Series: Star Trek: Voyager
Kathryn and Chakotay have to change their plans for shore leave.
Paramount owns all Voyager and the characters. I only borrow them so that they can have more fun than the TPTB will allow them to have. I gain no financial benefit.
"And where are you spending your shore leave, Chakotay?" Captain Janeway asked as they walked to the transporter room.
"There is an archeological dig in the southern part of the continent that I have received permission to help with for the day." The first officer spoke with enthusiasm. "Do you have a destination in mind, Captain?"
"There is a lecture series by some of the planet's most noted scientists at the science museum." She smiled at his grimace. "I plan on taking in several."
"It seems like we both are taking a 'busman's holiday'." Chakotay chuckled as they arrived at transporter room two.
Inside they spotted Naomi Wildman excitedly pacing in front of the transport pad. Janeway asked, "What are you doing here still, Naomi?"
"I'm waiting for Neelix to get back from the planet. My mom and I were going on a picnic with Neelix to a wonderful park he found." Naomi sighed. "But she came down with a 24-hour virus. The doctor said it was just as well for her to have 24-hours of bed rest as for him to give her an anti-viral injection. She would still have to rest for a day." Smiling, Naomi said, "but Neelix said he would take me to the entertainment park."
The captain knew that Neelix was on the planet finalizing negotiations for food supply delivery. The people of the planet had insisted upon meeting Neelix that he, as ambassador, be the only one to be a part of the negotiations. They had agreed immediately to allow shore leave. After several days of scans and inspections of the planet, the senior staff agreed that the planet was a good place for R & R. A rotation schedule was posted. As usual the captain and Chakotay were assigned a time that gave most of the crew time before them.
"I'll wait with you, Naomi," the captain put her hand lightly on the little girl's head. "Neelix will be here any minute, and I want to see how things went."
"Neelix to Captain Janeway," Janeway's comm badge chirped.
"Go ahead, Neelix."
"Chancellor Dyolf has brought up some potential problems. I will need to stay for at least three more hours. Could you explain to Naomi? I will try to be back in time to take her to the park. We won't be able to go on the picnic or see the program I told her about, but at least we will see the park."
Captain Janeway looked down at Naomi. She saw the child's eyes filled with tears. Kathryn spoke impetuously, "Neelix, I will take Naomi. Just tell me the coordinates and times."
"That is wonderful, Captain," Neelix' voice filled with enthusiasm. "There is a packed picnic lunch in the mess hall cooler. I made all of Naomi's favorites. Too bad you can't find someone else to go with you, I made more than enough for three." He gave her the information she needed.
"Thank you, Neelix, we'll be fine. Janeway out."
Chakotay had been watching the proceedings. He marveled at the way Kathryn was with Naomi. He thought, *she is a natural with children.* She was changing her plans for her 'assistant'. He suddenly wanted to change his plans as well. "Captain and Naomi, would you mind sharing your outing and lunch with me?"
Kathryn glanced quickly at him, questioning in her gaze, "What about the dig?"
"What about the lectures?" He grinned back at her. He turned to Naomi, "What do you say?"
Naomi stood as if frozen in disbelief. When she realized that she could still have her holiday and be with the captain and commander, she squealed and threw her arms around Janeway's waist. With her arm still around the captain, she said to Chakotay, "I would love to go with both of you!"
"Well, now that that's settled," Kathryn took Naomi's hand, "let's go get the picnic."
Naomi beamed and took Chakotay's hand as they all walked to the mess hall.
Later when they materialized at the coordinates, they all were stunned by the beauty of even the entrance to the park grounds. In front of them a massive gate stood open. The gate hung from the sides of an arch. The name of the park was spelled out in alien letters across the top. The arch and gate were whimsically wrought of brightly-colored metals. It reminded Kathryn of the ornate designs of the Victorian period of ancient England. There were birds, animals, and what she guessed were mythical beings of the planet. She had never seen anything quite like it.
Naomi was in awe as she stood looking at the gates. Then she began to pull on the hands of her companions; she was more than ready to explore the park. Just inside the gate there was a ticket booth. An older woman of the planet cheerily scanned their credit disks.
"Enjoy your day," was the cheerful farewell of the booth attendant.
As they walked though the gate, they saw large holo-signs proclaiming the wonders of the park. The planet's entertainment park could have been described as a combination of a theme park, a large metro zoo, and a circus with a little formal garden thrown in. Holo-signs previewed the excitement awaiting the guests. There was also a suggested route. "For our guests ultimate amusement" the holo-sign proclaimed. The three decided to follow the prescribed course.
