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

Codes: Janeway/Chakotay

 

Disclaimer: Paramount/CBS own the library, but fanfiction writers stack the bookshelves.

 

Notes: Co-written with the wonderful traccigaryn.

Rated E

Chapter Three

Kathryn was waiting on the corner of 48th and Lex as Chakotay maneuvered the Jeep toward the curb. A breeze had whipped up, shaking strands of hair loose from her French knot and plastering her silk blouse to her body. Distracted, he almost knocked the rear bumper of the car in front as he pulled in.

“Hi,” she said, her smile dimmer than it had been when he’d dropped her off.

He tried not to stare at the way her skirt rucked up around her thighs as she climbed into her seat. Just a little higher, and he’d know the answer to that hose-or-stockings question he couldn’t stop asking himself. “Ready to go?”

“So ready.” She clipped the seat belt on and leaned her head back with a sigh.

“Bad meeting?”

“Difficult,” she said. “You?”

“Yeah.”

They lapsed into silence. Chakotay switched on the radio, flipping past news channels and talk shows until he found a blues station.

“Is this okay?”

“Sure.”

They’d been driving for close to an hour, only speaking occasionally, when Chakotay noticed Kathryn was slumped low in her seat, massaging her temple. He glanced at her quickly; she had her eyes closed and her face looked pale.

“Hey, are you okay?”

“Fine.”

He frowned. “Headache?”

“It’s fine.”

Obviously, it wasn’t fine. Chakotay thought back over the past few hours and realized that, while he’d grabbed a pretzel from a street vendor on his way to B’Elanna’s office, Kathryn probably hadn’t eaten a thing since breakfast. If she’d even had a breakfast that wasn’t just multiple cups of coffee.

The lights of a roadside diner beckoned up ahead, and Chakotay made a decision, pulling into the parking lot. Kathryn opened her eyes and gave him a questioning look.

“I think we could both use something to eat,” he explained.

She opened her mouth to protest then closed it again. “Okay. But it’s my treat.”

He grinned at her as he opened his door and stepped down to the asphalt. “Yes ma’am.”

“Don’t call me —”

He shut his door before she could finish her sentence.

 

~*~


Twenty minutes later, tucked into a corner booth, the table between them littered with the remnants of the mushroom pizza they’d shared, Kathryn had to admit she was feeling much perkier.

“You were right,” she admitted.

Chakotay ducked his head on a smile. “It happens occasionally. How’s your head?”

I’ve never had any complaints,’ was on the tip of her tongue, but she stopped the remark just in time. That would’ve been taking the flirting a little too far.

“It’s much better. Thank you.”

“Want anything else?”

“Coffee,” she said immediately, turning to signal the waitress.

“I’ll have tea,” Chakotay told the server when Kathryn had finished ordering her extra-strong, extra-hot black coffee.

Tea?” Kathryn asked him when the waitress had gone, mock-rolling her eyes. “Why do I like you?”

“You like me, huh?”

“You’re the nicest person I’ve spoken to today,” she answered without thinking, then reached up to fidget with her necklace, looking anywhere but at him.

He looked pleased when she finally glanced at him, but clearly decided to let it slide. “The lawyers didn’t really do it for you then?”

She shrugged, the light fading from her mood. “It wasn’t the lawyers so much as seeing Justin.”

“Justin?”

“My ex. I didn’t expect him to be there … I thought he’d already signed all the papers he needed to, and that I’d do my part today and that would be the end of it.”

He looked like there were a million questions tumbling over themselves on his tongue and he was thinking better of all of them. Finally he commented, “Getting closure is an important step.”

“We were together for a really long time. I guess it’s hard to close the door on that,” Kathryn shrugged, remembering the way Justin had looked at her — wistful, regretful — and the way he’d said he missed her. Honestly, she’d thought he would be over her by now. He’d never lacked for female attention when they were together, and she was sure a line of women had formed around the block as soon as they’d split up.

