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She’s getting close.

Kathryn’s heels dig into the mattress, her body starting to arch off the bed.  The tension’s been building low in her belly, slowly tightening her muscles until they ache.  Fuck, she needs this.  It’s been so long, even on her own, that she’s started to forget what it feels like: the slickness of sweat across her skin, the sound of her breathing getting louder and faster, the clench of her stomach in anticipation.  She grinds up against the frantic motions of her hand, chasing the sensation, straining for the precipice that’s right there, right there

…and her wrist cramps.

With a grunt of defeat, she collapses back to the bed.  Reluctantly, she pulls her hand away and shakes out her stiff wrist, groaning more with frustration than pain. 

It’s been months.  The kiss with Lord Burleigh had brought things to the forefront, but the problem isn’t new.  She’d had no reason to bring her vibrator on a two-week mission to the Badlands, and now the damned thing is 70,000 light years away.  Naturally, there’s no replicator pattern for such a thing, and every time she sits down to program it, she gets so embarrassed at the thought of using her time and the ship’s precious resources to replicate a sex toy that she never even has the computer save her progress.

Besides, it’s not like the whole problem started in the Delta Quadrant.  She’s always had a hard time getting off, alone or with partners.  In fact, she’s a little baffled at the fact that she wants it so badly – both orgasms and sex are something she’s always been able to go without if she’d needed to.  She’d prefer to have them, true, but it’s never resulted in a desperate situation before. 

Maybe it’s something about being a captain in this mess, having to set herself so far apart from the people around her that the most physical intimacy she gets in any given day usually amounts to setting her hand on her first officer’s chest.  Even that’s starting to become a loaded gesture these days, and she often has to chide herself into pulling away from Chakotay instead of stroking down against firm muscle, feeling the shape of him through the rough uniform fabric and wondering how hot his skin would be to the touch…

In other words, it’s not helping.

They’ve just had telepathic aliens invade the ship for fun, and there’s a new engineering problem every other day, and half the time Kathryn sits in the captain’s chair wishing she could just fucking come already.  It’s like perpetually having an itch right between her shoulder blades.  She can’t concentrate on anything else, but if she could just manage one good scratch, everything would be fine.

The problem with that particular metaphor, of course, is that she could always just ask someone to help her scratch.  But even if she had anyone to ask, there’s no guarantee they’d even be… successful.  It’s maddening.  The thought of going back on the holodeck makes her feel vaguely ill after so many recent hallucinations, but the other day in Engineering she felt the gentle rumble of the antimatter integrator under her hand and seriously considered pressing her entire body against it.

So it’s just as well when her combadge chimes, taking her mind off her very personal problems.  “Chakotay to Janeway.”

She grabs it off the nightstand.  “Janeway here.”

“Captain, you’d better get up to the bridge.”

&&&

In her ready room the next evening, Kathryn nearly punches the replicator when it won’t surrender its coffee.  She catches herself in time, compromising by swearing heartily at it and cursing its maternal lineage.  She only stops when her door chimes.  Taking a moment to center herself, she says, “Come.”

And then, under her breath: “Don’t I wish.”

It’s Chakotay, looking impeccable as always, and Kathryn’s struck with the sudden urge to rumple him up, dig her fingers into his hair and uniform until he looks as ragged around the edges as she feels.  Maybe make him flushed, his breath coming faster…

“What can I do for you, Commander?” she says with forced cheerfulness.

His head tilts slightly as he fixes her with a look.  “I guess it’s more about what I can do for you.”

Kathryn momentarily squinches her eyes shut because she’s pretty sure she’s seen the holoporn that starts like this.  When she opens them again, though, he’s still there, hands clasped behind his back, and she’s beginning to wonder if she could still be having auditory hallucinations.  “What do you mean by that?” she says, stepping to the side to put her desk between them.

“I’m not sure,” he says with a self-deprecating smile.  “I know that Gothic holonovel has been your favorite way to relax, but I’m guessing you’re probably going to steer clear of the holodeck for a while.”

At the moment, she can’t remember how much she’s told Chakotay about that whole mess, from the kiss with Lord Burleigh to Mark showing up on the turbolift. “You guess correctly,” she says, returning his smile wanly.

“I can’t imagine you’re under any less stress now than before we encountered the Botha, and—”

“And you’re concerned for my mental wellbeing,” she says with a sigh.  “I admit I have been… somewhat irritable lately, and I’m sorry if I’ve taken any of it out on you.  I’ll behave myself from now on.”

He cocks an intrigued eyebrow at that and moves forward toward the desk.  “I don’t think this is as much about behaving yourself as blowing off steam.”

Something flutters bright and anxious in her stomach.  “I’ll ask Tuvok to take me on one of his ten kilometer hikes in increased gravity,” she says, feeling like the upper hand in this conversation is somehow slipping away from her.

Setting his hands on the desk, he ducks his head as though pausing to laugh to himself.  “I’m not talking about going hiking.”

“Well then, please enlighten me, Commander, because I’m not sure what you’re getting at,” she says, and it comes out sharper than she’d intended, inadvertently proving his point.

It doesn’t faze him, but when he replies, his tone is much more earnest.  “We’ve been out here for nearly a year.  The only people who aren’t going a little stir crazy are the ones who are in relationships, or are at least willing to engage in some… temporary fraternization.”

