DISCLAIMERS: Paramount is the god that created these wonderful characters. What I do with them in my own twisted, sappy little mind is my own responsibility and is in no way meant to infringe on any existing copyrights.
THANKS: To Michelle who said "go for it", and Diane, the other third of the Sap Sisters.
WARNING: This story contains sex :::gasp::: and romance (eew!) between two consenting Starship officers. If you can't handle this, read no further. If you like it, write me! If you detest it, delete it and move on.


"RUMORS" by Becca O.



"They're saying WHAT?" Chakotay slammed his hands on the table in the mess hall and leapt to his feet in one fluid motion. B'Elanna had not seen him this angry in a long time. Well, actually, not since right before they were swept away into the Delta Quadrant. She was fascinated by the range of emotions on his face. Shock--incredulity--fury.

"Chakotay, sit down."

"Who else has heard this?" he softly replied, his tone a dead give-away to his barely harnessed anger. "B'Elanna, why didn't you come to me sooner?" Still standing, he fastened his eyes on his comrade.

"It's just talk, Chakotay. I heard it first in Stellar Cartography, but then I caught wind of it in Engineering, too."

"Does the Captain know about this?" His eyes narrowed at the ramifications.

"I don't think so. I don't know... I can't believe the way you're reacting."

"This is going to stop," he said, turning on his heel and striding toward the door.

"Chakotay--" Torres called, but he either didn't hear or didn't heed.

The door opened for the Commander and the Captain simultaneously. The Captain's entry was halted by the solid mass of Chakotay's body colliding with hers. If not for his quick reflexes, she would have landed on her--

"Captain--I'm sorry. Are you all right?" Chakotay's large hands caught her arms as she struggled to maintain her balance.

"Commander. Nice bumping into you." Janeway's eyes twinkled with merriment as she addressed her obviously embarrassed First Officer.

Chakotay flushed. He actually turned a deep shade of umber. He stared into her eyes and was speechless until he suddenly remembered that he was holding her in place. Clearing his throat, he said hoarsely, "Excuse me." Stepping to one side, he released her and exited the mess hall with not another word.

Janeway turned to watch him go, a puzzled look on her face.

"Fascinating," Tuvok commented from behind her.

"Tuvok--do you have any idea what just happened here?"

"None, Captain."

B'Elanna watched the entire scene--Chakotay's exit, his encounter with the Captain. During the brief exchange, an expectant silence had fallen over the dining room. Now, at Janeway's entry, all eyes suddenly shifted to their meals as guilty whispers were exchanged by many of those present.

Chakotay paced his quarters restlessly. His shift was long over and it had been hours since the scene in the mess hall. And yet-

He couldn't escape the thoughts that had been turning over and over in his mind. The Captain--and him? Not possible. What could have prompted the rumors? Chakotay had mentally re-played every encounter he had ever had with Janeway. Several times. Granted, she was a physical person, but she was that way with all the crew, not just him. Chakotay undressed for bed, trying to put it out of his mind, but the more he thought about it, the more he wondered who would start such a rumor?

Chakotay was all business the next day. He went out of his way to avoid contact with the captain, all the time watching the rest of the crew. He spoke when addressed and volunteered little. After several days of this, Janeway's curiosity got the better of her. Having grown tired of monosyllabic answers and chilly silence, she rose from her command chair. "Commander, I'd like a word with you." Leaving no room for debate, she entered her ready room, and it was clear to all present that Chakotay was expected to follow.

Turning to face him, she wondered at his stiff, military-like demeanor. Softening her voice she said, "At ease, Commander." Chakotay relaxed his stance, but not much. "What's going on Chakotay? You've hardly said a dozen words in the past two days."

Chakotay wanted to tell her. He actually began forming the words, but in the end he just couldn't do it. He hoped to end it all before she was any wiser, so he took a deep breath and proceeded to lie to his captain. Subterfuge was so foreign to his sense of honor that the deeper he got, the worse he felt. He somehow managed to pin his behavior on lack of sleep and a preoccupation with a personal problem. In all truth, it was a personal problem. She just wasn't aware that it involved her.

