Disclaimer: I own nothing. No infringement intended.
Notes: This was written by request for Hazel who generously donated to the Queensland Flood Relief. HUGE thanks to QS, my wonderful beta, and for this story practically my co-author as I would not be posting this without her help in fixing it up.
In the Moment by Cheshire
That’s how I feel as soon as I hear my name called.
The emotions I’d been feeling in the instant before…they’re not something I can name.
Heartbroken. Rejected. Disconsolate.
Those words really don’t seem to encompass exactly what I felt the moment after I turned the corner and saw them standing there…together. One of his hands holding hers. Her free hand stroking the side of his face. A look I can’t quite describe on her face. A dimpled smile on his as he tucks his chin slightly.
I stare. Frozen to the spot. Pressure building immediately behind my eyes, my mouth going dry, the muscles in my chest clenching tightly, and my stomach lurching so badly I almost think gravity has been leeched from the room.
It’s one thing to be fundamentally aware of something; it’s a whole other thing to be physically confronted with it. I was aware that there was a budding relationship between Chakotay and Seven. I’d heard rumors on Voyager that he was seeing someone new. Mentions of him spending more time than usual with her had surfaced. The older admiral version of myself had thrown their relationship in my face like the proverbial bucket of freezing cold water. So I can’t say that I didn’t know…but to walk in on it…to be confronted with it in such an undeniable manner…
The shattering of a well-protected dream is truly painful to behold.
And then Admiral Paris booms out my name as he joins the three of us in the corridor. Blood rushes into my face. Seven and Chakotay’s heads both turn, obviously surprised to see me standing there. Her head cocks to the side slightly. He drops her hand and takes a step towards me; concern rapidly replaces the joy that had been so clearly written on his face a second before.
“I’ve been looking all over for you, Katie!”
Owen slings his arm across my shoulders, turning me around, clearly steering me back to the main ballroom. Without a clue as to the moment he just interrupted, he calls back over his shoulder. “Come on, Chakotay. Seven. You too. We can’t very well have the awards ceremony without the three of you!”
I’ve never been so thankful to be swallowed up by the admiralty in all my life. The four of us sweep back into the ballroom, and I’m quickly guided towards the stage. Awards, promotions, citations, bereavements, speeches, and congratulations blur together and I register only a few of the faces that pass before me on the stage. Harry is beaming. Seven is perfunctory. Tom stands straight and proud. B’Elanna looks suspicious. And then Chakotay.
He tries to tell me something, but I can’t hear him past the roaring in my ears. I try to ignore his eyes. When I have to lean in to place the captain’s pip on his collar, he catches me, just for a moment.
“We need to talk.”
I smile and nod mechanically at him, managing to offer congratulations. He frowns at my reply and opens his mouth to say something else, but I turn back to Owen’s waiting presence at my side, ready to present the next award or promotion or whatever escape he can offer me.
He beams at me. “Get in line, Captain. It’s your turn.”
For a second time tonight, I stand frozen to the spot. Owen laughs at my surprise and gently guides me to stand next to Chakotay. I almost bolt from the stage when I feel his hand brush against mine. As Owen reads through a rather lengthy list of my alleged accomplishments, Chakotay purposefully bumps my arm with his. I stare resolutely forward.
The best thing about getting promoted to admiral is that plenty of people want to talk to me, to congratulate me, pat me on the back, take a picture with me, introduce me to their family, ask me to hold their baby…I only manage the last one for about five seconds before I shove Miral back into Tom’s arms, claiming a need to use the restroom.
I really just need some air. A moment to think. To get myself together. It’s only once I’m in the hallway that it hits me, I’m right back where I started. The spot where I’d seen them. The only reason I had come into the corridor the first time had been because I’d wanted to freshen up before the awards portion of the banquet.
Obviously that hadn’t worked out like I had planned.
“Congratulations Capt– I mean, Admiral!”
I actually jump at the sound of a voice behind me.
“I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you, Admiral.” Tal Celes blushes and her hands move nervously in front of her. Her actions are so different from the last people that surprised me in this spot. “I just wanted to say…t-thank you. For everything…everything you did out there for us…for me.”
Shaking myself out of my own thoughts, I reach forward and clasp one of her hands between mine. “Thank you, Ensign Celes. Never forget, it took all of us to get home and we did it together.”
Her blush deepens and a nervous twitter of laughter escapes her. “T-thank you, Admiral.”
I simply nod and let her go, clearly understanding she’d like nothing more than to escape at the moment. She fumbles backwards a step before turning and heading towards the restrooms herself. She stops again after going only a few steps and turns back to me. “Commander…I mean, Captain Chakotay is looking for you. Did you know?”