Perhaps she should be annoyed at him for assuming, but she’s more shocked that he guessed correctly.  It had to be all that talk about mating behaviors a few weeks ago; even Kathryn has to admit that was flirting.  “Are you telling me I need to get laid?”

Chakotay holds his hands up in defense.  “I was trying very hard not to phrase it that way, actually.  And I shouldn’t have implied that a partner was necessarily… necessary.  I just want to make sure you’re taken care of, whatever that means for you.”

If she very quickly hides her face in her hand like she’s exasperated, maybe he won’t be able to see how right he is.  “I’m just fine, Commander.  Thank you for your concern.”

But he doesn’t turn to go at that, and there’s only so long she can stay like this before it becomes obvious she’s hiding.  After the space of a few heartbeats, she hears him again, his voice gently inquisitive.  “Are you fine?  I’m honestly not sure.”

Indignation – that’s how she’s going to play this.  She pulls up her chair and sits down primly at her desk, conjuring up a long-suffering sigh.  “And if I weren’t?  I’m not saying that, but if I weren’t fine, what exactly are you proposing to do about it?  Offer your services?”

She can’t be entirely sure, so she won’t celebrate just yet, but there seem to be a faint red blush spreading up Chakotay’s neck.  “I’d just make sure your needs were properly met, which, again, would depend on what that meant for you.  I wouldn’t presume to do so personally.”

She’s all set to finish calling his bluff when he continues, “… unless that’s what you wanted.”

His voice doesn’t waver and he doesn’t break eye contact, but something tells her that it took every ounce of courage he has to say that.  Maybe she’s becoming soft-hearted when it comes to her first officer, because this conversation is still in no way appropriate, but it also no longer seems like a competition she needs to win.  “I actually appreciate that, Chakotay, I really do.”  She shakes her head, slumping back against her chair.  “You continue to surprise me.  But this isn’t exactly something I can… delegate.”

His shoulders relax slightly.  “I know that it would be difficult, given the circumstances, but I wanted you to know you had the option.”

She chuckles, her heart rate starting to slow for the first time since he stepped in here.  “If I find anyone who I think could get the job done, I’ll let you know.  Dismissed, Commander.”

It’s when he stops, half turned toward the door, that she replays what she’d just said and her stomach drops.  Of course he caught that.

“Hold on,” he says, that damned smirk starting to come back.  “Are you saying that this… this mission is one you don’t want me to join, or one you don’t think I could complete?”

She can’t let herself look away, can’t show lack of resolve, but his dark, steady gaze is heating her up from the inside.  “I hardly think that matters.”

“I think it matters quite a bit,” he says, planting his hands on the desk again and leaning down over it.  His voice is soft, playful but low, and it’s starting to stir her up in ways she can’t ignore.  “My captain is in need, so my reputation as a first officer is at stake here.  If you think I’m not the right one for the mission, that’s fine.  But if you think I can’t get the job done—”

“I’m not questioning your competence,” she says, raising her chin.  “Not in a general sense.  Only specifically where I’m concerned.”

“I see,” he says, nodding thoughtfully.  “So you consider this mission to be too challenging for me.”

“Not just for you,” she mutters before she can think better of it.

There’s a pause in the rhythm of the conversation.  For a split second, she worries that he’s going to respond with pity, ruining more than just this bout of verbal sparring.  Instead, the look he gives her is so heated that her breath catches in her throat.  “I’m not offering this lightly,” he says, “but I’d like the opportunity to prove myself.”

The reality of it hits her for the first time – what he’s offering, what it would mean.  Instinctively, she knows that he’ll respect the space between them until she invites to cross it.  But her body is screaming for it, for the offer of those broad, strong hands on her, hard and purposeful.  As soon as she thinks and maybe his mouth, too, her thighs clench involuntarily and she allows herself to believe that it’s possible.

Still, she hasn’t gotten this far in life by completely ignoring her better judgment.  “This isn’t about conquest, Chakotay.  And I’m not issuing a schoolyard dare.”

Through a haze of want, she sees him process this and nod.  “This changes nothing about our working relationship, and it will stay between us.  You make the rules.  If you want to offer anything in return, that’s up to you.”

God, she could touch him if she wanted to, strip him bare and make him writhe under her hands.  That hadn’t even crossed her mind yet, her desires have been so selfish, but now she has to consciously think about keeping her hands to herself before the negotiations are over. 

The need is so overpowering that her first thought is to distrust it, overrule it with her higher brain functions, and he sees her hesitate.  “If you want,” he says, “we could give it a test run.  Hold off on the permanent assignments.  If I’m not up to the job, that’ll be it.”

That’s a sobering thought, that he might fail, one that cuts through the blaze of lust but still doesn’t quench it.  The idea of a trial run appeals to her scientific mind.  Like a simulation, the testing of a concept before committing vital resources to it.  If it doesn’t work, they cut their losses and move on.  But if it does…

Before she loses her nerve, she pushes her chair back from her desk and beckons to him.  “Computer, set privacy lock.  On your knees, Commander.”

He moves so fast it would be comical under other circumstances, but the look he gives her while he kneels at her feet makes her bite her lip to keep from moaning aloud.  “When you walked in here a few minutes ago,” she asks, trying hard to keep her voice steady, “did you think this is how it would go?”

He lets out a shivery sigh.  “I… hoped, Captain.”

“Kathryn,” she corrects, unable to stop herself from reaching for him this time.  She indulges the childlike desire she’s had from the moment she saw him and traces his tattoo with her forefinger.  “If this ends like you hope it will, I think we’ll be on a first name basis.”