Janeway didn't believe it for a moment. She dismissed him with an admonition to take some time off, to which he nodded and promptly returned to duty. Leaning on her desk, she rubbed her eyes in frustration. "This isn't like him. There's something he's not telling me." Janeway pondered the events of the past three days. It all seemed to stem from their "encounter" in the mess hall.

"Wait a minute. B'Elanna was there, maybe she knows what's going on." Feeling a bit ridiculous for talking to herself, she tapped her comm badge. "Janeway to Torres."

"Torres here, Captain."

"Lieutenant, I need a favor."

Dinner time found the Captain and Lieutenant Torres sharing a meal in the mess hall. The very fact that the captain was there at all guaranteed them uninterrupted time for conversation. As the small talk dwindled to silence, B'Elanna spoke up.

"Captain, what's this all about?"

"Lieutenant--you're friends with Chakotay." The mere mention of his name put B'Elanna on her guard. She had a bad feeling about this, and her instincts were usually right. "Something's bothering him, but he won't talk to me. I was hoping you could shed some light on the problem."

Torres wanted nothing better than to tell the Captain what was going on and be done with it, but her friendship with Chakotay went back too far for her to betray his confidence. "Captain--it's not my place to interfere. If you make it an order, I'll have to answer you, but I really wish you wouldn't."

Janeway sighed and placed her cup on the table. Closing her eyes in regret, she leaned back in her chair. This is precisely what Chakotay saw as he came through the doors. His first thought was *she knows*. His second, less rational thought, was of B'elanna. *I'll kill her.* Morbid curiosity and a frightening sense of foreboding drew him to their table like a magnet. The questioning look he fastened on B'Elanna was icy cold.

"Chakotay--join us?" she said smoothly, giving away nothing. His eyes narrowed as he attempted to assess whatever damage she had done. Seeing no answers forthcoming, he glanced from one woman to the other before replying.

