CLOSE PROXIMITY

By Shayenne

Disclaimer: Paramount owns everything but I doubt they want this.

Rated PG-13

Ep addition to the subplot of Prophecy. Klingons are over running the ship and everyone is doubling up on quarters.

Kathryn answered to the chime early in the morning to find a bundle of dirty laundry outside the door on top of a muscular pair of black clad legs. The legs pushed past her, into her quarters and dumped the laundry on the couch.

"Chakotay? What are you doing? Why can't you just recycle your clothes like everyone else?"

Chakotay was folding the crumpled uniforms into a neat pile. He picked up the underpants that had fallen onto the floor and placed them on top of the pile.

Kathryn tried not to look. Black. Briefs not boxers. Now she knew.

Chakotay placed his medicine bundle on the coffee table and sat down on the couch, stretching out his legs and putting booted feet on the coffee table. He bounced slightly. "Not bad. I'll be comfortable. Unless you want to share that big bed in there?"

He looked up at her with wicked, gleeful eyes.

She placed her hands on her hips. "What are you talking about?"

"I'm your new room mate. Do you want first shower in the morning or shall I go first?"

"What's wrong with your quarters?"

"Five Klingons are in there. Two of them are a mated pair and the others are on the prowl. It could be noisy. Not to mention dangerous."

"Ah." She remembered the order she had given for the crew to double up in quarters. "I didn't mean for the senior officers to have to share."

"We have to set an example to the crew." He grinned. "Guess who is bunking with Tuvok?"

She caught his infectious grin. "No. You didn't did you?"

"Yup. Poor Tuvok. No-one else was available when Neelix came to me."

She glared at him. "I could have shared with Tuvok and you could have shared with Neelix."

"Kathryn… not good enough. We all have to double up, and who better to share with you than me?"

"Let me think. Seven…. Naomi Wildman… The Doctor … I could always deactivate him. You, I'm not so sure about."

"Hey, we shared a cabin smaller than these quarters on New Earth."

New Earth. When he said the words, the atmosphere in her quarters thickened with remembered might-have-beens. Might have been lovers. Might have made a life together.

"Yes. Well. I thought you might prefer me over Tuvok." He looked momentarily hurt.

She sat beside him on the couch and covered his hand with her own. "Of course I would. You are much easier to bully. You get the couch."

***

It was suprisingly easy having him around again. When she came off her duty shift, he was already there, sitting on the couch surrounded by padds and a couple of cold mugs of tea. He stood as she came in, kicking off her boots.

"Here," He punched in the replicator order for a cup of coffee and handed it to her. "Dinner's programmed. We can eat any time you are ready."

She didn't have the heart to tell him that she had arranged to eat in the mess hall with Tuvok, who was seeking respite from Neelix's bumbling good-hearted company. She would just have to call Tuvok to cancel.

"Sounds good." She slumped on the couch next to him.

They worked companionably together for an hour or so, then without being asked he stood up, punched the replicator and moved to lay the table with her china.

She watched him over the padd she was pretending to study. He knew her so well; he fitted into her life so smoothly.

"Dinner's ready." He was standing over her. Two covered steaming plates were set on the small table. Absently she noticed the candles and wine.

He held out a hand to her, and pulled her to her feet with such force that she overbalanced and toppled against him. He steadied her, warm hands on her shoulders, and again she was struck by the comfort of his presence, here in her quarters.

He led her to the table and pulled the chair out with a flourish.

"What's for dinner?" She twisted in the chair so she could watch him, his movements sure as he uncorked the wine.

"Guess."

"Mushroom soup?"

"No."

"Coffee ice-cream?"

"That's for later."

"Well, I know its not leola root. Not if you want to stay here tonight." Her breath caught at the words. It was one thing having him fall asleep on the couch when they worked late, but it seemed a whole different game when they both knew from the start that he would be sleeping here, on the couch, in her quarters.

With a flourish he removed the covers from the plates. "Vegetable biriani. Your grandmother's recipe."

She smiled at him. "You've raided my replicator files."

"Yes. Want to know what I did with your underwear drawer?"

"I dread to think. But I don't see your … clothes around the room anymore." She picked up a fork and took a mouthful. "This isn't my grandmother's recipe."

"No, I doctored it slightly. Added a few spices. Altered the cooking time. And if you look in your top drawer you'll find out what happened to my clothes."

"Moving in?" She regretted the words as soon as they were out of her mouth. They sounded… flirtatious.

"If you'll have me. But I thought that you wouldn't want to spend the evening staring at my underpants."

"Oh, I don't know about that." She took a forkful of food to avoid seeing the leap of heat in his eyes.

"Kathryn?"

"I could be staring at Neelix's."

Their shared laughter echoed around the dimly lit quarters.

***

After the promised ice cream, coffee, more wine and an hour or two of work, she stretched.

"Think I'll turn in now." Suddenly she was self conscious under his gaze. This arrangement brought back too many memories of the closeness and warmth of the cabin on New Earth. Of evenings spent companionably together; shared pursuits, lighthearted conversations, his hands on her shoulders, touching her hair.

She moved into the bedroom and pulled one of the pillows off the bed, and a quilt and sheets out of the cupboard. "Here. I'll help you make up the couch."

Together they bent and smoothed sheets. She plumped the pillow and spent too much time getting the sheet corners just right. She thought of him on the couch, stretched out, arms over his head, chest rising and falling in the starlight. He met her eyes, and she couldn't look away. She knew that he was mirroring her thoughts. Tides of breath in the cabin on New Earth. Those damned translucent partitions that had given her such sleepless heated nights, as she watched the blurred image of his big body tossing and turning behind the smoky semi-transparent aliminium.

