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In The Shadows

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I am alone with my thoughts. And the darkness. The darkness is always there, just outside the window. The gaping, swallowing void mocks me from every viewport, all my failures wrapped up in nothingness.

I am alone in the water, my body rigid and poisoned with dread against the rock of the tiny waves. I’m not in the bath to get clean; the sonic shower would work just fine for that. I’m here because I need to feel weightless, to heave the boulder of guilt off my shoulders for even just a moment. I’m here because I can’t sit in the silence of my quarters without relief for one more second.

I am alone, my fingers drifting between my thighs. Searching through the water for my clitoris, searching for pleasure. Searching for relief, anything to take my mind off the upheaval and chaos of my thoughts.

I am alone, and horny. Funny how your body can betray you with these intrusive, base desires when your mind is on the other side of the galaxy. Funny how when you hate yourself, the only thing you want is to remember how it feels to love yourself. For someone to love you. Anyone.

But this isn’t love, it’s just hormones. And right now, it’s all I’m thinking about.

Ironic. I’ve been searching for weeks for a distraction, but I hadn’t expected to come in the form of an orgasm. If I can ever get there.

I’ve been alone in the bath for an hour. The water was scalding hot when I climbed in, but it’s cooled to a reasonable temperature, still just warm enough to keep my mind from turning from pleasure to the cold. I keep my eyes closed to my surroundings, focusing instead on the rhythm of my fingers between my legs. The water sloshes quietly as I reposition and tremble, straining toward the single beam of light in my darkened state of mind.

God, it’s so close. I can feel the tight pang of anticipation between my hips, the heat drifting from me and into the water. I can feel the pulse of pleasure just below my fingertips, my swollen clit aching for that perfect moment of stimulation to send me spilling over the edge.

Just when I think I almost have it, the pleasure flits away with a single stray thought.

The inky darkness.

The crew.

My duties.

The world outside this moment. My guilt. My failings.

Each hitting me like a fist to the gut.

I have to take a breath and reassert my mind to this trivial pursuit. It’s one of the few things I have left to myself, and it may be silly, but I’m not giving it up to my depressed thoughts and self-hatred.

I am alone, or so I thought.

Creeping toward pleasure, I suddenly feel the burn and itch of eyes on the back of my head. At first, it’s only a niggling, and I dismiss it. Then, as my skin begins to blaze with the intensity of the gaze, I sit upright in the tub.

Pivoting, I see him lingering in the shadows.

“What are you doing?” I gasp, my voice thin and shaking.

He turns away abruptly, his shoulders facing me wide and stiff.

“I just came in to check on you. I’m sorry, I didn’t realize-”

“How long have you been standing there?”

“Not long.”

I gaze at his turned back, trying to muster some sense of anger at the impropriety of the situation. I could cite rules and regulations, but this isn’t a matter of rank.

At this stage, I’m just woman lying naked in a bathtub with her hand between her legs.

And he’s just a man trying to keep this ship together.

He’s called on me nearly every day since this isolation began, staying sometimes for a minute, sometimes for an hour. Rotating between tactics to break through my walls. Maybe he’s finally found one.

“Chakotay …”I whisper.

He hesitantly turns his head to look over his shoulder at me. I can see the glint of his eyes in the dark, barely distinguishable from the shadows. He’s magnetism and weight, just like the darkness, but it’s a shadow I would welcome across my pale skin.

I bring my hand out of the water, spilling tiny droplets over the edge as I reach for him.

“Come.”

A frown tightens his brow at my beckon.

“Captain, I-”

“Come here.”

He hesitates a moment longer before turning fully to face the tub. He shuffles across the room, his head down, eyes trained on the floor. When he reaches the edge of the tub, his eyes shift between the water’s surface and my face. My form is barely visible beneath the water, but my breasts manage to break the surface. The water rolls over my hard, pink nipples, playing a game of hide and seek with his tentative gaze.

“Captain-” His voice is a low, strangled sound.

“No.” I murmur, “Not captain. Say my name.”

His lips purse, nostrils flaring. His eyes slide shut for a moment as he grips at his control.

“Kathryn …”

“Kneel down.” I say, my voice stout with sudden boldness.

My mind is scattered and frantic, hardly following a straight line. I’m set on this thought of pleasure, though I know I’m hurtling headlong into a fatal mistake.

This darkness and this solitude has severed me from command. The world he’s been living in, the one on the bridge, is so far away from me it’s almost negligible.

I think now that I’ve always wanted him like this. How utterly ridiculous I haven’t asked him to touch me before. How strange I’d put other things before this anticipation and light-headed arousal that I’m experiencing now.

Slowly, he kneels down beside the tub.

He avoids my gaze with a bent head. His fingers are white-knuckled around the ceramic edge of the bath.

