That was it! She had it with the same old thing that had been constantly replaying itself for the past three years on this ship.
The never ending tug of attraction, the huskily voiced coy innuendos, all those heated stares across the bridge at each other and at the end of the day, dealing with an irate first officer when nothing more than a dinner as friends came from all that flirting.
It was enough to drive anyone with an ounce of patience up the wall, let alone a tired, hot-tempered and heavily pregnant engineer.
This was the last time that Chakotay would walk into her quarters, cursing vividly over a certain stubborn red headed Captain. At this point in their voyage and her pregnancy, it was all B'Elanna could do to restrain herself from beating some sense into both of their thick skulls.
After this recent bout of insanity, she had decided to lay all the cards on the table and whether the Captain wanted to hear it or not, she was going to be hit with both barrels. Her martyr pedestal was about to be knocked from under her and she was in for a rude awakening.
As B'Elanna stormed her way through the corridors, she muttered darkly under her breath what she thought of the two highest-ranking members on board. She barely acknowledged the frantic scrambling of bodies trying to escape her wrath. Upon reaching her destination, she rang and waited impatiently to be let into the Captain's sanctuary.
She stood with her arms crossed over her swollen stomach and a deepening scowl appearing upon her face as each second passed. With a soft hissing sound, the doors slid open and she marched in to confront the most obstinate female in the Delta Quadrant.
Kathryn Janeway sat on the long couch that was directly in front of her window that faced the passing star field. The table before her was overflowing with numerous padds and empty cups of coffee. Her discarded jacket lay over the arms of one the sofa and a little weight navy blanket had been draped over the lower half of her body.
B'Elanna looked at her intently, taking in the dark circles that had formed around Janeway's eyes and how tired her gaze was before she concealed it beneath her captain's mask from B'Elanna's knowing glance.
"This is a surprise, B'Elanna," Janeway said with a smile, placing the padd she had been reading down beside her. "Is everything alright?"
"Everything is fine, Captain. Permission to speak freely," B'Elanna asked through clenched teeth.
"Granted," Janeway replied, surprised at B'Elanna's tone and tense body language towards her.
"Kathryn Janeway, you have some nerve," B'Elanna spat, glaring down into the shocked eyes of the older woman.
"I beg your pardon, Lieutenant?" Janeway responded coolly, her eyes flashing a warning to tread lightly and think carefully before saying another word.
"You heard me. Do you get some sick, twisted pleasure from tormenting Chakotay?" B'Elanna demanded as she ignored the silent warning. "Every damn day it's the same thing. You demand more and more from him. Slowly taking away pieces of his soul without giving anything back to replenish what you took."
"No, for once you need to hear this. You can throw me in the brig or write me up for insubordination after I've said what I came here to say," she interrupted, "I've always admired you and thought that you were the bravest Captain I've ever know but in certain things, Kathryn, you're a coward."
B'Elanna watched as Janeway's jaw clenched and her breathing deepened as she struggled to maintain her composure. B'Elanna could almost hear the grinding of her teeth from where she stood.
"You've started this, you may as well finish it," Janeway replied, each word she uttered dripping with icy shards.
"In the last four years, I've seen you trample over Chakotay's feelings as if they meant nothing to you, using them to your advantage. You've turned a strong, caring and loyal man into your own personal pet on a leash." B'Elanna forged on, venting all the years of frustration that she had felt for and at them. She spoke quickly, sensing that Janeway's patience would snap very soon. "He shows you every day what you mean to him."
"I wasn't aware that my comings and goings had become fodder for the gossipmongers on this ship," Janeway retorted dryly.
"Did you honestly think that the crew didn't know that he transfers rations into your account? That every morning he gives you a peace rose and that every night he cooks dinner for you?" B'Elanna asked in disbelief. "Then there's those hundred watt smiles he sends your way on the bridge when he thinks no one is watching. He wears his heart on his sleeve for someone who has become a cold-hearted bit-"
"That's enough. You've had your say," Janeway held up a hand to halt her from speaking further. "I understand that you are upset but this doesn't concern you. This is between Chakotay and I. Not you and definitely not the rest of the crew."
B'Elanna nodded at her sadly, not wanting to give up but knowing that it was a useless battle that she had no way of winning with Janeway clinging so stubbornly to her rules and pride.
"You're right, it doesn't concern us but he's getting tired of the meager crumbs that you toss his way every now and then. One day, if you're not careful, you'll lose him," B'Elanna murmured, shaking her head at the stiff figure before her. "He's the only thing on this ship that's preventing you from becoming an old, bitter woman, whose only goal is getting this ship home.
