ARISEN

By Char.

Rated NC17
Disclaimer: The characters belong to Paramount and are not mine, only the story.
Summary: Chakotay is down and Kathryn comes to the rescue.
Thanks for the beta, Shayenne.

"I'm FILTHY!" Kathryn exclaimed. "For an engine room that looks so clean, there's a remarkable amount of dirt to be gathered, don't you think?" The grimy-faced captain entered the turbolift with her first officer. His black and red uniform was nearly covered with dust, his face was smudged, and his hair held a fair amount of dirt.

The command team usually did not assist with maintenance in engineering, but the electrical system needed extensive repairs after enduring several ion storms. All hands were needed and both the captain and Chakotay had worked hard crawling around in Jeffries tubes repairing wiring and inspecting damage. The hands-on experience had been exhilarating for the captain and a welcome respite from reading reports. It left her in a playful mood, and her friend felt the positive change.

As the lift started to move, Chakotay turned toward Kathryn and took a good look at her. He chuckled low in his throat at her appearance and shook his head slowly as if in reprimand. "You really love crawling around in the bowels of this ship, don't you? It shows all over your face." He reached his greasy hand to her face and smeared their combined filth across her brow and down to the tip of her nose.

"Hey, keep your dirt to yourself!" Laughing, she batted at his hand. "I have more than enough of my own to contend with, thank you!" If his appearance was any indication, she knew she looked a sight.

Glancing at his hand as he pulled it away, he added, "I don't know about you, Kathryn, but I'm splurging on a real shower. Water rations be damned. It'd take the sonic shower an hour to slough all of this grime out from under my nails."

"I believe you're right. A real water shower is the only way to go here. My dirt has dirt on it."

"What? No bath?" He clasped his heart in mock horror. "Kathryn, I'm surprised...this amount of dirt should give you the perfect excuse for a long soak."

"I'd only be bathing in muddy bubbles! No thanks. A shower it is." They exited the lift and walked slowly toward their quarters. Enjoying the relaxing banter, neither one of them wanted it to end.

They reached her door first and she keyed in her entry. Chakotay watched her back and smiled softly at her happiness and good humor. There was a slight pause that wasn't the least bit awkward as she faced him and tilted her head up to his smile. "Have a nice shower, Chakotay," her smile mirrored his. Then a sharp look crossed her face as she poked a finger into his chest. "And don't use all the hot water! We share the same heating unit and I am right next door, remember?" He thought he detected a slight leer in her smirk as she disappeared into her quarters.

*******

Kathryn immediately peeled the dirty uniform from her body as she walked to the bathroom, and hit the shower within seconds. Relishing the hot water streaming over her, she watched the dirt roll down the drain. Once she loaded her sponge with the amber-colored soap, Kathryn began a thorough scrubbing. The dirt clung to every centimeter of exposed skin. No matter how many times she wiped her face, she pulled back a rag with grease covering it. Realizing she had missed a show by not looking at herself in the mirror before her shower, the captain remembered Chakotay's finger gliding across her brow. This thought, of course, led to others of a pleasing nature. Her hands ran over her breasts and moved slowly around her stomach before she became aware of the amount of time she had remained under the water. Uh-oh! How would it be if she herself depleted the hot water stores after threatening Chakotay? There would be no end to the teasing. The water now ran clear so she quickly dipped her head under the heat once more.

Kathryn reluctantly closed the tap. Seconds later, she heard the muted sound of the water on the other side of the wall start up and she smiled. It was so like Chakotay to allow her the water pressure of their shared pipes before he himself had a scrub. Because of the common wall between their bathrooms, she knew that he sometimes sang in the shower. Before drying off, she stood silently and listened a moment to hear his voice.

As she dripped, Kathryn couldn't help but imagine him standing under the running water and facing into the stream. He would soap up his body as she had her own and she indulged in the fantasy of seeing him at this very moment. Tawny skin with large hands gliding over it...

It came to her in a flash that if she was imagining him in this fashion, he might very well have been picturing her moments ago as he waited for her to finish. The thought was a bit unsettling, but completely erotic. Rare were the days when she allowed her mind its present course. Quite disciplined in her fantasy life, Kathryn was mostly successful at keeping these thoughts at bay.