"I don't think so. Not tonight. Captain, Lieutenant--enjoy your meal." He was so distracted he actually sat down with Tom Paris before he realized what he had done.

~~~~~~~~~

Chakotay's behavior was a puzzle and Kathryn Janeway did not like puzzles. If there was something going on, you could be certain she would unearth the truth. Janeway strode through the doors of Sandrine's like a woman with a mission. It seemed the entire senior staff was here this evening--shooting pool, having a drink, or just simply sitting and relaxing. Her eyes scanned the crowded holodeck and found Chakotay playing cards with Tuvok in a far corner. It seems they had discovered a mutual fondness or cards while awaiting the distasteful unmasking of Seska several months prior. Janeway seated herself at the bar, content to merely observe.

Chakotay had developed a rapport of sorts with Tuvok. A reluctant respect for his abilities, certainly, but interlaced with the kind of wry humor intentionally designed to set the Vulcan on edge. It seemed to her that one of his immediate goals was to goad the Lieutenant into an irrational display of emotion. So far he hadn't succeeded, but Janeway knew Tuvok well enough to suspect that there had been several close calls. It was good to see the Commander enjoying himself. The strain of the past days seemed almost non-existent as he shook his head and laughingly folded yet another hand of cards.

Chakotay must have sensed her gaze, because it was then that he turned and looked directly into her eyes. For one brief moment, there was something there. Some indefinable emotion that was gone before it could be understood. The closed, serious look of the past days was back again, the easy humor replaced with an unemotional mask that easily rivalled Tuvok at his best. Janeway had been smiling in his direction, but at his closed look, her heart caught in her throat and her smile faded.

Well. That settled it. To Janeway it was blatantly obvious that she was the problem, and the only immediate solution was to leave the crew to their revelry and return to her quarters. The look of inexplicable hurt that crossed her face cut Chakotay to the quick. She had caught him so completely off guard that there had been no time to prepare. He knew he owed her an explanation, but she was gone before he could navigate his way through the crowd. To have followed her out would have only added fuel to the quickly growing speculation. He returned to his game, and lost three more hands before calling it a night and heading for his rooms.

Janeway was beyond thought. She had pondered and discarded so many theories that her head was pounding. Releasing her hair from it's restraint, she absently rubbed the muscles in her neck. Finding herself in front of the replicator, she considered a cu of coffee, but knew it would only keep her awake. As if she would be able to sleep now, anyway, she thought to herself.

Chakotay passed her door twice before steeling his nerves to ring the chime. Resigning himself to what lay ahead, he waited nervously for her to answer. Hearing nothing, he rang a second time. He had finally decided that she was asleep and was turning toward his own cabin when the door opened. His breath stopped at the sight of the captain, her hair in sleepy disarray, the remnants of her headache clearly visible in her eyes.

"Captain--I woke you up. I'm sorry. This can wait until tomorrow." Chakotay turned to leave but was halted by a firm hand on his arm.

"Commander--Chakotay--please stay. I think we need to talk." Moving aside, she motioned him into her quarters. Even in the dimness, he could see that she had taken great care in making this her home. The mission was to have been short, but Janeway nonetheless had made sure that she had personal things around her, things from home that would bring comfort to her in her privacy.

That was where they differed. In the Maquis, there had been no time for sentimentality. Go out, get the job done and move on. His medicine bundle and medicine wheel were all he had left of his past. That, and the tattered remnants of his clothing, scorched and battered from his final confrontation with the Kazon. He kept them--a reminder of what had been. It seemed a lifetime ago.

Lost in his thoughts, he was somewhat startled when she spoke. "Chakotay, explain something to me. What exactly happened tonight?" Her voice was soft, caring, yet the confusion she had felt earlier was still there.

His breath escaping in a weary sigh, he turned to face her. He had inadvertently hurt her, and he owed her the truth. "It's a long story, Captain."

"I'm not going anywhere, Chakotay. Tell me what's going on." Expecting him to follow her, she sat on the sofa and watched as he instead began to pace the length of the room.

Finally deciding that there was no way but directly, he spilled the entire story.

"There is a rumor circulating among the crew." Seeing nothing but her raised eyebrow, he plunged ahead. "Someone is saying that you and I--that we--" Chakotay rubbed his temples as if Janeway's headache had somehow been transferred to him. "The crew thinks that you and I are involved." He stiffened his back, waiting for an outburst of fury that never materialized. Daring a glance at her face, he was disconcerted to realize that not only was she not furious, she was fighting a losing battle with an outrageous urge to giggle. Perversely, he didn't know whether to feel relieved or insulted.

Seeing the warring emotions on his face, Janeway finally gave up fighting it and laughed outright, the refreshing sound bubbling out of her like a mountain spring. He stood back and let her have her fun, watching as she dabbed at the tears that sprang to her eyes the way that tears sometimes do. Finally, he asked the question that had been uppermost in his mind as he watched her laughter. "Exactly what do you find so funny? The fact that there is a rumor, or the fact that it's me they have chosen to pair you with?"

Kathryn realized she had insulted his dignity, and in trying to rectify her error, only succeeded in making things worse. "Oh, no Commander, I don't find you distasteful at all. I mean--if there was anyone on the ship that I would choose to--that I would enjoy--" There was no way out of this. Anything she said now would only succeed in digging the hole a bit deeper. Her headache was back. Full force, right behind her eyes. She closed them, mentally cursing Starfleet, the Maquis, Gul Evek, and was working her way towards the Kazon and Vidiians when she heard a soft chuckle and felt a warm hand on her neck.

"This is a mess, isn't it?" Chakotay said, pressing the knots out of her tense muscles. "I was hoping to stop the rumors before they reached you."

"So you decided the best way was to avoid being seen with me or even speaking to me?"

"Captain, I don't want to jeopardize your command, or my position within that command. I was hoping to find out who was spreading the rumors and deal with it."

"How--court-martial? Exile? There's precious little for people to do out here Chakotay, these types of things are bound to happen. I'm flattered that you wanted to spare me the embarrassment, though." Her head was feeling better already, and she had leaned incrementally closer to Chakotay as he eased the tension in her aching joints. Unfortunately, their closeness was giving rise to a different kind tension. One that neither one of them was prepared for.

At roughly the same instant, they both realized exactly how close to the other each had drifted. Their eyes met in a softly-glazed look, before hurriedly looking away. Chakotay broke the awkward silence that had suddenly surrounded them.

"What should we do?" he asked quietly.

"Do?" Janeway's eyes were still glassy as her mind struggled to formulate an answer. "Oh--you mean the rumors." She flushed as she realized the direction in which her thoughts had inadvertently wandered. Standing and stepping away from the closeness of the Commander, she said, "I suggest we simply ignore it. Soon enough, whoever is spreading the stories will see that there is no basis in fact."

"Of course, I agree. Absolutely nothing to it." There was an uncomfortable pause as Chakotay found himself staring at the starlight reflecting off of her hair. "Well--I'll see you on the bridge. Good night, Captain."

"Good night, Commander. Sleep well," she said as she heard the doors to her quarters swish closed behind him. Janeway spent the rest of the night fully cognizant of the fact that Chakotay's quarters were next door, and that in all likelihood his bed was on the other side of the wall just behind hers.