Kathryn,” he breathes, his eyes fluttering shut.  Her name on his lips feels inexpressibly intimate, like a lingering caress beneath soft sheets, and maybe it should bother her, but she’s already too far gone for that.

“Where to begin?” she muses aloud, fingers tracing down his cheek.

His eyes fly open and then crinkle mischievously.  “If you’re looking for suggestions, I’ve been told I do my best work with my mouth.”

Her insides clench again, and she wonders how embarrassed she should be if he finds her panties already soaked before he’s even touched her.  “By all means, Chakotay.  Impress me.”

He turns his head to kiss her palm, a gesture that sets something in her chest tumbling, but when his eyes meet hers again, his gaze is all heat.  “I’ll need you to stand up.”

She does, and he quickly unfastens her uniform pants.  He draws them down slowly, keeping in contact with her skin the whole way.  There are calluses on his fingers, something she didn’t expect, and their roughness makes her shiver as much as the cool air.

Her panties are nothing special – faded blue cotton – and she probably would’ve picked something else if she’d known this was how her day was going to go, but he looks at her like she’s wearing silk and lace.  Wrapping his hands around her hips, he bends in and presses an open-mouthed kiss to the cloth covering her curls, and her breath catches at a flick of his tongue.  The sensation is too soft to be truly satisfying, but the heat of his mouth sends a sharp pang of lust right through her, and she realizes she’s not going to be able to stay upright much longer.

“Wait,” she manages while she’s still got the presence of mind to kick off her right boot and step out of the corresponding pant leg.  That’s as far as she’s going to bother with the clothes.  She spares a glance back at the chair, but it’s too low, and it’s not going to do either of them any good if he gets a crick in his neck.  Leaning against the edge of the desk it is; at least she’ll have something to hold on to.

Grinning, he shifts so he’s facing her again and, starting at her ankles, skims his palms up her legs until his thumbs are hooked in either side of her underwear.  He drags them down slowly, hands molding to the shape of her thighs, then her calves.  As he lifts her right foot free, he murmurs, “You have beautiful legs, you know.”

She feels heat rising in her cheeks; compliments, as far as she can remember, weren’t explicitly part of the deal, and she has to glance away to regain her composure.  He doesn’t say anything more, but she feels his lips on the inside of her knee.  It’s a tender gesture, but when she looks back down at him, the picture it paints is anything but serene.  He looks like a supplicant at an altar, dragging worshipful lips up the inside of her thigh, and a shiver of arousal shoots down her spine, landing hard at her center.

When he nears the apex of her leg, he pauses, breathing in deeply, and her toes curl so hard in anticipation that her foot is in danger of cramping.  He’s clearly in no hurry, pushing gently at her thighs to spread her legs even farther.  He’s so close that she can feel his breath stirring against her skin, and she’s just starting to wonder if he’s waiting for her to push his head right where she wants it when he finally puts his mouth on her.

At first, it’s all light, playful licks – too much of a tease for how turned on she is.  She can’t stop her hips from pressing back against his face, angling for more contact, more pressure, more something.  It comes as a surprise when he holds her still and gives her a long, luxurious swipe of his tongue.  It tears a low moan from her throat, and she spares a glance back at the door to her ready room.  The bridge is right outside, and though the walls are relatively soundproof, it’s not impossible that the gamma shift crew could hear her.

She notices he’s stopped, and when she turns her gaze back to him, he’s smirking up at her.  “Better be quiet,” he says.

She wants to tell Chakotay not to be so damned smug yet, that she’s only this worked up because it’s been such a long time, and she’s never had a problem with noise, it’s just not how she operates, and that he needs to get things started already.  Before she can say any of that, he leans in and attacks.  There’s no other word for this assault on her nerve endings.  His tongue is clever and agile and everywhere, in turns sliding along her folds and toying with her clit and pressing hard inside her.  He’s testing her responses, finding out what makes her shudder and twitch.

Without meaning to, she’s somehow propped one of her legs over his shoulder, giving him better access and tilting her hips so far that she might as well be laying across the desk.  But her upper body is curled toward him, and she’s unwilling to give up either her grip on the edge of the desk or the view of his head between her legs.

He’s got her hips held in a firm grip, but she finds herself unable to stay still, desperate to simply rub herself against his wicked, perfect mouth.  Then he lets her, freeing her pelvis enough that she can grind against his tongue.  It’s so good, so good, and she finds herself groaning a little with each roll of her hips.

But it builds to a certain point… and no further.  When she eases back, he takes a more active role again and it’s still amazing, but she can feel that invisible wall start to grow closer, that familiar barrier between her and the edge of the cliff.  The harder she tries to forget about it, the more obvious it is, and her groans become sounds of frustration. 

She’s not willing to admit defeat just yet, and he isn’t showing any signs of tiring.  “I need...” she gasps, not even sure how to finish the sentence, but needing him to hear her.  “I need…”

He backs off slowly, easing her hips into stillness.  His eyes, when they open, are nearly black.  “What?” he asks, arousingly out of breath.

“More,” she groans senselessly.  His mouth is better than anything she’s felt in years, maybe ever, but she needs more of it, more of him.

Luckily, Chakotay seems to understand her, and he’s shifting position to bring his hand up and… Oh, yes.  His fingers, two of them.  They probe gently at her swollen folds and she shudders at the new sensation.  For long moments, he just watches her, his fingertips rubbing at her entrance without pushing in.  It stirs her up again and she suddenly feels empty, desperate to feel the thickness of his fingers pressing inside her.

