This story takes place immediately after the two-part sixth season episode, "Equinox." Since the conclusion does not premiere for a couple more weeks, I cannot say how it is exactly "resolved"-but we've all heard the rumors. I made a decision not to deal with that here. BUT - here is what I think should happen afterward in the privacy of the Captain's Ready Room.
Star Trek VOY and all the people therein remain the sole property of Paramount. I still love these characters, even though TPTB have forgotten who they really are . . .
Chakotay entered the Ready Room and subtly looked around for the Captain. She was standing in front of the viewport with her back to the room. She had summoned him only moments ago, but now she seemed in no mood to talk to him. Chakotay waited patiently. He knew her moods, and he knew that this wouldn't be a very good one.
Finally, she spoke to him in a calm, but restrained, voice. "I am turning command of Voyager over to you, Commander."
Chakotay heard himself sigh heavily. "Captain, that's not necessary."
"Yes. It is." Then she paused while she gathered her thoughts about her. "I behaved in an irresponsible manner, Commander. I put the lives of this entire crew at risk . . ."
"No. You did what you thought was right. For this ship, for all of us."
"You told me I was wrong to go after him; I didn't listen."
"Yes, I thought you were wrong." Chakotay acknowledged. "It was my obligation to let you know that."
"And Tuvok thought I was wrong. But I didn't listen to either of you." She was still speaking without emotion, and this disturbed Chakotay more than her words.
"As was your right, as Captain," he replied.
She turned to him then, and he saw that she was pale in the soft glow from the viewport. "It was my obligation to listen to you both, to weigh your words, and your warnings. I did neither." Her momentary flash of anger should have made Chakotay feel better, but her anger was directed at herself and he knew that things would get worse before they got better.
"Captain . . ." he had to make her understand. Her eyes were distant, and the fire in them was absent. Chakotay suddenly knew he had to speak to her as a friend, not as his commanding officer. "All is well now, Kathryn," he spoke gently to her, as he walked closer to where she stood beneath the viewport. But she wouldn't look at him. He was within two feet of her, yet she wouldn't face him.
"Kathryn . . ." he nearly pleaded with her. He had to look into her eyes, make her understand. "We don't know we'll never know if you could have made a better decision than the one you made. We only know that we are all right, all of us, that we made it through this together."
"I could have walked away from it, from him, and we would not have had to go through all that we have suffered in these past days . . ." Now her voice was more forceful. He knew that she had to believe what she thought to be the truth. Kathryn Janeway was nothing if not stubborn in her ways.
"Kathryn . . ."
"I told him I have never broken the Prime Directive, Chakotay. I lied." She closed her eyes from the pain. "I wanted to believe my own words. I've given the order to ignore the Prime Directive more times than I care to remember." For the first time, she looked over and into Chakotay's eyes fully, and he saw the raw pain she was suffering. Damn it, why did she always do this to herself? To him? She reacted to situations ruthlessly and relentlessly, then became her own judge and jury when the situation finally calmed down.
"Kathryn . . . listen to me. Please just listen." He had to make her understand that everything was all right.
"You and I have been through a great deal together, Chakotay. We have been through hell and high water and everything in between. And yet I didn't take your words seriously." She refused to be deterred from her train of thought.
"Kathryn," he tried again.
"I should have listened to you, Chakotay. And to Tuvok. I am not rational anymore. I no longer remember how to listen to the advice of my two most trusted senior officers, and at least consider it." She paused a moment. "If I had considered your words, I would have seen their wisdom. And I would never have pursued Captain Ransom. I would have been able to see the illogical reasons behind what I was about to do . . . the selfish reasons I had for going after him . . ."
Chakotay sighed, pulled his eyes away from hers and looked at the ground. She was in more pain than he had ever seen her in before more than with the Ocampa, the Kazon, Seska he quickly continued his mental journey of these past years, trying to find something to grasp at, some straw, some example that he could pull out and show her . . . but she began to speak again, tearing him away from his reverie.
Kathryn took a deep breath. "Tuvok will be promoted to First Officer. And, I ask only that I be allowed the field rank of "Lieutenant" and serve as the science officer we've done without all this time." She paused, and looked away. "I can better serve you, and Voyager, in this manner."
Chakotay forced back the tears that burned his throat, as he closed his eyes and searched desperately for his Center. His well-being.
