Disclaimer: Star Trek: VoyagerTİ is the registered trademark and sole property of Paramount Pictures. This story is non-commercial and for enjoyment only. No copyright infringement is intended.
RATING: This is the R version of this story. You will find an NC-17 version at http://www.geocities.com.closingranksr.html
SUMMARY: The effects of an alien encounter bring out hidden feelings in Janeway and Chakotay. A Coda episode addition.
What Lies Beneath
CAPTAIN'S LOG, Stardate 50518.6. The doctor's pronounced me fit, but I have a feeling it will take a while to work through the emotional issues from the experience.
Commander Chakotay sat stiffly on his bed; head bent back against the headboard and eyes shut. The sheets were crumpled and sweaty and he held a mug of herbal tea in his shaking hands. He winced as it happened again.
A muted scream sounded from the other side of his bulkhead. Behind his closed lids he could see her in his mind, tossing, turning, and arms flinging about helplessly, crying in terror into the night.
"Computer, what time is it," he whispered.
"The time is 03:14 hours."
Right on schedule. Tonight he'd even woken up by himself and replicated the tea that he knew he'd want. After the first night without it, this tea had become his solace during these nightly episodes, something to cling onto to keep him from overstepping the boundaries. The parameters.
Another scream. Chakotay wiped his face with his hand. He wasn't going to be able to go through this every night for much longer, that much he knew. And spirits, what hell could she be going through each night that wouldn't eventually break her? Every morning on the bridge he saw one more sign that she was coming to the end of her rope. His mother had tried to teach him patience when he felt frustrated and out of control in his youth. "When you get to the end of your rope, just tie a knot in it and hang on," she would advise. He doubted that Kathryn could do much more than tie her hair back these days. He took a sip of tea.
Who was he trying to kid? He was a wreck, too. He had gone through his own torture, but he admitted that he could have slowly recovered if it wasn't for those screams next door. Holding her dead body in his arms had brought every suppressed feeling he had for this woman to the surface, boiling and churning much more intensely than he had even allowed himself to think. The arrival of Tuvok and the doctor had saved him as well as Kathryn, even if they didn't know it.
"What a lousy way to finally realise that you're in love with someone," he murmured, shaking his head and taking another sip of tea. The sound of his own voice kept him here in the present, away from feeling the full extent of the horror that had been. If he didn't speak out loud he'd slip back into it and be consumed again.
Another scream, this time followed by the sobs he had been waiting to hear. She would cry now for a while and then it would slowly taper off. She'd sleep until the computer woke her for a new day and drag herself to the bridge where she would fulfil her duty if it killed her.
He was very much afraid that it might come to that, and then his life would be over, too. He put the empty mug on his night table and slid back down between the sheets. He closed his eyes and dreamed that the traumatized woman next door was wrapped in his arms where she belonged.
"She's got to get her mind on something else."
"Something else, Doctor? What did you have in mind?"
"Well, you two men are her closest friends - surely you could figure that out between you."
Chakotay and Tuvok looked at one another. Tuvok finally turned to the EMH.
"Doctor, I believe that we are, indeed, Captain Janeway's closest friends on board Voyager. If nothing else the fact that we came here to discuss this with you should prove that. It is, however, extremely inappropriate for either of us to essentially pry into our Captain's private life. If she came to us voluntarily, that would be another story."
"Inappropriate, gentlemen? Inappropriate?? And when our captain's mind can't stand it anymore and finally retreats completely, will you feel it appropriate to assume command of this vessel?"
There was a pained silence. Chakotay finally spoke up. "What do you want done, Doctor? You're the CMO, just tell me what she needs and I'll do it."
"I want her to come out of her room for a reason other than to sit on the bridge looking like death."
Kes spoke up gently. "Commander Chakotay, your relationship with the captain spills over to the social aspects of life, can't you take her out for a meal or a velocity game? I mean, you did that before the incident, didn't you?"
Of course he had. He'd been both her official and non-official escort since they'd been in the Delta Quadrant. He'd always enjoyed her company and had never dreaded spending off-duty time with her. Of course, that was before she died in his arms - when they were still just friends. He gave himself a mental shake, that hadn't changed for Kathryn. And, she needed a friend.
"Of course, I'll do my very best. Perhaps she'll even consider seeking out her spirit guide again."
"Thank you, Commander," nodded the EMH. "And, I've noticed that you've fallen into the casual role of ship's counsellor so I don't want you to be afraid of using your natural skills. I'm sure she could use an ear to bend."
He turned to look at Tuvok. "And speaking of ears.. Commander Tuvok, would you consider teaching the captain more skills related to the disciplines of the mind? You could even use your judgment in regards to a mind meld to help start the healing process, if she were so inclined."
Tuvok's eyebrow rose as Chakotay flashed a look at the EMH before turning back to the Vulcan. "Only if you feel comfortable, Tuvok. I know you've melded with the captain before and her hallucination did include a mind meld between you and Kes, but I don't want you to do anything that might hurt yourself."
