Disclaimer - "My mind to your mind," Tuvok gasped as he was assimilated by the Para-Borg.
For Willow. Hope you feel better soon.
He noticed the first PADD as he went to sit in his chair on the bridge at the beginning of his shift. It was lying innocently on its front in his seat, tempting him to look at it. He quickly glanced around the bridge to try and spot someone acting guiltily, but no one seemed to be paying any attention to him. Eventually deciding that it was probably a report that Kathryn wanted him to read, he picked it up and sat down in the chair. Activating the PADD, he began to read.
'How To Keep Her Happy:
Tip No.1: Give her some coffee. And none of that sludge Neelix whipped up. *Real* coffee.'
Chakotay's eyebrows rose. It certainly wasn't quite what he expected to be reading. It was obvious who the 'her' was supposed to be - the subject matter was a little too precise to be coincidence. What he wanted to know most of all was who had put the PADD there. There was little point in asking the computer who had passed his chair. Dozens of people passed it during the day; he'd be provided with a whole list of names.
Well, he'd have to think about this logically. He didn't think it was Kathryn, it didn't seem quite her style. Besides, she hadn't even started her shift yet. It was more likely to be one of the senior crew - he doubted the rest of the crew would have the nerve. Tom was a possible candidate...or Harry lately. Maybe even B'Elanna. Tuvok? No. Neelix...perhaps in an attempt to raise morale, but only for that purpose. And Seven wouldn't either.
So...there were only a couple of people that he could envision doing this. What should he do about it? He tapped the PADD lightly on the arm of his chair as he considered his options before coming to a decision. Nothing, that's what he was going to do. He'd act as if he hadn't read the PADD and then perhaps whoever it was would get the hint.
The second PADD was waiting for him after he finished his shift and arrived in his quarters. He didn't notice it at first - it was on a table with a bunch of other PADDs. It was only after he had changed, ordered a drink from the replicator and sat down that he started to sort through the PADDs. He had to admit he wasn't the tidiest of people.
He sorted them into three piles - 'already read', 'haven't read', 'don't want to read but I'm going to have to'.
Placing a third PADD on the last pile, he picked up the next one and activated it.
'Are you paying any attention to my advice? Give her some coffee.'
Someone had been in his quarters? Maybe not...maybe the PADD had been in the pile all along and he had only noticed it just now. But the message was a little too precious again, making it sound as if the PADD had been added recently.
"Computer, has anyone been in my quarters except for me in the last ten hours?"
Hmm. Maybe, if someone had calculated it very preciously they could have beamed the PADD into his room. Standing, he walked to his console where he accessed the transporter logs but found no sign of evidence there either. The last time the transporters had been used, at least according to the logs, was almost a month ago. It'd been a while since they'd encountered any new alien species. Or even any old ones for that matter. Which meant that either way that the PADD had gotten into his quarters someone would have had to change the logs or erase their existance completely. Only high ranking officers would have the access to do that, but he also knew from experience that it wasn't exactly difficult to hack in Voyager's systems.
Perhaps he should go and see Tuvok about this.
There was still the chance that the PADD had been there all along, and if it turned out to be the case he'd end up looking pretty foolish. If or when he gathered more evidence, *then* he would take it to Tuvok. Besides, it wasn't as if the messages were particularly threatening.
Upon entering the mess hall the next morning, Chakotay greeted Neelix and decided to have some fruit with his breakfast. Examining the bowls of Delta Quadrant fruit, he picked up a strange looking purple *thing* and sniffed it hesitantly. Neelix approached.
Chakotay raised his nose away from the fruit, not noticing the purple powder that had rubbed off and now covered a portion of his face. "Yes Neelix?"
The Talaxian's lips pursed together, than he quickly handed Chakotay the towel he always kept tucked in the top of his trousers. "First, wipe your face."
"Just trust me on this Commander."
