Bound

Summary: Captains have needs, just like everybody else. Even Vulcans agree. And this captain is lucky enough to have a very attentive, very capable first officer.

 

Characters: Janeway, Chakotay

Codes: Janeway/Chakotay

 

Disclaimer: Paramount/CBS own the Star Trek franchise, but what the characters do in the privacy of their own quarters, ready rooms or holodecks is their own business.

 

Notes: Set late in Season 3. This story is about sex. Lots and lots of sex. Some of the sex may not be your cup of tea, so please heed the warning.

 

Warning: Kinky stuff within. If you don’t like reading about consenting adults getting up to no good, you should probably read something else.

Rated E

Note: This chapter occurs just after the events of Worst Case Scenario.

=/\=

Chapter Five: Malfunctions

Day 13, 2015 hours, Captain’s quarters


By the time they’ve finished repairing the holodeck after Seska’s takeover of Tuvok’s security training program, Kathryn has all but forgotten about the infuriatingly random malfunctions. And she certainly hasn’t had time to be preoccupied with her confusion over her arrangement with Chakotay.

They’ve barely spoken over the past few days – at least not about anything unrelated to ship’s business – a state of affairs for which she finds herself unbecomingly thankful. That admission, in itself, annoys her. She’s never thought of herself as a coward.

Entering her quarters after a straight seventeen hours on her feet, she bypasses her usual stop at the replicator – for once, even the Doctor’s vocal exasperation at her caffeine intake hasn’t increased her desire for the substance – and drops onto the couch, settling her feet on the coffee table with a sigh.

“Computer, play music selection Janeway Theta Two.” She closes her eyes in anticipation of the peaceful strains of Chopin –

– and promptly leaps upright as Klingon opera fills the room at top volume.

“Computer, stop playback!”

The echoes of Lukar of Qo’noS ring in Kathryn’s ears, loud as the silence. “Janeway to Torres.”

~Yes, Captain?~ B’Elanna sounds breathless.

“B’Elanna,” she says through gritted teeth, “there’s something wrong with the computer command processors.”

~What’s happened?~ B’Elanna’s tone is all sharp efficiency now.

Kathryn takes a moment to silently apologise to her chief engineer for – probably – having interrupted a close, personal reunion with her boyfriend, so recently emancipated from near-death by holodeck. “Oh, nothing serious. Just a little quibble over the computer’s choice of music selection.”

~Captain?~

“Just send someone to investigate it, would you?”

~On my way. Torres out.~

“I didn’t mean –” Kathryn sighs as the comm goes dead, “that it had to be you.”

B’Elanna appears, still slightly flushed, at her door minutes later. “What happened?” she asks.

“I ordered the computer to play Chopin and it decided to treat me to a rendition of Kahless the Unforgettable.”

“Oh.” B’Elanna cringes. “Right. I’ll take a look.”

She opens her tricorder and moves over to the panel set into the bulkhead. “There’s definitely something interfering with the command processors. And I’m detecting a power spike, just like with the other malfunctions.” She shuts the tricorder. “Permission to go to Engineering?”

Kathryn has already disappeared into her bedroom, donning a fresh uniform and wishing she had time for a sonic shower. “Hold on a moment, B’Elanna. I’m coming with you.”

“I can handle it, Captain,” B’Elanna protests. “You need rest.”

“I’ve got a theory,” Kathryn answers grimly as she emerges from her bedroom. “Come on.”

 

=/\=

 

2130 hours, Engineering


“Run the scan again. Level Three this time.”

B’Elanna shoots her a frustrated glance, but reactivates the sequence that will scan the computer processors for technological interference.

“Nothing,” she reports moments later.

Kathryn forces herself not to sigh. “All right. We’ve ruled out the possibility of a virus in the processors.”

“Why are you so convinced this was all caused by a virus?”

“Seska,” Kathryn answers abruptly. “If the past couple of days have taught us anything, it’s that she was ingenious and extremely sneaky. If she managed to find and interfere with a security program Tuvok thought he’d deleted, who knows what else she was capable of? What knows what other nasty little time-bombs she might have left for us?” She stands, rubbing her aching temples. “Think, B’Elanna. When did these problems begin?”

“A bit under two weeks ago,” B’Elanna answers. “Right after we left Latavan.”

“Latavan,” Kathryn repeats, mouth twisting. “Well, haven’t they managed to cause a lot of trouble?”

“Captain?”

“Never mind.” She waves a hand, then stops mid-motion, eyes widening. “Lieutenant, when did you start using the pergium we obtained from the Latavine?”

