I Thought You'd Never Ask

by Dawn

Rating: PG-13

Summary: Kathryn tried to figure out why Chakotay is moody, and his response is not what she expected.

Disclaimer: Voyager and its characters belong to Paramount.

Thanks to my Betas: Spiletta and Squirrelly

"Following the completion of our trade agreement, the Eknerians have granted us permission to stay for shore leave."

After the Captain's announcement, the senior staff murmured in excitement in anticipation of exploring Ekneria, a planet with a rich assortment of climates.

"That wraps up our agenda. If there's no other business?" Kathryn waited for someone to speak up. "Dismissed."

The crew filed out and Kathryn lingered for the chat she always had with Chakotay following a briefing. Surprised that he headed for the door without saying anything, she called out, "Commander?"

He looked at her strangely before realization dawned. "Oh, I apologize, Captain. My thoughts were elsewhere."

When the room was clear, she asked, "Something bothering you?"

"No… no, nothing. Just lost in thought. I'll be off the ship for a few hours finishing up the loose ends regarding the trade, and I'll touch base with Commissioner Dorty regarding shore leave arrangements. Is there anything I can do for you?"

Although curious about what was distracting him, she assumed he would tell her when he was ready. "You could look into some leave options for me."

He smiled. "Of course. Are you in the mood for solitude or for a taste of alien culture this week?"

Touching his arm, she said, "You know me so well. Perhaps a little of both, and I definitely need some fresh air."

"I'll see what I can find."

As they walked out of the room, she asked, "Join me for dinner when you return to the ship?"

"Actually, there's somebody I want to catch in the mess hall later. How about I stop by for a nightcap?"

Although a little let down, she agreed. "I'll see you then. Enjoy your afternoon."

Later that evening, Chakotay opened a bottle of Eknarian ale to toast the success of their trade mission. "You're going to love the assortment of vegetables that we got."

Kathryn frowned. "Unless Neelix gets a little too creative with them."

"That's true. Maybe he'll let me have a few so I can cook a special dinner for us."

"A special dinner? What would be the occasion?"

Chakotay handed her a glass. "Maybe we'll celebrate our successful trade mission. I'd just like to see what I could create with a few of those peppers."

Hiding her disappointment, she said, "Well, I certainly love your cooking, so that's as good a reason as any." She always listened for a hint that he might be interested in romance, because she refused to make the first move. He hadn't made a romantic overture since New Earth and she wasn't sure how he felt.

Kathryn glanced at him while they sipped their ale. His expression was glum and his thoughts were definitely elsewhere. "Did you get the issue in the mess hall taken care of?"

"Was there an incident in the mess hall?"

She shook her head. "Don't you remember? You said you had something to take care of in the mess hall during dinner."

"Oh, that." He took a deep breath and changed the subject. "I asked the commissioner about our leave options."

"What did he say?"

"He gave me some information on several locations. I need to review it before I send suggestions to the crew." Chakotay studied his glass of ale.

"Anything I might like?"

"Sorry… didn't ask him about anything specific. I can take my leave first and scope it out for you, if you'd like."

"All right." Kathryn watched him closely, trying to figure out how to get him to talk. "If you want some company for your leave, I could…"

"I'll be fine, Kathryn."

She nodded, unwilling to impose or say anything more on the matter.

He sighed. "Pardon me for being terse. I've had a long day, and I'd rather not dwell on it."

"It's okay. You don't have to explain."

"I should call it a night." He stood and turned toward the door. "I need to get started early on the leave rotations and prepare a synopsis of the local laws so we don't have anyone getting into trouble this time."

Kathryn followed him. "Perhaps you should have our rule-breakers prepare that for you."

Chakotay smirked. "You know, that's not a bad idea. I'll have Paris and company report to my office at 06:00."

"Get some rest. Tomorrow will be a better day."

"Thanks, I will. Goodnight, Kathryn."

"Goodnight." She stood by the door until it closed after him. She wondered why he was so moody, but chalked it up to a bad day. She'd certainly had a few of those herself.

"Captain, your suggestion went over like a lead balloon." Chakotay entered the ready room the next morning.

"What suggestion was that?"

He sat in front of her desk. "Paris and Company were not pleased with their legal summary assignment."

"But they're working on it?"

"Of course." He sighed tiredly. "They think it will take days, but I told them to be quick about it because shore leave won't start until it's done."

"It'll be good for them. I've been thinking that we should start training a couple of the crew to take on some of your duties anyway."

"Why's that?"

"Don't sound so concerned… it's so you can take on some of mine. I work too much."

He gave her a slight smile. "You never cease to amaze me. I've been telling you that for years."

