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“Come.” she said at the sound of her door chime, still engrossed in the Doctor’s report.
“Captain.” At the sound of the deep timber voice she looked up to see Chakotay standing in front of her desk. “Your shift ended a while ago.” He simply stated.
She looked at her display for the time and realized that her shift had indeed ended a while ago. More than a while ago. I was almost three hours past her assigned duty shift. “I was just reading the Doctor’s report.” She shrugged and smiled as she signed off on the report and put the padd aside.
“I see,” he replied, fully understanding why that would take her a while, “would you care to join me for dinner when you’re done?”
“I am done,” she smiled at him, “and yes, I would love to.”
Kathryn quickly got up and followed Chakotay out of her ready room. Thinking about food, she realized that she was actually hungry and couldn’t remember when she ate the last time. She certainly didn’t have breakfast that morning.
“So I hear, you gave up your private dining room.” He smirked when they entered the turbolift.
“After all your pestering that I should eat in the mess hall, I could almost believe you had something to do with that.”
“Really, Captain, what kind of person do you think I am?” She didn’t give a reply but smirked at him, letting him know that she didn’t plan on underestimating him.
The spent the way to the mess hall in companionable silence. While Kathryn couldn’t help but feel some apprehension about her first time eating amongst the crew and hoped that they wouldn’t pay her too much attention, Chakotay was thinking that it would do her some good to see her crew socialising and that it would probably work wonders for crew morale to see her eating with them instead of distancing herself.
“Have you sampled Neelix cooking yet?” She asked just before they entered the mess hall.
“No, but I hear it takes some getting used to.” He gestured for her to enter first.
“Are you trying to scare me off?” She smiled as she half turned around to him.
“You think I could?” He smirked back at her, “Tuvok’s comment about his psychological observations of you makes me wonder what exactly I got myself into here.”
He really thought that he knew quite well what kind of situation he had gotten himself into. After her shameless flirting the morning before he couldn’t help but notice how damned sexy she looked in the red alert lighting. Not to mention that her determined command stance was one hell of a turn on. He’d always been attracted to strong women and she definitely fit into that pattern. Not that he would ever tell her that.
They found themselves an empty table in the corner next to the viewport. From here they were not entirely secluded from the crew, but had enough privacy to observe and talk without being overheard by too many people. He held out the chair for her and she smiled and thanked him with a nod as she sat down. He had just taken his seat across from her when Neelix noticed them and immediately sauntered over to them.
“Captain, Commander,” He said a little too cheerful, “I missed you this morning at breakfast.”
“I’m sorry, Mr Neelix,” Kathryn immediately apologized, “I was simply too busy for a long breakfast.” It was true. She had been busy. But if she was totally honest she had also been a little afraid of taking the step of eating in the mess hall by herself.
“Of course, Captain,” Neelix nodded enthusiastically, well aware that he was partly responsible for the hectic of the past two days, “would you like something to drink with your dinner?” He asked both of them.
“If you have a cup of coffee for me,” she implored hopeful, “you’d really make me happy.”
“I’ll see what I can find.” He promised then looked at Chakotay.
“Whatever you have is fine.” He watched Neelix saunter off to get their food and turned to see Kathryn observe their newly appointed cook. “He seems awfully cheery.”
“He seems to be taking things quite well.” She nodded thoughtfully.
“He’s probably just happy to have a part of Kes permanently ingrained in his chest cavity.” He chuckled and she couldn’t help but laugh along with him, thinking that he was most probably right at that.
When Neelix returned and set two mugs and two plates in front of them that were filled with something unintelligible, the mood immediately sombered. “You are in luck Captain. Kes saved you some coffee from breakfast and there’s some tea for you Commander. Enjoy your meal.” He grinned and left them to eat.
“I should have never let him join the away team.” She shook her head in sad regret, “He doesn’t have the proper training.”
“Oh, I forgot to thank you for dumping him on me yesterday.” Chakotay quipped not having gauged her change of mood right away, but when he saw she was serious, he added, “I shouldn’t have let him wander off by himself.”
“We should make sure he’s aware of proper protocol before he joins another away team.” She said, “It just hadn’t occurred to me that his lack of training could get him in trouble.”
“Makes you wonder how the guy has survived for so long before we met him, doesn’t it?” Chakotay said as he took a bite of the food and tried to suppress a grimace.
“Makes me wonder how much of the information he claims to have about this quadrant is genuine.” She rolled her eyes and took a bite of the food herself failing even worse than Chakotay at hiding the distaste. “Oh, I forgot to mention that your suggestion to use the phasers as a guiding light was quite impressive. I was glad to see you getting more comfortable in your position.”
“Did you doubt my competence as your First Officer?” She saw his face harden and his jaw set as he lowered his fork.
“No, no,” she assured him, “but it was obvious that you needed time to adjust to your role in this command structure.” she offered and was relieved to see him relax a little.
“I needed to get to know you first,” he said, “I couldn’t be sure how much ‘support’ from your First Officer you were willing to accept. Some captains believe they ARE the command chain.” Of course she knew. She had served under a few of them herself.
“I expect your full support.” She clarified without a doubt.
“And you have it.” He smiled and she nodded in easy acceptance.
Their journey was several weeks old and they had yet to learn a lot about each other. On a personal and professional level. While they were getting more and more relaxed with each other, they both knew that they were merely starting to really establish their balance as a command team. He knew she was a more than capable leader and she had no reason to doubt his loyalty at this point. She had granted him the time he needed to establish his own command authority in their combined crew and while it had taken him longer than she had expected, she was grateful he had manned up. It put her at peace to know she could rely on him and that her trust in his competence was justified.