“Stardate 50933,” B’Elanna answers. “We had to purify it first, so it took a couple of days before we could pump it into the power relays.”

“Purify it,” Kathryn repeats.

“Yes. I modified one of the spare dilithium chambers in Cargo Bay One to act as a purification processor.”

“Had you ever used that chamber before?”

“No,” B’Elanna answers, staring at her, and Kathryn can almost see the moment realisation strikes. “But I do remember asking Seska to inventory Cargo Bay One shortly before she left the ship. She reported that she’d stored the dilithium chambers in a more secure container in the cargo bay to prevent accidental damage.”

“Retrieve that chamber,” Kathryn orders, mouth firming. “I suspect our Cardassian troublemaker might have taken the opportunity to conduct a little extra sabotage.”

“Ashmore,” B’Elanna calls.

The dark-skinned ensign appears at her side. Kathryn looks at him, remembers the profane acts she performed with the hologram who resembled him, and has to force herself not to flush.

“Go up to Cargo Bay One and bring me all the spare dilithium chambers from storage, including the one we used to refine the pergium. Get Boylan and Dell to help you.”

“Aye, Chief.”

Kathryn turns back to the console as Ashmore walks away. “Janeway to Tuvok.”

~Yes, Captain?~

“I need you in Engineering, Lieutenant.”

~On my way.~

 

=/\=

 

It’s well past 0400 by the time Kathryn, Tuvok and B’Elanna are satisfied that they’ve detected and eradicated all signs of Seska’s virus. B’Elanna has sent her teams to purge every affected system – which is almost all of them – and Kathryn orders Tuvok to undertake a thorough scan of all the computer pathways just in case there are any other Cardassian surprises lying in wait.

Tuvok accompanies her back to the bridge. In the turbolift, she leans against the wall, allowing her eyes to close, hoping for a brief moment to recharge.

“Captain.”

Her eyes open.

Tuvok is watching her with one eyebrow raised. “By my calculations, you have been on duty for almost twenty-four hours. Might I suggest you return to your quarters?”

“It’s a nice idea, Tuvok, but I have reports to file. And I need to be certain we’ve uncovered all of Seska’s meddling.”

“Reports can wait until morning,” he replies. “And I will inform you immediately should my investigation uncover any further sabotage.”

She glares at him. Then, ~Chakotay to Captain Janeway.~

“Yes, Commander?”

~Captain, I’ve been reliably informed that you’re on your way to the bridge.~

“That’s right.”

~I can’t give you orders, Captain, but I’d strongly suggest you go to bed instead. I can handle things up here.~

“Are you two in on this together?” she demands, fixing Tuvok with a stare as dangerous as her tone of voice.

~If you’re referring to Tuvok, then no, it was B’Elanna who told me you’d been in Engineering with her for the past six hours. Please get some rest, Captain. For all our sakes.~

She can’t help the slight twitch of her mouth at his gently amused tone. “Fine. I know when I’m outnumbered. Janeway out. Deck Three,” she adds, and the computer chirrups, coming to a stop at her deck.

“Captain,” Tuvok calls just as she’s stepping out of the ‘lift.

“Yes?” she sighs impatiently.

“I have noted that your coffee consumption has increased substantially over the past several days, and that you are exhibiting signs of hypertension. If I may be so bold, I would strongly suggest you reinstate your previous regimen in order to maintain your mental and physical health.” He pauses. “I am certain that the commander would be willing to assist you.”

She turns on him abruptly. “Didn’t I tell you this subject was closed?”

“You did.” Tuvok inclines his head. “Nonetheless, my duties as security officer include ensuring your continued wellbeing. I am simply fulfilling that function. And, as your friend, I am concerned for you.”

“I see.” Kathryn pinches the bridge of her nose. “I appreciate your concern, Tuvok. And,” she forces herself to grit out, “I’ll take it under advisement. Good night.”

Despite her exhaustion, she’s so riled up at being outmanoeuvred by her officers and subjected to Tuvok’s excruciating brand of concern that even after a long hot-water shower and a mug of hot chocolate, she finds herself tossing and turning in bed. The tension headache seems to be worsening, sending shooting pains into her neck and shoulders, and for a brief moment she even considers going to Sickbay. Shaking off that terrible thought, she lies back and forces her breathing to slow and her mind to drift.

I’d kill for a massage right about now, she thinks, and instantly a sense-memory of Chakotay’s warm hands kneading her shoulders makes her sigh. She reaches up to prod at her neck, trying to release the tension, but her slender fingers are insufficient to the task. Exhaling, she allows her hand to drift over her chest. As her fingertips brush over her nipple she gasps, a wave of heat prickling through her.