"Thank you, sir. However, I will consider suggesting it to the captain if I believe it would be beneficial to her."
The doctor snorted while Kes hid a smile. "Wonderful. Well, if you two are through playing the Starfleet diplomatic game, there's a woman out there who needs all of us. And it's time you two started doing your share of the job. Now, get out of my sickbay."
Chakotay finally sat up in disgust and flung the blankets away. He went to the bathroom and splashed his face with cold water. He followed that with a glass of cold water from the replicator.
"Computer, what time is it?"
"The time is 02:51 hours."
He hesitated for a moment and then flung the empty glass into the recycling unit. He was back in his bedroom reaching for a pair of pants before he even knew that he was leaving his quarters. He grabbed a shirt, slipped his feet into some soft moccasins, and was in the corridor before 03:00. There he buttoned his shirt, ran fingers through his hair, and then walked quickly away from the executive quarters. He loved that woman and another night of her screams would send him in there where he wasn't welcome.
The messhall supplied him with spiced Vulcan tea and he poured it into a thermal cup with a lid. He couldn't sit still until he knew it was safe to return to his quarters, so he decided to do something he used to do on a regular basis. He'd tour the ship in the middle of the night.
There were fifteen decks on Voyager and, depending on his time allotment, he had mapped out routes that could take from half an hour to as long as four hours. Those longer ones were the ones he used when the two crews had first become one over two years ago. Back then he needed to get the feel of Voyager and her workings and what had started out as a tactical mission had developed into a pleasure. Those nightly tours had broadened his knowledge of Voyager but, much more importantly, he soon knew all the members of gamma crew and they him. He had never regretted that.
He decided on a two-hour tour. That should do it; he'd get home around 05:00 and have an hour to doze before getting ready for duty. He took a swig of tea, swore as he burnt his tongue, and then marched out into the corridor to find the lift.
Chakotay loved the night. Whenever shore leave was arranged on a planet, he always tried to ensure that some of his time was spent off ship during the planet's night. The coolness of it, together with the beauty of the stars, always made him feel free and close to his ancestors. He had no idea why that would be, but he had long ago decided just to go with the feeling and enjoy it.
Of course, night on Voyager was only simulated by dim lighting together with the natural quiet of fewer people in common areas, but he still loved it.
He had finished half of his tour and was mentally weighing the possibilities of going back to his quarters. It was past 04:00 and, if past experience was repeated, it should be safe. He tossed it back and forth for a couple of minutes and compromised; he'd go take a look at Engineering and then go back to bed. Nights of fractured sleep were taking a toll on him and he needed sleep.
The doors to the upper level of Engineering slid open and he walked in, just in time to see the woman leaning on the railing turn in surprise.
"Kathryn! What are you doing up?"
She was now facing him and leaning her elbows on the balcony's railing. "I couldn't sleep, what's your excuse?"
"Same. I decided to do one of my old walkabouts; this was my last stop."
"Mine, too. So then, you're on the way home now? Would you like some company?"
"If it's yours, always." Chakotay came to the railing and looked down at the hushed activity in Engineering. He turned back to her. "C'mon, let's go home."
They walked slowly, apparently in no rush to get anywhere. They even passed the first lift they came across and turned down another corridor. Finally, Chakotay looked down at her.
"How come I find you wandering the ship in the middle of the night, Kathryn? You worked 16 hours today by my calculation, and you need your sleep."
"I could say the same about you, Chakotay. What's your excuse?"
"Just so you know, it didn't escape me that you avoided my question. I hate thinking that you believe you can always pull a fast one like that and get away with it. It's after 04:00 and I'm letting my natural born courtesy down long enough to say, HAH! Just so you know."
She almost smiled. "It always seemed to work."
"Captain, it never worked, take my word for it."
This time she did smile. "Okay, Commander. You've shattered one of my favourite illusions, but I'll forgive you. Just leave your rank bar on my desk in the morning."
"You could have it now if I was wearing my uniform. As it is, when we get to my quarters you either come in and demand it back or no deal. Hell, I'll even serve you coffee. Decaf."
Was that a chuckle? "It's tempting, it's very tempting!"
"What, demoting me or coming home with me? For coffee, of course."
They took a few steps and found a lift. It opened and they entered. Why was it that people rarely looked at one another in lifts? Chakotay turned to face her.
"I was wondering, Kathryn, do you have any plans for tomorrow night?"
Her eyes went blank as she mentally checked her schedule. "Just reports as far as I can remember."
"There will always be reports, Kathryn. Perhaps you'd like to go to the movies; Tom and Harry have finally been able to find the time to set up another old two-dimensional video display for their theatre programme."
She sighed tiredly. "Oh Chakotay, I don't know."
The lift doors opened and they stepped out.
"Yes, with me. Why? Does that shock you?"
"No, but . well maybe a little. I'm used to you getting me to do things that I don't plan to do, but you've never used the direct approach before."
He shrugged. "My mistake. Well, what do you say?"
Kathryn stopped and Chakotay had to catch himself and step back to her. She was standing very still and looking at him.
