Disclaimer: Star Trek: Voyager™ is the registered trademark and sole property of Paramount Pictures. This story is non-commercial and for enjoyment only. No copyright infringement is intended.

20020404

AUTHOR: JinnyR

EMAIL: jrossca@sympatico.ca

RATING: This is the R version of this story. You can find an NC-17 version at http://www.geocities.com.deltaalphasnc.html

SUMMARY: The first decision has been made and the Caretaker’s Array has been destroyed. But what happens when the second decision is different from what we remember?

 

Delta Alphas

 

If there was a hell for cocky, smug, responsible, and ambitious Starfleet captains, she was certainly in it. In her first week on the job, too. Well, she considered, she always strived to be ahead of the crowd.

Kathryn Janeway, captain of the starship Voyager, stood by the viewport looking at all the strange stars and constellations. The vacuum of space where the Caretaker’s Array had been for eons was empty, except for the remaining debris that would never erode, disintegrate, or disappear.

She’d done that.

She was lost. Voyager was lost. Their whole damned world was lost and it was totally unacceptable. No instructor in command school had ever mentioned this possibility to their students.

Janeway heard the door swoosh open and looked in the reflection to determine the identity of the intruder. Oh, wonderful. Of all the people on the ship it had to be him. Just when she thought things couldn’t get any worse.

"Captain Janeway. Are you all right?"

"Yes. Why wouldn’t I be?"

"You’ve been missing for a long time. Your crew is asking for you."

"Tuvok is in command and I have complete faith in him. Why are you here?"

"I was looking for you. Obviously."

She turned around and raised her chin at him. "It’s not obvious to me, Chakotay. Why are you here?"

There was silence as the Maquis captain stared at her. "Am I under house arrest, Captain? Do you want me confined to quarters for the rest of the journey?"

" ‘Rest’ of the journey? That’s rich, especially coming from you. We haven’t even started on our journey yet."

"Again, obviously. The captain is not on the bridge."

That stung.

"Well, I’m trying to think how we ever will now. You declined the position, Chakotay, yet you’re in here acting like my first officer. Why is that?"

"I declined Starfleet, Captain, as did my entire crew, but I’ve already made it plain that we’re here to help you in any other way we can. If you prefer that we leave the ship, we’ll accept that. The Ocampans will need some strong leaders in five years and we’re willing and able to help them."

She turned back to the blackness of space.

"Voyager needs the Maquis crew in order to get home and you know that as well as I do. You’re blackmailing me."

"‘Blackmail’ is a strong word, Kathryn, and I really don’t see it that way."

"A rose by another other name. And don’t call me Kathryn."

Suddenly, the tiny lounge filled with laughter and she had to admit to herself that it was a good solid laugh. Her eyes narrowed and she turned to face him again.

"How dare you? How dare you laugh at me and my crew? If it weren’t for us, you and your crew would be space dust by now."

He laughed again. "Kathryn Rose, if it weren’t for you and your precious crew, I’d be in a bar on Oleaus right now trying to pick up a woman for tonight. But please, don’t let me crowd the issue with facts; I know they confuse you."

She started to march towards the door but, as she passed him, he grabbed her upper arm and swung her against him. His other arm came around to pin her. She had no intention of fighting back; she knew this was a crucial moment. Always get the information, she remembered. You can control the situation if you know the enemy.

"Foolish woman," he whispered.

She didn’t say a word, but stared at him intently.

"You think I don’t know why you’re not fighting? I was Starfleet once, too, remember. Whatever I tell you, whatever I do – it’s because I plan it. That’s why I’m still alive while you got us stranded 70 years from home."

Suddenly his hand slid up behind her head to hold her against his unexpected kiss. It was powerful and yet soft, and Captain Janeway felt herself responding to his body. Good God above all, not this!

She brought her hands up to push against his chest, but he was too big for that. With split second training she performed a counter move, only to find herself held against him again, this time with his chest against her back. His arms wrapped around her and held her arms tight. He whispered in her ear and they both felt her shiver.

"Kathryn, don’t ever try that again. I’m trying to remember that I’m on your side now but, if you ever do that again, we both know what’s going to happen. Now, if you want to dump us on Ocampa, so be it, but if you want our help let me know. Do we go or stay? I want to know by 20:00 hours. Tonight.

He dropped her arms and strode to the door.

Oh yes, this was definitely hell.

Of course she accepted, what choice did she have? At 19:59 hours Kathryn stood outside Chakotay’s assigned quarters and glared at it. She was just about to raise her hand to sound the chime when it suddenly slid open. She found herself glaring at the occupant.

"Well?" he demanded.

"Fine. You go with us."

"Good."

The door slid shut. She glared again before she spun around and marched away. Damn it to hell!

It settled down after that. The following morning Janeway and Chakotay met in her ready room and formulated their long-range plan. Then they spent the rest of the day narrowing down the details for their immediate departure in search of the Alpha Quadrant. The voyage started out with an official display of confidence and bravado from Captain Janeway that Tom Paris immediately dubbed the "Yo-Ho-Ho" speech. Scanners were locked to a permanent search for dilithium

As problems on Voyager arose, Chakotay would mention a member of the Maquis who might be useful to the captain. Kathryn was tentative the first time she followed up on his recommendation, but couldn’t have been more pleased with the result. After several such successes, she advised the Liberty captain that Voyager wasn’t a free ride, and that the Maquis would have to assume permanent duties while on board. He responded with a quiet, "It’s about time." She had no comeback for that.

Now, four months into the journey, their biggest problem was still power. They had shut down to gray mode three days earlier and, if they didn’t find a source of dilithium soon, their journey would be over before it was barely started. Captain Janeway quietly ordered Commander Tuvok to set his scanners to search specifically for sparsely populated M-Class planets, but not to share that information with anyone other than herself or Chakotay. The first officer complied without emotion, as expected.

And then, only ten minutes ago, he had entered the captain’s ready room with the welcome information that dilithium had been found and that it had been found on an M-Class planet. Voyager was now on course to find salvation.

The hall door to her ready room chimed.

"Enter."

"You wanted to see me, Captain?"

"Yes, Chakotay. Would you like a tea?"

"No thanks, I’m saving that cup for bedtime. What’s up?"

Janeway got up and walked around her desk. "Good news, I hope. Tuvok has just set a course to an M-Class planet that is rich in dilithium. You may soon get to drink that awful tea whenever you wish."

He snorted. "Spoken by a woman who drinks Neelix’s tar. Is the planet inhabited?"

"Yes, but we’ll have to get closer before our limited scanners can determine any specifics about the population or their social development. Chakotay, I’m very determined to get that dilithium."

"What about your Prime Directive?"

"It stands, of course. I didn’t mean to suggest otherwise, but we need that dilithium and I’d like you to start thinking of solutions to any possible roadblocks."

"In other words, you want me to think ‘Maquis’."

"Do you have to flick a switch for that? You are Maquis."

His eyes looked over her shoulders to the viewport. "I haven’t seen a Cardassian in months, Kathryn Rose, but I’ll do as you ordered. Permission to be excused?"

"Denied. Have a seat, Chakotay; I’m going to get you that spiced tea."

She brought his tea and a cup of coffee for herself to the couch. After they sat they both brought their cups up to their noses and inhaled softly.

"Such luxury in the middle of the morning."

"Yes, although I deliberately replicated them in a demonstration of hope that our troubles will soon be over." Kathryn took a sip and grimaced. "Calling this ‘tar’ was a kindness to Neelix, Chakotay."

