NOTHING TO WEAR

By Shayenne

Disclaimer: Paramount owns everything but I doubt they want this.
Rated PG-13-ish
Season Three-ish

Written for VAMB's Secret Santa. My match, Ymwelwar, requested, "A totally J/C story (with an extremely happy ending), please, in which a traditional Betazoid wedding takes place on Voyager. Maybe Ensign Jurot (possibly the only Betazoid on Voyager who didn't die...) is marrying someone (another crewmember, an alien of the week, Harry Kim... Anyone but Chak or KJ is fair game), and wants the traditional (everyone naked!) service. I'd like the wedding to take place on Voyager, with Janeway officiating. This wedding doesn't have to be the focal point of the story, I'd just like it to be in there somewhere. I'm easily pleased, so the rest of the story can be whatever your muse cares to suggest. Angst is fine, as long is the ending is a total sap-fest of happiness. I don't mind whether the story is seasonal or not. I like smut. I don't like dead characters."

Ensign Jurot is mentioned in Counterpoint as one of the crew Janeway hides from the Devore. She's mentioned in the game Elite Force II which is where I got her first name.

Thanks to Dawn, who donated the idea for the scene in sickbay. :)

 

"Does it bother you?"

Janeway glanced up from her PADD at the sound of his voice, his lower, almost caressing tone telling her that this wasn't merely about the warp core's lowered output.

"No," she replied. "Well, not much," she added more honestly after a few seconds. "What about you?"

Chakotay placed his mug of tea down on the table in front of them. "I've done it enough that I can truthfully say that I enjoy it. Remember that life on Dorvan was simpler, less cluttered with convention than many of the Federation colonies."

"Really?" Janeway arched an eyebrow. "My understanding was that the 'simple uncluttered life' meant that there were fewer weddings, not more. It's a tradition that many people simply don't seem to want or need any more."

"Yes, but there are still plenty of people who embrace the formalized commitment. And my people's wedding ceremony is different from many of the traditional ones you might know. But I didn't mean simply the wedding, Kathryn. I mean their choice of ceremony. Does that bother you?"

"I confess I haven't looked at the details. I thought you were asking if I was bothered they were getting married at all. And yes, that bothers me a little."

"In what way?"

"They're so young to be taking this step."

"Harry's twenty-seven. Not that young."

"But Juliet Jurot's only twenty-five. And it's not just their ages. It's as if they've decided that their life is here on Voyager, not Earth, and they better get on with it. A generational ship, Chakotay. I didn't think it would come to this, so soon." Her eyes were fixed on the depths of her coffee cup, as if all the answers were in the cloudy liquid. "I can't shake the conviction that they're settling for second-best because it's all that they may have out here in the Delta Quadrant. I think Harry still carries a torch for his fiancée on Earth, and Ensign Jurot's mentioned a boyfriend back on Betazoid. Oh!" Her creamy skin carried a slight flush. "That's what you mean by the choice of ceremony, isn't it? They've chosen a traditional Betazoid wedding."

He nodded. "I thought you knew. It's on the PADD you approved."

"I skimmed some of the details. Jurot can be rather long-winded at times."

"Did you read the bit about the officials?"

"They'd like me to perform the ceremony. Tom is best man, and you are to give the bride away. And it's a Betazoid wedding, so..." She closed her eyes and laid her head on the back of the couch.

"We'll all be naked, yes." Chakotay watched her closely. "So, I'll ask you again: does it bother you?"

Janeway considered. "A little," she admitted. "It's not the naked part; I've been to a couple of these in the past, and I know that it's a little like being in the naturist colonies. After a while, you really do forget that everyone's in their skin. After all, what could be more natural, more life affirming? But I do admit to a little concern at how the crew will perceive me."

"You said it yourself, Kathryn. They'll forget that everyone's naked. They won't be judging how you look."

She gave him an amused glance. "I'm not worried about that, Chakotay. It's more the authority. Without my uniform or rank pips, well, I'm just another middle-aged woman. I'll feel-"

"Exposed?" He took her hand gently, rubbing a thumb over the back of it.

"Yes."

He smiled. "I don't think you need to worry. Your presence and bearing are strong enough that they aren't likely to forget for a nanosecond to whom they're talking."

"Even if she is naked?"

"Especially then."

"Thank you." The gentle blush still colored her cheeks, and she looked down at their joined hands. "How about you? Should we be worried about a naked Tom?"

