The Smile

 

Disclaimer: I do not own the characters from Star Trek Voyager. The rights to those characters and to the show belong to the creators of the show and Paramount.

He hadn't given her one this year, it had been a tough decision, but he’d convinced himself it was for the best. After all he was dating Seven now and they were moving toward marriage at a speed even he couldn't believe. It wouldn't be appropriate for him to give a gift to another woman, especially such a personal one.

Some, like Paris, had given his present a sexual meaning when they'd caught him delivering it to Kathryn in years gone past and it had made him smile to himself.

Yes, it was possible to think of them that way and it gave him shivers when he did, but no, his gifts were not about that, not personal in that way. They could never have been. Long ago, he'd hoped that maybe someday they could have, but...

No, what he liked best about the gift was what he got to say to her as he presented it. It was the one time she had allowed him to skirt the line of their relationship and he savored it.

He’d been allowed to walk up to her and say in a quiet voice. "A gift to show you how much you sweeten my life."

She’d always taken it with a soft chuckle and a lop sided smile and, although he didn't know if she'd kept or given it away, that smile and her acceptance of them meant more than he could have ever said.

Therefore, it had continued for four years, four moments of near acknowledgement of what they had.

That had all changed one horrible night six months ago. Kathryn had been in the arms of the Amarzadian prime minister, dancing a formal dance of thanks for the plentiful trade between the two peoples. As the dance ended, Chakotay had seen Kathryn give the prime minister a smile. Not a polite smile, not a professional smile, his smile.

From that moment on, Chakotay had kept his distance. He'd been duped into thinking that that smile meant something and his embarrassment at his mistake dogged him relentlessly, until he began seeing Seven. Then he could convince himself that it didn't matter whether he or his gifts had ever meant anything to her.

Two weeks outside that system, Kathryn had begun showing signs of illness. He noticed, though he pretended not to, that she looked pale, had trouble with her voice, and seemed to get winded more and more easily.

These things worried him, so much at times, that he couldn't sleep, listening to her gurgle through the wall. He was grateful he and Seven had yet to spend the night together, knowing that she would have been perplexed about his need to sit up and listen to the captain cough, when his commanding officer could clearly take care of herself.

 

In the end, Kathryn collapsed on the bridge, not on the floor, or in her ready room, but just slumped in her chair beside him and the rattling that had been his constant companion for days stopped.

For a horrifying second, it didn't register with him that she'd stopped breathing.

For every terrifying second after that, he convinced himself that, even as he breathed air into her lungs and compressed her chest in perfect rhythm, his second of indifference would cost her, her life.

Now, as he stared down at her on the biobed, breathing comfortably, strong antibiotics ridding her of the infection that she'd refused to acknowledge, he ran the his fingers over the shape of the Cadbury egg in his hands. The doctor had told him that Kathryn would be waking soon and he wanted to be ready.

Slowly she came to. Her small and vulnerable appearance giving way to her command mask as she trained her eyes on him, daring him to explain, his presence at her bedside

With a trembling hand, he placed the gift on her chest, whispering his traditional benediction in a choked voice.

She smiled at him, and he turned to go, but something stopped him.

Her smile was the one she gave everyone, but her eyes…

Her eyes held a love for him alone.

 

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