~~~~~~~~~~

Things gradually returned to normal on the Voyager. Janeway and Chakotay were speaking again, and the familiar camaraderie that had surrounded them before had returned in full force. The rumors still persisted, yet neither seemed to mind. After all. They knew there was no truth to the rumors.

Didn't they?

Despite all their best efforts, their carefully constructed working relationship began to quietly unravel.

When Janeway put her hand on Chakotay's arm for the twelfth time during Beta shift, Chakotay realized with a start that he had actually been keeping count. He gave her a startled look, not realizing that *she* had been keeping count of the number of times his concentrated gaze had caught her eye. *My god* they each thought, *no wonder there is talk*, neither recognizing that a healthy share of the blame was their own. They each vowed to themselves to be more careful, lest the other realize what had been going on.

Contact between the two commanding officers again became more hesitant, restrained.

Polite.

That's what it was. A very mannerly relationship, nothing suspect. It wasn't until Janeway awoke several nights later from a very disturbing dream that she began to realize how deeply this was affecting her. She had no immediate recollection of the details, which was probably just as well, but the condition of her body told her that it had been very erotic, indeed. Her silk gown was plastered to her body, a fine sheen of perspiration holding it damply against her skin. The aching fullness in her abdomen was vaguely reminiscent of sexual fulfillment, the kind she had not experienced for far too long. If she hadn't actually climaxed in her sleep, she had come damn close.

A sound from behind her head startled her. Chakotay--the sound had come from Chakotay's quarters.

Chakotay. Oh, god--the details of her dream came back to her in an instant, the memories suffusing her body with heated embarrassment. Changing into a fresh gown, she passed the rest of the night on the sofa. Her bed held too many memories for her to be comfortable there again, at least not tonight.

Janeway firmly resolved to put it out of her mind, but her determination dissolved the moment Chakotay smiled and said good morning. Her exhausted mind was overwhelmed with a memory of his soft voice, husky with passion, murmuring heated words in her ear. This early morning encounter seemed to establish the pace for the next eight hours, the longest eight hours of Kathryn's life. At odd, inopportune moments, Janeway found herself reflecting on the Commander. His hands on a data padd became his hands on her skin. His mouth, smiling at something Paris said, became his mouth on hers, moving over her body and...

"Captain?" Chakotay's questioning voice snapped her back to the present with a guilty start. "I was asking if you'd care to join the rest of us on the holodeck this evening, but you looked like you were a million miles away."