Forget the massage, she reflects. I’d kill for those hands just about anywhere on me.

She lets her hands trail lower, over her stomach as she imagines his weight settling over her hips, imagines him propped on his elbows as he parts her legs and drops his head to rub his cheek against her naked inner thigh. Kathryn’s eyes close, her fingers sliding under the band of her panties, dipping into her gathering wetness. She circles her clitoris with the pad of her thumb, wishing it was his tongue, and pushes three fingers inside herself, curling them upward they way he does so skilfully. The angle is difficult, and her hand cramps, but as the pulse of her arousal increases, she perseveres.

It takes time and constant shifting to ease the ache in her hand, but eventually she brings herself to orgasm and lies back panting for breath, her limbs losing their stiffness as she drops down through the first layers of fatigue. Her last thought before she sleeps is that, despite their never having made use of a bed, hers feels empty without him.

 

=/\=

 

Day 15, 1105 hours, Ready Room


“Enter.”

Chakotay steps into the ready room, hair slightly tousled and face creased with weariness, and holds out a PADD. “Tuvok’s report. All scans have come up clear. If Seska’s left any more nasty little surprises, he can’t find any sign of them.”

“Thank you.” She studies it quickly, then looks up at him. “You look like hell, Chakotay. When did you last get some sleep?”

“Day before yesterday,” he shrugs. “You look slightly better rested than the last time I saw you.”

“I caught a few hours’ sleep,” she agrees. “And thank you, by the way, for forcing my hand on that. I was ready to drop.”

“You’re welcome.” He smiles and heads for the replicator. “Coffee?”

“Oh, yes please. Help yourself as well.”

She picks up the coffee he brings her with one hand, the other holding her PADD, and takes a reflective sip.

“Lieutenant Torres’ report,” she tells Chakotay, indicating the PADD. “Apparently, Seska encoded the spare dilithium chambers with what B’Elanna calls a worm virus. When the pergium was refined in the modified chamber, the virus adhered itself to the pergium’s energy signature and lay dormant until the pergium was introduced into the ship’s energy matrix. It self-activated as it was disseminated throughout the ship’s systems.”

Chakotay’s face darkens. “If Seska wasn’t already dead, I’d take pleasure in wringing her Cardassian neck right about now.”

“It wasn’t your fault, Chakotay.”

She was my fault. I brought her on board.”

But there’s no heat in his words – they’ve had this conversation before, after all – and she lays her hand lightly over his.

Usually, at this point, they’d share a brief smile and get back to work. This time, unaccountably, her hand lingers, and he turns his palm upward to gently clasp her fingers.

Kathryn stares down at their joined hands and doesn’t want to pull away.

“Kathryn.”

“Yes?” she asks, still looking at his big dark hand enclosing hers.

“I want to see you tonight.”

All the reasons she should decline march through her head like so many tin soldiers, but, “Tonight,” she finds herself saying. “Yes.”

“1930 hours?”

“Yes.” She bites her lip. “But not on the holodeck. I don’t have any time rations left, and besides, I’m a little nervous of it after the past few days.”

“Dinner at my place,” he decides, and stands, letting his hand slip from hers. “I’d better get back to the bridge.”

“Take the afternoon off,” she says impulsively. “If you don’t mind me saying, you could use a nap.”

“All right.” He smiles at her and she tries to ignore the fluttering in her throat at that warm, dimpled grin. “Tonight, then.”

“Tonight.”

She turns back to frown at her computer, resisting the temptation to watch him leave.

 

=/\=

1940 hours, First Officer’s quarters


She’s late, and irritated at herself for it, and especially irritated at the reason for her lateness. Seven changes of outfit, she rebukes herself darkly, as if this was a date, for spirits’ sake.

And it wasn’t as though she had an expansive wardrobe to select from in any case. In the end, she’s forced herself to settle for a loose-fitting tank and casual trousers – ones he’s seen her in dozens of times – and hopes that the rather impressive bottle of wine she’s carrying will divert his attention from her appearance.

Not that I want him to notice my appearance, she reminds herself sternly. This is Chakotay. She shifts her feet outside his quarters, trying to gather the equilibrium to request entry. This is my first officer. My closest friend.

This is your lover, another inner voice points out.

She refuses to think of him in that way – it’s uncomfortably intimate – and then rolls her eyes at herself. As if what they’ve been to each other, what they are to each other, isn’t intimate.

She squares her shoulders and presses the chime.

“I was beginning to wonder if you were planning on standing out there all night,” Chakotay teases as he opens the door.

