Exposed By A Kiss

by Dawn

Summary: A re-telling of the episode, Renaissance Man. What if the Doctor thought there was a hidden relationship between Janeway and Chakotay?

Disclaimer: Voyager and its characters belong to Paramount.

Thanks to my Betas: Jadie and Spiletta

Chakotay stopped pacing when Kathryn entered the ready room. He said, "Harry tells me the Flyer took some damage." His heart had been in knots when he heard there had been trouble for her and the Doctor on their return flight from the medical symposium.

Much to his surprise, Kathryn wrapped her arms around him and laid her head on his shoulder as if this was their typical behavior when alone. "That's an understatement. We almost didn't make it back in one piece!"

"Kathryn?" He was glad to offer her comfort, but it wasn't like her to need a hug after a difficult away mission. In fact, it wasn't like her to need a hug ever. "Are you okay?"

She lifted her head, but didn't let go. "They're called the R'Kaal. Their technology is decades ahead of ours. Transphasic warp drive, multi-spectral cloaking systems. They could destroy this ship before our sensors knew they were there."

He tentatively put his arms around her. "Sounds like people we should avoid."

She sighed heavily and laid her head back down on his chest. "I wish that were possible. They control thousands of parsecs from here to the edge of the Beta Quadrant. They're ecological extremists who believe conventional warp engines damage subspace, so they've outlawed warp travel through their territory."

"Then we should reverse course and find a way around."

"That's the problem. We've already been in their space for three weeks without knowing it."

"You'd think they'd mark their borders a little more clearly."

"As punishment, their law demands that our ship be dismantled." She squeezed him tightly.

He took advantage of the unusual closeness and let his cheek rest against her soft hair. "Obviously, we're not going to let that happen."

"I spent three hours explaining our situation to their Supreme Archon, a thoroughly unpleasant man. I convinced him to spare Voyager, but at a price. We're going to rendezvous with their armada and surrender our warp core at a class-M planet where they've agreed to let us settle."


"I didn't make this decision lightly, Chakotay."

He took her hands off his shoulders and held them, imploring her to listen. "We have to bring senior staff in on this. We can find a way to evade their ships or adapt our sensors to their cloaking technology."

"We could try that, and we might make it past their armada, but we could lose a lot of people in the process, maybe the entire ship."

"Kathryn, there's got to be another way. We'll figure out what our alternatives are. This crew has become adept at finding options in impossible situations. You know that."

She laid a hand against his cheek. "I'm tired, Chakotay… tired of continually risking my people on the slim chance that we'll make it home in one piece."

"We've found our way out of worse situations."

"More than that, I'm tired of risking your life. I'm scared that someday I'm going to lose you, and I'm tired of hiding how I feel about you. Settling would finally give us a chance to create a life together."

Her admission left him breathless. "Kathryn... I didn't know you felt that way."

"Without a doubt in my mind." She kissed him softly. "I know this is the right answer. I won't risk losing you, and I'm so tired of fighting. Every time you're hurt, a part of me dies. I need to keep you safe because I love you."

"Kathryn, I love you too. Nothing would make me happier than showing it, but we have to bring everyone together on this. We have to explore alternatives that will ensure a healthy future for everyone on board, not just us. We'll find a way out of this, and we'll find a way to be together, too. Trust me."

She shook her head. "I won't risk it. Set a course for these coordinates."

His mind spun with alarm. "What am I supposed to tell the crew?"

Withdrawing, she said, "For now, I'd like to keep this between us."

"It's not like you to keep your people in the dark."

"I'll make an announcement when the time is right. Dismissed."

Chakotay followed her orders for the time being, but made plans to start an investigation immediately.

Later that day, B'Elanna notified Chakotay that the captain had made an odd request to modify the Flyer to tractor the warp core. He recalled that Kathryn's plan was to get Voyager to an M-Class planet and then surrender the core, not to tractor it somewhere and leave Voyager dead in space. When he asked Kathryn about this on the bridge, she stated that there had been a change of plans, but while she was talking to him, she also appeared to be talking to herself or hearing voices. Her emotional state was clearly unstable and that disturbed him gravely.

He took his concerns to the Doctor, hoping that his observations during their confrontation with the R'Kaal would shed some light on the captain's unusual behavior. The Doctor was less than helpful and reported that he had examined the captain upon her return and found nothing out of the ordinary wrong with her. However, the Doctor agreed to call her in for another examination… an examination that was surely going to make her unhappy, but Chakotay was willing to risk making her angry in order to get to the bottom of the situation.

After leaving sickbay, Chakotay took his investigation to astrometrics where he asked Seven and Harry if their scans of the region showed anything unusual. He wanted to know if there was something out there influencing Kathryn. While they were scanning, an odd transmission from the R'Kaal Supreme Archon came in, ordering them to do exactly what Kathryn had last instructed. Finding this extremely suspicious, Chakotay asked Harry and Seven to track it to its source. He was determined to find a solution to this situation even though Kathryn hadn't yet asked for one.

After getting an unbelievable report from the Doctor that Kathryn was fine, Chakotay went to see her. So many things weren't adding up… Kathryn would never give up so easily nor would she keep her staff in the dark. The idea of settling somewhere in the Delta Quadrant had never been a consideration, even at the worst of times. For Kathryn to make a unilateral decision and refuse to discuss the decision with her crew was very disturbing.

