This story takes place immediately after the fifth season episode, "The Disease." (Some episode spoilers, but not any.) It is probably best, but not necessary, to have seen the episode before reading this.
Of course, Paramount owns Star Trek, the people who live there, and the universe. It also owns too much of me . . .
I stand in front of the couch in my Ready Room, watching the stars streak by at warp speeds and drinking a cup of lukewarm coffee. I'm lucky this time; my coffee is usually completely cold before I find an opportunity to drink it.
I sigh heavily, tiredly. But sleep will be long in coming tonight.
It's nearly midnight and I know that the beta shift Bridge crew are already wondering when I'm going to leave my Ready Room and retire for the night. It's less stressful for them if I'm not around, whether I actually walk out onto the Bridge or not. Just knowing that I am in here makes them jumpy; they are not used to having me around as much as the alpha shift crew.
But, the beta shift crew also knows that I suffer from bouts of insomnia and am apt to stay up well into the night, working on some mysterious reports in my Ready Room.
Those bouts of insomnia had gotten much worse for awhile after Commander Chakotay and I were first rescued from New Earth, nearly four years ago. If anyone had noticed, they probably chalked it up to all the changes we were experiencing. Now, those sleepless nights come and go. Some nights are better than others. I never know when I'll experience them, but they have never gone away entirely.
And now, I'm afraid I'm in for many sleepless nights ahead of me, once again.
And the last place I want to be is in my quarters, alone, when I can't sleep. I have to work my frustrations away, here in my Ready Room.
Now, tonight, I think of Harry and the problems of the past few days. I have entered a formal reprimand into his Starfleet record, a fact that I fear hurts me more than it does him.
Oh, Harry. You did disappoint me so. But perhaps we've both grown from this experience.
While I was concentrating on dealing with your errant behavior, Harry, you brought me up short by talking about love, and what it felt like to be in love. And while you were speaking to me, Harry, you forced me to re-examine a subject that I've tried so hard to bury, and for so long.
But how could you know what you were doing?
True, I was deeply disappointed in you, Harry. I simply couldn't bring myself to understand how you could intentionally betray my orders and break nearly every Starfleet protocol in the book.
I told myself you were "under the influence" of an alien attraction agent working in your bloodstream, and that it was to blame for your defying me. "It" could be blamed, and not you. Better that way.
People think I am the sort of Captain who faces truth squarely, come what may. But I will take a good old-fashioned excuse over some of those truths any day.
I told myself you would be sorry later. You would apologize to me and once again be the young Ensign that I have been so damned proud of for six years now.
I told myself that you didn't know any better when you asked me if I had ever been in love, when you described the feelings love induces. When you asked me if I knew what it was like to feel my face flush when that person looked at me.
Yes, Harry, I was suddenly remembering those feelings very intimately as you spoke, your words reminding me of those nights spent in his company, our smiles warming each other, the laughter in our eyes. I even recalled the words we said to each other then, and how we looked deeply into each other's eyes when we spoke them.
Funny how I thought I had stored those old memories away, in some locked trunk in the dusty attic of my mind, never to be taken out and remembered again.
Funny how the heart has other ideas.
I thought about him as you spoke; I remembered little things about him, those little things that I thought I would never allow myself to think of again. The twinkle in his eyes when I smiled at him, the way his laughter was so contagious I couldn't help but join him, the way his hand touched my back as we walked together, in that possessive way that made my heart leap.
Yes, here I was thinking of that man as you spoke, wanting with all my heart to beg you to stop speaking, to stop you from reminding me of everything that was lost, yet knowing that I owed it to you to hear you out. You were telling me about you, and about Tal. You were telling me of your experiences with love, and I was remembering my own.
But then, you mentioned Mark. The man I was "engaged to." That was how you put it. And I realized that you thought I was thinking about him, about Mark, as you were describing what love felt like.