Damn this woman! She was the only person he had ever known who could throw him so far off kilter that he couldn't find his Center, no matter how hard he tried!
She wasn't doing this she wasn't getting off this easily.
"No." He opened his eyes and slowly raised his eyes back to her level.
"What..?" Kathryn asked, as she turned her head back to look at him.
Their eyes caught at precisely the same moment. Chakotay felt his body tense at the nearness of her, the way it had done for more years now than he could usually remember.
Kathryn, in turn, felt her breath catch in her throat. She was being reeled in by those eyes; it had happened before, but tonight she wasn't sure she had enough strength left in her to fight it anymore.
"I won't let you do this," he said. These were words that belied what he was really thinking, and what his body was telling him to do.
"This is not a choice, Chakotay" she replied, her voice much less Captain-like than she'd intended. She pulled her eyes away from him then, and the strength it took to do so nearly depleted what meager store of energy she had left.
"Kathryn . . ." He moved closer to her, but she couldn't move away.
"Don't . . ." she whispered. "Please, don't . . ." Her body felt frozen in place.
"I need to hold you, Kathryn. I need to feel you in my arms. Just for a moment," he whispered, then moved closer to her, and now they were so close they could feel each other's breath on their few exposed areas of skin.
Both were beginning to breathe more heavily, yet neither could move away from the other.
Kathryn had been hoping beyond hope that he wouldn't do this, that he wouldn't make this personal. She could deal with her First Officer in a command structure, but she was far less able to deal with her feelings for him on a personal level.
And just now, she was also far past the point of being able to contain herself, to put her physical feelings for him aside. She tried, though she thought about command, about structure, about Starfleet and adherence to the rules. She thought about procedure, and protocol . . . .
"Let me hold you, Kathryn. Please. Let me be here for you this time." Chakotay knew he was begging, and his voice was barely a whisper, but he was choking back all the tears he'd been suppressing for nearly as long as he could remember.
Kathryn continued to think the empty words of Starfleet command, even as she felt her body react to his nearness, to the need in his voice even as she knew that the tiny hairs on her arms and neck were standing on end, that her nipples were erect and aching for attention, far beneath the layers of her Starfleet uniform.
"Please . . . I need you, Kathryn," he whispered so faintly that she barely heard his words. Yet the need in his voice had become more urgent.
Protocol, procedure, parameters . . .
Kathryn suddenly lost all sense of everything except him, except this man in front of her. "Chakotay . . ." she whispered his name, nearly moaned his name, knowing full well in her heart that this was the end of telling him "no," of reminding him of protocols and parameters that were so far away, not only in space and time, but in her heart.
. . . and Chakotay felt his heart flutter at the way she had said his name. It was different this time, different from the other times she said it. This word, his name, had just become more special, more sacred, than it had ever been for Kathryn, his Kathryn, had just said it with a passion, and a desire, in her voice that he had spent a lifetime waiting to hear.
Somehow, he reached his arms out toward her, slowly yet gently, and she stood still. She didn't move at all, but allowed him to engulf her, to enfold her into his arms.
As he stepped in close to her, he pulled her gently against his chest, resting his chin on top of her head. Then he closed his eyes and breathed in the scent of her. He felt his body tremble with desire.
Kathryn moved her arms slowly up to his chest, and at first Chakotay thought she was going to push him away. But she didn't. She turned her cheek against his chest and moved her arms slowly around his waist, closing her eyes and reveling in this man who had always been here for her . . . this man she had turned away far too many times to remember.
She felt so weak, yet more alive than she could ever remember feeling.
She tried to move away, but she couldn't. She could only hear her heart pounding in her chest. And the words echoing in her mind, 'I love you,' 'I love you,' 'I love you . . . ' Words she thought, but couldn't say.
Kathryn slowly lifted her face to greet his. They stared into each other's eyes for a long moment, then Chakotay slowly lowered his lips to hers.
As Kathryn tilted her head slightly to meet him, she felt a warmth spread throughout her body as her desire for him far surpassed any desire she had ever known.
Chakotay brushed her lips tentatively with his, and felt her tremble in his arms. Then he did the same thing again, this time resting his lips gently on hers afterward. And as he felt her respond to him and take his bottom lip between hers, caressing it gently, he felt his heart quicken even more, and he gasped into her mouth. No woman had ever made him feel the things Kathryn Janeway was making him feel right now.
