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.
Kathryn walked slowly around the library, flicking on each of the light switches as she came to them. This was her morning routine, a chance to survey the little world that had become her own. She’d never had to turn on the lights of her library in the city or unlock the doors. There had always been security guards and staff for that, dedicated people who made sure the facility was available for visitors and librarians alike. She could simply stroll in at the start of the day, extra large coffee cup in hand, and get straight to work. It had been years since she’d really used a book for research, and even longer since she’d had to think about how they were catalogued.
Now she did everything. Purchased. Shifted. Weeded. Catalogued. Hell, she took out the trash and dusted too. It was intensely satisfying in a way she would never have believed six months ago.
Six months ago, she had been running the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, New York Public Library’s most famous branch. Before that, she’d risen through the ranks at NYPL’s Science, Business and Industry Library. She had a career she was proud of, a staff who would do anything for her, and a partner who had excited, challenged, and adored her.
Whom she’d thought had adored her.
Kathryn had met Justin at Columbia. He was like her: driven, intelligent, fiercely competitive. They’d fought and loved with equal vigor, the sex great and the make-up sex even better. But something had shifted in the last few years. A sour note had entered their relationship, almost like Justin didn’t take her work seriously or was jealous of her success. Maybe both at the same time. He’d denied it, of course, but after one too many of their increasingly fierce arguments, Kathryn had finally had enough. She’d impulsively called Owen Paris, her old dissertation advisor, and asked if that job restoring his family’s moldering old library was still available. Fortunately, her associate director at NYPL had been more than capable of stepping in to take her place, and she’d moved out of the apartment she shared with Justin and upstate to picturesque Maplebrook almost before she knew what she’d done.
Owen had been pestering her to take over the family library for years. Ironic, since he’d been horrified when he learned she was planning to become a science librarian after she finished her Ph.D. instead of a scientist.
“A librarian, Katie?” he’d scoffed. “You’ll be wasting your brain. Go to the library if you want, but you need to be the one doing the research yourself. Pushing the boundaries of science.”
“Who do you think makes sure the resources are available to research?” she’d bit back. “Libraries don’t just run on magic, Owen. They’re run by people who advocate and push for attention and funding and who care as much about advancing knowledge as you do. So please, shut up and sign my recommendation letter for library school.”
To be fair, the Paris family library was not just some shelves of old books. As one of the great families of the East Coast, there had been Parises on the Mayflower, at Gettysburg, in Washington. The Maplebrook family estate had been built in 1804 and expanded several times over the years. The library wing was built in the 1870s by Matthew Paris. His parents had become Methodists during the Second Great Awakening and funnelled large portions of the family fortune into missionary work to Central and South America after the Disappointment.
Matthew’s life work had been to preserve all that his parents had brought home with them. The library was one vast room, with two stories of books lining all four walls and tall, old-fashioned rolling ladders to access the upper shelves, separated by stained glass windows depicting scenes of religion and science. On one end, bays of shelves, a staircase, and a balcony had been added, doubling the library’s capacity. Display cases were scattered about, highlighting artefacts from various cultures. From that beginning, the library had expanded, diversified, and eventually, been forgotten.
Kathryn’s task was to make some sense of it all. To organize what was there, get rid of what had no value, and, whenever possible, to figure out what could be returned home where it belonged. She’d made good progress in the past few months. She even started to solidify ideas for ways to transform the collection into a private research library, museum, and educational center. Somewhat to her surprise, she was invigorated by the challenge and enraptured by Maplebrook and the library itself. She wasn’t missing her old job nearly as much as she’d feared she would.
It had all been going so well, right up until Justin had called again this morning, reminding her about the paperwork that needed to be done for the apartment.
He’d been calling on and off since she left, by turns cajoling and ordering her to come back home. There were days when she thought about it. She missed him. She missed the city.
And if he’d called even one day sooner, she might have been more excited to hear from him. But yesterday she had met Chakotay.
Before she could follow that line of thought any further, a cup of coffee was plonked down onto the counter in front of her.
“Hey Katie Cakes, I’ve got your fix,” Tom said.
She hadn’t heard Tom return home after his date last night, and he was an hour late this morning, but he knew exactly how to worm his way back into her good graces. She’d had her standard two cups of coffee while getting ready this morning, but it was well past ten a.m. — almost time for another cup. She normally settled for the mediocre brew from the machine in the office, but Tom had brought the good stuff, a pour over from Nebula Coffee downtown.
As she took her first grateful sip, Tom poked a finger at the copy of Crossing the Threshold she’d brought with her for later.