Shrugging, Chakotay did as he asked. Pulling the towel away, his eyes rose when he saw the purple powder that had come off. Dropping the fruit back into the bowl he began rubbing the towel over his hand. Smiling wryly, he thanked Neelix. "Now, what was it you wanted?"
"I was wondering if you knew anything about this," Neelix said hopefully, raising his left hand which held a PADD Chakotay hadn't noticed before. He instantly became suspicious. "It was on the table you usually sit at when I came in this morning."
Taking the PADD with a cautious hand, Chakotay activated it.
'Well, are you going to give her any coffee or not?! This is your last chance.'
Just then the doors to the mess hall opened and Kathryn stepped in. Sending a general smile to everyone she specifically sent a personal one to him. He smiled back, briefly, then looked at Neelix. There was no hidden humour or faint signs of trickery in his expression, just genuine curiousity.
Looking back at Kathryn, who had ordered something at the replicator and was now sitting with B'Elanna, Chakotay asked Neelix something.
"Do you have any coffee?"
"Of course. The replicators can provide-"
"No Neelix," he interrupted, turning his head back to look at him "*real* coffee. Nothing replicated, nothing that you created yourself...just real coffee made from real coffee beans."
"Captain, are you alright? You seem a little...tired."
Kathryn smiled weakly at B'Elanna's concern, her elbow on the table with her head resting on that hand. With her other hand she pushed her breakfast around with a spoon. "I will admit to not getting much rest lately B'Elanna. To be honest I don't feel much like eating but I know the Doctor will have my hide if I don't at least try. I think after the end of this week I might actually take some time off."
A small chuckle escaped from B'Elanna's mouth. "You?"
That familiar twinkle that appeared every so often became apparent in Kathryn's eyes. "A woman is always entitled to change her mind B'Elanna."
"Here here," B'Elanna replied, then took a sip of her drink. She quickly gulped down that sip when she saw her Captains eyes widen. "Captain, what's wrong?"
Kathryn was sniffing the air. "Can't you smell it?"
As if in answer, a dark hand passed in front of Kathryn's face from the side of the table and placed a cup in front of her that was full of brown liquid. She stared down at it, and without looking up at the newcomer asked, "Is that what I think it is?"
"The real thing. Turns out Neelix has been keeping a secret stash."
Needing no further encouragement, Kathryn dropped her spoon and moved her chin from her hand. Picking up the cup with both hands she inhaled the scent of the contents. Sighing happily, she brought the cup down to her mouth and took a sip, savouring the bitter aroma.
She didn't realise she'd closed her eyes until she opened them to look up at her saviour. "Chakotay...thank you. I can't tell you how much this means to me."
Smiling with warmth, he moved to sit in the seat next to her. "You're welcome Captain. I'm glad I could give it to you." Finally moving his gaze from her to look at B'Elanna, he took in her smirk. "The coffee I mean." The smirk didn't budge. In fact, she was smirking a little *too* much...
Was B'Elanna responsible? The smirk was certainly suspicious, but she could just be smiling at Kathryn's reaction to the coffee. Or the fact that he brought her coffee. This was ridiculous. He was going to end up getting paranoid and suspecting everyone.
The rest of the day passed without incident. They encountered no new alien races, no new PADDs turned up for him to read, Tom made a comment about Tuvok's logic, Tuvok made a comment about Neelix wanting to join a security team, and Neelix, naturally, made a comment about leola root. A typical day.
Entering his quarters, he thought he was safe until he went into his bathroom. Because there, resting against the mirror behind the wash basin, was a new PADD.
'How To Keep Her Happy:
Tip No.2: Help her explore her creative side.'
Of all the requests he might have expected, it wouldn't have been that. He knew she had a creative side of course; everyone did. He'd seen her paint on occasion and her enjoyment of DaVinci's workshop was obvious. So why should she need him to help her do that? She seemed to be doing just fine by herself.
He didn't even know why he was bothering to argue with himself because he knew that the outcome was inevitable. He didn't know why, he couldn't explain it - but he was going to follow the PADDs advice. Perhaps because the first tip had worked so well.
