DISCLAIMER: If the episodes ended the way we wanted them to end, there might not be any reason for fanfiction. So maybe this is a good thing, huh? :-)
COPYRIGHT: All dialogue from "Maneuvers" is copyrighted by Paramount Pictures. I only borrowed it.
WARNING: Yes, there's sex. (You thought there wouldn't be in one of my stories??? Shame on you!) I posted an earlier (much more amateur) version of this in March 1995. I have drastically re-written it to include the events that took place in "Persistence of Vision" and "Maneuvers".
THANKS: To Diane, whose constant prodding got me to finish this. To Michelle, for being a great sounding board, even though I have so much more self-confidence now that I hardly ever bother her! To J & C, we know there's something there even if TPTB won't admit it.

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"Protocol" by Becca O.

The lights had been dimmed to half-light for some time now and a peaceful silence had settled over Kathryn Janeway's cabin. The only sound was the soft breathing of the captain and her first officer. The chronometer read 01:15. Had anyone looked in, they would have seen a peaceful tableau: their captain, sound asleep against the shoulder of her first officer. It wasn't intentional and she would be mortified if she were to wake up suddenly, which is exactly why Chakotay hadn't disturbed her. He had long since lost the feeling in his left arm, but he was more concerned about Kathryn's embarrassment when she awakened than he was about his own discomfort. Besides, if the truth be told, he was quite enjoying himself. In the months since joining the crew of the Voyager, he had had to come to terms with his growing attraction for his captain. Protocol dictated that he never act upon those feelings, but protocol never stopped the dreams he awakened from in a cold sweat each night.

This evening had started out like many others they had shared. Of late, they had fallen into the habit of dining in Kathryn's quarters, ostensibly to review the events of the day. Chakotay sensed an underlying need for his captain to have a friend, a confidant. He was well aware of the bridges she had burned when giving the order to destroy the Caretaker's Array, but Janeway had steadfastly refused to compromise her principles for an easy way home. Hell, if it had been that easy, they would have been home long ago. Chakotay thought of all the opportunities she had passed over: the Sikarians and their technology, Telek and the wormhole...

More times than he cared to recount, he had seen her staring longingly at Mark's picture...her lover on Earth. He was afraid she had resigned herself to a life without love or companionship and the thought of her being so unhappy tore him apart inside.

The past several weeks had been a strain on everyone. Their encounter with the Bothan species had been unsettling, to say the very least. The aliens had the uncanny ability to reach into your very soul, pulling your deepest thoughts into a false reality of their own construction. Thus far, the crew had largely dealt with it on their own, but embarrassment seemed to be the all-pervading force behind the self-imposed silence that cloaked the hallways. More than once, B'Elanna had seemed about to confide in him, then turned away at the last moment.

That hurt. He'd always considered B'Elanna a close friend; almost in a familial, brotherly way. Now she barely could meet his eyes, even during crew briefings. This would take a long time to get over.

For everyone.

The captain--he'd seen her reaction to the alien's presence on the viewscreen, and he could only imagine at what she'd been forced to endure. Whatever it was, he knew he didn't like it one bit; and that brought him unwillingly to memories of his own vision.

If he lived to be two centuries old, he'd never forget the image of the ships decloaking off the side of Voyager; the death and destruction that ensued as he was powerless to halt it's progress. The image of the Captain--lifeless; grotesquely disfigured by his own helpless hands.

And the one thought that remained above all else.

*I never told her.*

After yet another of Neelix's questionable feasts, they had retired to the couch for a cup of replicated coffee and small talk. Janeway had leaned her head back and closed her eyes. He rose to leave, noting aloud how exhausted she looked, but she wouldn't hear of it. She insisted that she was only "resting her eyes" and asked him for a crew report. Clearly, the captain was as disconcerted by the prospect of being alone with her thoughts as everyone else on board Voyager.

It wasn't much later when he realized that she was fast asleep and had drifted much closer to him than was proper. In another lifetime, he might have said "to hell with proper", but he cared too deeply for her to overstep his rank and use her that way. Their experiences in the Delta Quadrant had changed him, too. The lines between right and wrong were more well-defined than they had been when he was Maquis. He wasn't sure what he was sometimes, but he did know that Janeway was still his commanding officer and that protocol must be observed no matter how much he wished otherwise; a transfer off-ship was not an option if things didn't work out.