Kathryn lifts her chin and sails past him. “Neelix is making pot roast tonight. Maybe I was just debating whether the mess hall was a better culinary choice.”

He snorts. “You realise the meat in his pot roast is Talaxian otter?”

“What?” She waggles the wine bottle. “I hear it goes well with a nice ’53 shiraz.”

“Not as well as my mushroom risotto,” he promises, and ushers her to the table with a flourish.

She watches him as he uncorks the wine, pours, moves around the tiny kitchenette stirring and tasting and ladling. She watches the play of muscle under his T-shirt, his long strides and deft movements, the way he seems so easy in his skin. Chin propped on her hand, she lets her mind drift, filling with pictures of the way he moves when they’re naked together, of his delighted, dimpled laugh when she says something he finds funny, of the intensity in his eyes when he tells her she’s beautiful.

“Hungry?”

She starts, elbow dropping off the edge of the table as he places a bowl of risotto in front of her. “Starved,” she manages, gulping her wine to hide the colour in her cheeks.

He settles opposite her and holds up his glass. “To thwarting saboteurs.”

“To less interesting times,” she agrees, smiling.

His own smile fades and he searches her eyes. He puts his glass down and rests his arms on the table, and she knows immediately that he’s about to question her.

And she knows he’s going to ask her the same questions she’s been so determinedly not asking herself, so she picks up her fork and says brightly, “This looks delicious,” and he eases back in his chair, taking his cue from her.

He’s giving you what he thinks you need, just like always, that inner voice harps. And how often do you give him what he needs?

“Shut up,” she mutters.

“I didn’t say anything.” Chakotay sends her a strange look. “You okay?”

“Fine.”

They eat in silence – a silence that stretches her nerves thin and coils the tension tightly in her neck and shoulders. When she puts down her fork he does the same.

“Dessert?” he asks. “Or would you rather go straight to coffee?”

“Actually… I think I’d rather have something stronger.”

“All right.” He studies her for a moment. “There’s the rest of that bottle of Antarian cider. Or I have some Ktarian brandy.”

“I’m kind of in a whiskey mood.”

He raises an eyebrow. “I still have the Midleton you gave me for my birthday.”

“Well, then,” she collects their plates and carries them to the replicator, “if you don’t mind sharing it with a friend, let’s crack her open, Commander.”

“Who better to share it with?” He waves her to the couch and she curls up, watching him pour a generous couple of fingers into tumblers. He brings the bottle with him as he settles beside her. “What should we toast to this time?”

She shrugs. “To friends?”

“To friends,” he smiles.

They sip, and she places her tumbler on the coffee table and reaches around to rub at her neck.

“Sore?”

“It’s nothing.” She pulls her hand away. “I’m fi-”

“Fine. I know,” he rolls his eyes. “Come here.”

Kathryn hesitates. This is a bad idea, she tells herself. You know what happens when he puts his hands on you. And that’s not what you came here for.

Liar, snorts her inner voice.

“Kathryn?” Chakotay’s voice is gentle. “It’s just a neck rub. It doesn’t have to be anything more.”

Irritated at the way he’s read her inner struggle, she rolls her shoulders impatiently and turns her back to him, shifting closer on the couch. “By all means, Commander.”

She’s stiff as an admiral’s dress uniform when he smooths her hair over her shoulder and rests his hands on the curve of her neck. But as his warm fingers ease slowly into the knots cramping her shoulders, the tension starts to slip away. By the time his hands slide over her shoulderblades, her eyes are closing, her head dropping forward. She sighs.

“Nobody does this like you do.”

He presses his thumbs along her spine. She can hear the smile in his voice as he replies, “How many other hapless crewmen have you conned into giving you massages?”

She snorts. “As if I’d let anyone else touch me like this.” Then, “Well, apart from the Doctor. But his massages are purely therapeutic and definitely not enjoyable.”

“Then I’m glad I can help you enjoy yourself, Kathryn,” he murmurs.

“You really are, aren’t you?” she finds herself saying, lifting her head. “Everything you do is designed to make my life easier.”

“It’s in my job description.” His fingers press lower along her spine, warm palms spreading over the base of her back.

“Maybe,” she says softly. “But who looks after you? Who makes your life easier?”

“Well,” he answers, voice light, hands sweeping back up to her shoulders, “I suppose I could ask Tuvok to rub my neck for me.”

She smiles despite herself. “I’m serious, Chakotay. It upsets me to think of you expending all your energy on keeping me comfortable and getting nothing in return.”

“Kathryn –” He places his hands on her shoulders, turning her back to face him. “Where is this coming from?”

