DISCLAIMER: Paramount owns them, I play with them. No harm done and no money earned.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: For this story, B'Elanna is married to Tom but doesn't have a baby and Kathryn hasn't slept with a hologram!
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
"You got a minute?"
Janeway found herself gazing upon the unhappy face of one B'Elanna Torres, who stood staring at her from outside the open door of her quarters. "Come on in," she said breezily, trying not to be obvious about the fact that she'd noticed the red-rimmed eyes and the tired, pinched expression. Instead, she passed in front of her visitor on her way to the kitchen area asking, "Have you eaten yet? I'm just about to get myself something."
The doors whooshed closed behind B'Elanna as she stepped in but, instead of answering, she stood staring at the receding back of her questioner with an uncomprehending expression.
"Well what?" asked the engineer, not even bothering to hide that she hadn't been listening.
"Food. I hear it's quite the thing this year. You want any?"
"Uh, no thanks. I had something about an hour ago; I'm good."
"Well then, take a seat, Lieutenant and I'll be with you in a minute, OK?"
Automatically B'Elanna answered, "Sure," and did as she was bid.
Kathryn Janeway was no cook; that much was well documented. What was perhaps not so well known was that she could even burn food in the replicators, and tonight was no exception. Within minutes of speaking her requirement into the technology, it had presented her with a dish filled with thick black smoke, although nothing was actually on fire. "It's a damned conspiracy," she grumbled, fanning the smoke away with her arm. "Why doesn't it like me?" She turned to see her engineer joining her with a towel wrapped around one of her hands.
"I'll get this thing to the recycler," B'Elanna said, moved into action by the potential 'threat'. "All the while it's here, it's making more smoke. What did you do, anyway?"
"Nothing!" protested the captain, thinking about it. "What I always do, I guess," she chuckled. "It hates me, what can I tell you?" She reached for an air spray and sprayed a pleasant smell into the room in an attempt to make their immediate life a little more palatable.
"I can see you've done this before."
"Now, why would you say that?" mocked the captain, smiling.
"The close proximity of the air freshener IS a bit of a give-away, you know."
Kathryn watched B'Elanna 'feed' the smoking meal into the recycling unit and then asked, "You insured?"
"Well, I'm not sure. But I'm about to try this again."
A smile spread across B'Elanna's face, pulling her out of her low state as she moved towards her friend. "I'm not sure anyone's insured for that much," she joked. "Here, let me try. What was that... mess supposed to be, anyway?"
"Cauliflower cheese!" huffed the captain. "You wouldn't think cauliflower cheese could offend a replicator, would you? But it offends the hell out of mine."
"I think it's YOU it doesn't like, not your choice of food," B'Elanna said, turning away from Kathryn's crooked grin and facing the food-killer. "Cauliflower cheese. Hot," she asked it nicely and watched as the dish she'd requested materialised instantly and without incident. "There," she said, taking it from the replicator and walking across to the table, where a single place setting had already been laid. She set it down and pointed a finger towards it, with the accompanying order, "Eat."
"Yes, ma'am," grinned Kathryn happily, warmed to see that her unscheduled hi-jinx in the kitchen had lightened B'Elanna's mood somewhat; it did her no good to see the woman so unhappy. She crossed to the table and sat, picking up her fork. "You can either join me here, or take the couch," she offered, pleased when B'Elanna pulled up a chair opposite her. And, after the third forkful, Kathryn broke the silence. "You didn't look too good when you arrived. Problems?"
"You could say that. Or you could just call it Tom."
Another two forkfuls passed before B'Elanna elaborated. "I don't know what he wants. He doesn't want to be married, that's for sure."
It was nothing the captain hadn't heard before and she knew by now when to hold her tongue.
"The man's out nearly every damned night, playing pool with Harry, or just bumming around Sandrine's like he's got no place else to go. It makes me so mad."
Kathryn swallowed her current mouthful and waved her empty fork towards her table-mate. Up until now, their conversations had revolved around getting Tom to stay home but perhaps it was time for her to employ a change of tack. "Ever thought of going with him?"
"To Sandrine's. It's got to beat sitting home alone, doesn't it?"
"Don't you think you're missing the point?" B'Elanna asked, frowning.
