If You Stumble (Make It Part of the Dance)
Summary: Written to three dialogue prompts: “Mind if I cut in?”, “That isn’t appropriate.” and “The way you flirt is just shameful.”
Characters: Janeway, Chakotay, Seven
Disclaimer: Paramount/CBS own the rights to the Voyager universe and its characters, which I am borrowing without permission or intent to profit.
Notes: Set post-Endgame. Prequel to What Defines Us.
“Mind if I cut in?”
Kathryn’s dance partner – Admiral something; she’d met so many flag officers tonight that she couldn’t even recall his name – stepped back politely, delivering her into the waiting hands of her first officer.
No, former first officer, she reminded herself, and had to firmly squash the small and utterly pointless leap of her heart at that thought. Their release from command-structure restrictions made no difference now, anyway.
She nodded politely to Admiral Something as Chakotay’s hands settled warmly onto her, one on her waist, one gently cradling her right hand.
This is our first dance, she realised suddenly.
A smile crinkled his familiar face as she stared up at him and tried to think of something to say. “It’s not like you to be lost for words, Captain.”
“Well, I’ve been talking non-stop since we reached the Alpha quadrant,” she returned. “A little comfortable silence would make a pleasant change.”
“Ah. I’ll shut up then.”
“No,” she laughed, squeezing his hand. “You’re one of the people I always want to talk to.”
“In that case, Kathryn,” he turned her expertly, his fingers moving lightly on her hip, “there’s something I’ve been wanting to tell you.”
His eyes were warm, and her heartbeat tripped again. “What is it?” she asked somewhat breathlessly.
Chakotay dipped his head and spoke softly in her ear. “That dress you’re wearing is utterly scandalous. I have no idea how I’m supposed to keep my hands respectable.”
Her cheeks coloured and she drew back. “And the way you flirt is just shameful, Commander.” She glanced around pointedly. “Speaking of which, where’s your date?”
He gave her a slow smile. “My ‘date’ and I are no longer dating.”
“You and Seven broke up?” Kathryn stiffened. “And… what? You think I’m just going to fall into your arms?”
“You’re already in my arms,” he pointed out.
“I’m starting to change my mind about wanting to talk to you.”
“Okay, then just listen.” Chakotay waited for her grudging nod. “Seven and I were a mistake, and I’ll be happy to go over it with you someday if you feel the need. Right now, what I really want is to dance with my best friend and celebrate us finally being home.”
My best friend.
Kathryn forced a smile. So much for assumptions. He didn’t want her to fall into his arms at all. Not that it should be a surprise to her; seven years of dimples and roses and candlelit dinners, and not once had he so much as questioned the invisible barriers between them. He was, as she’d accused, just an incorrigible flirt, and her fantasies of them confessing their love for each other as soon as their feet touched Earth were just that. Fantasies.
She bit her lip.
“What is it?” he asked softly, his gaze never leaving her face.
“Nothing. I’m fine.”
“You’re not fine.” His thumb was stroking her lower back where her dress left it bare, and she shivered involuntarily. “Are you cold?”
One dimple appeared. “Which is it?”
She shrugged one irritated shoulder. “I’m just tired.”
“Then maybe I should take you to bed.”
Kathryn’s jaw dropped. “That … is completely inappropriate, Commander.”
“Chakotay,” he corrected instantly. “I tendered my resignation yesterday, right after my final de-briefing.” His lips brushed her ear again. “I’m no longer under your command, Kathryn.”
“You resigned?” She pulled back to stare at him. “Why?”
“For a number of reasons,” he replied, “but mainly one. Kathryn …”
They came to a halt, and she realised with a start that they were no longer on the dance floor. He’d manoeuvred her right out of the ballroom and into the hallway.
The ornate double doors swung closed behind them and all was silent except the thudding of her heart. He was still holding her, his thumb rubbing slowly against the base of her spine. She wasn’t sure he knew he was doing it, but it was distracting her, and she tensed, hoping he wouldn’t notice the rush in her breathing or the colour in her cheeks. The way he was staring at her, though, she was sure he couldn’t miss it.
“Kathryn,” he said again, and then, “The hell with it,” and he kissed her.
Fireworks, she thought dimly. Or plasma explosions. Supernovae … and then she stopped trying to analyse it and gave herself over to the feel of his lips on hers and his hands on her body. They broke the kiss only when both were gasping for breath, and he rested his forehead against hers and broke into an ecstatic smile.
“That was…” he trailed off, then shrugged, grinning at her, “indescribable.”
She peeked up at him from under her eyelashes. She was still lightheaded, and the slow tracing of his thumbs against the silk that covered her hips wasn’t helping her catch her breath.
Then he dipped his head, his lips wandering over the exposed skin of her neck, and she tipped her head backwards on a moan.
“Kathryn?” he murmured.
“About that bed …”
She burst into consciousness with a gasp, muscles tensed and ready for a fight. The room was dark and she squinted, heart thumping, searching for whatever danger had woken her.
