Time Don't Run Out On Me by D.A. Kent


D.A. Kent


Both the Captain and the Commander have had many fantasies about what making love with each other would be like. But, when they finally come together for the very first time, is it really what either of them have dreamed about? Or, are they both afraid that maybe it's too late for them now, after all. Maybe their time has run out, and it's too late to pick up the pieces of what might have been . . .

Chakotay knew that the Captain would still be awake; it was only 2200 hours and she never turned in for the night before 2300 hours. Even then, he knew she was often up and down throughout the night, especially if there was a current unresolved situation that affected the ship and her crew. Kathryn always said she did some of her best pondering at around 0300 hours.

He smiled to himself as he walked the corridor toward her quarters, looking at the padd in his hand. Strange how people living together on a starship for six years knew each other's habits so well. But he thought the Captain would rest better tonight if she saw the current interstellar readings Seven and Tuvok had downloaded in the Isometrics Lab only minutes ago. It was a safe bet now that they would be able to find an M-class planet long before they had originally thought just last week. They were getting low on foodstuffs and other supplies, but now they could breathe a little easier with just a slight course adjustment.

As he turned the corner, only a few meters from the Captain's quarters now, he remembered that she hadn't been in the mess hall at dinnertime, and wondered if her shoulder and back were still bothering her from Tuvok's training session in the holodeck yesterday afternoon.

Tuvok had been using his new training program on small groups of crewmembers at various times on the holodeck. He was convinced that the entire crew had become "soft" and needed to have their fighting skills reconditioned, and their techniques sharpened. He had convinced the Captain that he should be allowed to toughen up the crew again. She had agreed, then had drawn one of the short straws, so to speak, and had to endure a lengthy hand-to-hand combat with three Trilian warriors on the holodeck yesterday afternoon.

Even though the Captain was victorious in the combat scenario, and had been the only one standing at the end of the simulation, she had not won the battle without her share of injuries. As a result, she had spent nearly an hour in sickbay with the Doctor while he attended to her two bruised ribs, her sprained wrist and her pulled shoulder muscle. He had talked to her the entire hour about diet and exercise, and Kathryn had later told Chakotay she didn't know which was worse, the three hours of hand-to-hand combat with the Trilian warriors, or the one hour lecture from the Doctor while he treated her injuries.

Chakotay smiled again. Kathryn was tough and she would be fine in a day or two. She refused to allow herself special dispensation just because she was the Captain, and she insisted upon taking the training course along with the other crewmembers. And, thus far, she had actually suffered some of the lesser injuries.

Ringing the bell at the door of the Captain's quarters, he was thinking about his own training session, which was scheduled for two days from now, when the Captain called "Enter," and he stepped into her quarters.

The lights were dimmed to 50 percent and he blinked to adjust his eyes to the soft lighting. Captain Janeway was nowhere to be seen, he realized, but then he heard her voice as she walked out of the bedroom.

"I appreciate this, Doctor . . ." said the Captain, as she stepped into the room, then stopped short when she saw Chakotay. "I'm sorry, Chakotay . . ." she began.

"My mistake, Captain. I apologize. I should have contacted you before coming here . . ." He tried not to stammer, but he had obviously walked in on the Captain at a very inconvenient time. He felt his pulse quicken and his cheeks blush, and was glad the Captain couldn't see him as clearly in the reduced lighting.

"Not at all, Commander . . ." she said softly.

Suddenly, Chakotay felt himself becoming something akin to jealous, and the last time he remembered feeling this way was when Q had wanted her to . . . That was it. That was why he felt so strange. She had on a flimsy silk robe, and it was obvious that she didn't have anything on under it. He knew his face was warm, and the rest of his body was beginning to react to the way she looked as well. Now he was very glad the lighting was at 50 percent.

Damn, but she looked absolutely beautiful. He hadn't seen her look so breathtaking since . . . New Earth.

It was obvious that she had just soaked in the bathtub. He could even smell the familiar scent she always used from where he stood. Her hair was piled on top of her head, in a clip of some sort, like she had used on New Earth, too. And though her hair was mostly up, it was falling down around her face in the same sexy way it had back then.

Gods, he remembered how she had looked on New Earth as if it were yesterday. He would never forget that Kathryn Janeway as long as he lived. He had fallen in love with her then, and now, four years later, he still wasn't able to move on and forget her. Even though she had continued to enforce those parameters the moment they had returned to Voyager from New Earth, and had never since lowered them, he loved her more at this moment than he ever had before. It wasn't fair, somehow.

And she wasn't even wearing slippers on her feet; nothing but that light, nearly opaque, robe.

"Not at all, Commander," she repeated, in a near whisper. Then she somehow managed to gather her wits about her, at least for the moment. "I was just waiting for the Doctor to give me a massage. I . . ." her voice suddenly faltered, and she didn't even try to cover her slight discomfort.

"The Doctor is making house calls again, then." It was not the most intelligent thing to say, and it certainly didn't help with the awkwardness of the situation, but Chakotay didn't know what else to do. He just wasn't thinking too clearly right now.

"Well, yes. Sometimes." The Captain didn't seem to be doing much better at making them both feel more comfortable. "He feels it helps to keep false rumors about the Captain's failing health at bay." Kathryn sighed. This was ridiculous. It wasn't as if she and the Doctor were going to . . . For goodness' sake, he was a hologram!

And, Chakotay was acting strangely, too. Did he feel "wronged" somehow? There was nothing between the Commander and herself, absolutely no commitment.

Stop it, Kathryn, she thought. You can hide the truth from yourself when it is convenient to do so, but don't lie to yourself.

But why in the hell was she feeling so guilty?

Guilty? No, it wasn't guilt, she reasoned. It was . . . attraction.

Then it suddenly occurred to her that this is what Chakotay was feeling, too. Attraction.

Suddenly, that thought grabbed her and she felt her breath catch in her throat. Here she was in her own quarters with the lights dimmed, fresh and clean in her lightest - and shortest - robe, with absolutely nothing on underneath it.

Kathryn was always prepared to defend her own passions against Chakotay; she refused to allow herself to let down her guard completely, but he had never walked in on her unexpectedly like this before. Not quite like this in all these years.

Finally, after what seemed like a long time to both of them, they each began to search for something to say.

"Chakotay . . ."

"Captain . . ."

Both stopped, and then Kathryn nodded at him to continue. But she stayed right where she was, safely across the room from him.

Chakotay took a deep breath and forced himself to look at the padd in his hand, hoping to bring his full attention back to the reason he had come here in the first place. "Captain," he said, using her title intentionally, "I thought you would be able to sleep better tonight if you knew our chances for replenishing food and supplies isn't as desperate as we first thought." He slowly held his hand out toward her, offering her the padd. But there was no way he could move his feet and take it to her. He was lucky his hand wasn't shaking even worse.

Kathryn knew that Chakotay was using every bit of strength he had just to keep his distance from her and maintain their formal command structure. She had seen that look in his eyes. She knew exactly what he was thinking because she was thinking the same thing.

New Earth. That one special time when all the barriers had been torn down, all but one.

She had seen this look in his eyes often back then, night after night, just after she had bathed and put her robe on, and went back into the house to work on her research awhile longer, before she left him for the night and went to bed in her own private alcove.

Yes, she remembered that look. The longing. And she had nearly gone to him on more than one occasion. But they had both thought they had forever, and she didn't want to rush things. She had just begun to fall in love with Chakotay then, and she had wanted to relish those feelings completely, and fully, before actually making love with him.

But that had never happened. Voyager had returned for them first.

Perhaps they had taken too long. Kathryn had lain awake many nights after their return to Voyager, thinking about what might have been. Yet, she couldn't, wouldn't, risk her ship's command structure and go to him after they had been rescued.

But now . . . she didn't know how strong she was anymore. She didn't feel that old Starfleet resolve with as much passion as she once did. Perhaps she was too long in the Captain's chair without a break. Perhaps that was what happened to those who had been a Captain too long - they lost their passion for duty. Or, perhaps they finally learned how to balance their professions with their personal lives.

Knowing that she had to be the one to close the distance between them and take the padd from his outstretched hand, Kathryn slowly walked forward. She could do this. She had made many difficult decisions in her lifetime, held the lives of many people in her hands, and survived. Mostly survived. She would survive this, too.

Stopping as far away from Chakotay as she could and still manage to take the padd from his hand, she stopped, reached for the padd and took it as nonchalantly as possible, then forced her mind to look at the words on the padd. But after a moment she looked up at Chakotay without having seen even one of those words. And Chakotay held her gaze.

In the quiet, Kathryn's comm badge sounded, making both of them nearly jump. "Sickbay to Captain Janeway.'