All she has to say is “Yes, yes,” and she gets her wish.  It’s exactly what she needed, and she rolls her hips to push herself farther down on his hand.  When he starts to slowly pump his wrist, the sweet drag of his fingers makes her muscles tighten to try to keep him inside, and the sound he makes in response has her throwing her head back with abandon.

He lets her set the pace, and she keeps it slow even when his fingers get so wet that the slide of them is slick and easy.  It’s not until she feels his teeth scrape against her hipbone that she puts it all together: his fingers, his mouth…  She doesn’t have to choose.  Blame her slow thought process on the thick, languorous pleasure coursing through her body.  She resettles herself against the desk’s edge, reaching up for the first time to thread her fingers through his hair.

Chakotay’s smile is predatory, hungry, and he brings his mouth back where she wants it.  The difference is immediately clear; that wall is nowhere in sight and she feels the pleasure build upon itself again, sparking deep inside her and growing outward.  His fingers curl, and she growls, “There, right there,” when he hits that sweet spot inside.  The whole time, his tongue works tirelessly against her clit, and it’s like there’s no upper limit to how high she can climb.  It’s a delicious feeling, winding her tighter and tighter.

It’s just when she’s completely forgotten to look for the edge that she tumbles over, her whole body jerking with the force of it.  All the breath rushes out of her in a silent scream and she lets it burn through her, from her center all the way out to the tips of her toes.  It’s just starting to subside when Chakotay thrusts his fingers deep again, sucks at her clit, and a second peak hits her just as hard as the first, startling her into a choked moan.  Each pulse of it leaves her feeling lighter, more wrung out than the one before, and Chakotay eases her down, the motions of his fingers and tongue slowing as she goes from shaking to merely trembling.

When he pulls away, his mouth and chin are glistening, and his smile is small but satisfied.  He bends in to kiss her hip one more time before helping her get her clothing back on.  As for Kathryn, she’s still gripping the edge of the desk, not quite trusting her legs to hold her up yet.  She also doesn’t trust her mouth.  What does one say after one’s first officer gives one an earth-shattering orgasm?  She’s pretty sure good job, Commander isn’t going to cut it.

There’s a moment, just after he stands back up and stretches his legs, when she honestly has no idea what’s going to happen next, whether he’s going to kiss her or the ship’s suddenly going to go on red alert or a wormhole is spontaneously going to form in the floor right under her feet.  All possibilities seem equally likely.

Instead, he wipes his mouth on the back of his hand and says, “You don’t have to decide anything now.  I’ll be around.”

And with an enigmatic smile, he turns and walks out.

&&&

Two days later, she still can’t decide whether she’s furious with Chakotay or more grateful than she’s ever been in her life.

On the side of “furious,” there’s the undeniable fact that he left her in the ready room, body still quivering, while he traipsed on through the bridge and back to his quarters.  True, it’s not like they could have left together in the state they were in – the people on the bridge may have been gamma shift, but they weren’t oblivious – and she’s not entirely sure what she would have rather he’d done, but… not that.  Not just walking out on her.

He’s also been acting, for the past 42 hours, like absolutely nothing happened.  Of necessity, he’s spent most of that time in engineering, helping B’Elanna recalibrate everything that’s still out of alignment from the resonance burst, but their few interactions have been neither stilted nor overly friendly.  He’s been as warm to her as he always is while still respecting her space.

For that, at least, Kathryn is grateful.  Everything seemed to happen so fast that night – she doesn’t regret it, exactly, and she doesn’t think he does either, but the fact remains that she made a decision out of desire rather than careful consideration.  Now, with the luxury of a few slow days in orbit around an uninhabited planet while they make repairs, she has to figure out what to do with that decision.

And what about his decision? she keeps thinking.  He’d come to her asking nothing, offering anything.  What motivates a man to do that?  Despite what she’d said beforehand, she doesn’t think it ever had anything to do with conquest; Chakotay isn’t the type to keep notches on his bedpost.  Nor is he the scheming type, looking for something to hold over her head.  She has yet to find a way in which he isn’t exactly the man he appears to be.

Occam and his accursed razor would have something very simple to say about this.  Something she’s not willing to entertain yet.

Alpha shift ends and she transfers the conn over to Tuvok.  Chakotay hadn’t given her a deadline – hadn’t given her many specifics at all – but Kathryn still feels like she owes him an answer soon.  Besides, the situation is unlikely to become less complicated with time.  They’ll be out here, stranded a lifetime away from home, for a good while yet.

Still, she can at least afford to wait until after dinner.

“Eating with the crew tonight?” Neelix asks, ladling something that smells like food but looks like chemical waste into a soup bowl for her.

“Ah, not tonight, Neelix.”  Before today, she’d been avoiding the mess hall because she didn’t want to snap at anyone; now she’s irrationally paranoid that she’ll look Tom or B’Elanna or Harry in the eye and somehow they’ll know everything.  “I’ve got a lot of work that needs catching up on.”

“Well, don’t work too hard, Captain!” he says cheerfully, gesticulating with the ladle.  “Leave a little time for fun and relaxation!”

She’s far less tempted to throw the soup back at him than she was two days ago, so that’s good.

