Disclaimer: Paramount owns everything but I doubt they want this.
Many thanks to the Alpha Quadrant's best betas: Brianna and Mary S., for taming my overblown prose, for asking caustically (and accurately) if "raise" was my new favorite word, and for pointing out the possible alternative meaning of the title. No. It doesn't mean that. Sorry.
The night we returned from New Earth, he came to my quarters for the first time.
I was sitting on my couch in the dim light of the viewport, looking down at that misty blue-green planet and thinking of all I had lost. My fist clenched on a PADD. Voyager underneath my hand. Forcing thoughts of all I had regained.
He came on silent Indian feet -- no chime, he simply used some Maquis trickery to enter. The first I knew of his presence was a whispered, "Kathryn".
I wasn't surprised. We had unfinished business from New Earth. Unspoken, unacknowledged, and now it would have to remain that way. But obviously Chakotay thought differently.
"Kathryn," he said again, and I turned to where his shadow loomed.
"This won't make it easier," I warned. "Please, don't force me to say it."
He took a few steps toward me, and his eyes were as bleak and barren as his home planet. His hands fisted by his side and he held himself tensely. "Some things need to be said."
"Some things are better left to die," I countered.
He hissed in a breath. "That's not an option." Another two steps, and he stood in front of me, close enough that I could smell him, and the musky heat of his skin. A hand snaked out and grasped my wrist, tugging, so that I had to stand or be dragged off the couch. He held me firmly, my captured wrist down by my side, our hips aligned.
"The last night, on New Earth," he began.
I drew in a swift, shallow breath before I could stop myself. He noticed. Of course, he noticed.
"Please stop," I whispered.
"Last night," he continued, inexorably, "I was going to come to your room. I was going to kiss you, and continue what we'd begun. I was going to lie with you, and make you mine. And if Tuvok hadn't called, you would have let me, wouldn't you, Kathryn?"
"Please don't." I was shaking. How could I give him the answer he wanted?
His grip tightened painfully on my wrist. "You owe me an honest answer."
"Let me go!" I knew, even as I said it, that this man, this fierce, heartbroken warrior, wouldn't let me go without an answer.
"Not yet." In the starlight his lips were tight, hard, and his expression unyielding. "Give me the dignity of the truth."
"How can I answer you without compromising all that I am on Voyager?" I cried.
My wrist was forced higher, behind my back, bringing my hips tight against his body. His thighs shifted against me. "Answer me, Kathryn. Let me hear what I already know." His head drooped, so that his cheek rubbed against my hair, and his next words were soft. "Give me some hope."
Deep inside my chest my heart was crumbling. Who said that heartbreak was an instant of pain, a soul-deep rupture? No. Heartbreak is slow and insidious, a soft, shallow bleed. "Sometimes it's better not to hope for a dream," I said.
He lifted his head again. "Please."
The word was my undoing. "If you didn't come to my bed, I was going to yours."
His breath hissed between his teeth. "Thank you."
Abruptly, he released me, and the blood rushed back into my hand. I took a step away--a step to safety--and said, "It's over, Chakotay. It has to be."
"How can something end before it's begun?" he demanded, and he loomed above me once more.
I searched his face, and I knew the agony in his eyes was reflected in my own. I was about to break both our hearts, but I had to. We could have no relationship on Voyager.
"It has to," I said. "I can't compromise. Don't ask me to, please, if you... If you love me, don't do this."
"I love you, Kathryn." He'd turned away and the words were thrown to the stars and to the blue-green planet below. "And know this. The day that Voyager is in orbit around Earth, I'm coming to you again, and that time I won't take no for an answer."
In a swift motion, he grasped my upper arms and tugged me toward him. "In the meantime, remember this. Remember what we might have had."
He kissed me. Lips warm and sure parted mine, his breath in my mouth, his tongue sweeping around. His hands didn't roam; he simply held me to him, close enough that I could feel his hardness pressed against my belly. And still his mouth took, plundered, branded me as his own.
When he let me go, I stumbled with the loss.
His eyes held mine. "You will remember," and then he turned on his heel and he was gone.
The night before I was assimilated, he came to my quarters for the second time.
So much water under the bridge; so many command decisions and battles had come between us. I thought he had forgotten.
I was in my quarters again, underneath the viewport, looking out at the stars and wondering if I would ever see them again. Me, Kathryn Janeway, not some drone. Tomorrow, Tuvok, B'Elanna and I were going to be Borg. A dangerous plot, but the only one we could conceive. Outwardly, I was bracingly sure we would return. Inwardly, I wondered and quailed.
Again, he entered my quarters without warning, without the chime, without consent. And when I sensed his presence, he came forward and dropped to his knees in front of me and buried his face in my lap.
My hands came down and fisted in his thick, dark hair.
"I can't do this."
Who spoke? I thought I had, but when he raised his head, I realized we had both voiced the same thought simultaneously.
"But I have to."
"Let me go in your place," he said.
I shook my head. "And who will go in Tuvok's and B'Elanna's?"
His acceptance of what must be was there in his silence. He raised up and sat beside me on the couch. An arm wrapped around my shoulders, drawing me to his side. I gave into the temptation, and rested my head on his firm chest. His heart beat strong and reassuring underneath my cheek.
He shifted, raising his legs so that he lay back on the couch, drawing me down with him. Both arms encompassed me, settling me over his chest.
"I'm not leaving, Kathryn."
I lifted my head to stare at him. His meaning was clear; he wasn't leaving me alone. I weighed duty against my need for comfort. Surely tonight, possibly my last night in my own skin, I could take what I wanted? And then duty reasserted itself, and I knew that to make love with him tonight would be an admission that we were going to fail. A final hurrah, for tomorrow we die.
