DISCLAIMER: Star Trek is the property of Paramount, this story depicts a loving/sexual relationship between women.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
She hadn't spoken for a few minutes, and it wasn't like her. But then, nothing she'd done just lately had been quite like her, either. Chakotay looked at her now, sitting at the main chair in the Conference Room, staring at the PADD in front of her, locked in a world of her own. The others had left the meeting and there were just the two of them remaining. He took a chance an educated guess, but then, he was fairly certain.
He broke the silence. "B'Elanna?"
Captain Kathryn Janeway slowly brought her eyes round to look at the first officer, sitting beside her. She regarded him for a long moment before saying, "Now why would you say that?"
Chakotay saw a steely quality draw over her face, like a portcullis coming down for protection, and he knew his hunch had been correct. "Don't worry," he said, taking a chance that he was right, "she hasn't noticed a thing, I've been watching her."
"Just what are you implying?" Kathryn knew her question was too loud and too confrontational. If he'd had any doubts as to his suspicions before, they were well and truly quelled now, she thought she'd given herself away.
"I think you know," he smiled. Having made an inroad for her to come to him in the near future, should she wish to, he leaned over and squeezed his captain's arm before leaving her alone with her thoughts.
Swivelling her chair and staring out at the stars, Kathryn searched them for one she could reach out to, one that offered some mental stability, some freedom from this turmoil she was beginning to experience inside. But there wasn't one; they were all out of reach to her, like peace itself. She sighed, thinking suddenly that she might just catch Chakotay up before he re-entered the Bridge.
As she left the Conference Room, she almost bumped into him. "Waiting for me?" she asked with a crooked grin. To his warm smile, she said, "Let's walk," and they set off together, although at a slower pace than usual.
Janeway looked sideways at her first officer: she knew she had to confide in someone and this was a good man, and he cared about her wellbeing. She could trust him. "She'll never know, Commander. I simply couldn't tell her." Chakotay remained silent. "Useless situation," Kathryn continued, "I mean she's with Tom for a start and..." she paused, searching for the words, "and I'm heterosexual!" She sounded so perplexed as she finished the last words that they both laughed aloud. "At least, I used to be!"
"What are you going to do?"
A sadness was etched into the expression the captain showed her first officer. "Nothing Chakotay. Absolutely nothing. I've no idea where these thoughts have come from, but they can't live long if I deny them, can they?"
"And why should you want to do that? You know she's not in love with Tom."
"Well, she's not in love with me, either! Doesn't have a clue about what I'm feeling for her." Kathryn's frustrations rose, "God, this sounds ridiculous, and a little frightening. All the while it was only inside my head, I could deny it. I suddenly feel like I've put the news on a shipwide comm. at top volume!"
"No," countermanded Chakotay. "You've only told me, and that's where it stays," he reassured as they entered the Bridge. "Dinner, tonight?" It was a request the crew had heard a hundred times before, and no one raised a questioning brow as the two senior officers sat, ready for anything the day had to give them on their search for home.
From her seat on the couch, Kathryn watched as the doors closed behind the commander. How was it that after dinner and a conversation with him this evening, she had changed her thinking to deciding that it was better to follow her heart and initiate something, than to always wonder about missed chances?
Chakotay was right: B'Elanna didn't love Tom. Everyone knew it, most of all B'Elanna and Tom. Oh, it had seemed a good match at the outset, but the surface dust had blown away all too quickly to reveal rock, not good earth.
A walk. She needed a walk. Chakotay would be in his quarters by now, next to hers. She exited her accommodation and began roaming around the corridors of Voyager, her home and comfort. She often took to the corridors when she needed to think something through but this evening she really didn't need to think for too long. Having formulated a plan, she retraced her steps with controlled excitement and soon found herself back where she'd started.
Smiling, she went straight to the replicator, quickly replicating one red rose, and then a card; a very small card on which she wrote, in a hand that was trembling, 'An Admirer', taking care to disguise her handwriting. She then took the rose and the note and left her quarters for the second time that evening, warily looking around her. It wouldn't do for the captain of Voyager to be seen moving through the corridors at night with a red rose in her hand, heading to engineering, she thought.
Joe Carey naturally started forward to greet Kathryn Janeway as she entered his domain, but something about the furtive way she was looking around her warned him off. He tucked himself back behind the console he'd been working on and watched her silently.
The captain's body language told him she thought herself unobserved and wished to stay that way. His eyebrow shot up (in conjunction with a look of surprise) as she turned a little, and he saw a red rose and what looked like a small card in her hand. She then slipped into the office after first looking around, thoroughly satisfied that she hadn't been seen. She placed the rose on B'Elanna's desk, the card beside it, and smiled at the thought of B'Elanna finding it in the morning. But just as she reached the door to leave, she stood stock-still.
'What are you doing?' she asked herself. 'Is this any kind of fitting behaviour for a captain?' Sadly she turned back into the room, listening to the 'voice of reason' in her head. But as she picked up the rose, she thought once again of her chief engineer, standing tomorrow where she was now, holding this same rose. 'Oh, what harm...?' she thought as she set it down gently on the desk again and left.
