VOY - J/C, P/T (h/c, language, sex)
by the OdoGoddess

DEDICATIONS: For Tracy who proofed this story and helped me tweak it into submission, and for Ellie whose music tapes definitely put one in a good frame of mind to write Trek fanfic. :-)

BTW, if you haven't read Kim's ( latest fanfic, "Fever It's a steamy P/T treat!

NOTE: This story starts not long after "Lifesigns" and carries through to just after "Resolutions".

So Close, So Far Away...

"So then Sophie asked Jennie what she was doing. She sounded scandalized! And all along we were just wiping up the spilled potato salad."

Appreciative laughter sounded from around Paris' console where three of the junior crewmen had gathered after returning from lunch. Chakotay, who was currently occupying the center seat, cleared his throat.

"Are you quite through relating your romantic escapades, Paris?"

Tom frowned a little, his eyes narrowing and he sighed. "Yes, sir." The men all smiled at him and headed for their posts, knowing it was past time to be back at their duties. Chakotay smiled at their diligence, then turned his full attention back to Paris.

"Good, then you can give me a full report on the star cluster we passed before you took your lunch break."


"Do you have a problem with that, Mister Paris?"

Suddenly more than a few pairs of eyes were locked on Tom...and Chakotay, whose own dark brown eyes continued to assess the younger man like a hawk. "Well?"

Paris swallowed, shook his head. "Not at all, Commander. I was merely going to point out that one of the science officers might be more qualified to provide a comprehensive report."

"I'm asking you."

"In that case, I'll comply. Just so you know it won't be anywhere near as complete as you might like." Paris turned back to his console and began punching in data. He suddenly felt a presence at his side and didn't have to look up to know it was Chakotay...but he did anyway. His blue eyes were mild and mocking. "Well, Commander, you hardly ever come to see me all the way over here. I was beginning to think you didn't know the way."

"Cut the bullshit, Paris. You were one step shy of being insubordinate a minute ago." Chakotay's voice was an undertone which carried no further than Tom's ears.

"Really? I'd no idea the truth was considered insubordination."

"There's truth and then there's embellishment, but you wouldn't know about that, would you? You with these little stories of your conquests, entertaining the others. I'll let you in on a secret, Paris, this is the bridge of a starship, not a social club. The stories and little jokes aren't appreciated by anyone."

Tom's small smile widened, as if he were immensely pleased. His voice grew louder. "No need to come all the way over here, Commander. Why don't I stand by your chair next time after lunch to tell my latest adventure, and that way everyone can hear? Everyone?"

To Chakotay's disquiet, a couple of small chuckles were heard from the upper level stations, both obviously unaware of the tension in the situation. He gritted his teeth, forced down his temper. His voice carried no further than the helm.

"All right, Paris, have it your way. But I've got my eye on you. You were late this morning--"

"I worked a double and overslept, you know that!"

Chakotay continued as if he hadn't spoken. "And your attitude and uniform are not exactly up to specs. This isn't the penal colony, remember?"

Tom looked down at the smudge of soup he had accidentally spilled on his otherwise-spotless uniform and then smiled and nodded as if Chakotay had said something entirely different. __I think I need ammo with more impact here...__ 

He kept his voice light, carrying no further than the two of them. If anyone had been watching, they would have thought the two men were simply conversing.

"True, but at least my pips are regulation, Chakotay. I paid my debt to society for what I did and made a full-fledged re-entry to Starfleet. What sort of insignia is that you're wearing again? Didn't the Captain demand for all you Maquis types to wear it just so she'd never forget where your loyalties lie?"

This said, Tom blithely turned away and back to his board. Soon he was pressing sequences into his console as if he had utterly forgotten Chakotay's presence at his elbow. He held his breath, though, knowing he had really pushed things. Chakotay, however, merely gritted his teeth even harder, fighting the incipient rage that filled him. He managed to return to his seat, noting that a few of the crew seemed puzzled as to the reason for his strained expression.

Tom noted it, too, but merely smiled slightly and shrugged a little as he continued to work. It wasn't his fault. He had been given a job to do. Even though it had bothered him (slightly...very slightly, he conceded), he had done it the best way he knew how.

He owed that much to the Captain, who had asked for his help with the subterfuge to smoke out the traitor on board. Thanks to his efforts, they had.

__And now Chief Kept-In-The-Dark is ticked me? I'm the one who followed orders. It wasn't exactly like I had any big choice in the matter. The one he should be pissed at is Captain Janeway. Oh, sure-- go on and tell him that, Tom. I'm sure he'd appreciate your insight as much as your easy camaraderie with the guys on the day shift.__

Before long, though, peace and the sound of consoles and the mild humming of equipment held sway on the bridge as per usual. Both Tom and Chakotay had plenty of practice in hiding their feelings.

=/\= * * * =/\= * * * =/\=

It was a difficult time for Janeway, as well. She had found the traitor, and alienated her second-in-command in the process. Then, she had had to make one of the most difficult decisions in her life: separating Tuvix back into Tuvok and Neelix. Losing a good and honorable man to extend her limited resources, out in this cold and friendless region of a bid to ensure that they might some day return to their home.

She thought now that this must be what it was like for Benjamin Sisko, the bass-voiced commander of Deep Space Nine station. She had read his dossier before arriving on the station to coordinate with him and his security and science officers prior to entering the Badlands on their fateful encounter with destiny.

After their report, during their shared meal aboard Voyager in what had been her private dining room, Kathryn had become fascinated with Benjamin and Jadzia's rapport. All throughout dinner, Sisko continued to reminisce with Jadzia in the relaxed way of old comrades, not so unusual after all since he'd known her for all the years on the station, but his habit of saying "Old man" had, at first, given Kathryn pause. Then she remembered that Benjamin Sisko had, in fact, known Dax's previous host, an 'old man' known as Curzon. The relaxed manner in which they discussed a few of the ribald adventures of Dax's previous host had temporarily made her forget Tuvok's disappearance in the Badlands.

__Well, I found him__...Janeway considered now from her ready room as she looked at the wonderful meal the recently unmerged Neelix had created. Her eyes closed in pain and regret. 

Ever since she had separated Tuvix back into Tuvok and Neelix, the Talaxian's cooking efforts had been as subdued as he had been. Kathryn could not begin to imagine how difficult the merging had been...on both men. But Tuvok was alone, Neelix at least had Kes. Or at least the captain hoped they were still together. The young Ocampa had been quite reticent about the merging, then the separation, too much happening in too short a time for her to adequately or comfortably register.

The whole issue also had ignited a not-so-minor philosophical debate among some of the Bajoran crew members regarding the captain's decision to separate Tuvix. It was murder, some said. It was logical, others argued. It was wrong. It was necessary. 

__It was done. Enough already__. Kathryn sighed. It was easy enough for them to moralize when they weren't responsible for the lives of 140 people. Also, she admitted, she could not think of one salient point to make to T'Pel if she had returned to Alpha Quadrant with Tuvix in tow. For that matter, what would have happened to Kes if Neelix hadn't returned?