The R'Kaal situation was also troubling. There had been no direct attacks on the ship and the only communication they had received was the suspicious warning from the R'Kaal that mirrored the captain's changed orders. Kathryn's actions and the threats from the R'Kaal were playing out like a standard hostage-scenario taught at the academy because Kathryn was acting like she was cornered, unable to maneuver.

Chakotay stopped in his tracks. Hostage scenario. In addition to her erratic professional behavior, she had never before hugged him, kissed him, or admitted that she loved him. Was she trying to tell him something by acting completely opposite of normal? Was she silently asking for help because her actions were somehow being monitored? Was that why the R'Kaal communication came in immediately after he challenged her orders?

Perhaps the Doctor gave her a clean bill of health because he was trying to keep her safe. Maybe she was buying them some time while she formulated a plan. After all, Kathryn Janeway always had a plan.

Upon arriving at her door, he came up with an idea to get her to admit that she was being manipulated. Her actions had been so bizarre that he wasn't even sure she was in control, so he decided to confuse her into revealing her problem. When she didn't answer his chime, he asked the computer to locate her, but before the computer could answer, Kathryn walked around the corner saying, "Belay that."

Once inside her quarters she turned and angrily admonished him. "Really, Chakotay. Sending the Doctor to check up on me?"

Studying her carefully for any clue of alien possession, he said, "I'm concerned."

Her shoulders sagged and she laid her palm upon his chest. "Then why didn't you come to me directly? I thought we trusted each other."

He pulled her hand away, determined not to let her pretense of affection distract him. "So did I, but something happened on that away mission that you're not telling me about."

"I've told you everything you need to know. I may love you, but I'm still your captain and I'll give you information as I deem necessary."

He wondered if that was a clue, asking him to stay out of it until she had time to formulate a plan. Whatever it was, he needed to keep her talking. "You've consulted me on every major decision in the last seven years except this one. Why?"

She pulled away. "There are some decisions a captain has to make on her own."

"I understand that, but every instinct tells me what you're doing is wrong." Anxious about what her reaction might be, he asked, "Can't you remember what happened on Lessek Prime?"

After pausing for a moment, she said, "I don't see how that's relevant."

If she acted like she remembered the incident, he would know that there was an influence of some kind. "I think you do. Fifteen years ago you were the lieutenant who was kept in the dark. If you hadn't questioned your captain's orders, the entire away team would've been lost."

"This situation is entirely different."

He didn't know if he was relieved to finally have something to go on, or distressed to discover that someone was controlling her. "You never told me that story. I made it up." Tapping his communicator, he said, "Chakotay to Tuvok."

When there was no response, Kathryn said, "I've erected a dampening field around these quarters." She picked up a hypospray and advanced toward him. "I'm sorry, Commander."

He was surprised at her physical strength as she grabbed him and quickly overpowered him. When the hypospray released into his neck, an immediate weakness overtook him and he collapsed onto the floor, succumbing to darkness. His last thought was that he should have told Tuvok what he had discovered.

The real Kathryn Janeway watched in horror as the Doctor laid Chakotay to rest in Voyager's morgue. The image of Chakotay lying upon the cold, metal slab would, without a doubt, haunt her dreams for years to come.

For the last two days, two alien renegades, Zet and Nar, had held her captive on a Hierarchy vessel. This came about when the Doctor was egotistically spouting off at the helm about his superiority over organics and the Delta Flyer came under attack. He had panicked, and in the time it took for Kathryn to take over the helm, the battle had already been lost.

Kathryn had engaged the aliens in hand-to-hand combat as they boarded the Flyer. As soon as the aliens got a few punches in, the Doctor had restrained her and surrendered the shuttle because he was trying to protect her. Two days later, she was still infuriated and feeling pain in her side where Zet had kicked her. All further attempts at escape had resulted in more bruises on her backside than she cared to count.

As she watched events on Voyager play out on the monitor across the room, her physical pain was overpowered by her continuing disappointment in the Doctor and concern for her ship. She and the aliens were monitoring the Doctor's words and actions via his cognitive subroutines. When he returned to sickbay after depositing Chakotay in the morgue, the Doctor opened communication directly with the Hierarchy ship.

"Captain, are you all right?"

She stepped forward and commanded, "Doctor, listen to me. Under no circumstances are you to eject the warp core."

Distressed, he said, "If I don't do what they ask, they'll kill you."

"I'm giving you a direct order. Stop what you're doing."

"I'm sorry, Captain. I can't obey that order."

"Doctor, I want you to go to the bridge right now and alert Commander Tuvok of my capture."

The alien Zet interrupted and ordered Nar to put her behind the forcefield. He was surprisingly gentle as he took her to a small holding cell at the rear of the room. Kathryn went reluctantly, knowing this wasn't the time to put up much of a fight. She needed to save her strength for more a more promising opportunity.

As Kathryn watched and waited for events to unfold on Voyager, she thought about the Doctor's earlier amorous behavior toward Chakotay. The Doctor obviously assumed that they had a clandestine relationship, but it was Chakotay's response in the ready room that really stunned her.

She had given up hope years ago that they would ever be in a position to pursue a romance. They had begun to discover a deeper friendship on New Earth, but she had put aside her feelings when they returned. She had an unspoken hope that the affection would eventually re-blossom when they got back into the routine of command, but eventually, recapturing those feelings seemed implausible. Although they had become very good friends, there had been far too much animosity and too many disagreements for him to love her, or so she thought.

