Social Lubricant

Summary: Never come between a captain and her coffee.

 

Characters: Janeway, Chakotay, EMH, Paris, Kim, Seven of Nine, Tuvok

Codes: Janeway/Chakotay

 

Disclaimer: Paramount/CBS own all rights to the Voyager universe and its characters, which I am borrowing without permission or intent to profit.

Notes: My prompt from Helen8462 was the picture at left (or above, if you're on a phone). The sabotages are:

Sabotage 1: story must contain a diplomacy scene where J and C are not on the same page

Sabotage 2: one of them gets hurt

Bonus: somehow, coffee causes drama

Rated T

Part Two

The third day, 1300 hours

 

Well. One thing my senior staff failed to mention in their reports on Sopho was the utterly ridiculous costume.

 

I glare at my reflection, twitching irritably under the second-skin outfit. It’s made of some kind of iridescent lime-green, wet-look latex and looks like a scuba suit covered in slime. The feeling of it on my skin is repellent.

 

Narrow transparent tubing criss-crosses the suit from my shoulders to my hips, back and front, and a separate piece twines around each leg to the ankle. On my feet I’m wearing what I can only describe as pointy rubber slippers. Worst of all is the headpiece, which looks like a swimming cap with a rubber chinstrap and has JANEWAY printed in violet on the back of my skull.

 

God. The things I do for coffee.

 

Setting my shoulders, I stride with nonchalance out of my quarters, ignoring the wide eyes of each crewman I pass, and present myself to the transporter room.

 

“Energise,” I order, and pretend I don’t hear the helpless laughter from the transport operator as I dematerialise.

 

 Prefect Dipi is waiting for me, wearing a supercilious smile, as I rematerialise in the Mandrin transport station. His smirk widens when he sees me.

 

“Ah, Captain, I see you’re already in the spirit of things,” he offers. “Have you studied the game guidelines I sent you?”

 

“Guidelines? I thought they were rules, Prefect.”

 

He offers his arm and I take it reluctantly. “The first thing you need to learn about Sopho,” he pats my arm a touch condescendingly for my liking, “is that the best contestants know how to bend the rules.”

 

Now he tells me. Ah well, it’s not as if I’ve ever been the greatest stickler for protocol, after all. Except, of course, for the protocols I really hate.

 

Dipi leads me to the anteroom just outside the auditorium where the first game of the tournament will begin in half an hour, hands me a mallet, and introduces me to my new teammates. There’s a baker’s dozen of them, and I forget most of their names immediately, but I figure it doesn’t really matter since they won’t be my teammates for long. I wonder how soon I’ll be able to start backstabbing them.

 

Because I fully intend to be the one holding the trophy when this is all over.

 

A bell tinkles somewhere and all the Sopho players scramble upright, forming up in two lines in front of the huge double doors leading into the auditorium. I attach myself to the back of my team’s line, heft my mallet experimentally and breathing evenly to curb the adrenaline rushing through my body. The doors swing slowly open, and as the first players run into the auditorium they’re greeted by a deafening cheer.

 

I take in my first sight of the target zone and have to suppress an ‘oh, boy’.

 

It’s huge, dome-shaped, with transparent walls criss-crossed with plaited ropes of some kind of silvery, flexible material. Some of the ropes extend through open space; I can only guess these are used by the players to propel themselves around in the zero-gravity environment. There’s one large target at the apex of the dome, one in the centre of the floor and several dotted around the walls, but I know as the tournament proceeds that number will decline.

 

“You ready for this, Janeway?” hollers Tojo, the self-appointed captain of my team, as we run into the target zone.

 

Maybe it’s the atmosphere – all those thousands of people crammed into this auditorium, and millions more watching on live feeds, including my crew. Maybe it’s the Mandrin elixir rushing through my veins. Or maybe it’s the high stakes I’m playing for. But hell yes, I’m ready.

 

I yell back, “Bring it on.”

 

Tojo nods, satisfied. “Try to take me out and I’ll end you. Let’s go!”

 

The bell shrills again, my feet lift off the floor as the gravity plating is switched off, and bodies explode into motion all around me.

 

There follows the most exhilarating, exhausting, brain-bending half-hour of my life. Sopho bouts only go for thirty minutes – less, if more than three players in a team get disqualified – but each session is a blur of whirling mallets and flying target discs, a cacophony of shouts and applause and the screeching of bells as discs hit targets. I quickly realise that this game bears only the slightest resemblance to anything I’ve played before. And Dipi was right – every single competitor seems to flout the rules whenever they think they can get away with it.