"If he's out most nights it has to mean he's got nothing to stay home for - that he doesn't rate my company highly enough to spend time with me. And it's not like this has only just started - he's always behaved this way, so I can't even say he's cooling off towards me because he's never been any different."
Kathryn put another forkful of food into her mouth and chewed it slowly before asking, "So what do you want from him?"
"What do I want? You know what I want. I want someone who makes me feel special. Isn't that what we all want?"
"It's what Mark used to do for me, yes," Kathryn said carefully. "And Tom doesn't make you feel that way?"
The dark-haired engineer just shook her head silently. It had all been said before, she knew. In this very room she had repeated herself more times than enough and she knew that her captain and friend was probably very tired of such repetition. Even so, this was her friend and friends were supposed to listen. "You're really good, you know that?"
"How many times have I sat here, ranting on about the same thing? And you still listen to me. You still offer advice. And you still love me."
Kathryn looked up, surprised at the mention of the word 'love' and smiled. "Now why wouldn't I, you're still loveable, aren't you?"
"I must be, or you'd have connected my posterior to the toe of your boot a long time ago and introduced me to the corridor at speed!"
"Oh, trust me," chuckled Kathryn. "It's not wise to go around kicking Klingons, not even a half-Klingon. Not if you like life, anyway."
"And you're not tired of living yet?"
"Not with you around. That's for sure."
They both fell silent while Kathryn ate the last mouthfuls of her meal. She then took her plate to the recycler before sitting on the coach and nodding to the seat beside her, for B'Elanna to join her there, which she did. Kathryn stretched her body, arms in the air, and then tucked her legs up under her on the couch, relaxing. With a sigh she then asked, not looking at her friend, "So, what ARE you going to do?"
"What can I do?" answered the engineer, her voice a little ragged. "What is there that I haven't tried before; more than once, I might add? I've asked him to stay home he doesn't. I've told him to treat me with more respect he doesn't. I've asked him if he wants a divorce he doesn't. And yet..." she tried to finish the sentence but the words wouldn't come.
"Do you love him?" Kathryn swallowing hard, needing to know the answer; she'd never dared to ask the question before. Clearly it had surprised B'Elanna because she just sat there silently, leaving Kathryn unsure as to whether the woman was just thinking about it, or whether she knew the answer and didn't want to give it.
"What IS it I love, anyway?" asked B'Elanna after a pause. "Is it him, Tom, and what he really is? Or is it what I thought he would be like? I don't know."
Her friend thought about that for a while before saying, "I guess if it's Tom you love, then all's well. But if it's what you think he should be, instead of who he actually is, then you have a problem, wouldn't you say?"
B'Elanna sighed loudly, pushing the back of her head hard into the cushion behind her and folding her arms before turning her head towards Kathryn and accusing, "You know, you're very good at this."
"Hitting nails on heads and getting right to the point." She fell silent again, thinking, trying to answer the earlier question. "Which is it?" she asked. "I don't know. I really don't know. And I guess that's the problem."
"Then I suggest that you don't try to find a solution until you've nailed the problem," said Kathryn, keeping to the nails theme and considering the subject, for tonight, exhausted.
But B'Elanna still wanted to talk. "What do you think?" she asked.
The captain shifted uncomfortably. "Oh, I try never to give advice," she lied, trying to throw B'Elanna off the track, while inside she was shouting, "Leave a man who treats you in this way, that's what!" What in the worlds was Tom thinking: this wasn't a woman you should ignore, this was a woman you should pay great attention to - make her laugh, take her for meals, romance her... Kathryn's mind blushed at the direction her thoughts were taking and she instantly put the dampers on them, unwilling to let B'Elanna see into her emotions.
"But I'd like to know, really; what DO you think? persisted the engineer.
"OK," replied Kathryn, turning to face her friend. "I think you need to find out what's still between you two. I suggest you ask the computer exactly where he is and then go find him. Romance him, damn it. Take him home and make him glad you did. And if it doesn't work, I guess you'll be a lot closer to a solution to all this than you were before, hmm?"
B'Elanna was none too sure that this was the answer/advice she'd been looking for, but it appeared sound. And she did need to push things, one way or another because this current situation was hurting her. "OK," she agreed. "Computer, locate Tom Paris."
