A Janeway & Chakotay Fanfic by Dawn

Summary: Chakotay worries when Kathryn's com signal disappears during the final conversation of a long and strenuous trade negotiation.

Disclaimer: Voyager and its characters belong to Paramount, I just add a lot more romance.

Thanks: To Cori for encouraging this story along, and for saying, "Do you really think so?" It's a much better story than it would have been without her "awwww's" and "wow's" cheering me on.

Also, thank you to Mizvoy for proofreading.

Rating: NC-17

Warning: The story alludes to a personal assault that is discussed but not described in graphic detail. I have tried to handle it with care, and with the utmost respect for the strength of Janeway's character, the compassion of Chakotay's character, and the crew's high regard for their captain. On another note regarding the recent discussion of babyfic warnings, no babies were created in the writing of this fic.

Chakotay stormed onto the bridge, still wearing his tuxedo from the reception they’d attended that afternoon, and he was pissed. “Report!”

Tuvok addressed him from the command deck. “The away team reports that Captain Janeway left with the prime minister, and we’ve been unable to trace her location since.”

“Tell me why they didn’t go with her,” he demanded as he took his chair and pulled up the center console to examine the sensor readings.

“Lieutenant Ayala described the situation as unavoidable.”

Chakotay’s eyes slowly rose to meet to Tuvok’s. “What the hell does that mean?”

“Further details were not available, as our conversation wasn’t private.”

“Tuvok, I want some answers or I’m going down there with phasers charged. Whatever the prime minister’s intentions are with the Captain, I can assure you that they aren’t honorable.”

“I am aware that he has shown a specific interest in her.”

“Specific? During this afternoon’s reception, he couldn’t keep his hands off of her. Kim, open a line with Ayala. Now.”

“Channel open.”

With as much calm professionalism as he could muster, he said, “Voyager to Lieutenant Ayala.”

“Ayala here, Commander. I am in conversation with the palace security director.”

“What can you tell me?”

“Evidently, the prime minister is within his rights to demand a private meeting with a foreign dignitary at the conclusion of a trade conference.”

“Rights according to what agreement?”

“That is what I’m attempting to find out now, sir.”

“Can you tell me why Captain Janeway consented to the meeting?”

“Her hands were tied, Commander.”


“Figuratively, Commander. Not literally.”

“She damn well better not have been restrained under your watch.”

Ayala spoke more cautiously as he requested, “Commander, if you’ll allow me to finish my discussion with the security director, I’ll contact you with the results momentarily. I know you want us to bring her home so she can continue her work on that device she’s anxious to have for retrievals under the ground.”

Thankful for the veiled communication, Chakotay replied, “Understood. I’ll be waiting for your very detailed report, Lieutenant. In your conversations down there, make sure to include as many of the palace security personnel as you can. I want you to be thorough. Voyager out.”

Harry announced, “I’m adjusting sensors to track it now, sir.”

Chakotay asked, “Tuvok, did Ayala mention anything about a homing device during your last conversation?”

“In retrospect, I believe that was what he was trying to convey, but it wasn’t clear at the time.”

“Commander,” Harry interrupted. “Sensors are picking up a faint signal, but it’s in a location that the transporters can’t penetrate.”

“Of course it is – that would be far too easy. Ensign, load the specs into a PADD for me.” Chakotay turned back to Tuvok. “I want you to lead an official away team to join the Captain’s security detail. I’m going to lead a covert ops team, and as I told Ayala, the more security personnel you tie up, the fewer we’ll run into.”

“With all due respect, Commander, I think Lieutenant Paris would be better suited to distracting the palace security with small talk.”

Tom asked, “You’re saying I have the gift of gab, Tuvok?”


Chakotay stated, “I want a medic on the underground team.”

“Take the Doc,” Tom replied. “As much as I want to personally rescue the captain from that slimeball, I think Tuvok is right.”

“All right. Tuvok, you’re with me. Harry, you have the bridge. If they want to know where I am, tell them I’m meditating or something. Don’t hedge or they won’t believe you. I’ve had enough of playing it their way.”

“Yes, sir.”

While the three men rode in the turbolift, Chakotay gave further instructions. “Tuvok, I want four people on our team, dressed in black rescue gear. Pack an extra set of clothes for the Captain – her dress will be cumbersome if we have trouble getting her out of there. Let’s meet in the transporter room to put together a quick game plan – our top priority is her safety. Coming in a far second is saving the damned trade agreement. I’m going to sickbay for the mobile emitter and a medkit. You might need to hold me back from strangling the prime minister if we have to use it.”

“Aye, Commander.”

As he walked along the deck five corridor, Chakotay’s thoughts were focused on Kathryn, fearing that she was in real trouble. As much as she detested the prime minister, Chakotay knew that she wouldn’t have gone with the man if she’d had any other options.

Earlier that afternoon…

Chakotay arrived at the reception, wearing a tuxedo, as requested, and immediately checked in with Ayala. “I got your message. What do I need to do?”

“The Captain needs you, not that she’d ever ask for help in this kind of situation.”

The hairs on the back of his neck stood out. “What situation?”

“Has she mentioned the prime minister of this planet?”

“A few hundred times,” Chakotay said with barely controlled annoyance.

Ayala noted, “Then you must know that he’s a real asshole. She needs a break from him, and I think only you could manage to pull her away.”

“She insisted that she could handle him. Are you sure she’ll want me to intervene?”

“If you don’t, I'm ready to pull her out of here, to hell with the trade agreement.”

“We need these supplies, Mike. It can’t be that bad.”

“Take a look for yourself.” He ushered Chakotay into the ballroom where at least two hundred aliens were dancing and milling around, all dressed in an impressive array of colors spanning the entire visual spectrum.

Every color except black, so for once, he wished Kathryn was in uniform. The blue dress she’d been wearing as he escorted her to the transporter room was simple and modest, but unfortunately, the soft color was merely a drop in the paint bucket that was this room. “Can you point her out to me?”

“I thought you had a special kind of radar for her, Chakotay.” Ayala nodded towards the dance floor. “She’s under the third chandelier from the left.”

It took him a moment, but when he finally saw her, his eyes nearly jumped out of their sockets. The slimeball had one hand gripping her ass and the other wound tightly through her hair, forcibly moving her forward and back in a reckless imitation of the smooth movements of the dozens of dancers around them. “I don’t need to ask who that is, do I?”

“No, sir. I’ve spoken to her several times and she assures me that she’s okay. She insists that she can tolerate the lewd behavior in order to get the supplies we need. I don’t like it, Chakotay. He keeps pushing the envelope, forcing her hand over and over again.”

“Has he been like this all week?”

“Not to this extent, sir. It’s clear that the other governmental representatives find his behavior and personality appalling, but because of his economic status, none will stand up to him.”

“All right,” Chakotay said as he sized up the situation. “I'm going to circle around to the drink station on the far wall so I can watch her more closely. If I can see her face, I’ll be able to tell whether she needs help.”

“I'm sure she can handle him, Chakotay, but at some point, she’s likely to deck him. My hope is that you can give her a reprieve so she can keep going until the end of this reception. That’s when he has promised to transport the supplies to Voyager.”

“Has anyone else tried to cut in?”

“Peterson and I both tried, but the minister brushed us off as the hired help. Since he hasn’t met you, my hope is that you’ll carry enough conviction that he’ll be caught off guard and believe she belongs to you.”

“You think I should act as if she’s mine?”

“Isn’t she?” Ayala didn’t flinch under Chakotay’s glare. “All that matters is his perception of your power over her, and over Voyager. That’s why I suggested you wear that outfit – you look like the man in charge.”

Chakotay straightened the jacket of his tuxedo. While he’d felt silly walking through the corridors of Voyager wearing it, he now understood the reason. More than a handful of Voyager crew members had told him he looked regal in it. “Anything else I should know?”

“Yes, a helpful bystander said that if I could get the Captain’s husband to attend, their etiquette demands that while present, he has first rights to dance with her. However, if he decides to sit one out, she becomes available.”

Leveling a look at Ayala, he said, “You could’ve told me to wear more comfortable shoes.”

“Sorry, but I bet her feet are killing her, too.”

Chakotay shook his head with exasperation over the situation. “All right, Lieutenant. Keep an eye on the minister while I'm with the Captain, and comm me when the party is about to end.”

“Yes, sir. Good luck.”

Instead of skirting around the floor, Chakotay made a beeline for his woman. As he got closer, he could see from her expression that she wasn’t just angry, she looked sick to her stomach. It only took him five more steps to reach her, and in that short time, he puffed up his chest to give his best impersonation of a damned rooster guarding his territory. If Kathryn didn’t thank him for this, she’d be holding this over his head for a long, long time.

Not wanting to touch the alien, Chakotay chose to interrupt with the strength of his voice. “Prime Minister, I have come to dance with my partner.”

Kathryn’s head snapped up and her mouth dropped open before a look of pure relief crossed her face. That was all the affirmation he needed to proceed as planned.

The Minister didn’t let go of her ass, but he removed his hand from her hair so quickly that his ghastly rings ripped several strands out of her head. “And you are?” he asked as he sized up his competition.

“Commander Chakotay – Executive Officer of the Starship Voyager.” While he was intently focused on his challenger, he kept his peripheral attention on his captain who looked like she could vomit any second.

“Hmmm,” the man said with a sneer. “As the prime minister of this planet, it is my right to choose a partner from any of the women attending this event.”

Kathryn started to say something, but Chakotay got there first. “Not if the woman’s spouse is present.”

“You said partner, not spouse. You’re lying.”

Quickly, Kathryn managed to say, “In our culture, one’s spouse is their partner for life. The words are interchangeable.”

Chakotay extended his arm towards her. “That being said, I’ve come to dance with her and plan to remain in attendance for the remainder of the event.”

The minister swatted his hand out of the way. “You were not invited, Commander Chakotay.”

“Oh, but I was.” He nodded towards Kathryn. “She invited me. Although I was previously detained with ship’s business, that is now concluded and I'm free to enjoy the second half of this outstanding event, Minister. My compliments to you for the vivid display of wealth and vitality.”

Boasting, the minister said, “It is not a display, Commander Chakotay. It is a reality.”

“Of course it is.” He moved again towards Kathryn and offered his hand which she readily accepted. While giving her fingers a reassuring squeeze, he continued to appeal to the minister’s egotism. “In all my travels across the galaxy, I have never seen the likes of a presentation as… colorful… as this. My partner and her security detail will not soon forget the amount of hospitality you have shown to them.”

The prime minister puffed up like a rooster himself, but mistakenly accepted Chakotay’s words as compliments. “Enjoy the reception, Commander.”

“I plan to.”

“However, when it is over, Captain Janeway and I have more business to discuss, do we not?” The alien narrowed his unnaturally small eyes at her.

Jaw set firmly, Kathryn squeezed Chakotay’s hand as she replied, “Only to conclude the trade agreement, Minister. I must get back to my ship.”

Noticing her discomfort, Chakotay added, “I’ll join you for that discussion.”

With an ostentatious laugh, the minister said, “That is not possible, Commander Chakotay. It is our custom that only the most senior officials of the trade agreement parties involve themselves in this discussion. Isn’t that so, Captain Janeway?”

She sighed and nodded at Chakotay. “It won’t take long.”

The minister’s chest nearly burst with satisfaction. “Then do enjoy yourself, Commander Chakotay, if you can. I found that she is a poor dance partner and nearly impossible to subjugate.”

It took all of Chakotay’s willpower not to knock the alien’s lights out. “Something I would never try to do.”

The minister looked at him disdainfully and gave him a, “Hmph,” before strutting away.

Once he was gone, Chakotay turned to Kathryn and all but cradled her in his arms. “Are you okay?”

She leaned into him as she’d never allowed herself to do before. “I will be once my stomach settles. Can you stand to dance with me for an entire hour? I was told that if I leave the floor, someone else could insist on having me.”

“If it means keeping you away from that asshole, I could dance forever.”

Sliding her hands around to his back, she held onto him as if her sanity depended on it. Decorum was already out the window, and she didn’t care about sending him the wrong message because she needed the comfort. Besides, they now had to play the part of a married couple. “Are you always this charming with your partners?”

“We never actually lied to him.” He lightly massaged the back of her head where the minister had been gripping it. “Ayala called me.”

“He shouldn’t have, but I'm glad he did.” She relaxed in his arms as he swayed to the unusual alien music. “If we’d been alone, I doubt the minister would be able to father anymore children – not that anyone on this planet would mind.”

“I'm not sure the trade agreement is worth this.”

“He’s just a jerk, Chakotay, and it’s almost over. I can take it.”

“What are you going to do if he insists on spending time with you while we fulfill our obligations?”

“Once those supplies are onboard, I'm not setting foot on this planet again. I don’t care who, but someone else is going to have to take over this mission.”

“B’Elanna?” he asked with amusement.

“Preferably not a female, although I’d pay to see the two of them alone together.”

“As would I, but not if our safety depends on her being submissive. We’ll just have to see what personalities are involved and then decide.”

She sighed softly against his neck. “Your fingers feel so good. My head is about to explode.”

“How bad is your nausea? Should I call a medical emergency?”

“It’s tempting, but as long as you don’t spin and jerk me around, I should be able to keep down the meager contents of my stomach. The food here is repulsive.”

“All right, no emergency – but what I can do is get you some relief.” Chakotay tapped the commbadge that was hidden inside his lapel. “Chakotay to Ayala.”

“Yes, Commander?”

“I need you to contact the Doctor to get an analgesic and anti-nausea medication for the Captain and then find a way to slip it to me. We’re going to have to stay on the dance floor until the end of this party, and then the Captain has to stick around for some one-on-one business.”

“Is that advisable?” he asked.

Kathryn replied, “We’ll do what we have to, Lieutenant, but I’ll need you to watch my back.”

“Always, Captain. We’ve had you in sight every minute.”