“Can I read that book after you’re done?”
She looked up quickly. Had he overheard Chakotay reveal his identity yesterday?
“What? I read … sometimes,” he said defensively. “It just takes me longer, so all the book worms in my family decided I was a failure or something. Not living up to the Paris legacy and all that.”
He’d mistaken her surprise for skepticism. Kathryn kept her voice carefully neutral. “That’s only because you’re dyslexic, though, right?”
Tom’s eyes widened. “Yeah, how did — yeah.”
“I had a hunch. Tom, there’s nothing to be ashamed about. It affects a lot of people. But not having your family’s support must have made it especially hard to learn to manage.”
The look on his face nearly undid her, a mix of disbelief and gratitude that revealed how deeply he’d been hurt by his parents’ lack of understanding.
“I just assumed you wanted to read Chakotay’s book since he visited us yesterday,” she said to give him a chance to regroup.
“Wait, really? That guy was the author? That’s awesome,” Tom enthused. “Now I definitely have to read it. I mean, I took a peek at where you’d left off yesterday and I saw that the guy’s tongue falls out and I figured that had to be a quality book right there, but really? That was him?”
His fervor finally petered out. Then a gleam entered his eye. “I don’t know, Katie Keen. Are you really gonna fall for a guy who writes about people’s tongues falling out?”
“What?” It was Kathryn’s turn to be left flat-footed by the pivot in the conversation.
Tom’s head tilted to a decidedly sarcastic angle. “I may be dyslexic, but even I could read the sexual tension in the air yesterday.”
“No, that’s not … we just met.” Kathryn’s valiant attempt at speech failed.
Tom leaned his body against the counter, glee radiating from every word. “Who cares if you just met? Sometimes you just click, and damn, you two were clicking all over the place. I nearly popped a bag of popcorn.”
Kathryn could feel the blush creeping up her chest and into her cheeks. She pushed her glasses up her nose. “He was nice, wasn’t he?”
“Nice and built. Nice and rocking a facial tattoo. Nice and obviously a super nerd like you. Nice and —”
“— Fine, fine, he was all of those things,” she admitted, and she couldn’t stop the smile from spreading across her face. “He’s going to come back today or tomorrow to do some more research.”
“Yeah, I’m sure he’ll be totally focused on the research,” Tom said. “But seriously, Kathryn, if you think there might be something there, go for it. You haven’t been yourself since …”
Since Justin. She touched his arm. “Thanks, Tom. I know I haven’t. But that will all be over soon.”
She couldn’t blame him for doubting. Kathryn didn’t confide in him, but Tom was perceptive. He’d noticed her pinched face and the dark shadows under her eyes in the first few months after she’d moved to Maplebrook. He’d probably overheard a few of the hushed arguments she’d had with Justin over the phone too.
“Yeah,” she assured Tom now, squeezing his arm. “I think it will.”
“Because of Chakotay?”
“No, not because of him. Or, not directly. I barely know the guy. But meeting him, talking with him, reminded me of how much had been missing from my relationship with Justin for a long time. Chakotay might not be the one, but I know Justin isn’t anymore either.”
“Good for you,” Tom said and pulled her in for a quick hug. “That guy’s an asshat.”
She laughed into his shirt.
“I’m serious. I was all set to marry you myself when I was sixteen, and he stole you away. I’ve never forgiven him for that.”
Kathryn kissed his cheek. “Thanks, Tom.”
“Any time, Kit-Kat.”
As she pulled away, she caught a glimpse of the clock. “Crap! I have to go. I’m catching the 11:14 train into the city.” At his inquisitive look, she added, “I have to sign some paperwork for the apartment sale.” She started toward her office. “Can you call me a ride while I get my stuff together?”
“To the train station. I don’t have a car, and your license is suspended.” She grabbed her bag from beside her desk.
“I can take you to the station.” A quiet voice cut into their conversation. Kathryn’s head whipped around.
Sometime during her heart-to-heart with Tom, Chakotay had entered the library.
How long had he been standing there? And what had he heard?
“I just got here,” he explained, as though he’d read her thoughts.
“Oh,” she said, relieved, then, “I wouldn’t want to put you out—”
“—Perfect!” Tom interrupted. “Thanks, Chakotay.”
"It’s no trouble.”
“Thanks, Chakotay,” she echoed in pleasure.
“Happy to help,” Chakotay said, and moved aside to allow her to step from behind the counter. His hand came up and rested lightly on her lower back. She could feel its heat radiating through the silk.
