Disclaimer:  Don’t own ‘em, wish I did ‘cuz I could do a much better job

Rating:  PG-13

Notes:  This is a heavily revised version of the original NC-17 story, which I was never entirely happy with.  Hope you like this one.



                                                     
GRAY MODE (revised)


By Mary S.




           Voyager hung nearly dead in space.  Warp engines were down, the core silent.  The engineering crew worked in small groups, trying to find another means, any other means, of propulsion.  Kathryn Janeway stepped through the doors, now propped open, and found her chief engineer pounding a console in sheer frustration.  She softened her words from a demand to a request.

           “B’Elanna, how’s it going here?  Have you had any luck?”

           “None, Captain.  All we have left is a small amount of deuterium and the ion engines.  I’ve tried everything I can think of, but without dilithium and with the damage to the impulse drive so severe, our options are extremely limited.  Until we can repair our impulse engines, or find a source of dilithium crystals, we are almost dead in the water.  And our power supply is running low as well.  It’s nearly as bad as before we found the demon planet years ago; you remember.”

           “I do indeed.  Unfortunately, Seven has yet to discover any possibilities either.”  She changed the subject.  “I’m setting up command here temporarily, until the bridge is habitable again, whenever that is.”

           B’Elanna didn’t look very happy about that, but she knew it was the logical place.  They had done it before when the bridge had been rendered useless, but she hadn’t liked it.  She looked on engineering as her personal kingdom and she really didn’t want command cluttering up her domain.  However, there was no choice now and she knew it, so she nodded her head in acceptance.

           A day earlier, a fleet of ships, space pirates as it turned out, had suddenly surrounded Voyager.  There had been no time to take flight or even mount much of a defense.  Shuttles had attached to the hull at different levels and cut right through it with surgical precision.  Boarding parties had followed quickly.  Two security officers had been killed in one of several running firefights through the corridors; Tuvok had been injured in another.  Commander Chakotay had suffered two flesh wounds – one to his leg and one on his side, and a mild concussion when his head banged against the wall as he fell.  Janeway had surrendered after that.

           The pirates had quickly and efficiently stripped the ship of all the dilithium crystals and nearly all the deuterium.  They were gone twenty minutes after the initial attack, but not before completely disabling the impulse engines and setting delayed charges on the bridge.  Fortunately, the crew had had time to evacuate and the detonation had not damaged any other deck.  They certainly knew what they were doing, thought Janeway.

           She sighed and looked around engineering.  If nothing else, her crew had had a lot of practice at improvising.  They would manage.

           After settling in the bridge crew and organizing repairs to the hull breaches, she made a ship-wide announcement.

           “All hands, this is the captain.  We have suffered an almost total loss of power, similar to several years ago before we found the demon planet.  But we survived then and we’ll survive now.  From this moment, the ship will operate in gray mode.  We must shut down as many decks as possible.  Beds are being set up in the mess hall; decks one, six, seven, eight, nine, twelve, thirteen, fourteen and fifteen will be closed down.  Double up, triple up if need be, on the remaining decks.  Command is temporarily located in engineering, until the bridge is usable.  Sickbay will remain where it is.  Replicators are restricted to emergency use only.  We’ve done this before, people; we can do it again.  Janeway out.”

           Hours later, the captain finally had her ship underway.  The hull breaches had been sealed, more or less, the crew’s living arrangements sorted out, and Tom had a course laid in for the Alpha Quadrant.  She gathered up B’Elanna and headed to the mess hall.  They both needed food – she just hoped it would be edible.

           “B’Elanna, you go ahead.  I want to stop by sickbay.”

           “I’ll come with you, Captain.  I want to see how Chakotay is.”

           But the commander was not there when they arrived.  “He insisted he was fine, Captain, and walked out.  He’s not fine,” complained the doctor.

           She heaved a sigh at the sight of his scowling face and tried to distract him.  “How is Tuvok?  I don’t see him here, either.”

           “I have tended his injuries and released him to his quarters.  He said he wished to enter a ‘healing trance’.”

           At her raised eyebrow, he added.  “He is wearing a cortical monitor, so I will be notified when he reaches a certain level of consciousness, and can be there to help him come out of it.”

           “Very good, Doctor.  You seem to have everything under control.  I will hunt down the commander.”

           She turned to follow B’Elanna who had already left, but the doctor called her back.  “If you could just get him to rest, Captain, that would be the best treatment.  As far as his wounds are concerned, I’ve done all I can.”

