An Alternative Reality by D.A. Kent


E-mail:

D.A. Kent

Code:

J/C

Rated:

NC-17

Date:

March, 2002

Summary:

Chakotay awakens to the sound of Kathryn's voice and realizes it's not a dream. What can this mean?

For:

AL & HW - you requested it . . . so this one's for you!

Disclaimer:

Viacom/Paramount owns Star Trek, the characters, and way too much of me . . .





Chakotay sighed deeply. He was lying on his back, in bed. This was one of his favorite times of the day, when his body and his mind were waking up and he began to think about the day ahead.

Yesterday the Captain had warned the Alpha bridge crew that, ready or not, it was time to brush up on maneuvering tactics. They'd been sedentary too long, and Voyager wasn't home yet. Not by a long shot. She needed her crew to be just as prepared to meet a deadly foe head-on during this last leg of the journey as they'd been in the past.

Smiling to himself, Chakotay stretched across the bed. His muscles were sore and he needed to be fit today. Whenever the Captain gave forewarning about battle simulations, she meant business. He had noticed lately that Kathryn seemed a bit bored, and that usually meant she had too much time to think, too much time to remember how they'd all ended up in the Delta Quadrant. And one of the ways she made herself feel better was to do something physically active. Of course, this often meant the rest of the crew had to get moving, too.

Smiling again, Chakotay stretched once more. He couldn't figure out why he felt so sore this morning, but then again, he hadn't spent much time exercising lately. At his age, he couldn't afford to let so much time go by without visiting the holodeck for some form of physical conditioning. He knew better. Well, he would be sure to set aside some time in the holodeck this evening or tomorrow. Maybe Kathryn would feel like skiing and join him.

"Hey, Sleepyhead, it's time to get up!" Though the voice came from another room, it was obviously intended for him.

Chakotay froze, his eyes still closed. The deep breath he'd been taking was suddenly stuck in his throat, and he couldn't breathe at all.

While he often heard Kathryn's voice in his dreams, he wasn't asleep right now. And yet he'd heard her voice quite distinctly. Kathryn Janeway had a voice that could affect him like no other, and there was no question that the voice he'd just heard was Kathryn's.

He opened his eyes slowly.

The first thing he knew immediately was that he was not in his own bed in his First Officer's quarters. He was in Kathryn's bed, in the Captain's quarters.

His heart skipped a beat and he felt his blood pressure jump up quickly.

He'd never been invited into her bed in all these seven years, though it was his one dream over everything else in the known universe. Yet, here he was, and he had no memory of how, or what, had happened. No wonder the bed had seemed larger. And no wonder he thought he'd smelt her perfume in the bedding, too - but he'd just assumed it was his mind playing tricks on him again. Whenever he most wanted to be with her, he could hear her voice, and even smell her scent.

This couldn't be happening to him now.

And not only that, but he heard a slight rustle from the adjoining bathroom and knew that he wasn't alone. His heart was thundering in his ears, and he still couldn't breathe very well.

This couldn't be real. He simply had to be dreaming; there was no other explanation. He suddenly felt as though a huge weight were crushing his chest.

Worse, he could smell coffee - fresh, black, hot coffee - the kind that Kathryn had in her hand, or close by her, during most of the day. But he couldn't remember ever having dreamt of coffee, let alone actually smell it in his sleep before now.

He knew he wasn't asleep. And he wasn't dreaming.

The worst part of all this, he decided, as his heart slowed just enough for him to somehow catch his breath, was not knowing how he got here in the first place. He had no recollection of spending time with Kathryn in her bed. He sighed. If the Fates wanted to play a dirty trick on him, there was no better way than this.

"Aren't you up yet?" asked Kathryn, in her softest and sexiest voice, as she entered the bedroom, wearing nothing at all, but carrying a fresh cup of hot coffee.

Chakotay gasped softly. He couldn't help it. He also couldn't move.

"What?" She stopped moving toward the bed, and looked at him.

She was beautiful. Chakotay couldn't believe she was standing in front of him, completely naked and comfortable being that way, and he was lying naked in her bed with only a thin sheet draped over his lower body. And even that wasn't covering the reaction he was having at seeing her very well.

Kathryn immediately saw the bulge in the sheet, and smiled. "My, my. It looks like you are up, after all . . ." Her voice had that smoky quality that she never used on the Bridge, but he had been fortunate enough to hear from time to time. "After what happened in here both this morning and last night, one wouldn't think you would be in that condition so soon." Her voice crooned, and she continued toward the bed, with a look in her eyes that said she really didn't mind it at all.

"Kathryn," his voice came out in a rasp.

"Hmmm?" She put the coffee on the bedside table and sat on the edge of the bed. But Chakotay couldn't answer her. She leaned closer to him for a kiss, but suddenly noticed the look on his face and pulled back. "Chakotay? What's the matter, Darling?"

He still couldn't speak. He felt odd. Here he was in the one place he most wanted to be, with no recollection of how he got here. And though he hoped he was wrong, it was beginning to feel as though he were caught in some alternate reality. He sincerely hoped not. He wanted this reality to be his. Maybe he was suffering from a strange form of amnesia, where only certain parts of his memory were affected. Maybe in a few minutes he would recall being with Kathryn as her lover. And just maybe he would remember what it was like to make love with her.

He swallowed hard.

Kathryn was watching him. Different emotions drifted across Chakotay's face in a matter of only a few moments. He seemed distracted, distanced, strange. And why was she suddenly feeling so frightened? "Chakotay?" she asked softly.

He turned to her, trying to look at only her face. He saw her concerned look, and he was trying desperately to form the words he needed to say to her, but deep inside he didn't want to. He didn't want to tell her that he didn't remember making love with her, that he didn't remember anything about their intimate relationship. As far as he knew, she was still the Captain and he was still the Commander of the starship Voyager. They were friends, and only friends - at her insistence.

Kathryn suddenly knew something was terribly wrong. She stood and grabbed her robe, slipping it on quickly as he watched.

Chakotay wanted to beg her not to cover herself, not to take away the sight of her incredible body, the body he'd wanted to touch for years. The body he couldn't remember loving.

"Kathryn," he choked out, but then stopped.

"What's the matter, Chakotay? Tell me." She knew how to make her voice sound matter-of-fact, a trick she'd learned long ago at Starfleet, but Chakotay could see the underlying fear in her eyes.

He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "This isn't my reality, Kathryn." When she didn't answer, he tried to explain further. "I don't recall how I got here."

"Here? In our bedroom?" she asked. But she felt a strange knot in the pit of her stomach that told her she didn't really want to hear the answer to her question.