Kathryn knew that Chakotay's feelings for her ran deep and that he had actually loved her once. It had been a long time since their exile on New Earth. She thought...no, she hoped that he carried the memory of their short time together in his heart as she did. Kathryn had been on the verge of admitting her feelings for him when they had been 'rescued' from their paradise and returned to the suffocating command structure once again.

New Earth was a treasured recollection she dusted off from time to time and permitted herself to mentally visit. Pulling out her memories, she recalled his hands on her neck, their fingers entwined over the table, his laugh ringing through the trees at her delight with gardening. They had been like shy adolescents, slowly circling each other, always narrowing the gap between them. Pleasured by the lazy dance of their courtship, they had taken time to savor the only beginning they would have. They had been on the precipice of fulfilled passion but both of them wanted to savor the short season of wonder a bit longer. Kathryn blushed in spite of herself, shook her head to clear the images, and reached for her towel. It was different now. They were on Voyager and enjoyed each other's company, but things were definitely different. They had to be.

As she stepped from her shower a powerful electrical surge nearly knocked her down and her quarters were plunged into darkness. The hair on her arms stood up and she heard a brief crackling in the air. On the other side of the wall she heard a loud thump and knew that Chakotay's large form had hit the wall and perhaps the floor. He was down and she heard nothing else.

"Chakotay!" She banged the heel of her hand on the wall.

No response.

"Chakotay! Commander!"

Still wet, she fumbled in the dark until the emergency lighting powered up and bathed the room in a soft glow. Grabbing the first piece of clothing she found, Kathryn wrapped a short silk robe around herself. As she ran past her strewn clothes and dresser, she noticed her comm badge and slapped it to her chest. "Janeway to sickbay! Doctor, transport Commander Chakotay to sickbay immediately! I think he's unconscious! The power surge caught him in the shower!"

EMH here, Captain. I'm afraid we have several people down because of the surge. Transporters and lifts are off line and we have only emergency power shipwide. The water may have acted as a conduit for the electricity.

As she flew to her doorway, the exit ignored her approach. Kathryn punched in her override and manually forced the door open enough to squeeze through. Bolting to her first officer's door, she heaved at it until it allowed her to dart toward the back of his sleeping quarters.

"Chakotay! Are you there? Chakotay!"

Then she saw him. The water in the shower continued to run over his still form. A moan escaped her throat as she noticed his bluing lips. Quickly leaning in to close the tap, Kathryn drew back soaked through, her heart in her throat. With a strength that belied her size, the captain grabbed the large man's arms and dragged him out from the shower stall into the cramped space of the bathroom before she knelt her head to his chest. No breath, no heartbeat. "No! Chakotay! Breathe, dammit!"

Her fist slammed down on his solid chest with anger and she listened again and felt for the vein at his neck. Nothing. She slapped at her comm badge. "Doctor! He's not breathing, no heartbeat! I'm starting CPR. Get someone up here, NOW!"

I'll send Lieutenant Paris. Sick bay is full. It will take him time through the tubes. Continue CPR until he gets there. EMH out.

With no room to kneel next to his body, Kathryn straddled Chakotay's waist and angled her head around to attempt mouth to mouth. She lifted his neck and pinched his nose closed, sealing her lips around his. The position was awkward, but it would have to do. After the breaths, she then began the rhythmic sequence of pumping his heart for him. Six compressions. Then sitting back up, the sequence began again. Four breaths to fill his lungs with air. Her wet hair hung over his face as she breathed for him and checked him each time while her training took over. Compressions. Her lips on his. There was no sound in the room but the slow dripping of the shower, her breath filling his lungs, and the grunts she made as she compressed his chest. Working on him in the muted emergency lighting, Kathryn noticed nothing but his continued lack of vitals and the job she was trained to do.

Minutes passed with no change but the steady rhythm of her limited medical skills. Compressions. Breaths. Check for signs.

Kathryn felt the tears begin to form.

She pressed on his chest and felt the salty wetness drop from her chin onto his already wet face as she filled his lungs with her air. "Don't die, Chakotay. Please don't. I can't do it without you." A giant sob followed her whispered plea.

Compressions. Breaths. Compressions. Breaths. Time stood still.

"Chakotay! You WILL NOT DO THIS! Live, damn you!"

Glistening with sweat and the water from both of their showers, Kathryn began to shake.

Compressions. Breaths. Compressions. Breaths.