<Thomas Eugene Paris is on Holodeck 2>
B'Elanna gave Kathryn a look that said, 'You see?' and then continued, "Computer, what programme is running on Holodeck 2?"
<Wild women of Borneo> intoned the computer, completely devoid of emotion.
"The rat. He's cheating on me again!"
"Now, you don't know that," answered Kathryn quickly, and thinking even faster. "I have an idea an odd idea, but an idea all the same. Why don't you dress up as one of these 'wild women' and go find him? When he sees you in that get-up, he won't be able to resist you."
"He gets me to himself in bed every night; he resists me just fine then."
"I don't see how anyone could resist you... who was married to you," Kathryn qualified quickly, finding it a little harder to censor her deeper thoughts than she'd expected. Usually she could manage to talk to B'Elanna about Tom without getting her hormones involved, but tonight. "So... you going to give it a try?"
"What, the Wild Women thing?"
"Certainly. Could be fun. I'll help, if you like."
In spite of herself, B'Elanna heard her own voice agreeing and, between the two of them, they replicated a skimpy leather outfit which managed to show B'Elanna's ample legs and midriff off to a fine art. "Something still missing," Kathryn said as she stood looking at the beautiful woman. "Your hair's all wrong... you're far too clean. You're supposed to be wild, remember?" They replicated some disgustingly dirty goo that could be rubbed into B'Elanna's hair to turn it into rats-tails and, when finished, the artist stood back, evaluating her masterpiece. "Just one final thing," she said, "and then it's perfect."
"What?" B'Elanna sucked in her breath as Kathryn's fingers approached and brushed across her bare stomach. The goo that was being spread over her skin was cold, but that wasn't the entire reason for her shiver, and she found herself looking at the captain as though she'd never seen her before. Some kind of revelation was dawning in her brain, deep, deep within. It was unexpected. But after a few seconds she squashed the response, putting it down to 'just one of those things'.
At last, Kathryn had applied the last of the goo to B'Elanna's once-clean body and face and was standing back for her own final assessment and approval of her skills. "Well," she grinned. "It works. You look filthy; like you've been living rough all your life. And wild - as wild as hell. So, are you prepared to give this thing a try?"
B'Elanna nodded. "Sure," she shrugged, "what have I got to lose? Only, can I get a site-to-site? I can't imagine wandering through the ship looking like this. No one's going to recognise me - I'd probably set off an intruder alert, or something."
"Of course." The two women stood looking at each other. In a moment, B'Elanna would go off and try to make things better between herself and her husband, but the vague question, 'why?' was already spreading across the back of her mind. Finally, Kathryn nodded and B'Elanna ordered the transport.
"Come out, come out, wherever you are," B'Elanna called, growing tired of hide and seek. She'd been in this 'jungle' setting for nearly two minutes and had found absolutely no sign of her errant husband, although the computer had verified his location. He was definitely here somewhere. "Tom?" she called out, pushing through thick and rampant foliage as she continued searching. "Tom?"
Suddenly, the Holodeck returned to its empty-room state, showing extensive gridlines but nothing more. It seemed that Tom might have exited and cancelled the programme without ever hearing her.
"Great. Just great," she grumbled, running out into the corridor in the hopes of catching him. But, although he couldn't have gone very far yet, he was nowhere to be seen. So she bravely returned on foot to their shared quarters, encountering only two crewmembers on the way, both of whom recognised her and smiled, appearing to approve of her choice of costume.
"B'Elanna? That you?" called out the helmsman as his wife entered their quarters. "Wow!" he said as he turned and appraised her outfit, coming up to her and snaking his hands around the back of her bare waist. "What's this about? You look gorgeous."
"I came looking for you on the Holodeck. You didn't hear me," she said in half-accusation/half-question, watching his face, which inevitably betrayed him. "Or did you?" Having picked up on a badly disguised look of guilt that had darted across the pilot's face she continued angrily, "You were at it, weren't you? That's why you got out of there before I found you."
Tom denied nothing; it would have been foolish to have lied to B'Elanna anyway, he knew, so he stood his ground. "They're only holograms, baby. They don't count. They're not you. They're not as beautiful as you are." He lowered his head to kiss her but it was fair to say she was livid and she pulled away from his grasp.
"Yeah? Well if I'm so damned beautiful, why are you with them? Huh, Tom? Tell me that."