“Do you have an umbrella in case it rains?” Tom called after her. “Go-cup? Sneakers for the subway?” As they exited the front doors, she heard, “Condoms?”
She was going to kill him one day. She really was.
“So, your assistant.” There was definite amusement in Chakotay’s voice as he opened the door of his Jeep for Kathryn.
“Don’t mind Tom,” she advised, climbing into the seat. “I’ve been ignoring him since he was a teenager.”
“How’s that working out?”
“Not too well,” she laughed.
Chakotay was still grinning as he shut her door for her.
“So you’re heading into the city for the afternoon?” he asked when they’d been driving in silence for a minute or two. “Shopping trip?”
“I hate shopping. No, I have some, ah, personal business to take care of.”
“Oh.” He shut up.
Great, Kathryn thought, now he probably thinks I’m going to the gyno. Not exactly the impression she wanted to leave him with.
“It’s just a legal matter,” she blurted.
“Okay.” Chakotay shot her a sideward glance.
“I mean, I’m not in trouble with the law or anything.” God, she was making it worse. “I’m selling my apartment. Well, my boyfriend and I are.”
Chakotay said nothing.
“Ex-boyfriend. It’s complicated.” His hands tightened on the steering wheel, and Kathryn wanted to die. “I mean the sale is complicated. It’s in a co-op. I’m selling my shares to my ex and his cousin so she can eventually buy him out, and the board has to approve it and …”
He ducked his head, and she saw a smile pull at the corners of his lips.
“So it’s a flying visit,” she finished somewhat lamely. “To be honest I’d rather be here. I have a lot of work to do, and the train takes so long --”
“I could drive you.” He looked almost as surprised at his own words as she felt.
“You don’t have to do that.” Her response was instinctive and out of her mouth before she’d really processed his offer.
He peeked over at her quickly, then back at the road. “I’m sorry,” he said in a rush. “You barely know me. It was weird to offer.”
“No, it’s … not weird, actually,” and she was startled to realize she was speaking truthfully. “But it’s a two hour drive each way, and I don’t know how long I’ll be with the lawyers ... It’ll take up your whole day.”
“I don’t mind. I like driving, and I needed to call my agent this afternoon anyway. I could stop by her office instead. And it’ll give us a chance to get to know each other.” He paused for a rueful grin. “I’ll stop talking now.”
Kathryn studied his profile for a long moment. He was as nervous as she was, and she got the impression that this — their attraction, their connection — happened to him as rarely as it happened to her. Everything about this man intrigued her. His self-possession and his off-beat humor, the mind of a scholar and the body of a quarterback. She wanted to get to know him better too.
“Okay,” she said.
Despite the desire they’d both expressed for conversation, they lapsed into silence almost immediately. Kathryn found her eyes straying to Chakotay’s hands as he shifted gears, as they moved to rest on the steering wheel. Strong, broad, capable hands. When she caught herself daydreaming about those hands sliding warmly over her shoulders, deftly unbuttoning her blouse, she forced her gaze and her thoughts to the view from her window instead.
She tried not to jump guiltily when Chakotay spoke. “So, how long have you lived in Maplebrook?”
“Almost six months now. I used to run the main branch for NYPL. I’m sure you know it?”
“Yeah, of course,” he said. “I’m impressed. That’s a big deal.”
“I guess so.”
“If you don’t mind my asking, what made you give up a job like that to take on a private collection in the middle of nowhere?”
“I’m sorry,” Chakotay said quickly, with a sideward glance at her. “That was intrusive.”
“No, it’s okay. I … needed to make some changes in my life. It was either take Owen Paris up on his offer or sell everything I owned and take off on a grand adventure.”
“Travel isn’t your thing?”
“I love it,” she confessed. “But I think if I’d decided to travel, I’d have ended up getting lost somewhere, never to return. My father used to call me a born explorer.”
“That’s a lot nicer than what my father used to call me.”
“Oh?” Kathryn turned to him, interested.
Chakotay tugged at his ear, looking like he was regretting his words. “‘Contrary’ was one of the kinder things. We didn’t really get along when I was younger.”
He cleared his throat. “He died a few years ago.”
“I’m so sorry.” Impulsively she reached out a hand and rested it on his knee, squeezing gently.
His voice sounded a little strained when he answered her. “So am I.”
She felt the muscles of his thigh tense under her palm, and realized her hand was still on his leg. Hastily, she pulled it back to her lap.
“My father died when I was twenty-four,” she said, trying to cover her discomfort. “I still miss him.”