The later it became, the more imperative it was that he leave her cabin. Chakotay was at risk of succumbing to exhaustion himself and knew that would only make matters worse. He gently began to ease his arm from under her back. She shifted slightly and sighed in her sleep. Waiting a few seconds, he tried again to extricate himself. This time, however, the captain turned against him and wrapped her arms around him, effectively trapping him where he was. Her soft, feminine scent assaulted him with an impact that set his senses reeling. Closing his eyes tightly he cursed his body for the traitor it was. *Now what*? he thought to himself. He had almost decided to wake her and damn the consequences, when she spoke softly.

"Don't leave yet," she whispered in a sleepy, husky voice. "Stay."

Gritting his teeth, he said quietly, "I must go. I can't stay, it's very late." He was further disturbed by the fact that her left hand had slowly risen to caress his chest and his neck. Every muscle in his entire body began to tighten in response and his uniform was becoming extremely uncomfortable. *Oh, gods, help* he thought in desperation. Aloud he said, "Captain..."

Her hand continued its exploration and she began drawing light circles on his chest with her fingers. His eyes closed tighter against the rush of feelings she was causing. Reaching up with his free hand, he caught hers in a firm grasp. He had to stop this torture before it went further than it should. He was about to firmly disengage himself when she began to cry softly; this was his undoing. Turning to the side, Chakotay wrapped his arms around her and held her while she cried, smoothing back the soft wispy curls that fell around her forehead. Slowly her sobs quieted and it seemed the most natural thing in the world for her to raise her face to his.

Without care for the consequences, he lowered his head slowly, savoring every moment. His lips joined with hers slowly, tentatively. His mouth moved over hers in a tender dance of exploration, tasting and retreating, then repeating the process. Nothing in his dreams had prepared him for the heart-stopping reality of this moment. Kathryn's hands were busy weaving themselves through his close-cropped hair and caressing his ears, his face, his shoulders....Her arms went around his back and her mouth opened to deepen their kiss. They broke apart just long enough to take a deep breath and something inside him died as she murmured one single word...

"Mark..."

Chakotay felt his heart lurch. He moved to put her away from him, but what he saw made him pause in mid-motion ... Kathryn Janeway was not even aware of where she was or who she was with. She was still asleep. He was so astounded by this revelation that he almost laughed. Instead, the strangled sound he made more closely resembled a sob of complete and utter despair. For just a moment he had allowed himself to believe in the impossible. *Fool* he thought to himself. He moved her aside as gently as he could, but it wasn't gently enough to keep her from stirring.

Sitting up slowly, she tried to focus on her surroundings. "What...oh, dear. I'm so sorry. I must have dozed off," she mumbled apologetically. She looked at the time and her eyes widened. She began to realize just how long she had been asleep. In bits and pieces her dream began to come back to her. She was with Mark--or was it the Bothan?--she wasn't sure where, and she had been about to...about to...the rest was forgotten the way that dreams often are. Something about the way Chakotay was holding himself set off warning bells in Kathryn's mind. "Commander, what's wrong?" she asked, unsuccessfully smothering a yawn with her hand.

"Nothing Captain. I should be getting back to my quarters. It's late and I have the early duty shift tomorrow...today," he smiled tightly.

No ... something was definitely wrong.

Trying in vain to lighten the mood, she said, "I hope I don't talk in my sleep. You never know what secrets could come out." She smiled at him and he returned the smile, but it didn't quite reach his eyes.

"Nothing to worry about," he answered. "Your secrets are safe with me. Good night, Captain." He turned on his heel and left her standing in the middle of the room feeling a little lost and somewhat bewildered.

All the way back to his cabin he cursed himself for a fool, sometimes slipping back into his native language. He entered his cabin and quickly stripped himself of his uniform. With a disgusted laugh he realized that his body hadn't yet gotten the message. "Not tonight," he said aloud, glancing down at the remains of his arousal. "Probably not in this lifetime." Tossing his uniform into a corner, then ordering the computer to darken the room, he settled in for a long, sleepless night.

