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Slippery Slope

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yes is a world
& in this world of
yes live
(skilfully curled)
all worlds

—e.e. cummings

 

They had to unlink arms to come through the door, but she kept hold of his hand as she entered ahead. Facing each other in the centre of the shelter, she finds she cannot look up at him. Instead, her eyes follow the slide of her palm up a copper forearm, the soft dark hairs pressing back gently at the weight of her fingertips. That earthy warm scent of him surrounding her. His bare chest so close to her. Surely by now their breathing should have slowed. Surely the lightness should have accompanied them inside.

“I’ll go take a shower.” Careful with his words, careful with her. A fleet touch to her temple pushing back a wisp of hair. Then he disappears into their small bathroom before she has a chance to respond.

She hears the water turn on, and after a few moments, a stilt and stutter in the race of shower spray indicating he’s stepped under the flow and is moving about under there.

This was her idea, so why is she hesitating?

She smooths at the coarse linen-like fabric of her dress. The blue one. She’s noticed him look at her in that in days prior, eyes lingering at that point where her neck meets her shoulder, and so she wore it today on purpose. This morning she thought specifically about him ranging his gaze over her wearing this dress.

The thick hem is in her hands and the dress over her head, then slung over the back of a chair, her shoes come off next and then her underwear and bra, and she takes the three steps across the room.

His back is to her, he has shampoo in his hair, and when she glides in behind him to lean in against his skin, letting her arms slide around his front, he goes completely still except to bring his hands to cover hers as they rest against his stomach.

She absorbs the feel of him, the rise in his breathing, the warmth of his wet skin, his breadth compared with her, the slight shift of his shoulder beneath her cheek. How she fits next to all the power that he is. That she always knew was there, from that first day the Maquis captain stood before on her bridge, as defiant as she; then the commander, ever beside her; and finally as himself, she supposes, here on New Earth.

Does she know this man, naked and pressed up against her, overwhelming her?

Arms loosen and she pulls free of his grasp.

“Let me finish your hair,” she says, a little burst of breath. “Will I need more shampoo?”

“Should be— Should be enough.” On an exhale.

Her body responds to his obvious restraint, tightening in places, unwinding in others. A touch to his hips encourages him to step back, so she can stand on the tiled lip of the shower to reach him. She presses her thumbs at his nape, pushes and rolls into his neck muscles, then onwards into his hair, fingers joining, massaging and soothing. He sighs and lets his head rest back into her hands a little, trusting her to support him.

“All this personal grooming of me. Not that I mind, but … one might think …” His words, his voice, are intimate, casual, almost numinous, all at the same time, and she’s not sure how that can be. There’s a not-so-subtle shift in the way he’s speaking with her. A question in this seemingly confident, inconsequential teasing, asked with gentleness but also determination.

“You asked me, remember?” She knows she’s being evasive.

“No. You offered.” He chuckles, relenting for now.

Then there’s just the sensation of him under her fingertips, the quiet shush of the water. And a little beyond if she listens she can hear the faint birdsong. Still a little surreal to know this is all real. They’ve only been down here a few weeks.

Voyager feels so far away.

Her fingers have stilled.

Chakotay lifts his head a little.

“Can I turn around?” he asks quietly. “To rinse my hair?”

She lets her hands come away from him, arms fall to her sides. “Yes.”

As always, his voice is more than enough to anchor her to the here and now. She reflects on the juxtaposition, his quiet presence that settles; her feelings about him that do the opposite.

He steps forward and she comes down off the ledge, then he turns part way, side on to her. A tremor as her mind tries to cleave to the known, to safety, holding her gaze fast to his profile. Keeping his eyes closed, he moves himself so they don’t bump in the small space, and tips his head back into the water, lifting his hands to wash the suds out.

All this consideration for her makes her heart beat faster, and she lets herself contemplate how he’s always been this way with her, and how she’s avoided thinking about what this care means. The thought steals her breath. She gives in then, allowing her eyes to follow their desire and take him in, and her throat is abruptly arid, all her body’s moisture diverted elsewhere.

He has the kind of beauty that begs poetry. Lithe and gently muscled, abdomen taut and defined, his body flowing rather than moving as he runs his fingers through his hair. How has she never noticed how graceful he is?

She’s not a poet. Yet looking at him, she’s suddenly filled with the kind of awe she feels when she contemplates the impossibility of the universe – that she has always supposed must be akin to what poets experience.

Her wonder of him is in no way limited to his physical beauty. If she is honest with herself – and standing here, mere hair’s breadth from his glorious form, would seem to be the appropriate time for honesty – once fear is pushed aside, what is left are curiosity and fascination. And she’s felt this since the very first day.

On the ship, she clung to the security of their command structure and duties. There was work to be done, mistakes to make up for.