The Commander was a big man. The only way to get the leverage that she needed to perform the CPR was to use her weight as well as the force of her arms. Her considerable strength was seeping away with the strenuous work.

Her arms shook from the exertion. Kathryn's face tensed in concentration as tears continued to roll down her face, mixing with the water running from her wet hair. Gulping in air, her breaths became sobs as she fell to his chest in exhaustion. Almost imperceptibly, Chakotay's chest rose and fell.

Kathryn froze. Her ear swooped to his mouth as her hand curled around his throat.

A heartbeat. A breath.

She leaned in and watched as his eyes slowly opened. Laughing and sobbing at the same moment, her tears fell on his face.

"Kathryn..."

"You're alive? Chakotay? Oh, God, you didn't leave me..." She kissed his face near his mouth and raised up. Her hands drew across his chest as she offered her silent thanks for the heart beating within. "I thought you were dead. I...I thought you'd left me alone..."

"I told you I'd be here for you." His gruff voice made him sound as if he had been asleep. Asleep! Hell, he'd been dead for several minutes. Kathryn leaned down again and filled her nose with the scent of him and her hands with the softness of his skin. Not exactly lying on him, she bent forward onto his chest and felt her heart slow a bit as she accepted the reality of losing him and having him return all in a few minutes. Feeling raw from the ordeal, Kathryn tucked her head under his chin and cried quietly. Living without Chakotay in her life was a pain she wouldn't have to endure. This time. What if there were a next time?! Who was she kidding? Death waited around each corner for them. The only time guaranteed was the present.

As Kathryn struggled to regain some semblance of emotional control, Chakotay took inventory of his surroundings. Remembering his delayed shower, he realized that he must have suffered some sort of cardiac arrest. The electrical jolt existed on the periphery of his memory. Out of the shower, the captain had run to his rescue and brought him back from the dead. He had been dead...she'd told him that.

"Kathryn. Was it a power surge? What did this?"

"Yes...electrical...we must have crossed a few wires down in engineering, huh?" Her small cry was meant to sound like a laugh, he knew.

"How long was I out?"

"Several minutes. At least five, maybe more," she sniffled. "I didn't happen to have my chronometer with me at the time."

This abruptly called to his attention the fact that she wasn't wearing much of anything else, let alone a timepiece. Wrapping his arms across her back, he reached and stroked her hair. "You're wet," he choked. "I just got out of the shower. You were IN the shower."

"I see."

"Don't do this to me again. I can't take it."

"If you recall, I know exactly what you've been through, Kathryn."

She remembered that Chakotay had once watched her die and attempted to revive her in much the same way. How hellish it must have been for him.

"Then let's resolve not to do this to each other again, okay?" She snuffed again and raised her head slightly to look at his face.

Friction of skin crossing skin caused a slight shudder to run through her as her chest rose inches from his. Her breasts hung over his and his groin tightened at the feeling.

His face, with the color restored, looked up at hers. Kathryn couldn't resist closing the distance between them with a soft, grateful kiss. She meant it to be nothing. Not nothing, but a small, affectionate token. She had, after all, spent so much time during the previous minutes pressing her own mouth to his. Those curved lips, blue with loss of blood. Dead for all time. Her horror at his lack of response previously, allowed her to take no pleasure in touching him. She hadn't been able to relish the fullness of his mouth, the solid chest, the beautiful body under hers. This felt completely different and the contrast between this touch and the one before shocked her. Kathryn felt Chakotay's hand close around the back of her head and bring her lips to his a second time. More heat this time.

His hand slid to her face and pushed her open mouth away from his.

"Let me see you, Kathryn..." Maneuvering his palms under her shoulders, he pushed her up to a nearly upright position as she sat on him. His eyes ran down her body and back up to her face. "You're so beautiful." For the first time since she heard the thump of his body hitting the floor, she realized exactly how she looked, how she must have looked to him, and how she would look to anyone else, for that matter. The captain straddled the form of her wet and naked first officer wearing nothing but a soaked bit of silk. Her hair still dripped. The tie on her robe had come unfastened from the frantic work of the past minutes. Chakotay noticed. His eyes darkened and his large hands reached up to touch her face. He tucked a strand of dripping hair behind her ear and let his eyes move down her body once again.

Watching him look at her, Kathryn felt the places on her torso where his eyes wandered. Prickles of heat scorched her skin as he took her visually.

