VGR J/C P/T
Categories: Ship, Het, Romance, Fluff, Humor
Pairings: Janeway/Chakotay, Paris/Torres
Characters: Janeway, Chakotay, Neelix, Paris, Torres
A/N: Written for the Eight Days of Valentines event at Jadie's Nexus. The challenge was to use a line of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Sonnet XLIII, perhaps better known as How Do I Love Thee. The insanely overdone rose design can only be blamed on the lateness of the hour. Neelix is much more persuasive after 0400 hours. If the red font is hard on your eyes, run your mouse over some of the graphics, like the heart in the upper corner, and see what happens.
Credit: Thank you to Squirrelly, Kim, and Anne Rose for the beta comments.
Disclaimer: Mine. All mine. I blew my
life savings at the Paramount garage sale.
Chakotay should have known it would be inevitable. They all should have. Maybe not the first year, or even the second, but they'd been on borrowed time at least that long.
Maybe they should have restricted access to the volatile files, or altered the database to reduce potential damages. Something should have been done. Perhaps a thousand precautions couldn't have held this threat at bay forever, but they should have tried.
The consequences were gruesome.
The ship was bathed in red. The mess hall, the corridors, even engineering. The bright crimson was everywhere, inescapable.
Neelix had discovered the Terran tradition of Valentine's Day.
"I can't believe the captain hasn't put an end to this!" B'Elanna showed the offending paper heart no mercy.
"Bad time?" Tom smiled despite the frantic way Joe Carey signaled an affirmative answer to his question. An angry half-Klingon was a sexy half-Klingon, at least as far as he was concerned.
His wife turned to him, her eyes flashing the dangerous shade that set his own blood boiling in a very good way. "Bad time? Have you seen my engine room?"
"If you think this is festive, Flyboy..." She brandished a hyperspanner like a weapon. In her hands it could serve that function quite well.
"Why don't I take some of this back to the mess hall for you?" Tom started gathering up balloons and artificial roses.
"I knew I married you for a reason."
Tom grinned. "I love you too."
Kathryn Janeway had made a number of mistakes as a Starfleet captain, but none so serious as allowing Neelix unrestricted access to the Federation's cultural database. Her ship now resembled a particularly tacky theme restaurant on Risa.
She often whispered to Voyager, asking it to provide a miracle when the chips were down, but today she was sure it was the ship that was pleading with her. Voyager wanted her dignity restored.
"One more day, my friend," she whispered to the bulkheads. "Tonight's the party, and tomorrow I'll make sure every last streamer gets recycled."
Janeway tried to turn back to the reports on her desk, but concentration eluded her. Valentine's Day would be a hard holiday to ignore this year. It hadn't really been a factor in her life since childhood, in fact she didn't even notice it most years, but now it served as a reminder of what she couldn't have in the Delta Quadrant.
In all ways but one, these past few years had been the most fulfilling and exciting time in her life. No, that wasn't quite true, because she wasn't exactly missing that one thing.
What she shared with Chakotay might not include poetry and roses, but his friendship filled a space in her heart that no one had touched before. While she wanted more, and while there were times that the ache of longing threatened to tear her apart, she wouldn't trade that friendship for anything.
The Delta Quadrant usually kept her too busy to dwell on the missing element in her relationship with Chakotay. The promise of someday was almost enough, most of the time, and she was far from miserable. She certainly wasn't the sort of woman to believe that she couldn't be happy and fulfilled unless she had a man in her bed.
It would be nice, though.
She allowed herself a wry smile. It would be very nice indeed.
The duty rosters were finished, and Chakotay could finally let his thoughts follow the path they had been straining towards all day.
Holidays in the Delta Quadrant, both major and minor, were always difficult. The crew's separation from loved ones in the Alpha Quadrant felt a little bit harsher at such times.
The results were always the same.
Kathryn would blame herself, drive herself a little harder, and try to deny herself the luxury of missing her own family. Chakotay would offer his silent comfort, and they'd share a meal or a game on the holodeck. On a few rare, treasured occasions, they had shared a dance at a crew gathering in the mess hall.
One thing was always missing from the time they spent together, and on those days he missed it most, like holidays, Chakotay did what he could to fill the void.
He couldn't share his feelings with her directly, so he'd write them down. Dozens of letters filled the box in his bottom drawer, letters he'd written to Kathryn, and he'd give them to her someday, when Voyager reached Federation space.
Each one was different. Some expressed a thought or a feeling that he'd longed to share, but couldn't without crossing a line. Some were filled with the giddy joy he felt just because she was a part of his life. Some contained pain or anger that left unspoken might have been harder to put aside, and those were usually followed by words of forgiveness more complete than the ones they shared aloud.
Some spoke simply of love.
There was poetry, both his own and famous lines that seemed to touch on an aspect of their relationship. Long ramblings of his hopes for the future mixed with short notes about how much he had enjoyed a particular meal or shore leave.
Today his thoughts were particularly emotional. The decorations had taken their toll on him as well, and he knew he had to get it out of his system before the gathering in the mess hall.
The last thing Kathryn needed was to see unchecked longing in his eyes. Never would he let his feelings put pressure on her. The best way to express his love was to do as he had promised, and share as much of her burden as she would allow.
As he wrote, it felt almost as if he were speaking the words to her. He imagined the joy of finally speaking the three words he wanted most to say. Sometimes he feared that his eyes would lock with hers and the words would tumble from his lips unbidden.