Janeway looked away from her top gaze at the passing stars; her breathing had become agitated and rapid with each word that B'Elanna had spoken.
B'Elanna walked swiftly to her side and tentatively laid a gentle hand on her shoulder. She felt the slight tremble under her palm but saw nothing in front of her except her calm looking Captain.
"Kathryn, you've been pressing this ship and crew towards home for so long but did you every stop and think that maybe we're already there?" She asked gentle, tightening her hand in reassurance over the tense frame beneath her fingertips. "We're more than just members of Voyager's crew. We're more than Starfleet and Maquis. We've become a family that loves, mourns and expresses joy together."
"Screw protocols, Kathryn. They were created by a bunch of stuffed shirts that never spent one minute on a Starship and who could never imagine the situation that we are in." B'Elanna butt in, "You need to make a choice. Give into your feelings for Chakotay or cut the string that holds you together and let him find peace with someone else.
Janeway refused to look back at her as her mind reeled at the thought of not having Chakotay by her side. She desperately tried to ignore the stab of pain at the image of Chakotay with someone else. She wanted him to be happy with someone who could love him but at the moment, she couldn't give him the love that he deserved. However, she selfishly needed him to be by her side. Could she let him go forever? Always near her but never with her? B'Elanna's voice broke through her inner musings.
"But take a good look at yourself in the mirror. Picture what you'll become without him in your life," B'Elanna finished her voice cool and steady as she backed away from the silent woman. "Permission to leave, Captain."
"Dismissed," Janeway whispered, hearing the soft footsteps walking away from her and out the door.
She leaned back, her eyes closing as she remembered Chakotay's request earlier today. It had been such a small thing to deny, she had thought. She was swapped with work do, Starfleet was expecting a report within the next week and the list of repairs that needed to be completed were slowly become enormous tasks. The padds of reports on her desk kept steadily rising with each hour that passed and each one required her approval.
"Kathryn, we've both had a long few days. How about dinner tonight, my treat?" Chakotay asked trying to tempt her with a dimpled smile, as he watched her pour over the numerous padds.
"Not tonight, Chakotay. I've got too much to get done, maybe tomorrow night, if I can free up the time." She had replied, not even bothering to look up from her work. If she had, she would have seen the desolate look upon his face before it was quickly concealed.
"Some other time then, Captain," Chakotay muttered, walking away from her.
Her head had snapped up and she watched him leave, her throat had tightened and she had not been able top call him back. This was for the best, she tried to convince herself as her heart ached, he needed to let go. With a sigh, she had returned to her padd and had attempted to forget the encounter between them.
"Oh Chakotay," Kathryn whispered, unable to believe all the hurt that she had caused him with her disregard over their years together.
It was so easy to take advantage of someone that was always by your side, even if you never meant for that to happen. His devotion and support was her anchor when things became unbearable and she felt a drift.
Thinking back, she recalled an incident that she had overheard just the other morning from two crewmembers, regarding Chakotay's obvious feelings for her, they had not been aware of her presences nearby and spoke openly about their views on her and Chakotay. She had flushed as she realized that they were the topic of conversation and had meant to walk away but something compelled her to stay.
Whoever said that those that overheard things wouldn't like what was said, couldn't have been more accurate. She had listened as they spoke in pitying voices about Chakotay and his unfortunate luck in falling for a person that refused to love him in return. They both admired her as their Captain but they missed the warm woman she had been at the start of their voyage. They had noticed over the years as an icy demeanor begun to chip away at the warm approachable person she had been to produce a cool stranger. Still approachable but lacking the genuine caring from before.
Kathryn had waited until they left before exiting the Jefferies tubes that she had been working in. The change had been so slow that she had never noticed the change in her personality. As each year passed, the task before her seemed to grow all the more impossible. With each race that they met that sought to destroy them, her optimism degraded and her shell became harder. Anyone that was close to her, need to be kept out so that she could concentrate on the voyage before her. She had carefully locked her feelings for Chakotay away, hoping that time would dull them and allow her to forge forward with her duties as captain.
But as much as she wished that she didn't love Chakotay as more than a friend, her heart had stubbornly refused to allow the deception. When they first had met, she had felt the shiver of attraction as she stood by his side, as she breathed in his musky natural scent and looked into his angry dark eyes. She had wanted nothing more than to run her hands through his short grey streaked hair before moving her fingertips to trace over his tattoo in a light caress. Her eyes had been drawn to the tight leather pants that he wore, enjoying the view of his muscles rippling with each step that he took. She had to stifle a gasp, as he turned to look at her and his eyes had swept leisurely over her uniform clad body. With a cheeky grin, he had motioned her forward and they had gone to find their missing crewmembers, well aware of her close scrutiny of him.