"I think you're trying to handle me, Chakotay. But I'll be all right; just give me a day or two more, okay."
"Kathryn, please believe me when I say this, and take it in the manner it's given and the time of night it is, but if I were ever to handle you it wouldn't be in a professional capacity and you wouldn't have to wonder if it was happening. Now, would you like to go to the movies with me tomorrow night, or not?"
The tips of her ears pinked. "Do you know what's playing?"
"No, but if Paris has had anything to do with it I'm sure it'll be terrible."
He heard her laughter for the first time in two weeks and his heart warmed. Then her eyes looked past his shoulder as if embarrassed.
"Is this like a date or something, Chakotay?"
"It's whatever you want it to be, Kathryn, there's no pressure here. I just want your company tomorrow night but without the padds, reports, and duty rosters. I think we could both use a break."
Her tired eyes looked into his, finally. "Sure, why not? I'd love to go to the movies with you, Chakotay. Thanks."
"My pleasure, Kathryn; I'll pick you up at 19:30 hours." He smiled and motioned with his head. "And look, just in the nick of time."
They were at the doors to his quarters. He punched in his code but, instead of going in, he leaned against the doorjamb. She raised her eyebrow in question.
"I'll watch you get home safe, if you don't mind, Kathryn." He suddenly pushed himself erect and took her hand. "As a matter of fact, I'll see the lady home. It's only polite."
They walked up to her quarters and he watched as she entered. Just as the doors were sliding shut, she turned around to look up at him. The doors were shut for five seconds before either one of them moved away.
Chakotay rang Kathryn's chime at precisely 19:30 hours and expected a long delay before her doors slid open. He shrugged the tension from his shoulders and straightened up. Spirits, he was actually nervous. He'd spent more time on how he looked and what he wore than he could ever remember doing in his entire life. And for what? Spending time with his friend and captain in a darkened movie theatre? Maybe it was time to let Tuvok delve into his own mind just to double check that there was still one there.
The doors slid open.
It was obvious that she had also spent considerable time in her dress and appearance. The dark lines around her eyes notwithstanding, she was simply the picture of beauty to the man standing before her.
She finally gestured to the interior of her quarters. "Would you like to come in, Chakotay?"
The spell was broken. "Yes, of course," he said and the doors slid shut behind him. She led him to the couch and they sat. A bottle of wine sat on her coffee table together with two glasses. She pointed to it.
"I thought maybe you'd like a drink before we go. What time does the movie start?"
It would start when they arrived - Chakotay had impressed that one fact on Tom in the lift after their shift. Surprisingly, the helmsman had made no smart remarks or suggestive facial displays. He had just nodded and said, "Anything for the captain, sir. We'll wait all night for you, if necessary."
"We have time. Would you like me to pour?"
It was a good thing, Chakotay considered, that they had both been extensively trained in diplomatic chitchat. He knew that tonight was taking an enormous effort on the part of the captain and, goodness knows, he was a little strained himself. For some odd reason, as they sat close to each other on the couch drinking their wine and talking about little things around Voyager, they always seemed to touch. A reach for a glass, a hand movement, even a shift in seating seemed to bring them together for a brief moment and ended with them jerking apart. He finally gave up.
"Would you like to dance, Kathryn?"
She looked startled, but she knew damned well why he asked. "Sure," she whispered and they both stood up. She requested a new programme and soft, slow music began to fill the room as they came together in perfect dance class formation.
It only took a minute before they both grinned at each other for their awkwardness, and Chakotay gently pulled her a little closer. She came to him easily and found herself loosely wrapping her left arm around his neck. The stiffness in their movements began to fade and they finally started to move together in rhythm. It felt good, they hadn't danced together for months and that had been at an official function where strict protocols were being followed. But this was not Captain/Commander dancing, it was Kathryn/Chakotay dancing, and it had been too long in returning.
Kathryn slowly let her head fall and settle onto Chakotay's chest, listening for his heartbeat. It quickened and she felt his fingers on his right hand slowly began to walk up her spine, softly feeling every vertebra. Now her own heart was beating faster. She turned her head up and her breath tickled Chakotay's neck. His strumming fingers froze for a moment and then continued, but this time they began to travel lower. By the time they reached the small of her back she couldn't hold back the instinct to press her hips into him. He spread his fingers wide over her hip to keep her there and slowly, very slowly, slid his hand over to cup her bottom. They stopped dancing and slowly drew back from one another, each pair of eyes searching for the other's. There was only one thing to do.
"Are you ready to go, now?" he asked hoarsely.
"Yes," she said, catching her breath. "Let me just get my sweater."
Chakotay gently guided Kathryn to the last row of seats. It wasn't a large theatre by any means but he could keep his eye on the whole room from that position and the tactician in him liked that. They sat down and Kathryn held the bucket of popcorn so that they could both easily dip into it. Before they had even reached the holodeck they had both deliberately deleted their dance from memory and now sat munching in companionable silence. Neither noticed that no one else chose to sit within five rows of them.