Kathryn Janeway spent what was left of the night tossing, turning and trying to escape from the disturbing dreams that haunted her sleep. She was dreaming of making love with Mark, only to have his face replaced by Chakotay's. In other dreams, the face of her first officer would be suddenly be replaced by that of the Bothan or Lord Burleigh. She wasn't sure which distressed her more. Shivering at the disjointed memories, she finally gave up on sleep and got dressed. The rough night was cause enough for her to use a healthy portion of replicator rations on coffee. Upon arrival on the bridge, she silently observed that Chakotay didn't look much better.

"Commander, anything to report?"

Several responses sprang immediately to mind, but he said tensely, "Nothing, Captain."

She glanced his way questioningly and made up her mind to speak with him. The shift went on in blessedly uneventful calm. Aside from the underlying tension between Captain and First Officer, all was well. As their shift ended, Janeway passed Chakotay and asked quietly, "Will I see you for dinner tonight?"

He hesitated for a fraction of a second and said, "Of course." Well, here we go again, he thought grimly. I must be a glutton for punishment. Nevertheless, half an hour later, he found himself in front of Janeway's door. Hesitating, he pushed the chime.

"Come in," she called. As he entered he heard her say, "I'll be right out."

Looking around, he remembered what almost happened here last night. He closed his eyes and thought about her hair, her scent, the taste of her mouth, the feel of her breasts pressed against his chest..."Commander," she said, startling him into awareness. He swallowed hard and cleared his throat before answering

"I want..." they both began at the same time. Laughing softly, they both tried again and failed. Finally Chakotay spoke.

"I want to apologize for my behavior on the bridge today. I had a lousy night, but that was no reason to take it out on you," he said.

"I only wish I could help with whatever's bothering you. You've been this way since last night. I'm sorry I fell asleep --I never even heard your crew reports."

The longer he took to answer, the more uneasy she became. "Let's just forget about it, okay?" he said.

"No, I can't. You're my friend and something obviously happened." She paused, trying to recall the events of the previous night. "The last thing I remember is asking you for a crew update. It was late, so I closed my eyes. I didn't mean to drift off like that, but ever since..."

"I don't think anyone in the crew has slept well for several weeks, Captain. You're not alone." Chakotay placed his hand on her shoulder, a reflection of the same gesture she had used countless times on her crew, but coming from him it seemed strangely reassuring.

She paused for a moment, lost in thought. "I remember dreaming...about...Mark? Was that it? No, it couldn't be that." Chakotay couldn't take much more of this. Closing her eyes, she lost herself for a moment in the memories and it was a blessing that she didn't verbalize her thoughts. *I remember kissing him, but it was different. Not at all like the Mark I remember. I remember touching his hair...* Slowly she began to make the connection. Startled by the turn her thoughts were taking, she opened her eyes. If she had any doubts at all, they were erased by the expression on his face: one of abject embarrassment. "Oh, my God," she said slowly. "It was you. But it wasn't all a dream, was it?"

"You were asleep, you had no idea what you were doing."

She needed to say something, but she was at a loss for words. Her stomach rolled and she knew there would be no dinner for either of them tonight. "You don't understand," she said.

"I think I do. You miss him and those feelings were temporarily transferred to me. It's simple."

"That's where you're wrong," she said, shaking her head. "There's nothing simple about it." Taking a deep breath to steady her nerves, she continued in a low voice. "I've never told anyone what happened to me in Bothan space, but I think it's time."

Janeway told him everything then. The holonovel--Lord Burleigh--her visions in the turbolift--

And then she told him about Mark.

Mark. The man she had loved with a quiet intensity and depth of feeling she'd never known before.

Mark, whose face had been fading so gradually from her memory that even her photographs failed to conjure the longed-for response.

Mark--whose visage had so lately accused her of betraying him in her thoughts. The accusations had been terrifying to hear, but mostly because they were true. Janeway had thought instantly of the character in her holonovel, Lord Burleigh, but even in her ravaged subconscious she knew it wasn't the thoughts of him that had betrayed Mark's memory.

The guilt in her life was standing before her, watching her vain attempt to hold herself together. Inhaling harshly, she searched his face for a sign that he could somehow read her thoughts, see through to the deeply hidden desires that were suddenly so clear to her.

"Captain--"

The concern on his face returned her abruptly to the present. Gods, had these feelings been there all along? The events of the past nine months replayed themselves in her mind.

