Fine (Written All Over You)
Summary: Kathryn Janeway has left a big city career and a longstanding, tumultuous relationship to manage the Paris family library in sleepy Maplebrook, NY. Chakotay is a part time history professor, part time novelist who's struggling to write his latest book. When he turns up at the library to research its renowned Mayan collection for his novel, the last thing he expects is to discover a fascinating new object of study: Kathryn Janeway.
Characters: Janeway, Chakotay, Paris, Torres, Tighe, Neelix, Tuvok
Disclaimer: Paramount/CBS own the library, but fanfiction writers stack the bookshelves.
Notes: Co-written with the wonderful traccigaryn.
“A guy is going to stop by on Monday morning to do some research.”
Kathryn stared down at the note in her hand in bemusement, willing additional meaning into its sparse details. Tom was many things, but good at taking phone messages was not one of them.
“Don’t you remember anything else?” she’d asked him. “What time he’s coming? What kind of research he wants to do?” But Tom had just given her that look of his, the one that said she needed to lighten up a little.
So she’d had the library open promptly at eight a.m. just in case this guy was the sort who liked to do research at obscure private libraries first thing on Monday mornings. He wasn’t, apparently, since that was several hours ago now. She shrugged and put the note down on her desk again. She’d puttered around her office as much as she could, answering emails and paying invoices, but she wanted to get back to that shift in the exobiology section. Once that was taken care of, she could finally bring the Wildman acquisitions out of storage and save herself the trouble of having to haul them out any time someone wanted to look at them.
This researcher, whoever he was, would just have to make himself known once he finally arrived.
Kathryn climbed the narrow circular staircase up to the second floor stacks. She wouldn’t have a direct view of the door once she got started, but she could nip back out to the balcony if she heard anything. She slid off her heels. Not for the first time, she privately acknowledged that moving books in her stockinged feet, pencil skirt, and silk blouse was not the best sartorial choice. Dressing up for work at all was probably unnecessary, as visitors were infrequent and by appointment only. She spent much of her time moving dusty books and artefacts and trying to make sense of 150 years of odd cataloging and storage choices. But dressing up centered her. It made her feel like she still had a career, and that she wasn’t holed up alone in this little library in upstate New York, far away from her former life.
Although she wasn’t entirely alone these days. After getting one too many tickets for speeding and reckless driving, Tom had been sent to languish in small town America as his punishment. Kathryn had learned long ago that what Owen Paris said should be interpreted as a command. So her employer’s son, whom she’d known since he was a teenager, was assisting her this summer. She had to admit she liked the company, and she liked Tom, too, sometimes despite himself.
“Hello?” Kathryn had just lifted several large volumes above her head when she was startled by a soft voice from down below. “Is anybody here?”
She took a quick step back so she wouldn’t overbalance and placed the books back on their original shelf, then hurried out to the edge of the balcony and looked down. A man stood in the center of the room, silhouetted and partially obscured by the morning sunlight streaming in.
“Hi, welcome,” she said as she stepped back into her heels. “Give me one second, and I’ll be right down.”
“Take your time.” The man’s voice floated up to meet her as she descended the stairs. The rich tone held a note of appreciation.
“You must be the researcher who called,” she said as she stepped off the staircase and toward him. The sun was no longer in her eyes, and she could see him clearly for the first time. He was dressed like a lot of trendy academics: jeans, a button-down shirt with the sleeves rolled above his elbows, a loosely knotted tie. His skin was a deep bronze. He had a sharp nose with a kink in it and a bottom lip that was distractingly full. She shifted her eyes up quickly and noted salt-and-pepper hair and a tattoo that arched above his left eyebrow.
Oh Lord, she was staring.
But then, so was he.
“Um, sorry I wasn’t downstairs to greet you when you arrived. My … assistant is new and didn’t take a very detailed message. Come back to my office, and we can chat about what you’re here to work on. If it’s something that’s not out in the main collection, it may take me a little time to get it for you.”
