Summary: Janeway is determined to assess her first officer’s skills at Voyager’s second Talent Night.
Characters: Janeway, Chakotay
Disclaimer: Paramount should be held responsible for this in every way. Kidding.
Notes: Written for Coda Day (January 29).
JANEWAY: Come on, Chakotay, there must be some talent you have that people would enjoy. Maybe I could stand with an apple on my head and you could phaser it off.
CHAKOTAY: Sounds great. If I miss I get to be captain.
“You must be able to do something,” Kathryn protests, leaning across the centre console. “Everybody has a talent, no matter how small.”
She’s keeping her voice low, but Chakotay can tell from the set of Tom Paris’ shoulders at the helm that he’s straining to hear every word. Out of deference to the public setting of this borderline private conversation, he refrains from offering any of the more salacious replies that dart across his tongue in response to Kathryn’s exclamation.
“I never said I don’t have any talents,” he murmurs. “They’re just not the kind that are usually performed for a large audience.”
“Well, now I’m intrigued,” she says, her lips quirking in that half-smile that makes him weak. Does she know the effect it has on him?
“Come on, Chakotay,” Kathryn wheedles. “Neelix is very keen to repeat the success of our first Talent Night. Meet me in the holodeck after shift. We’ll come up with some kind of act you can put on.”
Once again, he bites his tongue, wishing he hadn’t noticed the way the tips of Tom’s ears have gone red or the quick tapping of the pilot’s hands across his console that usually means he’s messaging Harry Kim.
“If I agree, will you drop the subject until then?” he pleads.
“I promise,” Kathryn answers, sitting back in her chair with a satisfied smirk.
Chakotay wonders if he can manufacture a personnel crisis that will force him to cancel on her or if that would just postpone the inevitable, and sighs again.
“Can you play an instrument?”
“Well, what about dancing?”
Kathryn’s head cocks to one side as she frowns at him. “Now I know you’re not telling me the truth. B’Elanna told me –”
“Forget it,” he interrupts hastily. “I’m not dancing in front of the crew.”
She pouts for a moment, then brightens. “What about a theatrical performance? You once told you you’d acted in a few Shakespeare productions at the Academy. You could do Hamlet’s soliloquy.”
“’For in that sleep of death what dreams may come when we have shuffled off this mortal coil’…” He raises his eyebrows at her. “Really, Kathryn? After what happened a couple of weeks ago?”
Her eyes are widened, watching him.
“Too soon,” she agrees after a few beats of silence. “Perhaps we should stick to comedy.”
“’O, she misused me past the endurance of a block!’” Chakotay shoots back smartly.
She glares. “Fine. You clearly know your Shakespeare, so you pick something.”
He draws in a breath.
“And not the balcony scene,” she cuts him off, reading the sparkle in his eye.
“All right.” Chakotay thinks it over, then ambles loose-hipped toward her, pitching his voice low. “’Good morrow, Kate – for that’s your name, I hear.’”
Her stare turns stony, but she stands her ground and answers reluctantly, “’They call me Katherine, that do talk of me.’”
“You skipped a bit,” Chakotay points out, then carries smoothly on: “’You lie, in faith, for you are called plain Kate, and bonny Kate, and sometimes Kate the cursed –‘”
He pauses momentarily, gauging the set of her jaw.
“’But Kate, the prettiest Kate in Christendom –‘”
“All right, Commander,” she cuts in, hands finding their way to her hips. “You’ve made your point. No Shakespeare.”
Chakotay’s grin widens.
“And you can stop laughing at me,” Kathryn mutters under her breath.
“I wouldn’t dream of laughing at you, Captain.”
“Computer, end program,” she scowls in response, and stalks out of the holodeck.
“We’re running out of time, Chakotay,” she emphasises. “Talent Night is only a week away. If we don’t decide on your act soon, you really will be phasering an apple off my head.”
Then her eyes go wide.
Her fingers drift up to fidget with her combadge, and Chakotay’s heart sinks. “What?” he asks, resigned.
“Well, I know your tribe didn’t use bows and arrows,” she refers to his confession during their unexpected stay on Hanon IV, “but you’re a pretty good shot with other weapons, and I was a dab hand at archery when I was at school. I’ll bet I could teach you. We could put on a William Tell display.”