Her thoughts were distracted by the Doctor's complete failure to obey orders on Voyager. Tuvok was questioning him about a discrepancy in the Flyer's communication logs, which she thought provided the Doctor with a perfect opportunity to give hints about her capture.

She repositioned herself on the hard bench to mollify the pain and hoped that Tuvok would soon realize that she was missing. She was having trouble breathing and was worried that her injuries would soon make her too weak to escape if the opportunity presented itself.

She watched with concern as the Doctor led Tuvok on a chase throughout Voyager, and scolded herself when the Doctor transformed into the Emergency Command Hologram. She had allowed him that privilege, and now he had abused it by disabling all command functions of the ship and ejecting the warp core. Now Voyager was dead in space, the Doctor was on his way back to her with the warp core in tow, and she was getting more disgusted by the situation every minute.

While she was waiting for the Doctor to arrive with the warp core, Kathryn tried to appeal to Nar, the friendlier of the two aliens. He was working on various pieces of salvaged equipment, and she tried to strike a deal with him, hoping that he would see that there was profit to be found in working with her. However, Zet interrupted them and chastised his subordinate for playing with worthless junk. Kathryn thought the animosity growing between the aliens might prove to be an opportunity to play them against each other.

The situation worsened when the Doctor arrived with the warp core. The aliens demanded the core before releasing her, and then didn't follow through when the Doctor surrendered it. Instead of beaming Kathryn to the Flyer, the aliens transported the Doctor to the holding cell.

When he realized he'd been double crossed, the Doctor was outraged. "We had an agreement!"

Zet answered, "To spare your captain. As you can see, she's still alive."

Offering a deal, Kathryn said, "Let the Doctor go. I'm the more valuable hostage."

"Actually, you're not. We'll leave you in the Vinry system. The inhabitants are mostly harmless. The Doctor will be working for us now."

The Doctor replied, "I'll do no such thing."

"I'm sure you'll feel differently after I make a few adjustments to your program."

The friendly alien, Nar, paused in his duties to whisper, "I had no idea he was going to do this. I'm sorry." He left and went about his work.

Kathryn was incensed at the Doctor. "I hope you realize you've stranded Voyager in the Delta Quadrant."

"What did you expect me to do? Let them kill you?"

"I expected you to follow my orders."

"You might as well have been ordering me to put a phaser to your head. Voyager can survive without a warp core but not without a captain."

Disgusted, she said, "Now it doesn't have either."

Through a dazed fog, Chakotay heard a voice say, "He's coming around." He slowly opened his eyes to see Tom looking down at him. Scanning the room, he croaked, "Where am I?"

Tom sighed and said, "The morgue."

It took a moment for him to ask, "What did you say?"

"We think the Doctor drugged you and Harry," Tom pointed to Harry who was still asleep, "and then put you two here in the morgue to keep us from finding you."

"The Doctor?" Chakotay was confused and feeling very hazy.

"Give yourself a minute to wake-up, and I'll explain."

Chakotay looked at the wall in front of him and finally realized where he was. He sat up very quickly, despite Tom urging him to stay down. The wave of dizziness that came over him would've had him on the floor had Tom not been there to keep him on the table.

Tom put his hands on Chakotay's shoulders to steady him. "I guess you're awake now."

"We're in the morgue."


"You said that, didn't you?"

"I did."

Chakotay drowsily looked over at Harry who was still asleep. "He'll be okay?"

Tom let go of Chakotay and looked at Harry. "He'll be coming around in a few minutes."

When his head was clearer, Chakotay asked, "What happened? How long have I been out?" As his memory came back, he started to panic. "The captain. Where is she? Something is wrong with her!"

Tom squeezed Chakotay's shoulder. "Hold on there. You're still a little tipsy."

Chakotay tried to slide off of the bed, but in his weakened state, Tom was able to keep him there. "I've got to talk to Tuvok."

"Paris to Commander Tuvok, please report to the morgue." After getting his affirmative response, Tom said, "He'll be here in a minute."

Chakotay asked, "Computer, what is the location of Captain Janeway?"

When he got no answer, Tom said, "Main power is offline and we have no internal sensors."

Nodding, Chakotay asked, "How long have I been out?"

"I'm not sure how long it's been, because we didn't realize you were missing until a few hours ago. We had to do a deck by deck search for you, Harry, and the captain."

"The captain is missing?" When Tom nodded, Chakotay said very seriously, "You'd better start at the beginning."

"I'll give you the quick summary. After returning from the away mission, the Doctor started impersonating various crewmembers… the captain, you, Harry, and B'Elanna. Possibly others. He's taken the warp core and gone. Main power is offline, and we have no command functions."

"And the captain is missing." Chakotay's stomach sank as he realized the gravity of the situation.

Tuvok walked into the morgue. "Commander, are you well enough to come with me?"

Chakotay nodded and carefully slid off of the table. "I'm still a bit hazy, but this situation is sobering me quickly."

"Indeed." They left and Tuvok briefed Chakotay again on the situation, providing a little more detail.

"So, if the Doctor was impersonating the captain, then where is she?" That fact certainly explained several things - especially her unusual behavior toward him.

Tuvok said, "It is logical to assume the captain never returned from the away mission."

That meant he was on the right track regarding a hostage situation. She was being held somewhere against her will and was probably in danger, if she was still alive. He asked Tuvok, "Any idea where the Flyer is?"

Tuvok shook his head. "The Doctor masked his ion trail."