No woman had ever made him feel the things he felt any time he got too close to her.
Suddenly, Kathryn moved closer to him, and their bodies were pressed closely together. She moaned as his arousal became evident against her, but this only made her press more intently against him, making his erection become more obvious.
They were both breathing deeply, and the force of their attraction hit both of them much harder than either was prepared for.
Their sweet, soft kiss changed from a gentle caress to an animal-like urgency in a matter of seconds. Chakotay devoured her mouth, and kissed her chin, her jawline, and finally her neck. As he made his way to her earlobe, and then her neck, he felt his heart soar as she gasped at the contact.
He'd known for years that the one place she was most excitable was her neck. So many times over the years he had looked over her shoulder in meetings or other close gatherings and felt her tense and move away from him quickly. It had taken him a long time to figure it out, but one day it had suddenly occurred to him: His breath on her neck! She was moving away from her attraction to him! After that, he had held that knowledge close to his heart, and even continued to test his theory from time to time, smiling to himself as she moved quickly away from him each time.
Now she allowed him to kiss her neck, to nip at her gently. She moaned and gasped, and threw her head back in order to give him more accessibility. She closed her eyes and breathed heavily. "Chakotay . . . .." She was breathless, and Chakotay would forever hear her say his name this same way in his mind.
Suddenly, Kathryn opened her eyes and looked fully into his. "No . . . we can't . . ." she began. But he stopped her words by covering her mouth with his.
Chakotay reached up and unzipped her uniform jacket so quickly that she gasped into his mouth. He then pulled her turtle neck and her undershirt out of her uniform pants so quickly that she didn't realize it had happened until she felt his hands on her bare back.
"Chakotay!" she tried to pull away from him, but suddenly he unsnapped her Starfleet regulation bra and moved his hands gently beneath it and around to her breasts, holding one in each of his warm hands. He rubbed his thumbs gently over her nipples and she gasped as she thrust her chest deeper into his hands, dropping her head backward and moaning deep in her throat, taking short intakes of breath.
Chakotay felt his heart beat so quickly that he knew he had to pace himself or it would all be over for him in a matter of seconds. And it would not do to lose control of himself just before making love to the woman he had waited for all his life.
But she was just so damned sexy . . . .
"Chakotay . . ." she continued to whisper his name and to moan with pleasure. He knew that she needed a physical release so badly and he was determined to see that she got it. He also knew this woman well and it was very possible she would come to her senses at any moment and push him away, forcing him to stop touching her.
But he needed her so badly . . .
Chakotay took a deep breath, forcing himself to gather his wits about him the best he could. He continued to knead her breasts as he again kissed her neck and lips. Gods, but her breasts were wonderful, just as he'd always known they would be. He wanted to see them, to taste them . . . but he knew that would have to wait.
Suddenly Kathryn felt her knees begin to buckle. It had been so long since she had been so aroused, since she had allowed herself to just be a woman and not the Captain of the Federation Starship Voyager . . . Gods, what was she doing?
Just then Chakotay moved his hands outside her uniform and beneath her hips, holding her firmly against him, preventing her from sliding to the ground.
They were both very aware of his thick straining erection between them. Kathryn closed her eyes and moved her lips to Chakotay's neck, wanting to taste his skin more than anything else she could think about.
The contact of her lips and her soft sweet breath on his neck made Chakotay tremble visibly. Kathryn continued her caresses, breathing heavily and making small sounds in the back of her throat that only served to arouse him further. He didn't know how much more of this he could take before his own legs would begin to buckle beneath them.
Chakotay knew that he had to do something, and he grabbed her buttocks more firmly, lifting her off the ground. He felt Kathryn lift her legs and wrap them easily around his hips. Spirits, but she felt incredible pressed against him!
As Kathryn continued to kiss his neck and then his ear and the back of his ear suddenly, he gasped! He never realized how sensitive the back of his ear was!
Chakotay stepped down the single stair at his feet, and onto the main level, carrying Kathryn easily in his arms. He moved quickly to her desk and sat her on the edge of it, remaining between her legs, but standing away from her body in order to catch his breath, and to keep his erection in check.. She pulled back to look into his eyes, but didn't move from the desk. They were both breathing heavily, and still very deeply aroused.