The array...the horrific sight of Chakotay's crew held immobile by slender, tapered probes...the intense Maquis captain, confidently poised to do battle on her bridge...their recurring arguments over anything and everything, and the way he had of giving in gracefully while still making his point...

She remembered the Pakra--the ceremonial ritual he had stubbornly insisted needed to be performed away from the ship. She had thought him as lost to the Kazon as her shuttlecraft, even as a small part of her was convinced of his safety. The heart-stopping terror she had experienced when presented with a broken piece of that shuttle...

His smile, once so rare, slowly becoming as frequent and second-nature as rainfall on the forests of his ancestors.

It all made sense.

Chakotay could only watch and wonder as the myriad of emotions raged over Janeway's face. Her memories were hers alone, but he could only pray that they were nothing like his own.

Opening her mouth to speak, she found that there were no words. What to do? Confess?? Out of the question.

Pretend that nothing had changed?? Impossible.

Oh, gods, what a mess.

"Captain, I'll tell you about my own vision if it will make you feel better."

*I sincerely doubt it* she thought but, instead said, "Of course. Confession is good for the soul." Wincing at her own incredibly poor choice of words, she motioned toward the couch, grateful for a change in the direction of the conversation.

Chakotay told her everything. Well, almost everything. Steadying himself, he began.

"From nowhere we were surrounded. A Kazon vessel, a Romulan warbird, a Cardassian ship... You were in sickbay and I gave the order to retreat. We were outnumbered and I couldn't see the point in waging a potentially hopeless fight. They fired without warning, damaging almost every defensive system on the ship." His voice quieted as his memories carried him back to the scene of destruction on the bridge. "Systems panels were exploding everywhere...it's been a long time since I've seen that kind of destruction. And the injuries ... gods..." Forcing back the emotion that threatened to spill from his eyes, he turned to look at Janeway.

The soft look of sympathy on her face was his undoing. Rising unsteadily, he crossed to the window, wiping his hand over his eyes. He could still see her body...bloody...lifeless... his fault. She lay her hand against his back and he jumped.

"I think it will take a long time to heal these wounds, Commander. The Bothans certainly had their way with our thoughts, didn't they? It appears there was no middle ground for them--we either experienced our deepest fears or..." She paused uncomfortably.

"Or what?" Chakotay turned with curiosity.

"Or our deepest desires," she replied blushing furiously.

Smiling resignedly, he looked at her tenderly. "There's nothing wrong with your seeing Mark in your vision. It's only natural that you miss him; you're a long way from home." Something in the expression on her face gave him pause. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to--"

"You don't understand. You couldn't."

"Then help me. Talk to me." Taking her shoulders in his hands, he turned her toward him. The devastation on her face nearly broke his heart.

Softly, so softly he wasn't sure he heard her, she answered.

"Last night....in my dream? I was seeing Mark, yes. But I was saying good-bye." One solitary tear escaped and slowly made its way over her cheek. Without thinking or hesitation, Chakotay cupped her face in his hand, wiping away the moisture with his thumb.

"Why would you say good-bye? Surely you haven't given up--"

"Of course not. We'll get home, I'm sure of it. But it's not fair."

"What's not fair?"

"It's not fair to hold on to a memory when that memory is a shadow of what it once was. However suspect their methods, the Bothans were right. Mark has been replaced in my mind and I'm astounded that I didn't see it sooner."

"Replaced? Replaced by what?" Chakotay looked at her, puzzlement on his face.

"Not by 'what', Chakotay." She paused, steeling herself for the monumental breach of protocol that was about to ensue. "By 'who.' " Daring to look into his eyes, the feelings that were so newly discovered were displayed without apology.

Chakotay's heart tripped. This was a trick...another vision... There was no way in the heavens that he could misunderstand the meaning behind her words. And yet... maybe, just maybe, she was as afraid of this as he. Was there any way she could NOT know how he felt? He'd worn his heart on his sleeve practically

from the first minute he'd seen her on his view screen. "Captain, what are you saying?" His voice had lowered to a roughened whisper and his eyes narrowed with intensity.