She'd said 'our bedroom,' he noted. "No, I mean here." He sighed. "Kathryn, I don't remember anything about us, about our relationship." She didn't respond. "I know we're on Voyager, and I recognize your bedroom."

"Yes, because you've been here many times, Chakotay," she said, somehow managing to have a twinkle in her eye and a lilt in her voice. "You still have your quarters, of course, but you're here with me most of the time now." But when the look on his face remained impassive, her smile disappeared and her eyes became darker with realization. "But you don't remember any of this, do you?"

"No." But he would sell his soul if he could.

She looked into his eyes and tried to understand. "But you know . . . who you are?" She nearly whispered the words.

"I know who I am, Kathryn. And I know who you are. I know that we are both onboard Voyager, in your quarters. In your bedroom." He took a breath. "But the last thing I remember before awakening this morning is attending the talent show in Holodeck One last night. You and I left the show together, then parted at the turbolift."

"That's the last thing you remember?" she asked.

They looked at each other, trying to put the pieces together. "Yes. Were we at Neelix's talent show last night?"

"Yes." But she didn't tell him they hadn't parted at the turbolift.

Again, they contemplated what this could mean. "Could we be out of phase?" he asked.

"Like the time we encountered the other Voyager?" she asked, forcing herself to remain calm despite the fact that her lover and friend didn't remember a thing about their relationship of these past months. In fact, she had no idea how far back his memory loss actually extended. She took a deep breath to clear her head. They would take this one step at a time.

"Yes."

"I don't think so. It doesn't make sense. Everything else aboard ship seems fine." She paused. "Chakotay, maybe something happened between last night and today to make you temporarily lose your memory. And maybe it will return soon."

He hoped with all his heart she was right. "Maybe." But he had a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach, as well.

They continued to look at each other. "Chakotay," she tried, "You're absolutely sure the talent show is the last thing you remember?"

"Yes. I recall it vividly. Yet I don't recall anything after you and I went our separate ways at the turbolift."

She looked down at her hands. They hadn't gone their separate ways at the turbolift. They had come back here together, to her quarters, and made passionate love well into the night. She blinked back the moisture from her eyes, and took a deep breath full of determination. Why Chakotay couldn't remember how he came to be in her bedroom, or anything about their relationship, she didn't know. But they would face the situation together, just as they'd faced everything else over these past years.

Suddenly, it seemed strange to be here like this with Chakotay. They were both barely clothed, and he couldn't even remember the night they'd first decided to make love with each other, to become much more than just captain and commander, let alone making love with her last night. Only a few minutes ago, she had walked into her bedroom completely naked, and completely in love. No wonder he had stared at her body as though he were looking at it for the first time. In his mind, he was! She quickly pulled herself back to the present and pushed that thought to the back of her mind. "Chakotay," she said gently, "I think we had both better get dressed and go see the Doctor. Maybe he can help us."

Chakotay nodded. Of course that was the next logical step. But somehow he didn't think the Doctor would have any more answers than they did. "All right."

"I'll get dressed in there," she said, suddenly uncomfortable with her appearance, and nodded toward the bathroom. "And then you can do the same." She turned to go, but then stopped. "You'll find a fresh uniform in there." She threw a glance toward her closet.

Chakotay watched Kathryn walk from the room, and thought about how great she looked in her thin robe. It was made of virtually sheer fabric, and he appreciated the way it hugged her body. He wondered if she ever wore one of his shirts the way he'd always imagined she would if they ever committed themselves to each other and began a loving relationship. He sighed heavily and forced these thoughts from his mind as quickly as he could. He didn't need to have another erection just now.

He stood from the bed, wrapping the sheet around his waist. He walked to the closet and opened the door. Hanging on a rack were three of his uniforms, crisp and fresh, and below them was his extra pair of boots. Other personal items were on a shelf, as well.

Chakotay wondered just how long he and Kathryn had been lovers. He desperately wanted to remember it all - the feel of her body lying close to his, the thrill of kissing her, touching her. Just the thought of it, coupled with the fresh new image of her naked body, resulted in an immediate erection. He sighed. More than anything else, he wanted the Doctor to have some miracle cure for whatever he had wrong with him.

But in the back of his mind, he knew it was wishful thinking.

*

"What do you think, Doctor?" Captain Janeway asked him.

The Doctor continued to examine Chakotay even though he'd already used a series of medical tricorders to scan him from head to foot. Outside of an occasional "Hrrrumph," he had said nothing for the past half an hour. And Kathryn Janeway was not known for her patience.

"There are some irregularities in the Commander's biorhythms," he said. "It's difficult to know exactly what they mean at this point."

The Captain sighed. "Is there some way you can make that determination, Doctor?"

"I believe so. I'm taking some readings now which I will need to feed into the computer before I can analyze the data."

"How long will all of this take, Doctor?" she asked. "We need to understand the situation before we can deal with it."

"I agree, Captain," said the Doctor in his calm, unhurried manner - which was irritating Captain Janeway immensely. "And I can give you a better answer to your question in a few moments." He turned back to Chakotay. "Commander, tell me where you thought you were this morning when you awakened, prior to hearing the Captain's voice and realizing you were in her bed." Kathryn took a deep breath and let it out slowly. She didn't want to get into a discussion about their private lives with the Doctor, but she knew he was only being thorough.

"I thought I was in my own bed, Doctor," he said.

"And when did you realize that you were not?" asked the Doctor.

"When I heard her voice call out to me from the adjoining bathroom." Chakotay remained focused on the Doctor. He didn't want to look at Kathryn right now. He could still vividly recall seeing her walk out of that bathroom stark naked, and his body remembered all too well how she had affected him.

"Hmmm. And did you immediately recognize her voice? Did you know it was the Captain?"

"Of course," said Chakotay.

"You weren't disoriented, fuzzy? You're sure you knew immediately that it was the Captain?" The Doctor looked dubious.

"Yes." Chakotay saw the look on the Doctor's face. "I would know Kathryn's voice anywhere."

Kathryn felt an intense longing at his words. Chakotay often said that her voice always affected him intensely. The tone alone could make him feel angry, hurt, sad, or very aroused. He told her once that in the blink of an eye she could make him feel warm and wanted, and as though he were the only person in the world. And of course, he was the only person in her world when they were alone together.

"I'm detecting sudden abnormalities in your heart rate, Commander," said the Doctor. Kathryn turned quickly to look at him.

Chakotay glanced at Kathryn, then looked squarely at the Doctor. "Sorry, Doctor. I was just thinking about . . . Kathryn."

The Doctor continued to scan. "I can assure you that your heart rate doesn't increase this much every time you think . . . oh," he finished, then sighed a dramatic sigh for all their benefits. "You mean, you're thinking of her that way . . . Please Commander, somehow manage to confine your thoughts to the present."