“I see,” said Chakotay, his tone neutral.

“What about you?” Kathryn asked him, keeping it airy so he wouldn’t realize how interested she was in his answer. “Any serious relationships in your past?”

“Nothing as long standing as yours,” he replied. “And the last person I was with turned me off dating for a long time.”

“How come?”

Chakotay grimaced. “It’s kind of a long story. Are you sure you want to hear it?”

The waitress reappeared then, and Kathryn waited until she’d set two steaming drinks in front of them before she raised her eyebrows at Chakotay. “I’ve already spilled the sorry details of my love life, such as it is. Of course I want to hear it.”

“All right.” Chakotay tipped a couple of sugar cubes into his tea. “A couple of years ago, I was approached by some independent producers from Maquis Films who wanted to adapt my first book for cinema.’

On Sacred Ground?” Kathryn interrupted.

“Right. So I watched a couple of their studio’s productions - there was a great documentary about how the Korean DMZ was formed and the people who live within the zone and still get caught up in the border disputes - and I loved the script draft they showed me for Sacred Ground. My publisher holds the subsidiary rights to all my books, though, so I went with Dalby and Sveta to pitch it to them. Federation agreed to partly fund their production on the proviso that they retained creative control. Maquis weren’t happy about giving Federation that much power, of course, but they were backed into a corner.”

He paused to sip his tea.

“When I talked to B’Elanna - my literary agent - she said she wasn’t very experienced at negotiating options, and recommended I get a film agent to protect my interests because the legal stuff could get ugly between Maquis and Federation. She introduced me to Seska, who she’d met recently at an industry event.”

Chakotay glanced up; Kathryn couldn’t break their gaze, her coffee cooling neglected beside her.

“From the moment I met her, Seska made it pretty clear she was interested in me as more than just a client. I didn’t want to get into it at first - I was concerned about the protocol of getting involved with someone who worked for me - but Maquis trusted her and Federation didn’t seem to have a problem with it. And she was attractive and fun and very persistent. I was flattered.”

“So you started dating,” Kathryn prompted when he fell silent.

“Yeah. It was great at first. She was the perfect partner - smart, supportive, sexy …”

“Good in bed.”

Chakotay ducked his head, hiding a smile. “Anyway, we signed the film deal and started production, and that’s when we started having problems. She started suggesting changes to the script, wanting to re-cast the main actors, trying to talk Maquis into shooting at different locations … I couldn’t understand why she was so exacting about this stuff, since her part should have been over with as soon as the contracts were signed. I tried to stay out of it, like B’Elanna said I should, but Seska kept dragging me in.” He sighed. “She made it impossible for Dalby and Sveta to do their jobs. And all she wanted to talk about at home was the movie. We started arguing all the time. Eventually, we split up.”

“I’m sorry,” Kathryn said. “What happened to the movie?”

“Maquis pulled out of the deal. It almost bankrupted them, and when I went to my publisher to see if there was any way we could salvage things, Seska was in their office.”

“Why?”

“She was pitching a deal to get Sacred Ground produced by another film studio. A big one, funded by the Kardashians or something. Federation signed the deal.”

“And you were cut out?”

“Completely. I had no control over casting, scripts, director - nothing.” Chakotay scowled. “I’ve been trying to get out of my publishing contract ever since, but it would cost me too much, both professionally and financially.”

“I’m so sorry,” she said softly.

“Thanks.” He sent her a quick smile. “It turned me off dating for a long while too.”

“So there’s been nobody since Seska?” she asked tentatively.

“Nobody serious. Most of the people I meet are in the industry.”

“Oh.” Kathryn bit her lip. “I mean, it’s smart not to date people you work with.”

“It can get complicated.”

“Right.”

Kathryn lowered her gaze and hid behind her coffee cup. Chakotay tugged on his ear.

“I guess we should get going before it gets dark,” he said after a short silence. “Are you ready to go?”