His eyes met hers again.

"I want to see all of you..."

At this, his hands moved to her shoulders and caught the edges of silk with his thumbs. Slowly, he peeled the wet fabric from her and moved it down her arms until it stopped at the inside of her elbows.

"So fair, Kathryn, like cream..."

Chakotay's eyes followed his hands down and watched her body as it appeared from under the robe. He swallowed and looked back up into her eyes where he saw his desire reflected in them.

She felt the head of his penis swell under her and subtly straightened and inhaled at the sensation.

Before she had a moment to chastise herself for what was happening, Chakotay had his hands firmly on her thighs and with a sudden grunt shoved her back across his groin several inches. Feeling his hardness directly under her opening, she gasped and slightly raised up on her knees to protest. The movement of her body provided him with the opportunity of space and, at that, his hand slipped between her legs and directed his flesh into hers. Only his tip had entered her, but with hands on thighs again, he pulled her down and forward slowly until more of her skin surrounded him.

Her body wasn't ready for the intrusion. She could feel that he was more than ready, though. The thought of what was happening beneath her caused a rush of fluid and heat to where he begged entrance.

Her knees gave out, either from fatigue, shock, or desire, and shaking, she sat back suddenly and imbedded him completely inside her warmth. Both of them moaned and locked eyes.

Chakotay's hands moved from her thighs to her hips, and he ground her down on him.

"Oh, Kathryn. I feel like...I'm home..."

Kathryn's mind was reeling. The relief at watching him come back to life had left her unable to cope with her emotions. She realized that this was wrong on so many levels but could not bring herself to stop what was happening.

Then fear began to chip through the haze of adrenaline loose in her arteries. He was dead a few moments ago. His heart stopped for God's sake! This should not be happening. Oh, but it was! Finally it was happening...

"Chakotay...oh...I don't think...we should be doing ...this..." she moaned between the words. Her hands pushed against his chest, but that only made things worse. "This...can't be good for you...right now...oh!"

His hands moved her against him, lust building in his face and hers.

"Kathryn you know I've wanted you since I met you. You know it. You want me, too. Tell me..."

"No...Stop... You've got to stop... Chakotay..." Kathryn tried to protest as she lost herself to the moment.

***********

After crawling through Jeffries tubes faster than he thought possible, Tom Paris arrived at the entrance to the Commander's quarters. The door was open a crack and he slipped through, dragging his med kit with him. He had no idea what scene he would find upon entering. He had steeled himself for the possibility that the Captain had failed in her attempts to revive her first officer. He would find her weeping over his body, growing cold beneath her. What he didn't expect to find was a nearly nude Janeway atop a completely nude Chakotay, both moving in a way that did not exhibit a shred of grief.

"Chakotay...we can't...no...not safe," she rasped as her face fell back and her body betrayed her words.

"I need you...now...I'm not going to stop...Let me do this..."

What to do, what to do? All of his medical training screamed for him to break up this scene. It was entirely probable that Chakotay's heart would give out under the strain it had experienced and was soon to experience. She was right. Not a good idea. But Janeway didn't look much like she was trying to stop either one of them. Paris grit his teeth and slid from the shadows closer to them.

Kathryn had lost all control of her body and was feeling the release of six years' worth of pent-up longing and lust for her friend. She rolled with the physical pleasure she was experiencing as her body arched forward and back, her hips undulating with the movement of Chakotay's.

Meanwhile, with all of the courage he knew he didn't possess, Paris moved nearer to the couple, but to his horror and relief, they didn't notice him at all.

"God! Chakotay! Oh yes, I'm so close..."

The sound of a cleared throat cracked like a gunshot in the room and Tom Paris' voice added firmly, "You need to stop."

Kathryn's head jerked up as she snatched at the wet robe pulling it up around her shoulders. The eyes of her helmsman were averted as he fumbled in his bag for the medical tricorder.

"This is suicide with your heart in its weakened state, Chakotay. I'm sorry..."

"Ever heard of knocking, Paris?" Chakotay's voice was like nails. He was still inside of her but had ceased grinding himself against her.

"Well, yeah, but I had no idea what I'd find in here, Commander. This really isn't even close to what I expected." Paris fiddled with his medical equipment, his back to the door of the bathroom, turned to give them time and privacy to separate. He prattled on a bit to cover the time and ease the tension. "I lost my comm badge in the Jeffries tube and by the time I realized exactly what I WAS hearing, I knew it needed to stop. I said I'm sorry...No one knows how much I hate to interrupt this, but you can't do this right now, you got it?"