B'Elanna interrupted over the comm system. "Engineering to Chakotay. We're ready to restart the impulse reactors."

As soon as main power was restored, the sound of solo piano music was broadcast throughout the ship. It was the Blue Danube waltz, but with obvious mistakes.

Tuvok checked the wall computer display. "It's playing on every comm channel on the ship"

Looking up, Chakotay ordered, "Computer, pause music."

The computer voice answered, "Unable to comply."

Chakotay asked Tuvok, "Didn't the Doctor play this at his recital last month?"

"Yes, and as I recall he performed the piece flawlessly."

"Maybe the recording was damaged by the power loss."

Tuvok hypothesized, "Or maybe the Doctor altered the music deliberately."

"Why would he do that?" On the chance that there might be a hidden message, they called an immediate meeting of the senior staff to analyze it.

A few minutes later, they were gathered in astrometrics and Seven reported, "I've performed a Fourier analysis on the recording. The harmonics have been modified."

Harry suggested, "Could be a carrier frequency."

"Unlikely. There's no carrier wave," Seven responded.

Examining the waves on the monitor, Tom said, "I could be wrong but it looks like a warp signature."

"The power utilization curve would be about right." Harry's face was alight with the discovery.

Hoping that this was the clue they needed to find the captain, Chakotay told Seven to scan for it. When the data came back, she said, "I'm detecting a matching signature. Distance… 6.7 light-years."

Tuvok replied, "We can't follow them at impulse."

Chakotay wanted to go himself, but was still too dazed from the tranquilizer to be of much use in a shuttle. He told Tuvok, "You and Tom take a shuttle."

When Chakotay arrived on the bridge, he sat down in his command chair and looked angrily at Kathryn's empty seat. He was furious with the Doctor for putting Kathryn's life in danger, for jeopardizing the safety of the crew, and for deceiving him on a very personal level. Replaying his discussions with the Doctor in disguise, he scolded himself for not realizing that he was with a hologram. He should have noticed the lack of physical electricity between them, but he was so confused about the captain's, or rather, the Doctor's actions that he missed it.

Now, glancing around the bridge, he tried to think of a plan to get her back as soon as possible. Underneath his anger, his heart was heavy with worry that Kathryn was hurt and in danger and he was unable to do anything to help her.

"Ensign Kim?" Chakotay stood and started pacing.

"Yes, Sir?"

"We need a plan."

Harry glanced around at everyone else on the bridge. All eyes were on him. "Sir, the shuttle has departed and Tuvok will notify us as soon as he finds them."

Chakotay nodded. "Yes, but we should do something besides sit here and wait."

Ensign Jenkins, who was at the helm, turned around and offered, "Would you like to send another shuttle out, sir?"

Considering her suggestion for a moment, Chakotay answered, "No, but why don't you have Rodgers get the other one ready to go. Just in case."

"Aye, sir."

Chakotay looked at Harry and recalled seeing him in the morgue. "Ensign, are you feeling well enough to be on duty?"

"I'm a little groggy, sir, but I don't think I could rest until they're back safely."

Nodding, Chakotay responded, "I'm with you."

Ensign Wildman offered, "Commander, I could go stand-by in sickbay in case…" Her words drifted off as if she was unsure how to finish her sentence.

The thought of Kathryn injured made his stomach lurch. "Let's hope that isn't necessary, but it's a valid suggestion. Go ahead."

Quietly, Harry asked, "Commander, do you think the captain is all right?"

"You know the captain. She'll probably have her captors staring at the business end of a phaser rifle by the time Tuvok gets there." He could hear the concern in his voice, even though he knew that he had to hide his feelings. Having the captain kidnapped was a serious matter for the first officer; having Kathryn kidnapped was even worse for Chakotay.

"And she'll have the Doctor's program decompiled." Harry smiled.

Glad that Harry went along with his feeble attempt at humor, Chakotay took a deep breath and hoped that Kathryn did indeed already have a plan in the works. "Ensign Jenkins," Chakotay said to the helmsman as he returned to his seat. "Set a course for that warp signature and engage at full impulse."

At least he would be closer with each passing moment, he thought.

On the Hierarchy ship, Kathryn and the Doctor were sitting together on the bench in their holding cell. Kathryn had put aside her disappointment in the Doctor for the moment to think about possible outlets for escape. She hoped that the Doctor was too distracted to notice her injuries as she turned gingerly to tinker with the Doctor's holo-emitter.

The Doctor asked, "What are you doing?"

"If I can amplify your matrix, I might be able to disrupt the force field."

"I'm sorry I put us in this position, Captain."

Not wanting to discuss the ramifications of his poor judgment at the moment, Kathryn steered the conversation in a different direction. "Well, back on the shuttle, you said you wanted us to spend more time together."

"This isn't what I had in mind. Maybe, if we get back to the ship, we could try socializing a bit more."

Kathryn glanced at him. "This really isn't the time to be talking about this." She paused for a moment before continuing. "Besides, I don't do a lot of socializing." She winced quietly as a sharp pain crept across her ribs.

"You have meals with Commander Chakotay and you play Velocity with Seven."

"Yes, I do." She remembered the Doctor's affectionate behavior with her first officer. "By the way, what exactly do you think happens when I'm alone with Chakotay?"

The Doctor turned to look at her. "Why do you ask?"

She nodded towards the viewscreen across the room. "We were watching everything you did. You kissed him."

"I was acting the way I presumed you would act when you're alone."