Mark. But how could you know, Harry? Mark has been gone from my life, and from my heart, for so very long now. Sometimes I have to think, hard, in order to remember him, and me, as we were then. I did love him, in a very different way than what I know love to be now.
No, Harry, I had been thinking about someone else all along. But how could you know?
Maybe I have been good at hiding it, after all. Or, maybe you can't bring yourself to suggest what no one else has had the nerve to actually put into words yet. I've been waiting for Tom Paris to do that one day, though. I've always thought that when the time comes and I have to deal with it from someone on this ship, it will be from him. I can deal with it coming from Tom better than from you anyway, Harry.
As you spoke, and I listened, I noticed my heart beating faster. I felt a surge of pleasure at the face I imagined in my mind, the face smiling at me, making me feel good, and special, and beautiful. So glad to be a woman, not just a starship Captain, but a woman. How long has it been since I've felt that way, even for a moment?
Kathryn Janeway has always taken second seat to the Captain, but right now I don't even know where Kathryn is. Where did I leave her last? And, is she lost forever - or have I merely misplaced her?
Oh, Harry. Why did you do this to me? First, the deception, the breach of protocols, the blatant disregard for my orders. And now this. Forcing me on a mental journey I'm not prepared to take.
And why can't I lock those thoughts and feelings back up now? It's been hours since you and I argued, right here in my Ready Room. Why can't I move on? My heart is full, sore, hurting. My body suddenly has needs I have struggled to ignore for far too long. But my needs can only be satisfied by one man, the one man I have denied myself for so long.
Only two hours ago I saw you in sickbay, Harry. I told you that you were special to me. I'm glad I told you that. Finally. You've always known it, taken flak from other crewmembers because of it, but it was time you heard it from me. We needed to make peace with each other, and I needed to tell you in this strange way that you are like a son to me, a son I'm sure I will never have. You told me you are not a perfect Starfleet officer anymore, and I told you, "Maybe not. But you're a better man." When you glanced at me briefly, I could see in your eyes that you needed to hear me tell you that. I'm glad we had that talk.
But how could you know what you had already done to me with your words about love, Harry? How could you know that you have re-opened a wound so deep in my soul that I no longer have the strength to heal completely?
I know it, I can tell. This time I won't be able to heal.
That love that I had put away and locked up inside me so long ago hasn't really been kept at bay, after all. Instead, today I discovered that while I had turned my back, it had grown larger, stronger and more intense that it had ever been before.
Today, when you and I walked out of my Ready Room, I saw him sitting there in his command chair, his head bent over the computer in front of him, trying to determine what was happening to us. I froze. No one noticed because they were busy trying to figure out why we were being jolted every 8.2 seconds.
Still, I froze. It was only for a nanosecond, but I froze. My heart wrenched and my vision actually blurred for an instant, although no one will ever know. But I know.
Gods, I miss him. I want him so badly.
That man, the one I love, Harry, the one you were making me remember, is still a part of my life. He's a part of your life. He's right there on the Bridge with us everyday.
How could I explain to you that my wound will never completely heal, Harry, because I am reminded of my lost love every single day as he sits next to me on the Bridge? Every day, I steel myself against each move he might make, each brush of his hand, possible eye contact. And in order to protect myself, and continue my duties to this crew, I have buried myself in my work, in Starfleet duty, and I tell myself that I cannot go to him the way my body, my mind and my heart want me to.
My body. I thought I was going to faint when I looked at him earlier today. I felt a desire so intense, I had to move my hand to the handrail in order to keep my balance. I have to be more careful and not allow myself to be caught off guard like that.
And here I am, Harry, once again having to remind myself that even though Starfleet is still many thousands of light years away, their protocols still matter. They still mean something to me, and to this crew. This is still a Starfleet crew, after all, run by Starfleet protocol, Starfleet ideals. Isn't that what I told Chakotay when I made him my First Officer, all those years ago?
This is a ship run by a Starfleet Captain who knows no other way.
