Disclaimer: Paramount’s, Viacom’s, whatever. Dialogue from “Coda” and “Equinox” is theirs, too.

Rating: PG

Notes: As always, many, many thanks to Shayenne and Vanhunks for their honest and constructive criticism – I’ve tried to incorporate their suggestions as much as I could. And also to KJ, for her unflagging encouragement. I must admit I’ve sat on this story for nearly a year, unsure whether it was worth posting. But after going over it again – several times – I’ve decided…what the heck! I like it, so here goes. I hope others do, too.

A Marriage of Convenience

by Mary S.

Prologue:

“So what you’re telling me,” stated Captain Janeway as she stared at her senior staff seated around the table in the briefing room, “is that once again we’re poised on the brink of disaster.”

There was a general nodding of heads.

“It would appear we have no option but to initiate trade negotiations with the Mortallahns,” added Tuvok.

“Not my first choice,” muttered Kathryn, sighing heavily as she remembered the knowing stare she had received from the official who had hailed them when Voyager entered Mortallahn space.

“Perhaps,” continued Tuvok, “Commander Chakotay or I can conduct the negotiations.”

Kathryn shook her head. “It has already been made clear that to have anyone other than the highest-ranking officer present, ‘leader to leader’, as they call it, would be considered a grave insult.” She shrugged resignedly. “I have to go.”

Although he hadn’t spoken, she could feel the waves of disapproval radiating from her first officer. A glance towards him showed his head down, his gaze focused intently on the table, obviously unwilling to look at her. She sighed again. Maybe this time, things would go better than they had on Nica….

******************

Part 1:

“Now tell me,” leered the governor of Mortallah, “how did such a beautiful woman as you end up in our space?”

Kathryn groaned inwardly, recognizing all too well the lecherous undertone in his voice. ‘Again!’ she thought even as she pasted a polite smile on her face. What was it with the males in this region?! Each and every one seemed to have only a single topic in mind – and despite the question, it wasn’t about Voyager’s journey through the Delta Quadrant!

The man leaned closer, deliberately invading her personal space. “Well, Captain?”

“It’s a long story, Governor.” She tried to inject a note of discouragement while remaining polite, but apparently, subtlety wasn’t in his vocabulary.

A hairy arm snaked around her. “Then why don’t we adjourn to my private quarters where we can relax and you can tell me all about it?”

She attempted to move away, but his arm tightened its grasp, holding her in place. “Thank you, but I should be returning to my ship. My crew will –”

“– still be there in the morning,” he interrupted firmly. “Your first officer seems a very competent man; I’m sure he doesn’t need you to tuck him in…unless,” he paused, “you have a mate of whose existence I’m unaware. Our society has a very strict prohibition against adultery.”

Kathryn hadn’t known that little fact and for a moment, she was tempted, really tempted, to tell the lie that would get her out of this impossible situation, until common sense reminded her that undoubtedly, the governor had been in communication with Nica. Her assumption was born out a second later when he added, his eyes boring into hers forcefully, “However, the Nicans informed me – and several of your crew confirmed it when I inquired – that you are…unattached.”

“Unattached,” replied Kathryn steadily, grasping his arm and removing it, “but not uncommitted. My ship is my life.”

The governor’s face relaxed into a smile. “Oh well, then, no doubt you need a little diversion from all your responsibilities, a break in your routine.” He took her elbow and turned, forcing her to move with him. “Or if you prefer, you can view a more personal association between us as a guarantee that we will uphold our part of our trade agreement.” The threat was implicit.

Kathryn sighed. Always it came down to this – the good of her ship! Damn! She certainly didn’t want to submit to his demands but his threat was real and Voyager was desperate – again! – for the few supplies which his world could provide. These days, with replicators almost constantly off-line and the ship barely holding together, she and her crew were living hand to mouth, always on the edge of disaster.

What to do?! As she was practically frog-marched along the corridor, she cudgeled her brain frantically for alternatives but could think of nothing beyond outright refusal, which meant almost certain starvation for her people. And she couldn’t let them suffer and maybe die only because of a few scruples on her part, even though her flesh cringed at the thought of the governor touching her – just as she had cringed a month earlier on the Nican homeworld when the ruler there had made a similar demand. Then she had given in and spent the night with the prince, a brute of a man who had mauled her poor body until she could barely move. Only by sheer force of will had she been able to walk out of the palace the next morning and once on board the shuttle, she had promptly collapsed in agony.

Chakotay had first been horrified, then coldly furious at her for allowing herself to be abused in such a fashion. As he’d stood gazing down at her lying on the biobed in sickbay, an expression of disgust and revulsion had crossed his face, an expression that still shamed her, although she didn’t know what else she could have done. If she hadn’t agreed to the Nican prince’s blandishments, Voyager would have been driven away with nothing. As it was, the ship had only received enough food supplies to last a few weeks, which was why they had been forced to stop here, and why she was now on the point of acceding to the governor’s demand.

“The prince of Nica told me about you,” he gushed as he continued to propel her along an empty corridor, “and I am most anxious to discover if all he said is true.” He bent close to murmur in her ear. “He said you are willing to assume many positions and the touch of your hand is exquisite!”

‘Oh, that’s just wonderful!’ thought Kathryn, trying to push aside her revulsion. ‘No wonder he’s been so persistent. Clearly, my reputation has preceded me!’

Her combadge suddenly came to life. “Voyager to Janeway.”

Chakotay’s voice washed over her and she grabbed onto the sound of it desperately. “Janeway here.”

“Captain, we have finished loading the supplies but Lieutenant Torres is reporting a potential problem with the magnetic constrictors.”

Her heart gave a sudden mighty leap of joy. ‘Yes!! A last-minute reprieve! Thank you, Chakotay!’

Throwing her weight to one side, Kathryn managed to break the grip on her arm. “Beam me up immediately, Commander.” She smiled apologetically at the governor, who was looking confused and suspicious. “So sorry, Governor, but duty calls.” Her voice floated away as the transporter beam caught her.

Rematerializing on the ship, she breathed a heart-felt sigh of relief and stepped off the transporter pad to face her first officer who was staring at her grimly.

“Thank you,” she smiled at him, “your hail came just in the nick of time. I assume the constrictors are fine?”

“No, Captain, as I told you, they’re not,” he answered, his face tightening into lines of worry. “B’Elanna thinks it may be the last supply of dilithium, the stuff we got at Nica, which has contaminated them, but the seals are starting to degrade. Now tell me,” he continued changing the subject as he followed her into the corridor, “what did I rescue you from?”

Kathryn tried to think fast but it wasn’t fast enough. Chakotay knew her too well – his face darkened with anger.