"Not nearly that far, Commander." Janeway sighed as she wondered how transparent she had actually been. Promising to consider the invitation, she retreated to her quarters for a quiet meal, hoping that by morning the memories would have faded.

Chakotay, on the other hand, fully intended to surround himself by as many crew members as possible. Attempting to remain indifferent to the rumors was quickly taking its toll. The full realization of his fears had been brought home to him at 0300 hours this morning. He had succeeded in waking himself from a restless sleep by actually striking his head on the wall behind his bed. As wakefulness returned, he had been mortified to find himself fully erect, the captain's name on his lips. It had been a very long time since he had been in this state.

He had to put an end to this.

Soon.

If he was hoping for a distraction, he was out of luck. The moment he picked up a pool cue Paris made the mistake of inquiring as to the captain's whereabouts. "How the hell should I know, Paris? I'm her first officer, not her keeper." Chakotay tossed the cue on the table and retreated to a corner table where B'Elanna was seated. Paris shook his head and whistled softly at the Commander's loss of control.

Torres said nothing, which only served to infuriate him further. After several moments of silent scrutiny, he looked at her face with a touch of chagrin. "What? I'm sure you have a comment as well?"

"Get a grip, Chakotay. You're letting this get to you."

"There's nothing to get to me, B'Elanna. You know there's nothing going on between me and the Captain."

Torres studied him thoughtfully before speaking what had been on her mind for some time now. "Just who are you trying to convince, Chakotay--me or yourself?"

He started to vehemently deny her accusation, but the inherent truth of her question left him speechless. When had he started to view the captain in anything other than a strictly professional light? After his dream? When he first heard the rumors? Chakotay was so absorbed in his thoughts that he was never aware of Torres leaving the table.

His mind began to wander. He remembered his first sight of Captain Kathryn Janeway. Her face had filled his viewscreen--empathetic, offering assistance, not condemnation. There was a respect forged even then, a willingness to work with her, not against her. He remembered the look on her face when deciding to leave him to the fates in the Ocampa underground. Chakotay had experienced a profound sense of loss. He would never know what it would be like to work with her toward a common goal. His unnamed fears had never been realized, of course. The rest of the story was one for the history books, provided, of course, they ever reached home to tell about it.

So much had happened to them in so little time. Rubbing his hand over his face, memories of his worst nightmare came to him. Seska. Gods, what a travesty that had been. She had betrayed him, betrayed the captain, and not once had Janeway ever thrown it back in his face. He had always felt entirely to blame for Seska, but the Captain had never once mentioned it. She simply moved on to the next item on her agenda, letting the past remain in the past.

Chakotay had no idea how long he remained lost in his thoughts, but as he became aware of the lateness of the hour, he mumbled a half-hearted apology to Tom and retreated to his cabin.

It seemed that introspection was the order of business for the night. Captain Janeway had been dealing privately with her own growing awareness of her First Officer. She had come to no conclusions as to exactly when her breathing had begun to quicken at the sight of him. Why did she feel the need to touch his arm so much? How many of her crew were watching and keeping tabs? Why should she care if they were?

Protocol. Damn that word. She was beginning to wish she could erase it from the computer's memory. Here they were, stuck out here for God knows how long, and bound to follow a set of rules that they might never live to see enforced again. On the one hand, she was the Captain. She was responsible for enforcing those rules, keeping everything together for everyone else. But, damn it all, who was going to keep her together? Was she of any use at all to the ship if she was so strung out she couldn't think?

She knew in her heart exactly what she was feeling for him. God, she had felt it before, maybe that's why it terrified her so. It was too frightening to put into words. After all, speaking it aloud--even in the darkness of her quarters--would make it real. She couldn't deal with it. Not yet. Throwing on a loose jacket, she decided that a distraction was in order.

Janeway made the colossal mistake of reaching the turbolift at the same instant that Chakotay was getting off. Their newly discovered feelings were clearly visible on their faces. They looked intently into each others' eyes and then they did the only thing they could think to do.