Here, there is just the rest of their lives on this planet.

And she wants him.

More than that. She wants to steep in him, soak in him until she is swollen full, blush-ripe with everything he is.

She trembles at the admission, releases the breath she has held captive, her next gasped lungful of air producing a heady rush. She’s not yet ready for the word that materialises at the tip of her tongue to curl its gripping, frightening fingers through her.

So she runs her alarming thoughts to the ground, tying her mind to her vision, to the solid earthy presence of him. Lower, lower, her gaze digs, into the sweet, deep loam of his strong thighs, dark curls, and …

Oh.

He’s just magnificent. In every way.

And he’s taking his goddamn time with this hair rinsing.

She swivels her eyes up to his face. “Chakotay?” Her voice wavers as much as her mind.

“Mm-hm?” His isn’t steady either.

Her fingers twitch with fierce urge to touch him, and she almost cries out when her hand appears on his bicep, without any direction having been given. His muscle tenses against her soft palm, and he stops moving, opens his eyes and she gazes into him. No resistance, no guard; he does not duck his head, and neither does she. What does she see there? What does he see in her? Windows to the soul the old saying goes, but she’s never understood the concept of “soul”, not really; never wanted to. But that look in his eyes gives her the strange, unmeasurable thought that maybe, just maybe, this is what he is letting her see. Unable to stop herself now, her hand drifts down his arm as if following a plan only it knows, the slight flex under her touch sending a coiling twist of desire through her. Linking her fingers through his, she draws their joined hands to her chest, over her heart. Between her breasts.

His eyes darken to velvet even as she looks into them. He brings his free hand to her cheek, strokes with a thumb.

“Is it alright if I kiss you now?”

“I think, given the circumstances, I think that’s okay, yes.” That’s too many words. She sounds breathy, nervous, but she’s not nervous, is she? She supposes she is. This ground is unsteadier than empty space was.

His hand glides beneath her chin and then he tilts his head and brings his soft smile to her lips.

The easiest, sweetest first kiss she’s ever had. Grazing her mouth with his, gently moving against her, almost in rhythm with the rise and fall of their breathing. So soft she can barely taste him. She tips her head further back, tries to sway into him, asking for more.

But he’s lovely and respectful and careful.

Chaste.

A hard task, considering they are standing naked in the shower together, but he’s using his side-on position to keep their bodies apart.

She turns her head, just enough to break their kiss, little frissons of frustration, confusion popping in her.

“I’m not a bird, Chakotay,” she murmurs, trying to keep her tone easy, rubbing her cheek softly against his newly smooth one and revelling in the sensation, then leaning back to look at him. “I’ve done this before.” He makes a sound that starts as a sigh and ends as a tiny growl, scattering warmth through her like liquid. She lilts a hand along his shoulder, fingers dipping into the hollow above his collarbone. A shiver strokes his features and she’s moved beyond reason at the effect she is having on him.

But his brows tug into the briefest of frowns. “I don’t want to …” His lashes drop.

And then she realises. This reticence is not entirely about protecting her.

How thoughtless she’s been, how self-concerned.

This is the real line that she must decide whether she wants to cross. And in the same moment she realises she already has decided. The choice was made the moment she admitted to herself that that he mattered to her as more than just a friend, that she wanted him … cared about him.

Fingertips press lightly into his arm. “Scare me off?” She keeps her voice soft, sultry. Then, solemnly, willing him to understand: “Not once I’ve made up my mind.” Not fear or nerves or bravado in her tone; something else entirely.

His hands come to cup her face and he leans his forehead to hers. “And you have?”

He needs to hear. She needs to say.

She feels a little dizzy.

“Yes.”

Then she offers him that soft kiss back, reaching up and into him, lingering, letting time spin out. And slowly, slowly, she feels him come to her, deepen the kiss, begin to understand her silent submission, know it for the kind of fealty it is.

His arms reach for her waist, and he turns fully, draws her towards him, into his embrace, and their bodies align, his against hers. Her skin comes alight at the touch of him, she can feel every shift of solid muscle, minute rasp of hair, his heat and hardness pressing damply into her, and the pleasure of this slips from her as a moan.

Those tender, beautiful full lips lift from hers to trace fine kisses along her jaw.

“Kathryn.” A silhouette of his voice just brushing past her ear, the sound of her name from him still so new, an unknown dance fluttering over her senses.

“Yes,” she says again, once not enough. And too her words are not enough, so her body answers, arching, aching, following him as he moves himself around her so their earlier positions are reversed, his chest against her back.

“Close your eyes,” he whispers.