"So, Chakotay, have you talked with Tom? Did he say anything about this movie?"
"No I didn't, but I don't think he was spilling the beans to anyone, anyway. I overheard him in the messhall teasing Neelix and Tuvok about it. Of course, Neelix got right into it with him but I don't think Tuvok was ever really in the conversation. I only overheard 'illogical' and 'inefficient use of time' once while I was there."
To his immense satisfaction she chuckled and then reached for more popcorn. Arm over arm he was going to pull that invisible rope that tied her to her terror and bring her back to him . to all of them.
The lights began to dim and he settled back to get comfortable, laying his arm along the back of her seat. It hit her in an awkward place and she adjusted her position to allow her neck to snuggle into it. The music came up and the show began.
It really wasn't a bad movie. It was based on a false premise of the predatory nature of Earth's sharks, but it was gripping and funny and both the captain and commander allowed themselves to become part of the show. At one point they both jumped in fright (Chakotay quickly amended that to surprise) and he instinctively pulled Kathryn closer against him. She never moved back, her eyes glued to the screen. It only took a few minutes for the fragrance of her hair to penetrate his senses and he laid his cheek against it. Again, that made her neck a little uncomfortable and she adjusted her head so that it nestled back against his shoulder.
Chakotay would swear to his dying day that he didn't even know he was doing it. His brain and eyes were adventuring on Earth's Atlantic Ocean but his nose was nuzzling Kathryn's hair and his open mouth was softly breathing along her hairline. An accidental touch of his lips to her soft skin and then another. She turned to look up at him in surprise and her lips slid under his - still open and breathing - and his tongue slid along her lips. He pulled away gradually and their eyes met. She sat frozen, not drawing away from him, and his eyes darkened at the sight of her mouth, still moist and open from his caress. He slowly turned in his seat while his arm gathered her closer and this time his kiss was intentional.
Chakotay had fantasized about kissing Kathryn for three years. He had imagined what she might taste like, how she would respond to him and how maybe she would even take the initiative and explore him. He wanted to know the feel of her breasts crushed against him, her hips as he slid his hands over them on the way to her belly. To know how she'd react as he slowly undressed her, knowing that he was going to make love to her. To strain to keep his eyes open and on her face as he brought her to her orgasm and then letting her take him along with her on that wave of passion that she could initiate in him just by walking into a room.
He couldn't deny it any more, he wanted it all. But this kiss, the first - and unbelievably in a public place - was soft and tender in his reassurance to her that she would always be safe in his arms. He ran his hand up her arm and over her shoulder until he could stroke her cheek with the back of his fingers. He felt her tiny gasp when they slipped over and traced in and around her ear. An oddly detached part of his brain noted her reaction and was pleased - he'd sat on the bridge and turned to see that ear a million times, often with the desire to lean over and slide his tongue in it.
Her head rolled away from his and he gently pulled it back to force her to look at him. It took a second; for a moment it seemed that she couldn't do it, but then a part of the captain in her surfaced and she brought her eyes to his. They both struggled to keep their shallow breaths silent from the rest of the audience.
"Chakotay.." she whispered.
He dropped his mouth down to her ears so no one could intrude on their privacy. "It's okay, Kathryn, I know. I'd - I would never force any part of myself on you, I don't know what came over me. I promise it won't happen again. I'm sorry."
He ran a gentle finger along her jawline and then slowly sat up. He brought his arm back from around her shoulders and they both turned back to the screen. It seemed that the shark was causing about as much heart thumping havoc on the screen as they were suffering with in the darkened theatre somewhere in the Delta Quadrant. Chakotay spent the rest of the movie trying to chew popcorn in between deep breaths and secretly cheering for the shark. In the end it seemed to have about as much luck as he did.
"So, you two, what did you think?"
As the line of spectators filed out of the theatre Tom had pulled them aside, ostensibly to ask their opinion of the programme. In reality he, Harry, and B'Elanna had been worried sick about their captain and wanted to get the feel of her first outing since 'the incident'. But one look at Chakotay's face told them that it would be a short interview.
"Actually, Tom, without a doubt that has been the best one yet. I'm impressed."
"Thanks, Chakotay. What did you think, Captain?"
"It was excellent, Tom. You all did a great job - we really enjoyed ourselves. Good night, everyone."
"Good night, Captain. Commander."
Harry voiced their thoughts when they were out of earshot. "Well, she seemed pretty good, don't you think? And she did say that they really enjoyed themselves." He smiled as he pictured the command team in the dark theatre.
"Yeah," replied Tom. "But did you notice how she didn't look at him even once?"
"I noticed, Tom, but she'll have to look at him eventually. And, 'We really enjoyed ourselves,'" quoted Harry. He looked at the other two.
"Forget it, Harry. It's absolutely none of our business and you, Tom, just get that look out of your eye."
"She really should have looked at him, B'Elanna. He's been holding her up for two weeks now and it's painfully obvious how he feels about her. She really should have."
They all agreed on that interesting point and Tom ordered the computer to end the theatre programme. They filed it and shut down the holodeck for the night.