           “I understand.  I’ll see what I can do.”

           This time, she made it out the door before he could say anything else.
She waited until she was at the turbolift before hitting her commbadge.

           “Janeway to Chakotay.”

           “Yes, Captain?” came his weary voice.

           “Where are you, Commander?  Why did you leave sickbay?”

           “I’m in the mess hall, helping Neelix.”

           “Ah, I see.”  And she did.  With Chakotay’s subtle nudging, the food might be half decent.  “I’ll be there shortly.  Janeway out.”

           The atmosphere in the mess hall was more cheerful than she would have expected.  Neelix was in full morale officer mode but she attributed most of the raised spirits to Chakotay.  He had a way of finding the good in the worst situation, even this one.  As she came up to him, she saw how tired he looked, even though there was a smile on his face.

           “Commander, go and sit down.  I’ll help Neelix,” she said.  He turned around and she caught a flash of dimples.

           “You?” he asked.  “You and Neelix?  Together?!  We’re trying to keep the crew alive, not poison them!”  This got a chuckle from all those within hearing.  She would keep this going.

           “I’m not that bad.  I can cook, you know, if I have to.”

           “Kathryn, you’re the only person I know who not only can’t boil water, but can’t program a replicator properly either.”

           “That’s not true!”

           “Oh?  I heard from Harry who heard from Lindsay Ballard about your liquefied pot roast.”

           “I still think that was caused by an unexplained power surge.  And I can too boil water – most of the time.”

           Laughter rolled around the room at this.  It was good to hear, she thought, and with her immediate goal accomplished, she turned her attention back to her first officer.  He really didn’t look well and as she took his arm, he seemed to stumble a little.

           “Come sit down, Chakotay.  You’re overdoing it and need to rest.”

           “I do feel a bit light headed.  Just for a few minutes, though.  Someone has to keep an eye on Neelix.”  Jenny Delaney came up to them then.  “Don’t worry, Commander.  Megan and I will give him a hand.  We haven’t anything else to do, anyway.”

           Janeway nodded her thanks and led him to the sofa.  She sat at one end, and pulled him down beside her.  “Lie down, Chakotay.  Put your feet up.”

           “And my head?”

           “Right here,” she answered, patting her lap.  He looked at her, puzzled.  “That’s an order.”

           “Yes, ma’am.”  And he did as she directed.  Neelix came over as he settled, a smile on his face.  “Oh good for you, Captain.  I’ve been trying to get the commander to rest for some time.  Can I get you anything?”

           “A plate of whatever you have would be fine, thank you.” He hurried off to the galley.

           “Kathryn,” came his voice from her lap.  “You realize that the crew are going to jump to conclusions.”

           “At this point, Chakotay, I don’t care.  You’re more important than what they think.  Now, are you comfortable?”

           “Oh yes, although ….there, that’s better”, as he shifted slightly. Her hand came to rest on his tattoo, which she began to trace very gently.  He wondered if she was aware of what she was doing and decided not to draw her attention in case she wasn’t.  He closed his eyes, inhaled the scent that was uniquely Kathryn and drifted off.

           By the time Neelix came back, he was sound asleep.  Janeway held her finger to her lips before taking the proffered plate.  He nodded and made a point of telling the nearest crewmembers to keep their voices down.  B’Elanna, having finished her meal, came up to discuss alternatives, not that there were any.  The sight of the black head in Janeway’s lap brought a smile to her face.

           “I’ve never seen him look that peaceful, Captain.  I’m glad.  God knows he could use it.”

           “He told me once that I …” and she stopped as she realized she was about to reveal a very personal moment, one she had tried to forget sometimes when the captain had to take over.

           “That you what?”

           “That I …. brought him peace,” and her eyes shone with tears that she couldn’t shed.  B’Elanna saw anyway and patted her arm.

           “You know he loves you.”

           “I know he did.  I don’t know if he does anymore.  It was a long time ago, and I … I can’t let myself, can’t let him ….”  She bowed her head, unable to finish.

           “He still does.  I’m sure of it.”  And she laid a gentle hand on his hair for an instant.  Janeway saw more than she was meant to in that touch and looked up in some surprise.  “B’Elanna, did you….?”

           “Once, an even longer time ago.  But we were in the Maquis then, and there was never time, and Seska was there.  He never knew.  And I don’t anymore, not like that.  Don’t say anything to Tom though, will you.  It would only upset him, and there was nothing ever there anyway.  It was just me, never Chakotay.”  And she touched him again very briefly.