That’s the bitch of the thing: it worked.  When she’s not obsessing over him, she feels so calm, so much more centered, and she’s pretty sure that doesn’t happen after one orgasm.  (Or maybe two?  She’s still not sure if that counted as two, but she’s been giving it an awful lot of thought for entirely scientific reasons.)  Other than that, though, her head has been much clearer, and now that fact might drive her crazy.

Contrary to what she might have believed two days ago when she was practically climbing the walls, the universe does not work like this.  Sex does not solve problems like magic.  In fact, in her experience, it’s been more likely to cause problems.

Then there’s Mark.  God, she doesn’t even know where to start with that.  After the Botha left and the hallucinations cleared, something had changed when she looked at his picture.  The idea of being back with him like nothing is different now seems like as much of a fantasy as suddenly encountering him on the bridge’s viewscreen.  Even if he hasn’t moved on yet, he’s surely grieving for her by now.  How can she realistically expect him to pick up where they left off?  She’s no longer even sure if she’d want to.  Clearly, things have… changed.

She’s thinking how much less frustrating it would be if she’d just been able to observe how Chakotay’s been handling this whole thing when she rounds a corner a little too fast and slams right into Chakotay’s chest.  The soup, which is fortunately only lukewarm, gets all over both of them – shirt, jacket, pants, everything.  She can’t even force herself to look him in the eye; she just stands there, gaping at the mess on his clothes.

They’re right outside of her quarters.  If he says anything about getting her out of her clothes, she’s just going to resign herself to the idea that the Botha have returned to telepathically torture her by sticking her in a badly-written holo-romance.

Instead, he says, “Again?  Neelix just served that same concoction yesterday, and I guarantee you it’s better off where it is now.”

After an awkward moment of gathering herself together, she punches the code into the keypad outside her quarters, and as soon as it opens, she commands, “In.”

Kathryn doesn’t even look back to see if he’s followed her, but of course he has.

She tears her uniform jacket off before the liquid can soak through to the turtleneck and stalks off toward the closet to fetch another.  At the very least, it gives her a moment to regain her bearings.  When she turns back, she’s all set to say something with great conviction and finality, something like the other night was fun, but it can never happen again, but just the sight of him, inspecting the soup damage to his own uniform, undermines her resolve.

Before she can stop herself, she hears herself say, “I don’t know what to do.”

His head snaps up, and he couldn’t look more shocked if the artificial gravity had just turned off.  “I take it you’re not talking about your jacket,” he says carefully.

“Chakotay, we should’ve talked about this first.”

He tilts his head slightly, the way Molly did – does – when she’s confused. “We did.”

It’s all Kathryn can do not to groan in frustration.  “Not… not substantively.”

Chakotay nods and takes a careful step in her direction.  “So we talk now.”

“It’s too late for that,” she says, shaking her head.

“Is it?”

How can he not understand that?  They’ve already crossed a line – many lines, actually – and nothing either of them can say will change that.  She’d accuse him of failing to take this seriously, but he looks like he is serious.  “Obviously.”

“Okay,” he says, taking a moment to think.  “It doesn’t seem obvious to me, but I’m listening.  What is it you wanted to say that you didn’t get to before?”

It would feel glib to say everything, so when she opens her mouth, nothing comes out.

He continues, “True, if we’d had a longer discussion beforehand, you might have talked yourself out of it.  But all that matters now is whether you regret it.”

She doesn’t, but it’s not as simple as a no.  “I don’t know how to answer that.”

He looks down at the floor, frowning, but then something seems to occur to him.  “Do you feel better than you did?  Less… frustrated?”

“I—yes.  I do.”

At least he has the good grace not to look too smug.  “Has any of it interfered with your ability to captain this ship?”

“Not yet.”

“It doesn’t sound like you regret it.  And if I may speak freely, it doesn’t look like you regret it.”

At that, he looks her up and down, and even though there’s a minimum of licentiousness in his gaze, she fights the urge to cross her arms over her chest.  “Even if that were true, we can’t just leave it there.”

“Why not?”

“Why not?  Seriously?  You’d be okay if nothing ever happened between us again?”

He takes a deep breath.  “Yes.  That’s not the outcome I’d prefer, but I meant what I said.  My offer didn’t come with strings attached.  If you decide this… experiment was a failure, then that’s that.”

“It’s not that simple.” She doesn’t understand how he can be so goddamned calm about this. “No experiment is a failure or a success.  Either there’s evidence for the hypothesis or there’s not.”

“So let’s re-examine the hypothesis.  I proposed my services as a solution to your problem.  Is there evidence that it worked?”

“No more metaphors, Chakotay.”

“Okay, no more metaphors,” he says, taking a step forward.  “I enjoyed touching you.  I enjoyed pleasing you.  I went back to my quarters and jerked off with the taste of you still on my tongue.  I imagined being with you, watching your hair fall down over your shoulders as you ride me, and it made me come.  But if you wanted nothing more than my mouth or my fingers, I’d gladly pleasure you whenever you asked.”

She has no idea how to respond that, but it’s the most sincere and devastatingly sexy thing anyone’s ever said to her.  Again, he hasn’t even touched her and her heart’s already racing.  Eventually, she manages, “Why?”

He laughs sourly at that, a hand coming up to rub the back of his neck.  “Why?  Oh, Kathryn…”

It’s something about the way Chakotay says her name, even in exasperation, that breaks her resolve, sending her crashing into him.  She’s already kissing him, hands fisted in his jacket heedless of the food stains, before she realizes that they didn’t do this before, they didn’t kiss, and then she’s irrationally angry that he didn’t even try to kiss her before making her come so hard that it might have broken her brain.

