Disclaimer: Voyager and its characters are not mine.
Watching Them Dance
Observations are made of Janeway and Chakotay following their return to Earth. Companion to the story: 'There are little things which go unnoticed'.
A few years ago I wrote a one off: "There are little things which go unnoticed". Since then I have been unable to help myself writing small additions to it as I explore what could have followed. A few months ago (prompted by a couple of late reviews), I decided to pull the story together, and it has continued to grow...
This is published as a separate story, as I did not want to spoil the one-off which was left purposefully open ended. You will read from this first chapter, this goes in a very definite direction. As usual, I have written Janeway and Chakotay as broken characters, so please be prepared for a dark twist on a J/C love story.
Part 1: Their Crew
Chapter 1: B'Elanna Torres
"I've missed you."
At hearing Chakotay's voice my head snaps in the direction from which it came. To my surprise I see that Admiral Janeway is no longer dancing with her husband, but her former first officer.
I watch as she shoots Chakotay a small smile and a short nod, as if to communicate she feels the same way, but all too quickly her smile fades and she glances away from him; as if ashamed by her non-confession.
I would interrupt them and say hi to my old friend, but I don't. Although I haven't seen Chakotay in over eight months, there's something about the couple dancing beside me which tells me to leave them alone.
Perhaps it's his hand, which is dangerously far down her lower back, or their close proximity which screams at a seductive hold. Maybe it's because of the way their eyes lock on to one another, as if no one else exists in this hall except them. Or it could be the elegance and grace with which they move, as if they are completely in tune with one another, and any interruption would break their delicate balance. So I keep my distance, reluctant to become a part of a moment which so obviously belongs to the two of them.
I shouldn't stare, I should be embarrassed by doing so, but I'm not: I'm mesmerised watching them dance. I've never seen them like this before. To be honest I've never seen them dance before. I've never seen such unrestrained passionate looks pass between two people, so much silent communication take place with a mere glance.
Chakotay must make a joke, as I see Kathryn playfully tap his chest, and then I see another thing for the first time: Chakotay return a touch she teased him with. He covers her hand with his own, his finger tips glide slowly over the back of her hand before he entwines their fingers. Kathryn twists her hand in his so they are palm to palm, and then they reach their hands outwards, to return to a more formal dance hold. The movement takes place for no more than a few seconds, but the meaning behind the action is much longer lasting.
"B'Elanna I'm right here."
The idiot I'm dancing with interrupts me and I shoot him an annoyed expression, "I know..."
"Look at me," he insists just as my head starts to turn back.
"... it's just..."
"You've never seen them like this have you?"
Now he does have my attention, "no," I say uncertainly, my eyes focussing on my husband now.
He sighs and shrugs, "just don't look B'Elanna, give them this moment to themselves."
I frown, it's unlike Tom to be so respectful of a couple's privacy. "Do you know something I don't?"
Tom smirks a little. The boyish grin I normally love, right now only frustrates me. "I don't know anything you don't," he assures me. Then his grin fades a little, "but I suppose I've noticed some things you haven't."
"Why would that be?" I eye him suspiciously.
"On Voyager, you were always locked down in engineering... being on the bridge, we were privy to see a more private side to them on occasion." Tom looks reminiscent, as he thinks back to the days we spent on Voyager; it was a tough time, but some of them were the best days of our lives.
I'm confused. "I don't understand."
He smiles gently. Tom knows something that I don't but he's not flaunting it, he's not trying to torture me with it, I think he's just reluctant to say it out loud. "They're in love B'Elanna," his voice is so soft he could almost be whispering, but his smile is so vibrant that he's basking in the knowledge. He braves a glance in their direction, and as he looks across at them a sadness starts to cloud his eyes.
I would tell him he's being ridiculous, but I don't. Somehow I know it's the truth as if I've never known otherwise. Of course I knew they cared deeply for one another on Voyager; they're friends, but the type of love I know Tom is talking about... I thought they had lost the chance at years ago. Now, I see that whatever had been smouldering between them before, has been sparked.
Chakotay's soft spot for the Captain wasn't a secret on the ship. The way I sometimes caught him looking at her and how he was so protective and supportive of her, it didn't take much to know how he felt. There was an undeniable sexual tension between them, but I had always put it down to the closeness of their friendship, and a determination to not confuse their friendship and command with physical intimacy. Perhaps earlier on there had been speculation amongst the crew, but as time went on, and nothing became of it, the rumours moved on to more tangible topics. After all, if they were going to start sleeping with each other they would have done it already.
There was no denying they cared for one another deeply though. On Voyager it was evident for all to see, but they had always been so professional in front of the crew, and their friendship was so solid that I wasn't sure their feelings could run deeper. However, this couple dancing only feet away from us are not Voyager's commanding officers, they're two people who have known one another for almost eight years, who denied their feelings for nearly as long, and are now very much love.