           Janeway smiled then.  “It will stay between the two of us.  And you won’t say anything about …?”

           “No, Captain.  That will stay between the two of us as well.  Uh, could I ask you something, though?”  At her nod, she continued.  “Do you love him?”

           Janeway looked down at him, laid her hand on his hair and smiled.  “Oh yes.  I’ve loved him for a long time.”

           “But you’ve never told him.”

           “What good would it do?  We can’t do anything about it.  Not as long as I’m the captain.”

           “I think he might like to know.  It’s your call, but ….I think he would.”

           “Mmm.  I’ll tuck away that thought.  Now, we better get back to business.”

        ____________________________________________________


           Two days later, Janeway was at her wits’ end.  They had cut back power even more, but were finding it increasingly difficult to stave off the inevitable.  At this rate, life support would fail before they could get very far.  She wondered if she should simply set the self-destruct now; at least, her crew wouldn’t suffocate.  As she was mulling it over, and about to ask Chakotay for his advice, the miracle happened. 

           “Astrometrics to Captain.”

           “Janeway here.”

           “Long range sensors have detected a possible source of deuterium.”

           “On my way.”  She caught Chakotay’s attention.  “Commander.  Join me.”

           The two senior officers left engineering and proceeded to astrometrics, which had been kept active when the rest of deck eight had been shut down.

           “What have you got, Seven?” demanded Janeway as they walked through the doors.

           “A system of several planets and assorted moons orbiting a G-type star.”  Rather than use the wall display, she diagrammed the location on her console.  They leaned around her shoulders to look at the star chart.

           “As you can see, it is within attainable distance, even on thruster power alone.  I would estimate we could reach it in approximately ten days.”

           “Best thing I’ve seen in over a week.  Is there anything else there besides deuterium?”

           “A number of ores in their natural state, some of which would prove useful.  The second and third planets have fairly sophisticated ecological systems.  We might well find edible plants.”

           “Life signs?”

           “None, Captain.  Or none that register on our sensors.” 

           Captain looked at commander, asking her question without saying a word.  He gazed back and nodded his head.  Seven watched, fascinated by their non-verbal communication.  They smiled briefly at each other, then turned for the door.

           “Keep me informed, Seven,” Janeway flung over her shoulder as they exited.

           Days later, Voyager finally arrived at the system.  From what scans they could run, they had determined that the third planet would best meet their needs.  Oceans covered approximately three-fifths of the surface, with two land masses of about equal size covering the rest.  A wide variety of vegetation grew over much of the area, although there was a large desert on the southern continent.  The climate ranged, for the most part, from temperate through tropical – all in all, a veritable paradise.

           B’Elanna was equally as pleased with the diversity of ores and minerals.  “We should be able to refine everything we need, Captain,” she reported excitedly.  “It’s a real treasure trove.”

           “Glad to hear it.  Now, about repairs.  Should we land the ship?”

           “It would make the work much easier, and, therefore, faster.”

           “Good enough for me.  Let’s do it.  Mr. Paris!” called out the captain, as she circled around the warp core.  “We’re taking her down!”

           “Aye, Captain.”

           Tuvok opened a ship-wide channel.  “All hands, go to Code Blue.  Repeat, Code Blue.”

           Tom went through his checklist.  “Plasma injectors – closed.  Inertial dampeners – offline.”  Voyager began to drop.  “Landing gear – lowering.”

           Down she sailed through the layers of atmosphere.  At three thousand meters, Tom slowed the rate of descent.  “Landing struts down and locked into position.”  The ship floated like a great silver insect, lower, lower still, until she touched the ground with a gentle bump.  The captain smiled approvingly.  “Very nice, Mr. Paris.”

           “Thank you, Captain.  It does get easier with practice.”

           Janeway shouted.  “Let’s get to work, people!  We have a lot to do!”

     ______________________________________________________


           At Chakotay’s suggestion, the captain turned over command to him and assigned herself to an engineering repair team.  The idea made sense from several points of view.  Janeway knew her way around an engine room better than many of the engineers, whereas Chakotay’s expertise definitely lay more in the area of personnel – juggling assignments, rearranging duty rosters, putting the right people in the right place.

           Likewise, Harry Kim joined his captain on a repair team while Tuvok, now fully recovered, manned both ops and his regular position at tactical.

           With the entire crew expending maximum effort, repairs were mostly completed in a week, much to B’Elanna’s delight and Janeway’s relief.  She had been very worried that the pirates might suddenly swoop down, catching the ship at its most vulnerable, on the ground.

