Disclaimer: Blah, blah, blah, even after all these years I own nothing.
Notes: Written for Delta using her fabulous first line. Thanks as always to QS for her wonderful beta-ing skills. To the MotW, you know who you are, thanks for running another lovely exchange!
Getting the Message by Cheshire
She saw the look on his face and knew he got the message.
Whether or not he would heed the message remained to be seen. She glared at him to further support her position and make her opinion on the matter crystal clear.
He grinned at her.
“Ambassador,” she began, getting to her feet, “would you excuse us just for a moment? I need to speak to my first officer. Privately.”
The ambassador immediately harrumphed, “I’m sorry, Captain, but that would be highly irregular. If you were to have a private discussion with a member from your own delegation now, the entire negotiation could be considered forfeit.”
“Not to worry, Ambassador,” Chakotay interjected smoothly before she could argue, “I’m confident I can finish the negotiations without any further instruction.” He looked up at his captain. “I promise to keep in mind what’s best for Voyager at all times.”
The ambassador looked hopefully towards her as well and she swallowed the caustic retort that was on the tip of her tongue. If she continued voicing her displeasure, the situation was likely to become even more awkward than it already was. She did not like being maneuvered any more than she liked being dismissed, and she was currently facing both unpleasant conditions.
With a supreme force of will, she managed to unlock her jaw. “Fine,” she said, stepping back from the table. “Ambassador. Commander. Proceed.”
Both men watched her storm out of the room, the attendants assigned to her struggling to catch up. After a moment, the ambassador shook his head. “I must say, Commander, she does seem rather…upset.”
“She does, doesn’t she?” Chakotay asked, attempting to swallow his humor. If his plan didn’t work the way he wanted it to, she was going to flay him alive the next time she saw him. It wasn’t a pleasant scenario to contemplate. “It’s why I need your help, Ambassador.”
“Indeed.” The ambassador seemed to shiver all over as the last attendant closed the doors in the captain’s wake. “How can I be of service, Commander?”
“I should flay you alive.”
He grinned at the decidedly unthreatening drawl in her voice. “Forgive me for saying so, Captain, but your ire seems to be lacking a bit of heat.”
“Mmmm.” She managed to raise an eyebrow at him, but it took some work.
Every muscle in her body was relaxed. Whether it was from the deep tissue massage, the heavily infused oils they worked into her muscles, or the luxuriously hot bath she was currently residing in, it was hard to say.
He took a seat on the marble edge surrounding the four person sized tub that was holding only a party of one. “Should I beg your forgiveness?”
Her eyes didn’t even open. “That depends.”
“How long my isolation is supposed to last.”
“Well, the main negotiations are over,” he explained, “so tomorrow you are allowed to, how did the ambassador phrase it, recommence communication with your crew?”
“Tomorrow?” She opened one eye. “You mean I have to suffer this indignity for another…” she sank a little further into the water. “What are their time increments?”
“And how many until tomorrow?”
“Fourteen,” he answered, “give or take a morset.”
He wasn’t sure she did as she no longer had either of her eyes open. The two attendants stationed behind her were watching carefully, presumably to make sure she didn’t sink completely under the water.
“Don’t worry so loud,” she murmured, resurfacing a few inches, “they won’t let me drown.” She opened both her eyes and smirked at him. “It would be bad for negotiations.”
He gave her his back as more ivory skin rose out of the concealing dark waters. “Yes,” he managed, “yes, it would.”
Amused at his consideration, she raised one dripping wet arm out of the water and immediately had a goblet placed into her hand. “Something you said has me wondering.”
“What’s that, Captain?” he asked, when she didn’t continue. He could hear her moving behind him and tried desperately to concentrate on the far wall and not what she might or might not be wearing in the bath.
“Who do you recommend I should appoint to replace you as first officer?”
Without thinking, he spun to face her. She was out of the tub, sitting on the marble edge, swathed in a large, fluffy towel, her feet still immersed in the water. Even in the dim lighting, he could see her exposed shoulders were flushed pink with heat. “Captain?”
She accepted a hand towel from her attendants and began blotting the ends of her hair. “Fetch the commander a drink, please. I think he could use one.”
A cool glass of something was being pushed into his hand before she even finished speaking. He glanced down. The pale purple liquid looked palatable, but he was still stuck on what she’d said, and no cool drink was going to fix that. “Are you removing me as your first officer?”
“Not by choice.”
“Then why…?” He was so confused, and she simply looked amused – which was fine with him. The whole point of all this maneuvering had been to get her to relax, but he still didn’t understand.
“Try the drink, Chakotay,” she suggested. “It tastes a little bit like watermelon.”
He tried it and made a face. “No, it doesn’t.
She raised an eyebrow at him.
“It tastes like peaches.”
“You don’t like peaches?”
“I like peaches fine, but not when I’m expecting watermelon.”
She shrugged indifferently. “I thought it tasted like watermelon.”
He tried it again. Now it tasted like watermelon. “How did you-” She was smiling at him, not her signature, crooked half-smile, but the fully blossomed up-to-something, truly happy smile. He looked to the attendants who were carefully ignoring the conversation happening in front of them. He rather wished he could ignore it, but there was still the issue of his being first officer. Or not. “Captain-”
“Really, Chakotay. If you’re no longer a member of my crew, you don’t have to call me by rank.”
“Since when am I not a member of your crew?”
“By the ambassador’s rules of negotiation, you said I couldn’t talk to any of my crew until tomorrow, and yet,” she eyed him appreciatively, “here you are.”
Finally, he relaxed. “I may have convinced the ambassador to tweak a few of the minor points of convention.”
“Does that mean I’m allowed to have a say in the matter again?” she asked, the first note of true irritation creeping back into her tone.
“You have the final say,” he pointed out, “as befitting a person of your rank and stature.” She made a snort of disgust that he dutifully ignored. “They just want you to relax, Captain. Allow the lower ranks such as myself to do the haggling and heavy lifting.”
Pulling her feet from the water, she took a seat on the lounge chair and attendants descended on her immediately, one offering a bread and fruit tray while another refilled her glass. A third sat on a stool near her feet and with her nod of consent gently dried her foot and began massaging it.
“Admit it, Chakotay,” she said, choosing a dark piece of bread, “they were not the only ones that wanted me to relax.”
“I told you I’d keep Voyager’s best interests in mind at all times.”
“Was I really getting that bad?”
“Let’s just say,” he said slowly, choosing his words carefully, “it was a good idea to stop you before it got any worse.”
She saw his unconscious ear tug as he softened the blow and felt a twinge of embarrassment that she’d apparently become a bit short with people. “Well, now that I’m being treated like royalty, does that mean you’ll continue to run the kingdom in my absence?”
“Actually, no,” he said, surprising her. “Now that I’ve basked in your presence, I’m no longer allowed back in the negotiations, either.” He held up a hand, stopping her before she could become concerned. “The only thing left to arrange was the times for delivery. Tuvok and Harry are on top of it, and Tom already has the duty roster for shore leave scheduled.”
“So, you and I are stuck with only each other for company for the next fourteen polsets?”
He grinned. “It’s just you, me, and your contingency of attendants.”
“They do give a good massage.”
“So do I.” He saw her intake of breath and knew she got the message. “I believe you told the ambassador you wanted to speak with me in private.”
“That I did.” She dismissed the attendants from the room. “Yes, something about you and Voyager’s best interests comes to mind.”
“A ship is only as happy as its captain,” he said, picking up the foot massage where the attendant had left off. “And I have only the ship’s best interests in mind.”
Thanks as always to Audabee for giving my words a home!