Face Value

by Spiletta42

Fandom: Star Trek Voyager
Rating: T™©
Warnings: None
Categories: Ship, Het, Fluff
Pairings: Janeway/Chakotay
Paris/Torres
Characters: Janeway, Chakotay, Paris, Torres
Spoilers: none
Summary: Chakotay borrows a book. Pure fluff. Those requiring a plot are instructed to go bother Mark Twain.
A/N: Written for When Valentines Go Astray., a Jadie's Nexus/JCFicHaven writing project.
Credits: As is usually the case, this fic wouldn't be possible without The Star Trek Encyclopedia by Michael Okuda and Denise Okuda and The Voyager Companion by Paul Ruditis. Squirrelly, Anne Rose, and Kim all attempted betas.
Disclaimer: Paramount never sent me a valentine.


Face Value

"Tell Neelix about this holiday and I'll have you confined to the brig for a decade." Chakotay handed back the PADD.

Tom's face dropped, but he didn't bother with the usual argument, and for that Chakotay gave silent thanks.

He could have survived the argument, he even could have suffered through a Valentine's party if he believed it served the best interest of the crew, but he didn't want Kathryn subjected to the ritual.

The duty roster stared back at him, still unfinished. Maybe he should let those lucky enough to have relationships have the day off on Valentine's Day. As he mentally sorted out the crew, he realized that might prove difficult. Tom and B'Elanna didn't have a monopoly on romance.

The single crew members still held the majority, which justified his feelings about a party. Holidays like Christmas were hard enough out here. Everyone missed someone at home, but they couldn't ignore the major holidays. The necessary crew gatherings on these occasions added joy to a bittersweet season. Yet Valentine's Day wasn't about family and childhood memories. It was about silly pink hearts, flowers, and romance.

No one would miss flowers and candy hearts, but those who missed romance in their lives didn't need the reminder. Chakotay couldn't escort the captain to an official Valentine's party while she made an appearance, as he did on Christmas and Federation Day. The party's theme would make it a date, something they couldn't afford.

Someday, when Voyager reached the Alpha Quadrant, he planned to sweep Kathryn off her feet, but out here he couldn't make the first move. She felt obligated to follow protocol, and he wouldn't pressure her to do otherwise. Her burdens were great enough already. She didn't need to feel responsible for his loneliness.

No, best to ignore the holiday completely. The Vulcans, Bolians, and Bajorans wouldn't miss it. Nor would most of the humans. The holiday wasn't even widely observed on Earth, not since Hallmark had declared bankruptcy late in the twenty-first century. Chakotay, who had lived on Earth only while attending the Academy, hadn't even known about it before Tom had brought it up in the first year of their voyage.

With Tom's seventh annual request officially denied, Voyager was safe for another year. The obscure holiday would not make the ship's corridors run red with tacky decorations.

Janeway always looked forward to her dinners with Chakotay. She could relax with him, and right now she needed the comfort of his friendship. The Delta Quadrant offered great challenges and demanded many sacrifices. Usually, she could remind herself of the benefits -- her crew's discoveries and accomplishments -- but today one particular sacrifice kept resurfacing in her mind.

She set the table and fussed over the flower arrangement. A captain couldn't afford romance, but she could have an intimate dinner with her closest friend. She lit the candles, dimmed the lights, and remembered at the last moment that she'd promised him a book. The door chimed as she retrieved it, and she turned to greet him.

He smiled broadly and handed her the salad. A shiver ran up her spine as their hands met. Starfleet protocol didn't make her immune to his charms, it just kept her from acting on her emotions.

"This looks good," she said. "I'm glad Neelix could spare some tomatoes."

"I had to beg for those," Chakotay said. "I may find myself washing the breakfast dishes."

"So I'll have a first officer with dishpan hands?"

"It's worth it." He plucked a slice of tomato out of the bowl and held it out to her.

The temptation to let him feed it to her only lasted a moment. She took it and popped it into her mouth. "Delicious."

As Chakotay updated her on the ship's latest gossip, she fought her desire to reach across the table and take his hand. Their dinners often included the simple intimacy, which served as a silent affirmation of all that they shared. With a gentle touch, he could remind her in an instant that she had love in her life, and that she could have all that she missed if she just reached out and took it.

She hated making him wait, but she knew that he understood her feelings, and hoped that he'd let her know if his incredible patience ever wore thin. As captain, she couldn't make the first move, but she promised herself that if he ever pressed the issue, she'd forget about protocol. She wouldn't turn him down again, as she had years before.

If it came down to a choice, she'd choose him. They'd need to find a way to balance the many facets of their relationship, a prospect that frightened her more than a dozen Borg cubes, but she wouldn't hurt him with another no.

"Kathryn?" He looked worried, and she realized that she'd failed to laugh at the punchline.

"I think we need to find a way to lock Freddy Bristow into his clothes before Dalby serves his homebrew again." She tried to smile, and rose to fetch the main course from the replicator. Would one small change in their relationship really make such a difference? She couldn't possibly feel more for him, or worry more when he left the ship. She ran her fingers over her pips. Duty meant more than her own happiness. She would wait.