Sometimes I have to force myself to remember how I used to feel about Starfleet, how proud I was to be chosen to help enforce those ideals that had been ingrained into my very soul.
I say "used to feel." I still feel strongly about those ideals, but time has a way of moving on, taking the fire out of one's dreams and replacing that fire with an expectation. These past six years have tired me, I'm afraid.
And here I am now, in my Ready Room, in the middle of the night, trying like hell to deny the fact that I am still in love with my First Officer.
Turning my back to the couch, I sit slowly. So tired. And still in love.
I sigh again, sit my empty cup on the coffee table and lean back on the couch, closing my eyes. But I cannot rest. I am too wound up now. And until today I thought I was handling things very well.
I am vaguely aware of distant sounds fading, and of my thoughts focusing. I see him in my mind, standing before me with a look of love on his face. Tears come to my eyes as I look back at him. I remember now that he had looked at me this way on New Earth. But we left all that behind us, didn't we? The planet, the shared experiences, the love?
I feel myself drifting . . . I move my position on the couch, trying to get more comfortable. My body is not able to rest; it, too, remembers New Earth. No, we didn't make love with our bodies while we were there. But we came oh, so close.
One or two more days, Tuvok, why couldn't you have waited just one or two more days . . .
But we had touched. Gods, and he had kissed me. Twice. Once, fleetingly, gently. Soft, gentle, sweet. Then, the night before Tuvok and Voyager returned for us, he had kissed me good-night. And I had almost allowed him into my bed. Only another night or two, I remember thinking. One or two more . . . I needed to be sure. Sure of what, I no longer remember. I was sure I loved him then, and I'm sure I love him now. I don't know what I was thinking then.
But I do remember that kiss.
We had made hot chocolate and drank it outside next to the fire. We had talked and laughed, and I moved over to sit next to him. And as it became colder, I leaned against his chest and he put his arm around me to keep me warm. I didn't want to move from that spot, didn't want to go inside, even when the night became too chilly to stay outdoors. I didn't want to let go of that moment, not ever.
But finally we did move inside. He walked me to the doorway of my small alcove, my bedroom, and I knew when he looked at me that he would kiss me. Really kiss me. Perhaps he saw my desire for him in my eyes.
I remember every moment of that kiss to this day. I have never felt such incredible desire in my life. I have never been so completely and totally caught up in another human being. I knew then that I really loved him. I didn't want to let him go.
When he finally broke the kiss, I was disoriented. He looked at me and smiled. But he didn't push me. He had wanted me to be sure, so he had turned and left me alone. Later I realized, too late, that he was waiting for me to go to him. I was the one who had waited too long.
Suddenly, I sit up. I glance at the chronometer. Twenty minutes. I had shut my eyes twenty minutes ago, and in that short time I had remembered a lifetime of promises silently made, but never delivered.
But something had made me stir. There it is again. The buzzer. Someone is outside the door to my Ready Room, asking for entry. I try desperately to shake myself awake. I know who is there. It can be no one else.
"Come," I call out, forcing myself to rise from the couch.
He enters the room, still in his uniform, despite the hour. "Captain," he says, treading on uncertain ground. He has come to check up on me, to see how I am doing. He knows without question that my dispute with Harry has been difficult for me. He is worried.
I am glad to see him, too glad. Be careful, I tell myself. I know when I am weak, and right now I want to go to him in the worst way. I want to be hugged, and held.
Damn it, I want to be touched, kissed, loved, made love to. By him. I want to be treated like a woman.
I shiver slightly at the thought, and he quickly walks up to my level and takes me by the shoulders, turning me to face him. "Kathryn, are you all right?" he asks.
I look at him then, and see that concern is written all over his face. But I cannot stay here, this close to him. I am weak tonight.
"I'm fine," I say, gently moving away from him, leaving him next to the couch. "Please, sit down. I was just going to have some . . . tea. Join me?"
I walk down to the replicator, but not before I see a small smile tug at the corner of his mouth. He knew I was going to say 'coffee' and not 'tea." But I don't feel like being reprimanded tonight.