“Harry was keeping a sensor lock on you,” he told her. “He said you were moving away from the public area of the palace, accompanied by a Mortallahn.”

Her face flushed with a mixture of annoyance and embarrassment but she knew she might as well tell him – most likely he’d figured it out anyway. “Let’s just say the governor was demanding a little extra payment for the supplies they’ve given us.”

Chakotay stopped in his tracks. “Again?!” Reaching out, he grasped her arm as she kept moving, forcing her to turn around. His eyes bored into hers. “He hadn’t, by any chance, happened to talk with the prince on Nica…had he?”

Her gaze fell to the floor which told him the answer. “Damn it, Kathryn!” He seized her shoulders, actually shaking her. “This has to stop! You can’t whore your way across the Delta Quadrant for the sake of the ship!”

Her eyes blazed at his words and she growled, “I’ll do whatever I have to in order to keep this ship safe as well as the people on it! And if that means I have to sleep with every goddamned official we meet in this godforsaken quadrant, I’ll do it!” Abruptly, she spun out of his grasp and marched to the turbolift.

Chakotay was so stunned at her tirade that she had disappeared before he realized she was gone. Shaking his head over this new worry, he followed more slowly. Whatever happened, he couldn’t allow her to carry out her threat. He simply couldn’t! There must be a way to stop her somehow.

For a moment longer, he wracked his tired brain before deciding that two heads might be better than one. He slapped his combadge. “Chakotay to Tuvok.”

“Tuvok here,” came the immediate response.

“I need to discuss a matter of ship’s business,” replied Chakotay, unwilling to take the chance of anyone overhearing their conversation. “Where are you?”

“In my office, Commander. Do you wish –”

Chakotay interrupted. “Fine, I’ll be right there.”

=^= =^= =^= =^= =^= =^=

Not surprisingly, Chakotay soon discovered that not only was Tuvok fully apprised of the captain’s injuries from her stay on Nica but also how she had acquired them. Although his features remained dispassionate, Chakotay knew him well enough to easily read his disapproval of her behaviour.

When the commander described the latest incident on Mortallah, as well as his recent conversation with her, Vulcan self-control was severely tested. Despite himself, Tuvok frowned.

“Like you, I cannot condone such behaviour, Commander, although I suspect my lack of approval will have very little effect. Both of us are well aware that Captain Janeway will go to any lengths to protect her crew.”

“Including prostituting herself to the entire Delta Quadrant,” added Chakotay bitterly. “So how do we protect her from herself?”

Slowly, Tuvok steepled his fingers, gazing at them abstractedly as he examined various options. After a few minutes, during which Chakotay remained silent, the Vulcan looked up. “What the captain needs is a guardian, a protector….”

Chakotay’s eyes sparkled with a sudden idea. “A husband!”

One eyebrow rose slightly although Tuvok’s face remained impassive as he considered Chakotay’s suggestion. Finally, he nodded slowly. “I had not considered that personal a connection, but a husband would certainly serve adequately.” Again, he paused a moment before adding, “Although for various practical reasons, the only possible candidate is you.”

For several moments, Chakotay remained silent, contemplating possibilities that he had long ago put aside as unattainable. Maybe there was hope yet, although there were several hurdles to overcome. The first one was sitting across the table.

“Would that be a problem for you, Lieutenant?” It was a critical question – without Tuvok’s support, there was no way Chakotay would ever be able to convince Janeway of a scheme that she would immediately condemn as outrageous.

The Vulcan shook his head. “Indeed not. You have demonstrated many times your concern for the captain’s welfare.” His gaze shifted momentarily to his hands before he sat back in his chair and focused on Chakotay. “Centuries ago on Vulcan, before the time of Surak and before women had achieved full equality with men, it happened occasionally that a man and woman would enter into a so-called ‘marriage of convenience’…usually for reasons of material gain but sometimes for protection.” At Chakotay’s surprised stare, he explained, “A situation might arise wherein a woman was widowed prematurely, through accident or war. If she were a person of substance, with no immediate family, she might prefer to have the protection of a husband without initiating a mating bond. He in turn would gain the prestige of adding her assets to his own, thereby improving his status within the community.

“Nowadays, of course, women are recognized as being perfectly capable of managing their own resources, and such marriages no longer occur. But it is a possibility we might consider.”

“What exactly are you suggesting?” Chakotay wanted to be absolutely sure that he wasn’t misunderstanding the Vulcan.

“I am suggesting that you might enter into such an arrangement with the captain – a marriage of convenience. That way, she would have the benefit of your protection as her husband and not feel constrained to continue to prostitute herself throughout the Delta Quadrant.”

“It would need to be a legitimate marriage, wouldn’t it?” mused Chakotay, “not a sham?”

“That would be best,” replied the Vulcan. “Then the crew would not be put in a position of having to lie should they be questioned. The senior staff could be witnesses so that no alien ruler could be in any doubt that it was real.”

“The hardest part will be convincing her of the necessity,” Chakotay brought up the biggest roadblock.

“I would suggest consulting the doctor, Commander. I know that on purely medical grounds, he was most disturbed about her ‘adventure’ with the Nican prince. He would not be pleased to learn it has nearly happened again.”

Chakotay wasn’t so sure about the wisdom of including the doctor in their plot. At times, the EMH irritated the captain almost beyond endurance. “Why don’t we begin with just the two of us?” he suggested. “We’ll keep the doctor as backup.”

“Perhaps that would be a more advisable approach.” Aware of the captain’s love-hate relationship with the doctor, Tuvok could see Chakotay’s point. “When do you wish to speak to her?”

Chakotay sighed. Good question. For discussing such an incendiary topic as this one, there was no ‘good time’.

“Now,” he decided. “The sooner, the better, while the memory of her most recent encounter is still fresh. Otherwise, by tomorrow, she’ll have rationalized it into a trivial incident.”

Tuvok nodded and activated his combadge. “Tuvok to Janeway.”

“Janeway here.” She answered at once. “What can I do for you, Tuvok?”

“The commander and I have discovered a problem, which we need to discuss with you right away.”

“Very well. Come to my quarters. Janeway out.”

The die was cast.

As the two men rose to head out the door, Chakotay murmured with a grim smile, “Here goes nothing.”

=^= =^= =^= =^= =^= =^=

“You want to what?!” Janeway stared at Chakotay as if he’d suddenly grown two heads.

