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You Still Don't Know (What I Never Said)

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We used to do this every week.   Kathryn found herself thinking.  All those years out there in the Delta Quadrant, she’d always thought that if they managed to both make it back to the Alpha Quadrant it would allow them to be closer.  Now she was struck by just how much it had turned out the opposite.   With Starfleet sending them both scurrying in opposite directions, chances to spend an evening together like this were rare and the change she’d not so secretly longed for in their relationship… well she supposed she couldn’t blame him for having moved on.  

That didn’t mean she didn’t yearn for it to have worked out otherwise.  She felt a twinge of guilt when she thought about how she’d reacted to the most recent time he’d expressed interest in a new woman.   She couldn’t admit out loud that it bothered her, but that hadn’t stopped her from arranging to have the Orisis called back to Earth and away from Chakotay.  That doesn’t mean he didn’t manage to pursue it.  She told herself.  For all I know they’d already… connected, by the time those orders arrived.

“Whatever happened with Captain Leona?” she found herself asking, like a dog unable to resist scratching an open wound that itched.  

Kathryn reached over to pour herself more wine, realizing the change of topic must have seemed abrupt.  Out of the corner of her eye she saw a series of emotions from amusement to resignation flit across his face before he steeled it into neutrality.

“Nothing.” Chakotay replied casually, but then that mischievous grin that always warmed her right to the core spread across his face.  “What about you and Admiral Harlow?”  he teased, but something about his smile became tighter as he said Harlow’s name.

Kathryn had almost forgotten about Harlow, and remembering him made her sigh in disbelief that she’d ever thought he might be worth her time.  

“Let’s just say I think there’s a good reason he’s been divorced twice.  He didn’t strike me as one who did well in captivity.”

Chakotay nodded, jaw relaxing, and Kathryn once again wished that she could make sense of these little details which still popped up occasionally.  Back when it had been impossible, Chakotay had never made her doubt that he wanted there to be a them.  Still, she’d understood when towards the close of their journey he’d given up and moved on; seven years was a long time.  At the same time, when that didn’t work out… well she had hoped he might renew his attentions and sometimes it looked like he might be about to, but then he never did.

I’m probably imagining it. She told herself, I want him to react that way.  I want him to be pining for me after all this time.  So I am making up reactions that don’t exist.

“Any new prospects on the horizon?”  He asked and she reminded herself that it was perfectly normal response from a long time friend, and that she was the one who’d brought the subject up.

“Not really.”  Unable to keep the longing out of her voice, Kathryn wondered what Chakotay would make of her wistful tone.  

She was not prepared for his immediate response of “Good”, said so quickly that she was pretty sure he hadn’t thought before uttering it.

Did he hold what had never been between them so deeply against her, that he wanted her to suffer solitude in punishment?  Were they even friends in truth?  The thought crossed her mind, but no there was no malice in his voice; it was something closer to relief.  Could it truly be that she’d been misreading him for almost two years?

Hope sprung up within her, a feeling she couldn’t and didn’t even want to restrain.  They stared at one another as she watched what he had just said register across Chakotay’s face.

Their eyes stayed locked on one another, neither of them looking away for once.  Kathryn considered laughing, breaking up the moment and teasing him about misery loving company.  It would be safer.  As long as they did not have this conversation, she could keep convincing herself that she saw something in Chakotay’s eyes when he looked at her that might very well not be there.

Still.   As long as they didn’t have this conversation she’d never know if it was too late, and if so… whether that was something that couldn’t be helped: a boundary crossed back in the Delta Quadrant, or whether it was something they were facing right now with every chance she let slip by.  

 “Why good?” It was said in a breath that escaped her almost as much as his comment seemed to have him.

He hesitated, opening and then closing his mouth, and Kathryn knew she’d been seen through and surmised that the answer couldn’t be anything good from his reaction.  She dropped her gaze from his and began to fidget with the remains of dinner still on the table, anything to avoid looking at his face and seeing the absence of the expression she’d hoped and dreamed from for so long.  