He smiled. "I like Neelix. Through all our troubles he’s adapted, and I’ve never heard a complaint except perhaps about his kitchen. If we’re lucky, maybe he won’t even have that to worry about soon."

She raised her cup. "To a happy Talaxian, and amen to that."

They sipped in silence until Chakotay finally turned to her. "I should apologise for my remark earlier, Captain. Of course I’ll try to anticipate any problems and have a solution ready for them. You weren’t out of line to suggest it and I’m sorry that I intimated that you were."

"Apology accepted, Chakotay. To tell you the truth, I didn’t even think of it as anything I wouldn’t have requested from any of my senior officers. I’ve come to think of you in that way, no matter how you feel about Starfleet."

He looked at her in surprise. "You have?"

"I offered you the position of first officer, didn’t I? I am not a whimsical woman, Chakotay."

"I’ll buy that, but I figured I was instantly demoted when I refused. I’m still who I was when you were sent out to capture me you know, Kathryn Rose."

"No, you’re not. And why do you keep calling me ‘Kathryn Rose?’"

"‘A rose by any other name…’"

"Saints preserve me. I have to be the only captain who has to spend the next 70 years with a captured terrorist poet. Stop the ship, I want to get off."

He placed his empty cup on the table and stood. "Be careful what you wish for, Captain. In the meantime, I’ll speak to a few friends and see what we can think of to avoid possible problems with this new development."

As the hall door slid open he turned and smiled again. "Thanks for the tea."

Two smiles in one day. Heavens. Come to think of it, two smiles in four months. The revolutionary was mellowing.

Chakotay entered the darkened messhall and headed for Neelix’s galley. The last of his personal stash of AQ tea leaves were entrusted to the little cook, with strict orders to deny Chakotay any requests in excess of one cup per day. Which meant, thought Chakotay, that it was a good thing that Neelix’s security measures could be broken by a child. Today was definitely a two cup day.

As he poured the boiling water into the pot Chakotay saw her. Way in the back corner of the mess sat the captain, apparently looking out the viewport. He squinted. She wasn’t moving. Either she was asleep or dead, and now would not be a good time for her to be dead. He grabbed two mugs and the pot and silently made his way over to her.

She was sound asleep, sitting upright and leaning against the wall. He set down the tea implements and knelt down beside her.

"Captain," he whispered, putting his hand on her shoulder. She murmured but didn’t wake.

"Captain," he said, a little louder.

Her head shot up. "Report!"

As she blasted into consciousness Kathryn tried to jump up. Her foot caught around the chair legs and the next thing she knew she was on the deck, entangled with the dumbfounded Maquis. Furthermore, the harder she tried to extricate herself, the more confusion reigned. In the end Kathryn managed to give herself quite a headache from smacking her temple on the steel legs of a chair, while Chakotay crashed up into the underside of the table in an attempt to escape. They both lay on the floor breathing hard.

"I thought you were dead."

"I am."

"Then is this heaven?"

"Nooo, I realised about four months ago I was in hell. This is definitely hell."

Suddenly they both laughed. Chakotay rolled onto his side, supported by his elbow, and looked down at Kathryn. Her eyes were beautiful.

"You know, you shouldn’t sleep in public. What if you were caught snoring and Paris’ betting pool was paid out? I’d be broke."

"I wouldn’t. I already know that answer and have quite a few rations riding on it. What are you doing here, Chakotay?"

He nodded up at the table. "Tea."

"More tea? I gave you tea this afternoon; you’re going to kill yourself with that stuff."

His finger reached out and stroked down her jaw. "And then what would you do?"

Her eyes were even more beautiful when they darkened. She tried to cover it as surprise but it was no use. His face began to lower to hers.

"Captain to the bridge," rang Tuvok’s voice from Kathryn’s communicator.

Her trained voice was steady, "On my way, Tuvok."

She scrambled up and hurried for the door. "I don’t know about you killing yourself with tea, Chakotay, but I have a feeling that you might be safer in the brig if you manage to stay alive."

He reached up and brought his mug down to his position on the floor. "I certainly hope so," he muttered.

Captain Janeway called him to the bridge. In the four months since the journey began, Chakotay had not stepped onto the bridge even once. He was the only person on board who used the hall door to her ready room – even she went through the bridge to get there. She still hadn’t asked him about it and he had never mentioned it. Perhaps it was just his way of showing her respect, although she almost laughed out loud at that suggestion.

There was a brief silence before he agreed.

The lift doors opened and Chakotay heard Harry Kim say, "We’re being hailed, Captain."

A large face appeared on the main viewscreen. "I am Pal Myute, leader of the Colonies of Tameer. I greet you in peace."

"I’m Kathryn Janeway, captain of the starship Voyager. I, too, greet you in peace."

"May we be of service to you, Captain? You must be a long way from home, I don’t recognise your species."

She smiled. "A very long way from home, Mr Myute. And yes, we would like to discuss obtaining provisions from your world, particularly in regards to dilithium."

"Dilithium? That’s odd, such a useless mineral. But please, we invite you as Alpha Female, together with your Alpha Male, to our planet. We are looking forward to getting to know your kind."

"I’ll be pleased to come, Mr Myute, but I’m afraid I can’t have both myself and my first officer away from the ship at the same time. I’ll happily bring another senior officer."

"Your ‘first officer’, Captain?"

"Yes." She turned to her right and swept her arm towards Tuvok. "Commander Tuvok."

"No, no, Captain. You misunderstood. I didn’t mean your second in command, I meant the Alpha Male on board your ship." The Tameerite pointed. "Him."

Janeway whirled around and saw Chakotay, who had slipped up behind her on her left. Janeway had to admit that between his height, obvious strength, rugged leather clothes, and tattoo, he was almost screaming ‘alpha male’. She turned back to the viewscreen.

"Mr Myute, may I present Chakotay. He is not an official member of my crew and therefore, it will be his decision whether to accept your invitation or not."

"Chakotay, I greet you in peace. Will you accept our invitation and escort your captain to Tameer?"

Chakotay’s eyes slid over to the captain’s and then returned open and unreadable to Pal Myute.

"It would be a pleasure, Mr Myute. I will greet you in peace on your planet."

"Excellent. We are all at your disposal, Captain. Pal Myute out."

They were a tall people, but thin and weak looking with a pale yellow skin. Janeway’s first thought was that the whole lot of them needed about six months’ worth of Starfleet basic training, while Chakotay decided that the only thing they would have been useful for in the Maquis was as Cardy bait. And that was only if the Cardassians were trying to fill a quota of dead enemies by their noon meal.

But they were friendly and welcoming, and neither human felt any immediate concern for safety. The good news was that Voyager could have all the dilithium she could handle as long as no Tameerite’s property was disturbed. The bad news was that the miners were on strike.

"We actually have the ability to mine without a great deal of physical disturbance, Mr Myute. Please don’t feel that you are obliged to commandeer striking employees to serve our purposes. We certainly don’t want to influence any part of your society."

"Well, Captain, that’s just the point. We don’t mind if you take our dilithium, since we have no use for it. But, I was hoping that your appearance on our world could be used as, well, as payment for that dilithium. I was hoping that you would be the go-between between the striking workers and our city. Your objectivity certainly could not be disputed."

Chakotay looked down at Kathryn, and then turned back to Pal Myute. "Mr Myute, may I speak with Captain Janeway alone for a moment?"

