Disclaimer: Star Trek: VoyagerTŠ is the registered trademark and sole property of Paramount Pictures. This story is non-commercial and for enjoyment only. No copyright infringement is intended.
SUMMARY: Does love evolve? Warp 10 to Lizard Land! (An epi addition to Threshold)
Friends in High Places
The doorbell chimed and she didn't even have to think twice who it was. She continued toweling off her hair and gazed into the mirror. She looked like hell. On a bad day.
The doorbell chimed again and this time she reached for the robe that was hanging on the hook. Another look in the mirror as she slid it on reminded her of the unruly mop that was her hair. She started combing it as she left the bathroom.
"Enter," she said softly. She was right, it was him. He came into her quarters and waited for the doors to slide shut before saying anything.
"Commander. To what do I owe this honour?"
The arm holding the comb dropped to her side. "Get over here, Chakotay," she whispered.
His strong arms were around her before the first tear slid down her cheek. The comb fell unnoticed to the floor and she quietly sobbed into his chest. It was amazing how comforting those large hands felt as they rubbed her back gently and how soothing his soft shushing noises sounded in her ear. She felt like she was surrounded by a force field protecting her from the entire universe. Slowly she gained control.
"This is all your fault, you know," she gulped.
She heard the gentle smile in his voice. "Oh? And why is that?"
"I would never have cried if you hadn't come here. Never."
"I know. Why else do you think I'm here?"
She pulled away from him slowly and grimaced at his wet tee-shirt. "Well, if you're so smart why didn't you pick out a more absorbent shirt? Flannel maybe,or a fleece."
"Maybe I like the feel of your tears, ever think of that?"
"You like to see me cry?"
"I like to see you lose control. If I don't see that every once in a while I start thinking you're going to implode or..." He hesitated.
"Or withdraw again. You have no idea how I feel when you do that."
"I don't even know how I feel when I do that. It's a lonely habit but I'll try harder not to encourage it. I promise."
"I'll help you with it. So, do you want to talk about it or is it still too early?"
Slowly she bent down and picked up her comb and then turned towards the couch. She started working on the tangles before speaking. "Were you holding something when you came in here?"
"I was," his voice came from the replicator corner. He was ahead of her again, pulling two glasses out from the cupboard underneath. "It's strictly for medicinal purposes, of course."
They sat down together and he poured two healthy doses of medicine. Handing one glass to her he simply said, "To you."
She hesitated. "No, to us."
"Okay. To us."
The fire hit her throat with the first sip and her eyes widened over the rim of the glass. By the time the second sip slid down she was smiling at him.
"Chakotay, where did you get this? It's wonderful!"
"You don't need to know but I'm glad you approve. Just enjoy it because it's brandy and it's real. Nuff said."
"I'll say." She sipped again and then looked over at him shyly. "Did you want to talk or was it just supposed to be me whining?"
He licked his lips to get every drop and said softly, "Whatever you want, Kathryn. But I do think it would be good for you to talk about it."
She sighed. "I see. Counsellor Chakotay to the rescue."
"Friend Chakotay, if you don't mind."
"I don't mind. But, tell me, Friend, have you ever thought of having a family of your own?"
He hesitated before answering. "Not until Voyager."
She looked at him with interest. "Really? Why suddenly on Voyager?"
"It wasn't all that sudden. I once had a family I loved and then it was gone. I don't think I'll ever get over that. Then I was Maquis and, as close as we got, there'd always be some kind of detachment. No one wanted to go through the experience of losing loved ones again so we were close, but at arms' length. Then came Voyager. Gradually the months went by and we didn't miraculously get home in a snap of the fingers and, well, I realised I felt like the people on board this ship were my family. I was connected again, and I liked it."
She nodded. "I feel the same way. But how about a family of your own?"
"Yes," he said briefly and took another sip.
"Why haven't you?"
"Kathryn, I'm the First Officer. Who'd want to hook up with the guy who is in charge of everyone on board this ship, not to mention being the Chief Cook and Coffee Cop for the Captain?"
Her eyes studiously watched his face. "About 99% of the female crew I would say, Chakotay."
His hand reached out and guided her chin towards him. "I don't want 99% of the female crew, Kathryn."
Their eyes locked for a moment but she couldn't hold his gaze. She sighed. "I feel funny leaving them behind. I know it's ridiculous, but my DNA is in them and that seems to have a pull on me. Like family."
He hesitated before answering, and then only after another swallow. "Well, I'm glad you did leave, pull or no pull."
"Because Paris' DNA is in them, too. It's hard enough to imagine a new evolutionary path underway on a DQ planet without thinking about you and Tom Paris playing Adam and Eve together."
"We weren't together," she replied, until his raised eyebrow made her blush. "Well okay, I guess we must have been. But I don't remember anything and Tom says the same. And we were lizards for heaven's sake! Am I responsible for my actions when I'm a prehistoric lizard on an alien planet?"
He considered for a moment. "Oh, all right, I'll give you that one. Whenever you're a prehistoric lizard on an alien planet you can be as wanton as you please."
His dimples and twinkling eyes made her put aside his use of the word 'wanton' in connection with herself. Well almost, but she'd get him back double the next time. If he only knew how chaste her life was he'd be astonished. She had a pretty good idea that her version of a shore leave was a parsec away from his.
"Thank you, Chakotay," she said softly.
Beautiful white teeth joined the dimples. "For what, Kathryn? For me giving you permission to be a wild lizard woman on the next planet we get to?"
"Idiot. I meant for all of this. You coming here tonight with brandy. Holding me while I cried. Putting my life as a lizard in perspective. You've really helped me, you know."
His hand reached out and patted her knee. "That's what friends and first officers are for, Kathryn. As long as I'm on the other side of that bulkhead you have a friend on and off duty. Don't ever forget that."
"I won't." She smiled and looked at his hand, still resting on her knee. For the first time she felt a little tingle that suggested her friendship with her First Officer could possibly advance to something more. It was vague, like dandelion fluff drifting on a breeze, but she felt a flutter in her heart. Perhaps one day she could allow her brain to accept the idea.
He took her look and silence as an objection to his familiarity and hastily removed his hand. "I should go, Kathryn. You're exhausted."
"Oh." She couldn't keep her disappointment from her voice. "Right. You have alpha shift tomorrow, don't you? That's too bad, I was just thinking about another glass of brandy with you."
"You go ahead, I'll leave the bottle here. Have an extra sip for me." He started towards the doors and she followed him. He turned before the automatic doors could slide open.
"Goodnight, Kathryn. And don't forget what I said." He pointed towards her bedroom. "I'm just on the other side of that bulkhead and can be here in less than a minute if you need me."
"I'll remember, and thank you." She brought her hand up to his chest and, before her brain could register her actions, she rose up on her tiptoes. His face was a combination of both surprise and consideration as her lips kissed him.
"Goodnight, Chakotay." And then he found himself in the corridor, walking towards his own doors.
It was an interesting kiss, he thought as he keyed in his access code. Not the dry peck from a friend although certainly not the hot kiss of a lover. She had placed it perfectly to add to his confusion, not on the cheek and yet not fully on the lips. His finger came up to the corner of his mouth where it still burned and thought again about her question of having a family of his own.
But then he shook it off and headed to the bathroom to get ready for bed. That life could be years away and he preferred to live in the here and now. If love was in his future he'd be more than pleased, but for now he was part of a family and happy again. And the woman on the other side of the bulkhead needed him.
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