Fool's Paradise

Summary: If you can’t be with the one you love…

 

Characters: Original (ish) Female Character, Chakotay

Codes: Chakotay/female, Janeway/Chakotay

 

Disclaimer: Paramount/CBS own all rights to the Voyager universe and its characters, which I am borrowing without permission or intent to profit.

Notes: A tumblr friend, @fbismostunwanted1158, received an anonymous fic prompt which she answered beautifully. With her permission, I decided to take a slightly different slant on it.

"Everyone on Voyager remarks upon your resemblance to Captain Janeway and you know it's affecting your romantic prospects on board so you decide to secretly offer yourself to Chakotay as an intimate physical substitute. You dim the lights and tell him to pretend – you don't mind."

Rated M

It was enjoyable at first, and I played up to it.

I’ve never been one to shy away from attention; in fact, when I was little, I was sure I’d grow up to be a performer of some kind. An actor, a singer, perhaps a dancer. I’d pull together outlandish costumes and put on one-woman plays for my kid sister and anyone else who’d indulge me.

As I grew older, I learned less artistic applications for my talents. I became the life of every party and an incorrigible flirt.

I was always an extrovert, I guess.

But my true gift, as I discovered, was mimicry. By the time I entered Starfleet Academy I’d honed my craft, and I’d have my classmates howling over my imitations of the cranky Andorian science professor or the sweet Betazoid history aide who had a habit of losing the thread of her conversations. I was popular, and I never lacked for company. Everyone wanted me to entertain them.

Mostly, I was delighted to oblige. But sometimes I couldn’t help wondering – if I was always putting on an act, who was the real me?

Being thrown into the Delta quadrant was one way to find out. At first there was no time for anything but basic survival. Everywhere I looked were grim, frightened faces, and even when the crew did take those rare opportunities when nobody was shooting at us to wind down, nobody ever really relaxed.

Something changed when we’d been out here around six months. People stopped believing today was the day we’d get home, and started accepting that Voyager was their life now. And while some of the crew were pulling together and forming friendships, even romantic bonds, most of us were shell-shocked. I remember standing in Sandrine’s one night, looking around and thinking that for a bunch of people who were well on their way to getting drunk, there sure wasn’t a whole lot of talking or laughing going on.

I could change that.

So I sauntered up to the Delaneys and started talking to them, using their inflections, cocking my hip and shaking back my hair the way they both did. It wasn’t long before Harry Kim noticed what I was doing. I saw him nudge Tom Paris, whose grin lit up the room when he caught on. The third time I threw my head back and giggled in unison with the twins, Harry and Tom burst out laughing and applauded.

Luckily, Jenny and Megan were good sports about it, and encouraged me to show off some of my other impressions. Lieutenant Tuvok was easy, of course, and my take on the Doctor caused howls of mirth. But everybody’s favourite act of the night was my impression of her.

I suppose it helps that I resemble her so closely, a fact that hasn’t gone unremarked. And, as I said, at first I played up to it. It made people laugh, and it made people like me.

After a while, though, I began to notice other effects.

People started pairing off a few months into our journey; I suppose it’s only natural to start forming bonds when you’re thrown a lifetime away from home. I wasn’t interested for a long while. I missed my boyfriend back on Earth – we’d talked about settling down someday soon, quitting Starfleet and starting a family, and I wasn’t ready to give up on that dream. But a year or so into our voyage I began to realise I wasn’t missing him so much anymore. I’d become friendly with Doug Bronowski – a friendship I hoped would turn into something more.

When I screwed up my courage to ask him on a date, he shied away.

“I can’t,” he’d stammered. “It’d be too weird.”

“Because we’re friends?” I asked him, trying to hide my humiliation.

“No,” he mumbled, “because it’d be like screwing the pips. I don’t know if I could look her in the eye if we … you know.”

It wasn’t the last time I was turned down because my resemblance to her was too discomfiting. Worse, though, were the men who wanted to date me because of it.

I tried not to resent her for it. It wasn’t her fault, after all.

