"You told them Captain?" Tom and B'Elanna were surprised to see the entire senior staff in the Captain's Quarters. They were expecting to have a quiet drink with the Captain and the Commander.
"You didn't expect to fully elope without even seeing your family before your honeymoon did you?"
"We knew that you didn't want the fuss, so this solves everything. Everyone had half an hour to get ready and the gifts will come after your honeymoon."
"Something we didn't get around to planning." Tom was still looking in B'Elanna's eyes and she was still glowing as he said that.
"Not to worry, Commander Chakotay and I already took care of that."
"Here is your away mission assignment." He handed them each a PADD, they frowned at first and then each of the lieutenants broke out in huge grins.
"I think they read the part about not expecting the work to be completed when they get back."
"Judging from that look in Lieutenant Paris' eyes, I think you're right Captain." She playfully gave him a tap as she started giggling.
"Shame on the two of you for eloping and not inviting me, I could have performed the most exquisite selection of wedding operas." The Doctor came up to them and was shaking Tom's hand as he addressed both he and B'Elanna.
"Why do you think you weren't invited" Harry walked up to trio and slapped the Doctor on the back. The Doctor made a face at him and then proceeded to pointedly ignore him.
"Congratulations." He kissed B'Elanna on the cheek as he said so. She looked at him with amusement and then inexplicably, with friendship. She was glad that the Captain and Chakotay had thought to plan this. She would not have known what she was missing. This made their perfect day a little more complete.
Speaking of which, she glanced over at her two Commanding Officers giggling and enjoying themselves talking to Tuvok who was as stoic as ever. Maybe Tom was a little pre-mature in giving up on them in the pool.
"Congratulations Lieutenants." Tuvok came up to them and Tom could swear he saw a slight grin on the Vulcan's face.
"Thank you Tuvok." Tom answered for both of them.
"If there is anyone who can keep him in line, I know it is you Lt Torres, but please remember, we do have need of his services at the helm in order to fulfill our mission."
B'Elanna grinned. "Tuvok was that an attempt at a joke?" Tom asked
"Yes, did I succeed?" The Vulcan enquired.
" A little." Tom didn't want to say anything too negative, especially on the happiest day of his life.
"Then perhaps a Vulcan prayer as you begin your life together would be better."
"May you always know the peace of being with the one who completes you.
May the bond that you have formed today make you of one soul."
Tom opened his mouth and then closed it. Once again, Tuvok surprised him.
"Thank you Tuvok. That sounds like a good prayer for us to have." It was B'Elanna who answered them.
"I fail to understand the necessity of being with one person for the rest of one's life." She was getting better, but Seven still had a lot to learn about making conversation."
"It's not a necessity Seven, it's a choice." Neelix answered, bubbly as ever with the joyous of the occasion infecting him.
"But then, how will one remain open to social situations with a wide variety of individuals. I don't think I would want to be dependent on anyone. By marrying, one limits one's romantic interactions to a single individual-a circumstance which implies extreme monogamy."
"What you find out when you fall in love Seven, is that living with that limitation and the right person is one of the most concrete way that you can remain open to social situations with a wide variety of that individual. You'll find out that there is nothing more freeing than being that dependent."
Neelix moved to refill B'Elanna's glass with Champagne leaving Seven of Nine to ponder what he had said.
"Indeed." Tuvok had heard the tail end of that conversation and moved to join in.
"You agree with him Commander? But your wife is Vulcan, she has not changed since the day you married."
"You mistake controlled emotion for lack of growth. We have both partaken in a variety of experiences during our life together and those experiences, as varied as they are, have helped us to grow in our logic and deepen our bond since we first formed it. It is unfortunate that I should be so far away from her now."
"You miss her?"
"I recall how much we have experienced together and how much I have learned through our shared life. I realize that I could be better if she were here with me and in that way, I do, what you would term "miss" her."