She knew she was babbling, but he was not at all what she’d expected, if she’d thought about it. Shaking her head at herself, Kathryn sat at her desk and gestured for him to take the chair across from her. She pushed aside her empty coffee cup and the book she’d been reading with her morning yogurt.
“Crossing the Threshold,” the man said, taking note of her book. “Unusual choice.”
She thought she heard an undercurrent of amusement in his voice, but she’d stopped caring about what other people thought of her reading choices a long time ago.
“I like the way the author writes,” she said. “Have you read any of his work?”
“I’m familiar with it.” He tugged at his ear. “What do you like about this one?”
“Well, the evolutionary science is dubious,” Kathryn admitted, “but I can relate to the protagonist’s need to prove himself. Besides, if you can suspend your disbelief it’s a great story - bravery, family, moral choices - and there are some surprisingly funny parts.”
The researcher grinned. “You’d be one of the few who think so, judging by these reviews.” He tapped a broad finger on the back of the dust cover. “The New York Times thinks it’s ‘a flight of the author’s fancy that verges on outlandish while remaining oddly compelling’, apparently.”
“Fortunately, I can think for myself,” Kathryn said a little more tartly than she intended, then hurried on, “What can I do for you, Mr. …?”
Instead of taking her up on the opening to offer his name, he laid her book aside and flattened his hands palm-down on the desk between them.
“I’m researching certain aspects of Mayan culture for a project I’m working on,” he told her. “And I’m here because legend has it that the Paris family trust has the most extensive collection of Mayan artefacts and memorabilia in North America.”
“Well, I’m not sure I’d go that far, but we certainly have an impressive private archive.” Her glasses had slipped down her nose, and she pushed them back into place. “Unfortunately, not everything is catalogued properly or out in the stacks yet. Why don’t you tell me a little more about what you’re interested in, and we can go from there?”
He nodded. “Sounds good. I want to try to weave together a couple different things, like Mayan ideas about astronomy and what that said about their place in the world. I’m also interested in their tattooing and other body modification practices.”
She couldn’t help but glance up at his own tattoo.
“Yeah, like that,” he said with a little smile. A dimple appeared.
No, not interesting. He's here on business. “I think you came to the right place,” Kathryn said, redirecting her thoughts. “We definitely have some books on astronomy and philosophy you can look at. We also have a pretty extensive collection of hand-drawn star charts and photographs of people. Most of those are in our temperaturebrea-controlled storage room. They were starting to degrade, so the last librarian, back in the seventies, had them all reproduced on microfilm. That’s usually what we let researchers look at.”
“That’s great,” he said with excitement. “I was really hoping what I’d heard about the collection was true.”
“The descriptions for the images aren’t very detailed,” Kathryn warned. “We have an old finding aid that might help a little, but it would take you a while to go through all of them one by one. And by a while, I mean days.”
“That’s fine. I figured I might need to come back more than once. I drove up from the city this morning, and I’ve got a room at Maple Farm, just down the road.”
Kathryn ignored the little flutter of pleasure she felt at hearing he wasn’t leaving again right away. “Where would you like to start?”
“The books, I think,” he said. “Maybe I could borrow a few overnight if they look promising?”
“You seem trustworthy,” she said, and wow, that came out flirty. His smile flashed. “Let me show you the books,” she blurted. “They’re upstairs.”
As she led him across the floor, he asked, “You’re really the first librarian here since the 70s?”
“Yeah. Owen’s parents — he’s the current owner — weren’t interested in the library, so they pretty much just locked it up and ignored it most of their lives. Owen hardly paid any attention to it himself until a couple years ago. He figured out pretty quickly it would require a ton of work, and when I needed — when I came available, it all worked out.”
Kathryn stopped at the bottom of the staircase, conscious of her skirt and heels. Then she remembered the look she’d seen in his eyes earlier, and boldly stepped onto the first stair. He followed at a polite distance, one that would give him a nice view of her legs if he was looking.
“Anyway,” she continued when they’d both reached the top, “there’s a lot of work to do to modernize everything. Sorry it means it’ll take you longer.”