           Late in the evening of the seventh day, Chakotay found the captain alone in the mess hall, the ever-present cup of coffee in her hand.  On the table was a mostly untouched plate of what he recognized as dinner.  He made his way over to her, noting the drooping head and slumped posture.  Here was one tired woman.

           “Captain,” he called softly, getting no response.

           “Kathryn.”  Nothing.
       
            He was close enough now to see her eyes were closed – she was asleep!  Amazing that she hadn’t spilled the coffee, he thought.  The cup must be glued to her hand.

           He stood behind her, placing his hands on her shoulders, and began to knead them very gently.  He felt her tense slightly, then relax into his massage.  Her head fell forward allowing him to work the neck muscles with his thumbs.  She moaned softly.  He let his hands slow.

           “Had enough?”

           “Oh no, don’t stop!  That feels wonderful!”

           He smiled, remembering a time long ago, when he had gotten a different answer.  He dug his fingers in a little harder, trying to ease the knots of tension.  She twisted her head from side to side, stretching.  He stilled his hands, letting them lie on her shoulders, then bent over, just brushing a kiss on her hair.

           “Remember?” he asked in a low voice.

           She smiled nostalgically.  “Yes.”  Her voice was huskier than usual.  “I’m not likely to forget.”

           The doors behind them hissed open.   Instantly Chakotay dropped his hands and stepped around to face her, once more the consummate first officer.

           “Thank you,” she murmured.

           He sat and grinned at her.  “Actually, I came to ask your opinion about an idea I’ve had.”

           Her eyes flew up to his.  “Really?  Well,” she grinned back,” you came to the right place.  I always have an opinion.”

           He gazed at her speechless, memories flooding his mind, regret washing over his features before he looked down at the table.  “Oh, Kathryn,” he whispered, feeling the pain of forced denial all over again.

           She bit her lip.  She had spoken the words impulsively, only to tease.  Obviously, she had done more than that.  She stretched out a hand.

           “Chakotay, I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to reopen old wounds.”

           He stared down a moment longer, then took her hand.  “It’s all right.”  After a few more seconds, he was able to lift his eyes to her.   Recalling her recent conversation with B’Elanna, she felt her heart leap, before she also remembered all the reasons why they couldn’t be together.  Damn!  Time to change the subject.

           “What was your idea?”

           He took a deep breath, visibly returning to the present.  “The crew have all worked so hard, and there are some lovely beaches here – how about letting everyone have twenty-four hours shore leave?”
          
           “I would like to get off the planet as soon as we can.  If those pirates find us….”

           “Granted.  But I think it’s worth the risk.  Everybody would have to stay pretty close to the ship, and we would deploy more sensors, increase their range, to warn us of any approaching vessel.”

           “It does sound tempting.  Oh sure, why not?  God knows, we all deserve it.  Shall we say starting tomorrow morning?”

           “Agreed.  I’ll post the announcement now.”

           He rose to his feet, then stood staring at her.  “Are you going to stay here or go to your quarters?”

           She glanced up at him, knowing he wouldn’t leave until she did.  “I’ll be good.  I’ll go.”

           They exited the mess hall together, and he escorted her to her door, making small talk all the way, trying to ignore the ache in his heart.  She wasn’t fooled for a minute.  As he bade her goodnight, she laid her hand on his chest.  He recognized the apology and nodded, before retiring to his own quarters.  Maybe, if he was really lucky, memories of New Earth wouldn’t keep him awake all night.

        _____________________________________________________


           By the following evening, the captain and commander had put the incident behind them.  A day with nothing to do but play with his crewmates had done much to restore Chakotay’s equilibrium.

           At first, Kathryn had been unsure of his emotional state that morning, but five minutes in his company had been enough to tell her that he had found his balance.  She was able to relax then, joining in the banter and teasing which was flying about the mess hall.

           She actually saw very little of him during the day, as she was kept busy either judging a sandcastle contest, or participating in a relay race, or presiding over an impromptu art show.  He, in turn, was called on several times to referee good-natured disputes over who had won a particular competition, and spent the rest of his time circulating through the crew, ensuring that no one was left out unless they wished to be.

           As the sun dropped down below the horizon, and the first stars peeked out, a huge bonfire was lit.  Neelix had organized a buffet-style meal; one by one, everyone gathered up a plate of food and settled down to eat in the light of the flames, tired but content.  It had been a wonderful day, they all agreed.