 

At the end of the first round,  two members of each team have been eliminated but my team is slightly ahead on points. I haven’t scored any, though. And if I’m to stay in this competition, that has to change.

 

I need to get aggressive.

 

Bouncing on my toes as the bell for Round Two chimes, I decide to change up my strategy, which so far has been to avoid trouble. I push off the wall of the dome, mallet swinging, smack the disc away from one of my opponents and deliver a sneaky kick to the side of his knee as I duck past him. He tumbles away from me with a groan and I tense, waiting for the whistle that will signal my disqualification, but it never comes. So I keep swinging from the ropes, dodging another opponent who tries to steal the disc from me, whirl my mallet and slap the disc into the target.

 

Point, Janeway.

 

Over the course of the next ninety minutes, I score another twelve points, avoid major injury countless times, and lose another eight members of my team. At the end of round three, we’re down to only the two main targets on the floor and the dome’s roof. By the time the contestants for the semi-final round are called, it’s just Tojo and one other from my team, three players from Team Beta, and me.

 

From this point on, teamwork is a thing of the past.

 

The odd tubing on my suit starts to shimmer and I stare at it in confusion. And then I remember Tuvok’s warning about the bioplasmic target sensors, and realise that if anything comes into forceful contact with these tubes, I’m going to get shocked.

 

Oh crap. I’m a walking livewire.

 

The bell tinkles, and before I can so much as draw breath, Tojo is rushing me. I yank down on the rope I’m holding, twisting to avoid her, but she manages to elbow me in the back and catch one of my sensor tubes. The resulting shock bows my back, grits my teeth and renders me almost insensible for a couple of seconds. By the time I’ve recovered, Tojo has scored a point, one of Team Beta is unconscious on the dome floor, and my other erstwhile teammate is pushing himself in my direction, a feral grin on his face.

 

This, I gather, is where the elixir really comes into its own. Sizing up my predicament at a glance, I swing my mallet overhead, hook it onto a rope and use the momentum to swing myself out of reach. The move puts me right in the path of one of the other contestants, who happens to be controlling the disc. Twisting my torso, I execute a perfect zero-g swan dive, steal the disc as I whoosh past, and slam it gleefully into the floor target.

 

I’m third on points now, and I’ve just made myself a target, too. For the next half hour I dodge mallets and elbows, deliver as many glancing blows as I can, fake an injury to disqualify one of my competitors, and score another two points. At the end of the round, I’m second on the score board and the last three players standing are Tojo, the Beta team captain, and me.

 

I can’t remember the last time I had so much fun.

 

At least, until the final round starts and Tojo, darting past me, delivers a devious kick to my thigh that connects with my sensor tube and sends a shock through my system so violent that I see stars.

 

When I come out of my daze, my jaw aches from clenching my teeth and my head is pounding, probably because I’ve spun into the dome wall and cracked it on the transparent aluminium.

 

I tense immediately, glancing around for my opponents, because although a player is supposed to be out of bounds once they’ve suffered a sensor hit, I wouldn’t put it past Tojo to try to permanently incapacitate me anyway. But fortunately she’s fully occupied with trying to parry the disc past the Beta captain. And this, I realise, is my chance.

 

Gliding up from bellow them, I track their movements until I see my opportunity. Then, putting on a burst of speed, I twist between them, giving the disc a whack with my mallet that sends it soaring into the rooftop target. I spin, flicking a scissor-kick at Tojo’s shoulder tube and bringing the mallet down on the Beta captain’s thigh.

 

I feel a wave of guilt as they both convulse in pain, but the roar of the crowd and the ringing of the championship bell dull it down to a faint twinge.

 

I’ve won. And the coffee is mine.

 

~*~

The third day, 1830 hours

 

After a missed night’s sleep, three hours of intense exercise and a trip to Sickbay to patch up my cuts and bruises, I should be sinking into exhaustion. But as Chakotay escorts me to my quarters to dress for the presentation of the Sopho trophy, I’m more geared up than ever.

 

So full of energy, in fact, that I start to wonder if I should be worried.

