NC-17 - no one under 18
Paramount owns Star Trek and everyone associated with it. Unfortunately.
The Captain and Commander are on an Away Mission, scouting for foodstuffs to replenish Neelix's diminishing supply. They find plenty, but the mushrooms seem to have something wrong with them. Of course, they don't realize this until after they've eaten some of them. Now, they have to deal with the consequences during their night away from the ship, alone together in an empty cave. Whatever are they going to do?
Commander Chakotay tightened the straps on his pack, then looked around his quarters to be sure he hadn't forgotten anything.
"Janeway to Chakotay."
Chakotay smiled. He nearly always smiled when he heard her voice, even if it was just over the comm badge. Well, he either smiled or was ready to strangle her. There was no in-between for him where Kathryn Janeway was involved. He admired and respected her a great deal. He was also deeply in love with her, but that was the part she didn't want to know about. "Chakotay here," he replied.
"I'm on my way to the Flyer now - are you ready for our little excursion?" Her voice was a bit clipped, but she was trying to disguise it, thinking she sounded Captain-like instead.
"I'll meet you there in five minutes." As Chakotay signed off, he gave one more cursory glance at the padds on his desk, then decided that if he'd left something important behind it was too late to worry about it now. The Captain would be waiting, and right now she wouldn't take too kindly to that. He smiled again. He'd wait until she brought the reason for her grudge out into the open, then they'd settle it once and for all.
Chakotay walked through the doors of the Shuttlebay, and knew immediately that the Captain had gotten here first. The hull lights on the Delta Flyer were already on, and she would be running through systems checks.
Entering the shuttlecraft, Chakotay saw Captain Janeway busy at work, preparing for takeoff. He tried to keep his smile hidden; if she saw it, she would be certain to make him pay for it later. "Anything I can do to help, Captain?"
She didn't turn his way. "Check the sensors, Commander. Last time the shuttle was out, there was a problem with them. B'Elanna's corrected it, but it's worth checking again."
"Aye, Captain." Chakotay stowed his pack, then moved into the co-pilot chair. He worked his console as diligently as the Captain worked hers. She was upset with him, that much was definite. But he also got the sense that she didn't want to be. That could only mean that if he played his cards right he could rectify the situation fairly quickly. If he didn't play them right, however, . . . well, that was something he didn't want to consider right now. He wanted this mission to turn out well. And if things worked out just right for them both, these couple of days away from Voyager could prove to be a mini-vacation as well as a scouting excursion.
"The sensors are fine, Captain," Chakotay said, after several minutes.
"Good. Prepare for takeoff." The Captain hit her comm badge. "Janeway to Tuvok."
"Tuvok here, Captain."
"Open the doors, Commander." She touched her console and entered the final command codes, readying the Delta Flyer for launch. The doors began to open. "We'll check in after we land, Tuvok."
"Aye, Captain," replied Tuvok's voice.
Captain Janeway deftly moved the shuttle through the launch doors and into open space. Chakotay watched her, noting not for the first time that she had really gotten good at handling shuttlecraft.
When they were away from Voyager and alone, with only the quiet of the shuttlecraft around them, Chakotay leaned back in his chair and sighed quietly. The Captain must have heard him, because she stiffened slightly in her chair.
"Kathryn, what is it?" he asked softly, knowing damned well what it was.
"I don't know what you're talking about, Chakotay. I'm trying to adjust our course, and I'd appreciate it if you'd allow me to concentrate on doing just that. The planet is still a ways off, and the unstable atmosphere is preventing me from getting a correct reading."
"Then you're not mad at me because I asked to come on this Away Mission with you?"
She was quiet. She hadn't expected him to be so forthright. Chakotay smiled to himself. It wasn't often he was able to surprise her anymore.
"Chakotay. Let's just get through this density and then we'll discuss it."
"Agreed." At least she'd be willing to talk about it. Chakotay turned back to his controls.
Finally, several quiet minutes later, the Delta Flyer burst through the haze of the unstable atmosphere. There was a bit of sunshine on the other side, but it didn't look welcoming. The Captain checked her instruments and found everything to be in order. She locked the coordinates in place, sat back in her chair, and faced the Commander.
"Now. You want to know if I'm mad at you?"
It was Chakotay's turn to be taken aback by her unexpected directness. He nodded.
"I'm not mad,' Chakotay." She paused. "I was a bit hurt at first. The only time I'm allowed off my own ship is with an escort - from either you or Tuvok. It's as if neither of you trust me to be away alone, or with another member of the crew."
"That's not true, Kathryn. It's not you that we don't trust, it's everyone else out here. And other crewmembers might not protect you like Tuvok or I will."
"Now you sound like my Mother, Chakotay. Every time I wanted to go out after dark, she was never worried about what I might or might not do, she was worried about everyone else.' And that was supposed to make me feel better."
Chakotay could hear the guarded tone in her voice lessen. "I don't want you to distrust our intentions, Kathryn. Tuvok and I both know you need to get away once in a while. And though this mission seems harmless, we are both anxious when our Captain is away from the ship, especially when one of us isn't with her."
"I know . . ." she interrupted, but Chakotay didn't allow her to finish her thought.
"You know that we are concerned. But you don't know that we would both rather die than see you harmed in any way." He paused. What he said was the truth, but some things were better left unsaid. His voice softened. "Kathryn, it's our job to see that no harm comes to you. Please allow us do our duty."
Kathryn was quiet. She knew he spoke the truth, but she also knew it was only a part of the truth. And she couldn't be upset any longer. "Chakotay. I'm not upset." She sighed and looked away and out the viewport in front of her. "Sometimes I just need to be alone for a bit, and my quarters can get awfully close."
"I understand." And he did. "I promise to leave you alone and let you chart the coordinates of the planet by yourself, if that will help," he said, with a small grin. "I'll just stay away from you and scan for intruders or unfamiliar readings."
She smiled, then looked over at Chakotay. "And let you off the hook? Not on your life. I don't want to spend the next two days working all by myself; if you help me, we might be able to complete our mission and have a few hours left over to really explore this planet."
Now she was sounding more like the Kathryn Janeway he knew.
He smiled back at her. She was especially beautiful when she was happy. And when she was convinced she'd thought of something first. "Sounds good to me," he said. He turned back to his console and began locking in the course coordinates Kathryn had chosen. They had buried the hatchet, so to speak, and life was good again. They were off on a little scouting trip together, for the first time in a long time. And they were alone together.
Chakotay opened his eyes. The shuttle had landed, and he hadn't felt the jolt. Kathryn was really getting good at handling small shuttlecraft. He sat upright and looked around.
"Wake up, Sleepyhead. We've got work to do."
How Kathryn managed to sound so alert and awake was beyond him. They'd been in the Delta Flyer for nearly 14 hours and she hadn't closed her eyes once.
"Kathryn, don't you think you'd better rest a bit before we drift off, and away from the Flyer?"
"I've had rest - plenty of it. Fourteen hours in a shuttlecraft is far too much time to be cooped up. Come on, we can catch up on sleep later. By my readings, there are only a few hours of daylight left." She had already opened the hatch and taken some initial biometric scans outside the shuttle before returning for her backpack.
Chakotay shook himself and grabbed his own pack. They'd come to take atmospheric readings and to look for edible foodstuffs. The planet seemed to have the right conditions for plant and vegetable life to thrive, but it was also uninhabited by any form of animal life. The primary reasons seemed to be that the planet was quite remote, and that the surface conditions seemed somewhat unreliable for creatures of comfort. While the heavy cloud formations and constant weather changes could prove a good ground cover, so to speak, it also made navigation difficult. And once a ship was under or over the dense atmospheric conditions surrounding the planet, communications with anyone on the other side was impossible.
Voyager was getting dangerously low on certain organic food items, and Neelix was becoming quite alarmed. He'd informed the Captain only last week that finding certain vegetables had to become a high priority - if he ran out of many more of them, important vitamins and minerals would be missing in the crew's daily diets - and if that happened, more and more people could end up in Sickbay.
The very thought that a good deal of her crew might end up in Sickbay, where the Doctor called the shots, was enough to capture the Captain's undivided attention.
And so, the crew began to look for a planet that could provide adequate foodstuffs to fill the nearly empty Hydroponics Bay, and Neelix's almost empty kitchen shelves and larders. Seven of Nine had spent nearly 36 hours in the Astrometrics Lab, and Harry Kim had assisted her for nearly the entire time. When Chakotay last saw him, Harry was lumbering off toward his quarters to turn in for some much-needed sleep. He had been so tired that he was literally walking in the wrong direction.
