By Shayenne

Disclaimer: Paramount owns everything. Do they still care?
Rated PG

© Shayenne, January 2009 Please email me to post/distribute elsewhere.
Feedback? Please. Shayenne


"I don't know if I can do this."

Kathryn Janeway stared at herself in the mirror, and her mouth twisted at what she saw: a middle-aged woman, lines of tiredness bracketing her mouth, a small furrow permanently drawn on her forehead. A good looking woman, but a weary one.

"I don't know if I can do this," she repeated to herself, and turned from the mirror to survey her quarters and the simple dark green dress laid out on the bed.

She must be insane even to contemplate such a move. Her mother's favorite saying sprang into her head: "If it ain't broke, don't dismantle the replicator." Advice her mother was genetically incapable of following, which was why there was seldom a working replicator in the Janeway household.

Kathryn sighed. For the most part, her mother's replicator worked perfectly well, but Gretchen was always tweaking, determined to get things absolutely perfect. A touch of hazelnut in her coffee. A more constant temperature for the food. A glossier frosting on the brownies. And Gretchen wasn't content with merely tweaking the programming. No, to get fluffier rice in the family biryani recipe, Gretchen would lay the replicator out in pieces, a bare bones skeletal rebuild, each induction capacitor and relay removed, inspected, and generally put back in the wrong place.

It must be a family trait, Kathryn decided, as this was exactly what she intended to do this evening: take something whole, functioning, and generally satisfactory in every way but one, and dismantle it down to its component pieces in the hope that when it was rebuilt, it would be perfect.

She just hoped Gretchen's theory worked better for relationships than it did for replicators.

But could she do it at all? The face in the mirror didn't have the answers. The "replicator" she was considering rebuilding had functioned perfectly well for five years. It had sustained her, given her comfort, and provided nourishment for her soul. Why rip that apart?

"Because I want it all," Kathryn said aloud to the room. "Because I want glossier frosting."

She wanted it all--with him. He was her friend, her colleague, her sounding board, her comforter on the occasional evening when the Delta Quadrant made her feel small and broken. He was her training partner on the holodeck, her strategist, her strength, and her mother's cautionary voice when she needed a gentle reminder as to the recklessness of a proposed action. And he was a reassurance of her femininity, her desirability, her sexuality. The light that flickered deep in his dark eyes, the fingers that rested too long on the back of her hand, the quiver of his skin whenever she chanced to touch him--they all reaffirmed that yes, there could be more, if only she would reach out.

If only she would dismantle the replicator.

But what if the relays, induction coils, and elements wouldn't fall into place? It had never worked for her mother. What if, in breaking this most important of shipboard relationships, that of captain and first officer, she found there was nothing past the command structure? What if all the potential she thought she saw were only wishful thinking? What if she were wrong?

Turning, she moved to the bed, letting her robe fall as she did. And what if he didn't want her in the way she wanted him? What if her desirability was knotted up in the red and black uniform, what if it were her position that gave her the appeal, not the small woman behind it? She didn't think Chakotay was one to bed a woman for the power or position she could give him--indeed, his standing on the ship wouldn't be enhanced if it happened, just as hers wouldn't be diminished. But, maybe for him it was the thrill of the chase; a chase he never expected to win.

Kathryn reached for the green dress, pulled it on over her functional underwear. She had refused to dress with seduction in mind. If it were to happen, then it would be with honesty, and that meant him seeing her as she was.

Reaching behind, she slid up the back zipper, contorting to tug it higher when it caught. "Damn," she muttered, when it became obvious that the zip was simply not going to budge. The teeth must have snagged on the material.

The close fitting dress allowed no leeway for maneuvering. She reached for her combadge on the dresser. "Janeway to-"

She broke off. Janeway to whom? Tuvok would come, eyebrow raised, and his cool fingers would skillfully work the zipper, remarking as he did so on the illogical need to wear a dress when a dress uniform was equally appropriate.

The Doctor would make a house call and would free the stubborn material, accompanied by a comment that he was a doctor, not a tailor.

Paris would doubtlessly come running, and his practiced fingers would work at the trapped material for many minutes, until she blushed at the length of time he took and the brush of his fingers on her skin. Too long for propriety, but of course Paris would merely remark that the material was well and truly caught and he didn't want to break the zip, and she would be unable to chastise him for his assistance.

Torres would come stomping along the corridor if called, and would almost certainly break the zip with an impatient tug, leaving a smear of engine grease on the material as she did so. Strange how gentle and patient Torres could be with her engines, but how fierce in other ways, including her friendships.

Harry would come if she made it an order, but his discomfort would be palpable, and would shatter the remaining remnants of her fragile confidence that she was doing the right thing.

No. As always, there was only one person she would call on.