 

And that’s not the most disconcerting aspect. I’m a little concerned about my brain-to-mouth filter. No matter how little sleep I’ve had, I’m generally careful not to snap at the Doctor when he gets into one of his snits. As for flirtatiously inviting Chakotay to help me dress …

 

We enter my quarters and I pick up the box Prefect Dipi had sent up for me, pulling out the garment.

 

Well. Come to think of it, I will need someone’s help with this. I don’t even know what it is, let alone how to wear the damn thing. It’s just… one long piece of fabric, like a bandage.

 

I turn to Chakotay, my arms full of shimmery blue-green material, my nose scrunched up in confusion. His eyebrows are practically in his hairline.

 

“I, ah, don’t suppose it came with instructions?” he asks.

 

I check the box and find there is a slip of paper nestled inside. As I lift it out, it concertinas to the floor.

 

“Oh,” says Chakotay.

 

“Here.” I thrust the bandage and the booklet into his arms. “You figure this out. I need a shower.”

 

By the time I come out, freshly scrubbed and wrapped in a robe, Chakotay is pacing back and forth across my living area and there’s an open bottle of whiskey on the table. I give him an enquiring look.

 

He shrugs, waving a hand at the bandage, which is draped over the couch. “You’re not going to like it.”

 

“Show me.” I hold out my hand for the instruction booklet and flip through until I find the illustration depicting the finished product. My eyes go wide, and I hold out my other hand. Chakotay places a glass of whiskey in it.

 

“Is the deal contingent on you wearing this thing,” he asks in a semi-strangled tone, “or was it enough to win that tournament?”

 

“I don’t know. But I wouldn’t put it past Prefect Dipshit to renege on me.”

 

Chakotay quickly suppresses his smile as my hands go to my hips.

 

“I’m going to have to wear it,” I scowl, turning to him. “And you’re going to help me.”

 

“Me?” He shifts his feet. “Uh, Kathryn, are you sure that’s wise?”

 

“Who else am I going to ask? Neelix? Harry Kim?” I glare at him. “Come on, Chakotay, it’s not like you haven’t seen it before.”

 

“That’s the problem,” he mutters under his breath, then sighs. “All right, Kathryn. I’ll do my best.”

 

“Well, thanks for making it sound like such a chore,” I snipe at him. “Let’s get this over with, then.”

 

I drop my robe.

 

Chakotay picks up the long scarf of fabric, steps toward me, and – studiously avoiding looking me in the eye – loops it over my shoulder and begins to criss-cross the material around my body.

 

Touching me, as I’m sure he knows, is unavoidable. The fabric winds over my breasts, back around my waist, across my hips, over and again. His fingers brush my bare skin, skate lightly over me as the material begins to cover me, and occasionally I feel the soft wash of his breath on my shoulder, the back of my neck. I stand as still as I can. There’s lightning crackling through my veins, and I can’t tell how much of it is the elixir, and how much of it is him.

 

When he finishes, tying off the last of it in a knot at my hip, I have to clamp my teeth into my bottom lip to control the urge to reach for him.

 

“How does it look?” I force myself to ask.

 

“Um,” he mumbles. “It suits you. If you’ll excuse me, Captain, I’d better go and…” The rest of Chakotay’s words are lost as he backs out of my quarters as fast as he’s able.

 

I turn to the mirror with trepidation.

 

I’m pleasantly surprised. Yes, this is a lot tighter, and there’s a lot less of it, than I’d like. But it’s not as scandalous as the instruction book made it seem. Either that, or Chakotay has very thoughtfully made a few modifications to the prescribed wrapping technique.

 

I wonder how I’m supposed to unwrap it later. I wonder if I’ll need help …

 

Deliberately avoiding that rabbit-hole, I pour myself another whiskey before I sit down to fix my hair and makeup.

 

~*~

The third day, 2000 hours

 

Flushed with triumph and clutching my hard-won trophy, I take my seat at the head of the banquet table. Chakotay, in dress uniform, is seated to my left and Prefect Dipi to my right. The Prefect has outdone himself tonight: he’s wearing some kind of glittery gold toga and a jewelled headdress that increases his height by a good metre and a half. God only knows how heavy that thing is.

 

“Again, congratulations, Captain,” he greets me, eyeing my figure appreciatively as I adjust my dress-bandage. “This is the first time an off-worlder has won the Sopho tournament. And it was your first time playing, too.”

 

“I was highly motivated.” I can’t stop grinning, thinking about all that dilithium and the food and medical supplies and my lovely, lovely coffee bush that I won’t have to give up.