“I appreciate that. Do what you can to find out where he plans to have this one-on-one with me.”

“I'm on it.”

Chakotay added, “Tell the Doctor that a boost of nutrients wouldn’t hurt her.”

“Understood, Commander.”

“Chakotay out.” He tapped his commbadge again and then resumed his massage on her head. “I’ve got hold of you. Just do whatever you can to relax.”

Smiling against his cheek, she asked, “Taking care of me?”

“You don’t mind, do you?”

“No, not at the moment. I feel more than a little off-balance.”

“What can I do to help?”

“Just stick with me, partner, and pretend you like me.”

“I do like you.”

“Because of the spouse inference, you need to pretend that you ‘really’ like me.”

“You’re a beautiful woman, Kathryn. I don’t have to pretend,” he said as he dropped his hand very low on her back. “Let me know if I make you feel uncomfortable.”

“Mmmm.” She assured him it was okay by hugging him a little tighter. “Your touch is chaste compared to the way he was groping me. Feel free to spice it up a little.”

“Does that mean I get to kiss you?”

“No,” she said with a chuckle. “I'm not kissing you with our security team and a couple hundred aliens watching.”

“Ah, but would you kiss me if we were alone?”

Smiling, she replied, “For saving me just now, I could definitely kiss you.”

“I’ll take a rain-check on that kiss, then.” He quickly added, “Since you’re not into voyeurism.”

“I’d like that.” She looked up when Chakotay stiffened. “What is it?”

“Just Ayala… relax.”

“Captain, Commander,” Ayala said as he came up to them. “Here’s the hypo, but Doc says not to take it if you’ve had any alcohol.”

“I haven’t.”

“Let us know if you need anything else.” The younger man walked on.

Kathryn laid her head on Chakotay’s chest again. “We should try to do this discretely.”

“Agreed. The minister is watching us,” he said as he felt around for the right place to administer it.

“Will you be able to find my jugular?”

“No problem. Your neck is so delicate that I can feel the anatomy of it without looking.”

“Who are you calling delicate?” She cringed as he released the contents into her vein.

“Your neck – certainly not you.”

“You don’t think I'm delicate?”

He chuckled as he put the hypo in his pocket. “I’d say the answer depends entirely on which meaning of the word we’re talking about.”

“Mmm hmm?” she encouraged.

“You are definitely a refined woman – no doubt about it.”


“Fragile? Frail? Definitely not.”

“Good save.”

“Thank you.” He closed his eyes for a moment, loving the feel of her body against his. “I’m really enjoying this, Kathryn. Not the reason we’re here, but dancing with you – it feels good.”

“Yes, it does.”

After a long stretch of silence, he asked, “Did you mean what you said?”

She froze for a few seconds and then looked up at him, her blue eyes glistening with the reflection of the chandeliers. “I always mean what I say, but to what are you referring?”

“A rain-check on a kiss.”

Her mouth formed an o and then she smiled apologetically. “Now I’ve made you uncomfortable.”

Caressing as low as he dared on her back, he shook his head and smiled softly to reassure her. “Not in the least. Want me to kiss you right now to prove it?”

She brought her hands around to his chest. “No, but you can kiss me tonight, if you’re that interested. I think we can handle a simple kiss between us – after all, we’re pretending to be a couple at the moment.”

“You doubt my interest in kissing?”

She looked away nervously, before focusing back at him. “No, I doubt your interest in kissing me. After all, I am your commanding officer and not exactly your type.”

“My type?” His eyebrows shot up with curiosity. “What do you think is my type?”

Shrugging, she replied, “Not short red-heads with more brains than looks. It’s the professor-types who usually go for women like me.”

“I see.” He was trying not to laugh. “Do you recall what my last job in Starfleet was?”

She rolled her eyes. “You know what I mean.”

“Is that why you settled for Mark Johnson?”

Her head snapped up. “Settled?”

“How long were you engaged to him before you met me?”

“Three years.”

“And how long did you date him before getting engaged?”

“Hey now, he’s a very good man.”

“I have no doubt about that. I'm merely suggesting the idea that you were waiting around for someone else, someone not so professory…”


He smiled. “You were waiting for someone to sweep you off your feet.”

“That’s a very romantic notion.”

“But you love romance, Kathryn.”

“Yes, but it’s my escape from reality. Romance is something that young girls dream of – someone tall, dark, and handsome, swooping in to rescue them from…” She cleared her throat and looked down to hide the blush she knew was coloring her cheeks.

“…from a beady-eyed madman who has her trapped in his claws, perhaps?” He caressed the back of her head again. “How’s your head feeling?”

She hid her face against the side of his neck and mumbled, “Much better, thank you.”

“I have a confession, Kathryn.”

“I’d be surprised if you didn’t.”

He held her closer and whispered in her ear, “I'm in love with you.”

Looking up into his eyes, she said, “I know you love me – I’ve known for some time, but can you really say that you’re in love? With me?”

“Yes, I can, and you’re spoiling the romance of this moment.”

“I'm a practical woman when it comes to reality.”

Shaking his head in amusement, he asked, “Don’t you have something to tell me, too?”

“Something along the lines of not being able to go a single minute without thinking about you?”

“Do you?”

“I tend to focus elsewhere when the ship is at red alert.”

“As your first officer, I'm very glad to hear that.”

She looked into his dark eyes for a long moment, and then laid her head on his shoulder, effectively hiding her face from him again.

He rubbed her back and asked, “Are you okay?”

Pressing on his chest, she gave him an abrupt, “Shhhh.”

“Okay,” he replied tentatively.

“I need a moment.”

“For what?”

“For my thoughts to wage war against each other. I’ll let you know which side is triumphant in just a few minutes.”

“I see.” He slowly moved her hair away from her neck and leaned down to place soft kisses just below her ear.

“What are you doing?” she mumbled.

“Aiding and abetting the thoughts I want to win.” He skimmed his free hand brazenly over the side of her breast, eliciting a gasp which was closely followed by an almost incoherent moan of pleasure.

Her voice cracked as she reported, “Your side is winning.”

“What can I do to up the ante?”

She put a little space between them and asked, “Are you sure this is what you want?”


“I don’t have affairs,” she warned.

“You want a guarantee that this relationship will never end?”

Her shoulders dropped and she closed her eyes. “That’s not… I don’t know.”

“Hey now,” he said as he pulled her close again. “I didn’t mean to upset you.”

She mumbled, “I'm not that easily upset.”

“Not the extroverted personality you show to everyone else, no.”

“I don’t have two personalities.”

Chuckling, he whispered, “Yes, you do. And I'm in love with both. I feel privileged that you’ve let me see your softer side.”

“I can’t believe we’re having this discussion right now.”

“It’s not so bad. We’re surrounded by a couple hundred aliens, there are four security officers watching us like hawks, and there’s a madman calculating how to force you into submission.”

“Four? I only brought two officers.”

“Davis and Sanders have arrived. I’ve got my eye on them as well as the prime minister, and all five of them have their eyes on us.”

“You’re a talented man, Chakotay.”

“How do you figure?”

“That you can do all that while professing your love. I'm impressed.”

“It’s second nature to keep an eye on whatever situation is at hand.” He could see that the minister was definitely eyeing them suspiciously, so he told Kathryn, “If it’s okay with you, I'm going to give the minister more of a show.”

“How so?”

“Don’t you want to be surprised?”

She looked up at him and licked her lips. “Are you sure that you don’t have ulterior motives?”

“Of course I do. I'm a strategist, remember?”

“How could I forget?” She pushed her arms up until they were wrapped around his neck. “Surprise me.”

“Stomach settled?”

“Except for the nervous butterflies you’re creating, yes.”

He laughed. “Glad to know I have that affect on you.”

“That and much more, Chakotay. Much, much more,” she whispered seductively in his ear and because they were pressed against each other so tightly, she could feel, exactly, what she was doing to him. “It appears that the affect is mutual.”

A low growl came from deep within his throat. He tapped his commbadge. “Chakotay to away team, we’re going to give the minister a bit of a show to prove that she’s mine. Keep an eye on him and alert us if he becomes agitated.”

Ayala replied, “Aye, Commander. We’ve got your back.”

“Chakotay out.” He let his hands begin to roam over her backside.

“Just out of curiosity, why did you tell them that?” Kathryn asked.

“Because what I'm about to do is pretend. The first time I make-out with you for real, I want to be alone and completely focused on you.”

“So I shouldn’t judge what you’re about to do?”

“Absolutely not… unless you like it.”

Her eyes bugged out and she warned, “Commander…”

“Trust me.”

“I do… I just like to be in control of situations.”

“Tell me something I don’t know,” he said with a wink.

She took a deep breath and said, “All right. I think I'm ready.”

Pressing his hand against her back, he directed, “Put your arms around my neck again.”

“Am I going to regret this?”

“I certainly hope not. Remember, I have ulterior motives – the last thing I want to do is chase you away.”

As soon as her arms were locked around his neck, he began to mimic the movements of the other males around him. He gently cradled the back of her head in one hand, and moved the other hand down over her rear. It appeared to him that the females were being led in this peculiar fashion, so he joined in.

“You’re grabbing my ass, Chakotay.”

“Yes, I am, and a lovely ass it is.” When her only response was an aggravated sigh, he added, “Look around, Kathryn. When in Rome…”

“Fine, but turn about is fair play.”

As he found a dance rhythm that she could follow, he joked, “Does that mean you want to grab my ass later?”

“It means that next time we’re in a similar situation, but with opposite roles, you’d better not balk if I start bossing you around like I own you.”

He laughed. “You always boss me around, my Captain.”

“Mmmhmm.” She held on a little tighter and asked, “So is this it?”

“My show?”

“I don’t think this warrants a call to the away team.”

“I have to ease into it or it will look like a show.”

“Dip me.”

“Dip you?”

“The Minister did it quite a few times, although for some reason that I can’t explain, my elbows kept digging into his ribs.”

Chakotay laughed. “I love it.”

“I assured him that my elbows must bend differently than his species.”

“No doubt.” He kissed her temple. “So, what would you like me to do while you’re dipped?”

“You mentioned something about surprising me.”

“Yes, yes I did.” He gave serious thought to how he would use this to his advantage, in more ways than one. Finally deciding, he gently nudged her head until she was face to face with him, and then he guided her rear to his side. Once in position, he dipped her just enough so that she was relying on him to hold her up, but not so far that he’d have to bend over to reach her.

Kathryn felt as if she was about to bubble over with nervous anticipation, but when he widened his eyes suggestively, she laughed and felt instantly more at ease. However, any amusement was cut off when he lowered his head to place his warm, wet mouth at the base of her throat. A firestorm shot straight to her groin and surged up through her breasts, hardening her nipples almost instantly.

She was very thankful that the dress didn’t show the slightest bit of cleavage, and that the fabric was stiff enough that her reaction couldn’t be seen through the bodice. The heat grew as his tender kisses moved along her collarbone, down to the edge of her dress, and back up again. When he added his tongue to the kisses on her neck, she instinctively arched into him and moaned with deep arousal. “Chakotay…,” she begged, not knowing if she wanted him to stop or to keep going.

He slowly brought her back up to her feet, but didn’t abandon his sweet torture. His hold was such that she had to grip his shoulders to keep her balance, but she was unable to move without bringing them both down. While she was in this precarious position, he placed more lingering kisses behind her ear and all along the most sensitive areas of her exposed neck.

She responded as if in a stupor, trusting him and the away team to keep her safe. Her knees went weak and her head dropped back to expose even more to him. The only thing stopping her from moaning out loud was the crowd around them and the chirping of his commbadge.

After making sure she was balanced again, he tapped his commbadge and said, “Go ahead.”

“Sorry sir, but I have to suggest toning it down. The Prime Minister is spitting fire over here. He’s talking about having you thrown out for lascivious behavior.”

“Well, isn’t that the pot calling the kettle black?”

“I know, sir,” Ayala said regretfully. “I’ll watch for any movement towards you.”

“Thanks. Keep me informed. Chakotay out.” He noticed that his dance partner was nestled up close to him and breathing heavily. “Kathryn?”

“One question for you,” she managed to say.

Her husky tone of voice made him smile. “Yes?”

“Which side of the bed do you want?”

Chuckling, he replied, “Does that mean you want to have an affair, now?”

“No.” She moved her arms up so she was encircling his neck again and looking directly into his eyes. “Because I trust you with not just my life, but also with my heart, I'm going to believe that you’ve meant every word you’ve said to me this afternoon.”

“I do mean every word.”

“Good, because this will not be a temporary arrangement, and tonight, I expect you to finish what you just started here.”

A sly smile spread across his lips. “Have I ever told you how much I love it when you boss me around?”

“As a matter of fact, no, you haven’t.” She stared at his chest while she spoke. “Even though I’ve wanted this for a long time, I'm a little anxious about it.”

“Because of our positions?”

“Yes, but only if we break up. I need you to promise me that if this doesn’t work, we have to be amicable with each other.”

“I can’t imagine that I’d ever want to break up with you.”

She closed her eyes and looked away. “Don’t say that.”

“Why not?”

“Because you’re liable to make me get overly emotional and I can’t have that.”

“Oh… that is really not what I was expecting you to say.”

With a bright smile, she replied, “I have a certain public personality that I have to keep up, you know.”

“Absolutely.” He frowned as his commbadge chirped again. “Go ahead.”

Ayala said, “I suggest getting a drink, Commander. If we’re going to save this agreement, it’d be best not to have an altercation with the prime minister in public.”

“Understood.” Instantly all business, they moved off the dance floor towards the drink station closest to the exit.

“You’re going to let me do this, right?” she stated with absolute authority in her voice.

He stopped and looked point blank at her. “Just so long as you acknowledge that you are more important than this trade agreement. We can find supplies elsewhere – you can’t be replaced.”