She shook the quilt over the sheets.

"Will you be comfortable out here?"

"Are you offering me a choice?" He said the words quietly, with enough seriousness so that she knew he meant it, and enough humor so that she knew he was expecting her to joke about it.

"Yes. I'll call Tuvok and ask him to send Neelix over."

He smiled and the sweet tension was broken. "I'll be fine, Kathryn."

"Well… goodnight." She gave him an awkward smile and moved to her bedroom.

The door was propped open; she liked to leave it like that, disliking the claustrophobic feel of the closed sleeping area. She thought briefly about removing the prop and allowing the door to close, but thought she was being silly. She had slept closer to him than this on New Earth.

She moved to the bathroom to change into her nightgown and climbed into bed. She settled on her side, facing the viewport as was her custom and tried to relax.

"Kathryn?" His whisper cut through the silence. "Are you finished in the bathroom?"

"Yes, thank you." Out of the corner of her eye she saw him creep through the bedroom, sweatpants low on his hips. The starlight gleamed on his shoulders, painting the golden skin with a sheen of silver. She suppressed a sigh and closed her eyes firmly.

She heard him shuffle back, biting back an expletive as he stubbed his toe on something.

"Kathryn." His amused tones reached her. "Do you always leave your boots in the middle of the floor?"

She rolled over and looked up into his laughing face. One of her boots was in his hands.

"Yes, of course. I know where they are then. Besides, who on earth is going to trip over them?"

"Good point."

She heard his soft retreating footsteps, then the creak of the couch as he settled down. She lay, trying to sleep, very conscious of his presence only a few feet away from her. She could hear the sound of him turning over as he made himself comfortable. For a while there was silence, broken only by the rhythmic tide of his breathing.

From Chakotay's quarters next door there were suddenly staccato shouts and grunts. A crash. A loud growl, feral and predatory. A loud banging and the sound of a heavy object being thrown over the room. More shouting and growling that gradually increased in intensity until the adjoining wall was shaking.

Kathryn groaned silently. Just what they needed now; mating Klingons next door. She wondered which member of her crew was being initiated. She envied them their uninhibited passions, although she hoped that Chakotay's quarters would be in one piece when he got them back. The animal sounds of passion rose to an unearthly howling, then a series of crashes, followed by a distinctly human voice saying, "Oh God." She suppressed a grin. At least some of her crew were benefiting from the situation.

The next door cabin grew quiet again and she tried to sleep, but she was still overwhelmingly conscious of the body on her couch. She could hear him shuffling around out there, he seemed to be rotating on the couch like a pig on a spit. More creaks. A bang and a muttered expletive. Rustling bedclothes. She imagined him turning out there, trying to get comfortable on the short couch. There was a short silence, then more sounds of movement and a sigh. She raised herself up slightly so that she could see through the door. He was sitting up, on the couch, feet on the floor, head in his hands.

"Chakotay? What is it?"

He jumped slightly then stood and padded to the bedroom doorway. "I can't sleep. The couch is too short."

She looked at him from her half reclining position in the bed. "What do you want me to do about it?"

"Do you really want me to answer that?"

In the starlight he looked large and infinitely desirable as he leant against the door jamb. The sagging sweatpants hung low on his hips, exposing the start of a hipbone, and the arrow of hair disappearing down from his navel.

Suddenly it all seemed so stupid. He was out there, wanting her. She was in here, needing him. The lost opportunities of that earlier time rose between them and her course of action seemed as clear as crystal.

"What would you like me to do about it?" Her voice was low and husky.

"Is that a serious question?" His voice was pitched as low as hers.

"Yes."

"You could invite me in there with you. My feet won't hang off the end. The quilt won't slip to the floor. And, we might both sleep better rather than listening to each other from across the room."

His hair drooped down from his normally immaculate style, matching his sweatpants, which hung perilously low on his hips. He had never looked so appealing.

She flung back the quilt. "Come in here then."

He didn't need asking twice and crawled up over the foot of her bed, settling himself next to her as if he always slept there. She rolled over onto her side and looked at him.

"Kathryn?"

She hummed slightly in response and reached out an unsteady finger to trace the muscles in his chest.

"Does this mean what I think it means?"

"Do you want it to?"

"Oh yes," he exhaled as he spoke and the words turned into a litany of longing. "I do."

"That sounds like a promise to me." She ran her hand more firmly over his chest. He captured the wandering hand and turned onto his side facing her. His fingers rose to caress her cheek briefly, before running over her lips. He moved forward to catch her lips with his own and she fell forward into his arms.

The kiss was soft but hinted of more, much more.

She broke the kiss and settled more closely up to him, reaching up with gentle fingers to stroke his face. "I love you."

He shuddered slightly in response, his arms enclosing her tightly. "Sure? I can still arrange a swap with Tuvok"

She reached purposeful hands down to the waistband of his sweatpants. "I don't think so."

He groaned into her mouth as her hands found their target. "And I wouldn't want Neelix to be doing that."

***

Much later, as he cradled her on his chest, rubbing a gentle hand over her back and stroking over her hip he chuckled, his chest rumbling under her cheek.

"What is it?" She raised her head to look at her lover.

"The things I have to do to get the first shower."

"We can share it." She laid her head back down.

"We'll be late." His hands were exploring purposefully again.

"I hope so. I don't want to face Tuvok first thing in the morning, knowing you made him spend the night with Neelix."

"Still want to swap?"

"No. In fact maybe we can reallocate your quarters more permanently once our noisy guests have left."

He tumbled her underneath him and claimed her lips once again. "We're going to be very late tomorrow."

Feedback? Please. Shayenne

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