"Janeway here." She spoke softly, managing to sound like the Captain.

"Captain, I'm afraid we will have to postpone your back massage. Ensign Ayala has fractured his shin while assisting with the new gel packs in Engineering. It seems that while he was looking the other way, a rather large piece of conduit fell on him. I'm afraid this will take some time to repair."

"Understood, Doctor. We'll reschedule tomorrow. Ensign Ayala is more important just now."

"I know you are in a great deal of discomfort, Captain, but perhaps if you come to sickbay first thing in the morning . . ."

"I'll be fine, Doctor. But I will be sure to see you in the morning. Janeway out."

Kathryn and Chakotay looked at each other again and their eyes locked once more, but they both knew they had to move past this as soon as possible.

Chakotay spoke first. "The Doctor said you are in a lot of discomfort . . ."

"Yes. I was, earlier. I think a long soak in the tub helped." Again, both looked at each other, thinking about those long, summer nights on New Earth when Kathryn had soaked in her own special bathtub each evening. Her own bathtub, handmade by Chakotay.

She remembered him heating her bath water and trying to make it special each night, while he was remembering how much she enjoyed soaking in the tub and talking to him at the same time, while he drew sand paintings inside the house.

How he had longed to be outside with her, watching her enjoy her bath. But that wouldn't have lasted long, he knew. He had wanted to hold her, to love her so much as it was . . . no, he couldn't have kept his distance very long.

Gods, she was still so beautiful . . . time somehow stood still when it touched Kathryn Janeway. She had never looked so lovely . . . as she did tonight, he thought now.

Chakotay shook himself and forced his eyes away from hers. He had to leave now. He had to back out of the room gracefully. He couldn't stay here . . .

"Chakotay . . ." she began, in that soft, seductive voice.

"I'll let you get some rest, Captain," he said, and turned to leave.

"Wait. Chakotay, it's okay." He stopped, and slowly turned to look at her. That was when he noticed the folding cot that had already been laid out on the upper level, just in front of the couch. It wasn't large, barely large enough for a single person to lie on it, but it was the correct height for a masseuse to be able to comfortably work on his patient.

Kathryn noticed that Chakotay's attention was riveted to something behind her, and she turned to see what it was.

"The Doctor left that cot here some time ago," she said, turning back to him. "It's small and I can fold it up and stow it away easily. It's simpler that way."

Chakotay nodded his head at her explanation, knowing that Kathryn had suffered back aches on several occasions in the past. Chakotay turned away again, but noticed that she seemed uncomfortable and had moved her right hand to the back of her neck. He stopped. "Are you sure you feel all right, Kathryn?" he asked, more concerned than anything else at the moment. It wasn't like her to be so obvious about something like this.

"Yes, I'm fine. Just tired, I think."

"Does your neck hurt, Kathryn?" he asked softly.

Kathryn wished he would leave. Or that the lights were at 100 percent. Or that she was fully dressed in her uniform with all those layers of clothing between them. Anything but being nearly naked and alone in her darkened quarters with a man she was more attracted to than she cared to admit. Gods, please let him leave now, she thought.

"Kathryn . . ." he turned back toward her and began to walk closer.

Kathryn thought she would faint from the feelings of pleasure that ran throughout her body and made her skin tingle. But she couldn't speak. All she could think about was that one thin layer of clothing between her body and Chakotay's hands . . . and he was still walking toward her.

"Kathryn, if you really are uncomfortable . . . well, I haven't forgotten how to give a decent neck and shoulder massage. At least I don't think I have," he managed, trying to smile earnestly in her direction. "I used to know how to . . ."

"I know," she said so softly that he wasn't sure he'd actually heard the words.

"Let me give it a try," he said softly. "Maybe you'll be able to sleep better anyway," he finished.

Oh, Chakotay. Don't you know that if you touch me I won't be able to sleep at all, she thought to herself.

He walked closer toward her, and she had to move away from him. There was no place to go but up. Up to that cot on the upper level.

As she walked toward the cot, Chakotay followed her at a distance. He was scolding himself for making that suggestion to his Captain. He reminded himself that she was his Captain, and that she had never allowed herself to become anything more than that to him.

But he had gotten himself into quite a mess now. How he was ever going to be able to do this, he had no idea. Truth be told, he had never expected her to accept his offer of a massage. Now what was he going to do? He couldn't exactly back out, tell her he couldn't do this, without her knowing without a doubt what sort of reaction he was having while just being in the same room with her under these circumstances. She had known before, that time on New Earth, and she would know now, as well. Still, she was accepting his offer. Maybe she truly was in pain.

As Kathryn reached the cot, she turned to look at him. She reached for the white sheet that lay on the cot.

Chakotay turned his back, knowing what she was going to do, wanting her to do it, yet not wanting her to do it.

Chakotay listened to the soft sound of Kathryn disrobing and wrapping the sheet around her body. Then she lay on the cot, face down, with the sheet covering more of her body than that robe had. At least he tried desperately to tell himself that this was better.

After a moment, knowing that she was ready, Chakotay turned to face her. She was lying on the cot, facing the viewport instead of him. He was glad. She wouldn't be able to see what her bare shoulders were doing to him. As he walked up to the cot slowly, he tried not to think about the fact that the only thing that lay between his hands and her body was one thin sheet.

One sheet that could be moved aside in less time than it took to draw a breath . . .

Steadying himself, taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly, forcing himself to think calming thoughts, he touched her shoulders with his bare hands. Gods, she had the softest, warmest, smoothest skin he had ever seen. What he wouldn't give . . .

No, concentrate. Concentrate on performing a therapeutic massage so that she can sleep easier tonight. Easy, slow, gentle.

Easy, slow, gentle . . .

She breathed softly, and he could sense her tension being released. But suddenly, her breathing began to turn into little groans of pleasure. No, he couldn't take this. This was too much. Concentrate. This was for her, for his Kathryn. He couldn't allow his mind to go where it wanted to go . . .

He moved the sheet down just a bit. He had to. It was interfering with his being able to . . . perform . . . the massage properly. He knew that his own breathing wasn't sounding too normal right now.

And no matter how low he moved that damned sheet, her skin remained perfect. Perfect and unblemished, soft and warm.

He touched her skin, marveling at it, moving it and kneading it with his hands, being careful not to rub it too hard, and careful not to forget his purpose for doing this in the first place.

When the sheet was halfway down her back, Chakotay was having an even harder time breathing, and he was grateful his hands were busy. If he were to stop touching her now, he knew his hands would be shaking uncontrollably.

As he massaged her shoulders, he fought not to feel the things he was feeling, not to flow with the sensations. Oh, Kathryn . . .

Kathryn felt the heat of his hands on her shoulders and with each touch, she felt her aching muscles turn to putty in his hands. He knew exactly what he was doing . . . but she knew all about that, didn't she? New Earth . . . So long ago, yet not long enough to forget.

Ah . . . Chakotay . . . .Suddenly, she opened her eyes and knew that she had to make a decision. Quickly. Either this was the moment of no return, or she was going to have to put a stop to it now.

Damn! She could make a snap decision in the heat of battle with no problems, and no regrets - well, mostly - but she couldn't make her mind think straight now . . . no, not just now . . . anytime a decision involved herself and Chakotay. Make him stop, Kathryn, she told herself, make him stop . . . but her body would not take orders from her mind.

Too late . . . it was too late . . .

The time had come, then. She had known it was close . . . And seven years was long enough to wait.

Close . . . eyes . . . Her eyes shut again and she felt his hands move the sheet further down her back, down her body. After a brief pause, his hands continued their exploration, and their touch on her body was almost reverent, loving . . . oh, Kathryn, NOW! Stop it, him NOW!

No . . . no, never again would she stop him from taking what was his to take, what had been his for seven years now . . .

She concentrated on his hands. How did they know exactly how to please her? How did they know exactly where she needed the most attention? Her back had ached before, and now it was reacting with pleasure to his touch . . . such pleasure . . .

Suddenly, his hands stopped.

Kathryn opened her eyes again. She realized that he had finished massaging her back. He had to stop now because to continue would mean to . . . do more . . .

A sense of déjà vu overtook her. New Earth again . . .

She had never felt so sated, yet still so aroused. She knew she was ready for whatever awaited . . . ready now for him. She needed him so badly. They had needed each other for seven long years now, and she could wait no longer.

Please, let him still want her. Let it not be too late.

Suddenly, her heart skipped a beat - what if time had run out? What if there was no going back to what could have been?

Slowly, she gathered her senses about her, and pulled the sheet up over and around her as she sat up on the cot. She was sitting on a part of the sheet, but there was still enough to barely pull around her chest, leaving her shoulders bare. She sat on the edge of the cot, and Chakotay was standing still, barely a foot away from her. He was barely breathing, she noticed. And his eyes were focused somewhere away from her.