But there was nothing that Tom could say, nothing at all that could answer such a simple and heartfelt question, although he tried. "Honey, I..."
She realised the words had died on his tongue. "Oh," she replied angrily, "please, don't let me keep you. Half a fuck won't satisfy that hologram, Paris. You'd better go back and give her the rest!" With eyes blazing she turned and exited her quarters and ran to the turbolift, not caring now who saw her. She wasn't really surprised that Tom didn't pursue.
"Come," called Kathryn, in answer to the door chime. It was still relatively early - 20:15 hours and it was probably Seven, she thought; the blonde had made a habit of stopping by for a 'chat' now and then, before regenerating.
"B'Elanna! What happened?" Kathryn asked, moving hurriedly towards the distressed engineer and putting an arm around her to lead her into the room. Quickly she was reminded of how dirty and greasy the woman was, and she led her to a dining chair, which was washable, instead of the couch. Sitting her down, she squatted at her feet, taking her hands. "What happened?" she asked again.
But B'Elanna couldn't stay immobile. She got up and began pacing up and down while Kathryn sat instead, awaiting enlightenment. "He's fucking them! I knew it! He's fucking the damned holograms!"
"You saw him?" clarified her friend, standing.
"No. He got out before I discovered him. Looked as guilty as hell later, when I challenged him about it. He said, 'They're only holograms, baby. They don't count.' And then he had the audacity to try and kiss me said I was beautiful."
"What did you do?"
"I told him to get back to his damned holograms and I left. Came straight here."
"You think that was wise?"
"Wise?" A pair of burning dark eyes settled on Kathryn Janeway, waiting.
"Correct me if I'm wrong but wasn't the object of this exercise to get him to 'see' YOU, instead of spending most of his time on the Holodeck?"
"The minute he tries to make love to you, and not them, you leave!"
"You're damned right I left. I don't want someone who fucks with half the damned holo-characters in the database." B'Elanna ran her fingers through her hair briefly and moved to the window, turning her back to Kathryn. "I had my suspicions, you know? I just wasn't certain. But now - boy, it's changed everything. He's a lousy two-timing son of a bitch; nothing more."
Kathryn said nothing in reply. She simply came up behind B'Elanna and stared thoughtfully into the dark eyes as the woman turned around.
"Oh, nothing much. I was just wondering if it should make a difference because they're not real people. But I guess the idea's the same, isn't it? It's still someone to cheat on you with."
B'Elanna sniffed. "You know something?" she asked, with the fight drained out of her.
"This revelation has come a little too late for me to care; really care, I mean." The engineer's voice had returned to normal, if a little quiet as she continued, "Yeah, I was mad, but it has more to do with being 'second best' than anything else; it's more of a 'respect' issue here, you know?"
"I think so."
"That's what hurts."
Kathryn regarded her visitor and, having decided there was no further dialogue forthcoming, she took control. Tilting her head back and offering B'Elanna a crooked grin she said, "What we need to do here is to get you cleaned up. You can't go around the ship looking like that, even if you do look..." She stopped herself, surprised that she had nearly spoken her mind.
"What? How do I look?"
"Dirty, young lady. Now get into that bathroom and clean yourself up. Right now!"
B'Elanna wandered out of the bathroom about 15 minutes later, wrapped up in a large bath towel. She had already towel-dried her hair and now she made her way to the couch and perched on the edge.
Kathryn looked up from her book, saying nothing. There was no smile on her face, she simply observed, waiting.
"My uniform?" prompted the half-Klingon.
"Oh, God. I'm sorry. I recycled it after you'd gone off to the holodeck. I considered you'd be going home after that and wouldn't need it again."
"Then, you mind if I get myself another one? I'll make the tokens up to you later?"
"It's on me," Kathryn said, putting her book down and waving a hand towards the replicator, to underline her approval of the request.
With the newly-replicated uniform bundled up in her arms, B'Elanna indicated Kathryn's bedroom door. It was a more natural place to dress than the bathroom. "You mind...?"
"No. Go ahead."
But returning to her book was hard for Kathryn. She read the words but all she could see was B'Elanna in that towel, her bare shoulders dusky and inviting. She frowned and put the book down, realising she'd read the same line three times. "B'Elanna?" she called out.