"Sorry," he said.

Kathryn couldn't believe this conversation. She was the Captain of a starship, in Sickbay with her second in command and the Doctor, and they were discussing things they should not be discussing.

"Gentlemen, please," she said, and looked pointedly at Chakotay.

"Doctor, do you believe I'm suffering from some form of amnesia?" asked Chakotay. He paused. "Or, do you believe I could be in the wrong universe? Could my Voyager be out there somewhere while this Voyager's first officer is missing?" Unfortunately, it was something they needed to count as a very real option.

Kathryn turned away. She'd already considered that, but hearing it said aloud only made the possibility seem more real.

"Commander, I need time to do my analysis before I can even consider answering that question," said the Doctor, closing his tricorder and putting it on the small table beside him.

"How long do you need, Doctor?" Kathryn asked again.

"Three hours," he said.

"That long?" she asked quickly.

"Captain, I cannot rush my research."

Kathryn sighed. "Very well, Doctor," she said. "Chakotay and I will have lunch and then return to my quarters. We'll wait to hear from you there."

"Very good, Captain. But I would suggest that neither of you tell the rest of the crew about this incident just yet. It would do no good to alert others to something that could turn out to be a mere malfunction of the Commander's human nervous system," he said easily.

Chakotay nodded. He hoped it was merely his body's malfunction, as the Doctor suggested. If the Doctor could repair the damage, then Chakotay would be able to continue on with his life. He could be with Kathryn, hold her, kiss her, make love with her. And recall it all later.

"I agree, Doctor. Sometimes crewmembers are quick to jump to conclusions, and I don't want unwarranted rumors to surface before we know what we're dealing with." She was trying desperately to remain objective. She simply wouldn't consider that the man before her was from another dimension, another Voyager. He was her first officer, her best friend, her lover. He was the man she intended to spend the rest of her life with.

"Fine then. I'll be in contact with you both later this afternoon." The Doctor moved away, taking his cart of tools with him.

"Well," said Kathryn, turning to Chakotay. "How about lunch?"

"Sounds good," said Chakotay, sliding off the biobed. "I'm starving. We've been in Sickbay all morning and didn't get a chance to have breakfast."

She smiled and her eyes twinkled. "Yes, and you're always famished after a night like . . ." But then she caught herself. "I'm sorry, Chakotay. I . . ." She turned away, and Chakotay wondered for a split-second if she was actually going to blush.

He grinned and turned her to him. "That's all right, Kathryn. I'd love to hear all about it." In fact, he would dearly love to hear about it. He wanted to know what it was like to make love with the woman of his dreams, the one who owned his heart.

She sighed and looked into his eyes, regaining her composure and ignoring his comment. "Let's have lunch. I'll ask Tuvok to cover our bridge duty for the rest of the shift."

"What did you tell him earlier?" he asked her as they started for the door. He knew she'd checked in with Tuvok that morning while he was in the shower.

"I said we had to meet with the Doctor this morning and that he was to handle our bridge duties until further notice."

They left Sickbay together and headed toward the turbolift, both thinking that sometimes being Captain had its advantages. If the Captain didn't want to explain something, no one asked questions.

*

Chakotay had never been in a situation like this in his life. He was in the Mess with Kathryn, listening to her ask Neelix about his date last night. He was afraid to comment, so he said nothing.

Neelix said that his date was a very nice person, but because they were from such different cultures he feared their relationship wouldn't go further. Since Neelix was from a very different culture than everyone he knew, that response did nothing to help Chakotay sort out who Neelix's date might have been. He made a mental note to ask Kathryn about it later.

He also noticed that there were very few people milling about, which made him feel better. He didn't know how he would handle greeting the people he saw everyday, without knowing exactly what the situation was.

Kathryn sensed his discomfort. "It's all right," she whispered to him. "We're early today. Most of the usual lunch crew won't be here for nearly an hour yet." He glanced at the chronometer and nodded.

"Good morning Commander!" said Neelix. "Sleep well?"

Chakotay glanced up quickly, but saw nothing untoward in the Talaxian's face. "Uh, yes I guess I did, Neelix. Thanks for asking."

"What's good this afternoon?" Kathryn asked Neelix.

Chakotay took a deep breath. At least some things never changed. Kathryn always asked what was good, Neelix always said everything was good, and then Kathryn attempted to put only those things on her plate that seemed easiest to digest.

"Oh, everything is fresh and extremely palatable today, Captain! Try the Salvidorian Goulash, or the Utopian Delight. Both have been getting wonderful reviews!"

"I think I'll just have some of that and . . . that," she said. "I'm not very hungry today."

Neelix obliged his Captain and then turned to Chakotay. "And you, Commander? I'll just bet you're going to try the Goulash today!"

"Uh . . . actually Neelix, I thought I'd try . . ." he said, as Neelix poured some of the concoction into a bowl and handed it over to the Commander.

"Thanks Neelix," said Chakotay. "That looks very . . . appetizing."

Neelix leaned over conspiratorially. "Let me know how you like it, Commander. It always helps me to sell the new dishes to others when I can say you've tried it and loved it!"

"Will do, Neelix," he said. He and Kathryn moved over to a smaller table in the back corner of the room. Kathryn had a big grin on her face. "What's so funny?" he asked.

She shook her head and tried to make her smile disappear, but she wasn't very successful at it. "Nothing. You've just never been very good at getting by Neelix. And I'm afraid he takes advantage of that."

"Well, for your information, if this is really bad you're going to have to try it, too," he said in a low voice.

"Oh really? You think so, do you?" she asked.

"Yes. Since you didn't come to my rescue back there, I think it's only fair," he said, smiling.

"I'm not sure I agree with that," she said lightly.

Chakotay wished with all his heart that they both felt as light-hearted as anyone hearing them would think they were.

Suddenly, Chakotay looked across the room and froze. There at a table sat B'Elanna and Tom Paris and a little girl who looked to be about three years old, and who looked like them both. And B'Elanna was obviously very pregnant again.

Kathryn followed his gaze. "What is it, Chakotay?" she asked in a low voice.

"Tom and B'Elanna," he said with a tight throat.

"Yes?"

"And . . . the child."

"Miral, yes."

"The last time I saw B'Elanna she was pregnant." He looked at Kathryn. "With her first child." They held eye contact and tried to understand what this meant.

"That could mean . . ." she swallowed hard.

"Kathryn, not only am I from a different Voyager, but we are in different times as well."

She didn't want to believe that. She couldn't believe it. And if Kathryn Janeway didn't want to believe something, she fought like hell to find another way, any other way, to explain the situation. "No."