Gritting his teeth and reminding himself to be patient, Chakotay began again. In an almost unnaturally calm voice, he explained his concern for his captain’s safety and wellbeing, and his solution for her dilemma. “It would be a marriage in name only,” he finished, “nothing more. Once we’re out of this part of the Delta Quadrant, we could dissolve it, if you wished, although my advice would be to maintain it in case we encounter a similar situation again.” He debated what else he could say to persuade her before deciding he’d said all he could. She would either accept his recommendation or she wouldn’t. Although what else he could do to protect her, he didn’t know.

Slowly Kathryn paced across her living area before turning to face Tuvok, who had remained silent throughout the encounter. Stabbing her finger at him, she demanded, “And you agree with this plan? This…this charade?!”

Tuvok returned her penetrating gaze steadily. “I do, Captain.”

“But – what about Starfleet’s protocol on fraternization, about a captain becoming personally involved with a member of her crew?!”

Tuvok’s mouth tightened ever so slightly. “While I am…perturbed by such an infraction, certainly, it is my belief that Starfleet Command would agree that your safety takes precedence. You cannot continue on this course, Captain.” His gaze drilled into her, momentarily silencing her. “It is only a matter of time before you suffer a serious, possibly fatal, injury. The Commander’s suggestion, although radical, is based on logic.”

During the entire time he was speaking, Janeway’s eyes never left his face, as if judging the level of his commitment to the cause. Apparently, she saw enough to convince her because she turned away to face Chakotay once more.

“What did you call it? A marriage of convenience?” she demanded.

“Yes, Captain,” he replied.

“And it can be annulled by either of us whenever we please.”

“Yes, Captain.”

With a heavy sigh, she plunked herself down on the couch. “All right,” she murmured in a low voice, barely audible.

“Captain?” asked Chakotay, not sure if he’d heard her correctly.

“I said all right, Commander!” she snapped. “What part of that didn’t you understand?”

Slowly, Chakotay’s face split into a wide grin. “None, Captain,” he replied slowly.

She spun away to face the viewport, muttering, “I must be out of my mind!”

“On the contrary, Captain,” Tuvok dared to contradict her, “I believe you have regained it.”

Her only response was a glare tossed over her shoulder, but it lacked its usual power. After a moment, she sighed heavily again and turned back to face them, her expression one of resignation. “So how exactly do you plan to put this little scheme into operation, Commanders?” Her stress on the final word left them both feeling suddenly unsure of their rank.

However, Tuvok made a quick recovery. “If you temporarily turn over command of the ship to me, I will perform the ceremony.” At her look of skepticism, he hastened to add, “It is quite legal, Captain. I have checked the regulations and there is nothing that indicates such an act is prohibited.”

“I don’t imagine there is,” she snorted, “since I doubt this question has ever arisen before!”

“That isn’t necessarily true,” interjected Chakotay, “we simply don’t know of one.”

“Hmph! Same thing!”

There was a moment’s silence before she gazed at them. “Very well. That answers the question of ‘how’, so when should we do this? And I expect we need witnesses….”

“Yes, Captain, we do,” replied Tuvok. “I would suggest the senior staff be apprised of our plan and asked to act as witnesses. That should suffice to fulfill the legal obligations. As to when…I’ll leave that up to you and the commander.”

Janeway tilted her head toward Chakotay. “Well, Commander? When do you want to get married?”

He answered with a shrug, tossing the ball back into her court. “Whenever you’re ready.”

“But?” She could tell he had something more to say.

Smiling gently, he added, “I think sooner rather than later would be advisable. B’Elanna has indicated that we will probably have to acquire more dilithium crystals as well as reline the seals of the magnetic constrictors, which means we must approach the Takendi. The planet of Takend is less than two light years away. From all we have heard, it appears to be another male-dominated society similar to the ones on Mortallah and Nica. I think it’s safe to assume your reputation will have preceded you there as well.”

Janeway nodded. “All right. Shall we say tomorrow morning then, at 0900 hours?” At Chakotay’s nod, she continued. “Fine. Now, gentlemen, if there’s nothing else, I think we could all use some sleep.”

The two officers bade her goodnight.

Once they were gone, Kathryn walked slowly into her bedroom, her brow furrowed. “I must be out of my mind,” she muttered softly as she began to prepare for bed, although she had to admit, despite her seeming reluctance, she was very relieved she would no longer have to endure the attentions of every tinpot ruler and dictator in the sector. As well, if she were honest, she also had to acknowledge that she was secretly elated at the thought of marrying Chakotay, even if it was in name only.

For a very long time now, she had harboured deep feelings for her first officer, feelings which she had carefully tucked away in a corner of her heart. As long as their situation remained the same, she was unable to act on those feelings, but at least now, she had the security of knowing that a formal bond with him would not only fend off any unwanted pursuit of her, but would also deter various females who might be thinking of a romantic liaison with him. ‘Kills two birds with one stone,’ she grinned to herself.

On that happier thought, she went to bed.

=^= =^= =^= =^= =^= =^=

The senior staff meeting was winding down the following morning when the captain delivered her bombshell. Rising to her feet, she glanced at Chakotay as if for reassurance before beginning to speak.

“There is one more item of business….” Her voice trailed off as she swallowed then took a deep breath.

To Tom Paris, she appeared nervous, which was completely out of character for his stalwart captain. Intrigued, he leaned forward to listen intently.

“Recently, Commander Chakotay and Commander Tuvok have expressed a concern for my personal safety. They believe that the inhabitants of this area of space are…unusually chauvinistic, particularly regarding women.”

“You can say that again!” interjected B’Elanna softly.

Janeway nodded. “Since it appears we will have to deal with several more societies in this region, which we may assume have the same cultural tendencies, the commanders have come up with a…unique solution. In short,” she paused for another deep breath, “they are recommending I get married.”

For a moment, there was a stunned silence before everyone started talking at once.

“Married!” exclaimed Tom Paris. “Wow! Who’s the lucky guy?”

“Captain!” B’Elanna looked stunned. “I…I don’t know what to say! I’m delighted, of course,” she hastened to add, suddenly aware that her captain was looking more than a little unsure. “It is Chakotay, isn’t it? I can’t imagine anyone else….” Her face broke into a warm smile of approval when Janeway nodded. “I’m so glad. You and he belong together.”

“Captain! Congratulations!” A beaming Harry Kim took Janeway’s hand, the genuine joy on his face warming her heart.

The captain smiled slightly to acknowledge their good wishes but her smile didn’t reach her eyes, a fact that Tom picked up on at once. Clearly there was more going on here than she was letting on. A quick glance at Chakotay confirmed his impression. Considering she had just announced their pending nuptials, he wasn’t exactly jumping for joy, as one would have expected.