She hit the badge again. "Janeway to Chakotay."

"Can I help you, Captain?"

Replying by the book; her rank not her name.

"Can you stop by my quarters for a minute? I need some assistance."

"On my way."

He must have been next door in his quarters, as the chime rang a scant minute later. She let him in, and met him in her bare feet midway across the floor.

A half smile from those full lips. "You don't look exactly ready, Kathryn."

In answer, she turned her back to him, lifting her hair away from the nape of her neck so as not to obstruct his vision.

"Ah," he said, in understanding, and then his fingers scorched her skin through the thin material of the dress as he applied his attention to the errant zipper.

For a moment, there was silence. Kathryn concentrated on keeping her breathing soft and even, not an easy task when every tiny brush of his fingers on her bare back sent frissons of delight along her nerve endings. She could sense his concentration like a living presence, and the puff of his breath on her nape when he bent closer.

"Stop fidgeting," he ordered. "I'm working as fast as I can. I don't want to tear the material."

She smothered a laugh. Maybe she'd summoned Paris by accident.

"Is there a reason you're wearing a dress?" he asked. "I was going to wear my dress uniform for the ambassador."

Now he was channeling Tuvok.

"No reason," she purred. "Why, don't you like it?" She twisted around to see him over her shoulder. There he was, hunched over the dress, the silky material caught in his golden fingers.

He glanced up, and their eyes collided. "You know you look beautiful."

She held his gaze as long as she could, but the blush that colored her cheeks meant she looked away first.

"It's well and truly stuck," he murmured. "I'm not sure I can free it without tearing. And it would help if you stopped moving," he added pointedly.

"Sorry," she offered. "We could sit down. You wouldn't have to hunch so much."

His answer was in the lifting of fingers from her skin, and she felt their loss. She paced to the couch, aware of his eyes licking the exposed vee of skin at the back of the dress.

For a minute longer he worked away in silence, then in a second the zipper lowered nearly to her waist. She drew in a shaky breath as his fingers followed the line of it--checking to make sure that no material was caught, she surmised, but the meandering path of his fingers turned her stomach to a melting liquid rush.

"That's it." Satisfaction in his voice.

Kathryn had to take a steadying breath before she trusted herself to answer him. She turned around to face him, uncaring of how the back of the dress gaped. The look in his eyes held her gaze, and she froze, caught by the bare intensity scrawled on his face. There was need in those dark eyes, a tremor in those long fingers.

He noticed her looking and his eyes shuttered, his hand clenching to hide the shiver.

Her breath caught. "Don't," she said, before she could stop herself, and her fingers lifted to his cheek.

Chakotay jerked slightly at the contact, and then relaxed, leaning his cheek into the palm of her hand.

"Thank you," she said, and felt his lips curve into a smile against her fingers.

"For the zipper? I'm glad I didn't tear your dress."

"No. For making this so easy." And before she could second-guess herself, before she could talk herself out of it, even though they both had to be ready for the ambassador's dinner in a few minutes, she leaned forward, closing the gap between them. Her lips feathered over his in a tentative kiss, a soft breath of nothing, a touch as gentle as the lie of morning mist over the grass.

"Oh," he said when her lips lifted. "Oh."

"Is that all you have to say?" she teased, because the light in his eyes and the luminosity in his face were telling her more than she could have hoped.

And then he was back and in control, gathering her into his arms, hauling her between his parted legs so that her body fell against his, and his lips were plundering hers while his hand roamed freely over the bare skin of her back. Although she'd thought she knew the smell and sense of him from their years of working so closely together, she discovered that no, she didn't; that he smelled clean and fresh like leaves after a rainstorm, and tasted of cinnamon and warmth, dark spices as rich and redolent of passion as he was. She could do nothing, except grip his shoulders and let him take what she had long withheld. And even while one part of her head was chastising herself for rushing in without a talk, without words, without spelling out for him how it must happen, another part--the bigger part--was rejoicing that it was so easy and so right.

Finally, he lifted his head, although his embrace kept her firmly between his solid thighs, so close that she could feel his obvious arousal sandwiched between them. She rested her hands on his thighs, feeling the muscle contract as her fingers stroked. So good to touch him so freely.

"Kathryn," he started, and she smiled when his voice cracked and he couldn't continue.

"Kathryn," he said again, and this time he was able to say, "What changed your mind after so long? I'd nearly given up hoping."

"Looking in my mirror and thinking you might not want me-"

"Never," he said, fervently, and it was like a prayer.

"Being so scared we would fail that I had to try."

He nodded.

She couldn't help smiling. He knew her so well that even her convoluted sentence made perfect sense to him.

"And the decider?" she said, "Well, that was my mother's replicator."


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© Shayenne, January 2009 Please email me to post/distribute elsewhere.