"You're going to make me say it first, aren't you?" Janeway shook her head slightly as a wry smile tugged at the corners of her mouth. "All my training ... everything I've ever believed about the structure of command protocol ... how can I dismiss it so easily?" Finally she tipped her head back to look directly into his eyes as he rested his hands on her shoulders.

Squeezing her arms reassuringly, he smiled. That slow, easy, melt-your-heart smile that was so breathtaking. Bending his head slightly, he rested his forehead against hers and released a breath he hadn't even been aware of holding. The sigh that echoed from Janeway released the worry, the pain, the uncertainty that had shadowed them for weeks. Raising his head to look again into her eyes, he slowly lowered his mouth to hers, even as she was stretching towards him. The first gentle touch was magnificent.

Brushing his lips gently over hers, their stomachs rolled in tandem. Someone's heart was pounding furiously, yet it would have been impossible to distinguish whose it was. The sweet agony of the moment stretched interminably as they kissed tenderly, exchanging breath for breath. This time, there was no doubt in his mind that she was kissing him and not some distant memory.

Kathryn's arms crept around his broad back, her hands stretching up to grasp his shoulders. Taking this as a sign of assent, Chakotay deepened the kiss, nudging open her lips and touching her tongue with his own. A shudder wracked her body as he pulled her closer in his embrace, his hands gently kneading her back.

They kissed for what seemed an eternity, tasting, touching, whispering soft sounds of encouragement to each other. Kathryn was the first to pull away, albeit with a reluctant sigh. Resting her head against his chest, she summoned the courage to put an end to this before it could begin anew. "Chakotay--" She faltered, a small part of her more than willing to throw caution to the wind. She *had* to stop herself. Easier said than done.

"I know," he said regretfully. "Protocol." He knew he should pull away. His hands steadily caressing her back made coherent thought nearly impossible.

"We can't do this, you know. It's against very regulation in the books."

"You can't regulate your feelings, Kath--Captain. Sooner or later you have to deal with them." His eyes searched her face for some kind of clue. What was she thinking? Could she really end this here? Now?

"It's late. I suggest we both get some sleep, after all, it's been a long day." Stepping away from the circle of his arms, she suddenly felt chilled.

"Will I see--"

"We'll talk tomorrow. Good night, Commander." Her exhaustion had suddenly caught up with her and it cast a gray pall over her face and roughened her voice.

*Commander* That's the way it was going to be. Well, two can play at this game. "Good night....Captain." He had leaned incrementally closer as he spoke, and just as Janeway began to sway toward him, he touched her gently on the cheek, turned softly and left her. Watching the doors swish closed behind him, she touched her fingers to her face and smiled.

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*The time is 0600 hours*

*The time is 0600 hours*

*The time is--*

"Computer, terminate alarm." Stretching stiffly, Janeway slowly rolled to a sitting position. She had slept in her uniform for the first time since-- "Damn. When *was* the last time I slept in my clothes?" Peeling off her wrinkled clothes, she headed slowly for what she hoped would be a rejuvenating shower. Twenty minutes and a cup of replicated coffee later, she strode toward the bridge, a fresh spring in her step.

The morning duty shift could have been very awkward for the two commanding officers. By all rights it should have been, but miraculously, the very nature of their encounter the previous night seemed to have had a cleansing effect on them both. The air had been cleared, their attraction to each other had been acknowledged, even if not yet dealt with. There was no longer a need to tiptoe around one another; there was also no need to divulge this to the crew. If and when they acted upon their feelings would be soon enough to cross that particular bridge.

Days passed, wonderful in their simplicity. It seemed life on Voyager was finally returning to a state of normalcy. Chakotay and Torres were engaged in a friendly game of hoverball when Janeway summoned them to the bridge. They hated to end it; Torres had finally gotten past whatever the Bothans had inflicted on her subconscious and Chakotay truly delighted in having his old friend back again.

The past days had lulled them all into a false sense of security. So much so, that even when presented with blatant evidence, none of them even remotely suspected what was to come.

"A probe? With Federation signatures?" Chakotay was as baffled as B'Elanna. Harry Kim, ever hopeful, was certain it had been sent from the Alpha Quadrant. Without warning, all hell broke loose. From the belly of a gaseous cloud, the Kazon appeared, embedding one of their scout ships in Voyager's hull and disappearing as quickly as they had come. Along with the Voyager's main transporter module.