Chakotay looked down at Janeway, who was seated in her Ready Room chair. "Good night?" he asked politely.
She raised her eyes to meet his gaze. "I don't know why I'm even talking to you!" she informed him with a grin. "I took your advice last night. I thought about what you'd said, you know about initiating something?"
"What did you do?" he smiled.
"I left a rose and a note, from," Kathryn emphasised the last two words, "'An Admirer'" she replied. "God knows what she'll make of it."
"I guess we won't have to wait long to find out! She could never keep anything exciting to herself."
"Hey, Tom. Thanks for the rose. Although you didn't have to disguise your writing. I know it's from you."
"What rose?" B'Elanna could see Tom's vacant face on the other end of their comlink, as she stood there in engineering. "I didn't send any rose."
"You didn't? Oh, come on. You..."
"I didn't send you a rose. You must have an admirer," he joked.
"Ha! Now I know it was you, that's what the card said, 'An Admirer'," she snapped back, grinning.
"Really, B'Elanna, I didn't send it. It seems I have a rival!"
B'Elanna heard the indignity in his voice. "You're not kidding, are you?"
"No. And when you find him, you know I'm going to have to challenge him to pistols at dawn, don't you?"
"Yeah, yeah, you're all talk. 'Bye Tom." B'Elanna stood by her desk holding the rose to her face and smelling its delicate fragrance, amazed that the replicator could handle aroma as well as it did. She looked at the card and tried to place the writing, but it was no use, she didn't know it. She allowed her brain to think she really did have someone out there someone who was watching her from afar. someone forward enough to try to woo her, even though she was with Tom. It was a little exciting.
'Yeah, right,' she thought at last, as she decided someone was playing a game with her. She headed into engineering and raised her hand in the air, the one not occupied by the rose. "OK, OK," she said in a loud voice, "I suppose one of you thinks this is very funny." It seemed she had their attention as she powered on, "Or maybe you're all in on it together. But I assure you, when I catch whomever is..."
"Bridge to Engineering."
Frustrated, B'Elanna hit her comm. badge and shouted, "Yes," louder than she had intended to.
"Bad time, Lieutenant?"
"Not at all, captain. What can I do for you?"
"Report to my Ready Room, will you?"
"On my way." B'Elanna glared at the engineering staff. "When I find out who sent this, I'm going to tan his behind."
"How d'you know it's a 'he'?" asked Carey 'innocently', knowing that the captain's rose and this rose were one and the same.
"Captain?" B'Elanna smiled nervously. No matter how many times she had been called to the Bridge on business, she had never lost the feeling that she was about to be reprimanded a legacy from her turbulent schooldays.
"I would like to think I could have an answer to the question of upgrading the warp nacelles soon."
B'Elanna looked, surprised, at her captain's face. "Well, er, you could, I mean you will, captain. But it was only late yesterday you set me and Seven on it. It's a little too soon, you know. But I'll study it as soon as I get back, I promise."
"Thank you, Lieutenant."
"I didn't realise it was so urgent."
"I suppose it isn't, really. Things are a little slow around here, and you know how my brain loves something to do!"
B'Elanna relaxed and smiled as the captain got up from her desk and headed towards the replicator. "Join me?" she asked over her shoulder.
Kathryn, having collected the drinks, crossed to the couch, sipping her own as she waved the other in the couch's direction, indicating that B'Elanna should sit. Doing so, B'Elanna took her drink and smiled but merely studied the mug she was holding in her hands. The two women shared a silence, which stretched into a minute before Janeway broke it, unable to wait any longer. "You usually have something to say B'Elanna; this isn't like you."
"Something on your mind?"
Slightly embarrassed, B'Elanna looked at her captain. "Actually, yes." She weighed up whether or not
to tell this silly romantic stuff to her down-to-earth captain and then took a deep breath. "I got a rose today."
"A rose? My, that Tom's a romantic, isn't he?"
"It wasn't Tom."
"It wasn't Tom? Then who was it from?"
"That's just it, I don't know " B'Elanna sipped thoughtfully.
Kathryn's heart was pounding and she felt sure B'Elanna would notice as she asked quietly, "And how did it make you feel?"
The engineer looked up at her captain's face, momentarily taken aback by the openness of expression she saw there before dismissing it as mere interest. She smiled, watching Kathryn mimic her smile, as she replied happily, "Good. Happy. You know? Like someone out there cares about me, cares about my happiness." B'Elanna paused, "Scared, too."
"Well you have to admit I made one hell of a mistake with Tom. He wasn't exactly right for me. I don't know if I should trust my judgement in these things again."
"So, you would 'punish' the next person, because the previous person let you down? I can't see, with that attitude, that you could ever let yourself love again!" Kathryn smiled to lighten the mood, but she saw clearly, in that moment, the forcefield around her engineer, around the woman whose heart she was trying to win.