"Chakotay . . ." she whispered.

He barely moved, but she knew he had heard her.

"Look at me," she said softly.

After what seemed an eternity, he said, "I can't."

He had spoken so softly she was uncertain she had heard him at first, but she knew she had. His eyes were focused somewhere over her shoulder, but his soul was someplace else entirely.

Kathryn knew that Chakotay was feeling the same things she was feeling now, and she couldn't blame him if he were also feeling uncertain or confused. She slowly brought her right hand up to touch his shoulder, and immediately felt his shoulder tense.

Sighing, Kathryn removed her hand. "It's all right," she said softly.

"It was never all right before," he replied evenly, trying to steady his breathing.

"I know," she answered. There was nothing else to say to that. He was right.

"I can't do this, Kathryn," he said, finally, still looking somewhere else. "I need you. But I can't wait until you're ready to need me back." His hands were planted slightly apart on the cot next to her. And he was holding onto it as if his very life depended on it.

Kathryn knew that he was feeling at a loss at her unexpected approval of his affections, and that he would not allow himself to appear weak to her at all costs. She had never loved him more than she did right now.

That thought made her catch her breath.

He was shaking slightly, and the air between them was filled with sexual tension, complete and raw, and neither could ignore it. It was here now, more than all those times before.

"Chakotay, please . . . look at me." She needed him with her, inside her. "Come to me . . . please."

Placing her hands on his shoulders, he allowed himself to be guided between her legs. Kathryn knew that he wanted her desperately, and she wanted him. She slid off the cot gently, and began to unzip his jacket. He helped her rid himself of it, then she helped him pull off his undershirt, then his t-shirt. As she reached for the zipper of his pants, his hands covered hers, letting her know he intended to finish that part himself.

Chakotay reached around Kathryn and grabbed her from behind, his hands planted firmly beneath her hips. She gasped from the contact of his warm hands against her buttocks.

Chakotay lifted her easily back onto the cot, never moving from between her legs.

Kathryn watched him slip off his pants without her assistance. The lights were still dim and he moved back into place quickly. She let the sheet fall behind her onto the cot as she wrapped her legs firmly behind his back. Her breasts were pressed against Chakotay's chest, yet neither of them had actually looked at each other.

Both she and Chakotay were practically gasping for breath now, and their heartbeats were completely erratic. For a brief moment, she remembered thinking that the Doctor would probably think they were both suffering from heart failure if he were to see a readout of their current vital signs . . .

Feeling Chakotay's erection press against her thigh, she gently moved her right hand downward and wrapped it around his penis. Both of them gasped at the contact, and she immediately felt the moisture from his penis in her hands.

Not wanting to wait a moment longer, Kathryn moved Chakotay's penis toward her vagina, knowing she had never been more ready to receive him. In one movement, she released him and he entered her, once, hard.

They both gasped heavily and Chakotay grabbed her tightly, groaning, as his warmth immediately began to fill her. He was barely conscious of Kathryn calling his name, as she too reached a climax filled with an intensity unlike any she had ever known. It was over as quickly as it had begun.

When they were both spent, only moments later, Chakotay rested his forehead against Kathryn's neck, and Kathryn closed her eyes, touching his cheek with one hand and wrapping the other around the back of his neck.

Kathryn waited for both their breathing to return to normal, wishing they didn't have to return so quickly to what they both knew awaited them outside these doors. The burden of responsibility to the ship and her crew was sometimes overwhelming. Kathryn knew she would never have made it these seven years without this man before her now.

"Tuvok to Janeway."

Both the Captain and the Commander were forced back to the present, and to their current state of affairs.

Immediately, Chakotay reached behind Kathryn for her discarded robe and handed it to her. She looked into his eyes as she activated the communications device and responded in a very Captain-like voice, "Janeway here." It was amazing how quickly a well-trained officer could move back into the expected role when the need arose.

"Captain, we are approaching the sector of the four planets with the two red suns. Scans show we will be within visual range in 20 minutes."

"I'm on my way, Tuvok. Janeway out." Kathryn sighed imperceptibly. Earlier, she had asked Tuvok to inform her when they were within visual range of these planets. She wanted to run some scientific analyses of the larger planet in the astrometrics lab. They had already gotten some highly eratic readings, and Captain Janeway wanted to see for herself if her initial analyses would hold up when they reached visual range. Unfortunately, these tests had to be run tonight, and Kathryn was the only person on board Voyager with the scientific background some of these tests would require.

As Kathryn lay the robe aside, she raised her eyes to Chakotay's once again. This time he didn't turn away. Instead, she saw a sadness and a question in his eyes. She smiled slightly, to let him know everything was all right, yet he didn't respond.

Realizing that they had never shared a kiss, she took his face between her hands and gently brushed his lips with hers. Again, Chakotay did not respond. In fact, it was as though he hadn't realized she had just kissed him.

Kathryn didn't understand what Chakotay was thinking, or why he wasn't speaking or moving. He just seemed so . . . confused. And, right now, she just didn't have time to force him into a conversation that may or may not be necessary.

Still looking Chakotay in the eye, she said quietly, "I have to get cleaned up and meet Tuvok in the Astrometrics Lab. We'll talk later?" She said the last with a question in her voice, wanting him to know she wasn't running out on him.

Chakotay nodded slightly, then turned away from her. Kathryn sighed, and pulled the bed sheet up and around her shoulders as she slid off the cot and started for the door to her bedroom. She turned a last time to see that Chakotay had already pulled his pants on and was struggling to pull his t-shirt on over his head.

As she walked into her bathroom, Kathryn Janeway realized for the first time that not once had they actually looked at each other's bodies. They had simply shared a necessary physical release with each other, a prerequisite to actual lovemaking.

She smiled to herself. She certainly hoped Chakotay hadn't already made plans for tomorrow tonight . . .

Captain Janeway did not return to her quarters until nearly 0300 hours. As she walked through her living area and entered her bedroom she took a deep breath and began to remove her uniform. Suddenly, it had been a long night.

Tuvok had spent the past four hours with her in the Astrometrics Lab, testing her theories with her. Most of the results would not be known for several more hours, but now they were leaving this part of space, and tonight's research had been vital.

Kathryn sighed, and stretched her muscles. She would love a hot bath right now, but decided instead to fall into bed and try to sleep. She had the early shift tomorrow and would barely get any sleep as it was. But some things couldn't be helped.

Slipping a nightgown over her head, she threw her robe at the foot of her bed and crawled under the sterile Starfleet issue sheets. Tonight, she didn't even notice. No matter that she had worked nearly 16 hours in the past 24, and that she had barely taken the time to eat, let alone get any rest. No matter that her body now ached again. She and Chakotay had broken through an important barrier in their relationship. No matter that it hadn't happened as she had imagined it time and time again in her mind . . . no, it did not matter. There would be time for all of those things now.

As soon as her head hit the pillow, Captain Kathryn Janeway closed her eyes and drifted off to a sound sleep, with a contented smile on her face.

At 0630, Captain Janeway woke, took a quick sonic shower, put on a fresh uniform and a slightly lighter shade of lipstick than she had been wearing lately. Then she moved quickly down the corridor toward the mess hall. Thankfully, she passed no one on the way and arrived in the mess hall with barely enough time to eat before she had to leave for her duty shift on the Bridge.

Neelix fawned over his Captain, as usual, and Janeway allowed him to bring her an extra cup of coffee and some fruit after she had eaten the Talaxian version of oatmeal that was one of Neelix's early morning specialties. At least the Doctor couldn't reprimand her for skipping breakfast this morning.

Finally, Captain Janeway arrived on the Bridge just as most of the Alpha shift were setting into their early morning routines.

"Good morning, Everyone," she called out, as she crossed to her command chair.

Versions of "Good Morning, Captain," came from crewmen at various stations around the Bridge.

Tuvok looked up at Captain Janeway, thinking that her tone was particularly chipper, considering she had gotten no more sleep than he had last night. Of course, Vulcans needed much less sleep than humans, and Tuvok was well rested this morning. But he had expected the Captain to be less cheerful at this early hour. Ah, well, humans. There were many things about them that Vulcans still did not understand. Tuvok raised his right eyebrow slightly, then glanced back down to his monitor, and his work.

Chakotay, meanwhile, couldn't believe his eyes. He had gotten little rest himself last night, tossing and turning, then rising and pacing the floor. He had asked the computer for the Captain's location five times during the night, and he knew precisely when she had parted company with Tuvok and entered her quarters.