"Kathryn, listen to me . . ."

"No. We'll not jump to conclusions, Chakotay. Let's wait until the Doctor has finished his analysis. Maybe your biorhythms are just out of sync." She grabbed her fork, speared a clump that was on her plate and tasted it. She wouldn't believe anything else until she was forced to.

Chakotay sighed. He knew Kathryn when she was in this mood. She just wouldn't listen with an open mind. He was hungry, so he decided to simply eat. He took a tentative taste of the brown broth in the bowl in front of him, then caught one of the floating chunks and ate that. Then he grabbed another chunk and some floating greenery that looked a lot like seaweed. He ate that as well, mindful that Kathryn was watching his every movement. He began to eat heartily.

"Is it really that good?" she whispered across the table.

"It's great - you should try it," he said, and ate some more.

Kathryn watched him eat for another moment, and wished she'd taken the same thing for lunch. The clump on her plate tasted like paste. Finally, she picked up her spoon. "All right," she said. "I'll try it."

Chakotay leaned back and pushed his bowl toward her. She looked him in the eye to be sure he wasn't kidding, then tentatively stuck her spoon in the broth and pulled it out. "Oh no," he said. "That's not a proper taste." He put his hand over hers and dipped the spoon back into the broth. He made sure there was broth on the spoon, along with a brown blob and a green thing, then slowly brought it out.

When he glanced up, he saw a look in her eyes he'd only dreamed of seeing there for years. His hand was on hers and her eyes told him of places she wanted to take him, things she wanted to show him, do to him. He swallowed hard. "Kathryn," he said, knowing that his voice sounded strange even to his ears.

"I want to make love with you," she whispered. He closed his eyes, filing away the sound of her voice saying those words to him, the words he'd dreamed about for so long. If they discovered this wasn't his Kathryn, and he had to somehow find his way back to another Voyager, he wanted to remember this moment for all time.

He opened his eyes. "Kathryn, there's nothing in this universe or any other I want more than that, but . . ."

"Then let's go," she said, putting down the spoon and standing.

"Kathryn . . ." he said.

She picked up her tray. "Are you with me?" she asked him in a normal voice. When he looked at her, she was Captain Janeway, and all business. He could almost swear he'd imagined her words of only moments ago, and yet he could still hear them echoing in his mind.

He followed her. They put their tray of food into the recycle bin, Kathryn thanked Neelix for another lovely meal, and they left the Mess and started for the turbolift.

When they finally stepped out of the turbolift and into the corridor, Kathryn took Chakotay's hand quickly. No one was in the corridor with them, and he obviously wasn't moving fast enough for her.

Unaware of what he was doing, Chakotay began to rub his thumb against her forefinger. Kathryn stopped abruptly and turned to him. "Chakotay," she whispered in a voice that send a thrill through his entire body, "Please stop doing that in the corridor."

"Doing what, Kathryn?' Judging by the look in her eyes and the sound of her voice, he definitely wanted to know what he was doing to make her react this way.

She indicated their clasped hands. "I wish you wouldn't run your thumb against my finger that way in public."

He grinned. "What about in private?"

She looked into his eyes. "You can get away with a great deal in private," she promised, in a low voice. "But when you rub my finger that way, it makes me want you, and I don't need to think about that unless we're alone and behind closed doors."

"Understood, Captain," he said, but couldn't quite wipe the smile off his face. She rolled her eyes and they continued on their way.

Chakotay barely remembered the rest of the trip to her quarters, but they somehow managed to get there. All he could think about was what he was going to say to her when they were suddenly behind closed doors. How could he tell her they shouldn't make love with each other until they knew for sure they belonged together?

But everything changed the moment he followed Kathryn through the doors of her quarters. His mind began to formulate the words he knew he should say to her, but then Kathryn turned to him and placed her lips on his. His heartbeat burst into full speed and his body began to react as though he'd never made love before, never been with a woman in his entire life. His body became weak with desire, and he knew that she was aware of his erection pressing into her stomach.

With all the strength left in his body, Chakotay pulled himself away from her. "Kathryn," he managed to say breathlessly, "We have to talk about this."

"I don't want to," she said. Her eyes had become a smoky gray and her voice was husky and did things to Chakotay that he felt completely unprepared to handle. "I want you to take me in your arms and love me, Chakotay. Now."

"Kathryn," he said, knowing that his hands were beginning to shake, "Listen to me. There is a very good possibility that I am not suffering from amnesia, that I am from a different space and time."

"I don't care," she said. "Make love with me."

He swallowed hard. He couldn't deny her much longer. He was weak and always had been where Kathryn Janeway was concerned, and if this wasn't his Kathryn, she was certainly doing a good job of convincing him that she was. "Kathryn . . ."

"Chakotay," she said softly, her mouth only a centimeter from his, "You and I belong together. If what you say is true, and you are from a different Voyager, then my counterpart must be there with you."

He tried to breathe. "Yes."

"Do you love her?"

"Very much." His voice, and his will, was weakening.

"And is she in love with you?"

He couldn't answer. He thought so. At times, he would swear it, and at other times he wasn't sure. "Yes." Right now he was absolutely certain of it.

"Well then . . ." she began to close the distance between them.

"But we've never made love with each other," he managed to say.

"Then it's time you did," she said brushing her lips gently against his. "Don't you agree?" she purred.

"Agreed," he answered quickly, pulling her body against his and crushing his lips to hers. He heard her moan, and then he stopped thinking completely, allowing his body and his feelings to take full reign. Everything he'd ever wanted in his life was right here - this woman, this time, this moment. Her body was warm, her lips were tender and soft.

Kathryn wrapped her arms around his neck and gently parted his lips with her tongue. He gasped and pulled her closer. She knew this was her Chakotay, there was no question about that. He was simply experiencing a temporary amnesia. The Doctor would undoubtedly be able to devise a way to get his memory back. This was her soul-mate, her love. No one else could make her feel this way, could kiss her this way.

She broke the kiss gently and took his hand. "Come with me," she said in that voice he couldn't resist.

He followed her into the bedroom, and when she turned to him and began to undress, he felt his blood pressure rise even higher. She was beautiful. She was incredible. She removed her jacket, her tank top, slacks and boots. And he watched, riveted. He'd never imagined that it was possible to take off a Starfleet uniform and somehow look sexy doing it.

When she stood before him in only her underwear she walked toward him slowly, then reached behind her and unhooked her bra. She let it fall down her arms and onto the floor, never taking her eyes from Chakotay. She always loved to watch his reactions whenever she undressed in front of him.

He couldn't believe it. Kathryn was undressing for him, and coming to him. She wanted him to touch her, to make love with her. He might be suffering from amnesia, or he might not be in the right place at the right time, but he wasn't crazy.

