“I’ll say.” Captain Janeway followed suit for a few minutes, and then finally breathed deeply and brought herself back to the delightful reality of their location.
A beach. They were standing on an honest-to-God beach that would fit onto Earth like it belonged there. Soft sand, a salty breeze, lapping waves, and screeching gulls – it was heaven.
Chakotay turned towards her. “Why in hell didn’t we change our clothes up on Voyager? Are we still that shell-shocked?”
She laughed. “I guess we are, I never even gave it a thought.”
“Neither did I. Well, these boots go. And socks. And vest…This shirt…” With each comment the appropriate garment was flung to the sand. He stopped suddenly when he noticed Janeway standing still, hands on her hips, with a crooked smile on her face, and a tiny glint of appreciation in her eyes.
“Nothing. Just wondering how far the Maquis go to get totally comfortable in an environment. I mean, I should know that information for my job, don’t you think?”
He smiled and walked towards her until he was almost touching her. Looking down into her eyes, he replied, “Being comfortable in any situation is basic in the Maquis, Captain. Comfortable. In control. Confident. You don’t instill much confidence in a recruit if you don’t have these qualities, nor do you kill many Cardassians.”
“Well, if those pants go down they won’t instill much comfort in me, so keep them up.”
“Level playing field, Captain. Start stripping.” He looked up again. “No, seriously, Kathryn Rose, no joking. You’d better take off a few things – that uniform will stifle you.”
Kathryn couldn’t argue and besides, they were the only two people who had beamed down to this deserted planet. She had a proposition to present to the ex-Captain Chakotay, and she was hoping he’d consider it. She wanted him in a good mood.
The Maquis had ignored Janeway’s comment about his trousers and now stood looking out over the sparkling water, clad only in his shorts. Anywhere else, it would have looked like any day at the beach, but he knew it wasn’t. Starfleet captains did not beam down to alien planets alone with former enemies.
He turned around, expecting to see Janeway with her pants rolled up and her tank top on. Instead he got an eyeful of her standing looking away from the beach and into the trees, clad only in her brassiere and panties. They were standard issue, less daring than her own bathing suit, but the fact that they were both now looking at each other in their skivvies was too funny.
They started to laugh
“Okay, Captain. You’ve got me alone, pretty well naked, and you obviously want your way with me. Just what did you have in mind?”
“How about a swim before business?” She was watching the waves and smiling. He had never before seen that particular smile of hers.
“Sure,” he said amiably, and then turned on a dime and sprinted for the water. “Last one in is a Talaxian Hairdresser!”
Kathryn was just hitting the surf’s foam when Chakotay’s head bobbed up about 30 feet away. She dove in and swam in his general direction, surfacing a few feet away. He slowly floated over.
“Maquis! That was rotten trick!”
“Maquis cheat! Maquis cheat!” he chanted with a grin. “You’ve got lots of it in stock now, Captain, you may as well use it. Which, I’m sure, brings us to the subject of this meeting.”
She bent over backwards into a perfect roll, her torso and legs slipping past the surface, and then her head popped up again. He was still treading water, watching the birds swoop and the clouds glide by, wondering when her bomb would drop. They looked each other in the eye and he raised his eyebrow.
And got a perfect shot of seawater in his eye as her mouth projected it flawlessly.
“Starfleet wench!” he howled, and rose up enough to push her fully underwater. She came up gasping and laughing, grabbing his shoulders to let her catch her breath. As they laughed he wrapped an arm around her to keep her head up, but his other arm couldn’t quite keep them both afloat. Kathryn slowly let her hands slide off his chest and they resumed their treading dance.
“So, tell me, Chakotay, what part of being a Starfleet First Officer did you hate the most?”
“That’s easy, the day-to-day administration. It wasn’t action and it wasn’t people; it was just ticking and bopping grunt work. And the answer is no, I will not tick and bop for a pointy eared turncoat.”
“Tuvok was an infiltrator, not a traitor.”
“Depends on what ship you’re flying, Captain.”
“Well, Liberty, I’m flying Voyager and I have plans for you that don’t include ticking and bopping, if you’re willing to listen.”
“If it means a break from listening to all the woes of confused freedom fighters, I’m all ears. But how about we take a walk and dry off while we discuss this? I didn’t bring a holo-imager and if we beamed back in this condition I would have to insist on getting an image of the transport officer’s face.”