It’s harder to say it, facing him, but she forces herself to try. “Since the day you agreed to be my first officer, you’ve done everything you can to keep me happy and healthy. You offer me your frank advice but always support my decisions, even when you disagree with them. You dig your heels in when I want to lead dangerous away missions, but you’re flexible when you can tell I need time off the ship. You take the burden of crew appointments and reports.”

“And as I told you, that’s the job of a first officer.”

She pins him with her stare. “You cook for me just to make sure I eat. You make sure I rest and don’t drink too much coffee. You bring me thoughtful gifts to cheer me up and you’re always there to listen when I need to talk. You rub my neck, Chakotay...”

“All of which falls under my other job description as your friend.”

“Really?” She bites her lip. “In that case, our friendship would seem to be a little one-sided.”

“Not true.” He takes her hands. “Who noticed I was exhausted this morning and gave me the afternoon off? Who brings me books she thinks I’ll enjoy? Who learned to box just so I’d have the chance to spend more time with her and get some exercise as well? Who always gives me the time and space to explore my traditions and spirituality, and is interested when I talk about them?”

“Oh,” she says, surprised.

“If you think I don’t get anything out of our friendship, Kathryn,” he brings their joined hands close to his chest, “you’re wrong. Our friendship means everything to me.”

Those damned tears that never seem far away these days are prickling at the back of her throat again. Kathryn frees one hand and raises it to cup his cheek. “Oh, Chakotay,” she chokes out, and reaches up to kiss him.

She can feel his surprise in the moment of hesitation when her lips touch his. But she deepens the kiss, sucks lightly at his lower lip, licks into his mouth, and he shudders and parts his lips for her, his free hand sliding under her hair.

His hands don’t roam further, although he matches the growing intensity in her kiss. She’s the one, in the end, who lets her fingers drift over his chest, who pushes his T-shirt up to flatten her hand against his skin, who climbs into his lap to press against him as she tangles her tongue with his. And she’s the one who pulls back to gasp, “Bed.”

“Are you sure?” he searches her eyes. She nods, so he gathers her in his arms and gets to his feet.

She presses open-mouthed kisses to his neck as he walks them into his bedroom. He sets her carefully on her feet and bends to kiss her again, hands smoothing over her shoulders, lips following their path. She raises her arms so he can remove her tank top, helps him pull off his T-shirt and steps back into his arms to press as much of her skin to his as she can.

“Kathryn,” he whispers, burying his face in her hair, and she moves her hands to the fastening of his pants, pushing them over his hips with his shorts until he steps out of them. He returns the favour, untying the drawstring of her trousers, and they fall to her feet. She feels the hard ridge of his erection against her belly, the fine trembling in his arms as he pulls her closer, lifting her on tiptoes so he can find her mouth with his own.

She pushes off her own panties and kicks them away, and he walks them backward, lowering her onto the bed. She pulls him down onto her, welcoming his weight, her arms and legs coiled loosely around him. Chakotay dips his head to suck her nipple into his mouth and she whimpers, pushing herself into him. “Please,” she whispers, “I need you inside me.”

He makes a sound, a cross between a growl and a sigh, as she tilts her hips to allow him to slide into her, feeling herself stretch to welcome him in. When he’s buried inside her as far as he can go he holds still, his eyes meeting hers. She reaches one hand up to trace the lines of his face, so familiar to her now. So dear.

“Kathryn,” he says again, and she says, “Yes.”

His fingers entwine with hers, his other arm holding her close as he moves slowly inside her, never breaking eye contact. Emotion swells inside her, making her catch her breath and preventing her from looking away. It’s so intense, so intimate, that for a moment she’s afraid. But there’s something in his eyes – in the way he’s looking at her – and the fear dissolves.

She feels him thrusting harder, rubbing deliciously up inside her, his breath quickening as he nears orgasm. And she realises she doesn’t even care if she comes this time – what matters is that he’s filling her, surrounding her, his hand clasped in hers and his gaze fixed on her face. But her body has other ideas, and so does he.

Chakotay shifts slightly, changing the angle of his thrusts, and she gasps as the now-familiar feeling begins to overtake her. Her limbs quiver, her body begins to shake, the pleasure gathers and wells and spreads out from low in her belly, and as her climax rushes over her like a fire-flood Kathryn cries out: “Chakotay… I love you –”

One of them gasps in surprise just as Chakotay’s orgasm takes hold of him, but she’s not sure whether it’s his gasp or hers. She feels him filling her, the muscles in his shoulders quivering as he holds himself above her, his hand clenching on hers. Then consciousness returns to his eyes and they lock onto hers.