"Certainly. Actually, since it is late in the day for our city, please feel free to enjoy the food on that table for your evening meal, while I also end my day. When you wish to retire, just pull that cord and an attendant will show you to your quietude chamber. You are welcome to enjoy the garden but please don’t wander past it. Our city employs a security forcefield and the parameter is twenty metres past the garden. It would be quite painful to walk into it. Goodnight, and peace be with you."

Kathryn was about to speak when she saw Chakotay’s shaking head. He slowly picked out some fruits and vegetables and gathered them in a bowl.

"It’s a wonderful assortment of food, isn’t it, Kathryn?"

Everyone in Kathryn’s life had always agreed that there were no flies on her. She played along with him.

"It certainly is. I think I’ll try some of this wonderful bread and those nuts. This will be a banquet compared to the last few weeks on board Voyager."

"I’ll say. And why don’t we enjoy the fresh air while we have a chance? We can have a picnic under the stars, how about it?"

"Fine by me. Wait….I just want that one last dish; it looks too delicious to leave."

They walked into the garden and around the fountain, which danced in constantly changing coloured lights. Around a tall, neatly trimmed hedge they found a broad bench. They both sank onto it.

"Okay, what’s up?" Kathryn’s teeth sank into a tomato-like fruit.

"He’s lying, but he’s not used to doing it. I don’t think he even realises his error yet."

"I don’t think I do, either. I thought he was charming."

"You were mesmerized by the food. Think about it. Listen to the conversation in your head."

She chewed steadily for a few moments until suddenly her jaw froze. "How could I miss that?" she cried.

"Kathryn, for the last four months you have been doing the work of five people and taking 100% of the responsibility for the safety of our crew on your shoulders. So, give yourself a break and know that you would have been sitting straight up in bed the minute your mind was rested."

"Maybe, but that’s not good enough. I can’t afford to get that tired."

"Then I’ll teach you to share the responsibilities. In the meantime, how do you want to proceed?"

"I want that dilithium."

"That’s understood, but it appears that we won’t get any until the striking miners of totally useless dilithium are more co-operative. I didn’t see any picketers on our city tour, did you?"

"I’m not sure. What are picketers?"

"Long ago that’s what strikers did. They picketed to bring their cause to the attention of anyone passing by."

"What good did that do?"

"I have absolutely no idea but, the point is, we didn’t see any."

"Pal Myute was probably still caught up in his role-playing fantasy that dilithium is worthless here. Have a piece of this cake, it’s wonderful."

"Thanks. I don’t like this, Kathryn, I think we should have Tuvok beam us up and discuss it further on Voyager."

"Agreed."

They both stood up. "Voyager, two to beam up."

No response. "Commander Tuvok, please respond."

Nothing.

"Anyone on board Voyager, please respond. This is the captain."

More nothing. They looked at one another.

"It must be the forcefield. Peace-be-with-you and yet we’re surrounded by a security forcefield. Or maybe there’s interference so close to the building. Let’s try further away."

They began to walk slowly and signaled Voyager every ten feet or so, without success. Just as she was about to throw her hands in the air in exasperation, Kathryn heard a sound behind them. She turned at the same time as Chakotay and they both stared down the pipe of what looked convincingly like a phaser rifle. Instead of exasperation, they raised their hands in surrender. At least 30 people, each with their own rifle, backed up the armed man in front of them. They were surrounded.

"I can’t believe that the first – and I really mean the first – time I’ve every come across a force field that is not sensitive to human physiology, we go past it and get kidnaped."

"Yeah well, I can’t believe that I evade both the Cardies and Starfleet for years and then the one lousy time I come on your bridge – and at your order I’d like to point out – I get conned into an away mission and get kidnaped. I am not impressed, Kathryn."

"Cry me a river, Chakotay. What do you think they want with us?"

‘They’ were beings very similar to the Tameerites, if being strong, robust, and a gleaming golden colour was taken into consideration. So far they had not said one word to the hapless humans.

"I’m not sure, but I don’t think we have long to wait. It looks like we’re finally coming to a camp up ahead."

They all came to a halt in a clearing. Their escorts continued to surround them until two imposing individuals entered the ring and approached them. Kathryn and Chakotay looked at each other; this was the alpha male and alpha female of the tribe, there could be no doubt about that. They came close.

"Peace be with you, strangers," greeted the female.

"Are you hungry? Would you like food?" added the male.

The two lost captains glanced at one another and then back at their unbidden hosts.

"Peace be with you also," responded Kathryn.

Chakotay inclined his head. "Thank you for you most kind offer, but we just ate. May we offer anything to you?"

The man and woman smiled. She spoke. "A most gracious offer in a moment of uncertainty. We welcome you."

With that, the man turned to the others and raised his arms. "We greet new friends from far away!"

A cheer went up and the captors all moved away and went about other business. The alphas, as both Kathryn and Chakotay secretly referred to them, led them to blankets near the fire. They all sat.

The alpha male spoke first. "My name is Luuk and this is Nermee. We were the chief slaves to the Tameerites, now freed. Who and what are you?"

As Kathryn gave the official introduction on first contact, Chakotay looked around at their surroundings. This was not an established camp, and freed slaves did not go about capturing wandering strangers. Things began to fall into place.

With the introductions over, Nermee went to a pot and poured four cups. She offered the first two to the humans with an air of ritual and formality. Kathryn’s head jerked up and her eyes gleamed at the aroma.

"Coffee!" she cried.

Chakotay bent his head over the cup and inhaled. At Luuk’s urging, they both took a sip. He laughed.

"Is this better than getting the dilithium, Kathryn?"

She considered, long enough for him to laugh again. Realising her error, she turned and glared at him. Luuk and Nermee watched and smiled at each other.

"You are a good couple. A strong pairing," Luuk said. "Your family will be large, or," he paused, "larger still?"

As Kathryn stared in astonishment, Chakotay inserted his tongue firmly into his cheek. "We’re at about 150 now, Luuk. We may want to stay at that for a while."

And then the last of the barriers came down. Kathryn found that Chakotay had a true talent for story telling and their hosts were enthralled with the humans’ history and journey. She listened quietly and learned from it, gaining an appreciation for the Maquis that she had not previously developed. For the first time she was genuinely sorry that this man had not accepted her offer to be Voyager’s first officer. He would have been wonderful.

"Tell us about yourselves, Nermee," she said when the questions and laughter had died down to a friendly silence. "I don’t understand why you captured us or what your relationship to the Tameerites really is."

"There is not much to tell, Kathryn. We are obviously related to the Tameerites, but generations ago, so long ago that no one can remember when, it came about that our people were indentured to serve them. There are times when I am embarrassed to think how long our ancestors allowed that to continue, but then I rebuke myself. I cannot judge them when I don’t know or understand their whole situation."

Luuk interjected fondly. "Nermee judges herself too harshly. It is in her nature to lead, as it is with the two of you and myself as well, but I’m hopeful that one day we will know our whole history. We tell stories that have been passed down, much like Chakotay here, but official documentation would be greatly cherished."

Nermee nodded. "What you see here started about four years ago when the cookery slaves disappeared. The Tameerites woke up one morning and there was no breakfast on the table. It was a stealthy departure but it turned out to have been well planned. Instead of one mass exodus, many smaller groups set out in many different directions. The Tameerites weren’t used to being pressed into such mundane activities as search parties, but they did their best. We estimate that they found about 15% of the escapees. They were brought back but all refused to resume cooking. That was the first mass execution in our memories, and I’m afraid it had the opposite effect that the Tameerites expected."