I should go, she thought.

 Then suddenly the warmth of his fingers covered hers and she felt a wave of emotion wash over her. She couldn’t resist the promise the simple contact offered. Don’t leave, it said. She looked up, twining her fingers with his and squeezing gently as she met his eyes once more.

Back in the Delta Quadrant, he was always the one to say more.  Maybe it is my turn, she decided.  Yes.  She needed to know, even if the answer left her heartbroken and hopeless.

“You know, there’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you.” Her voice came out quiet as she steeled herself to rip the band-aid off, for better or worse.

“What’s that?” She saw his breath catch in his throat, felt his pulse alter against her palm.

 “We’ve been home for over a year and a half and never once have you offered to take me to Venice.”

 Chakotay’s face ran the gamut of disbelief, hope, surprise, and something else as he stared intently at hers, apparently unable to convince himself of her meaning. He dropped his eyes, his gaze falling on their intertwined hands. His thumb gently ran across her fingers and she remembered another night, one that would never fade from her memory, when their hands had been laced across a different table just like this and she’d first realized the potential depths of his feelings for her.

“I didn’t think you wanted me to, Kathryn.”  He voice was quiet as his eyes remained fixed on their hands.

She followed his gaze, looking at their hands, older now, hers pale and small and his larger, strong.   It wasn’t the profession of emotion that she realized she’d been hoping for, but it was an explanation that made a hell of a lot more sense than anything she’d come up with.  Still, could he really have not known?

“I thought I made myself perfectly clear in the Delta quadrant; I never said never.”  Her voice came out low, more a thought to herself than to him.

Not never was not the same at someday, she had to admit.  She’d told herself over and over that it was the Delta quadrant keeping them apart, but she supposed she’d never actually told him that.  If she was so in doubt of his interest after his openness with her about his feelings, how could she expect him to act on her non-answers from that same time period?

He nodded, taking in her words.  “That’s true.” He conceded, “But then again, you’re still keeping everyone, me included, at a safe distance.  To be honest, I always hoped my feelings would change. I tried to make them change.”

A shot of pain ran through her at his words.  Had she truly been so cruel to make him dread and resent his feelings for her?  She supposed she couldn’t blame him.  She’d certainly laid in bed at night willing her thoughts from him more times than she could count.  Still, he’d spoken of that struggle in the past tense.  Did that mean he had succeeded in changing his feelings or that he’d given up trying?

 “And have you succeeded.” The words came out clearly, as though she was beyond the frittering of emotion that had paralyzed her thus far.  This was it.

 “Of course not.”  His reply and the resulting unwinding of tension in her body made her realize just how far from resigned she had been.  “Have you?”

Her heart was in her throat.   He had not stopped.  This was it, at last she could tell him without caveats that she loved him, that she’d loved him for so long in silence.  She couldn’t make her mouth work though, overcome by the moment.   She was quite literally speechless and found herself shaking her head and praying he would understand that her lack of words was due to too much feeling and not a lack thereof.

“Then why didn’t you say something?” He demanded, refusing to let her off the hook that easily.  

She wanted to have a good answer for him.   He deserved that.  She didn’t though, and it suddenly occurred to her that her need to do everything perfectly, to win, to succeed, to be the best… that was what had gotten them here. Well she wasn’t going to waste any more of their time waiting for the perfect answer, perfect words, perfect solution.

“I don’t know.” She admitted, shrugging her shoulders. “I guess I always thought there would be some perfect time, some perfect moment where the truth would become so obvious to both of us that we wouldn’t need words. But the more I think about it, the more it seems clear that I might live the rest of my life alone, wondering just how much I’ve sacrificed on the altar of duty.”

And I’ve had perfect opportunities, she didn’t add aloud.  I’ve had more than a few with you, where all I had to do was not pull away, say yes, lean in.  Maybe I’m not made for perfect moments.  Maybe I’m better suited to improvisation, making the shoe fit when no one else thinks it can or will.

 “All you ever had to do was say the word, Kathryn.”  His voice was steady as he held her gaze.

