More Challenges, Part 2  © 1998
By Bridget Cochran

(VOY, J/C, PG-13)

SUMMARY:  Tom and Kate are estranged.  She and Chakotay discuss it.

She reported to Stellar Cartography at 0900 hours the next morning.  
At first Harry wanted to defer to her in everything because of her 
copious experience, but Kate quashed that immediately.  "Forget it, 
Harry.  We're equals or you do it yourself."

So, they worked side-by-side.  Harry would attend senior staff 
meetings once a week.  It pissed her off at first that Tom wanted 
Harry at the meetings, but she shrugged it off and concentrated on 
her work.  After all, she did tell him to stay away from her.  He 
**was** keeping his distance.

Then when Harry asked if she was going to the gala premiere of Tom's holoprogram, she stared at him as if he were stupid.


Kate walked toward the bar aware most of the conversation centered on her.  She recognized the look.  She shouldn't have come; she was 
testy, irritable and not in the mood to make nice with a bunch of 

But that damn Harry Kim.  He stood bright and fresh before her in the 
Astrometrics Lab, like a fuzzy, olive complected peach, gushing about 
Paris's new program.  The last place she wanted to be was Paris's new 

"Are you asking me out, Mr. Kim?"  Her serious tone made him blush, 
he gazed down at her blinking.

"Um-no, ma'am--Kate," he corrected, aware that she hated being called ma'am.  "I already told B'Elanna I'd go with her."

"Then, why the interest?"  She paused from her calculations to 
scrutinize him.

Harry was uncomfortable.  This woman was so direct, so serious all 
the time.  She scared him, and she knew it.

"Um," he shifted from one foot to the other.  "I just know it'll be 
fun.  And everybody deserves to have a little fun."

Even me, she added for him silently.  "We'll see," she said and went 
back to her calibration equations.

Now, here she was, in the only dress she owned, hair combed, a smudge of lipstick on her mouth.  The mood was light, the room well lit and inviting--some kind of retro, throw back place--definitely Paris's 

Kate eased onto the edge of the bar stool.  She had scanned for an 
out of the way table, but found none open.  Her eyes briefly lingered 
on the table where Tom held court.  Harry and B'Elanna were there and an assortment of those bland, but adorable girls favored by Starfleet.  She gave a mental shrug; she used to be one of those bland girls.  In another life time.  Her gaze moved on.

To rest on the man easing onto the stool beside her.

"Buy you a drink?"  Chakotay asked.

"That's the only way I'll get one.  Club soda with lime."

His eyes flickered at her choice of beverage.  He ordered her drink 
and an iced coffee for himself.  He turned back, appraising Janeway 
from top to bottom.  The black velour dress was tight, but not 
obscene.  Sleeveless--sleeves actually cut out to emphasize her 
strong shoulders.  On her feet were simple black thongs that revealed 
her one vice in the universe--painted toe nails.  His scrutiny made 
her uncomfortable.  

"It's not for sale."  She had tired of his frank perusal.  She rolled 
her eyes when Chakotay blushed, busying himself with his coffee.

"I'm sorry," he said after a minute.

Her brow twisted.  Did he just apologize?  "Forget it."

Chakotay shrugged, as he turned from the bar to scan the assembled 
crew over the rim of his glass.  "Your rations are reinstated," he 
said in the direction of the room.  

Her brow twisted.  "Then why did you buy me the drink?"

"Peace offering."

She nearly laughed at him.  "You'll have to do better than club 
soda."  Chakotay's smile was rueful, but he said nothing as he 
watched the raucous laughter coming from Tom's table.

"How come you're not sitting with the Boy Wonder?" he asked.

Kate followed Chakotay's line of vision to the flushed, happy Tom 
Paris who sat like a focal point of all life.  "Wasn't invited."

Chakotay cast a glance at the narrowed eyed Kate.  "No?"

She turned to the man beside her wondering if she was going to regret confiding in him.

"Tell me something, Captain."

He nodded.

"Do you get tired of my intensity?"

He rubbed his chin, then tugged his ear.

"You do."  She sat back with a sigh, blinking.  Of course, he did.  
Everybody did.  She took a last sip of her drink, and moved off the 
bar stool.

"Where are you going?" he asked.

"To my quarters.  To lick my wounds," she cast another glance at 
Wonder Boy, careful to keep her face hard.  She looked down at the 
brown fingers that held her wrist.  She raised cold eyes to him, but 
he didn't release her, merely loosened his hold.

"Do you want to talk about it?"

She gave a hollow laugh.  "That's not likely."  She jerked her hand 
free only to have it grasped again.

"Dance with me."

"You know," she looked at Chakotay levelly, "I'm not sure what's 
going on, **Captain**, but I'm not amused."

Chakotay stood up and pulled the stiff Janeway into his arms.  "It's 
all or nothing with you, isn't it?"

She cringed.  He just paraphrased Tom Paris.  "What do you mean?"

He sighed as he moved her slowly around the dance floor, just a 
graceful shuffling of feet.  "You must really hate me," he said at 

She arched back to see his face.  "I stopped hating you a while ago.  
It's just an active dislike."  

His lips twitched.  "As long as that's all it is."  He paused, eyes 
turning serious.  "Thank you for saving my life."

Kate moved a hand to his shoulder.  "Even though I disobeyed orders?"

If his lips twitched anymore, he might break into a smile, Kate 
thought.  "Your judgement was good," he said.

"Tell that to Wonder Boy."  She began to lead.

"Is that what the problem is?"  Chakotay was trying to sound bland, 
not as avidly interested in the drama as he really was.

Kate wasn't fooled, she looked up into the dark, sparkling 
eyes.  "That among other things," Kate whispered.


"Like being too intense.  Like acting on instinct and not in the 
chain of command.  Like seeing only black and white, not the gray 
parts of life.  Like reading something into a relationship that's not 

Now Chakotay did smile.  "I'm sorry."

"You don't look sorry," she said, irritation plain.  

He pulled her close, resting a cheek on top of her head.  "He's 
young, Kate.  He's led a very sheltered life until now."

"That's an excuse?"

"Uh-huh."  Another slow song began.  "It'll take a strong man to be 
involved with you.  And patient."  He held her fast when she tried to 
pull away, a hand sliding to the small of her back.  His lips moved 
to her ear.  "But it would be worth every minute."

Kate was at war.  She wanted to believe him, believe that she'd b 
worth the effort.  But Wonder Boy had bruised her ego--the very 
fragile, deep inside ego that she never let anyone see.  It had been 
a mistake from the beginning, letting anybody in.  But now this 
bonehead, Chakotay, had to start talking about this romantic clap-
trap.  "What are you saying?"  She didn't try to keep the harshness 
from her voice.

"I'm saying that Tom Paris is just one man.  There are plenty of men, 
and women, on this ship who want to be your friend."  His voice 
dipped.  "More than your friend.    They'll either accept you the way 
you are, or they won't."

She couldn't help from sagging in his arms.  She wanted to believe 
Chakotay's words, but she wasn't that naïve.  "I'd really like to go 

Chakotay sighed and released her.  "I'll walk you to your quarters."

Her face quirked as she looked up to him.  "Aren't you taking this 
Knight in Shining Armor bit a little too far, Captain?"

"As far as you'll let me," he answered.  "I have something I want to 
talk over with you."

"Me?"  She was already moving to the door, but she twisted around to 
give him the full effect of her incredulity.

Chakotay laughed at her screwed up face, as he caught up to her at 
the bar door.  "Yes, I need your help."

End Part 2.  On to Part 3.