"A quiet uprising?" asked Chakotay.

"Yes. The trouble with using slaves is that it’s a whole other world that a slave owner can never enter. It wasn’t difficult to form an organised system amongst all of the slave sects after that. The Tameerites had to bring outside slaves in to cook, and those people were not cut off from the other sects as the original cookery slaves had been."

Luuk smiled slyly. "Unfortunately, the outside slaves seemed to have a terrible inability to cook anything remotely tasty or nutritious. The Tameerites have become very thin and weak over the last few years."

"We noticed that," said Kathryn with a twinkle. "By any chance were the outside slaves knowledgeable in plants and herbs? Perhaps even knowing some that were bitter and unpleasant tasting or possibly noxious to the Tameerite system?"

"It’s entirely possible," responded Nermee with innocent eyes. "Remember, they did pull their new cookery slaves from the outside, and gardening and mixing medicinal herbs might very well have been their original duties."

Chakotay choked on the coffee he had just sipped and looked at Kathryn. These were not people to be underestimated. She responded with a slow wink of one eye and turned back to the former slaves.

"Luuk, Nermee, by any chance is your sect the slaves who mined the dilithium? Pal Myute told us that the miners were on strike but that we could get dilithium if we acted as a go-between to bring them back to work. And we desperately need that dilithium."

"I’m sorry to hear you say that, Kathryn. Yes, we are the mining slaves and we wish Voyager no harm, but we will never go back to that position. In the four years since the cookery slaves escaped there have been other disappearances. Each slave sect that made their escape affected another layer of Tameerite society, but it will be the loss of dilithium that will make it crumble. We will not go back to their mines."

"I understand; I just had to know for sure that you were the miners." Despite herself, she suddenly yawned.

"Enough for tonight," announced Luuk. "You’ve had a very stressful beginning to your journey, and I know we have added to that tonight. Let me show you to your tent."

Kathryn hardly heard him. With the revelation that these people were the very miners that they needed to continue home, she became so engrossed in the problem before her that her mind was completely absorbed. It wasn’t until Luuk bade them goodnight and slipped out of the tent that she became aware of the situation.

After Chakotay’s little joke earlier, it had never been cleared up that they weren’t a couple. She looked down a cosy bed, made up of furs and soft blankets, and where Chakotay was calmly removing his boots. Once they were neatly set in a corner, he stood.

He slowly began removing his vest while keeping his eyes firmly on hers. He put it neatly on a small table and started unfastening his shirt. She came out of her fog.

"Chakotay, cut that out. This isn’t the time for joking – go tell Luuk that you need your own tent."

"No," he replied calmly, and his shirt joined his vest. "I like it here with you."

"Well, too bad. Now go tell him, and that’s an order."

"No." His eyes still stayed on hers while his hands started unfastening his pants. "I’m not part of your Starfleet crew, Kathryn, and we’re not onboard Voyager. As far as I’m concerned, we’re joined at the hip until we know how we’re going to proceed. I’m not waking up tomorrow morning to find out that you’ve disappeared along with some miners. Seventy years with a Vulcan captain would result in a mutiny before we made 1,000 light years, and I refuse to babysit a bunch of fleeters for 69 more years after that."

He stepped out of his pants and neatly folded them.

Kathryn couldn’t take her eyes off him. In the soft candlelight his skin glowed like the mining slaves, and she realised that the strength he projected was completely valid. An unwelcome rush coursed through her body and she remembered she was a woman. Funnily enough, she hadn’t thought of that for months.

He dropped his pants on the small table and turned back to her. Instinctively she turned about-face. If she had been engrossed in their problem a few minutes ago, she was now completely swimming in confusion.

Two hands ran up her arms and joined at the top of her jacket’s fastener. "Need help?" he whispered into her ear.

The volcanic blast that shot through her body again made her legs wobble. His arms wrapped around her to steady her.

"I know," he whispered, gently nibbling her earlobe. His hands slowly slid up to cup her breasts through the jacket. She felt his hot breath in her ear. "I’ve been watching you, Kathryn Rose. I’ve wanted to hold you, to feel your bare breasts, to taste them, to taste y….."

Kathryn swung her elbow back deeply into his solar plexus and Chakotay’s gasp of breath and grunt of pain sounded throughout the tent. She whirled around and shoved the bent-double man to the floor.

"Well, keep dreaming, Chakotay! I’m engaged and it’s going to stay that way!"

She turned around and began to storm to the tent flap when a strong hand grabbed her ankle and she was suddenly flying ass over teakettle. One heft by him and she was on her back, nestled into the bed. His fierce eyes were over her face, his hot body over hers.

"Get this straight, Kathryn," he growled softly. "The only thing you’re engaged in while we’re in the Delta Quadrant is getting us home. I'll be taking care of the details, and the first detail is you getting undressed and into bed. And don’t worry, you’re safe with me. I don’t need to take anything from a woman; plenty enough is offered, even on Voyager."

When she hesitated, his hand reached to unfasten her jacket, and not gently this time. She finally shook him off and did it herself. When he was sure she was acceding to his demand, he picked up the soft garment he had seen earlier in the corner. He tossed it over to her and went to the tent flap.

"There, to protect the captain’s modesty. I’ll give you three minutes to be under the covers before I come back. If you’re not tucked in by then, I'll do it for you."

Chakotay was gone exactly three minutes. When he slipped in beside her he found Kathryn as far away from him as was physically possible. She was back in hell.

When Kathryn awoke the next morning she was alone. As she dressed, she sensed – rather than remembered – a restless night. When Chakotay had slipped into the bed she was still stiff with rage, her back turned to him and almost crushed against the tent wall. She finally relaxed when she heard his soft snore.

Kathryn had never been a deep sleeper, but she was feeling oddly unsettled as she put on her boots. Thoughts of his arms around her and his breath on her neck couldn’t be shaken. She thought she could still feel the weight of his thigh flung over her own and his fingertips as they dreamily circled and rubbed her nipples through the flimsy nightie. But, if those images were real, surely she would have dealt with him swiftly and without mercy in the night. So why, if they weren’t real – and they couldn’t be – could she feel them so vividly this morning? Kathryn shook herself and went in search of coffee.

It was going to be a hot day. The sun was only now beginning to rise and Kathryn already felt the stickiness start around her neck and under her arms. She entered the main clearing of the campsite and saw several people sitting around, eating. Chakotay was not among them.

Nermee motioned her over with a smile, already pouring a cup of the liquid elixir for Kathryn.

"Good morning, Kathryn. Peace be with you this day."

"Good morning, Nermee, and peace be also with you. Is that for me?"

Nermee laughed. "Yes, Chakotay warned me to have it ready when you appeared. I took that warning very seriously!"

Kathryn took a few sips and then looked over the cup. "Chakotay has a strange sense of humour, Nermee. He gets worse every day; don’t indulge him."

"I like your mate. He is intelligent, strong, fun, and caring. You made a wise choice."

"Actually, I was going to speak to you about that. Chakotay and I are not mates and it was a little embarrassing last night in the tent. I wonder if we could have separate quarters?"

"I’m sorry, Kathryn. Normally, I would do anything to accommodate a guest, but these are not normal times. You are in our last tent and all the others are full. Is it so bad to be with your ship’s companion at night? Did he hurt you or otherwise make you feel uncomfortable?"

"No. He was a gentleman; well almost. It’s just that in Starfleet, the rules and regulations are very clear; fraternization between the captain and a fellow shipmate is simply not approved of."