“I thought I just did.” She replied: blunt, plainspoken.  There was no taking this back.

She felt a different sort of tension welling up inside of her.  Here they both were, acknowledging that yes they both wanted to be together.  They’d stood on the precipice of this moment so many times and now it was like every instinct was sabotaging their attempts to jump past it at last.  Why isn’t he kissing me?  she thought, then, Why aren’t I kissing him? She’d always thought that, if and when they finally got here, it would be organic, effortless.  He’d enfold her in his big strong arms and they’d find themselves overcome by the moment.

The moment was here and they were both just sitting on opposite sides of the table.  He searched her face and she saw a mixture of emotions on his and realized that he was overcome, just not in some holonovel way.  This was real, earned, unlike some cheap photonic facsimile of passion.  

 “Then how do you, I mean…”  Chakotay fumbled for the words, more like a cadet in the blushes of first love than a middle aged man finally free to explore the next step in a relationship that had been a long time in the making.  In fact, he actually blushed.

Kathryn wasn’t sure what would happen if she left him struggling, but she decided not to.  Maybe they both needed a chance to let this sink in. After all this time, maybe they needed space to recalibrate.

“I’ll make you a deal,” she told him, rescuing him from his attempt to formulate a sentence.

“I’m listening.” He smiled back at her but it was a serious smile.

“You’re going to be slogging through the Yaris Nebula for the next ten months, and I don’t imagine you’ll be encountering many fascinating women while you’re there.”

“Many?” His face betrayed that he suspected where she was going and he didn’t like it.  She had to admit it didn’t seem appealing to her either, but she wasn’t sure it wasn’t the best course of action anyway.

“All right any,” she conceded.  “But then again, one never knows what fate has in store.”

 She expected him to quibble with her talking about fate as being out of character, but he simply said, “Fair enough.”

“And I have yet to meet anyone in the Alpha quadrant I really enjoy having lunch with, much less anything else,” she paused to him a moment process what she was saying. “When you get back, assuming nothing has changed for either of us,” What are you doing Kathryn, haven’t you let him go enough times already? “we’ll meet in Venice.”

Are you really still that scared, Kathryn?  Kiss the man.  He’s told you his feelings remained unchanged. How many times have you let him go only to have him come back to you? Why are you giving the universe another chance to keep you from being together?

For a moment, she thought he wasn’t going to argue, that he was going to accept one last boundary without complaint.  But then he got up and walked to stand behind her, his hand still in hers.  She looked up at him and mirrored the action, standing and lifting her chin up to stare into his eyes.  What she saw there made her chest tighten with emotion.   

It was as though he’d just let drop a filter in the way he looked at her, letting his emotions pierce through her with his eyes in a way she’d only ever caught him doing when he thought she wasn’t looking. It was a look that left no doubt as to the strength of his feelings for her.

Don’t let me walk away again.  She silently begged him.  I don’t know why I said that.

He reached out, gently tugging the comb which held her hair in place from her head, and she felt her hair tumble free.  She shook it loose, letting it fall over her shoulders, without breaking eye contact.  

 “I let you go once, Kathryn,” his voice was low, like he was afraid she might startle and dart away. “Please don’t ask me to do it again.”

A rush of relief ran through her at his words.  “Come to think of it…” she started in a whisper, tilting her chin up and leaning in towards him.

He cut off her sentence with a kiss.  That first kiss was light, she would almost say nervous, his lips barely brushing hers. Then, as she placed her hand on his chest and pressed her face closer to his, he seemed to come alive.  Their second kiss was deep, lips parting against one another effortlessly, as his arm wrapped around her waist and pulled her against him.

“I don’t think we need to wait any longer.” she finished, as they pulled apart for air, a smile on her face.

Kathryn wrapped her arms around Chakotay’s neck and pulled him down for another kiss.  She’d dreamed of his lips for so long, even when she didn’t want to admit it herself, and boy were they worth the wait.  It was more than that though, it was the very fact that they were his lips. She moved her hands to his face and traced the familiar planes of it with her fingers, wanting to memorize the feeling of him under her fingertips as well as she had the sight of him before her eyes.