They stepped around each other without a word and continued on their respective ways.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Another sleepless night, another tense duty shift. How long could they continue like this? The more aware they became of each other, the worse it was. Janeway took to spending too much time in her ready room, and Chakotay found too many excuses to run errands off of the bridge. The rumors had never died down. If anything, they were merely intensified by the obvious conflict between the commanding officers.

By week's end, Janeway had had enough. The only way to get past this was to confront the issue head on and end it before it got out of hand. "Commander, in my ready room. Now." She had seen his hesitation, his struggle for an excuse. Anything to escape the discussion they were about to have. Chakotay rose from his seat on the bridge and blindly followed the Captain, fully aware of the looks from the crew and Paris' soft, trademark whistle.

The doors had barely closed when they spoke in unison.

"Captain--"

"Commander-"

The sigh they also made in unison served to lessen the tension somewhat. "You first," Chakotay said. "You're the captain."

"Thank you, I think," Janeway said with a glimpse of her former good humor. Continuing seriously, she said, "This has to stop. We both know it."

"Captain--"

" No, Commander, let me finish." Janeway moved to her desk and sat along the edge, folding her arms across her breasts in a purely self-protective measure. "I have a fairly good idea what you've been thinking, I've been struggling with it myself. But we both know that the ship has to come first. The crew--"

"The crew be damned," Chakotay exploded. "What about you? Don't you count in any of this?"

Janeway was more than shocked by his outburst. She had no idea that he had even been taking her feelings under consideration. She should have known better, she supposed, but then she hadn't exactly been the picture of rationality in the past days. "I can't afford to let my feelings control this situation," she whispered. "I have to plan for the future of this entire ship."

"Tell me. What exactly are your plans? Do you intend to avoid me for the rest of the trip? Seventy five years is a long time." He had no idea how to reason with her, he only knew he had to try or risk losing everything he'd found.

"I'll come to terms with this, I have to."

" 'Come to terms'? Now there's a happy thought." The more she tried to rationalize her reasons, the angrier Chakotay became. He was helplessly losing ground and could see no way to halt her.

" I have to think about--"

"Think about this." Chakotay closed the distance between them in two steps. He didn't allow himself the luxury of thought, or he most likely would not have breached protocol the way he did. Framing her face in his large, tanned hands, he fastened his mouth to hers in a kiss that she felt all the way to her toes. Her heart plummeted, forgetting to beat, and her lungs wanted to burst from the air she forgot to breathe. Her hands were reaching for his shoulders, her lips softening under his when he abruptly stepped away and held her at arms length.