First on the itinerary was the zoo. They had the choice of using a moving sidewalk to tour the 'cages' or taking their time to observe the many exotic creatures. Of course, Naomi wanted to take her time. Kathryn and Chakotay had no objections. The animals were fascinating to see.
The animals were in settings as close to their natural ones as possible. The viewing paths were lined by handrails, but there were no fences. The creatures were kept in with force fields. Naomi stopped at each interactive information terminal and listened to each explanation. The adults marveled at her curiosity, for many times she asked questions that took the computers time to research. Chakotay smiled as he watched Kathryn ask a few questions of her own. *She really did need time away from her work.* He noticed that the captain was lost in the day and in the process, was losing the tense look of command.
After they had spent well over an hour going from one enclosure to another, Naomi discovered an animal that she was both enchanted with and fearful of. The beast was feline in appearance, larger than a Siberian tiger, chocolate brown in color with three sharp horns down its nose and a prehensile tail. The information terminal computer explained that the tail helped the animal climb after prey. The three of them watched as it paced passed the trees, sometimes grasping a branch with its tail and inspecting it. Once the animal walked as close to Naomi as was possible by the security field, and stared at her while making low chirping noises. Naomi ducked behind Chakotay but continued to watch the alien feline. A sound from the other side of the enclosure caught the beast's attention and it ran toward the noise and out of sight. Apparently it was feeding time.
The captain smiled as Naomi showed disappointment at the animal's disappearance. "I think it is time for us to eat, too, Naomi. I think the sign points to a place to picnic. Shall we check it out?"
"Yes, please," Naomi realized her own hunger. "Neelix packed my favorite sandwiches and brownies."
They found a shaded table with surprisingly comfortable seating. Since Chakotay had been carrying their lunch, he proceeded to unpack it as well. Neelix had not exaggerated when he said there was enough for three. He had prepared several types of sandwiches, salads, and fruit. There were two kinds of brownies and a nut cake for dessert. There was plenty of lemonade and coffee to drink. Chakotay smiled at the pleasure on Kathryn's face as he served her a cup of coffee and a caramel brownie after she finished a sandwich and some fruit.
He would have loved to sit and enjoy Kathryn's company, but when Naomi was done eating, she was eager to go on to the circus program. Chakotay packed up the leftover food, and they were on their way again.
"Which way to the circus?" the captain asked a passing family of six.
"Follow us," the father replied politely.
They followed the small group of people. They got into a queue, waiting to enter a large tent. A few moments later a crowd of smiling people exited the canopy. The attendant, then, allowed them to enter. The seats encircled the inside perimeter of the tent. Kathryn had once seen a circus on Earth, but she didn't know what expect here.
The first act, like circuses everywhere, featured clowns. However, no one on Earth had ever seen clowns like these. As the jesters cavorted in front of them, their appearance would change. The loutish looking man would suddenly turn into a prim and dour old woman. A skinny and nervous young woman would change into an overweight, stumbling child. The abrupt changes were timed comically. Naomi laughed almost constantly. Even Janeway and Chakotay enjoyed the craziness. Later they learned that the clown wore trans-morphic make-up and costumes. The act ended to the cheers of the happy crowd. Naomi asked to take holo-pictures of the entertainers. They were happy to pose in their various forms.
The next part of the program featured athletes with amazing physical abilities. Three men raced with three other men who rode on horse-like animals. A short preview showed the animals' capacity for speed. Chakotay enjoyed watching the steeds' sleek beauty. He turned to see a rapt look on Kathryn's face. He had never thought she was an admirer of horses. He filed the information away in his mind as he turned his eyes back to the start of the race. The three foot racers started out a trifle slower than the riders, but after a half circuit of the arena, those on foot overtook the animals. By the time the race ended two rounds later, the riders were over a half lap behind the man in third place.
The men were awarded medals in the faux ceremony. A person in the audience, obviously a plant, suggested another challenge to their skill. A large gold mesh cylinder was lowered from a cable. The three entered the sphere through a door and locked it behind them. They began to run around the bottom half faster and faster. As they increased to their top speeds, they were able to run vertical circles, passing each other by mere inches. The physics of the feat was intriguing.