Kathryn and Chakotay walked slowly and silently. An unspoken agreement seemed to have been struck and they were taking the long way home through the dim corridors. The captain seemed disinclined to talk and the commander could only think of how he'd had her in his arms twice over the evening but still couldn't reach over and hold her hand. And he was pretty sure that bringing up that point for discussion wouldn't just break the ice; it would melt it down to a smoking hell's brew and he was in no mood to spend time in the brig. Neelix's food was terrible enough straight from his galley; brig leftovers weren't even fit for fusion fodder. He made a face just thinking of it.
"Is something wrong, Chakotay?" She had looked up at him for the first time since the theatre and caught his expression.
He mentally sighed and then looked down at her and lied. "No, just thinking about tomorrow's menu. It was almost impossible to bring myself around to sign off on it, but then I looked at the alternatives. I still can't believe he was able to make them worse." He paused. "What's wrong, Kathryn?"
She was turning a charming shade of pink and was biting her bottom lip. She looked extremely uncomfortable.
"What's wrong?" he repeated.
At first she said nothing and then she hesitantly brought her hand up to point at his face. "I'm so sorry, Chakotay, I really am."
He turned away and stared down the corridor. "It wasn't your fault, Kathryn. I take full responsibility and you have my word that it won't happen again. I should be the one apologising and I am. I'm sorry."
"No, it's not that," she said pointing again to his face. "Chakotay, you have a lipstick smear from your cheek to your mouth. Oh hell.."
He scrubbed at his face, trying to follow her finger, until she finally said, "Bend down, let me do it."
Ignoring his quick intake of breath as she licked her fingers, Kathryn started to wipe off the treacherous red marks. They came off fairly quickly but, as he continued to keep his eyes shut, her determined scouring changed to soft strokes. His eyes flew open and she yanked her hand back.
"Oh gawd, Chakotay! I don't know what got into me - I'm so sorry."
Chakotay swung around, giving her his back and breathed heavily for a few moments. Then he swung back, his eyes glittering with emotion. He opened his mouth to say something, then shut it sharply and brought his fists up to his temple.
"Damn it, Kathryn, this has to stop. I'm sick of feeling like this and I just can't handle it right now. I know you're still in shock and not yourself but please, if you have any regard for me at all, give me a break. I'm doing the best I can."
His heart broke a little as her silence stretched out. And then,
"Would you like to go and get some coffee?"
His eyes glazed for a moment. "What?"
"Coffee. Would you like to go and get some coffee?"
"Sure, coffee. Right. Okay, where would you prefer to go, Kathryn, the messhall or my quarters?"
He found himself intrigued by her standards for blushing and was quite sure that the appealing colour spreading over her face was due to thoughts of being alone with him in his quarters. She looked away from him and they started walking again.
"Can we compromise, Chakotay? I don't mind grabbing the coffee in the mess, but there's another place on board that I thought would be a nice place to enjoy it in."
"Lead the way, Kathryn, I'll follow you anywhere."
He watched her from the corner of his eyes and was rewarded with another tiny flush of pink.
Kathryn, this place is amazing - where the hell are we?"
She laughed. "I call it Katie's Hideaway. It's Voyager's version of my old oak tree and, no matter how hard you look, you won't find it on the map. And yes, that's quite deliberate."
It was a tiny area, not really even a room. But there was an extremely cushy - couch? - right up against the viewport that allowed the stars' illumination to fill the room as it reflected from the mirrored wall opposite. There was a table surface in each corner on which to place cups or books or candles. There was relatively little floor space, you actually had to bend down to enter and crawl along the - mattress? - until you could swing your legs under the table tops or in the short space between them, if that was your choice.
Apparently Kathryn didn't want to do that tonight. She pulled some loose pillows into the corner with her and got comfortable, tucking her legs under her. Chakotay found it a little more challenging because of his size, but once in with the hatch shut, he grabbed a couple of pillows for himself and piled them in the other corner. He estimated that, if he were to lie flat on his back with his legs straight, there would probably only be a foot of extra space in this room. If that.
"All right, Kathryn, how have you been getting away with this for so long? I've never noticed you missing for any length of time."
"Strategic planning, Commander, together with a programmed response from both the communication system and the computer if anyone enquires about my whereabouts. Why don't you give it a try?"
He slipped his hand into his pocket and pulled out his communicator. "Chakotay to Janeway."
"The captain is currently unavailable. Is this communication rated urgent?"
"Negative." He looked at her and broke the connection. "Well, that's not too bad. I instantly got an image of you in the shower and so will 90% of the men on board this ship, but it works."
"Oh, you did not - quit trying to embarrass me."
"Kathryn, I am not responsible for your embarrassment and yes, I did. If I called you from the bridge and got that response both Paris and Kim would insist that I do it again just to make sure. And, I'd probably oblige them."
He ignored her glare and hailed the computer. "Computer, locate the captain."
There was a tiny beep from Kathryn's corner and then the computer voice answered. "The captain is in corridor 23, Section A9."