"It's more Harry I'm worried about. Tom could walk naked into an admiral's office and get away with it. I rather think Harry finds it hard to strip for a shower."

"He agreed to the choice of ceremony."

"He loves Jurot. He'd do anything for her." His thumb rubbed soothing circles on her skin. "I don't think you need worry that Harry is settling for second best. He adores her, and I think she's good for him. She steadies him, understands him, soothes his skittishness, and she genuinely loves him. Betazoids aren't good at hiding their feelings. The whole crew knows how she adores him."

"You must be Betazoid, Chakotay." The words slipped out and hung in the air between them, rife with meanings, open and implied, but out there finally.

He swallowed, shot a look at her face. Her expression showed him that it was an inadvertent slip, not the start of a declaration, an acceptance of how it could be for them. Several responses ran through his head, ranging from flippant to devout.

"It's no secret how I feel about you." He settled for light-hearted. "Everyone knows I'm under your thumb--where a good first officer should be."

Her shaky exhalation proved his response was correct. Their little boat had shuddered, pointed its prow to the uncharted open waters for a moment, but was now safely back on course.

"And you'll stay there!" For a moment she turned to the viewport, but Chakotay still heard her whispered, "For now."

For a few moments, she kept her face turned to the stars. When finally she faced him again, he saw the hint of moisture in her eyes. Misty-eyed romanticism about Harry and Juliet's wedding, he told himself, even though he didn't believe it for a nanosecond. Kathryn Janeway was no dreaming teenager, falling into a puddle of mush at the thought of a white dress. Or in this case, a few dozen naked crewmen of the good ship Voyager.

Including her beautiful captain.

Including her hapless first officer, who would have to stand naked and at attention in front of the beautiful captain.

He hoped that some parts of his body hadn't heard the bit about standing to attention.

Kathryn had picked up Jurot's PADD and was scrolling through it, obviously reading the details she'd skimmed before.

"It's all pretty straightforward," she said. "They suggest having the ceremony in the holodeck and the reception in the mess hall. It seems as if Neelix is already halfway to preparing a feast. Everyone is invited." She eyed him. "I suggest you put a quiet word about that those who aren't comfortable attending the ceremony can volunteer to stand duty shift during that part of the day. Make it clear that everyone will have a chance to attend the party afterwards." She scrolled through the PADD to the relevant part. "Which is wearing dress uniforms. Guess that's Harry's doing."

She tossed the PADD from hand to hand for a second. "Seeing as how I've apparently already approved this, I guess it's just down for you to deliver it!"

~ ^ ~ ^ ~ ^ ~

Tom threw himself into the chair opposite Harry in the mess hall, and snagged a French fry from his plate. "You shouldn't be eating this crap," he announced. "You have to look trim and buff for your wedding in two weeks. You don't want the whole crew laughing at your love handles, do you?"

Harry glared. "I'm not worried about them laughing at my love handles," he said, significantly. "Why couldn't I fall in love with a Bolian?"

"Not as pretty as Juliet, not as smart, not as intuitive and I know they don't look as good naked!"

"How do you know?!"

Tom winked. "Wouldn't you like to know?"

Harry surged to his feet and the burger and fries scatted like warp particles. "That's not true! You told me-"

"Hey, calm down." Tom scooped up a handful of fries from the table and chomped one. "It's a joke."

Harry still looked pale. "Yeah, okay."

"It's the truth." He waited a beat, then added, "I have no idea what Chell looks like naked!"

Harry choked on a bit of bun, and Tom thumped him on the back.

"I wish you wouldn't do that," grumbled Harry.

"What, stop you choking?"

"No, wind me up. I know about her previous lovers, and of course, that's perfectly fine. Just as she knows about Libby, but for once I think I've found a woman who prefers me to you and I'd like to keep that illusion a little longer."

Tom patted his arm companionably, and snaffled a few more fries as he withdrew. "Sorry," he said, sincerely. "You're just so easy to tease." Seeing Harry's glare, he thought it provident to change the subject. "So, what's it like? Seriously, for once, what's it like knowing that in two weeks you'll be committed to one woman? No more Delaney twins, no more mooning after B'Elanna, no more eyeing Ayala."

"I never stood a chance with any of them," grumbled Harry. "So there's no difference."