"How are you feeling, now you've had a little time to think?" She stood up and walked over to the near-closed door, leaning against the frame.
"I expected it, I guess. Where Tom's concerned, I'm developing a numb area. It helps."
"What will you do now?"
"What?" Somehow, Kathryn hadn't expected to hear that.
"It's not a new idea. It was the conversation that you and I had earlier that finally did it."
"Something about whether I loved Tom for what he was, or what I thought he should be. You said that if I loved him for what I thought he was, I had a problem." The door opened and the dressed engineer stood in front of her captain, who stood aside to allow her into the room, and they both took up residence on the couch again. "It was in the shower, just now," continued B'Elanna. "I thought about it and I know for sure now. I 'loved' what I thought he was, not who he really was. But you've know that for a long time, haven't you?"
"I couldn't just come out with it though, could I? I might have been wrong. I almost hoped I was, for the sake of your happiness with him."
B'Elanna frowned but said nothing, thinking for a while before making a request, "Can I stay here, with you? Just until I get..."
"I'm not sure that's such a good idea," blurted out the captain, remembering the bare shoulders. She wasn't sure that B'Elanna needed any complications in her life right now, not while she was getting over Tom Paris. And if she stayed in these quarters, there would be definitely be complications of that she was sure.
Kathryn got up quickly and moved over to the window. For once, she was speechless. She couldn't tell the truth and she wouldn't lie. "B'Elanna, don't ask me," she appealed, obviously flustered. "I'll get you settled in one of our guest quarters for tonight. Tomorrow we'll make better arrangements for you."
"What is it?" asked the engineer, coming close and touching Kathryn's arm. "What's the matter?"
"I'm upset for you, that's all," she said determinedly, trying to walk away.
"Are you sure that's all this is? We're good friends, aren't we?"
"You know we are."
There was something about the voice... Slowly B'Elanna's mind began piecing together a little more of the puzzle pieces that made up the picture of what might be happening between the two of them. "Then why won't you let me stay here tonight?"
"Because I'm a control freak and I like my own space," Kathryn replied a little too loudly, trying to sound manic, in a humorous way. Walking to a safe distance, she turned and looked back at the younger woman, who was coming towards her. Instinctively she started to back away again, but found that a wall hindered her retreat.
"Am I wrong about this?" asked B'Elanna slowly, getting the final picture.
"Leaving Tom? I don't..."
"Not about leaving Tom, about how you're feeling right now."
It would be useless for Kathryn to deny it; that she cared for B'Elanna was written all over her face now, and the engineer was too smart to be fooled. "No. You're not wrong. But it's a matter of timing, B'Elanna. In my opinion, you're not ready to be receptive to this, to me; not yet. Which is why you have to get out of here."
"...have I loved you?" finished Kathryn, receiving a nod from the engineer. "Ages, months, I don't know. For ever."
"Am I dumb, or something?"
"Not dumb, Lieutenant. I just hid it well, that's all."
"And all those nights, when you pretended to be my friend?"
"Now, hold it right there!" Janeway flared. "I AM your friend. That was no lie. I was happy to help you work things out with Tom because I thought that's what you wanted."
"You did that for me, knowing that it might work? Weren't you afraid?
"Of losing me?"
Kathryn studied the small pretty face before her. "You can't lose what you've never had, B'Elanna. I wanted what was best for you, that's all" she repeated.
"Wow." B'Elanna turned away and walked over to the window again. "That kind of love... I've never known it. Unconditional, I think they call it. 'Real' is what I'd say." She faced the captain. "You feel that way about me?"
"Yes," replied Kathryn, sitting down on the couch, looking over to the engineer, who remained beside the window. "But I expect nothing in return. I'm happy to be here for you, as your friend. I just can't have you around here, living with me until you find somewhere else. Do you understand that now?"
At last, B'Elanna walked towards the couch, watching her captain's face every inch of the way. She sat down, angling her body towards her, looking at her while she spoke. "I've felt something for you for a long time," she began. "A certain buzz when I'm around you, but I never questioned myself about it because I've always been too busy chasing Tom. Earlier, when you smeared that oil over my body, I reacted. I thought it was just the touch that I might have reacted that way to anyone who'd touched me like that. But now I'm not so sure." B'Elanna fell silent.