Placing her hand over his heart, she said with conviction, “We have a date to keep tonight. Be waiting in my quarters, wearing that tux, and with dinner in stasis. I’ll be back onboard within the hour. Understood?”

Feeling suddenly overwhelmed by her intensity, he simply replied, “Aye, Captain.”

Preparing for the rescue mission…

“Doctor?” Chakotay nearly shouted as he barreled into sickbay.

“In here, Commander,” the Doctor called from the lab on the other side of his office.

“You’re needed for a rescue mission to retrieve the Captain.”

He rolled his eyes as he asked, “What has our dear Captain gotten herself into this time?”

Controlling his anger, he ordered, “Dispense with the sarcasm.”

“My apologies.”

“Have B’Elanna change your physical parameters. I need you in all black. Get a medkit together and meet us in the transporter room. We’ll take your emitter with us and activate you if necessary.”

“Do you believe she’s injured?”

Chakotay took a moment to find composure before replying, “I sure as hell hope not, but if she is, it will be the result of either self defense or a personal assault.”

The Doctor nodded, now realizing the nature of Chakotay’s concern. “I’ll pack accordingly, Commander.”

“Thank you, Doctor.” He quickly left and went back to his quarters to change out of his tux, cursing the prime minister under his breath the entire time.

Chakotay hunkered down, waiting for Carlson to open the locking mechanism that would lead them into the back door of the palace. His heart was thudding heavily in his chest and it was taking all of his self-control not to blast the door open and run the twenty-eight meters separating them from where they suspected Kathryn was being held.

Tuvok said, “The homing signal is coming through, but I’m reading no lifesigns within fifty meters on the other side of this wall.”

Andrews tried not to roll his eyes. “I hate to point out the obvious, Commander, but this section of the building extends fifty meters beyond this wall, too.”

“I’m sure you are also aware, Lieutenant, that means we do not know what type of security forces will be greeting us.”

“Yes, sir.” One look at Chakotay’s foul expression kept Andrews from making any further sarcastic remarks.

“We’re in,” Carlson reported.

Andrews and Tuvok took point as the group moved stealthily into the building. They were all surprised to find no security officers guarding the entrance, but remained cautious as they huddled in a corner to adjust their scanners.

Carlson shook his head. “There must be a dampening field in place, because we’re still reading no lifesigns. Not even ours.”

Chakotay looked up and down the corridor as he replied, “Hopefully that means we can’t be detected, either. However, even though these security guards aren’t on their game, don’t forget that they’re still carrying weapons. Let’s move.”

In standard formation, the four men moved down the corridor, providing cover for each other in a zig-zag pattern as they moved closer to their target. Chakotay forced down the gnawing sense of dread over what he suspected they’d find when they got there.

Tuvok motioned for the group to hold back and then turned to hold up two fingers. Chakotay looked to him and Andrews, designating that they should take out the two guards Tuvok had indicated. They all knew that once they fired weapons, it was possible that they could be detected.

The away team acted, and in a matter of seconds, Tuvok and Andrews were hiding the unconscious guards, Carlson was working on the locking mechanism, and Chakotay was chomping at the bit to get inside. The homing signal was coming from a mere four meters in front of them and he was anxious to pull her out of the claws of her captor.

Carlson gave a quick nod and stepped back, indicating that the door was open.

Tuvok put his hand in front of Chakotay and whispered, “I’ll cover you.”

Phaser at the ready, Chakotay kicked in the door and stormed inside. The moment he realized what he’d found, he skidded to a halt and lowered his weapon.

Kathryn Janeway was bending over so that she was eye level with her captive – an extremely angry prime minister, restrained in a chair and sporting a bloody lip, a swollen nose, and a line of blood streaming down his chin. Kathryn rose to her full height, revealing a torn dress and some swelling of her own. She looked at her four crewmembers, and with a smirk, said, “Took you long enough.”

Not sure whether to feel relieved or amused, Chakotay settled for both as he holstered his phaser. “Carlson, Andrews keep watch in the corridor.”

“Aye, Commander.”

Turning back to Kathryn, he waited until the junior officers were out of the room before asking, “How can I help?”

“Help?” she asked with bemused surprise.

He closed the distance between them, took her jaw in his hand, and turned her face so he could get a better look at the deep cut and swelling around her eye. Immediately, he noticed that one pupil was substantially larger than the other. “You seem to have run into some trouble.”

“I couldn’t convince him that I wasn’t in the mood.” She whispered, “His acute sense of smell told him otherwise.”

Angrily, he glared at the prime minister and informed him, “The only reason I’m not going to break your nose right now is because it looks like she already did.”

The prime minister seethed. “This agreement is null! Your woman cannot be subdued.”

Chakotay looked back at Kathryn who was twirling the handle of a knife between her fingers, looking both smug and more than a little ticked off. He replied, “You’re right about that, but to control such a woman would be a great disservice to the universe.”

“Get me out of here, you fool! She’s insane!”

“No, to both.” Chakotay circled around behind the minister so that he would have to strain to see him. “For one, insulting me will not help you in the least, and two, she is far from insane. Truth be told, I think she’s brilliant.”

Kathryn raised her eyebrow at Chakotay’s comment, but pointed out, “Minister, you brought me in here with the express purpose of finding out just what type of woman I am.”

“Let me go!”

Chakotay looked carefully at her disheveled hair and the way she was perspiring from recent physical exertion, but keeping up the façade of his unconcerned attitude, he fingered the bindings that were holding the prime minister to the chair and asked, “Part of your outfit?”

She retucked her bodice under her arms to keep it from falling off. “Since he cut the straps off my dress, it seemed a shame not to use them.”

“Minister,” Chakotay said as he came around to hover above the alien. “I’d say that you found out exactly what you wanted to know. Our captain is the type of woman who, when pushed far enough, will not only fight back, but will do it with absolute grace and a strength that belies her size.”

“Tuvok,” Kathryn barked without taking her eyes off the man seated before her.

“Yes, Captain.”

“Tell the minister, please, just what I do to men who think they can control me.”

“I didn’t realize such a man existed, Captain.”

With a smirk, she replied, “So true, Mr. Tuvok. Would you excuse us for a moment?” She jutted her chin out and announced, “Commander Chakotay and I have something to discuss with the prime minister in private.”

“Aye, Captain.” He gave the Commander a wary look before leaving the room.

When the three of them were alone, Kathryn used the tip of the knife to direct the minister’s chin up until he was focused solely on her. “It appears that you were mistaken, doesn’t it?”

Playing his part, Chakotay asked, “Mistaken about what, Captain?”

“Seems that he believed my men would never get here in time, and that his forces guarded not only his rooms here, but also guarded his rights to possess me as a token of your gratitude for the exchange, Commander.”


“Tell me something, Commander,” she demanded with an emphasis on the rank.

“Anything, Captain.”

“Are you feeling gratitude for the Prime Minister’s hospitality?”

“No, I can’t say that I am. Are you?”

“I’ll defer to your opinion. After all, you are the only man who has the right to tell me what to do, are you not?”

“Am I?” Not sure where this was going, he let her fill in the blanks.

“Of course you are, Commander.” Kathryn caught his eyes for a brief moment before she refocused on her captive, pressing the point of the knife a little more firmly against his skin. “So, since the Commander is feeling no gratitude, there’s obviously no reason for him to offer me up for your pleasure. That being said, I’d like to complete our trade now.”

“You’re insane, woman!”

She pursed her lips and looked at Chakotay. “Didn’t we cover that already?”

“Yes, we did. It sounds to me like the prime minister isn’t interested in upholding his part of the agreement. How do you propose that we let his representatives know about that?”

“We’ll just have to be honest, but I’m concerned about how disappointed their constituents will be. I know how much the Universe Exploration Administration was looking forward to those detailed astronomical charts we were going to provide for them.”

The minister spat, “They’ll have your head if you kill me.”

Acting offended, she replied, “The thought hadn’t even crossed my mind – that’s just not my style.”

Chakotay tapped his chin as if trying to remember something. “Captain, I’m trying to recall the circumstances surrounding the last time you killed a man.”

She held up her hand in mock protest. “Oh, the minister doesn’t want to hear about that.”

“What did she do!?” The minister looked panicked as he tried to wriggle out of his bonds.

Kathryn wiped away the trickle of blood that had begun to slide down her cheek. “He fell on his own knife. But since you’re restrained, I really don’t think you’ll face the same danger.”

“You’re probably right.” Chakotay acted nonchalant, but he was worried about how pale her complexion had become.

She blinked slowly and then seemed to remember what she’d intended to say. “Let’s take this conversation back to the capitol building.” As an afterthought, she instructed, “Leave him tied up.”

“As you wish, Captain, but what do you plan to tell them?” He waited for her to answer, hoping she had the ability. If he didn’t know her better, he would’ve thought she looked deep in thought, rather than struggling to remain upright.

“Ummm,” she hesitated while she forced her eyes to focus. “We’ll explain that we’re unable to help with their… their mission. The people… they were looking… wanting our protection.”

Coming around to her side, he put his arm around her shoulders under the guise of empathizing with her disappointment. “Captain, I’m sure they’ll understand that the option is no longer available because their prime minister is more interested in sexual exploits.”

The alien shouted, “We were going to do it without you anyway!”

“Oh, you were?” she asked with fake drama as she leaned against Chakotay. “Well, then, by all means… proceed and we’ll…”

When she paused unexpectedly, Chakotay finished for her, “We’ll be on our way. I think it’s for the best, Captain.”

After fumbling around on her shirt to find her badge, her eyes settled on Chakotay’s shirt. “Your badge?”

He took it off and handed it to her, their fingers making contact longer than necessary. “What’s mine is your’s.”

“Lucky me,” she flirted, despite the fact that she was leaning into him and her breathing was growing more shallow. “Janeway to Ayala.”

“Captain!” Mike replied. “Are you all right?”

“I’m afraid that I… I have… bad news, Lieutenant.”

“Stop!” the minister shouted. “Stop the conversation!”

When Kathryn didn’t respond right away, Chakotay asked, “Yes Minister? Do you want to discuss something in private, first?”

“Is that signal still open?”

Catching up with the conversation, Kathryn said, “Stand by, Lieutenant,” and tapped the badge. “It’s closed.”

“All right! All right! You can go!”

Chakotay replied, “That wasn’t in question, and she certainly doesn’t need your permission.”

Kathryn started to bend over again to address her captive, but swayed until Chakotay grabbed hold and helped her stay upright. Once stable, she merely glared at her captive and demanded, “The only… way… way that you’re… going to save this… this…”

“Agreement,” Chakotay stated as he got into the prime minister’s face to take attention away from Kathryn. “You need to initiate transport of the minerals right now.”


“Now.” He clicked the commbadge. “Chakotay to Ayala.”

“Go ahead, Commander.”

“The prime minister has something he wishes to say.” Holding out the badge, he told the minister, “The decision is yours.”

The alien narrowed his beady little eyes at the both of them before speaking. “Secondary minister, proceed with the transaction and contact me when our offering has been placed on their ship.”

“Yes, Prime Minister. I will see to it at once.”

Kathryn smiled with satisfaction and asked, “Ayala?”

“Yes, ma’am?”

“I’ve been secured. Stand down.”

“I suspected that was the case, ma’am.”

“Mmmm hmmm. Janeway out.”

Since he was the one who initiated the comm line, Chakotay added, “Chakotay out,” effectively disconnecting the signal. “Shall I summon Tuvok?”

She flicked her free hand outwards, completely missing the direction of the door. “Open it up.”

Once their crewmembers rejoined them, Chakotay ordered, “Take the minister into custody, but leave his arms bound.”

As the men worked, Kathryn stumbled to the lavatory and braced her arms on each side of the sink.

Chakotay followed her, using his body to discretely hide her from the others. “Kathryn?”

“I’m okay,” she whispered softly.

He placed his hand on her back. “I have the emitter in my pocket. Let’s activate the Doctor.”

“Do you have a medkit?”

“It’s in Tuvok’s backpack. I’ll go get it.” He left and came back immediately. “Let me shut the door.”

“No!” Kathryn covered her mouth to fight back the surge of nausea that threatened to overwhelm her.

Chakotay stepped back into the main room and ordered, “Tuvok, Carlson, take the Minister to the corridor and wait for us. Andrews, keep watch while the Captain and I discuss an important matter.”

Not waiting for a response, Chakotay went back into the lavatory and pulled out the Doctor’s emitter. “We have some privacy now, Kathryn.”

As soon as the Doctor materialized and saw his patient, he asked, “Where’s the medkit?”

She clamped her eyes shut. “If I move, I'm going to vomit.”

Chakotay handed him the kit and said, “I’m guessing a head injury. One pupil is dilated.”

Sarcastically, the Doctor asked, “Your first clue wasn’t the massive swelling around her eye?”

Kathryn made a chopping motion with her hand. “Not now, Doctor. I’ve got to be back on my feet and functioning for just a little longer.”

“Captain, you need to be in sickbay,” he said as he read his scans.

“I’m well aware of that, but I can’t appear to be anything but strong in front of the asshole that did this to me.”

Chakotay asked, “Doctor, can you reduce the swelling, but leave the external injuries alone?”


Kathryn caught his eyes in the reflection of the mirror and answered on his behalf. “Because the only justice I’ll receive is if I make it clear that their leader did this to me.”

“This is no time for a cover-up,” Chakotay added. “The people respect you and they can’t stand him.”

“If you’re willing to suffer, far be it for me to get in the way of revenge,” the Doctor took out a tool and ran it over her face. “This will reduce the swelling in your brain, which will help with the vertigo and the nausea. Would you like me to leave the fracture?”

“Yes, but I wouldn’t turn down pain meds.”

Chakotay asked, “Which bone is fractured?”

“Eye orbit. I’m guessing you have one hell of a headache, Captain.”

She pressed the heel of her hand against the side of her head. “It’s getting there.”