           Kathryn stood to one side, watching them, enjoying a rare feeling of satisfaction.  It had been a good day, one to be remembered and treasured.  She felt a presence behind her as a voice spoke softly in her ear.

           “Feel like some dinner?”

           “There you are, Chakotay!  I’ve hardly seen you since this morning.  Yes, let’s get something, shall we?”

           They walked slowly along the serving table, filling their plates as they exchanged bits and pieces of news and gossip.  She glanced around as they came to the end.

           “Where shall we sit?”

           “I have a blanket spread beside a log – over there.  It’s a bit further away from the fire.  Is that all right?”

           “Oh yes.  I don’t want to be a constraint on their fun.”  They reached the spot.  “This is perfect.”

           They sat down side by side, backs against the log, and without more ado, dug into their dinner.  The crew knew they were there, but after a while, mostly forgot about them.

           When they had finished, Chakotay took their plates, returning with a cup of coffee for her and tea for him.  They sat, silent and content, watching and listening to their people.  When she dropped her mug for the third time, he took it from her, as she yawned.

           “Oh dear, I can’t stay awake.  Maybe I better go back to the ship.”

           “Do you want to?”

           “No, I’d rather stay here, but….”

           “Then stay.”  He turned towards her.  “Why don’t you move here, between my legs, and you can lean on me?”

           “Do you really think that’s a good idea?”

           He shrugged, his tone disinterested.  “It’s up to you, Kathryn.  I’m just offering an alternative.”

           She was very tempted – she really didn’t want to go back just yet.  Maybe a few minutes wouldn’t hurt; after all, it was no worse than when he had slept with his head on her lap in the mess hall, over two weeks earlier.  She rose and clambered over him, settling down between his knees, half-reclining against his chest.  Her head fit just nicely on his shoulder.
 
           His arms came around her loosely, hands resting on her waist.  All quite proper and innocent, she told herself, knowing it wasn’t proper at all.  She decided she didn’t care.  He felt nice and solid and warm, and she was too comfortable to move.  Before she knew it, she had drifted off.

           Chakotay felt her body relax, and smiled to himself.  He hadn’t expected her to fall asleep quite so quickly, but he wasn’t sorry.  She needed it, he knew, and besides, it gave him the chance to indulge himself, studying her face when her guard was down. 

           Very rarely had he ever seen her asleep.  Even on New Earth, she had never rested, always busy with one project or another.  Once or twice, on the hottest days, she had condescended to take an afternoon nap, but only when he had reminded her that she didn’t have to work to a deadline anymore.

           Now, he let his eyes examine her face, noting the lines that seemed to have increased in the last year, the mouth still tense, even at rest.  Impulsively, he lifted and turned her, bringing her closer, cradling her on his lap, stroking her hair and arm.  She responded at once, snuggling tighter to him in her sleep.  He could feel her slow, even breaths on his neck.

           After a while, he dozed off too, still holding her.

           An hour later, as the crew began to wander back to the ship, Tom and B’Elanna suddenly wondered where their senior officers had gotten to.  A quick check of the computer revealed that they were still on the planet somewhere.  Tom’s eyes began to gleam with mischief, a look B’Elanna recognized all too easily.

           “No, Tom!  Don’t even think about it!”

           “Aw, come on, B’Ella.  That particular pool is still open, you know.  Think of all those lovely replicator rations just waiting to be snapped up!”

           “No!”

           He pretended to sulk.  “You’re no fun.”

           She turned to face him, a feral light in her eye.  “Oh?  You think not?”  Her voice dropped to a sultry growl.

           “Uh, no, that’s not what I meant!”

           “Hmm,” she purred, leading him on.

           “B’Ella, really!  Of course you’re fun!  Lots of fun!  More fun than anyone!” 

           He backed away, holding out his hands to thwart the attack he knew was coming.

           “No fun, huh?!” she snarled suddenly and pounced, knocking him down, then sinking her teeth into his neck.

           “Ow!  B’Elanna!”

           “What’s the matter, Tom?” she smiled with all her teeth showing.  “Wimping out?”

           “Yes,” he replied honestly, then scrambled to his feet, catching her unawares.  He took her hand and pulled her up, all thoughts of betting pools forgotten, which was precisely what she had intended.

           They started back to the fire when Tom stopped abruptly.

           “What?  Why are you….?”

           “Ssh.  Look.”  He pointed to one side.  There, propped up against a log, were their commanding officers, wrapped very comfortably around each other, sound asleep.