 

Chakotay is inspecting my trophy with a bemused look on his face. “What are these engravings, Prefect?” He runs a finger over the symbols carved into the trophy’s base.

 

“It’s on ancient Mandrin prayer,” Dipi answers. He traces the symbols as he chants: “A strong heart, a clever mind, a valiant spirit. With life’s elixir, the challenge is overcome.”

 

“Your society seems very fond of your elixir,” Chakotay remarks.

 

“Oh, yes. It’s the purest form of kaffa that remains since all our plants died off. And in some form, replicated kaffa is integrated into all our beverages. Take this one, for example,” Dipi  gestures as a server leans over to pour a dark, fruity-smelling liquid into my glass, “this is ginka, a drink we commonly enjoy with meals. Try some.”

 

I sip, and my eyes widen. Wow, this thing packs a punch. The burn of hard liquor coats the back of my tongue and brings tears to my eyes, but as the liquid slides down my throat it’s smooth and full and tastes of blackberries. Appreciatively, I sip it again.

 

Chakotay sniffs his glass before taking an experimental swallow, and promptly puts it aside.

 

“Don’t you like it?” I whisper to him.

 

“It’s delicious,” he murmurs, “but it’s probably twice the alcohol content of whiskey. You might want to be careful with it, Kathryn.”

 

High on my victory and still buzzing lightly from the after-effects of the elixir, I roll my eyes. “Such a mother hen, Chakotay. I can handle my liquor,” and to prove it, I gulp down the rest of my glass and hold it out for more.

 

The second glass goes down even easier than the first, and I sit back in my chair as the powerful rush of kaffa-soaked alcohol begins to hit me.

 

Chakotay’s brow furrows, and Dipi hides a smile. “Your captain is a woman who knows her own mind, Commander,” he suggests.

 

“Damn straight,” I declare, my glass held out for a third refill. “And this woman has a pretty good idea what’s on your mind, too,” I add as Dipi’s gaze slides down my cleavage again.

 

Kathryn,” Chakotay admonishes.

 

I pat him on the arm, stage-whispering, “Don’t worry, Commander. If he gets fresh, you have my permission to deck him.”

 

A bell sounds before Chakotay can reply, and Dipi rises, holding up his glass. “Friends and honoured guests,” he begins in sonorous tones, “today, we witnessed a momentous event. For the first time in Mandrin history, a visitor to our world has competed with the best of our Sopho players and outclassed them all …”

 

His speech continues, but I’m no longer listening. I’ve just noticed a odd collection of what looks like soft leather thimbles beside my plate. I pick one up to study it. What on earth could these be for? Experimentally, I fit it over my index finger, and instantly one of the tiny canapés on the dish in the centre of the table flies over and adheres itself to the thimble.

 

What …?

 

Chakotay is watching in fascination, as well. He leans in to whisper, “This must be Mandrin cutlery.”

 

“How on earth does it work?” I hiss back. “Some kind of kinetic energy? They must be inert until they interact with humanoid biochemistry.”

 

“… honoured to pay our respects to Captain Janeway,” Dipi’s voice rises, catching my attention, and I realise the other dinner guests are standing with their glasses raised.

 

Chakotay and I scramble to our feet and I plaster a smile on my face.

 

“To Captain Janeway,” Dipi announces, and the guests echo him, and they all drink.

 

“Thanks,” I reply, and reach for my glass. But as I move my hand, the thimble loses its grip on the canapé and the little morsel of food shoots off and plops into my glass. “Ew,” I mutter before I can stifle it.

 

Chakotay’s dimples appear and just as quickly retreat. He hands me his glass.

 

Everybody is watching me expectantly. Oh, crap. I think I’m supposed to make a speech. Okay. My head is starting to spin, but I can do this.

 

“Um,” I begin. “Right, well, first of all, thank you all for the chance to participate in your Sopho tournament. I had a blast, and I particularly enjoyed kicking Tojo’s ass.” I break off to snicker, realise my hosts are simply watching me politely, and hurry on. “Okay. On behalf of Voyager and her crew, I also thank you for the supplies you’ve, um, supplied. Without them we’d probably be stuck here. Which, though, wouldn’t be so bad, right? I mean, you appreciate coffee, or kaffa, or whatever you call it, and I can get behind that.”

 

Chakotay clears his throat.