Expecting Kathryn to be fatigued and weary, as well as upset about what had happened between them last evening, Chakotay had difficulty keeping his attentions on his monitor beside his command chair. He didn't understand her mood this morning. She had practically waltzed onto the Bridge a few minutes ago. She also had that old sway to her walk this morning that she used to have back when they all believed they would find a way back home any minute now.

"Good morning, Commander," Kathryn said quietly, smiling his way. Chakotay forced himself to nod and mumble something that he hoped was lucid and intelligible.

Thankfully, Tuvok interrupted any conversation Kathryn may have wanted to continue, and she crossed up to his tactical station to discuss some of the results of their research from the night before.

The senior staff briefing was scheduled for 1000 hours, and backup crewmembers began to substitute at various operational stations on the Bridge just prior to that time. Chakotay had barely heard a word that was said this morning, except that every time he sneaked a glance at the Captain, she was smiling, radiant even, and damnit, he was right: She had definitely rediscovered that walk that was so full of energy and determination . . .

It just didn't make any sense to him. What the hell was the matter with her? Why wasn't she as upset, as humiliated, as he was?

Moments later, the senior staff gathered in the briefing room, and the Captain was asking each of them about the status of their various duties and projects. As usual, she began on her left, leaving her First Officer for last.

Again, Chakotay noticed that she was extremely relaxed, yet lively. She had a spark and a fire in her eyes that he hadn't noticed for a long time now. And he wasn't the only one who seemed to notice a marked difference in the Captain. The others seemed to be watching her intently, too, and he saw the questions in their eyes. What had gotten into the Captain this morning? Why was she in such a good mood?

These were the same questions he had been asking himself all morning.

Somehow, Chakotay made it through his part in the morning meeting without mishap, more thankful than he had ever been that his comments were brief today.

As Captain Janeway stood and slowly made her way around the room, summing up their meeting and throwing out a few new directives, Chakotay listened to the lilt in her voice, the warmth, the special way she had with words, the way she had of making every person in the room feel important and vital to the tasks at hand, and as he watched her move around the room slowly, he knew that he had never known anyone more sensual than Kathryn Janeway. And he had never loved her more than he did this morning.

Looking away from her gaze quickly, Chakotay was only slightly aware that Kathryn had dismissed the meeting. As the senior officers stood and began to file out the door, he heard Tom Paris say to the Captain, "Sleep well last night, Captain?" in that way he had of suggesting sexual innuendo.

Chakotay seethed inside, but Captain Janeway merely smiled at Tom and said, "I did, Lieutenant. And you?"

"Ah, yeah, sure," replied Tom, seeing that the Captain was not rising to the bait.

Chakotay tried to ease out the doorway, but was stopped by her voice.

"Commander," said the Captain. Chakotay stopped in his tracks, knowing the Captain was telling him to stay behind. He had nearly gotten away. Now was not the time for them to have this conversation, whatever it was to be.

After the rest of the staff had left the room, and the doors had closed behind them, the Captain and Commander remained behind. The room was suddenly silent.

Kathryn stood at the front of the room, near her chair. She was looking intently at Chakotay, who stood on the far side of the table and would not look her in the eye. She waited a moment, hoping he would turn to her and open the conversation, but he did not.

Sighing, Kathryn slowly sat on the edge of the table and looked at her First Officer with a look of confusion and, Chakotay thought, fear in her eyes.

"What is it, Chakotay?" she asked quietly, her eyes never leaving his face. He had been so quiet all morning, and she sensed an all too familiar smoldering intensity beneath the surface that told her something was very wrong.

When Chakotay didn't answer her, she rose from the table and began to walk slowly toward him. But she stopped in her tracks when he turned and circled the other side of the table, still not facing her.

"Chakotay?" she asked, so quietly that he barely heard her. But he felt her presence so intensely that he could not allow her to get physically close to him.

He had to think clearly, something he had not done well at all thus far today.

Stopping before the viewport, Chakotay stared outside and sighed. Kathryn walked back down the room the same way she had come, stopping only a few feet away from Chakotay. What was the matter with him today?

Then it dawned on her. Perhaps her original fear had been correct last night. Maybe it was too late for them. Maybe he just didn't know how to tell her that he didn't love her anymore.

Maybe there was no ancient legend about falling out of love.

Maybe time had run out, after all.

Maybe last night had only been a physical release for him; he had been offered a way, and he took it.

Sensing a change in her, Chakotay turned to face her for the first time, and Kathryn looked up and into his eyes.

"Tell me," she said, firmly, yet as gently as she could. If she were right in her assumptions, then she had to know now. She had to know one way or the other. But, gods, why had she allowed last night to happen without knowing for sure? Was she so arrogant to think that he would wait for her forever? That he wouldn't, couldn't, fall out of love with her?

Please, Chakotay, don't draw this out. Tell me now, she thought. And those wonderful feelings she had drawn strength from all morning suddenly left her, and a cold loneliness quickly took their place.

But Chakotay was looking at her as though for the first time.

"Tell you what?" he asked. "You tell me! I don't know what's going on, Kathryn. I don't understand you." At first his eyes blazed, then the fire in them died suddenly, and he looked away, out at the stars, helpless.

Kathryn remained quiet, but she was frightened nonetheless. She had long ago learned to let him speak as his emotions let him. Finally he continued. "For years you push me away, tell me we can't ever come together as lovers, and for years I try to understand that, and I try to accept it. But I can't. No matter how hard I try, I can't. I want you so much it hurts. Your voice is the last thing I hear before I go to sleep at night, and your smile, the one I haven't seen in so long, is the last thing I see before I shut my eyes."

Kathryn didn't move. She barely breathed, and her eyes were full of unshed tears. What was he telling her, then? This was one hell of a way to tell someone 'good-bye.'

But then he continued.

"And then last night, when I came to your quarters and you were waiting for the Doctor to show up to give you a massage, I can't explain it, but I felt . . . jealous. Jealous of the Doctor, who was going to perform what he thinks of as a medical procedure - making someone feel better physically. Maybe I was just overreacting to the fact that he was making a house call, so to speak. I know that he has visited you in your quarters before to give you a massage in order to avoid unnecessary gossip or rumors among the crew. But, Kathryn . . . I should never had offered to take the Doctor's place when he cancelled. At first I offered because I could tell that your neck and your back were bothering you, and I knew I could make you feel better. But as soon as I touched you, I knew it wasn't a good idea. I remembered the last time . . ."

Chakotay stopped speaking then, as they both remembered New Earth . . . still; after all these years.

Then, suddenly, Chakotay turned on her. The anger and hurt were back, and he just wanted to get this over with.

"And then you . . . How could you do that, Kathryn," he whispered, under his breath.

"What, Chakotay? What did I do that was so . . . wrong?" she whispered back.

"I can't believe you think what you did was right!" He looked at her in shock.

"What are you talking about, Chakotay? Right? Why wasn't it . . . right? The only wrong I'm guilty of is not allowing you to love me long before now."

"'Love'? Did you say 'love' you?" He laughed then, a short sharp laugh. "Oh, it has been a long time for you then, Kathryn, if you think what we shared last night was love!" He shook his head slightly, then turned away from her once again.

"Don't you speak to me in that tone, Chakotay," she said, under her breath. "All right, last night wasn't exactly my idea of how it should have been, but . . ."

"No, don't." Chakotay turned and walked down the other side of the table, wanting to put as much distance from them as possible. "I don't want to hear any more, Kathryn."

"But you're going to. We are not leaving here until we finish this conversation."

"Is that an order, Captain?" He had to fight back somehow, and he was certain this would be the best way to rile her, and maybe they could finish this in anger. It would be easier, somehow.

But she ignored his comment. She knew him well.

Kathryn followed Chakotay to the other end of the table, this time on the same side of the table he was on.

"Chakotay, listen to me."

He turned to her quickly, and found himself only inches from her. But he couldn't stop now. It was too late. If this had to be finished now, then he had to tell her all of it. He owed her that much.

Struggling to keep his voice steady, he said, "I dreamed of making love with you every night for six years, Kathryn. You and I have made love in every way and every place imaginable - aboard this ship, on planets we've left behind, on the holodeck with every conceivable program running, and on the holodeck with no program running. It didn't matter what was happening around us, all that mattered was that we were together."

It was difficult for Chakotay to look her in the eyes and tell her this, but it was just as difficult for Kathryn to maintain eye contact and listen to him. Yes, she knew what he was saying . . . she'd had those thoughts and dreams, too. His words made her heart beat faster, and she felt a shiver go up her spine.

"And then . . ." Chakotay pulled his eyes from her and turned away.

"What? And then what?" When he didn't answer, Kathryn put her hand firmly on his arm and forced him to turn back to her. "Tell me."