Master DaVinci's workshop was a testament to every unfinished or incomplete idea that the man had ever had. Scrolls, paintings, and models covered every table and wall.
Chakotay followed the humming sound that seemed to be coming from the top of the stairway to the back of the darkened room and discovered the old man. To be more specific he discovered the old man's rear as he was bending over looking for something in a wooden chest.
He cleared his throat and got no reaction, watching as DaVinci searched through the materials in the chest for whatever it was he was looking for.
Trying again, he finally got a response, if not the one he was expecting. Still bending over, DaVinci asked in his accented voice, "Would you like some medicine?"
"Clearly there's something wrong with you, otherwise you wouldn't keep coughing. An infection of the chest perhaps."
"Oh...no, I was just trying to get your attention."
"Well you have it now, no?" DaVinci queried as he turned with a paintbrush in his hand and a triumphant expression on his face. There was no doubt that he had found what he was looking for.
Upon seeing Chakotay's face and uniform however, his expression died somewhat. "Ah," he said "you must be Chakotay." And with that he skirted around him and advanced down the stairs. Swivelling, Chakotay stared after him before realising he should be moving. Halfway down the stairs he caught up with DaVinci.
"How do you know who I am?"
"Oh, Katarina has mentioned you on occasion."
Chakotay almost stopped walking again but kept up with him. "She has?"
"Yes, in passing."
Chakotay's expression immediately became sour and as DaVinci turned at the bottom of the stairs to look at him he couldn't help but see. "You were hoping for a declaration of her secret love for you, perhaps?"
But DaVinci wouldn't let him continue and Chakotay almost felt that he should start walking up the stairs backwards to get away from him. "That she might have told me something in confidence, let something slip, said something she shouldn't have? Perhaps you expected her to have painted a picture of you as a gateway into her soul - to reveal what she was *really* thinking?"
"No. Although I don't deny it would have made me feel good."
Surprised at his honesty, DaVinci almost took a step back in deference. Then remembering who he was he puffed his chest out, turned again and proceeded to walk to a table on the other side of the room. He continued talking, keeping his voice light hearted. "It's not in her nature to lose control. You should know that." Reaching the table he placed the brush next the paint-covered pallet resting there. The fingers of his right hand moved absently over the wooden surface as his voice became deeper, serious. "You, on the other hand, are different. You're as stubborn as she is and in some ways more in control than she is. Not, however, when it comes to her."
"I may have once been a student of art, but I have been and always will be a student of the human art. You came here. Alone. Without her and not at her request. That tells me everything I need to know."
Turning from his table he looked at Chakotay who remained by the stairs, one hand on the railing. After a few moments the First Officer spoke. "I'm not surprised Kathryn enjoys her visits with you." Removing his hand from the railing he ran it through his hair, not noticing that it ended up making several strands stand on end. Deciding not to tell the young man, DaVinci watched as he walked with frustrated steps to the hearth where he sat in front of the fire, staring at the crackling flames.
"Why did you come here Chakotay?"
"I-I don't know." How could he explain about the PADDs? But that wouldn't be what it was really about anyway. They may have guided him in this direction but it wasn't the reason he had come. "I want her to be happy." Gods, why did it feel as if someone were squeezing his heart in their hand? This shouldn't have been a great revelation. And why was he saying this to a hologram of all 'people'? Because he could tell no one else. Kathryn didn't want to face it, and he couldn't tell anyone else unless she accepted it. Despite the fact that most of them had probably guessed anyway.
Approaching the fire slowly, DaVinci used quiet footsteps. "And what do you think would help make her happy?"
The fire Chakotay was staring at but not really seeing was a work of art itself. Forcing himself to focus on it he studied the amber and yellow tendrils that seemed to have a life of their own, cleansing everything they touched.
Moving his head to look up at DaVinci, Chakotay smiled.