The entire crew had been diligent about following the Captain's orders to find a suitable planet to replenish their dwindling supply of vegetables. Finally, the search had drawn them to this planet, second in a series of six.
After the planet had been labeled safe for human habitation, the Captain had insisted that she be the first to take a shuttlecraft down to the surface for further study, since it was impossible to study it fully from Voyager due to the heavy atmosphere surrounding the planet. Since it wasn't her custom to send an alone crewman on any Away Mission, she said she would take someone else with her. When Chakotay had insisted he be the one to go, she had balked. Actually, she had denied his request to join her. When he and Tuvok both approached her about it later, she had grudgingly agreed that Chakotay could accompany her.
Chakotay knew that the Captain disliked being spied upon, and worse, she hated being protected. She said it made her feel like a child. However, after both he and Tuvok had explained the situation, and the side of reason, to her she'd relented and agreed that Chakotay could be the second member of her Away Team. She was also smart enough to know they could out-rule her stubbornness and she might be forced to stay behind.
And so, Chakotay and the Captain found themselves alone on the planet's surface, searching for edible fruits and vegetables that would appease Neelix for another few weeks.
"Over here, Chakotay."
Chakotay moved the fronds aside and stepped around to the other side of the tree. The Captain was right. It looked like a field of carrots. These orange and green vegetables grew topside of the dirt, however. The Captain was already scanning the field.
"These are definitely edible, Chakotay!" He let her continue to scan while he watched her. Her eyes lit up and she was so excited, it was amazing to watch her. He grinned. She could still move him in a way no one else could. "Neelix will be pleased. And . . ." she pulled one from the ground, "I'll bet these will taste wonderful with some of those fresh Talaxian spices sprinkled on them, hmmm?"
Chakotay groaned, but he hadn't been this happy in a long time. Kathryn had nearly purred about those Talaxian spices, and right now he would eat a handful of them for just one more of those looks she'd just given him.
Kathryn dropped the carrot and continued through the trees, scanning a new region. Chakotay entered the coordinates of the carrot field into his own tricorder and followed her through the path she was making ahead of him.
Finally, after nearly four hours of continuous discovery, they had found items that would nearly pass for carrots, beans, squash, and even potatoes. Both the Captain and Commander were pleased, and suddenly very tired.
"Kathryn, it's beginning to get dark. We need to either return to the shuttle or find shelter until morning."
"I'd prefer to return to the Delta Flyer, but we'll never make it and I don't know about you but I'm not anxious to retrace our steps through that forest in the dark."
Chakotay wasn't either. "Let's find a cave, or some sort of shelter for the night, Kathryn. There's a clearing about 50 meters ahead."
"Agreed." Kathryn began to move in that direction, and Chakotay followed her. Darkness was certainly falling quickly.
Kathryn Janeway pushed the hair away from her face, and straightened. She and Chakotay had been looking for shelter for the past twenty minutes. Night was falling fast and they were on a planet with no familiar landmarks. And she was beginning to feel lost.
"Over here. I think I've found something."
Kathryn turned and followed the direction of Chakotay's voice. She brushed the branch away, and walked into the clearing Chakotay had found. It wasn't very large, but there was definitely enough room for a small campfire, if they dared to light one. But her eyes lit up when she saw that Chakotay had found a small cave on the furthermost edge of the open area. She moved deftly across the way, and stood beside him as he peered into the cave.
Moving her tricorder over the opening, Kathryn checked the readings and found it to be perfectly safe. Chakotay had obviously found it safe, as well, because he didn't try to stop her as she moved inside.
They both turned on their wrist lights and moved their tricorders over different sections of their surroundings. The top of the shelter had a hole cut through it, obviously for the smoke of a small fire to escape through.
"Chakotay, this looks like it's been used for shelter before."
"Yes, but a very long time ago," he said. "That would make sense with everything else we've seen today, as well. All those vegetables we found earlier were overgrown and abundant because no one lives here anymore. No one harvests the crops, and they've grown wild."
She nodded. That made sense. It was obvious from the readings they were both getting that no one had been here in a very long time. There wasn't even a wild animal living in the cave. The entire planet showed only plant life, and no animal life whatsoever. She suddenly thought of a lone primate they'd once befriended. She glanced at Chakotay quickly, but he was lost in his tricorder readings.
Kathryn took a deep breath. No use looking back and wondering "what if." Times changed. And they still had a crew to get home.
And these vegetables would certainly help.
"I say we make camp right here. We can build the fire inside rather than out, too, with that ventilation." She looked up, and his eyes followed hers. Then Kathryn's eyes lowered to his. "There's only one problem."
"What's that?" he asked.
"When we started out, we didn't realize we would be spending the night away from the Flyer. Therefore, we didn't bring provisions to stay the night."
Chakotay brought his backpack around and put it on the ground. "I have a first aid kit for emergencies, a dermal reginerator, a couple of padds, a blanket and an emergency water ration. What did you bring in your pack?"
Kathryn studied him for a moment. "I have the same thing you do, except for the blanket."
"You don't have a blanket?"
She shook her head. "I brought an emergency coffee pot instead. I thought we'd be back at the shuttle by now."
Chakotay was quiet for a moment, then smiled.
"What's so funny?" she asked softly.
"Tuvok would love to know how unprepared we are for this," he said. "If he ever finds out, we'll never hear the end of it. He'll probably use us an example for the rest of the crew and worse, he'll force us to attend those field training sessions in the holodeck."
Now it was Kathryn's turn to groan. "He'll never find out about this from me," she promised.
"Nor from me." They smiled at each other, the pact sealed. Chakotay dumped the contents of his bag onto the ground and stood. "Why don't you check our combined emergency supplies and make sure we didn't mistakenly bring something we might need, and I'll search the immediate area for food. Maybe one of those carrot fields is growing just outside." Chakotay moved toward the entrance to the cave.
"Don't go very far. It's more important that we remain together than for one of us to wander off just for food. If there isn't anything, we'll be fine until it's light again. By my readings, that's about eleven hours from now." This planet had nearly equal hours of daylight and nighttime.
He nodded. "Agreed. I'll only be gone a few minutes."
After he'd gone, Kathryn sorted through the contents of both their backpacks and sighed. She only had enough coffee for one pot, so they couldn't even have coffee until morning. They'd each known the current inventory of items found within their respective packs, all right. And after finding all that food today, they hadn't had the foresight to stuff a bit of it into their packs, either. More than that, she could kick herself for not bringing a blanket.
She turned on her tricorder, picked up a padd, and did some quick calculations. At least she had all the downloaded information they'd gleaned from their research of this planet today. "Damn!" According to her calculations, it was going to be a cold night tonight. And they had only one blanket between them.
Chakotay returned after several minutes with his backpack full.
He grinned that big grin at her and kneeled on the dirt floor of the cave. He turned the pack over and dumped the contents of it onto the ground.
"Chakotay!" Her childish exclamation reminded him of their time on New Earth, and her love of discovering new things. He missed that Kathryn, the one he'd first fallen in love with. Shaking his head to clear it, he forced away those thoughts.
"Mushrooms," she said in that voice that spoke volumes, as she picked up an especially large one. "Are you sure they're edible?"
"Check for yourself," he said, nodding at her tricorder across the way. "I scanned the entire patch and then the bag of mushrooms itself. They're edible, all right."
She smiled down at him. "We haven't seen another patch of mushrooms all day, Chakotay. Maybe we were meant to stay the night here so we could find these!"
"That's not a very scientific way of looking at things, Kathryn," he said, trying to sound serious.
"Oh, really?" She was in a rare mood tonight. "Then what are your thoughts, Mister?"
He smiled. "Sounds as good as any theory I could come up with." Kathryn returned the smile, then they both seemed to realize where they were, and who they were, and turned away from each other.
"Well," said the Captain, after a moment. "What do you say we build a fire and make ourselves comfortable for a long night ahead. Then we can enjoy a meal of some very large delicious-looking mushrooms."
"Sounds good," replied the Commander, and chanced a glance at her. She was smiling again. But he hadn't imagined that small moment of tension between them. It hadn't been unpleasant tension, either, it was . . . the sort of tension that had built up on New Earth just before Tuvok had returned for them. It was . . . something he couldn't afford to think about.
Chakotay stood and stowed the mushrooms away for later. He began to gather small twigs from the floor of the cave from which to start the fire. He sighed. Kathryn would expect him to rub those damned sticks together to create a fire, and he'd never been very good at that.