Where am I? What time is it? What’s happening?
Kathryn tried to sit up and found that she was restrained by a weight across her abdomen. Eyes wide, she touched her fingertips to it. It was an arm. A heavy, smooth, masculine arm.
Then the noise started again and she comprehended that somebody was pounding their fists on the door. The arm was withdrawn and Chakotay bolted upright beside her.
“Chakotay,” she whispered. “Someone’s at the door.”
“Kathryn,” he said blankly, and then in the faint light she saw the white flash of his teeth. “So it wasn’t a dream.”
She was glad it was too dark for him to see her blushing.
The arm snaked around her again. “Come here,” he growled, rolling her under him and burying his face against her throat.
Thump. Thump. Thump.
“Chakotay,” called a female voice, barely holding onto the edges of panic. “Chakotay, please, open the door.”
“Shit,” he hissed, just as Kathryn exclaimed, “Seven?”
She scrambled out from beneath him and cast about for her dress, before remembering it was probably by the front door where he’d hastily divested her of it a few hours earlier. Grabbing the closest article of clothing she could find – Chakotay’s shirt, she realized, as her fingers fumbled with buttons – she demanded, “What is she doing here?”
“How should I know?” Chakotay was hopping on one foot as he tried to yank on his pants.
It sounded like Seven was trying to kick the door down now. Kathryn threw up her hands and ran, cursing as she banged her shin on a low table. “Computer, turn on the lights,” she ordered, and then shielded her eyes as they came on at full brightness.
The room was a shambles, she had time to notice as she headed for the door. Her dress, panties and shoes were strewn across the carpet. A painting was askew where – she flushed at the memory – Chakotay had pushed her up against the wall. There was a broken vase by the couch, probably from their second, only slightly less energetic bout. It was fortunate they’d made it to the bed before round three.
“Kathryn, wait.” Chakotay finally got his pants fastened and grabbed her arm. “Let me deal with this.”
She was right on his heels when Chakotay slapped the panel to open the door. There stood Seven of Nine in her red satin party dress, her hair slipping from its chignon, eyes wide and smudged with tears. She was trembling.
“Seven, are you all ri-”
Before Chakotay could finish, Seven flung herself into his arms. Chakotay staggered back a step, and Kathryn had to quickstep to dodge out of their way.
The movement caught Seven’s attention, and she loosened her grip around Chakotay’s neck, though only slightly. Her gaze swept over Kathryn, then back to Chakotay.
“You had,” she opened and closed her mouth, “you had sex. With her.”
Chakotay put his hands on her arms and held her gently away. “Seven, I think you need to sit down.”
Kathryn moved to help him guide the younger woman to the couch and was horrified to watch her face crumple. Chakotay sent her a look she couldn’t quite decipher. All she knew was that there was a healthy amount of guilt in it.
And suddenly she just knew.
Turning on shaky legs, she plucked her wrap from the potted plant by the door and her panties from the coffee table. Keeping her face immobile so that the burning, mortified tears wouldn’t escape, she said mechanically, “I think I’d better leave. Seven, Commander,” and moved like an automaton into the corridor.
“Kathryn, wait, damn it!”
The door slid closed.
She heard raised voices from behind it but she couldn’t make out the words. Briefly, she wondered how she was supposed to find her way home in the San Francisco chill, wearing nothing but a light wrap and her now-ex-lover’s shirt, and she wondered if she should brave going back for her commbadge.
Instead she put one foot in front of the other and left it all behind.
Her first officer on the USS Neptune was a tall, dark, broad-shouldered Bajoran named Adin Omel, and she couldn’t count the number of times she had accidentally called him Chakotay.
The entire crew was new to her – she’d left for the Beta quadrant far too precipitously to sign on any of Voyager’s former crew, even if she’d wanted to – and she wondered, as she ordered her helmsman to guide the Neptune into McKinley Spacedock, how powerful an impact this had had on her utterly soul-crushing loneliness. Seven years across the galaxy had severely tested her long-held belief in command distance, and now that she’d just returned from almost eight months on another solitary ship, she was beginning to realise how strongly she’d depended on the connections she’d developed with her former crew.
One connection in particular, she admitted to herself. She knew Chakotay had tried to contact her in her absence, but his messages were filed away unread. Now, as Commander Adin stood to formally shake her hand and thank her for a productive mission, all she could do was wish that the Neptune’s handsome and softly-spoken first officer was another man entirely.
There had been no candlelit dinners with Adin, no stolen touches to his shoulder or chest. No dark eyes warming when they looked at her. No worried, thankful smile when she woke up in Sickbay after the rare away mission turned bad.
Debriefings were, well, brief, and she left Starfleet Headquarters for Indiana, grateful that she’d been awarded six weeks’ leave. She was desperate to curl up in the arms of someone who cared about her. In the absence of the arms she truly wanted, her mother’s would do.