The hurt in his eyes turned once again to anger.

"And then, in one instant, it all went up in smoke. Yes, I was aroused the moment I began to massage your back, and I was wrong to even suggest it - but you were wrong to take advantage of that moment. You were aroused, too, I knew that almost immediately. I felt almost disoriented, thinking that maybe . . . just maybe, finally, we would make love." He paused, then forced himself to go on. "And then . . . and then you . . ." He couldn't say the words.

"What, Chakotay? I what? Took advantage of you? Of the situation? Yes, I was aroused, I wanted you desperately. And, believe it or not, I've wanted to be with you, make love with you, for nearly as long as you say you've wanted me . . ." He looked at her intently, but made no move to interrupt her. Kathryn continued, even though it wasn't easy. This had to be done now, no matter the outcome. "Yes, I decided at that moment to turn to you, to take you inside me . . ."

Chakotay ripped his arm away from Kathryn and moved quickly away from her.

"Don't say that like it . . . like it is nothing."

"What are you talking about, Chakotay?" She moved to him and said softly, "It's everything to me. It wasn't cheap, and it wasn't wrong. It wasn't everything I'd dreamed about, either - and yes, it was hardly more than a physical release, but it was you and me, together, finally."

Chakotay turned to look at her, and when he spoke his voice was steady.

"What we experienced last night, Kathryn, was something that could have been experienced by any two people, anywhere. It wasn't lovemaking. It was just sex."

His words made Kathryn's eyes blaze. She stepped close to him, and he very nearly took a step back. But he refused to allow her to intimidate him.

"It may have been just sex to you, Chakotay. But I can assure you it was much more than that to me. I don't judge my own sexual encounters by other people's experiences and I will thank you not to tell me what exactly it was that I experienced last night." She paused a moment, allowing her words to sink in. Then in a quieter voice, she continued. "And I can also assure you that if I were not in love with you, you would never have been allowed between my legs, not for that one minute of sex, nor for hours of lovemaking. Do you understand me?"

But Chakotay couldn't answer her. He stood, dumbfounded, and stared at her.

When she received no answer, she turned from Chakotay and stalked out of her own Ready Room. Heading for the turbolift, she called to Tuvok over her shoulder that the Bridge was his.

Tom Paris turned in his seat and saw the Captain board the turbolift. He caught Harry's gaze as he swung back toward the viewscreen, and his control panel. Wow, whatever had happened between the Captain and the Commander just after the staff meeting ended must really have been something! The Captain had left her own Ready Room, and Chakotay was still in there! Tom shook his head to himself, and smiled. Those two had been side-stepping each other for seven years now. When they finally came together, there would probably be a hull breach!

Chakotay, meanwhile, could not move from where Kathryn had just left him. She had just told him she was in love with him. And beneath her anger, he had seen that love reflected in her eyes, buried beneath the hurt. Her words echoed in his head, and he wasn't sure of anything else in any universe for some time, just that Kathryn Janeway was in love with him.

Kathryn was angrier than she had been in a very long time. In fact, she couldn't remember ever being angrier. And it must have been quite obvious because everyone she met in the corridor moved aside for her, and no one greeted her, either.

She didn't know where to go. She needed to be alone, yet she didn't want to be alone. She didn't want to go to her quarters, that much was for sure. She needed to breathe and sort things out.

Heading for Holodeck One, Kathryn knew that it would be empty. This was the middle of the alpha shift and most crewmen were busy at their posts. She just had to get away for a little while. Tuvok would allow her to be gone for at least an hour, and maybe two, before he tried to reach her on her commbadge to make sure she was all right. And Chakotay . . . who knew what he was thinking!

Reaching the holodeck, Kathryn stopped. She had no idea what program to run. Leonardo would advise her.

"Computer, initiate DaVinci program."

"Program initiated," came the computer's unemotional voice.

As Kathryn entered the holodeck, and the studio of Maestro Leonardo DaVinci, she called over her shoulder to the computer, "Computer, engage privacy lock."

The Computer responded, "Privacy lock engaged."

"Maestro?" Kathryn called out.

Leonardo stood from where he had been stooped, looking under his favorite workbench for some larger brushes he thought he had once put there for safekeeping.

"Ah, Katarina . . . tell me, have you seen my large brushes?"

"No. Maestro, I need your counsel."

DaVinci looked at his protégé, and the warmth in his face turned to concern.

"Ah . . . what is the problem, Katarina? We will solve it together." He moved from behind his workbench and walked to where she was standing.

Suddenly Kathryn wasn't sure this was the right holocharacter, program, or time period for the type of discussion she needed to have. But, she owed Leonardo a try at it since she had activated him and asked for advice.

"I need advice, Maestro . . ."

"Yes, yes, Katarina. I will advise you. Now what is it to be about?"

"Sex and love, Maestro."

"Ah. I see. Are you not still in love with your warrior, Katarina?"

"Yes. Maestro, please listen to me. Last night, he came to me in my . . . rooms, and he began to massage my back - my back was in a great deal of pain, you see - and then, well, we both wanted each other very much . . ."

"You wanted to feel him inside you . . ."

". . . Yes. How did you know?"

Leonardo shrugged.

"It makes sense. Please. Continue with your story, Katarina."

"I allowed him to move . . . inside me then, and it was all over in a matter of seconds, I'm afraid. No long lovemaking scene to describe. Nothing that would be worth waiting all these past years for." She sighed. Maybe Chakotay was right to feel cheated. She turned away from her mentor, looking out the small side window.

"But was it true to your dreams?"


"Did you know at that moment that he was still the man of your dreams?"

Kathryn turned back to Leonardo.

"I've never doubted that, Maestro," she whispered.

Leonardo smiled at her.

"Then the problem is . . . what?" he asked innocently.

Kathryn sighed. No, this was not what she needed just now. She needed to release her anger before she sought anyone's advice. She needed to beat something, smash something.

"Maestro," Kathryn crossed to him and touched his arm, forcing herself to be kind and try to get away without hurting her mentor's feelings. "I . . . suddenly thought of something I need to take care of. But I will return. We can continue this discussion another time."

"Of course, Katarina. You have many responsibilities under your charge . . ."

"Thank you, Maestro," she said, cutting him off. Just now she didn't have the patience for more kindness than that. "Computer, end program."

In the length of time it took her to blink, the entire program was completely gone and all that remained was the empty holodeck. Kathryn stood alone. She was hurting, and still angry. How could Chakotay think that what had happened between them was nothing more than a sexual activity to her? She had kept him at a distance for years out of fear that her love for him would destroy her sense of perspective as Captain of Voyager.

Her first duty was to Voyager and her crew, and no matter how hard she had tried not to, she had fallen in love with her First Officer.

Then she had tried to fall out of love with him for the past four years. But her heart wouldn't let her. She had given herself completely to this man, whether he knew it or not.

Kathryn took a deep breath. Now what? Where would they go from here?

"Computer, initiate program . . . Belay that." She didn't know what she wanted. And what she truly wanted she couldn't have, and that was to move back in time to last night, and not allow Chakotay into her quarters at all.

Suddenly, Kathryn felt another surge of anger. It didn't have to be this way! She began to pace the floor of the empty room, the hologrids illuminating her way. Damn him!

And why had her heart chosen this man to fall in love with anyway! A warrior with some of that anger still buried beneath the surface, and a stubborn woman, did not mix. She stopped pacing. Woman. She had just thought of herself as a woman for the first time in a very long time. She was always 'Captain' now, never just a woman anymore. Just how much of herself had she lost along the way?

Then she heard something outside the holodeck doors. As she turned toward them, Chakotay entered the holodeck and the doors closed behind him. They stood several meters apart from each other, but neither of them moved for several moments.

After the shock of the unexpected interruption dissipated, Kathryn felt her anger surge.

"How dare you override my privacy lockout and waltz in here as though you have a right!" Janeway was indignant. There was no reason to believe she was in danger, and that was the only reason available to him for using his command code to override her lockout.

But Chakotay wouldn't be taken in by her attempt to fill the air with anger.

"Captain, it is customary to run a holodeck program while on the holodeck," he said lightly, looking around, and silently hoping to change the course of things between them.

Kathryn saw immediately that he wouldn't rise to her bait, but she was damned if she would play his game.

"Then run one," she said evenly, as she attempted to cross his path, heading for the holodeck doors.

Chakotay grabbed her by the arm as she walked by, then moved in front of her. Kathryn tried in vain to pull her arm away from him, but she quickly saw that he wasn't going to let go. Deciding that she wouldn't resort to the role of Captain and riddle him with threats, she became quiet and stopped struggling. This was a personal matter. Her eyes, however, blazed with anger.