But when the kindling was ready, Kathryn took out her phaser and blasted the twigs with it. A small fire began in the very center of the pile.
"Impressive," said Chakotay.
"Thank you. I figured I could make a fire with my phaser much more quickly than you could by rubbing two sticks together," she said with a slight smile in her voice as she moved past him.
He smiled to himself behind her back. "Well, now we'll never know, will we?" He turned to see her glance at him over her shoulder, a question in her eyes. "Maybe I've been practicing."
They smiled at each other again, then turned away. The fire was awfully small yet, but it was beginning to get warmer in the cave already.
An hour later, both the Captain and the Commander had completed the journal entries that they would later download from their padds onto the ship's computer. Chakotay had suggested that they take care of business prior to relaxing and enjoying their dinner of mushrooms and water rations. And, as it was going to be a long night, there was no need to rush dinner. At least they had both thought to bring water along.
Finally, they put their padds aside and Chakotay opened the pack with the mushrooms inside it. "Dinner," he stated solemnly, as he sat the pack between them on the cave floor. Kathryn laughed. "What?" he asked.
"You act as though it's our last supper," she said. "Actually I've been looking forward to these mushrooms all evening. They look delicious." She reached over and plucked a large one off the top. "Now, you're sure they're all right to eat?"
"Positive. No antigens, no poison, no contaminants, no carcinogens, no . . ."
"All right, I get the picture. Salut," she added, as she bit into the side of the mushroom. "Mmmm . . . this is wonderful, Chakotay."
Chakotay took a smaller one for himself and ate it whole. "You're right. These are delicious." He chose another larger one, and ate that, too. Suddenly a dinner of nothing but mushrooms didn't seem so bad. These truly were wonderful.
After a few minutes, and some lazy conversation, most of the mushrooms were gone.
"Looks like we have just enough left for breakfast," said Chakotay, as he closed the bag and put it aside for the night.
Kathryn groaned. "I think I was overly hungry," she said. "I ate too much." She stood and stretched. "I'm afraid I'm not as young as I used to be, either," she said to Chakotay when she noticed him watching her. Then she went to retrieve her water ration.
Chakotay was thinking instead that she'd looked awfully nice when she stretched like that.
When Kathryn returned, she sat back down beside the small fire they'd managed to maintain for the past few hours. Chakotay already had his water ration close by, and they both sipped water and watched the fire.
"What are you drinking right now, Chakotay?" she asked in that smoky, sexy voice that Chakotay hadn't heard in a long time. He looked over and saw that she had closed her eyes.
"Water," he replied, somewhat in self-defense. And he was glad he wasn't drinking anything stronger than that tonight. Kathryn was the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen on any given day. Tonight she looked even better. And that wasn't good, not good at all, with the way he was feeling right now.
"Oh, come on, Chakotay, you can do better than that." She opened her eyes. "If you could have any drink in the world in that flask right now, what would it be?" Chakotay paused. "Well?"
"Anything," she said.
She paused. "Rum cider? Really?" Her voice said that didn't sound very appetizing.
"Have you ever had rum cider?"
"No, I can't say that I have."
"Well then, don't knock it if you haven't tried it." He smiled at her and she smiled back.
"All right. Maybe you could spare me a taste next time you really do have . . . rum cider."
"Next time," he agreed, then looked back at the fire. He loved looking at Kathryn, watching her talk, remember, imagine. But right now, he needed to focus away from her. Even though the fire remained low, the cave was getting warmer all the time, and when he looked at her tonight, all the ghosts of the past seven years came out to haunt him. Kathryn running into the corridor from her quarters to see what the commotion was all about - dressed in only her bathrobe which had become a bit loose at the top, Kathryn speaking to the primate on New Earth, trying to coax him into trusting her with that voice of hers. And Kathryn, offering to prepare dinner for him, and burning yet another pot roast, but somehow the look on her face had been worth it all. He'd gladly taken over the cooking while she poured the wine and told tall tales of when she was a child with an Admiral for a father.
"Hmmm?" He looked at her across the fire that now sat low between them.
"You were a million kilometers away just now. What were you thinking?" Her voice was soft, quiet, smooth as silk, and just as enticing.
"Nothing. Lots of things."
"And both at the same time - my, my."
He managed to smile at her. "My mind was just wandering in a lot of directions," he said.
"I understand," she said softly. "My mind's been wandering, too." Yes, that was true, she thought to herself. It was becoming awfully warm in here, even though she had moved a discreet distance away from the fire. And her mind was conjuring up all sorts of old memories, things she didn't need to think about just now -- the first time she saw the angry Maquis Captain on her viewscreen, Chakotay working diligently on New Earth, making headboards for both their beds, Chakotay taking charge of the situation when she was too tired, or too hurt, to do so. Chakotay . . . cradling her in his arms and crying her name out loud when he thought she was dead . . . another time, another cave . . . No! She shook her head and took another drink of water, just to have something to do.
"Your turn," he said.
"What?" She looked over at him and saw that he was watching her.
"You seemed a long way off just now, too."
"I suppose I was," she admitted. But she sure as hell wouldn't tell him where she'd been.
"And now it's your turn," he said again. "What would be in your flask, if you could have your beverage of choice."
She laughed. Finally, safe ground. Well, safer, at any rate. "Oh . . . let's see . . . probably good old Tennessee Whiskey."
Chakotay tried not to gulp, but it surprised him. She laughed.
"I can see the shock in your eyes," she said.
"Whiskey?" his voice was incredulous. "Out of everything?"
"Hey . . . don't knock it . . ."
". . . if you haven't tried it," he finished the sentence with her.
They looked across the fire at each other and smiled. It was still getting warmer in here.
Finally, Kathryn stood. "Chakotay, do you mind if I take off my jacket for a bit? It's gotten awfully hot in here."
"Not at all." He stood as well. "I was hoping you were feeling it, too."
They both removed their jackets and put them onto the ground. Kathryn started to pace. "I don't understand it, Chakotay. It's supposed to be a cold night, according to our tricorder readings, and this fire is not putting out very much heat. Why are we both feeling . . . so warm?" Her eyes met his, and then they both looked away from each other quickly.
Chakotay picked up his tricorder and scanned the interior of the cave again. Then he moved to the cave opening and scanned the outer areas. "The readings are the same," he said. "And it's already getting colder outside. In fact . . ."
"What is it?" She stopped pacing at the tone in his voice.
"It's actually colder in here than we both seem to be feeling. There's no reason we should both be so warm."
"Maybe we were sitting too close to the fire, Chakotay."
He nodded and put the tricorder down again. "Maybe we should move further away from it."
They both moved their jackets away from the fire and sat on them. Kathryn was careful to move hers a discreet distance away from Chakotay's. She couldn't quite put her finger on it, but . . .
Chakotay was glad Kathryn had moved further away from him. For some reason, tonight he could easily smell her perfume and the shampoo she always used. He'd always loved those scents; they were Kathryn's scents. Sometimes when he used to dream about her in his sleep, he'd awaken and swear he could still smell her presence. He suddenly looked up at Kathryn. He still dreamed about her, didn't he? How long had it been since he'd admitted it to himself? A long time, too long. He'd never gotten over her, really, and he never would. He still knew it in his heart, but he had gotten good at lying to himself.
Some mornings he still awakened with his heart beating too fast, and the smell of her perfume lingering in his mind. The twinkle in those incredible eyes, the upturned corner of her mouth, the uplifted eyebrow. He shut his eyes and bowed his head. He had to concentrate on something else, something . . . safe. He could deal with his feelings, his frustrations, later. Right now, he and Kathryn had a long night ahead of them.
Maybe his joining her on this Away Mission hadn't been such a good idea, after all.
"Chakotay?" He looked up. "You've been awfully quiet for the past half an hour," she said softly.
"I was just thinking about the cool breezes off the Atlantic Ocean in the autumn."
"Mind over matter?"
"Yes. I thought if I concentrate on cool breezes for awhile, I wouldn't feel so warm."
"Is it working?"
She stood abruptly. "Something's wrong here, Chakotay."
"What do you mean?"
"Think about it. Look at us. We're both sweating, even without our uniform jackets. And frankly, I've been fighting the urge to take off this turtleneck, as well."
Chakotay certainly wouldn't complain if she did just that.
"It's cold outside," she was saying, "and our small fire isn't penetrating the outer walls of this cave where we are now sitting. We should not be feeling this way, Chakotay."
