Baking Cookies By Kate O'Riley

Codes: J/C Time: At some point after "Resolutions"...doesn't matter when. Disclaimer: Can we throw Paramount into an oven and bake them into something decent? No? Drat. Oh well. They own the characters.

He entered the mess hall. The lights were dimmed; it was night on Voyager. As his eyes adjusted, he quickly saw the silhouette of someone against a window. He tensed momentarily, but quickly relaxed, recognizing it as Kathryn.

She'd heard him come in, and she turned. "Chakotay," she said, sounding slightly surprised. "What brings you here at this hour of the night?"

He smiled sheepishly. "Couldn't sleep," he admitted. "And you?"

Voyager's captain stepped forward. "Same thing." They stood there smiling at each other momentarily, before she looked away. "So, why did you come here?" she asked.

"Thought maybe a midnight snack would help."

"Don't you mean a two a.m. snack?"

They laughed. "So, how about you?" he asked her.

She gave a sheepish grin. "I thought a cup of coffee would help," she confessed.

He groaned. "Kathryn, it'll do just the opposite..."

She held up a hand. "It's decaf. Swill, yes, but decaffeinated swill."

"Don't let Neelix hear you say that. I'm assuming that's his stuff you're drinking?"

"Yes," she sighed. "I'm low on rations, and I'm not about to waste some on decaf coffee."

"Ah." He moved to the counter. "So, have you tried any of this?" He warily eyed what Neelix left for late-night snackers.

She shook her head. "No. I'd rather not eat something that looks suspiciously like a red moldy sausage at this time of night."

He nodded in agreement. "None of this stuff is terribly appetizing."

"Why don't you use the replicator?"

"Same reason you don't."

"Ah."

"You know what I feel like, Kathryn?"

She eyed him warily. "What?" she asked, somewhat suspiciously.

"Chocolate chip cookies."

She was practically drooling at the thought. "Neelix did mention we have a lot of flour," she said slowly.

"And I imagine that by chipping in, we can manage to stretch for some chocolate chips."

"And maybe even nuts?"

"Don't see why not."

"All right." Her voice assumed the "command tone". "You get a recipe. I'll replicate the ingredients."

He mock-saluted her. "Aye, captain!"

She rolled her eyes and pushed him on the shoulder. "Go on."

It only took a moment for the required items to be gathered, once a suitable recipe had been found. Within five minutes, everything was laid out on the counter. The oven was heated as instructed, bowls and spoons were gathered, and the two stood at the counter, rolling their sleeves up. They argued about who would mix it together briefly, before deciding they'd alternate.

"So," Chakotay asked as he added the flour, "why are you baking, anyway? You hate to cook."

She smiled, replying while she added eggs. "I hate to cook. I like to bake. There's a difference."

"Oh?" he asked, while adding vanilla.

"When you're baking, you don't have to stand over a hot stove constantly, you don't have to stir, and you don't have to pay so much attention." She added in milk.

"There something wrong with having to pay attention?" Chakotay added the chocolate chips.

Kathryn promptly took several chocolate chips, popping them in her mouth. When they were gone, she replied, "There's nothing wrong with paying attention. But when I was younger, I never could manage it. I'd always be running off to read, or to work on my science experiments, or to play with my dog. Whatever I was cooking often burned."

Chakotay laughed. "Only when you were younger?" he teased as he added the nuts. "What about all those meals on New Earth?"

"Well, there was a lot to do there too," she said defensively, adding in the final few ingredients. "I was catching insects and chasing monkeys."

He laughed. "Yes, that's the great Kathryn Janeway. Catching insects and chasing monkeys. As well as taking baths."

She suddenly looked down. "Maybe I should have done something different, on New Earth," she said softly. Her body gave a brief shake. She looked back up, slipping the "command mask" back on, but Chakotay had a brief glimpse of her face, all her emotions revealed on it. Before he could do anything, she handed him a spoon. "Let's get stirring, Commander."

"Aye, Captain!" He used the spoon in a mock salute.

They stayed fairly silent as they took turns stirring the cookies. Finally, Chakotay said he thought they were stirred enough, a fact Janeway concurred with. They formed the dough into sticky balls and pushed the full pan into the oven.

As they waited for the cookies to bake, Janeway dropped onto the nearest couch. She patted the cushion next to her, inviting Chakotay to sit. They stayed in companionable silence, until finally, Chakotay turned to her.

"Kathryn," he said, his voice somewhat wistful, "if we were back on New Earth, what would you do differently?"

Whatever she'd been expecting, it wasn't quite that. "What would I do differently?" she repeated slowly. "Well, I suppose I'd-"

"Time completed," announced the oven. Chakotay stood and walked over to the oven. "They look like they're perfectly done," he said. He took it out and set it on a rack to cool.

Kathryn stood and joined him. "They smell perfectly done," she said, taking a deep breath. She tried to pick one up but quickly dropped it. "Ouch. Still hot." She frowned and shook her hand.

"Put it under some water," Chakotay suggested. He used a spatula to start slipping the cookies onto a cooling rack and turned the ventilation system around the rack on. After a moment, he stopped it and carefully touched one. "Just cooled enough, but you should probably be careful about the inside."

Kathryn took one and bit into it, closing her eyes in pleasure. "Perfect. I don't think I've tasted anything like this in years."

Chakotay took one as well. He swallowed a bite and looked at her. "So, what would you do differently?"

She sighed. "Well, for one thing, I'd have baked more," she said, in a joking tone. "I'd forgotten how much fun it could be."

Chakotay laughed, but quickly sobered up and looked at her, clearly expecting more, but she ignored him, staring instead at the chronometer. "My goodness. It's oh four ten. Chakotay, we need to go to bed if we're going to be of any use tomorrow."

"Kathryn, you still haven't answered my question."

She sighed and picked up his hand. "All right, Chakotay." Her tone was serious now. "What would I do differently? I'd do a lot more of this." She gave him a kiss on the cheek. "And maybe, just maybe, I would have done this," she said, pulling his head down and giving him a real kiss.

She pulled back and smiled shyly, a new look for her. "And I would definitely have done more baking," she said, grabbing a handful of cookies and slipping out the door.