Chakotay placed his hand on her face and bent to kiss her. Everything was so right - the smell of her, the feel of her. He kissed her, then picked her up and carried her to the bed, to their bed she'd said earlier, and put her gently upon it.

Kathryn pushed her tongue into his mouth and tasted the man she knew so well, the man who belonged to her, and she to him. This was Chakotay, her Chakotay.

He ran his hand along her side and looked into her eyes, those eyes that were looking back at him, and into his very soul. They told him of her love and her devotion. They also told him she was very aroused and needed him to tend to her needs.

Chakotay looked down at the incredible woman beside him. Her breasts were beautiful. He lowered his mouth to them, one at a time, and she moaned and writhed as she whispered his name over and over again.

He touched her panties but she turned to him and began to unzip his jacket. He helped her remove it, and his trousers and shirt. His boots were next. Now they were lying next to each other, nearly naked.

Lowering his mouth to her breasts again, Chakotay hooked one hand into the top of her panties and pulled them down. She lifted her hips to make it easier. He ran his hand along her upper thigh as he suckled her breast. Her breath was coming in gasps and she said his name as she thrust her hands into his hair and pulled him even closer to her.

He brushed his fingers against her dark brown pubic hair and she moaned loudly, and when he began to part her legs she opened them willingly. This was the man she loved, the man she would always love.

Chaktoay moved down her stomach and kissed her smooth soft skin. He smiled to himself - he'd always known he'd find a freckle or two on her flawless skin. And they only made her more desirable.

When he moved his face down farther and parted her, she opened her legs farther and thrust her body toward him. He buried his face in her folds and slipped his tongue inside her. Kathryn cried his name over and over again in that low sexy voice he knew he would hear in his mind every night for the rest of his life.

He moved up farther and closed his mouth over her clitoris, flicking his tongue against it gently, and slipping his fingers deep inside her. Immediately, Kathryn began to move faster, and he thrust his fingers in and out of her as she rocked against them. And when she reached her climax he replaced his fingers with his tongue and tasted her juices as they came to him.

Kathryn's breathing began to slow and she reached down for Chakotay and pulled him up to her. She wanted him here, next to her. She looked deeply into his eyes and smiled at him, seeing the moisture still on his lips. "I love you," she said softly and kissed him. Then she reached down between them and pushed his underwear down his legs. He kicked them off and she took his penis in both her hands. It immediately became even harder, and she rubbed the juices from the tip of it with her fingertips.

"Kathryn, I can't last much longer," he whispered. His felt as though he was going to explode into her hand at any moment.

"You don't have to last any longer at all," she said, and opened herself to him.

Chakotay moved between her legs and slid easily inside her, a place he'd longed to be for so long, a place that felt new and wonderful and yet familiar at the same time. Right now, he didn't care which it was.

He rocked slowly inside her, and when he felt his passion was going to erupt, he began to thrust faster, faster, faster. His body was warm and slick, and so was hers. They worked together in a vaguely familiar way, always together, heated, and she moaned and pushed herself up to meet him.

He kissed her and ran his tongue down her neck. He nibbled her ear as he'd always longed to do, and her nipples became even harder beneath his chest. He grinned to himself. Now that he knew he could arouse her that way, he would certainly use it to his full advantage.

Suddenly, Chakotay could control himself no longer. He thrust hard and fast one last time and emptied himself into her, crying her name as he fell against her and buried his face into her hair, smelling the scent he'd loved for years.

When he could catch his breath, Chakotay managed to move beside her. He wrapped his arm around her waist and pulled her as close to him as possible.

Kathryn watched him as she fought to regain her breath, too. This was her Chakotay, there was no doubt in her mind about that. She turned on her side to face him and slid her hands down his arms, so strong and protective, yet so gentle. He was still trying to catch his breath, she noticed. She smiled and kissed his nose, then his lips. If they were both this out of breath after lovemaking, maybe she should arrange for some battle simulations on the Bridge, or some sporting activities on the holodeck to make certain that not only were they in shape, but the entire crew, as well. "Chakotay?" she asked softly.

"Hmmm?" His eyes were closed.

"That was pretty incredible. The way it always is between us. You see, we do belong together."

He opened his eyes. "Do we always make love like this?"

"Uhm hmmmm . . . and sometimes we do other things," she said in her seductive voice.

Chakotay had no choice but to ask. "Like what?"

She rolled away from him and stood from the bed. He watched her walk over to a drawer and remove a small tin and open it. Caviar.

"You hate caviar," he said.

"Oh, really? Maybe I just never ate it the proper way before." She grinned at him and her eyes became dark with desire. She returned to the bed and sat on the edge of it.

Chakotay felt his heart skip a beat. And his penis began to throb. He couldn't believe he was already beginning to become aroused. This sort of thing didn't happen quite this quickly, but he was starting to feel it, there was no mistaking the sensations. "Kathryn, maybe we should rest a bit . . ."

But she stuck her finger into the container of caviar and then put it into her mouth. He watched her lick it off, and wasn't able to utter a word. He was intoxicated by her. She put her finger back into the tin and lifted out another glob of caviar. She put it to his lips and he opened his mouth and sucked it off her finger. There was no mistaking the effect it was having on both of them.

Chakotay sat up and reached for her.

Kathryn came to him and kissed him. Then she moved away and dipped her finger into the container again. She placed a glob of the dark stuff onto the tip of his penis and then proceeded to lick it off slowly while he watched her, nearly forgetting to breathe.

By the time she was done, Chakotay was as aroused as he could ever remember being. He reached for the container of caviar and moved Kathryn onto her back as he kissed her. Two could play at this game.

She opened her legs to him, and he spread caviar slowly over her clitoris and down the folds of her labia as she watched him. Her breath became more labored and she lay back on the bed. He leaned over her and slowly began to lick the delicious caviar from her, paying special attention to the little nub that was becoming harder as he licked it with his tongue.

Suddenly, Kathryn reached up and grabbed the headboard of the bed. "Chakotay!" she gasped as her body began to tremble - and as the tides washed over her he was there with her again. He pushed his tongue deep inside her as her muscles contracted around him, tasting a mixture of himself, the caviar and Kathryn. He took her clitoris into his mouth once more and sucked it gently as her spasms began to calm.

Then he moved up higher and slipped inside her. She gasped and he kissed her fervently as he thrust deeper and deeper inside her. Kathryn moved with him, then suddenly wrapped her legs around his back to bury him even deeper inside her. Chakotay thrust hard once more, then felt his entire body shudder as his penis began to jerk and empty itself inside her once more.