“Sounds like you were close.”
“He inspired me,” she said simply.
“So did mine,” he said. “I didn’t realize how much he’d influenced me until after he died. We never really reconciled. I’ll always regret that, but I’m trying to make up for it now.”
“The book I’m writing,” he explained. “Well, trying to write. My father was always fascinated by our tribal history. I used to roll my eyes at him when he talked about tradition and spirituality.”
“That’s what your book is about?”
“In a way.” He hesitated, glancing at her quickly then back to the road. “My father liked to claim that, many centuries ago, our ancestors were visited by sky spirits — people from another planet — who lived with the tribe for a time and taught them about the stars and life on other worlds. Of course, I thought he was crazy or making it up. Except …”
“Except what?” Kathryn half-turned in her seat to listen to him.
“At the risk of sounding like a conspiracy nut … there could be elements of truth to his theory. The Mayans — my ancestors — were technologically advanced beyond all explanation. They were fascinated by astronomy and connected it to spiritually. Who’s to say they didn’t learn a few things from alien visitors?”
Despite herself, Kathryn gave him a deeply skeptical glance.
Chakotay caught her expression and laughed. “I know — I sound as crazy as my father. He also believed the sky spirits gave our ancestors a mark that many of our tribe have worn ever since.” He touched a finger to the tattoo on his left temple. “A year or so after my father died, I began to regret that we’d never reconciled. I decided to visit the part of the Central American rainforest where my father said our tribe had originated. He’d taken me there when I was a teenager, and I hated every minute of it. I figured retracing our steps would be my way of honoring him and everything he believed, but it didn’t feel like enough. So I took his mark, too. Had it done the traditional way too, by hand poking.”
“Was it painful?”
“As hell,” he laughed. “But I think that was down to the location of it rather than the method. Machine tattooing hurts like a bitch when it’s right over the bone too.”
“You have more tattoos?”
The grin he gave her in reply was slow and dirty, and it made her blush.
“Tell me more about your book,” she said hastily.
“I guess you’d call it historical science fiction, mixed in with a bit of adventure and a dash of romance.” Chakotay’s eyes were back on the road. “The plot hook might be way out there, but it’s important to me that I get the tribal customs right. The last thing I want is to disrespect my father and my ancestors. Or to come off looking like a crackpot.”
“Hence your research.”
“Right. Of course, my publisher only cares that I sell copy.”
“Well, I can guarantee that the Paris Library will buy a copy when you publish it.”
And there she went again with that flirty tone. Kathryn bit her lower lip and cast him a sideways glance, secretly pleased to see that Chakotay was tugging his ear again. And there was a growl in his voice when he answered her. “That’s very kind of you to say, Kitty.”
“Kitty?” she squawked.
He looked nonplussed. “Isn’t that your name? I heard your assistant —”
“Absolutely not,” she retorted. “Tom likes to give me the most ridiculous and annoying nicknames he can come up with. My name is Kathryn. Kathryn Janeway.”
“Kathryn,” he repeated softly. The way he said it made her spine tingle. “That suits you much better.”
She turned her face to the window to hide the helpless smile she didn’t want him to see.
Traffic was sluggish through Midtown Manhattan, and Kathryn began to wriggle in her seat and check her wristwatch.
“What time is your appointment?” Chakotay asked her.
“They’re expecting me by about one-thirty,” she answered. “It’s only a block from here. You can let me out on the corner, and I’ll walk the rest of the way.”
“Okay.” Chakotay pulled over into the space just vacated by a cab, and Kathryn gathered her purse and stepped down to the sidewalk. “I’ll pick you up on the next corner around three,” he called, leaning across the seat she’d vacated. “That should get us back on the road before traffic starts to get nasty. If you don’t see me, I’m circling the block.”
“You don’t have to drive me back if it’s inconvenient,” she answered, turning to speak to him through the open door. “I can take the train.”
“It’s not at all inconvenient.” He smiled at her, and she was still not used to the way that smile shot straight through her or the effect it had on her when it did. “You’re doing me a favor — driving is much more fun with someone to talk to.”
“Then I’ll see you here at three.”
She thought she could feel his gaze on her as she turned in the direction of the DQ Building, and put a little extra sway in her hips, knowing that her stiletto heels and pencil skirt would accentuate it even more. Just a little thank you for that parting smile of his.
Her satisfied smile faded, however, as she entered the lobby and pressed the button for the elevator. As the car rose to the 75th floor, she gripped her purse tighter and straightened her spine.