He hoped the atmosphere in the mess hall wouldn't strengthen the impulse tonight, and tried instead to pour his emotions onto paper in a dozen new ways.
The corridors ran red with streamers, and they all led to ground zero, where Neelix had covered every square inch of the mess hall with hearts and roses.
When the captain arrived, the party was already underway. It resembled countless other events held in the mess hall. Couples danced, people mingled, Neelix tried to force feed them all questionable hors d'oeuvres. If not for the countless paper hearts, it could have been any number of holidays they'd shared as a crew.
Chakotay seemed to be running late, and his absence bothered her. She felt responsible for the things lacking from his life. When he did arrive his warm smile did little to convince her that the red balloons and matching silk flowers hadn't taken a heavy toll on his heart.
He smiled and laughed and said all the right things, but his gaze always seemed to slip away from hers.
"Chakotay." Her hand landed on his chest. "Tell me what's wrong."
"Nothing's wrong at all." Now his eyes did find hers, and he touched her, his hand cupping her elbow in that special way that never failed to make her feel loved.
For a moment, a hint of what he felt for her showed in his face, and for a moment, it wasn't an unspoken secret, a forbidden subject on infinite hold.
She wanted to draw the moment out, and tried to find her voice in order to ask him to dance. Some movement, or perhaps only a thought, broke the spell, and before she could speak he excused himself, melting into the crowd.
Chakotay mingled for a while longer. He shared a brief, futile debate with Seven regarding the efficiency of paper hearts, but found he couldn't really get behind either side of the argument. He cut in on Tom, stealing a dance with B'Elanna, and narrowly avoided sampling the refreshments.
His social obligations fulfilled, he returned to his quarters. The door slid open and he called for lights. Yet another sea of red assaulted him. A dozen balloons, streamers, a vase of roses -- had Neelix been here as well? Maybe he'd go sleep in his office.
Then he saw her. Kathryn. She stood in his bedroom doorway, her uniform gone, replaced by a soft flowing dress he hadn't seen in years, her hair shining in the half-light. She held out a rose to him.
"Am I dreaming?" He moved towards her.
"There is no one I trust more than you," she said. "And yet I lie to you every day, and force you to do the same. We can't keep secrets from each other, Chakotay, and still maintain a command relationship."
Interesting excuse. As he admired the simple logic of it, his heart nearly burst with joy and love. He smiled and stepped closer. "I suppose we can't."
Her hand came to rest on his chest. Their eyes met. She smiled, her eyes sparkling, and he didn't know if she was about to burst into tears or laugher.
His hand covered hers, moving it over his heart. "Let me say it first."
"I love you," he said. "So deeply and completely that what I feel for you is a part of who I am." He grinned. "And if I don't kiss you right now, I'm not sure I'll survive to continue serving as First Officer."
She laughed and drew his head down to hers. Her lips were soft, her taste intoxicating. Kissing her was every bit as exciting as his fevered imagination had believed all of these years, and yet it was also the most natural thing in the galaxy.
They broke apart, foreheads touching, bodies swaying against each other.
"I love you," she said. "I don't want to hide it any more."
"We won't," he said. "I know that there will be obstacles, that the amount of time we spend together will be limited, and that this ship and crew will by necessity come first, but a chance to finally be honest with each other is the greatest gift I've ever received."
"You're making this too easy," she said. "I've hurt you, made you put your feelings on hold, made you live without passion or love -- "
He put his finger on her lips. "You've done none of those things, Kathryn. We've both put certain things on hold, but I have no regrets, and I certainly haven't lived the last seven years without love."
"Nor have I," she said, kissing him again. "There's so much I want to say to you."
"We have plenty of time."
They stood there in the doorway and shared another leisurely kiss before he led her to the couch. He nodded to the balloons. "Please tell me you didn't replicate more of those things."
She laughed. "Of course not. I liberated them from the corridor. That reminds me, I made a promise today that I hope you'll help me keep."
"I promised Voyager that I'd make recycling the decorations a priority."
"I think that can be arranged."
"Tonight I have a few other priorities in mind."
"I like the sound of that." He pulled her close and again savored the feel of her lips beneath his.
"I read an old poem today," he said when they paused for breath. "I'm sure you know it."
"Tell me anyway." Her fingers traced the lines of his tattoo.
He smiled down at her and recited the lines he had used in the Valentine that only hours ago he had assumed she might not see for years.
"I love thee with the passion put to use, In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith..." He took her hands. "When I met you, my passion was directed at the past, at hating the Cardassians for what they did to my people and at my own grief and loss.
"My love for you changed all that, and brought me peace for the first time in my life."
"You've said something like that before." Her voice was soft. "Was it really so bad, before Voyager? Didn't you have anyone that you loved?"
"I did, but it wasn't like this. My relationships before you were all tainted with the cynicism that comes from growing up and finding that the world is painful and imperfect. I thought it was impossible to love again as a child does, with complete faith and openness."
She looked up at him, her eyes glistening with tears. "I'm not sure I deserve you, after some of the things I've put you through, but I promise I'll do everything in my power to make you happy."
"You already do that, Kathryn. We may have had our disagreements, but I know that I can always trust you with my heart. I know our situation requires sacrifice, but all I really want, all I really need to be happy, is you."
"I'm yours," she said. "Now and always."
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, February 2004.