“I’m ready.”

He held out a hand to help her up from the booth, and as she followed him outside to the car she found herself rubbing her fingers, which were tingling where they’d touched.

The rest of the ride back to Maplebrook seemed to flash by. Chakotay had asked Kathryn about her tenure at NYPL, and somehow she’d ended up telling him about the time she caught a couple of students making out in the Pforzheimer Collection.

“Is that something that happens a lot?” he’d asked, intrigued.

“More than you’d expect.” She had flashed a grin at him. “A lot of people think libraries are good places to make out. I guess it’s because there are secluded places to hide away, but they’re still public spaces, and some people like that - the thrill of maybe getting caught. Or maybe it’s because they’re so quiet and serious, like a church.”

“Sounds like you’ve thought about it a bit.” Chakotay’s voice was silken. “Or are you speaking from personal experience?”

“Wouldn’t you like to know?” she’d flirted back.

The heat in his gaze told her that yes, he would like that very much. Kathryn allowed herself a small smirk as she steered the conversation onto safer ground for the rest of the journey.

The sun was in her eyes as they pulled into the driveway at the Paris house. Chakotay helped Kathryn down from the car, steadying her as her heel sank into the dirt. He had one hand clasping hers and the other on her elbow, and as she looked up at him she didn’t want to let go.

“Thanks,” she said, trying to hide the way her heart was thumping. “For everything, I mean. The ride, the company.”

“It was my pleasure.”

His voice was soft, and he smelled so good, and she thought maybe he’d moved closer. So, before she could second-guess herself, she leaned up and pressed her lips to his cheek.

As she lowered her heels to the ground, he touched the tips of his fingers to the spot she’d kissed, the surprise in his eyes melting into a dimpled grin.

“See you tomorrow,” she managed breathlessly.

“Tomorrow,” he echoed. “Good night, Kathryn.”

She knew he was watching her as she turned and hurried inside, a wide smile on her face.

 

~*~


Chakotay awoke not long after sunrise, feeling eager to delve into his day. Given how poorly his writing had been going recently, he guessed his change in mood had a lot more to do with the company he had been keeping than a sudden end to writer’s block.

He laced up his sneakers for a run and headed down the stairs, hoping he could avoid his exuberant innkeeper.

“Well, good morning, sir!”

So much for that plan. “Good morning, um, Neil,” he said, turning to see bright colors and wild hair coming toward him far too early in the day.

“So you’re a morning exercise person, I see! I thought that might be the case, since I didn’t see you last night, except for that quick hop up the stairs you did after you got back from the Paris house. What type of exercise do you like? Running? Rowing? You don’t seem much like a treadmill man to me. Oh no, that physique is obviously not for a weekend warrior, is it? I would be happy to show you around the gym we have here. It’s small but quite adequate, I can assure you.”

Chakotay paused, trying to gauge if the man was done talking. “Thank you. When I’m at home, I normally do some boxing but —”

“Boxing! Why, I just finished adding a speed bag and a double-end bag to our equipment! You can be the first to try them out.”

“Really?” Chakotay couldn’t help saying. He was impressed. Not many places he stayed on the road bothered with any type of boxing equipment, though he always packed his gloves just in case. “That would be great, actually.”

“All part of the service!” Neil chirped.

Sixty sweaty minutes later, Chakotay was back in his room and stripping down for a shower. Neil had stayed with him throughout his entire workout, but Chakotay had been pleasantly surprised to learn there was more to the man than endless cheer. And he had to admit, it was the best gym he’d ever seen in a B&B.

Chakotay ran soapy palms down his leg and suddenly remembered the way Kathryn’s slender hand had rested on his thigh yesterday. Then there was that kiss on the cheek. He hadn’t been expecting that. Sure, they’d both been flirting more or less constantly since they’d met, but he could tell her last relationship had really done a number on her. He wasn’t one for jumping into relationships either, but there was something about the petite librarian that made him want to swear allegiance despite how recently they’d met. Maybe when he went back to the library later, he'd get a chance to feel her hands rest on him again.