Kathryn's eyes were focused on his holo-emitter. "And you think we kiss?"

"You mean you don't?" The Doctor sighed dejectedly. "So that's why he got suspicious?"

Frowning slightly, she said, "Among other things."

"Well, if you want my advice…"

"I don't."

"I think you should kiss him sometime. He did react favorably."

"That he did." She noticed the aliens approaching and stopped her tinkering.

Nar said to the Doctor, "I need to upload your first assignment."

The Doctor's physical appearance changed into a Hierarchy alien as they explained their plans for him to break into their home planet's command center. As more modifications were added to his program, the Doctor's program began to malfunction and he almost disappeared.

Alarmed, Kathryn asked, "What's wrong?"

"I'm not certain." The Doctor was getting quite distressed.

Zet panicked. "The compression algorithms are breaking down!"

Nar yelled at Zet. "I told you his program couldn't handle that much data!"

"What have you done to me!" The Doctor phased in and out of existence.

In the shuttlecraft, Tuvok and Tom approached the Hierarchy ship. Tom said, "I'm detecting a human life sign aboard and a holographic signature."

Tuvok noted, "The vessel's weapons are polaron-based and they have auto-regenerative shielding."

Tom looked up at the alien ship and said, "We still have the element of surprise."

Kathryn yelled, "If you don't get him back to Voyager, his matrix will be permanently damaged."

The Doctor's program continued to malfunction and he cried, "Please do something!"

Nar shouted to Zet, "He won't be any use to us if he decompiles!"

The Hierarchy ship rocked under weapons fire. Nar yelled, "Someone's boarded the Delta Flyer. They're moving away."

Kathryn silently cheered for her crew as the battle continued against the Hierarchy ship. She worked steadily on the Doctor's emitter, but was having difficulty purging the superfluous data without the benefit of the holodeck interface. When she heard Zet say he was jettisoning the warp core, her attention was diverted to the battle.

Nar asked Zet, "What are you doing?"

"Arming a torpedo. If we detonate their core, the blast wave should give us enough time to escape."

Nar yelled, "That would kill them!"

Kathryn was frantically trying to figure out a way to escape when one of the explosions knocked out the cell's forcefield. Praising the timing of whoever was out there, Kathryn and the Doctor hurried out of the cell. She went to one of the control consoles and began to disable the weapons system.

The Doctor tried to stop Zet who had grabbed a weapon and fired at Kathryn. "Captain, get down!"

The weapon missed her, and she was able to get the weapons systems offline and the warp core transported into space. Zet fired at Kathryn again and the console in front her exploded in a shower of sparks. She felt the burn of electricity on her hands as she was thrown hard to the floor. She yelped in pain and remained still until the room stopped spinning.

When she was able to sit up, she saw Nar disable his partner and free the Doctor. The friendly alien approached and extended a hand to help her to her feet.

"Captain Janeway, my apologies for the brash actions of my former associate." He held up the piece of junk he had decked Nar with. "I guess this wasn't so useless after all."

On the shuttle flight back to Voyager, Kathryn worked frantically to try to restore the Doctor's deteriorating program. Unfortunately, she found there was nothing she could do until they could transfer him to the holodeck buffer. Tuvok warned Voyager so that everyone who could help would be waiting.

Meanwhile, Kathryn managed to secretly scan herself with a medical tricorder. She discovered that her ribs weren't broken, but that she had considerable bruising, a few pulled muscles, and a slight concussion. Dismissing her injuries as non-life threatening, she injected herself with an analgesic and was ready for transport by the time they were within range of the ship.

Back on Voyager, B'Elanna and Seven worked to restore the Doctor's program. While they purged the excess subroutines, the Doctor made his deathbed confessions to everyone in the room and admitted that he was in love with Seven. When he realized that he was going to be fine, he was extremely embarrassed.

The Doctor looked at his captain when they were the only ones left on the holodeck. "I think it would be best if I returned to sickbay."

"I think you're right."

The Doctor disappeared with his tail between his legs and Kathryn took a calming, deep breath. She touched her commbadge and said, "Captain to the bridge." When Chakotay answered, she asked, "What's our status?"

"Engineering reports that the warp engines will be online in about thirty minutes. All other systems are functioning at full-power."

She was relieved to hear his voice. "Glad to hear it. Do you need me on the bridge?"

"No, Captain. I'm sure you could use some rest."

And a nice, long bath, she thought. "Agreed. Commander, when you're finished on the bridge, could you bring the status report to my quarters?"

"Aye, Captain."

"Janeway, out." She wasn't sure if she was ready to discuss his ready-room conversation with her "other" self, but knew it had to be done before he read her report on the whole incident. The entire ordeal had made her reconsider more than one of her past decisions, and she was definitely interested to find out if he had arrived at a similar conclusion.

As Chakotay walked to Kathryn's quarters, he worried about what he might find when he arrived. Samantha Wildman had returned to the bridge saying the Doctor was unusually quiet and hadn't summoned the captain for the usual post-away mission physical. Chakotay hoped that meant she was okay and not just really angry with the Doctor. The Hierarchy wasn't exactly a threatening species, but dealing with them and the Doctor's mistakes must have been grueling and extremely frustrating.

Chakotay had given Kathryn a couple of hours before bringing her the status report, knowing that she'd want to have a bath and some time to relax after her ordeal. Thinking about her in the bathtub made him blush and tug at his ear in embarrassment. Memories of her in a towel surfaced every time she even mentioned the word bath.

