Turning his attention to the source of the voice in the doorway of the science lab, he smiled at his captain in welcome. "Is there something you need, Kathryn?" he queried, using her first name to let her know he was indulging in an off duty experiment and not working past the end of his shift.
She returned him smile as she came fully into the room. "No, I was just wondering what you were up too, actually. I couldn't even contemplate sleeping after that near run in with the Kazon."
He gave her a skeptical look. "Are you sure all the coffee you consumed doesn't have more to do with that?"
She gave him her "I'm in charge and I don't like your attitude" glare. He could only chuckle in response, glancing down away from her. Much to his surprise, she joined him full heartedly, before coming around to his side of the console. "So what are you working on?"
"Well as you know, we are currently able to replicate items-"
"Thus my near overdose of coffee," she interrupted, eyes sparkling as they met his.
"Indeed," he shoved his rising feelings down quickly, never allowing them to show on his face. Kathryn was very close now, looking over at the schematics he had pulled up on a screen. "Well, I have been working with my personal replicator to get it to make… well real tasting fruit. It can never get the flavor of a pineapple quite right."
"A pineapple?" her surprise and curiosity showed themselves again, growing in her voice.
Chakotay shrugged, before admitting, "I was having a craving."
She gave a single, understanding nod, as she clapped a hand on his shoulder. He resisted the urge to lean into her friendly touch. "Those certain flavors of home," she sighed. "I wonder…"
When it became obvious that she was not going to continue that thought verbally, he picked up the piece of replicator he had removed for his work. This was partly to distract himself her hand still on his shoulder. "I have gotten the flavor right now, but somewhere in the process I seem to have messed up the texture."
"I wish I could help, but with replicators you know I am more likely to ruin all your hard work." The hand squeezed his shoulder as she spoke. It was quickly becoming his anchor to the reality of the moment.
"True, you don't seem to have the best of luck," he concurred, as he began to tweak certain circuits. "But if I manage to get this to work, you must join me in the spoils of my success."
"I would love too." She was lingering now, even as he gave her an opening to leave politely. It was then he realized that her touch on his shoulder was just as much an anchor for her as it was for him. She had no desire to leave his presence, yet had no reason to stay professionally.
"Would you like to go over your plan for when we reach this M-class Neelix has directed us too?" Chakotay was only too happy to prolong their encounter.
The hand left, but that was only due to her taking the seat by his side. "I'd be more than happy too," she answered, smile growing in strength. And maybe it was his imagination, but he thought he heard a touch of relief make its way into her tone.