He managed to write for a couple hours, but Chakotay’s thoughts kept straying to the library down the road. He grabbed one of the books he’d borrowed the other day, hoping that might prove fruitful. The next time he glanced up, several more hours had passed, and his stomach was growling. He was just closing the book cover when he noticed a scrawl of ink in the margin.

“Sky spirits.”

He read it again.

The ink was very faded, but he could swear it said “sky spirits” and something else. “Bendera diary” maybe? If his guess was right, this could be a reference to another book in the library’s collection.

Chakotay wolfed down a quick, very late lunch — Neil was a surprisingly good cook too — and drove to the Paris house.

He stepped through the front door, eyes immediately seeking Kathryn.

She and Tom were seated behind the counter and seemed to be in the middle of a heated argument.

“By color? Are you crazy?”

“Is that any crazier than by height?” Tom barked back.

“Um, hello,” Chakotay put in cautiously.

“Hey buddy! Welcome back,” Tom turned toward him with a grin. “You gonna stick around and actually do some work today, or are you going to whisk Kitty-Cat here away again?”

“You’ve already used that one,” Kathryn told Tom in a bored tone, and he gave her a cheeky grin.

“Just checking that you’re paying attention, boss,” he said. He glanced from Kathryn back to Chakotay. “And now, I think I’m going to go grab, I don’t know, an afternoon snack or something. I’ll be back later. I’ll cough loudly when I get close.”

“Tom, you can knock off early today if you want,” Kathryn told him. “It’s after three already. And you covered most of the day yourself yesterday.”

“Oh really?” Tom asked, stretching out ‘really’ in a knowing way. He laughed at the glare Kathryn tossed his way. “Who am I to say ‘no’ to that? Night, Chakotay. Night, KJ. Don’t stay up too late.” And with that, Tom whisked through a side door Chakotay had not noticed before and was gone.

He turned back to Kathryn.

“I was wondering if we’d see you today,” she said, and although her tone was light, he could sense a bit of underlying concern too.

“I write best in the morning, and then I lost track of time doing some research,” he told her and watched relief flit across her face before she tamped it down. He kicked himself for not thinking to tell her that last night. How quickly they’d moved beyond the strangers stage. He leaned on the counter, bringing him close enough to smell her light fragrance. “Sorry. I should have mentioned that.”

For a second, it looked like she might brush it off, but then she said, “I think we were both thinking about other things last night.”

He grinned. “Yeah, maybe.”

A crooked smile broke across her face. “Well, I’m glad you’re here now.”  As she spoke, her glasses slipped down her nose and, without thinking, Chakotay reached out to gently push them back into place.

Kathryn licked her lips. “Thanks.”

Chakotay’s reply was strained. “Sure.”

They stared at each other for a long moment, then Kathryn cleared her throat. “Did you, um, have more research you wanted to do today?”

“Yeah. Yes.” He straightened up and placed the book he’d brought with him on the counter. “I found this while I was researching earlier.” He showed her the notation. “I thought it might be a reference to something else here in the library?”

“Sky spirits. Bendera diary.” Kathryn read aloud slowly as she tried to decipher the writing.

“That’s what I thought it said too. Do you know what it’s talking about?”

“It’s not a lot to go on, and I don’t remember seeing that name before,” she said. “But I don’t know every single title and name yet either. Let me do some digging and see what I can find.”

“Can I help?”

“Sure.” He knew by her smile that she was pleased he’d asked.

Chakotay soon found himself behind the counter and being introduced to the eclectic array of materials that purported to classify the Paris library collection. Leather-bound registers. Typed lists. Handwritten note cards. There had clearly been several different attempts to create a holistic system that had also just as clearly been abandoned by each subsequent librarian. After several fruitless hours, Chakotay’s eyes were stinging from reading so much copperplate script. He was about to apologize — again — to Kathryn for dragging her into this mess, when she let out a yelp.