Seven had been studying the Captain and the Commander as Tuvok had been speaking. He knew that Seven possessed an efficient brain and she had heard what he had said and was pondering it, but as she opened her mouth to ask a question he guessed correctly about the nature of her question and replied.
'I believe I have already told you my views on speculation."
Seven changed her mind from what she was going to say. "Yes, you have."
"If everyone would raise their glasses please I'd like to propose a toast." Harry did the honors this time
"To Tom, my best friend, Captain Proton. You know what they say about the heroes…they always get the girl." The room snickered at that.
"To B'Elanna, don't hurt him too much, he has to drive." The room burst out laughing but Harry pasted the smile on his face until it hurt. He didn't know why, but since coming to the party, and seeing the joy on his best friends faces, he felt extremely lonely.
They walked in silence down the corridor and most of the people that they met were a little startled to see the entire senior staff with Seven and Neelix in dress uniform, but given the festivities that were going on, they assumed that they were just returning from, or going to, one of the post-race functions.
They reached the Shuttle bay and formed a circle around the Delta Flyer. Tom snickered when he saw the back of it. "Nice Touch Harry."
"I didn't do it." Harry protested.
"Actually I did. I did some research and this was something that they used to do for newly weds in the twentieth century. I thought it'd make a nice touch." Neelix spoke up.
Chakotay smiled as he gestured to the bulkhead above him and asked. "Before you go, care to do the honors Tom and B'Elanna?" They nodded.
"All hands this is the First Officer, Lts Paris and Torres have an announcement to make."
Down in Engineering Lt Nicholetty started screaming. Ensign Goldwatt and crewman Henley were holding hands and jumping up and down squealing themselves and hugging each other.
"I knew it, I knew it., I knew it"
Vorik pulled out his phaser, ready to defend them against an on board intruder when he heard Lt Nicholetty begin screaming. When he saw the others acting strangely, he finally understood what was going on and holstered his phaser. Females were the most perplexing sex of any species.
"We would like the crew to know…." Tom began
"….that we got married today." B'Elanna finished for him
The squeals of delight were heard throughout the ship via the two-way Com signal. Lt Ayala was heard to say "Dalby you owe one bottle of Irish whiskey, I prefer a single malt…."
"I wonder what part of the Relationship Buffet we weren't privy to?" Tom whispered to B'Elanna and she giggled.
"All hands, this is the Captain, Lts. Paris or Lts. Torres, we'll probably know when they get back from their honeymoon, will be away for the next two days, you can give them your congratulations when they get back. Chakotay will divide up their work detail and new rotations will be given tomorrow." There was a collective groan and Crewman Gerron was heard to say "Thanks a lot guys."
The senior staff individually hugged and shook hands with Tom and B'Elanna as they got in the flyer. And in that manner, the two Lieutenants started their new life together; lost in an unfamiliar part of space, with a broken warp drive, in a borrowed shuttle. Still, they felt as if they were the luckiest and richest people in the universe, because they had each other and their friends…their family.
"Computer locate Harry Kim?"
Harry Kim is in Holodeck two.
She must be crazy going to him, but she'd like to think that he wouldn't push her away and she had a feeling that he was a little down. Sometimes it seemed like life was always just a little harsh on Harry Kim. She knew he needed a friend right now, and she wanted to be that friend to him. She only hoped that she could keep her feelings for him out of it. She wanted to be there as a friend tonight. She knew that right now, he wouldn't be ready for anything else.
"Oh what a day." Kathryn said as she entered her quarters. She sank into the couch and the first thing that she did was to pull off her boots and put her head back. Chakotay had made his way to the replicator, and he used his rations to order another bottle of champagne and two glasses. He set them on the table and cut another two slices of cake onto clean plates. Kathryn eyed him from the couch. 'No thanks Chakotay, I've had enough." Chakotay didn't say anything as he placed her setting opposite his. He opened the bottle of champagne and poured them both a glass.
"OK, just a toast then."