The Doctor administered a hypo and then took out his tri-corder again. “I want to get one more scan before you de-activate me.”

When the scanning head moved down to her pelvis, Kathryn pushed it away. “Not now, Doctor.”

“Your clothing is torn and you’ve been assaulted, Captain. It’s standard procedure.”

“Not. Now.” She glared at him and then closed her eyes to avoid seeing any pity in his bedside manner. “You can scan me all you want when we get back to Voyager.”

“I’ll keep you to that.” He turned to Chakotay and said, “She’s not up for any kind of physical exertion and please see that she gets her revenge quickly.”

“Thank you, Doctor.” He tapped the mobile emitter and the Doctor shimmered out of existence.

Kathryn muttered, “Sometimes I wonder why we haven’t reprogrammed him, yet.”

Chakotay took a piece of rope out of his pack, cut it with a pocket knife, and tied it around her waist to hold her dress up. “Because his personality makes him seem real. Now,” he said as he finished, “if I’m going to support you in doing this, I need you to be straight with me. Do you have any injuries other than your head?”

“Yes, but nothing that will keep me from doing my job.”

He guided her to turn around so that he could look at her. “It’s just me, Kathryn, and it doesn’t have to go into a report.”

Squeezing his shoulder, she said, “While your compassion is appreciated, I’m quite capable of functioning while injured. If you’ll let me use you as a crutch, I’ll be fine.”

“Fine.” He frowned and touched just above the cut on her eyebrow. “I suppose you don’t believe me when I look like this either.”

“I believe that you’re an extremely capable officer who, when faced with certain situations, will do his job until he all but loses consciousness.” Taking his hand, she kissed the tips of his fingers. “I promise that after the Doctor finishes all of his scans and treatments, you can take care of me all you want.”

“All I want? Why do I doubt that?”

“Hey.” She tapped his chin to get his attention. “Remember what I said at the reception? I haven’t changed my mind.”

His commbadge beeped. “Ayala to Chakotay.”

“Go ahead, Lieutenant,” he replied, not taking his eyes off of her.

“Transport is complete, Commander. Do you require our assistance?”

“Yes, greet us when we come out of this building. We’re armed and we’re holding the prime minister until we have a chance to meet with the planetary government.”


Another voice interrupted, “What is the meaning of this!”

Janeway replied in her most authoritative voice, “Commissioner, we’ll discuss the situation in a few moments, at which time we’ll be placing the prime minister in your custody. Can we handle this exchange peacefully?”

“Yes, Captain Janeway,” he acquiesced immediately. “We await your arrival and promise no harm to you.”

“It’s a little late for that, Commissioner. Janeway out.” She shared an exasperated look with Chakotay and then smoothed out the front of her dress. “Ready?”

“Yes, but our security team is taking the lead. Understood?”

She hedged a moment before she looped her right arm through his. “Of course, Commander, but only because I'm not in top form.”

When they exited into the corridor, she nodded to the rescue team and said, “Let’s go.”

As she led them past the security team, Tuvok asked, “Captain?”

She turned around, one hand on her hip. “Yes, Mr. Tuvok? Are you rescuing me or not?”

Andrews and Carlson looked at each other in amusement as Tuvok replied, “Yes, Captain, but it would be appreciated if you could brief us on your plan for your rescue.”

“That’s simple, gentlemen. We’re going back to the capital building ballroom to explain how we’ll be fulfilling our part of the agreement. Then, you’re taking me back to Voyager. Any questions?”

Chakotay bit back a smile as he added, “Tuvok and Andrews, take the minister and lead the way back to the main part of palace. Carlson, bring up the rear.”

As they began to walk, Kathryn muttered, “Damn, I broke a nail.”

Andrews glanced back at his Captain with a bemused expression, but when Chakotay gave him a look that clearly told him to pay attention to what he was doing, he turned back around.

Chakotay whispered into Kathryn’s ear, “Stop distracting your crew.”

She looked at him askance and licked her lips. “Aye, Commander.”

As they arrived at an exit door, the prime minister said, “This is it. Untie me, now.”

Kathryn hobbled over to stand in front of him so she could get in his face. “Why would I want to do that?”

“Because if you don’t, I’ll be humiliated, you insufferable woman!”

She raised an eyebrow. “And you don’t think I was humiliated when my crew found me with a black eye and my dress half torn off?”

“There’s no comparison, Captain Janeway. I am the leader of these people. Havoc will ensue if they believe I'm incompetent and can’t control a puny woman like you. The complete breakdown of our society will be the result, and it was you who vowed not to corrupt us,” he spat.

With a click of her tongue, she took a deep breath and said, “You know, Minister, I’m the leader of my people as well. However, unlike you, I have enough faith in my leadership abilities and in my people that if they found me in a compromising situation, they’d still respect me. Can you say the same?”

He seethed at her. “You’re a woman, Captain. These men would do anything to protect you because you’re a valuable commodity.”

“That’s where you’re wrong, Minister. These men would do anything to protect me because I’ve earned their respect. It has nothing to do with my gender or my position.”

“You’re an egotistical, imperious creature who doesn’t deserve to be treated like an animal, much less a female. There’s not one man in this entire universe who would want such a domineering and manipulative piece of vermin in their bed.”

Kathryn looked to Tuvok. “Leave him restrained and let’s get this over with – I have an appointment with the Doctor.”

“As you wish, Captain.”

Chakotay went to Kathryn’s side again, holding her back so that Tuvok would be the first to go through the door.

When he didn’t loosen his hold after Andrews and the prime minister moved ahead, Kathryn glared at him. “What are you doing?”

“I think the prime minister needs a moment in the spotlight.”

“To bask in his humiliation?”

“I dare say he deserves it, and I’ll bet there’s not one person on this planet who wouldn’t like to see him taken down a notch.” He nodded to Carlson as he instructed, “Make sure the coast is clear.”

“Aye sir.”

As the younger man went through the door to check, Chakotay whispered into Kathryn’s ear, “I must disagree with something he said.”

Her eyebrow lifted and the look in her eyes could have melted a lesser man. “Only one? What, exactly, was that?”

Chakotay turned her to follow Carlson out the door and whispered in her ear. “Personally, I would love a domineering woman in my bed.”

“Not going to happen,” she said simply as she led them out among the shocked aliens. When a low murmur started rumbling through the chamber of gathered representatives, she spoke clearly as she added, “Mine’s bigger.”

Kathryn groaned as Chakotay hoisted her up onto the surgical biobed. “I'm getting too old for this.”

“All evidence to the contrary,” Chakotay joked. “You had that entire chamber of representatives in complete awe. I don’t know whether to hide you from their women or have you demonstrate self-defense skills.”

“I’ll take that as a compliment,” she said with a wink. “Now, if you wouldn’t mind, let’s activate the Doctor and get this over with. We have a date.”

“This late? It’s after midnight.”

She shrugged. “I've been looking forward to that kiss you promised.”

“Then, I’ll see what I can do.” He licked his lips as he activated the mobile emitter. “Disappointing the captain is never a good idea.”

After shimmering into existence, the Doctor immediately picked up a tri-corder and headed for his patient. “Revenge all finished?”

“It wasn’t revenge, Doctor.” She let Chakotay help her lie down. “It was justice.”

“Mm hmm,” he said as he scanned her. “Cerebral swelling has increased again. Feeling dizzy or nauseous?”

“Yes.” Kathryn closed her eyes while he worked. “When you’re finished with my brain, you’ll want to scan my right leg.”

“Is it your knee?” Chakotay asked as he reached for the hem of her dress. “May I?”

She sighed. “Yes, you may, and it’s my thigh. However, if it looks as bad as it feels, you aren’t going to like it.”

The Doctor stopped to take the scan. “With the amount of analgesic in your system, you should be feeling little pain.”

“Kathryn!” Chakotay exclaimed after he saw her injury. “What the hell?”

Eyes still closed, she explained, “He tried to break it when we were struggling for dominance. He didn’t succeed.”

The Doctor replied, “I have to disagree, Captain. Your femur is most definitely broken.”

Chakotay’s jaw was clenched tightly as he said, “I should check on the bridge.”

Kathryn’s eyes flew open and she reached for him, but he was already halfway across sickbay. “Chakotay?”

He paused to compose himself before turning around. “I’ll be back, Kathryn. I just need…” Holding his stomach, he repeated, “I’ll be back,” and then walked out the door.

She stared after him for a moment and then resigned herself to be patient with him. Closing her eyes again, she muttered, “It can’t be that bad.”

“The break isn’t a compound fracture, but there’s significant damage to the bone. It’s going to take a couple of hours to mend and you’ll be sore for a few days.”

“Well, it’s not like my plans for the evening weren’t already ruined anyway.”

More serious, the Doctor asked, “Captain, the impact on your leg didn’t take place while you had your dress on, did it?”

Closing her eyes, she shook her head. “No, it didn’t.”

“And may I assume that you were wearing undergarments before the assault?”


The Doctor was uncharacteristically silent for a moment before he asked, “I need to sedate you to perform surgery on your leg. Would you rather I do the full examination while you’re awake or while you’re asleep?”

She rubbed her hand across her mouth in frustration. “He didn’t get a chance, Doctor.”

With sympathetic understanding, he said, “I have to check.”

“Fine,” she said abruptly. “Put me out first, don’t let Chakotay walk in on the exam, and do my annual while you’re down there.”

The Doctor had to smile at her last request. “Computer, initiate privacy lock on sickbay doors.”

”Privacy lock engaged.”

While the Doctor loaded a hypo, he asked, “Shall I update your boosters?”

Kathryn nodded tiredly; her adrenaline was all but gone. “But just the six month dose.”

The Doctor’s mouth dropped open, but he quickly smothered his reaction. “As you wish.”

“Confidentiality, right?”

“Right.” He pressed the hypo against her neck and administered the medication. “Get some rest, Captain. We’ll talk more in a few hours.”

She felt a sense of relief wash over her. Relief that this incident was over, that she and Chakotay had opened up to each other, and that she was going to miss the uncomfortable experience of her annual exam.

Kathryn opened her eyes to a darkened sickbay and found herself alone. Normally, she wouldn’t mind, but nine times out of ten, she woke to the very same visitor. He always greeted her with a caring smile, no matter what trouble she’d gotten herself into. Since he wasn’t here now, he was likely upset that she didn’t disclose the severity of her injuries.

A strange and unwanted sensation of guilt crept through her body, starting from deep within her belly and spreading out to her fingers and toes. She clenched her hands into fists and flexed her feet to try to stop the flow, but it was a futile effort. The guilt made its way back to settle in her chest, weighing down the slow, sleepy thudding of her heart.

The heat of the unwanted emotion moved to her lungs, which had a direct connection with her eyes. Blinking fast, she fought her reaction by taking a deep breath and stretching her muscles. They weren’t sore, so she pushed up on her elbows and called out, “Doctor?”

When no response came, she asked, “Computer, activate the EMH.”

“EMH program is currently active.”

She swung her feet around and sat up. “Computer, what is the location of the EMH?”

“EMH is in the messhall.”

“Was he summoned to the messhall for a medical emergency?”


When no additional information was forthcoming, she asked with annoyance, “What was the nature of the medical emergency?”


“Computer, what is the location of Commander Chakotay?”

“Commander Chakotay is in the messhall.”

She pursed her lips. “What was Commander Chakotay’s location prior to being in the messhall?”

“Deck two, corridor twenty-one alpha.”

“This is getting me nowhere.” She slapped her commbadge only to find it was missing. “Great.”

“Please restate the question.”

“What is the current time?”

“The time is six-twenty-four.”


“The time is six-twenty-four.”

Rolling her eyes, she asked, “What time did the EMH leave sickbay?”

“The EMH departed from sickbay at five-forty-seven.”

“Where was Commander Chakotay at five-thirty?”

“Commander Chakotay was in sickbay at five-thirty.”

“Aha!” she shouted with satisfaction. “Now that tells me something.”

“Insufficient data to formulate a reply.”

“What time did Commander Chakotay leave sickbay?”

“Commander Chakotay departed from sickbay at five-forty-seven.”

Smiling now, she asked, “Computer, how many crew members are in the messhall right now?”

“There are seven Voyager crewmembers currently occupying the messhall.”

“Who are they?”

“Lieutenant Commander Tuvok, Commander Chakotay, Neelix, Lieutenant Ayala, Ensign Peterson, Ensign Andrews, and Crewman Mitchell.”

The response left her puzzled, and she wanted to find out what was going on. Although she was in a medical gown, she decided that she was wearing more than she was last time four of those men had seen her. She slid off the bed and decided to get herself a snack.

“In the messhall,” she added out loud.

The sickbay door opened and the Doctor and Lieutenant Carlson came in. “Captain!” Carlson shouted in surprise.

She looked at the bloody cloth he was holding in front of his face and asked, “What happened to your nose?”

The Doctor interrupted. “Captain, please return to your biobed. I haven’t cleared you to be up.”

“Answer my question, Lieutenant.”

“I broke it.”

“On what?”

He glanced at the Doctor and back at her, clearly not wanting to explain.

“You don’t think I'm going to find out eventually?”

“No, ma’am. I mean, yes, ma’am.” He grimaced and said, “I broke it on Ayala’s fist, ma’am.”

“I see.” Raising her chin, she asked, “And did Lieutenant Ayala suffer any injuries?”

“No, ma’am.”

“And would he have if someone hadn’t intervened?”

Jaw clenched, he replied, “Yes, ma’am.”

The Doctor began treating the wound, but told her, “Captain, your first officer and chief of security have the situation well in hand. Please, go lie down.”

She met the Doctor’s eyes and gave him a glare that had absolutely no impact. Looking back to Carlson, she asked, “Would I be off base if I asked if this fisticuffs had anything to do with me?”

“No, ma’am. You wouldn’t be.”

Leveling him a look that indicated she was less than happy, she asked, “Were you defending my honor or attacking it?”

