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A LONG NIGHT
PG-13 

Chakotay has prepared me a picnic on the holodeck, and I suppose I should be pleased. But sometimes, being Captain gets the best of me, and the thought of having to intelligently relate to another human being can be too much to take. But thankfully, Chakotay isn't just another human being.

When I enter the holodeck he's already there. It's about 2000 hours on Voyager, because meetings went late tonight, but here, it's just before sunset somewhere in the Southwestern United States. It's almost like a desert, but there's a breeze I suspect he's added for my comfort.

"Good evening Commander. Thanks for the invitation."

"Very kind of you Captain, but don't thank me. It was Mr. Tuvok's idea. He feels that you need to some time to relax. But he knows that you won't do it on your own. He suggested that I invite you to dinner."

"Oh...I never would have..."

I laugh and walk towards the thick blanket he stands next to, and we sit.

"My replicator is behaving," he smiles, and I settle down next to him. Sometimes it's hard to pretend that this is easy for me, and when we're edging together on a blanket tinted pink by the dying light of day is definitely one of those moments.

We quietly work our way through the tomato and mozzarella dish he's replicated. The bread is thick and crusty and we eat in silence, thankful that we don't have to say anything. I watch as the sun dips below the canyon in the distance, and sense him edging closer to me again, as if by instinct.

I put my fork down and stare out.

"What are you thinking about?"

"You."

We laugh because these days, these quiet nights, we can almost slip inside each other's skins, can almost think for the other. We're beyond thinking about each other.

We lie back in the dusk and watch the stars. Holographic though they may be, I can tell that Chakotay has sensed my reaction. The wonder, and of course the reminder that I am leading 150 people on a 75 year long journey through hundreds of stars, and that the man sitting next to me endures my melancholia, holographic heartbreaks, bouts of anger and occasional near death adventures. That he not only endures me, but loves me in a manner that's intensity pans out like the stars before, in daily tasks; in his check of the duty roster, lunch in the mess hall. That I have nothing to give him except the same; a smile, a stare, and the silent assurance that he
is always with me.

Now, he shuts his eyes, as mine continue exploring. A strand of my hair dances onto his shoulder and he opens his eyes, and looks at me gently, silently stating that I don't have to move, that this sort of tenderness is manageable, yet greater than anything he could feasibly imagine now.

I shut my eyes and begin to drift. I wonder if he's seeing someone. I wouldn't mind. Next to me, he falls into the sound rhythm of a non-caffeine addict. He is spent, and I remember that he worked two shifts yesterday. So
he saved his energy for dinner with his Captain.

There's always the hope between us that we'll get home and be able to touch each other like everyone else, have a relationship like everyone else. Be able to "love" each other like everyone else. But he's only a man, and I can only get this ship home so fast. And all this begs other questions. Would our love weaken if we were able to follow convention? I can't help thinking that it might. Because we're different.

I know a girlfriend wouldn't change our feelings. And that's the blessing and tragedy of it all. She'd change how he'd express those feelings, but they would still be there, a wall to lean on if I was gasping for breath. Affectionate and exasperated, tender and furious. We'd spend less time together, cease dinners like these, but when we needed it, the would always be there. What it would actually do is another question all together. But I can't think of a life without it. Without at least the memories. It's too cruel to think of.

I take one last look at the canyon before my head wobbles downwards onto the blanket. He's out cold, and I can't bear to wake him and bring him to his quarters. Or have Ensign Paris find him in the morning. I'm beyond sleep. 2330 hours. It may only be twilight here, but like I said, meetings ran late today, and we take our time eating and thinking.

It's no matter. I can wake him at 0500 hours. I won't fall asleep. I need time to think, anyways. There are plenty of reports to compose in my head. My stomach growls because of the coffee, and the twinge reminds me that I amalive. I allow my arm to fall against his neck, and silently envision B'Elanna's latest warp core advancements.

It'll be a long night; a long stewing for long thoughts, long reports, long love. My eyelids fall shut and I think beneath them. Six hours isn't enough time to define science, faith, the Maquis, or the mysteries of engineering. But the sort of love that makes you stay up all night can aide in the process.

FIN
 
 

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Some flowers used to make the contest graphics from