"I am coming back to you," I said. "This isn't a now-or-never scenario."
His large hand stroked my hair from my face, and encouraged me to lie back on his chest. "Of course you are," he replied. "I'm just giving you something to hold on to."
"Ssh," and his lips found my hair, one hand stroking lightly up and down my back. "We're simply going to lie here tonight, and I'm going to hold you. Just like this."
It may have been weakness, but even if the whole senior staff came trooping through the door for a briefing, I couldn't have told him to leave. He was solid underneath me, comforting, strong, and yes, desirable.
"We'll be more comfortable in the bedroom," I said, and felt him nod in acknowledgement.
He let me go, and I stood and waited for him to rise and take my hand. Linked, we moved the short distance to the bedroom.
I had always thought that the first time Chakotay and I entered my bedroom together, it would be as Voyager orbited Earth. That we would come together in a maelstrom of passion and relief and joy. That we'd be shuffling backwards, tearing at each other's clothes until we tumbled on the bed and joined together in a tumult of love and need.
I had never dreamed that the first time we would walk slowly into the bedroom, his hand in mine, and he would politely turn his back so that I could get undressed.
Swiftly, I stripped to panties and the tank and slid under the sheets. Then, I watched through slitted eyes as he too stripped down to his underwear. The bed depressed as he joined me.
"Like what you see, Kathryn?" A rumble of amusement, as he rolled onto his back, pulling me over onto his chest again.
"Yes." I saw no point in dissembling.
"Good. Hold onto that thought until the Alpha Quadrant. We will get there, Kathryn. I know we will."
I wondered if he meant more than simply the ship. But right then, it didn't seem as important as cataloging the feel of his leg sliding beneath mine, the smoothness of his chest underneath my cheek and how closely he held me. I wasn't immune to him; I knew he must feel my nipples digging into his chest through the tank, and I hoped he didn't notice that my panties were damp, where they pressed against his thigh. Certainly, I was aware of his erection, rising up just above my leg. But true to his word, he simply sighed, and lifted a hand to smooth my hair away from his chest.
"It tickles," he said, in answer to my unspoken question, and he pressed a kiss to the top of my head.
"You sleep, Kathryn. I'll be here in the morning."
I didn't think I could. The fear of the morrow, the simple pleasure of his body next to mine, I felt sure would keep me awake into the night. But sleep I did.
He was still there in the morning, and from the position of our bodies, I must have slept unusually quietly.
He knew the minute I woke, as his hand stroked down my arm and he said, "Good morning, Kathryn."
I raised up, and looked into his face. Lines of weariness etched his cheeks, and there were shadows as deep as bruises underneath his eyes. I realized he probably had lain awake all night holding me.
I touched a kiss to my fingers and pressed them to his lips. "You are very, very dear to me, Chakotay. I'll come home to you. I promise."
His lips curved underneath my fingertips. "I know you will come home. Will it be to me?" His eyes were serious.
"Always." And without stopping to think, I bent down and fitted my lips to his, kissed him long and hard, tasting him deeply.
He wound one hand in my hair, the other held my hips flush against him, so that I could feel his growing desire.
The computer beeped. My morning alarm call. Wake up, Kathryn. Time to visit the Borg.
With a tiny sigh, he released me, and I swung myself off the bed. His voice called me back. "I haven't forgotten, Kathryn. You still hold my heart."
"And you have mine." Before I could change my mind, and burrow into the comfort of his embrace once more, I turned on my heel and went for a shower.
When I came out, he was gone.
The night we made orbit around Earth, he came to my quarters for the third time. And, despite his promises, I wasn't expecting him. Too much had happened in our seventh Delta Quadrant year: I'd fallen in love with Jaffen, albeit in strange circumstances, and he'd fallen in love with Seven, something I simply didn't understand.
Leaving Jaffen had placed another deep tear in my heart, and Chakotay had seen, and withdrawn from me. Maybe that's why he pursued Seven. I don't know. I never asked him. But they were together when Voyager returned home.
After the party in the messhall--during which Seven had never been far from his side or the curve of his arm--I returned to my quarters alone.
And he came.
Again, I was sitting by the viewport, my chin on my fist, gazing at Earth, so long a dream, but a dream no longer. I was remembering our promises to each other, and although I had no right to his loyalty and love, their absence dulled the joy of homecoming. For years now, I'd lived for this moment. I'd dreamed of how he would let himself into my quarters, my arms, and my body. And I thought the moment had gone.
I sensed his presence before he spoke. "Shouldn't you be with Seven?" I asked.
He moved forward into the light, and his gaze settled on Earth, beautiful blue-green Earth, outside the viewport.
"We made a promise, Kathryn."
"That was long ago. Before you were dating Seven."
"Before you fell in love with Jaffen. But neither of them change how I feel about you."
"Does Seven know this?"
"I know what the admiral said about me and Seven," he said, ignoring my question. "And I can't explain that. But in this timeline, this Chakotay will only be with one woman--if she'll have me."
He turned his head and his eyes drilled into mine, daring me to look away. And the mingled pain and hope I saw there had me daring to wonder if maybe, just maybe, there was a chance for us.
"You still want me," I whispered. "After you've seen me at my worst, after I drove you away pining for Jaffen."
"Even if I strongly disagree with your command decisions, they don't change how I feel about you, the person."
"You loved him. He loved you. But he's not here now."
"Amusement. Flattery. Nothing serious." He shrugged. "She's not my Jaffen."
I stood, took the few paces to stand in front of him and slid my arms around his waist. Once more, my cheek rested on his broad chest. "I've dreamed of this," I said. "When there need be nothing standing between us. Has that moment arrived?"
There was lightness and joy in his voice as he replied, "The only thing between us now is two uniforms."
"That's easily fixed."
And it was.
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