She must have know they were up to something. There were so many secret meetings, hurried conversations, whispered remarks, that no matter how much time she actually spent in her ready room there was no way she couldn't have noticed. She didn't say anything though, which caused Chakotay no end of consternation. No end that was, until B'Elanna told him to shut up. She'd heard his thoughts on this situation one too many times. Her theory was that Janeway was really too tired to ask about it, and that perhaps she thought she could do with a suprise - a change of pace. Chakotay wasn't completely convinced, but decided to go with it.
As time progressed, he started agreeing with B'Elanna's theory more and more. Kathryn *had* been very tired of late. She knew the crew wouldn't do anything that was morally wrong or illegal and was waiting in anticipation for what was going to occur when all was revealed.
At least that was what he hoped, he mused, as he watched Neelix approach from the other side of the cargo bay.
"Finished Commander," he announced proudly, rubbing his hands on a towel.
Looking over the Talaxian's shoulder, the First Officer smiled. "It's coming along quite nicely."
Turning to look at it himself, Neelix agreed. "Oh definitely. It's really starting to take on emotion."
Grinning again at Neelix's romanticism, Chakotay looked back at him and noticed something on his nose. "Neelix..."
He turned back, eyebrows raised. "Yes?"
Chakotay tapped his own nose. "You've got some right there..."
"Oh..." reaching up with the index finger of his right hand, Neelix touched his nose then looked at his finger as he pulled it away. "I'd better get rid of this! We wouldn't want the Captain to see it and get suspicious. Tell me something Commander...how did you convince Mr Vulcan to take part?" he asked, nodding his head in the general direction of Tuvok was who working behind them intently.
"I simply pointed out that as it would raise morale, it was only..."
Thomas Eugene Paris, sitting at his unusual position of the Captains chair, did not panic when Kathryn Janeway came out of her ready room. He did not panic when she asked for a status report, did not panic when she ordered a slight course correction, and didn't panic when he noticed she seemed restless. As a matter of fact, he was having a hard time keeping a straight face, knowing what he did.
When she announced that she would be leaving the bridge for a moment however, his heart felt as if someone had used a defribrilator on it. Because if there were two 'gifts' that Tom Paris had been born with, it was a suspicious nature and the awareness of the curveballs that fate liked to throw at him somewhere over 100kmph.
Yelling "Captain!" rather too loudly to get her attention, he had to think fast. "May I ask where you're going? I mean...in case someone wants to know where you are?" Yes, yes. That sounded quite convincing. If slightly desperate.
He didn't honestly believe that she bought it for a moment, but she certainly acted that way. "of course Mr Paris. I'll just be checking something in cargo bay two."
This time it felt as if someone had used two defribrilators on him. Somehow, using all of his cocky persona, he didn't let it show on his face. "Yes Ma'am."
Apparently deciding to let him get away with the 'Ma'am', she left the bridge in Tom's hands.
The moment the doors closed behind her, Tom whacked his com badge. "Paris to Chakotay. We've got problems."
Speaking loudly to get everyone's attention, Chakotay managed to get all the people in the group looking at him. "Okay, we've got a problem. The Captain's on her way. Vorik, scout out on the area of her route from the bridge to here." Nodding, Vorik quickly left. "Now, how many of you aren't finished?" A quick hand count gave him the answer he needed. "Everyone who is finished, leave *now*, going in the opposite direction to the one that the Captain is coming from. We don't want her running into a group of you." With a series of 'ayes', they quickly shuffled out.
His com badge beeped. "Vorik to Chakotay. Commander, the Captain has just left the turbolift and is now on this deck."
"Thank you Vorik, Chakotay out. Everyone, next to the wall now...and absolute silence. Seven, you know what you have to do?"
"Yes Commander," she informed him in an emotionless voice.
When Kathryn entered the cargo bay ten seconds later, Seven was in her regeneration chamber apparently alone.
Walking towards her, Kathryn cast a suspicious eye over the rest of the cargo bay. Seeing nothing amiss she spoke. "Seven?"