“I said, no.”
She slinks toward him with that coquettish head tilt, that rolling stride she uses when she’s about to wheedle. “I trust you with my life, Chakotay,” she assures him, resting one hand lightly on his forearm as she holds his gaze with hers.
“Kathryn…” he wavers.
“And anyway,” she points out, smiling, “they’ll be holographic arrows.”
Hi shoulders slump.
“Good,” she says, satisfied. “Computer, run program Janeway Rho Five.”
Instantly, they’re standing on a flat, grassy field. A large, brightly-painted target stands several metres away.
“I’ll need two quivers of standard arrows and two recurve bows, one size 62, the other,” she pauses to study him, “Chakotay, hold your arms out to your sides. Computer, measure the commander’s arm span and determine bow size.”
“Acknowledged,” the computer responds, and two long-bows materialise on the grass beside them.
Kathryn picks hers up and weighs it in her hands, tests drawing back the string, nodding her approval. “Have you really never done this before?” she asks Chakotay.
He shrugs. “I took a few classes at the Academy, and Tuvok gave me a refresher course a few months back.”
“Okay.” She hands him the longer bow. “Show me your stance.”
Chakotay is momentarily tempted to strike a pose that has nothing to do with archery, but instead turns right-side-on to the target, feet shoulder-width apart, nocks an arrow and draws back the string with his left hand.
“Southpaw stance,” comments Kathryn. “We can work with that. Release the arrow.”
He does, and they watch it soar past the target and into the field beyond.
“Again. I’ll watch your form this time.”
Chakotay resists with difficulty the suggestion that springs to the tip of his tongue, and lets fly another arrow.
“I see the problem. Here.”
Kathryn moves in close, hands resting on his hips as she manoeuvres his body into the correct stance. Stepping back, she nods.
Chakotay finds he’s holding his breath as he pulls back the bowstring.
“And relax,” she admonishes him. “You’re all tensed up.”
He can’t seem to follow her instruction; his fingers clutch the bow too tightly and the arrow once again zooms past the target. “Sorry,” he mutters. “Guess I should stick to phasers.”
“Nonsense.” Kathryn comes close again and fits herself into the space around his body, manipulating him this way and that until she’s satisfied. “Now,” she continues, resting a hand on his chest as she meets his eyes, “just breathe deeply. In, out, and again. On the third exhale, let the arrow loose.”
She steps back, and Chakotay tries to calm his racing heart. In, out, he coaches himself. He pictures the tension easing from his limbs, closes his eyes, draws in a steady breath, and –
“You did it,” Kathryn exclaims.
Chakotay opens his eyes. The arrow is protruding from the target, the fletches quivering slightly. It’s not dead on, but it’s not far off.
Kathryn squeezes his shoulder. “Not bad, Commander,” she drawls. “Were you imagining my face, painted on the target?”
“You really think that’s what I’d like to do to your face?” he says before he can stop himself.
The blush that colours her cheekbones is so pretty he has a hard time stepping away from her.
He keeps his tone casual as he glances away. “I’m calling that one beginner’s luck.”
“Your elbow did drop a little at full extension,” she offers. “I can help you with that.”
Chakotay thinks about her putting her hands on him again, moving his body into position, studying him while he stands passively for inspection. He thinks about trying to listen, to take in her instructions while most of his attention is fixed on the scent of her hair, the soft brush of her skin against his and the low, intimate timbre of her voice.
He places the bow gently on the holographic grass.
“Sorry, Kathryn,” he says. “I don’t really think this is my sport.”
“I’ve got it.”
He looks up in surprise as Kathryn marches into his office unannounced.
Chakotay puts down his padd in confusion. “You want to be addressed as capoeira?”
“No, Chakotay.” Kathryn rolls her eyes, perching on the edge of his desk. “Haven’t you ever heard of capoeira? It’s Brazilian. It’s a meld of dance, martial arts and acrobatics. And it will be perfect for us.”
Chakotay’s mouth drops open as he tries to decide which part of this statement is the most alarming, and which should be addressed first.
“Us?” he ventures finally.