"I'd like that," he says easily.
Taking my time, I work on getting myself together. I have snapped back to being the Captain, though, so accustomed to having to do it quickly that I can be her in my sleep. Or, maybe I have just become her without realizing that I've given up another part of myself somewhere along the way.
"Computer," I say, glancing up at him so that he can see the expected grimace when I say, "Two cups of chamomile tea. Hot." He smiles.
Picking up the two cups of tea, I walk back toward the couch. "Please . . ." I nod toward the couch, and he sits. Always a gentleman.
I hand him his tea and sit on the couch, too, several inches away. I have to maintain distance tonight.
Strange, how that conversation with Harry today has re-awakened all those feelings I thought I had so carefully put away. Tonight I can barely make eye contact with this man, with my First Officer. Tonight I remember my angry warrior.
And my complete exhaustion isn't making it any easier.
Suddenly, I feel tense. I must be careful, oh so careful, tonight.
I sneak a glance at him and see that he has been watching me carefully. I smile unexpectedly, wondering what he is thinking while watching all these expressions cross my face.
Now I look at him blatantly, and he nearly jumps. He looks at his teacup, caught. I smile. I can still have my fun.
As we sit and sip our tea, I have to concentrate on not looking at him. I don't want him to see my eyes, to wonder again what I am thinking about.
I don't want him to know that I am trying to still my beating heart yet again today.
I know that he is waiting for me to speak. But I can't trust my voice just yet. Finally, he can stand it no longer and asks me, "Did you speak to him?"
"What?" I ask, before realizing he meant Harry. Did I speak to Harry.
"Did you go to sickbay to speak to Harry?" He knows that I am still reeling from the angry words Harry and I shared earlier today.
"Yes. He's fine."
"Yes. I'm fine, too."
"Then, you two made up?" I look up at him quickly and see the corners of his mouth struggling not to turn up.
"Do you find it amusing, Commander?" But my voice holds nothing which would convince him that I cared either way. The Captain's tone is missing.
Now he looks at me more intently. I hadn't looked away quickly enough. Damnit.
"Kathryn . . ."
"Yes." But I keep my eyes averted.
"What is it?"
"What is what?" I ask, knowing that it was a lame response to his question.
"What is the matter?"
I pause briefly, reaching into my mental grab bag for some sort of answer that will appease him. "It seems that our young Ensign has finally become a man," I say, already thinking that this was a dumb thing to say.
"Ohhh . . . ?" Chakotay smiles this time.
I look up at him again. It is impossible to hold a conversation with this man and not look into his eyes from time to time. "I don't mean that," I chide him, but he continues to smile. I decide to ignore the smile in his eyes that is even more suggestive than the one which dances on his lips.
Is he doing this to me on purpose this evening, or am I unusually responsive to his every movement, to every nuance and innuendo, tonight?
I continue. "He has decided to deny himself treatment, even though the Doctor is able to administer it. He wants to take personal responsibility for his feelings for Tal, to try to get past this by himself." I am lost in the moment now, thinking about poor Harry and how his suffering is just beginning.
I speak again, without thinking. "He even described perfectly what it feels like to be in love."
"And what, exactly, does it feel like, Kathryn?"
My heart skips a beat and my eyes snap up to meet his. I can't believe I just walked into that one. I must be tired, I tell myself. I would never have made such a mistake if I had been thinking properly. No, I hadn't been thinking, that was for sure.
I pull myself together. "I'm sure I don't need to describe what being in love is like to you, Commander," I say, using his title intentionally, then looking away.
"No, you don't," he replies innocently. "But maybe it's different for all of us. Tell me then, what is it like for Harry?"
I know what he's doing, but I can't find a gracious way out of it.
"He . . . described his heart and his feelings for Tal, and told me how his longing for her makes him feel nearly . . . physically ill." I pause, not daring to continue with this. I stand then, and put my barely touched teacup on the table in front of us.