"I thought you said last night that your trip was going to take 70 years."

"Well, that’s the estimated time right now. But we’re hoping to cut that down considerably – you never know when you’re going to run into a worm hole or something else that will shave off some of those years."

"Kathryn, is it remotely possible that you’ll ‘shave off’ 69 years?"

"Well, no, Nermee, probably not. But that doesn’t change the rules."

"But, if it did take 70 years and if you did break the rules, your grandchildren would be adults with older children themselves. Certainly they could then deal with your Starfleet about their existence being against the rules. That is, of course, if the rules haven’t been changed by then."

Kathryn put down her empty mug sharply. "But we’re not mates, so speculation like this is moot. Where is Chakotay, anyway? We have work to do."

"He is with Luuk. They said they’d be back by the noon meal."

"What are they doing?"

"They didn’t confide in me, Kathryn, but I trust Luuk. In the meantime, let’s eat some breakfast. Then, after that I’ll show you the stream where the women bathe. It’s going to be a very hot day even in these woods, so I’ll get you a light dress. Is that okay with your rules?"

Kathryn was very suspicious that she was being gently mocked, but she let it go. It was getting hotter.

Chakotay quietly rounded the fauna that sheltered the tent and stopped abruptly. Kathryn was sitting under a tree, leaning against the trunk and tinkering with something. A breeze was working diligently at the hem of the light dress she wore, and was succeeding in periodically allowing a glimpse of thigh as well as calf. It was doing equally well on her long, loose hair. The Maquis captain mused that that damned regulation Starfleet uniform had a lot to answer for.

He continued his approach and she looked up.

"Peace be with you."

"Very funny, Chakotay. Where have you been?"

"I’m not sure, since I don’t know this planet. How was your morning?"

"Useless. I’ve been trying to get Tuvok on this stupid communicator since breakfast, and all I get is static. It can’t be the Tameerites’ forcefield way out here and it isn’t from the atmosphere, so I can’t figure it out. What were you and Luuk up to?"

"Nothing much. Nermee says that it’s almost time for lunch. Do you need help getting up?"

She glared at him. "I think I can manage. And I just ate breakfast, for goodness sake, so I don’t need to eat again so soon."

"Don’t tell me you’re a difficult eater, Kathryn. I really don’t think I could stand having a captain who needs more personal care regarding her eating and sleeping than the average infant."

"It’s lunchtime, Chakotay. Go get stuffed."

"I intend to. With you." With that he bent down and grabbed her wrist. She was on her feet before she realised what was happening, but when she tried to resist she felt herself moving against her wishes again. She shrieked when she finally came to rest over his shoulder.

"Let me down! I’ll have you in the brig for this!"

"Shut up. And quit kicking! I like that area of my body!"

She kicked harder, of course, but froze when she felt a great wallop on her backside.

"How. Dare. You." she hissed.

"I told you to shut up and all I got was physical abuse. Now, you’re going to eat with the rest of us and then thank the people who are sharing their food with strangers."

"I don’t need etiquette lessons from you, Liberty. And, I’m the captain of Voyager and I will NOT be carried into that group slung over your shoulder like a sack of potatoes. Now put me down."

Chakotay had learned to recognise that tone of voice in his first week aboard Voyager. He gently let her slide to the ground, leaving his hands in support of her hips when her skirt stayed crushed high between them.

"Chakotay?"

"Yes?"

"Your hands."

"What about them?"

"Remove them."

"Why?"

"Because they’re…..they’re….."

His gently moved his fingertips.

"Are you this soft all over, Kathryn Rose?"

"Wouldn’t you like to know!"

"Yeah, I think I would."

"Your hands, Chakotay. Off!"

He removed his hands from her hips by sliding them down over her bottom. "Are these regulation panties?"

"Like you’ll ever know. And Chakotay, if you want to keep the whole concept of hands as parts of your body, I suggest you remove them from me. Now!"

"Fine. But right now, it’s lunchtime. I’m hungry; let’s go eat."

He swung around and marched towards the clearing, Kathryn trailing behind him with a stunned look on her face.

Night time, and the entire sect was in the clearing. The fire was at least three times its normal size, and there was an air of celebration in the group. Nermee was passing around the drinks and, after her first sip, Kathryn knew it wasn’t coffee. It was damned good, though. And, it would be perfect in coffee.

It wasn’t as hot as the day had been, and Kathryn was actually thankful for the fire. She sat close to it and thought over the past two days. They had beamed down to meet an amenable alien and found only a sniveling politician. They had wandered past a forcefield, only to be taken at phaser rifle point to a camp deep in the surrounding forest. They were hostages, even if only in the sense of not being able to reach Voyager. She had not acquired any dilithium yet and probably wouldn’t, considering the restrictions of the Prime Directive. And, she was starting to think very uncaptainly thoughts about the terrorist she had been sent to capture.

All in all, a bitch of an away mission.

It was about to get worse. Chakotay sat down beside her.

"Well, Kathryn, what do you think? It looks like a party getting underway to me."

"I was just thinking that. They’re celebrating, but I don’t know why."

"Well, maybe just another week without being captured."

"I don’t think so….." She paused and then looked over at him. "Hey!"

He looked over at her, eyebrow raised. "‘Hey’ what?"

"You know why, don’t you? Don’t try to deny it, it’s all over your face."

"I’m not denying anything, Kathryn, but you’re really reaching this time. What could I have possibly done to create a celebration?"

"I don’t know, but I’ll bet you 10 rations you’ve done something. Don’t try to deny it!"

He leaned back on the log that created their backrest. "I wouldn’t dream of it. I’ll just leave you to your over-active imagination and have great fun all night teasing you. Would you like another drink?"

Kathryn looked deep into her empty cup. "Do you think you could find some coffee to cut it with?"

He laughed and took her cup. "I’ll see what I can do. Be right back."

Two hours later there was no mistaking the celebration. A group of the former slaves had set up a band and their music was sensuous and addicting. Everyone danced, even the Voyager ‘captives’. Luuk had requested the honour from Kathryn, while Nermee had quietly held out her hand to Chakotay. Kathryn was pretty sure she’d danced with everyone by now, except the members of the band – and Chakotay. She sank down against the fallen tree to catch her breath.

"More coffee?"

She accepted the offered cup and he sat down beside her. "I thought you were dancing, not tending bar."

"I was. But these people can tire an old man out, Kathryn. I saw you beg off and thought it was an excellent idea."

"I certainly hope that wasn’t a hint suggesting I’m an old woman, or you’re walking back to Earth."

He laughed. "Young! Very young! Vibrant! Energetic! Compelling! When you grow up you’ll really amount to something!"

She glared, but couldn’t disguise the crooked grin. "Idiot. Where in hell did I pick you up?"

Chakotay’s arm reached behind her shoulders and he leaned in. "I thought it was hell, Kathryn, I really did. But now the next 70 years isn’t looking so bad to me." He leaned in further and whispered into her ear. "And I’m glad to hear that you picked me up – it certainly saved me the effort of picking you up. Another hurdle conquered in the name of peace on board Voyager."

"You’re twisting my words, Chakotay."

"And you’re ignoring what’s really happening here."

"Nothing is happening here! That’s the problem!"

"I meant between us, and you know it."

"There is no ‘us’. There can never be an ‘us’. There is no ‘us’ to be had in this quadrant."

He leaned in further until his lips touched her ear. "Oh, there’s an ‘us’, Kathryn, just let me show you."

