After that moment of détente in the ready room, Janeway and Chakotay hardly spoke to each other until the night of the Prixin celebration. Janeway was overseeing the retrofit of Cargo Bay Two to remove Seven's regeneration chamber and other technology that had supported her transition from Borg to a fully human member of the crew. There would be a new science lab, and more room for hydroponic plants now that Seven had scaled down her energy consumption and moved her equipment to normal crew quarters.
Chakotay was on the bridge, watched closely by an unusually paternal Tuvok.
"Commander," Tuvok said, well before the end of the shift before the party. "If you would like more time to prepare for this evening, I am prepared to relieve you now."
Chakotay rose from the captain's chair, straightened his uniform, and nodded. "Thank you, Tuvok. I would like that."
This turn of events drew a small flurry of electronic comment by the rest of the bridge crew, but none of it reached Janeway. She was surprised, then, to hear the door chime as she selected a pair of shoes to match her dress that evening. Chakotay had mentioned nothing about escorting her to the party. She was expecting to meet him there. Instead, it was Tuvok, in dress uniform.
"What in the world?" she asked.
"I am not at liberty to say more," he told her, "but Commander Chakotay asked me to escort you to the Prixin celebration."
Janeway put a hand to her chest. "He thinks I need an escort? Does he think I won't show up?"
"It is not my place to speculate about Commander Chakotay's motivations for - "
"All right, all right, Tuvok," Janeway said as she turned back toward her bedroom to fetch her shoes. "It's not important. It's odd, but it's not important. Come on in."
"Are you ready? We will be late for the festivities if we do not leave now."
"We're not going to be late," Janeway yelled from the other room. "Just let me put my shoes on!"
When she emerged, Tuvok tucked Janeway's hand into the crook of his arm in a gesture he had never used with her. She smiled up at him, but he only faced forward with his usual impassivity and led her toward the turbolift.
They emerged onto Deck Two to find the corridor outside the mess hall decorated for the occasion in vines, berries, and intermittent flurries of holographic snow. Janeway gaped.
"Did they install new holoemitters just for the party?" she asked Tuvok.
"It would appear so," he said, without the disapproving scowl she was accustomed to see at any frivolous appropriation of the ship's scarce resources. Tuvok looked almost … pleased.
Neelix came rushing out of the mess hall the moment Tuvok and Janeway rounded the last curve in the corridor.
"Mr. Vulcan! Captain Janeway! Wait right here and I'll start the music!"
Janeway gave Tuvok a suspicious glance.
"Music? Tuvok, what are they up to? You have to tell me before I walk into a full ambush."
Tuvok planted a reassuring hand on top of Janeway's where he held it on his arm. The pair waited just outside the door as Neelix rushed back inside. In a moment, the uplifting strains of Schubert's Ave Maria began.
"Tuvok?" Janeway asked, eyes wide. "What does this mean?"
He paused and faced her. "Commander Chakotay told me that you had promised to 'show up and play along' as he put it. With that understanding, I agreed to play a part. Of course, you have no obligation to continue."
Janeway had gone rather pale. "What part – exactly – did you agree to play?"
Something resembling a smile moved on the Vulcan's mouth. "The commander asked me to bring you here and walk you down the aisle. I was honored to agree."
"The -" Janeway broke off and crept forward, letting go of Tuvok, to peek around the door frame. On the other side, the mess hall was a sparkling Prixin wonderland. There were candles, garlands, wreaths, and even an arbor of pine boughs near the viewport. Chakotay stood under the arbor in his own clothing, not a uniform. The entire crew watched the door expectantly. Janeway drew back in shock and grabbed Tuvok's arm again.
"This is a wedding," she hissed.
Tuvok nodded. "Your wedding," he confirmed. "If you choose to go in." The Schubert continued, emphasizing the passage of time.
"You knew – you knew and you didn't tell me? Tuvok, how could you?" she demanded.
"Captain," he said firmly, "I confess to being somewhat bewildered by the events of the past few weeks. Both you and the commander have come to me privately to express your desire to be permanently mated, yet you seem unable to resolve the matter between yourselves. If this is not what you wish, then I must ask, what do you wish?"
Janeway pulled away from him and stood panting, hands on her hips, working hard to master her own emotions.
"I … I had always hoped …." She broke off helplessly, tears in her eyes.
"Yes?" Tuvok prompted.
"That my father would be here for this day," she finished.
Tuvok stood straighter and offered his arm yet again. "It will be my honor to serve in his place. Now - " with a glance toward the door, "I believe someone is waiting."
Slowly, so slowly that Janeway almost believed she saw a flicker of impatience in Tuvok's eyes, she lifted her hand and set it on his arm. The Schubert led them forward. When they stepped into the doorway she saw Chakotay, watching the empty space with an anxious face. When the emptiness filled suddenly with her and Tuvok, arm in arm, the look on his face lit the mess hall more brightly than all the Prixin candles. A happy sigh rose from the crew.
Janeway glanced up at Tuvok, who nodded. She glanced down. She wasn't wearing white, or her dress uniform, just a plain green dress everyone had seen before. She hadn't done any of the things she'd always thought she'd do before her wedding – before those long-planned weddings that had ended in death and the Delta quadrant. Then she thought of all the careful plans she and Chakotay had made for formalizing their relationship and what a shuttle crash that had been.
Tuvok cleared his throat. Janeway raised her head and saw all eyes on her. She was here, she realized with a start, and Chakotay was waiting, and suddenly she found that what was before her was enough, as sudden and imperfect as it was. All she had to do was summon the courage to walk into it.
She let her face melt into a smile to answer Chakotay's, and took the first step forward into the blessed unknown.