Still, a deeper and anguished part of her now asked, __and what did I do in the name of...morality...and trying to maintain the level of my resources?__

=/\= * * * =/\= * * * =/\=

Chakotay ran naked.

In his vision he was bare to the elements, free as the wind. His spirit guide ran beside him, the incredibly lovely female wolf who honored him with her guidance, her wisdom. Together they ran to free the fire in his mind.

Lon Suder was not the only one on board who was visited by the flames of rage. Chakotay knew he had been burning this fire, feeding it, for far too long. It was blinding him to things, to duty and to friendship and to his responsibilities aboard ship. Like a fool he had been ignoring his private sessions of meditation, trying to work instead and rid his mind, his spirit of the anger he'd felt over the captain... (Kathryn)...and Paris and Tuvok's deception.

__Kathryn__... Chakotay did not realize he had stopped running.

{ So. You finally realize it, old friend? }

He looked down, noted now he was standing still in the middle of his vision, amidst the forest. He sat cross-legged beside his beautiful guide. He spoke aloud, something he rarely did during his dream-quests.

"I fought it. We're so different, so...opposed at times." He sighed. "But yes, I'm in love with her."

{ It is why your anger was so great. You felt betrayed, not by your captain, or even by your friend, but because you cared for her...and feel she did not trust you. }

"She didn't even think about how I would feel."

{ Painful truth. But once conceded, it is not so tragic as your countenance would have one feel, Chakotay. }

He looked over to her, then gently put his arm around her. She came willingly, rubbed her snout along his jaw and sat back. 

"You know me so well."

{ I should. I have watched you a long time. }

"How is it you knew I loved Kathryn though, when I didn't even know."

{ Some truths are evident by sight, others by action. I have eyes, old friend...and I watch you. }

"But what do I do now?"

She tilted her head a little, considering him. Her wise yellow eyes gleamed in the dim forest light. { Perhaps you merely need to watch for opportunity, Chakotay. It presents itself in many forms. Even tragic circumstances at times. }

He frowned at this. "Tragic circumstances? Is something going to happen to Kathryn? To me?"

{ Why do you assume a thing would happen to only one of you? }

"To both of us? But if a tragedy befalls us both, then neither of us could seek comfort in each other."

{ There is tragic and there is tragedy. You speak of eventualities, I speak of circumstances. }

He considered this, aware his lovely guide told him what she could. He sighed. "I wish I knew how Kathryn felt. If she will ever..."

{ Come to care for you? She already does. Come to love you? One leads to the other. It is not so hard, Chakotay. }

"I wish she could see I wish she understood more of me."

{ Whose fault is that then? You set her feet on the path but did not guide her in the way. She still stands there. Walk with her a way, Chakotay. There is still time. It is one thing you have in plenty now. For both of us. }

This was a quiet rebuke, both chastising him for not tending to their once-frequent sessions and also for something he suddenly realised he wanted very much to do-- this instant. To his wry chagrin he realised his excited thoughts of going to see Kathryn had raised more than his interest. He looked down at his lap, over to the wolf from whom he had long ago given up all pretense or secrecy. She knew his mind, his heart, his spirit after all...what secrets could he possibly keep from her and why bother?

{ It is the natural order of things, old friend. It is also something you have denied yourself for a long time. }

He nodded, stood, preparatory to leaving, a feeling of deep and contented peace suffusing him. If anyone at all had caught sight of the two, they might have found it a primal scene. The well-built warrior, dark and tall beside his trusty guide. As it was no one saw them at all. The pair existed outside the frame of normal time. 

Chakotay stroked her fur, thanking her silently in both ways. __Bless you, old friend.__

{ Do not be so long away, Chakotay. You need me more than you realize in this distant place so far from our ancestors. }

"I won't." A solemn promise.

{ Then go to her, to Kathryn. Take her the gift of your nakedness of spirit, if not of flesh. There will be time, though, I feel, for the fleshly matters, as well. }

"I will."

Chakotay opened his eyes. With a thoughtful sigh, he folded his attuning stones, his akuna within the folds of material and got up. Then he headed for the captain's ready room with a resolute stride.

=/\= * * * =/\= * * * =/\=

"It's so wonderful to have you back, my love."

"It's wonderful to be back." He rubbed his whiskers against her smooth, smooth skin and sighed with satisfaction as she moaned a little in appreciation.

"I never really considered how important it is to make love."

"I've really missed you, my darling."

Kes opened her eyes and smiled at Neelix. "I missed you, too. But honestly, aren't you glad we didn't...I mean, when you were Tuvix?"

To her amusement, her Talaxian lover swallowed nervously, a faint tremble running along his spine beneath her hand. He shrugged, obviously uncomfortable. "Well, we didn't so it doesn't matter."

"I can't imagine what I might have said or done to Tuvok if we had." Kes's voice had a thoughtful quality to it. Neelix did not like this segue in their conversation at all.

"Just you put that out of your mind, my darling. We'll never even mention it again."

"But it happened, Neelix. What if something like that happens again?"

"Well, I don't think--" "Seriously, with all the unknowns we face? The odds are good it might. What would we do? We really should discuss this before you become Tuvix or Turis or Tulanna..."

The Talaxian did not notice his lover's teasing tone of voice. His own grew louder with outrage. "Tulanna? A woman? Me?"

Kes' smile dimpled. "Well, actually a hermaphrodite if you come into contact with similar orchids."

"Kes!" She started laughing merrily, a musical sound, and he pulled back from her and snorted with exasperation and not a little disgust. "Really, Kes. Some things aren't funny. You shouldn't make jokes about them."

"Now, now-- come to me, Neelix." She beckoned to him now, a lovely and alluring sight in her pale, perfect nudity. A wash of heat swept over him and he rushed to her bidding. His voice grew hoarse, trembling in his sincerity.

"I'm the luckiest man in the entire galaxy, Kes. I have you."

"Yes," she did not argue, then she ran a hand along his crest of hair, smiled as he automatically purred in contentment and whispered, "And I have you. I think we're both pretty lucky."

"Love me, Kes."

She slipped her arms around him and drew him closer and her whispered response was for him alone.

"I do, Neelix."

=/\= * * * =/\= * * * =/\=

2B cont'd

=/\= * * * =/\= * * * =/\=

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DISCLAIMER: This non-profit material was produced out of love for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and it's characters, and is not intended to infringe upon the Star Trek copyrights of Viacom, Paramount Pictures Corporation, nor those of any other legal holders of Star Trek copyrights.

So Close, So Far Away 2/3
by the OdoGoddess

"Aku'chi moi' are adrift...far from the bones of your ancestors...far from the land of your home..."