He’s the one who slows them down, who eases her hands away from his clothes and lifts them to rest against his shoulders.  His arms go around her waist, tugging her hips forward so that she’s off balance, forced to sway against him to stay upright.  God, he feels good – all warm and solid, and she wants him again.  Not two days later and she’s back to feeling that same consuming need.  He went and woke up something inside her that should have gone into hibernation the moment they landed in the Delta Quadrant, and now she’s angry at him for that, too.

She punishes him by sinking her teeth into his lower lip, but he just groans and holds her harder against him.  The feeling of his growing erection pressed into the softness of her belly shocks her enough to gasp and, mouth now free, he attacks the side of her throat.  Her grunt of frustration – she wasn’t done with his mouth yet, damn it – turns into a completely different sound when he sucks at the soft patch of skin below her ear.  The wet heat of his mouth against that spot makes her knees threaten to buckle.

It’s that damned composure, his refusal to get riled, that’s been driving her crazy, she decides.  She’s going to fix that now, going to get him to react to her so she knows she’s not alone here.  So he knows that this idea that he can just get her off and then walk away like it’s nothing is pure madness.

“You said…” she pants against his mouth.  “You said I decide whether to reciprocate.”

“Up to you,” he says, before diving in again.

It takes her a good few minutes to pull away.  When she does, she manages, “Bedroom.  Now.”

At that, he goes very still for a moment, like it was the last thing he expected her to say.  But she doesn’t have long to savor her victory, because he’s obeying her orders like always.  He never entirely lets go of her on the short walk through her quarters; maybe he’s afraid if he stops touching her, the spell that’s making any of this possible will be broken.  It’s crossed her own mind more than once.

Kathryn considers ordering him to strip – it’d be one hell of a pleasure to watch – but she remembers how it felt when he helped her out of her uniform pants and decides to take a more active role in the proceedings.  He’s already halfway out of his jacket, but she gets her hands under the turtleneck and the heat of his skin is a shock under her hands.  He gasps – her hands are probably cold – but steps into her touch as he tosses his jacket away.

She pushes the shirt up and off, finding she’s not quite prepared for the reality of having him half-naked in her bedroom.  At face value, it isn’t as intimate as the things they’ve already done, but it somehow seems more real.  More dangerous.  She can’t accuse him of being the one to change the nature of their relationship now that she’s brought him into her bedroom – the only place on the ship that she has all to herself – and started removing his clothes.

Well then.  In for a penny...

She takes more time with his pants, sliding her fingers under the waistband so that her knuckles brush against his stomach.  The muscles there flutter lightly under her touch and she hears his sharp intake of breath.  Her hands don’t shake as she undoes the fastenings and for that she’s grateful.  She doesn’t have the courage to look up at his expression just yet.

She lets his pants fall to the ground and watches as he toes out of his boots as well.  The bulge in his briefs doesn’t surprise her, but her overwhelming urge to touch him does.  When she shapes her hand around him, he lets out a long, shaky breath, and she finally feels ready to look at his face.

His eyes are closed but his mouth is gaping just a little, and when she tightens her grip to stroke him over the fabric, his head tips back.  It’s something she genuinely enjoys, feeling him grow harder in her hands.  He’s keeping so still, letting her touch him at her leisure, and while it’s beautiful to watch, she fully intends to break his control by the end of the night.  By the end of the hour.

To that end, she pulls her hand away, her stomach twisting at the soft sound of loss he makes.  “On the bed,” she says, voice much breathier than she intended.

Chakotay doesn’t make a joke of it, doesn’t say aye aye, Captain and splay himself out on the sheets.  Instead, as he settles back with his head on the pillows, he looks… curious.  Like he’s trying to figure out what she’ll do next.  She wishes him luck; she’s making it up as she goes along.

These damned Starfleet bunks don’t have a proper headboard, nothing for him to hold on to, so she’ll just have to improvise.  She clears her throat before saying, “Hands under the pillows,” and he obeys with a nod, tucking his hands behind his head.  There’s something almost defiant about his silent compliance, like he’s daring her, testing how far she’ll go.  Possibly she’s just projecting.

But he’s here, nearly naked on her bed, the same bed where night after night, orgasms have proven just out of reach, and Kathryn Janeway’s never been one to waste a good opportunity.  Before she can lose her resolve, she climbs on to the bed with him and efficiently rids him of his briefs.

Standing back, she takes a long moment to look at him – all of him.  It’s been a long time since the mere sight of a man caused such a visceral reaction, but she’d swear her mouth is actually watering.  First, though, she wants to touch him, get her hands on that long expanse of bronze skin.  Not just her hands, though.  Ever since he took care of her most vexing problem the other day, she’s been craving closeness, the kind of friction that only comes from skin against skin.

He doesn’t say a word as she pulls off her turtleneck and bra, but his eyes go wide and she hears him draw in a quick breath.  His full, undivided attention makes her cheeks flush, so she quickly divests herself of boots and pants.  The panties stay for now, and before she even realizes what she’s doing, she’s got her hands on her hips and is staring down at Chakotay.

“I’m not going to pretend I haven’t fantasized about that look,” he says, his tone not as casual as his words suggest.

She can’t stop the corner of her mouth from curling up.  “You must find shifts on the bridge very taxing.”