It was late in the evening and there was a glass of synthahol on the floor, but no feet beside it they were curled up on the couch. When Kathryn Janeway's mind delved into the pages of a good book, she found she could shut off most of her thoughts and feelings and find relaxation, and tonight was no different. Although she'd read this book twice before, it still worked its magic on her tense muscles. But her relaxation was soon to be challenged as the door chimed and she frowned, looking at the time. Sitting more upright, but with her legs still up, she put the book down and called out wearily, "Come in."
"Mr Carey." She tried to hide her surprise. "Forgive me, but isn't this a little late for discussing work?"
"This isn't work, captain."
"Then you'd better come in," she swung her legs off the couch and onto the floor, "and take a seat." She looked at him with interest. "Well, Mr Carey, I've never known you to come to my quarters before, but here you are. Please, will you tell me why?"
Carey mentally held fast to his reason for being there. There was something daunting about this woman - she almost made him feel he should apologise for the intrusion and retreat to a safe distance, but he stood his ground. "I've come to offer you some advice, captain."
Amused, Kathryn said, "and what would I need advice on, do you think?"
"I saw you."
"When you put the rose in engineering, for B'Elanna, I saw you."
Kathryn blanched visibly. Although she was not ashamed of her feelings for B'Elanna, she didn't want the crew knowing yet, and certainly not before B'Elanna herself knew. "Well then," she said with some difficulty, "I'm obviously not about to deny it."
"Please, captain. I've not come here to make you feel uncomfortable. I've come to help you, if you'll let me."
Kathryn gave him a wary look, surprised by his words. "I'm listening."
"Tom never takes her dancing. She's always complaining about it. And he goes out in the evening too often, leaving her alone she doesn't like that."
"Mr Carey, I don't really think you should be..."
"She just wants to be made to feel special, like she's important to someone."
"Why are you telling me this?"
"Because she's a nice person. She deserves a break; someone good in her life, someone who would treat her well. I believe you would."
Completely out of her depth but a captain to the last, Kathryn said, "I can't say I'm comfortable with this, but I recognise your motives are pure and I thank you. However, I don't feel at liberty to discuss my feelings for the lieutenant with you."
Carey knew when he was being dismissed. "I wasn't sure this was the right thing to do," he said, rising and moving to the door, "but if you want to know anything else about the kind of person she's looking for, give me a buzz, OK?" The sensible man left before his captain could come back at him verbally, leaving her sitting on her couch with an odd expression on her face.
Tom was grumpy. And when Tom was grumpy, B'Elanna suffered. He continued the argument. "Look, all I'm saying is that if I find out who sent it, he's in for a hard time. That's reasonable, isn't it?" He looked at his partner, his baby blue eyes a picture of innocence.
"It would be reasonable if you gave a shit."
"What do you mean?"
"Oh, come on Tom. Like you care about me when you're out nearly every night? Like you're bothered what I might be doing, or what I might be feeling?" The annoyed engineer noisily cleared away the breakfast things as Tom watched, clearly considering her reaction a little extreme.
"What, you don't like me going out?"
"I've never minded you going out, you lox. It's just the sheer amount of evenings I seem to spend alone these days." She crashed the cutlery and crockery into the recycler, breaking things as she did so. "I'll tell you one thing, Paris, you want to be careful how you tread with me, now that you have a rival."
"What are you saying?" Tom has a tiny flash that this might be serious and he couldn't handle it.
"That you've been warned, is all." B'Elanna grabbed her jacket off the back of the chair and headed out of their quarters, leaving a worried man behind her.
Chakotay was early; too early for the Bridge. He had done it on purpose as he intended to stop by his captain's quarters, just next door, before he began his day.
Toast and hot coffee: the only breakfast a Starfleet captain ever really needed. Kathryn's mind was still picking over the odd conversation of the previous night when her door chimed. "Oh, God," she groaned. She thought of Carey, just the other side of the door, with something else he'd thought to tell her. "Computer, please identify the person outside Captain Janeway's private quarters."
<The person is Commander Chakotay>
"I thought I might have already missed you this morning. You OK?"
"Sorry. Come in, come in," she waved a piece of toast in the general direction of the living area, indicating he should make himself comfortable. "You want some toast?"
He smiled at her. "I've already eaten. Thank you."
"You come for the latest?" she smiled, joining him on the couch, still eating her toast.
"Of course." More seriously, he added, "I thought I'd give you the chance to offload your thoughts on someone, before you get ensconced in the day."
"How thoughtful of you, commander. You want the latest developments? Oh, I've got plenty of those," she laughed, getting up to collect the other half-piece of toast before pacing around the room. Between munches she said, "I've spoken with B'Elanna. Had her in yesterday..."
"...to gauge her reaction. Seems she's doubting her emotional judgement and is afraid of making another mistake."
"Well at least, with that statement, she's admitting to you that she and Tom are a mistake."
"Uh, huh. And, oh..." she bit off another piece of toast and stabbed the remaining piece in his direction as she chewed. "You haven't heard the best of it yet. Carey saw me!"