Kathryn Janeway drifted in the soothing sound of Chakotay's voice. She knew she sat crosslegged in the holodeck, but mentally she was riding on a large comfortable boat which floated along toward that which waited for her. His voice pulled her along and then drifted off, leaving her by a stand of willowy grasses. She got out and went toward the log where she somehow knew she would find her guardian...the spirit animal that had chosen her, according to Chakotay.

She had gratefully acceded to his offer to once again help her meet her spirit guide. It had been a very long time since her first interrupted attempt, a time made to seem longer still by her first officer's chilly stance after the Paris undercover scheme she and Tuvok had worked out. But it seemed he had worked things out and when she had answered her door chime to find him standing there a bit nervously and heard his shy suggestion that she join him in what he called 'a spiritual renewal', she had quickly agreed. It might help return their formally easygoing relationship, plus it kept her mind off the thoughts she'd been having over Tuvix.

Now she felt herself moving, off the boat she'd been adrift on, moving toward a small clearing amidst tall grasses where an old driftwood log was. And there it was; Kathryn Janeway's spirit guide. Small, infinitely vulnerable, but quick and fleeting and well able to evade her if she tried to pick it up. She wondered if that was permitted.

{ It can be... }

She jumped a little, astonished at the voice which spoke in her mind. It sounded almost like her father...almost like Tuvok. __A male. I have a male guardian...__

{ This disturbs you? }

Janeway shook her head. __Not at all. I think I assumed you would be like me.__

{ I am like you. }

She considered this, then nodded thoughtfully. It tilted its head at her and a nictating membrane briefly slid over it's eyes, a blink of sorts. She smiled. __May I touch you?__

It skittered closer to her without a word, close to her waited patiently. She extended one single forefinger, gently stroked along it's back. It tilted it's head and she pulled back her finger. __Thank you.__

{ So you know I am real then? }

She smiled and nodded. __Yes.__

{ And I am not what you expected? }

__I didn't know what to expect. This is all very new to me. I only undertook to meet you at the suggestion of a friend.__

{ And you would not have chosen to meet me before? }

__I did not know of you before.__

{ It has been a long time... }

Kathryn considered this. She recalled the year-- a year!-- since she had last attempted to contact her spirit guide and nodded sadly. __The responsibilities of command are not something I can shirk...or set aside. I apologize if that made you feel neglected.__

{ I know what you know. I know what you do. It is as it must be. }

Suddenly Janeway felt overwhelmed anew by the enormity of distance which stretched between her and the crew... between her crew and their homes. She rested her head against the log and blinked away the stinging sensation in her eyes, sighed sadly. __It is a comfort that you understand this, my friend. You don't know how great a comfort it is.__

{ But I do. And you also are a comfort, child... }

She felt a feathery weight on her hand, noted the seemingly inconsequential presence now resting atop it and felt a sudden pang of disquiet. Did it truly represent her, this creature? So light and fragile. Or was it she who was inconsequential?

{ Nothing is inconsequential, child. Even the motes of spinning dust possess a purpose. Behold... }

Kathryn looked through the reeds which surrounded them, noted the small particles suspended in the shafts of sunny light which filtered through the trees. The incredible beauty and peace of this place pervaded her and she dropped her head as tears slipped down her cheeks, borne of a weariness of spirit she had been consciously avoiding for as long as Voyager had been out here. __I'm's not you. It's just...everything.__

{ It is pleasing that you sought me at this juncture. You are ready now for my guidance. If you wish guidance... }

She sniffed away the tears and sat up, bringing the small delicate creature with her. __Chakotay spoke of guidance. What manner of guidance can you provide?__

{ It is pleasing you are of open mind. It will be a necessity soon, else an opportunity may be lost...and once lost, not regained until it is too late. }

__Opportunity? On the ship? With a new race we meet?__

{ You speak in specificities. I speak of eventualities. And opportunities are not always those aboard this ship you travel in. }

__So...on a planet, I take it? Will I meet a new race? Will they be helpful to us?__

{ You will meet, yes...but you have met before. And they have always been helpful to you...helping you...providing you momentary succor from your worries and watching over you even as you rest so that you might not feel your burden so profoundly. }

__Someone I've met before...?__

{ Someone who watches over you and protects you even now. }

__I thought you did that?__

{ Someone who loves you, Kathryn Janeway. }

Kathryn paused at this and looked down at the tiny unblinking eyes and felt a peculiar sensation in her stomach. __Someone who loves me? It couldn't be Mark...he's too far away...__

{ Answers at times are found right by your side, Kathryn. But you have the tendency to look straight ahead. and you miss them. }

__I promise to look by my side.__

The small amphibian twisted its tail and turned back to move onto the log once more, not quite a dismissal, but evocative of resignation. It's soothing male timbre resonated in the captain's mind.

__It is to be hoped that your eyes will be open at the time...__

=/\= * * * =/\= * * * =/\=

Chakotay found breakfast a bit chilly. Not the food, which was hot and plentiful if not appetizing, but his companion.

"So what's up with you?" he asked pointedly.

"Just because you're in a good mood, don't try to inflict it on everyone else, Chakotay."

__Okay, definitely something I did...but what?__

"If that's the way you want it, B'Elanna. Pass the root sauce, please."

Her eyes clearly conveyed she was taken aback. "You actually eat that crap?" 

He blinked, shrugged. "I guess Neelix was right...leeyola root grows on you."

She shuddered delicately and handed him the bottle, tried not to watch him sprinkle it on his food. "I guess you've gone native, nature boy."

He looked up at this and smiled. "You should try it."

Her dark eyes grew shuttered. "I don't think so, I'll leave that to you. I don't think I could become as well as you do."

"Come again?"

"Never mind. I'd better get to engineering." 

B'Elanna hurried off, leaving a puzzled Chakotay with his breakfast.

=/\= * * * =/\= * * * =/\=

Torres paced in the confines of the turbolift and clenched her hands into fists.

__Why didn't you just tell him?__

Because she couldn't. She knew it. The moment she had gone around the corridor the night before and seen Chakotay standing nervously before Janeway's cabin, akuna bundle in hand, she was frozen in dismay. The captain had let him in. Disquieted, she had gone on to the darkness of her room and a mostly uneaten dinner. 

A few hours later, she had asked the computer for his whereabouts. He was still there. It was obvious. And damned smart of Janeway, too, she conceded. What better way to consolidate the crew after all the Maquis clashes? Make Chakotay hers and...and the crew would become one true unit. It made sense. It was even, dare Tuvok to argue, logical.

So why did it make her stomach churn?

The turbolift doors slid open and she ran right into the person entering.

"Hey, excuse me!"

"Sorry Paris," she muttered without a hint of genuine contriteness. He considered this, took in her balled fists and rigid stance and nodded.

"I didn't break." He smiled and spoke to the commpanel pick-up. "Deck 10."

They rode in companionable silence for a while and then Paris quietly joked, "So since you're not eating, I take it you don't care much for Neelix's new uses for leeyola root either?"