Seven’s voice cut across the hubbub. “Chakotay is not at all suitable,” declared the former Borg. “If you marry him, your attachment will be legally binding. Why don’t you marry a hologram instead? Like Michael Sullivan, for example. Then your so-called marriage will not be real and you can return to your single state once we leave this part of space.”

Again, silence filled the room before Chakotay moved to Janeway’s side. “We considered that option, Seven, but both Tuvok and I agree that in order to guarantee the captain’s safety, the marriage must be legitimate. Which means no holograms.”

Seven subsided, although she continued to radiate disapproval, as Chakotay continued with an apologetic glance towards the EMH. “No offense, Doctor, but Federation law has not yet expanded to include legally binding unions between holograms and organics.”

“None taken, Commander,” replied the doctor graciously. “And may I also offer my congratulations. When is this happy event to occur?”

“As soon as I turn command of the ship over to Tuvok so he can perform the ceremony,” replied Janeway quickly, her eyes flitting across the room before landing on the Vulcan.

Before he could reply, the door slid open to admit Neelix, who hurried into the room, apologizing for being so late. “I’m very sorry, Captain, I lost track of the time. I simply had to make sure the raw torda was properly….” He stopped speaking as he realized everyone except Seven and Tuvok was gazing happily at Janeway and Chakotay. “What? What have I missed?”

“Only the biggest thing to happen on this ship in…oh, since we first arrived in the Delta Quadrant,” teased Tom. At Neelix’s blank look, he gave in and told him. “The captain and commander are getting married.”

“Married?! Captain!” he bolted forward to grasp her hands. “This is wonderful news! Congratulations!” Barely pausing for breath, he spun around to seize Chakotay’s hand, pumping it enthusiastically. “The crew will be overjoyed! To know you will finally be together as you should be –” He stopped abruptly as he noted Janeway’s and Chakotay’s solemn faces. “Captain, what is it? Aren’t you happy?”

Pursing her lips, Janeway looked helplessly at Chakotay, who merely raised an eyebrow. With a sigh, she turned back to Neelix, who was now quite bewildered. “Neelix,” she began, “this won’t be the usual sort of wedding. We want it to be very low-key, in fact for now, I think we’ll confine the news to the senior staff.” Raising her voice so everyone in the room could hear her, she continued. “I don’t want this matter discussed until I’m ready to make an announcement to the crew. This will be a marriage in name only; there won’t be any changes to the relationship between myself and the commander, either professionally or personally. We will go on just as we always have except for the fact that we are legally attached.” She stopped, obviously uncomfortable with disclosing any more information.

Noting the puzzled looks on several faces, Chakotay debated whether to amplify her explanation.

Before he could say anything, however, Tuvok was speaking. “You may not be aware that in the past month, the captain has twice been exposed to physical threats and abuse from those in power in this region.” At the collective gasp, he paused briefly then continued, “However, as we have explained, it appears the threat is considerably reduced if she has a husband. Apparently, married women are considered off-limits. It is for this reason that Commander Chakotay and I recommended this particular course of action.” His eyes bored into Neelix as he added, “Of course, that piece of information does not leave this room.”

“N-no, Captain, I promise not to breathe a word!” Neelix blustered in his usual fashion. “But – once you do make the announcement, couldn’t we have a party to celebrate? Just an informal gathering, if that’s what you’d like, but something to mark the occasion?” He looked so hopeful that Janeway couldn’t refuse.

“Very well, a small celebration,” she agreed, wondering yet again if she was out of her mind, but then she’d been thinking that a lot lately.

“That’s wonderful! Thank you, Captain!” Neelix was wreathed in smiles once more. “And I assure you, it will do wonders for the crew’s morale.” Tilting his head to one side, he regarded her. “Uh, have you decided when…?”

Chakotay chuckled. “That was the question being asked when you came in. Captain?”

She shrugged. “Now, Mr. Tuvok?”

He nodded. “Now, Captain.”

=^= =^= =^= =^= =^= =^=

Half an hour later, they were married.

At the critical moment, someone – neither of the bridal pair had any idea who – had produced a pair of plain gold rings, slipping one into each of their hands at the appropriate moment.

It was only when Kathryn heard Tuvok utter the words “…and I now pronounce you husband and wife…” that she realized the deed was done, although her brain was having trouble catching up to events. Married? Her?! After all these years??! It didn’t seem possible and yet, in the end, the actual ceremony had proved ridiculously simple. In the space of thirty minutes, her circumstances had changed drastically. Or had they?

The pressure of Chakotay’s hand made her look up at him. For a moment, he stared into her eyes, apparently reading her uncertainty, for when he bent to exchange the traditional kiss, it was a mere brush of his lips across hers, light as a feather.

“Everything will be fine,” he whispered reassuringly, “and now you’ll be safe.”

She smiled in reply before turning to face her senior staff, who were now surrounding them to offer their best wishes.

Tom even had the nerve to embrace her quickly, murmuring in her ear. “Even if it is a marriage in name only, I wish you and Chakotay every happiness, Captain.”

His simple words, uttered in complete sincerity, went straight to her heart and it was all she could do not to burst into tears. This entire situation was so impromptu, so bizarre, she didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. In the end, she hugged him back, whispering her thanks.

She wondered if he was the one who had replicated the rings but before she could ask, Neelix bustled forward, bestowing one of his famous Talaxian hugs on the newlyweds. “I think we should celebrate tonight, Captain, don’t you?”

His request made her pause as she examined her decision to keep her marriage secret. The prospect of having to tell the crew made her cringe with embarrassment – she hated the idea of them speculating on her private life. However, when she thought about it, there was nothing to be gained by waiting, so perhaps it would be best to get it over with as quickly as possible. “Very well, Neelix, but remember what I said. An informal gathering only, and no fuss.”

He nodded solemnly. “Understood. No fuss.”

From her other side, Chakotay spoke up. “How do you want to inform the crew? A ship-wide announcement?”

Kathryn shrugged. “I suppose. Or we could simply issue a general invitation to the party. Something along the lines of ‘you are cordially invited…’ and signed by both of us.”

“Actually, that sounds like a good idea,” he picked up her suggestion. “I’ll draft something right away.”

They were interrupted by Tuvok. “Captain, I believe it would be in order to return command of the ship to you.”

“Yes, Tuvok, you’re quite right.” She raised her voice. “And then – we better get back to work, hadn’t we?”

There was a general chorus of ‘yes, ma’am’ and ‘aye, Captain’ as her officers headed for the door.

Shortly thereafter, her command restored to her, Captain Janeway, newly-minted bride, followed by her first officer and now husband, returned to her bridge to resume her shift.