“Well, it’s not going to be very exciting if you get up there on your own and prance about kicking the air, is it? And besides, I thought having a partner up on the stage with you would make you feel better. Sharing the spotlight. You know.”
Chakotay folds his hands, eyeing her cautiously. “I already told you I don’t dance, Kathryn.”
“And I told you I know that’s a bald-faced lie.”
“Well, I sure as hell can’t backflip through the air without a trampoline.”
“You can learn. Besides, I know you can box.”
“What does that have to do with –”
“Boxing is a martial art. Capoeira is a martial art. Do I have to draw you a diagram?”
“Maybe you should,” he mutters.
Sighing, she leans in to catch his gaze, her hand drifting to his shoulder. “Please, Chakotay,” she entreats softly.
He knows he has already lost, but then she deals the killing blow: she spreads cool fingertips along the side of his face, her thumb grazing close to his lips, and lowers her voice.
“It would mean so much to me.”
Chakotay closes his eyes. “I’ll meet you in holodeck two at 1800 hours.”
He doesn’t look up, but he doesn’t need to. He can easily conjure a perfect mental image of her sashaying triumphantly out of his office.
“You want me to spin through the air and kick you in the face?”
“I don’t want you to really kick me in the face, Chakotay. Just pretend.”
“How am I supposed to do that? I’ll have my back to you – I won’t have any idea where you are.”
“I’m nimble,” she assures him. “I’ll dodge you.”
“Kathryn, I don’t like this.”
“Okay,” she sighs. “Maybe we should go back to basics. Find some moves that aren’t so challenging.”
“I think that’s a good idea.”
“Fine.” Kathryn strides to the holodeck control panel and punches in a few commands, and the pair of lithe, tightly-clad holo-humans in the middle of the holodeck come back to life.
Chakotay barely spares them a glance; he’s far more captivated by the vision of Kathryn in her Starfleet sweats, ponytail swinging, perspiration shining lightly on her bare arms. They’ve been diligently following the moves demonstrated by their holographic tutors for close to an hour now, and he’s almost at breaking point. If he has to grasp Kathryn’s wrist or her waist, parry her blows or turn and slide against her body even one more time, he’s going to have to excuse himself to relieve some tension.
The capoeiristas come to a halt, and Kathryn turns to him, nodding. “I think we can perfect that move, Chakotay. What do you say?”
“Uh,” he says desperately, “how long do we have until Talent Night?”
He opens his mouth to beg off, but she’s gazing at him so expectantly, her eyes so bright and her smile so hopeful, that he can’t bring himself to do it.
She’s loving this, he realises.
And of course she is. She nearly died barely a month ago. Why wouldn’t she want to grab onto new experiences, push herself into tasting and trying all the things that make her feel alive?
Three days, he thinks. I can take three more days of this. For her.
“Sure,” he responds, smiling back at her. “Let’s do it.”
“I really think we’re getting better,” Kathryn says brightly the next night as they take a short break from their lesson.
Chakotay isn’t so sure, but he wipes the towel across his face in lieu of arguing. Kathryn, he privately agrees, is improving; she has a natural agility and lightness on her feet that seems to lend itself to capoeira. He, however, feels like a stumbling block of wood. He’s barely able to dodge her spinning elbows and flying kicks. And, as Kathryn has pointed out more than once, his background in boxing really should have given him an advantage at this sport.
He can only blame his lack of skill on distraction. Because every time she dances toward him, every time she spins almost into his arms, all he wants is to stare at her and hope that this time, instead of whirling away, she’ll fling her arms around his neck and press her body into his.
Kathryn tilts her head back, swallowing the last drops of water in her bottle, and Chakotay averts his gaze from the length of her throat. Not for the first time, he wonders if she’s aware of exactly how strongly the simplest of her actions affects him.
Of course she is.
“Ready?” Kathryn asks, bouncing to her feet, and Chakotay forces a smile as he gets up to follow her.
He’s late to rehearsal, and Kathryn is frowning impatiently when he finally rushes into the holodeck.
“Sorry,” he gasps. “There was a minor problem in engineering. Nothing to worry about,” he adds hastily as her frown deepens.