It wasn’t all bad though, looking like her. I’ll never forget the day I went to deliver a report to the ready room, and as I stepped off the turbolift, Harry – who must’ve still been half asleep – snapped out “Captain on the bri- oh,” and dissolved into blushes. The rest of the bridge crew thought it was hysterical. Well, except Tuvok, of course.

It gave me an idea.

You see, I may look like her, I may sound like her, I may be able to act like her … but deep down, I’m nothing like her. She has this way of engendering respect the moment she walks into a room; she makes people stand taller, work harder and speak more carefully. I elicit affection, sure, but let’s face it: nobody is ever going to be scared of me.

I’m always going to be a shadow; a poor second-best. But if I could be more like her, maybe I could gain people’s respect, too.

I decided to try out a little experiment.

One evening, I switched my science blues for a borrowed command-red uniform, dressed my hair the way she does, put her swagger in my step and marched into the mess hall during Alpha shift’s dinner hour. The impact was immediate. Conversations stopped. Half the crewmen in the room rose from their seats. Neelix came scurrying over, coffee-pot in hand, only for his steps to falter as he drew close enough to realise I wasn’t her.

And then Commander Chakotay walked into the hush of the mess hall and came up close behind me, his hand splaying warm across my shoulderblade, murmuring, “I didn’t expect to see you here tonight, Kathryn.”

I turned and looked up into his face, and in that brief moment before his expression turned startled and then smoothed out, what I saw in his eyes pierced me to my soul.

The rumours were true. He was in love with her.

“I’m sorry, Ensign,” he said hastily, stepping out of my personal space, then with a quirked eyebrow, “May I ask when you changed departments?”

“Yes, sir … I mean, no sir, I haven’t,” my tongue tripped over itself and I tried not to blush. “I was, um…”

“Impersonating the captain?” He was smiling now. “I’ve heard you have quite a talent for impressions.”

“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.” God, I was sounding like an idiot and I knew it. But he’d always had that effect on me.

Me, and half the crew. I sometimes wondered if Chakotay ever got tired of people making goo-goo eyes at him.

“Well,” he continued as the other diners resumed their meals amid a rising hum of conversation, “since the captain declined my dinner invitation, why don’t you join me instead? I’m told the menu is almost palatable tonight.”

“Me?” I shut my mouth with a snap. Now what? What the hell was I, some lowly ensign from Astrophysics, supposed to talk to the first officer about?

“Yes, you,” he said patiently, extending an arm to guide me to a table – their table, I realised in mounting horror as I preceded him – his and the captain’s. “Tom tells me you’ve been extremely helpful in upgrading the navigational array,” he went on as I slid into the chair the captain usually occupied. “It was you who designed a new sensor modulation to detect subspace eddy formation, wasn’t it?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Well done,” Chakotay complimented. “I’m sure that’s going to help us avoid some trouble in future.”

I shifted uncomfortably as Neelix brought his pot of coffee to our table. “Evening, Commander,” he said cheerfully, then turned to me and asked archly, “Coffee, Captain?”

“No, thank you,” I mumbled, wishing I could sink through the deck.

Neelix offered a jaunty salute and wandered off, and Chakotay grinned at me. “Not so alike after all, huh?”

“I’m nothing like her,” I blurted out.

Chakotay’s dark eyes focused on me, his voice mild. “Changed your mind about inviting the comparison, Ensign?”

“It was a stupid idea,” I muttered, evading his searching gaze by glancing around the mess hall. People were still giving me sidelong looks and I was sure that more than one table was talking about me. Suddenly, all I wanted was to run.

“Katja.” Chakotay’s soft voice commanded my attention immediately.

I didn’t even know he knew my first name. Two and a half years we’d been on this ship, and he’d only ever addressed me as Ensign.

“If you’re uncomfortable here,” he said quietly, “would you like to eat somewhere else?”

His tone was devoid of expression, and my confusion must have shown on my face.

“I have a few extra replicator rations. Enough to buy you dinner.”