As they looked into each others'eyes,Chakotay saw her deep desire for him reflected there. Kathryn's face was flushed and her lips were parted slightly so that she could catch her breath. Her lips were slightly swollen from his kisses, and this pleased him and aroused him more than he could ever have known.
Gently, he raised both his hands and took her face between them. They continued to look into each others' eyes, unmasking their love for each other completely. But Chakotay knew in his heart that although she was showing him her true feelings now, she could put a Captain's face back on more quickly than anyone he had ever known. It was fact, and it was a part of who she was.
"Kathryn," Chakotay whispered, barely able to speak at all. "I need to love you. I need to be with you now, no matter what tomorrow brings."
Kathryn suddenly relaxed her last bit of resolve, and tears sprang unbidden to her eyes. This man was telling her that he expected no more from her than what she could give him today, and there was no love in the world stronger than this.
She moved her hands to his face as well, then moved her lips to his; she understood.
She belonged to him completely, if only for this moment in time.
Chakotay understood her response immediately, and their passion grew instantly in its intensity. Their gentle kiss deepened into a need that was greater than either was prepared to feel.
Chakotay's hands moved swiftly to her pants, and unzipped them quickly as Kathryn's breathing became ragged and her heart began to beat so fast she could hear it in her ears.
As Kathryn wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled his mouth to her neck, she moved her legs up and around Chakotay's waist, giving him the opportunity to slip her pants and underwear down her hips and thighs. They both gasped and moaned and fought for breath as Chakotay ran his hands over her bare skin.
Now Chakotay moved away from her a few inches, tugging her garments down her legs and onto the floor. He removed her boots and socks quickly, then ran his hands down her smooth, incredible legs.
Kathryn leaned back further on her desk and allowed Chakotay to massage her legs and thighs. And as he touched her lovingly she closed her eyes and allowed the feelings to overwhelm her. She allowed herself to relax her legs a bit and feel his fingers stroke her lightly. She knew she was completely wet inside, and the need inside her arose to such an intensity that she caught her breath at the unexpected feelings.
Chakoty watched her face as he massaged her, and as her legs began to relax, he dropped his eyes to the lovely mound of soft brown hair between her legs. His erection began to pulse even more and he knew he wouldn't be able to last very long even like this. He had wanted her forever it seemed, and his desire for her was so intense he didn't know how long he could control himself. But he also knew that he was going to live for this moment because it may never come again. They might never be joined together again in this lifetime.
He loved Kathryn Janeway more than life itself, and he had made a silent commitment to her long ago, and one that he would not break. He would wait for her even if it took the rest of his natural life. And if they did not bond in this lifetime, then he would wait for her on the other side, and they would become One in the Spirit World. He knew that her duty interfered with their love for each other in this life, but it would not interfere in that life.
Chakotay listened to her breathing and watched her chest rise and fall as she fought to regain control of herself, but that was the last thing he wanted her to be able to do just now. And just as he sensed her breathing begin to slow, he moved his hands inside her thighs for the first time, causing her to gasp and her eyes to fly open.
But as she sat up, Chakotay moved closer to her, took her face between his hands and immediately began to kiss her intensely and with abandon. He slipped his tongue inside her mouth and moved it over her teeth and under her tongue, sending incredible feelings of pleasure to both of them. As their tongues entwined, Kathryn pressed herself into Chakotay firmly, her nipples straining through the garments, wanting attention.
Suddenly, Chakotay moved his right hand between her legs, causing her to gasp loudly into his mouth. Her body shook at his touch, and she whimpered softly as his fingers found her wetness. His own heart was pounding in his chest as he moved his lips into her hair and whispered her name over and over in her ear.
Needing to taste her, Chakotay pulled himself away from her. She opened her eyes and looked into his face. "Trust me, Kathryn," he said gently.
"I do," she whispered back, the passion evident in her voice. Then she lay back on the desk as she opened her legs to him.
Chakotay whispered her name again. She was giving herself to him completely. He moved toward her mound and gently opened her with his hands. He heard her breath catch and felt her body tremble. He moved his tongue inside her, where his fingers had been, and tasted her gently. She moaned and whimpered and whispered his name, then moved her hands down to wrap them in his hair and pull him closer into her.
