By Maquis Leader
Author’s note: A little poetic license with season 7, The Void happened after Workforce.
“You’re making lunch? Should I get a med kit?” Chakotay teased.
“Watch it, mister.” Kathryn pointed the knife at him. “I have a weapon.”
“Besides your sharp tongue?” He laughed and held up his hands in mock surrender as she took a half step toward him.
“If you don’t want me to make my mother’s tuna salad, just say so.”
“Now, let’s not be hasty!” As a cook, Kathryn was an excellent Starfleet Captain, but she could make a delicious tuna salad.
“Is that some of Tom’s root beer?”
“Yes, and it’s nice and cold.” He lifted the bottle, letting her see the water beaded along the surface of the glass. “Now if I can just figure out how to open it.”
“Leave it to Tom to be completely authentic.” She laughed as Chakotay wrestled with the silver cap. It opened suddenly and the liquid inside boiled up and overflowed.
Hastily twisting the cap closed again, he set the bottle back on the table. He frowned at his now wet uniform jacket. “Remind me to scalp him later.” Pulling off the jacket, he tossed it into her recycler. “Mind if I go wash my hands off?”
“Go right ahead. There’s clean towels in the cabinet under the sink.” She was still chuckling as she went back to coring the tomatoes. “We’ll have to get you a bib –“ Oh no! “Chakotay!” Tossing down the knife, she rushed after him.
Chakotay was standing in her bedroom, staring at the equipment in the corner.
“I can explain.”
He walked over to the plants growing in their containers. “Tomatoes?”
“Talaxian tomatoes.” Kathryn watched as he gently lifted a half-ripe tomato.
“I’ve wondered why when you make the salad the tomatoes always taste fresher than when I make it.” He trailed a finger over the green leaves. “When you can’t get your replicator to give you anything but coffee most of the time.”
“Are you going to put me on report for hoarding food?” Her face flushed as he turned to look at her, a raven brow arched.
“I hardly think having a few tomato plants in your quarters is hoarding.” He went into her bathroom and washed the sticky root beer off of his hands. “I’m sure you’d share if our supplies ran low.”
“I already did.” She handed him a clean towel to dry his hands with. “When we were in the void. I snuck ripe tomatoes into the mess hall whenever Neelix was off duty.”
“What made you plant tomatoes in your bedroom? Why not a fern or other houseplant?”
“I always hated my parents for being traditionalists. But more and more I miss certain things.” She smiled wistfully. “Like the taste of real food.”
“So you’re just a farm girl at heart?” He teased.
“Just a farm girl from Indiana.” Laughing, she placed a hand on his arm. “You won’t tell on me?”
“Maybe…” Chakotay pretended to think it over.
“Chakotay! Please!” She moved her hand up to his chest and leaned closer. “Name your price.”
“A kiss.” The moment the words slipped out, he regretted them. Kathryn’s eyes went wide and her mouth dropped open in shock. His heart lurched to a ragged stop. “I – I was kidding. I won’t tell.”
“Oh.” Kathryn pulled her hand back from his chest. Was it possible that he still cared for her?
“Just share your tomatoes with me.” Even to his own ears, his laughter sounded hollow. Stepping around her, he walked out of the bathroom.
In the main room, Chakotay poured root beer into their glasses. Taking the bottle from him, Kathryn set it down on the table. Gently, she took his face in her hands. His expression was carefully neutral, but the black velvet eyes showed the longing he felt.
Chakotay lowered his head obediently when she slid a hand behind his neck and tugged. When Kathryn’s lips pressed against his cheek, he shuddered and his hands went to her waist to pull her closer. For a moment, she let him hold her, her cheek resting against his, before she pulled away.
When he sat down at the table, Kathryn placed a plate in front of him and another at her place. Turning to the replicator, she ordered a bottle of the Italian dressing he liked to pour over his tuna salad and tomatoes. As she set the bottle on the table, she let her free hand slide over the raven hair and rest on his shoulder before she sat down.
Looking down at the plate, Chakotay noticed she had sliced the tomato up the way he liked while her own was cut to form a bowl for her tuna salad. We’re almost like an old married couple. Almost.
“Is it okay?” The question hung for a moment as if the words were unsure if they were about the food or their friendship.
“Yes.” He took a bite, enjoying the fresh, sweet tomato. “Very good.”
“I water them with sugar water so they’ll be sweeter.” She grinned as she took a bite.
“I never complain when anything is sweet.”
“So I’ve noticed.” Chakotay’s preference for sweets was as well known as her own for coffee.
“You didn’t say what made you decide to grow tomatoes.”
“Neelix told me one day that some of the plants in airponics are from the plants I had on New Earth. I thought we’d left them behind.” A smile crooked the corner of her mouth. “I had this image of them growing wild all over the place.”
“And they’ve been on the ship all this time?” He smiled back. “So you took some of them?”
“Of course not! That would be stealing from our food supplies!” Kathryn motioned him closer. “Wouldn’t want to wind up on the First Officer’s list of troublemakers.”
Laughing, Chakotay shook his head. “Too late, you’re at the top of the list.”
“What have I ever done?”
“You want a list?”
“No! Never mind, forget I asked. I’m not ready to go a few rounds in the ring!” She shook her head emphatically. “I took a tomato and harvested the seeds. Then I set up a place for them to grow in my bedroom.”
“At least there’s no weeds.”
“Thank God for that.” Fighting weeds had been a daily battle on New Earth.
“Can I ask why you planted them?” While they were on the planet alone together, Kathryn had enjoyed puttering in her garden. After their return to Voyager, however, he had never seen her in the airponics bay except to help inventory their supplies.
“I like to sit and feed them and take care of them.” Kathryn dropped her eyes and her cheeks pinkened. And think about you and what we might have had on New Earth. “I feel like Kathryn for just a while.”
After seven years, she continued to surprise him. “How long have you been growing them?”
“Not long.” Biting her lip, she hesitated. “After Quarra.”
“I see.” Chakotay took a sip of his root beer.
Damn! Chakotay had never said a word, but Kathryn knew that her romance with Jaffen had hurt him terribly. “On Quarra, I rediscovered myself, Chakotay.”
“I know you were happy there.” He stared down at his food and ate without tasting.
“I was happy because I got to be Kathryn again. Do you understand?” She put her fork down and laid her hand on his arm. “I’m always Captain Janeway. Always. I never get to be Kathryn anymore.”
“I see Kathryn sometimes. Not as much as I used to, but she’s there.” Setting his fork aside, he took her hand. “It’d be nice to see more of her.”
Squeezing his hand for a moment longer, she slowly pulled away and picked up her fork again.
“When we get home, do you think you’ll have a garden?” Chakotay asked as he picked up his fork and took a bite of his lunch.
“I plan on it.” Kathryn very precisely stabbed a section of tomato with her fork. “Maybe… maybe you’d help me replant my tomatoes?”
“If you want me to.” He said carefully, wondering if Kathryn was asking what he thought she was or if he was reading too much into her words.
“I’d like that very much.” Kathryn set the fork down once again and reached for his hand. “Do you think… do you think together we can find a place for them to grow?”
Looking down at her pale fingers twined with his darker ones, Chakotay smiled as fresh hope surged through his heart. “I think that… together we can do anything. Anything we want.”
When he looked up, Kathryn’s breath caught at the unguarded love in his eyes. “We can – we will. We will.”