Conversations Without Words
Summary: “It’s often just enough to be with someone. I don’t need to touch them. Not even talk. A feeling passes between you both. You’re not alone.” — Marilyn Monroe
Characters: Janeway, Chakotay, Ayala, Paris
Disclaimer: Paramount/CBS own all rights to the Voyager universe and its characters, which I am borrowing without permission or intent to profit.
Notes: Written for talsi74656’s “J/C Cutthroat Fiction” comp, to the Marilyn Monroe quote above.
V. Now - Stardate 54887.2
Of course, the years hadn’t been as lonely as she’d feared. Because although she couldn’t be with Chakotay in the way she wanted so desperately, he had always been her friend.
Her friend, who’d followed the order of his captain and returned to the bridge, despite the need she saw in his eyes to stay with her: both now and then.
I will always put you first, Kathryn.
In his own way, she realised, he had.
He’d refused to leave her behind in the cavern on Exitia – a countermanding of her express orders, for which she’d placed him on report – but her fear that he would place her safety above his duty to the ship was unwarranted. She could count a number of times he’d made a hard call when she was unable to make it – the Borg alliance was one – in order to ensure the survival of the crew. Including herself. Even when it put his own life at risk.
That was what he’d been trying to tell her that day after the earthquake, she recognised. Not that he would damn the ship and crew if it meant saving her, but that he would sacrifice himself to keep her safe.
Janeway cupped her hands around the cup of insipid tea Chell had placed in front of her. The Doctor had sent to her quarters to rest for the afternoon, but after three hours of trying and failing to read a novel, she’d pulled on her uniform jacket and headed for the mess hall. It was dinner hour for Alpha shift and she’d felt the need to be with other people and away from the churn of her own thoughts.
She’d been here for over an hour now, sitting at her usual corner table with an untouched plate before her. The mess hall had almost emptied out save a few stragglers.
She couldn’t stop thinking about tonight, and Chakotay, and the decision she’d lived by for the past five years. The decision she was about to change.
What if it’s a mistake?
Janeway blew out a huff of frustration. You’ve made your choice, she rebuked herself. Now stop second-guessing yourself like a coward and get on with it.
She checked the chronometer; still two hours until Chakotay was due at her quarters. She let her head drop forward on a groan. Two hours until she could see him, talk to him … kiss him … A shiver curled luxuriantly along her spine.
~Chakotay to Janeway.~
She sat up straight, trying to tame her smile as she slapped her combadge. “Janeway here.”
~I thought you’d appreciate a status update, Captain. All of the Saluvian power generators have been removed for inspection and the affected plasma conduits are being repaired.~
“Are you still on the bridge, Commander?”
There was a slight pause before his voice came through again, lower and softer. ~I’m in your ready room at the moment. I’ll be here for another hour or so until Tuvok relieves me.~
“Good,” she murmured, “because we have a date, and I expect you to be on time, Chakotay.”
~I can’t wait,~ came his silky reply. ~See you soon, Kathryn.~
She closed the channel and bowed her head, concealing the grin that wouldn’t be suppressed and hoping none of the late mealtime dawdlers were watching her.
On the other side of the almost deserted mess hall, Tom Paris sprawled lazily across the couch, watching Michael Ayala munch his way through a second heaped plate of food. “Where the hell do you put all that, Mike?” he asked idly.
“It all goes to my muscles,” Ayala mumbled around a mouthful.
Paris snorted. “Whatever you say, Rambo.”
Paris waved a hand. “Never mind.” He glanced over at the corner table and its sole occupant. “How long d’you think she’s been sitting there?”
“Did you catch the look on Chakotay’s face this afternoon when she got hurt? I thought he was going to pass out.”
Ayala rolled his eyes.
“Seriously though, what was all that about? I’m not leaving you, Kathryn? You know, every time one of them winds up in Sickbay, the other one flat out refuses to leave their bedside.”
Ayala glared at his plate.
“Come on, you can’t tell me theirs is a purely professional relationship.”
Ayala put down his fork and turned his glare on his companion. “Do you ever stop talking, Paris?”
Paris settled back into the couch, grinning. “You know, there’s one way you could shut me up.”
“I’ll do anything.”
“Tell me what happened on Exitia.”
Determinedly, Ayala picked up his fork and shovelled in an enormous mouthful of stew.
“Have it your way,” Paris shrugged. His gaze drifted to Janeway, who had risen from her seat and was absently wandering toward the galley. “Look at her – she’s glowing. You think she’ll ever admit it to herself and put the big guy out of his misery?”
“For Christ’s sake,” Ayala scowled.
“Love,” Paris mused, “is a serious mental disease, and those two have got it bad.”