 

“Where was I? Oh, yes. Thanks for the trophy. Thanks for the kaffa, and what was this drink called? Ginka. It’s fantastic. And thanks for this bandage thing, too. We had a lot of fun putting it on, right, Chakotay?” I nudge him with my elbow – a little harder than I’d intended, because he teeters to the left before he regains his footing.

 

By now the dinner guests are staring at me wide-eyed.

 

“What? I’m speeching. But I’m done now, so everybody drink up. Slainte!” I up-end the dregs of Chakotay’s ginka into my throat, grin at them all and thump back into my chair before my inertial dampeners can fail.

 

The Mandrin slowly take their seats, carefully averting their gazes from me, and gradually the quiet hum of conversation resumes.

 

Chakotay leans toward me. “Nice speech,” he comments dryly.

 

“Thanks,” I nod emphatically, then whisper loudly, “I’m pretty drunk, Chakotay. I think I should eat something before I cause a pidlomatic incident.”

 

“Diplomatic?” he queries.

 

“That’s what I said.”

 

“Let’s get some food into you,” he says patiently.

 

He helps me fit the thimbles over the fingers on my right hand. When he’s done, I wiggle them experimentally, and morsels from all around the table shoot toward me, one narrowly missing Dipi’s shoulder.

 

“Whoa,” I giggle. “Can you imagine what Tom Paris would do with these things, Chakotay? Dinner in the mess hall would never be the same.”

 

I wriggle my fingers again and the canapés fly off in all directions. One lands in the lap of a dignitary halfway down the table. Chakotay’s hand closes around my wrist.

 

“Why don’t you let me handle the food situation,” he suggests.

 

I stare at the strong brown fingers wrapped around my wrist and have an almost uncontrollable urge to lick them. My brain feels like it’s sloshing around inside my skull.

 

“By all means.” My words are starting to slur. “Feed me, Chakotay.”

 

He fits on his own thimbles, carefully waggles his forefinger. A little round hors d’oeuvre springs merrily to his fingertip and he extends it toward me. Meeting his gaze, I lick my lips and watch his eyes darken.

 

“Kathryn,” he warns quietly.

 

Blinking at him innocently, I lean forward and curl my tongue around the morsel. “Mm,” I purr, swallowing. “Delicious.”

 

On my other side, Prefect Dipi makes a spluttering sound. I raise an eyebrow at him. “What?” I demand. “Don’t you have foreplay on your world?”

 

Chakotay sucks in a breath.

 

I turn to wink at him, although I suspect the effect is ruined by the fact my eyes are crossing. “You’re such a good first officer,” I slur. “Very, very good.”

 

Clumsily I reach up to ruffle his hair. A few locks flop over his forehead. His hand comes up to smooth it back, and I grab his wrist.

 

“Don’t do that,” I glare at him. “I like the sex hair. You should always wear it like that.” Then I cock my head. “No, that’d be dangerous. I might molest you on the bridge, and Karry Him would never recover from that.”

 

It’s clear Chakotay doesn’t know whether to laugh or haul me out of here. I release his wrist and grab for another glass of ginka.

 

“Absolutely not,” Chakotay snatches it out of my hand. “In fact, Captain, I think we should make our excuses.”

 

Dipi dabs the corners of his mouth with a napkin. “Please don’t leave on my account.”

 

“You hear that, Chakotay?” My head is listing to the side now and I’m pretty sure Chakotay just grew a twin. “He likes me!”

 

“Very much,” agrees Dipi, leaning over to pat my knee.

 

“In fact,” I stare at the Prefect’s hand, suddenly morose, “I think he likes me better than you do, Cha-ko-tay. And he’s very pretty. Maybe you should go. I’ll stay.”

 

“That’s not a good idea, Captain.” Chakotay looks pointedly at Dipi’s hand until he lifts it from my knee. “Prefect, if you’ll excuse us, I believe the captain needs a trip to Sickbay.”

 

“Aw,” I grumble as Chakotay slips an arm around my waist and lifts me to feet that seem unable to point in the right directions. “You’re such a spoilsport sometimes. Worse than Tuvok.” I like the sound of that word, so I say it again. “Toooo-vok. Too-vok.”

 

“Come on,” Chakotay mutters, dragging me away from the table.