My heart started trying to clamber its way out of my throat. “Where?” I asked.

For the first time I detected a sign that the commander wasn’t quite as self-assured as he seemed: a muscle leapt in his jaw and his hand strayed to tug at his ear. “My quarters.”

Now I knew I was blushing, but I forced my voice to remain steady. “I’d like that. Thank you.”

He offered me a small smile. “See you there in fifteen minutes. And Katja … maybe you should change out of that uniform.”

 

===0===


What the hell did that mean? I wondered frantically as I flew back to my quarters and flung open my closet. Did he want me to dress for a date? Should I find something sexy to wear?

Or – oh God, what if he was scolding me – in the nicest possible way – for wearing a uniform I hadn’t earned? Should I change back into my science blues?

I sat down hard on the bed, mentally replaying the entire conversation. He’d been friendly, disarming, but still professional … but then, we had been in the mess hall, surrounded by the crew.

And he’d called me by my first name and then asked me to dinner in his quarters.

But … what if he thought I needed a counselling session? I mean, dressing up like the captain was kind of a weird thing to do, right? And Chakotay was the XO. He was in charge of crew rotations – of course he knew everyone’s name.

The way he’d said it, though … it had made me feel warm inside. As if he’d caressed me.

It was almost the same way he’d said her name when he first walked into the mess hall.

I decided not to dwell on that too much. I was going to go with my instincts, and damn the risk.

Marching over to the closet, I yanked out the only dress I’d packed before we set off from DS9 for the longest three-week mission in history. It was a soft shade of blue that complemented my eyes, and the skirt was a fraction short, but that had never done me any harm. I fastened the zip at the back and faced the mirror.

High cheekbones, sharp jaw, a smattering of freckles across my nose, and long strawberry-blonde hair pulled back into a ponytail. Eyes a little more blue than grey, sure, and lacking that steely glint – but if it weren’t for the fact that she had a good ten years on me…

No wonder he’d asked me to his quarters. I looked just like her.

I unclipped my hair from its captainly ponytail, messing it up and piling it loosely on top of my head instead. Checking my reflection again, I huffed in annoyance. Now I looked like her after a tussle with the Kazon.

I was going to be late. Pushing aside all my questions and misgivings, I exited my quarters, strode to the turbolift and asked for Chakotay’s deck.

 

===0===


Chakotay bade me enter his quarters, and as I looked around, I still wasn’t sure why he’d invited me there.

The lights were dimmed and low music was playing, but there were no candles or flowers – nothing that unequivocally screamed ‘date night’. For all I knew, he just liked low light and music.

Chakotay had clearly followed his own advice and changed out of uniform. One look at him in that open-necked white shirt and my throat went dry.

“Wine?” he asked as he held my chair.

“Yes please,” and lots of it, I was thinking, then added nervously, “sir.”

He slid into the opposite chair and pressed those full, beautiful lips together. “Why don’t we leave the ranks at the door tonight?”

“Okay.” I guessed he was trying to put me at ease, but his suggestion only ratcheted up my anxiety.

The bottle’s neck clinked against the rim of my glass as he poured the wine, and Chakotay cleared his throat. Paradoxically, realising he wasn’t quite as self-assured as he seemed made me feel a whole lot better, and I smiled at him. He grinned back.

I wondered if he knew what that smile did to my insides. Averting my gaze to hide my reaction, I took a healthy gulp of wine.

“I hope you don’t mind vegetarian food.”

“Not at all, Com- uh, Chakotay.”

I don’t remember what we ate. I do remember that I drank more than a few glasses of wine, and that with each sip my nerves drained away and my tongue loosened. By the time we’d cleared our plates and Chakotay indicated we should move over to the couch, I’d told him everything he never wanted to know about me, from my hatred of Klingon opera to my deep and abiding love for trashy Bajoran romance novels.

He smiled a lot and said little.

It was only when I finally ran out of things to say that it dawned on me.

“This is a counselling session,” I blurted, face flushing with humiliation. “Isn’t it?”