Kathryn was mortified. Not only had she been caught riding her first officer by a member of her senior staff, but she was doing so to the obvious risk of his life.

Now for the worst part of all. She couldn't move. Her legs were completely asleep from the hips down. She'd been in the same position for what felt like a lifetime and was literally held captive by her own body. Holding her red face in her hands, Kathryn sunk low on Chakotay's chest.

Sufficient time had passed that Paris felt sure things were in better position for the Commander's exam. He turned to see his Captain still astride Chakotay, face in hands.

Softly, sensing her embarrassment, "Captain, you need to get up now..."

Between the fingers covering her face Kathryn whispered, "Tom...I can't move. My legs are asleep. Oh, God...you're going to have to help me up." Her voice was only a squeak.

Oh, yeah, this would be fun. Talk about an embarrassing moment. No betting pools for this scenario. Such a shame. It was too damned good to keep to himself! But Paris knew that Chakotay's reaction to such a breach of trust would make a Cardassian torture camp look like Risa, the pleasure planet. The only bright part was that he was about to lift his lovely Captain, wet and barely covered, flushed from desire, unable to stand without his strong arms. It was too good to believe. Janeway was hot and he was here to see it!

Stepping into the small space, Paris put a foot on either side of the commander's chest, knelt down and placed his hands under Kathryn's arms. Her eyes held his for a short moment and then averted, shame taking over again. Paris lifted her, slowly, and brought her to her feet, where he swept his arm under the crook of her legs and made his way to the bed, a few feet away. As he set her on the edge of the bed, she grabbed a pillow and pressed it to her stomach. Paris turned to see Chakotay attempt to sit up, and then fall back, clutching his chest.

"Chakotay! You okay?" Paris barked.

"A few ribs out of place, is all."

"I've never known a manual CPR that worked and didn't crack ribs. She's stronger than she looks, huh?"

Tom stepped into the bathroom and grabbed a towel, tossing it to Chakotay, still sprawled on the floor. The overhead lights fluttered a bit and came on strong, the soft glow of the emergency lights extinguishing at the same time.

Janeway's comm badge chirped.

Doctor to Janeway.

"I'm here doctor." Her voice was weary. "Commander Chakotay is conscious, Paris is here, but they need a transport to sickbay."

Affirmative. Transporters back online. Two to sickbay? .

"Yes. I'll be in my quarters and you can find me on the bridge after that."

'Probably be two or three years before we see her again,' thought Paris.

Kathryn waited until the transporter beam had completely vanished. Then she slowly rose and walked to her own quarters.

************

The captain dressed and made her way to the bridge. She had no idea what the next few days would bring, but she was not looking forward to it. Repercussions aplenty, that was for sure. How could she have been so weak? How would she ever get herself out of this one? And Tom Paris, for God's sake. Of all the people to show up at the wrong time. That her face would be this hideous shade of red for the next 35 years was a given. But Chakotay...he would hate her after this. She could already see his face at her feeble attempts to explain her way out of this without losing the familiarity that she loved. 'Who am I kidding? He'll never let us enjoy our friendship again.' It wouldn't be enough for him. He'd take it as an insult. Her grief at this loss was a bitter pill to swallow, but she could see no way out of it without losing her closest friend...his respect. Too much to think about...

The captain exited the turbolift and walked directly to her ready room. "Call me if there is an emergency, Tuvok. I don't wish to be bothered."

"Aye, Captain."

Once the doors swished shut behind her, Janeway blindly found her way to her desk and buried her face in her hands.

*************

An hour later, Tom Paris breezed onto the bridge and made his way to the ready room door.

"Lieutenant Paris. The captain does not wish to be disturbed."

"I bet she doesn't. I'll take complete responsibility, Tuvok." He never broke his stride and pushed the call button with authority.

His resolve began to fade a bit. She didn't answer the call for a long moment.

Inside, Kathryn knew exactly who had the gall to disturb her when she specifically left her guard-Vulcan in charge. Now Paris really had it on her. She'd never have the least bit of control over him again, what with this little tidbit. Infuriating. This had to stop now.

"Come!"

Paris sighed inaudibly and entered like he owned the place.