The concluding act was a parade of brightly arrayed people and animals. The three from Voyager had seen most of the types of animals in the zoo, but one. It was a long slender octipedal reptile. The body was covered in smooth blue scales, and its head reminded Chakotay of a rattlesnake's with pronounced blue eyes. Four colorfully-dressed children rode on its back. All the while exotic march music was played by a small band who had come to the center of the arena. The crowd responded with raucous cheers and stomping feet as the last of the procession left the tent.
Naomi was reluctant to leave until they reminded her that they still had more to see. As they left the tent, they saw another holo-sign pointed to the part of the park they hadn't visited yet.
They slowly made their way in that general direction. Naomi chattered in joyous elation, walking between Kathryn and Chakotay, her hands in theirs. When they came to an end to the path, a vista of the rest of the park lay before them. At first it seemed like there was no way to get to the other part of the grounds.
They were startled to hear a voice say, "The entrance to the slide is this way."
All three of them looked to their right and saw for the first time a smallish young man standing by a gate which had been hidden by a shrub. The man opened the gate and motioned for them to enter. Single file, they walked through the entry.
Naomi squealed for the nth time that day as she saw 'the slide'. "Is this a ride?" she asked breathlessly as she peered over the rail. The slide hugged the hill, dropping down into the valley below. It curved and twisted much like a toboggan run on a mountain.
The young man smiled, "It is the only way down to that part of the park unless you want to go back to main gate and take the lower trail. Most of our guests seem to enjoy this way more."
"Is it safe?" Kathryn asked with a bit of worry in her voice.
"Perfectly," the attendant chuckled. "We have never had casualties, only minor bumps and scrapes because those people didn't keep their hands in place. Our engineers have designed the slide in such a way that users never go over a certain speed and never get stuck half way down."
Kathryn did not look convinced, but Naomi began to beg to ride the slide. When Kathryn glanced at Chakotay, she saw him grinning at her. He nodded toward the slope as if to say "let's do it."
She sighed, but gamely asked, "What do we need to know?"
"First, we ask that the seating be with the smallest person in front to the largest person in the back. Hang on tight to the person in front of you unless you are in front. Then you hold onto the handle. Never let go of your partner or handle or put your hands outside to the trench. And enjoy! That is a requirement." He finished with a huge smile.
Naomi quickly jumped into the sled and settled down in the front. Kathryn was slower, still not sure about the safety. She laughed inwardly, however, at the bit of fear. Chakotay would think her very silly to be worrying about this slide when she had faced up to the Borg with little apparent anxiety. Taking his offered hand, she got in.
Chakotay watched his captain and friend as she fought a small battle with her fears. He rarely saw her inner battle anymore. It made him happy somehow to see that she still let her guard down with him. He was sure that she didn't even know she had. He carefully entered the slide car and moved so that he was not crowding her. He was astounded by his reaction to her nearness. He wanted to bury his face in her hair and kiss the back of her neck. He tried to bring his thoughts and emotions into control. The attendant had to remind him to hold on to Kathryn. Chakotay put his hands lightly at her waist.
Kathryn noticed Chakotay's movements as he settled in the car. She experienced a flood of emotions as his hands encircled her tiny waist. She could feel her face redden, so she was careful not to turn her head as the car moved to the edge of the slope and began to drop. The g-force of the fall pushed Naomi back against her and herself against Chakotay. As Kathryn tightened her grip on the little girl, she felt his hold on her clench. The ride became so swift and erratic that neither of the bridge officers had time to think. They merely held on.
Naomi squealed, screamed, and laughed in turn as they descended the course. The sense of pure reality and a hint of danger provided enjoyment that Naomi had rarely experienced in her short life. As the ride began to slow, Naomi's giggles got louder. Kathryn remembered her first roller coaster ride at a state fair in Indiana when she was just tall enough to be allowed to ride alone. She had sounded much like Naomi as she rode. She joined in the laughter as the sled entered its final leg.
Chakotay felt Kathryn's laughter before he heard it. Her back was back against his chest. The wind had blown her hair into his face. He smiled to himself that he had gotten his wish to bury his face in her hair. Just as he thought the thought he felt her body begin to shake with her mirth. And as the car slowed the noise of the air movement lessened, he heard her throaty laugh as well. He loved to hear her laugh. He hadn't heard that kind of carefree laugh from Kathryn often. As the car came to a slow stop and Kathryn put her hand up to pull her hair back in place, Chakotay's chuckle joined the others. By the time they had come a full stop, the three were convulsed in laughter that took several minutes for them to control.