The tractor beam Paris locked onto the fleeing ship played them right into the Kazon's hands.

The Kazon and their new ally.

"Hello, Chakotay," Seska purred, a look of malicious delight on her nearly-restored Cardassian features.

"I should have known you were involved," Chakotay replied.

"Yes ... you should have," Seska admonished. "Just like I knew you'd try to stop us with a tractor beam. You've always been so predictable." With an evil smile, the face on the Voyager's viewscreen vanished, the Kazon vessel leaping into warp.

Torres and her crew scrambled to return the shields to full function. There was no question that the Kazon must be pursued; transporter technology in their hands would be disastrous for the balance of power in the entire quadrant. The already tense situation was made worse by Tuvok's suggestion that Commander Chakotay use his *intimate knowledge of Seska* against the Kazon as she had so used him.

Chakotay spun toward the Vulcan, a silent look of anger, interwoven with hurt, masking his face. Janeway drew in a harsh breath, hurting instinctively for her first officer, yet unable to say or do anything to alleviate his pain.

They never had time to discuss it. Without consultation or good-byes, Chakotay set off in silent pursuit of his former lover. Defying all protocols with his covert exit, his only thought was to end this. And he knew he had to do it alone.

"Captain's personal log, supplementary," Janeway leaned back against the cushions and frowned. "Chakotay has been missing since this morning. What the hell could he have been thinking?" Pausing to gather her thoughts, she rubbed her eyes tiredly. "I'm worried; very worried. I thought I knew him, but ... This just doesn't make sense. B'Elanna wants me to go after him; *I* want to go after him, but to endanger the crew? The ship? For what? His self-serving ideals? His *honor*? Damn his honor, anyway." Angrily stopping the recording, Janeway pushed up from her seat and paced to the window of her ready room. *Seska. I should have known she'd reappear one day. I suppose it was too much to hope for that the Kazon would have tired of her and dropped her off on some remote planetoid.* Chuckling perversely, Janeway shook her head at her own vengeful thoughts. "Damn him anyway," she whispered to the stars as her thoughts tumbled over the choices that lay ahead.

He might be hurt ... for all she knew, he might be ...

"No, I'd know." Spoken aloud in the silence, she knew without a doubt that it was true. There was an affinity there, a bond that she had never experienced before. Especially with a First Officer under her command.

Ultimately, the decision was made to pursue Seska and the Kazon ship. Voyager couldn't afford to let any more Federation technology slip from their grasp; Janeway could not afford to lose her First Officer. Janeway gave the orders, and she could have sworn Torres could see straight through her; straight to the truth that was in her heart. *I don't care* she thought, retreating to her quarters. *We'll get him back, but then he's going to have to deal with me.*

The hours dragged by as the Voyager made its way through Kazon space. Chakotay, battered, bruised and unconscious was finally beamed to sickbay, treated and released to face Janeway's wrath.

"What were you thinking?" she asked incredulously. "It's not like you to pull a stunt like this, not to exact personal revenge. Chakotay, she's not worth it." Amazingly, he stood stock still before her as she lashed out in her hurt and anger.

"I couldn't let her get away with this again. This ship ... everyone on it means too much to me for that." He paused, staring intently into her eyes. "You mean too much to me."

Janeway's insides twisted at his words. *Oh, god, don't personalize this ... not now ...* Steeling herself for what she knew she had to do, she pulled herself to her full height and placed him on report for insubordination and endangering the welfare of the ship and crew. Chakotay blanched, but accepted his due with calm resignation. They never knew whether or not she would have gone so far as to send him to the brig, for at that moment they were hailed to the bridge.

*God no, not another probe...*

But it was a message beacon. For Chakotay, from Seska. Declining privacy, Chakotay only wanted an end to this madness.

Their disgust at seeing the Cardassian traitor's face looming before them turned instantly to horror at her parting words to Chakotay.

*... father... father... you're going to be... * The words rang in his ears even hours later. He had exited the bridge without dismissal or requesting permission to return to quarters. It had not even occurred to him that Janeway had remained rooted to the floor in mute shock and never tried to stop him. For once, Paris had no snappy comeback; not even a trademark whistle under his breath.