"Captain. I came to report on Chakotay's condition. I assumed you'd want to know how he was doing."

"Yes. How is the Commander?" She barked out her words while keeping her eyes on the PADD she had picked up right before she summoned him.

"He's fine, resting comfortably. The doc says there's no permanent damage and he should be able to return to normal duty within a few days."

Still looking at the padd, frowning, "That's good to hear. Thank you. You're dismissed, Lieutenant."

"Not so fast, Captain. I have a few things I'd like to say, first, if you don't mind."

The edge to her voice was unmistakable. "As a matter of fact, I do mind. I've had a trying evening and I don't think having a heart-to-heart with you will make my evening any less trying at this point, Mr. Paris. Please leave."

"I never pegged you as a coward, Captain. I guess I was wrong..." Tom turned to leave, but not quickly. He was hoping she would rise to the bait.

"I guess I am a coward, Tom." Her voice was steel. "I'm sure my embarrassment over this... situation...gives you a good deal of pleasure. However, I myself am in hell! " She slammed her fist down on her desk knocking the PADD to the ground.

Tom turned to see her flaming skin and eyes right before she buried them in her hands, gouging at the sockets with the heels of her hands.

He was immediately at the side of her chair, kneeling. Tom tentatively reached for her arm, startling her with his proximity.

His voice was soft and tender along with his expression. "This gives me no pleasure, Captain. I know just how you feel."

She remained with her face in her hands. A bitter laugh escaped between her fingers. "I doubt you have any idea what I'm feeling..."

"But I do. Captain? Can I tell you a story?"

She stiffened at his words. "Just leave me alone..."

"I will, after my story. It might help you understand something."

His hand closed around her forearm. "I was sixteen. I'd been nuts over this girl for months. She wouldn't give me the time of day. God...Gloria Martin. She had the prettiest brown curls that went all the way down to her... I couldn't believe my luck when she finally said she'd go out with me."

Perhaps it was Paris' tone that made Kathryn raise her head to meet his eyes. She found herself amazed at the sincerity she saw. His hand remained on her arm and she left it there.

"I knew I wanted her to be the one. I felt like I was the oldest virgin at my school-- not for lack of trying, you understand!" He chuckled at the memory of himself in heat, following the girls around. "I just hadn't succeeded in finding a willing partner, ya see. Anyway, Gloria and I spent the evening watching holovids in the living room. My folks left us alone when they headed to bed. Things started happening. We were necking pretty hard." Tom cleared his throat. "Next thing I knew, I had her panties off and my jeans around my knees." His face pinked a bit, but he kept going.

Kathryn couldn't believe what he was telling her and she really couldn't believe that she was listening.

"There we were, me kneeling in front of her, she was leaning back on the couch. I thought I'd DIE I was so lost in the sensation of the thing. I had her legs were up in the air... Right before I, um, well, I was close to, you know, I hear my dad bark, 'Thomas!' Here I was, between Gloria's legs, pumping away, and I turn to see my dad and my mom standing there in their robes. My mom yelped and ran out of the room. My dad just stood there, glaring. Gloria was grabbing at her clothes. I was frozen. Dad said, 'See your date home! Now! I expect you in your room within 10 minutes!' Gloria didn't wait for me to show her home. I guess she knew where she was going. It was weeks before I could look at my mom."

She looked at him softly, and then narrowed her eyes sharply. "You made up this story to make me feel better, didn't you?"

"I wish I'd made up this story. No. Every word is the absolute, teeth-curling truth. Swear to it, Captain."

"Legs in the air, Tom?" Kathryn chuckled incredulously.

Coloring yet again, Paris admitted, "I think I'd read that one in a, uh, magazine, and thought I'd impress her a little."

"I can assure you, it definitely made an impression."

"Yeah, for my dad and mom, too." He closed his eyes and shook his head, scrubbing his face as he attempted to clear the mental picture.

Kathryn stood up and pulled Tom to his feet. She walked around to the other side of her desk, head down. Tom followed her and stood behind her. She turned to him, tilting her head up to meet his eyes.

"Thank you for telling me. It did kinda help...At least...well, you're not my father...I bet Owen was fit to be tied!"

"Yes, he was...and you're welcome."

"I can't believe I saying this, but, in light of that story, I guess...of all the people on Voyager, I'm glad it was you who...found us."