She winked. "Aren't you glad I was listening?"

"Of course I am… although it sounds like more work for me." He looked down at the PADD he had carried in. "I haven't had a chance to look at the shore leave options, yet."

"I hope you fell asleep instead. You were pretty tired last night."

"Yeah." Unenthusiastically, he said, "They're right here. Would you like to see?"

She accepted the PADD from him. "How many choices are there?"


Scrolling through the list, she saw a couple of winter-sport resorts, a few beaches, and a couple of urban areas. "This looks pretty comprehensive. Do you see any problems with any of them?"

"I haven't read through the details, but that's where I'm headed next. It'll be awhile before I need to check on the progress of the legal team."

Kathryn read as Chakotay stared blankly at nothing. "One of these winter resorts has private cabins."

"Yeah," he sighed.

She read a little more and said, "As do two of the beaches. And one of the beaches is near an outdoor produce market."

"Probably touristy."

"Chakotay? Tell me what's bothering you." She put the PADD down.

He studied her for a moment. "You really want to know?"

"Of course I do."

He looked out at the stars. "I'm tired of being alone."

"Go on."

"I know that I'm not alone on this ship. I've said it to you more than once. But I was looking forward to spending some time with a lady on this shore leave."


"I asked Ensign McNally last night in the mess hall. She rejected me."

Kathryn sighed inwardly, thinking it was no wonder that he had diverted the conversation last night. "Did she give a reason?"

He groaned slightly. "She said she didn't want to date her commanding officer."

"Ah… I understand. I've been there before."

"You've been turned down by a junior officer?"

"No. I've refused the advances of a senior officer. It happened back when I was an ensign. He didn't take the rejection well and things got very uncomfortable."

"What did you do about it?"

"Nothing. I decided it wasn't my problem. Eventually, he moved on to another more willing young woman and forgot about me. But that didn't last long and he transferred to another ship."

"It's just embarrassing, Kathryn. And looking at the leave options rubs it in."

"I'm sorry."

"I thought for sure she was interested."

Kathryn came around the desk and sat in the chair next to him. "It's hard to tell the difference between friendliness and subtle flirting. That's one reason why I absolutely refuse to ever proposition someone under my command. I won't even hint at it. Especially out here where there is no opportunity for transfer."

Chakotay eyed her skeptically. "So you would never consider dating a junior officer?"

She raised an eyebrow. "I didn't say that."

His sullen mood lifting, he asked, "So, if someone under your command asked you on a date, you wouldn't turn them down?"

With a half-smile, she said, "I didn't say that, either."

Chakotay looked confused at first, and then smiled wickedly. "Let me elaborate. If someone under your command whom you found attractive asked you out…"

She stretched back in her chair. "Well, I think Tom is attractive, but I wouldn't go out with him. Even if he weren't dating B'Elanna."

With a chuckle, he asked, "Okay then, if someone attractive and intelligent under your command asked you out, AND you wanted to spend time getting to know him better romantically, would you accept his invitation?"


Chakotay stood. "If I come across someone fitting those requirements, Captain, I'll let him know." He chuckled under his breath as he headed toward the door.

Just before the door opened, she asked, "How do you know what qualities I consider attractive in a man?"

As he walked out the door, he said, "I have my ways."

She was glad that he was in a better mood. She felt bad for him because she knew that it was nerve-racking to make a pass at someone, and serving with that person didn't make it any easier. She knew it all too well.

She sat back at her desk and realized that she was nervous. Had she revealed her feelings? If so, would he return them? She suddenly felt like an adolescent with a crush.

"I've got it." Chakotay announced as he sat down across from Kathryn in a corner of the mess hall.

"Got what?" Kathryn asked nervously.

"The perfect date for you."

"Why do I suddenly feel a sinking sensation in my gut?"

"Hmmm… Nervous anticipation for what will soon be the first date with the love of your life?"

Kathryn rolled her eyes. "How, exactly, did you turn your rejection into a quest to get me a rejection?"

"Don't worry, Kathryn. You won't be rejected. If he's not interested, he won't even ask."

She sighed. "But if you tell me that you're going to ask someone to ask me out, and no one does, it will still be rejection."

"But I have several options for you. Surely one of them will think you're desirable."

Kathryn really hoped he was just teasing her and that he wouldn't actually go through with this. He couldn't. He wouldn't. She glanced around the mess hall, relieved to find that it was pretty much empty and no one was within hearing range. She decided to play along. "All right. Who are the prospects?"

Chakotay smiled. "You think I'm going to tell you?"

"Yes, I do. You wouldn't have announced your success otherwise."

He whispered, "Lt. Mulcahey."

"Todd Mulcahey? You can't be serious."