=^= =^= =^= =^= =^= =^=

At 1000 hours, the following notice was posted to every computer terminal on the ship.

Captain Kathryn Janeway and Commander Chakotay wish to announce their marriage which took place earlier today. You are cordially invited to join them at an informal reception in the mess hall tonight at 1900 hours.

By 10:05, intra-ship comm traffic had reached an all-time high.

At 10:10, the chief engineer made a ship-wide announcement that the entire system was about to crash; therefore, only essential communications would be permitted for the remainder of alpha shift.

In the mess hall, Neelix dashed about frantically, trying to research and then organize all the minutiae of a wedding reception in the space of a few hours, in between serving meals to the entire crew. In his enthusiasm, the captain’s edict of ‘no fuss’ was soon forgotten.

When Tom arrived after his shift to offer assistance, he was astonished to find the entire place covered in white and gold crepe paper, and liberally festooned with large pink roses. At one end of the room hung a giant banner reading:

Congratulations to Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay. May happiness attend you both every day of the rest of your lives.

Tom sighed, knowing the captain would be upset and embarrassed. He was well aware this was definitely not what she’d had in mind. “Uh, Neelix?” he called out. Looking around, he spotted the little Talaxian hanging up a bunch of ribbons in one corner.

“Tom! I’m so glad to see you. What do you think?”

Biting his lip, Tom debated how to phrase his objection tactfully. However, with Neelix, tact didn’t usually work. He opted for plain language. “Well, it’s…nice, but you remember the captain did say ‘no fuss’.”

At his words, Neelix almost visibly deflated. Coming to stand beside Tom, he looked around worriedly. “Oh dear! Do you think it’s too much? I want the captain and commander to know how happy we all are….” His voice trailed off as Tom shook his head.

“The banner has to go,” pronounced Tom. “It’s not that sort of marriage.”

Neelix’s face fell even further. “I know that’s what she said, but Tom…! It’s so obvious they’re in love with one another, even after all these years! Why can’t they admit it and be together like they should be?”

“Protocol,” answered Tom in a word. “Starfleet hammers it into every officer at command school. Senior officers, especially captains, do not become involved with their subordinates.”

“But it doesn’t make sense!” exclaimed Neelix. “I mean, maybe in the Alpha Quadrant where there are other Starfleet ships around but here, that means she has no one. And Tom, everyone needs someone.”

“I know. She’s been caught in a real bind for years.” His face took on a worried expression. “Something really bad must have happened to her on those last two planets to make her ignore the protocol, even to this limited extent.”

“You don’t know…?” The Talaxian’s voice was filled with honest concern.

“No, I don’t. And even if I did, I couldn’t discuss it.” He gazed at Neelix earnestly. “All we can do is let her, let them, know they have our unconditional support.” He glanced again at the banner. “I think the captain and commander would feel more at ease if that wasn’t there. Under the circumstances, it’s kind of blatant.”

“Yes, of course.” Neelix moved to the end of the room. “I’ll take it down right away – I certainly don’t want to make them uncomfortable. This situation must be difficult enough as it is.”

Tom chuckled. “I’ll tell you something, Neelix, and this is between you and me.” His eyes twinkled with merriment. “I don’t believe either of them is really unhappy about this marriage but you didn’t hear it from me.”

Neelix grinned happily. “A love match that pretends it isn’t.”

“Exactly.”

=^= =^= =^= =^= =^= =^=

The door chime sounded, alerting Kathryn she had a visitor. “Great!” she mumbled, as she scrambled through her meager collection of jewelry. “Come in,” she shouted, as her fingers finally located the missing earring.

Hurriedly, she glanced out the door to see Chakotay, dressed casually and looking very handsome, waiting for her. “I’ll be right out,” she called, “I’m almost…ready. There!” she added in triumph as she finally slid the earring into place. One last tug of her dress and she trotted out to meet him with a welcoming smile. “Shall we go?”

“In a minute, but first,” he reached into his pocket, “I have something for you.” He hesitated as if not sure what to say next.

Kathryn’s face creased in a slight frown. “Chakotay, that’s very kind of you but you didn’t need to.” She tried to let him down tactfully; despite their altered circumstances, she definitely did not feel comfortable accepting a gift from him. “Nothing’s really changed.”

“That’s not entirely true,” he retorted, his expression darkening. “While our marriage may only be a formality and we won’t be living together, we are legally wed.” He held up his hand to show her a silver pendant. “According to the traditions of my tribe, when a man and woman marry, the woman accepts a symbol from the man to show she is now joined to him. If he has a tattoo, she may have it copied onto her arm or shoulder but the symbol can also be an amulet holding special significance, or a necklace or bracelet created by him in a particular design.” He lifted his left hand, the gold ring glinting in the light. “It’s not so different from the tradition of a man and woman exchanging rings.”

She nodded her understanding but remained silent.

Encouraged by her apparent acquiescence, Chakotay continued. “Following that tradition, I have made this pendant for you.” He held it out to her. “Here.”

Reaching to take it, Kathryn lifted it up, her eyes examining it carefully. After a second, she gave a slight gasp. “It’s in the shape of your tattoo!” Her eyes snapped up to find him watching her closely.

“Yes,” he replied. “Given the rather unusual circumstances, it seemed to me that this was the most fitting way to honour my family’s traditions.” He stretched out his hand. “Let me put it on for you.”

Obediently, Kathryn handed it over, then turned her back as he clasped it around her neck. For a second, his fingers lingered in her hair before he stepped back. “What do you think? Do you like it?”

Quickly, she moved into the bedroom to examine her appearance in the mirror there. “It’s beautiful!” she called out, then hurried back to him, “And very appropriate. Thank you. I am honoured to wear it.”

Chakotay smiled in relief. He hadn’t been at all sure whether Kathryn would accept his gift. Perhaps the fact that she had agreed so easily meant that subconsciously, she was accepting this marriage even if she wasn’t yet ready to admit it. He was perfectly willing to wait until she did.

Offering his arm, he indicated the door. “Ready?”

Tucking her hand through his elbow, she nodded. “Lead the way…husband.”

As they left her quarters, he chuckled, “You know I could get used to hearing that.”

“Don’t hold your breath,” she retorted as they made their way to the turbolift.

As they arrived in the corridor leading to the mess hall, Chakotay caught a glimpse of a small figure dashing around the corner ahead of them. Grinning, he nudged Kathryn. “Did you see that? I think Naomi has been detailed as lookout. I wonder what they’re planning?”

His words made her frown apprehensively. “Oh dear, I hope Neelix hasn’t gone overboard. I really don’t want to be the centre of attention.”