Opening her eyes, Seven stepped out of the alcove followed by the familiar clicking noise of disconnection. "Yes Captain?"
"I was just wondering if Chakotay had been here. When I asked the computer for his location a few minutes ago it placed him here."
Seven stepped down from her alcove. "He was here. He left."
"I see. Do you know where he went?"
"I believe he went to the mess hall, Captain."
"Thank you Seven. If I may ask...what was he doing here while he was off duty?"
Blinking, the ex-Borg quickly answered. "He was searching for Mr Neelix's container, the one that was used to contain protomatter. I do not know why."
Nodding, Kathryn smiled slightly. "Well, thank you again Seven."
"You are welcome Captain."
"I see the Doctor's lessons are finally starting to brush off on you..." was Kathryn's response as she left the room.
After the doors closed Seven remained where she stood, staring at the wall until Chakotay appeared seemingly from nowhere. "You're quite an accomplished actress Seven. Those lies were pretty believable."
Regally, Seven walked to a console on the wall and pressed several buttons. Immediately the 'wall' vanished and the small group of people hiding behind the holographic illusion became apparent.
"To become an individual, I must adapt."
Three more days passed, then four. As each day passed, Chakotay herded new groups of people into the cargo bay so they could do their part. And rather than have the Captain getting anymore curious, everyone did what they could to make her busier. He hated adding to her workload but he knew that in the long run it would be beneficial.
Halfway through the fifth day, it was complete. He stood there for hours just looking at it; absorbing what they had created together. Starfleet and Maquis, Human and Vulcan, Klingon and Talaxian...the list went on. Ultimately, they were a group of 150 people who had created something unique and priceless.
He knew she would love it.
His examination of it was brought to an end by Tom, who entered the cargo bay and stood next to him, looking at it.
"How long has it been finished?"
"Almost four hours," Chakotay replied, not taking his eyes from it for an instant, almost afraid that it would vanish if he did.
That was a word that Tom rarely used, and it forced Chakotay to look away and move his gaze to the man next to him.
Tom continued speaking, then looked at him meaningfully. "I don't know how you came up with the idea."
Was Tom trying to tell him something, or did he genuinely want to know? A soft, gentle smile played across Chakotay's lips as he glanced back at it. "Let's just call it...anonymous assistance."
"Well, are you going to show it to her? Or are you going to keep looking at it?"
"Let everyone know they have to be in here and in their places at 2200."
"Chakotay, where are we going?"
"You'll find out soon enough," he replied confidently as he stood opposite her in the turbolift, his hands behind his back.
She'd been trying to wheedle it out of him ever since he insisted that she *had* to leave her quarters and come with him. Since she was off duty, she was dressed in a casual yet attractive beige dress that seemed to bring out the lighter streaks of colour in her hair.
Kathryn placed her hands on her hips and scrutinised him. "Does this have anything to do with what you've been up to lately?"
"What do you mean?"
"Come on Chakotay, it's obvious you've been up to something. For a week now, whenever I pass someone their conversations instantly stop, or they look embarrassed or like they've been caught doing something they shouldn't. Obviously they know something I don't and I don't like it."
A slow, enigmatic smile appeared on his face. "You can't stand it can you?"
"Not knowing everything. It drives you crazy."
Before she could argue, retort or refute, the turbolift stopped and the doors opened. Leading the way, Chakotay stepped out and started walking along the corridor.
Hearing a loud thumping noise coming from the intersection they were approaching, they both paused and then gaped as the Doctor and Harry Kim came thudding down the corridor and turned a corner. Not noticing either Kathryn or Chakotay, they continued running at full pelt.
"Come on!" yelled the Doc "We wouldn't be late if you hadn't sprained your wrist."
"It was hardly *my* fault!" Harry yelled back, the rest of his response cut off as they both entered the cargo bay and the doors hissed shut behind them.
Folding her arms across her chest, Kathryn looked at Chakotay. "I'm going for a completely off the wall guess here and say that we're headed for the cargo bay."