After he saw she had stopped struggling, Chakotay let go of her arm. He was afraid he had hurt her, and he hadn't intended to, but if he had let her go and watched her walk out of the holodeck, she would only become angrier, and they might never reconcile this. And he had come here to rid both of them of the anger. And to try desperately to see her love for him reflected in her eyes once again, if it wasn't too late.

"If you're going to bully me . . ." she began, in a voice that she reserved for her worst enemies.

"Don't, Kathryn." He looked deep into her eyes, showing her that he was sorry, showing her that he still loved her, that he would always love her. She needed to see for herself that what he said was true. Words could not speak what his eyes would show her.

Kathryn held his eyes with her own, and she saw that he still cared for her, that nothing had changed. She nearly sighed with relief; maybe it wasn't too late after all. But if he thought that she could . . .

Chakotay saw the change of emotion reflected in her eyes.

"Kathryn," he spoke gently, but with all the honest emotion his soul contained. "I said some things to you I didn't mean. I was hurt, not by you, but by circumstance. Things didn't work out the way I wanted them to . . ."

"That often happens, Chakotay." Her voice was steel, but the anger was moving away. She wasn't going to make this easy for him.

Chakotay looked away from her then, and she moved away from him. He knew she needed some distance before she could continue this. He was grateful there was no program running on the holodeck to interfere; it was just the two of them in an empty room, red and black uniforms against the stark walls containing only hologrids. Stark and empty. It was up to the two of them to bring some peace, and some meaning, back into their relationship. And to rediscover the love that he had so selfishly, though unwittingly, tried to destroy.

She loved him, though. She had told him that herself. He looked back at her, thinking this, as she turned to look at him from several meters away. She must have noticed that the look in his eyes had changed once again, and she took a few steps back toward him with her eyes locked onto his, as though trying to read his thoughts.

Now she was only a few steps away from him, and he saw that the anger had left her eyes, replaced by such raw hurt that it nearly knocked the breath out of him. He wanted to go to her, to take her in his arms and rid her of that hurt; he wished with all his heart that they could go back in time, to undo last night . . .

But they couldn't go back. And he couldn't go to her now, without being pushed away. He could only try to mend the hurt he had caused her. And he would do whatever it took to replace that hurt in her eyes with the love he had seen there, if only for an instant, earlier today. That look of love had made his whole life suddenly seem worthwhile. For that one moment in time, she had let down her guard and had allowed him to see how she truly felt about him.

She had told him she loved him. Kathryn was still looking into his eyes. He didn't look away. He knew she would continue to speak when she was ready. He could nearly see the thoughts running around inside her, tearing her apart.

Finally, Kathryn turned and began to walk away from him again. Several meters away, and with her back to him, she stopped.

"Do you understand now why I've tried so hard not to involve myself with you on a personal level, Chakotay?" Her voice was soft, but strained.

"Tell me, Kathryn," he said, trying to hide the fear in his voice.

She turned to look at him.

"Don't you see what has happened to us in just the past 24 hours? Last evening, what happened between us was . . . what it was. Afterward, after spending most of the night with Tuvok in the science lab, I returned to my quarters for three hours of sleep. Not much, granted. But it was good sleep, Chakotay. I dreamed of you and me together." She took a step toward him, a bit stronger now. "I'm not naïve, Chakotay. We didn't make love the way I'd always dreamed of either, but I did think a barrier had been broken down between us. A barrier that I had refused to move aside for years. I thought last night would make a difference. It did to me."

Chakotay opened his mouth to speak, but Kathryn held up her hand.

"No, let me finish." She paced slowly, gathering her thoughts. "Today I was happy. I felt an energy I hadn't experienced in a long time. An energy I barely remembered. A new . . . hope, if you will, even about getting home within our own lifetimes. This morning, I knew I could do anything, with you by my side. Then, after the staff meeting, when we . . . clashed, I left my Ready Room thinking how I had been right all these past months, and years, to keep you at a distance." She was upon him now, looking into Chakotay's eyes, with her own eyes growing moist, but continuing to hold eye contact, proud and strong. "And I so much wanted you to prove me wrong about that."

"Then let me. Let me do that now." The words came from nowhere, but he meant every one of them. And the strength of those words caught Kathryn off-guard. It would have been difficult for anyone else, save Tuvok, to tell, but her eyes told him it wouldn't take much for him to convince her, because she wanted to be convinced. Chakotay continued, before she could interrupt him. "Kathryn, I was wrong. I was hurt, and I lashed out at you." He moved that one step toward her that put them only inches apart. She would have to back down if she wanted to move away from him now, and he knew Kathryn Janeway well enough to know she would stand her ground at any cost. "I do know you better than to think you would indulge in a . . . momentary sexual act with me, or anyone else. Sometimes people say things to hurt others in order to make their own pain seem bearable. You know that, Kathryn."

"We can't allow ourselves to indulge in those weaknesses, Chakotay," she retorted softly. But she stood her ground, and looked into his eyes as she spoke.

"We've stood united all these years, Kathryn. And when we've disagreed, we've worked out our differences as Captain and First Officer. Why can't we do that as lovers, as well?" Chakotay saw her tremble slightly at his words, but knew she would go to her death denying it.

She didn't answer him immediately. Chakotay had never seen her like this; she always had an answer for everything. Kathryn continued to look into his eyes, but she had let down her guard.

Finally, she answered him.

"Because I can barely take it when we disagree now; I don't know if I could take it if we were at odds as lovers," her voice ended in a whisper. She sounded nearly emotionless, but he knew it was from exhaustion. Her eyes spoke volumes.

Chakotay swallowed a lump that had formed in his throat.

"Kathryn," he whispered to her, "I can only promise you that I will do my very best to preserve all that is 'us.' I hold you dearer to my heart than I have anything else in my life. You mean everything to me."

With that, Chakotay gently, slowly moved his hands up to either side of Kathryn's face. He brought his face down to hers and tilted his head slightly so that he could touch her lips with his. This time he actually felt her tremble, and then, as he lifted his lips from hers, he heard her sigh faintly.

Kathryn looked at him, and her blue-grey eyes had turned dark with desire. And Chakotay knew his own eyes shone with that same desire. They had never shared a kiss until now, and it was sweet and warm and caring. And so full of love.

"Kathryn . . . ?" his voice asked the question.

But she was still quick on her feet, and Kathryn Janeway could always make him smile.

"I think we should . . . date for awhile first, don't you?" But she didn't pull away from him, and her eyes danced with amusement.

Looking into her eyes, with a smile tugging at his lips, Chakotay replied softly, "But I've already courted you for over six years, Kathryn."

Then as he lowered his lips to hers again, he heard her whisper, "You make a good point," as she tilted her head slightly and raised her lips to meet his.

As their kiss deepened, soft moans came from Kathryn's throat, which only succeeded in making Chakotay hungrier for her. His body was pressed against hers, and she didn't resist. He knew she was aware of his throbbing erection; it was impossible to ignore, since it was pressed into her stomach. He didn't rub it against her, though, the way he wanted to. Whatever happened, or didn't happen now, was entirely up to her.

Kathryn gently moved her tongue inside Chakotay's mouth, and busily explored the roof of his mouth, then his teeth, and when his tongue finally reached for hers, she thought she would faint from the feelings that surged through her. Oh, gods, how she wanted this man!

Forcing herself to pull away from Chakotay, Kathryn began to unzip his jacket. Her lips were soft and swollen from their deep kisses, and Chakotay's lips were in the same condition.

Chakotay covered her hands with his, then brought them to his mouth and began to kiss them. Kathryn watched silently, her heartbeats so loud that she knew Chakotay had to hear them as well. And when he slipped one of her fingers into his mouth, Kathryn gasped, and small sounds began to escape from her throat. She lifted her eyes to his then, took her hands back from Chakotay and pushed the jacket off his body. Then she deftly pulled his turtleneck from the waistband of his pants and he quickly removed it over his head. As he did so, Kathryn was already sliding his t-shirt upwards and Chakotay could have sworn he heard her whisper, "Damned regulation t-shirts," and just hearing something like that come from Kathryn Janeway made him smile.

As Chakotay tore the t-shirt from his body, Kathryn lay her head against his chest and began to kiss him there gently. Chakotay's body trembled, and a sigh escaped his lips. He closed his eyes for only a moment, to revel in these attentions he had needed for so long, and from the only woman he had ever truly loved. But when Kathryn began to lick, then suck, his right nipple, he jumped from the sheer unexpected pleasure of it. He took her face in his hands and tilted her head up to look into his eyes, where he saw a mischievous smile. He waited a moment, looking deeply into her eyes, and her smile slowly became a look of love, and desire.