She looked up at this and to his astonishment, he noted a brief watering of her eyes, which she blinked away. "No, not much."

"Ah." __What could make old Iron-pants Torres cry? I thought she never cried...__

The turbolift stopped and opened onto Engineering. Torres nodded at him and he watched her exit the lift, a look of concern in his own eyes. Lieutenant Carey stepped on, at the end of his shift now. He nodded at Tom and spoke to the commpanel pick-up.

"Deck six."

The turbolift moved, Paris still puzzling over B'Elanna's strange mood when Carey shook his head. "So, what do you think is going on with Chief-Thunder Cloud?"

"Beg your pardon?"

"Chakotay...and the captain. Word is he went to her cabin last night."

"Oh." A rumor. One he hadn't heard, but dismissed nonetheless. "He's the first officer. I guess he had something he needed to see her about."

"Honestly Tom, I would've thought a guy like you would--"

"Would what, Carey?" Paris demanded now, his blue eyes glacial.

"Nothing. Geez...just a little scuttlebutt." The door opened onto the bridge and Tom glared at the engineer.

"Just keep it to yourself then. No need to spread rumors on a ship this small. If anything's happening, we'll all hear of it eventually."

He slipped out of the lift and headed for his station, nodding formally at the captain in greeting, glad to see Chakotay had not yet arrived so he could seat himself and ignore the man's presence behind him for the shift. Torres' own odd behaviour was forgotten now as he considered what the congenial engineer had told him.

If true, it was disquieting indeed.

=/\= * * * =/\= * * * =/\=

A few weeks later Janeway learned what her spirit guide had meant-- as she and Chakotay found themselves abandoned on an uncharted world, unable to beam back onto Voyager, and alone with their fate.

The decision had not been easy, but Kathryn had made it without hesitation. The fact that Tuvok had been restored, as well as the indominitable Neelix, had made things far easier for her. She knew the Vulcan would do everything in his power to return the crew back home. As such, she permitted herself the luxury of believing she would find the answer to their predicament in the samples and biological specimens and the computer data she endlessly, if not tirelessly, strove to update and catalog every day. Until the day she could no longer do so...

The day when a storm had taken even this safe refuge from her troubled thoughts...and her night had been spent being comforted by the wonderfully warm and solid partner she had in Chakotay. It had been the first time she began to see, though, how wonderful and how terrifying the thought 'by your side' could be. She had gone to bed the following day in a daze of troubled and powerfully sensual thoughts.

__It's your age__, she blamed quietly, sighing as she could hear the answering sigh from the room beyond where Chakotay still worked. __Human women always enter this period of their lives...a natural process. Our bodies last 'hurrah' as it prepares to move our fertility beyond our grasp. It's good. I don't want children. I never wanted that sort of life. Ironic I find myself here now...thinking and imagining...I can almost hear our children__. She sat up, allowing her mind to finish the thought. __Mine...and Chakotay's. Two beautiful boys and a girl, all with their father's dark liquid eyes and my fair skin... his hair and my hair split among them__. She swallowed, feeling a pang of anticipation and accepting it...and what it meant. She admitted to herself now, __It's not just sexual attraction. I do care for Chakotay...I care for him deeply. And we apparently are going to be here for the duration...but is this justification...or could it possibly work between us? We're both so stubborn, so proud...but we haven't had one serious argument our entire time here either, and that really is amazing, considering the circumstances.__

{ I see your eyes are open... }

She drew in a breath as this calm, soothing ghostly timbre floated through her mind, recalling to her the peace and tranquility of the glade...and the serenity and wisdom of her spirit guide. Kathryn Janeway gathered herself, gathered her formidable courage, and slipped out of her bunk to her destiny. 

=/\= * * * =/\= * * * =/\=

"Over a month gone...I still can't believe it."

Torres considered this, finally nodded. "I can't either."

"Gone. I keep expecting her to step through that door and give us that little nod of hers and--" to B'Elanna's surprise, Tom's voice faltered and he sipped nervously at his coffee before adding, "Well, best not talk about it, I suppose. Need to keep crew morale up and all."

Torres' dark gaze was knowing. "You really miss the captain don't you?"

Despite the fact that her voice was low, Tom still glanced about nervously. After a moment, he merely looked back to her and nodded. His own voice was barely audible.

"It's not what you think. I don't have some idiotic crush on her or anything, but...dammit, she gave me a chance, B'Elanna!" His tone was fierce despite his lowered volume. Torres could hear the bitterness and regret in every syllable; it made her swallow as he added, "Even my own family washed their hands of me, but she gave me a chance. And not just once, but ever since I came on board. I owe her better than to leave her with Chakotay abandoned on some planet seventy thousand lightyears away from Earth."

His eyes never left hers as he spoke, so Tom noticed Torres flinch slightly at his mention of the first officer and thorn in his side. A slight crease appeared on his forehead as he considered her unconscious response-- picking up her own coffee and sipping at it, eyes suddenly unable to meet his, but staring intently into the dark liquid as if answers were to be found there. The rough dark pit in his stomach smoothed over a little in realization as their brief and puzzling turbolift meeting of a month ago suddenly fell into place.

__My God...she loves that bloated bag of spiritual wind...__

Paris drew in a breath, momentarily forgetting his own regret and remorse and focused on the woman before him. She was the strongest woman he'd ever met...and the tremble of her lips as the coffee cup ascended disarmed him. Instead of making the comment he'd been about to, he found himself instead whispering softly, "Hey...we'll get them back, B'Elanna."

To his surprise, she smiled at this, drew in a steadying breath and looked at him. "Oh, yeah, hotshot? So who was that a minute ago talking doom and gloom?" Her voice wasn't very steady, although she'd managed to imbue it with her traditional sarcasm.

His blue eyes didn't waver as he whispered, "A guy who didn't notice the person he was sitting with was hurting just as bad as he was."

Tom Paris was nothing if not honest. He might imbue his saucier tales with ribaldry and exaggerate about his prowess, but in all else he'd proven to be scrupulously fair. And when someone he knew was hurting, all pretenses dropped. He moved forward to take the coffee cup from her hands and put it down, ignoring everything going on around them to quietly add, "I'm sorry, B'Elanna. I didn't know you loved him."

Torres found herself fighting a sudden and frightening urge to weep. Instead she pulled her hands away from him and stood. She could feel eyes on her and managed to say, "I'll get right on that, Tom."

She nodded at him decisively as if heeding some engineering suggestion of his and headed out of the ship's mess, her back ramrod straight.

Paris merely blinked. Were those tears in her eyes? But I thought Torres never cried... He considered this rather shocking revelation and he frowned.

=/\= * * * =/\= * * * =/\=

Chakotay was so very helpful...considerate. This was the first thought that entered Kathryn's highly distracted mind.

She had stepped out to talk to Chakotay, found herself listening instead. He had bared his thoughts, his feelings to her and she had reached out to him, accepting his words and his feelings without qualm. She trusted him, she cared for him and now...well, now she knew she would come to love him as much as he already loved her.