"He's very attractive, Kathryn. And extremely intelligent."

She leaned forward and whispered, "I couldn't possibly date him. Every time I look at him, I think about the Borg drone, One, who was created with his DNA."

"Okay then. Fitzpatrick."

Kathryn barely knew Ed Fitzpatrick. "He's only a crewman."

"Beggars can't be choosers."

Feigning insult, she said, "He has my father's name."

"Is that good or bad?"

"Not good," she deadpanned and took a sip of coffee.

"If you're going to be that picky, your choices aren't looking good."

"There is more than one reason that I've only sought romantic relationships with aliens."

"So you're only interested in aliens? That's kind of kinky, Kathryn."

She glared at him. "Do not use that word around me when someone could walk by and hear it!"

"What word?" he asked with a Cheshire cat grin. "You mean 'Kathryn'?"

She looked around and then leaned forward, hissing. "No! 'Kinky'!"

"Does that mean I can use it when we're alone?" Chakotay waggled his eyebrows at her.

She groaned to cover the nervous anticipation that was growing stronger every second. At long last, he was flirting with her. Getting back to his earlier question, she said, "I've realized for a long time that there aren't many men on this ship who I would be comfortable dating. My romantic liaisons have been limited because I have no other choice."

"You tell me, then. Whom do you want me to fix you up with?"

"I'm not doing this, Commander."

Chakotay ignored her statement. "You said Tom is attractive, so that leads me to believe you prefer your men tall and fair skinned. That hologram you created isn't quite as fair as Tom, but they do have the same muscular physique."

Despite the fact that she was cringing, Chakotay kept talking. "I wouldn't call either fellow intelligent because one is a hologram and the other can't seem to make heads or tales out of a very wordy alien legal system. I know you appreciate intelligence because you seemed somewhat attached to Mark Johnson and he was the epitome of intellect."

"Somewhat attached?"

"Weren't you somewhat attached? He was your fiancé?" He continued when she didn't respond with anything but a deep sigh. "Mark, like Tom and the hologram, was also tall and muscular. I'm not going to mention the names of your other romantic liaisons, as you called them, because it makes me ill to do so. But I will point out that they were also tall, muscular, and supposedly intelligent. Both Mulcahey and Fitzpatrick fit the bill."

"Are you quite finished?"

"Not quite." He consulted his PADD. "There are other available men on this ship. So, we can assume that all of the men on this ship are intelligent, or they wouldn't be here."

Resigned, she said, "Agreed."

"There are about twenty who I would consider tall, muscular, and available. Would you like me to limit my search to humans?"

"Why the hell not," she said with a great amount of sarcasm.

"That brings it down to nine."

"Drop the two you've already mentioned off your list. And drop Harry if he's on there."

"He's dating someone."

"He is?"

Chakotay shook his head. "I'm not letting you change the subject. Would you care to provide me with another physical attribute to narrow my search?"

She decided to play along with him because she liked the casual flirting and because it was more interesting than the report she had been reading. "Sure. No facial hair, nice smile, good sense of humor, a deep thinker, and he must know how to cook."

He entered some data into the PADD as he spoke. "That takes out Crewman Foster - he kept burning food the last time he substituted for Neelix. Your children would never get a decent meal."

"Good heavens, Chakotay. Foster? Our children?"

Ignoring her, he said, "Hickman has a grand sense of humor, Kathryn."

"He finds it amusing to impersonate me."

"Fair enough, crossing him off." He looked up at her and winked before he continued. "Lang keeps attempting to grow a goatee, but it's not going well. McKenzie, although intelligent, seems only willing to talk about the latest gossip. I wouldn't call that a deep thinker. Murphy has dated almost half the women on this crew, so I think I can cross him off?"

"By all means."

"And Rollins seems to be in constant trouble. Probably not a good idea to date him."

"Probably not." She took a drink of her coffee. "So that leaves who?"

"That's everyone. I guess you're destined to liaisons with aliens unless you can ease up on some of your requirements."

Kathryn studied him. "No, I don't think so. You said nine, and we've crossed off eight."

"You were keeping track?"

"Don't I always?"

More serious, Chakotay said quietly, "That just leaves me, Kathryn, and I'm not asking."

She straightened up to hide her reaction to his outright refusal. "Ah, well. I guess I'll resort to passing aliens then. Too bad Commissioner Dorty already has a couple of wives."

He looked around to make sure no one would see before he held her hand. "It's not that I wouldn't want to ask you, but I know how you feel. I just couldn't take being rejected twice in as many days."

Kathryn felt all the air leave her lungs at once. She took a deep, calming breath before asking, "What makes you think I would reject you?"