Chakotay gently kissed her ear and then his lips drifted to her eye. A soft kiss on the corner and then his lips were moving again, heading towards her own parted lips. He felt Kathryn’s sharp intake of breath as he began to kiss her, and instinctively his tongue sought out hers. She began to melt against him, her arm slowly winding its way around his neck. Withdrawing his tongue, he kissed her lightly on the bow of her upper lip, in the corners, and finally fully on her mouth. He drew away and looked into her eyes, as she let out a disappointed kitten sound.

"Maybe you’re right," he whispered.

"About what?"

"There is no ‘us’."

Her eyes widened.

"But there definitely should be. Let’s dance."

Pulling her up with him as he stood, Chakotay led Kathryn to where other couples were swaying to the music. They came together softly, and Chakotay started to lead her in a slow pattern of steps. Every few minutes he pulled her a little closer and she submitted, until finally she sighed and laid her head down on his chest. It was quite a while before she noticed the music was fading, but finally she raised her head and stepped back.

"Chakotay, where are we?"

"Most of the way back to our tent."

"You’re kidding."

"No, Kathryn Rose. I’ve decided I’m never going to kid with you. I’m taking you home. To bed."

Kathryn turned back towards the muted music and stood silently for a long time before answering. "I won’t lie to you, Chakotay. You’ve made me think of you, and you’ve made me want you, but I just can’t." Sad eyes looked back at him. "This is my first command, and look where we are. This is my first away mission with you, and look where we are. I’m beginning to think that I’m not much of a Starfleet captain. Four months ago you were my target, and now you’ve seduced me into wanting to be with you. Perhaps it's just as well we never made it home or I’d probably be busted back down to science officer by now."

His hand came out and cupped her chin. "You’re a fine captain, and don’t you ever think otherwise. What other Starfleet captain has ever had to run her ship with a third of her original crew dead? Or work productively side by side with sworn enemies? Do you really think my crew would be this helpful if you were Picard?"

"Maybe not, but they’re doing it for you. And besides, you want to take me to bed – I can only assume that you never had the hots for Jean Luc."

Chakotay laughed. "No, I never did. For some reason I seem to prefer making other men do what I want them to. The two guys – one years ago in Starfleet and the other later in the Maquis – who did come on to me both survived, but I was never bothered after that."

"That’s the alpha male in you. Let’s just hope it doesn’t happen a third time on Voyager."

"Takes an alpha to know an alpha. And it won’t; I’ve been spoken for."

They both smiled at one another.

"Chakotay….."

"Yes, Kathryn?"

"I still can’t – at least not right now. I have a lot of thinking to do and my first priority is to the ship and crew. I have to get some dilithium and I have to get them home. Do you understand?"

"Yes." He put his arm around her shoulder again and began to lead her slowly to the tent. "You know, Kathryn, my crew thinks of me as ‘captain’, but they think of you as ‘the captain’. I know it’s subtle, but there is a difference. You’re definitely in charge of our journey back to the Alpha Quadrant and I can promise you that there will never be a mutiny on board Voyager. I’ve seen to that."

"When did you do that?"

"Our first day. I knew when I met you that you were more than capable and could be trusted. You made a hard call, and it was the right one."

"And look where we are," she sighed.

He stopped and looked at her. "We’re where we are meant to be, Kathryn Rose. It’s not the destiny for everyone to live and die within 20 miles of where they were born. Some of us have to have the adventures, and I think the people on Voyager are the lucky ones. If you, as our captain, can remember that it’s the journey home that’s important and not just the getting there, then we will have been blessed with wonderful lives. Even if it takes the full 70 years."

"Thank you, Chakotay," she whispered. "I’ll try."

"You’ll have help. Now, let’s go to bed; tomorrow is going to be a busy day."

They managed to undress without Chakotay standing outside. Turning their backs to one another they stripped, and he slid under the covers when she said she was ready. They kept their professional distance from one another and yet still felt connected. He was just drifting away when she sat up and yelped.

"Wait!"

"Whaaaaa….."

"What did you mean by saying that tomorrow is going to be a busy day? What have you got up your sleeve?"

He rose on his elbow. "What are you talking about?"

"You know damned well what I’m talking about. What were you and Luuk doing this morning?"

"Just setting a few traps. It was the least I could do for them with you eating 24 hours a day."

"Bullshit. Don’t try to con me – what kind of traps?"

He lay back down and turned his back. "Go to sleep, Kathryn, it’s going to be a busy day."

"Just how busy, Liberty?" She leaned over him expectantly.

"Let’s just say that you’d better wear your uniform, Voyager, no matter how hot it is tomorrow."

Kathryn flopped back down. "Gawd help me. After all that spiel about me being the captain, you do this to me. I should have known."

He rolled over and faced her. "No. This is a one-shot deal. We’ll talk tomorrow night when we’re back on the ship. Now go to sleep."

She couldn’t for a long time. Hell seemed to hold a permanent reservation for her in the Delta Quadrant.

"Kathryn, wake up."

Her eyes opened immediately and she sat up. "Why? What’s going on?"

He had gone to the corner and was now tossing her uniform over to her. "It’s time. Get dressed and meet me by the fire."

"Right."

When she arrived breathlessly at the fire, Kathryn saw Nermee nodding as Luuk and Chakotay appeared to be explaining something to her. The three of them turned to Kathryn as she spoke.

"You’d better start at the beginning, Chakotay. What’s up?"

"First of all, Captain, I had to do it. We really didn’t have much of a choice, and you were all tied up in red tape."

Nermee thrust a cup of coffee in Captain Janeway’s hands. Kathryn stared at Chakotay and then took a sip. Finally, she said quietly, "I want to know everything, mister. What you did, how you did it, and you can be damned sure we’ll discuss the why’s and wherefore’s when we’re back on Voyager. Now, start talking."

"The dilithium is onboard Voyager and B’Elanna just notified Luuk that Voyager is ready to resume course."

"I see. And just how did you manage that?"

"Luuk gave me the co-ordinates of a pure vein of dilithium, and B’Elanna and Seska got it mined properly. We’re ready to go."

"How did you communicate with the ship? My communicator doesn’t work. And where was Tuvok in all of this?"

"I checked my communicator just after we got here. If you recall, I excused myself to go into the trees for a couple of minutes after Luuk and Nermee welcomed us, and that’s when I managed to reach Be. Kathryn, it’s not that hard for a group of Maquis to block transmissions, especially when they’re on the ship itself. Tuvok would never have known what was going on, anymore than you did."

"I see. So, despite my command and despite the Prime Directive, you sabotaged my ship and did exactly what I could not do." Her quiet voice was deadly.

"Did you have another plan, Captain?"

"Would it have mattered if I did?"

He hesitated, and then softly answered. "Maybe not yesterday, but it would today, Kathryn. That’s all I can say right now, but I think you know it’s the truth."

Captain Janeway contemplated the fire for a few moments and then turned to Luuk and Nermee. "I’m so very sorry. You’ve been used and to no advantage to yourselves. I hope one day you’ll remember that our Prime Directive stipulates that we cannot influence another world’s society or culture in this manner."

"Kathryn," replied Nermee. "You’re mistaken. There has been a great advantage given to us as a result of this. Your Mr Tuvok has negotiated a peace between the Tameerites and all the slaves. He has shown them the logic of an equal society and we’re all returning to the city to continue our former lives. Only, this time we’ll be free people."