"OK" Kathryn sighed, got off the couch and padded around in her socks to the table. She firmly pushed away the cake and took up the glass of champagne. Chakotay was trying hard to contain a smile.
"To Lieutenant Thomas Eugene Paris," She began.
"And to Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres." He finished.
"May they have a long and happy hitch." Kathryn finished. Their glasses clinked. Chakotay took a sip and began to eat his slice of cake, thoroughly enjoying the Jabalean fudge.
"Who would have thought when we started out seven years ago that we would have seen this day?" Kathryn mused.
"Not me. I thought I would have been disciplining her for breaking various parts of his anatomy throughout this entire journey." Chakotay spoke up. He didn't say a word when Kathryn began to pick absent mindedly at the slice of cake. It was one of the few dishes that Neelix did well and he knew that Kathryn couldn't resist it. It was her favorite.
"And I thought that I would have had to be disciplining him for conduct unbecoming an officer the entire trip. I didn't think that he could ever be anything more than a mercenary and a scoundrel. I'm happy that I was proven wrong." Kathryn said
"And I'm glad I gave B'Elanna the chance to be a good Officer. She has never let me down since that first year." Kathryn smiled as she continued. Chakotay was grinning and looking at the space in front of her on the table. With a start she realized that she had finished off the cake and he had noticed. She joined him in chuckling. She waited until he finished his slice and poured them another glass of champagne.
"You know I've been engaged to be married twice and I never thought of eloping. I always wanted to have a proper wedding." Where the hell did that come from?
"What kind of wedding were you planning?" Chakotay asked, this was a side of Kathryn he didn't know about, and he was curious.
"Traditional Starfleet, lots of Admirals and Captains, in the heart of Starfleet Headquarters, a large band, champagne flowing from a spigot."
Chakotay laughed, that sounded like the Kathryn whom he met seven years ago alright.
"That sounds more like a diplomatic reception than a wedding reception." He commented.
"Well, Justin was in Starfleet and even though Mark was a philosopher, I knew that his friends would fit in that kind of scene with ease." Kathryn smirked.
"And what would have happened if you had married an ordinary man for love." He asked his eyes dark and mysterious.
"I don't date ordinary men Chakotay, far less for marrying one." He laughed again and the sound was like a melody in Kathryn's ear.
'Well I'll believe that." He said finally, taking another sip of his champagne.
"What about you Chakotay, how would you get married? Is there a special kind of wedding ceremony that your people have?" The last question was only used to soften the first, so that it would not seem as personal as she had intended it to be.
"My people do have sacred and ancient rituals that our tribe uses during weddings, but I never thought about it. If I were to get married, I don't think I would undergo the rituals. Our people believe that some marriages are for life and death. Once one spouse dies, the other would wait until they were caught up in the spiritual world and be together for eternity. If I were to guess, I think that I would get married in a simple Starfleet ceremony. I don't think I've ever been involved with someone who I would want to be with for eternity."
But there is someone I know with whom I would think about it.
He knew the time had passed, but he realized if it were to be anyone, then Kathryn was by far the only woman who he could possibly say, had touched his soul, and she would be the only one who he would go through the ceremony with. But theirs wasn't that type of love anymore, it had grown into something deeper than that, still wasn't romantic any longer. He wondered if he would ever meet another woman who would have such a profound impact on his life like Kathryn. He doubted it.
Something needled him, but he ignored it due to the look that he was seeing on Kathryn's face.
What was the matter with her? Kathryn thought as suddenly as she realized that she never felt as lonely as she did now, after hearing what he just said.
She got up suddenly and called out to him, "Come on Chakotay, you're not leaving me to do this by myself. Let's start getting this place in order." She busied herself with taking down streamers and gathering dishes.
Maybe he was wrong, maybe it was just the light in her quarters, but he could have sworn that a sad look had flitted across her face for an instant. Her voice betrayed nothing; it was the same as it always was when Kathryn was giving an order.