“Bendera, Kurt. Born 1902, died 1924. Member of 1924 Telfas expedition to Central America. Diary, anthropology section, hand-bound brown leather cover, height 15.7 inches!” Kathryn was patting his chest with each excited phrase. “It’s upstairs, Chakotay!”

Impulsively, he captured her hand in his and brought them to their feet for a quick twirl. “We should grab a drink to celebrate,” he said, smiling down at her as he brought her back around to face him. “Where’s the best place in town?”

A wicked grin snaked across Kathryn’s face. “Right here.”

“What?”

“Let me show you something,” she said, keeping hold of his hand to pull him into her office. They stopped in front of an old-fashioned card catalog. Kathryn tapped one of the labels with her finger. It read ‘For Emergencies Only.’ “This was Owen’s idea of a welcome present,” she said, sliding the drawer out to reveal a bottle of Hudson baby bourbon. The next drawer held a glass.

“I only have one glass,” she said, setting everything on her desk. “That’s okay, right?”

“Yeah, that’s okay,” he said. “I still have to drive anyway, so I won’t have much.”

Kathryn poured a generous couple of fingers into the glass. “Well, I only have to walk down the hall. Your loss is my gain.” She gestured for him to take her chair and settled herself on the desktop in front of him. She handed him the drink.

The rich taste of oak and vanilla hit his tongue, and Chakotay let out a sigh. “Owen Paris knows his stuff.”

Kathryn leaned forward to take the glass back, tipping it to him in a salute before taking a sip herself. “That he does.” Her lips curled into a sinful smile, and she took another taste.

As she set the glass down, she crossed her left leg over the right at the knee, giving him a tantalizing glimpse of newly exposed thigh before she smoothed her skirt down over it. Chakotay swallowed hard and reached for the glass. He allowed the back of his wrist to lightly brush her knee on its journey to the desk and back. Kathryn’s eyes glowed with pleasure, and when she took the glass from him the next time, she held it resting lightly on her knee rather than setting it back on the desk. The invitation for further exploration was plain.

“You said the Bendera diary was upstairs, but that record you found didn’t have a call number,” he began, keeping the talk professional while their very different conversation played out in silence. “Are we going to have to hunt for it?”

Kathryn shook her head. “We have the physical description and the height measurement. That means it’s kept on the top shelves. Libraries used to do that, shelve books by height to maximize space. All the tall books together at the top, all the small books together at the bottom or whatnot. These days the most important thing you need to know is the call number, but back then you needed to know a book’s dimensions.”

“And you haven’t had a chance to integrate everything into a more modern system yet,” he said, then remembered the conversation he’d walked into several hours ago. “Is that what you and Tom were arguing about earlier?”

“I wouldn’t say arguing. Tom keeps telling me we need to get with the hip interior design craze and shelve everything by color. Because that’s useful.” She laughed and took another sip of the bourbon, her hand sliding the glass ever-so-slightly forward on her knee as she set it back down.

Chakotay accepted the offer, his fingers slipping lightly over hers as he took the glass. Her hand was cool against the heat of his fingertips, and he wanted to touch her again, feel the tingle she brought to his skin. “All teasing aside, he seems to genuinely like working for you.”

Kathryn shrugged, but he could tell she was pleased by his words. “That’s just how he is. You know how much Tom likes you by how much he goes out of his way to bother you.” She lifted the bottle and poured a couple more inches into the glass resting on his thigh. “I’ve been a little surprised by how much he’s embraced working here. I think it’s a good fit for him. I need to check with Owen, but I’ve actually been thinking I’d like to ask Tom to stay on after the summer.”

The lazy ease of their dual conversation was killing Chakotay in the best way possible. He decided to see what happened if he made the subtext a little more texty. “I’m learning all kinds of interesting facts about libraries. Shelving by height,” he said, taking a sip. As he lowered the glass he added, “People making out in the stacks.”