Chakotay continued walking. "Whatever gave you that idea?"
The cargo bay was crammed almost to capacity. It seemed as if every single crewmember was there. In fact, every single crewmember *was* there. B'Elanna had rerouted bridge controls to here just for this occasion because Chakotay wanted everyone to see the finished product at the same time Kathryn did.
Those she knew best stood next to it, and the rest of the crew parted slightly as she and Chakotay made their way towards it.
Wide-eyed and having no idea what waited for her, Kathryn just stared at them, the question she didn't verbally pose hanging in the air unsaid. Leaning forward, Chakotay grabbed the rope and carefully handed it to Kathryn. Taking it from him, she smiled almost nervously then gave the rope a tug, pulling the sheet free.
As it fluttered to the ground all eyes were fixed on the object then immediately back on the Captain, waiting for her reaction.
It was a particularly large canvas that each and every crew member had painted themselves on. B'Elanna's self portrait was on one side of the canvas, her arms folded and a slight smile on her lips. Tom was next to her, his hand resting on her hip. Seven's portrait was of a stick figure, while Harry's was optimistic, his shirt displaying three pips. The Doctor's was surprisingly accurate, and captured his ego magnificently. Tuvok stood separate from the group, distancing himself. Neelix was the yellow blob next to him, and next to him was a young woman with elfin features, also painted by Neelix.
Kathryn's increasingly stinging eyes ran over the canvas, trying to take in every crewmember's contribution in one look. Megan, Jenny, Gerron, Chell, Ayala, Samantha, Naomi, Dalby, Foster, O'Donnell, Vorik, Nicoletti...it contained some of the worst painting she had ever seen.
"I love it," she whispered, voice hoarse, obviously trying to hold back tears.
A collective sigh was released as everyone began smiling.
Relieved, Chakotay spoke. "We know that most of all you want to get home...but as we can't give you that we thought we'd give you a reminder of how far we have come...and how home is wherever you happen to be."
It was becoming increasingly difficult for Kathryn to stop herself from crying. She couldn't believe they'd done this; that they'd all worked together to make something this beautiful just for her. In some way it validated every decision she had ever made as their Captain.
"There is something missing though." he added.
She blinked at him through her misty eyelids. "Sorry?"
The crowd parted again as someone walked towards her. It was Naomi Wildman and she was holding a paintbrush in one hand and a pallet in the other. Pausing in front of the Captain, and no doubt aware that everyone must have been looking at her, she shyly handed the objects to Kathryn. "You have to add yourself Captain."
Kathryn took the art instruments, rubbed the top of Naomi's head and said to everyone "Are you *trying* to make me cry?"
The room filled with laughter and Kathryn chuckled slightly as she rubbed her eyes with the back of her palms. "Fine. But you should know that this is emotional blackmail."
Swivelling towards the canvas she sent an appreciative smile solely to her First Officer before fixing her eyes on the painting. Bending down, she dabbed the bristles of the brush into the small dollops of paint on the pallet and raised it to the canvas.
The hum of the warp core resonated as it always did through Engineering, the warp core shining with blue intensity.
Chakotay approached quickly, looking for the person who had summoned him here. "B'Elanna?" he called, running his hand along the railing that surrounding the core.
"Up here!" she yelled, and his head jerked back as he looked up to the second level. He could see her waving slightly through the clear floor, before she moved to the stairs at the side and climbed down with a PADD in her hand.
He had a good idea as to what this was about.
Smirking as she reached the floor, she walked over to him and extended the PADD in her left hand. "Vorik found this in a Jeffries tube."
Taking it from her, he frowned as he read 'For the attention of Commander Chakotay'. "A Jeffries tube?"
"Yes." Her arms folded across her chest and her smirk grew bigger. "Any idea why someone would expect you to be in a Jeffries tube?"