The captain swung back around to glare at Chakotay. "You said that Tuvok was not involved, that he didn’t know what was going on. Explain yourself!"

"I said he ‘would never have known what was going on.’"

"So?"

"So, I told the Maquis to tell him everything. After all, he was in command of Voyager."

Kathryn felt dazed. Where in the world had she lost her clarity? She let out a soft snort. Where else but in this wretched Delta Quadrant. She turned back to the former slaves.

"Will you be all right? Are you sure about this?"

"Yes, dear, dear Kathryn. Luuk and I will lead our group back to a more normal life. And, I don’t imagine there will be much trouble with the Tameerites; after all, they need us to mine the dilithium and they want to grow fat again." She winked. "I’m sure they’ll be so relieved to eat decent food once more."

"You’ve communicated with other sects?"

"We have our ways," grinned Luuk. "And your Mr Tuvok managed to control the negotiations long enough for all our of people to consider the deal and agree."

"So, it would seem that the only person involved who didn’t know a thing was me." She hesitated before continuing. "I thought we were friends. I trusted all of you. And you all betrayed me. Excuse me."

Chakotay, Luuk, and Nermee watched Kathryn walk towards the tent path with sinking hearts.

"You’d better go to her, Chakotay," said Luuk. "She’s hurting, but not for the reason she thinks."

"I don’t know, Luuk; I think I might have really messed this up. Starfleet captains do not take betrayal lightly, even when it wasn’t intended to be like that. Oh shit….."

"Do you love her, Chakotay?"

"Yes. Damnit."

"Then you have to go to her."

Chakotay sighed. "Oh hell."

The two former slaves watched him hurry after Kathryn and then looked at each other. They were both still smiling when a strange whirring noise resonated from the other side of the fire. To their astonishment, a brightly coloured shimmering effect coalesced into two beings.

The man, a tall being with a dark greenish tinge and pointed ears, stepped towards them. He held up his right hand, fingers split into a V.

"My name is Commander Tuvok. Peace be with you both. And this is B’Elanna Torres, a fellow traveller on Voyager."

The tiny woman stepped forward also. She was dark, like Chakotay, but not like him. Her forehead was ridged, not tattooed, and her expression fierce.

"Hello. We’re friends of Captain Janeway and Chakotay. Are you Luuk and Nermee?"

"We are," responded Nermee. "And peace be with you also."

Commander Tuvok was not about to be end run by a Maquis. "Thank you, Miss Torres. Mr Luuk, may I enquire as to the location of our captain and Mr Chakotay? We understood that they would be here. Are they safe?"

"Yes, very, Commander. They ahh…..they just stepped away for a moment," explained Luuk. "May we offer you a drink that your captain calls ‘coffee’? She seems to enjoy it very much."

"Thank you, no. Can you tell me how long they will be? Time is of the essence right now."

"I’ll have some. Thanks." The B’Elanna woman came forward with a smile and took the cup offered. "I haven’t had a good cup of coffee in months." She took a sip. "Wow! This really is coffee! Tuvok – have a cup of this!"

"Thank you, no. Mr Luuk, our captain?"

Luuk pointed towards the path. "Down that path, the fifth tent you find. Knock loudly."

"Thank you." Tuvok turned towards the path contemplating how he would manage to knock at all at a tent. He kept a sharp lookout for sticks.

B’Elanna joined her hosts as they sat down wearily by the fire. " ‘Knock loudly’, ey? Does this mean what I think it means?"

"I’m not sure. Kathryn misunderstood a few of our actions, and even more so our methods, and then left. Chakotay went after her in hopes of explaining the situation."

"Mm-hmm. Well, I’ve only known Captain Janeway about four months, but even the mere idea of her not understanding the situation hardly seems likely. My rations are on her knowing everything all along."

"Could be," mused Nermee. "I’ve found her to be a rather remarkable woman. I’ve led mining slaves for most of my life, but I’ve never led two former enemies into happy co-existence. She has enviable talents."

"Well, you’re about to find that you have those same talents, Nermee. In a few days you’ll be one of the chosen few who will lead your world into the same kind of peaceful co-existence. And I’m positive that you’re going to be great at it."

Before the flattered sect leader could respond, Tuvok entered the clearing, a decidedly greener colour than when he left in search of his captain and the Maquis leader. B’Elanna laughed.

"You’re blushing, Tuvok! Did you find them?"

"Yes, in a manner of speaking."

"Well, where are they?"

"They were in a tent about 100 feet further than I went. I’m surprised that you did not hear them yourselves, they were having a discussion that was certainly not private. Mr Luuk and Miss Nermee, would you be so kind as to have them return to the ship as soon as possible? And, I would prefer that they did not learn that I got close enough to overhear their….discussion. If I heard correctly, I believe the Captain intended to leave Mr Chakotay behind, and I do not wish to make this a point of honour with her. We would all miss him, especially our captain. In the meantime, Miss Torres, you and I will beam back to Voyager and prepare for our departure. Mr Luuk, Miss Nermee, it was an honour again to meet you. Live long and prosper."

Captain Janeway and former captain Chakotay beamed back to Voyager half an hour after Tuvok and B’Elanna. Tuvok was in the Transporter Room to greet them and, if an unemotional Vulcan ever admitted to having feelings, a spark of relief might have been recognised by him on seeing them return together. He didn’t have much time to revel in the feeling however, as the scowling Maquis immediately stepped off the pad and marched out of the room without comment. Without a word, the equally scowling Starfleet captain hopped off the same pad and stamped after him. As Tuvok listened to their fading voices before the doors thankfully slid shut, he noted that things on Voyager were back to normal. He would stand here quietly until five minutes had passed. It would not be logical to follow them too soon.

"Chakotay! Wait for me!"

No comment, other than the stiff-backed man speeding up to widen the distance.

"Chakotay! Halt!"

He froze and turned in amazement. "‘Halt’? Did you just order me to ‘halt’?!"

She caught up and caught her breath. "Yes, I did. What of it?"

"You’re crazy. I’m going to my private quarters and you’re not invited. Goodnight."

"We have to get this settled."

"You’ve already said that."

"This is important. We can’t co-exist for 70 years if you don’t respect Starfleet’s Prime Directive."

"You’ve already said that, too."

"Chakotay, I understand why you did it, but I have to know that you’ll never did that again."

"Kathryn, are you actually going to say something that I haven’t heard yet? Like at least 40 times?"

"Maybe one thing, you sanctimonious son of a bitch. I need to know that you’re never again going to assume a position of command without my okay. You are not the captain on board Voyager, I am. Is that clearly understood?"

"It’s like a freaking echo in my ears! All I hear is this rusty voice squealing the same words, over and over and over. Listen, Kathryn, a few days ago you practically ordered me to think of a solution to possible roadblocks in getting this dilithium. I did, and now we have it. So, if you want to talk, follow me. If you’re just going to continue to spout, take a hike. I’m out of here."

He started marching down the corridor again. She caught up with him at the lift doors, just as they were opening. They both entered.

"Chakotay….."

He rolled his eyes and groaned. "Spirits have mercy. What, Kathryn? What do you really want to say?"

She was silent. She just stood there looking up at him.

"Well?"

"I don’t want you to hate me, Chakotay," she said softly. "I don’t want you to leave, either. But I have to know that you respect both me and my position. Do you understand that?"

The fury seeped out of him like coffee out of a cracked cup. He stepped closer to her and gently took her hand. "I understand, Kathryn, and to say that I respect you is an understatement. Yesterday I thought this was the only way we’d get off that planet, today I’d trust you to find another. Can you understand that?"