Three weeks into her leave, she had a visitor.
“Captain.” Seven of Nine stood on her doorstep clutching a PADD. Though far more composed than the last time Kathryn had seen her, she was obviously agitated. “There’s something I need to tell you.”
“Come inside,” Kathryn offered. It was a measure of Seven’s discomfort that she acquiesced to sit at the kitchen table and even accepted a cup of tea, though it remained on the table, untouched.
“I must explain my behaviour when we last met,” Seven charged on, speaking over the top of Kathryn’s attempt at pleasantries. “I was … unstable. The removal of my emotional failsafe, coupled with our unexpected return to Earth and the recent change in my personal circumstances…” She trailed off.
“What change are you referring to?” Kathryn held her tea in front of herself like a shield.
“I’m referring to the dissolution of my relationship with Chakotay. I … assumed you knew.”
“Because when you showed up at the hotel, it was pretty obvious what we’d been doing.” Kathryn’s face reddened. “Seven, he did tell me you’d broken up – I’d never have let that happen if I thought you were still together – but when you turned up so upset, I guess I thought –”
“You thought he had misled you.” Seven placed a hand on her arm. “He did not.”
Kathryn put down the tea and buried her head in her hands.
“Go on,” her voice was muffled.
“We did reinstate our romantic relationship shortly after your departure on the Neptune. However, we parted ways twenty-six days later.”
“We are not a suitable match. Our priorities and ambitions were incompatible.” Seven paused. “And Chakotay is in love with you.”
Kathryn peeked out from behind her fingers.
“He is living in Wyoming,” Seven said, standing and passing her the PADD. “You will find him at these coordinates.”
“Thanks,” Kathryn said faintly. She barely heard Seven leave.
What she did next, she had to admit later, was stupid and cowardly, and she was unsurprised when Starfleet HQ informed her that the former Commander Chakotay had tersely rejected their request that he accept reinstatement as the new first officer of the USS Neptune. She wondered if Chakotay knew the request had come from her.
She wondered what he’d been thinking when the request reached him. Then she wondered what the hell she’d been thinking. Hadn’t she learned anything from the past eight months, not to mention the past seven years? Did she really still believe she could manipulate him into being who she needed him to be?
It took her two days to make up her mind, but once she’d made her decision she couldn’t get to him soon enough. She borrowed a hovercar from Tom Paris and set out just after sunrise, only making one stop for a hasty lunch. The weather grew cooler the closer she got to Wyoming. By the time she arrived she was glad she’d packed her jacket.
And then she was there, and he was standing in front of her, his eyes cold and his stance wary, and she swallowed down a hard lump of fear that she’d come too late.
Later, after the tense accusations and the bracing walk with Honey, after marshmallows and confessions and kisses, she curled her arms around his neck and pillowed her cheek on his chest, the soft wool of his sweater tickling her nose. His breath ruffled her hair as he pulled her closer.
“How slowly do you want to take this?”
She raised her head, her fingertips playing over the line of his jaw. “Let’s just say I think you made up that spare bed for no reason.”
Chakotay smiled, but she could read clouds in his eyes.
He glanced away, tugging his ear. “Are you going to run away again?”
“No, Chakotay.” She sat up and cradled his face in both hands. “I don’t want to be without you anymore. Not ever.”
Her eyes widened and she gave a small shriek as he gathered her in his arms and pushed up to his feet.
“Finding your inner caveman, Commander?” she asked breathlessly.
“I told you,” he grinned, navigating the furniture toward his bedroom, “I’m not under your command anymore, Captain.”
“Really?” She tightened her arms around his neck. “So if I order you to put me down…”
“I’ll ignore you.” He ducked and weaved to manoeuvre them through the bedroom doorway.
“And if I tell you I’m not impressed with your brutish display?” She fluttered her eyelashes.
“I won’t believe you.” He lowered her to the bed and bent to kiss her neck.
“And if I order you” – she paused to gasp and arch her back as his hand found her breast – “to unhand me?”
“I’ll remind you” – he tugged off her sweater and licked a slow path from her ear to her cleavage – “that you’ve missed my hands on you” – he unsnapped her bra and tugged it away – “and that I have no intention of letting you go…”
His words trailed off as his lips closed around her nipple and sucked, and she moaned, her hands scrabbling to find bare skin under his sweater.
“Chakotay,” she whispered, fumbling with the buttons on his pants.
“Yes, Kathryn.” His voice was muffled against the naked expanse of her stomach.
“I need you inside me.”
He yanked open her jeans and she raised her behind to help him tug them off. “Is that an order?” he asked, his mouth on her inner thigh as she spread her legs helplessly.
“Yes. That’s an order. God – oh…”
Chakotay crawled back up the length of her body and raised himself on his elbows, nudging against her until she wrapped her legs around his hips and tilted her pelvis to open herself to him.
“Aye, Captain,” he murmured as he bent to kiss her.