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(Oh How I Need) Someone To Watch Over Me

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It was her idea to go to Paris for his birthday; the Captain’s, Kathryn’s, idea. He’d never been there on the few times he’d had leave time or vacations to spend on Earth, nor had he particularly wanted to go. He was sure it’s nice enough, but he had other things to do at the time, other places to see. Tourist spots have never really called to him, and that was primarily what Paris had seemed to have going for it.

If he’s honest, he’d been a little surprised by the idea when she brought it up, but she’d suggested that, as an anthropologist, he really should at least have a look at the catacombs, and he’d acquiesced. Some food, some wine, some archaeology; he was sure it’d be a good time, and if it’s with her, he doesn’t really care about the details.

The catacombs had turned out to be as fascinating as she’d promised, full of dark corners and ancient stones, and the fake dust had made them both sneeze uproariously when he’d unadvisedly blown on a faint inscription in an attempt to decipher the secrets of the dead. They lingered in the city after dinner, strolling companionably along the Seine, the low babble of strangers’ voices around them lending a sense of privacy hard to come by on the starship. He knew she had to be using up all of her holodeck rations for the next six months just to give them this long a space of uninterrupted time here, and that she must have begged, bribed, and bargained for it, too, because she would never order her crew to give up their leisure for her (or him). He wanted to feel guilty about letting her make the sacrifice just for a thing like his birthday, but he’d had enough champagne to simply feel euphoric and grateful instead, climbing the hill and sitting on the edge of Montmartre, looking out over the glittering lights of the city. She’d leaned her head on his shoulder, just as tipsy as he, and he’d thanked the spirits for Tuvok’s presence which allowed them to indulge like this, as he wrapped his arm around her and rested his cheek on her hair.

“I wanted to give you a birthday gift,” she began, and he almost didn’t hear her at first, too busy watching a shooting star flare across the the southwest sky, “but you’re not a stuff person, and I always thought those coupon things were silly, so I couldn’t figure out what to give you.”

“Coupon things?” he asked, the corner of his mouth twitching against her head.

“Oh, you know,” she waved a hand animatedly in the air. “Those ‘one coupon for a back rub’, or ‘this offer good for dinner without the kids’ or whatever nonsense they put on those things.”

“Mmm,” he’d said, blissfully content, “shame. Tuvok’s so good with the children.”

She snorted ungracefully. “Unfortunately, Commander, our ‘children’ are nearly as old as we are, and run around in uniforms shouting about core breaches and shield failures. A coupon was only going to go so far.”

“So, what you’re saying, Captain,” he said, shifting her weight against his side and letting his arm fall to around her waist, “is that you didn’t get me a birthday present.”

She’d hung her head in mock humility. “It’s true. I have failed you. Best first officer in the whole of the Delta Quadrant, and your worthless captain can’t even replicate a coupon book.” Her doleful tone had made him laugh out loud, floating on the high of peace, quiet, and some really good wine. “But,” she’d continued, “I did think of something.”

“Oh?” he asked, curiosity piqued, “what’s that? Something non-replicated… it sounds like babysitting and a backrub were both out… Captain! Did you cook me dinner?”

She’d whapped him hard in the chest, already laughing. “No, you ninny. You’ve met my replicator. Why did you think we came here ?”

“Well,” he said, looking out at the lights and settling down, “it is pretty.”

“Yeah,” she’d sighed in agreement, “it is, isn’t it?”

Moments of silence had passed, the night warm around them and the stars twinkling in a dark-black sky.