He was standing right behind her, his chest almost brushing her shoulder. “I don’t mind,” he said. “Everything worthwhile takes time, doesn’t it?” His voice was soft and compelling.
She turned her head and met his gaze. “It does.” She took a breath and gestured at one of the rows of shelves. “The astronomy books start here. I’ll let you get started. If you have any questions, I’ll be right downstairs.”
“Thanks. I appreciate all your help.”
Kathryn nodded. She needed to get away from him and away from those dark eyes, watching her so intently.
“Sure, of course,” she said. “I’ll, um, be downstairs.” She took the steps quickly and sat back down at her desk with a hurried thump. Work. She had work to do.
Tom finally returned from running errands an hour later. “Hey, Kitty-Cat,” he called, “sorry I’m late. I bumped into an old girlfriend, and …” he shrugged. “You know how it is.”
There was lipstick smeared across his cheek. Kathryn suppressed a sigh. “Forget it, Tom. Can you start processing the Ashmore donations while I grab a coffee?”
“Sure. In fact, why don’t you take a ten minute break?” he suggested magnanimously. “I can hold down the fort while you’re slacking.”
Rolling her eyes, Kathryn went into the tiny back office to pour a cup from the coffee pot. When she returned, Tom was humming to himself while affixing bookplates, and she could just make out the broad, white-shirted back of their visiting researcher up on the shadowy second floor, so she figured - why not? - she’d take Tom at his word and sit down for a break.
Her coffee was cooling beside her, and she was deeply engrossed in Crossing the Threshold when a shadow fell across the page. She looked up to find the researcher standing on the other side of the counter. He was half-smiling, and his arms were full of books.
“Hi,” she said, hastily closing her novel and scrambling to her feet.
He seemed taller than he had before. Or was she shorter? As unobtrusively as she could, Kathryn slid her feet back into her heeled shoes.
The researcher’s smile widened. Kathryn tried not to notice the dimples.
“Did you want to borrow those?” She indicated the books with a tilt of her head.
“Please,” he said. “Do you need me to fill out some paperwork?”
“We don’t have an electronic check out system yet, so you can just sign them out in the register,” she answered, ducking beneath the counter to retrieve it. She hunted for a pen. “And I’ll need your name and contact information, please.”
“Hey, Kitty,” Tom interrupted, “mind if I knock off early tonight? Hot date,” he explained, grinning widely.
Kathryn waved him away. “Fine, Tom. Go. I’m sorry,” she turned back to the researcher, “what did you say your name was?”
To her surprise, he looked sheepish. He cleared his throat and mumbled something.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that.”
“Chakotay,” he repeated. “My name is Chakotay.”
Kathryn couldn’t help glancing at the author’s name, emblazoned across the cover of the novel she’d laid hastily aside. “Very funny,” she said.
He shuffled his feet. “I’m not being funny,” he confessed. “That’s really my name. And, uh, that’s my book you’re reading.”
She felt her face heating up. Some librarian she was, not recognizing the man who’d written the book she’d been so absorbed in that she’d snatched every spare moment to read it these past few days! Her mind raced frantically, trying to recall what she’d said about it earlier. It had been mostly complimentary, right?
Something of her thoughts must have shown on her face because Chakotay laughed. “I think yours was the best review I got on that book. Thank you.” He ducked his head. “Sorry I didn’t say anything earlier. I was just surprised.”
Kathryn lifted her chin, brazening it out. “I hope you like surprises.”
“Very much so.” He glanced up, and a wide grin had stretched across his face. That smile was dangerous. “I’m glad you like it.”
“I’ll let you know if I think the payoff matches the potential.”
Was that really her voice, low and purring? And had she really just tilted her hip in such a way as to draw his gaze?
It seemed she had. His tone matched hers as he said, “I look forward to it.”
The moment hung in the air.
“I’ll return these in a day or two,” Chakotay said then, dipping his chin to indicate his armful of books. “See you then, Kitty. And thanks for your help.”