"See how long that keeps you company." Turning on his heel, he strode quickly onto the bridge and into the lift leaving a stunned Kathryn Janeway standing in her ready room, her fingers to her lips. Not quite sure how to cope, she sank to the floor in front of her desk and wept, a heavy sense of grief closing around her.

~~~~~~~~~

Kathryn Janeway was losing her mind. She needed a crisis, and she needed it badly. The routine of nothingness was about to push her over the edge. Her last "meeting" with Chakotay was never far from her mind, and he seemed to have reversed his tactics. Instead of retreating from the situation, he became the dutiful First Officer. Ever-solicitous to Janeway's needs, he was there beside her. All day. Every shift. There was no escape.

Finally. Time for a crew change. The second shift crew was taking their places as Janeway moved toward the lift, hoping to reach it before she was missed. She didn't succeed. Falling into his new habit, Chakotay was there, ushering her in ahead of him, his hand on the small of her back. Her skin burned through the fabric where he touched her. She fully expected to see scorch marks when she changed to a clean uniform and headed for the holodeck.

To her utter relief, Chakotay was nowhere to be seen. Janeway relaxed, enjoying the company of her crew and actually managed to almost put him out of her mind until it was time to return to her quarters. Her luck ran out on deck seven. The lift halted st long enough to admit the Commander, fresh from his evening run. Chuckling inwardly at her discomfort, he resolved to be kind--tonight.

"Good evening, Captain."

"Commander." Janeway stared intently at the decks going by, a seemingly age-old ritual for elevator passengers throughout time. Finally--the senior officers' living deck.

Janeway had every intention of passing quietly to her cabin, and Chakotay intended to let her. Really. But something in her discomfort, her stoic need for distance, shattered his resistance. As they approached his door, he found himself reaching out for her. Just a gentle touch on her hair. Ostensibly, she raised her hand to disengage his fingers, but instead found herself holding onto his hand as if the contact were necessary for her to live.

A look of tender passion in his eyes, Chakotay keyed the lock on his quarters and pulled her through the doorway with him.

The tension of the past days snapped in the instant it took for the doors to close behind them. Janeway found herself pressed to the wall of Chakotay's quarters, her breasts flattened beneath the firm muscles of his chest. His breath became hers as his mouth locked itself to her lips with a bruising forcefulness. His hands were in her hair, tangling in its length, the restraining pins scattered to the floor. Janeway wrapped her arms around his neck for support as Chakotay ground his hips against her pelvis, his aching erection straining for freedom. Reaching between them she pressed her hands against his groin, stroking him and struggling to reach the closures that kept him from her sight.

Gasping with breathlessness, Chakotay pulled away just long enough to separate Janeway from her uniform, tugging her jumpsuit around her ankles as she pulled the horrid gray turtleneck over her head. Cursing Starfleet tailors for their thoroughness, Chakotay rid himself of his clothing and paused just long enough to drink in the sight of his captain--beautifully naked and dishevelled, her need for him unhidden on her face. Gods--he knew in his soul he would never last long enough to make the walk to his bed.

The struggle evident on his face, Janeway pulled him toward her, effectively ending his inner debate as she raised one leg and wrapped it around his thigh. His erection strained against her belly as the first contact of skin on skin sent waves of gratification over them both.

His hands were everywhere at once. His thumbs teased her nipples while his palms balanced the weight of her breasts, gently but firmly stroking their fullness as Janeway whimpered against his shoulder. She feathered her hands down his abdomen, the taut muscles rippling with anticipation as she finally traced her nails slowly down the length of his erection and up again, teasing unmercifully. Chakotay groaned in agony and pressed himself more fully into her hand, as Janeway laughed softly with wicked delight.

Deciding that revenge could be sweet, Chakotay allowed his hands to wander toward her thighs, never quite reaching the places that so needed his touch. His fingers drew mystic designs on Janeway's flesh, relishing the need that was evident in the unfocused look of her eyes. The sweet torture became too much for them both.

Chakotay moved his hand to the soft curls at her thighs, and, fascinated by the look on her face, touched her intimately, his fingers sliding easily through the hot wetness of her arousal. The only sound she was capable of making was a softly sighed "ohhh" as his fingers worked a magic spell on her body and brought her closer and closer to a shattering fulfillment.

Just when she was certain she would die from the pleasure, Chakotay moved his hands to her bottom. Gently lifting her off the floor, he pressed himself against her until her back was supported between himself and the main wall of his cabin. Slowly, so slowly, he allowed the ship's gravity to pull her down to meet his body as he entered her and their souls met. Janeway's tight, hot body pulsed around him as he breathed his thanks into her neck.