“All right, Commander.” Kathryn puts her hands on her hips. “We only have the holodeck until 2100 hours tonight, so let’s make the most of it – Talent Night is tomorrow, and we still don’t have our act down.”
Chakotay has shuffled behind the changing screen and is busy yanking off his uniform and pulling on the loose white pants Kathryn has determined are proper capoeira gear. He peeps around the screen at her; she’s already practising the first moves of their routine, her body lithe and graceful in her tight-fitting white tank and gauzy pants.
She’s distracting enough in plain grey Starfleet sweats, but in this outfit? He swallows hard.
“Ready?” she calls to him with mild sarcasm, and he steps reluctantly out from behind the screen, holding his abdominal muscles taut and wishing she’d agreed to let him wear a tank, too.
He doesn’t think he’s imagining the way her eyes widen as she takes him in.
“Oh,” she says, then straightens up and schools her face. “Come on, Commander. Let’s get moving.”
“Aye, Captain,” he murmurs.
He takes his position opposite her, and as she orders the program to begin, Chakotay conceals a small smile at the evidence that she’s not entirely unaffected, either.
“This isn’t working.”
She sounds tense, frustrated, and he doesn’t blame her. He’s feeling pretty frustrated himself.
“Computer, pause program.” The drumbeat stops, and Kathryn throws herself down onto the padded bench and glares up at him. “What are we doing wrong?”
Chakotay eases down beside her, passes her a bottle of water. “Maybe we’re trying too hard,” he suggests. “You’ve choreographed a great routine, Kathryn, but it’s starting to feel a little scripted. Maybe we need to improvise. Just let it flow.”
She glances at him, doubt clear in her eyes.
“C’mon,” he cajoles, rising and holding out a hand to help her up. “Let’s give it a try.”
She rests her hand in his and lets him pull her to her feet.
“Computer, resume,” he calls, and the frenetic jungle drums begin again. But this time, instead of backing away and crouching into the ginga stance, he gives into impulse and catches hold of her waist, pulling her in close to his body before he steps lightly back and spins her away again. Then back in, her body easily following his movements as he dips her at the waist and straightens her up again.
Kathryn lets go of his hand and stumbles backward, staring at him. He can see the pulse fluttering in her throat, far more quickly than it should be for such minor exertion.
“I thought you said you didn’t dance,” she blurts.
Chakotay shuffles his feet, wondering what the hell’s gotten into him. “I don’t.”
“Then what was that?” Kathryn takes a cautious step closer.
“Improvisation?” he tugs his ear. “Sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry,” she says quickly. “It was unexpected. But not unwelcome.”
He glances at her.
“The thing is – and please don’t be offended,” she explains, “but I’ve been wondering if you just don’t have the natural rhythm a capoeirista needs. And you’ve just showed me that you do have the moves. In fact, you’re a natural.”
Chakotay meets her eyes, his voice low. “Would you like to see more of my moves, Kathryn?”
Her lips part, but he doesn’t break his gaze. She swallows visibly, then nods.
“Show me what you’ve got.”
Without further delay, he catches her hand and tugs her hard against him, his mouth finding hers.
He may not be a singer, but he soon discovers the range of her vocal ability. And the sounds she makes as he kisses his way across her abdomen and buries his mouth between her thighs are his favourite of her repertoire.
It makes sense, he considers while he still retains presence of mind enough to focus on anything but her quivering gasps and melodious sighs, that she’d accept his offer now, finally, after so many months of demonstrating his feelings for her in less bold and obvious ways. A flirtation with death – and though she’s no stranger to it, this was her closest brush yet – has a way of making one grab hold of life-affirming experiences. And what could be more life-affirming than this?
He’s determined to make this experience one she’ll never forget. And judging by her responses as he guides her to climax with hands and mouth, as he gathers her close and slides inside her, as he brushes his lips over the arch of her throat, the soft warmth of her mouth, he hopes it’s one she’ll want to repeat.
“I had no idea you were so talented,” she purrs later, stretching languorously in his arms.
Chakotay hides a laugh by ducking his forehead against her collarbone.
“What’s so funny?”
“At least I’m good at something,” he answers, raising his head to grin at her. “But I don’t think this is the kind of performance Neelix is hoping for at Talent Night.”