"Captain," Tuvok speaks after the ready room doors open. "It has come to my attention that an individual on this ship is lacking in the proper understanding of Starfleet protocol."
"Isn`t that normally Commander Chakotay`s job to fix?" Captain Janeway smirked as she leaned back in her chair. Her head tilted just a little to look up at her trusted advisor and friend. She knew he`d only skip the ships First Officer if the individual involved needed corrective interference from her. She tried to rack her brain for anyone who may be treating Chakotay differently, unprofessionally.
"That is correct," Tuvok stayed at the appropriate six paces before her desk, hands clasped behind his back. Always the professional. The urge to teasingly ask him to sit, knowing full well he would `prefer to stand`, tickled her inner Kathryn for just a moment. But her command mask, the Captain, remained firmly in place. "However, it had also come to my attention that the Commander is inefficient in correcting this behavior."
"I see. And just who needs correcting? "
"You, Captain," He raised a brow as she spluttered coffee spewing across her desk. The instinctual need to vacate the room filled him as she slowly rose, lowering her coffee mug to the desk.
"Just where am I deficient?"
"You believe Starfleet protocol can control your emotions. I have seen Commander Chakotay repeatedly try to ease your concerns however you refuse to accept his logic."
"Emotions?" She couldn't help but smile. "Tuvok are you getting sentimental in old age?"
"Captain, as you are aware I am not yet, as you say, 'in old age'. Nor am I sentimental. As a Vulcan I have a keen understanding of emotions and their physiological effects on an individual. As your friend I have had the opportunity to observe the way you react as an individual to emotions. I have also seen you have a keen understanding of the impact of relationships on a command structure. However, you have failed to realize that emotions do not cease unless provided the appropriate release and understanding."
"I see. And what exactly does Commander Chakotay have to do with this?" Kathryn slowly moved around the desk. As she reached the first chair she leaned her hip against the solid object behind her and crossed her arms. It amused her to see Tuvok uncomfortable and, if she wasn't mistaken, paternal. In all her years as his friend he, on occasion, gazed at her in what could only be affection, at least for a Vulcan, but never did she know what drove that affectionate gaze. Even after, what was it 20 years since she initially meet him as a Cadet, maybe a little less, she never would of guessed he saw her, at least on some level, as a daughter. Smiling, she dipped her head a little touched by the display he was offering.
"Captain, I am knowledgeable about your past. Do you intend to deny the existence of your affections toward the Commander?"
"Tuvok I do not in any way, shape, or form hold feelings towards Commander Chakotay that are beyond the bounds of Commanding Officer and First Officer." Was it just her or did her voice sound a little to forceful.
"Your current status with the Commander is not limited to the billets your hold on this ship, Captain. You are also friends," For the first time since the conversation began Tuvok stepped forward coming to stop a step or two before her. It took a moment for her to look up at him, to stop focusing on their perfectly polished black boots. To accept the way his eyes darken with pity. The way they had looked when she gone to him for advice when Mark proposed. What had he told her then, to run from potential pain is to cease the purpose of existence, or something like that.
"You are right. We are friends. That doesn't mean I have any affectionate feelings towards him beyond that of friendship."
"Do you feel towards him in the same or similar fashion you do myself? Or to any other member of this ship?"
"I'm not friends with every member of this ship."
"I have never known you to avoid answer a question," She tensed at his change in tone. Always subtle, always impossible to tell unless you heard him. But she always could hear the mix of curiosity, disappointment, and almost a hint of a lecture like air about this tone. Definately she lifted her chin more and raise her own brow. "Nearly six years ago you came to me to advise you on a change in your current status with Mark. You informed me he had proposed to you. You expressed a concern about taking such a change. Informed me of your prior lose and how you felt it was to big a risk to change your current standing with Mr. Johnson."
"That was a three years before we even got lost," She looked at him a little annoyed. "What does that have to do with this conversation?"
"It is a indicator as to your psychological reaction to Commander Chakotay," Tuvok said it so plainly, so simply. As if that alone fixed everything. Kathryn wondered if it was possible to leave, to go join the Kes in airoponics or B'Elanna in engineering. Though, that might just help to validate what the Vulcan already believed. No, she had no choice but to stand her ground. Lowering a hand to the desk she hoped that would provide more support, ease the unsettled feeling in her stomach.