"Can you imagine the doc beaming in on that scene?" Tom straightened his shoulders and did a pretty good impression of the EMH. "'Captain! That is NOT how you perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation!'"

She couldn't help but laugh. "Yes. That would have been a sight worse. "But you know, Tom, this is so complicated. I don't know how Chakotay will get past this. I can't let this affect our working relationship."

"Wait. I'm not finished with my story. You haven't heard the most important part."

He moved over to the couch under the viewport and sat, leaning back comfortably and crossing his leg over his knee. "Let me tell you the rest."

Paris waited for the captain to sit next to him before he continued.

"The worst part of the whole thing is how Gloria reacted to it. She withdrew completely and wouldn't have a thing to do with me. I was so in love with her and she couldn't get past the embarrassment. As far as I know, she never told a soul. But she never spoke another word to me, either. Oh, we spoke, when it would have been too weird to not speak. You know, when other people were around. But she shut herself off from me in every way. I was devastated. It took me years to get past it. In a way, I never really did."

"I'm so sorry, Tom. That must have hurt."

"You can't do that to him, Captain. You know he loves you."

"Tom..."

"AND, I know you love him, too. You may be able to hide how you feel about Chakotay from him, the crew, even from yourself, but I know better."

"Oh, really? I'm glad you think you know me so well, Mr. Paris." She stood and began pacing in front of him.

Paris' words were forceful. "I've known you longer than anyone on this ship, Captain...Kathryn. And you've known me just as long. You forget that I was there the last time you were in love...I'm not talking about that guy, Mark, that you brought to visit my folks a couple of years before we ended up here. It was clear that you two cared for each other, but I didn't see that you were head over heels for him."

"Mark is wonderful. I didn't deserve him."

"No. You didn't. But you did deserve Justin. That was his name, right? I was at your engagement party, remember?"

"That was so long ago."

"But you loved every breath he took. That was obvious to everyone there."

"Yes. I guess it would have been..." "But you love Chakotay in the same way, no matter how hard you try to hide it. It's there." "It doesn't matter, don't you see, Tom? It can't work for us out here. I have a ship to run. I can't be sleeping with my XO and expect no repercussions, you know. I have a job to do! I have to get us home."

"Ha! You think you don't already love him and do your job? How have you handled the trip so far? Okay, maybe things haven't been perfect, but it's worked out."

"If I were to enter into something with Chakotay, the entire command structure would be ruined, you know that..."

"If you DON'T let this thing happen with Chakotay, your command structure is shit, Captain. You know he'll withdraw. No working relationship. No friendship. We'll all be miserable. He'll hate you if you pull away now. You know it, don't you?"

"Yes..." She ducked her head and when she raised it her eyes were bright with tears.

"How do I do it? How do I throw away everything I know to be right about command?"

"You just do it, Captain. Keep it a secret. Let it out in the open. It doesn't matter. But it has to happen or we'll lose him. You know he came close to jumping ship a few times after your return from that little paradise." Her stricken face told him she did not know. "B'Elanna told me..."

"No. I didn't know that." She paused. That news hit hard. Kathryn knew they had experienced a rough patch after New Earth, but she didn't know Chakotay had been quite so distraught enough by it to leave her and Voyager. "Thank you for telling me. It does affect how I'll handle this."

"Don't handle it. Just go to him. Let it happen. Tell him you won't shut him out. I knew by looking at him down in sickbay that he's in hell, too. It doesn't have to be that way. Don't be a Gloria..."

Kathryn paced to her desk, obviously deep in thought.

"Tom."

Paris stood and walked across the room to stand in front of her. Kathryn cupped his cheek in her hand. "I'm proud of who you've become. Thank you for being a...friend to me. I really needed one. And your Gloria missed out on a lot, I'm sure." She stood on tiptoe and kissed him on the cheek.

Pulling away from him, her expression changed immediately and he saw that her mind had already been made. Kathryn Janeway was not one to pussy-foot around a tough decision. She turned back to Tom and her manner was businesslike and urgent at the same time.

"Where is he? Is he still in sickbay or did the doctor release him to his quarters?"

"He's still with the doc. I asked the doctor to find a few more tests to run and keep him there a while longer. I figured he might get an escort to his cabin if all went well..."

"Am I THAT transparent, Tom? You knew you could get me to...go after him?"