Part of him wished that it had been the real Kathryn Janeway who had propositioned him instead of the Doctor. The affectionate behavior and words of love had hit him with more impact that he would have thought possible. He had buried his feelings years earlier, when she refused to continue the relationship that had begun on New Earth. He had always wondered what his reaction might be if she sprung it on him, and now he knew. At least Kathryn didn't know about it, and for that, he was thankful.

He arrived at her quarters and rang the chime, but didn't receive a response. He was afraid she had fallen asleep, but he knew she wanted to see him so he tapped his communicator and spoke softly. "Chakotay to Janeway."

A very sleepy voice answered, "Janeway here."

"Kathryn? I woke you. I'll come back later."

She gasped. "I fell asleep, but I need to see you. Come on in."

He entered her quarters and heard splashing from the bathroom. He called out, "Kathryn? I can come back later."

She hollered back. "No, no. I asked you to stop by. Why don't you replicate dinner while I jump in the sonic shower to clean my hair."

"You're sure?" He was imagining her in a towel again.

"Very sure. I'm starving."

About ten minutes later, she emerged from the bedroom wearing long pajamas. "I hope you don't mind that I got comfortable?"

"Of course not." He gave her hand a quick squeeze and said, "Welcome home."

"Thank you, I'm pleased to be here. That encounter was rather taxing and it feels good to be home."

As they sat down at the table, Chakotay said, "I was worried about you."

"I was a little anxious myself, but it's over now." She picked up a spoon. "This stew looks wonderful! I'm famished."

Concerned, he asked, "How long has it been since you last ate?"

"You don't want to know."

"I was afraid of that." He started eating and watched her closely.

After a minute under his scrutiny, Kathryn looked up. "I'm okay, you know."

He squinted at her. "I'm still trying to determine that, and also if you're really you this time."

"I can assure you that it's really me. Ask me something that only I would know."

He thought for a minute before asking, "What did you name the monkey?"

Her spoon paused in mid-air. "I didn't name him anything. You named him something that wouldn't be polite to repeat."

Chakotay chuckled and said, "It was rather colorful, wasn't it?"

With her mouth full, she simply hummed her disapproving response.

Chakotay asked seriously, "So you're okay? Anything you need to talk about?"

She shrugged. "I'm fine. Nothing worse than I've been through before."

His eyes narrowed. "That doesn't exactly bode well. You've been through some pretty tough situations."

"You've met the Hierarchy, right? It was annoying more than anything, so don't worry."

"You're sure?" He received a look that was clearly an order to drop the subject. Getting down to business, he handed her the ship's status report. As she sat back and skimmed it, he summarized. "Everything is back to normal, and I assume that you want to handle the Doctor's unsuitable behavior?"

"When I'm a lot less angry with him, yes."

As they finished eating, she filled him in on the details of the trip to the medical symposium and then about the initial encounter with the Hierarchy.

Kathryn rose from the table and took a cup of coffee to the sofa. Chakotay recycled the dishes and joined her. He asked, "So what was your reaction when the Doctor returned with the warp core?"

She glanced at him over the rim of her cup. "Not pleased, but I knew he would be arriving with it before he got there." She put her coffee down, crossed her hands in her lap, and took a deep breath. "Chakotay, there is something about this that I haven't told you yet."

Apprehensive, he asked, "What's that?"

"You recall the first encounter with the Hierarchy where they tapped into the Doctor's holomatrix and watched everything he was doing here on Voyager?"

Chakotay nodded. "They inadvertently tapped into his daydreams."

"These two figured out how we could all watch and listen to him the entire time."

"The entire time?" Chakotay's stomach began to churn as he realized that she probably knew everything that had happened. "I see."

"So you must realize that I saw how you two behaved in the ready room."

He sighed. "You saw me kissing you, or rather, the Doctor."

Kathryn gave him a second before saying, "If it helps you feel any better, Tom ended up kissing him too, when he appeared to be B'Elanna."

Chakotay chuckled, glad that she was trying to lighten the mood. "That's amusing, but it doesn't exactly erase what happened. I'm sorry if it made you uncomfortable."

"You don't need to apologize. I know you were only reacting to what you thought I was doing, but it took me by surprise."

He nodded. "After I left your ready room, I thought perhaps you were trying to send me a signal of some kind by acting completely opposite of normal."

Smiling, she said, "I was rather impressed with how quickly you figured things out."

Feeling uncomfortable, he joked, "All in a day's work, ma'am."

After a moment of awkward silence, Kathryn hesitantly asked, "So, without alien influence or threat of imminent disaster, if I brought up the subject of a more intimate relationship, would you react the same way?"

Chakotay swallowed hard. His chest felt heavy as he studied her eyes for a clue as to what his answer should be. "I don't know how to answer that."

"I understand. My thoughts on the matter haven't exactly been clear." She smiled softly. "I ended the relationship that we had barely begun on New Earth, because I felt we'd have trouble stepping back into our command positions. I know that I didn't explain myself at the time, but I hoped that you understood."

"I did." His heart was beating heavily in his chest and his anxiety grew as she spoke.

"But so much has happened between us since then… so many disagreements, so many other relationships, that I thought your interest had faded away. Until recently, I didn't even realize that I still have feelings for you."

"You do?" The anxiety started to fade as hope took its place.

She smiled shyly. "It was after we left Quarra. I've noticed little things that you do and say that remind me of Jaffen. I realized that I must have fallen for him because he reminded me of you."