"Surely that's not why you're getting married? Because you can't get anyone else to sleep with you?"

"No! Of course not! I love her. And it's a wonderful thought. Knowing someone so well, trusting them, knowing they'll be the first thing you see when you wake in the morning and the last thing you see at night."

"Unless one of you is on Gamma shift."

"That doesn't happen often."

"Or unless there's a red alert."

"Not that frequent."

"Or one of you is on an away mission."

"I'll put in for less."

"Or if one of you is babysitting Naomi, or out on a night with their friends-"

"Well, apart from gamma shift, red alerts, away missions, babysitting duties and nights out with friends, it's nice knowing she'll be the last thing I see before I go to sleep and the first thing when I wake up." Harry dumped catsup on the final few fries. "You've been talking to a lot of the crew," he said. "Do many people mind the type of wedding ceremony?"

"The whole naked bit?" said Tom. "Not that I've heard. Most people are at least familiar enough with the tradition that they don't see it is a pervy, licentious, voyeuristic way of getting to see your friends naked. At least I don't."

"Who have you spoken to about it?"

"Neelix thinks it's a delightful bonding experience. Tuvok accepts that it's traditional and doesn't have a problem with it. B'Elanna is looking forward to it--something about Chakotay and wanting to see if what Seska told her is true."

"What about the Captain and Commander?"

"Not a clue," said Tom, cheerfully. "Although I wouldn't mind standing in front of a naked Captain Janeway."

"You will be," reminded Harry, unnecessarily. "You're my best man. And that's what I'm worried about."

"What, having me as your best man?" Tom looked hurt. "I thought we were friends? Who else would you have? Neelix?"

"No, I'm worried about being naked in front of Captain Janeway. What if I .... Well, you know."

"No. What?"

"What if I can't... what if I get..."

"An erection? That's what quantum calculations are for. Distraction. Besides, you shouldn't be thinking of how Captain Janeway looks naked. You should be thinking of Juliet. Besides, the captain will be looking at you naked."

Harry groaned. "Please, don't remind me."

The Doctor to Mr. Paris.

"What is it, Doc?"

Have you forgotten we have an appointment?

"On my way."

"You late for your duty shift again?" asked Harry.

"Not exactly."

~ ^ ~ ^ ~ ^ ~

Chakotay entered the ready room and stopped short at the sight of the captain. Obviously, she hadn't heard the door, as she was still engrossed in reading something on her terminal.

He approached the desk. "Must be interesting."

"I'm memorizing the Betazoid wedding ceremony. It's not difficult but it's quite long."

He sat down in the chair opposite. "Yes, I was looking at it too. Jurot sent me over a PADD detailing my responsibilities in giving away the bride."

"That part doesn't appear to be a Betazoid tradition from what I can tell." said Janeway, dragging her eyes away from the screen.

"It's not. I think Harry and Jurot have done a bit of an amalgamation of two traditions, but it's predominantly Betazoid."

"Our first wedding, Chakotay." She sighed and the stars claimed her attention for a moment. When she looked back at him, her eyes were a little misty. "Do you feel a little parental about all of this?"

"No. Just happy for two friends who have decided to walk together into the future."

"That's a good way of putting it, but it doesn't sound very different from, well, say us. We decided to walk together when we amalgamated our crews and set our course for home."

"Not in the way I mean it, Kathryn." He said the words gently, but the sting of her unintended trivialization of his words stayed with him. "Setting your feet on the road together is more than a work alliance."

"More than friendship?" She regarded him intently.

"Friends can tread the same path for a while, but eventually they will choose to walk with a lover. It's different."

"Do you want that for yourself?" The words were said lightly, but there was a wistfulness underlying her words.

"Yes, I hope it's in my future."

"Even on Voyager, as Harry and Jurot have chosen?"

"Especially on Voyager. I think people need to start grounding their lives here."

"As you are doing." She said the words softly. "I envy you that ability, Chakotay. You've got a rare talent to build your life around your situation. I think that's how you're able to reinvent yourself so successfully: young Indian warrior, Starfleet officer, Maquis warrior, and back to Starfleet again. Do you ever wish for what you've left behind?"

His eyes were light years away. "I wish for the Dorvan that is no more."

"Yes." Leaning across the desk, she placed a hand on his arm. "Of course you do. I'm sorry, that was insensitive of me."