“Chakotay,” she’d said finally, “I wanted you to pick your birthday present.” He raised an eyebrow in the darkness, and she continued. “I know there must be things that you want, or need, that you don’t get from me. I’m not omnipotent, and you’re far too noble to ask for something unless it’s pressing.” She’d sighed again, and drooped her shoulders a little in a way that made him unaccountably sad. He’d rubbed his cheek reassuringly on her head again, waiting for her to finish her thought. “I have no idea what it might be, but whatever it is- a month on the gamma shift so you can have some space away from me for a while, the chance to lead the next away mission, hell, if you want me to re-program Tuvok’s long-suffering holo-monks…” she’d thrown up her hands and he’d chuckled at the thought, “if it’s in my power to grant without endangering the ship, I’ll do it.”

“Thank you, Kathryn,” he’d said quietly, leaning back on his elbows in the grass, her hip still pressed to his, “that’s a very generous gift.”

“You’re welcome,” she said in soft reply, her profile inky against the starfield, and he’d let his mind wander, considering his options. Upgrades to the Delta Flier? Nah, that was really Tom’s baby, and he didn’t want to discomfit someone else just to get a rush. The chance to make the next first contact was tempting- he sometimes got to do that, but usually it was the Captain’s prerogative, while he stayed behind to mind the ship. Honestly, the idea of outfitting Tuvok’s monks in plaid scuba gear was surprisingly tempting. He was busy contemplating whether bagpipes or panpipes would better suit on Vulcan when it occurred to him, and his whole body froze at the notion.

“That,” she’d said, turning to face him in the dark, “whatever it was that you just thought of, that’s the thing to ask for.”

He’d remained silent for a long time, listening to the sound of the gentle breezes moving through the night. It wasn’t that he didn’t trust her; he did, of course he did, more than anyone else in the galaxy, in fact. It wasn’t even as though it would have be too intimate, or at least he didn’t think so, though it would definitely push some boundaries they’d only skirted before. He tried quietly to put a name to his hesitation, there in the warm dark, his captain and dearest friend breathing softly at his side. It felt, he decided, a bit like weakness; as though by asking for this he’d be admitting how fully, how completely hers he was.

As if, he finally thought, she didn’t already know.

--

She’d sat quietly for a long time after he’d made his request, and he could feel the edges of panic curling around him as he waited for her to say something. She must’ve sensed it, because she eventually reached out and took his hand, lying back on the grass next to him and gazing up at the stars as she wound their fingers together. The gesture grounded him, and he exhaled slowly, urging his mind to still.

“Have you done this with anyone else?” Her tone was calm, composed. Not quite her captain’s tone, but one directed at ascertaining the facts of the situation. Kathryn the scientist, he thought, faintly amused.

“Yes.”

“Who?”

“A man I knew in college. A girlfriend at the Academy.” He exhaled slowly. “Seska.”

She didn’t flinch, and he was grateful for it. “And it was something you enjoyed?”

“Actually, no,” he said wryly. “It’s more like a compulsion, an itch. And frankly, I’ve never found someone who could…” he paused and thought for a moment of the best way to explain. “It’s always felt like it’s something I need, like something that could make me feel… more whole, more healed. But I’ve never done it with anyone who quite made me feel like it had reached the full potential of the experience.”

“So it’s something you only think you’d enjoy?” He could hear the skepticism fighting the curiosity in her voice.

“No,” he said, shaking his head against the grass, “I know, somehow, in myself that… that if I found someone who knew me well enough, who really understood, that it would be…” he trailed off.

“You did this with Seska?” She was teasing, sort of, but he went tense anyway, and her thumb stroked gently over his hand in apology.

“I was desperate,” he said, and left it at that.

“And you think I’m going to do a better job than these others?” It could have been a rhetorical question, but for the faint note of self-doubt hidden in the depths, so he turned onto his side, propping himself on an elbow and looking down at the faint outline of her features.

“You know me better than anyone ever has in my life. And I trust you completely.” She smiled gently up at him, and he stroked a lock of hair away from her neck. “And I have never seen you devote any less than your entire self to an experiment.” She laughed softly at that, and he raised their linked fingers to his mouth, pressing a kiss to her palm.


“Captain,” he said, taking a deep breath as he watched her face settle into seriousness, “Kathryn.  I put myself in your hands.”