After he was able to get his breath, Chakotay moved up to lie beside her and hold her in his arms. She was spent and so was he, but they were both smiling.

"I still can't believe you like caviar," he managed to say, "But somehow you've learned the best way to eat it."

"You and I learned that together," she said, laughing softly, and then she sighed. "Maybe the Doctor will find a way to return your memory."

"Kathryn, I think you should prepare yourself for the fact that I might not be your Chakotay."

"No. If you weren't my Chakotay how could we make love this way, the way we always do?" she asked earnestly.

He couldn't answer that question, and he didn't try.

A few moments later, she turned over and he spooned into her. They dozed for a few minutes, although neither of them could actually sleep. They were both silently counting the minutes now until the Doctor summoned them to his office.

"Kathryn?" he whispered.

"Yes."

"Maybe we should get cleaned up. The Doctor will be contacting us soon."

She rolled over to look at him, and he saw the fear in her eyes. "All right. But no matter what he tells us, we'll get through this together."

He smiled and nodded. Those were the words he'd always said to her.

They rose and went into the bathroom together. Kathryn turned on the shower.

"Aren't you going to use the sonic shower, Kathryn?" he asked.

"I can't stand sonic showers, Chakotay, and if there's no time for a bath, I like to take a real shower." She looked at him and he again nodded. Real water was fine with him.

When the temperature was right, they stepped inside and began to soap each other's bodies. They were both trying not to become tense, but the dread was beginning to mount. They kissed each other, held on to each other, and finally, when their bodies were soaped and slick, Chakotay picked Kathryn up by the buttocks, braced her against the shower wall, and thrust himself inside her. She took him in gladly. He moved inside her and held her tightly against him, and they rocked together until the release they'd been reaching for spread throughout both of them at the same time, leaving them gasping and dripping.

They managed to finish their shower and dress in fresh crisp Starfleet uniforms. Kathryn dried her hair and put it into place, as Chakotay finished putting on his boots.

Kathryn checked the chronometer. "We should hear from the Doctor at any time," she said softly, then went to stare out the viewport at the stars whipping by them.

"Doctor to the Captain," came the voice they were expecting.

"Go ahead, Doctor," she said, not turning around.

"Would you and Commander Chakotay please report to my office." It was not a question. He knew very well they were waiting to hear from him.

"We're on our way," she said and broke the link.

She turned to Chakotay, and they stared into each other's eyes for a moment, but there seemed to be nothing new to say.

She started for the door, but he stopped her. "Kathryn?"

She turned.

"When we were making love, you said you love me." She nodded. He took a deep breath. "I love you, too. I've just never told you before, at least not that I can remember."

She smiled a small smile. "You tell me you love me every day, many times over, Chakotay. You always have. Perhaps you'll remember it all soon." He nodded.

They both took a deep breath, then headed out the door to the turbolift, and Sickbay.

*

"I've analyzed the Commander's biorhythms, then checked my results several times. There are some distinctions between his current readings and the ones I took during his last physical examination two months ago." He touched a button on the panel in front of them and two sets of readings sprang forth. There were several obvious differences.

"What exactly does this mean, Doctor?" asked the Captain. "You're not going to tell me this is not Chakotay, are you? That he is from some different Voyager?" She gestured toward Chakotay, who stood quietly by.

"No, of course not, Captain," said the Doctor matter-of-factly.

Kathryn sighed deeply. Then she could handle the rest of whatever the Doctor said. She turned to her lover beside her. "I told you, Chakotay - you are not from a different ship or time . . ."

"He's certainly not from another Voyager, Captain," interjected the Doctor. "But I didn't say he wasn't from a different time."

"I beg your pardon?" asked Kathryn quickly.

"The Commander is not from a different Voyager. But he is from a different time."

Both Kathryn and Chakotay stared at the Doctor in stunned silence.

"The Commander is of course the Commander," the Doctor said importantly. "But he is from . . ."

"The past," said Kathryn suddenly.

The Doctor looked a bit deflated, but immediately regained his footing. "Yes, Captain. The Commander is from the past, which is why he has trouble recalling certain things, such as why he awakened in your bed this morning, Captain. To him, it hasn't happened." He paused for emphasis. "Yet."

"I can't believe we didn't think of this before, Doctor," said the Captain, although her voice told them both this wasn't exactly something she'd wanted to consider.

"Commander Chakotay awakened this morning 32 months into his future. And since the two of you have only been sleeping together for 14 months, he was understandably disoriented," said the Doctor.

"But I don't understand, Doctor. This morning Chakotay said . . . wait a minute," said Kathryn. "Chakotay, you and I were both at the talent show last night, correct?"

"Yes.

"And Harry and his band played for us, followed by the Delaney sisters and their husbands singing a Capella," she said.

Chakotay swallowed hard. "Tuvok sang all 110 verses of a Vulcan children's song, and Harry played his clarinet for us," he said. "Harry doesn't play in a band, and neither Delaney sister is married."

They paused, taking in this new information.

Chakotay continued. "You and I left together. We discussed the plasma relays and B'Elanna's plan to recycle the old ones that have burned out and are irreparable."

"Three years ago," she whispered softly.

"What?"

"That was nearly three years ago," she said.

They looked at each other, considering. "Computer, what is the current stardate?" asked Chakotay suddenly.

"The current stardate is 57510.8," said the familiar voice of the computer.

Chakotay took a deep breath, then closed his eyes for a moment to get his bearing - and to be able to force himself to look Kathryn in the eye when he continued. "What the Doctor says is true. My time is nearly 32 months before the current stardate."

Kathryn shook her head as though it would help her to digest this new information, then turned sharply to the Doctor. "Doctor, do you have any idea what happened here?" She sounded like the Captain again.

"As a matter of fact, I do, Captain," said the Doctor. He pushed another button on the monitor, bringing up different data. "I checked the ship sensor logs and at approximately the same time Commander Chakotay awakened this morning, Voyager passed through what seems to be a spatial void in Sector Two." He pushed another button. "Lieutenant Anderson was on duty, and noted it in her log."

"Lieutenant Anderson?" asked Chakotay.

Janeway turned to him. "Yes. What about her?"

"Nothing. It's just that Sylvia Anderson has not made lieutenant yet. I only suggested to you last week that she be promoted. I'm glad you took my advice seriously."

Janeway rolled her eyes and turned back to the Doctor's findings on the screen in front of her. "I see the distortion, Doctor," she said, pointing at the minute break on the graph in front of them." She sighed and turned to Chakotay. "And the only way to return things to the way they were is to go back to that Sector and attempt to go through the rift again, and directly into the void." She paused and looked deeply into Chakotay's eyes. "We need to return you to your time," she said softly.