 

“Bye,” I call to the Mandrin. There seem to be a few more of them than there were when I sat down. I waggle my fingers, forgetting I’m still wearing the cutlery thimbles. Bits of food fly toward me from all angles. “Whoa! Food fight,” I shout, waving my hand dramatically and dissolving into snorting giggles as the canapés bounce merrily off plates and shoulders and skulls.

 

Chakotay swears under his breath, quickening his step.

 

“This is the best party ever,” I shout over my shoulder as we stumble away.

 

~*~

The fourth day, 0900 hours

 

Crap.

 

Oh, God.

 

Fragments of memory keep assailing me, each one making me cringe anew. If my head wasn’t already about to burst with bright spikes of agony, I’d be banging it against a wall right now.

 

Have the turbolifts always been this loud? That servo whine is setting my teeth on edge. There’s a Tsunkatse match going on in my head right now, and that irritating squeal is not helping. I’m half tempted to make a stop in Sickbay for an analgesic –

 

Oh. Oh, hell. Sickbay means facing the EMH, and there’s no way in Gre’thor I’m doing that today.

 

No. Straight to the cargo bay for me. I have supplies to inspect, and no matter how dismal I feel, I’m the captain. I need to buck up.

 

The turbolift stops with a jolt on deck eight and my stomach lurches. Maybe I should’ve slugged down some water before I bolted out of my quarters this morning, but I couldn’t stand one more second of Chakotay’s smirk. Oh, he was pretending to be sympathetic. But I know he was laughing at me.

 

And with good reason. I squeeze my eyes shut for a moment as the memory of my humiliating speech at dinner last night comes back to me. God, why didn’t Chakotay have me beamed out of there before I made a total fool of myself?

 

Why didn’t I show some self-restraint and stop drinking after one glass of ginka?

 

And speaking of self-restraint, or lack thereof … what did happen in my quarters last night?

 

~*~

The third day, 2200 hours

 

“Chakotay to Sickbay. Doctor, are you there?”

 

I can hear the EMH’s put-upon tone through the comm system as I sway around the room, singing my favourite aria from La Traviata.

~Sickbay here, Commander. What is that noise?~

 

“That’s the captain,” Chakotay answers dryly, “and that’s the reason I’ve called. Could you bring a detox kit to the captain’s quarters,” he pauses as I reach a crescendo, “immediately?”

 

~Clearly an emergency,~ the Doctor says dryly. ~I’m on my way, Commander.~

 

“Kathryn,” Chakotay raises his voice as he closes the channel, “the Doctor will be here soon. Why don’t you come and sit down?”

 

He pats the couch beside him and I trip my way over, executing a pirouette and landing half on top of him. “Oops.”

 

Chakotay tries to gently ease me off him.

 

“Nope.” My arms wind around his neck. “I’m staying right here. You’re comfortable.” I push my face into the crook of his neck and inhale. “And you smell really, really good.”

 

“Kath-ryn,” he almost groans.

 

“Cha-ko-tay,” I purr, licking his ear.

 

“Ahem,” offers the Doctor, standing just inside my quarters with his eyebrows raised.

 

“What are you doing here?” I demand, scrambling off Chakotay’s lap and falling flat on my face.

 

“The detox hypo you requested?” the EMH addresses Chakotay, waggling the hypospray in his hand. “Looks like it can’t come a moment too soon.”

 

I roll onto my back and stare up at them. “You know, you two are tall. Really, really tall.”

 

The Doctor gives a longsuffering sigh and bends to release the hypospray into my neck. My eyes blur as his face comes closer.

 

“Whoa, Doctor. You have four nostrils.”

 

The Doctor straightens up and pulls out his tricorder. He taps it, frowning.

 

“What is it?” Chakotay crouches on my other side and I snake out a hand and run it up under his trouser leg. He shifts away from me.

 

“The intoxicant in her bloodstream isn’t dissipating,” the Doctor answers. “There seems to be some kind of alien enzyme at play here. It’s counteracting the effects of the hypospray.”

 

I start humming the aria again and the Doctor winces.

 

“Can’t you give her something else?” Chakotay pleads.

 

“Not before I take a blood sample, analyse the enzyme and come up with a counteragent, by which time it should have worked its way out of her system anyway.” The EMH closes his tricorder with a snap and stands.

 

“I never noticed how pretty my ceiling was,” I mumble from my prone position.

 

“So there’s nothing you can do?” Chakotay disentangles my fingers from his other ankle.