It took only moments for Chakotay to bring her to climax she was moist and ready, and it had been a very long time since she had made love with anyone. No, she was thinking to herself as she felt the explosion within her, she had never really made love at all. She had never known that love could be so all-consuming, that a love this true and full made a person want to become One with the other person. And she had never before given enough of herself to want to lose her own individual identity. But now . . . now she wanted to join with this man and become a part of him. Chakotay . . . her soulmate, her love.
As she felt her world shatter around her and the pleasure pulse throughout her body, she felt Chakotay's tongue inside her, claiming her, tasting her. His own moans of joy joined hers and she opened her legs even wider, allowing him full access to her most private parts. He responded by moving his tongue outside her well and tasting the rest of her, dipping his tongue in and out of her and kissing and sucking her gently. She shuddered with pleasure as he ran his tongue over her clitoris and took it into his mouth.
Finally, Chakotay moved down to her well one last time, closing his eyes and relishing the taste of her, the sweetness of her. He would never forget this special moment.
Then he stood and saw that at some point Kathryn had moved her position and was watching him as he enjoyed her. Her eyes were still wild with passion, and desire, and he saw that she fully enjoyed watching him make love to her with his tongue. This only served to make him want her more.
He knew what she wanted now, what she was waiting for, and he could wait no longer.
As Chakotay reached for his pants, Kathryn moved forward and unzipped his pants with as much abandon as he had used on hers earlier. He gasped quickly at the delicate touch of her hand against his penis, even briefly. He looked into her face and saw the hint of a smile on her lips and the glint in her eyes. She knew exactly what she was doing, he realized, as he tried desperately to hold himself in check. Spirits! How he wanted this woman!
As she touched the waistband of his pants, he covered her hands with his to stop her. She looked into his eyes with a question in her own.
"Kathryn," he could barely speak, and the thickness in his voice conveyed his needs more strongly than mere words.
Kathryn brought her finger to his lips, stopping him from speaking. She then kissed his lips briefly, but fully, then looked into his eyes with a desire that seemed to be building even higher in intensity. "I want you. Now," she whispered to him.
That was all she needed to say.
Chakotay quickly removed his pants and his shorts, knowing full well that Kathryn was watching his every move. He forced himself to slow down as he removed his boots and socks. As he stood again, Kathryn sought his eyes, telling him she wanted to see all of him, but as he removed the seemingly endless clothing from his upper body, he watched her stare at his erection with a desire that made his heart leap and his breath struggle to catch up.
Finally when he was naked in front of her, he moved forward slowly, not wanted his straining erection to touch her body. Not yet. He knew that he would not be able to hold himself back much longer, and he wanted their bodies to touch completely. And he had to taste her breasts, to suckle her nipples.
Kathryn knew immediately what he wanted. They knew each other intimately in so many ways already. They could practically read each other' minds after all these years of being so close to, and yet so far from, each other.
As Chakotay moved to take her turtle neck and her t-shirt in his hands, she lifted her arms so that he could remove them easily. Her unhooked bra slid easily down her arms and onto the floor, but she didn't move her eyes from his face as he looked at her breasts fully and completely. He looked at her, wonder in his eyes, and a small smile touched his lips as he struggled to keep his unbidden tears at bay.
She was so beautiful.
And as she watched him look at her, her nipples became even more rigid than they had already been. And Chakotay had never felt so aroused in his life.
Gently taking a breast in each of his hands, Chakotay again kneaded each nipple, as Kathryn began to moan deep in her throat.
"Chakotay . . ." she said his name in that voice that spoke to him in his dreams . . .
"Kathryn . . ." he responded, bending forward and taking her right nipple into his mouth.
"Oh, Gods, Chakotay," Kathryn murmured, as she grasped his head in her hands and pulled him to her tightly.
Chakotay suckled first one nipple, then the other. Finally, he stood back and kissed her lips once again.
Neither could wait any longer. The ecstasy was becoming desperate need, and as Kathryn reached to take his penis in her hand, he grabbed her hand in his own. "Don't . . . Kathryn, I can't . . . I won't be able to hold back anymore."