"Damn it, he saw me put the rose in engineering. Knows it's me! God, it was embarrassing. Came to see me last night," she said, taking the final piece of toast into her mouth and chewing. "Sat right where you are now, giving me hints on how to woo his boss! Can you believe it?"
Chakotay joined his captain in the laughter. "He tell you anything good?"
"Just a few hints about what's not in her life right now. I guess I could use them."
"Who'd have thought it of Carey? Thank goodness he was the one to see you, and not a member of staff dedicated to gossip!"
"I know. That's why I was as nice to him as I was. It was weird, though, getting dating advice from Mr Carey about how I should proceed with wooing a WOMAN. Oh, what's happening to me?"
Judging by the look on her face Chakotay decided that, whatever it was, she was enjoying it.
Joe Carey just managed to get out of the office in engineering in time, moments before the fiery lieutenant strode through the main doors of her domain. It had been two days since his 'chat' with the captain, and he thought that would probably be the last of it. So he had been surprised when she'd called him this morning and asked him, coyly, to deliver a package to B'Elanna's office.
"Damn him to hell," yelled B'Elanna as she stormed past the staff, now accustomed to hearing this kind of anti-Tom talk first thing in the morning in engineering. She looked at no one during her progression to her office. Once inside, she sat fuming, interrupted only by Nicoletti poking her head around the door asking, "You OK?"
"Will be," snapped the hybrid. "Thanks. Now get out of here, huh?" Susan smiled, noting that if B'Elanna had smiled at her, however briefly, things were not that bad. And 'things really aren't that bad', B'Elanna thought. 'It's just his damned thoughtlessness, like he's living alone and I just happen to be there'. She sighed, 'why can't he just include me?'
Gathering herself before starting work, B'Elanna allowed her eyes to rove around the office. It was then that she saw it: a decent sized box, she couldn't understand why she hadn't seen it earlier. It wasn't plain, being a violet colour with a white ribbon under which was tucked another very small card. She reached for the card and looked at it for a few moments, something like excitement mounting within her.
Oh, it had been so long since anyone had done things like this for her. She opened the card and looked. Once again, 'An Admirer' was the signature but before that it simply said, "Soon. You'll use these soon, I promise." With mounting interest, B'Elanna pulled the box across the table towards her and slid the ribbon off, opening up the top to reveal a pair of black shoes, fit to dance the night away in. "Oh," she breathed, lifting them both up in the air before her to rest them against her cheeks. She laughed softly, her laugh becoming a grin as she sat there dreaming of using them, of dancing with this secret admirer of hers. How did he know she had always loved dancing?
'I wonder who you are,' she thought to herself as she racked her brains to try to recall if anyone had shown the slightest interest in her lately but, as she replaced the shoes in the box, she couldn't think that anyone's behaviour had been out of the ordinary. She returned her attention to the card, staring hard at the writing as though the answer might come.
'Do I know you already? Surely not Chakotay or Harry. And, by his own admission, not Tom.' She hadn't even considered Tuvok or the Doctor (who everyone knew had a thing for Seven). That left a ship full of men she knew slightly she'd already dismissed it being anyone in engineering.
'So,' she mused, 'you're out there, watching me.' A shiver ran up her back as she thought about that. 'How exciting'. She was certainly flattered as she carefully placed the box, and its promise, on the floor beneath her desk and made a start on her work.
"Damn you, woman, you're going to beat me again!" complained an engineer who was getting a little annoyed with herself, having just lost the first game to her captain. And it wasn't just a case of trying harder, either. No. Kathryn Janeway was undoubtedly one of the best players of Velocity on board. "Don't you get tired of winning nearly every game you play? I mean, doesn't it get boring when you endlessly know the outcome?" she accused with some gusto, racing around the holodeck.
"You want me to throw a game, Lieutenant?" Janeway offered jovially.
"No, but it would be nice to beat the pants off you one day - win every game I play, just for a change." B'Elanna attempted to sharpen her game just at the last, although she was too far back to win through now. "Does anyone beat you?"
"Seven... occasionally." Kathryn pulled a scoop, beating B'Elanna finally and magnificently, before going up to pat her on the back as they walked towards the holodeck arch together. "It would sometimes be nice, you know, to meet a, forgive me, worthy opponent; someone to stretch my game."
"So, why don't you programme one?" B'Elanna suggested, rubbing her wrist sweatband over her forehead.
"You know, I may just do that." The Captain watched as the younger woman reached down to the floor to retrieve a towel.
B'Elanna half turned and grinned, "And you don't even have the decency to sweat!" she laughed, as she buried her face in the towel she dragged it slowly from brow to chin and then looked at her opponent. "You eaten?" she asked.
"Not yet. You want to join me in my quarters?"
"Tell you what I'll go to the Mess Hall and bring something back for us, OK?"
Kathryn stated, with a lop-sided grin, "So you've heard about my cooking then, Lieutenant?"
B'Elanna didn't hesitate, "Only that 'cooking' wouldn't be an adequate description. You have disasters!"
"Some of it's edible," pouted the chef.