“Kathryn –”

Fear rushes back in and before he can say anything further, she wrenches her hand from his and squirms out from underneath him, knocking him onto his side in her haste. She’s yanking her pants on and tugging her tank top over her head before he’s even made it off the bed.

“Kathryn, please wait!”

“I have to go,” she cuts him off, shoving her feet into her slippers and rushing through the door, ignoring any further attempts to stop her.

 

=/\=

Day 17, 0930 hours, Ready Room


It’s amazing, really, Kathryn ponders as she sips from her fourth cup of coffee that morning, how two people who regularly spend a large portion of their time together – both on and off duty – can manage to completely avoid one another.

Well, she has to amend, not that Chakotay started out trying to avoid her. But after the first thirty-six hours of her leaving rooms just as he enters them, cutting off his comm calls before he can get to subjects not directly ship-related, and dismissing him from her ready room the instant he’s finished giving his reports, he’d got the message. And, without a word, he’d acquiesced, giving her the space she needed.

Just as he always does.

The headache that seems ever-present these days throbs at her temples again, and she wonders idly if it’s caused by excess caffeine, lack of sexual release, or a guilty conscience. Probably all three, she sighs.

She gives up on pretending to read Harry’s operations report and leans back in her chair, eyes closing. Sleep has been difficult to come by of late, as well. Hardly surprising, snarks her annoyingly persistent inner voice. Considering you confessed to your first officer that you’re in love with him.

And then ran away like a coward.

She’s honestly not sure which is worse: realising how she feels, actually telling him, or being unable to find the courage to face it head-on.

Her door chimes, and she straightens in her chair, calling “Come,” just as she remembers B’Elanna has asked for an appointment at this time. The young engineer enters, head buried in a PADD, and starts speaking without looking up.

“Captain, I’ve drawn up some plans to convert part of Cargo Bay One to a mineral refinery. If you wouldn’t mind looking them over –” She glances up and stops short. “Are you all right?”

“What?” Kathryn blinks at the lieutenant.

“You look pale,” B’Elanna answers. “And tired, if you don’t mind me saying. Should I call the Doctor?”

“God, no,” Kathryn waves a hand dismissively. “I’m fine, B’Elanna. You were saying?”

“If you’re sure.” B’Elanna hands her the PADD. “We’d have to set up the refinery at the rear wall of the cargo bay so we can tap into the power conduits in Jeffries tube 65-beta. We’ll need to set up forcefields on a rotating frequency during the extraction procedures to avoid contaminating the bay, but we can re-route a few extra relays to do the job.”

“Good,” Kathryn says absently. The words on the PADD blur before her tired eyes. “How will you stabilise the shielding in that area?”

“Uh,” B’Elanna stares at her, “like I said, we’ll use a random frequency rotation – Captain, are you sure you’re okay?”

She rubs her forehead again. “Just a headache. I guess it’s affecting my ability to concentrate.”

“You need to go to Sickbay,” B’Elanna says firmly.

Headache or no, the glare is still fierce enough to quell a half-Klingon. “I’ll look these plans over and get back to you, Lieutenant. Dismissed.”

“Fine,” the engineer mutters as she turns to leave. “God forbid you actually admit you need anything like us regular mortals.”

The door swishes shut behind her, and Kathryn stares at it, open-mouthed.

But I’m the captain, she rails internally. I shouldn’t need anything. Or anyone.

The headache drills nauseatingly into her temples and she has to concede it’s fast turning into a migraine. One that won’t get any better without treatment.

Sighing, she stands, holding onto the desk as her balance sways sickeningly, and steps out onto the bridge. She forces her voice to remain light as she tosses out, “I’ll be in Sickbay. You have the bridge, Commander,” and doesn’t break stride all the way to the turbolift. “Deck Five,” she mutters, slumping against the bulkhead as the doors start to shut.

A strong hand stops them before they can close all the way, and someone steps into the ‘lift with her.

Kathryn steels her spine, forcing her eyes to open and her mouth to form a greeting. Then she realises who’s entered her turbolift.

“Chakotay, what are you –”

“Save it, Kathryn.” He holds up a hand. “I’m escorting you to Sickbay. You look like you’re ready to collapse.”

“I don’t need –” This time, she stops herself. “Thank you,” she says quietly. “I appreciate it.”

He stands silently beside her, giving her as much privacy as he can as she struggles to remain upright and composed. When the ‘lift stops on Deck Five, he places a hand under her elbow and ushers her gently into Sickbay.

“Computer, activate EMH,” Chakotay orders.