Kathryn looked hungrily into his eyes and he saw that her breathing was becoming even more labored. "Then don't," she whispered. "I want to feel you inside me, Chakotay." Her words made every hair on his body stand on end he had heard her say those words thousands of times in his mind, and now, to hear her say them aloud was nearly more than he could bear.
"Kathryn," he whispered urgently. As he moved forward, she wrapped her legs around his waist, and he moved his hands beneath her hips and lifted her to him, impaling her onto his throbbing erection.
Both gasped at once, and Kathryn threw her arms around his neck as their mouths joined together. They needed to stifle their cries of release as much as to taste each other.
Chakotay held her to him as firmly as he could, then he suddenly moved around her desk, carrying her with him. He needed to find purchase, and the desk wasn't the right height for what they needed at all.
He moved Kathryn's back against the empty wall, and Kathryn eased her arms from around his neck, allowing him to hold her buttocks tightly as he moved her firmly onto and then away from his penis.
They were both gasping for breath, when Kathryn suddenly grabbed onto the brass candle fixtures on either side of her, just above her waist. She knew they were firmly in place she had had them installed long ago when Tuvok had first suggested she try burning Moravian candle tapers in order to relax in her Ready Room when she worked late into the night. The incense had given her headaches instead of helping to relax her, but she had never had the candle holders removed. And now they were proving to be useful, after all.
Kathryn leaned back against the wall and grabbed onto the brass holders. Chakotay pushed closer into her as she moved her legs higher up and around his back, trying to find just the right angle. Chakotay continued to move in and out of her, then suddenly Kathryn hit the angle just right and they both gasped, as Chakotay increased the pace.
Kathryn tried to match his pace, her breasts bouncing slightly with their movements, and Chakotay thought he had never seen anything so beautiful.
Suddenly, Kathryn felt the explosion begin in her vagina, but spread throughout her body, and as the intensity became nearly unbearable, she felt the dam burst and she shouted "Chakotay!" as Chakotay, too, reached his climax while watching her. He cried her name into her ear as he pulled her close to him, and released his energy deep inside of her. She moved her arms around him once again, and lay her face against his neck, feeling his pulse beat against her cheek.
They held onto each other, waiting for their tremors to subside. Chakotay felt her walls contracting around him, and he thought about how wonderful she had tasted when he had held his tongue inside her as she climaxed around him. He trembled slightly, still holding her tightly against his body, and wanting with all his heart to tell her how much he loved her, but knowing she wouldn't want to hear it. Kathryn Janeway could easily talk herself into denial when she wanted to. And she had been denying her feelings for him, their feelings for each other, for six and a half years.
Finally, when both their heartbeats had begun to slow, and their breathing became less labored, Kathryn lifted her face to look into his eyes. She remained close to him, but she needed to see his emotions, and she knew his eyes wouldn't be able to hide them from her.
Chakotay allowed her to look deeply into his eyes, knowing she would be able to see his love for her there, even if she didn't want to hear him say the words. But he was surprised when she looked into his eyes, then smiled slightly and whispered, "I know."
Perhaps . . . just perhaps, she was beginning to understand that they belonged together.
Keeping her close to him, he moved to her desk again and reluctantly sat her down, back onto the corner of her desk, knowing that he would slide out of her now, that they would again become Two.
Kathryn removed her legs from his waist slowly, allowing them both to watch, a bit sadly, as his seed began to trickle out of her. But then, as he watched, mesmerized, she moved her right hand between her legs and rubbed some of his seed onto her fingers. She brought them to her lips and licked the liquid off her hand, then looked at him with a smile on her lips. "I needed to taste you, too," she whispered softly.
Chakotay smiled and brushed her lips gently with his. They looked into each other's eyes, deeply in love with each other, and momentarily sated.
Then, at nearly the same moment, their smiles began to fade as they both realized who and where they were. Two commanding officers of a starship long lost, and trying desperately to make its way home.
Kathryn slid off the desk, and touched Chakotay's cheek longingly. He grasped her hand in his and moved it to his lips for a soft kiss. Their eyes met for one more lingering moment, then she moved away from him reluctantly and began to gather their clothes.
Chakotay took a deep breath and watched her for a moment. She was sure of herself once again, a Starfleet Captain through and through. Sometimes he wondered why he did this why he allowed himself to go to her only when she needed him. But he knew why. She was his soulmate, his lifeline. And one day she would realize how very much they needed each other. Not just once in a while, but always, every day.