Oh the innuendo was going to go flying with this one. He had absolutely no doubt whatsoever that whoever was leaving PADDs for him had done it deliberately. Still, he couldn't help but retort. "I don't think so B'Elanna. You're the acknowledged master in that department." Quickly turning away from her and walking towards the exit he continued speaking rather loudly. "Besides, I wouldn't want to spend too much time there. Those gratings are not particularly forgiving to bare skin."
'How To Keep Her Happy:
Tip No.3: Help her to relax.'
He found her in cargo bay two of course, looking over the painting once again. She didn't even appear to notice him when he came in and they stood there in a companiable silence for almost thirty minutes.
"Do you have a favourite one?" he asked eventually, his voice quiet, almost reverant.
She considered her answer as she continued to look at the painting, her arms resting by her sides. A tiny smile tugged at her lips, the only indication that she had heard him before speaking. "I think...although it's a close call...it's probably Naomi's."
Nodding, he chuckled lightly. "I thought you'd appreciate that one."
"The bun is a particularly nice touch."
"It suits her remarkably well."
"I was wondering though..." she raised her right hand and pointed in the general direction of Naomi's self portrait "...what's that grey thing she's holding?"
"You're kidding, right?"
She looked over at him. "No, really."
He shook his head almost in disbelief. "Kathryn, it's a compression phaser rifle!"
Kathryn looked back at the painting, frowning. "Why would she paint that?"
Chakotay's face started to redden slightly and he thanked the Gods that she wasn't looking right at him at that moment. "Well I...I mean the crew believe that you have a fondness for that weapon of choice. I've no idea why," he hastily added, mentally hoping she wouldn't ask anything else about that subject. At least not until they knew each other a little better.
"Strange," she commented. "Do you have a favourite?"
"Not to sound like I'm sucking up to the boss, but I'm rather fond of yours." Chakotay replied, turning his head to examine the canvas yet again.
"Very life like. Especially the red nose."
Her own cheeks reddened. "I ran out of the colour I needed to mix in."
"You could have replicated more."
"I was having too much fun to stop midway."
"Actually, now that I think about it, it's probably the Delaney's sisters portraits that are the most 'fun' to look at."
Moving her head until it was almost horizontal so she could get a proper look, Kathryn agreed. "Yes. Very interesting. You had to be quite diplomatic I take it?"
"You could say that. I said they could have fun with them, but that they couldn't be pornographic as children would be looking at it."
"A wise move." Finally giving up at looking at the painting for a while, she faced him. "Did you just come to look or was there something else?"
Not quite sure what she was referring to, he decided to play it safe. "As a matter of fact, there is something else."
Kathryn stepped onto the holodeck and was instantly barraged by familiar sensations. The scent in the air, the wind, the way the sun cast down on the earth...somehow it was all just a little too eerily reminiscent of home.
"Indiana..." she breathed.
Taking a chance, he held out his hand to her. He might as well have been holding out his heart. She took it anyway after a moments indecision. He lead her to wherever they were going and she didn't object to being pulled along for once. It was just so good to be here again.
"I have to say I was a little surprised when I saw you didn't have a programme of Indiana yourself."
Her head snapped up at his words, but then her eyes looked at the horizon as they continued walking. "I guess I didn't want the reminder. That it would be easier to deal with the loss if I didn't retreat into a facsimilie of it occasionally."
"Was I wrong to bring you here?" His voice was serious.
"No," she whispered lightly, the single word carried away on the light wind.
"Good," he responded, his hand tightening its grip on hers for an instant.
Eventually he stopped by a tree and indicated for her to sit under it. She did so, shadows caused by the sunlight penetrating the trees falling across her face. "What are we doing here?"
"You...are going to lie down." he announced.
Kathryn raised a skeptical eyebrow at him.
"Don't worry madam. I won't try anything improper."
Somewhat amused and relieved, she did as he asked.
He began speaking again, his voice quiet and soothing. "Now close your eyes. Concentrate on the sensations surrounding you. The feel of the wind lightly running over your body, the smells of nature - grass, flowers, trees - the sunlight and shadows you can feel on your skin." He paused. "Kathryn, you're not supposed to frown."