He agreed. He should not be feeling this way. Not now, tonight, when he was alone in a cave with Kathryn Janeway, with Voyager nowhere in sight. Voyager might as well be in another Galaxy tonight.
And Chakotay was also finding it difficult to concentrate on all that she'd said. All he could do was watch her, and think about how good she looked in that uniform. Every time he saw her with her jacket off, he became preoccupied with thoughts he shouldn't be thinking.
What she said was true, though. They were both sweating. And that small bead of sweat standing out on her brow and upper lip were beginning to drive him mad. He closed his eyes.
"Chakotay, we were both fine earlier today. Things started changing after we made camp in this cave, when we ate those mushrooms."
Chakotay looked at her, suddenly comprehending what she was saying. She was standing with her hands on her hips, and her right leg bent just a little at the knee, and he thought she'd never looked sexier. "The mushrooms."
"The mushrooms," she said.
He was glad to have something to do. He grabbed his tricorder and the bag of leftover mushrooms. "Kathryn, I checked them thoroughly earlier. I would never have allowed either of us to eat them if I hadn't been certain . . ."
"I know that, Chakotay." He voice was soft, reassuring. She moved to him and kneeled beside him on the ground while he scanned the mushrooms again. He wished she had stayed across the way from him. He had to concentrate on not letting his hands shake now.
Kathryn watched the way his hands took charge of the tricorder, deftly but gently. He scanned the mushrooms while she watched him. She stole a glance at his chest, not wanting to do it but unable to stop herself. Even with his turtleneck on, she could see the ripple of his chest beneath the fabric. Her heart leaped and she took a deep breath. What was the matter with her tonight, anyway? She was thinking about things she shouldn't think about, had no right to think about. Damnit, she had been so good at denying herself those thoughts of Chakotay during long lonely nights for the past few years. For a long time, especially after Tuvok had rescued them from Planet New Earth, she had spent many nights wanting him so desperately she would cling to her pillows and cry herself to sleep. But time had passed, and she had thought she was over him.
But she knew better than that, didn't she? If she stopped lying to herself for one moment, those old feelings would pour through. And they were seeping through right now, weren't they? She couldn't allow that damn to burst open, oh no, not now. Not after all the years of pushing those feelings away, of lying to herself about him.
Kathryn forced herself to return to the present. The mushrooms.
"I'm still getting the same readings, Kathryn. The mushrooms are fine."
"They're edible, you said."
"Which means you checked them for harmful content, and not for other things."
"I don't know." She stood. Thinking about a situation was a good excuse to pace, but the real reason she moved away was to put some distance between them. She could feel a small bead of sweat trickle down between her breasts. Gods, it was so hot in here. "What sort of substances, enzymes, are found in mushrooms?"
He considered. "Some of the more ancient varieties are high in psychoactive substances, such as Psilocyn, but I scanned for that, too. These are fine."
"All right, good. What else . . ." She was still pacing.
He didn't know which was worse, having her sit near him, or watching her as she walked, moved.
Chakotay suddenly remembered something. Adafenozine.
"What?" She'd stopped pacing, and was looking at him. She could sense the change in him.
He shook his head. "Let me check something first."
She waited while he worked his tricorder over the mushrooms, then grabbed a nearby padd and began to tap it. Finally, she began to move about again. She'd never been very patient, and as Captain, when she asked for status she usually got it immediately. This was trying her patience, all right, and the damned heat was distracting. For that matter, so was her First Officer. She turned and watched him work the tricorder, then the padd, then the tricorder again. His brow was creased as he studied his readings and recalibrated the tricorder. He had found something, she thought. But until he shared his results, she watched his shoulder muscles move beneath his shirt. His upper arms had never been in better shape, she could tell. Kathryn was suddenly having trouble breathing, and stepped closer to the cave opening in order to get a breath of fresh air. She turned back and watched Chakotay from a distance. He'd never looked better. And she'd never been so warm in her life.
Kathryn rubbed her hand absently over her brow and pushed her hair back from her face. It seemed that her hair was suffering from the heat, too, which meant it would soon become a nuisance. She hated it when it fell into her face.
Chakotay could barely concentrate on his readings. When Kathryn pushed her hair back from her face, he felt the effect of that gesture all the way to his toes. This was not good at all. He turned back to the padd in his hand.
She stepped back from the opening and began to pace again. She thought the fresh air had helped her until she looked at Chakotay and felt a hot flash. Damnit! Something was definitely wrong with those mushrooms!
He looked up at her and watched her move away from the opening. He quickly glanced down again. He knew what the matter was now. He just didn't know how to tell Kathryn.
Finally, he felt her eyes upon him. "Well?" She saw that he had stopped working.
Kathryn Janeway was a scientist and his Captain. The fact that his natural desire for her was being enhanced by 500% made it imperative that he be honest with her. He couldn't be trusted with her tonight.
There was no way around it. "Adafenozine," he said softly. "These mushrooms contain adafenozine."
For a moment she didn't say anything, she just stared at him. But he could tell she was processing all the necessary information. Her eyes changed from unknowing to disbelieving, to quick acceptance. She was, indeed, a scientist first.
"Chakotay," she said in a controlled voice. "All mushrooms have anywhere from 12.8 to 16.3 percent adafenozine, depending upon the species. That's hardly enough to . . . elicit the sort of behavior we're exhibiting."
"This particular mushroom seems to be in the 16.3 percent category." Then he looked up at her. "Times 500 percent."
"I beg your pardon?"
"These particular mushrooms contain 81.5 percent adafenozine. Each."
She took a deep breath, then let it out slowly. "That's impossible, Chakotay."
"It's improbable, Kathryn. That's what I thought, too. But it's possible, and it's true. I'd like you to check my results, though. I could be wrong." But the look on his face told her he didn't think so.
Chakotay stood and offered her his seat, on his jacket. She looked at him for a moment, then moved slowly over to the spot he'd just vacated. Yes, she needed to check his assessment, of course. They had to be sure. But it wasn't like Chakotay to be wrong about something like this. Yet, at the same time, these results couldn't possibly be true.
Or could they?
Kathryn made herself comfortable slowly, and picked up the padd he had been using. Then she watched him move away from her, to give her some space, and time to run her own diagnostic. They were both attracted to each other, that much was obvious. They had been for a long time, and they both knew it. And adafenozine was a component found in mushrooms that, in layman's terms, stimulated a natural desire, enhanced an attraction in humans and a handful of other species. Kathryn closed her eyes for a moment. She had to focus.
Finally, Kathryn opened her eyes and set about her task. This simply wasn't possible. But she had to keep an open mind.
During the next 15 minutes, Chakotay paced the ground and watched Kathryn. He could tell she was desperately trying to disprove his theory, and he hoped beyond hope that she could, but it wasn't looking good. He could tell by the look on her face, and her body language.
He saw her suddenly stick a stray strand of hair behind her ear. This wasn't very Captain-like, in fact it was something he'd never seen her do before, but it was definitely sexy. He could tell her hair was falling in her face, and that it bothered her immensely, but he loved it. He loved it.
She would occasionally glance up, and when she did he would turn away. It wasn't fair of him to distract her, but he couldn't help it. He couldn't keep his eyes off Kathryn.
Kathryn, on the other hand, was distracted by Chakotay whether he was looking directly at her or not. Watching him walk, pace, was driving her crazy. She'd always found him attractive, sexy, but she was also used to having complete control over her emotions. And she didn't feel too much in control right now. What she'd like to do . . . NO. She had to concentrate, find some flaw in Chakotay's mushroom research. The problem was that she couldn't find a flaw at all. He had been correct in his analysis.
They were both being affected by the mushrooms they'd eaten only a little while ago. The adafenozine level in the mushrooms was completely out of normal range. An ordinary human couldn't easily fight the effects without an antidote. And they sure didn't have an antidote with them. The usual attraction between the Captain and her First Officer was quickly becoming something neither of them would be able to control without a Plan. Their physical needs would overtake them both if they didn't work together to prevent it from happening.
After what seemed like an eternity, Kathryn looked up. She didn't have to say it; he could see it in her eyes. He'd been right.
Chakotay sighed, then began to pace again. When she'd looked at him just now, he had wanted to go to her, take her in his arms and never let her go.
Kathryn looked down again. He knew. Just by looking into her eyes he knew the verdict. What were they going to do now? She felt a shiver run up her spine. Oh how she'd wanted him to take her in his arms just now, to hold her. Upon reflection, she didn't want him to just hold her, though. She wanted . . . .oh, she wanted.
