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S/HE
PG-13

It was just another dream and one she'd had a hundred times before.

This night, however, she didn't wake up in a sticky sweat with her groin cramped in frustration, forcing herself to breathe deeply. Nor did she smack her damp pillow back to a softer state and lay her head back down on it. This night she untangled herself from the twisted sheets and stumbled to the bathroom.

There was no joy in her reflection. Her heavy eyelids, tousled hair, and lips swollen from what looked like her own bite marks - these all added to her distress. She ignored the image of her nipples pushing against the restraint of the satin nightgown and turned away.

The icy water ordered from the replicator was pointless. If anything it made the entire situation even clearer. The part of her brain that was still 'the captain' hissed: Unacceptable! She cringed against it.

Why now? Why in the world should it all become clear at 0300 hours in the sixth year of their journey? Surely, by all that was Starfleet, she had a longer tether of resistance than six lousy years. Now they were both more hardened, cynical, stubborn and, yes, definitely more shopworn. Any hopes he had nurtured and any secrets she had buried should have been dead years ago.

But, apparently not. At least, not on her part.

The computer gave her the information she wanted. She cursed her weakness but listened to the emotionless data. Chakotay was in his quarters, presumably sleeping. He was alone. There had been many a night in the past six years when she had stubbornly refused to ask that question, knowing what the answer might be. Maybe if she had asked it more often she wouldn't be doing it now. But tonight there was no torturous wondering. He was alone.

She knew his entry code. All captains had well-trained memories, but this image was seared into her brain. She hadn't meant to watch but he didn't seem too concerned about his privacy and she didn't look away. She could still see his strong fingers tapping it out. Those fingers…

Another glass of ice water and she was still pacing. It wasn't supposed to take this long to walk it off. She was on duty at 0700. She needed sleep.

She wanted him.

::::::::::::::::::::

He was leaning on one of the struts that framed his reception room's viewport, eyes lost in the Delta Quadrant. His hipbones barely kept up his loose boxer shorts and she instantly knew his underwear regime. New shorts were underwear, worn ones were sleepwear, tattered ones were recycled energy. He seemed mesmerized by the flashing starlight in the great darkness of space.

He hadn't even responded to the soft sound of his door opening and closing. She had a horrible flash of fear; fear that he was expecting, or wanting, someone else. Movement was impossible.

"Are you sure, Kathryn? Because, if you're not you'd better run like hell."

Had he spoken? Was she hallucinating? His head turned to look at her and she saw those lips move. "I'll count to three…"

On four his hand wrapped around her wrist and she felt herself being propelled by the momentum of his entire body. Her gasp of shock when he crushed her against the transparent aluminum was swallowed by his devouring kiss. Confusion and pain dissolved like sugar in hot coffee. He was turning her insides to fire.

And then the kiss was over and he stepped back and looked at her. "I've dreamt of doing that for six years. Here in my quarters, against a lift wall, on your ready room desk, all over Voyager. Hell, even on the helm station, with and without Paris looking on. Now go. Get out of here, Kathryn."

"You want me to leave?"

"Yes. I want you to leave."

"Then why did you kiss me like that?" Her voice sounded weak and wounded even to herself. Most un-Starfleetish. Definitely not captainly. She didn't care.

It was the oddest laugh. Strained. Even a little strangled. "Are you kidding me?!"

"No. Yes. I don't know…"

"Why are you here, Kathryn?"

"I don't know."

"Sure you do. It's me who never knows what's going on and I'm too tired to play tonight. Go home."

"What if I don't want to?"

"You will in the morning. Come 0700 we'll be sitting on the bridge beside each other. At least we will be for about three minutes, until you realise that this was all a huge mistake. After that you'll hide in your ready room, your quarters, engineering, and assorted jeffries tubes until one day when we have to go to red alert. And, frankly, I don't intend on doing both of our jobs until that happens. Good night."

It was just a whisper but he heard it. "No."

"Kathryn, I'm warning you…"

"No."

It was strange how his eyes could change when challenged. They were calculating now, on edge and glittering. She knew from experience his tactical abilities in sizing up any situation. And, although he had never shared any description of his spirit guide with her, she still felt its presence in the room. She was being judged on all levels.

And then his eyes slowly closed and she knew he had deliberately stopped the process. He was giving her an out, allowing her best interests to supercede his desires.

She lost her temper. "Chakotay, stop it!"

Whatever happened now would cost them both in some manner, and she'd put the ball in his court.

He dropped it. "Good-night, Captain. I'll see you on the bridge tomorrow mor-"

She was already through his door and running up the corridor, leaving his curt dismissal to fall on deaf ears.

"Spirits, what have I done?" he whispered to no one.

::::::::::::::::::::

It had been a year of hell with sugar on top. Relations with her first officer were always cordial, but now there was a definite wall between them, and she knew she had created it. He had made conciliatory advances towards her but her own hurt and stubborn confusion had refused to allow their easy camaraderie to return. Slowly, as first the weeks and then the months went by, she withdrew into herself. And, then the Admiral appeared.

If she thought Chakotay was now hard to handle, he had nothing on her future self. There were no hidden secrets from this walking temporal paradox and she found even she was frustrated and confused by…herself. Eventually, she was convinced that the Admiral's proposed risk was worth it, if only to get rid of her. The older Janeway had blown photon torpedoes through all the walls she herself had created in the past months, and left her staggering under her raw wounds.

She finally admitted to herself that it had been her own behaviour that had been at fault. So, she invited him to lunch. He made excuses. That day she went to the messhall for lunch and overheard the gossip. A piece of her heart broke off and died.