Sighing deeply, Chakotay closed his eyes for a moment. He searched for his Center, and found it calm again. He opened his eyes. She was calm again; it made all the difference in the world.
Chakotay moved to help her gather their clothing, but she had already brought the two piles to her desk. She dropped one in front of him and smiled sadly, that little crooked smile that played on her lips. "Yours," she said softly. He smiled at her and nodded, knowing that he couldn't speak at the moment for fear that the lump in his throat would betray him.
As they both moved to tidy themselves and dress again, they were deep in their own thoughts. They moved silently, but at ease with each other, no problems and no questions.
Finally, when Kathryn and Chakotay were the Captain and Commander once again, they turned to face each other.
Kathryn moved to Chakotay, and he thought he noticed a tear in her eye, but maybe it was the lighting. She had managed to lower it a bit at some point, but he hadn't noticed when. They were both dressed now, and in the Captain's Ready Room.
Moving her hand one last time to his cheek, she brushed his lips with her thumb, then tilted her head slightly and touched his lips with hers. He closed his eyes and relished every second of her touch.
When Chakotay opened his eyes, he watched Kathryn move away from him and back to look out the viewport once again. It struck him that she was in the same position he had found her in earlier in the evening when he first arrived, and he once again stood where he had upon first entering the room. This time, however, her posture was different. She was the Captain once again. And he was her First Officer.
"Chakotay . . ." her voice was stronger, too.
"I apologize for my behavior earlier." She suddenly realized her words could be taken another way, so she immediately continued. "I should have heeded your advice against following Captain Ransom and his ship. I was not behaving as I now know I should have."
"Your apology is not necessary, Captain. I understand."
"Do you?" she asked cautiously, as she turned to face him. Her eyes asked a thousand questions.
"Yes. I do. Your initial duty is to this ship and her crew, as it has been from the day I met you."
"I've made many mistakes . . ." she continued.
"As have we all, Captain," Chakotay reminded her.
They looked at each other, she a level above him next to the viewport where the stars streaked by at warp speeds, he one level below her, with his hands behind his back and a restfulness in his heart that he had desperately needed when first entering this room earlier tonight.
She nodded slightly. He understood then.
"I suppose I need to rethink my earlier words, Commander," she said softly.
"Which words were those, Captain?" he asked.
He was going to let her off easy then.
Kathryn pulled her eyes from him and looked back out the viewport. It would not do to allow him to see her tears just now. "Commander," Kathryn took a deep breath and held her head higher as she looked at the stars outside.
"Yes, Captain?" he asked softly. It's okay, Kathryn.
"I would like some time alone just now. Perhaps you and I can continue our perusal of the crew reports first thing in the morning, just after the staff meeting."
"Yes, Captain." Chakotay let his breath out slowly, evenly. It was all right then.
Chakotay nodded, knowing that she could see him in the reflection of the viewport in front of her. She didn't know, however, that he could see her reflection as well. The strength of her command voice belied the tears in her eyes.
Chakotay left the Captain's Ready Room that evening, nodding at the beta shift Bridge crew on his way out. His step was lighter as he entered the turbolift that evening, heading to his quarters to sleep before the early shift the next morning.
It had been ten months since she had last needed him as she had this evening.
Chakotay took a deep breath and entered his quarters. He headed for the replicator and ordered a cup of herbal tea. As he sat in his chair at his desk, he smelled the sweet aroma from the tea and closed his eyes.
She had needed him in this way eight times over the past six and one half years. And that was all right with him.
They belonged together, they would always be together, and he would wait for her.
She would only give herself fully to him when she got her crew home. It was an unspoken truth between them. But when that time came, he would be waiting for her. And she would come to him one final time, knowing that they would be together everyday afterward.
And that was all right with him. It kept him going. She was what he lived for.
Chakotay smiled to himself, opened his eyes, and took a sip of tea. And tomorrow on the Bridge, the Captain would be jovial and complimentary to everyone. And she would touch her First Officer's hand, or his shoulder, more often than usual.
And Tom Paris would wonder what in the hell was going on. Chakotay smiled to himself once more. Let him wonder.
The Commander of the Intrepid class Starship Voyager had something to live for again.