They were home.
After a seven year journey and weeks of debriefings, there was nothing left to do but celebrate. There had only been one rule: rank and uniforms were not welcome. This was a night of enjoyment, for remembering and for saying goodbye. A night for their rag-tag family, and Starfleet, for the first time, was not going to be part of it.
All one hundred and forty six of them were gathered on the holodeck. In the end, no venue had seemed more fitting than Voyager herself. After all, she was part of the family and she deserved to be with them for this last night. A new holoprogram had been designed, and the ball room it presented was nothing less of glorious. Candles and fairy-lights offered the only source of illumination to the room. An abundance of flowers served as decorations, while two double doors, opened wide, led out to a large balcony overlooking a magnificent pond. Outside, a light breeze ruffled the leaves of tall willow trees, every now and then sweeping through the ball room as well, keeping it cool and comfortable.
Standing by the abundant buffet table with a half-empty glass of champagne in her hand, Kathryn Janeway took in the scene. Like everyone else, she’d followed Tom’s rules and left Starfleet at home. The long, strap-less dress she was wearing matched her eye colour perfectly, the contrast it created to her pale skin and loosely pinned-up hair, undeniably striking. She’d kept her make-up discrete with just a touch of rouge, and lip-gloss that accentuated the pink shade of her lips. There was no use denying the fact that the lack of responsibility was something she needed to get used to, but the elation she felt as she watched her former crew was, undeniable none-the-less. She was free and euphoric, and it showed.
Many years later, he would tell her that she’d looked absolutely stunning that night, and that she’d smelled of roses and lilies.
Sipping her champagne, Naomi Wildman’s elated shrieks drew Kathryn’s attention to the dance floor. She smiled at the sight of the young girl twirling around with Tom, the two of them spinning faster and faster until both toppled over, howling with laughter. Trying to get their bearings, the duo nearly brought a stumbling Harry Kim down with them, when the newly promoted Lieutenant tripped over his own feet only to get himself entangled in the heap of arms and legs splayed on the floor. For a short minute a dancing disaster seemed inevitable, and Kathryn couldn’t help the laughter bubbling out of her as Megan Delaney, Harry’s harassed partner, with impressive strength and determination managed to haul the blushing man back to his feet. That it was possible for someone with Harry’s musical talent to suffer such a profound lack of rhythm was an irony not lost on Kathryn, and she laughed again at his indignant look when the Doctor, with the grace and ease Harry sorely lacked, danced passed with the other Delaney sister.
The EMH glided across the floor, a look of supreme superiority on his face. Kathryn’s eyes followed him and Jenny until they swirled passed Tuvok, Mike Ayala and Tal Celes, chatting by the bar. Her attention lingered on the tall Vulcan and she caught herself wondering, for what had to be the millionth time, what on earth she would’ve done these past years without him by her side. His trademark stoicism was more than aggravating at times, but he had an uncanny knack for saying and doing the right thing at the right time, and he had helped keep her grounded when her desire to get them home blurred her vision. He’d been a loyal officer and an even better friend, and a part of her dreaded the thought of not being able to count on his daily counsel anymore. As if he sensed her scrutiny Tuvok turned to face her, catching her slightly off guard. He pretended not to notice and inclined his head, the look on his face as close as he’d ever get to smiling warmly. Raising her glass at him she smiled in return. She moved to join the trio, but the sudden appearance of Voyager’s chief engineer stopped her in her tracks.
B’Elanna Torres was a woman that had managed to surprise her captain on more occasions than either would ever care to admit. Tonight, as it turned out, was no exception. Kathryn watched as the engineer nodded to Mike and Tal before facing the man she’d first believed to be a Maquis like herself.
They two of them had never been particularly close while on board Voyager. Not that Tuvok had been particularly close to anyone, but B’Elanna had always seemed to go out of her way to keep her distance. A part of Kathryn suspected that she’d never truly gotten over Tuvok’s betrayal of the Maquis, and it was with mild curiosity she looked on as B’Elanna spoke to the man before her. The conversation didn’t last long, and soon Tuvok raised his hand in salutation. Thinking that would be it, Kathryn again moved to join the group, but stopped again when B’Elanna, shocking everyone, quickly put her arms around the man, hugging him tightly.
Just as quickly as it’d happened, the moment was over. The half-Klingon nodded to Tal and Mike before turning around, making her escape as Tuvok tried to recover. He met Kathryn’s gaze, looking slightly disconcerted. She quelled a giggle and winked at him, then turned her attention back to the people on the dance floor.
Tom and Naomi were still twirling around and Kathryn watched B’Elanna approach them. As the music changed from fast to slow, Tom bowed his thanks to Naomi, and extended his hand to his wife, pulling her towards him as she took it. The pair said something to Naomi, who nodded and darted across the floor to where her mother was speaking with Seven of Nine. Kathryn looked on as the two women turned their attention to the little girl, Samantha soft and motherly, Seven slightly rigid but friendly nonetheless.
The scenes unfolding before her eyes warmed Kathryn’s heart. This incredible crew, enemies at first, now a family, had been a blessing to her. She wasn’t sure if she’d ever be able to forgive herself for stranding them all in the Delta Quadrant, but there was no point denying the fact that her actions on that fateful day had brought good with it as well.
A lot of good.
As if on cue, a warm hand came to touch her lower back, bringing her out of her reverie, and she sighed in content at the inevitability of it. She turned to look at her new companion and didn’t object as he took her champagne glass and put it on the table next to her. Taking her now-empty hand in his, he led her to the dance floor, pulling her close as they began moving to the music. She wasn’t surprised to find that he was a good dancer.