 

“I’m sorry, Commander. Looks like she’ll have to sleep it off.” The EMH pats him on the shoulder. “She shouldn’t be left alone tonight. I recommend you assign a crewmember to stay with her.”

 

“Oh, yeah,” Chakotay mutters. “She’d just love waking up hungover to find some lower decks crewman in her quarters.”

 

I squint, trying to focus on him. “You stay with me, Chakotay.”

 

“Looks like you have your solution, Commander.” The Doctor smirks, heading for the door. “Make sure she drinks plenty of water, and call me in the morning. I’ll have something ready for the headache she’ll undoubtedly have.”

 

The doors swish shut behind him and I tug on the hem of Chakotay’s pants. “Get down here.”

 

He stumbles and narrowly avoids crashing down on top of me, catching himself on the coffee table. “I have a better idea, Kathryn. Let’s get you into bed.”

 

“I thought you’d never ask,” I snicker.

 

Chakotay rolls his eyes and leans down to sling my arms around his neck, tugging me upright. I lean into him, keeping my arms draped over his shoulders, my body pressing tightly to his. I feel him shiver, so I crane my neck to nip at him, just under the jaw.

 

“About that bed,” I slur.

 

“Kathryn … you’re drunk.”

 

“In vino veritas, Chakotay.” My fingers reach to ruffle the hair over his forehead. Sex hair. I press my lips to his adam’s apple.

 

“Don’t do this to me,” he sighs.

 

“Why not?” I lick at his dimpled chin. “Promise I’ll still respect you in the morning.”

 

“But you won’t respect yourself.” He moves me away from him firmly, hands on my hips until I stop swaying.

 

I pout for a minute, then cock a hip to one side as my fingers fumble with the knot that fastens my dress-bandage. Slowly, I tug at the end of the fabric. His eyes follow my movements as the material begins to loosen.

 

“Here, you do it.” I push the bandage-end into his hand and turn leisurely in a full circle so that the dress begins to unpeel itself from my figure. By the time I spin back to face him his pupils have gone wide. I raise my arms and spin again, and again, faster and faster as he holds onto the end of the fabric, until I feel the last of it slip from my shoulders and I’m standing before him in nothing but a very brief pair of lacy panties.

 

Then vertigo catches up with me and I groan, holding a hand to my head.

 

Instantly he’s got one arm under my knees and the other supporting my back, and my feet are off the ground. It’s like flying, and there’s something exhilarating in it. At least, until my stomach catches up with the motion.

 

“Ugh, put me down! I’m going to be sick!”

 

He sprints into the bathroom. I struggle out of his arms and crash to my knees before the toilet, emptying what feels like my entire bodyweight in ginka into the bowl.

 

Gentle hands hold my hair and rub my back as I slump moaning over the toilet.

 

“Kathryn? Are you all right?”

 

I grunt something ashamed and incomprehensible, then lean forward for round two.

 

Oh God, is my last coherent thought, I’m never drinking again.

 

~*~

The fourth day, 1900 hours

 

I’ve managed to avoid Chakotay all day, which is quite a feat, really. I’m horribly ashamed of my behaviour last night – though at least I’ve managed to piece together enough of my memory to understand that he refused to take advantage of me in my inebriated state.

 

Actually, maybe Chakotay has been avoiding me as much as I have him. It’s not every day your captain gets shit-faced and throws herself at you.

 

Maybe he didn’t turn me down because he was being a gentleman. Maybe my drunken ass was unattractive enough that he’s been cured of his fondness for me.

 

That thought makes my heart ache worse than my head does, so I firmly stop thinking it.

 

The worst part of my day has to have been my shamefaced apology to Prefect Dipi. No matter how amused he seems to have been by the whole fiasco, I’m mortified. Finally admitting I need the Doctor’s help came a close second though. That little smirk at the edges of his holographic mouth as he administered the analgesic hypo was almost more than I could take.

 

Still, at least my shift is over now, and I’ve retired to my quarters with my fifth cup of coffee – no more energy shortage, which means I can indulge as much as I like – and a few reports I’ll pretend to read while I soak in a bubble bath.

 

I’ve put aside my padd and have just started to slip into a doze when I hear the door chime. Damn it.

 

“Enter,” I call as I haul myself out of the bath, wrapping myself in a thick robe that’s so oversized it almost engulfs me. As I’m rolling up the far-too-long sleeves I step out into my living area.

