Disclaimer: Paramount clearly owns all the characters. Copyright:Paramount
AN: This is intended as a follow-on to my AU story Alternative Coda. If you haven't read it, you could just read the Epilogue. If you don't fancy it, all you really need to know is that in that story, after his near-death experience Chakotay decided it was high time he put his tactical skills to use in his personal life as well as in the interests of the ship.
Even then, would it really be plain sailing? Reviews/PM comments welcome
The morning after the shuttle crash he awoke to find she wasn't there.
No big surprise. Time for some strategic planning.
His shifted position, gingerly stretching his stiff limbs, and closed his eyes again.
A little while later, just as he was summoning the energy to actually get up, she appeared, bearing slightly burnt breakfast in bed.
"Good morning, and ...thank you," he grinned as he took her in; she must have been on duty for a while already and was every inch the captain again, except for the tray of course.
She laid the small tray across his lap and settled herself on the side of his bed facing him. Her right thigh grazed his, causing a swell of pleasure to ripple through him at the ease of her movements in this small room, so intimately his. If she'd already managed to push back down the feelings the previous day's experiences had brought to the surface, he would have seen it instantly in her eyes, and he hadn't. When he'd woken alone and realised she'd made her retreat, he hadn't dared to hope that she would willingly enter quite so soon the heart of his territory, his very campaign headquarters in fact.
As he prepared to tuck in he said, "I could get used to this."
That earned him a raised eyebrow. "I'm afraid this is a one-off performance."
"Well, I seem to have the best seat in the house," he replied, "so I'm not complaining." He bit into a crisp of toast. "Any chance you'll reprise that ballet recital as an encore while I eat?"
"Don't push it, Commander." A swat this time.
"Forgive me," his grin spread, "but I have to say, I'm more than a little surprised…. I would never have thought of you as waitress material."
That really did deserve the death glare.
"I'd be careful if I were you, or I might just decide to pick up this tray and head right back out of that door."
"Don't even think about it, you're needed right here, I'm famished."
When he'd finished eating she removed the tray and used his replicator rations to get them both more coffee. She returned to sit facing him in the same position (he thanked the spirits again that his room was too small to accommodate a chair) and she asked how he was feeling and whether he would make it to sickbay on his own to check in with the Doctor. He assured her he'd make it there fine as he felt quite a bit better, and so she went on to tell him about ship's business that morning.
When it was evident she was about to take her leave, he captured her hand as she rose. Whilst she'd been talking, one part of his mind had been planning. The delicious feeling of her skin touching his again spurred him on to put phase one of his new campaign into action.
"I'll expect you back here tonight; I fully intend to hold you to your promise last night to give me your opinion of my new holodeck programme. Don't think I've forgotten."
"Are you sure you'll be up to it?" Her concern was genuine and her hand was still in his.
"I think so. Come by before dinner. We can get something to eat there."
She withdrew her hand but held his gaze. There was a hint of a hesitation before she spoke this time. "You know, we really do need to talk, Chakotay."
"All right. Then we'll talk."
"Good. Later then. Right now I need to get back to the bridge and you need some peace and quiet." She was back to full command mode already.
"19.00hrs then? You wouldn't want to disappoint an invalid now, would you?"
"Wouldn't dream of it." She left and he went back to his planning.
As he pulled on a plain, short-sleeved, cream shirt he considered what supplies he might need. Scent? Cologne? After a rummage through his bathroom cabinet he realised he didn't actually possess any, it'd been that long. He replicated a small bottle and splashed some on. Spirits, that was enough to send her fleeing back to her quarters after two minutes in his company! Better get back in that shower. A gift maybe? That was easy.
When she arrived to collect him, he greeted her with a wide smile. His hair was still a little damp from the shower, he smelt good and he was armed with a single peace rose. As he offered her the flower he told her she looked stunning, because she did, her toned body flattered by the well-cut lines of the linen pants and the elegant silk blouse she'd chosen.
His holodeck programme was as close as you could get to a breath of fresh air on a starship travelling at warp through space. It was an unspoilt beach on the island of Cozumel, overlooking the Caribbean.
The only trace of civilisation he'd programmed was one small café situated directly on the beach. There was a solitary waiter serving the food and drink, and there were two holographic couples sharing intimate, candlelit dinners. The atmosphere was relaxed, the food was good, but what was much better was the feeling of being so far removed from their lives on the ship.
His strategy for this part of the evening was devastatingly simple.
Stop. And see what happens.
He was quite deliberately doing nothing to reign himself in this evening; nothing to suppress his genuine pleasure at spending time with this fascinating and beautiful woman. Over the past three years, it had become second nature to him to check his reactions and remind himself every few minutes not to stray from his role as her safe date. So, now, he just stopped.
Unsurprisingly perhaps, the dynamic between them felt quite different; at once familiar, yet wonderfully unfamiliar. The unpredictability was intoxicating. They traded memories and anecdotes about their favourite places on Earth and explored their shared fascination with the ocean. Now that he'd stopped internally censoring his conversation, the ease with which he could make her laugh surprised him and the resulting sounds brought him such undiluted pleasure. The flow of the conversation was different. He was ashamed that it was only now that he realised how passive and reactive the self-imposed restraints on his behaviour must have made him appear to her before.
His unguarded attentions seemed to be having an effect on her. Gone were some of the sharp angles of command; she was no less confident, no less herself, but she held herself slightly differently, moved slightly differently. She was all fluidity and playful challenge. He swore to himself he would do his damnedest to ensure they didn't go back to the two dimensional friendship they'd known before.
They'd finished their meal, their glasses were nearly empty and she was quiet for a few moments, so he decided to roll out phase two, as it was possible she'd decide any minute that it was time for that talk. It was better to head her off, rather than have to take her on now or fight for another postponement.
It wasn't that he was unprepared for 'the talk', it was more that he was very much aware that as long as nothing definitive had been said, he had the advantage. The longer he could keep her considering the possibilities in this no man's land they'd strayed into last night, the better. So, he suggested a walk on the beach.
They left their shoes at the edge of the café and set off together to wander along in the warm, shallow surf, her slender hand gently held hostage in his.