"I love you, Kathryn Janeway," he whispered to her.

He looked at her a moment longer, watching many emotions play across her face. As her eyes became moist, he brushed his lips lightly against hers once again. Slowly pulling away, he unzipped her jacket and pushed it off her shoulders. She brought her hands up to assist him, but he caught her fingers and brought them to his lips and kissed them lightly.

"Let me," he whispered to her, as he looked into her eyes. She nodded, and he gently released her hands and slowly pulled her turtleneck from her pants, then up and over her head. He ran his hands gently down her exposed arms, and Kathryn closed her eyes and shivered briefly at the sensation.

Then Chakotay pulled her t-shirt out of her pants and up over her head in one swift motion. A pile of clothing was beginning to collect on the bare floor of the holodeck, but neither one noticed, nor cared. The only thing left now was the regulation Starfleet bra, which in itself wasn't particularly sexy, but Chakotay had never been more aroused in his life. He was using all of his self-control not to explode inside his pants as it was.

Chakotay stared into Kathryn's eyes and saw that her longing for him was as intense as what he was feeling for her. He remained staring into her eyes as he reached behind her and unhooked the fasteners of her bra. His heart was beating like a drum. He had dreamed of this very moment for what seemed an eternity. Just the very thought of her skin against his had kept him awake many nights.

Kathryn continued to look into Chakotay's eyes, moved beyond words at the emotions she saw there. His eyes had become moist like hers had only moments ago. And when he had unhooked her bra, she had felt her arms and legs tingle with goose bumps, and she knew her nipples were already erect.

Now, Chakotay moved his lips to hers, gently, tenderly, as he pulled the bra from her body and let it fall to the floor. He continued to kiss her, as she moaned from the very feelings of freedom she was experiencing, and then he slowly moved his arms around her back and stepped into her. The feel of his chest against her breasts made her gasp into his mouth, and their soft and gentle kiss quickly became more passionate.

After a moment, Chakotay broke the kiss and looked deeply into her eyes again. He wanted her to know that this was a very special moment for him. Her eyes shown with desire, and he moved slowly away from her and looked fully at her breasts. His breath caught in his throat.

"Oh, Kathryn . . ." he whispered, his voice thick with emotion. "Gods, you are so beautiful." Slowly, he brought his hands up to cup her breasts and she tilted her head back and gently pushed her breasts into his hands, encouraging him. Her breaths came in small gasps, and when his thumbs touched her nipples, she gasped loudly.

Kathryn had never felt such desire in her life. Her breasts had never been so sensitive, nor had a man been as gentle with them as Chakotay was being. She could barely catch her breath now, and she knew she couldn't stand upright much longer. Her legs were turning to jelly, and the warmth between her legs was becoming more and more intense.

Chakotay bent slowly to her breasts, and took one, and then the other into his mouth. As Kathryn gasped and trembled, he licked her nipples gently, teasing them into even harder knots than they had already been. His own erection was straining. Gods, she had the most beautiful breasts he had ever seen. They were full and perfect. He experimentally took one nipple between his teeth and flicked the very tip of it with his tongue. Kathryn moaned louder, thrusting her breast further into his mouth.

"Computer," Kathryn whispered, straining to find her voice at all. "Initiate program Janeway One Alpha Zero."

"Program initiated," replied the computer.

Chakotay drew his head away from Kathryn's breasts, in order to look around him briefly. They were standing in a clearing in a forest, and he could see an ocean with a beachfront only half a kilometer away. But the thing that made him smile was the large bed with deep green bedding and lots of pillows that stood almost beside them.

Kathryn saw the look on his face.

"You never know when something like this could come in handy," she said in a suggestive voice.

"Oh? And has it ever proved to be handy before today?" he smiled at her.

"If you're asking me if anyone has ever shared that bed with me, the answer is 'no.' I've only come here alone, to take a nap on the bed, to walk on the beach, to swim. And to think about how I desperately wanted to be able to share it with you."

When Chakotay returned his eyes to hers, her heart skipped a beat when she saw the passion there.

Kathryn moved toward him only a few inches until her breasts were buried against Chakotay's chest once more, eliciting a moan from him.

"Make love with me," she whispered, as she brought her lips up to meet his.

"Kathryn," Chakotay whispered to her. "You said you wanted to move slowly . . ."

"We are," she replied, moving her lips to his cheek, then his earlobe, then down his neck, sending shivers up Chakotay's spine and forcing small sounds to escape from his throat. "But if you don't make love with me soon," she continued, "I'm going to think you aren't ready yet."

That was all it took. Chakotay reached down and picked her up suddenly, and carried her toward the bed. Kathryn gasped loudly at the unexpectedness of his actions, then a sensual laugh escaped from her throat as he lay her gently on the bed, and began to take off her boots.

As he removed her boots, Chakotay glanced up at Kathryn lying there, on this big, beautiful bed in the middle of a lush green forest, with a slight breeze in the air stirring the leaves on the trees around them, and teasing her nipples into remaining erect. She was so beautiful.

After removing her boots and socks, Chakotay removed his own, then leaned over the bed and looked at her again. She didn't seem to mind that he couldn't get his fill of just looking at her. She was now leaning back against her elbows on the bed, just looking at him, her eyes shining brightly. He slowly leaned forward and licked her right nipple, then her left. She moaned again, and let her head fall backward as she closed her eyes. When Chakotay raised his head again, he saw that the breeze was keeping her still-wet nipples erect for him.

Then Chakotay slowly moved his hands to her pants, and the zipper. He waited a moment, but her eyes told him it was perfectly all right to continue. Slowly, he slid her pants down from her body, and threw them onto the floor. His heart continued to thud in his chest. He didn't know how much longer he could hold himself in check, but he willed himself to concentrate on her pleasure first. Now the only piece of clothing remaining on her body was a small cream-colored pair of satin underwear. There was nothing Starfleet about those. He made a mental note to ask her about that another time.

Again, he moved his eyes to hers and she smiled gently at him. She wanted him as much as he wanted her. She remained where she was, seeming to know how much he wanted to do this by himself.

Chakotay rid himself of his pants quickly and slid onto the bed with her. His thigh was in the way of her looking directly at his bulging erection, but that would happen soon enough. As he looked over her body enjoying her muscular legs and her trim buttocks, and those luscious breasts, Kathryn was enjoying what she was seeing as well.

Chakotay had a strong, dark toned body that made her heart leap. She had seen more of his body than he had hers in the past, from episodes in sickbay, but of course that was different. Then, she had forced herself not to look at him as anyone other than her ill First Officer. But she had quietly filed the image of his muscular body into the back of her mind, taking it out from time to time when she needed to, mostly when she was forced to relieve some of her own sexual tensions, alone.

Now Chakotay turned to look into her eyes again, telling her how beautiful she was one more time, before moving his fingers slowly, deliberately to her underwear. She gasped, then held her breath. She felt nearly dizzy from desire.

"Chakotay . . ." she whispered his name.

Hearing her speak his name in her current state of sexual arousal made Chakotay's heart sing, and his penis become even more urgent about being released from its confines. Soon.

Chakotay slipped her underwear down her thighs, looking at her thick mound of brown pubic hair. He slid her underwear completely off her, and it joined the other clothing on the ground. Now he moved his eyes over her completely, so aroused by his desire that he knew his erection wouldn't last much longer before his seed came spilling out of him.

He looked into Kathryn's eyes and saw the intense desire that told him she wasn't going to last much longer, either. He smiled at her gently and she lifted her hand to caress his face, with a look of love in her eyes that made his own eyes moist again.

Slowly, deliberately, Chakotay stood from the bed and removed his own underwear. He watched her eyes widen in anticipation as she gazed at his huge erection. Then she moved her eyes to him, an invitation. She began to spread her legs and he moved between them easily.

But his face stopped at her most private parts, and he felt a tremble run through her. He watched her as she lay completely back onto the bed, with her legs open to him.

Kathryn took a deep breath, forcing herself to relax. It had been a long time since she had been made love to, and she was going to enjoy every moment of it. Even if there were only going to be a few more of those moments left before she exploded completely.

Chakotay gently slipped his tongue inside her mound, eliciting an immediate response from her. She moved her legs open wider then, and he could see all the treasures that she was offering him. Gently, Chakotay licked her private parts, saving her clitoris for last. He could see that it was firm and hard and he could sense how close she was to orgasm. He dipped his tongue inside her, tasting her wetness and relishing in the sweetness of it.

Finally, as Kathryn's moans were increasing in volume, and as she continued to thrust herself into his mouth, Chakotay took her clitoris into his mouth and closed his lips around it. Suddenly, as his tongue circled her gently, Kathryn grabbed his head and held him to her as she screamed his name and thrust into his mouth one last time.