"No," Chakotay said quickly.

"We have no choice, Chakotay."

"I don't want to go back. I want to stay here." He looked into Kathryn's eyes and knew she felt the same way.

But Kathryn closed her eyes and took a deep breath. When she opened them again, she had managed to become the Captain once more. "We have to do what is right, Chakotay. We have to return you to your time."

"Kathryn . . ." Chakotay said, trying to think of a way to get through to her.

"You have to go back, Chakotay," she said firmly, and moved closer to him. She looked into his eyes. "If you don't, then the past will be disrupted. We don't know what could happen then. But the only way you can be here with us now is to have come through the past with us." She paused. "I need you to go back, Chakotay, so that you can return to the future, which is our present. I need you to come back to me." She paused and fought back the moisture in her eyes. "This is your ship, but not your time, Chakotay," she said to him in Kathryn's voice.

Chakotay started to object, but he knew that Kathryn was right. He must return to his time, and his place in time. It was a painful realization, but he suddenly also realized that it meant everything would be all right. He and Kathryn would be together one day. He would be able to return to his ship and know in his heart that they would one day be together.

Chakotay nodded. He looked into Kathryn's eyes and even managed to smile. "Now I understand why you've always hated time travel." He sighed. It was impossible to lighten the mood. "As long as you'll be here waiting for me 32 months from now, I'll go."

She smiled back, but her eyes told him she was already waiting for him. She turned to the Doctor. "I have one more question, Doctor. Where is the Chakotay of the future? Our Chakotay?"

"Why, he's right here, Captain," replied the Doctor, nodding toward Chakoty. "He just hasn't caught up with us yet."

The Captain nodded. That answer was sufficient for her at the moment. She had to take care of the matter at hand. "Is there anything else, Doctor?" she asked.

"No, but I would suggest this transference be done as soon as possible," he said. "The more time the Commander spends with us here in the future, the more probability there is for his absence to be discovered in the past."

The Captain nodded her assent. "Then let's not waste time." She slapped her comm badge. "Janeway to Tuvok."

"Tuvok here, Captain," said the familiar voice.

"Tuvok, it seems that at approximately 05:50 this morning, we encountered a spatial rift in Sector Two. We passed through that rift and into a void. I'd like you to verify this information and then take us back to that area of space."

"Captain?" came the voice.

"I'll explain later, Tuvok," she said in a gentler voice.

"Affirmative, Captain," said Tuvok. "I have discovered the spatial grid and will set a course for it now."

"Thank you, Tuvok," she said, ending the transmission. Then she turned to Chakotay. "Now it's time to get you back to my quarters, where you awakened this morning," she said. He nodded. "Thank you for your diligence, Doctor," she said reverently.

The Doctor beamed.

*

The Captain and Commander Chakotay returned to the Captain's quarters immediately after conferring with the Doctor. They walked into Kathryn's bedroom and stood staring at each other.

"Chakotay . . ." she began.

"Don't tell me there's no other way. I know there isn't," he said. "I understand that I must go back, Kathryn." He touched her face. "I just wish I didn't have to wait eighteen more months to make love with you."

She put on a brave front she didn't feel just now. "We belong together, Chakotay. That won't change."

"I know." He smiled. "I know," he said softly. "I've always loved you, Kathryn."

She smiled at the man she'd loved for so long now. "I love you, too." She kissed him gently on the lips. "Never forget that."

"I won't."

"And there's one other thing," she added, and looked away for a moment to regain her thoughts. He waited. "My . . . younger self . . . you'll have a tough job ahead of you, you know. Convincing her that it's all right to be with you in an . . . intimate way . . ."

"I know, Kathryn. Believe me, I know that." Nothing was further from the truth.

She nodded. It was in his hands now. "All right." She smiled tentatively. "I just hate not being in control, you know."

It was his turn to grin. "I know," he said. "But I promise I won't give up on you."

"Good," she said. "Because you know how stubborn I can be." Her voice was almost pleading.

"Better than anyone," he said, and kissed her gently.

"When you get back there, just remember - while I'm sitting next to you on the Bridge every day, I'm wishing it were possible for us to be together."

"Are you?" His voice broke. He'd needed to know that more than he realized.

"Yes." Her eyes swam. "And I'm grateful that you're beside me. And I love you."

He closed his eyes for just a moment to savor the sound of those words. "Thank you for that, Kathryn."

She nodded and took a deep breath. "I'll leave you now," she said, and headed for the doorway. They'd agreed that he should be alone in her bed for the re-entry just as he had been this morning. She turned to look at him one last time. "We'll be here waiting for you," she said softly.

"I'll see you soon," he said, with a bravado he wasn't feeling. She nodded, then left the room quickly.

Chakotay stripped free of his clothes and climbed into Kathryn's bed. He felt lonely, and alone. He missed her already, but at least he knew they would one day be together. That was more than he'd known yesterday. He tried to take comfort in that thought.

But the unanswered question was whether this would work - would he end up back in his own time if Voyager simply went through the same spatial distortion and into the void? He shut his eyes. He couldn't be concerned about that just now. He would leave that worry to Kathryn. If he awakened right here in her bed a second time, that would be all right with him.

Chakotay heard Kathryn's voice in the other room. She was communicating with Tuvok over the com channel. Then suddenly, he felt a brief but odd sensation. He opened his eyes quickly. Everything around him was dark, and he was still in bed. He hadn't moved, but something was different. He no longer heard Kathryn's voice in the other room, and he felt terribly alone. "Computer, lights up."

The lights brightened, and he was in his own first officer's quarters aboard Voyager. He had no idea how much time had gone by, but it felt like a matter of only a couple of seconds.

Slowly, he stood. He glanced at the chronometer across the room. It was 06:10. It was early morning, but he didn't know what day it was. "Computer, what is the current stardate?"

"The current stardate is 54853.5, replied the familiar automated voice of the computer.

Chakotay let out the breath he'd been holding. He closed his eyes.

He was back in his own time, on the morning following the talent show when Tuvok sang and Harry played his clarinet.

"Computer, what is the location of Captain Janeway?" She was probably in her quarters, getting ready for her day on the Bridge. He wondered if she was walking out of her bathroom completely naked, sipping a cup of coffee. He smiled, then forced himself not to think about it further. His body was already beginning to react to thinking about Kathryn naked.

"Captain Janeway is on the Bridge," said the computer.

On the Bridge? He couldn't imagine why, although it wasn't all that unusual for her to start to work early on mornings after she'd had a sleepless night. Sometimes she would give up the idea of sleep altogether and get started on her day. The graveyard shift always hoped their Captain slept well. He grinned at the thought.