"Tuvok, I loved Mark. Commander Chakotay and I -"
"Captain, even now you refuse to refer to him by his name as you so often do. It is not my intention to cause you any discomfort. I simply wish to remove any concern you have in regards to the Commander. As you stated, you loved Mr. Johnson. You admitted when you told me of your father's death that you loved Mr. Thighe, your fiance at that time. I do not believe, as I informed you then, that your for either Mr. Thighe or Mr. Johnson is false. However, I do believe that your affections towards the Commander are different then those felt towards those two gentlemen."
"He's my friend, Tuvok," It was barely a whisper as she felt her body trembling.
"There is many forms of love, Captain."
"Tuvok, I do not need a Vulcan to lecture me about love or any other emotion."
"As a Vulcan, Captain, I am taught how to suppress my emotions. To do so I must learn what each emotion is and how it effects an individual. As your friend I am imparting this knowledge to you. You have asked me in the past if I miss my wife, Mr. Neelix has expressed that it must be hard to be so far from my children. I informed you that I was Vulcan and am not effected by such emotions as you suggested. However, that is not entirely true. The rate of my meditations has increased since becoming separated from T'Pel indefinitely. She is my wife and my friend. However, despite the suffering I have experienced in losing her I would not trade the time I had with her. It brings me great comfort to know that she is aware of the depth of my feelings towards her and our children. That all we have experienced will remain despite the distance between us."
"Tuvok," She called to him as the doors opened to grant him departure. He looked back at her and all she could manage was a smile. The Vulcan turned and walked out Commander Chakotay entering looking at a PADD. Kathryn could not deny this time the change in her body. The way her heart constricted at seeing him then swelled as he moved towards her desk. The way her body tingled in anticipation of seeing him round the edge of her desk, lean against it, look down at her as she sat in the chair.
"Captain," He didn't look up, didn't see the way her smile grew at the sound of his voice. She turned against the desk, rotating to face the other way as he rounded it. Oblivious to her not being in the chair. So focused on the PADD in hand, which now had her curiosity, he failed to notice she was on the opposite side of the desk. His hip leaned against the edge, reawakening fantasies she suppressed since his ancient legend on New Earth nearly a year ago. "I was wondering if you'd jo - Captain?"
"Your lack of awareness is astounding," She teased chuckling as he jumped and turned. His brown eyes looked at her from across the desk. Unable to help herself she rounded and sat down on the desk her knee just mere inches from his thigh. "I just had the most peculiar conversation with my security chief."
"Kathryn," Concern filled his eyes as her name rolled off his tongue. It sounded like it was precious, sacred, and must be spoken with great care. "Are you alright?"
"Say it again."
"Say what?" He looked puzzled as he stood stiff. Chakotay wanted to move between her legs, grab her in his arms and kiss her. He's never seen her so relaxed, so tempting as she was now. Seated on the edge of the desk, where his hip always rested when he leaned near her chair. Hands proping her up, head tilted backwards to reveal the soft creamy skin hidden below the grey Starfleet turtleneck. The teasing half-smile, the sparkling eyes. All of it made him want to reach out and claim her. "Kathryn?"
"Again." Her lips twitched when he said her name. Smiling he moved so his thighs barely touched either knee. So he could be directly in front of her, able to grab her before she ran. He expected her too, once this flirtatious side of her ran head on into the wall that she kept surrounding her.
"Kathryn," A whisper, softer then normal. Again her lips twitched but they stayed in the wider smiler they now had. Not the beaming, teeth showing grin she displayed so openly. But the shyer, happy one he only saw when she was uncertain of herself. "Kathryn you are making it really hard."
"And just what is hard?" Coy, evil and teasing was what she was. Purposefully lowering her gaze and rising a brow. "I don't see whats so hard, Chakotay?"
"Did Tuvok give you something?"