“It wasn’t your honor in question, ma’am. It was the honor of your security detail that was under attack.”

“Attack by whom? You and Andrews?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Captain,” the Doctor warned. “Your commanders will want to handle this.”

“Did they?”

“Yes, ma’am,” Carlson replied. “All four of us are confined to quarters while not on duty.”

She blinked slowly and asked, “Four of you? And that’s it? Confined to quarters?”

The sickbay doors opened and Chakotay strode through, looking frazzled and exhausted. He froze when he saw the group gathered on his right. “Captain,” he said with a nod.

Straightening up to her full height, she crossed her arms. “Commander.”

The Doctor and Carlson looked back and forth between the two commanding officers, but it was the Doctor who spoke next. “If this is going to come to blows, I’d appreciate it if you would take it into the lab. You’re still close enough that I can treat you, but you won’t mess up my sickbay.”

Kathryn turned her intense stare towards the Doctor. “You actually believe I’d hit him?”

“Black eyes and bloody noses do seem to be theme of the day.”

“Only when someone’s honor is at stake.” She started walking towards the lab and muttered, “You’d think we were on a ship full of Klingons.”

“Captain?” Chakotay asked in confusion. “Where are you going?”

“Evidently, we have a date to duke it out amidst the test tubes. You coming?”

“I’ll be right there.” He turned to Carlson and said, “Get some rest after he fixes you up, because you and the other three are to report to Tuvok in the holodeck at thirteen-hundred to run personal security drills. If you think you can do a better job at protecting her than anyone else, you’re going to have to prove it.”

Carlson narrowed his eyes with determination. “I’ll do exactly that, Commander.”

Chakotay took a step closer to invade the man’s personal space. “While I appreciate your dedication to your commanding officer, Lieutenant, don’t forget what a small community we live in. There’s not one man or woman on this ship who wouldn’t die to protect our captain’s life. It was her decision to leave the security team, not Ayala’s, and the duty of every officer and crewmen on this ship is to follow her orders to the letter. She had a damn good reason for her actions, and she knew the risk she was taking.

“You need to check that attitude at the door if you want to enjoy the rest of the trip home. If the four of you aren’t best friends by noon tomorrow, expect your duty assignments to coincide until you are, or until hell freezes over. Understood, Lieutenant?”

With significantly less arrogance, he replied, “Yes, sir.”

He took a step back and clasped Carlson’s arm in friendship. “Next time you have a concern about a fellow crewman’s job performance, talk to the head of his or her department or come to me. Don’t make life difficult for yourself by getting into a fight.”

“Are you ordering me to eat crow, sir?”

Chakotay nodded, and with sympathy, said, “Yes… this afternoon. Blame exhaustion and worry, and I have no doubt that they’ll respond with understanding. You’ve never had a problem with losing your head before, Carlson. Make sure this is the only incident of its kind on your record.”

“My apologies, Commander.”

He shrugged. “I'm not the one you insulted, Lieutenant.”

“Yes, sir.”

After nodding to acknowledge the apology, Chakotay turned to Kathryn and held out his arm towards the lab. “After you.”

She gave him a blank look and then turned on her heel and headed into the back room of sickbay. Once there, she turned back around to face him. “What was that all about?”

Rubbing his face tiredly, he asked, “You couldn’t tell?”

“Carlson and Ayala were fighting over me?”

“I wouldn’t describe it quite like that. Besides, there’s no contest, is there?”

“That’s not what I meant.”

He sighed, his whole body drooping with fatigue. “I know, but I'm trying not to argue with you about this right now.”

“You’re exhausted,” she observed quietly.

“But for good reason.” Taking a deep breath, he looked her over. “How are you feeling?”

“Fine, I think. I haven’t really thought about it.”

“Must be okay, then.”

After a moment of not saying anything, she put her hand on his back and ushered him out of the lab. “You need to rest. We’ll talk later.”

The Doctor greeted them with, “Any new bruises I should know about?”

“Enough, Doctor,” Kathryn warned. “Do you need to scan me before I go?”

“What makes you think you’re leaving?” He took out a tri-corder and did as she suggested.

“I feel fine, and I'm ready to sleep in my own bed.”

“You may experience some minor vertigo, and that leg is going to be sore for a few days. If either issue becomes bothersome, come back. Meanwhile, try not to exert yourself.”

She meant it as she said, “Thank you, Doctor.”

“You’re welcome. Commander, please escort her to her quarters. I don’t want her passing out in the corridors – might alarm some hapless crewman.”

Kathryn pursed her lips as the Doctor injected her with a hypospray. “It’s not my appearance that alarms them, it’s my disappearance. Are we done?”

He stood out of the command team’s way. “Rush in, rush out, always in a rush.”

Sensing the true feelings behind the hologram’s sarcasm, Kathryn put her hand on his shoulder and said, “When this situation is behind us, I owe you an outing to the holodeck.”

“Tea in Vienna?”

“Or we could attend a concert… as long as it’s not opera.”

“Of course, Captain.”

Once in the corridor, Kathryn asked Chakotay, “How many people witnessed the altercation in the mess?”

“Nine, not including the four involved, Tuvok, or myself.”

“Who called you?”

“I went with the Doctor when he got the call for a medical emergency. Tuvok arrived at the same time as I did.”

Now in the turbolift, she turned around and stated, “This situation is intolerable.”

“It’s not that bad, Kathryn. Just some emotions running high.”

“Did you see his nose?” she asked incredulously as she stormed down the corridor and into her quarters.

“Ayala does have one heck of a left hook, as do you, I might add.”

Rounding on him, she asked, “You’re enjoying this, aren’t you? Crewmen fighting each other because of my safety?”

“No, Kathryn. I'm not enjoying this, but there are ways of dealing with it and it’s not worth getting upset over.”

She raked her fingers harshly through her hair. “Confining them to quarters is dealing with it?”

“No, that’s to prevent them from getting others involved before they have a chance to cool down.”

“So, you’re just going to make them play nice?”

“You don’t need to be involved. If you hadn’t been in sickbay, you would have just gotten a report that two crewmen were involved in an altercation and you would’ve trusted me to deal with it.”

Glaring, she asked, “Has this happened before?”

“You know it has – you read the reports.”

“I meant about me. Have people fought about me?”

Sighing tiredly, he said, “You’re a very prominent figure aboard this ship.”

“Answer me. Is there a division amongst the crew regarding who feels most loyal to me?”

“No. There’s no division, but there is healthy competition over making you proud. That’s not the least bit unusual on a starship – it’s called hero worship, and it’s very healthy.”

She paced angrily around the room as she spoke. “I'm pretty damn sure that crewmen fighting over who protects their captain better is not the norm on a starship.”

“No, but I hope you can understand that when emotions are running high, and they’re concerned for your safety, it’s easy for them to assume the worst and start jumping down each other’s throats.”

“But I was safe at the time.” Facing the viewport, she asked, “Chakotay? Is it possible that this crew likes me too much? Do I need to be more distant, more strict?”

“Absolutely not.”

“If they’re fighting, it’s affecting the ship.”

“You’re assuming the worst, Kathryn. A little healthy competition isn’t a bad thing – it makes them up their game. Tuvok assigns officers to us according to whoever is currently showing the most attention to detail. In this case, Carlson thinks he was chosen for the away team based on being the best, but he was incorrect. We took him for his ability to crack a security system.”

“I can see that, but why does he think Ayala made a mistake? He did exactly what I needed him to do, without me having to give him any orders.”

“I know. Ayala and I had a long conversation after midnight.”

Calmer now, Kathryn asked, “Did he say why he had a homing device with him?”

“It was because he couldn’t find out where you were going to have your meeting, but he did get a palace guard to boast about their security system. Once he learned about the type of shielding in place, he had Davis bring one down.”

“Did you know about it in advance?”

“No, and Tuvok didn’t either.” He walked up and put his hand on her shoulder. “Let this go. You’re safe now, the away teams did a fantastic job, and now they’re getting some rest. We should do the same.”

“What would you say if I asked to see all the crew altercation reports from the last couple of years?”

“I would distract you with another project.”

“Are you handling me?”

“That’s my job.” His hand dropped as she walked towards the viewport.

While looking out at the stars, she commented, “Do other captains have these type of problems?”

“What problems are you referring to?”

“Over-protective first officers, dueling crew members, lecherous aliens... need I go on?”

“Kathryn, they absolutely have these problems.” Softer, he said, “Although your first officer is more than just over-protective.”

She nodded quietly and let that statement sit in the air between them. “Why did you walk out when the Doctor found the broken bone?”

“Because I felt like I was going to vomit.”

“Seriously?” she asked as she turned around. “It wasn’t that bad.”

“It wasn’t the wound that was making me sick.”

“Were you angry with me?”

“No, I was angry with the situation because I know that I’ve got to let you do your job. I don’t like having to stand by and watch you get hurt, but since it’s you that I fell in love with, the last thing I want to do is stifle who you are.”

“I appreciate that.”

When she said nothing else, he asked, “Aren’t you going to say that you love me, too?”

“Hmmm?” She leaned against the sill and crossed her arms. “I didn’t realize we were exchanging endearments.”

“Never mind,” he said with a tired shrug. “I can figure it out without hearing it.”

“Chakotay, I want you to keep being the strong, dominating, pain in the backside that you’ve been since the very first day I met you. That’s the man I love.”

With a smirk, he asked, “You call that an endearment?”


He nodded appreciatively. “Honest and straight-forward, yet veiled and not quite clear. I like it.”

“You don’t strike me as a man who wants to hear the mushy stuff,” she commented as she sauntered a little closer to him.

“I'm not opposed to a bit of romance.” Reaching for her hand, he said, “We need to get to bed.”


“It’s up to you, but I doubt it matters tonight. Correction… this morning, because I’ll be asleep before my head hits the pillow.”

She tugged him towards the bedroom. “Come on then. Someone around here has to keep me safe.”

“Will you put me in my place if I don’t manage the impossible?”

Gesturing towards her bed, she said, “That is your place… unless you’re in the dog house.”

Chuckling, he asked, “And where is the dog house?”

She jerked her head in the direction they’d just come, and then cringed with pain. “Sorry.”

He wrapped her in his arms, tucking her head against his neck. “Careful with that head of yours.”

She whispered, “It’ll be okay in a minute.”

“Hard to be dominating when you’re hurt.”

“Oh, I don’t know. I think I managed pretty well today… last night…whenever.”

“Extremely well. I can’t think of a time when I’ve been more impressed with a victim of a personal assault.”

A lump formed in her throat making her unable to respond. She pressed against him a little tighter and took comfort in his presence.

“Can you talk about it?” he asked as he rubbed her back soothingly.

Her voice cracked as she made the excuse, “You’re tired. We should sleep.”

“I'm not too tired to talk to you.”

“I know… as evidenced by the last thirty minutes.” She fiddled with his commbadge as she asked, “Didn’t the Doctor give you a report of my injuries?”

“Yes, but that doesn’t mean he included everything, nor does it tell me if anything happened that didn’t cause an injury.”

“Nothing happened.” She pulled away and went to her drawer to pull out her pajamas. “I’ll go change. Replicate what you need, or sleep in your tee… whatever makes you comfortable.”

He said nothing as she went into the lavatory and closed the door behind her. Tiredly, he sat down on the bed to take off his shoes, but instead, ended up resting his face in his hands. It wasn’t long before he heard the door open behind him, but he didn’t move to check on her.

Seeing him look so forlorn made her heart go out to him. Quietly, she said, “Computer, lower lights to night levels.”

“Kathryn, maybe we should save this for another night.”

She crawled on the bed until she was on her knees behind him. With her hand on his back, she whispered, “I can think of two flaws in that plan.”


Reaching around him, she began undoing the fasteners on his black jumpsuit. “Ever heard the saying, ‘I left my heart in San Francisco?’”

“Isn’t that a song?” He unclasped the belt and helped her ease his arms out of the sleeves.

“Hmm… not sure. But the point is that we’re on San Francisco time, are we not?”

“That’s your point?” he asked as he watched her get off the bed and come around to where he was sitting.

Standing in front of him, she caressed his face while she explained, “My point is that it’s not night. So when you suggest that we save this for another night, you’re grammatically incorrect.”

“I see.” He looked her up and down, noticing the very chaste gray pajamas she had on. “That’s not exactly what I dreamed you’d be wearing when I imagined our first… day? together.”

“Let’s call it a nap.”

“Okay. What’s the other flaw in my plan?”

“Because it’s just a nap, there’s no reason to ‘save’ anything.” She kneeled down in front of him and hissed through clenched teeth as her knee hit the floor. “…shouldn’t have done that.”

He quickly helped her back to her feet to take the pressure off her leg. “What are you trying to do?”

“Help you with your boots,” she managed to say despite the nerve pain that was going up and down her leg.

Guiding her to sit next to him on the bed, he asked with concern, “Is it bad enough that we need to call sickbay?”

“No. I'm much too stubborn to admit that I should still be there.”

Chuckling, he held her chin and leaned forward.

“Stop.” Her hand went up between their faces.


“Because this is not how I imagined our first kiss. Me in pain and you sitting there half-dressed and with stinky breath.”

“I don’t have stinky breath.”

She raised an eyebrow. “You’re questioning my olfactory senses?”

Covering his mouth, he made the excuse, “Well, I have been awake for almost twenty-four hours.”

“I'm not criticizing – I just want that moment to be perfect.”

“Do I need to shower first, too?”

“No,” she said with a smirk. “You didn’t have to work up much of a sweat saving your damsel in distress.”

“She hardly seemed in distress.”

After giving him a quick kiss on the cheek, she commented, “But you do need to shave.”

“Picky much?”

She shrugged innocently. “I'm sure that if I hadn’t just cleaned my teeth, my breath would be pretty bad, too.”

“Mmm hmm.”