The doors slid open.

"Yes. Friends again?"

Still holding her hand he pulled her along towards his quarters. "Let’s discuss that in more detail inside."

It was the first time Kathryn had ever been in Chakotay’s private quarters. She had ensured that he had a large suite, as befitting a fellow captain, but up to now all their meetings had been in her ready room. She had never invited him to her quarters, not even once as a courtesy.

"I like your rooms. They’re very ‘you’."

"You haven’t seen all the rooms, just the main one."

"I have an imagination. Besides, what can be done with Voyager’s small bedrooms and bathrooms?"

"I don’t know; let’s see."

Chakotay led Kathryn to the bathroom and stood closely behind her, his hands massaging her upper arms and shoulders.

"I have a viewport in my bathroom, do you?"

"No! Now how did that happen? If anyone has a viewport, it should be me!"

"You’re a green-eyed minx. Don’t worry, next time we’re stationed for a maintenance check-up, I’ll see that you get one."

She slowly turned in his arms and looked up. "And how will you do that, Chakotay?"

"I have friends in high places, Kathryn Rose."

"You mean me? I can’t order that."

"Higher even than you. Engineering." He grinned and winked and Kathryn succumbed to his dimples and laughed with him.

"Kathryn?"

"Yes?"

"Have you ever considered the advantages of teamwork?"

"I live for teamwork, but you still have to remember that Voyager is not a democracy, Chakotay."

"No one will ever expect it to be, Kathryn, but I was thinking of something a little closer to home."

"What’s that?"

"You know I'm never going to be Starfleet, and I know you're never going to be Maquis. But why does that have to be a disadvantage in the Delta Quadrant? If you can accept the idea of a group of former terrorists guarding your back and those of your fleet crew, I think I can accept a group of fleeters keeping their eyes out for me and my Maquis crew. You wash my back and I’ll wash yours."

She couldn’t stop her eyes from looking down at his bathtub and, when she averted them, all she could see were his twinkling eyes. "Liberty, what exactly do you have cooking in that that evil head of yours, anyway?"

"Actually, I was thinking of how complementing each other could help us all to survive, but….." Chakotay let go of Kathryn’s arms and reached down into a cupboard. As he pulled out huge fluffy towels, he ordered, "Computer, fill bathtub to highest level and maintain optimum temperature."

He handed two towels to Kathryn. "It’s your call, Kathryn Rose. We have things to discuss and neither one of us got to have our freezing dip in that stream this morning, thank the spirits. I’d like us to explore how each of us zigs when the other zags, and other amazing things."

"Amazing things, ey?"

Bending down, he smiled into her face. "Well, that’s up to you. If you think we’re not amazing, we’ll just have to work on it until we are."

"I’m engaged, remember?"

"I think you mentioned that to me the other night, just about the time you were trying to cripple me. What’s the lucky guy's name?"

"His name is Mark. And what are you doing?"

He was undoing her hair so that it fell down against her back. His fingers slid into it and she felt masterful massage techniques over her skull and then down her neck. "Ohhhhhh," she sighed.

"Does Mark soothe you like this?"

Without waiting for an answer, he brought his hands down to her shoulder, continuing the massage. Kathryn’s head rolled in bliss and his mouth found her neck and kissed its way up to her ear. He nibbled her earlobe and blew hotly into her ear.

"Does Mark kiss you like this?"

His hands found the fastener of her jacket and it was down in a flick of his wrist. Both the jacket and her turtleneck landed in the corner. She felt his smile as he kissed her shoulder and asked, "No tank top, Captain? Going against regulations here?"

"It was either the tank or the turtleneck down there," she gasped. " And, against my own better judgment, I kept the turtleneck so you could see the pips. I should have kept the tank for all the good it did me."

Chakotay bit her softly on her shoulder and she shuddered in his arms. "Now talk nice. I adore your pips." He spread his hands over her brassiere and gently worked her nipples. "You have six gorgeous pips, Kathryn Rose. Does Mark worship your breasts like this?" He bit the other shoulder and felt a tiny moan.

The brassiere landed on top of the pile, followed immediately by her boots and trousers. Chakotay quickly tossed her hair over his own shoulder. His large hands covered Kathryn’s small breasts and he sank to his knees, fondling them and kissing down her back as she arched into him. While his mouth explored the small of her back, his hands slowly started down her torso, circling and stroking until he could hear her soft sounds. As his fingers approached the elastic of her panties, he traced his tongue along the stretchy band across her back. His hands steadied her hips and turned her towards him, so that his tongue followed the elastic to her bellybutton.

"Does Mark cherish your little round belly like this?"

Her answer was a tiny cry as his tongue dipped into her bellybutton, creating a fire within her that no one but he could quench. Her knees buckled a little as she felt the flood into her panties. Somewhere in the back of her mind she felt she should be embarrassed, but she couldn’t even cringe when his hands slipped between her legs to feel her wetness. Finding what they wanted, they slipped up to the elastic and gently pulled down. As her panties went down so did his mouth, nuzzling and planting tiny kisses. Slowly he pushed her up on the vanity and, when she was stable on the fluffy towels, he lifted a thigh over his shoulder.

"Does Mark taste you like this?"

She was undone. Her love for this enemy of the state blossomed into full bloom as he demonstrated his own love to her. He asked nothing for himself as he simply gave her pleasure. The heel of her foot over his shoulder dug into his back and her other one braced against the wall, as his lips and tongue worked their magic on her. She leaned back, holding her legs up and open for him, moaning and calling his name. Her cry of his name as he pulled her over the edge would be in his ears forever, and he relaxed into his own joy.

"Does Mark love you like I love you, Kathryn? Would he die for you?" Their eyes met and he stood between her legs and put his cheek against her hair. "Let me help you into the tub."

"First, let me help you, Chakotay. Take off your boots."

When his boots were punted into the corner, Kathryn removed his vest and shirt and threw them after his boots. "You weren’t as neat today as you were that first night on the planet," she purred.

"I was testing you that night. Today, it was a test of my own control and it turns out I don’t have any when it comes to you."

"No? Let’s see about that." She slowly unfastened his pants and slid her hands around his hips. "That’s all I can do from up here, but I want to watch."

Chakotay’s eyes darkened as he hooked his thumbs in the waistband and lowered his pants. As he stepped out of them he held her eyes, until she finally broke their contact to look at him. He stood proudly before his woman, letting her get her fill of him. She slid off the vanity to stand against him.

"No, I don’t think so."

"Kathryn?"

"I don’t think Mark would die for me. I do know now that I wouldn’t for him. But you, Chakotay? Yes. You are worth dying for."

In one smooth movement Chakotay swept her into her arms and stepped into the tub. As he began to sponge her, he said, "Kathryn, remember that first night on board Voyager? When I warned you that whatever I told you, whatever I did, it was because I planned it?"

"Vaguely. Which doesn’t mean I wasn’t paying attention, it’s just that my attention was focused more on how to kill you and get off scott free."

He laughed. "I’m glad you had too many other things to worry about to really study on that one. Anyway, that still stands true. From that first day I knew we belonged together. You’re here now because of a dirty Maquis plan."

"You don’t say."

"You hate manipulation and the undermining of your command."

"True, but….."

"But what?"

"But, I was in hell back then and I know how to plan, too."

"Meaning?"

She smiled impishly at him. "Welcome to heaven, Liberty."

 

The End

 

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