“No, not at all,” he hastened to assure me. “It just seemed like you needed to talk. And you’re interesting, Katja. I was happy to listen.”

“Really?”

“Really.”

“Okay,” I mumbled, then, “Can I ask you something?”

“Shoot.”

“Why did you invite me here tonight?”

He placed his empty wine glass on the low table, and I wondered if he’d shifted to avoid my gaze. “You seemed uneasy with all the attention you were getting in the mess hall,” he answered. “Mind if I ask what that was all about, by the way?”

I shrugged to hide my disappointment – he’d asked me to dinner because he felt sorry for me? “I was having a bit of fun, that’s all.”

“It didn’t look like you were enjoying yourself.”

“Yeah, well, it kind of backfired.”

Chakotay’s gaze was on me, calm and unreadable, and I started to get itchy.

“I should go,” I muttered, standing. “Thank you for dinner, Commander.”

He rose with me, brow furrowing. “Katja, you don’t have to leave.”

“Tell me something,” I blurted, whirling to face him. My hands found their way to my hips and I watched his mouth twitch in amusement. It only made me angrier. “Did you ask me to dinner because I look like the captain?”

That wiped the smile off his face.

Vindicated, I stepped closer, jabbing a finger at his chest. “She turned you down – you said as much earlier. So what am I – her substitute?”

Chakotay’s mouth tightened, but he kept silent.

“I see.” Despite myself, I could feel the hot burn of tears in my throat. “I suppose I should have expected this.”

“What do you mean?” he asked finally.

“You wouldn’t be the first.”

I took another step; we were standing close enough now that I had to tilt my head back to meet his gaze. His eyes softened as he grasped my meaning, and I gritted my teeth.

“I don’t need your pity, Commander.”

“I’m sorry,” he said quietly, and I couldn’t stop myself from looking at his lips as he shaped the words.

He noticed, and drew in a breath that made me frown.

“She does that, too,” he muttered.

“Does what?”

He shook his head. “Never mind.”

Oh, no you don’t, I thought furiously.

If I was going to be her, I might as well do it right. I straightened up, imitating her perfect posture and tilted chin. I moved right up into his personal space – just the way she does – and I put her gravel in my voice when I spoke.

“I asked you a question, Commander.”

Chakotay’s eyes went wide and he swallowed visibly. “That’s … uncanny,” he joked feebly. “I could almost swear you were –”

“Her?” I let my gaze drop deliberately to his mouth again.

He licked his lips.

I wondered – briefly, in the instant between impulse and insanity – how she found the fortitude to hold herself back from him. And then I did what she, as far as I knew, had never done.

I leaned up and pressed my lips to his.

For a long moment we held our breath. Then I let the tip of my tongue slide over his lower lip, and he exhaled on a shudder. His hands came up to my waist, holding me still as he closed his eyes and deepened the kiss.

His mouth was as soft and as skilled as I’d always imagined.

I wound my arms around his neck and my fingers into his hair.

He shifted, his thigh brushing mine, and started walking me backward. When my back met the bulkhead and his teeth tugged gently at my bottom lip I couldn’t help a small whimper escaping me. I felt his fingers spread over my ribs, his thumb brushing the underside of my breast, and my legs started trembling.

But just as I pushed my hips against him, he pulled back.

I saw the moment remorse flooded into his eyes and held up a hand to forestall the apology I knew was coming. “Don’t. Please don’t.”

Chakotay gave a short nod and took three steps back from me.

I didn’t want to know why he was sorry he’d kissed me. So I straightened up, and with a mumbled “thanks”, I escaped into the corridor.

It wasn’t until I reached the safety of my quarters that I allowed my fingertips to drift across my tingling lips.

 

===0===


The next day, we ran into Species 8472.

I wasn’t privy to what happened between the command team over the days following Captain Janeway’s decision to form an alliance with the Borg. All I know is that after she was injured, Chakotay rescinded her orders and broke the deal she’d forged, and when she regained consciousness, she wasn’t happy.