After a beat, Kathryn leaned forward, but rather than take the bourbon as he expected, she lightly grasped his tie between her fingers and tugged gently.

“You always wear a tie when you come here,” she said, keeping a light hold, her face still close to his. "There's no dress code, you know. I mean, other than ‘a shirt and shoes’. You don't have to wear a tie." Her other hand came forward and she deftly loosened the knot, pulling his tie off and tossing it behind her onto the desk.

He forced himself to laugh. "I know. It's actually the easiest thing for me. I have a whole wardrobe of interchangeable clothes I can just put on and that work for pretty much any situation I'm in. It's like a uniform."

She smiled. "Me too. Skirt? Blouse? Necklace? Done."

His last gambit had led to interesting results, and Chakotay was just buzzed enough to attempt another one. “I have a confession to make,” he said. Kathryn’s eyebrows rose, and she leaned back slightly, but he could tell it was because she was intrigued and wanted to see him better, not because she was put off. “I have wondered, ever since I met you,” he told her, looking straight into her eyes, “whether those are panty hose or stockings and garters you wear underneath all those pencil skirts of yours.”

Kathryn held his gaze, leaning forward to take the glass from him. Another swallow of bourbon, then she set the glass down on the table. Before Chakotay could wonder what this meant, she rested her hand on her knee.

Today’s skirt had a zipper running up the front left side, a fashion feature which he had been desperately hoping all afternoon had been selected for his benefit. His eyes were riveted to her knee, and he watched her hand gently tug the zipper up and up. As the halves of the skirt separated, the top of a stocking and pale, creamy skin came into view. The zipper stopped moving.

Slowly he reached out, running the tip of his index finger along the teeth of the zipper then traced the small circumference of the stocking top he could see. Chakotay licked his lips and glanced up into Kathryn’s face. A triumphant little smile rested on her own lips, and her pupils were dark with desire.

“Are you satisfied with the outcome of your research query, Mr. Chakotay?” she asked in a husky voice.

“Oh, very, Ms. Janeway,” he responded, and his own voice was gravelly with want.

“We should … continue your research in the stacks, try to locate the diary you need,” she said, sliding off the desk to stand between his open knees.

Chakotay pushed the chair back a few inches and stood, the motion leaving little room between them. He could feel her soft breasts pressing lightly against his chest. “After you,” he said, gesturing to the main floor.

Kathryn inhaled and turned away. He followed her closely across the library, only a step behind her on the stairs, watching the sway of her hips as she climbed. By the time they reached the top, he was painfully hard and didn’t give a damn about the diary.

She led him down a narrow aisle, stopping a few bays in. “Here’s the anthropology section,” she said a little breathlessly. She looked up to the top shelf, and he followed her gaze. After a short time, she pointed at a thin volume of brown leather. “I think that’s it.”

She lifted onto her tiptoes, but couldn’t quite reach the diary. She’d just muttered something about needing a kick stool when Chakotay leaned up from behind her and grabbed the book, clutching the edge of a shelf for balance with his other hand. His body was pressed along hers from shin to chest, and she was all but cradled in his arms. There was no way she couldn’t feel how she was affecting him.

With a soft sigh, Kathryn sank her heels back down to the ground, the movement tracing her spine blissfully along his cock. With a burst of coherence, he laid the diary along the top of the row of books in front of him, then both of his hands were free to grasp her hips.

He lowered his head to the curve of her neck. His tongue darted out and traced a short line upward before his lips took over. Her head tilted to the side, inviting more. He took her with small nips and nibbles, his tongue soothing the path of his teeth.

Kathryn turned in his arms, her mouth capturing his, and they both gasped. She lifted her hands to grip the edge of the shelf running above and behind her head, a move that arched her spine and pressed her tighter against him. Her tongue ran along his lower lip, then she sucked it into her mouth. Chakotay groaned. She tasted of bourbon and fire. He deepened the kiss, and his hands traced firmly along her thighs, lifting her skirt to again reveal the stockings beneath.