“Do you have any idea how many times I’ve imagined this, Kathryn?” Chakotay murmured, between kisses, as his lips moved to the side of her neck.

“Maybe somewhere near the amount of times I have.” she suggested, smiling and biting her lip, the solemness of the moment suddenly giving way to unmitigated joy and a surprisingly carefreeness. “So I’d approximate it at about the number of light years from the Caretaker’s array back in the Delta quadrant to where we are standing right now.”

“That sounds about right.”  She could hear the smile in his voice, warm and almost purring, as he ran his fingers through her hair and then kissed the underside of her jaw, sending shivers down her spine.

“How are we ever going to live up to all that anticipation?”  She didn’t realize that was a thought lurking in her brain until it came out of her mouth.

He straightened his head back up to look her in the eyes.  “We don’t.  We let all those fruitless sighs go.   Let’s just start from today and go from there.” 

“But-” He cut her off with a kiss and gently placed his hand on the side of her face.

“You are Kathryn Janeway, and it doesn’t matter how long it took us to get here.  You are the most phenomenal person I’ve ever known and I love you.  The rest we can figure out as we go along.”

“I was so convinced I’d ruined things between us…”  Kathryn felt a surge of emotion overtake her, lump in her throat and vision blurring.

Today had been such a rollercoaster of emotions, starting with the relief of the rejection of the Full Circle proposal and then her regret over having thought she’d missed her chance with Chakotay, followed by the night’s revelations and even now, the intensity with which she was reacting to every passing thought.

“I long since realized that was never going to happen.” he reassured her, kissing her forehead, “Not irrevocably.”

“I don’t know, if I am going to get maudlin like this on you and ruin the precious hours we have before I have to leave and you are gone for 10 months I just might.”  She smiled as she said it though, remembering just how good it felt to let herself be steadied by him, more so now that she wasn’t holding herself back.

 “I mean, if you really would rather I spend the night cradling you gently and stroking your hair as you sob against my manly chest…” he teased. 

She’d made the mistake once of accidentally describing his physique as manly in front of him, and he’d never let her live it down in better times.

“I can think of better things to do with it…” She grinned, running her hands across his chest,  from the center out towards his arms, over the top of his uniform.

“Oh really?” His eyes sparkled with mischief, “And what might those be?”

“Why don’t we take off this jacket for a start and find out?” she suggested, reaching to open his uniform jacket.

“Let’s do the same with yours.” He licked his bottom lip and she was overjoyed not to have to resist leaning in and kissing him, as slid his jacket off his shoulders and felt him do the same with hers.

 She tossed the jacket aside and grabbed hold of both of his hands, guiding him over to the couch and putting her hands on his shoulders to push him gently down.   He reached out for her, bringing her down with him and she settled herself straddling his lap, burying her face against his neck.

“You know, back when these were your quarters, I used to think a lot about us ending up like this on the couch,” he murmured, hands tracing her waist and along her back.

“I thought we were letting the past go.” she teased, running her hands up under both of his remaining shirts.

“Everyone knows that you have to process things in order to be free of them… any counselor could tell you that.” He grinned playfully, as she dragged his turtleneck and undershirt over his head at the same time.

“And you know I’ve never had much patience for counselors.” she countered, pressing her hands against his bare chest with great enjoyment.

“I’m running out of patience for that turtleneck.”  he shot back, “All pips must go.”

“Why?” she asked, leaning back slightly to pull the offending item of clothing off.  “Afraid the Admiral might pull rank on you in the bedroom?”

He wrapped his arms around her, kissing her neck and along her collarbone. “It wouldn’t matter. You could get busted down to ensign and I’d still jump to fulfill any and all requests you made.”

“And just what would I get busted down to ensign for?” She ran her hands down his back.

“Abuse of rank.” He grinned mischievously, hands sliding up under her tank top to the base of her bra to hold her ribcage.