He finished speaking and allowed her the chance to say her fill, his heart thundering at the prospect that this evening seemed to be leading to. What would she say to him?

To Janeway's mind, the time for words was past. They had spent several weeks discussing and debating and learning each every way but one. Kathryn swallowed. She smiled, then held up her hand. He laced his fingers with hers and they both could feel a silent, seemingly sacred bond taking hold between them as they sat looking at each other within their tiny abode.

The tension grew. Kathryn knew she had to break it before it broke her. She drew in a breath...stood.

"Would you join me, Chakotay?" 

Her voice was free of suggestiveness or innuendo. She might have been discussing food or wine or a walk by the riverside. However there was no question of desire. Standing revealed his aroused state-- previously hidden by the table between them. He swallowed hard now as he saw her gaze take in his condition. He waited though until her blue eyes met his before speaking.

"It's been a long time, Kathryn. The edges may be...a little rough."

She nodded. "It's been a long time for me, too, Chakotay." He moved from behind the table to step up to her. She looked up. She was not a small woman, but beside him she felt small. He noted her disquiet, but she only swallowed and added softly, "I've always rather liked the process of smoothing out rough edges."

The slightly shy, but still impish smile that followed this made him respond in kind. He nodded then and said quietly, "I won't hurt you. I would never hurt you, Kathryn."

She merely nodded, suddenly apprehensive at his reading her so clearly, but then they'd been in each other's way for several weeks, sharing breakfast, lunch, dinner, nightmares and daydreams and even the embarassing morning she'd woken to find she'd begun her menstrual cycle sometime during the night, staining her clothing and sheets.

No way out, but through. She had grit her teeth and faced his unflinching eyes, nodding her morning greeting and slipping past him with her change of clothing. She'd gone to the replicator where she had calmly ordered what she needed and then stepped out to their lavatory. He had said nothing of the blood stains, merely bringing her a cup of oregano tea upon her return, insisting the ancient herbal drink was quite helpful and soothing to women during their menses.

It had been, she'd discovered, soothing what small aches she had and relieving the puffy feeling she sometimes experienced at this time. Now she realized it was this helpful quality which attracted her to him even before their enforced captivity. Chakotay was soothing to her, a helpmate, a listener, a confidant...more than friend and more than companion. __He's my soulmate__, Kathryn thought now. The thought brought a smile and she carressed his strong, so capable. She could suddenly feel those hands she held, see them, quite clearly, stroking along her bare skin, moving down her burning, aching body and her hands began to tremble in his.

"I know you won't, Chakotay." Her voice was very small.

"In that case...your chamber, m'lady? Or mine?" He clasped her hands in both of his, warmed them with his breath, not looking away from her blue eyes.

She swallowed. "Yours. It's a bit...larger."

He smiled. "Let me give you the tour then. I don't think you've seen it." This was a little joke. Their adjoining sleep chambers were foot-to-foot at the rear of their fabricated cabin.

"That will take all of five seconds," she quipped, relaxing at his small joke.

"Then we'll just have to find a way to fill rest of the time..."

=/\= * * * =/\= * * * =/\=

2B cont'd

=/\= * * * =/\= * * * =/\=

DISCLAIMER: This non-profit material was produced out of love for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and it's characters, and is not intended to infringe upon the Star Trek copyrights of Viacom, Paramount Pictures Corporation, nor those of any other legal holders of Star Trek copyrights.

=/\= * * * =/\= * * * =/\=

So Close, So Far Away 3/3
by the OdoGoddess

B'Elanna did not answer her door chime.

Tom frowned at the painted metal and looked down the corridor, then back to her door, then back down the corridor. If it were anyone else, he might just go in, but this was B'Elanna. B'Elanna Torres. The Klingon tornado and wild woman of engineering. What would she do if she got angry instead of just upset?

"B'Elanna?" He cleared his throat. "B'Elanna, it's Tom and...and I want to apologize to you. Will you let me do that, please?"

To his surprise, the door slid open almost immediately. He blinked, then stepped in.

The room was dim and warm. He judged it was at least five degrees warmer than the corridor, then he recalled how cozy she liked to keep her room during that brief time he'd been part of Chakotay's Maquis crew. Her Klingon physiology? Or just personal preference?

__How little I know her...__

Nearly everyone else on board Tom Paris had a 'handle' on. B'Elanna Torres was one of the few he could not fathom. But unlike Tuvok, whom he rather disliked, and Kes, whom he scrupulously kept his distance from in order to avoid temptation, he neither held her in contempt nor did he look on her as a possible conquest. In Tom Paris' mind, B'Elanna Torres fell into the niche of 'friend'. Not a buddy, not a casual acquaintance, but a warm and honest sort of 'friend'. He felt as if somehow he could tell her anything...and she would never let him get off easy.

Both of them were moody, but their moods tended to complement each other. Both were damn good at what they did. And they both knew that if it hadn't been for fate trapping them out here...they'd likely be either dead or living wasted lives back in the Alpha Quadrant.

It was as if, Tom thought now, they belonged out here. This thought made him take a few more steps until he was far enough inside her room for the door to slide shut behind him.

After his eyes adjusted, he noted the sparkling bits of shattered crystal on the floor. Tom followed the trail of broken glass to the darkened corner of her living room where he found B'Elanna, seated, knees up, hugging them fiercely. He crouched by her and touched her shoulder gently.


Tom could scarcely credit this faint, breathless sound as coming from B'Elanna. His eyes were troubled as he drew his hand back and just stayed crouched, uncertain of what he should do, but feeling like he should do something.

"Listen, B'Elanna...I-I'm sorry. I didn't mean to recall anything painful." He sighed as she merely swallowed and looked away from him, emphatically shutting him out. He considered this before deciding on what to say. "I was just surprised," he whispered, for some reason feeling the need to explain how he hadn't meant to hurt her or to bring her to this state. __But then you always do things without thinking, don't you Tom, old boy?__

He sighed. "I...honestly, B'Elanna...I had no idea you felt this much for Chakotay."

"I don't."

She turned to look at him and her dark eyes glittered fiercely, unshed tears brimming, but not falling. Tom swallowed. He found his voice. "Get mad if you like, but I don't buy it. You love him, B'Elanna."

"I don't! I don't! If I did...I wouldn't have left him there...abandoned Chakotay...and the captain! I could have sabotaged the ship's engines so we'd have to stay there!" She practically spat in her disgust as she continued, "I could have done more than just make a damned suggestion to that tight-assed Vulcan traitor and--"

Tom almost smiled. "And what?" His voice was gentle. "I don't know!" she raged. "But I would have done it!"

"No, you wouldn't," he said smugly.


"You heard me. You wouldn't have done anything. And you want to know why?"

She glared at him. Then she finally snorted and shook her head. "I suppose you'll tell me anyway."