“I can… compartmentalize,” he says, licking his lips.  “But you don’t make it easy.”

There’s a terrible joke about making it hard right there in front of her, but Kathryn decides to abandon the banter for now and keep moving forward.  She crawls back on the bed, determined to take him a piece at a time to keep from getting overwhelmed.  She starts at his feet, wrapping her fingers around the strong bones of his ankles.  The hair on his legs rasps against her fingers as she moves her hands up, against the grain.  Even this much feels good, being able to touch him.

She shapes her hands over his kneecaps, feels the muscles flex in his thighs as he shifts his legs apart to make room for her.  The only sound in the room is his breathing, which quickens as her palms reach his hips.  It feels natural enough to dip her head to press her lips to his stomach.  It sound ridiculous, even in her head, to say he tastes like sunshine, bright and faintly salty against her tongue, but it wouldn’t be the first time she’s indulged in astronomical metaphors.

He shifts on the bed and his cock brushes against her cheek.  She doesn’t stop to question her motives, whether she feels like she owes him this or wants to one-up him or something like that, because some part of her desperately wants to take him into her mouth just to hear what kind of sounds he’ll make.

The first is a soft hiss, perhaps of surprise, when she lets her lower lip drag up the length of his cock.  Then a choked breath when she slowly licks around the head.  By the time she takes him fully in her mouth, she can hardly hear him breathing at all, but a stifled moan tells her all she needs to know to keep going.

She can’t help but think that she’s terribly out of practice, but he doesn’t seem to mind.  One hand covers what her mouth can’t reach, and with the other, she reaches down to fondle his balls.  He’s responsive enough that she learns quickly what he likes, what doesn’t do much of anything for him.  It’s a powerful feeling, having him at her mercy.

She’s just getting into a good rhythm when she hears him gasp, “Stop.  Stop, please.”

It’s almost a shame to pull her mouth away, but when she looks up, his chest is heaving and his arms are tense, like his fists are clenched beneath the pillows.  Gradually, he starts to relax, but his eyes stay closed.  “I’m not as young as I was.”

She almost laughs.  “Are any of us?”

“No,” he says, eyes flying open.  “I mean, the night was about to end right then and there.”

It comes as a bit of a surprise – she hadn’t realized he was that close.  Without thinking, she plays it off by deflecting.  “And what makes you think there was going to be more?”

He bites his lip, and she can see the uncertainty in his eyes.  “Pathological optimism,” he says after a moment.

This time, she can’t help but laugh, and it drains some of the tension out of the room.  Still, it’s hard to look at his face for too long without starting to overthink everything, so she dips her head back down to kiss his stomach.  Once there, though, she gives in to the urge to bite – not hard, but enough to make him gasp.  It becomes a bit of a game then as she trails her lips up to his chest, trying to catch him off guard with her teeth whenever she can.

At some point, she has to shift up to straddle his hips.  It seats her right over his hard, leaking cock, and she doesn’t even think he means to buck his hips up when he does.  The ridge of his erection hits her just right and even through her panties, the sensation nearly makes her knees buckle.  On pure animal instinct, she rocks down against him, heat flooding through her.  Groaning, he presses back, and for a moment, they rub against each other like teenagers.  Kathryn’s desire hits her like a punch to the gut, her nipples tightening to aching points.  Her internal muscles flutter, aching for something hard to clench down on.

He shifts under her, only slightly but just enough to take away that perfect bit of pressure and she sighs with frustration.  One look at his face tells her he didn’t mean to; he was lost in the moment as much as she was.  She feels her cheeks start to flush at the intensity of his gaze.

“Can I make a request?” he asks between heavy breaths.

She sits back on her heels and takes a moment to collect herself.  “You can make it, but no guarantees.”

“Take down your hair.”

That’s about the last thing she expected him to say, and she hasn’t got a witty retort.  But she can tell her bun’s already starting to untwist, so she reaches up and removes the pins two at a time, tossing them on the nightstand.  Then she presses her fingers against her scalp, massaging a spot that’s been bothering her for hours.  It’s something she does at the end of every day, too routine to even think about, but once she’s finished combing it over her shoulder to make sure all the pins are out, she realizes he’s staring.

“You’re beautiful,” he says, so softly that she wonders if he meant to say anything at all.  She swallows thickly against the lump forming in her throat.

Then she decides it’s high time for the panties to go.  It’s a little awkward, climbing off of him to remove them, but it keeps her from saying something she’s not ready for.

When she clambers back over him on her hands and knees, she takes care to leave plenty of room between their bodies when she leans down to kiss him.  His lips are so soft, the gentle press of his tongue beckoning her closer.  She hasn’t given him leave to move his hands yet, but she imagines she can almost feel their phantom touch down her body.

She can guess what he’s angling for when he kisses across her jaw, down her throat to her collarbone, and she’s eager for it, too.  He surprises her by scraping his teeth gently across the top of her breast, blowing cool air against her nipple before flicking it with his tongue.  As the only point of contact between them, it feels intense enough to make her shiver, and she actually cries out when he takes the hardened bud into his mouth.  Each suck and bite shoots straight to her core, turning her insides to liquid.  By the time he does the same to her other breast, she’s panting.

“Let me touch you,” he groans into the swell of her breast.

The thought of his hands on her is almost too much.  “Not yet,” she gasps, pulling away reluctantly.