'Yes Ma'am." He got up. He would just leave it as he was wrong.
"I don't think they were too mad at us. I think we did well, striking a balance between having a mob scene and nobody knowing about their marriage." He called out to her as he began to help her clear up.
"Yes, I think we did." Kathryn answered quietly. Chakotay placed all the dishes in the replicator to recycle as Kathryn made that statement. It was then that he realized that he was right, something was up but he couldn't figure out what it was. He pushed the recycle button and concentrated on using the sanitizer to sweep up all the confetti while Kathryn cleaned down all the counters and straightened her knick-knacks. They were OK as they were, but she continued to rearrange them. He was perplexed.
"Kathryn?" She kept her back to him as she stood and said. "You know what we forgot? The music. I'm surprised that Tom and B'Elanna didn't want to have a first dance as husband and wife. You know we could have called up one of those…what was it? "Rock and Roll" songs that he's so fond of, I'm sure we could have found one for the occasion. Ensign Ashmore told me that Tom had a program where you could sit in an ancient automobile and "park", I believe it was called, with the one you love. There was a 'radio' in the car and you could program what song you wanted to play…" Kathryn moved again to the replicator as if she were looking for something to recycle. Chakotay was shocked, Kathryn Janeway was babbling.
He stood up swiftly and crossing the room silently he moved and stood right in front of her. He had startled her so much that she looked up momentarily and he saw the sadness on her face, and memories of one night, half a year ago came to him. He smiled sadly sharing her emotion.
"Did you and Mark have a song planned to dance to at your wedding." He asked carefully and gently.
"Yes, we did."
"What was it?"
She told him. He ordered the computer to play it. She stood looking at him, not daring to breathe.
"Consider this payment for the bet I won earlier today. I know that I'm not your fiancé Kathryn, but I am your best friend and right now you are in pain. So let me stand in, for the person that you reached out to twice to get but couldn't. Pretend, just for one dance, that I'm everything that you need right now."
Kathryn didn't think twice, she let herself be guided in his arms. He said softly in her ear. "I realize that I am poor substitute."
"Actually Chakotay, you would never be a poor substitute for them, or for anyone else." He chuckled as he held her tighter, safer in his arms, doing in friendship what he promised that he would do for her as First Officer; making her burden lighter. He prayed to the spirits then and there for her, for them to guide her to the right man to fulfill her dreams and enable her to be as happy as B'Elanna was right now. He also prayed; that he would be there on that day to see her filled with joy and to stand by her side as she joined her life to another, no longer being as alone as she was right now, and no longer needing him.
He realized that when that day came, he would lose a part of her that he had right now, but it was worth it for her to finally be happy. Kathryn Janeway deserved no less.
Kathryn didn't say anything else, because if she were to open her mouth she would tell him that he was everything that she ever needed, and that Justin and Mark were poor substitutes for him as a lover of her soul.
She knew that she was vulnerable right now, unable to do what she had before, to will away her loneliness. But the one thing that she knew right then, was that she trusted Chakotay. So she danced with him as the tears silently ran down her face and wet his chest. She danced with him as she thought of the two lieutenants who were now beginning their life together. She danced with him as she thought of her own missed opportunities because of this upside down mission to the Delta Quadrant and she danced with him as she thanked his spirits for sending him to her, because she knew without a doubt, she could never have made it this far without his quiet love and support and without him doing exactly what he was doing right now.
Giving her a safe place to be.
And he didn't think twice to offer, and neither did she to accept, when they finished and he pulled her down to the couch in his arms. He watched her as she fell asleep there, safe and comfortable and when he was satisfied that she was in deep sleep, he gently carried her to her bed and tucked her in as he had done before. As he watched her sleeping, he knew that she would wake the next day, rejuvenated and ready to face the quadrant again and in that knowledge he felt a familiar peace.
As her best friend and First Officer, it was what he was there for.
Part 23Looking Back