WHAT IF?

By Shayenne

Disclaimer: Paramount owns everything.

Rated PG-13

Everyone has a What If story somewhere. You know, a relationship that could have been, if only.... Here is a 2 part What If from the Voyager Universe.

Harry reflects on a chance observation of a moment between Tom and the captain.

 

I was wandering around the market area, browsing the stalls and trying to find a present for Jenny when I saw them. I was about to call out and go over, when something in their posture, the way they were interacting, made me hesitate.

The captain was sitting on one of the stone benches that dotted the square, in the shade of a large, broadleafed tree. Tom was sitting next to her. Their bodies were angled towards each other, their knees lightly touching and they were deep in conversation. A few parcels and bags were spread over the bench on either side of them. I looked around for B'Elanna and Chakotay, but they were not to be seen.

What made me hesitate was the fact that they were very intent on each other, totally focussed on each other's face. It looked like an in-depth personal conversation, and I didn't want to intrude, so I sat on a similar bench, hidden under the overhanging branches of another shade tree.

I wasn't intending to snoop, I was just waiting until they fell back into their normal, relaxed banter. Tom had a good relationship with the captain. It was open, sincere and warm. She was a lot more relaxed with him than with many people on the ship. Well, except for Chakotay of course. Since she and Chakotay had become lovers, nearly two years ago, she had loosened up a lot, lowered her personal barriers and allowed herself to form some closer friendships on board. Myself and Jenny included. But what she and Tom shared was special. She allowed him to get away with blue murder, seemed to enjoy his cheeky throwaway comments and gave back to him as good as she got. I once said to Tom that anyone else would be rotting in the brig for the things he said and did, but he had just shrugged.

"Someone's got to tease her, treat her normally," he had said. "Chakotay treats her so reverently, loves her so unconditionally, that she needs a counter balance. Someone to give her shit now and then. That's my job." He winked.

He didn't look like he was giving her shit now. He was leaning towards her, intent on what he was saying. It looked serious. Both their faces were solemn. Maybe he was asking advice on a personal problem, although to my knowledge he had none. Things were good with B'Elanna, he was toeing the Starfleet line enough to keep out of trouble. No, things were going well for Tom.

She touched his knee lightly as she replied to what he said. Her face was in shadow, so I couldn't see her expression clearly, but the gesture was pure Captain Kathryn reassurance, a touch to let the person know she was there for them and supported them.

Tom seemed to be doing most of the talking, and she was listening, her eyes intent on his face.

He stopped. She smiled and said something in reply and moved forward slightly. Her face came out of the shadow, and her expression was open and compassionate.

Tom raised his hand to her face and just touched her cheek.

The gesture was so unlike Tom that I just stared open-mouthed. It was the gesture a friend would make for reassurance, but I was unsure who was reassuring who. It implied an intimacy that I didn't think the two of them shared, not the intimacy of lovers necessarily, but a step above the light-hearted closeness that I thought defined their friendship.

She lifted her hand and covered his, where it lay on her cheek.

Then Tom did something very surprising. He leaned forward and kissed her. On the lips. Just a gentle kiss, a chaste kiss of friendship, except that it lingered a little too long to be purely platonic in its intent. She allowed the kiss for a few heartbeats, then moved away, smiled at him, said something that made him laugh, and ruffled his hair affectionately, petting him as you would an engaging small child.

He swatted her hand away, laughed back at her and the moment had passed, they had returned to their accepted relationship.

I couldn't take my eyes off them. I wasn't sure what I had seen. Oh, I knew they weren't lovers or even close to it. Each had their own mate. The Captain and Chakotay had the sort of intense, complete relationship that was the envy of everyone on the ship, myself included. Their love for each other was never in doubt. When they finally got together after years of denial they didn't stand a chance of hiding it, it was immediately obvious to everyone. They radiated happiness, couldn't keep their eyes or their hands off each other. They were still like that two years later. Forever exchanging private smiles, glances and touches, as if they were the only people in the room.

Tom's and B'Elanna's relationship was more turbulent. One or the other of them was forever storming into my quarters in a rage, complaining about what the other had done, but underneath you never doubted their deep affection for each other. At least since I've been seeing Jenny they've learned to knock first.

I have since thought about what I saw that day, and I truly believe I was seeing a "what if" moment. I think it was a rare lowering of barriers between two people who care very much for each other. I think they shared a small moment of mutual acceptance, that under different circumstances they could have been more then friends. Sure, many people would scoff at that notion; there is too big of an age difference, the barrier of command, Starfleet protocol all conspiring against them, not to mention the huge gulf between their personalities. But had they not been the captain and pilot of the U.S.S. Voyager, the possibility of something flowering between them may have existed. I think that is what I saw, the acknowledgement of that faint promise. But of course, had we been anywhere other than the Delta Quadrant, they would never even have had the friendship they now share. Catch 22.

Back in the market place and they were now sitting apart again, chatting like the friends they were. I heard B'Elanna's laughter and Chakotay's softer tones, and looked up to see them approaching, arm in arm, their free hands clutching parcels and bags. Another close friendship here, maybe another "what if" story. I stood up and loudly hailed them, as much to let the two on the bench know, as to attract their attention. I joined them, and stood quietly as the four of them reunited with the mates they hadn't seen for, oh, maybe twenty minutes.

I could see Tom and B'Elanna kiss out of the corner of my eye, saw his hand drop to caress the gentle swell of her pregnant belly, but my eyes were drawn to the captain and Chakotay. She smiled up at him radiantly, totally unlike the gentle smile she had given Tom. He dropped his packages on the ground and opened his arms wide, inviting her in. She stepped up close to him, and his arms closed around her, holding her close to his heart.

"Missed me?" I heard him whisper as he threaded his hands into her hair.

"You don't know how much," she replied as she kissed him.

The warmth flowing between the two of them was palpable.

I wonder if I looked as lost as I felt, standing between the two embracing couples, wishing with all my heart that some day I could know a fraction of what they did.

Feedback? Please. Shayenne

On to Part 2 - Chakotay and B'Elanna   Back to Shayenne's J/C Fiction

© Shayenne, August 2000 Please email me to post/distribute elsewhere.