Tom sighed, sitting beside her. "Because you love Chakotay, B'Elanna. You love him down in your gut...up in your head and deep in your heart. And the thought of doing anything that might disappoint him just kills you...eats you up inside. So you act the way you think he would expect you to...and you're totally miserable, because it goes against your grain. I know."

"Oh, really?"

"Yes, I do. Believe me, I do." Tom sighed again, leaning his head against the wall.

"Paris...what the hell are you talking about?"

His blue eyes met hers and he presented her with a faint, self-deprecating smile. "About me. About my father. About how you can want someone to love you so badly, to notice you just because you're you and not for something you do. About how when they don't, it eats all your guts until you feel empty...and worthless...and angry -- and still love the son of a bitch."

Tears rimmed his eyes now, but he did not look away from her. His stark honesty made B'Elanna blink. "Tom..."

"So you see, I know how you feel. We're both pathetic shits, you know? Loving these smug, self-righteous, holier-than-thou people who don't or can't love us back...and leading miserable personal lives because of it. No wonder you act like a Trappist monk...and I act like the grand whore of the Delta Quadrant. They're both a form of escape. Neither way is very smart, really, but hey, it's better than the pain, right?"

She stared at him for a lengthy interval and then reached a warm hand up and gently stroked his cheek where a tear track glistened in the dim light of the corner of her room. The air seemed to grow thicker to Tom. B'Elanna only felt her heart begin to beat the ball of anger and hurt deep in her belly began to break apart, transforming into something else just as primal and unrelenting. Something that came instinctively to Klingons, but which humans tempered and denied. She didn't want to deny it. Her touch grew even more tender, changing from concern to a caress.


He put his hands up to grip her strong wrists and carefully pull her hands away from him. As he let her go, he was surprised to find that he was trembling. "I didn't mean to...give you the wrong here. This all went further than I thought. I just wanted to talk to you, but you don't really know me. And I don't really want your sympathy."

She considered this, moved closer and deliberately laid her hands on his thighs. "Too bad, Paris. This is my place."

Tom carefully pulled back from her. He was now in the corner and couldn't easily move past her. He knelt though, as if to get up. He didn't bother trying to hide the obvious lump in his pants; his erection had begun, unbidden, almost the moment she touched him. Now he merely swallowed and managed to keep his voice even.

"Much as part of me might want it, B'Elanna...a sympathy fuck won't do either of us any good."

She nodded. "I'm glad you feel that way...because I don't want to fuck you, Tom."

He nodded gratefully and sighed with no little relief. "I'm glad you understand."

She leaned in closer then, until he could feel the warmth of her and smell her musky scent-- a tantalizing mix of vanilla and cinnamon and warm apricot wine that reminded him of a special dinner in Marseilles he'd once enjoyed. He swallowed.

She was so close now that her lips brushed against his face as she whispered, "I want to make love with you, Tom Paris."


Chakotay's hands were as warm and competent as Kathryn had imagined. Large, but graceful, they lay trails of fire along her skin, paths of heated desire which coursed to pool in her moistening cleft. The feel of him pressed against her smooth bare skin, heated now with his desire and the throbbing evidence of his need, was equally powerful.

They lay side by side in Chakotay's bed. She was right, it was slightly larger to accommodate his bulk, but there was barely room for them both. He conveyed this in a warm whisper against her throat. "We might consider doing this outside until I can make a new bed."

She chuckled at this. "Why don't we just get rid of the damn partition and put both beds together?"

"Aye, ma'am...whatever you say..." his murmur grew indistinct as he closed his mouth over one of her breasts. Kathryn gasped, trembled at the searing sensation and her hands slid to his head, to the back of his neck, of their own volition. His brush-cut hair felt thick and luxurious under her fingers, a pleasing sensation. He switched now to her other breast and her fingers closed, pulling slightly on his hair. He pulled back to look at her and smile. "Is that a request or a commentary, m'lady?"

"Probably both." She drew in a breath. "I've never been one for preliminaries, Chakotay. Let's...let's just make love this time, no frills."

"As my lady wishes." He smiled, kissed her...kissed her again. She acceded to his kisses, feeling him carefully maneuvering himself over her, between her legs, ensuring he was not angled in such a way as to hurt her. As he pulled free of her lips, she suddenly felt him, all of him, pressed against her and swallowed at the sensation. He was quite large, his straining manhood of a size she had never been acquainted with before, although that was not an attribute she normally considered in a man. In this case, it gave her some pause... but not a lot.

She reached between them to touch him, delighting in the silky, fleshy feeling of his circumcised shaft. He groaned, closed his eyes and she felt him start to throb heatedly. "Nice."

"Very. I'm obviously ready," he managed to say. "Are you sure, Kathryn? I can wait."

"No. No more waiting. I'm sure and I want this. Let me guide you, though." He nodded, gasping as she placed his bared and sensitive tip at the juncture of her waiting womanhood. "All right."

"I'll...I'll take it slow." He suited word to action, cautiously moving forward a fraction, feeling the slick warmth begin to envelop him and growing even harder at the sensation. __She is ready__... this realization relaxed him; he had been tense with worry. 

Now he slowly, gently eased his way inside her. He took his time, expecting to feel the slight nudge from within which would tell him he had gone as deep as he could go; this was something he had come to expect since his organ was so large. 'A mixed blessing', as his father had once said cheerfully. He was therefore overwhelmed at the sensation of fully slipping into the warmth of the woman he had been dreaming of, but never imagined possessing. She had taken all he had to offer and now slipped her arms around him, one moving up to slide through his hair, the other insistently pulling at his hip.

"Chakotay..." It was a whispered plea of yearning, one he understood; she wanted him, wanted the timeless rhythm to commence. He let his body answer her plea and his own burning desire, and the flames of passion overtook them both.

=/\= * * * =/\= * * * =/\=

B'Elanna lifted Tom easily, her strong hands gripping his wrists and pulling, but not insistently, merely helping him stand. He could feel hot blood rush to his groin, making his half-sprung erection swell to its full length.

His trousers were an agony, but he merely eyed her uncertainly. "B'Elanna...this isn't very smart."

"I don't think either of us has been known for making smart choices, Tom."

Her hands tugged on his, urging him to follow her. He did, numb to everything now but the knowledge that she wanted him and that his body wanted her. He had denied its needs for months, with the exception of the release to be found on the holodeck, or the privacy of his cabin shower and his soapy hands.

"B'Elanna...are you sure?"

She paused by her bed to look at him, then stepped right up to him and smothered his mouth with hers.

It was so sudden Tom barely could register what was happening. The intriguing tangy taste of what he thought was a liquid smoke and the sweet pang of something like wine swirled in his mouth, even as he felt her strong insistent hands opening his uniform and sliding it off his shoulders and down. Those same strong hands were careful and efficient as they slid beneath his undertunic and his lips tingled as she pulled away from him to pull the tight grey tunic off over his head. They didn't tingle for long. Soon he could feel the tantalizing nips her teeth made on his lips again, even as he felt those hands sliding through the mat of hair on his chest, nails lightly raking their way along it and finding it lay a trail to that which she desired.