"Did you remember to notify sickbay?"

"No need. It's my grandmother's recipe." She smiled at him as she sat back down. "I hope you're hungry."

"Famished."

His voice sent a shiver through her and she tried to compose herself before meeting his gaze.

Chakotay thought he noticed a hint of longing in Kathryn's eyes, and laid his hand over hers on the table. She rewarded him with a radiant smile.

"This food is wonderful, Kathryn." He curled his fingers around hers. "Did you finally replace your replicator?"

She laughed at his teasing. "The secret is to ignore the temptation to tinker with the program."

"Ah, I see. Then I congratulate you on your restraint."

She broke contact and stood. "I found that book I told you about."

He took it, admiring the unblemished antique binding.

"I think you'll be pleasantly surprised," she said. "I hope you'll find time to read it. I'm anxious to know what you think."

"I'll make time," he promised.

"Just don't read it on the bridge." She poured them each a cup of coffee and took her seat again. "I don't want to give Tom an excuse to start leaving Klingon romance novels in my chair again."

"We'd be bored without him."

"Probably true." She took his hand. "Hard to believe he's going to be a father."

"Tom and B'Elanna have been good for each other." He squeezed her hand but didn't say more.

Her smile told him that she understood, and they both turned to watch the stars streak by at warp.

Janeway had noticed the Earth date that morning, and now failed to ignore it, despite her best efforts. Her mother had always observed all the traditional holidays. She smiled, remembering how her father always sent them chocolate for Valentine's Day. As a child, she'd always wondered what her mother's package contained. Something far better than chocolate, she'd been told, and to her childish imagination that seemed far-fetched. How could anything better than chocolate fit in such a small package?

As a teenager she had finally solved the mystery. Her mother always received a romantic card, and if her father couldn't deliver it in person, he filled it with paper hugs, redeemable for the real thing upon his return. It seemed remarkably corny at the time, but looking back on the memory, Kathryn found it sweet.

She hadn't seen Chakotay all day, but hoped he didn't have dinner plans. Another evening alone with him was exactly what she needed. Maybe he'd even finished his book. If he had, she hoped he'd share her desire to discuss it.

Chakotay stared at the paper coupon that he'd found in the book. He remembered Kathryn saying that he'd be pleasantly surprised, but he'd never imagined this. He tried not to read too much into it. A hug did fall within the limits of friendship, but a written invitation to share a hug pushed those limits pretty hard.

They'd had some narrow escapes lately, and every time he almost lost her, he had to fight the desire to pull her into his arms. Perhaps she felt that way too. In any case, he wouldn't wait to redeem this coupon. To hold her close, even for a minute, would fill a deep need in him. If she wanted to widen parameters, he wouldn't turn down the opportunity.

He agreed to dinner immediately, and she distracted herself from the temptation to reprogram her replicator by treating herself to a bubble bath. She chose casual clothes, and again set the table with flowers.

Two evenings with Chakotay in only three days, and no Borg activity in sight. Sometimes the Delta Quadrant surprised her. The door chimed.

"I'm glad you could make it," she said, stepping forward to take the wine.

"I wouldn't be anywhere else," he said softly.

His tone sent a shiver through her. She turned from him to set the bottle on the table.

"Kathryn." That tone again. His eyes caught hers and she couldn't look away. He stepped closer. His hands cupped her elbows, then slid around her waist to pull her against his chest.

She melted into his warm embrace. If she'd ever doubted that he loved her, she couldn't now. She could feel his fingers trembling as he stroked her hair, and could hear the pounding of his heart under her cheek.

He shifted, and she felt the warm skin of his cheek against her forehead. She squeezed him tightly, not wanting this moment to end.

"I tried to wait." His whisper was hardly louder than her own rapid breath.

"You waited long enough," she said. "I couldn't ask for more." She looked up at him, smiling. "You must be the most patient man in the galaxy, Chakotay."

"Hardly. I suspect the most patient man in the galaxy would have waited until after dinner."

"Forget dinner." She ran her fingers through his hair and stretched up to kiss him.

His arms tightened around her again, and she leaned into his support as her knees weakened. They broke apart gasping.

"I think I'm getting a little more than face value," he said.

"What?"

"Your coupon didn't mention a kiss."

Coupon. She remembered the book that she'd loaned him, the book that she'd found in the dark and hadn't opened in seven years, the book that her mother had read last. She remembered her father's valentines, which over the years had turned up as bookmarks at least a dozen times. She remembered that her father never signed them, or addressed them specifically to her mother.

Chakotay smiled down at her, more content than she'd ever seen him. The truth would only hurt him. Besides, nothing would change the fact that she loved him. However it had happened, the waiting had ended.

"I like to exceed expectations." She kissed him again.

"You always manage that, Kathryn. It's one of the many reasons that I love you."


 

What's hidden on YOUR bookshelf?




This fic posted with pride on:

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Voyager Romance

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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, February 2005.