Coming to a halt, he turned to face her. “Kathryn, we’re always the centre of attention, you know that. It won’t be any different than usual.”

“Won’t it?”

“Well, maybe a little, but I think once the novelty wears off, and they see us carrying on just as we always do, they’ll soon find something else to talk about.” He smiled gently and patted her hand. “Now where’s my brave captain who never backs away from a challenge?”

“Cowering behind her first officer just at present.” She tried to jest but Chakotay could tell she really was nervous.

“I thought Starfleet captains didn’t cower. Isn’t that in the rulebook?” he teased, trying to make her relax.

“They do when they’ve married their first officer and now have to face their crew. That’s in the rulebook, too.”

“No, it isn’t.” He stepped forward, tugging her beside him. “Come on, let’s do this in style and make an entrance.”

Kathryn started to roll her eyes at his nonsense but as Chakotay moved close to the mess hall door, it opened. Automatically, her head came up and a smile pasted itself onto her face.

As one, the crew broke into cheers and applause as the command team swept into the mess hall.

Smiling happily, Chakotay glanced down at Kathryn beside him and silently congratulated her on her performance. There was no sign of reluctance or nervousness now – she was the consummate leader, confident, sure of herself, showing not a hint of the apprehension she’d displayed only a moment before. Discreetly, he squeezed her fingers before releasing her to mingle with the crew. She would be fine just as she always was.

=^= =^= =^= =^= =^= =^=

Hours later, husband and wife ambled along the corridor on deck three towards their respective quarters, rehashing the evening.

“All in all,” summed up Chakotay, “I think it went very well.”

“And now it’s over with and we can get back to normal,” added Kathryn. She paused as they reached her cabin. “Want a nightcap to celebrate?” she asked as she activated the door.

“Sure, why not? After all, it’s not every day a person gets married. We should do something to mark the occasion.”

She nudged his arm as the door opened. “I thought we did that with the party.”

“The party was for the crew,” explained Chakotay, “I’m talking about the two of us.” He stopped a few feet into the room, gazing down at her, his eyes gleaming with an odd look she couldn’t quite decipher. Almost…hungry.

Turning away, she moved to the replicator. “Well, I guess if it’s a celebration, we should have champagne, shouldn’t we?” She hesitated.

“I think I’ve had enough champagne to last me for quite a while,” he frowned, “how about…an Irish coffee?”

“Two Irish coffees,” ordered Kathryn, grinning at him. “Coming right up.” She toed off her shoes, then picked up the steaming mugs before moving to settle on the couch, placing them on the low table in front. “Come and sit.”

Instead of taking his usual spot in the armchair, Chakotay moved to sit beside her, his knee brushing hers as he leaned forward to pick up the mug. He raised it high, saying, “To us. And to a safe and happy journey through the Delta Quadrant, as well as through our lives.”

His words made Kathryn frown slightly. She’d thought the parameters of their marriage had been clearly understood on both sides, but now she was beginning to question whether he was on the same page she was. She trusted him completely, she would never have agreed to such an arrangement otherwise, and yet tonight, his behaviour was slightly odd, a little different than normal. Her eyes flicked up to find him watching her over the rim of his cup. Unknowingly, her frown deepened.

“What’s wrong?” he asked, although he was pretty sure he knew. Kathryn always liked to be on top of any situation, she liked to know exactly what to expect. When that didn’t happen, it upset her equilibrium, throwing her off-balance. As far as he was concerned, a little loss of balance now and then was good for a person, it kept them flexible. And their current situation definitely called for a certain amount of flexibility in order to adapt to their changed circumstances.

Although on a rational level, she had agreed with the necessity of their marriage, on an emotional level, she had been fighting him over it all day. And while he wasn’t absolutely certain, he strongly suspected she was actually fighting her own attraction to him. At least, he hoped she was. But the only way he would ever get her to admit it would be to catch her off-guard, and that would not be at all easy.

Smiling at her, he let his eyes roam across her body before returning to her face.

His meaning was unmistakable and Kathryn flushed, annoyed to find herself reacting to his appreciative stare. He was teasing, wasn’t he? Picking up her mug, she turned her attention to the coffee, determined not to let him know how deeply he affected her. Marriage or not, that would never do.

“Nothing is wrong,” she answered his question airily, “nothing at all.”

“Good.” He too sipped from his cup before placing it back on the table. Lifting his hand, he gazed for a moment at the ring on his third finger. “Do you know where these came from?” He nodded towards her hand.

For a moment, she stared at him, not understanding what he was talking about.

He pointed at the ring. “It never occurred to me to replicate rings for the ceremony,” he explained, “and yet somehow, they magically appeared when we reached that point. I was wondering if you knew who had made them?”

Kathryn shook her head. “I didn’t see who put yours in my hand; suddenly it was there so I used it.” She fell silent, speculating on who might have been their benefactor. “My guess is it was Tom. That’s the sort of thing he’d do.”

“Maybe. Perhaps B’Elanna was involved, too.” Chakotay drained his mug and set it down before getting to his feet. “It’s late. I should let you get to bed.”

“Yes, I suppose so, although there is one matter….” Standing also, she paused to clear her head and marshal her thoughts. “I was…thinking…that we should probably discuss what each of us can expect from the other, now that our personal circumstances have changed.”

“Define parameters, you mean?” He tried and failed to keep the bitter tone out of his voice.

She nodded. “Something like that.”

“I told you a long time ago that I can’t define parameters in our relationship and that hasn’t changed. But I can promise that our marriage will be what you want it to be. All you have to do is tell me.”

His generosity of spirit nearly overwhelmed her. “Oh Chakotay! I don’t deserve you.”

He smiled gently. “All I ask is that you remember you are my wife.”

Standing on tiptoe, she grasped his arms for balance as she reached up to kiss his cheek in gratitude.

For a moment, they stood frozen in a loose embrace before Chakotay turned his head slightly and bent to take her lips in a passionate, soul-searing kiss that left her breathless and barely able to stand by the time it ended.

“If you ever decide to change your mind about ‘parameters’, that’s what is waiting for you,” he told her. Spinning on his heel, he disappeared through the door.

Kathryn was left to stare blankly at the spot where he’d been, her mind awhirl. Oh my! She had not been kissed like that in a very long time. In fact, when she thought about it, she didn’t think she’d ever been kissed like that. Talk about a throwing a monkey wrench into the equation! Here, she’d believed she had it all figured out so she could successfully rationalize what she’d done, and now he had to go and kiss her like there was no tomorrow! Her emotions were in complete turmoil; at that moment, all she wanted to do was march straight out her door and down the corridor to his quarters. But she couldn’t do that – she was the captain. Protocol had already been turned on its head. While she might – barely – be able to justify marrying her first officer, there was no way in hell she could rationalize climbing into his bed. It couldn’t happen until such time as they got home. Only when she could relinquish her captaincy could they actually be together as husband and wife. And that could well be a very long time indeed.