"Uh-huh. Pass me my tea, please. Thanks. Computer, locate the captain."
Another tiny beep and another computer response. "The captain is in corridor 23, Section A10."
"Very tricky, Kathryn, presenting a moving target. But what if I happen to be in corridor 23, Section A? And what's that little beep when I make the location request? "
"In that case the computer will recognise your location from your communicator and give an alternate response. And the little beep is me being advised that so-and-so is requesting my location. I can then make up my mind to get back to work and be found, or to read another chapter."
"I don't believe you! How did you arrange this?"
"I studied Voyager's schematics for almost a year, Chakotay. This was my ship, my baby, and I wanted to know her from stem to stern. I found a utility cupboard that had a viewport, and wondered about that for days. Then I contacted the chief engineer, who had become a good friend, and the rest is history."
"The chief engineer collaborated with you with this deception?"
"Voyager is my ship, Chakotay. And besides, what deception? There's still a utility cupboard on the other side of that wall, it just doesn't have a viewport anymore."
He leaned over and tested the softness of the... "What the hell is this, Kathryn? A backless couch? A bed? What?"
"It's whatever I want it to be. What it is not is a chair in front of a desk, a science console, or that big chair on the bridge. This is Katie's Hideaway and you're the only other person on board Voyager beside myself who even knows about it. And I want it to stay that way, Chakotay."
There was a silence that stretched and she narrowed her eyes. "Commander, you can wipe that look right off your face. I know that being a captain is a 24/7 job, and I have never abused the use of this place or used it to hide from my duties. I have yet to fail to respond to a communication attempt and the one time we had an alert I was in the lift around the corner by the third klaxon sound. I timed it; I was on the bridge faster than if I had been in my quarters. Now, if you have a problem that you feel you have to record in your log, I want to know now."
He looked at her steadily and finally shook his head. "No problems to report, Captain. But I'm glad I finally know about this hideaway."
She wasn't convinced. "And why is that, Commander?"
"Because being the first officer is only a 23/7 job and I could use a place like this."
There was a pause while his reply sank in and then they both burst into laughter at the same time. He continued to smile as he pressed his hand into the bed to test its softness. He had decided that this would be called a bed; it was far too comfortable for a couch.
"Kathryn, you have no worries from either your first officer or your friend and next-door neighbour. All I ask is that you programme the computer to recognise my voice."
She cocked her head. "Why? All you have to hear is Corridor 23; Section A and you'll know where I am. I'm not totally incommunicado -."
"It's the principle of the thing, Kathryn. If you trust that computer to know where you are, I want equal billing. And the ability to initiate a communication; I will not be reduced to a beep on your communicator."
She almost laughed at him. "Computer, adjust protocol 23 dot A. Programme the first officer's voice for recognition and the ability to communicate directly with the captain." She looked at him. "Is that good enough, Chakotay. Are you happy now?"
"For now, and about this room, yes. Now, why don't you slide over here and we can enjoy our drinks and watch the stars. After that, maybe I'll take you straight home."
She started to crawl towards him. "Maybe? There will be no maybes about that, Commander."
Chakotay bounced a little on the softness and gathered her towards him. He settled her between his legs, leaning against his chest. "Really, Captain, you sure can take the point out of star gazing. I mean, watching the real ones when we could be making our own. Ouch!"
"I have two elbows, Commander; that was just the first one." She leaned her head back against him while he brought his arm around her, holding her gently.
He sighed dramatically. "Your loss, Captain." They sat and sipped their drinks and, when finished, put their mugs down. Neither made a move to leave.
"Kathryn, I think it's time we talked."
"That sounds dangerous. What did you want to talk about?"
"Oh, life in general. Voyager. Her crew. Her command team. Her captain."
"Chakotay, we'd be here forever. Want to narrow that down a little?"
"Okay." He pulled her a little closer and brought his hand up for a moment to tuck a piece of hair behind her ear. His head bent down just a fraction, positioning his mouth by her uncovered ear. "Why don't we start with your nightmares and why, last night, they graduated into your not sleeping at all? Or, if you want, we can start two weeks ago and work up to last night's ship tour."
Kathryn stiffened but made no attempt to get out of his embrace. "I can't."
"Sure you can," he spoke softly in her ear. "You're safe in your hideaway and there's no one here but me. It's my job to never let anything happen to you, Kathryn; you can say anything to me."
"It's not easy, Chakotay. I wouldn't even know where to start."
"Then why don't we start with the nightmares and work back? Would it be easier for you if I told you my version of them first?"
She twisted her head back in an attempt to look at him. "What do you mean, your version?"
She felt his sad smile against her temple. "Well, let's just say it's put herbal tea on a whole new level in my quarters at 03:00. This is how it starts..."
They finally made it home an hour before their duty shifts.
Commander Chakotay entered the Captain's Ready Room and walked quietly to her desk. "Today was the last day, wasn't it, Kathryn?"