B'Elanna broke off their kiss to lick and nibble her way along his neck, inhaling deeply of his scent. She kissed his chest, licking and nibbling at his pink nipples, removing her own clothing as he stood, swaying, groaning. Tom blinked as she gently pushed him back onto her bed, scrunched down to pull off his boots and then strip what remained of his uniform off his legs. He looked at her, his erection throbbing rigidly in the air, half-afraid he might lose control before she came near him. He swallowed tightly as she slipped her own suit off and then before he could even reach up to touch her, she straddled him quite unceremoniously, taking him fully inside her.

Her hot inner wetness was incredibly tight; it throbbed around him. This deliciously unexpected sensation set him off before he could think of controlling it. Tom groaned and began to buck as he shot deep inside her. He jerked helplessly beneath her, his organ spurting over and over even as he shut his eyes in pleasure and shame. __Too soon__...

Torres growled and his eyes opened. He was prepared to apologize...then he noticed that her head was thrown back, her teeth bared; an expression of utter abandon was on her face. She growled again and then made a sharp hiss of sound. B'Elanna shuddered as a flood of wet warmth was ground from her and around him, still hard inside her. A much sharper scent of apricots and a tantalizingly musky cinnamon aroma seemed to fill the room, stemming from the dampness that now covered him, which he could feel trickling down his balls. It was an intensely intimate sensation, one he savored.

He smiled at the thought, wondered why he always thought of food in relation to B'Elanna. __I can't wait to taste her__.

His hands gently stroked her sides now as she drew in gasping breaths until her whole body stilled, hands idly running along his flanks as he softened inside her. It had all been very brief, but apparently both had been sated for now. She confirmed that belief with a deep sigh of satisfaction. Then she opened her eyes and focused on him. His heart seemed to skip when she presented him with a sweet, engaging smile. She was pleased.

"That was good," she breathed huskily.

He'd thought so, too, but it had also seemed far too brief. He didn't know a graceful way of saying it, so he merely nodded. She smiled, stroked his face as she slid from him to curl up alongside him and lay her head on his chest. The warm sweet scent of her seemed to surround him. He slid his arm around her and held her to him lightly as he sighed too. Her voice was eager and certain.

"I'll bet our next time is even better."

=/\= * * * =/\= * * * =/\=

Kathryn woke refreshed, the sensual scent of her own musk and the essence of Chakotay filling her senses. Unfortunately she noted that her newfound lover had unselfishly allowed her full use of their limited bedspace. He was cramped against the far wall, chin tucked into his chest, one arm up over his head.

She gently caressed his back to awaken him, was gratified at his groan. He rolled back, tried to smile and winced instead.

"I'd say good morning, but my back doesn't seem very happy with me, Kathryn."

"You shouldn't let me take all the space. Come on, turn around."

She waved her hand, indicating she wanted him to come onto the center of the bed. She edged herself to kneel by the foot of the bed, unconsciously lovely in her nudity, but she was only concerned with Chakotay.

"What do you want?"

Her voice was both amused and compelling, spoken in a sensual tone, "I want you belly to bed, mister. And then I'm going to give you a back rub like you've never had." 

"Hm...sounds interesting."

"Well, come on."

He complied with a few groans and finally relaxed, head pillowed on his arms, feeling more content already at being able to stretch out. He groaned as Kathryn's capable hands sought out and found the bunched-up tension in his muscles; then he gasped as she began to knuckle them in a peculiar fashion which made his nerve endings scream, yet at the same time placated his muscles and urged them to pliancy. She had learned this method from her academy roommate and never forgotten it. It combined the best of Earth shia'tsu and Betazed thri'laar and Chakotay could only groan his newfound appreciation.

"That feels wonderful."

"Just wait, it gets better." He drifted in sensation, then sighed with satisfaction as she finished up her ministrations with deep, forceful strokes which urged blood in and out of the trouble areas, improving the flow of circulation. "There you go." She sounded satisfied. Chakotay sighed again, then turned around. Kathryn gasped. He looked at her with a slight smile as she considered his prodigious tumescence and then blinked. "I have just one question, Chakotay."

"Go on."

She met his gaze and asked seriously, "How ever did you manage to hide that under your uniform?"

Her twinkling eyes and the grin which followed made him smile and he quipped, "Frankly, I have to thank the Cardassians... or a Cardassian cuplet, anyway."

She chuckled. "I won't even ask how you got hold of one of those!"

"Spoils of war. I was a Maquis, remember?"

"Yes, but..."

"There were a few times we'd make them strip down and leave them in a clearing," he admitted.


"Easy. It was only the ones who had been arrogant and overbearing. I know, most of them are, but these, well..." His eyes grew troubled. "They did worse to us, Kathryn-- beatings, torture...rape. Leaving them naked seemed pretty mild in comparison, but-- I don't want to talk about that now. I'd rather make love to you...if you'll allow me the honor."

"No need to ask, my good sir," she murmured with a smile, but as he began to move aside, she put a hand on his chest and gently pushed him back down. "Oh, no. After a massage like that, you're supposed to lie flat and let the muscles relax and accustom themselves to their normal resting state."

"I see."

She considered his prone length and a smile touched her eyes. His own widened as she began to straddle him. Her voice was an amused whisper. 

"Mind if I sit this one out?"

=/\= * * * =/\= * * * =/\=

B'Elanna was right, Tom decided. The next time was better. Somehow not so urgent and therefore even more tender, more special. __I could grow to like this__.

He considered his lover as she slept in his arms, considering the twists of fate that had brought them here. Could this last? To his surprise Tom realized that he was quite content. He wanted no more than to wake up like this every day...for the rest of his life.

Considering the predicament they and their ship were in, this was a sobering thought. What did he want? To marry B'Elanna? This thought made him suddenly flinch. Not that he was afraid of commitment; despite his reputation, Tom knew himself to be, at heart, a person who longed for stability...for family.

He'd never really had one. He'd tried to make himself believe he didn't really need one. But now, a woman who smelled like nothing so much as warmed and spiced apricot wine, who had tantalizing ridges on her forehead and the cutest nose he just felt like kissing...not to mention a tiny birthmark that made him want to touch her face...this woman crumbled all the defenses he'd built for himself. With her he would find stability. With her he would make a home...


This sleepy inquiry made him smile, even as he felt his heart speed up. He wanted to tell her his decision. "Right here, haven't gone anywhere."

There was a small pause, then she sighed and said, "Well...maybe you should."

He blinked. "What?"

"It's late. We both have duty tomorrow," she pointed out. When he only stared at her, she added a bit tightly, "Maybe we should...pretend like this never happened. It would be easier on everyone."