“Hey! You’re supposed to tell me that I have the breath of an angel.”

“Only if she’s the guardian angel of coffee.”

“Sounds divine,” she said dreamily.

After pulling off his boots and socks, he stood up to get out of the jumpsuit. “I’ll take you up on your offer to use your replicator.”

“For what?”

“A toothbrush.”

“We’re just taking a nap.”

“Without kissing?”

She patted the bed next to her, “Come on. You can spoon up behind me.”

“You’re sure?”

“You need me to be more dominating?”

Smiling, he shook his head. “No, it’s just that now I'm the one who’s a little nervous.”

“I don’t bite.” She scooted over and crawled under the covers.

Getting in next to her, he asked, “You don’t?”

“You like a woman who bites?”

“Not if you don’t.”

She had started rolling to her side, but stopped to look back at him. “What? You think I'm into women?”

“Sorry… too tired to be coherent.” Encouraging her to roll forward, he spooned up behind her and wrapped her in his arms. “What I meant to say is that the only woman I like is you, and if you bite, then I like a woman who bites.”

“That would’ve been a really clever remark.”

“Thanks.” He tucked her hair behind her ear and situated the rest of it so he could see her face better. “I'm going to jump the gun – I hope you don’t mind.”

“Howwwww….” Her question morphed into a moan as he kissed the tender skin on the back of her neck. When her body responded instinctively by pressing back into him, his body had once again responded accordingly.

He murmured, “I’d apologize, but I don’t want to.”

“Then don’t.” A soft smile graced her lips. “I'm really looking forward to night-time now.”

“As soon as we wake up, I'm checking the time of tonight’s sunset in California.”

“Good thing we’ll be well rested.”

Snuggling close, they savored the warmth of their bodies and the peace that came from holding each other. After a long moment of quiet, Chakotay whispered, “I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

“Finally, she admits it.”

“I don’t say that to just anybody.”

“I'm glad to hear it.”

She turned her head to see him. “That love is a standing fact – no matter how moody I may get.”

With a soft chuckle, he replied, “I’ll keep that in mind.”

Barely audible, she whispered, “I'm sorry for shutting you out.”

“It’s okay.” He gave her a gentle squeeze and continued, “But you don’t have to be afraid to tell me anything.”

“I'm not. I just don’t want to utter the words that were going through my mind. It would mean giving in to what he tried to do, and I won’t have that.”

“Perhaps it’ll help if you give voice to what you’re thinking about.”

With a sigh, she said, “I thought you were going to be asleep before your head hit the pillow.”

“Kathryn, nothing will change how I feel about you.”

“You’re jumping to conclusions.”

“Then set me straight. I have my own bad thoughts running through my head and I wouldn’t mind knowing which ones are valid.”

Gripping his arms to keep him close, she asked, “Would you speak to me like this if you thought I’d actually been raped?”


“Then there’s your answer. Send those thoughts packing.”

“Okay.” He sighed tiredly and decided to let it go. Closing his eyes, he nestled up close and tried to think about pleasant things like the way her hair tickled his nose.

After a moment of quiet, she asked, “That’s it?”

One eye opened to look at her and then closed again. “Kathryn, I love you, but you really can be exasperating sometimes.”

“You usually push harder.”

“Would it hurt if I bang my head against your back?”

She laughed and re-situated so she was on her back. “I needed to lighten the moment.”

“You could’ve just told me that I need a haircut or that my feet smell or something.”

Fingering his hair, she shook her head. “It’s fine. I…”

He waited patiently for her to continue.

“All right,” she gave in. “I'm worried about what would’ve happened if he hadn’t made a mistake.”

“Go on.”

“I was sure that I could take him if he pushed me too far, and with the homing device, I thought I could hold him off until you got there by playing cat and mouse.”

Nodding, he said, “I can see you managing that without a problem. You’re very good at that game.”

“Chakotay!” she admonished in jest.

“Just lightening the moment. I’d hate for you to start criticizing my eyebrows.”

“I love your eyebrows.”

“I'm glad. How did he manage to cut your dress?”

She started fidgeting with his shirt. “I didn’t factor in the two men who helped him restrain me. They looked very apologetic, but they didn’t have any more choice in the matter than I did.”

“Okay. Then what was his mistake?”

“After his henchmen left, he loosened the restraints so he could pull my dress off.”

Chakotay took a deep breath to keep his anger at bay. “So if he’d…”

“If he’d cut the damn thing off…” She shook her head defiantly. “I refuse to think of myself as a victim.”

“That’s not something you can control.”

“It doesn’t matter. You would’ve gotten there in time.”

He found her hand and kissed the back of her fingers. “If ever I don’t make it in time, or if it happens to me and you don’t get there in time, we have to remember that we love each other and that we’re strong enough to work through it. If the trials of flying through the delta quadrant can’t drive a wedge between us, we’re sure not going to let an idiot like the prime minister do it.”

Her eyes moist, she nodded. “I have to admit that I enjoyed putting him in his place.”

“So did I.” His eyes dropped to her lips and he said, “I wish I’d cleaned up before returning to sickbay this morning.”

“You want to kiss me?”

“With every fiber of my being.”

“How can I resist that?” She held his face with both hands and stretched up to give him a soft kiss.

Even though he was holding back, joy swelled up inside him. So much that he broke the kiss and hugged her instead. “We’re really here, aren’t we?”

“On Voyager? Yep.”

“In your bed.”

“That, too.” She put her hand on his back and said, “Let me spoon you.”


“No? Who’s supposed to be in control here?”

Guiding her forward, he snuggled up behind her again. “According to you, I'm the only man who gets to tell you what to do.”

“Yes, well, I'm the only woman who gets to tell you what to do.”

“Mmmhmmm. Then tell me to go to sleep.”

“Go to sleep, Commander. I need you in fine form at sunset.”

“Aye, Captain.”

Kathryn looked up to see Chakotay sit down next to her on the bridge. “I thought you weren't coming on duty today.”

“There was something that needed my attention, and I thought I'd check on things out here.”

“Something?” she asked, eyebrow raised.

“Something that the captain doesn't need to get involved in.”

“I see.” She thrummed her fingers on the armrest. “May the captain ask if the issue has been resolved to your satisfaction?”

“She may.” He opened the console between their chairs to check the sensor logs. “And no, it hasn't been, but I'm willing to give it more time.”

Looking at the chronometer, she asked, “Nine hours hasn't given him enough time to eat crow?”

“Evidently not.” He glanced up and saw clear evidence in her expression that her calculating mind was at work. “Let it go.”


“But what? You'll trust me with...” He looked around the bridge and then leaned in closer so they wouldn't be overheard. “Trust me with everything except handling petty arguments?”

She lifted her hands and then rested them in her lap again. “Well, when you put it like that...”

Harry announced, “Captain, incoming transmission from the planet's surface.”

“On screen.”

The Commissioner of Trade said, “Good day, Captain Janeway. I trust that you are healing?”

“I am doing well, Commissioner. Do you have news for us?”

“Yes, the Adjudicate Assembly now has enough evidence to remove the Prime Minister from office. He will be held under close guard until your ship leaves our system in six days.”

“And then what? Will he return to power?”

“No, Captain Janeway, he will not. It is the Assembly's desire to delay the trial until after the space exploration mission has concluded so that the publicity is directed towards the more positive event. Whether or not he is convicted of the crimes has yet to be determined, but either way, his conduct has deteriorated to the point where he is no longer fit to hold his former position.”

“If there is any information I can provide, please don't hesitate to ask.”

He looked very apologetic. “Oh, no, Captain. We would not ask that of a female.”

Firmly, she said, “You need not hold back, Commissioner. Ask me anything that you would ask a male.”

“Are you sure, Captain Janeway?”

“Quite sure.”

His eyes flicked to Kathryn’s left. “In cases of female assault, our practice is to have the female's spouse speak on her behalf. Is your spouse willing to do this if the assembly requests it?”

Through her peripheral vision, she saw Chakotay nod indiscreetly. “My first officer and all members of my security detail will be willing to answer any questions you might have, as will I.”

The commissioner's shoulders sagged with relief. “I will tell the Assembly of your offer to give further illumination regarding what has transpired during your week with us.” He held up his long, bony finger. “May I change the topic of discussion?”

The alien's hand triggered an unpleasant memory that Kathryn tried to suppress, but she wasn’t sure that she was able to completely hide her discomfort. “Of course, Commissioner.”

“Your Commander Tuvok indicated that you would appoint a new individual to coordinate with our space exploration council. I would like to know who that will be.”

Standing up, Kathryn motioned for Harry to join her. Once he came down to the command deck, she said, “Commissioner, I'd like to introduce Ensign Harry Kim, my chief officer in charge of ship operations.”

“How shall I we address you?” he asked Harry.

“Ensign Kim will be fine, thank you for asking. I'm eager to meet the members of the council who will be commanding your mission.”

“As are they eager to meet you, Ensign Kim. We will be in touch within a day.”

“Very well, Commissioner. I will await your call.”

The alien spoke to Kathryn again. “If there is nothing else to discuss, I will now close our communication, Captain Janeway.”

“Nothing at the moment, Commissioner. Thank you.”

The alien nodded politely and then the viewscreen went black. Kathryn said, “Harry, I suggest you get some rest since we have no idea what time of day they'll contact you.”

“A good idea. Thank you for giving me this opportunity, Captain.”

She smiled with amusement. “You're welcome, but don't thank me, yet. I chose you not just because of your expertise, but because of your patience.”

“Thank you anyway. I just hope that I don't run into anyone remotely as slimy as the former prime minister.”

“You and me, both.” She shuddered instinctively.

“Well, I'm glad you’re okay.” He glanced at Chakotay with a grin, “You, and your spouse.”

Chakotay replied, “The only danger I faced was her wrath if I knocked the minister’s lights out.”

“Only because I wanted to do it myself.” She laughed while motioning for Harry to take his leave. “Have a good evening, Ensign.”

After retaking her seat, she said, “I hope you don’t mind continuing to pose as my husband?”

“A role I'm more than happy to fill.”

Kathryn felt her heart skip a beat in response to the sincerity of his reply. She distracted herself by bringing up a file on the command console screen. “I just finished my official report, and if you’re called down to make a statement on my behalf, I’ll grant you access to the Doctor’s report as well.”

“Or I could take him with me. We can cross that bridge when we get there.” He squeezed her wrist reassuringly and then changed the subject. “So, Captain… Do you have any plans for the evening?”

“Ohhhh, nothing much.” She leaned in close and mumbled, “I’ll just be waiting around for someone to scoop me off of my feet.”

“Sweep you, not scoop.”

Shrugging she replied, “I'm not picky.”


Kathryn gave him a mock glare. “Keep it down, Commander.”

“My apologies, Captain.” He whispered, “As you imagine this little romantic diversion, what does the suitor wear when he arrives to save the day?”

“Not a tux.”


She shook her head. “Not today.”


Her voice was so soft that she had to whisper directly into his ear. “My imagination is much more creative than that. Something like dark slacks and a soft shirt.”

“I’ll take note.” He licked his lips and asked, “Do I need to ask if the damsel be in uniform?”

“For your information, damsels always wear dresses.”

“I see.” Chakotay gave that a moment’s thought. “My imagination has her in a purple one.”

Eyes wide, she asked, “The gift from the Macian Empress?”

“I’d love to see it on you.”

She touched her neck self-consciously and spoke even softer. “It’s a bit inappropriate for a captain.”

Glad he could read her lips, he replied, “The hero won’t be searching for a captain.”

“Then the hero should plan to keep all sweeping confined to quarters.”

Nodding towards the turbolift, he said, “Better get going.”

“It’s only sixteen-hundred.”

“Damsels need plenty of time to languish about.”

On the center console, Kathryn pulled up the shift rotation schedule for the rest of the day and asked in a normal voice, “Are you willing to take the rest of this shift?”


“All right.” She looked at the time and then whispered, “Then this damsel might languish about in the bath for awhile.”

“What time do you think you’ll be bored with languishing about?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Eighteen hundred? Earlier if you want to prepare dinner.”

“Seventeen thirty, then. Just keep the bedroom door closed until you’re ready to be rescued.”

She shook her head in amusement as she closed out the report she’d been working on. Rising from her seat, she announced, “The bridge is yours, Commander.”

Kathryn was applying her eye color when her door chime rang. She was about to ask who it was when she heard Chakotay’s voice from the other room.

“Kathryn? Did you program your door to let me in?”

“Hope you don’t mind,” she called out.

“Not in the least. Shall I program dinner?”

“Go ahead. I’ll be a few more minutes.”

“Take your time.”

As she studied her reflection in the mirror, she said, “Computer, close bedroom door.” The swooshing sound was her only reply.

Chakotay’s arrival brought with it a nervous flutter in her chest, prompting her to lecture herself. “You’re acting like a young schoolgirl with a crush, Captain.”

“However,” she continued, “that is the point of being swept away with romance. Is it not?”

She reached for a lip color, and as she opened it, her thoughts jumped to the kiss that would likely take it off. “And then, it’ll end up on his lips.” She put it back down and looked at her face again, wondering if all the makeup she’d just applied was going to appeal to him, or if it would appear that she was trying too hard to make herself look young.

Making a quick decision, she washed everything off her face and started over. This time, she applied only the lightest dusting of color and darkened her eyelashes. “It’s not as if he hasn’t seen you without makeup,” she told her reflection. “And with the dress you’re wearing, he’s not going to be looking at your face.”

She stood back from the mirror and dropped her robe to look at her body. It wasn’t perfect, but she felt good about herself. The uniform didn’t hide her less than perfect curves, so her date already knew they existed. Besides, the way he’d looked at her on the dance floor had made her feel beautiful, and if there was one thing she knew about Chakotay, it was that he was consistent.