Hearing no orders to the contrary, Tuvok severed the comm link to the Kazon vessel. Suddenly aware of the expectant silence around her, Janeway gave the orders to set course away from their current location ... warp 9. Giving Tuvok control of the bridge, she retreated to her ready room, where she remained in silent thought for the rest of the shift.

It was well after midnight when the chime on her door sounded. There was no question who it would be. In fact, she'd been expecting him all night. She knew he would come to her on his terms, when he was ready to talk.

"Come," she called softly, moving toward the doorway.

Standing in the quiet of the cabin, he leaned wearily against the door, knowing this was where he needed to be yet not knowing how to proceed. "I'm sorry." Simply said, it was all that was necessary. "I did what I had to do."

"I know. I did, too." An impasse, an uncrossable chasm of ideals that had suddenly lost its importance. Taking the hand that reached toward her, she allowed herself to be pulled into his embrace. Locking her arms around his waist, they stood that way for a long time, saying nothing, simply holding one another in silent support.

Words were unnecessary; she knew he was hurting, and he knew she felt it along with him. Taking her face in his hands, he pressed his mouth to hers, drinking of her spirit, her wholeness, as if to heal his own battered mind. Chakotay's hands cupped her shoulders, smoothing down her arms to brush the sides of her breasts and pull her hips against his. He was hard with need, and she gasped against his mouth as his erection pressed against her belly. Her body flushed with arousal and a heated pool of moisture formed between her thighs.

Instinctively rolling her hips against his, she grasped his buttocks in her hands, holding him against her. Their hands slowly began to explore all the places they had only dreamed of touching. His strong hands tangled in her hair as he held her. Her fingers traced the contours of his face and worked their way over his arms and to his chest. As her slender fingers toyed with the zipper on his uniform he sucked in a harsh breath. He had held himself in check for so long he was afraid he would come right then and there.

"Captain, we shouldn't."

She was taken aback for a moment. "Why not?" The zipper opened further and further.

Her hand had slipped inside and was stroking him firmly.

"Cap--Kathryn, stop." This last an anguished plea.

"No. Not this time."

He needed no further coaxing. "Gods, I need you," he whispered brokenly against her hair.

Bending slightly, he caught her up in his arms and carried her the short distance to her bed. Setting her on her feet, he kissed her soundly and stood back. Lovingly he unfastened her gown and slipped it from her shoulders. She reached for him again, but he swiftly evaded her grasp. His strong, dark hands made quite a contrast against her pale, delicate skin. He acquainted himself with every inch of her, starting with her hair. She always wore it pinned back and tonight he took great delight in releasing the pins and watching it tumble over her shoulders and across her breasts. Countless times he'd wondered what it would be like to touch her...

Now he knew.

Weaving his fingers through the silken weight of her hair, he kissed her face gently. Her temples, her eyes, eliciting a surprised laugh when he reached the tip of her nose.

Kathryn started to move toward him, but he stopped her. "Please," she said with a whisper, "let me..."

"Shh...soon. Be still and let me love you." Taking her hand, he pulled her to the bed, stretching out beside her. Propping on one elbow, he traced the shape of her face with his fingertips. His hand followed a path down her neck to her breasts. She gasped as he gently traced their contours with his fingers, brushing a thumb over her nipples. A soft moan escaped her lips and Chakotay bent his head, taking her breast into his mouth.

Shifting restlessly against him, Kathryn stroked his hair as he suckled at her, a deep tight tension coiling in her belly. Lifting his head, he blew gently on her damp skin, smiling in satisfaction as she cried out, her nipple pebble-hard.

"Not fair..." she whispered brokenly, taking in the fact that he was still fully clothed.

Rising swiftly, he tugged off his boots. Pulling his arms from his jump suit, he pushed it past his waist and to the floor. Kathryn watched, fascinated, as he removed the final scrap of clothing. Unashamed, he stood before her, his need for her evident.

As she reached for him, he once again eluded her touch, rising over her body with his own. She needed him, needed to feel his weight covering her, but still he held himself away. His hands on either side of her head, he kissed her deeply, his erection just barely brushing against her.

Kathryn smoothed her hands along his back, glorying in the feel of his naked flesh. She drew her fingertips around and over his hips, drawing closer and closer to his penis. He thwarted her once again. He knew instinctively that the moment she touched him, it would be over in an embarrassingly short time.