Captain Janeway looked up at her first officer and smiled. "Yes, but Tuvok said that I could ask for refreshers any time I want, and I just might do that. Those exercises aren't easy, but they do produce a feeling of clarity and control. And Chakotay, that feels so much better than what I was going through during the two weeks after the incident."
Chakotay's face looked relieved. "The cycle is completely broken? No more murderous Vidiians or doctors? No more phage? You're no longer trapped in a pod drifting in space or being enticed by entities into the light so that they can feed off you?"
By the time he was finished Kathryn had a broad grin on her face. "Nope, and none of the other scenes play out any more either. The only one that seems to linger in my mind at all is the one where I'm hurt and you're holding me. I don't seem to mind that one very much."
He grinned himself. "Then Kathryn, I'm both happy and proud of you." His hand came around from behind his back and he held out a peace rose to her. He was absolutely delighted when she closed her eyes and brought the bloom to her nose - and blushed. That tinge of pink gave him courage.
"I asked Tuvok to assume full command tonight, Kathryn. He seemed very amenable about it; he even said something about us sailing on Lake George. I'm game if you are."
She looked up at him, startled. "He said that? He said you should take me sailing on Lake George?"
"Yes, but we don't have to do it if you don't want - we can do anything you'd like."
She stood up and came around her desk. "Well, it does sound like fun. But, how about you, Chakotay? I'm sure you had your own ideas before a certain mind melding peeping-Tuvok brought up sailing."
"Kathryn, as long as we celebrate the time together, I'm happy. If you want Lake George, then sailing it is."
She smiled up at him. "How can a lady make a choice if she doesn't know what the alternative is?" She reached up with the rose and slid it down his cheek. Chakotay's hand came up and held her wrist, bringing it up to his mouth and kissing it. He carefully took the rose out of her hand and snapped off most of the stem. As he spoke he ran his fingers through her hair and then worked at getting the rose to stay in it.
"Oh, I don't know, Kathryn," he said softly. "I rather liked the idea of us picking up where we left off before going to the movies last week. I found a tropical paradise programme for the Holodeck and I've got four hours reserved. We could even set sail from Lake George and end up at the ocean's beach if you'd like. So tell me, Kathryn, would you like to go dancing with me in a never-ending sunset by a tropical ocean? In a pavilion with a bar and a small band, where the tropical breezes blow the scent of flowers over us. Does that sound like something you'd like to do?"
Her head was bent to help him in his attempt to get the rose fixed behind her ear. With his last question Kathryn turned her eyes up to meet his and the glow in them, together with the stretch of soft white skin just below his face, finally caused Chakotay to lose concentration on the rose. The hand holding it fell to his side and then reached for her waist, the forgotten bloom dropping to the floor. He brought his mouth down to her neck as he pulled her to him.
He felt her sudden intake of breath and the shiver that ran through her as his lips touched her neck. His other arm reached around her shoulders and, as his soft kisses climbed past her throat her hands slowly slid under his arms and around to his shoulders. Her fingers dug into him as his mouth came to hers, but instead of kissing her he let his own shallow breath torment her for a few moments before he slowly drew away. Her eyes opened and drowned in his.
"Come dance with me, Kathryn. Let me hold you in my arms tonight."
Her answer was unmistakable. She rose to her toes and met Chakotay's kiss halfway, her body easily fitting against his within his embrace. He worked her lips gently at first, small kisses first on the top one and then on the bottom, until it was she who started to apply pressure. He matched her rising passion with his own, his lips now devouring hers until she couldn't stand it anymore and gasped for air. He claimed her mouth at that moment, his tongue possessing her in a way that sent currents of fire throughout her body. She felt his fingers come up and spread through her hair, his nails pressing into her. She smelled his cologne all around her and felt his heart beating and suddenly her knees began to buckle. He pulled her even closer as she began to slide down and stepped toward her desk to give her more support. He pulled away reluctantly.
"Keep that thought," he spoke softly, his eyes piercing into hers. "I'm going to leave now while I still can, Captain. Tuvok's interrupted us many times but this time I wouldn't be responsible for my actions and I'm already a wanted man in some quadrants. My reservation for the holodeck is for 20:00 hours. Why don't I pick you up at 19:45?"
"Why don't you come earlier and we can finish that bottle of wine we started the other night?" she whispered.
"All right, Kathryn, I'll be there. But I used up all my holo rations for these four hours and we're going to get there, even if it kills us."
"It won't kill me, Chakotay, I can't wait to dance with you again - and, in my opinion, you've always been a wanted man."
He took one look at her open face and then resolutely strode to the door. As the doors slid shut Kathryn bent down and picked up the rose. She held it to her nose as she replicated a small rose bowl and stood smiling at it for some time.
"Chakotay! Wait up!"
B'Elanna tried her best to catch up to her old friend, but he didn't seem to hear her. She yelled again and this time the commander stopped and turned. His face looked confused, as if he had just woken up.
"Geez, Chakotay, are you the walking dead today?"
"Sorry, Be, I was thinking of something else. Walk with me, will you?"
"Sure," she paused and looked up at him. Kahless, not again!
"Thinking of the captain, Chakotay?"