Deciding to get moving, Chakotay started for his bathroom. He'd have a quick sonic shower and meet Kathryn on the Bridge. He had to steel himself for the fact that she wouldn't look at him with love in her eyes, and she wouldn't take him to her bed later this evening.

But that was all right. He could handle it just fine today.

Today he would sit next to Kathryn on the Bridge and know in his heart that they had a future together. He would smile at her and she would wonder what he was grinning about. But that was all right, too.

The wait would be worth it.

*

Twenty minutes later, Chakotay headed for the turbolift. He had a smile on his face and a snap in his step. He couldn't wait to see Kathryn! He'd grab a quick breakfast and coffee and still get to the Bridge nearly an hour before his duty shift began.

As he turned the corridor, he heard a very familiar voice.

"Well, well. You certainly seem bright-eyed and bushy-tailed this morning," said Kathryn, coming up from behind him.

He turned and grinned at her. He just couldn't help it. "I'm just on my way for some breakfast. Join me?" He noticed she looked tired.

"No thanks. I will have a cup of coffee, though," she said, as they continued down the corridor together.

"Have you been up all night, Kathryn?" asked Chakotay.

She stopped and turned to him. "Chakotay, I still find it hard to believe you slept through the entire night. I think you're the only crewman on Voyager who did."

"What are you talking about?" he asked.

She sighed. "At 23:59 hours Voyager became stuck in some sort of spatial void. We nearly collided with an object that remains unidentified, and had serious problems getting unstuck." She shook her head. "The ship rocked all night long and you slept right through it. Remind me never to leave you at the helm when you're tired." She turned to go, and he followed her.

"So you have been up all night," he mused.

"Everyone except you has been up all night," she said.

"And you still don't know what caused Voyager to become stuck in the void?"

"No. But we're back on course now. Frankly, that's all that matters. I'm too tired to care about anything more," she said as they entered the Mess. Chakotay followed her to the coffee pots.

"You should have something to eat," he said.

"All I want is a hot bath and a nap," she said.

"Tell you what," he replied, with a grin. "I'll make a deal with you. You have breakfast with me now, then go take that bath and sleep the rest of the day. Since I'm well-rested I'll cover the entire Bridge shift. Then this evening I'll make dinner for us. My quarters. Let's say 19:00 hours?"

She stared at him. "You'll cover the entire duty shift?" He nodded. "I just don't understand how you slept through the entire night," she said.

He shrugged. "Evidently it's a good thing I did," he said. He held out his hand for her to take. "Come on, let's get something more than just coffee."

She stared at his hand, then gave him a small tired smile. "I have to eat something in order to get to sleep all day?"

"That's part of the deal," he said.

She shook her head and put her hand in his. He turned and led her toward the food trays, each of them carrying their coffee cups with them. Without thinking, Chakotay gently ran his thumb over her forefinger.

Kathryn quickly pulled her hand away and picked up a breakfast tray. Chakotay suddenly realized what he'd done and turned away quickly. He smiled to himself as he watched her try to act nonchalant out of the corner of his eye. "Something wrong, Kathryn?" he asked innocently.

"What? No, no. I'm just tired," she said, knowing it was a lousy excuse. She silently berated herself for having taken his hand in the first place. She should have known he would run his thumb over her finger the way he always did when she allowed him to take her hand. It never failed to excite her. As tired as she was now, that familiar tingle had coursed throughout her entire body. She sighed. She did not need to deal with those old feelings right now.

"Good morning, Neelix," she said, as Neelix started toward her. She was glad for the diversion.

"Good morning Captain, Commander!" said Neelix exuberantly. "Wasn't that some night we had last night, Commander?"

Chakotay looked up quickly. He was certain Neelix was baiting him, but both Neelix and Kathryn were looking at him earnestly.

"I'm afraid Commander Chakotay wouldn't know, Neelix," Kathryn answered for him. "He slept soundly the entire night."

"Surely not!" said Neelix. "I spent half the night in the kitchen trying to prevent the food stores from spilling!"

"I suppose I was more tired than usual," said Chakotay.

"What's good this morning, Neelix?" asked Kathryn.

"Everything, Captain!" He leaned toward her conspiratorially. "However, I would suggest you try this." He pointed to what looked like a bowl of dark-colored paste.

Kathryn tried not to make a face. "It doesn't look very appetizing, Neelix. What is it?"

"Don't let the look of it prevent you from tasting this exceptional delicacy, Captain," he said.

"Neelix, what is it?" she asked pointedly.

"It's very similar to your caviar found on Earth," he said. Chakotay gulped.

"Caviar? Where did you get caviar?" she asked.

"It's not exactly caviar, but it's similar. I discovered it on planet Trillus when we stopped there for supplies several weeks ago. I wasn't sure how to ferment the eggs at first, but then I figured it out! And it's simply delicious!"

"No thanks, Neelix," she said. "I've never cared for caviar."

Chakotay grinned. He couldn't help it. "Perhaps you'll change your mind one day, Captain."

She looked at him. "I very much doubt that, Commander," she said in her most captainly voice.

The grin remained. "Maybe you've just never eaten it properly," he said.

"Would you like to try some this morning, Commander?" asked Neelix hopefully.

"Uh . . . no. Not this morning, Neelix. But thanks." He swallowed hard. "I think I'll just have some of the hash and some fruit."

"Good choice, Commander!" said Neelix, and began to dish it up for Chakotay.

"Kathryn?" asked Chaktoay.

Kathryn looked him right in the eye. "I don't understand why, but you are acting just like the proverbial cat who ate the canary today."

Chakotay flinched. "Uh . . . what would you like to eat, Kathryn?" he asked. "For breakfast?" He gulped.

Kathryn stared at Chakotay a moment longer, but managed to pull herself away to tell Neelix she just wanted some toast and fresh fruit.

They managed to get through breakfast without much further ado, although Kathryn caught Chakotay looking at her from time to time in a manner that made her a bit uncomfortable. It was as though he knew her very thoughts, her feelings. And that was something she certainly did not want him to know.

After breakfast, Voyager's Captain and Commander walked together to the turbolift. Kathryn left him when they reached her deck and Chakotay continued on his way to the Bridge, smiling all the way.

The Captain went to her quarters and took a long hot bath before crawling gratefully into her bed. But it took her a long time to get to sleep. She couldn't quite get the look on Chakotay's face out of her mind. She smiled. He seemed rested and happy and . . . something else she couldn't quite put her finger on.

As Chakotay took the duty shift that day, he had a peace in his heart that he hadn't felt in a long time, and a deep love for a certain Captain whom he would one day win over. He knew it for certain now.

And the wait would be worth it.

THE END


Feedback, please?