"Yeah? Well I'm taking no chances." B'Elanna looked at her watch, "19.00 hours OK? It'll give us both time to get a shower."
Kathryn's furtive imagination flashed to the two of them, naked, in the shower in her quarters, and she allowed herself the slightest of smiles as she answered, "19.00 hours is just fine, Lieutenant. See you then."
'Well, it isn't a date, but it still feels good,' she told herself as she followed the hyrbrid out of the holodeck doors.
"So, how's it going with you two?"
Kathryn looked into Chakotays's eyes as they twinkled in anticipation, and she leaned back in her Ready Room chair, folding her arms. "Well, all right I think. She stopped by my quarters and we shared a meal last evening."
"And she was babbling on about having received the dancing shoes. Thinks they're wonderfully romantic and can't wait to meet the," Kathryn's eyes narrowed, "man... who sent them. I ask you Chakotay, how's she going to feel about all this when she finds out it's me who's been doing these things? Oh, this is going horribly wrong."
"Hmm, I see your point. What are you going to do?"
Kathryn left her chair and began pacing the Ready Room as Chakotay turned around and perched on the edge of the desk to watch her. "Well," she said in conclusion. "The next gift is simply going to have to reflect the fact that her romancer ain't no man!"
The knock had surprised her; she was deeply submerged in her work. "Er, sorry. This just came for you," smiled Joe Carey at the door to the engineering office. He moved inside and handed his superior a small box with a ribbon around it.
"Joe, wait. Who gave this to you?"
"Peter Krall?" To Carey's nod of affirmation she added, "He seem nervous to you?"
"No. He said he'd been asked to bring it to me."
B'Elanna frowned. She'd thought, for one brief moment, that Peter Krall was her secret admirer. Sitting, she stared at the box for a while; there was no card, not this time. She pulled the ribbon off and gently lifted the lid to reveal a bottle of Risian perfume and she smiled widely, knowing it to be among the best perfume ever. She also knew that this stuff couldn't be easily replicated, so chances were this was the real thing. As she eased it out of the box, a note fell on the table.
'I've loved wearing this myself for years now. I hope it comes to mean as much to you An Admirer.'
The tough Klingon warrior's jaw fell open slightly as she stared at the note, amazed by the implication. "My God, a woman!"
"Well, you hadn't thought of that one, Maquis!"
"No, I hadn't." B'Elanna looked around the Mess Hall and then back to Harry, "But I don't know why not," she continued, filling her fork with her next mouthful. "I mean, it's only another woman who'd truly know what I need, and this one certainly seems to catch the spots. But I never thought..." she fell silent.
"Well, whoever she is, she's shown you more care and consideration in this short time than Tom has shown you in years."
"Yeah." It was rare that the fiery lieutenant was lost for words.
B'Elanna casually crossed to the window of her office in engineering and looked out. Nicoletti was under scrutiny. There had been many times when the two of them had talked - over meals in the Mess Hall and privately, as well as here, at work. B'Elanna looked at her now, working diligently on the question of whether Voyager could gain more efficiency from the warp nacelles.
Could this be the woman who'd been sending her these gifts? And, if so, how did she feel about her? That question left a cold spot deep within her and she knew that she could never love Susan Nicoletti. B'Elanna then turned her attention to the cool blonde working alongside Susan: the Borg-lady. There might be fire within her somewhere, B'Elanna was sure, and she was certainly beautiful, but nothing about the woman drew her in a romantic sense. Nothing at all. She raised her eyebrows as she wondered, for a moment whether any woman could instil in her the same feelings she had held for men in the past. No one except, perhaps... No. No one.
The next three days were spent closely watching the women on Voyager, and how they were reacting to her. Of course, she could no longer talk about what was happening with any of them, just in case. So it was that she was today lunching with Chakotay.
"And you still have no idea?"
"None," the engineer answered blankly.
"There's nobody you would prefer it to be?"
"Not if I'm being realistic," B'Elanna answered, chewing her food thoughtfully.
"Realistic?" But, try as he might, Chakotay could not draw her into saying more. He looked at her, wondering if she may have guessed what was in the captain's heart, but he wasn't sure.
"Uh, B'Elanna?" interrupted Neelix. The engineer turned her head to look up at the furry little man who had won the hearts of the entire ship.
"What is it, Neelix?"
Chakotay tried his best to look innocent as B'Elanna took receipt of the envelope - he had recognised it as the captain's personal stationery. She thanked the Talaxian and sat, studying the writing. "It's the same," she said quietly. "It's from her." A little tingle went through her body as she looked at him briefly before carefully opening the seal.
Chakotay drew his plate to him and half stood, "Would you like me to...?"
"No, stay. It's OK," reassured B'Elanna, tearing her eyes away from the writing long enough to look up at him. "It's a letter, this time."