Over the years that passed they continued to serve together, denying the attraction between them until that fateful day when they had to be left behind on New Earth. The first few days had been tense as they struggled to adjust to their new roles but soon an easy banter began again. The flirting, the looks and the teasing touches became a part of their days together. It would only be a matter of time before they gave into their feelings but both were content to take it slow, wanting to learn everything about the other before taking the next step in their relationship. Not knowing how soon it would be before their secluded paradise was tore from their hands and they needed to return to their sterile relationship.
Kathryn cherished each moment, storing them deep within her heart and keeping them close to her as a source of strength during the lonely nights. Each night, the happy memories brought her a sense of peace but they also made her ache for more. In her dreams, she was free to love Chakotay and they made a home from a beige and gray box. Each meeting together was filled with love and when she woke she reached for him, only to find the space beside her cold and empty. Loving Chakotay was the one thing that she didn't have the luxury of feeling but her soul hungered for him and the day she would be free of her responsibilities.
‘But would that day ever come?' Her mind taunted her. ‘You're throwing away your chance at happiness for what might be. It's not fair to Chakotay nor to yourself to constantly deny what's between you.'
‘Home is where the heart is and your heart is with Chakotay. Stop being so stubborn.'
They were forty thousand light years closer to the Alpha Quadrant but in that instant she was home. Now she had to find a way of making it up to Chakotay for all this years of denial. Something bold, daring and completely a surprise. Something that would let Chakotay and the crew know that she was done hiding behind her captain's mask and that she was in love with an amazing man. But what to do?
Her eyes widened in delight and a happy smile lighted up her features. She had the perfect idea and knew the one person that could help her plan this to perfection.
"Janeway to Neelix."
"Yes, Captain," Neelix responded instantly in a cheerful voice.
"Please report to my quarters."
‘It was time to make everything right.' She thought, taking a fortifying breath to stead her nerves.
***Two Days After the Confrontation***
"Alright, Chakotay. You're coming with me," B'Elanna announced dragging him down the deserted corridors towards holodeck one.
"Where?" Chakotay asked with a laugh, allowing himself to be pulled along for the ride.
"Talent Night! It's been the talk of the whole ship and you're going with me, old man. I'm not taking no for an answer," B'Elanna said nipping Chakotay's refusal in the bud before he uttered it.
"I'm really not in the mood tonight, ‘Lanna," Chakotay replied tiredly.
"Stay for a little bit. How would it look if both the Captain and the First Officer are absent for tonight? Think of all of Neelix's attempts at morale if this fails?" B'Elanna cajoled.
"Alright, you win. I'll stay for a couple of acts," Chakotay said, caving into her request. "Where's Tom?"
"Keeping hold of our seats, so move it," she growled playfully.
With a chuckle, they stepped into the holideck.
He paused at the doorway, looking at the recreation of a thirties speakeasy. The room was dimly lit and small, linen covered tables where set up around the stage, they were tightly grouped together and gave the room an intimate aura.
Tea lights flickered with the passing breeze created by bodies walking by and the scent of flowery perfumes and Cuban cigars filled the air. All around them, the hushed murmurs of conversations flowed leading to a pleasant atmosphere to all that had attended. The Doctor sat at the piano playing a jazzy tune to liven up the crowd and his rich baritone voice rouse the crowd.
Chakotay felt B'Elanna nudge him forward towards one of the tables at the back. Paris was already seated and taking sips of a clear drink.
"Hey, Chakotay." Tom called out, stealing a kiss from B'Elanna as she sat beside him.
"Didn't think you'd come tonight, chief. How many bones did she threaten to break?" Tom asked, drawing B'Elanna close and resting a hand over his child.
"None, helmboy," B'Elanna grumbled, elbowing him softly and rolling her eyes at his antics.
"Hmpf!" Tom moaned, clutching his side in mock pain.
A drum roll filled the air and drew their attention to the centre stage. Neelix stood before them, smiling happily and almost dancing in glee.
"Attention, can I get everyone's attention, please." Neelix shouted out to be heard over the voices. "Welcome to Voyager's fourth annual Talent Night. Tonight we're in for a special treat. We have a secret performer that will be singing one of Tom's twentieth century songs. They've asked not to be introduced so that they can surprise a special someone that is in the audience."