"Chakotay, we can't just ignore this, you know." Her voice was low, smoky. And it did things to him he couldn't control. He nodded, and sat on her uniform jacket nearby.
"We don't have a medical tricorder, so we can't confirm our findings by scanning ourselves for the enzyme," she said, and he didn't reply. "But we've both done the calculations, Chakotay, and we've found the same results." After a moment, she spoke again. Maybe it would be better to keep the command structure in place. "What are our options, Commander?"
He noticed that she could barely sit still. He was having the same problem.
When he didn't answer right away, she glanced over at him. "Chakotay?"
"I'm thinking, but I'm fresh out of options."
"I could use some help here," she said softly, but she didn't seem to be having any better luck than he was.
"We could always run laps around the cave, but we'd lose the body heat that we need in order to survive the cold night."
They were quiet, but both of them were having trouble breathing.
"Well? Anything?" She really did need some help.
"The only suggestion I'm coming up with is one you won't want to hear, Kathryn," he said, and stood. He began to pace again. Nothing helped, but he had to put some distance between them. Now he could smell her shampoo from across the cave.
He noticed that she was quiet. Chakotay stopped a meter away and looked back at her. She was sitting with her knees pulled up and her chin resting on them. Her arms were wrapped around them, and she was rocking slightly. But she wasn't disagreeing with him.
Finally, Kathryn stood. She quickly pulled her shirt from her uniform pants and then up and over her head. Chakotay took a deep breath to steady himself. She dropped the turtleneck on the ground and looked at him. "I apologize, Chakotay, but I'm burning up." She began to move, to pace her side of the cave. The fire seemed to be the dividing line, and that was just fine with her. She'd stay on her side of things and deal with this damned heat alone. She'd never needed anyone, and she was damned if she'd start now.
Chakotay saw her determination. He knew she wouldn't give in to temptation easily, but that was nothing new. Kathryn Janeway did everything on her terms, no one else's. But one thing was for sure. He was burning up with the heat in this cave, too. He quickly slipped his own shirt off and dropped it onto the ground, as well.
Both the Captain and the Commander paced their respective sides of the cave. Finally, Chakotay stopped and turned toward her. "There has to be something, some option, we haven't thought of yet, Kathryn."
"I don't know," he said. "But we have a long night ahead of us, and we have to work through this together. It won't help if we allow ourselves to be controlled by our emotions. We have to fight this, somehow. Some way."
She stopped and took a deep breath. Chakotay watched her. She'd never been more attractive to him. She was warm, and her hair was obviously hanging in her face more than she liked. She'd batted it away several times, but it kept returning to hang in her face. What he wouldn't give to run his fingers through her hair, to entangle his hands there, to pull her toward him, to pull her lips to his . . . .
Chakotay suddenly began to move again.
"Chakotay." He stopped and turned to her. "You're right. We have to discuss this. We have to . . . do something." She looked directly at him. "Have you come up with any suggestions?"
Her voice was like a narcotic. He'd never indulged in them before, but right now he'd gladly do so. If Kathryn Janeway was a narcotic, then he was hooked on her. And it was too late to save him.
"None," he managed to say. "No suggestions."
They looked at each other. What she wouldn't give to close this distance between them, to move into those strong arms. Without his turtleneck, she could see his taunt muscles, his deep olive skin. And she wanted to touch him. Desperately.
He watched as a trickle of sweat ran down her neck and into the cleavage he so wanted to touch. Kathryn . . .
They turned away from each other and began to pace again.
Finally, Kathryn sat again. "Chakotay. Please. Sit."
He did. Across from her, and on the other side of the fire.
She looked up then, and he could see the struggle in her face. "What are we going to do?" Her voice was soft. She was asking for his help.
"Kathryn . . ." He'd never let her down before.
"Chakotay . . ."
"No, let me finish, Kathryn." She was quiet. "I've never lied to you before, and I won't start now." Her eyes showed him gratitude. He took a deep breath. "And I'd be lying now if I told you this is easy." She knew it wasn't. She saw his need. He just couldn't see hers as easily.
And she watched his forearms, his muscles, and she loved the bit of grey in his hair. She looked at his full lower lip, and she shivered. But she was so warm, so hot. The heat was driving her mad. "I'm sorry, Chakotay. Please continue." She vaguely waved the floor over to him, then looked away. He knew the feeling. And if the truth be known, he was glad she wanted him as much as he wanted her.
He watched her chest move when she breathed, and suddenly he saw it. A freckle. It was there, just between her breasts. A lone, lovely freckle. She was moving her hair aside again, and her hands were lovely. He'd always loved her long lean fingers . . . the way they tapped a control panel, moved over a padd . . . oh, Spirits, he couldn't think anymore. Those fingers would be more than welcome to touch his body. Any time and anywhere. He closed his eyes and tried to breathe. Not only was he losing control, he couldn't get her out of his mind. Her eyes, her mouth, that walk.
"Chakotay . . ." Her voice was a whisper.
"Just give me a minute, Kathryn," he said. His eyes were closed and his face was buried in his hands.
She was quiet. Oh, but she wanted to go to him in the worst way . . .
Once, a couple of years back, the Captain had complained to the Doctor of a sore back. He'd put a regiment into place for her. Three times a week Kathryn was subjected to his back massages, one hour each time. He wouldn't let her out of even one session for fear she'd cancel them all. Once, Chakotay had needed to see her at an inconvenient time. She was scheduled for a massage by the Doctor, but she had asked Chakotay to see her in Sickbay, to apprise her of ship's business during her massage. He had brought her a padd to read, and watched as the Doctor massaged the flesh that he so wanted to touch, to kiss. Her back was lovely, beautiful. He'd had dreams about the Captain's back for weeks. And to this day he couldn't recall a single thing about that meeting.
Suddenly, Chakotay stood. The air was getting too thin in this cave. He paced again.
"Chakotay?" Her voice spoke volumes.
"Kathryn, I can't . . . please. Just give me a minute." She was quiet. One thing about Kathryn, she knew when to push and when not to.
When he felt he could, he turned to her. She was incredible. He'd never seen anything like her in his life. He'd been in love with her for seven years, but he could always handle his feelings, he knew how not to make a fool of himself. But right now . . . right now, it took everything he had to stay put. "Kathryn, we have to do something. We need to divert our attentions to . . . anything else."
"I agree." She watched him, wanted him. "So - tell me stories, Chakotay. Just tell me some stories about your people, or that angry Maquis Captain I first met seven years ago."
He looked at her. Then he looked away. They were both feeling the same things, from several meters away. He closed his eyes and tried to concentrate. But he could only feel a new bead of sweat break out on his forehead. "Kathryn . . . I can't remember any stories just now. I . . . you talk. Tell me about growing up in Indiana. What was it like?"
"I've already told you, Chakotay. A long time ago."
"Tell me again, Kathryn." He just needed to hear her voice, to close his eyes and listen to her voice.
She paused and tried to collect her thoughts. "Indiana was . . ."
"What? Tell me."
"The winters were cold, and the summers were . . . hot." She looked up quickly, then stood. "This isn't working, Chakotay." She began to pace again. Chakotay watched her. She moved like a leopard trapped in a cage. And oh how he wanted to release that spirit. He watched her, wanting her. Then, just as she turned to start pacing back in the other direction, he saw it again. He knew he saw it. There was a freckle there, right where he was convinced he saw it a moment ago. She had a freckle just between her breasts, in her cleavage, where her breasts came together.
"What?" She'd stopped moving about and was looking at him.
He knew he must look like a deer caught in the light, but he couldn't help it. He had been thinking about things he shouldn't think about. "Nothing. It's nothing, Kathryn."
"What are we going to do, Chakotay?" she asked in a soft voice.
"Kathryn . . . we're doing the best we can do. We don't have an antigen for this overdose of mushrooms we've ingested. We just have to get through the night. Somehow."
"I'm so tired, Chakotay. I'm so hot, and so tired."
He looked at her again. "So am I, Kathryn. And I want to help, but I can't do anything."
"What do you want to do?" Her voice was low, sexy, and her eyes had gotten darker.
"You don't want to know." He nearly choked on the words.
Chakotay stood and looked across the way at her. He looked carefully. Was she testing him? Was she serious? And if she was, would he be taking advantage of her if he . . . if he what? This wasn't going to happen. The Captain wouldn't allow him to touch her. He turned and began to pace again. "Don't do this, Kathryn. Don't test me. I might not pass." He heard his voice break. He was weak.