Chakotay was intently focused on her as he responded. "Protocol, command structure, not jeopardizing our friendship. I'm the Maquis criminal you were sent to capture. I'm not your type. Any of those ring a bell?"

"Not my type?" She raised an eyebrow. "You've thought of a lot of excuses, haven't you? But they sound as lame as limiting my choices to someone tall." Outwardly, she knew she was calm and poised, but inside, her stomach felt like it was about to explode into her chest.


"Excuses. Have I ever said anything about protocol or that I think our command structure would be jeopardized if we dated? And the war is over, Chakotay. The Maquis are no longer a threat."

Chakotay dropped her hand as he heard the doors to the messhall open. "You once said that the captain didn't have the luxury of pairing off."

"I did?"

"Early in our journey. We talked about whether we should initiate a fraternization policy."

"Ah." She took another drink of her coffee. "Well, a lot has happened since then, and I'm no longer engaged… or somewhat attached, as you called it."

Chakotay stood up and said, "Come with me."

Surprised at his sudden movement, she said, "Where to?"

"Out of here." He led her down a corridor, punched a security code into a door panel, and pulled her inside a room.

"A weapons locker?"

He pulled her against him so they could squeeze into the small closet. His arms wrapped securely around her back so that her hands had no choice but to rest on his chest. Their breaths intermingled as he asked, "Kathryn, would you like to spend a few days with me in a secluded cabin up in the mountains of a planet with very strange laws?"

She pushed her arms up until they were locked around his neck. "I thought you'd never ask."

He lowered his lips to hers and softly, gently gave her a full, deep kiss. Quietly, he said, "I have been miserable for years because I thought you didn't want this."

"I'm sorry. I was afraid to tell you. Afraid that you had no interest."

Shaking his head, he said, "Kathryn Janeway isn't afraid of anything."

She smiled, "I'm afraid of what you would have done with these weapons if I had said no."

Unable to stop the chuckle that followed, he said, "I'm glad we didn't have to find out."

Cupping his jaw, she brought his face down for another lingering kiss. "You may not know this, but tomorrow is Valentine's Day on Earth."

"So I should hurry my legal team along so we can start our shore leave?"

"How long were you going to make them work at it?"

His hands loosened their grip on her back and settled on her hips. "Only about twelve hours. I looked it over this afternoon and I think we should just tell everyone to try not to be noticed."

She laughed, fully enjoying the forced closeness of the closet they were in. "Just be sure to check on the laws regarding public display of affection. We don't want them to repeat the same mistake everywhere we go."

"Some variety would be nice, yes." Suddenly more serious, he said, "Kathryn, I should warn you that I'm in love with you."

The nervous butterflies in her stomach doubled in size. "I'm in love with you, too."

"I'm relieved, and very happy to hear it." He studied her for a long moment. "Would you like me to check on the local laws regarding matrimony?"

She froze. "If that was your idea of a proposal…"

His lips descended quickly to quiet her with a kiss. He pulled away and whispered, "Of course not. I just thought maybe you might be interested in some light reading on our trip."

"We finally get around to admitting that we're in love, and you want to jump straight into the deep end?" Looking into his eyes, she realized that while he was happy, he was also very nervous. To help reassure him, she did something she had longed to do for years. She reached up and traced his tattoo, following the visible portions to the edge of his thick, curly hair. "You're pretty serious about this relationship."

"As you pointed out earlier, there's no chance for transfer. We have to make this work."

"I really do love you, Chakotay. I have for many years. I'm not sure when it happened, but one morning I looked at you while you were running a battle simulation on the bridge. You were standing there in front of me… strong and handsome and commanding the bridge so heroically. I had chills as I realized how much I loved you. Then you looked at me and smiled." Kathryn touched his face. "And from that moment, I have imagined this moment…" She was suddenly lost in thought as she looked into his dark, loving eyes.

"Kathryn, I…" He stopped as if he didn't know how to continue.

She pulled back from him, saying, "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have gone on like that."

"Oh, no, you don't." He pulled her back against him. "I was just at a loss for words. I don't think I've ever felt as loved as I do right now."

Smiling, she said, "Then maybe you should have a look into those laws, just in case I decide to throw caution to the wind and you decide to propose properly."

"Aye, Captain." Chakotay kissed her again, only this time years of repressed desires poured forth in a torrent of passion that left them breathless.

Kathryn extricated herself from his arms and turned towards the door. She looked back and said, "Aren't you glad that I didn't want to date Mulcahey?"

"You have no idea."

She gave him a crooked smile. "Oh, I'm pretty sure I do."

Kathryn left him standing in the locker with a goofy grin that she was sure would last for a very long time.


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