I take his right wrist, and pry his fingers away from the rim. Plunging it below the water, I guide his hand down against my inner thigh.

A gasp rolls from his lips. His arm fights my pull for half a second before his fingers settle loose and hesitant against my skin.

“Look at me.” I whisper.

He lifts his chin, slowly pries his eyes open. They’re obsidian in the darkness, bright, glinting points of need that sear into my body like a branding iron.

“I’ve been here for an hour now.” I say, my voice low and choked, “Touching myself …”

Rosy color rushes up his neck and cheeks, and he breaks the gaze in shock. His eyelashes bat, and his throat bobs in a thick swallow.

“I haven’t come.” I whisper, a groan creeping into my tone, “I can’t make myself …”

“Kathryn-”

“I need you to do it.”

His hand retreats from my thigh, and he begins to rise from the floor. I grab onto his wrist, sloshing water over the edge of the tub in my urgency.

“No, don’t go.”

“I have to.” He says, his expression pained, “I can’t do this, Kathryn. I’m sorry-”

I pull hard on his arm, forcing him back to his knees. He leans against the edge of the tub with a grunt.

“Touch me, Chakotay.” I pant, dragging his hand between my thighs, “That’s an order.”

His hand bumps between my legs as I force his wrist down farther into the water. The first contact is accidental and brusque, but my body clenches and hums in response.

“Please,” I whisper, casting him a plaintive gaze, “I’m so close, I just need you to …”

His wrist relaxes in my hands. I see the defiance in his eyes crumbling, the truth peeking out from behind his objections. He’s dying inside to let go of command and respect. Dying to touch me, to fuck me.

“Let go of my arm.” He says.

I open my mouth to protest, but his sharp glance cuts me off, as does his next command.

“Open your legs.”

Heart pounding, I relinquish my grip on his arm. The water ripples quietly below the sound of our heavy, exhilarated breaths as I spread my legs wide against the sides of the tub.

His hand slides through the water to find me wet and trembling. His fingers graze my labia, tracing over the edges and leaving me dizzy and panting with crushing arousal. Slowly, he reaches past the tender folds to where I’m clenched and gushing, and my clitoris is puffy and sensitive with friction and need. He touches me there gently, and it’s as if a bolt of electricity goes through me. I jolt against the tub, splashing water and piercing the silence with a strained cry.

He crouches just behind my shoulder, and clasps my cheek in his other hand, pulling my face toward his neck. I breathe in the scent of his skin as he touches me, his fingers deft and delicate against my throbbing clitoris.

I writhe and arch against the smooth ceramic of the tub, moaning out my need into his skin.

“Please …” I whimper, tossing my head against his shoulder, “Oh God, I need more.”

He presses closer, his arm stretching through the water to bring his fingers harder against me. His ministrations are quick and precise, exacting just the right pressure, leveling me with pleasure.

I’m heaving and gasping in the tepid water when my sore, aching body finally releases to his touch and fills me with pulsating bliss. Water sloshes and spills as I writhe against the swirl of his fingers. Spasms clench and ripple through me, each one coming harder and brighter and hotter until I’m breathless, half-sobbing in a relief.

I clutch at his arm, desperate to keep him with me before the pleasure has even faded or melted into my bones.

He releases a low sigh against my hair, leaving a kiss against my crown like an afterthought - a stab at romance when this moment is anything but romantic.

His hand retreats from between my legs, but I claw at his forearm.

“Don’t run away.” I whisper, holding his hand prisoner against my breast.

“I’ve already stayed too long.”

“Then you’ve already crossed the line, and there’s no retrieving it.”

“What will you do if I stay?”

I gaze straight ahead, considering that question myself. I hadn’t thought much farther than my own orgasm.

I can hear the regret in his tone, but also the note of desire. He’s torn between the two, and how could I blame him? I couldn’t have chosen a worse moment to thrust this upon him.

What does he think of me right now, really?

I’ve all but abandoned him to run this ship without me. I’ve locked myself in this room for days to mourn my own selfish choices. I’ve left him with the responsibility of the entire crew. And now, I ask one more impossible thing.

“I want to get out of this tub and fuck you.” I say, my voice raw and undisguised by any pretense that had come before.

There’s a beat of silence before he extricates his hand from my grasp.

I let go this time, knowing I can’t force him another step beyond this point. I can’t make him give more than he already has.

He rises from the floor, and stands behind me for a long moment. I can feel the weight of his gaze on me, the indecision, the longing, the resolve.

Finally, I hear the rhythm of his footfalls departing. The cold breath of loneliness washes in to surround me in his absence, an old enemy returning to my doorstep.

I don’t cry. My heart has edges of steel to deflect this kind of pain. It’s grown thorns from the scars, and armor from the wounds.

I am not devastated by his choice to leave. It was the right choice, that I’m aware of.

I am alone. Alone until he calls again tomorrow.