With a sorrowful sigh, Kathryn plodded into her bedroom and began to prepare for bed. There were times when life really wasn’t fair!

=^= =^= =^= =^= =^= =^=

By morning, Kathryn had regained her equilibrium. A part of her would always regret that she couldn’t allow Chakotay completely into her life but the bottom line was that the ship and crew had to come first. All her energy and determination must remain focused on her quest – to get them home, and sooner rather than later.

As well, Starfleet would be far more likely to listen to her request for full pardons for the former Maquis if she could convince the Board of Inquiry that she had no hidden agenda. Her relationship with Chakotay must be completely transparent with no hint of any behaviour other than would normally transpire between a captain and first officer. She had to make them believe she harboured no romantic feelings for him and that their marriage had been merely a ruse to augment her safety.

As she attached the four pips to her collar, she reminded herself of all the logical reasons why the barriers between them must remain in place, at the same time ruthlessly shoving away her heartfelt desire to tear them down. At least, she reminded herself, he couldn’t be snapped up by some enterprising female on the lookout for a little romance with a handsome man. Although Chakotay had rarely shown any desire to move on, she could hardly fault him if he decided he wanted more out of life than the platonic friendship she could offer him. A little dalliance was one thing but she knew he didn’t indulge in casual affairs; her fear, which she refused to acknowledge even to herself, was that he would find someone in the crew who would steal him away from her side for good. And that she wouldn’t like at all! Well, the ring on his finger would end that possibility and keep him tied to her, which, as far as she was concerned, was precisely where he should be, selfish as that might be.

With a satisfied smile, Kathryn strode out of her quarters. All in all, perhaps this marriage wasn’t such a bad thing after all.

=^= =^= =^= =^= =^= =^=

Meanwhile, in his quarters, Chakotay was engaged in a similar exercise. So maybe Kathryn wasn’t ready yet to alter their relationship but at least now she wouldn’t be defiled by every nasty alien in the Delta Quadrant. An image of Kashyk, the Devore inspector who, Chakotay suspected, had come perilously close to seducing her, crossed his mind. He had loathed the man, not only for what he was, but for the way he had so effortlessly brought Kathryn to heel. Whether the inspector had actually found his way into her bed, Chakotay didn’t know, nor did he want to. But even the possibility had been enough to send him into a rage, although he had been very careful to keep his anger well hidden. After all, he’d had no right to censure Kathryn and besides, he’d been afraid that Kashyk might well pick up on his jealousy and twist it into some nefarious plot.

Well, the Imperium was far behind them, thank the spirits. And now, with their marriage, this new threat had been successfully negated. He might have to wait a long time before their marriage was more than a formality but at least he could rest easy knowing that no one else would have her. And he didn’t mind – as far as he was concerned, she was worth waiting for, even if it took a lifetime.

Picking up his rank bar, he pinned it on his collar, grinning as he remembered her reaction to his kiss. He’d done it on impulse but the look on her face had been more than worth it. There was no question in his mind that she had been very tempted to toss aside her self-imposed barriers there and then. And the best part was she really couldn’t chastise him – as long as he didn’t do it again anytime soon. After all, even the most hidebound admiral would hardly deny a man a kiss with his bride on their wedding day.

Chuckling, he headed out the door. Yes, this marriage, even with all its limitations, might work out very well.

=^= =^= =^= =^= =^= =^=

A week later came the first test of Kathryn’s new status.

As Voyager approached the Takend system, Harry announced they were being hailed.

A round, hairy figure surmounted by an equally round and hairy head appeared on the viewscreen. “Captain Janeway!” exclaimed the creature with a smile that threatened to split his face in two. “I am the Patriarch of Takend Major. I’m delighted to finally meet you. The prince of Nica has spoken of you in the most glowing terms.”

‘I’ll just bet he has!’ groaned Janeway inwardly even as she pasted a smile on her face. “We are in need of certain items, Patriarch. I’m hoping we can negotiate a trade agreement with your people.”

“Absolutely!” The Patriarch’s smile stretched even further as he leaned into the viewscreen. “I trust you will be conducting the negotiations in person.” The leering tone left no one in any doubt what form he expected the ‘negotiations’ to take.

Janeway’s tone was firm. “My first officer, Commander Chakotay, is our chief negotiator, Patriarch. He will be leading the trade mission. As captain, my place is on my ship.” This argument hadn’t worked on either Nica or Mortallah but she figured it was worth another try.

“If you insist, Captain.” The Patriarch appeared to wilt slightly before he bounced up again in his chair. “But your presence will be required at the celebratory dinner, of course. Only the head of state, or ship in your case, can sign the agreements.”

“Very well,” replied Janeway, acquiescing gracefully. At least, she’d managed to cut down the time she’d have to spend on the planet. Hopefully, whatever supplies they managed to acquire would already be loaded before the Patriarch discovered she was no longer ‘available’.

“Excellent!” His smile was in place once again. “I am sending the landing coordinates now. We will expect your people shortly. And Captain,” his gaze swept over her in a calculating way, “I look forward to furthering our acquaintance.”

************************************

Negotiations proceeded swiftly.

By the end of two hours, Chakotay was able to return to the ship and report that he had been able to obtain not only enough foodstuffs to completely restock the cargo bays, but also a much superior grade of dilithium which would require very little refining to make it suitable for use in the warp core.

Kathryn’s face was wreathed in smiles. “Well done, Commander, you have achieved much more than I expected. B’Elanna will be ecstatic.”

His gaze rested on her almost thoughtfully. “Actually, I think it was the prospect of seeing you that hurried things along. Apparently, the Patriarch can’t wait to meet you in person. The signing of the agreements and the formal dinner are scheduled for tonight.” His expression became grave. “I hope we’re not going to run into any trouble when he finds out you’re no longer a single woman.”

“You didn’t say anything?”

Chakotay shrugged. “No, he didn’t ask so I figured why tell him and maybe have him break off negotiations. I didn’t want to take the chance of losing this opportunity to replenish our supplies.”

She nodded then asked, “When will they be loaded?”

“Once you’re on the planet. I assume your presence there will be a guarantee of sorts that we intend to uphold our end of the deal.”

“Hmm, then I guess I’ll have to be nice to him until we know everything’s aboard.” She glanced up at him with a slightly apprehensive look. “Will you be there?”