           Tom glanced at B’Elanna and found her trying not to laugh.  “They really do look cute together, don’t they?” she said into his ear.  “Too bad we have to wake them up.”

           “Why?”

           “Why what?”

           “Why wake them?”

           “Because someone else will come along, and they’ll be embarrassed and….you get the idea.”

           “Yeah.  Seems a shame, though.  They look so – peaceful.”  He continued to stare.  “What if we beamed them onto the ship?”

           “I don’t follow.”

           “That big chair in her quarters, the one she likes to read in?  What if we beamed them into it?  Could you do it?”

           “Yeah, probably.”  Her face broke into a grin.  “You’re a pig, Paris, but a very nice pig.  Let’s do it.”

           They chuckled to each other as B’Elanna contacted the ship and beamed up.  This was one transport she would perform herself.  Tom stayed on the planet to make sure all went according to plan.  Within a few minutes, the transporter beam engulfed Kathryn and Chakotay, depositing them precisely in her large armchair.  Neither stirred.

      _____________________________________________________


           Two hours later, Kathryn gradually woke up, aware she had to use the bathroom, but quite unsure where she was until she opened her eyes.  What on earth!  She shook her head and looked again.  These were her quarters, all right.  And she was on the commander’s lap!  How had she ended up here!

           She carefully climbed out of his grasp and stood, staring at her surroundings.  ‘I’m not sure I want to know’, she thought, before disappearing into the bathroom.

           Despite her efforts not to wake him, her movement had roused Chakotay.  He glanced around, just as astonished as she had been, then, when he couldn’t see her, decided he better leave.  He rose and headed out her door, returning to his quarters.

           Kathryn came out of the bathroom, all set to discuss with him what might have happened, only to find him gone.  This was most peculiar!  She stood in the middle of her living area, hands on hips, going over the evening’s events.
        
           The last thing she remembered was settling against Chakotay’s chest, and very comfortable it had been, too.  They had been on the beach, yes, leaning against a log.

           She mulled it over some more, head on one side, before coming to a decision.  She took a deep breath.  Right.  If she was going to do this, she  better do it now.

           “Computer, locate Commander Chakotay.”

           “Commander Chakotay is in his quarters.”

           She hurried through her door, down the corridor and rang his chime before she could lose her nerve.

           “Kathryn?” he sounded surprised and more than a little uncertain when the door opened.

           “Hi.  Uh, can I come in?”

           He stepped aside for her to enter, then stood waiting.  She hesitated, suddenly unsure of what to say.

           “What is it?” he asked as she stood tongue-tied in front of him.

           “I, uh, was wondering why you left just now.”

           Now it was his turn to stare, speechless.  Before he could find any words, she went on.  “I was quite comfortable, you see.  I only got up because I had to and… I was sorry you weren’t there when I got back.”

           He swallowed.  “You were?”

           “Yes.  And I was….sort of hoping…..we could do it again.”

           “Do what?”  He was getting his bearings now.  “Can you be more specific?”

           “Well, uh, if I could sit….I mean, if you could…..oh hell, Chakotay!  You know what I mean!”

           “Yes, but I want you to say it.”

           She glared at him.  He shrugged his shoulders and began to turn away.  She was after him in an instant, grabbing his arm and yanking him around.

           “Fine!  I want you to hold me!  I want to feel your arms around me, nice and snug!  I want you to kiss me and I want to kiss you!”  She stopped, momentarily out of breath.

           He was grinning from ear to ear.  “Go on, Kathryn.  What else?”

           “Well,” her voice dropped to a sultry purr, and she took his hand, pulling him towards the bedroom, “lots of things.  Let me show you.”

           He stopped, mindful of her earlier concerns about expanding their relationship.  She turned back to face him, puzzled.

           “Chakotay?” 

           “Don’t get me wrong, but what about protocol?  Starfleet?  Command relationships?  All that boring stuff?”

           She frowned.  “You mean, why now?”

           “Yes.”

           “I don’t know exactly.  Maybe it’s a result of coming so close to losing everything.  If we hadn’t found that planet, we wouldn’t have survived.  I guess, subconsciously, that….thought had quite an impact.  I can’t spell it out for you, I just know that….I’m not waiting any longer.  I love you and I want you in my life.  I think you feel the same.”  She paused.  “Am I right?”

           He took her hands and pulled her tight against him.  “Oh yes,” he breathed, as he bent his head to hers, “very right.”

  THE END

   
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