"Why do you say that?"
"Well, let's just say your face gives you away," she grinned.
He looked down at her. "What exactly does that mean, Be?"
She reached up and pointed. "That's her shade of lipstick. I recognise it from movie night."
"Oh crap!" Chakotay patted his pockets and looked around wildly in search of something, anything, to help remove the evidence.
"Here, let me, you old p'taq. Geez, I just can't believe you two have finally figured it out. The whole ship's been on tenderhooks for over a year thinking that two blind idiots were leading them." She paused. "There, that's got it all."
"Thanks," he said shortly and started walking again. She caught up with him.
"Okay, what's the matter?"
They stopped again. Chakotay looked up and down the corridor before leaning back against the bulkhead.
"This is between you and me, Be. Understood?"
"Of course, Chakotay. We've always had that understanding, why would I change the rules now?"
"Yeah," he sighed, "okay. Be, I've really got it bad for her. I.I love her. And she's giving me all the signals that say she loves me too, but in the back of my mind a little voice is screaming 'parameters parameters'! Tonight's our night but I know that if she really does love me then I won't ever be able to go back to how it's been up to now. And then what? I've already lost everything twice, I don't think I can handle a third time. Not when it involves her."
She just stared up at him. She'd seen this man stare down Cardassians and watched him risk his life to save them all, even losing his ship in the bargain. In all the years that she'd known him she couldn't remember a single moment when he was so obviously vulnerable. He was an idiot!
"I wouldn't worry about that, Chakotay - you just go for it. It's taken Kathryn Janeway all this time to accept what she wants, and what she wants is you. You should see how she looks at you since that incident a few weeks ago. I don't think you have a thing to worry about. Besides.."
"Well, besides all that, she took you to her secret room. She's never taken anyone there."
Chakotay was stunned. "How do you know about that room - and that I was there?"
B'Elanna rolled her eyes. "Chakotay, hello! Chief Engineer here! It took me maybe ten days to go look at a utility closet with a viewport, never heard of one before. It wasn't too difficult to figure out whose little nest it was and I keep an eye on it. Your cologne is very unique and somehow a couple of pillows smell like it. And, besides, you left your movie ticket stubs behind."
When the hell had he done that? He could hardly even remember having ticket stubs. He sighed.
"Be, do me a favour and never mention that you 'keep an eye' on the captain's little hideaway. I really don't want to be responsible for cleaning your mutilated body off the deck."
"Oh, don't worry about that, Chak; this little Maquis has never had a death wish. But maybe you should take her back there and, well uh, discuss your future. It's really very cozy, isn't it?"
Chakotay pushed himself from the bulkhead and started to walk. B'Elanna caught up easily this time.
"I don't believe you," he muttered.
"Oh, sure you do," she grinned. "And you're thinking about it, don't try to deny it."
"Maybe. But Torres, if I find out later that you went there tomorrow to check out the room, you won't live long enough to finish scrubbing what I have in mind with your toothbrush. Got it?"
"Got it!" She laughed as she stopped at lift door and signaled for it. "And have fun, Chakotay!"
She heard his growl as she entered the lift.
They never made it to the holodeck. After one glass of wine in Kathryn's quarters they knew they weren't going to surround themselves with photons and tricks of light, they wanted something real and solid. Chakotay cancelled his reservation and got his rations back with a clever bit of hacking. Kathryn pretended not to notice and poured them both another glass of wine. Soft music was playing and she lowered the illumination setting. The niggling worry that Chakotay had shared with B'Elanna fell by the wayside, there was no doubt how they felt for one another. It was actually tangible.
"You know, you promised me something earlier, Chakotay."
"I'd promise you the world, Kathryn, but what specifically are you referring to?"
"Dance with me."
They stood up together and walked around the coffee table hand in hand. As they came together they both felt it, the crackle of electricity, the hairs on their arms and necks rising, the feeling that the missing pieces of their own personal puzzles had been found. They managed to take two steps in their dance.
Chakotay's mouth found Kathryn's as she wrapped an arm around his neck and pressed herself against him. He felt her body crush against his and immediately slid his hand to the small of her back to deny her any chance of pulling away from him. His other arm snaked around her neck and his mind went blank as they opened their mouths at the same time to explore each other. It was when her right leg began to twine around his left one that he knew he wouldn't be able to stand much longer.
In one movement he pulled his leg from hers and twisted enough to bend down and scoop her into his arms. His breathing was shallow as he stood with her in the middle of the room, their eyes locked onto each other's.
"Chakotay.." She laid her head on his shoulder and nuzzled into his neck. One hand came up to cup his cheek and pull his head a little closer to her face. Her kisses traveled up to his jaw and then over to his ear. His arms began to shake when her tongue began to swirl in the hills and valleys of his ear and he was walking towards her bedroom before he even realised it.
He let her slide down to the floor even as he was releasing the folds of her tropical sarong. His mouth was on her shoulder and her head was thrown back in pleasure. As she felt him pull away and cup her cheeks in his hands, she opened her eyes.