The door was swinging shut behind him before she could open her mouth to tell him her name wasn’t and never would be Kitty.
The sky had turned leaden, and Chakotay hurried to load the precious volumes onto the passenger seat of his car before the threatening rain could spoil them. The last thing he wanted to do was disappoint the intriguing and attractive librarian he’d just met.
Kitty. He shook his head. The name didn’t suit her; there was nothing prissy or schoolmarmish about the woman who’d slipped off her shoes and lost herself in a book - his book - or who’d skipped up the stairs ahead of him, affording him a tantalizing glimpse of long, silky legs. He wondered if she’d been wearing practical panty hose or the stockings and garters his imagination insisted on.
And he really shouldn’t be imagining what some stranger was wearing under her skirt, no matter how attractive she was.
But he couldn’t help the smile that stayed on his lips as he drove the short distance to his bed and breakfast.
“Ah, Professor!” the proprietor called after him as Chakotay balanced his armful of books and began to climb the staircase. “Can I help you with those, sir?”
“No thanks, I’m good.” Chakotay kept going. He had only met him that morning, but he’d already figured out that the garrulous, ginger-whiskered man - Neil something, he tried to recall - would talk his ear numb if he let him.
“If you need anything, don’t hesitate to ask,” Neil called up the stairs after him. “You need a local guide? I’ll be your guide. You need supplies? I know where to find the freshest food. You need -”
“Thank you, Mr., uh,” Chakotay interrupted him hastily from the second floor landing. “I think I can find my way around town.”
“Understood, sir,” Neil said cheerfully, and Chakotay pushed his way into his room, shutting the door firmly.
He’d unpacked haphazardly when he checked in earlier, and only the essentials: shaving gear, laptop, a few shirts he’d hung up in the little closet. Now, he took the time to fold his jeans into the drawers and stow his bag neatly under the bed before opening the lid on his laptop.
Then he stared at the flashing cursor on the screen until his eyes started to blur, and he had to blink away the strain.
“Damn it,” Chakotay muttered. “Just write, you idiot. How hard can it be?”
He was under a lot of pressure with this book, and it wasn’t making the writing part go any easier. His first novel, On Sacred Ground, had netted him great reviews, moderate sales and a five-book contract with Federation Publishing, all of which he was grateful for, and much of it had been thanks to his agent, B’Elanna Torres. The trouble had started with his second book — the one Kitty the librarian had been so surprisingly kind about — which hadn’t flopped, exactly, but certainly hadn’t covered him in glory. He’d been on shaky ground with Federation since Threshold and its follow up, the amnesia romance Unforgetting. He had redeemed himself somewhat with the relative commercial and critical success of his fourth, The Scorpion’s Tale, but he’d had to argue hard to convince his publisher that this new novel-in-progress would work.
In fact, B’Elanna had done most of the convincing — though Chakotay privately termed it ‘threatening’ — but in exchange, Federation wanted to push him in a direction Chakotay really didn’t want to go. It meant going on the publicity circuit. It meant daytime talk shows and press interviews and hours’ worth of book signings in commercial bookstores, and it promised to interfere not only with his teaching schedule but also with the research he needed to do, if book number five was to bring the kind of success his publisher was demanding.
And after the underhanded deal Federation had pulled last year, Chakotay was ready to walk away from his publishing contract. It was only B’Elanna’s warnings about the damage it would cause to his reputation, not to mention the crippling debt he’d be left with for breaching the contract, that gave him pause.
He was left with no real choice but to give Federation what they were demanding: a bestseller. It was unfortunate that, despite his claims, he was less than confident that he could deliver one.
“No pressure,” he muttered aloud, tipping his head back to glare at the ceiling in hope of inspiration. But the ceiling was uncooperative, and with a sigh, Chakotay pushed back his chair and stuffed his wallet and keys in his jeans pockets. Maybe a walk would clear his head.
