Title: Expected
Author: Megara79
Series: Star Trek: Voyager
Rating: K+
Summary: Another post-Endgame story, set at Voyager's final party
Disclaimer: I own nothing.

Thanks to: Evil Shall Giggle, who is made of awesome!

It shouldn't have come as a surprise to anyone that the party had been Tom Paris' idea. Except for Neelix, nobody knew how to plan a party like Voyager's resident pilot, and this time around he'd outdone himself. Then again, the occasion had called for it.

They were home.

It was one last party for Voyager's crew, celebrating the end of a seven year journey and weeks of debriefings. There had only been one rule: rank and uniforms were not welcome. This was a night for celebration, for remembering and for saying goodbye. A night for their rag-tag family, and Starfleet, for the first time, was not going to be part of it.

All one hundred and forty six of them were gathered on the holodeck. In the end, no venue had seemed more fitting than Voyager herself. After all, she was part of the family and she deserved to be with them for this last night. A new holoprogram had been designed, and the ball room it presented was beyond anything any of them had ever seen. The room was spacious, filled with candles, fairy-lights and white flowers. Two double doors, opened wide, led out to a large balcony overlooking a magnificent pond. A light breeze ruffled the leaves of the trees surrounding the pond and kept the ball room cool and comfortable.

Kathryn was standing next to the buffet table with a half-empty glass of champagne in her hand. Her hair was loosely pinned up, and the long, strap-less dress she was wearing matched her eye colour, creating a striking contrast to her pale skin and auburn hair. Her make-up was discreete with just a touch of rouge, and lip-gloss that accentuated the pink shade of her lips.

Many years later, he would tell her that she had looked absolutely stunning that night, and that she'd smelled of roses and lilies.

Sipping her champagne she turned towards the sound of Naomi Wildman's elated shrieks, smiling as she saw Tom twirl the young girl around on the dance floor. They moved faster and faster until both of them toppled over howling with laughter, almost bringing Harry Kim down with them.

Harry had, somewhat clumsily, been attempting to guide one of the Delaney girls around the floor when Tom crashed into his back. He quickly recovered, trying desperately not to step on Megan's toes, and reluctantly let her lead whenever she deemed it necessary. That a man with Harry's talent for music was suffering from such a profound lack of rhythm was an irony not lost on Kathryn, and she had to laugh at his indignant look when the Doctor, with the grace and ease Harry sorely lacked, danced passed him with the other Delaney sister.

Kathryn's eyes followed the EMH as he glided across the dance floor until she caught sight of Tuvok standing by the bar with Mike Ayala and Tal Celes. She watched her old friend and caught herself wondering for what had to be the millionth time what on earth she would've done these past years without him. His Vulcan stoicism was more than aggravating at times, but he had an uncanny knack for saying and doing the right thing at the right time, and he had helped keep her sane whenever her desire to get them home had blurred her vision. He seemed to sense her attention and turned to face her, catching her slightly off guard. He pretended not to notice and inclined his head, the look on his face probably as close as he'd ever get to smiling warmly. She raised her glass at him and smiled back before their connection was broken by Voyager's chief engineer.

B'Elanna Torres had managed to surprise her captain on more occasions than both women cared to admit and tonight was no exception. B'Elanna nodded to Mike and Tal before facing the man she'd first thought to be a Maquis like herself. Kathryn could see she was saying something, and then, shocking everyone watching, she put her arms around him, hugging him tightly. Tuvok looked momentarily stunned, before awkwardly returning the hug. The pair separated and B'Elanna smiled at him, then at Mike and Tal before walking over to her husband who was still dancing with Naomi.

As the music changed from fast to slow, Tom bowed his thanks to Naomi and turned to his wife, grabbing her hand and pulling her towards him. Naomi waved at the half-Klingon then turned from the pair and darted across the floor to where her mother was speaking with Seven of Nine. Kathryn watched as the two women turned their attention to the little girl, Samantha soft and motherly, Seven slightly rigid but friendly nonetheless.

The scenes unfolding before her eyes warmed her heart. This incredible crew, enemies at first, now a family, had been a blessing to her. Kathryn wasn't sure if she'd ever be able to forgive herself for stranding them all in the Delta Quadrant, but there was no point denying the fact that her actions on that fateful day had brought good with it as well.

A lot of good.

A warm hand touching her lower back brought her out of her reverie. She turned to look at her new companion and didn't protest as he took the glass of champagne she was holding and put it on the table next to her. Taking her now-empty hand in his, he led her to the dance floor, pulling her close as they began moving to the music. She wasn't surprised to find that he was a good dancer.

She was even less surprised to find that it didn't feel like their first dance.

Strange, she thought, that in seven years this was the first time they had actually done this. Well, maybe not that strange, she amended. She had deliberately held him at arms length, pushing him away whenever they seemed to move beyond their role as captain and commander. Yet, the familiarity she now felt as he led her around the dance floor was unquestionable.

It felt comfortable.

And natural.