He stands then, as well. He is too quick. He has put down his cup, too, and has taken my shoulders between his hands before I can even think to move away.
I am forced to look into his eyes. Gods, I want to pull away, move away, leave.
"Kathryn . . . tell me what's bothering you tonight. It's more than your disagreement with Harry, isn't it?"
I look into those eyes. His eyes. I cannot speak.
But he is gentle, and understanding. He knows I will speak when I am able. He is patient, if nothing else. My often-tested stubbornness has tried his patience on more than one occasion, and he has managed to continue alongside me, to support me through all these past years together.
I suddenly realize how strong we are together. I could not do this alone. I am strong, yes, and just stubborn enough to accomplish what many people believe I cannot, but I am best with him by my side.
He looks into my eyes, watching me watch him, and trying desperately to figure out what can possibly be going through my mind just now.
I am quiet, still looking into his eyes. He tries to give me time, and space, but I can tell he is concerned.
"Kathryn . . ." he decides to prod me, afraid I'm thinking of doing something strong headed, or of saying something he doesn't want to hear. I've seen this look on his face before.
I slowly raise my hand to his face. I try to stop myself, but I no longer have control over my own actions. I feel outside myself now. He looks at me with questions in his eyes. This is not the Captain Janeway he knows. I am surprising him. I smile at this thought.
I touch his cheek with my hand, then my thumb touches his lips, and I feel him tremble. Gods, he trembled!
"Chakotay . . . ?" I whisper his name. The look in my eyes has to tell him everything he needs to know.
"Kathryn . . ." Now I see the look in his eyes that he has hidden from me over these past months, years. I have forced him to put these feelings away, telling him I cannot engage in a personal relationship with a member of my own crew.
But we run this ship together.
True, Voyager is my ultimate responsibility, and all decisions are mine to make. But I cannot do it without him by my side.
Suddenly, I feel that together we can do anything. And we will get home again. This last thought hits me with greater fervor, and more force, than I've felt in a long time.
I feel my eyes tear. I'm still looking into his eyes, and my hand is still resting on his face. He is terribly surprised, and I know that he is concerned, because I am not being myself.
"Chakotay," I say. I have to let him know that I'm all right, that we're all right. "Do you ever think about New Earth?"
Suddenly, I see his eyes change. I feel the tenseness leave his body, and tears fill his eyes as they have filled mine already. He is relieved that I haven't forgotten. Or that he didn't imagine the entire thing. I know how he feels; sometimes I wonder if it were just a dream I once had, too.
"All the time, Kathryn. I think about New Earth everyday," he whispers to me, taking my hand from his face and bringing it to his lips.
He presses my wrist to his lips, but isn't sure I will allow him to actually place a kiss there. He looks back into my eyes, and I move my hand back to his face and slowly, ever so slowly, I move my face toward his, tilting my head slightly so that our lips will meet perfectly.
He is in shock, I can see. He is praying that he is not dreaming.
No, he is not dreaming.
I am an explorer, and a Starfleet Captain. I am a realist, not a dreamer. I believe in science and all things that are proven to be true. I do not believe in things that exist in mythology or in the minds of people who cannot prove truths with fact.
But I do enjoy a good "angry warrior" story from time to time.
And I believe in this man, and in his love for me and mine for him. We can see it in each other's eyes. That is good enough for me.
He lets me close the distance and touch his lips with mine. I touch him gently, cautiously. I, too, am afraid. Slowly, he moves his arms around me and pulls me to his chest gently. I move both my hands first to his face, then slowly around his neck, pulling myself even closer to him.
We are both trembling, falling deeper and deeper into each other. There is no escape now, no way out. But I don't want out; I don't plan to go back the way I came.
It doesn't take long for us to find a niche, a way for our bodies to fit together nicely. A strange stirring in my groin elicits a moan from me, a small sound that is quickly suffocated by my First Officer's mouth.