Kathryn found herself giggling a little, giddy and exuberant. Chakotay slowly drew her undershirt up over her head and then leaned back against the side of the couch, eyes glazing over a little as he took the sight of her in. 

“Is there a problem, captain?”  She bit her lip as she flushed under his gaze.

 “Just taking a minute to enjoy the view… if that’s alright with you.” His eyes met hers.

“In that case…” She reached around behind her and unhooked her bra, tossing it aside, “Maybe this will help.”

His eyes automatically raked over her now naked upper body, apparently pleased with what they saw.  He reached out slowly, starting just above the waistband of her pants and ran his hands up her stomach and sides, his large hands making her feel small in comparison, and then continuing upwards to gently cup her breasts.  

 Kathryn pressed her body into his touch, enjoying the feeling of his warm strong hands on her body and the reaction she could feel from him seated beneath her. She ran one hand through his hair and used the other to cup his face as she kissed Chakotay soundly.

“Helpful?” she smirked, only to have that smirk wiped off of her face as he ran his thumbs across her nipples causing her to let out a low moan.

“Maybe we should take this to the bedroom.” he suggested, breath catching a little, as she pressed close against him and she could feel his heart pounding against her as her chest rubbed against his.

“Sounds like a plan.” she agreed, kissing him again, before reluctantly placing her feet back on the ground and standing up.

She turned and headed over in the direction of the bedroom, only to feel Chakotay’s arms wrap around her from behind and his lips against her neck, as he pressed against her backside.  Their progress might have been slowed, as he ran his hands over her breasts and trailed kisses across her shoulders; his hips pressed close against her, allowing her to feel his enthusiasm.  Kathryn didn’t mind.

They finally made it to the bedroom, and she sat down on the edge of the bed, pulling off her boots. Chakotay sat down next to her and she wrapped her arms around his neck pulling him sideways with her as she collapsed down onto the bed.

Hands wandered everywhere and lips moved from mouths down necks and still lower in a blur.   It was an exploration but at the same time it was a homecoming.   Truth be told, it was more natural feeling to be in Chakotay’s arms, to feel his lips against her skin, to run her hands over his warm smooth skin and feel his heart beat against her. Kathryn realized that there was a part of herself she’d long been estranged from, a part of herself that had already been here, moaning Chakotay’s name as his mouth covered her breasts in kisses.  She’d cut herself off from it years before, and just now realized it.

She pulled him closer, one leg wrapping around his as she arched her body against his.  What had she been thinking, suggesting they might wait almost another year?  No, the urgency of her passion rose within her, hungry and not replacing her emotions but co-opting them.  She ground her hips against his with a whimper.  

He pulled away and for a moment panic and dread and confusion filled her.

“Chakotay?” she asked, worry overtaking her voice.

 “Ssshhhh… Kathryn.”  He ran his hand down her spine, sending shivers through her.  “I promise I’m not going away.”

He knelt before her, running his hands over the top of her legs through her uniform pants before letting his hands come to rest at the top where they unfastened.

She reached out and unclasped his pants and he did the same to hers, slowly pulling them down her legs with her assistance as she arched her hips up.   He placed kisses across her lower stomach and then down both thighs and to the inside of her knees. He looked up from between her knees with a wide dimpled grin, as he ran one one of his hands back up her inner thigh to trace over her underwear.

Kathryn bit her lip, hips jutting forward into the contact of their own accord.  Chakotay’s hand gently stroked her through the fabric and she shuddered in response.   

“Why don’t we get rid of these, and I can show you exactly what your needs coming first looks like?”   He quirked an eyebrow upward.  He had to know how eager she was for him to follow through on that, but he was (as always she realized) waiting on her yes.

“Well, since you’ve obviously been waiting a long time to follow up on that line...” She couldn’t help beaming down at him as she lifted her hips, helping him pull her last piece of clothing from her until she was completely bare before him.   

“Almost as long as I’ve been waiting for this sight.” He breathed, “but not quite.”