"Do you want to make love with me, Chakotay?" Her voice was succulent, a thing to resist in itself.
"Don't do this, Kathryn. Please."
"What if we . . . what if we did this, Chakotay. I want to, you know. But I'm so afraid." She turned her back to him. He could see the fit of her tee shirt across that perfect back and the way her slacks hugged her hips. He couldn't stop himself from thinking about it.
"Kathryn, I can't offer you reassurances. I only know what you mean to me, what you are to me."
She turned to face him again. "This is a . . . medical condition, you know."
"And we could . . . help each other. We could . . . alleviate each other's discomfort."
"Yes." And I've loved you for years, Kathryn. Years.
"If we do this . . . what we're both thinking about . . ."
"Well, we would be treating a medical condition."
She could tell he knew she was reaching, stretching, trying to find the truth somewhere in this mess they'd found themselves in. "Chakotay. If we do . . . what we're both thinking about . . . if we . . . make love with each other . . ."
"Yes." Hearing her actually say the words nearly forced his legs to give way beneath him.
She paused, trying to find the right words. "Chakotay, things would change between us, and I can't have that. I need you beside me, the way we've been, I need the relationship we've created, built, maintained. The relationship we've nourished all these years." She swallowed hard. "I can't take a chance of losing that."
"We won't." His voice was full of promise. And he meant it.
"You can't promise that."
She looked into his eyes and saw his determination. "How can you promise that, Chakotay? You can't know that."
"I do know it, and I promise." He paused, trying to get his breath, but he intended to explain why. He took a risk and moved closer to her. He felt her tense even though she was still a good four meters away. "You've always called the shots where we're concerned, Kathryn, and I've learned to accept that. I've had to. You were right in what you told me once - our relationship with each other is what others will look to, will judge our command structure by. It's the only way." He took another deep breath. "You're still the boss, Kathryn, and you will always be in charge. No matter what does - or doesn't - happen here tonight I'll accept your decisions. Always."
They stared across the way at each other.
Kathryn had never been so aroused in all her life. Her entire body was on edge, and every pore of her skin felt electrically charged. She wanted this man to hold her, love her. She also knew she was being irrational because of the effect the mushrooms had over her, but she also loved him, truly. She'd loved Chakotay for a long time. And that wasn't about to change any way soon, that was for damned sure. So what would be wrong with . . . treating a medical condition with the man she loved? And all she wanted to do was touch him. No, that wasn't right. She wanted him to touch her, too. She wanted him to kiss her, touch her, take the rest of her clothes off and make mad, passionate love to her. She felt a moan begin to rise in her throat, but somehow managed to choke it back.
He was speaking. "What did you say?" she asked
"I said is it a deal? Whatever decision you make, I'll abide by. You have my word, Kathryn."
"Well . . ." She suddenly felt faint, and paused just long enough to take a deep purging breath. "I certainly don't want Tuvok to find us here like this, victims of a mushroom epidemic." He managed to grin.
They were both quiet for another moment, considering.
"Chakotay?" She suddenly realized she'd already made her decision, and walked over to stand directly in front of him. "Make love with me," she said. "Now." And she reached up, put her hands behind his neck and brought his lips to hers.
The kiss was tentative at first, hesitant, and precious. Chakotay thought his chest would explode, or that something else would first, but Kathryn pulled him even closer to her. He heard her moan softly as he engulfed her into his arms and entwined his hand deep into her hair.
Kathryn thought she would faint, and she wasn't the fainting sort. His arms were strong, just as she'd known they would be, and his scent was intoxicating. She belonged to him completely. She had never felt such an intense need in her life.
Finally, Chakotay pulled back and looked at her. Her eyes had grown darker, and were full of desire. Her lips were swollen from the kiss. Every day, sitting beside her on the Bridge, he thought she was the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen, but she was even more beautiful now. He moved away from her just long enough to grab the one blanket they had between them and spread it on the ground. At least it was a large one.
He moved back to her. Their eyes locked and Chakotay took her face in his hands and touched his lips to hers gently. Then he ran his tongue between her lips and into her mouth. She trembled in his arms and gasped. He flicked his tongue against hers and felt her respond. He slipped her tee shirt out of her pants and moved his warm hands up her back, that incredible back that he'd had fantasies about for two years now.
Kathryn pulled away gently and lifted her arms as Chakotay pulled her shirt over her head. He couldn't believe this was happening, but he would take what she would give him. And if he joined his ancestors tomorrow, that would be all right with him.
He had never seen a Starfleet issue bra look as good as this one. Somehow Kathryn made it look much better than it deserved to look. He kissed her mouth again, then moved to kiss the place by her left ear that had always been so enticing, and then her neck, her throat. Kathryn threw her head back, allowing him to kiss her, to nibble wherever he wanted. She closed her eyes and moaned. Her breath came out in small gasps.
Chakotay undid the front of her slacks and pushed them down over her hips. They fell to the ground and she stepped out of them. He moved away just long enough to pull her to the ground, and she lie down without taking her eyes from his. Her hair splayed out around her and he moved back to kiss her shoulder, her arms, her neck again. He ran his hands down her arms, down her side, her thighs. He had to slow himself, pace himself. He would never last if he didn't.
Kathryn reached up and pulled his shirt from his pants, encouraging him to get rid of it. He did, and as he lowered his arms once more, he saw she was looking at his chest with desire. He smiled at her and she ran her hands over his arms, his shoulders. "I've wanted to do that before now," she whispered.
"I wish you had," he said softly.
"No, I couldn't," she said. "I wouldn't have been able to stop."
"Don't stop now."
He kissed her again and lie beside her. She sat up suddenly, then easily reached back and unhooked her bra. Chakotay watched her while his heart hammered inside his chest. She slowly slid the straps off her shoulders and let the whole thing fall away from her, without taking her eyes from his face. Chakotay gasped softly.
He raised himself up and looked at her fully. She was so beautiful. "Kathryn," he swallowed hard. "Kathryn . . ." He kissed her, and she pressed her breasts to his bare chest. Chakotay pulled her closer to him. Finally, he moved her back onto the blanket and slowly ran his hand between her breasts and down over her taunt stomach. Then he moved his hand back in the other direction. Kathryn was still panting and they were both too warm. Her nipples were erect and Chakotay teased them with the palm of his hand. She whimpered softly and closed her eyes. He leaned over her and eased a nipple into his mouth. She gasped at the contact. He teased it and sucked it gently as she wriggled and moaned beneath him.
"Chakotay . . . ?" She tried to lean over to undo his pants, but he moved her hand away.
"Kathryn . . ." She seemed to understand his predicament and lie back down. She watched him as he stood and removed his own pants. Her eyes widened at the bulge inside his shorts.
Chakotay returned to her side and she reached for him. He took her hand and kissed the palm. She watched him, and then closed her eyes as he continued to kiss her fingers, one at a time. She gasped as he sucked her little finger, and her eyes flew open. "Chaktoay . . . ?" He smiled at her, then continued to lick and suck each finger. She was so ready for him now . . . she couldn't wait much longer. She wanted him, needed him, desperately. "Chakotay, please . . ." she whispered.
When he finally placed her hand back on the blanket, she was barely able to breathe, and she no longer had control of even the simplest motor reflexes. She was completely at his mercy, his sweet and tender mercy.
Chakotay moved his hands over her stomach once more and she closed her eyes. This was too much. She'd never known anything like this. He gently tugged her panties down over her thighs. Her soft mound of golden pubic hair made his breath catch again. When she was completely naked in front of him, he raked his eyes over her body and was suddenly glad he hadn't known what he was missing all these years. The thought alone would have killed him.
She watched him look at her. The appreciation in his eyes made her feel like more of a woman than she'd felt in a long time. Chakotay kissed and caressed her thighs, and encouraged her to open them to him. She did so willingly, trusting him completely.
He moved between her legs and breathed in the musky scent of her as he gently ran his tongue up the inside of her thigh. She made soft sounds that made him love her even more. He nipped her and kissed her, and finally his tongue found its target. She cried out as she writhed beneath him, taking his head in her hands and pulling him closer to her.
Kathryn was so close to climax - it hadn't taken long to get there. She'd been nearly ready all evening. She pulled Chakotay closer, feeling his tongue caress her swollen nub. She rocked beneath him, moaning in the back of her throat. Suddenly, she felt the explosion inside, and she cried out his name as the floodgates opened inside her.