She stills, every inch of her near vibrating with anticipation that’s been held in check, denied, for so long. Other senses take over as her head falls back to rest under his chin. Sounds of their breathing and small hums, the smooth rush of water. His pliant maleness surrounding her, his large, now confident palms and fingers starting to trail her body with gentle, persuasive strokes and slow, artful caresses that avoid all the places she wants so badly to be touched. Her focus dwindling to the absolute points of contact: soft fingertips sliding, pressing; heels of hands kneading; the sharpness of his nipples at her shoulder blades; and the thick need of him heavy against the small of her back. The humid air is suddenly so weighty with their desire she wants to taste it, and from the back of his throat another sound, wild, wanting, as her tongue darts out as if to capture this and their mingled scents, which have come alive under the hot water, like earth breathing, their Earth breathing.

Her shoulders draw back, hips push into him as he takes his time, as if waiting for that moment when she yields to him completely. And she wants to, because he’s undoing something in her that she never realised needed to be freed.

So she does. Unfurling for him, body, mind, heart opening out to reach the sun of him.

Feeling like she is waking to real life from a dream.

His mouth on the cap of her shoulder, tongue swirling a circle there, a strong hand reaches for hers and coaxes them finally to meander across her chest, just so their fingers rest over a roseate point and she whimpers in relief, in lust, tumbling and tossed on the vast universe of sensation to which he’s brought her.

“Show me how you like to be touched,” he says, voice hot and rich in her ear. When she begins to move, she does not miss the quick stutter of his breath, the increased insistence of him at her back, as their fingers thread, rolling, squeezing, pressing her already tumescent flesh to further swell.

“Like this?” His free hand comes to mimic the activities on her other breast, his slick fingers swirling, teasing her into incandescence, playing and pinching.

“You’re – oh – a quick study.”

He chuckles, and it’s joy she hears there, a little delighted smugness, and she’s suddenly just thoroughly thankful that whatever – whoever – he’s done in his past has led him to who he is and to being here and now, and having his skilful hands on her and this happiness encompassing, swirling, lifting them up together. With a little surprise at her own boldness, she grips his hand tighter and leads them lower, lower, down her belly, caressing small arcs as they traverse shower-damp skin. Then her fingers and his are sliding together, parting her, slipping inside and stroking her wet flesh. Her bones, her muscles, won’t obey her any longer, and he is supporting her completely, his thigh coming between hers, an arm sliding around her waist, all the while whispering softly into her ear between stilted gasps and silvered moans.

Against their joint touches, her climax gathers up around her like a fresh spring storm, expectant, heavy, needed beyond measure, her body tightening and tensing, and at this he slows their movements down and takes control, his thumb slipping around and around her clit, not allowing her fingers to get in the way of him. Then when he gently presses a finger up into her and sends his touch to just flicker across her fraught and needy nub, the cloud bursts with a roar, and it’s if she’s wholly new, alive with growth and awareness, gleaming through her every nerve as she dissolves for him, gasping his name, gripping the arm around her and feeling somehow profoundly, utterly understood and known.

Leaning back into his solid chest as the intensity of sensations slowly dissipates, as reason returns then, she’s subsumed by the need to have him dissolve for her. The thought has hardly formed before its urgency takes over.

“Let me touch you.” Her voice hoarse, hardly recognisable to her in its vulnerability.

She turns in his arms, looks up into him for a moment, but her questing fingers cannot wait, already smoothing and tracing and lining and brushing over his body.

His mouth opens slightly at her touches, his eyes threaten to close but she sees him fighting to keep them open, to watch her, and even though she’s still dazzled from her climax, she wants more, immediately more.

Her hand glides across a taut, sharp nipple and, “Kathryn, oh …” his voice raw, rough. The dark yearning etched on his face, his struggled breathing, his starting to unravel at just her lightest touch, might altogether be the most wonderful bliss she’s ever experienced, surpassing even her own feat just before.

Her body extends, like a bow, a sapling, and he moves at the same time, to twine their mouths once more. Their tongues learn and fever, test and seek, and every good feeling possible seems to pull together in her, collecting up all others into a tumult. Fingers slide down his firm abdomen with purpose now, and his skin, his muscles tense and move under her caress, and she has no clarity but his texture and wanting, needing.

Delving into tight black curls, she teases and torments, stroking just the root of his shaft, slipping lower, between his legs to cup him, and he’s shuddering, his hands moving to her shoulders when she kneels down, the warmth of the water spray on her back.

Never has she wanted to take a man into her mouth more than she does right now, to send him hurtling over the edge at her behest and watch him as he does, give to him as he has to her, as he does every day, has endlessly since she met him.

Before her, he’s exquisite, and she cannot resist any longer, her tongue escaping to lick at the beading at his tip. When he judders and cries out at this smallest of touches, she feels her own moisture flood again and her whole body thrum.