He studied her hand, resting lightly on his sleeve. "But apart from that, no. There's little I miss and less that I regret. How can I, when the here and now is where I am? Life is good, Kathryn. Don't doubt it, and I'm sure that the vast majority of our crew would agree with me."

"But they're giving up. Settling down, here onboard."

"Kathryn, that's not giving up! That's simply redefining the focus of their lives. They still want to get home, but they don't feel they have to deprive themselves of happiness along the way. Look at Harry and Juliet; do they seem hopeless to you? Harry was telling me yesterday how much he's looking forward to introducing Juliet to his parents. And she was joking in the mess hall that they'll be able to buy some prime real-estate on Betazoid with their combined back pay."

She nodded. "Thank you for saying that. I think it's something I need to be reminded of every so often."

Her downswept eyes sent a twinge of concern through him. Reaching across the desk, he took her chin in his hand and raised it, forcing her to meet his eyes. "Kathryn, is this upsetting you in some way? Talk to me."

He'd half-expected to see the sheen of tears in her eyes, but her eyes were clear and bright and there was a half-smile on her lips. "I'm not upset, far from it. I love this ship, Chakotay, I love this crew, and yes, I love this journey. And I wouldn't have traded these past three years for anything. But I still find I'm focused on home as the goal, rather than my life here. I'm not like you, I can't live entirely for the present."

His fingers fell away, and she grasped his hand. Her clasp was sure and firm.

"What about on New Earth?" he asked, and waited for her flinch, for her fingers to withdraw. Instead, she gripped his fingers tightly, and met his eyes.

"That was a double loss to me," she admitted. "First I'd lost home and Mark and my life on Earth, and then I'd lost my purpose a second time when Voyager went on without us. It was hard. I'm the sort of person who needs a goal, an aim, a purpose. There are people who dance through their lives like faeries, flitting, laughing, never settling for long. They may not be the highest achievers or the most successful, but they brighten other lives by their spontaneity and presence. I'm not one of them; I'm not sure I could ever be that free."

He felt he could drown in her direct, blue gaze.

"But on New Earth I had you. And that was the time I've come closest to living in the present."

He was silent in the face of her admission, and a spring of hope welled in his chest. Her hand twitched in his grasp, signaling her withdrawal, and he knew that now was not the time to push. He released her hand, and stood. "Voyager is good place to build a life, Kathryn. And there's so much here for you. It's not giving up, Harry and Juliet will be the first to tell you that. It's just enjoying the journey."

He left, before he could change his mind.

~ ^ ~ ^ ~ ^ ~

"What's up, Doc?"

"I wish you wouldn't say that in such a ridiculous voice, Mr. Paris."

"It's-"

"Bugs Bunny. I know, you've told me often enough. A pointless animation from a rather pointless period on Earth. And I am well aware that you're laughing at me."

Tom arranged his face into neutral lines. "How can I help you, Doctor?"

"Better, Mr. Paris. It's about the parameters of my program. I'd like you to assist me with a bit of alteration."

"Surely B'Elanna would be a better person to ask? "

If a hologram could look embarrassed, the EMH came close. "It's rather a delicate matter, and I doubt B'Elanna has the necessary understanding. I need a change of, uh, costume for Ensigns Kim and Jurot's wedding."

Tom suppressed a smile. "I see. You want me to change the program so that you appear naked?"

"Exactly."

"Well, that should be simple enough." Tom moved across to the medical console. I should be able to access your program from here, and sickbay's quiet enough that we shouldn't be disturbed while we get it right." His fingers flew over the console, "Let's try this."

The EMH rematerialized. Or part of him did. Head, neck and hands.

"Where's the rest of me? Get me back, Mr. Paris! Now!"

Suppressing a smirk, Tom turned back to the console. Really, his mistake had been worth it to see the anguish on the EMH's face. "Sorry," he offered. "I guess removing the uniform doesn't work. Obviously no one's programmed in a body underneath it." The EMH flickered and reappeared, clad in the teal and black.

He peered over Tom's shoulder. "I've got forearms somewhere here. It 's reassuring to patients when they see me rolling my sleeves up. It makes them think I'm working hard. Of course, I'm never working that hard, not having sweat glands, it's simply part of my psychological programming."

Tom's fingers tapped away. "I thought you and Denara Pell enjoyed a little horizontal dancing? How did you manage that without a body?"

The EMH looked a little uncomfortable. "I may have exaggerated a little. And how do you know that?"