"So, what are you saying?"
B'Elanna smiled at her. "I don't know what I'm saying, I haven't let myself in on any of this yet!" she laughed, heartened to see Kathryn laughing also. "I guess I'm saying that maybe I want to explore this thing between us find out what it is. But slowly - I haven't asked myself yet what I might feel about this girl/girl thing. I've never done it before."
"And you think I have?"
"Never! I think of us as beautiful, something I want to pursue, but I never stopped to think, 'but she's a woman.' I just knew how I felt about you... your sex wasn't an issue."
"I think I'm beginning to understand what you mean."
Kathryn steeled herself. "In that case, would you do me the honour of coming on a date with me tomorrow night? I'd like you to see Indiana, where I grew up - if you want to. A picnic on the lawn, perhaps? Nothing elaborate."
B'Elanna looked deeply into Kathryn's eyes, trying to gain some idea of right or wrong about this from her inner feelings. There was nothing, one way or the other, just a deep feeling of peace and tranquillity between the two of them, almost like coming home. "I'd love to," she said at length. What time?"
"Done. Now, do me a favour?"
"Find me somewhere to sleep?"
B'Elanna Torres awoke and stretched her arms out, yawning deeply as she arched her back on the bed and stretched her muscles. Turning her head to the side, she expected to see Tom lying next to her, but she was in a single bed and quite alone. Then she remembered where she was.
She got out of the bed and moved around the stark guest quarters, considering them to be adequate but not in the least homely. But that wouldn't matter; she wouldn't be here that long. And then it hit her the full force of the previous evening and what it had meant for her and for her captain.
"Oh my God. The date. Tonight." She gulped, wondering just how she might concentrate on her life until 18:30 hours.
Kathryn Janeway groaned loudly. She rubbed a hand over her sleep-deprived eyes and squinted through them at the bedroom. "Computer, shut that damned noise up!" she ordered grouchily, grateful when the alarm stopped. Frowning, she attempted reason. "When are you going to be clever enough to see that I'm already awake, you box of bolts?" She waggled a finger playfully into the air. "Ah, but you don't see everything, do you? Damned technology. Not as smart as you'd like to 'think' you are, huh?" She knew she had the upper hand in this argument. She wasn't sure how, exactly. But she knew.
The Computer didn't answer.
Leaving her crumpled bed, she stumbled into the bathroom and stared into the mirror over the sink, looking upon her reflection and concentrating on her lines, in a 'damage limitation' sort of way. "Oh, God," she grumbled at them. "You're getting brave." She peered closer. "What, yelling at you isn't enough to keep you at bay? I'm the captain, damn it, and you'll obey me! You stay away now!" She stared at her lines.
They stared back silently.
"You're no more chatty than that damned computer," she muttered, pulling away.
Hearing the all-important word, 'computer', the computer chirped into stand-by mode.
"Oh, at ease," Kathryn said, pulling a face. "No one's talking to you. Not this time."
Then she peered closer, looking into her own eyes in the mirror, watching as a sudden smile sprang into them. "What are you grinning at?" she asked them before she cleaned her teeth and headed for the shower.
Her aqua shower passed without the technology even once attempting to turn on her. "Now, that's better," she told it as she exited and wrapped a towel around her body. "Maybe I should get you to talk with the replicator. Who knows, you might even be a positive influence." She suddenly wondered how this morning's chat session might sound to an eavesdropper and laughed aloud. "Oh, you're losing it, Katie, m'darlin'. A night without sleep, and now you're holding conversations with the contents of your room. You want my advice? Quit, before they lock you away."
Still smiling she fell silent and let her thoughts take over as she dressed. Her sleepless night had been filled with a combination of extreme happiness, fear, anticipation, questions, trepidation, more questions and a whole host of other feelings to boot. She'd had way too much energy to switch it all off and sleep. Most of the night, she'd been rehearsing this evening's date with B'Elanna, almost down to the last word impossible, she knew, as she didn't have a clue what B'Elanna might say in return.
Finally ready for the Bridge, she stood before the mirror again and assessed the visual results of her sleepless night. Seeing nothing too dreadful, she clicked her teeth and winked at herself in the mirror. "Not bad. Not bad at all," she said before heading for the door. "Look out Chakotay. I'm like a coiled spring ready to go..."