Outside, a broad road sloped gently in the direction of the town. Narrowing his eyes, Chakotay could make out the clean white peak of the Methodist church, and beside it, the elegant sprawl of the estate that housed the Paris library.
He found his steps turning in that direction, and his thoughts turning to the chestnut-haired librarian. A light breeze ruffled the trees and kept the sun from growing too warm on his back, and by the time Chakotay reached the center of the village, he realized he was smiling.
On the street corner he was approaching sat a coffee shop he’d noticed on his earlier drive through the town. The starry spray of lights in the window had captured his attention, and as he peered inside now he could make out a colorful starscape painted on the main interior wall. He stepped back to read the shop name on the door — Nebula Coffee — just as it opened to expel a customer, and the aroma of freshly ground beans beckoned him inside.
“Hello,” a solemn man with deep umber skin greeted him from behind the counter. “How may I help you?”
The cafe was pretty crowded for this late in the afternoon. Chakotay glanced around and spotted a small table by the main window. “Mind if I take a seat?”
“Of course. May I offer you refreshments?”
The proprietor was so stiff and formal, Chakotay reflected with amusement, that he sounded almost alien. His elongated ears certainly looked otherworldly.
“Sure,” he answered, hiding a smile. “I’d love a coffee.”
The waiter had just brought his coffee, in a silver metal cup that looked suitably space-age, when Chakotay’s cell phone lit up. He spared a moment to wish B’Elanna would just call him instead of insisting on FaceTiming before he picked up.
“Where the hell are you now?” his agent demanded, squinting at his surroundings. “And why aren’t you writing?”
“I’m in a coffee shop. And I’m procrastinating.”
“Clearly. Chakotay, we need to talk.”
“That doesn’t sound good.”
“That depends. Federation wants to sell the subsidiary rights to Scorpion.”
He was silent for a moment, possibilities tumbling through his brain. “I take it they’ve had an offer.”
“Yeah. A Swedish production house called Borg Collective. Their rep, Annika Hansen, wants to meet with you next week in Stockholm.”
“That doesn’t sound so bad,” Chakotay admitted. “If they want to talk to me, maybe they care about maintaining creative integrity.”
“I researched them,” B’Elanna replied. “They insist on full creative control, and their contract is airtight. You sign with them and you can kiss your individual rights goodbye.”
“Then my answer is no.”
“I figured you’d say that,” she sighed. “And so did Federation. They have an alternative offer for you.”
“Go on,” Chakotay said warily.
“You need to do publicity.” B’Elanna held up a hand as he started to protest. “They want your face out there. Smiling. Apparently, women spend money when you smile.”
“Very funny.” Chakotay rubbed a hand over his eyes. “Can’t I just do a couple of lectures and a coffee night or two?”
“In your dreams.” She hesitated. “There’s more.”
“Of course there is.”
“You remember that outline you pitched, way back when Federation was first thinking about signing you? The time travel drama — what did you call it? Game of Ends?” She waited for his acknowledging frown, then went on, “They think it has legs — it’s flashy and exciting, and there’s potential for a movie adaptation. They want you to ditch the Mayan thing and write that instead.”
Chakotay could feel his teeth grinding. “No way.”
“Chakotay …” B’Elanna leaned in so that her face filled the entire screen. “We’ve always been honest with each other, so believe me when I tell you this: unless you want to get sued broke, those are your choices.”
“Some choice,” he said bitterly. “Take a deal that makes me sick to my stomach or get assimilated into the money machine.”
“Listen, it’s not all bad — you could also get rich and famous. But you need to pick your battles. You give them too much trouble, and they’ll leave you out in the dead zone.”
“You’re telling me not to fight this? I never thought I’d hear you talk that way, B’Elanna. What happened to the girl who was always marching for some bleeding heart cause?”
He read the flash of hurt in B’Elanna’s eyes.
“She’s still here, Chakotay,” she retorted. “And she’s trying to save your ass. Think about it, okay? I’ll call you in a day or two.”
She disconnected without saying goodbye, and Chakotay tossed his phone onto the table, his mood soured and his coffee cold.