"Word gets around." Tom changed the subject quickly. "I'll give you a standard body and then we can personalize it for you." His gaze flickered between the EMH and his console. "Try this."

The Doctor looked down along his new body. "It's a bit bland," he said. "I look like a store dummy."

"Well..."

"Don't start, Mr. Paris."

"I was just going to say that it's a template. Now we customize."

"A few details would be good. Nipples, navel, genitals."

"Let's get the overall body right first. How's that skin color?"

"A little darker, I think. And can you give me better muscle definition. My abdominals look rather flabby. I'm sure I would never allow them to get like this."

Tom tweaked, adding a light tan, giving the Doc a drum-tight six-pack, and accidentally-on-purpose adding a couple of rather cuddly love handles.

"My legs, Mr. Paris. More bulk in the thighs, I think. Right now they look like your scrawny offerings."

"I've got long lean muscles," said Tom, affronted. "Athlete's legs."

"Humph. Considering the only 'athletics' you do is leaning over a pool table, I fail to see the correlation."

"How's that?" asked Tom, ignoring the Doc's grumbles as he postured and preened in front of a shiny silver medicine cabinet.

"Not bad. Now, the interesting parts. I've taken the liberty of assembling some images from the crew database. Don't worry," he added, as Tom opened his mouth to protest. "It's perfectly ethical. It's all non-identifying, and I've seen every member of this crew naked dozens of times. And besides, you are certainly not among the chosen."

The Doc moved over to the console and called up the first image. "I'd like my buttocks to look like these. Nice and rounded and tight. Not sagging like some I could mention." His eyes drilled pointedly into Tom.

"They look like Ayala's to me," observed Tom, as he obligingly tweaked the program.

The EMH called up a second image. "These shoulders are pleasingly bulky. I feel they'll give me a manly, assertive outline. It is very important that my body type reflect my standing on this ship."

"I wonder if Mortimer Harren is in this database," Tom wondered innocently. "He'd be a good model for you."

"Not funny, Mr. Paris. Just make the changes."

"What else?" asked Tom. "There's one obvious part missing." He stared pointedly at the EMH's genitals, which were simply an approximation of shape. "They look like the proverbial sock is stuffed underneath your skin."

"Let's leave the piece de resistance until last. We can't rush these things. Now I've decided I'd like a small tattoo."

Tom's eyebrows raised Tuvok-style. "Why do you want that?"

"Power and authority, Mr. Paris. Look at Chakotay's tattoo."

"The captain outranks him and she doesn't-"

"Don't be too sure. Even though you're the backup medic here, there are many things you don't know about this crew."

"She has a tattoo? Where?!"

"Never you mind. Now, I think I'd like a small, subtle design on my left shoulder blade."

"That's where women put their tattoos."

"Mr. Dalby is definitely not a woman!"

"Ken got that design of a dabo girl and a hula skirt when he was out of his skull on Romulan Ale."

"Then why doesn't he get rid of it?" fired back the EMH.

"You obviously haven't seen his party trick where he can make the dabo girl dance the hula by whirling his left arm. Do you want a dabo girl too?"

"I was thinking of something more dignified."

"A Borg skull over crossed laser scalpels?"

"Maybe a profile of Luciano Pavarotti, one of the great opera singers of the 20th century, as he sings La Boheme."

"I'm a pilot, not an artist!"

"That's my line, Mr. Paris, but you can borrow it. Obviously humor isn't your strong suit."

"Pavarotti," reminded Tom, when it appeared that the EMH was going to get all sniffy.

"I have his picture here in the database. I'm sure you can work from that.

The EMH flickered and reappeared, now sporting a discreet tattoo on his left shoulder blade. Tom had done his best--really, he had--but Pavarotti bore a distinct resemblance to Maj Cullah.

"And now for the final, and most important touch. I need genitals," said the Doc. "I've downloaded a few images from the crew. Now these," and he called up a picture on the console, "are a pleasing shape, if a little small."

Tom peered over his shoulder. "You're very fond of Mike Ayala, aren't you. Buttocks and privates."

"Non-identifying information, remember. Besides, how do you know?"

"Mike and I have been friends for a long time. And we run the athletics program. Long, lean muscles, remember? It has a locker room programmed."

"How about these?"

"Don't you think that Bolian Blue will be a little odd with your choice of skin tone?"

