Series: Star Trek: Voyager
The bridge crew of the Starship Voyager worked efficiently and competently through the alpha shift, with Commander Chakotay in charge of the bridge. At her desk in the ready room, Captain Janeway looked down at the PADD in her hand. She was reading yet another essay written by Icheb in his effort to ensure himself placement in Starfleet Academy upon his arrival in the Alpha Quadrant. These were the kind of days that made the captain feel optimistic about their chances of reaching home before Icheb was too old for the Academy.
The crew had celebrated Naomi's sixth birthday the night before. To say it was a spectacular success was no exaggeration. Everyone on board loved the young girl. Even Seven of Nine had relaxed and seemed less like her former Borg self and more human. Janeway noticed that Harry Kim appeared to be Seven's escort for the evening. He performed that duty with more than usual confidence and enthusiasm.
The captain had enjoyed the companionship of her XO and best friend, Chakotay as well. He always had a way of bridging the gap between herself and the crew thus making these gatherings even more enjoyable.
Lifting her eyes from Icheb's report on microorganisms unique to the Delta Quadrant, she stared at nothing as she remembered the dance. Naomi had insisted that there be dancing at her party. Though she was only six, because she was half K'tarian, she was more like a human ten or eleven year old. This meant that she was beginning to enjoy the idea of romance, and to her, nothing was more romantic than dancing.
Since Kathryn allowed herself only one dance with Chakotay at each social gathering, she had set out to enjoy the time in his arms. She was able to fool herself into believing for the short duration of a single song that she wasn't a starship captain and he wasn't her first officer. For a brief moment she could dream - dream of more than a dance, more than a crowded Holodeck, more than a birthday party. It was her one indulgence, her one acknowledgement to herself of the attraction she felt for him. Giving herself a mental shake, Kathryn went back to her reading, wrapping herself tightly again in protocols.
Some time later, near the end of the shift, Chakotay came to the ready room. They evaluated the next week's crew assignments and discussed the scheduling of a few necessary repairs. When they completed ship's business, he replicated some coffee for them as they talked about the night before.
The party had been another bittersweet one for him; the wondrous joy of holding Kathryn in his arms during the dance coupled with the pain of having to let her go without so much as the possibility of more. It was just one too many times for him. He resolved to have a talk with her soon.
"Naomi is growing up so fast," she sighed in a manner reminiscent of a favorite aunt about her niece. "I think my captain's assistant has developed a crush on Icheb."
Chakotay's chuckle was warm and full of affection for the two young people. "She couldn't have chosen better for her first love."
As they reviewed the events of the previous night, the end of the shift came and went. Chakotay stood to leave. "Kathryn, would you join for dinner tonight?" His face was serious as he said, "I have something I want to talk to you about."
"What is it?"
"It's personal, so you chose the place, your quarters or mine." He smiled but it didn't reach his eyes. "I'll provide our dinner."
Although she was still curious, she nodded. "Mine and I'll provide wine. Red or white?"
"White will work just fine. See you in an hour."
Kathryn watched as the door swished closed behind him, wondering what he wanted to talk about. Kathryn made short work of tidying her already neat office as she wondered whether she would have time for a bath before Chakotay arrived.
By the time Chakotay arrived, Kathryn had had time for a 20-minute soak. She greeted him wearing one of her favorite off-duty outfits, a beige, knit tunic and pants. Taking one of the dishes he carried, she led him to the table that was already set for two with the wine chilling on the counter. The fact that he always brought the food instead of replicating it in her quarters was a source of amusement to her. He had told her once that it felt more like home that way.
After he served the salad and main dish, Chakotay poured the wine and sat across the table from Kathryn. They ate in comfortable silence while he tried to decide just how to best to start the conversation he wanted to have with her that night.
His uncertainty of Kathryn's reaction was the reason he hadn't said anything during the meal. As they put things in the recycler and retired to the couch with their respective coffee and tea, Chakotay steeled himself for what he had to say. "I told you that I wanted to talk to you."
Sitting next to him with her feet tucked under her, she sipped her coffee. "It must be something I'm not going to like," Kathryn teased nervously.
"You may not," he admitted. "But it's something I've been thinking about for a long time."
Kathryn took a long, bracing drink of her coffee before she it aside. "I'm listening."
Taking a deep breath, he blurted out, "I can't be your friend anymore."
Blinking in disbelief, she asked in a small, strangled voice, "What did you say?"
"I can't be your friend anymore," he repeated more slowly, holding up his hand to silence her. "Please let me finish before you say anything else.
The startled distress in her eyes squeezed at his heart. How he hated to cause her pain! What if she couldn't get past what he would say next? He didn't know the answer. Turning so that he could look her straight in the eye and taking one of her hands in his, he said, "I've never had a closer friend than you, but it's not enough for me anymore."
The thought of losing the dearest friend she had ever had made her heart pound. Kathryn was grateful to be sitting down because she knew that she wouldn't have remained standing after hearing his statement. She blinked her eyes rapidly, fighting back the tears that threatened.
"Oh, Kathryn, I have to say this." Chakotay swallowed, then cleared his throat, but his voice still sounded strained with emotion when he continued, "I love you, Kathryn Janeway. I promised you that I would never leave your side, and that I would always try to make your burden lighter. But last night was just one time too many of holding you in my arms for that one dance you allow us to have. The one time I get to hold you, to feel the warmth of your breath on my chest, to experience the wonder of our arms around each other, to undergo the sweet torture of your body so close to mine."
Her eyes brightened as the tears won the battle and spilled down her cheeks. Chakotay had recited the exact feelings she had experienced the night before and every time they danced. The time had come that she had dreaded for years. He was going to give her an ultimatum. An ultimatum with an answer that at one time had been so clear and obvious but was now blurred and obscure.
When Chakotay saw the tears, he reached up with his hand and cupped her cheek. "I'm so sorry to hurt you, but I think it's time for the captain and the commander to give way to Kathryn and Chakotay." He shook his head quickly to stop her from speaking before he continued. "I'm not saying that we should neglect our duties or our crew. And I know that there'll be times that we'll butt heads. That won't change." He smiled and winked. "But we have already proved that the reasons behind most of the regulations against a captain and first officer having a relationship don't apply to us anymore. We've survived more disagreements and confrontations than most command teams and worked through more personal issues than most spouses would in ten years of marriage." He had moved his hand from her cheek to rest it lightly on her shoulder as he made eye contact. "Marry me, Kathryn."
Somehow Chakotay had managed to banish all coherent thought from her mind and to tie her tongue. All she could think about was how deeply the loss of his companionship would hurt and how tempting the idea of being in his arms sounded. As Kathryn gazed into his pleading eyes, she couldn't keep the longing of her heart from shining in her own.
In a moment of epiphany, Kathryn realized that she could neither live without her best friend, nor did she want to give up forever for the opportunity to be close to Chakotay. It simply wasn't enough for her anymore either.
Kathryn's silence filled Chakotay with dread. What if he was going to lose her completely? He had thought he would be able to handle it, to walk away, but now the knowledge that his heart would not go with him was almost intolerable.
Kathryn could see uncertainty in Chakotay's eyes. The need to comfort him, reassure him drove her to speak. Reaching out her fingers to touch his face, she whispered, "I don't want to be just friends anymore either." With that, she leaned forward to kiss him, ushering in their new relationship.