"Oh, just the honest truth. Something about regrets," Her eyes flicked back him to him, even though her head remained tilted just centimeters lower then normal. "Apparently I have been treating my First Officer in a manner he did not entirely approve of."
"Kathryn you treat me perfectly fine," His hand rose to touch her cheek but stopped. Stopped before it could cross that barrier they maintained.
"If that was true then you wouldn't hesitate to touch me," She lifted her head and he saw the pain. Saw the tears that Tuvok's parting words had caused and his simple presence brushed away. The tears that returned simply because she knew Tuvok was right. If she and Chakotay were ever to be separated, be it death or some other tragedy, she would hate not knowing if he knew how she felt. Hate the fact he always hesitated, always waited to touch her uncertain how she'd react. That all she had of him was the way her arm felt on his and the way it felt to dance with him occasionally, and never alone.
"Kathryn, I don't understand." He looked at the small pale hand rising to press itself palm to palm against his raised one.
"You wouldn't hesitate to hold me when I'm upset. To take my hand. To tell me when I'm being stubborn or selfish. You wouldn't hesitate to shut me up when I'm rambling. To do anything that either of us desire because its allowed. Because even if while on duty we may not be able to in private, off duty we can. We can be just us. You wouldn't hesitate to tell me I'm worth the risk. That you'll find a way to make everything easier even if you aren't around. That -"
"Kathryn what are you saying?" He swallowed entwining his fingers in hers as they did so long ago on a planet far away.
"I'm saying I'm terrified of letting you closer because I've lost so many who were. That I'm terrified if I don't let you closer I'll regret it for the rest of my life. That ... that the woman warrior was afraid. Afraid of losing the only thing that ever made her feel safe. The only person she ever trusted even when the Angry Warrior held a weapon to her head. That she doesn't know how to do this. Do be anything besides the woman warrior. That she desperately wants the angry warrior to shut her up before -" And he did. Chakotay pulled the small hand in his to his lips. Kissed each knuckle cradled between his fingers silencing her out of pure shock then anything else.
"Then I guess the Angry Warrior should start by telling her he's afraid too."
"Kathryn I've almost lost you once. Well, more then once but the last one was so close. Too close. I'm afraid that the next time it won't be just close but you will be ripped from me. I'm afraid that before I can hold you in my arms you'll be gone."
"Then Mr. Chakotay we should remedy that," This was easier for her. Focusing on his fear and what he needed. Gently, as if he might break if she pulled to hard, she used her fear hand to grab his shirt and guide him forward. The hand in his bent at the elbow as her thighs parted to allow him closer. Turning the wrist just a little she let her hand rest against his shoulder as her other arm moved around his waist. He was stiff, frozen at the sudden change. Like she was ever time Mark took her in his arms and told her she had to let go of her fear. It was always her with Mark, even Justin focused more on her needs. But she wasn't the type to put herself first. She needed this, to ease his fear.
"It doesn't exactly work if I'm the only one doing the holding." He released her hand at that, cupped her chin and tilted her head to look up at him. Moving her now free hand under his arm and around him she smiled. Let him see her acceptance, her need for him to just hold her. Chakotay saw it, saw this was for her as much as it was for him. All his prior relationships, even Seska, had been about their needs. About what they needed and he was just to give it. But Kathryn wasn't like that. She wanted to give to him as much as he wanted to give to her. "It's okay, Chakotay."
"I don't know if I should thank Tuvok or kiss him," Chakotay smiled his full dimple smile as his hands rested on her waist. She chuckled her own hands moving behind him to go to his waist. To pull him the final few inches that separated them. Curious, eager to see if she'd push him away or bolt, he let his hands move down to her hips, pull her even closer to the edge.
"Group hug," Her feet wrapped around the back of his knees even as she turned her head to rest it against his chest. His heart beat rapidly below her ear as she let herself enjoy his presence. His hands moved around her, flattening against her lower back, as she moved hers to the same spot. Closing her eyes she let herself enjoy his warmth, his presence. Enjoy being in the protective confines of his arms. "One less regret."
"Any others you'd like to get rid of at the moment?"
"No," She tilted her head back to look up at him. Saw the disappointment on his face. "But I do know I don't want to stop working through them."