Chakotay laughed. "That's a roundabout way of looking at it."

"I hope I'm not putting you on the spot too much, but I'd like to know if you returned the kiss only because you were afraid of hurting my feelings?"

He took her hand and stroked his thumb across her knuckles. He studied them for a moment before saying, "No. Throughout all of our disagreements and assorted affairs, I never stopped loving you."

Her voice was rough with emotion as she said, "I was hoping you would say that."

As she moved closer and curled against his side, he asked, "You're not afraid that this will harm our command relationship?"

"Oh, I think we know each other well enough that we'll realize when our personal feelings are affecting our command decisions." She lifted her face to his. "Besides, Tuvok will keep us on our toes."

He chuckled. "I just love hearing his name when I'm about to kiss you."

Raising an eyebrow, she said, "I thought I was about to kiss you."

His hand cupped her jaw, fingers making tantalizing circles on her neck, as their lips met softly. At first it was tentative, but as the sparks settled into radiant electricity, the kiss became deeper and they settled into each other's embrace. Chakotay felt a shiver run deep into his toes as Kathryn's fingers threaded up into his hair.

Eyes still closed, Kathryn asked, "Was that better than kissing a hologram?"

"Mmm hmmmm…" he hummed as he drew their lips together again. The kiss intensified as he pulled her tightly against him.

She flinched and gasped into his mouth as his arms closed around her.

Seeing her eyes clamp shut, he worriedly asked, "What is it? Did I hurt you?"

She relaxed and said, "I'm just a little sore."

Realizing that meant she was hurt, he pulled back. "Where? What happened?"

"I scanned myself on the shuttle. It's just bruises and a minor concussion."

"Show me." He wasn't going to let her dismiss it this time.

With a sigh, she said, "I suppose this renewed relationship means that you're going to be even more over-protective?"

"Relationship or not, I'm always over-protective. You should be used to it by now. Let's see it."

She turned her back to him and raised her shirt. He raised it higher, gasping at the mottled purple bruises on her side. "You're going to sickbay. Now." He stood and gently pulled her hand in an attempt to get her to follow. "And then you're going to tell me exactly what happened."

"I'm not going to sickbay. I don't want to see the Doctor right now and if I call Tom, he will have to report this to the Doctor."

As much as he wanted her to go to sickbay, Chakotay knew that if he were in her shoes, he wouldn't want to see the Doctor right now either. An idea occurred to him. "Would you let me try to treat you?"

"With what?"

"I'll be right back." He went to his quarters, gathered a few things, and returned to find her still sitting on the sofa.

Kathryn eyed his bundle reprovingly. "You have a medkit?"

"Don't tell the Doctor."

"Fair enough."

He sat next to her and opened the kit. "If I went to see him every time I got a bruise from a boxing match, he'd probably put me on report for harming myself."

"Should I be concerned about that?"

"No, because I need to lower the holodeck's safety protocols to make it feel real. Otherwise, it's like programming a beach without the scent of saltwater, or a forest without the scent of the earth. Empty and fake." He pulled out the tri-corder.

"Since you have that, could you scan my knee? It actually hurts worse than my back."

She lifted her pajama pant leg, and he sighed at the sight of her swollen knee. After he helped her lift the leg onto the sofa so that her ankle was resting in his lap, he scanned it. "Looks like you damaged the ligaments."

As he ran the regenerator over it, she said, "I twisted it when a console exploded and I got thrown back onto the floor."

"On the Flyer?"

"No, on the alien ship. I was disabling their weapons and transporting the warp core into space."

He nodded and caressed his hand over her knee. "Pain gone?"

She held her breath for a moment when his touch went a little higher on her thigh. "Yes, thank you." Extending her hand out to him, she said, "Could you run it over my fingers? They got burned a little."

Holding her fingers gently in his hand, he saw the reddened skin and quickly took care of the burns. Before letting go, he softly kissed the pad of each finger before returning her hand.

She rubbed the tips of her fingers against her thumb as if they tingled. "I suppose I ought to let you look at the bump on my head?"

Chakotay rose from the sofa, carefully laying her injured leg back down. He walked around to the side of the sofa to stand behind Kathryn. Very gently, he inspected her scalp while enjoying the softness of her recently washed hair. "I don't feel a bump."

"Right on the back."

His fingers carefully inspected where she had motioned and found nothing. "Not all concussions have bumps, you know."

"Well, it feels like there should be a huge bump."

"I'm sure it does, but there's nothing I can do with the regenerator except reduce swelling and there isn't any. I have two cc's of analgesic left. Do you want it?"

She sighed. "No, I gave myself some just before dinner."

Surprised, he asked, "You have a medkit too?"

"Just painkillers that the Doctor gave me for headaches. And this definitely qualifies."

He leaned over and kissed the back of her head. "Maybe a kiss will make it better."

She laughed quietly, holding her hand against her head. "You're sweet, but don't make me laugh. It hurts."

"You know, Kathryn, this is quite a change from 'I feel fine'."

She lowered her legs to the floor and looked up at him. "Well, when you asked earlier, I wasn't ready to have you fussing over me."

"And you are now?"

She shrugged and looked away almost as if she was slightly embarrassed. "Now perhaps I want a little TLC."

He sat down next to her, slightly amused at her shyness. "So, how am I going to know when you want TLC and when you don't?"