He reached forward to grip her shoulder. “Right beside you all the way.”

“Thanks. I know it’s silly, but having you there will make it much easier.”

“That’s what husbands are for, you know,” he grinned at her. His cheeky remark made Kathryn chuckle. She covered his hand briefly before moving to the door.

“Well, let’s go put these rings to good use,” she told him as the door slid open, “because it’s crunch time.”

“Yes, ma’am!”

***********************************

Although not at all pleased to discover that his much-anticipated night of passion was not to be, the Patriarch reluctantly conceded the captain’s new status. “I was not informed that you have a mate,” he complained querulously, as he stared in dismay at the gold band on the captain’s finger. “I do not understand why the Prince of Nica didn’t mention such a critical piece of information.”

“I was not married when we were visiting Nica,” explained Janeway calmly. “Events there…shall we say…‘hastened’ my wedding.”

The round face took on a calculating expression. “Since I…I mean, we…will not be receiving full payment for our trade goods, I think it only fair that you, uh, ‘contribute’ something extra.”

Chakotay frowned. “We have paid you in full, Patriarch, according to the agreement I negotiated with your emissaries.”

“Yes, well, no doubt they forgot to mention the matter of a…‘bonus’, if you will…for expeditious delivery”, he added in a moment of inspiration. His hairy brows tightened, suddenly making him look much more menacing. “Or, if you prefer, you can call it compensation.”

Kathryn opened her mouth to retort that no further payment would be forthcoming, but Chakotay placed a hand on her arm and squeezed hard, forestalling her objections. His gut feeling told him their situation had suddenly become precarious; somehow, they had to find a way through without appearing to insult the Patriarch. The man was no fool. Obviously, he’d realized that Janeway had taken steps to make herself unavailable, and was making it clear he would accept a bribe in exchange. But in order to allow him to save face before his own people, they would have to follow tradition. Which meant that in a male-dominated society such as this, he had to do the talking and she had to remain silent, as a proper wife should. Otherwise, there was no telling what actions the Patriarch might take if it appeared he’d been insulted.

Fortunately, Kathryn understood immediately and shut her mouth, albeit with something of a snap. Her glare bored into the Patriarch, letting him know in no uncertain terms that while she might have to abide by his customs, she didn’t have to like it.

“What did you have in mind?” asked Chakotay, trying to smooth over the awkward moment.

Recognizing the commander’s willingness to negotiate, the Patriarch was all smiles again. “I was thinking something along the lines of several of your scanning devices. Like that one,” he added, pointing to the tricorder attached to Chakotay’s waist.

The captain scowled but kept her silence. However, her first officer could feel every muscle in her arm under his hand stiffen with disapproval. “I could only allow you to have one,” he replied quickly, “but we could add a dozen isolinear chips – if, uh, that would help….”

The Patriarch’s eyes gleamed with avarice. “That would help, indeed, Commander.”

“Excellent. Our chief of security will have the items delivered to you shortly.” He felt his captain’s firm tug. “We must return to our ship now so that arrangements can be completed.”

The alien face clouded with sudden suspicion.

Before he could speak, Kathryn cut in smoothly. “Commander, I will personally attend to the matter while you stay here with the Patriarch.” She smiled sweetly. “Will that be all right?”

There was a long moment of silence before the Patriarch reluctantly agreed.

Swiftly, Janeway beamed back to the ship, snatched up the first tricorder she could find, reprogramming it to scan for benign objects only, then bundled it and the isolinear chips into a container which she placed on the transporter pad.

At her nod, the transporter operator beamed the items to Chakotay’s coordinates on the surface.

For several minutes, she waited with bated breath. They were placing a lot of trust in the Patriarch’s willingness to uphold his end of the deal. Finally, she heard Chakotay’s voice.

“Voyager, one to beam up.”

“Do it!” she snapped.

Seconds later, as he materialized on the transporter, she breathed a sigh of relief. “Everything okay?” she asked, trying to keep her voice matter-of-fact.

Stepping off the pads, he gave her a warm smile. “Everything’s fine.”

“That’s what I like to hear.” Kathryn tapped her combadge. “Janeway to bridge!”

“Tuvok here, Captain.”

“Commander, tell the helm to set a course for home and engage at warp six.”

“Aye, Captain.”

Swinging around, she headed for the corridor. “Let’s get back to work, Commander.”

“Yes, wife.”

His impertinence made her break stride briefly as she glanced up at him. Her eyes narrowed but her tone was definitely amused as she whacked him gently on his arm. “Watch it, husband.”

Chakotay’s face widened into a grin. Life was back to normal – or as normal as it ever got in the Delta Quadrant.

=^= =^= =^= =^= =^= =^=

As the days passed into months, then a year, the relationship between the captain and commander settled even more firmly into a close friendship which provided a solid bedrock for them both. Over and over, Kathryn told Chakotay she didn’t know how she’d get through a day without him. And over and over, he replied that his place was with her, supporting her in whatever way he could.

They had their disagreements, of course, but beneath the heated arguments and anger, both knew they could each rely on the other without reservation. And when push came to shove, they acted as one.

The topic of their marriage was shortly replaced by other bits of gossip, exactly as Chakotay had foreseen. Soon, the crew had mostly forgotten they were married – after all, they behaved no differently than before; they usually attended various social occasions together but not always, and most importantly, they maintained separate quarters. The gold bands on their fingers were the only visible reminders of their changed status.

Occasionally, Kathryn wondered if she should do the honourable thing and annul their union – after all, she wasn’t being very fair to Chakotay – but each time, she found she couldn’t do it. She was forced to admit that she actually rather liked being married and she certainly enjoyed the degree of protection which her wedding ring symbolized.

Now and again, an alien official issued her a veiled invitation for a more personal encounter, but once her status was made clear and Chakotay stepped into the picture, that was the end of it. Likewise, she knew for a fact that at least twice, a high-ranking female had been all set to indulge in a little fun and games with her handsome first officer until Kathryn sidled up to him, tucking her hand into his as she introduced herself as his wife. Each time, the lady had flounced off in annoyance as Chakotay whispered his thanks for rescuing him from a potentially very awkward situation.

And if occasionally, she wished that they could toss aside the barriers between them and make their marriage a real one, cold reality would soon appear in the form of another hostile alien encounter or a message from Starfleet in the monthly data stream, enquiring about the status of the Maquis. As long as they were out here, she simply couldn’t afford to let down her guard. For now, she would cherish the memory of the only kiss they’d ever shared and dream of a day when Voyager would reach Earth and there would be no more barriers.

Continued in Part 2