"Obviously you can reprogram it."

"Even so, Chell will recognize his own bits. He's the only male Bolian on board, and they are rather distinctive."

"I suppose so. I guess that means Neelix is out too?"

"Definitely." Tom suppressed a shudder. "He's rather distinctive with his spotted d-"

"Mr. Paris! Please watch your language. This is a sickbay, not a brothel."

"Pity. But I was going to say his spotted delta...ah, deltoids."

The EMH scrolled speedily through a set of images. "Too small, way too small.... How does he manage to function with that? Barbaric practice, Vulcan circumcision. Ah, here we are."

Tom took a look. "That's Chakotay."

"Your familiarity with how this crew looks naked is commendable, Mr. Paris. I'll be sure to call you if ever anyone is blown to bits and only their genitals remain. You'll be useful for identification purposes."

"You can't use Chakotay!"

"Why not? It's a respectable size--very respectable-and has a pleasing bulkiness. The way it hangs in a relaxed state is aesthetically pleasing-"

"You can't use Chakotay!"

"Why not?"

"Because... You just can't. Look, how about we give you Ayala's and make a few adjustments."

"Very well." The EMH stood to attention while Tom fiddled with the program.

"I've blended the skin tones, and adjusted the way it hangs so that Ayala won't recognize himself."

Doc looked down at himself. "Can you make it bigger?"

Tom tweaked some more.

"Really, Mr. Paris, that's only half a centimeter larger. I'm talking at least four centimeters."

Tom's eyebrows rose. "Who are you trying to impress?"

"I feel that my physical body should reflect my status and position on this ship."

"You've said that already, but the size of one's co-"

"No need to get crude."

"-the size of one's concealed body parts is irrelevant. Haven't you ever heard the expression, 'It's not what you've got; it's how you use it'? Besides, look at Tuvok!"

"I'd rather not. And Vulcans don't count."

"Four centimeters is too much. You'll upstage the groom."

"Half the crew will upstage the groom in that case."

"Two centimeters."

"Three." The EMH folded his arms. "And I'll let you out of your next duty shift early."

"Two and a half. How early?"

"Three. An hour."

"Two hours and you've got a deal."

"You drive a hard bargain, Mr. Paris!"

"Deal." Tom adjusted the parameters. "Now, are you happy?"

The doctor preened at his reflection. "I think so."

"We can't stop there," said Tom. "You're as bare as a billiard ball."

"Body hair is a vestigial remnant of an earlier evolutionary period," sniffed the EMH. "I don't need that."

"Is that why you've got so little on your head?" grinned Tom. "But you need something. Especially on your rebuilt genitalia."

"Many of the crew artificially remove their body hair. Ken Dalby doesn't have a solitary hair below the neck."

"Ken's a body builder. They display their muscles to best advantage. Body hair blurs that definition. You need hair, Doc. Try this."

The Doc shimmered and rematerialized, covered in a fine pelt of fur.

"Very funny. This is extremely unappealing."

"I wouldn't say that in company," Tom remarked. "Carlos Sanchez from Security looks just like this and he's a lot bigger than you. In fact, this is Carlos' body hair."

"Something a little lighter, less Neanderthal. And less of it. Much less."

"Try this."

The doctor inspected his new fur. "Much better, but I don't like the pattern of chest hair. And it's way too bushy at the groin. I could braid it! Whose is this?"

"Billy Telfer's."

"No, definitely not."

"Okay, less pubic hair, a different pattern of chest hair in a golden color.... Try this."

"Perfect!" The Doctor said in satisfaction. "I think I have a perfectly acceptable body now." He turned this way and that, admiring his buttocks, the tattoo, the sprinkling of body hair, and of course the extremely ego-building genitalia. "Whose body hair did you say this was?"

"I didn't," said Tom, grinning. "It's mine." And he sauntered out of sickbay before the EMH could ask him to change it.

"Wait," yelled the Doc after him. "You've forgotten to redress me! What if somebody-"

The doors swished open, and Sam Wildman walked in.

"Oh!" The Doc tried to cover his genitals with his hands, turning away from Sam.

"Don't bother," Sam laid a PADD on the desk. "You've seen me naked. This makes us even." She turned to go. "Why have you got a tattoo of a Kazon on your shoulder?"

~ ^ ~ ^ ~ ^ ~

Entering the ready room, Chakotay nearly collided with Neelix, bustling importantly in the other direction.

