by Keydieh Hurst, 2016
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
The laughter around Sandrine’s was slowly starting to die down, but here and there various crew members were still spouting side comments at Tom Paris. Kathryn had somehow managed to extricate herself from the holographic gigolo after refusing his dozens of innuendos about wanting to tame this feisty shrew. Leave it to Mr Paris to write a character like this. Although Kathryn wondered if any of these characters existed like this in the real Chez Sandríne in Marseille, she surely hoped not. She saw B’elanna stand up from one of farther off tables, leaving Chakotay by himself, and quickly made her way over to him.
“Is this seat taken?” She asked.
“Mademoiselle.” He gestured to the now free chair with a grand gesture and a broad smile. “How do you like it?” He asked when she leaned back in her chair to survey the room.
“Leave it to Mr Paris to bring them a piece of home.” She smiled warmly, “I’m almost glad the holodeck’s energy source isn’t compatible with the rest of the ship.”
“Almost?” He asked curiously.
“Well, I’d prefer coffee,” she laughed and winked at him, “but, in the absence of such delicacies, I can placate myself with this. I see why the crew likes it so much.”
While Paris was one of the few that actually knew this place, Sandrine’s felt warm and welcoming. Kathryn had been wary about coming here. She thought she might squander the crew’s good mood with her mere presence, but quite the contrary. She felt welcome and accepted. The easy banter of her new family was a balm to her soul. She had been wondering how to be more to these people than just a captain, and it seemed Harry Kim had heard her prayers by inviting her here.
Chakotay noticed her looking warmly at the people present in the holodeck and wished he knew what she was thinking. He had been aware of a change in the crew, a kind of acceptance of their situation, and he thought he saw the same change in his captain now. He knew that after what happened to Neelix, she was worried about not having a ship’s counselor on board and it seemed as if Tom Paris holo program might just be the answer they were hoping for. Their own local drinking hole, where they could unwind, leave their ranks at the door and just be together as friends or just commiserate.
When he had first heard about Paris’ new program, he had been wary about just exactly what kind of program this might turn out to be. But after arriving here and having a look for himself, he had to admit that he was impressed. The crew seemed relaxed and carefree when visiting Sandrine’s. As if they could just leave the burden of the outside world behind. It was exactly the effect the holodeck was supposed to have and he had to give Paris credit where credit was due. Casting a glance at his captain he saw that even she seemed to have managed to leave her Weltschmerz behind.
He followed Kathryn’s roaming eyes and noticed that B’Elanna kept glancing in their general direction, a cautious look on her face. He knew of course where it was coming from. B’Elanna knew him too well and getting caught when he had helped Kathryn contact her spirit guide hadn’t really helped his cause either.
B’Elanna had been angry, asking him if he knew what he was doing and even though he really didn’t, he had told her that he didn’t appreciate the insinuation and that she should mind her own business. As if that wasn’t a confession in and of itself.
She had accused him of showing her his medicine bundle when not even B’Elanna had been allowed to see it. Heck, he had told her to make her own and after she had tried to kill her animal guide she had quite bluntly told him that she was glad she had never bothered to make her own stupid bundle. And there he was, sharing this most personal collection with their captain. The engineer knew him well. He could only hope her suspicions of his motives wouldn't create problems for Kathryn.
They had a couple of good days, despite losing even more of their energy reserves. Kathryn had been in a flirtatious mood and he had enjoyed it immensely. When she had leaned over to him on the bridge and flirted shamelessly over the topic of his animal guide, she had kept looking at his lips and he couldn’t help but enjoy her obvious attraction. Hell, he had almost laughed out loud when she had shot Paris a furiously annoyed glance after he interrupted them.
He thought he had heard a little snort when he told her he had never shown his medicine bundle to anyone else before. While that was true, he couldn’t help but hear the innuendo when he replayed the whole scene in his head now. And yes, he had also noticed most prominently how her gaze had repeatedly wandered to his lips while he spoke. When he took their flirting up a notch and licked his lips to test her reaction, her pupils dilated just a little. B’Elanna had been correct in her suspicions, he was thinking with his dick, but hell yes, they definitely had a few good days.
“See, you really don’t have to be larger than life for them.” He remarked, at her startled look he added, “They know you’re only human.”
She sized him up for several seconds and he wondered what it was that she was looking for. But then she gave him a shy smile and laid her hand over his on the table.
“Thank you.” Her smile radiated and he wasn’t sure if she had just mouthed the words or actually said them out loud.
He held her gaze and let the warmth from her hand flow through his own hand, feeling the tingling creep up his arm. For a moment, her bright smile and her words from earlier flashed through his mind. You’ve got a date! His eyes roamed over her face taking in her relaxed state, her softened features, and he couldn’t help the dimpled grin forming on his own face.
It was only when he showed his dimples that she noticed she had let her hand linger on his a few moments longer than could be deemed proper. She slowly and almost reluctantly pulled her hand back, her fingers unobtrusively but inadvertently caressing his skin gently in the process. When he quietly gasped and his eyes flew to their hands, she blushed furiously, lowered her head and slowly stood up.
“Mr Chakotay.” She said with a nod that betrayed her uncertainty and turned for the door.
When she reached the ark of the holodeck she turned back casting another glance at her crew. Chakotay watch her take in their laughter, their banter, the easy way in which they joked with each other. He saw her take a deep breath and straighten her back and square her shoulders. He knew her well enough by now to know what she was feeling. There was no distinction between Starfleet and Maquis anymore. These were her people, her clan, her family. It was clear as day that she was proud of them. And at this very moment, watching her in awe of their crew, he realized that he felt the same. They were his crew as well, all of them. And he was just as proud of them as she was.