Kathryn stepped out into the foyer of the Praylor & Cravic offices and had to swallow an extra breath. There, lounging in the open doorway to the boardroom in an expensive, hand-tailored suit, looking even more handsome than she remembered, was Justin.
“I didn’t know you were going to be here,” she blurted.
“And miss a chance to see you?” He came forward, bending smoothly to kiss her cheek. “The provincial life agrees with you, Kathryn. You look …” he trailed off, his smile slow and dangerous.
“What?” she asked suspiciously.
“Better than ever.”
“Mr. Tighe, Ms. Janeway.” A paralegal waved them into the boardroom. “Please — we have quite a bit to cover.”
“Chakotay, what are you doing here?” B’Elanna reached up on tiptoe to hook an arm around his neck.
He hugged her back. “I missed your face, Lanna, even though you only ever give me bad news.”
“Asshole.” B’Elanna punched his arm, beckoning him into her cluttered, poky office. “Come on in. Ayala, get my friend a coffee, will you?” she called to her assistant, who nodded and loped off.
“Doesn’t that guy have a first name?” Chakotay asked her.
“Who the hell knows?” B’Elanna shrugged. She waved him to a chair. “So, to what do I owe this pleasure?”
“I was in the neighborhood. And I figured it would be easier to talk about this Federation situation face to face.”
Ayala entered silently, slid a steaming mug of coffee onto the desk beside Chakotay and left, closing the door behind him.
“Before we get into that,” B’Elanna flipped a dismissive hand, “tell me how you’re doing.”
She gave him a don’t-bullshit-me stare. “It wasn’t so long ago that you had your face in a bottle of whiskey and couldn’t decide which you hated more — your publisher or your film agent-slash-bitchy ex-girlfriend.” She leaned back in her chair. “Speaking of whom …”
“B’Elanna,” he warned.
“I saw Seska at a party a few weeks back. Still dating that gross guy from Kazon Acquisitions - Cullen or something? I’m sure you’ll be pleased to hear that her face looks terrible. God only knows what work she’s had done to it.”
“B’Elanna, come on.”
“And she knows she traded down. I could tell she wanted to ask after you.”
“That’s enough.” Chakotay gave her a hard look. “I don’t want to talk about Seska.”
“All I’m saying is, you’re better off without her. Which you know,” B’Elanna finished hastily. “So … anyone new on the scene?”
“Lanna.” Chakotay folded his arms. “Pretend for a minute you’re my agent.”
“Okay, okay.” B’Elanna rested her chin on her hand, looking grim. “Listen, I know you don’t like either of the options they’re giving you, but you’re going to have to choose whichever is the lesser of the two evils. And if you want my advice …”
“... you should take the Borg deal. I think I can swing it so that you write the screen adaptation for Scorpion. Maybe even get them to sign a director you’re comfortable working with. I can set up a meet with Annika Hansen next week. You can work the dimples, charm her a little. Then you can do some puff media to keep Federation happy, go back to Sunnybrook and finish writing your book, secure in the knowledge that the checks will keep rolling in.”
“What? Oh. Right. So, what do you say? Should I call Sweden?”
“Not yet.” Chakotay stared into his coffee for a minute, then met B’Elanna’s eyes. “I have an alternate suggestion.”
“I don’t want to sell the Scorpion rights to the Borg Collective, and I intend to finish the book I’m writing. As soon as I’ve handed in the first draft, I’ll sign a one-shot contract with Federation for whatever they want. If they want me to write a shitty airport novel or a screenplay for some B-list star vehicle, fine, I’ll do it without complaint. But then I’m done. You find me a new publisher.”
His agent looked at him speculatively for a moment. “Let me see what I can do, okay?”
“That’s all I ask.”
“Now get out of my office.” She smirked. “And next time I see you, I want to hear all about her.”
Chakotay slanted her a look. “Who?”
“Whoever’s put that spring in your step and the gleam in your eye, soldier.”
B’Elanna’s laughter provoked his answering smile as Chakotay left her office, but by the time he got back to where he’d parked, his mood had plummeted. Despite his pitch to B’Elanna, he wasn’t at all happy at the idea of signing up with Federation again, even for a one-shot contract.
But the thought of dealing with Borg gave him a bad feeling he couldn’t conquer, and there was no way he would give up on the book that had brought him to Maplebrook. He owed it to his father to see it through.
And spending time with Kathryn Janeway was a sweetener that didn’t hurt his determination either.
Chakotay started his Jeep and eased out into traffic, already looking forward to the drive home in Kathryn’s company.