She takes her time, swirling her tongue around the head, adoring all his hisses and murmurs, the feel of his fingers as they slip through her wet hair, his hot satin flesh against her mouth. She slips his broad length further inside, surrounding him with her warmth, savouring his scent, the feel of him as he moves against her, and begins the long slide and thrust. His hands tighten in her hair, stroking first, and then as his need becomes more urgent, as he begins to lose control, slowing, his nails prickling her scalp, and she hums around him, thrilling to his reactions.

And while she does not want to stop, she knows there is more to give him in other ways, and when the feel of him is too much pleasure and the feel of her is too much pleasure, he gently bids her to stand, and she releases him with a sense of loss. But she’s in his arms again, and he is kissing her, absorbing her. She stretches up on her toes once more, reaching down with a hand to guide him to her, and he captures her leg and lifts and curls it around his waist, leaning against the shower wall, securing her to him with his other hand curving to her behind and lifting, the warm water layering over them. She draws him through her arousal, and their whimpers are as one.

“Yes,” she can’t not say, “this, yes,” and she knows that she’ll never be able to stop saying yes now, and wants to say it, for as long as he’ll let her.

“Yes,” he agrees, nuzzling her chin with his, and gently begins to ease into her. And how can this work, her body is so small but there’s kindness and his lips moving over hers and tongues and the promise and pain but it’s bright pain like sunlight and then they’re united and it’s endless, moving and shifting and truthful and truthfully awkward like this but good and right, like summer, and perfection and like this, oh

Even amid this wonder, her old self flickers, a slight vestige of what she should be, should think, and she should be scared, for they have ascended to the very top of the mountain, with drops on all sides that fall away into nothingness. But should is no longer enough. All she wants is to be present and to step off the side with him and plummet to whatever fate awaits.

Tangled, they move and find a rhythm all their own, discordant at first because standing and shower, and no space and there’s knees and hips, and she’s on one leg. But none of this matters, because it makes this perfect last longer. She whispers his name and she couldn’t tear her eyes from his if she wanted to, craving the moment of his dissolution. She won’t come like this but his fall will be enough, more than enough, and when he’s there, his eyes are depths and it’s love there, love she sees and admits, and he’s holding her tighter and thrusting deeper and then he’s over the edge, and he’s taking her with him, catching her completely by surprise, headfirst sprawling, billowing, luxuriously enfolding her in clouds of joy, happy to be wrong, so very happy to be wrong, because falling with him is better than everything else.

She never wants to land but when they do, they do together.

“Hi,” he says and grins at her when they are aware of the ground again. Kisses the tip of her nose and she’s giggling and they’re slipping, the ridiculous position too hard to maintain now they’re spent. They unknot and he slips from her and they both sigh and somehow that’s funny too. Curled back into him, burying her head into his chest, she inhales that earthy smell that still emanates from him even through the hot water. She wants to say something but suddenly she can’t think of a single thing to match how she feels.

“Are you alright?” His hold loosens in concern and he eases them apart.

And when she lifts her eyes to meet his, she falls into his like … some romantic holonovel protagonist – there is no other way to describe it. A wide smile skips across her face and she can’t help but laugh at the giddy silliness of the thought, but more than that, at the elation filling her.

Dimples appear, eyes crinkle, relief but a ripple of bewilderment. “What are you thinking?”

“That I’ve never been this happy,” she says finally against her heart’s wild cheering, knowing it for truth like no other. She reaches up to trace with reverence that jaw, the crooked perfection of his nose, those lips that look like living sculpture. “And … you’re beautiful.”

At this she drops her touch and lashes flutter for a moment, a smaller smile dancing.

The side of his mouth tips up into that lopsided grin that ruins her, has always ruined her, but earnest eyes look straight back into hers, helping to bear the weight of his words. “Me either.” Then, lighter, but somehow no less serious, “And you stole my line.”

Another laugh spins through her and he catches and returns the delight before touching his forehead to hers again, broad hands curling softly around her arms.

“I know these circumstances are not ideal but …” Takes a breath. “I can’t regret us being stranded here.” Tipping his head back, he meets her eyes, searching, that question still there, and she wants to take all that uncertainty he has away, something inside her squeezing at the thought she could make him feel this way, even after …

She has to be honest. “I will never not long for home,” she begins, “– for Earth,” she amends, because she’s beginning to realise that home is not a place. Then, solemn, sure, “– but I don’t regret this.”

She wishes she could say more, but her truth is still new to her and not ready to be voiced. So she looks into him and says all she can silently.

He must understand, for he smiles, takes her hand to his mouth, and the slight grooves that had pressed into his forehead disappear. “Good,” he says, and then, taking her lead, says something else too, without words, very distinctly, straight to her heart. Then, quietly, “So let’s get on with living.”

There’s no fortress in her for these words to breach anymore.

There is only living, breathing, loving.

She’s not a poet. But there is a song in her now.