"Maybe it's the Captain," Tom hissed, sitting up and trying to make out the shadows in the background behind Neelix's body. He went over the last few days and tried to remember if anyone had asked him about songs from that era, only to draw a blank.
"Maybe it's a Videan coming to take what little of your brain you have left, Paris," B'Elanna retorted as she hushed him.
The lights dimmed further and a musky mysterious voice began to sing in a sultry tone. Wrapping all that heard it under her spell.
"How glad the many millions
Of Michaels and Kashyks
Would be to capture me.
But you had such persistence,
You wore down my resistance
I fell and it was swell."
The lights brightened and the petite figure of Kathryn Janeway stood by herself at the center of the stage before them, swaying gentle to the beat of the music and smiling broadly down into their shocked faces.
From his seat in the back, Chakotay thought she looked drop dead gorgeous. She wore a strapless sheath dress that hugged her curves in all the right places. The dress was a rich midnight blue with tiny sequins that glittered with each step she took. Long white satin gloves encased her hands and arms up to the elbows; she wore a sapphire ring on her right hand and a tiny bejeweled bracket on her left wrist. Petite teardrop diamonds hung from her ears and a simple diamond and sapphire pendant nestled over her chest just above the tempting valley of her breasts. She looked like a classy dame, as Paris would say and Chakotay wanted nothing more than to rush to her side and kiss her stockings off.
He watched as Kathryn searched the crowd until her blue eyes met his. He inhaled sharply at the seductive look she threw his way, her lips forming a pouty smile and her eyes twinkled with merriment. His jaw dropped as she blew him a kiss and winked at him.
"You're my big and brave and handsome warrior
How I won you, I'll never never know
It's not that you're attractive
But, oh, my heart grew active
When you came into view."
As she sang, she slowly made her way off the stage. Her body dipping and swaying like a sirens to the rhythm of the song. Her every move mesmerized him and all that watched. She stopped a few tables away from him and sat a top the table, crossing her legs and teasing him with the view of her black stocking clad, svelte legs. Her eyes never left his as she declared her feelings for him in front of a large number of their crew. He smiled at her, his heart free of the earlier anger and disillusionment, not that he wasn't aware that they would still have they difficult moments but content to finally have everything out in the open and that Kathryn had taken the step to come to him, that she wasn't going to hide anymore from her feelings towards him. She hopped off the table and made her way to him.
"I've got a crush on you, sweetpie
All the day and night- hear me sigh.
I never had the least notion
That I could fall with so much emotion."
Kathryn stood in front of him, ignoring Tom and B'Elanna's shocked looks. She reached out a trembling hand and caressed his jaw before running her thumb tenderly over his lips. Her eyes filled with tears at what she had almost thrown away because of her stubbornness. Breathing deeply she continued singing aloud but making it clear to all that she was singing only to Chakotay.
"Could you coo, could you care
For a cozy shelter, we could share
The ship must pardon my mush
Cause I have got a crush on you."
Kathryn pushed at his shoulders, silently asking him to pull away from the table. As soon as he had back away, she sat down on his lap, wrapping her arms around his neck and pressing close to him and laying her head over his shoulder. Her voice grew softer and he leaned down close to her to make out the words.
"Could you coo, could you care
For a cozy shelter, we could share
The ship must pardon my mush
Cause I have got a crush on you
Cause I have got a crush, my baby, on you."
The music faded and silence filled the room before everyone erupted into roaring cheers. The sound of people whistling and clapping easing Kathryn and Chakotay's mind and worries of the crew not approving their union. As the cheers continued, Chakotay tipped Kathryn's head back and wiped away the tear flowing down her cheek.
"What happened to protocols? Not that I'm complaining," Chakotay asked, hugging her close to him. He sat drinking in the sight and scent of the most intoxicating woman in the world.
She laid her hand over his heart, needing to feel the steady beat underneath her hand. "Someone told me two days ago that I needed to stop being so selfish. If I was only stringing you along to let you go," Kathryn replied, smiling thankfully at B'Elanna.
"Are you letting me go?" Chakotay asked, nuzzling along her sensitive neck to her ear.
"I was sent seven years ago to capture a Maquis Captain, now that I've got you, I'm keeping you for the next fifty or sixty years," she sighed, enjoying being in his arms at last.
"No chance of an early parole?" Chakotay teased.
"Not in this lifetime unless you have a death wish," Kathryn threatened with a smile.
"I wouldn't have it any other way," Chakotay murmured, sealing their agreement with a kiss.