Argh!! I can't sleep because I've got this *stupid* story stuck in my head. So I wrote the bloody thing. Argh!
Look, don't ask me what I was thinking when I wrote this. It was late.
Disclaimer - Paramount owns these characters. Right.
A little too much alcohol had been drunk. The celebration had been synthehol-only to start with, but then someone had sneaked in several bottles of the 'real stuff'. It didn't take very long after that for the drinks to have an effect. Neither of them had done much drinking over the past several years.
So they found themselves on opposite ends of the sofa in someone's quarters - hers, she suspected. Although whose idea it had been to come here was a mystery. Hers, she suspected. If only her brain would start working properly.
They weren't looking at each other, but they weren't avoiding looking at each other either. They just both seemed to find the wall across from them fascinating.
"Why didn't we fall in love together?"
Strange question, that one. She frowned heavily. "I thought we did."
Chakotay shook his head, rubbing a hand over his face. "No. No. I fell in love with you and I think you fell in love with me. But we didn't fall in love together."
"So...we fell in love...separately?"
He nodded. She continued.
"There's a difference?"
He nodded again. "Absolutely. Falling in love together is a wonderful experience. And I suppose falling in love separately is too, but mostly it's self destructive."
She stared at the carpet for a few moments. "That explains a lot..." Standing up rather slowly from the sofa, Kathryn headed towards the replicator. "Coffee, black." Her request materialised before her and she picked the cup up. As she turned back she discovered that Chakotay was also standing.
"No coffee," he told her.
"If you drink that coffee you'll start to sober up, and this is the only time I've been able to talk to you for three years."
"Don't be ridiculous." she insisted.
He pushed on. "I'm not being ridiculous. This is just about the only time we've talked about 'us'."
"So...what, you're going to use this situation to your advantage?"
"Kathryn, I *rarely* get to use any situation with you to my advantage. I figure it's about time that I'm due."
Closing her eyes she tried to force his words out of her mind. "Chakotay, it's not that easy. We're home now but nothing has changed. *Nothing*. I can't do this. I can't do *this*." As she spoke the last word she lost her grip on the cup and it fell to the ground. The cup was undamaged but its contents covered the carpet.
Swearing, she put her hands on her hips as Chakotay picked up the cup and placed it on a table.
"Look at this!" she ordered. "This is your fault."
"You caused that reaction. You made me care about you."
Shaking his head he stood in place as she marched into the bathroom and returned with a wet cloth. "I didn't 'make' you do anything, Kathryn."
Bending down she began to clear up the coffee as best she could. "Really? I don't see anyone else telling ancient legends." Her scrubbing intensified. "I don't see anyone else talking about beautiful woman warriors. I don't see you giving back rubs to Neelix."
He considered her words for a moment as he looked down at her. "So you're saying that made you...care about me?"
Realising what he was suggesting, she stopped her cleaning efforts and stood. "I didn't say that," she retorted before throwing the cloth into the replicator and watching it dematerialise. Standing with one hand on her hip and the other rubbing her forehead, she exhaled. "I just...can't do this Chakotay. It's too complicated. It's too much."
Studying her intently he moved a little closer as her hands dropped to her sides. "Are you sure, Kathryn? Are you sure that it would really be that hard? Are you sure you aren't just imagining a worst case scenario?"
Shrugging, she blinked. "At least we'll always have New Earth," she joked, trying to speak beyond the whisper that the constriction of her throat was producing. But the words were carried away on a shiver that passed through his body.
Chakotay said nothing, merely moving forward and raising his hands until he was nearly cupping her shoulders. Bending slightly so that the hair on the side of his head brushed against her cheek, he exerted a gentle pressure on that point of contact.
He froze, then. And in that moment it seemed as if time itself had come to a halt. He was barely touching her but Kathryn - as much as she didn't want to be - had never been more aware of his presence.
"Don't do this," she wanted to whisper, demand, shout. Any damn way to get the words out. But her mouth wouldn't co-operate. Her resistance on this particular night, at this exact moment, emerged only as a long sigh. A sigh that - because of the way they were standing - made its way down the back of his uniform. He shivered, again.
He began to sway, still only barely touching her. Kathryn could have remained still, not have swayed with him and let him move by himself. But now her whole body didn't want to co-operate. Moving from their position by her side, her arms moved up until her hands were touching his which were still resting on her shoulders.
"We'll always have New Earth," he murmured onto her neck, and she was sure she could feel the beginning of a smile forming on his face. And although Kathryn Janeway wouldn't admit it to herself for fully seventeen seconds, she was glad that it was there.
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