Our lips move together, teasing, testing. I allow him to make the decision to further our kiss. It doesn't take long. He gently eases his tongue between my lips, sliding it in and out, and around.
I don't know how much longer I can stand, although any other position would be entirely too dangerous to even consider right now.
I allow him to move my lips apart. He slowly enters my mouth, his tongue gently discovering everything there is to find. I shudder, and my heart is beating loudly. We cling to each other, lifelines.
Finally, we move apart. It is necessary. We are gasping for breath, as it is. I steal a glance at him, and his eyes are positively glowing, and that incredible, dangerous smile of his is spread across his lips, making me want to kiss them once more.
I reach for him again, feeling more desire than I've ever felt in my life. "Chakotay . . ." I say, savoring the feel of his name on my lips.
"Kathryn . . ." he whispers. He leans his forehead against mine and I watch him as he closes his eyes tightly shut.
"What is it?" I whisper back.
"I can't do this." He doesn't look at me.
My heart skips a beat. "I don't understand, Chakotay. What can't you do?" I try desperately not to allow my voice to sound strained.
"I can't do this. I need you, but I can't do this . . . I can't kiss you, then let you go. I can't be who I was before."
"Chakotay . . ." I move my right hand up to his jaw and caress his cheek. "Chakotay, look at me."
Slowly, he lifts his head and looks into my eyes. I see so much emotion there, I cannot speak at first. Instead, I look deeply into his eyes and silently implore him to continue to look into mine. Don't look away now, Chakotay.
My eyes cannot lie to him. They show my heart; they always have.
Chakotay stares into my eyes, and I feel as though my very soul is there, bared completely under his gaze.
"Chakotay, I belong to you. My heart, my soul, have belonged to you since New Earth. Surely you know that."
His eyes become moist then, and I am stunned by the honesty he is allowing me to see. An honesty that I've turned away so many times before. Me and my damned parameters.
"Oh, Chakotay . . ." I whisper to him, my own eyes bright with unshed tears.
He moves his lips toward mine then. He needs to initiate this kiss. He needs to see that I won't reject him.
I allow him to kiss me, to move his lips over mine and engulf me with his very actions. It is a feeling I thought I would never welcome because of the loss of control, of being made love to, not with. But in this case, I trust this man completely and I revel in the feeling of total emersion. I have never felt such abandon, nor such love from another person.
When he pulls away from me, I cannot speak. I realize I have just made a sort of sound, a moan, a yearning type of noise, and this is completely unlike me. I am Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Federation Starship Voyager, and I never lose myself completely in anything I do. I do not give all of myself, ever. I cannot allow myself that luxury. I must be ready for the unexpected at every turn, and during every moment of my life.
But, right now, I no longer care. I can't seem to remember who I was only moments ago. Right now, I want this man.
"Make love with me," I whisper so softly that I can see in his eyes he believes he has heard me wrong. He begins to withdraw, slightly, and I put my hand behind his neck and pull his face closer to mine. Just before our lips meet, I again whisper "Make love with me."
Chakotay pulls back, away. He looks at me, still afraid he has heard me incorrectly. Who can blame him, after all these years?
"Kathryn, I can't . . ." he begins.
He is incredulous. "In your Ready Room?"
"Kathryn, I don't want our first time to be here."
"Then where? You name it, tell me where, and let's go there. Now," I whisper, and I know that my voice is strained, even deeper than usual. I have never felt such desire as I feel right now. Gods, I want this man. I don't know how much of this I can take. I want to feel his body next to mine. Here, now . . . anywhere. It doesn't matter to me.
"Your quarters. Let's go to your quarters, Kathryn."
"What?" I ask, not surprised, just not very sure of anything right now. I just want to make love with this man.
"I want to make love with you in your bed." He speaks the words gently, lovingly, but all I can focus on is the fact that Chakotay just told me he wants to make love with me . . . and the "where" of the statement is completely irrelevant to me. Hell, right now I'd make love with him on the floor, in the turbolift, in a Jeffries tube, anywhere.