She was almost bitter when the Admiral's plan worked. All her older self's planning, scheming, breaking every regulation in the book - not to mention laws - had actually worked. Voyager was home. The debriefings were finished, they were all declared heroes. And, now Chakotay was standing in the corner of Starfleet's ballroom talking to Seven of Nine. It occurred to her that, since her eyes had been opened that day in the messhall, she never saw either of those two without seeing the other.

In a moment of clarity her life became obvious. She was the admiral, of course, and the admiral was her. Being herself, the admiral had gone against many firmly held beliefs to help her younger self. And yet, being herself, she had been too stubborn to learn from her older and wiser future self.

God, she hated temporal mechanics. She wanted another drink, a full hypospray, and some blessed quiet; and she knew where she could find all three. She turned towards the ballroom's exit and headed towards the technical wing of Starfleet. If no one was in the transporter station, she'd do it herself. They could break her down to ensign; she just didn't care anymore.

::::::::::::::::::::

She found it oddly uncomfortable in her quarters on Voyager. For seven years these two-rooms-and-a-bath had been the only personal space she'd had. Very few of the crew had ever seen them and those who had understood the significance of that honour. Now, they were going to be open for anyone and everyone to inspect. The idea of turning Voyager into a museum hadn't quite registered with her yet. This was still her ship. These were still her quarters. As far as she was concerned, strangers traipsing through the corridors and poking around her ship would be unwelcome intrusions.

Just as she had been to Chakotay that night a year earlier.

She took a sip of her drink and, for the first time since that night, she allowed herself to remember.

She admitted to herself that she'd loved Chakotay for years. Before New Earth she'd acknowledged that she was attracted to him, but what woman wouldn't be? Somehow, though, during their forced stay on that viral planet, she had fallen in love with him. He had taken their exile in stride and turned it into an adventure. After the storm that destroyed her research, she had watched him settle down into a routine of building them a new life. Day by day a home developed around them. Then, one night after a warm soak in the bathtub he'd made for her, she'd heard the legend of the Angry Warrior. She had put him off that night, but more in fear of turning her back on Voyager and their crew than for what accepting him meant. He'd understood, as he always did, and didn't push. Her needs were always uppermost of importance to him.

She blinked. Her mind cleared for the first time in a year.

Her needs were always uppermost of importance to him.

She hadn't imagined it. He had wanted her that night a year ago, desperately so. He had told her as much when she arrived. He had given her every chance to say what he wanted to hear - had to hear to make it right for them both. And, when she didn't utter the words, he'd let her go for her own good.

Suddenly she needed to go back to his quarters where she'd made the biggest mistake of her life. The fact that she would be intruding on his personal space meant very little to her now. It wouldn't be long before everything of value to him would be removed to a new home he'd share with Seven, but she needed to see his Voyager home one last time. She could only hope that he hadn't changed his entry code. She put down her drink and left.

::::::::::::::::::::

The code was still active. She automatically breathed deeply as she entered, just as she always did. It wasn't logical, since she knew his credits didn't go to any form of cosmetics, but the air was scented with him. She loved how he smelled. It was warm, spicy, masculine, and home.

She walked around the common area in the starlight, sliding her hand across a smooth table, over the softness of his favourite chair, and around the few unidentified plants he'd nurtured since Kes left.

Her ball gown trailed after her, making her feel like a phantom Q wafting though the dimensions. Then, since this was the last time she'd ever be able to intrude like this, she turned towards his bedroom.

The first thing she saw was his bed. It was turned down in an invitation of comfort and love, and she remembered how he and Seven had been whispering together when she left the ball. She suddenly realised she would have to leave quickly before they returned. She started to turn toward the exit when a sound at the adjoining bathroom door startled her.

He was leaning on the door frame wearing only the trousers of his tuxedo. His hands were deep in the pockets, making the pants hang low on his hips. Her heart fluttered in a moment of deja vu as her eyes rested on those hips. This time there were obviously no boxers and she realised he'd quickly pulled the pants back on when she'd entered his bedroom. She heard her own deep breath and felt herself react to his presence. His dark eyes viewed her silently and then he spoke softly. "Good evening, Kathryn."

"Chakotay," she nodded in greeting. She took another deep breath and willed her nipples to flatten. If Seven of Nine was behind Chakotay in that bathroom and watching how she reacted to his simple appraisal, she would space herself. Or, the Borg.

He'd noticed her eyes shift past him. "She's not here."

Thank God. "Who?"

He ignored her question and just stared at her. "She's never been here." His eyes swept slowly down to the hem of her gown and back up via the slit that reached up to her thigh. From there the inspection became even slower until his dark eyes bored into her blue ones. "But, you are. Why?"

"I…" Seven years of rigidly forced habits kicked in and her voice faded away.

"Why are you here, Kathryn?"

"I suppose I just wanted to feel you around me for one last time," she whispered.

"Why?"

"Because we've worked and lived together for seven years and I'm going to miss you."

"Are you going somewhere?"

"They've threatened me with a promotion."

"You've earned it. So, where do you want to go?

This banter was hell. She was still having trouble admitting her feelings to her first officer. She'd had to be so strong for so many years. She swallowed hard and took the leap. "Wherever you go?"

"Interesting. I was going to bed."

Her eyes involuntarily shifted over to that inviting piece of furniture and then she felt the heat rise up and flush her entire body. She stood her ground, however. There could be no flights down the corridor this time. She turned back to look at Chakotay and watched his lips moving.

"I'll count to three…"

THE END


 

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