I now start to understand the sad look in my husband's eyes, and this time when I look over, I see it entrenched in the faces of the couple only feet away from us... I don't think they knew how much they loved one another until they had parted ways and moved on, and then it was too late to do anything about it.
I think back to those first few weeks following our return to Earth, and I recall a distinct distance between them. At the time I hadn't thought much of it, I had a new baby and with the many debriefings and functions there was hardly time to think about such things. I questioned Chakotay about it shortly before he left, he denied knowing what I was talking about, so I thought maybe I had imagined it. I now realise I hadn't. Tom's words have sparked a cascade of revelations, and now I understand that their distance had been forced, either mutually or one-sided I'm uncertain. I know it was because of Seven.
Chakotay's relationship with Seven had come of a surprise to quite a few of us. But I suppose he tired of holding out for Kathryn; he had become lonely in the delta quadrant, and the chance of a relationship with the beau of the ship was not something any man turned down lightly. So when they returned to Earth, he decided to give the relationship his best shot, and the distance he gained from Kathryn allowed him to do that.
At first I was sceptical about his relationship with Seven, but she made him happy, and he seemed good for her. They don't have the passion of a couple insatiably in love, and they don't click in the obvious sense, but he appreciates her quirks and she's understanding of his beliefs. They hold hands and they smile at each other, and I know that they're happier together than they would be alone... but now I'm standing in the presence of Chakotay with this other woman I realise that his wife doesn't fulfil him the way Kathryn does.
Sub-consciously I have moved myself and Tom closer to our former commanding officers, and I receive a warning glare from my husband not to continue our conversation for it would surely be overheard by them. I dare another glance over at Kathryn and Chakotay and instantly wish I hadn't.
Chakotay's head is bent over and his lips are barely touching her ear. With the music playing in the background I would not have heard what he said. But from reading his mouth and hearing the mumble for his voice I understand perfectly what he has said to her. I notice Kathryn pale slightly as a flush rises to my cheeks at prying on their very private moment. I'm relieved to see my former Captain look disturbed by what he has said, but I'm equally disconcerted that she hasn't pulled away.
My eyes glance Kathryn's husband standing by the bar with a drink. He's watching the couple carefully, and I wonder if he suspects something more to their friendship from the guarded look on his face. I'm certain he has no idea what Chakotay has just said, as otherwise he would be marching right over to the dancing couple to pry his wife back from her partner.
I instantly worry about Seven. Despite her lack of social graces, she is a great study of human behaviour, and I know she can lip read, so her husband's words would likely have been deciphered by her. Fortunately I see that her back is to the dance floor, and the couple in question. Relief washes over me; I wonder if Chakotay timed that.
Now I turn to my husband and find his eyes on me, waiting expectantly, and from the shock on his face I know that he was witness to those words also, and hopefully the only other one. I open my mouth to say something, but with a stiff shake of his head, he indicates I shouldn't speak. I'm so alarmed it takes almost all my willpower to shut the hell up.
We make a swift but discrete exit from the dance floor to discuss the comment privately.
"I can't believe Chakotay said that," I say just as we exit the banquet hall from a side door leading out onto a balcony.
"This isn't any of our business," he insists, but I can see that he's equally uncomfortable with being helpless in the knowledge.
"Do you think he meant..."
"B'Elanna," he cuts me off, taking a moment to look around and ensure we are alone. There's one couple at the far end of the balcony but they are out of ear shot, so I'm not worried. "We don't know what he meant."
"I think it's perfectly obvious," I counter, "... and he said again, that means..." I trail off, unsure I can finish the sentence.
Tom takes a moment, he places his hands on his hips and takes some time to think. It's one of the things I love about this man, when I want to jump in head first and cause havoc like a bull in a china shop, Tom reigns me back and forces us both to think through a situation.
"They're having an affair Tom," I prompt him.
He lets out a long breath. "We can't know that for certain," he insists.
"What are we going to do?" I cover my mouth with the sudden realisation of the implication of Chakotay's words. "Poor Seven. Kahless!"
"B'Elanna, look at me," Tom has taken me gently by the shoulders and is looking me right in the eye. "We are not going to do anything, least of all right now. They are all adults, and most importantly they are our friends. It is not our place to interfere..."
I bite my lip in an attempt to buy some time to get my head together. Eventually I am at the same place he was five minutes ago, and I have some perspective on the situation. We have both jumped to a conclusion without all the facts, and even if our interpretation is correct, then Tom is right, it is not up to the two of us to meddle.
I finally nod my head in agreement with my husband. He gives me a tight smile, and indicates that we can talk about this later. For the time being though we will go back to the banquet hall and enjoy the rest of the evening. We will talk with our old comrades, tell tales of the delta quadrant and laugh at ourselves. We may even share a drink with our former commanding officers. But whatever we do, we will carry on as normal. As if nothing has changed. As if we didn't hear Chakotay's words that turned our skin to Goosebumps:
"I need to be with you again."