"Neelix looks happy," he observed, coming to a stop in front of the desk.

Kathryn cradled her mug of coffee. "He's in his element. Neelix loves a party and this wedding is the biggest party yet." She gestured to a PADD. "It's all in here. Who's doing what, where, and to whom and when they're doing it, right down to the last nanosecond. The Doctor is singing a selection of operatic pieces at the start of the ceremony as the guests arrive.

"Neelix is trying to find a maternal figure to take on the traditional roles of the bride's mother in the ceremony but no luck. The only volunteer he's had is Ken Dalby in drag, and for some reason Jurot vetoed that! I'm encouraging Neelix to turn his attention to the food." She sighed. "At least this is one wedding where I don't have to worry about what to wear."

Chakotay swallowed hard. He'd spent the last couple of weeks determinedly trying to forget about that particular part of the wedding. While he was normally extremely comfortable being naked in the company of others, this particular occasion was giving him nightmares, and it was the fault of the small woman sitting in front of him. Because the thought of seeing Kathryn completely naked for the first time was the stuff of dreams--and nightmares. He'd already had three dreams in which he couldn't control his body's response to her, and he'd woken up blushing and mortified, with the crew's howls of laughter in his ears and Kathryn's embarrassed face burned behind his eyeballs. He'd gone so far as wondering if he could go to the Doc for a hypospray to reduce him to a guaranteed state of flaccidity, but the thought of the Doc's knowing smirk was more than he could stand.

He glanced over the desk at Kathryn, and was surprised to see a slight blush on her cheeks, and her eyes sweeping up and down his body in a decidedly suggestive manner. The knowledge that she too, was entertaining anticipatory thoughts made him bold. Leaning forward, he captured her hand. "Looking forward to seeing my wedding suit?"

Kathryn's blush intensified, but she raised her chin and held his eyes. "Very much so."

His thumb rubbed lightly over the back of her hand. Her skin was hot and smooth. He turned it over, so that he could caress her palm, watching, fascinated as her fingers curled over to clasp his.

"It works both ways, Kathryn. I've been dreaming about your wedding attire for weeks now."

"I had hoped you were."

Her husky voice ran in lightning pathways over his skin. Suddenly, the friction of his clothes was an unbearable torture.

"I've been thinking about what you said before," she admitted, and her voice was low, quiet, but assured.

"About...?"

"About living in the present. As Harry and Juliet are doing."

His breath seemed lodged in his chest and his world had narrowed to the rhythmic to and fro of his fingers on her skin and her mesmerizing voice.

"After the wedding," she continued. "Would you like to accompany me to the party in the mess hall?"

The words were innocuous enough, and in one sense, completely unnecessary. Obviously, they would be attending the party together. A united front for the command team. But he sensed that wasn't her meaning.

"I plan on staying for a couple of hours at the party and then slipping away, to let the crew celebrate in a more rowdy fashion without their commanding officer looking over their shoulders."

He nodded. That was her usual plan, and often he left with her and they shared a cup of coffee before retiring to their separate quarters.

"I have holodeck time booked for 22:00; I wonder if you would like to come for an after dinner drink. I have a program for a quiet lounge bar on Bajor."

He thought her meaning was implicit; it was there in the timbre of her voice and her deliberate choice of words, but he had to be sure. "You're asking me on a date?"

"I am. Will you help me live in the present, Chakotay?"

"I thought you'd never ask."

For a few moments, Chakotay savored the quiet contentment. Her skin under his, her fingers curling around to clasp his hand. The smile on her face, and best of all the knowledge that now they could move forward together, and explore what lay between them, shining and golden with promise.

"How long is your holodeck booking for?" He asked the words lazily, as much to spin the conversation out, make the moment last as from any real need to know.

She met his eyes squarely. "All night."

"Knowing that, how am I supposed to get through the wedding without embarrassing myself?"

Her eyes crinkled with amusement. "Save it for me, Chakotay."