One hand gently kneaded her breast through the silk before slipping inside first blouse then bra. Her nipple was taut, and he rolled it between his fingers, enjoying the sound she made in her throat.

The other hand followed the path of the stocking, skipping lightly over the stud of the suspender loop, seeking her inner thigh. His fingertips brushed wet heat covered in thin silk, and Kathryn moaned into his mouth. Her hand came down to caress him through his pants. He thrust instinctively into her palm. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt this good.

With that thought, some sanity returned to him. They were both tipsy, and they were well on their way to sex against a bookshelf. His body cried out for him to continue, he wanted to continue, but they couldn’t do this. Not tonight.

His hands gentled. His lips softened. He pulled back. Kathryn’s mouth tried to chase his, then she too stopped and seemed to reconsider.

She laid her forehead against his chest, breathing heavily. “I think we found that book you wanted,” she said.

He laughed and kissed the top of her head. “Yes, I think we were quite successful.”

She lifted her face, her eyes bright and lips swollen. “Want some coffee?”

He knew he’d regret this decision later when he couldn’t fall asleep, but coffee seemed like the best possible choice at the moment, for several reasons. “Yeah, that sounds good.”

They reached for the diary at the same time, and Chakotay was glad they were both regaining their senses. He let Kathryn carry the book, lead the way back to her office. He inspected their find while she prepared the coffee.

“Is it the diary?” she asked, coming up beside him with two mugs. The zipper on her skirt was fastened again, though not all the way back to the hem, he noticed.

“It is. It looks like he was a young man on his first expedition.” He took a sip of the piping hot drink and decided a scalded tongue was probably what he needed tonight.

“I hope it proves fruitful.”

“Me too.” He smiled at her. “Thanks for helping me locate it.”

She blushed and took a hasty sip of coffee.

They finished their drinks in companionable silence, Kathryn watching over his shoulder as he skimmed quickly through the diary. Chakotay glanced out the window. It was dusk, and the rays of sunset were scattering the greens and blues and reds of the stained glass across the library.

“I should get going,” he said. “Do you want me to sign this out in the register?”

“I’ll take care of it. I trust you.”

He looked down at her and decided she really meant that as sincerely as it had sounded.

“Thank you, Kathryn.”

She walked him out to his Jeep, stepping back as he opened the driver’s side door and placed the diary on the passenger seat. He turned around and found her standing close. She went back on tiptoe and kissed him. This kiss was quiet and sweet, the promise of more to come, and he let her lead.

As she pulled away, she smiled and said, “I want to invite you inside, very much, but … not tonight. I need to know this isn’t just the bourbon.” He opened this mouth to say it wasn’t but that he agreed, when she pointed at the family wing of the house, aglow with light, and added, “Besides, Tom is probably spying on us.”

Confusion rippled through him. “Tom?”

“Yes, that’s his window up there. His room is right across from mine …” her voice petered off and awareness flashed in her eyes. “We, um, never actually mentioned that Tom is Tom Paris, did we?”

So many little clues suddenly fell into place for him. That explained a lot about the younger man’s teasing affection for his boss.

She laid her hand on his cheek, and there was a faint rasp against his evening stubble. “Give me a little more time?”

Chakotay nodded and turned his face to kiss the inside of her wrist. “You can have all the time you need.”

She ran her thumb across his lower lip and pulled her hand back to her side. “Thank you. See you tomorrow?”

He smiled as the sun fell below the horizon. “I’ll stop by after I finish the diary, probably early afternoon. Let you know what I discover.”

They said their goodnights, and Chakotay climbed into his seat. He could see her in the rearview mirror, silhouetted against the house, as he pulled onto the road. She waved, and he couldn’t wait for tomorrow.