“Please state the nature – Captain!” The Doctor’s eyebrows almost reach his non-existent hairline, then he glances, eyes narrowed, at the commander. “Are you here voluntarily? Or should I place you on a biobed in restraints?”

She’d roll her eyes, but her head hurts too much. “It’s just a migraine, Doctor. Commander Chakotay was kind enough to escort me here.”

“Well, it’s no wonder you’re suffering migraines again, what with your grievous inattention to your own physical health –”

“Doctor,” Chakotay intervenes calmly. “Just the treatment, if you would? Now is hardly the time for lectures.”

Kathryn sends him a grateful glance as he helps her sit on the edge of a biobed, and the EMH sniffs and bustles around, preparing a hypospray and gathering a tricorder. “Very well,” he mutters, scanning her. “Far be it from me to lecture you, Captain. But I must insist that you find some way of drastically decreasing your stress levels. Surely there’s some pleasurable activity you could undertake on a regular basis as a way of relaxing and recharging?”

Her face burns as she studiously gazes at her own clasped hands. “I’ll take it under advisement, Doctor. In the meantime –”

“Yes, yes. The hypospray.” He applies it to her neck and she sags in relief as the medication enters her bloodstream, relieving her headache almost instantly. “You’re free to go. And Captain,” he calls after her as she leaps thankfully down from the biobed and strides for the door, “Ensign Swinn has a yoga holoprogram I highly recommend –”

The doors close, cutting him off, to Kathryn’s relief. Chakotay shadows her into the turbolift. This time he faces her, watching her as she calls for the bridge.

“Halt turbolift,” he orders when it becomes clear she’s ignoring him.

“What is it, Commander?” she asks abruptly, still smarting from her encounter with the Doctor.

“I’ve been thinking,” he launches straight in, “about our arrangement. And I have to conclude, based on the past few days, that it’s having an adverse effect on you. It was supposed to relieve your tension but you’re more stressed out than ever. And it’s clearly affecting our ability to work together, not to mention our friendship.” He clasps his hands behind his back. “I told you before that there’s nothing more important to me than that. And I want my friend back.”

“So what are you saying?” It’s hard to force the words out through her suddenly-tight throat, and it’s even harder to meet his gaze.

“I’m saying,” he answers quietly, “that I don’t want you to feel you have to avoid me anymore, Kathryn. I’m saying that I understand what you said the other night was said in the heat of the moment. I know it isn’t what you meant, or how you really feel. And I don’t want you to feel uncomfortable around me because of it. So can we agree to forget it – forget all of it – and go back to being friends?”

“So you’re saying,” she swallows hard, needing to be sure, “that you don’t want to continue our arrangement? You don’t want to have sex with me anymore?”

Something passes through his eyes, but he suppresses it before she can be sure of what she’s seen. “Oh, I want to have sex with you, Kathryn. Believe me, I do. But I’m saying that it seems to be a choice between that, and us being friends. And I choose your friendship.”

“I see,” she says tonelessly.

“So,” he says, clearly trying to smile, “I have the holodeck booked for an hour tomorrow night. How about we try out Ensign Swinn’s yoga program?”

She stares at him, forcing back inexplicable tears. “Sure,” she answers, ordering the corners of her mouth to turn upward. “Sounds great.”

He nods, turns to face forward. “Computer, resume ‘lift,” he says, and they ride to the bridge in silence.

 

=/\=

2200 hours, Captain’s quarters


Too tired even to order soup, Kathryn starts to strip off her uniform as she enters her quarters, leaving the pieces of it strewn across her furniture and not even caring. “Computer, sonic shower,” she orders listlessly, and steps under the sonic waves, closing her eyes.

He’d said that her friendship meant more to him than sex, and that it was a choice between one or the other. She doesn’t know why that hurts. Why she wanted to protest when he said it.

Why it felt wrong.

“Sonic off,” she mumbles. She steps out, wanders into her bedroom and opens her bureau, pulling out a pair of soft flannelette pyjamas she knows Chakotay would tease her about if he saw them.

She sits before the mirror, brushing out her hair.

He’d said he didn’t want her to feel uncomfortable around him because she blurted out something she didn’t mean, in the heat of the moment.

He let me off the hook, she realises, the brush slowing its strokes.

She’s always suspected how he felt about her. She’s known since that first night in the holodeck that he loves her. And yet he’s pushed that aside, dealt with whatever conflicted emotions he must have had about their arrangement, just so that he could give her what she needs.

What she thought she needed.

And as soon as her own feelings grew conflicted – as soon as she began to feel uncomfortable – he’d stepped back. Because he thought that was what she needed from him.

