|The Kings of the
Hill own Voyager, her crew and all things Trek.
Kathryn was thoroughly enjoying herself at a reception hosted by the station manager of Lunlea Station. His stories weren't all that amusing but his delivery was marvelous.
As the station manager finished an anecdote and paused to allow his listeners a chance to stop laughing, Kathryn caught Chakotay watching her from across the room. Kathryn turned back to the station manager and excused herself to speak to some others. She took advantage of the opportunity and stopped to refill her cup with fresh coffee. It wasn't the usual beverage for receptions but someone must have told her host that it was her favorite. The station's staff had managed to find a local substitute that she was quite enjoying.
Kathryn paused for a few moments in a quiet corner to sip her coffee as Chakotay's eyes met hers. She smiled and nodded ever so slightly. Her reward was one of his special smiles that extended to his eyes and was meant for her alone.
Chakotay turned away again and Kathryn took another sip of her coffee. The coffee was a familiar pleasure, a constant among continuously changing circumstances on their journey through the Delta Quadrant. She shook her head reflectively as she realized the description fit Chakotay even better. She closed her eyes and sighed as she sipped more coffee.
She opened her eyes and studied the contents of her cup. The liquid was warm and brown, almost the color of Chakotay's eyes. She remembered the first time she had seen those eyes – challenging her on the bridge, flashing his determination, and something more that Kathryn did not want to see, then or now.
She looked back at the coffee. It could warm her but it could also burn her, especially if she acted without thinking. Chakotay's eyes could burn right through her when he was angry. He didn't anger easily and she had not seen him angry with her often but when he was, his eyes were the first indication. They could burn her soul.
Kathryn sipped her coffee and puckered her lips. It was starting to get cold and turning bitter. She frowned slightly as she glanced at Chakotay. She remembered far too well the times when his eyes had been bitter and cold when they looked at her. Disappointment in her or the cold chill of anger cooled but not forgotten lying beneath the cool eyes. The days when his eyes were cold were the hardest
Kathryn moved to get more hot coffee. It was far easier to warm her coffee than to wait for the warmth to return to Chakotay's eyes. So far, they had always managed to restore their relationship.
It was late and Kathryn sipped her coffee glad that it would keep her alert. She caught sight of Chakotay again where he was surrounded by a group of merchants from the station. He was certainly keeping his listeners alert just as he kept her alert.
At first, it was because she wasn’t quite sure she trusted him with her ship, but later because she found him so… intriguing. After all the years together, she knew him so well yet still found him mysterious.
Kathryn forced herself out of her reverie and moved out of her corner towards a group near her. As she approached, the group broke up to join others. Kathryn stopped to select a new objective when she was distracted once again by laughter from the group around Chakotay. This time he was one of those laughing.
"He's quite handsome."
The voice startled Kathryn. She jerked her head around nearly spilling her coffee.
"My apologies." The voice of the Trade Manager was contrite. "I said he's quite handsome. You're quite lucky to have your partner with you on your journey."
"My partner?" Kathryn was completely confused.
"The gentleman with the markings on his forehead. I said he was handsome."
"Chakotay?" Kathryn finally managed to find a smile for the other woman.
"Yes, your partner."
"You must have misunderstood. Chakotay is my first officer not my partner."
"If I looked at my assistant the way you were looking at him, my husband would be quite incensed and with good cause. It must be a difference in our species." The Trade Manager smiled and sighed. "But do you agree he is handsome? Or is that another difference?"
"Yes." Kathryn smiled. "In that we agree."
"Is your partner with you on your ship?"
"No. I have no partner."
"You must be very lonely at times."
"I am." Kathryn barely whispered the words as her eyes drifted back toward Chakotay. When she realized she was staring at him again, she hurriedly took another sip of her coffee. She stared at it not knowing what else to say.
"Does your first officer have a partner?"
Kathryn merely shook her head and studied her coffee. She had no idea why she was talking to this woman but she couldn't seem to end the conversation.
"He is handsome. I doubt you would tolerate someone who was incompetent to be your first officer. He is clearly liked by your crew and strangers." The Trade Manager paused. "He was watching you the same way earlier."
"It's not possible. We're the senior officers." Kathryn dragged out the same argument she had been using on herself for years.
"What would change if it were possible?"
Kathryn remained silent knowing there was no way to answer that question honestly.
"He is very much like this coffee you like so well. Strong, warm, comfortable." The Trade Manager was persistent. "You wouldn't be lonely, would you?"
"I told you, it's not possible."
"When was the last time you accepted that statement from someone?"
"I don't understand." The abrupt change of direction confused Kathryn.
"About your journey home. When was the last time you accepted it as fact when someone told you such a journey in a ship the size of yours was not possible?"
Kathryn was silent. She had never acknowledged that Voyager might not be capable of getting them home or that it might take the originally projected seventy years.
"Wouldn't you be happy? Wouldn't he be happy? Nothing else would change." The Trade Manager turned her eyes on Chakotay. His group had split up and moved to talk to others. He was standing looking at Kathryn. The Trade Minister whispered. "You allow yourself the luxury of coffee. Love is not a luxury. Go join him. Let him fill your cup with coffee and your life with love."
Kathryn glanced at her nearly empty cup and saw her life. Only when it held coffee was it truly full for her. She turned to the Trade Manager and nodded her thanks before turning to make her way to Chakotay.