"I was hoping, Captain, but I never bet on you acting in any predictable way, no."

She turned on her heel and marched out of her ready room with Tom right behind her. "Tuvok. You have the bridge. I'm going to check on our patient in sickbay. Mr. Paris, the helm, please."

***************

The last person Chakotay expected to see waltzing into sickbay was Kathryn. He, like Tom, had assumed that she would hole up in her ready room for the next several months, greeting them both perfunctorily, at best. He was in the process of steeling himself for her wrath, shame, or indifference. But when she immediately locked eyes with him, her words were for the doctor.

"How's our patient doing?"

"Fine, Captain. He's as good as can be expected for someone who experienced death a short while ago. I've monitored his heart rhythms and he has recovered quite nicely. Excellent CPR, by the way. He has you to thank for being alive as well as for three cracked ribs. He'll be sore for a couple of days. Are you here to take him to his quarters?"

"Yes, if he's free to go."

It was odd enough that Kathryn had managed to come down here herself to check on him, but Chakotay couldn't believe the eye contact. Her eyes bore into his throughout the exchange with the doctor. Amazing. She was an amazing woman.

She tore her eyes away from his to wander down his form. Chakotay wore sickbay sweats and a grey t-shirt. "Nice outfit, Commander. Although I really liked what I saw you in last."

"Kathryn?"

"But then, you look good in just about anything...or nothing." A sultry look crossed her face.

Chakotay's eyebrows shot up. No, he hadn't missed her meaning. And she made sure that he hadn't. Well, well. This was playing a bit differently than he had expected. Quite a bit differently. Both of them missed the curious look the EMH gave the pair.

"Are you up to a walk, Commander?" She offered the crook of her arm.

"I think I can manage." He linked his arm with hers.

"Commander Chakotay." The doctor blocked their exit. "You are on bed rest for the next three days. After that, you can resume normal physical activity. And don't stick your finger into any electrical outlets in the meantime."

They exited sickbay and began their walk back to Chakotay's quarters. Was it his imagination or was Kathryn walking a bit closer than normal? Of course, with their arms linked, it was impossible not to walk closely, but the familiarity seemed a bit more...familiar.

They exchanged a few smiles in the turbolift, but no words. As they approached his quarters, they stopped in front of the Captain's quarters. She keyed in her entry code and indicated that he should join her inside. They stepped in until the doors slid shut behind them.

"I just need to get a few things. It'll only take a minute." She walked off into her sleeping area and he saw her pull a familiar silky robe from the clothes recycler. She slipped into the bathroom and grabbed a toothbrush, rolling it in the robe. She placed the whole thing inside the front of her jacket. Then she joined him near the door. "I travel light."

"Am I to assume that I'll have company during my recovery?"

"You may indeed, assume all you want, Chakotay."

They started to leave her quarters when Kathryn stopped in her tracks. "Oh. I forgot something. Computer--what is the location of Commander Tuvok?"

Commander Tuvok is on the bridge. A smile.

She tapped her comm badge. "Janeway to Tuvok."

Tuvok here.

"Tuvok. I need you to prepare this week's duty roster, as Commander Chakotay will be unable to do so."

Yes, Captain.

"I will be assisting Chakotay with his recovery and I need you to write us both out of the schedule for the next...Chakotay, how many days are you to remain on bed rest?" "Three."

"Then I need you to write us out of the schedule for the next four days, please."

I will do so, Captain.

"Thank you. Janeway out."

She wasn't finished. "Computer--locate Tom Paris."

Lieutenant Paris is on the bridge.

"Good." Another smile.

She tapped her comm badge again. "Janeway to Paris."

Paris here! He sounded choked up, as if he had been laughing.

"Wipe that grin off your face, Tom." She couldn't hide the smile in her voice.

I'll definitely try to, Captain, but I'm making no promises!

"Good enough. Janeway out."

She turned to Chakotay, finally. "Now. About THAT grin, Commander..." She poked one of his dimples with her finger.

"You never fail to astonish me, Kathryn." He pulled her into his arms, dipping his head down to hers.

"Oh, no, you don't. Three days, Chakotay. If we start this now, I'll have you on your back, risking your life again."

"It'd be worth the risk."

"No, it wouldn't. I want to have you around for a long, long time. We rest for three days, and on the fourth...well...we'll figure something out..."

Fin.

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