He came to my quarters the night. I’d already turned in, and the insistent buzzing of the door chime dragged me from the first hour of a much-needed sleep, so I was working my way into a foul temper when I shouted for my visitor to enter. But the last person I’d expected to see was Commander Chakotay, dressed for the gym, sweating lightly and sporting cuts across his knuckles.

“I thought you were still in Sickbay,” I said, staring at him. He filled the doorway, all broad shoulders and muscles I hadn’t suspected were hiding under that uniform.

“The Doctor released me three hours ago.”

“So you went straight to the boxing ring?”

He shifted on his feet, frowning in agitation. “Boxing helps me relax.”

“Yeah, you look pretty chill, Commander.” I folded my arms across my chest and glared at him.

“Look, Katja…” he ran a hand through his hair, then met my eyes. “This was a bad idea. I’m sorry to have disturbed you.”

“Wait,” I called as he started to walk away, and he turned back. I hesitated barely a moment before I stepped back into my quarters.

He followed.

The door slid shut behind him and the air in my room thickened with silence.

Now I was the one shuffling my feet. “Uh, can I get you something to drink?”

Chakotay shook his head, staring at me.

Okay. I fiddled with the end of the braid I wore to keep my hair somewhat tamed while I slept. “Do you want to sit down?”

“No, thanks.”

“Then what do you want?” I blurted.

A pained look crossed his face and his eyes shifted away.

And then I understood.

“You’re angry with her,” I said slowly. “You want to yell at her. But you can’t, so you came to me. Because I’m the next best thing.”

His head snapped back up and he glared at me. I could almost hear him grinding his teeth.

“Go on then, Commander,” I goaded him, closing the distance between us. “What do you want to say to me? Want to tell me how stubborn I am, how reckless? How I never listen to anybody?”

In my peripheral vision I saw his hands clench into fists.

“Tell me how I nearly got us all assimilated,” I went on, narrowing my eyes as I stepped so close I could feel the heat from his body. “Tell me I’m going to get us killed one day if I keep refusing to see sense. Tell me I was wrong!”

“You were wrong, Kathryn!” he roared, and I flinched.

My heart kicked up and my stomach clenched in fear. He could kill me easily with one blow from those big hands, and though this was the first time I’d ever seen him so angry, I was well aware of his past. It seemed the Maquis fighter wasn’t quite as tame as I’d come to believe.

If I was honest, it was a little exciting.

But his explosion had shocked him as much as it did me and he was already stepping back, the fury draining from his eyes. He muttered something I didn’t quite catch, then straightened, calming himself visibly.

“I apologise, Ensign,” he said in his usual even voice, though I could hear the roughness at the edges. “Everything I’ve done tonight has been completely out of line. I hope you’ll forgive me,” and he turned to leave again.

“So that’s it?” I demanded.

Again he looked back at me, confusion marring his features.

I didn’t stop to think about why I was provoking him. All I knew was, I’d glimpsed what was hidden under that smooth Starfleet surface of his. And I wanted more.

“That’s all you’ve got, Chakotay?” I planted one hand on a cocked hip, thrusting my chest toward him. “I have to say, I’m disappointed,” I went on, my voice dripping with scorn as he turned to face me fully.

He was almost snarling at me now.

Slinking closer, I got right up in his face and hissed, “I guess you really don’t have what it takes to command.”

I shot him one last derisive glare and spun away, but before I’d gone more than half a step, a hand clamped onto my upper arm, and he whirled me back against his body, his mouth crashing down onto mine.

Yes, cried the exultant voice inside my head as I wrapped my arms around his shoulders and pressed as close to him as I could get. I felt him pull the hairband from my braid and loosen my hair. He twined his fingers into it, tugging my head back to kiss his way down my throat to the low neckline of my tee. He wound one arm around my hips, anchoring me close, as the other untangled itself from my hair and began to roam across my back, my waist, my breasts.

My pulse was hammering in my throat and I could hear my own short, sharp gasps. I pushed my fingers up under his shirt, feeling his skin, hot and hard against me.