The day moved more slowly than the engineer thought it might, but the time had finally arrived. It was 18:20 as she left her quarters and began her journey to Holodeck 2. Dressed in a pair of blue jeans and a white cotton sleeveless top, she hoped she had chosen the correct attire. It was a picnic, after all. Although she wasn't usually this nervous about picnics.
Kathryn Janeway scanned the corridor again. She had done it before, several times, but not one glance had rewarded her with sight of B'Elanna. It still didn't, and she was about to ask her friend the computer for B'Elanna's whereabouts when the woman finally appeared, from the opposite direction.
"A few minutes," answered Kathryn, nervously. She looked down and shook the picnic basket she was holding in her hand. "I hope you're hungry, Lieutenant."
B'Elanna instantly saw a double innuendo where none was intended and she gave a very quick smile, over before it began. "After you," she said, gesturing that Kathryn should enter the Holodeck first.
The engineer followed her captain through the arch and looked around the hill that she now found herself standing on. In the distance, to the left, there was a large and imposing house, set in beautiful countryside. "It's lovely. The view and the house, it's all lovely," she said, looking around her.
"That's my home. Mom and Phoebe live..." But the sentence remained unfinished as silence fell and tears, which didn't fall, formed in the captain's eyes.
"Hey, what's up?" asked B'Elanna, noting the silence that had followed Kathryn's abandoned sentence. She saw the tears, and put a protective arm around her date's shoulder. "Kath?"
"All these years I didn't know if they were still there. Until Barclay established that connection, I would come here and wonder what might have happened to them. Was my mother still alive? Had my sister moved away? Had any harm befallen either of them? Those years of uncertainty came back to me just now."
"Are they still there?" asked B'Elanna, dropping to the floor beside Kathryn as the older woman knelt and shook a rug out in front of them both. They smoothed the rug together and then crawled onto it, Kathryn reaching for the basket.
"Mom is. Phoebe found a new job, which took her away from home. She eventually got an apartment near her work, although she still sees Mom a lot and they talk every day."
B'Elanna watched as Kathryn began transferring the contents of the basket onto the rug. She had never noticed Kathryn's fingers before, but today she stared at them, taking in how long and slim they were, and how pretty. "I never realised you had such nice hands," she said, still looking at them.
"It's funny, isn't it?"
"That we don't connect with people on this ship any more than we need to," replied the captain, taking the compliment. "All these years and you've never noticed my hands."
"I noticed you, though. I couldn't miss you! You're the one who shouted at me. A lot!" she laughed.
"You gave me cause, don't you think?" Kathryn asked calmly as she put the final touches to the spread. "Tossed into the Delta Quadrant, light years from home; crewmembers dead; lost in uncharted space; having to pool two crews into one? Oh, the gods must have thought I was having it far too easy, so they sent me you!"
B'Elanna chuckled, reaching for a bagel. "Yeah, I usually manage to stir things up."
"In my heart, this time," Kathryn replied, handing her a plate and smiling.
"You're really sure about this, aren't you?"
"Yes, I feel so. What about you?"
"Not 100%, if I'm honest." B'Elanna allowed a little silence between them. She put the bagel on the plate and rested the plate on the rug, turning to look at her companion. "You've been 'Captain' in my mind, not lover. I've always thought of you as someone who's beyond non-accessible, and now..."
"That got me, too."
"Last night. The night of no-sleep." To B'Elanna's surprised expression, Kathryn explained, "I couldn't I was way too hyper for that. I couldn't stop thinking about you, about us." She paused. "I thought the same thing, about the separateness. That we're now choosing to allow our feelings to move us through that barrier... it made me nervous."
Visibly relaxing in the shared feeling, B'Elanna moved closer to Kathryn and took one of her hands, looking at it, turning it over, touching it, stroking it. She then brought it up to her lips and kissed the back of it gently, a lingering kiss that set tingles running through both women. "Then it's about time we put that right, isn't it?" B'Elanna got to her feet and stretched a hand down to Kathryn. "Join me? I want you off that command pedestal, lady."
The captain smiled and allowed herself to be pulled up, and the two stood in front of each other, looking more shy and coy then either of them could ever remember. "I don't want to kiss you until I've discovered you," Kathryn warned, smiling.