"Not yet. It's still my turn." His mouth continued on its journey, down her sides, pausing to lick the underside of her breasts. He moved his hands around her back and massaged the tight muscles at the base of her spine. Parting her thighs with his own, his fingers slowly swept downward to cup the smooth skin of her bottom and pull her closer. Without pause, he touched the tip of his tongue against her erect clitoris and was rewarded with a shiver that traversed her entire body.

Kathryn held his head against her as he made love to her with his mouth, his teeth and tongue teasing mercilessly as he drove her relentlessly toward orgasm. Feeling the tension coil tighter and tighter within her body, he waited until the last possible moment. As the first wave began, Chakotay moved over her and ever so slowly entered her pulsing body.

Magnificent. As he filled her, she contracted around him nearly destroying what little of his control remained. Her hands on his bottom, she pulled him closer as her climax went on and on. As the spasms abated, he kissed her deeply and only then did he begin to move against her.

Slowly, fully, he withdrew almost completely, only to push into her again and again. Gods, to be with her like this was more than he'd ever imagined possible. His thoughts spinning out of control, he gave himself up to the feelings and thrust into her, faster, harder.

Barely away from the crest of her first orgasm, Kathryn felt herself spiral higher and higher. Reaching for the stars, she locked her thighs around his waist as his hands slipped beneath her back and lifted her away from the sheets.

Soon ... so soon ... now.

Kathryn cried out with the force of her climax as he thrust one last time and held himself deep within, his body emptying itself into hers.

As their senses slowly returned to normal, Chakotay murmured soft sounds against her hair, holding her tightly against his side. The raw, powerful emotion in his voice was so powerful that Kathryn could not stop the flow of tears that was wetting her face. The release, the letting-go of months of tensions was a relief neither had anticipated. He kissed her tears away and held her close.

Sometime near ship's morning, they slowly awakened in a tangle of arms and legs. After making love again, they had finally fallen asleep, locked together with Chakotay's softening erection still inside her. For the first night of many, neither had dreamed, for their most passionate dreams had become reality.

"Mmm..." Kathryn smiled softly, spooning herself against Chakotay's front.

"I've dreamed of doing this so many times. I watch you move through the ship and I want to take you aside and touch you."

"What about "indiscreet shipboard fraternization"? It was all she could do not to laugh outright.

"Well, you did tell me that was a lousy idea..." Chakotay pressed his lips to the curve of her neck, hugging her close. As awareness of their surroundings began to set in, they sighed in unison.

"It's almost time to report for duty," Chakotay whispered in her ear.

"This changes things," Kathryn said with a hint of regret in her voice.

"No, we can't let it. We can't abandon what we found here last night. I feel as if I've waited my whole life to find you and I refuse to give up that easily."

Sighing loudly, she replied, "But I'm your Captain. I have to give you orders every day, orders that you may not agree with, but that I will expect you to follow. How can we..."

"Enough. We'll work it out."

"I suppose we could compromise," she said turning to face him and running her fingers down his naked back. "Suppose I'm in charge on the bridge, and you can be in charge when we're off duty?"

"You mean like now?" he said as he rolled her over and kissed her soundly.

"I think you've got the right idea," she said softly, surrendering to the passion that threatened to overtake them once again.

Dressing quietly for duty, Kathryn finally spoke the words that had been on her mind since the previous night.

"It's not yours."

"What?"

Turning a strong look on her first officer, she repeated herself. "I'm sure of it. The baby's not yours. If she's even pregnant, and we have no way of knowing that for a fact."

The horror of Seska's words threatened once more to envelop him. "Kathryn, you heard what she said. Everyone heard what she said." Her public pronouncement had been the final blow of the betrayal that had begun months before.

"Chakotay, you know what a liar she is. She's lied before. To you, to me ... what's to prevent her from lying about this too? She knew exactly how to get to you, and she did."

For the first time, he began to feel the spark of hope that had been missing. Shaking his head at her determination, he grinned. "Well, if there's a way to prove it, I'm sure you will."

"Damned right. No one messes with the First Officer of the Voyager. Right?"

"Aye Captain," he said with an easy smile as they walked side by side toward the beginning of a new shift and a future that suddenly seemed bright with promise.

THE END

1/15/96



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