He whispered something into my skin. I couldn’t tell what he saying and I couldn’t have cared less. All I cared about was his hands and his lips and what they were doing to my body. I didn’t ever want it to stop.

Chakotay slipped a hand under my tee and rubbed his thumb across my nipple and it made me jerk toward him. I was so aroused I couldn’t bear the thought of waiting another moment. So I yanked at the drawstring of my pants and let them fall to the floor, kicking them away, then slipped my hand inside his shorts.

He made a gorgeous sound in my ear as he bit down on my neck, and then he scooped me up, staggered the few steps to my couch and laid me onto it. Before I’d caught my breath he was kneeling between my spread legs, his hands on my hips, pulling me toward him.

And then he looked at my face.

“Katja,” he said, and I knew without a doubt that I wasn’t the woman he’d been making love to.

And I didn’t care – as long as he didn’t stop.

“Kathryn,” I corrected, steadily holding his gaze.

Such a myriad of emotions crossed his face – comprehension, shame, distaste, humiliation – that I found myself holding my breath. Then I reached down and curled my palm around him and he shuddered, his eyes half-closing.

“If you don’t want this,” he said, “tell me now.”

In answer I parted my thighs wider and wriggled forward until we made contact, taking pleasure in his involuntary hiss.

“I want this,” I told him, and gasped in elation as he surged into me.

 

===0===


It was fast and it was frantic, and it was over far too soon. Afterwards, when our hearts had slowed and our skin cooled, I didn’t know what to say. I risked a peek at his face and found I couldn’t read him.

Gingerly I untangled myself from him and sat up, but as I began to shift to the side he placed a gentle hand on my shoulder and said, “Wait. Please.”

I knew he was about to start apologising, so I shook my head fiercely, tugging my tee down in an attempt to cover myself. “Don’t say it.”

“All right.”

“Look,” I found myself unable to stop the words, “you and I both know what this was about. We don’t have to make any more of it than what it was, and I don’t want this to affect our working relationship… I mean, not that we really have a working relationship, I hardly ever see you –”

“Katja,” he cut me off, and those dimples appeared briefly. He straightened his clothing, then took my hand and said, “Thank you.”

Any time, I wanted to say, but instead I answered, “You’re welcome.”

Chakotay got to his feet and helped me upright. The way he was looking at me; I knew he was seeing me, but there was a softness in his eyes that brought the butterflies back. On impulse I stood on tiptoe and placed a quick kiss on his lips.

He looked bemused, so I shrugged and offered, “I hope you’re feeling better now.”

To my surprise, he laughed – a deep, genuine laugh that made me smile in response – and then he reached up to tuck my hair behind one ear, stroking his thumb across my cheekbone before his hand dropped to his side.

“I’d better go,” he said. “Good night, Katja.”

“Good night,” I replied, and with one last smile he left my quarters.

 

===0===


The next time I saw Commander Chakotay was a couple of days later, after we’d resumed our course across Borg space. He was ushering Captain Janeway into the mess hall, his hand on her lower back. I remembered what that had felt like – warm, supportive, comforting – and I turned back to my meal, squashing down the flare of envy.

As they passed my table, the small smile he wore broadened slightly. She noticed, of course – she notices everything about him; it’s no secret – and she sent me a brief, enquiring look. But I simply nodded and said, “Captain, Commander,” and they moved on, taking their seats at their table by the viewport.

Shortly after, we were flung ten thousand light years by Kes as she departed the ship, and I was pulling double shifts in Astrophysics, trying to map the unfamiliar region and chart us a new course. It was probably the best thing that could have happened to me at the time. At least if I was working constantly, I didn’t have time to daydream about Chakotay.

It was a good two weeks before I returned to my normal shift rotation. I dragged myself back to my quarters, wondering if I was tired enough to go straight to bed or could muster the energy to visit the mess hall or the holodeck first. But when the door had shut behind me and I stood alone in my quiet room, I realised I was lonely.