Despite the Doctor’s orders to abstain from caffeine for at least twenty-four hours, Janeway found herself standing in the galley, pouring herself a cup from the dregs of the pot Chell had left on the warmer. It was stale and lukewarm and it tasted magnificent.
Sighing in pleasure, she tipped her head back and closed her eyes.
“Didn’t I hear the Doctor order you away from coffee, Kathryn?”
She jerked upright at Chakotay’s low, amused voice. “Chakotay, you scared the hell out of me!”
“Sorry,” he grinned, leaning against the partition that separated the galley from the main mess hall and not looking sorry in the least.
“What are you doing here?” She couldn’t help the spread of her answering smile. “I thought you’d be on the bridge for another hour.”
“Tuvok gave me an early mark.” Chakotay pushed off the partition and ambled closer, taking the coffee from her suddenly nerveless hands. As he leaned to place it on the counter behind her she inhaled involuntarily and felt him go still.
Slowly, he turned his head to meet her widened eyes. Her gaze lowered to his lips and she felt her breath coming faster, her own lips parting at the sense memory of their one and only kiss, years before.
She felt as though she should say something to ensure that they understood the step they were about to take, that they were of the same mind. But as he dipped his head toward her, she found herself straining upward on tiptoe, her chin tilting to one side, her eyes closing.
And then his lips were on hers, and in a last moment of clarity before she fell into the pleasure and the relief and the absolute rightness of being with him, she realised that they understood each other completely without the need for words.
Ayala scraped back his chair and picked up his plate.
“You finished, or are you going back for a third helping?” Paris drawled.
“Feel like coming back to mine for a drink? B’Elanna won’t be off shift for hours.”
“Aw, are you lonely, Paris?”
“Shut up.” Paris collected his empty glass and they moved toward the galley. “Of course, if you’re not interested in my fine selection of exotic liquors, you can – whoa.”
They’d rounded the partition and come to a shocked, immediate halt at the sight before them. Janeway was pressed up against the partition wall, Chakotay cradling her close with one arm around her waist. Their bodies were nestled together, her arms locked around his neck. They were kissing as though kisses had just been invented.
At the sound of Ayala’s plate crashing to the floor, the command team abruptly broke apart. Janeway’s face was flushed, lips swollen and hair in disarray. Chakotay was breathing hard as he put some distance between them.
“Not again,” Ayala mumbled.
Paris, predictably, was first to regain his aplomb. “Excuse us, Captain, Commander,” he said, not bothering to hide a mile-wide grin as he grabbed Ayala by the elbow and hustled him out of the galley.
“Oh God,” Janeway whispered, slumping against the wall.
Chakotay couldn’t help chuckling. “Our timing leaves a little to be desired.”
“Well, there goes any hope I had of keeping this between us.” She raised her head, mouth quirking to the side.
“Ayala will keep his mouth shut,” Chakotay assured her. Tentatively, he reached for her hand, and she let him take it.
“It’s not him I’m worried about.” Janeway gave a small tug and Chakotay stepped toward her.
“I’ll deal with Paris.” He rested his other hand on the wall beside her head. “You’re not having second thoughts about this, are you?”
She shook her head slowly. “I thought you were, though.”
Chakotay looked a question at her.
“You gave me back Inferno,” she explained haltingly. “I took that to mean that it … that I … didn’t mean as much to you anymore.”
He hesitated, then let his hand rest on her shoulder. “To tell you the truth, I had decided to move on,” he admitted. “I just ... it’s been years, Kathryn, and I was losing hope you’d ever change your mind about us. I wasn’t even sure you felt anything for me. And then Seven asked me on a date, and I –”
“Seven?” she blurted. “Seven of Nine asked you on a date?”
Janeway’s heart tripped. “And what did you say?”
“I said I was flattered, and that I’d get back to her.” He paused, tracing her cheekbone with the backs of his fingers. “I was considering saying yes. And then this morning…”
“This morning I made a pass at you.”
“Yes.” He smiled.
“Maybe I shouldn’t have done that,” she fretted. “Maybe this is a mistake.”
“Kathryn, would you stop –”
“Chakotay, if you’re interested in Seven, I don’t want to stand in your –”
“Shut up, Kathryn,” he said, and kissed her again.
“Well,” Tom Paris smirked as he pushed Ayala through the mess hall, “how was that for a surprise end to the evening?”
Ayala grumbled under his breath.
“Not such a surprise to you though, was it? What was that you said this morning when I said they should just kiss – ‘how do you know they haven’t already’?”
Ayala groaned aloud.
“Yeah,” Paris slung an arm around Ayala’s shoulders, “there’s definitely a story there. And now you’re going to tell me every little detail.”
“I hope you’re enjoying your last night as a lieutenant, Paris,” Ayala muttered as they exited the mess hall, “because if you don’t shut the hell up, you and I will both lose our pips.”