"Like you were doing, just then. Touching. Holding. You know? I want to know we can be comfortable with that first."
B'Elanna understood and the idea suited her too. She stretched out a hand and cupped Kathryn's cheek with it, watching as her love linked her own long fingers around the hand but didn't pull it away, preferring to lean into it some more and push it against her face. "Mmm." Kathryn dropped her hand and closed her eyes, standing still, awaiting B'Elanna's next move. She had thought that closing her eyes might give her... something. She didn't know what.
The engineer stepped closer, stretching out both hands now, one to either side of the top of Kathryn's head. She rested them lightly and then stroked them slowly down the auburn hair's length, hearing another groan escaping from her captain, whose head had fallen back slightly, her lips parting.
When she reached the end of Kathryn's hair, B'Elanna looked at the closed eyes and put her hands underneath the hair this time, on either side of the neck. Then she re-traced her path in reverse, pushing her hands up through the hair to the top of the head. The hair fell away as she pulled her hands free, giving Kathryn an unkempt look.
"That felt nice" Kathryn said, opening her eyes. "My turn," She touched B'Elanna's hair and stroked it down to her shoulders and then kept going, letting her hands trail down B'Elanna's arms. The engineer watched her captain's face throughout as she placed her hands round Kathryn's waist, and the captain brought her own arms back up and wrapped them around B'Elanna's neck, hugging her gently.
In the warmth and the rightness of the feeling, something inside B'Elanna let go. She sighed with an escaping, "Ah," and hugged Kathryn firmly, pulling the trim body to her. She breathed in the scent of the woman and it inflamed her Klingon side, surprising her. "Did you bring anything to eat that's likely to get cold?" she asked into Kathryn's ear, her voice a little ragged.
"No," the captain breathed.
"That's good, 'cause I think I just broke the touchy/feely barrier. And I want more."
"Oh, so do I," whispered Kathryn, feeling her body respond with quickening breath and the need to melt into this woman's arms.
They both relaxed their hold on each other and sank down to the soft grass, B'Elanna pushing Kathryn sideways, straddling her midsection as Kathryn continued the roll to lay on her back. B'Elanna lightly pinned Kathryn's wrists onto the grass above her head, and leaned over her, very close, looking into the blue/grey eyes.
"You think you're ready to take me on yet?" asked Kathryn breathlessly.
"I thought I might," answered B'Elanna, who began to witness a change in her new love. She saw a completely different look spread slowly across the captain's features and it excited her way beyond expectation. She drew back a little in surprise.
"You. You look different - sexy as hell. Predatory, lustful... sexy. Not like a captain at all."
The look grew even more intense on Kathryn's face as she reached up, pulling B'Elanna's head down to hers, her lips contacting with B'Elanna's briefly before pushing B'Elanna back a little. Sure that her new lover wanted this next step as much as she did, she gave her a lazy half-smile before the predatory look returned and she pulled the engineer back down into the kiss. She groaned deeply as it began in earnest, and the two of them became locked for some while in a dance of wonder.
They had begun with power and then slowed, savouring each other. They tasted, probed, explored, licked and gently bit each other's mouths before feeling their blood starting to boil again and resuming with increasing power.
Suddenly, Kathryn pushed B'Elanna, rolling her over, and sat astride her instead, looking down at her intently. "B'Elanna. Please, I have to know. Is this just lust and passion coming from you right now, or do you have a genuine feeling for me?"
There was a fearful look in Kathryn's eyes as B'Elanna looked up into them. "My body's on fire. My passion is," she paused to allow a smile, "definitely aroused, but you know something? It was the expression on your face just now that did it. I didn't expect to react this way to you, not the first time. Not like this. It feels like making love, not just having sex."
"For me too. And if I had any doubts, they're gone now."
"I think it's time for a few things to go around here," replied B'Elanna reaching up to the top button of Kathryn's white shirt.
"Be my guest," replied her love, watching while B'Elanna's deft fingers undid the first obstruction. "Or we could eat instead," she said, teasing.
B'Elanna called her bluff and pulled back. "OK," she 'agreed', trying to keep a straight face. "Sure. We could eat." She looked around at the view, ignoring Kathryn and trying to look disinterested in her.
But she didn't get very far.
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