Since she knew exactly what the evening would culminate with, she slipped into a newly replicated pair of panties that was barely more than a scrap of fabric. Their only real purpose was to make her feel sexy and encourage his libido. She skipped the bra altogether because the dress had no back and the front was little more than two pieces of fabric tied behind her neck.

Kathryn stepped into the dark purple dress and let the short skirt rest on her hips while she figured out which piece was supposed to go where. Once she had a plan, she pulled the two strips of fabric over her chest and began tying the garment in place. It took her several minutes to secure all of the ties tight enough that she wouldn’t be giving Chakotay a premature peep show.

She gave her hair a good fluff, pinched her cheeks, wet her lips, and took a deep breath. “If he doesn’t like this, then he needs to have his eyes checked.”

When she opened the bedroom door, Chakotay looked up from where he was standing at the replicator and froze in astonishment.

After a long of moment of silence, Kathryn commented, “Maybe the damsel needs to rescue the hero. He seems to be in shock.”

“Ummm.” He blinked and cleared his throat. “I never thought anything would be sexier than seeing you nude, but I stand corrected.”

“There’s something to be said for hiding all but the important bits.” She slowly walked over and put her arms around his neck.

“Of course, I reserve the right to change my mind when we take this off.”

Smiling at his comment, she asked, “You remember that all of the Macian women wore this type of dress, don’t you?”

When he touched her bare back, he let out a small gasp. “The Macian women had nothing to show off – they were nearly rectangular.”

“On me, this seems to be little more than a nightgown.” She pressed a little closer as his hands wandered over her hips.

“I see your point, and you definitely have the perfect body for this dress. It shows every curve that a man could dream of.”

With a click of her tongue, she said, “Not quite every curve.”

He slid his hands up to cup her face. “And I'm looking forward to discovering every one. But first, I want to kiss you. Is this a good time?”

“I think this is the perfect time.”

Kathryn expected him to kiss her immediately, but instead, he took a moment to just look at her. His gaze roamed over her features, his thumbs stroked back and forth across her cheeks, and his fingers drew tantalizing circles just beneath her ears.

He whispered, “You are beautiful, Kathryn.”

“You make me feel it.”

His eyes were intense with desire. “I can’t recall a time when I’ve seen you look so unbelievably sexy.”

She rose up on her bare toes and pulled his head down to join her. “Kiss me.”

At first, his touch was light, as if cautious and uncertain, but once he tasted her, his appetite grew voracious. One hand clutched the center of her back; the other pressed their bodies together with a carnal need to become connected. They couldn’t get enough as the kiss continued, eliciting moans of pleasure from the new lovers who were savoring each other for the first time.

Kathryn pulled away first and dropped her head to his chest, her breath moving fast and deep. “I'm dizzy.”

“From the kiss, I hope?” He caressed her back with gentle, slow movements.

“Mmm hmm,” she nodded, clutching at his soft brown shirt. “Wow.”

“I’d suggest taking this into the bedroom right now, but if that was a sample of what’s to come, I think we need food for stamina.”

“Probably a good idea.” She looked up and pulled him into a tight embrace. “Why did I ever think this was a bad idea?”

Chuckling, he replied, “Because for awhile, it was. But now, our friendship is strong, we’re in love, and the timing is right.”

“Yes,” she said as she gave him a simple kiss. “Yes, it is.”

During dinner, Chakotay sat at the end of the table instead of in his usual place across from her. They couldn’t restrain themselves from touching each other, and when they had to use both hands to eat, their physical connection was sustained under the table with their intertwined legs.

They made quick work of recycling the dishes before retiring to the sitting area for a glass of wine. Chakotay started to sit in his usual favorite chair, but then stood back up. “It’s a habit,” he said apologetically.

She made a show of scooting over and then patted the seat next to her. “Habits were meant to be broken.”

“Try telling that to the guardian angel of coffee.”

She crossed her legs and leaned towards him so that her foot rubbed against his calf. “My coffee isn’t a habit; it’s an integral asset to my character. I wouldn’t be nearly as charming without it.”

“I won’t argue with that.” His arm rested around her shoulders, putting his fingers in just the right spot to comb through her hair. “I like it like this.”

“My hair?”

“Yeah. It seems longer and you look more relaxed.”

“I'm very relaxed.” She looked into his dark brown eyes as she sipped her wine, enjoying the way he was holding her. “But I like to keep a sense of control when on duty, and that includes my hair.”

“You like control?” he asked with a laugh. “I would never have guessed.”

She shrugged and then tilted her head to give him more access to her hair. “Tell me something.”

“What’s that?”

“Your comment yesterday – do you really want me to be domineering in the bedroom?”

His eyes locked with hers to gauge the reasoning behind her question. “I want you to be yourself. That comment was more of a joke than anything, but if that’s what you are, I’ll enjoy every minute of it.”

She considered his response for a moment before replying, “Honestly, I don’t know what I am, especially not with you.”

“Not with me?”

She felt her cheeks warm under the scrutiny of his searching eyes. To hide her reaction, she finished off her wine and stretched to set the empty glass on the table. “It’s not courteous to discuss former romances, is it?”

“I don’t think we need to worry about keeping propriety. They say that open communication is the key to a lasting relationship.”

“They?” she asked in jest.

“And we want this to last forever, do we not?” he finished.

“Are you going to tell me about yours?”

“Only if you want to hear about them.”

“I’ll pass.” She put her hand over her chest, hiding the display of cleavage.

He lifted her hand away and kissed her fingertips while he searched for something to say.

She commented, “You’re uncomfortable.”

“Hardly. I'm just trying to figure out what to tell you that won’t sound cliché.”

“Something like, ‘Other women don’t hold a candle to me?’”

He nodded. “While that is definitely true, it sounds like a rehearsed line.”

“I'm sure you’ve been with many. You need not compare us.”

“You’re over-estimating my prowess. I’ve only had one relationship that wasn’t a colossal mistake, and she and I decided that we were better off friends.”

“Will that happen to us?”

He shook his head and took a moment to caress her cheek with the backs of his fingers. “Not a chance – not with the shower of sparks that erupts whenever we touch.”

She couldn’t help the smile she gave him. “You noticed that, too?”

“Spectacular, isn’t it?”

Nodding, she looked out the viewport. “I suppose you want me to answer your question.”

“You don’t need to. We could kiss instead.”

“Only kiss? I figured we’d be tumbling in the sheets by now,” she joked. Before he had a chance to reply, she forced herself to say, “Mark was… professory.”

He smiled in response. “You don’t say.”

Her eyes flicked to his with amusement. “He, uh…” She licked her lips. “This is embarrassing.”

Squeezing her hand, he said, “You can tell me anything.”

“Because he’d had a crush on me since childhood, he treated me with reverence.”

“I assume you mean more than the usual?”

“Yes. He came back into my life when I was finally overcoming the loss of Justin, and you were right when you said I settled for him. I needed someone safe, and I needed someone I could control.”

“So, in the bedroom, you called the shots. Am I right?”

Not too surprised with his intuition, Kathryn simply widened her eyes for a second. “Not in a kinky way, mind you. I just had to coach him on what to do, and I had to communicate… a lot.”

“I understand. Do you want to talk about Justin?”

“No,” she said as she studied their joined fingers. “We were only intimate a few times, and I was the one learning.”

“Thank you for telling me.”

She sat up straighter and rubbed her neck distractedly. “Yes, well, it’s not something I’ve told anyone else before.”

“I'm honored.”

Raising her chin, she stated, “I trust that you’ll treat this newfound knowledge with respect.”

“A trust I take very seriously.” He set his wineglass down so he could hold both of her hands. “Based on what you’ve just told me, I don’t think we should try to control our relationship with any pre-determined roles.”

“Just go with whatever comes naturally.”

“Exactly. Just be yourself.”

Feeling mischievous, she leaned against him and stretched her arms up and around his neck. “Not to add any pressure, but you should know that I have very high expectations for our lovemaking.”

“Should I check the fire suppression system in here?” He allowed his hands to roam freely over her naked back and the soft fabric that barely covered her rear.

She whispered against his cheek, “Kiss me, Chakotay.”

“My pleasure,” he whispered as he dove into the kiss, immediately urging her lips to part for him.

She turned slightly to get more comfortable and then tilted her face up to accept more of his hot, succulent mouth. So intense was the connection that the moment his fingers cupped her breast through the silky fabric, she was light-headed with need and desire. Her moans were muted by his ravenous tongue, sweet from the wine, as it tangled with hers in a medley of flavors that satisfied a deep, embedded craving that had finally been set free.

Although she expected his hands to roam, Kathryn was still surprised by the searing heat his touch left in its wake. His fingers not only followed the curves encased within her dress, they also slipped under the strips of purple that barely covered her. He tantalized places on her body that had never been touched with such love – slowly stroking over her shoulder and down her arm, inching up from her waist to skim along the side of her breast for a leisurely moment, following the curve over her hip, and finally stroking all the way down to her ankle and back up again.

“Kathryn,” he said breathlessly. “How about we take this into the bedroom?”

Reaching to unbutton his shirt, she said, “I'm not sure I can wait that long.”

He smiled against her lips and gave her another soft kiss before pulling out of her arms and helping her to her feet. As he led her to the bedroom, he called, “Computer, lights out.”

“You might need the lights to get me out of this dress.”

“Hmmm, and I would love to see you, too.”

“Oh, then never mind. We’ll figure it out.” Now at the foot of her bed, she turned him around and kept him quiet with a kiss.

His lips left her mouth to nibble along her jaw. Once he had her moaning in pleasure again, he said, “Computer, lights to thirty percent.”

“Sneaky,” she muttered.


“Don’t forget, Commander. You’re going to need my help if you want to see this body nude.”

He shook his head, and released the tie at her side, just above her waist. “I don’t believe so. I’ve been studying it all evening.”

“And here I…” She gasped as his hand slipped under the fabric to cup her soft, full breast. “…thought…”

He watched her wanton reaction as he untied the same knot on her other side, loosening the fabric just enough that both breasts were accessible to him. Manipulating the soft flesh triggered an immediate response. Her lips parted, her eyes closed, and her chest rose and fell rapidly with each shallow breath. “You were saying?”

“Ummm… I… uh… don’t remember.” She had to hold onto his shoulders as his thumbs skimmed across her nipples, sending sparks of desire thrumming straight to her center where the wet pool of desire she’d been building was becoming something akin to a lake. He alternated rolling the tight buds between his fingertips and massaging her breasts with gentle pressure, letting the weight of each settle in his palms.

Kathryn was doing all she could to keep her knees from buckling, but when he took a step forward, his movement triggered a burst of energy within her, transforming her heavy arousal into an urgent desire to mate. She grabbed hold of his head and lunged for him, her mouth crushing against his until she softened enough for the erotic dance of their tongues to resume. The way he opened for her and accepted her into his wet heat, stirred her even higher and gave her a sense of power over his desire.

He gave her nipples another moment of attention and then slid his hands down to her waist, his fingers almost tickling her as they intimately caressed her sides. Her reaction was to kiss him even more fervently and grind against him, but he wanted even more, so he reached even lower to caress her bottom, much like he’d done on the dance floor. But this time, there was only a very short, very thin fabric between his hand and her soft skin. It took almost no effort for him to cinch up the skirt to expose what was underneath.

When he touched bare skin, he broke the kiss and asked with surprise, “You aren’t wearing underwear?”

Nibbling along his collarbone, her voice was husky as she replied, “Oh, it’s there – just not much of it.”

It took him a moment to find the string that disappeared between her cheeks. “My, my Kathryn. Do you always wear panties like these?”

She laughed as she parted the top of his shirt and pressed warm, wet kisses down his sternum. “Ummm… no. Do you like them?”

“Honestly, I’d like anything that makes you feel sexy.”

“I'm glad to hear you say that because these are starting to chafe.”

“Then I suggest we take them off.” He found the strings at the sides and pushed them down. When they were as far down as he could reach, he kneeled in front of her and slowly pulled them all the way to the deck where he closed his eyes and took a deep breath.


“Your arousal, Kathryn. I love the scent – it’s intoxicating.”

She stepped back a little. “I didn’t realize it would be so strong.”

“Hey…” He reached out and touched her leg, encouraging her to return. “It’s wonderful.”

“Thank you.” While she appreciated the comment, she still felt a little exposed. Softly, she requested, “Would you come back up here?”

Chakotay smiled and said, “Sure,” although he took his own sweet time caressing her legs on the way up. The loving way his hands touched every part of her, whether it was simply her knees or the very sensitive skin on her upper thighs, renewed her flood of warmth.

While on the path up her body, he stopped to release another set of ties so that her bodice was now hanging loose from her neck. She was dizzy with need as his fingers skimmed over her breasts and finally came to rest at the base of her throat.

She gasped in surprise and grabbed his hands in self defense, locking them behind his body. Her knee was about to make impact when she stopped herself. “Oh!”

“It’s okay!” he said as she backed away.

Kathryn clasped her hands together in front of her mouth and gave herself a moment to recoup. “Sorry, it was reflex.”

He extended his hand for her to come back, and she did willingly. Once she was in his arms again, he said, “I have a similar reaction from being strangled one too many times. I didn’t think about that, and I apologize.”

“How many times have you been?” she asked as she started unbuttoning his shirt.

“Twice.” He helped her until they had the shirt off and tossed onto a chair.

“Once is too many,” she said as she touched her neck. “The memory for me is a little too recent, though.”


She nodded. “Then I broke his nose.”

“That’s my…” He laughed at himself.


“I was about to say, ‘That’s my girl,’ but there’s not a thing girlie about you.”

“There isn’t?” She explored his entire chest with the palms of her hands, her fingertips only joining to caress along the edges of his pectorals.

“No, you are one hundred percent woman.” His hands slid up her back until they reached the ties at the back of her neck. “May I?”

“You can try,” she dared.

His breath hitched as she drew circles around his nipples with her fingertips. Straining to get the words out, he asked, “Should I protect any body parts or is that a challenge to see if I can do it?”