She was even less surprised to find that it didn’t feel like their first dance.
Strange, she thought, that in seven years this was the first time they had actually done this. Well, maybe not that strange, she amended. She had deliberately held him at arms length, pushing him away whenever they seemed to move beyond their role as captain and commander. Yet, the familiarity she felt as they moved together was unquestionable.
It felt comfortable.
And it was undoubtedly the result of this… this thing that had conspired to develop between them, despite her best efforts to avoid it. It seemed that this something just wouldn’t let itself be denied, even if it did take the better part of seven years for it to be accepted for what it was.
And what exactly was it?
It was a silly question really, because if she’d ever had any doubts she loved him, they’d been crushed to smithereens the moment Admiral Janeway had told her he would marry Seven. Kathryn threw a quick glance in the direction of the blonde woman and thought back to the start of the debriefings.
Despite her holoprograms’ attempts to prove otherwise, Kathryn had never been dramatically inclined where her emotions were concerned. She’d always scoffed at the thought of the fairy-tale princess being rescued by her knight in shining armour and she’d never believed in the grandiose expressions of love and heartache her sister seemed so devoted to. But still, when the Admiral had informed her about the future, Kathryn’s heart, however inconvenient and untrue to its owner’s sensibilities, had managed to break in to a million pieces. And as she’d dried her tears and finished scolding herself for being such a girl, she had to admit, against her better judgement that the analogy of a broken heart was more than fitting.
She smiled at the thought and kept on dancing.
His hand rested firmly on her lower back. He pulled her closer and Kathryn couldn’t keep herself from leaning her head against his shoulder. He smelled, as always, of musk and spices, and for a brief moment she felt an almost desperate need to drink in as much of it as she possibly could. She moved her head even closer to his neck and breathed in his scent, revelling in it. She felt him shudder and had to smile again. It was nice to know that this simple gesture of hers could rouse such a reaction from him.
In return, he brushed his lips against her temple, and this time it was Kathryn who shuddered.
He had yet to tell her about his relationship with Seven. Not that it really mattered now. The ex-Borg had come to the party on her own and so had he. Kathryn had seen them chat, smile at each other, even dance, but the closeness she’d observed between them the day Earth had finally appeared in the viewport was gone. And for some reason she hadn’t been surprised. No, a feeling of utter calm had washed over her and she realised that she’d expected it.
The revelation almost stunned her.
Despite the state of her treacherous heart, she had actually expected them to break up. She couldn’t help but get annoyed with herself. Why couldn’t the realisation have hit her a little earlier? That way she might have avoided all those harrowing weeks of little sleep, puffy eyes, and lacking concentration, not to mention not wasting the time she had cursing herself, the universe, Starfleet, the happy couple, and everything and everyone else she could possibly manage to pin the blame of her broken heart on. Because as it turned out he had never been Seven’s to have in the first place.
At one point during the night his eyes had locked with Kathryn’s from across the room, and his grin had proven her right. They both knew it. He wasn’t going to marry Seven and she would never become the Admiral. The relief she’d felt was expected as well.
Somewhere in the back of her mind she registered that the song had ended. They stopped moving and she reluctantly drew back from him, lacing the fingers of her right hand in between the fingers of his left. Smiling at her, he turned and started walking towards the exit. She willingly followed.
She saw Tom glance over at them, and for a fraction of a second she expected to feel awkward. It never happened. Tom just gave her a small nod and turned his attention back to his wife. There were no jokes, no laughter, no announcement on who’d won the betting pool, and in that moment she realised that this was what the crew had expected to happen as well. This night was no more a surprise to them that it was to her.
They walked back to his quarters in comfortable silence. He punched in his access code and the doors slid open. He ordered the lights on low as the doors hissed shut behind them and led her towards the bedroom. Stopping by the bed, they stood there for a beat, just looking at each other.
His free hand brushed across her collar bone and then flitted over her cheek before tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. His other hand disentangled itself from hers and stroked up her bare arm, raising goose bumps on her skin. She drew an involuntary breath of air as his hands cupped her face before stroking through her hair, removing the few pins that held it in place. She felt the strands fall against her neck and cheeks, and watched him drop the pins on his nightstand.
She looked down at where the pins had been discarded and found the whole situation slightly bizarre. Not because their appearance there meant that after avoiding the issue for seven years the two of them, in one night and without even saying a word to each other, had finally made it to his bedroom. But because of her reaction to it.
If someone had asked her the day before to explain how she thought she’d feel if she ever got the chance to spend the night with him, comfortable was not one of the adjectives she would have chosen. Scared, terrified and nervous on the other hand would’ve been fighting for the top of the list. But the pins on his nightstand looked like they belonged there. And she loved that.
She smiled at the thought and looked up at him.
“Here we are,” he said, locking eyes with her.
“Here we are,” she confirmed putting her hand softly against his chest. She felt it move with his breath and couldn’t help but think of all the other times she’d done the exact same thing without going any further. “I’m sorry it took me so long.”
“It doesn’t matter,” he answered, “You’re here now. We both are.”
His hands cupped her face again and then he kissed her. And like everything else that had passed between them that night, it felt exactly like she’d expected. Like they’d done it a million times before and like they’d never stop.
When Chakotay finally pulled away, he couldn’t help but stare at her. This stubborn and difficult woman, who he’d spent seven years fighting, working and falling in love with, was finally in his bedroom, looking like she belonged nowhere else. She was absolutely stunning.
And she smelled, as always, of roses and lilies.