B'Elanna realised she was shaking as she took the single page out of the envelope and caught the perfume instantly. Risian. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she remembered smelling that perfume before on someone, but who? She opened the page and a metal tag dropped out. "A holodeck programme!" she told the first officer, who knew all about it. She picked up the tag and read, "Lieutenant. It is time for us to meet. Will you do me the honour of being present tonight, in holodeck 1, at 19.00 hours? And don't forget your dancing shoes! An Admirer."
"And where are you going?"
"Where am I going!? Ha! Isn't it usually me asking you that at this time of night?" B'Elanna glared at Tom, prepared to give him a fight. It had unsettled him to see the person he thought he 'owned' all dressed up to go dancing, without him! "I've got time booked on the holodeck. And before you consider gate-crashing, it's a private programme. The computer would lock you out. Now, if you don't mind, I don't want to be late."
As B'Elanna reached the door she heard the words, "Is it the 'Admirer'?" Tom's voice was quiet and resigned, sad almost, and in that moment she felt a rush of sympathy for him. But where would that get her? She had given him endless chances in the past, and it was clear he couldn't change - for her, for himself, for anyone. So instead of talking further about the 'Admirer', she simply nodded her head half in his direction, her back still facing him, and said, "Don't wait up, OK?" Then she left.
Kathryn Janeway arrived at holodeck 1. She stood outside, looking up and down the corridor before she checked: yes, the programme was running. B'Elanna would be inside by now. Taking a deep breath to steady her nerves, she activated the device she had brought with her, a device designed to continue her anonymity throughout this evening. Inside, the computer had just received its first programme from the device.
Startled, B'Elanna looked up and then around the nightclub, Chez Sandrine's, noting that the holographic people were not taking any notice of the ship's computer that had just called her name.
<I am programmed to instruct you to close your eyes, and not open them until you receive further instructions. Do you understand?>
"Yes," replied the engineer, wondering why she was having a conversation with the ship's computer instead of her new 'Admirer'. She looked around her one final time and then closed her eyes, as instructed.
<Are your eyes closed?>
The captain then entered Sandrine's, looking around to locate B'Elanna. She found her over by the far wall, sitting with her eyes closed, as per instructions. Kathryn smiled, taking a moment to drink in the sight before her. Her date was looking particularly lovely in a short, slightly flared, low cut black dress with thin straps - and she was wearing her new shoes. Kathryn triggered the next instruction
<Continue to keep your eyes closed, B'Elanna Torres, and stand please>
B'Elanna followed the computer's instructions, shifting around nervously. It was difficult for the fiery engineer to comply, wanting (as she did) to be in control of the situation, with her eyes open. She sensed someone closing in on her. With great anticipation she stood very still as delicate fingers hooked into the hair at her left temple and ran through its length.
B'Elanna sighed, the touch creating sensations throughout her entire body. She wanted to open her eyes, wanted to see who this was who had captured her attention so. A hand lightly rested on her shoulder and then just as lightly tracked down her left arm to her hand, taking hold of it to lead the young woman away from the table and towards the dance floor.
Another command from the box in Janeway's hand started a slow and beautiful song as she turned to face her partner, looking all over her face with longing before she slipped her left arm around the lieutenant's waist, drawing her close.
The student of seduction sighed as she leaned closer to her 'Admirer' and melted into the dance, breathing in the Risian perfume and nuzzling close to the hair of her unseen partner.
<You are to continue with your eyes closed, Lieutenant Torres>
Something about this felt very right, as though she had been dancing with this person for a lifetime, at least. With her eyes still firmly closed she allowed her other senses to take over as she wrapped her arms around the woman, gently caressing her with her hands, and allowed her body to drift to the music. She felt the backs of fingers on her face again, this time caressing her cheek, and she sighed, moving her head into the caress, hearing a breath escape from her tormentor.
Gently, oh so gently, warm lips brushed over her own, teasing her moving away, back and then away again until finally returning to began their task in earnest. She felt the warm tongue against the inside of her top lip and the fullness of lips on hers, the tongue now journeying where it wished, causing the young engineer to moan as she explored a mouth she knew nothing about, except for the loving gentleness it displayed for her.
Closing her own eyes, Kathryn Janeway pressed the last command on her device. She held her breath, still kissing B'Elanna, as the computer said,
<You may open your eyes>
With precision timing, Kathryn Janeway shimmered out of existence just as the lieutenant opened her eyes and looked around expectantly. Where she had just held a woman in her arms, and been held in return by that same woman, she was now quite alone.
"Back, so soon. What? Your date stand you up?"
Bristling with all kinds of feelings that she didn't understand, among them frustration that she still didn't know the identity of her secret admirer, B'Elanna shot Tom a searing look. He was sneering at her and it was all she could do not to lash out at him. "On the contrary," was all she would say as she crossed to the bedroom to remove the dress and find a shower.
"So, come on then. Who is it? Who's my rival?" There was a mixture of fear and arrogance in Tom's voice as he stuck his neck out for the answer he didn't want to hear. He needn't have worried because his question wasn't answered. B'Elanna ignored him.
Moments later she stood in the aqua shower, her eyes closed once again as she relived the few short minutes on the holodeck. It was a strange thing for someone to have done, she thought, to arrange an evening with her and then not only not allow her to see her date but to end the evening so quickly. Why would she have done that?