“That’s a lot of time to build something up.” Kathryn found herself blushing suddenly.   She wasn’t exactly young anymore, though neither was he she supposed.

“Some things are worth the wait.” he told her with absolutely sincerity, before bending forward to kiss along the insides of her thighs, her body tingling in response.

 Some things really were worth the wait.

She could feel his breath warm against her as he slowly worked his way up and inward, so close she could almost feel his mouth, and then there it was, circling her opening, tongue dragging his way upward until it reached her clit and her head rolled back in pleasure.

His hands rested against her hips, holding her close as he slowly explored her reactions to his lips and tongue.  He kept his upper lip against her clit as his tongue probed inside of her, circling slowly before with treating only to press forward again.  

She moaned his named, each movement of his mouth against her causing her to flush more deeply and breathe more heavily, as he brought his tongue back up to circle her clit.   Slowly, carefully, with a tenderness and complete absence of impatience, he turned her shudders to moans and moans to whimpers, as tension pooled at her core until finally it released as she reached her peak with a sharp cry.

Chakotay softened the strokes of his tongue, meandering more than moving now, as her shaking subsided and her breath came back to her.

 Kathryn sighed, “You’re right, Chakotay.  Some things are worth the wait.”

She felt him grin against her and she sat up, resuming her discarded task of undressing him.  She pulled him to his feet and placed kisses against his stomach as her hands finished stripping him.

He buried his hands in her hair, holding it back from her face, and she glanced up to see him looking down at her with an expression that was passionate and tender at the same time.  

She leaned back on her elbows, looking him up and down as he had her.  She’d spent a lot of time thinking about what he looked like out of his uniform, but only snatches of piece of him out of it in reality up until now.

His attractiveness definitely didn’t end with his handsome face. Yes, there had been a couple of years there when times were rough in the Delta quadrant where he’d stopped taking care of himself, but Chakotay had clearly gotten back into better habits again, resulting in the highlighting of the genetics he’d been gifted with.

“Am I going to pass inspection?” he teased, but Kathryn realized that a part of him must be feeling as she had.

“You’ve passed the visual with flying colors.” She quirked her mouth to the side playfully, “Why don’t you come join me on the bed and let’s see about finishing the hands on?”

“With pleasure.” he agreed, letting her take his hands and pull him down on top of her.   

 She kissed him deeply, arching her body up against his.  With every kiss, every touch, every moment of enjoyment, she felt the rust fall away from the natural pull towards intimacy between them, the resignation and the brittle defeat giving way to joy and warmth.

“Oh Kathryn…” He sighed, rolling so that they were both more fully on the bed and she ended up over him.

He gazed up into her eyes and she down into his, and she readjusted herself atop him, both of them shuddering at the contact as his erection rubbed against her opening.  It was one shift more for her to re-angle her hips, bringing them down onto him so that he slid inside her, her moan of enjoyment echoed by one from him.

For a moment they stayed there, her hands on either side of his head, her breasts pressed tightly against his chest, and him deep buried inside of her, eyes locked on one another.  Maybe, she thought for a moment, time will stop as this timeline is unwritten to maintain us never being together.  Because, it had felt, for so long, like that must be the case, like there was some force in the universe keeping them apart, undoing any reality where they managed to bridge the gap.

The world didn’t end, though.  Chakotay was still here, real and solid beneath her, and she pressed her lips to his as she she thrust her hips, feeling him meet her movement with his own as she submitted herself completely to the enjoyment and instinct of it.

“I love you.”  she murmured against his mouth, tempting fate again,  “Chakotay, I love you.”

“Kathryn…” he groaned, “my love...  my Kathryn-”

She cut him off with a deeper kiss, rotating her hips more forcefully around him.   It vaguely occurred to her that she probably should be offended by the possessiveness, and doubtless she would be… some other night.  Still, the idea that there would be another time where she had the luxury of taking offense to it filled her with a sort of glee.

