat down the dirt around a young tomato plant. Not that long ago he had held this hand and feared he never would again as she stood to give herself to the Borg.
He raised his eyes to hers and smiled softly. "Let's go for a walk."
She was the one to reach for his hand as they set off across the beach. Maybe he hadn't gone too far after all. The contact gave silent acknowledgment to the bond between them. They needed moments like this, when the unspoken promise for the future became an almost tangible thing.
They paused to admire the way the sun sparkled upon the water. The brilliant blue of the sky reminded him of her eyes. He looked down to admire the real thing, and found her studying his face.
"Too bad we can't go sailing," she said.
"They don't have sailboats," he answered. "They do have rafts they use on the rivers. We could go tomorrow, if you'd like. As I recall, you're holding a rain check good for a boat trip on a river."
He felt her hand alight on his chest. There was an openness in her expression that stirred him powerfully. He had to fight off an urge to touch her beautiful face.
"Maybe it's time we cash in some of those rain checks," she said softly. She lifted their clasped hands and threaded her fingers through his.
The tightness in his chest kept him from answering with words. He pulled her hand to his lips and kissed each of her fingers in turn before letting his free hand caress the soft skin of her cheek.
Her other hand slid up around the back of his neck as she stretched up to kiss him softly. A gentle, tender kiss that invited more.
He released her hand and pulled her against his chest, kissing her thoroughly, trying to express to her all that he felt in his heart, in case the time still hadn't come to speak the words aloud.
Coffee had never tasted so intoxicating.
"Wow," she breathed when they parted. She pressed her forehead against his.
"I agree." He lifted his other hand to cup her face. Their eyes locked again, and he saw unguarded love in her expression. "We've danced around this for years."
"I don't want to pressure you."
"I love you, Kathryn." The taste of those words on his tongue nearly overwhelmed him. He had to force himself to continue. "I'll wait a lifetime for you, if needed, but I think we can make this work now."
She nodded. "You shouldn't have to wait a lifetime, Chakotay, and I don't want to wait either. If Tom and B'Elanna can make it work, then I think we have a fighting chance."
He grinned at her. "Once Kathryn Janeway sets her mind to something, there isn't a force in this universe that can stop her."
She grinned back. "Only because I have you beside me. I can finally say it, can't I?" Her hand came up to stroke his face, sending tendrils of fire through his body. "I love you, Chakotay."
Joy crashed over him like the waves breaking near their feet. "I love you Kathryn." He swept her off of her feet, spinning her around in his arms until they both collapsed dizzily in the sand.
Suddenly serious, Kathryn hit her combadge. "Janeway to Paris."
"Captain, is anything wrong?"
"No, Lieutenant, everything is quite right. Could you beam us down some overnight gear? I understand you have our coordinates."
"Thank you Lieutenant. Janeway out." She grinned saucily, something akin to relief in her eyes. "That should do it."
"Start a little gossip." She pressed him back into the sand and kissed him again.
They were interrupted when their camping gear materialized. A PADD tumbled off the pile. Kathryn retreived it and groaned. "Captain," she read. "I wish you and Chakotay all the happiness that B'Elanna and I have found. Love is the greatest treasure this life has to offer, and I'm glad you have finally chosen to accept it."
"What's wrong with that?"
"I promise this matter will be handled with the greatest discretion. Tom."
"I see." He tapped his combadge. "Chakotay to Neelix. Did you hear where the captain is spending the night?"
She treated him to that radiant smile. "Now that should do it."
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