She closed the small distance between their bodies and dropped her hand to feel along the length of his rigid member. “Don’t you worry about your parts, Commander. They’re in good hands.”

“I’ll say.” He closed his eyes and moaned with pleasure. “Damn, that feels good.”

“I bet no one has touched this in a good, looooong time.”

“Only you in my dreams.”

“Day dreams?” she asked with a chuckle.

“Oh, yes. Day dreams, fantasies, erotic dreams, you name it.” He got hold of himself long enough to work at the ties at the back of her neck.

“I'm looking forward to hearing about every one.”

“No, no, no, no,” he said with a grin as he studied the intricately woven knot, wondering why her dress hadn’t fallen off, yet. “You’ll find out about each one my fantasies after we’ve re-enacted them.”

“Then how will I know if I'm supposed to walk into your office naked, or not?”

His eyes jumped to hers. “Now, that’s one I hadn’t thought of.”

“Oh, I did.” She laughed.

He licked his lips and replied, “You’ll know what you’re supposed to do because I’ll ask you to do it.”

“Sounds like fun.”

“I think I'm going to have to give up with these straps. By the laws of physics, your dress should have dropped to the floor by now.”

She took a step back and worked until they were free. “Would you like the honor?” she asked as she held in place the two wide pieces of fabric that were covering her breasts.

Shaking his head, he had a huge grin on his face as he put more space between them. “I want to watch.”

In one swift movement, she let them go and the entire dress fell in a pool of purple around her feet. He was transfixed, at a complete loss for words as his eyes traveled up and down her nude body.

“I’ll take your reaction as a good sign, since you’re practically drooling.” Sauntering over to him, she took his hand and led him to stand by the side of the bed.

“It’s um… it’s one of those times when you’re never really prepared for the real thing.” His hands hovered over her body, still mesmerized by her. “So beautiful, Kathryn.”

“My turn,” she said with a wicked grin as she unfastened his slacks. “Are you wearing underwear?”

“I was afraid I’d be a little out of control without them.”

“That’s not a bad thing.” Her thumbs hooked both waistlines and pushed them down, exactly as he’d done to her, but what she revealed took her breath away. “And that’s… that’s not a bad thing either.”

“I'm glad you like it. It’s all yours.”

She chuckled and replied, “Yes, you are.” Her fingers tentatively touched the swollen glans and then encircled the hard, velvety shaft. When she realized that she was staring, she glanced up with a guilty smile. “I'm like a kid in a candy store.”

“I’d ask if you want a taste of the candy, but I think that would do me in tonight.”

Her heart fluttered with anxiety as she scooted back onto the bed. “I'm not sure you’d like it. That’s not exactly my forte.”

“Don’t worry about it.” Resting one knee between her open legs, he leaned over her body and gave her a lingering kiss. “What is your forte?” he asked as he kissed down to her chest, capturing a dusky nipple in his mouth.

With the torment his tongue was giving to her breast, all coherent thoughts left her mind. “Ummm… science?”

“I can think of a few other things.” He winked at her before giving attention to her other breast.

Her chest arched as desire raced through her. “How can you think of anything at a time like this?”

“Easy… ‘this’ is always on my mind, so multi-tasking is second nature.”

She laughed and brought him down for a hug.

“It’s true.” His body now lying on top of hers, he asked, “Are you tired of kissing me, yet?”

“Not a chance.” She felt like she was in heaven as she looked up into his loving eyes. “Make love to me, Chakotay.”

“Gladly.” Their lips came together again as his hand stroked down her body to her core.

With the first touch, the unwanted image of long, bony fingers flashed like a beacon of horror through her mind. She yelled, “No!” and withdrew her body until she was sitting up against the headboard, arms folded around her knees, and her eyes clamped shut, trying desperately to chase away the nightmarish memories.

“Kathryn?” He wanted to hold her, but was afraid to touch her. “Kathryn, talk to me.”

“Oh God, Chakotay.”

“You’re safe. You’re here with me, and you’re okay.”

Nearly shaking, she rubbed her hands brusquely over her face. “I know I'm safe, damn it.”


“I didn’t expect that reaction – didn’t think it would be an issue. I'm so angry I could hit… something.”

“The minister?”

“I will NOT be a victim.”

“Be straight with me, Kathryn. Before you were able to fight back, he molested you, didn’t he?”

She dropped her hands and glared at him. “I'm strong enough to get past this.”

“Yes, you are. But it might not happen today.”

Pushing her hand through her hair, she stared out of the viewport. “Talk about ruining the romance of the moment.”

“When is the first time with someone ever perfect?” He reached for her hand and breathed a sigh of relief when she took it.

“In romantic fiction, it is.”

Gently tugging on her arm, he encouraged her to unfurl and return to his embrace. Once she was safely ensconced with the sheet draped over her, he suggested, “Let’s write our own romance, then. One a little more realistic considering our circumstances out here.”

She forced herself to relax against him. “As long as it still has the tall, dark, and handsome hero.”

“Well, I can offer tall and dark. Will that suffice?”

“You don’t think you’re handsome?”

“Nah.” Placing a kiss on top of her head, he added, “I'm just an average guy.”

“Hardly.” She leaned back some so she could look at him. “I have a deal to make with you.”

“What’s that?”

“If you’ll realize how good-looking you are, I’ll believe that you think I'm beautiful.”

Shaking his head, he replied, “Not good enough. You have to believe it, too.”

Her eyes moved side to side as she studied each of his eyes, looking for truth. “You really think so, don’t you?”

“I know so.”

She was quiet for a long moment as she thought about him, about where they were, what they’d been about to do, and their state of undress. Coming to a decision, she asked, “Would you do something for me?”


“Try again. With sex, I mean. I'm not going to give that creep a role in our romance novel.”

He tucked a lock of her hair behind her ear as he looked at her, trying to gauge what she was really feeling. “Are you sure?”

“Am I ever not sure?”

Carefully, he replied, “Sometimes. Not that anyone would know that but me.”

She raised one eyebrow. “You weren’t supposed to notice.”

“Oh. My apologies.”

“I'm sure,” she repeated as she took his hand and placed it between her legs. “Touch me.”

He didn’t withdraw, but he didn’t go any further. Instead, he caressed her inner thigh. “If we’re going to start over, let’s start over from the beginning.”

With a sly smile, she said, “Hi, I'm Kathryn. What’s your name and why are you in my bed?”

Dimples flashing, he replied, “The name’s Chakotay, and I'm seducing you. Hope you don’t mind.”

“It’s not every day that a beautiful woman like me finds a handsome fellow in her bed.”

He winked at her and helped her lie down, stretching out along her side. “I think we’re rushing this, but I'm not going to turn you down. However, stop me if want to.”

“I won’t.”

“Just know that if you feel uncomfortable…”

“Just do it, Chakotay, or I'm going to flip you on your back and take over.”

He chuckled, “Not that I’d mind, but let’s do it this way first.”

Kathryn nodded and let out a shaky breath as he rubbed soothing circles on her stomach and placed soft kisses on her face.

Still sensing some anxiety, he asked, “How’s my breath?”

“Hot and erotic. How’s mine?”

“You have the breath of a coffee angel.”

“Funny.” She picked up his hand and placed it on her breast. “I'm already dripping wet. You don’t need to spend more time on foreplay.”

“I need the time, and touching your body will take care of that.”

“Oh, I'm sorry,” she said with understanding. “What can I do to help?”

“Be naked and stop talking.”

“Sorry,” she whispered. “I talk when I'm ner…”

He silenced her with a deep kiss, hugged her body closely against his, and rolled so that she was stretched out on top of him.

She lifted her head and looked down at him with a sly grin. “This is a fun turn of events.”

“Shhhh,” he held a finger over her lips. “Make yourself at home.”

“I…” Her mouth snapped close with a small laugh. Love for the man beneath her blossomed again, and she realized that she didn’t need to explain.

Kathryn situated herself so that she was straddling his pelvis, knowing that her wet heat would stir him up more than anything else she could do. She leaned forward and stroked her hands over his chest and abdomen, familiarizing herself with every curve, hard plane, and soft swell that was her lover. Thinking about the fact that she now had a lover sent her thoughts into a whirl. All of her erotic fantasies of him came rushing into her mind at once.

As she teased his flat nipple into a hard bud, she imagined doing this very thing to him in the messhall, late at night when they were all alone. When she felt his hand squeeze her bottom and grip her hips to hold her tightly against him, she imagined them in a shuttle with her sitting naked on his lap, making out as they waited for Voyager to rendezvous with them. Running her hands up his stomach and around his neck so that her body was pressed along his entire length, she remembered wanting to do this when they were working together in a Jeffries tube.

His moan of pleasure that came from the way she sucked at his nipples brought her back to the present, but only for a moment because she immediately fantasized about doing this very thing in his bed after having come to him in the middle of the night, wearing nothing but a thin robe. Her passion escalated as his hands smoothed up her body to toy with her breasts. She arched her back up to give him better access, and when he pinched her nipples, she groaned loudly and had to pause in what she was doing to cope with the intoxicating dizziness that came over her with the intense pleasure pain.

His chest vibrated as he asked, “You like that?”

“Mmmmmmhmmmm,” she moaned as she arched forward and dropped her head back. “Harder.”

Grabbing more of her aureoles to work into the pinch, he commented, “I thought you might.”

“Ungh,” she grunted and sat up, taking his hands and pinning them down so she could devour his mouth with a kiss. He managed to get his hands away and grabbed hold of her bottom, his fingers curling around the backs of her thighs until they found her labia so he could test the waters. When she moaned and pressed onto his fingers, he pushed her even farther by inserting one finger just barely into her wet opening.

She broke the kiss with a huge gasp and scooted higher so he could reach her better. “Are you ready?” she asked.

“Getting there.” Even though he could’ve dipped his finger inside, he stayed out, stroking and stirring her fire, making her crazy with need.

“I need you,” she begged, now so far up on his body that her breasts where dangling above his face.

He asked, “Lay forward, Kathryn,” and as soon as she did, he sucked her nipple into his mouth to suckle and tease her into an even higher state of arousal.

Her entire body was trembling with the need to be penetrated. She’d never felt such intensity and begged again, “Please, let me take you.”

Rolling her back down to the mattress, he positioned himself at her entrance. She did all she could to push onto him, but he held back, rubbing ever so lightly along her opening until she nearly yelled, “Now! Pleeeaaaaaase.”

With one full thrust, he buried himself inside. She screamed in pleasure, totally abandoned and open to accept him. His face was set in pure concentration while he continued to piston slowly in and out of her tight, wet channel, angling so that the throbbing head of his penis rubbed the front of her inner wall. Sparks flew and she was sizzling with desire as the motion went on and on, never giving her direct stimulation until she was shaking uncontrollably.

Only then did he change angles and open her legs wider, pressing his pelvis against her clit as he moved forward and back, crushing them together in a spiral of want and need. Kathryn was in a total frenzy, nearly bursting with uninhibited eroticism as he thrust into her, bringing her higher and higher, her breathing rough and ragged, until the wave of energy passed through her, a current of intense stimulation that crashed her over the edge. In its wake, she was left shuddering as the jolts of orgasm took hold of her.

She didn’t know how much time had passed before she found enough energy to open her eyes. When she did, a slow, satisfied smile crossed her lips.

Chakotay whispered, “Hi there, beautiful.”

“Did you come?” she asked.

“Oh yeah.” He pressed a soft kiss above her left breast and then pulled out of her. Lying down alongside her, he cuddled up close and draped the sheet over them.

“I'm limp.”

Picking up her hand, he kissed the back of it and then kept it safely enclosed within his fingers. “Rest now.”

“M’kay. If there’s a red alert, you’re gonna have to tell them I'm not available.”

“I’ll do that,” he said as he watched over her.

After a long moment of rest, she said, “By the way, Commander, your performance has not just exceeded all expectations; it has blown them out of the water.”

With a chuckle, he kissed her and said, “Flattery will only get you more sex.”

She hummed happily. “I’d like that, and I think I did a pretty bang up job, too.”

“Definitely. I'm truly looking forward to the rest of my life.”

Her eyes opened and she looked at him with all seriousness. “No doubts?”

“Not a single one.”

“We’ll have some challenges that would destroy most couples.”

“Yes, we will, but with your strength, and my heroism,” he paused to give her a wink. “We’ll get through every single one of them.”

“You make me stronger, you know.”

He shook his head. “No, I didn’t know that. I’ve always thought you did that for me.”

“So, what we have here is a competition. How are we going to settle it?”

“I have an idea, but I'm not sure you’re ready for it.”

Her eyes widened. “More sex?”

Laughing, he said, “Not for at least half an hour.” More serious, he placed a kiss on her cheek. “Marry me.”


His mouth opened in surprise. “Okay? That’s it?”

“Were you expecting an argument?”

“A discussion at least. I sort of dropped that out of the blue.”

“Not really.” She rolled onto her side and snuggled against him. “You’ve been posing as my spouse for two days.”

“So you’ve been thinking about it since?”

“Yep,” she said with a yawn. “I told you yesterday that this wasn’t a temporary arrangement, and after you told me on the bridge that you’re happy to fill the role, I assumed you’d propose soon.”

He caressed her back as he held her close. “And you did say that we were partners for life.”

“Mmmmhmmm. I'm in love, I'm happy, and I'm extremely satisfied. I think we should grow old together.”

“Sounds like we should get married, then.”


Chakotay smoothed back her hair and kissed her temple. “Just so you know, Kathryn. You are exactly my type of woman.”

“How so?”

“You’re beautiful, intelligent, fun-loving, adventurous, strong, clever… shall I go on?”

“I'm not stopping you.”

“I’ll draft a complete list at my next opportunity. However, I suspect that I’ll be adding to it for the rest of my life.”



“Stop talking and kiss me.”

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