Soaping up, the engineer asked herself why she would have done such a thing, had the situation been reversed. 'Lack of confidence in my ability to be accepted by the other person as a potential lover', she decided. At least, that would be her reasoning. So, if that were true, it put a different light on it. The person who was wooing her had little self-confidence at this deeply personal level. She instinctively knew that the woman would ooze confidence on every other level.
And that pointed to one person.
'Oh my God, could it be?'
"You going to be in there all night?"
"What do you care? You're usually out at this hour anyway," snapped Tom's current partner angrily, not wanting her reverie broken into in this way.
"Well, I thought, so long as we're both here..." It was obvious that Tom was thinking of sex and, for the first time since their union, that thought was repulsive to her. She stood there in the flowing water, reliving the fingers pulling through her hair and those soft lips on hers and then she thought of Tom. It wasn't something she could put up with any more, she knew, as she made a decision.
Somewhere at the back of Tom's mind was the thought that he could keep B'Elanna with sex. He felt very threatened tonight, sensing her pulling away from him, and it was panicking him slightly, which surprised him. He sat watching her dry her hair with a towel in the seat opposite him and thought inwardly, 'I've never let her get under my skin, so why is this bothering me so much.' Then, stupidly, he thought of his 'street cred' if word got around that she'd left him, instead of the other way around. It could be that that situation was obviously imminent. He had to act fast.
"I've been thinking," he began.
"This... us - we're not working like we used to. Tell me, what's gone wrong between us?"
"Do I need to answer that? I mean, it seems pretty obvious." B'Elanna stopped what she was doing and looked into the baby blue eyes. "We need to stop this, now Tom." She paused sadly. "I'll get my things together first thing tomorrow morning, OK?"
"Uh, yeah. And I was the one who said it was over, right? I'm the one asking you to leave."
Understanding the fragile ego of the soul involved here, she nodded. "If that's the way you want it, Tom. Although I think this is a pretty unanimous decision and not really a case of who decides what for the other."
They fell silent, B'Elanna continuing to run the towel over hair that no longer needed it, and Tom sitting slightly forward in his chair, staring at the floor. After a while, Tom broke into the silence. "You let this get out and I'll kill you."
Surprised, B'Elanna looked at him.
"But I know I've been wrong here." He looked awkward as he continued his confession. "I couldn't handle needing you, making you too much an integral part of my life, in case you walked away from me. I had to keep some part of my feelings in reserve so that it wouldn't hurt like hell if you did. So I didn't get close. I went out, left you alone. I thought, 'I'll show you, you can't gain my heart, lady'." There were tears in Tom's eyes. "But you did. With all the evasive stuff I came up with, you still managed to get in and I didn't realise until now that... I do love you, B'Elanna, whatever I've tried to tell myself to the contrary, and it does hurt. Hurts like hell."
Stunned, B'Elanna sat there just staring at him. "You dummy," she said softly. "All I needed was for you to give me what you felt inside, make me a part of it. It's all I wanted from you. I was this near (she indicated with thumb and index finger close together) loving you, you idiot. It wouldn't have taken much, if you'd just been yourself, and not some idea of what you thought you ought to be."
"I know. And now I've lost you." Tom sat deathly quiet, having voiced his fears, not daring to look at her. No answer met his ears. "But, now we both know how I really feel, do you think we could try again?" he asked hopefully.
B'Elanna got up from her chair and moved over to Tom, sitting down on the floor in front of him, leaning an arm on his leg and looking sadly into his face. "Tom, love needs attention for it to be able to live; without it, it dies, just as mine did for you. The way I feel about you right now, you would have to begin to woo me all over again for me to reach anything like the stage I was at when I moved in with you. And I know too much about you now, things that if you're in love with someone, you live with without argument. Now? Now I couldn't do it."
"I know," he gently stroked her hair, "I'm sorry. I've been an idiot protecting myself so I didn't get hurt, and now look!" He managed a smile.
"Sweetheart, learn from this, will you? Don't run away from love next time, just allow it to unfold as it will. And if it ends up hurting you, so be it."
"Will you allow me to open my heart to you tonight? Be with you, touch you, love you, as I always wanted to and was too scared to?"
Looking into his eyes, eyes filled with hope that he could turn this all around by just letting his barriers down at last, she hated what she had to say to him. "My heart's becoming another's. It wouldn't be right." He nodded slowly, pulling her head gently down onto his lap and stroking her hair. She closed her eyes, allowing herself to acknowledge his pain and say goodbye to him in this way, on a sad but friendly note.
"I know," he whispered. "I understand."
"Well, Lieutenant? This sounded urgent. I came as soon as I could." Kathryn Janeway stood in the private office of B'Elanna Torres, in engineering, surprised when the seemingly nervous engineer moved past her to close the shutters on the windows. "What is it?" she finished.
"Shhh, close your eyes," murmured B'Elanna, standing in front of her captain, hoping to God she was right about this.