"No. Oh, no, B'Elanna," he groaned unhappily. He pulled back from her nonetheless, and sat up, running hands through his hair in frustration. Was fate constantly going to toy with him his whole life? He wanted to know. If it was, he'd deny it the satisfaction right now. "B'Elanna, you mean something to me--"

"I know, Tom, and you mean a lot to me, too. And these past few hours...I'll never forget them, but really -- you have a reputation to uphold." She gave him a lopsided smile. "Can't have people thinking you're a one-woman guy, now can you?"

__Is that how she sees me?__ The thought stung him deeply and he only just managed to hide the pain it caused. Tom Paris was a good pilot. He was equally good at hiding his feelings. He nodded at her, although he couldn't make his voice as light as he wanted to. "I suppose not."

He might have managed to hide his pain and dismay and resentment if it hadn't been for her parting sally. He didn't hear the slight catch in her voice, though, or the too-blithe tone in which she spoke. The words alone burned in his ears.

"That's the spirit. I'm sure you'll forget all about this by the end of the week."

Tom flung back the covers and leaned over, grabbing his uniform. He began to pull it on, keeping his back to her, only partly to hide the sudden tears that wet his fine lashes. "Whatever you say."


Apparently some of his feelings had colored his words. He shoved his boots on and stood. He looked to her now, just once and for the record.

"I don't know about you, B'Elanna, but one thing I'll never do is forget what happened here." He noted the look of dismay on her face, but dismissed it.

Then he strode out of her cabin.

=/\= * * * =/\= * * * =/\=

It was a few days later that Kathryn had woken at dawn and made her way outside. It was a gorgeous day and so she had completed her normal ministrations, dressed and made her way to the area she was already thinking of as her garden. For some reason she wanted to feel the soil beneath her fingers...the rich loam of this planet she was beginning to think, to accept, as home.

She had not seen much of it, they had not seen much of it, in the last few days, still taken with the newness of their status as lovers. Kathryn sensed Chakotay held back, not in his lovemaking per se, but in his expressions to her, his words and his manners. She also knew it troubled him that she did not quite surrender to their lovemaking as he did. However it was not something they spoke of. For now the arrangement satisfied them both. Somehow Kathryn knew that he knew it was nothing in him which made her hold back, but rather her fear of finally giving in...of fully accepting this place as home.

__Not long now__... she could see it now actually, see herself content with her wonderfully giving lover and helpmate...and their children. The image was pleasing, but troubling. She dug her hands a bit deeper, willed her mind to settle and think. To be grateful, because of all the places they might have been stranded this was a virtual paradise in comparison to most. To be grateful that it was him she was stranded with and not someone selfish or boring or argumentative and to be grateful that she had this chance, this opportunity she might have missed if...__if I hadn't looked to my side and kept looking straight ahead...what I've been doing since I got here until my scientific equipment was destroyed.__ In that tragic consequence had been the seeds of serendipity, of intoxicating passion, of a true partnership she had never dreamed possible until her eyes had been opened and looking in the right place at the right time. __Tonight...tonight I'll give myself fully.__

In the aftermath of the glad tidings which came but an hour after this thought, Kathryn Janeway learned the true meaning of irony. Voyager was coming back...and her life, their lives, would return to normal once more.

=/\= * * * =/\= * * * =/\=

What in the damned quadrant was wrong with Tom Paris?

B'Elanna asked herself this question yet again as she applied a tension-gauge to a circuitry panel and considered the possibilities.

Ever since their...assignation...he'd been moody as hell, almost angry, but in a morose sort of way. And he'd taken to Sandrine's in his off hours and was building up quite a replicator backlog with Lt. Carey for his homemade hooch.

__First, he'll never forget...hah! More like trying to do everything in his power to block it from his mind...__ 

She yanked the gauge off and shoved the panel back in its place...hard. A passing engineering assistant gave her an odd look which she ignored. 

__You'd think he'd be gloating and smug. Hell, you'd think he'd be bragging to half the ship! Hey, guess who I bagged?__

Apparently the experience hadn't meant a tenth to him of what it had to her. No, he lost himself in that silly French bar and apparently wanted to wash away the distaste of what he'd done, and with some real ethanol.

Torres was not given to introspection or religious observance of any kind. But when she remembered their love-making, the only descriptive terms that came to her were of something sacred, something...something holy. He had made her feel whole as if something had been missing until he returned it to her. he could barely meet her eyes and when he spoke, it was as if nothing at all had ever happened. His manner to her was as formal, as distantly polite as it had ever been. But it hadn't, she realized. He'd been polite before, but never distant. Now...

__Hell, I even tried to make it easy for him, but I didn't think he'd step all over me in the process.__ Maybe some day, she'd understand Thomas Eugene Paris. For now...

B'Elanna viciously yanked out the next panel and jammed the hapless tension-gauge in place. 

=/\= * * * =/\= * * * =/\=

The captain leaned back against her couch and closed her eyes. She hated the thoughts that now swirled through her head when she was alone. She did not want to regret what had happened on New Earth. Kathryn Janeway, woman and explorer, did not. Kathryn Janeway, Starfleet Captain, most definitely did. Trouble was, she had to live with the Starfleet Captain every hour of the day. Her door chime made her groan.

"Who's calling?"

"Captain? It's Chakotay."

Kathryn sat up. "Come in."

His tall uniformed bulk strode gracefully in, making her marvel anew at the lightness of foot he possessed while being so massively built. This thought brought other images to mind, but she gamely tamped them back down and asked lightly, "So what brings you here?"

He held out a wrapped bundle and smiled. "I was going to meditate for a while. I figured I'd ask if you wanted to join me."

She locked her gaze on his. They had not spoken of their time on the planet yet, having discussed their situation before leaving, not entirely to the satisfaction of either, but enough so that they could work as they had before. He had, she conceded, made it easy for her. He had insisted -- and she knew now the truth in his words -- he had insisted he would always accede to her wishes in matters of command.

"For as long as we live while we're out here, Kathryn, I willingly serve under you. No strings, no expectations beyond what Starfleet, or our own honor, would expect."

Their private communication was something which would remain, as the word stated, private. No need for prolonged conversation or lengthy discourse. They knew each other, knew each other well, had shared each other and in the long voyage ahead, events could change which would shed new light on their relationship or allow it to bloom. In either case, she had discovered the only awkwardness on board was her own. Chakotay had easily slipped back into that which she found most comforting; trusted right hand, valued first officer, her loyal helpmate. She thought now that she loved this the most about him.

Her smile widened slightly, shyly and she considered the offer. She gestured for him to join her on the couch and murmured, "I thought you would never ask."


=/\= * * * =/\= * * * =/\=

March 1997. (c) Copyright by the OdoGoddess on story content. Not meant to infringe on copyrights held by Viacom Paramount or any other copyright holders of Star Trek. Please do not reproduce for anything other than personal reading use (including fanzines) without written consent of the author.