They dove under the water in the direction of the beach and raced towards it. Kathryn refused to consider that she was so competitive that she wanted to beat this man to shore, while Chakotay refused to consider that his need to outpace this small woman was even worthy of thought. Nevertheless, they both swam full strength toward dry land, keeping close tabs on the other.
It was business time now, their break was over, and they decided on a direction in which to walk. It was pleasant strolling in the sand with the warm sun on their bodies. It had been a long time for both of them, and neither had any intention of rushing the day away.
Of course, the path to hell is always paved with good intentions.
“Did you ever notice how ticking and bopping sounds like a dance?”
Chakotay turned his head and looked down at Kathryn. “No. The image I get is a dog bouncing around scratching at fleas. And I still won’t do any of it for you or Tuvok, so quit batting those blue eyes at me.”
It was a delicate little snort, but it successfully conveyed its message. “Starfleet captains don’t bat eyes, Chakotay. And, if they do in the Maquis, it must be a precious sight to see an eye batting terrorist.”
Chakotay stopped and held her back from walking on. His face was angry.
“Kathryn, our women do lots of things that your precious Starfleet would consider beneath you. Or distasteful. Or unworthy of an officer. But they are warriors all the same, fighting for their families and homes against a vicious and deadly enemy. We can’t afford to have them die for our cause, but they can – and do – dirty little things that no man can, and they do it willingly, no matter how much it tears them up inside. We honour them for it. So, if our women bat their eyes, it means they’re volunteering for another day of hell with the enemy, and I salute them.”
He paused, and then continued. “But you can still quit batting yours at me.”
They continued walking until Kathryn finally asked, “Even if I’m volunteering for 70 years of hell with you?”
Chakotay groaned to himself. How did she do it? Damn, all he wanted to do was get back to the Alpha Quadrant and fight Cardassians, and she had him swimming in an ocean with her, both only wearing their underwear. He had watched her coming out of the sea, translucent panties and bra sticking to her firm body and showing off her delicate features. And she had done the same, watching him without embarrassment while squeezing out the excess water from her hair, taking note of his body through his own inadequate coverage. Oh hell.
“Okay. What do you want?”
“I want you to be in charge of Voyager’s away missions. Tuvok is a fine tactical and security officer, and he’s going to be excellent on the bridge, but I want someone to be my officer in charge of away missions.”
“You make it sound like a diplomatic position.”
“I suppose in a way it is. But people are going to die trying to get us home, and I want someone who knows all the nasty tricks to help keep some of those people alive. That’s you.”
“What does Tuvok think of this? It usurps his authority as first officer.”
“Ours is no longer a standard vessel and, well, Tuvok thought the idea was…”
“Logical.” They said it together.
“You’re the right man, Chakotay. You know people, you know situations, you’re a leader, and, best of all, you care.”
“And, let’s not forget, because I refused to be your XO.”
Kathryn tossed her head, but conceded. “Yes, and because you refused to be my XO. You’re becoming an important person on Voyager, and I want you doing something more than just acting as Maquis liaison and Neelix’s galley inspector. Will you do it?”
They stopped and turned to face each other.
“What do you mean, ‘probably’?”
Chakotay reached out and started brushing small specks of sand from Kathryn’s shoulder. His movements slowed and softened; his fingers travelled first up to her neck, and then back across her shoulder all the way down her arm. They lingered for a moment, circling on the back of her hand, and then dropped to his side. As one they both turned and started walking again.
“I want full control of personnel selection for the missions. I’m not going through what I did on the Manitoba, with Captain Jenkins continually changing people around like they were chess pieces.”
“And supplies. I can handle away mission supplies without 15 other senior officers – including captains – sticking their noses through the packs.”
“And all M-class planets that have beautiful beaches will require an away mission, consisting of the captain and AM Officer, to determine if the planet rates high enough for a general shore leave.”
There was a brief silence and Chakotay turned to look at this small warrior captain. She sighed.
“Agreed. Only, we’re not going to swim in our underwear.”
“Understood. No underwear.”
“In addition to our meal packs, we’ll bring our bathing suits.”
“No we won’t. Supplies will be severely limited on these missions.”
“Those are my terms.”