Kathryn frowned an unspoken question and then did as she was asked, the colour building up slowly in her face. "Lieutenant?"
"Shhh." B'Elanna closed her eyes too and moved her cheek slowly across, to touch the other woman's cheek. She then nuzzled into the hair, that same hair, with a hint of Risian perfume about it, and she knew her hunch in the shower had been correct. Slowly, B'Elanna ran her fingers through her superior officer's hair as a low moan escaped somewhere in the darkness.
It seemed they both opened their eyes at the same moment, and there wasn't even a hint of embarrassment as Kathryn whispered, "When did you realise?"
"Last night, in the shower."
"Oh," said B'Elanna, stroking the auburn hair and pulling back a little to look into the blue/grey eyes. "It was your inferiority complex that gave you away."
"My what? How the hell...?"
"Shhhh." The finger that B'Elanna had placed over Kathryn's lips to silence her was replaced by her lips instead, as the hybrid gently initiated their second kiss, a kiss not as polite as the first one had been on the holodeck.
Outside, a very astute Joe Carey had just stopped Susan Nicoletti from entering the office. When he'd seen the blinds being closed, so soon after the captain had entered the room, he'd smiled, leaping up some minutes later to catch Susan's arm as she got too close to the door.
Meanwhile, in the room, B'Elanna broke the contact, pulling back to catch her breath. "I'd no idea," she told her captain, with an amazed sort of smile.
"That you were more Klingon than I." She was referring to the enormous release of sexual energy from the older woman as soon as their kiss had begun. The woman had practically eaten her alive.
"I've got to be honest with you, B'Elanna, I didn't expect this to feel like this... about you." Kathryn pulled her lover's head towards her firmly and initiated another searing kiss between the two of them, shivering as the hybrid's hands explored her body.
Realising this wasn't the place or the time, B'Elanna led the two of them to the chairs and sat, placing a desk between them to cool their feelings a little, playing with Kathryn's hand as she spoke. "I'll be honest with you. I can't say I'm in love with you, Kathryn, not yet. I mean, in this new setting I hardly know you. But I can tell that, even at this early stage, I have more feeling for you than I've ever had for anyone."
"Well then, Lieutenant. Let's see where we go, huh?"
B'Elanna looked at the lop-sided grin, now becoming a full smile and pulled the hand she held close enough to place a kiss on it. "I have some news for you."
"I left Tom this morning, so you'll need to find me some guest quarters."
Kathryn surprised herself with her next thought. In a voice breaking with emotion, the suggestion was whispered hoarsely, "Why don't you move in with me?" It was clear from her blue/grey eyes that she was laying her vulnerability on the line.
"Tempting..." B'Elanna studied her captain's and soon-to-be-lover's face, "but I don't want to rush this, rush 'us'. I want to take each stage as it comes, slowly and naturally. You understand?"
The lop-sided grin returned. "It makes me wonder why I'm the captain, when you're clearly the sensible one out of the two of us!"
B'Elanna was in danger of melting from the look of pure love she was receiving. She smiled in return, the two women now locked into looking at each other without words, needing none, until the captain rose from her seat and pulled some level of control out of the air. "Alright then, Lieutenant. I shall arrange an accommodation for you, and let you know soon. I also request your presence in the Mess Hall tonight, for a meal."
"We're going public?" B'Elanna asked, surprised.
"Hell, yes. Did you ever see Kathryn Janeway back away from anything? Well, apart from beaming out on you, out of fear that you'd never be able to love me back - but I can make that up to you tonight, if you'll let me. wWe'll make an announcement in the Mess Hall. OK?"
"What got you over it?"
"I don't understand."
"The inferiority complex. What got you over it?"
Before she left the room to go run a Starship, the captain of Voyager leaned close to the now-standing engineer and placed a kiss on her cheek. "The look in your eyes, my darling," she answered. "They quelled my fears better than any words could have done."
They were both surprised by a knock on the door as they began to open the blinds.
The lieutenant stood in the doorway with his hands behind his back, a wide smile on his face as he looked from one to the other of the women. He was taking a chance, but they were wearing looks that were unmistakable, and he knew he was home safe. He brought his arms forwards and handed the two women a rose each. "Congratulations," he announced, kissing each one on the cheek before turning to leave.
"You knew?" B'Elanna was more than surprised.
"Caught me," laughed the captain to B'Elanna's frown, "when I put the first rose in here. He saw me do it."
"I'll kill you later," B'Elanna informed Carey with gravity, suggesting with her body language that he should leave, although betraying herself with a wide smile, "And, you. I'll eat with you in the Mess Hall later, as arranged. Now both of you, get out of here, huh? You think I don't have work to do? You think this engine runs itself?"
As they left, B'Elanna stood, still in the privacy of her office, and held the rose to her cheek, thinking of how her life had changed in a few short days, and of the promise yet to come. For the first time, probably in her entire life, she knew she was loved.
The chief engineer and the captain it was going to take a while to sink in. And they had the rest of their lives to make it work out just fine.
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