And it was undoubtedly the result of this… this thing that had conspired to develop between them despite her best efforts to avoid it. It seemed that this something just wouldn't let itself be denied, even if it did take the better part of seven years for it to be accepted for what it was. And what exactly was it? If she'd ever had any doubts that she loved him, they'd been crushed to smithereens the moment Admiral Janeway had told her he would marry Seven.

Kathryn had never been dramatically inclined where her emotions were concerned, despite her holoprograms' attempts to prove otherwise. She'd never believed that the fairy-tale princess would be saved by her knight in shining armour and she didn't believe in the grandiose expressions of love and heartache that her sister seemed to cherish. And still, when the Admiral had told her, Kathryn's heart, however inconvenient and untrue to its owner's sensibilities, had managed to break in to a million pieces. And as she'd dried her tears and finished scolding herself for being such a girl, she had to admit, against her better judgement, that the analogy of a broken heart was very fitting.

His hand rested firmly on her lower back. He pulled her closer and Kathryn couldn't keep herself from leaning her head against his shoulder. He smelled, as always, of musk and spices, and for a brief moment she felt an almost desperate need to drink in as much of it as she possibly could. She moved her head even closer to his neck and breathed in his scent, revelling in it. She felt him shudder and had to smile. It was nice to know that this simple gesture of hers could stir such a reaction in him. In return, he brushed his lips against her temple, and this time it was Kathryn who shuddered.

He had yet to tell her about his relationship with Seven. Not that it really mattered now. Seven had come to the party on her own and so had he. Kathryn had seen them chat, smile at each other, even dance, but the closeness she'd observed between them the day Earth had finally appeared in the viewport was gone. And for some reason she hadn't been surprised. No, a feeling of utter calm had washed over her and she realised that she'd expected it.

The revelation almost stunned her.

Despite the state of her treacherous heart, she had actually expected them to break up. She couldn't help but got annoyed with herself. Why couldn't the realisation have hit her a little earlier? That way she might have avoided those less-than-desirable weeks of little sleep, puffy eyes, and lacking concentration, not to mention not wasted the time she'd spent cursing herself, the universe, Starfleet, the happy couple, and everything and everyone else she could possibly manage to pin the blame of her broken heart on. A colossal waste of time was what it was. Because as it turned out he had never been Seven's to have in the first place.

At one point during the night his eyes had locked with hers from across the room, and his smile had proven her right. They both knew it. He was not going to marry Seven and Kathryn would never become the Admiral. The relief she'd felt had been expected as well.

Somewhere in the back of her mind she registered that the song was ending. They stopped moving and she reluctantly drew back from him. She smiled and laced the fingers of her right hand in between the fingers of his left. He smiled back, turned and started walking towards the exit, leading the way. She willingly followed.

She saw Tom glance over at them, and for a fraction of a second she expected to feel awkward. It never happened. Tom just gave her a small smile and turned his attention back to his wife. There were no jokes, no laughter, no announcement on who'd won the betting pool, and in that moment she realised that this was what the crew had expected to happen in the end as well. This night was no more a surprise to them that it was to her.

They walked back to his quarters in comfortable silence. He punched in his access code and the doors slid open, allowing them to walk inside. He ordered the lights to low as the doors hissed shut behind them and led her towards his bedroom. Stopping by the foot of his bed, they stood there for a beat, just looking at each other.

His free hand brushed across her collar bone and then flitted over her cheek before tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. His other hand disentangled itself from hers and stroked up her bare arm, raising goose bumps on her skin. She drew an involuntary breath of air as his hands cupped her face before stroking through her hair, removing the few pins that held it in place. She felt the strands fall against her neck and cheeks, and watched him drop the pins down on his nightstand.

She looked down at where the pins had been discarded. She found it slightly absurd that they were lying on his nightstand. Not because their appearance there meant that after seven years of avoiding the issue the two of them had, in one night and without even saying a word to each other, finally made it to his bedroom. But because of her reaction to it.

If someone had asked her the day before to explain how she thought she'd feel if she ever got the chance to spend the night with him, comfortable was not one of the adjectives she would have chosen. Scared, terrified and nervous on the other hand would have been fighting for the top of the list. But the pins on his nightstand looked like they belonged there. And she loved that.

She smiled at the thought and looked up at him.

"Here we are," he said, locking eyes with her.

"Here we are," she confirmed putting her hand softly against his chest. She felt it move with his breath and had to smile again. How many times before had she not done the exact same thing? "I'm sorry it took me so long," she added.

"It doesn't matter," he answered, "You're here now. We both are."

His hands cupped her face again and then he kissed her. And like everything else that had passed between them that night, it felt exactly like she'd thought. Like they'd done it a million times before and like they'd never stop.

When Chakotay finally pulled away, he couldn't help but stare at her. This stubborn and difficult woman, who he'd spent seven years fighting, working and falling in love with, was finally in his bedroom, looking like she belonged nowhere else. She was absolutely stunning. And she smelled, as always, of roses and lilies.