Sobbing with gratitude, she wrapped her legs around his waist as he began to rock gently into her. Tears coursing down her face, she held his head against hers while the force of their union continued to build. Janeway knew her back would bear the mark of their lovemaking, but was beyond care. Chakotay pushed himself further and further into her willing flesh, his feelings no longer hidden, nor did he wish to. Joining his mouth to hers was the only thing keeping him from pouring out the thoughts that were threatening to escape his lips. Tangling his tongue with hers in masterful imitation of their bodies, he willed her to know what was in his heart as the reality of time and space shattered with the force of their climax.

Their bodies shuddering in the aftermath, Chakotay held Kathryn securely in his arms, supporting her trembling weight. He kissed her tenderly as she lowered her feet to the floor, regretfully separating their bodies.

"Oh, God," she moaned against his mouth, "what have we done?"

"What we've wanted to do for weeks," he answered softly, smoothing her tangled hair away from her face. He could feel the conflict emanating from her in waves of confusion, so he said nothing, simply allowing her time to live with the knowledge of their actions.

"The rumors--oh, god, the crew will have a field day with this." This spoken by the same woman whose advice had been to *ignore it*.

"Captain--" he began and stopped short as realized that they had crossed the precarious barrier of protocol and were well beyond titles. Yet--even though they had just shared the most extraordinary union a man and woman could share, he was still somehow loath to presume the use of her name.

Janeway sensed his turmoil, smiled and resolved the problem for him. "Kathryn," she stated quietly. "Don't you think you've earned the right to use my name? At least when we're not on duty, that is."

Chakotay closed his eyes tightly, struggling to contain his relief. This meant there would be a next time. A small part of him had been terribly afraid that this would mean the end of his career, the end of his future-- their future-- as he had begun to envision it. Pulling her toward him, he hugged her tightly before leading her to the couch on the far side of the room, stepping gingerly over scattered pieces of clothing. Folding her legs beneath her, she leaned against him as he wrapped his arms ound her, resting his chin on her head.

"The rumors--Chakotay, what will we do?"

"Does it really matter anymore?" he chuckled. "We are involved, and I have no intention of letting you get away from me." Her stomach lurched at the implied permanence of his words. "It took a rumor to make me see what I think I'd been feeling all along. If you let yourself admit it, I think you've been feeling it, too."

"I didn't want to," she began, but coherent thought fled as Chakotay's hands began stroking her. He smoothed his hands down her arms, working his way up over her abdomen to her breasts, his fingertips brushing over her tightening nipples. Kathryn arched forward into his hands, her breath catching on a sob of need. Chakotay's hardening member nudged insistently against her back, heightening her desire for him even more. She tried valiantly to reach for him, but he gently moved her hands away.

"No--we've waited so long for this. Just relax and let me love you." Holding her breasts with one hand, he reached between her thighs with the other. She was soaked with her own desire and the remnants of their lovemaking. "Oh, Kathryn," he breathed against her neck, his fingers slipping inside as his thumb teased the aching center of her desire. The tenor of his voice, combined with his insistent touch, sent Kathryn careening over a precipice of their own making. She cried out her release as her muscles clenched around his hand, tears of relief falling on Chakotay's arm. The emotional turbulence of the past days had come to an end leaving nothing in its place but a relieved sense of calm.

Chakotay brushed the tears from her face as her ragged breathing gradually returned to normal. Turning in his arms, she allowed herself to look fully in his eyes for the first time in days. The depth of emotion she saw displayed was staggering in its intensity. Her heart swelled almost to the point of breaking as she took his face in her hands and gently brushed his lips with hers. Pressing herself against his body, she was met with an unmistakable reminder of his current state of arousal.

Kathryn reached between them, grasping his erection in her slender fingers. His sigh of relief urged her on, and she continued to stroke him, his hips taking on a rhythm of their own. She would have gladly encouraged him to completion had he not seized her hips and lifted her over him. Settling her knees around his thighs, he rose upwards to meet her descending body and they joined in utter ecstasy. It was difficult to ascertain who was leading whom. In essence, the more they gave, the more they received.

Kathryn met his full thrusts with an abandon she was unaware of possessing. Chakotay pushed himself harder and deeper into her body, and at the last, crying out her name in reverence. Collapsing against each other in fulfilled exhaustion, they were blissfully unaware of the lone ensign that passed by their doorway, paused momentarily, and moved on toward Stellar Cartography with a smile.

THE END...or is it?

7/17/95

(continued in the sequel, "Confirmation")



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