Disclaimer - unfortunately, these characters belong to Paramount.
Alright, in defense of this story I only have two words: caffeine withdrawl.
I don't think I've ever seen a worse case of male preening, before or since.
Well...perhaps apart from the time Tom replicated that ridiculous outfit, slicked back his hair and called himself 'The Fonz' - whatever that was. Still, leather looks good on him. And those black jeans were awfully tight...mmm. I'm digressing, aren't I? Sorry, that's a story for another time. You really must tell me when I start to do that - it's very easy for me to go off subject and not even realise it.
Okay, so he was preening. And I mean *preening*. Mating pigeons had nothing on him. Klingon Takoth birds, who try to entice each other for two weeks non-stop didn't even come close. He looked in the mirror, brushing his hair this way and that, reaching up to run his hand over his chin to feel for stubble, making sure that there were no unsightly hairs growing from anywhere. I half expected him to spread some tail feathers and puff up his chest.
And the funny thing was, there was no one to witness it.
Well except for me and I hardly count. It's not as if he was interested in me.
No, as I later discovered his was practising.
I leant against the wall next to the sink and looked at his profile as he smiled experimentally into the mirror. My arms folded instinctively and I couldn't contain my eager curiousity any longer. I asked why he had invited me over.
You see Chakotay is my oldest and one of my closest friends on Voyager. It'd been a while since we last discussed ship life so I thought it might just have been that.
I soon learnt otherwise.
With some apparent effort, he pulled his eyes away from his reflection and smiled at me, a bit hesitant. You have to understand that for Chakotay this is bizarre behaviour. He's one of the least vain people I know.
"How do I look?" he suddenly blurted out.
Alright, I was confused. "Fine."
He shook his head with a half-frowned grin. "No I mean how do I *look*. I don't just want some snap opinion or what you think I'll want to hear." I could tell that he was psychologically bracing himself. I could just imagine him saying "Do you worst." Instead he simply said "Tell me the truth."
Kahless, I wanted to laugh at him for being so silly! The truth was, and is, that Chakotay is a very attractive man. In part it is his looks, yes, but it is the quiet confidence he normally exudes that attracts most people. He's always so...well 'care free' isn't exactly the word I'm looking for but you get the idea...about himself and the way he looks that most couldn't help but be drawn to him. Myself included. I'll admit (although I wouldn't have three years ago) that I used to have quite the crush on Chakotay. Don't tell Tom though. He'd freak. Although I think subconsciously he may suspect but doesn't want to open that particular can of Rokeg blood worms.
It's a strange thing, mirth. I told myself to only smile slightly at him and I was doing just that...until my laughter suddenly spilled out. I managed to stop it very rapidly, and he stared at me as a bizarre half-squeal half-chuckle made its way out of my mouth.
Immediately my hand clapped itself over the offending orifice, he still baffled by my behaviour, and me still shouting mentally at myself for having such lack of control.
I removed my hand and reached up to touch the back of my hair as if I didn't have a care in the universe. I felt absurdly like saying in a bad British accent "Sorry about that old chum. The old laughter couldn't be contained there. You know what it's like, what?"
I hate Tom for introducing me to old black and white movies.
Thankfully something else emerged. "Sorry, had something stuck in my throat." I cleared it rather loudly after that, emphasising my point. I closed my eyes, relaxed, and then opened them again. My control was back in place. I smiled. "Look Chakotay...trust me on this. You really have nothing to worry about. You're a very attractive man."
The sincerity in my words must have reached him because he blushed, looked down slightly and tugged on his ear.
"Now tell me what's going on," I ordered, in this situation out-ranking him in my own little way.
"I have a date this evening."
I refrained from tutting at him. "I know *that* Chakotay, or at least that's what I assumed. What I want to know is why you're making such a big deal about it. It's not as if this is the first time you've been on a date." I paused as another thought occurred to me. "Besides, I didn't think there was anyone on board you'd want to date other than..." my words became quieter as I raised an intrigued eyebrow at him, my mouth opening slightly working to say something but not being able to produce anything. If I hadn't guessed already, the grin on his face would have given it away.
"I have a date with *her*."
I still remember everything I thought at that moment. Had she finally conceded? Had she finally come to her senses? Had he made a mistake?
My introspective gaze reasserted itself on my uncertain friend who was studying me with an interested look.
"Chakotay...not that I'm one to throw water on a good fire...but...are you sure? Are you sure she meant this to be a date?" I looked down and noticed that I had rested my hand on his arm, unconsciously comforting. When had I started picking up her habits?
He smiled down at my hand and placed his own on top of it, no doubt reminded of her. "I'm sure B'Elanna. And I know that everything will work out." He spoke with such conviction.
I envied him that. The absolute certainty, the unshakable belief that now they had started down this path everything would work out as he hoped. They may not reach that point the way either of them expected, but it would happen. Besides, what was the point if you knew everything that was going to happen? I had never been that certain, that sure, until just recently.
And then I was smiling. It kept getting bigger and bigger, threatening to encompass my face but it wouldn't stop. I wanted to throw my arms around him in happiness, I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs that it had taken them long enough. Instead I kept smiling, knowing I'd lose it if I did anything else.
His expression grew pained and his face whitened considerably. "Umm...B'Elanna, do you think you can release your hold on my arm?"
"Oh..." I instantly retracted my hand and watched as he rubbed the arm with his fingers, wincing slightly. Clearly my attempt at controlling my emotions hadn't been entirely successful. No surprise there then. But right then I was so happy I really didn't care.
"So is it a secret?" I asked, desperate to know if I could share the news with others.
He shrugged and played with his hairbrush. "Not exactly. We want to keep it relatively quiet for now..."
"We?" Uh hu.
He laughed. "Alright, she does. But no, officially it's not a secret."
I was worried about him. He was so nervous, so out of character, so...un-Chakotay. I said as much.
He thanked me for my concern. "But it's okay B'Elanna. I'll be fine when I get there." He turned back to the mirror and ran the brush through his hair yet again. "It's just that the anticipation is killing me."
I wondered if she knew of the effect she had on him. Maybe she was just as nervous...
"Paris to Torres."
I smiled without realising it. "Torres here. Go ahead."
"Can we meet somewhere B'Elanna? There's something I'd like to discuss." His voice was eager, as if he had the biggest secret in the universe to share.
I looked at Chakotay, who shrugged at me to go. "Sure Tom. I'll meet you in our quarters." Closing the com line I looked back at Chakotay again as he turned to face me. "Well...I'd better be going..." I touched his arm again. "You'll do fine, Chakotay."
Those rare dimples came into view. "I know. And...thank you."
We stood there for a few more seconds, in a silence that was somehow comforting and awkward at the same time. "I feel like I should be adjusting your tie or something..."
He chuckled at me as I finally turned and walked out of his quarters, wondering what Tom needed to see me about.
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