As she sat up, Kathryn ran her hands over Chakotay’s shoulders to come to a rest against his chest and rocked against him.  He reached up and pressed his palms against her breasts and each movement she made provided just that much extra friction.  She angled her hips forward, so that her clit also rubbed against him with every thrust and let out a little cry of pleasure at the added contact.

Kathryn stretched her hand out to touch his face, running her fingers along his tattoo, down the side of his face, across his lower lip.   He opened his mouth and drew two of her fingers between his lips, sucking on them as he caressed each with his tongue.  Her head fell back, her whole body arched as she circled her hips with abandon, pulse racing as each moment brought her closer to release.   She felt her body throbbing around him, as she made smaller movements now that were nonetheless intense.  

Chakotay pressed his body to sit up against her, wrapping his arms around her back and kissing her deeply and she felt herself shake and tense, hitting her climax and riding out the wave as she felt herself pulse around him.

Their hearts beat against one another, and Kathryn wrapped her legs around his waist, something he responded to by moving his hands to cradle her thighs in them.

Kathryn ran her hand down his neck to the hollow of his throat and then pressed her palm gently against his collarbone, tangling the other one into his hair. She leaned back, dragging him with her as she collapsed backwards onto the bed.

“At last…” she murmured against his lips, “Oh, at long last, Chakotay.”

 “Yes, Kathryn.  At last.” His movements were slow and lingering, and she pressed her hips up, wrapping her legs more tightly around him.

 He groaned in response, shaking slightly, and she ran her fingers down his neck and along his back. He cried out her name, jerking against her and she felt the warmth of his release spilling inside of her as she wrapped herself snugly around him and shuddered along with him, the sensation of being so impossibly close overwhelming her.

 They both gasped for breath, Chakotay holding his weight off her with his arms.  It was only with great reluctance that Kathryn unwound herself from him, letting her legs fall to either side of him and her arms next to her head. He kissed her slowly, his hand tracing its way down her side from her shoulder to her stomach, as he pulled himself from her, collapsing by her side still staring at her face.

“Yeah… we definitely would never have made it home if we’d done this back in the Delta quadrant.”  She shook her head with a smile.

“With the kind of assignments we’ve been getting recently, maybe that wouldn’t have been such a bad thing.” Chakotay suggested.

 The thought reminded Kathryn of her original reason for coming to see him.  Of course, he didn’t know anything about that Full Circle proposal, and she hoped he never had to.

“Where would you have had us settle?  With the 37s?  Back on New Earth with that monkey?”  She turned onto her side to face him and pressed her hand against his chest to feel his heartbeat against it.  

“I’m kidding, Kathryn.” He cupped her face with his hand.  “But honestly, it wouldn’t have mattered.   I would have been content to stay or go anywhere you were.” 

“And now?”  The reality of how little time they might have together as two Starfleet officers, intruded on her thoughts, piercing through the afterglow.

“Always.”

She leaned in and kissed him, savoring the sensation and the warmth of his touch and his expression.

“Good.”   Kathryn snuggled closer to Chakotay, relishing the radiant feeling of being together like this at last.  “We will start with Venice, and we’ll go from there.”

“I kind of thought we’d already started.”   His dimples beamed at her, face full of mischief.

“A fair point.” she grinned.   A voice inside her almost told him she didn’t want to put this on pause for almost a year, that the Yaris Nebula didn’t need him really.  

Or I could be the one to follow him this time and tell Starfleet where they can stick it.  The thought occurred to her but she knew she couldn’t, not yet.  Chakotay wasn’t the only person on this ship she cared for, and the last thing either of them could do was abandon the crew she still thought of as theirs to the vagaries of admirals who didn’t.  

One more year.  She promised silently.  One more year and then it doesn’t matter what happens I’m not waiting any longer for our future together.

“If you are a little confused on that point, I’d be happy to refresh your memory.”  Chakotay ran his tongue along his upper lip, his voice suggestive, as he ran his hand up from her waist to cup her breast, rubbing his thumb in a circle against her nipple.

“So just what is it you are worried about my forgetting?”  Kathryn’s voice was low, flirtatious, full of her excitement and enthusiasm about him.