I have to get hold of myself.
Taking a deep breath, I force myself to take a step away from him.
When I look up again, my breath catches in my throat. I see a look of such intense desire in his eyes that I suddenly wonder how in the universe we are going to last the eight minutes it will take us to leave my Ready Room and enter my quarters. Eight minutes. As long as we do not run into any problems, or people, to sidetrack us.
Right now, it would take a great deal to sidetrack either one of us.
We both take deep breaths and do our best to collect ourselves. Then I gather myself up and, with all the strength I can muster, I walk past my Commander and out my Ready Room doors, and onto the Bridge. Chakotay follows me.
Each member of the beta shift crew stiffens immediately as we enter the Bridge, then begins to relax again only when they see me nod at the Lieutenant in charge and continue on to the turbolift, with my First Officer close behind me.
Suddenly, just as we reach the turbolift, we experience a terrible jolt. It feels as though our ship has been fired upon.
Both Chakotay and I react immediately. Turning, I yell "Report!" to the Ensign assigned to tactical tonight, as Chakotay moves quickly to his command station.
The Lieutenant in charge of beta shift immediately leaves our command center and moves to the vacant position to the right of the helm to assist with information gathering.
As various crewmen frantically touch controls on their stations, and reports are being given to me verbally, both Chakotay and I realize at nearly the same instant that what we thought was enemy fire was instead a meteor-type object that had spiraled directly into our path.
I sense Chakotay's hands become still on his terminal at nearly the precise moment that I realize what has happened. An object much like a small meteor. This is what will keep us apart tonight.
Knowing that our duty is to stay here now, with the crew, accumulating information and filing necessary reports, I realize that our evening of passion must be put on hold, at least for now.
I cannot look at him. My disappointment will be too obvious.
The beta shift crew must be thinking that this was the most untimely moment for that object to stray from its path, for now the Captain and First Officer will stay to assist with the formal reports on the incident.
Oh, well. Look on the brighter side, I think. Thank the gods that no one was hurt and no vital ship's systems were damaged.
I sigh. Finally, I allow myself to steal a glance at my First Officer. He has his eyes shut and seems to be concentrating on breathing slowly, deeply. Ah, I think. He is trying to meditate, to calm his emotions.
I am not the only one wishing things were different tonight.
I stand and walk down to the helm. I have to move, to get my mind focused. It won't do for the Captain to be thinking of the things she's been thinking of while on the Bridge of her ship. Starfleet training runs deep.
The Ensign assigned to the helm this shift stiffens at my approach. As is my way, I place my hand on his shoulder and squeeze it gently. "At ease, Ensign," I say to him, softly enough so that others will not hear. I feel his shoulder relax, then I remove my hand and continue on my walk around the Bridge.
I stop occasionally and ask various crewmen key questions regarding the status of their stations. This is just my way of getting them to relax. Chakotay hides a smile. He knows exactly what I am doing; he's seen me do this before. And he knows how I think - something that once unnerved me completely. Never has anyone known me so well before.
But now I find his knowing me, and accepting me as I am, comforting somehow. Strange. I never thought it would feel this way. I have always kept a certain distance between myself and everyone I've come into contact with. Even my friends, my lovers. Even Mark.
Finally, as the crew relaxes around us, I return to my command chair. I sit, take a deep breath, and begin my report on my terminal.
Feeling his eyes on me, I look up, and straight into the eyes of my First Officer. He smiles at me, but his eyes are full of longing.
I sense him leaning slowly toward me, and I respond and lean slowly toward him, as we have done hundreds of times over the years when we want to share words meant to be kept between the two of us, without prying ears overhearing our discussion.
As my bent head nears his lips, I hear him say, "The next time you suggest your Ready Room, expect a very different answer from the one I gave you tonight."
I smile without looking at him, and slowly straighten in my chair.
The next time I will remember his words.
My report will only take another thirty minutes to complete; I wonder how long his will take.