Looking at him, she offered, "Reading a woman's moods is one of the great mysteries of life, isn't it?"

"Oh, I don't know if I would call it a mystery. Ambiguous and puzzling, perhaps."

The side of her mouth curved up into a half-smile. "Is that so?" She continued after he nodded. "Well, that's the fun of being a relationship. Figuring out that kind of thing."

He touched under her chin to lift her lips to his for a short kiss. "I'm going to enjoy every minute of it. Now, I need to look at your back. Why don't you lie down?"

Standing up, she said, "Let me lie on the bed then. In case I fall asleep."

Chakotay gathered his medkit and followed her into the bedroom. When she went to brush her teeth, he turned down her bed so that he could tuck her in when he was finished. He slipped off his boots, removed his jacket, and dimmed the lights. As he sat on the far side of the bed and waited, he thought about all that had happened in the last hour. He was elated with the turn of events and didn't think there was a thing that could make him happier. Well… there was one thing, but she wasn't feeling well.

When she returned, she looked around and said, "Isn't this romantic."

"No, this is soothing. Romantic will come when you're feeling better."

She looked at him for a moment as if she didn't believe him. Then her expression changed and she asked, "We're really doing this, aren't we?"

"No, not tonight."

She raised an eyebrow. "I wasn't talking about that. I was talking about a relationship."

Patting the bed to encourage her to lie down, he said, "We really are, and you don't have anything to worry about."

She stretched out on her stomach and said, "I have plenty to worry about."

"I'll do my best not to add to your worries, then." He pulled out the tri-corder and moved to the center of the bed, feeling slightly giddy that he was in her bedroom, on her bed, and with her. He wanted to be sure that her bruises were only superficial, as she had said. The scan indicated that one area was bruised deep enough into the muscle that he wouldn't be able to get it with the regenerator, but it didn't look life-threatening. Wondering what she had been through, he asked, "So how did you get these injuries?"

"Just resisting capture." She pulled the back of her shirt up and over her head, leaving her arms still in the shirt, but her back bare.

The sight made Chakotay's blood rush faster. "And the concussion and burns were from when the console exploded?"

"Yes, and the knee."

Chakotay raised the lights back up a little so he could see what he was doing. He pulled out the regenerator and started working, slowly going over every spot on her back that he could see. His fingers followed the laser beam, enjoying the softness of her newly healed skin. When she shivered, he asked, "Cold?"

She clicked her tongue. "Not exactly."

Smiling, he realized that his touch was having an affect on her. He felt relief that she was healing as the bruises faded away. "There is one area that the regenerator isn't going to be able to heal deeply enough, so you'll still be sore."

"It already feels a lot better than it did."

As he finished up, he asked, "Any bruising on your front?"

"Hmph. You just want to see my bare front."

He chuckled, "That would be nice, but I'm serious. Anywhere else?"

She turned her head and snuggled into the bed. "No, that's it."

He ran the tri-corder over her just to make sure there wasn't any injury he had missed. He knew she should have gone to sickbay, but he was definitely enjoying taking care of her. Putting the regenerator away, he said, "I have some cream that should help with the sore muscles. Mind if I rub some on your back?"

"Is it smelly?"

He held the container out to her and she turned up her nose. "You can rub my back, but not with that stuff. Just avoid the area that's sore."

Chuckling, he said, "All right. Do you have oil you want me to use?"

"I don't exactly keep massage oil lying around. Dry hands are fine."

He turned off the lights as he began massaging her back, thinking about how natural the conversation was between them. It could easily have been tense and communication strained; however, they had been friends for a long time and they were very comfortable with each other. It would have been troubling if they suddenly developed problems communicating. That wouldn't bode well for a good relationship.

"Kathryn? Would you like to join me for an actual date?"

Sleepily, she said, "Mmmm hmmm."

"Tomorrow night?"

"Sure. But let's stay in your quarters… don't wanna tie up the holodeck."

"Okay." He moved her hair to the side, taking time to enjoy its softness, assuming that it was probably stiff when fixed for duty. Leaning down, he placed a soft kiss at the nape of her neck. She moaned softly, obviously enjoying the touch. Smiling, Chakotay continued his light massage on her neck, carefully avoiding the back of her head where she had said it hurt. His hands moved back down to the center of her back, his palms making large and hopefully soothing circles.

Kathryn said, "Very sleepy."

Helping her pull her shirt back over her head and down her back, Chakotay said, "I'll say goodnight, then."

She mumbled, "But I still want some of your TLC."

Not really sure what she meant by that, he asked, "You want me to stay?"

She lifted her head off the pillow and looked at him. "Am I asking too much?"

"Of course not. Shall I stay until you fall asleep or do you want me around all night?"

"All night, if you can control yourself."

Smirking he said, "I think I can manage, but I am going to sleep in boxers. I hope you don't mind."

"Course not," she said as she turned on her side away from him.

He took off his slacks and turtleneck and climbed into bed, spooning up behind her. "Goodnight, my love."

"Night," she mumbled.

Chakotay kissed the hurt spot on the back of her head and closed his eyes. Holding her and sleeping next to her made him even happier than he had been just a little earlier. As angry with the Doctor as they were for his actions, he couldn't help but be thankful at the end result. The ship was safe, Kathryn was safe, and she was lying in his arms. Nothing could be better. He smiled when he heard the deep, even breathing that meant she was asleep. Pulling her tightly against him, he nuzzled against her back and soon fell into a deep, peaceful sleep.

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