As she turned back to look at the adults, Naomi was surprised to see Captain Janeway with joy tears running down her cheeks. "Captain, that was so much fun!" she giggled, taking in deep breathes.
"It sure was!" Janeway agreed as she smiled broadly at Naomi. Kathryn waited as Chakotay, having exited the sled, first lifted Naomi out then offered his hand to her. Chakotay's face shone from the excitement of the ride, but when Kathryn looked into his eyes she saw something she had not seen in years. Frank admiration, smoldering desire, and more were revealed to her and for her in a moment in their dark brown depths. She was taken aback because he hadn't allowed her see his emotions like that since before they were rescued from New Earth. And before she could suppress her own emotion, her own longing, much denied, made itself known.
Chakotay couldn't believe what he saw mirrored back to him for that brief moment. He closed his eyes for a second and then looked back at Kathryn. She still had not put up her normal emotional barrier. Hope leapt in his heart. He forgot where he was and slowly leaned toward her to kiss her when he felt a tug on his arm.
"Commander, Captain, can we go?" The small voice sounded impatient. "There are so many more rides." Naomi pointed toward the rest of the rest part of the park. Janeway and Chakotay laughed as they straightened and pulled back from each other.
How could she have let herself get that close to a kiss? Seven years of protocol, seven years of 'defined parameters', seven years of hard-won battles with herself nearly lost in a few minutes of distraction. Janeway upbraided herself as they followed Naomi to the next of many carnival-type rides. She straightened herself to her full height and kept her arms stiffly at her sides. She would not let her guard down again. However as she watch Chakotay smiling at Naomi, she could still see the compelling look his eyes.
For nearly another hour the threesome rode ride after ride. The variety was astonishing. When Naomi began to slow down as she walked toward the next rides, Janeway thought she was beginning to tire.
"Chakotay," she spoke up, "let's stop for something to drink."
They walked over to a small booth where drinks were being sold. They ordered some fruit juices and sat at on some benches, watching the people wonder by. Naomi leaned against the captain and sighed contentedly, "Thank you, both, for coming with me. This has been the best day!"
"You're welcome!" was their combined response. They chuckled together.
"Captain," The three looked up to see Neelix standing front of them. "The negotiations are finished. I was able to work out all the details with the council." Turning to Naomi, he said, "I am sorry that I couldn't spend the day with you."
"It's okay, Neelix, Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay did a good job." She hugged Neelix around the waist. "Can you stay with us for the last few rides?"
"If it is all right," Neelix looked at the captain.
"Of course it is, Neelix. You need some time off, too. Can we get you some refreshment?"
"No, the council saw to it that we had plenty of food and drink. In fact, I asked for several recipes during my time with them." Neelix grinned at the thought of the new creations he would be able to offer the crew. "It seems that leola root is very popular here. I was able to add more leola recipes to my files. An unexpected benefit of the talks!"
Neelix did not the notice the look that past between the commander pair. He was busily informing them of other minutia from the talks.
After finishing their drinks, they all walked to the next ride entrance. Naomi walked with Neelix, holding his hand and chatting eagerly about all that they had done that day. Kathryn and Chakotay followed in silence, each thinking about the day from their own perspectives.
After going on a Ferris wheel type ride, they came to a ride that was billed an adventure to the center of the planet. Each car had room for only two people at a time. As usual Naomi pulled Neelix into the first car that came to a stop in front of her. She then called back to Janeway and Chakotay to hurry and get in the next one.
Both of them remembered the first ride as they got in the car. The memory of the look in Chakotay's eyes caused Kathryn's heart to race. It took all she could do to keep to running full-speed away from the car. Instead she forced a smile and got into the car and set down.
Chakotay sat down next her but stayed as close to his side of the car as possible. He was not going to embarrass himself again. He knew that Kathryn was uncomfortable being with him. He had to keep his mind under control. He was not sure why this day had taken away his hard-fought mental control. He had decided a long time ago that he would not cause Kathryn any grief on account of how he felt for her. He loved her enough to be only her friend and first officer. He knew his loss of control earlier that day that upset her.
The lurch of the car brought him back to the present. The ride was not fast or frightening. It was one with a historic theme, showing the history of the exploration of the planet's interior. For offworlders like them, it held much new information, giving the riders a sense of the awe of each discovery.