A smile appeared then vanished. "Sorry."
Sensing movement beside her, she almost jumped when she felt his fingers tenderly rubbing her forehead, but she didn't tell him to stop.
He tried again. "Concentrate on the sensations surrounding you. The feel of the wind lightly running over your body..."
The touch of his hand on her forehead was gentle, so gentle in fact that after a while she couldn't feel his fingertips moving. She was aware that they were there, but she would probably have only noticed the sensations if he stopped. It was as if his fingers were a natural extension of her body, of her. Like breathing for example. It wasn't something she concentrated on, yet it was always there, existing.
Kathryn focused on everything that surrounded her. Plants, trees, animals, the sky. It may have been holographic but it was made so well, felt so real. She was aware as she never had been before of the very vibrancy of *life* that was all around her, that always had been but she had never taken the time to appreciate something so holy, so sacred.
Inevitably perhaps, she began to drift, her mind closing down as her body relaxed. And as she fell into slumber she was aware of only two things; the freshness of the air, and the slight sounds of movement beside her.
Kathryn woke an undetermined amount of time later with Chakotay's face buried against the side of her neck.
He was snoring.
Trying to look at him without moving too much to wake him, she fought the urge to laugh. She hadn't heard him snore or watched him sleep since...
He snored again, loudly, and this time she couldn't hold back the small chuckle that emerged. Immediately her left hand (the hand he *wasn't* lying on) raised to cover her mouth.
Chakotay didn't seem to noticed. Merely muttering something undecipherable he moved even closer to her, his hand settling over her stomach and his face nuzzling into her neck even more.
She considered waking him up - it didn't feel quite right doing this, lying together. From a Captains point of view. Kathryn however was having a hell of a good time. Why should she neglect herself of this rare opportunity? It wasn't as if he knew she was awake, lapping up the self indulgence.
She heard something. Thinking at first that she might have been getting paranoid she tried to ignore it, but then the sound repeated itself again. And again. And again. Footsteps, she realised.
Inhaling sharply, sitting up quickly, and waking up a very confused Chakotay, Kathryn turned to see the person who had spoken. "Seven!"
"Yes Captain," the former Borg answered, standing proudly next to the tree.
Of course. At first Kathryn thought she had woken naturally, but it was more likely that she had heard the holodeck doors opening and closing and that had woken her up.
Quickly standing and trying to brush off her embarrassment as she brushed grass off her skirt, she did her best to ignore Chakotay's presence and asked what Seven wanted.
"You requested that I hand my Astrometrics report to you at 1600 hours. It is that time now."
"Already?" Kathryn asked, quite amazed at how long she had been here. Six hours already. She was already over an hour late for her shift.
"Yes. When I discovered that you were not in your ready room I asked the computer for your location. If I may ask Captain, what were you doing?"
The Captain of Voyager would not allow herself to blush. "We were just resting."
Thankfully Chakotay backed her up. "Yes, we were sleeping."
Seven rose her eyebrows at Chakotay. "I believe you were asleep Commander, but it was quite evident that the Captain was fully awak-"
"Yes, well we really must be going now Seven!" Kathryn exclaimed a little too heartily, completely avoiding being near Chakotay at all as she grabbed the PADD.
She caught the start of Seven's next sentence as she left the holodeck.
"Commander, why did the Captains face turn that shade of-"
Kathryn entered the bridge, two hours late for her shift and no one uttered a word about it. Perhaps they thought she had good reason, perhaps they were just afraid to mention it. She thought that at least Tuvok would have said something once she entered the privacy of her ready room, but nothing happened. The door did not beep, he didn't request entry. It was as if they were all avoiding her.
Sighing, she sat in her chair and began reading over Seven's report, tying to shove the incident in the holodeck out of her mind.
The PADD beeped and the words appeared:
'How To Keep Him Happy:
e-mail // voyager fic