 

Chakotay is standing there holding a small package and wearing a slightly sheepish smile. I stop dead.

 

When it becomes clear I’ve been struck dumb, he takes a couple of tentative steps toward me. “How are you feeling, Captain?”

 

Captain. Not Kathryn. Ugh. Why am I so deflated?

 

“Fine,” I mutter. “Commander, I’m sorry about – well, everything. You know.”

 

A dimple appears in one cheek. “Don’t mention it.”

 

Okay. That works for me. Let us never speak of this again, and go back to exactly the way things were before –

 

Actually, no. That doesn’t work for me at all.

 

I bite my lip.

 

Chakotay takes another step toward me. “I brought you something,” he says, holding out the package. It’s small, wrapped in brown paper.

 

“What is it?” I ask suspiciously. It had better not be his rank bar – oh, he’s wearing it.

 

“Open it.”

 

Gingerly I take the small parcel and pull the paper off. Inside is a plastic pouch filled with –

 

“Chocolate-covered coffee beans?” My eyes go wide.

 

“Well, technically, they’re coca-covered kaffa beans,” he says, and now he’s smiling. “I thought you could probably use a little cheering up.”

 

I blush, staring at my feet. “That was very thoughtful of you. Thank you.”

 

“It’s my pleasure,” he says, “Kathryn.”

 

Oh, it’s Kathryn now. A knot loosens in my chest. At least he seems willing to still be friends.

 

“Besides,” he says, moving closer, “I thought you’d appreciate this more than a bottle of ginka.”

 

“Oh God, don’t ever mention that word in my presence again,” I groan, daring to peek up at him.

 

“Actually,” he’s smiling wider, “it wasn’t all bad. You were a lot of fun.”

 

“I was?” I think about that, then frown. “Fun is something I haven’t been called in a while.”

 

“You’re always fun, Kathryn. But it was very refreshing to see you cut loose for a change.” He grins. “I didn’t mind the outfit, either.”

 

“Oh, really?” I glance up at him from under my lashes.

 

“Really.” He’s standing very close now. “In fact, you were sexy as hell.”

 

He reaches out to brush the backs of his fingers against my cheek and my body starts to hum. I chew on my lower lip, unsure of how to respond.

 

Chakotay lets his hand drop and takes a half-step back. “I’m sorry,” he says softly. “That was inappropriate.”

 

Of its own accord, my hand shoots out and grabs his wrist. “No it wasn’t,” I blurt.

 

He looks at my hand, then up at my face. “It wasn’t?”

 

“You said I wouldn’t respect myself in the morning.” The words are tumbling out of my mouth. “And I can understand why you said that, given the way I’ve treated you every other time we’ve ended up, well, you know. I’m the one who’s behaved inappropriately, Chakotay.”

 

He frowns.

 

“No, not because of that. I mean, sure, I’m breaking about six different protocols just during the course of this conversation, let alone all those times we’ve jumped into bed together. But where I’ve really gone wrong is in shutting you out, all those morning-afters. Refusing to talk about us like a rational human being was inappropriate. Treating you like a booty call was inappropriate.”

 

“Booty call?” He raises his eyebrows.

 

I wave a hand. “Something I picked up from Tom Paris.” Now I’m the one moving closer, and I give into my impulse to rest my hand on his chest. “The thing is, no matter how stern a talking-to I gave myself every time I threw protocol out the window with you, I kept coming back. And I think there has to be a reason for that.”

 

Chakotay’s smile turns dirty. “You mean it’s not just because of that thing I do with my –”

 

“Okay, it’s partly that,” I interrupt him, matching his smirk with one of my own. “But mostly it’s because I love you.”

 

His smile could light a black hole. “You do?”

 

“Of course I do.” I wrap my arms around his neck. “And not only because you bring me coffee.”

 

Whatever reply he’s intending to make, I cut him off by tip-toeing up to press my lips to his.

 

“I guess you already know this,” he says a little breathlessly when we finally move apart, “but I love you too.”

 

“I had a feeling.” I ruffle his hair over his forehead and grin. “There, that’s better.”

 

His hands are moving now, over my capacious bathrobe, trying to find a way in. “How do I get you out of this thing?”

 

“You proved you’re no slouch at unwrapping me last night,” I smirk up at him, placing the end of the sash in his hand. “You figure it out.”

 

He tugs, and the robe drops to the floor as I spin away from him toward the bedroom, laughing.