Chakotay caressed and sucked her gently, and when he felt her body tremble and then jerk beneath him, he allowed his tongue to move down and inside her vagina, and felt her warm liquid roll onto his tongue. When she cried his name he thought he would explode himself; he had heard her cry his name during orgasm in his dreams, never allowing himself to believe it would ever truly happen in this lifetime.
When her spasms began to subside, and her grip on him lessened, Chakotay kissed her silky mound, and then her navel, causing her to take a sudden breath. He slowly slid up her body, stopping to taste a nipple on the way to her mouth. She shuddered and thrust her breast further into his mouth, moaning softly. He loved her moans and cries of passion. He'd always believed she would be as passionate in lovemaking as she was in everything else, and now he knew he'd been right.
And there it was. That freckle he had loved from afar. The slightest, sexiest freckle he'd ever seen, right between her breasts. He touched it, then kissed it, and knew he would never forget it.
As he kissed her throat, she sighed, then tilted her head down to kiss him full on the lips. It didn't matter that he had just tasted her; she kissed him deeply and slid her tongue inside his mouth. This time he was the one who moaned, and he whispered her name.
When she pulled away, she looked deeply into his eyes. "I want to feel you inside me, Chakotay" she said in a husky voice.
Chakotay closed his eyes tightly and took a deep breath. That alone had very nearly made him lose his control. He was so close right now, it wouldn't take much more. And he would always remember the look in her eyes and the words she'd just said to him.
He managed to push his shorts down his thigh, and Kathryn pushed them the rest of the way off with her foot. She reached down toward him and his hand grabbed hers. "Soon," he said, his voice tight. "If you touch me now, Kathryn, it will all be over."
She smiled and moved her hand up to the back of his neck instead. "Later, then," she said. "I want to touch you, Chakotay."
Kathryn opened her legs to him again, and he slid inside her as though he had done it hundreds of times before. They both gasped as their bodies joined as one, and they fit together as though they were made for each other. Chakotay began to move inside her. She immediately matched his rhythm and soon Kathryn cried out again, just as he spilled his seed inside her.
They lie together in the same position for several minutes trying to catch their breaths. Finally, Chakotay stirred. His erection was gone and he didn't want to hurt her by lying on top of her for too long. But Kathryn stopped him. "Not yet," she said softly. "Stay." And he did. He sucked her nipple and rubbed his teeth against it gently. She encouraged, him, loving his touch, his caresses, everything he did to her body.
Chakotay finally slid over to lie next to her. He grabbed the far end of the long blanket and brought it up and over the both of them. Then he put his head back and pulled her to him. Kathryn put her head on his arm and he looked down at her. The look in his eyes said it all. She pulled her own eyes away, telling herself that she didn't want to see the truth of what lie there.
"I was right. You have a freckle right there."
She was brought back to the present. "What?"
"You have a freckle just between your breasts."
She looked down. "I do not."
"Chakotay, you're imagining things."
"It's difficult to see right now, without more light, but it's there. I saw it earlier."
She smiled. "Hmm. I didn't think the mushrooms were hallucinogenic."
He tried to look serious. "Tomorrow, in the daylight, look closely. Maybe you've not noticed it before."
"I'll try to remember."
He smiled. He wouldn't let her forget.
Soon they both were quiet and Chakotay was just slipping off to sleep, feeling better than he could ever remember feeling. "Chakotay?" she whispered.
"It must have worked. Neither of us is overly warm anymore, since our . . . frustration levels have been satisfied. Our bodies must be purged of the adafenozine."
He smiled to himself and mumbled an affirmative, and they soon dropped off to sleep.
Sometime later, Kathryn awakened when she felt him nibbling her ear from behind her. She trembled. "Commander," she whispered sleepily, "I thought we agreed that the adafenozine is gone from our bloodstreams."
"I thought we might want to be sure," he replied.
And within minutes she had moved herself up and onto him. He rocked himself inside her, slowly at first, and soon she had built a more intense rhythm as she rode him to climax. He watched her, and became even more aroused as her breasts bounced, the nipples taunt and beautiful, her hair mussed and lovely, and an expression of ecstasy on her face he would never forget. He spent himself inside her once more, and it felt like going home. Then he pulled her back down beside him, where he could kiss her and caress her breasts once more.
Finally, satisfied and completely exhausted, and they fell asleep again.
Sometime later, Kathryn awoke to the smell of fresh coffee.
When she opened her eyes, she saw Chakotay near the fire, pouring coffee into the two small tin-like mugs she'd brought, using a similar-looking coffeepot. At least she'd thought to bring something of use in her backpack. She grinned. "Waking up on the ground beside a campfire with tin coffee cups reminds me of a time long ago and very far away," she said softly, trying to wake up.
"I try to please, Ma'am," he grinned, tipping a make-believe hat.
Oh, and you did, Chakotay, she thought to herself. But that time was past now.
She tried to sit up, but was suddenly reminded of the hardness of the ground. "Ohhh, Chakotay," she moaned, rolling slowly to her side, and pushing herself off the ground. "However did we manage to sleep on this?" Then she looked at him quickly, and saw the look in his eyes and the grin that was still on his mouth. "Never mind," she said. "Don't answer that."
He stood from the fire and she saw he was wearing only his shorts. He carried both mugs of coffee to the blanket and sat beside her. After she managed to sit all the way up, Kathryn realized that the blanket had fallen and he was staring at her breasts with a dangerous expression in his eyes. She covered herself as discreetly as possible, which wasn't very discreetly. He handed her a cup of coffee, but their eyes didn't meet as she took it from him. "Thanks."
"You're welcome," he said, but his voice was tight, and he turned away to stare out the opening. "It's light, and the weather seems warmer this morning." They both remembered what warm' was like. "We should break camp soon." She nodded and sipped her coffee.
When he stood and started back toward the campfire to get the coffeepot for refills, she watched him and knew they had to get dressed as soon as possible. Even though the reason for their lovemaking had been a medical one, as odd as that seemed now, the attraction was definitely still there. She sighed softly and looked back at the cup in her hands. The attraction was always there, really.
Twenty minutes later, Chakotay extinguished the fire. He felt the sadness begin to overtake him, but he wouldn't allow it to happen. Not just yet. He didn't want to face the real world again until they walked outside the cave, their cave.
Last night, he had promised her that nothing would change between them if they made love, and he would do everything within his power to make her believe that. But in truth everything had changed for him. To Chakotay, the world looked very different today.
As he was taking care of the fire, Kathryn stood. There was no need to become shy, she told herself, just get dressed.
From the corner of his eye, Chakotay watched her. He couldn't look away. When she stood, and the blanket dropped to the ground, he froze, dropping the empty coffeepot to bounce on the ground.
She turned at the noise, and found that he was standing, staring at her. She froze, as well. "Chakotay?" she whispered. "Chakotay, are you all right?"
He shook his head and took a deep breath. Going for broke, he moved to her. He could feel her tense, and he didn't want that to happen. "Kathryn," he said gently, and slowly reached out to take her in his arms one last time. She nearly pulled away, but succumbed to his touch one last time.
The moment he felt her body against his, his own body began to respond. He moved her away from him and looked into her eyes. He knew she wouldn't allow him to make love to her again. "I just . . . you're so beautiful, Kathryn. You're the most beautiful woman I've ever seen." It sounded lame, but it was the truth, and she could see it in his eyes.
Her eyes became moist and he saw a look pass over her face, and a fleeting moment of something else in her eyes. "Thank you, Chakotay," she whispered in a soft voice, then took his face in her hands and kissed him gently on the lips one last time.
Then she turned away and began to dress. Chakotay realized suddenly that what he saw on her face a moment ago was the look of a Captain who wanted nothing more than to be a woman from time to time. It had been a long time since she'd allowed herself that luxury, and she missed being a woman.
Chakotay pined for her.
When they turned to repack their supplies, Chakotay saw the leftover mushrooms in his pack from the day before. Kathryn stopped what she was doing and looked over at what he held in his hands.
"I assume we're going to forego breakfast," he said, smiling.
She grinned back, and shook her head. "Don't throw those out. We need to get them to the Doctor. If he can find a way to make the adafenozine levels within normal range, we may be able to harvest them, after all. They were certainly tasty enough."
"Agreed. You read my mind, Captain."
"You know, Commander," she said, looking at him with a gleam in her eye and a little twist at the corner of her mouth. "That's not very difficult to do."
He grinned back at her, then they both continued to pack for their journey back to the real world, where life would continue on its usual course toward home.
Soon after, they were dressed and ready to go. They stood at the cave entrance, looking back over their shoulders. They were leaving a whole lot more behind than just a dead campfire.