I know. Luckily, having apparently used up all of her courage for the moment, Celes doesn’t wait for an answer from me and ducks into the restroom, making good on her escape.
Celes and I finally have something in common. Changing direction slightly, I head straight for the doors at the end of the hallway. Pushing them open, I make my own escape into the dark San Francisco night.
Kathryn can really move when she wants to.
Six months ago at the welcome home banquet, I neglected to take this into account. I telegraphed. She dodged. Rookie boxing mistake that I should have never made.
And she’s been dodging me ever since.
But not tonight. I’ve had enough. I realize that what I’m about to do may make her hate me forever, but at this point, I’m more than a little irritated myself. This dance we’ve been doing around each other for six months has all been for nothing...six months of wasted time on top of seven years we had no choice but to waste. If she would’ve just let me explain that what she saw that night in the corridor was not at all what she thought she saw, I doubt she’d still be running.
At least, I really hope that’s the sole reason she’s been avoiding me. That it’s nothing deeper, and that I can still read her well enough to know what she actually wants, and that what she wants is the opposite of what she’d been so carefully projecting.
If not, this could really be embarrassing.
Time to find out. I scan the reception hall. Tom and B’Elanna are near the south exit, Seven and the Doctor are in position at the west exit, and just to be sure, Harry has claimed a spot near the door leading into the kitchen. Not exactly an exit out of the building but definitely an identified escape route. After receiving affirmative glances from all of them, Ayala catches my eye over the head of his wife, who has expertly cornered Kathryn into a conversation, and gives me the go-ahead nod.
I steel myself and head for the stage.
It doesn’t escape my attention that Kathryn has kept her eye on me all night tonight. At all times, she has been acutely aware of my location and adjusted herself accordingly. Now I know her eyes are on me again, watching me make my way through the crowd, but she doesn’t yet know what I’m up to and my goal is to keep it that way. Tipping her off before I’m ready would be a fatal, maybe a final, mistake.
So I stop and chat for a second with Sam Wildman and her husband. It’s common knowledge amongst the crew that Kathryn hasn’t spoken to me since that night six months ago. The celebration tonight, a renewing of vows between Mike and his wife, presented the perfect opportunity – as it’s hardly the sort of thing Kathryn would miss. Especially since she was asked to officiate…a nice touch, but Mike owed me from way back anyway. After tonight, we’re more or less even.
“Is she still watching me?” I ask Sam.
Taking a sip of her drink, she looks casually past me. “No, it looks like she considers you safe for the moment.”
I give her a much braver grin than I’m feeling on the inside. “Wish me luck.”
Turning, I march quickly towards the short staircase at the end of the stage. The microphone stands ready in the middle. At this point, I know she’s spotted me, possibly gauged my intentions, and has probably already checked out at least one of the exits. I know her but it’s an equal equation. By now, she suspects something.
As I reach the microphone, Mike indicates with his chin that Kathryn has indeed unknowingly headed straight for Tom and B’Elanna. She’ll notice them before she gets there, though.
“Good evening, everyone. If I could have your attention for just a few moments.”
It’s not really necessary for me to ask for the attention. Almost all eyes were on me as soon as I ascended the stage. Tom is grinning as I look to the back of the hall. He points towards Seven, and as I scan across the crowd, I see Kathryn’s distinctive red hair making its way towards the side exit.
“My congratulations to Mike and Angela on this most special day.” I pause and see that Seven has indeed shifted her stance so that she is clearly blocking the door. “And with the couple’s approval, I’d like to ask that Kathryn Janeway please make her way to the stage at this time.”
There’s a slight murmuring through the crowd and heads begin to turn, but I keep my eye on the target. She hasn’t shown herself yet, but she’s stopped moving, standing somewhere behind the crowd of people so I can’t quite see her. She knows she’s caught. But she can still bolt.
“Kathryn? I need to talk to you.” I can easily imagine what’s going through her head right now. Can she make a push to get past a former Borg and a hologram? Does she want to make that big of a scene trying to leave? I can’t put it past her, and I know it. I decide to help her with her decision. “Kathryn, if you don’t come up here to the stage…I’m just going to have to start talking to you from here. Is that really what you want?”
By now, the entire crowd has turned to follow where I’m looking. I know exactly where she is, and I haven’t stopped watching for her reemergence. I’m pretty sure I know what she’ll do now that I’ve called her out. The last thing she’ll want is a scene bigger than the one I’m already making. I actually don’t feel bad about it though. If she’d simply talked to me, even once over the past six months, we could’ve avoided all of this. I know she knows that Seven and I aren’t together anymore. We haven’t been together since that moment in the corridor.
The moment before Kathryn encountered us.