~ ^ ~ ^ ~ ^ ~

From the opening bars of the doctor's solo, Chakotay knew it would go well. Harry and Juliet had chosen an open air Betazoid setting to say their vows in, so Chakotay escorted Juliet down an impromptu "aisle" of smiling crew, feeling the soft grass beneath his feet and the sunshine on his shoulders. Juliet's clasp on his arm was sure; this was one young woman who knew her destiny and walked forward confidently to embrace it. Around half the crew had chosen to attend the ceremony, shedding their clothes at the door and walking forward open and unfettered, with nothing to hide, the way the Betazoid tradition demanded. Chakotay and Juliet walked through a sea of color and texture: there was a flash of golden firm muscle--B'Elanna, smiling--he could have sworn her gaze flicked downwards along his body and her grin got wider. And there was Mike Ayala, for some reason staring fixedly at the Doctor rather than the bride. There was the distinctive Bolian blue, as Chell reached out to pat Juliet on the arm. This crew's differences were more than skin-deep, but they had come together in one cohesive unit, forming bonds that were true and deep and genuine. Perfectly symbolized by Harry and Juliet.

Harry waited at the front, with Tom beside him as best man. And in front of them all was Kathryn. He held her eyes, and yes, they slid away from his to lick up and down his body. He didn't trust himself to do likewise without an inevitable betrayal from his body, so he contented himself with smiling stupidly into her eyes, and studying the way her fox-red hair contrasted with her creamy shoulders. For a moment, the two of them smiled at each other, caught in the intensity of a moment that had nothing to do with the wedding.

It was Harry's nervous clearing of his throat that dragged Chakotay's eyes away from his captain. Harry shuffled in place, but he only had eyes for his bride. Beside him Tom grinned, obviously delighted for his friends.

As the Doctor finished his singing and turned away to take his place in the audience--was that a tattoo of a Kazon on his shoulder? wondered Chakotay--Kathryn cleared her throat and started the ceremony. She stood proudly with no attempt at concealment, even though every eye in the holodeck was on her and the wedding party. Her voice rang clear and true, and there was genuine joy in it as she pronounced Harry and Juliet husband and wife. As the ceremony broke up into a melee of joyful clapping, and congratulations and embracing, only then did Chakotay allow himself to look at her properly.

She stood slightly to one side, a gentle smile curving her mouth as she watched her crew congratulate the new couple. He allowed himself the luxury of running his gaze slowly up her body--just the once--taking in the strong, slim legs and the hint of tautly muscled buttock, the dense patch of pubic hair , and --the only sign of excess on her body--her slightly rounded belly. Small breasts, and lean arms rising to her graceful neck. Her carriage was naturally upright and she held herself well.

Just when Chakotay thought that it was lucky there was such chaos right then and no one would notice his thickening state, she turned her head, and her eyes took their own long leisurely sweep of his skin. He knew the exact moment her eyes reached his groin from her widening, appreciative smile. Then she was at his side.

Tucking her hand around his arm brought her hip in contact with his. "I think it's a good thing the reception will be dress uniforms," she murmured for his ears alone.

Heedless of who saw them, she went up on her toes and kissed him lightly on the cheek. His fingers touched the place where her lips had briefly rested.

~ ^ ~ ^~ ^~

Later, much later, when the speeches had been said, congratulations given to Voyager's first officially married couple, and an indecent amount of synthenol consumed, she turned to him again. He was by her side, where he had been glued since the wedding itself. Leaning in close, she laid her head against his shoulder for a brief moment. His arm came up to hold her close to his side. Quietly they watched their crew. The doctor brandished his holoimager, Tom and B'Elanna danced a prickly distance apart, but it was obvious how their eyes followed each other when they thought themselves unobserved. Tal Celes and Joe Carey chatted together, and Sam Wildman chased a toddling Naomi around the room. Mike Ayala and Billy Telfer appeared to be locked in an embrace in the corner, and Vorik and Tuvok stood unsmilingly together, engaged in one of their endless debates.

"They'll be all right," she said.

He followed her gaze to where Harry and Juliet danced slowly together in the middle of the room.

"Their lives together are beginning."

"They're walking together into the future." She turned her head so that her breath brushed across his chest. "You said those words about them at the start."

"I did," he agreed.

"And I said that it could describe us too, and you told me that no, it meant more than friendship."

He wondered if she could hear the thundering of his heart as he anticipated her next words.

"Will you walk into the future with me, Chakotay? Will we set our feet to the same path?"

Wordlessly, he moved his arm away and stood, holding out his hand. "I believe our future starts now. Don't we have a date on the holodeck?"

Smiling, she rose and clasped his hand, interlacing their fingers. "We do."

(((FIN)))

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