Three hours later, the Captain and Commander Chakotay returned to the Delta Flyer. The trip back hadn't taken nearly as long since they knew where they were headed.
They immediately consumed an emergency food ration bar each, as a late breakfast. Even though the other food crops they had passed back through today were entirely fine to eat, neither of them suggested doing so. It seemed they'd both had enough vegetables for the time being.
"Chakotay, I want to break through the atmospheric barrier and report back to Voyager," she said as they ate. "We can transport the rest of the mushrooms to the Doctor for examination and give Tuvok the coordinates for the vegetable crops we've found so the Away Teams can be assembled. But then I'd like you and I to take one more pass beneath the barrier to be sure we haven't missed anything important."
"Agreed." They'd also agreed to take sonic showers in the Delta Flyer before leaving. "Captain, I'll begin the flight checks while you take a shower. When you're finished I'll take one, and by then we should be ready to go."
She smiled at him, then nodded. Kathryn stood and started for the back of the Flyer, where the showers and sleeping accommodations were located. "Chakotay?" she said softly, as she turned back toward him. He looked up and they gazed into each other's eyes for a full minute. And whatever she was going to say died on her lips. They both knew there was nothing left to say. "I'll only be a few minutes," she finally said.
He nodded. "Be sure to look for that freckle."
She smiled one last time and left. He felt his own smile fade slowly. Then he sighed heavily and moved into the Captain's chair to begin the system's checks. It was time to move on, ready or not.
Half an hour later, they had both showered and donned fresh uniforms. They looked impeccable as always. And if no one looked at them closely enough to see the sadness behind their eyes, their secret would be safe.
It was late in the day when the Captain and Commander brought the Delta Flyer back to Voyager. Once again, Captain Janeway brought the Flyer in and set her down like an expert.
"Even Tom Paris couldn't have made a better landing than that, Captain," Chakotay said, and she smiled.
"Now that's a true compliment," she said. "Just don't tell Mr. Paris I said so."
Chakotay laughed. "You don't have to worry about that."
They were trying to behave as they normally did, and the ease of it would return soon enough. But today, they still shared a memory that was too fresh to ignore completely, no matter how hard they tried.
The rest of the afternoon was spent completing their logs. Commander Chakotay worked with the Captain in her Ready Room for nearly an hour. It was vital that they "recalled" things the same way. Thus, each step of their Away Mission was duly noted, minus some careful details.
"Doctor to Captain Janeway."
"What is it, Doctor?"
"I would like to see you and Commander Chakotay immediately."
She looked at Chakotay. "Of course, Doctor. We'll be right there." She signed off, and moved toward the door, with Chakotay close behind her. It was time to see the Doctor about those mushrooms.
"Captain, you asked me to check these mushrooms for high or concentrated levels of natural enzymes, particularly adafenozine."
"That's correct, Doctor."
The Doctor puffed his chest out. It was good to be needed. "I've run every test possible, Captain, and you'll be glad to know that the adafenozine level of the mushrooms is 16.3 percent, and well within normal range."
"The mushrooms are completely edible in their current state. In fact, Mr. Neelix and an Away Team are collecting mushrooms for the Hydroponics Bay as we speak. Commander Tuvok seemed more than willing to allow Mr. Neelix some time off the ship in order to harvest them."
"But . . . Doctor, that can't be correct. The adafenozine level in those mushrooms is extremely high, nearly at a dangerous level."
The Doctor smiled. He knew she wouldn't accept his explanation without proof that her own theory was wrong. "Actually, Captain, the mushrooms are perfectly normal. And you'll be glad to know, your initial scans of the mushrooms were not entirely incorrect." He paused for dramatic effect. "The Commander's tricorder was malfunctioning."
"I don't understand . . ." she said, but she did understand, perfectly, and immediately. Kathryn Janeway rarely had to be told something twice.
"Captain," said the Doctor gently, noticing that her face had suddenly lost its color. "When you informed me that you believed there was something wrong with these mushrooms, I tested them thoroughly but found nothing out of the ordinary. I then asked Lieutenant Torres to check the mushrooms, as well. She detected no abnormalities, either. She then checked the shuttlecraft and the equipment you had with you on the planet. It seems that the Commander's tricorder was malfunctioning. This must have been the tricorder you used to scan the mushrooms, since in its defective state, Lieutenant Torres and I both detected the erroneous results that you did when we scanned the mushrooms. The defective tricorder readings consistently showed an unusually high level of adafenozine. According to Lieutenant Torres, the phase variance on Commander Chakotay's tricorder was "out of control," not a very technical term but nonetheless accurate in its own way." When neither the Captain nor the Commander questioned him further, he smiled smugly. He had once again performed his duty to perfection. "So, you see," he said in conclusion. "You were concerned for no reason. The mushrooms are perfectly safe for consumption by all species, and Lieutenant Torres is correcting the phase variance on the Commander's tricorder as we speak. Everything is perfectly normal."
The Doctor noted that the Captain was unusually quiet, and her coloring was still not quite right. In fact, the Commander looked a bit pale, as well. Tomorrow, he would suggest physical examinations for them both, but if he suggested it now, he knew from experience that the Captain would simply tell him they were exhausted from their Away Mission.
"Thank you, Doctor," said the Captain softly, and left Sickbay without another glance at the Doctor. Commander Chakotay nodded at the Doctor and followed the Captain, but they both stopped in the corridor just outside Sickbay. She turned to him. "Commander." She didn't look him in the eye. "I need some time." She spoke softly, but Chakotay knew that no matter what she was feeling, her outward demeanor would remain calm.
"Understood," he said. She nodded slightly, relieved that she could make a quick exit.
Chakotay watched her go.
He did understand. Kathryn had only allowed herself to love him last night because she was able to justify it to herself. They had needed to satisfy a medical condition, and not their own physical needs. And now her justification had been taken away from her. Yes, he understood. She needed time to sort through things. He would wait.
Two days later, Chakotay was on his way to Engineering when the Captain's voice came over his comm badge. He breathed a sigh of relief, not realizing until now that he was beginning to be concerned about her. They'd sat beside each other on the Bridge for two days, since the mushroom incident, and had discussed various matters at staff meetings, and even for a moment or two in private. But she had been all business, and even distant toward him. He knew he had to give her time, whatever time she needed, but he had no idea how she was justifying their lovemaking to herself now, and that concerned him. He just wanted things to get back to normal.
He loved her more today than ever before, and he ached for her during the lonely nights, but he had promised her that things wouldn't change between them, and that she still called the shots where their relationship was concerned. He could only hope she would find peace, and would be able to move on, too.
"Janeway to Chakotay."
"Chakotay here, Captain."
"Seven and I are in Astrometrics. Will you join us."
It hadn't really been a question; it was the Captain's nice way of telling him to get to Astrometrics. He smiled. "On my way, Captain." He ended the connection and turned town the corridor toward the turbolift. This was the first time she'd contacted him directly for anything since returning from the Away Mission.
Chakotay walked into Astrometrics and stopped just inside the door. The Captain and Seven were charting the information he and Kathryn had gathered from the planet, and their backs were to him. He breathed deeply. Her hair was shining and beautiful, and she was leaning over the console, casually studying the chart in front of her. Chakotay had no idea what sort of reception he'd get from her, the cool attitude of late, perhaps. But her voice had sounded different, more like the old Kathryn, over the comm badge. Or, had he imagined it?
Finally, Chakotay moved toward them just as Kathryn turned to him and smiled. "You're just in time, Commander. Seven and I are in the process of mapping the entire planet, but I need to return to the Bridge. Perhaps you can assist her with the rest of it."
"Of course, Captain," he said. But he had to know how things stood between them. "But first I'd like to see you for a moment. In private." He glanced over at Seven, who was still working her console. She didn't seem to think his request odd, but then, that was Seven.
The Captain walked over to him and looked him in the eye. "If it can wait, Commander, perhaps we can discuss whatever it is over dinner tonight."
Chakotay slowly let out a sigh of relief. Her tone of voice had returned to normal, and she seemed much better. Maybe things would be all right now. "Of course, Captain."
"Good." She turned and headed for the door, but turned back to him at the last moment. "And Commander?"
Chakotay looked back at her.
"You may want to bring a hearty appetite. I hear Mr. Neelix is preparing mushroom stew," she said with a lilt in her voice, and a slow smile that was filled with promises.
And as Chakotay grinned, the Captain exited Astrometrics with a bounce in her step.