Kathryn, being the explorer that she was, began to forget her discomfort and to revel in the details. Midway into their journey she began to make quiet comments to Chakotay about some things before them. Once he heard her gasp in awe at a particularly beautiful formation of minerals and felt her hand on his arm. He placed his hand over hers and squeezed to let her know he appreciated the scene as well. When she didn't remove her hand, he didn't move his either.
Toward the end of the ride Kathryn realized that his hand was still on hers. It seemed so right, so comfortable that she didn't want to end the contact. In fact she turned her hand under his until she was clasping his. When had she come to count on his man so much? When had she come to the point where she wanted to throw her protocols out an airlock? When had she come to love him so much? She shook her head slightly as she knew that she hated herself for not seeing before that she loved him. At that moment she didn't know whether to laugh or cry. She began to tremble. What was she going to do now? Maybe Chakotay didn't feel that way about her anymore. It could be too late.
Chakotay was surprised as he felt her hand turn and nestle in his. It was such a simple gesture but he could but hope that something was different. He held his breath as he felt her begin to shake. He let go of her hand and moved closer to put his arm around her, pulling her to his side. When she did not push him away but put her head on his shoulder, he let out the breath he had been holding. He leaned his cheek against the top of her head. He did not question what was happening. He merely enjoyed it.
Kathryn sighed as she leaned her head on his shoulder. He must still care. He was not moving away. His cheek was warm against the top of her head. She had not felt this kind of peace in a very long time. She closed her eyes for a moment. She wished that the ride would not end.
However in the next moment she felt Chakotay straighten and move his arm. When she opened her eyes, she saw the reason. The lights of the exit were in view. Naomi turned and waved at them as her car exited the tunnel. As the car Kathryn was in came around the curve and outside, she could see that twilight had fallen. The planet's sun had slipped out of sight, but the twin moons were full and above the horizon. They cast a blue glow on everything.
A few minutes later as the four Voyager crewmembers stood gazing at the sky, exotic music filled the air. They watched as people started to walk toward the source of the sound. Naomi grabbed Neelix' hand and pulled him along. Kathryn looked at Chakotay and smiled brightly. As he returned her smile, he took her hand, hoping that she would not pull away now that they were off the ride. She moved closer to him and held his hand tightly. They walked slowly, following the rest of the crowd.
They arrived at an outdoor amphitheater with a concert in full swing. There were no seats available so they set down on the grass in the very back like some of the other stragglers. Although the songs were not familiar, they were enchanting. At first Chakotay sat next to Kathryn, only giving half his attention to the music. She, however, seemed to be lost in the melodies. He moved closer to her and wrapped his arm around her waist. Without turning, she leaned into his embrace.
He gazed around him and saw that the music seemed to be weaving its romantic spell on others on the grass around them. He took a chance again and kissed her hair. He heard a soft sigh escape her lips. He was not prepared for her next move. She pulled away from him slightly and smiled at him before she leaned toward him again. She placed her lips on his. He pulled her closer and kissed her back.
He was the first to break the kiss. He looked into her eyes, his desire and a bit of bewilderment showing. "Kathryn," He whispered, "What just happened?
"I kissed you, Commander," she laughed softly. "I would have thought it obvious."
Chakotay chuckled, "But why now, after all these years?"
She leaned her head back on his shoulder before she spoke, "I am not sure. I guess I finally realized as we got into that slide that I had to face more of my fears. I had always feared that if I let myself love you I would lose who I was. I might not be the best Starfleet captain that I could be. But by denying my love, I have lost much more." She paused as mustered the courage to entered the place she had kept herself from for nearly seven years. "I love you, Chakotay. I will understand if I have waited too long, if you don't feel the same. I..."
Her words were stopped by his month as he kissed her. Several seconds later, he breathlessly answered, "I have loved you since I first saw your face on the Liberty's viewscreen. That love has only grown over these years. I love you, Kathryn Janeway."
Just then they realized that the crowd had begun to move. The concert was over. They stood to their feet, looking for Naomi and Neelix to come to where they were. Again Kathryn took Chakotay's hand in hers. They spotted Neelix who was carrying a sleeping Naomi in his arms.
They met the Talaxian on the pathway. He spoke softly, "I am going to take Naomi back to the ship. I will check on Sam. I will see you back aboard Voyager."
Bidding Neelix goodbye, Kathryn turned to Chakotay and said, "I wonder if this place has something like a 'tunnel of love'."
Chakotay smiled and said, "Let's find out."