But that may be the thing Kathryn doesn’t know. I suspect it is. Either way, she’s shown no sign of complying with my ultimatum. Which makes her bolting still on the table. I can’t risk that happening before I can get this out, “Kathryn, it’s not your fault Seven and I broke off our relationship.”
The murmuring of the crowd is gone. A pin drop could be heard in the room. Someone coughs faintly. A throat is cleared from somewhere to my left. As the silence begins to draw out, I have to admit, she’s making me nervous now.
Just when my forced smile starts to crack, I see movement in the crowd, and Kathryn emerges from behind a civilian couple I don’t recognize. My breath catches in my throat. Despite the many times I’ve seen her on news vids and from across the room at various functions, it’s been awhile since I’ve truly seen her. Since she’s sought out and made eye contact with me. She’s beautiful.
She draws closer to the stage, the crowd now parting like the Red Sea, and I can easily observe the muscle in her jaw working furiously. She reaches the end of the stage and stops, glaring at me expectantly.
She did what I asked. Now it’s up to me to approach her…but that would be akin to walking into a room full of rattlesnakes…that have all just been stepped on.
Staying right where I am, on stage with at least a 100 witnesses to any action she might be tempted to take, I extend my hand out to her. “Would you join me, Kathryn?”
She hesitates which is really all the reaction our former crew needs.
“Come on, Admiral!”
“Go for it, Kathryn!”
“I’ve got twenty credits on the red head!”
Color suffuses her cheeks at the cheers, and if the set of her jaw gets any tighter, she may crack a molar. But to my surprise, she grabs a handful of her dress, hiking it up just a bit, and ascends the steps. Reaching my side, she drops the material and after the briefest moment of steeling herself, places her hand in my outstretched one.
Slowly, she looks up from our clasped hands. She’s still glaring at me. “Now what, Captain?”
She spits the words out, but I can’t stop the smile that spreads across my face. “Do you have any idea how sexy you are glaring at me from the middle of a crowded room?”
Blue eyes flash dangerously at me and her hand slaps down over the audio receiver of the microphone, – too late as there are definite approving cheers from the crowd.
Admitting I’d completely forgotten everything we’re saying is being broadcast across the room at full volume isn’t going to save me now that I just said that, out loud to her for the entire room to hear. My eyes do widen a bit, though, and I fight back the grin for dear life, mouth “oops” and try to look sorrier than I am.
I do reach down and flick off the audio, though. It’s the right move because it relaxes her…somewhat.
There’s no smile, but the death grip she had on my hand loosens and her jaw no longer seems in danger of shattering. Her tone is still borderline whip-crack as she demands, “Do you have any idea how angry I am with you right now?”
I nod: I absolutely do know.
“But you don’t care, do you?” she asks incredulously.
I shake my head. I certainly don’t care. “It’s worth it if you’re finally talking to me, and I’d do it again.” I eye her suspiciously. “Now, if I have to.” I make a move for the microphone–
“Don’t!” she cuts me off, a hand closing over my forearm and dragging back. “Ever.”
The glare is still frosty, but I would swear she almost smirks. Almost.
“Can we get off the stage now?”
Oh. Right. As soon as I’d locked eyes with her, I’d managed to forget again that we’re not alone, and it’s only at her question that I realize there’s a hundred or so expectant faces still watching us. She shakes her head in disbelief and reaches for the microphone.
“If everyone will excuse us for a few minutes, it would seem that Captain Chakotay and I have a few things we need to discuss. Harry,” she turns towards the kitchens in time to see him start slightly, “do you think you could start the music? These people need something to do – besides gawk at us.”
Nervous laughter rumbles through the crowd as Harry immediately begins making his way to the stage, and a familiar gleam appears in Kathryn’s eye as she gives me a sidelong look. The corner of her mouth quirks upwards, and she leans back towards the microphone. “Oh, and one more thing,” the murmuring crowd returns its drifting attention to the stage, “just in case you were wondering…”
Before I know what’s happening, her arms are on my shoulders, her hands firmly pulling my head down towards hers until our mouths meet. Admittedly, it takes me a second, but as I quickly move past my shock, my arms wrap around her waist, bringing her closer to me. I feel the lightning hot touch of her tongue against mine, the pressure of her chest pushing against me, and the graze of her fingernails running through my hair. I could easily stay like this forever, and it’s only when the catcalls and whistles become deafening that we break apart laughing, her hands skimming a feather light touch over my face as she pulls back.
Harry stands less than two feet away from us. He smirks, not at all the wide-eyed young man from seven years ago, and continues clapping. Kathryn discreetly wipes her mouth, scans the cheering crowd, and pulling me behind her tosses off a comment to Harry as we leave the stage.
“Don’t bother waiting up for us.”