Before she can lose her nerve, she settles her hips down over his again, rubbing against his erection just like before, this time slicking him with her wetness.  Without fabric in the way, the head of his cock catches against her clit in the most delicious way, and for a few moments she does nothing but grind her hips, pleasuring herself against him.  Chakotay is alive under her, moaning and quivering with tension as he tries to hold himself still for her.  It’s not enough to make her come, but it feels so selfishly good that she doesn’t want to stop.

It’s only when she gets too greedy, rocks her hips too far and takes the head of his cock inside her, that she stops.  Her inner muscles flutter around the tip of his hardness and he actually shouts with surprise, hips jerking with enough force to press another inch of him in.  All thoughts of teasing him fly out of her head and she shoves back, sheathing him inside her.  It’s too much, too fast, but she’s so turned on and greedy for him that even the slight burn of it feels good.

Slowly, she pushes up on her hands until she’s seated in the cradle of his hips.  God, it feels even better than she remembers, being so full.  Her own fingers don’t even come close.  She rocks a little, getting used to the width of him.  Beneath her, he’s trembling, his pupils so wide that his eyes look black.

“Let me touch you,” he says again.  “Please.”

She’s enjoying the power a little too much to give in now.  “Not yet,” she repeats in a soft purr, setting her palms on his chest and leaning in.  She moves her hips a little more, gives up an inch of him and then takes it back.  “Soon, but not yet.”

Her hair drapes down over her shoulders, tickling his chest as she starts to work up to a rhythm.  Soon she’s not aware of anything except the heat of his skin under her hands, the friction of his cock dragging in and out.  She chases that pleasure shamelessly, shifting her weight enough that she can get a hand down in between their bodies, press her fingers where they’re joined together.  She moans when her hand grazes her clit, and he does the same when she reaches even further down and touches the base of his cock.

Still, it’s the skin-to-skin friction she needs most of all, so she plants her hands on the bed to lean down to kiss him and bite along his jaw.  He takes advantage of the shift of her weight to bend his knees, get his feet up flat on the bed.  It gives him the leverage he needs to thrust up, forcing a moan from Kathryn’s throat.

Please,” he whispers against her lips, and she barely has time to say yes before his hands wrap around her waist, running firmly up her ribs.  He lifts her easily, pushing her back to lean against his thighs as his upper body curls off the pillows.  The change in position pushes him deeper, brings her hips flush against his.  She gets her knees under her but lets him set the rhythm.  His hands, so deprived all this time, are roaming her upper body, stroking over her stomach and breasts and shoulders.  She shivers a little whenever his palms brush over her nipples, and it doesn’t escape his attention.

He cups her breasts gently at first, but she’s so aroused that she’s not ashamed to want a little rough handling and pushes into his touch.  His callused fingers pinch her nipples tight enough that she feels a sweet, stinging pain that sharpens whenever she breathes in.  Her eyes flutter shut as she gives in to the feeling, lets it build upon itself, and this is what has been so tantalizingly out of reach all this time – the ability to lose herself completely.

When Chakotay speaks, his voice is rough.  “Touch yourself.”

It’s less of a demand than a request, and at this point, she’s hardly inclined to care about her pride.  The head of his cock is hitting her just right on every thrust, and her muscles tremble when her fingers find her swollen clit.  She feels her orgasm building from a long way off, curling in her toes as her body starts drawing tight.  Chakotay pistons into her hard and steady, and she has a sudden mental image of him watching her, all his focus on her face, or maybe the motion of her fingers.  There’s no hiding like this; he’s going to watch her come, and that thought makes her muscles seize all at once and she sobs out a breath as her climax overtakes her.

There’s a split second when she’s sure the gravity on the ship’s been turned off, but then her back hits the bed and Chakotay’s looming over her and, oh, she’s finally found the limit of his self-control.  He thrusts back inside her in one smooth push, but when she groans at the sensation – he’s been hard for so long, she can’t even imagine that kind of restraint – he misunderstands and falters for a moment.  All she has to do is wrap her leg around his hip and murmur yes, just like that and he surrenders completely.

He’s shockingly beautiful like this, completely in the grip of his own need.  His body is slick with sweat and powerful under her hands, and she feels herself start to respond again to the stimulation.  But this is about him now – he’s been so good to her, given her so much without asking anything in return, so she just holds on, matching his rhythm until he starts making the same soft, pained sounds he did before, when she had her mouth on him.

It’s so easy to cup his face in her hand and lock eyes with him until he can’t hold back anymore, until he thrusts deep, stills, and cries out.  His eyes shut and he looks so painfully vulnerable that her heart cracks open and she understands, maybe, how he could offer himself to her so freely and without expectation.  There are universes out there where she might have done the same for him.

When he bends down to kiss her, it’s gratifyingly unfocused, and she immediately decides she likes him like this, come-drunk and trembling.  She eases him down until his head rests between her breasts and his weight helps ground her back in reality.

It’s no use pretending that they’ll get up and go about their lives and never find each other again.  Nor, Kathryn realizes, can she pretend that she’d be content with him… servicing her.   She doesn’t know how it’ll work, having him so close to her on the bridge every day, knowing how good his hands feel on her body. Knowing that she might have to send him on a mission that won’t bring him back.

But it will work.  This isn’t a connection she can sever or a feeling she can deny.  She suspects he’s known that for a long time.

Time passes, enough that her eyes grow heavy, but she comes back to full alertness as Chakotay stirs.  He lifts his head, a small, sad smile on his face. “Do you want me to—”

“Stay,” she says.

He does.