She finally fell back against the bed, trembling and shaking from her explosion. Chakotay moved his tongue back into her well then, feeling the spasms as they rocked inside her. He tasted a new wetness now, the one that came as a result of her love for him. This wetness was even sweeter, and warmer, and she lifted her head to watch him with wonder and love in her eyes.

Then Chakotay moved up her body, meeting her eyes, then sucking her nipples once more, briefly, before continuing up to her mouth. She tilted her head slightly and he moved his mouth over hers, kissing her deeply, and allowing her to taste herself from his mouth. She licked his mouth and sucked his tongue, making him even more aroused.

He suddenly knew without a doubt that he wouldn't last a minute longer. Kathryn knew it, too, and she lay back against a pillow, allowing him to move up over her. She moved her legs around his back then, taking him into her. He tried to move into her slowly, not wanting to hurt her, but she soon began to whimper and toss and turn, and then she took his head into her hands, bringing his mouth back to hers and kissing him with a passion he had never known before.

Suddenly, Kathryn moved her legs higher up his back, and thrust her bottom up and into him, causing an explosion inside him, the intensity of which he was completely unprepared for.

As he cried her name, she screamed his name again, and they climaxed together this time, each clinging to the other tightly. Chakotay collapsed on top of her, being careful not to put his entire weight upon her. Kathryn held his head gently against her breast as she lay with her eyes closed, relaxed, and as he listened to her heartbeat slow, and watched her nipple react to the feel of his breath upon it, he knew he had never felt more at peace than he did right now.

Then, as their heartbeats slowed even more, and their muscles relaxed, Chakotay moved his position a bit and they continued to lie together, still as one, and look deeply into each other's eyes for a long time.

"Kathryn . . . ?"


Chakotay paused for a moment.

"I want to say so many things to you, but I don't know where to start."

"I can't imagine there being anything at all that you need to say to me."

Chakotay raised up on one elbow and looked at Kathryn with a slight frown.

"Why not?"

"Because what you said earlier about courting me for over six years is true, you know. We've shared countless stories and experiences with each other over the years. And I know we'll continue to share, and be there for each other."

"Then - you don't think things will change between us now?"

"Oh, I think things will change a great deal. And I'm sure they will change in ways we are not even prepared to imagine right now." She looked into his eyes and smiled, bringing her hand up to his face. "But I am finally ready to move forward and accept all that."

"Why? What has changed, Kathryn?"

"I'm not sure. Maybe just knowing that now we have a good chance of actually making it home in our lifetimes. And maybe now that I've been a Captain on a seven year watch, I realize I can actually concentrate on something else once in a while." She paused, thinking. "I'm not really sure exactly what has changed for me, Chakotay. But I do know that it's a feeling I've had for some time now. That our relationship would move ahead."

Then, unbidden, she suddenly felt tears spring to her eyes, and she sat up on the bed, turning her back to him.

"Kathryn?" Chakotay whispered to her, moving to take her hand in his and kissing it gently. "What is it?"

"I'm just so glad I didn't wait any longer, Chakotay." She forced the tears away, but her eyes still shone with love and warmth for the man in front of her. "After . . . last night, I was so afraid our time had run out . . . that I had waited too long after all, and that I had lost you, and any chance we might have had to come together . . ."

"Kathryn, I tried time and again to tell myself I couldn't wait around forever for you to come to me. I tried to tell myself I needed to move on, to find someone else . . . I tried to do that, you know, more than once."

Kathryn nodded, looking away. Yes, she remembered.

"But every other woman pales in comparison to you, Kathryn. I can't even look at another woman without comparing her to you." He paused, but only for a moment. "And then, a couple of years ago, I decided not to try any longer. I can't fall out of love with you, Kathryn, I've tried. But I promised myself that if you and I were to have any chance at all, I would be here, waiting for you to come to me. I didn't want to be looking in another direction the one time you might decide to look in my direction."

"But why?"

Chakotay sighed.

"Kathryn, my life never had so much meaning before you came to be a part of it. I decided to simply be here for you, come what may. I can't live without you in my life. I know that. And so I decided to wait. Just sitting beside you on the Bridge, seeing that occasional mischievous look in your eyes, hearing your laughter . . . these are all things I won't give up, not willingly. I decided to wait, and enjoy your friendship in the meantime."

"And what if . . . I never came to you?"

"That was a question I refused to allow myself to think about. Kathryn, you have no idea how much I love you." He leaned over her then, and kissed her gently. "And you have no idea how much this feels like a dream to me."

She smiled.


"A dream that I'm afraid I'll wake from soon."

His words were soft, but Kathryn sensed the emotion he was trying to keep from his voice.

"Chakotay . . . " She gently pushed him away from her and stood.

Kathryn was completely naked, but she didn't try to cover herself. She walked away from the bed, then turned to look into his eyes.

"Maybe we do need to talk, after all. For a moment. I need you to understand something. I made a decision to allow you completely into my life. That isn't something I do lightly or easily."

Chakotay started to speak, but she walked to the bed and silenced him by putting her finger over his lips.

"Let me finish," she said softly. "This ship and her crew will always be my number one priority. It has to be. I made a promise the day I destroyed the Caretaker's array, a promise that I still have to work every day to try to keep. I will get this crew home, Chakotay, or die trying. That much hasn't changed. But what I have finally realized is this: I am stronger with you than I am without you. Captain Kathryn Janeway never thought she needed anyone; she thought she always had a choice about whether or not she allowed a man into her life. But this isn't about 'maybes' or 'buts' or 'somedays' anymore, Chakotay. We will never cross this sector again. And we may never get another chance to do this the right way."

Leaning over slightly, Kathryn kissed him gently on the lips.

"And no matter what happens from this day forward, I love you. That will never change. Our 'new' relationship will experience some growing pains, I'm sure. But I'm finally ready to face that challenge, knowing that we truly are stronger together than I could ever be, or ever have been, alone."

Kathryn placed both her hands on the sides of his face and sighed.

"I never wanted to need anyone as much as I've grown to need you, Chakotay. I'm still a little afraid of how insecure that need makes me feel sometimes, I'll admit. But I'm also afraid to lose you. And I don't want to try to live without you. Does this make any sense?"

"More than you'll ever know, Kathryn," Chakotay responded softly.

"Good. I think that's enough talk for now, don't you?" she whispered, leaning in to kiss him again, passionately.

"More than enough," he managed to say, before his mouth was covered by hers.

But then, just as their kiss was deepening, the commsignal on Captain Janeway's commbadge opened.

"Tuvok to Janeway." The sound was muted, and it came from the ground.

Kathryn jumped slightly, then immediately fell to the ground in search of her discarded jacket. Chakotay flew from the bed, seeing her jacket several meters away where he had slipped it from her shoulders only a short time ago. He turned and threw it to her, and she caught it in midair, then immediately touched the badge and responded.

"Janeway here," she said in her best command voice, and managing to sound completely in control, as usual.

"Captain, are you and Commander Chakotay all right?"

"We're fine, Tuvok. We've just taken the time to discuss some very important matters. We'll be back on the Bridge soon. Janeway out."

Both the Captain and the Commander looked at each other then, and when Chakotay saw Kathryn grin, he let out the breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding.

"So what do you think?" she asked him, still sitting on the ground, naked, amidst a pile of discarded clothing. "Think you can get used to having our lovemaking interrupted from time to time?"

"I think I'll have to get used to it, Captain," he replied, with a frown. "But I like to think I'm flexible," he smiled.

She smiled back at him, and held her hand out to him. Chakotay walked over to her and helped her to stand. They faced each other for a moment, and kissed each other gently.

"I have to go," she whispered.

"I know. So do I," he said.

"Shall we take a dip in the ocean to wash off?" she asked, stepping away from him.

"You go ahead, I'll be in shortly. I don't want to distract you," he smiled.

She nodded, her eyes twinkling, then turned away from him and began to walk toward the beachfront.

Gods, she was so beautiful. He never tired of looking at her.

And now that he had seen her love for him reflected in her eyes, made love with her, watched her face as she reached the peak of where his love had taken her, he knew he was complete.

Chakotay watched Kathryn walk to the water's edge, then move easily into the ocean. He had never felt so at peace with himself, or his place in life. He was meant to be with this woman, wherever their mission took them, whatever she felt her duty to be.

And he would help her keep her promise to get her crew home, because only when that was done would she be able to give herself to him completely.

But that was all right. For now he would take what she was offering him, and be glad for it.

And if they never made it home to the Alpha Quadrant, this would be enough.

Whatever she had to offer him would always be enough.


Feedback, please?