Whatever he truly believes – that she told him she loved him because she was caught up on the verge of orgasm, or because it’s the truth – doesn’t matter. She didn’t want to face it. So he let her off the hook.

Kathryn lets the brush drop out of her hand.

Staring at her reflection, she forces herself, now, to face the truth. He’s been giving all of himself in every way that he can, for so long she’s come to take it for granted. She pushes him; he gives way. She pulls him; he follows. She falls; he’s her soft place to land.

She takes and takes, and he gives her his all. Because he loves her.

And against all her best efforts, against all her personal rules and heart-guarding parameters, she loves him back.

Kathryn picks up her commbadge and presses it with shaking fingers. “Janeway to Chakotay.”

~Chakotay here.~ He sounds calm, professional with a hint of affability. Ready to give her whatever response, whatever version of himself she requires.

“Could you come to my quarters, Chakotay?” She can’t stop her voice from breaking a little.

~Of course,~ he answers instantly. ~I’m on my way.~

She’s still sitting at her vanity table, commbage resting in her palm, when the door chimes. She allows the entry and he steps into her darkened quarters, stopping midway into the living room.

“Captain?”

“In here,” she says quietly.

Cautiously, he enters her bedroom. She swivels on her stool, facing him.

Chakotay takes her in: bare face, loosened hair, faded pyjamas. “Kathryn?” he asks tentatively.

She looks down at her hands, twisted in her lap.

“I tried to ignore it, you know,” she says, as though continuing a conversation they’ve never had. “I’ve been setting limits and parameters for myself – for us – since so early in this journey I can’t even remember when I realised I’d have to. And sometimes I got confident, or careless, and I’d relax them a bit at a time. Or a whole lot of them in a rush,” she concedes, and looks up at him.

He’s standing several steps inside the bedroom doorway, listening intently, and she can see the tension in his shoulders. She rises, moving toward him.

“Somewhere along the line,” she continues, “it became less about remaining separate for the sake of the ship and crew, and more about protecting myself. It wasn’t until New Earth that I started to realise protecting myself might be less rewarding than opening up to you. And I was on the verge of it, Chakotay.” She stops directly in front of him, eyes fixed on his. “Did you know that? Did you know I was this close to falling in love with you there? Or,” she confesses, watching him swallow, “admitting that I already was.”

His lips part, and she reaches up to rest her fingertips on them.

“Let me finish,” she pleads. “This isn’t easy to say.”

Chakotay nods, a smile starting under her fingers.

“I think I’ve loved you without consciously realising it for a long time. Longer than I’d like to admit, probably, especially considering I have – had – a fiancé back home. And I don’t just love your body, or what you can do to mine, in spite of how things appeared the other night. I love you, Chakotay. I love your loyalty and your kindness and your intelligence and your stupid sense of humour. I love the way you look out for B’Elanna and how you encourage Harry and the way you give Tom enough latitude to be himself. I love the way you care about every member of this crew, the way you know all their hobbies and peculiarities and the people they’ve left at home. I love the way you even try to get along with Tuvok for my sake.”

The smile is at full width now, and she gives into her impulse to press her thumbs lightly into the indents of his dimples and cradle his face in her hands.

“I could list all the things I love about you, especially the things you do for me, but we’d probably be here all night,” she says, smiling back at him. “And to be honest, I have other plans for tonight. That is, if you’re amenable.”

“Do those things include letting me tell you I love you, too?”

“I was hoping you’d mention that,” she almost giggles in relief. “You do, don’t you?”

“If you had any idea –” Instead of finishing, he dips his head to capture her mouth with his own.

When they finally break apart, gasping for breath, she’s almost light-headed with need.

“Let me show you,” he whispers, leaning his forehead against hers.

“No,” she shakes her head. “You’ve been showing me all along. It’s my turn to show you.”

Kathryn guides him toward the bed, tugging his clothes off with purpose until she can admire him in all his delicious, golden nakedness.

“Lie down,” she orders, and he complies. She strips off her pyjamas and climbs on top, straddling his hips.

“You’ve been in control this whole time,” she murmurs as she leans down to kiss him sweetly, drawing his hands up above his head as she presses her body against him. She circles her hips purposefully, feeling him groan at the sensation of her wet flesh grinding against his erection, and she takes the opportunity his distraction affords her to lean down and rummage in her nightstand.

“Now,” she straightens up, “just lie back and enjoy.”

The delighted, anticipatory grin that splits his beloved face as she clicks on the handcuffs is almost as thrilling as the knowledge that this, being with him, is, always has been, exactly what she needs.