“I just want to make sure you remember how thoroughly convinced you were about this course of action, during all those months of long boring command meetings and diplomacy.”

“Do you really think there’s any chance that I’m going back on this… on us?”  she pressed her forehead against his.  “You know how stubborn I am once I’ve made my mind up about something, Chakotay.”

“Boy do I ever…” he laughed, and she knew he was thinking of all those times she’d held him at arms length and refused to consider another option.  

“I’m sorry that I made you doubt my feelings, Chakotay.  I had to keep some distance between us for a very long time, but I never felt good about hurting you.”

“I understood that, Kathryn.  Maybe if I’d loved you less-”

She cut him off with a kiss, wrapping a leg around him.   He pulled her flush against him, running his hands all over her back and legs.  For a while, neither of them said anything further as they kissed and caressed. Kathryn was relatively sure that Chakotay was enjoying the decadent feeling of spending precious hours enjoying each other as much as she was.

“You know… If we’d done this in the Delta quadrant, there’s no way we would have gotten this much uninterrupted time, without some sort of urgent interruption.” She snuggled her face against his chest as he stroked her hair.   

“Probably Tuvok.” he agreed dry.

She laughed at the memory of all the times it seemed like Tuvok knew exactly when they were getting a little too close and managed to interrupt them at just the most charged moment.

“Better Tuvok than poor Harry.” she suggested.

 “He might have fainted if he walked in on us.”  Chakotay concurred.

“How do you think our little Voyager family is going to react?” Kathryn found herself musing aloud.

 “I’m sure they’ll be happy for us.” Chakotay reassured her. “They love you, Kathryn… not the same way I do, obviously.  I mean you’re like a mother-”

 “That might be a little weird.”  Kathryn chuckled, “But hopefully you are right. Kids want to see their parents together, right?”

“As long as they don’t have to think about what that means behind closed doors.”  Chakotay teased, bringing their faces together and kissing her deeply.

“Thus Harry fainting.” she agreed, swinging her leg over him and straddling his body,  “What would I have to do, to convince you that you should be the one to break the news to the kids?”

Chakotay ran his hands over her body and smiled contentedly.

“Just show up.” he told her, voice low and serious,  “Don’t leave me waiting again.”

“Deal.”  She leaned down and wrapped her arms around him.  “These are going to be the longest ten months of my life, aren’t they?”

“Just remember…” He kissed her forehead. “It’s nothing compared to what we’ve endured already.  Just don’t do anything reckless while I’m not around to be your voice of reason, Kathryn.”

Every time he said her name, it felt like an embrace all of its own.

 “Don’t worry.” she laughed, “They’ve got me on a pretty short leash these days.”

From the other room, she heard her combadge, her assistant reminding her that they were due to leave in an hour.  Kathryn groaned and buried her face against Chakotay’s chest.

“Can I just hide here?” she sighed.

“You aren’t going to get any complaints from me if you want to take up permanent residence in my arms.”  Chakotay’s voice had a hint of longing it it; they both knew that she had to go.

“I love you.”  Kathryn sat back up, cradling his face in her hands.  It felt important to say those words, clear and unequivocable.

“I love you.” Chakotay sat up as well, kissing her.  “And from what I hear I have under a hour left to show you exactly how much.”

 He flipped her onto her back, kissing his way down her body as he settled between her legs.   Kathryn sighed in enjoyment, burying her hands in his hair and arching up into the contact.  She had no doubt that she was going to be cutting it close with her departure time, but she couldn’t have cared less, not as the man she loved so deeply smiled while he ran his hands over her stomach and kissed along her hipbones.  

“Your needs come last as well as first.” Chakotay murmured, moving his lips further down her body, and she moaned his name, shivering in enjoyment as he kissed her clit, “First, last, and everywhere in between.”

Chakotay. Oh Chakotay!  Kathryn mentally repeated his name like an invocation as he robbed her of the ability to think coherent thoughts  my Chakotay.