I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been at ease in another person’s company, or felt the safety of warm arms around me. One night with a man who was imagining I was someone else didn’t count.

And whose fault was that?

Since Doug Bronowski rejected me, I’d kept myself deliberately apart from other people. Sure, I played the life of the party at every opportunity, but it wasn’t as though I was being myself, was it? No wonder I’d ended up disheartened and alone.

I was just starting to work myself into a real funk when the door chimed.

“Enter,” I called.

Chakotay stepped into the room.

I snapped to attention, wishing my quarters weren’t in such a state. “Commander.”

“At ease,” he said quickly. “This isn’t an official visit, Katja.”

“Oh.” I relaxed a fraction. “In that case, hi.”

He smiled back.

“What can I do for you, Com- uh, Chakotay?”

“I came to see how you were doing,” he replied. “You and your team have put in a lot of hours lately, and I wanted to thank you.”

“That’s my job.”

“True, but you’ve gone above and beyond the call. And I doubt you’ve had much of a chance to grab some downtime in a while.”

I couldn’t argue with that.

“And I wanted to give you this,” he continued, and held something out to me.

I took it; it was a data rod. “A holoprogram?”

He shrugged. “You told me you enjoy Bajoran holonovels. Crewman Jor happens to be a fan of them as well, and she found that one in the database. I thought you might enjoy it.”

I didn’t know what to say. He’d remembered that one tidbit from the deluge of personal information I’d shared over our solitary dinner together?

“You know, you don’t have to run it alone,” he suggested. “Jor would be happy to have someone else to play with, and there are a few Bajorans on the crew who’d probably enjoy a taste of home.”

“What about you?” I asked bravely.

He ducked his head and said softly, “I don’t think that’s such a good idea, Katja. Do you?”

“No, I suppose not.”

He nodded, and took a step back. “Well, I’d better go. I’m already late for dinner.”

“With the captain?”

Chakotay met my eyes. “Yes.”

“I’m glad you two have patched things up.”

He huffed a short laugh. “Yeah, well … we’re getting there.” He turned toward the door.

“Chakotay – wait.”

He raised his eyebrows.

“I know how it feels,” I said, “being in love with someone who can’t love you back.”

A flash of alarm crossed his face.

“No, not you,” I said hastily. “Someone else on the crew. He was my best friend, but he didn’t want anything more than that. So I know how you feel.”

Chakotay smiled, but it was sad and a little bit grim. “I’m sorry to hear that, Katja, but maybe he wasn’t the right one for you. Maybe you’ll find someone else.”

I gave him a disbelieving look. “Maybe you will, too.”

His smile turned rueful. “Point taken.”

I bit my lip, then screwed up my courage. “Can I ask you one last thing?”

“Sure.”

Hesitantly, I moved closer. “Will you kiss me?”

For someone who worked next to the woman he loved, day by day, side by side, he wasn’t great at hiding his emotions. I watched them flit across his face one by one: startlement, doubt, and finally acceptance. He closed the space between us and raised one hand to cradle my face.

Then those beautiful lips were on mine, warm and soft and chaste, and I closed my eyes and let myself revel in the feeling of being held, for as long as it lasted.

When he pulled back he smiled and traced his thumb across my cheekbone before he stepped away.

“Thanks,” I sighed. “For the holonovel, and for the kiss.”

“Good night, Katja.”

Alone again, I stood in the centre of my room, rubbing my fingertips thoughtfully over my tingling lips.

Then I closed my fingers around the data rod and tapped my combadge. “Ensign Hickman to Crewman Jor. If you’re not busy, I was wondering if you’d like to go to the holodeck with me?”

 

===0===


From Scorpion, Part I:


CHAKOTAY: It's nothing to be ashamed about – echoing the greats. Ensign Hickman in Astrophysics does a passable Janeway.
JANEWAY: If we manage to survive the next few days, I'm going to have a little chat with Ensign Hickman. Imitating the captain, huh? Surely that violates some kind of Starfleet protocol.