--

He hits the door chime, and waits anxiously until he hears her voice, wiping his palms on the loose, lightweight pants he’s wearing. No uniforms, she’d said, and no titles- those were her conditions, and he’d agreed at the time. Now, though, he’s already feeling exposed, vulnerable, and he hasn’t even entered her quarters.

“Come in,” she calls, and he enters, stepping through the doors and hearing them swish quietly shut behind him as he stands tensely a foot inside.

The lighting in her quarters is dim, but he can see her across the room sitting on the couch, a glass of wine and a stack of padds behind her. She’s wearing something he’s never seen before, a nondescript grey knit… thing, he supposes it’s either a rather short night-dress or a very long t-shirt, he’s not sure which. It’s not meant to be sexy, in fact it’s nearly the antithesis thereof, but the way it drapes on her, the way her tightly muscled legs are bare halfway up her thighs… he has to pause and breathe deeply for a moment.

Her eyes flick up to him, watching him for a moment, gauging his readiness.

“Chakotay,” she says finally, gaze tight on his face in the same way she sizes up an unknown ship looming out of the darkness, “I need to hear you say you want this.”

He nods, swallowing around his too-large tongue. His Kathryn, the responsible captain to the last, and if she were any other way, he wouldn’t trust her like he does with his body, his heart, his soul.

“I want this,” he gets out finally, voice tight and quiet, and she nods, holding out an arm to him.

“Good. Then come here.” It’s not her command voice, but it’s full of authority nonetheless, and he walks across the room to her without a second thought, fetching up next to the sofa without taking his eyes from her. “Do you want something to drink?” she asks, and he shakes his head.

“No, not right now.”

“Alright,” she says, and gestures to a cushion he hadn’t noticed that’s been arranged next to the couch on the floor, “take off your shoes, and please have a seat.”

“Kneeling at your feet?” he asks, his mouth twitching upward as he toes off his light slippers, but she looks him straight in the face with that deep-blue stare and says, simply, “Yes”.

He drops like he’s been felled, knees down on the cushion and shoulders level with her knees where they bend out past the edge of the couch, her feet tucked up behind her. “Good,” she says, “please, make yourself comfortable. I have some reading to do.” She gestures to the padds stacked beside her, and he shifts his weight around until he’s comfortable on the cushion, if a little at a loss. Seska would have had him tied up by now, and his other two lovers of this sort would at least have had him disrobe first. He shifts again, uncomfortable and confused, and her hand comes up to wind itself into his hair, her delicate fingers cupping his skull and tipping his head so that it rests against her bare thigh.

“Chakotay,” she says, her voice calm as the pad of her thumb presses into the base of his skull, making his mouth open in a soft sigh of relief, which inadvertently drags his lips across her skin, “you’re so warm. I can always feel you coming up behind me on the bridge because the air gets warmer as you approach.” He chuckles quietly, and she moves her hand unerringly across the pressure points on the side of his face, driving the anxiety and tension from his face. It’s true; her hands are always freezing when she puts them to his, and even now he can feel that her thigh is cool against his cheek. He can tell that her full attention’s not on him, the padd still in her other hand, but the constant moving pressure of her fingers against his scalp and the side of his face are acting to calm and reassure him, and he settles deeper into the cushion, closing his eyes.

The room is quiet apart from their breathing and the humming of the ship, and he drifts, listening to the occasional tap of her fingernail against the screen of the padd as she clicks ahead another page. His mind wanders, and at some point he realizes his left leg is entirely asleep, so he shifts around uncomfortably until circulation is partially restored, then hisses as pins and needles come stabbing up the muscle.

He re-situates himself, head still against her leg, and waits. Time passes slowly, or maybe not at all, he’s not sure. For all he knows, they could have entered some sort of temporal bubble; it certainly feels like it with how his attention wants to drift.

After a while she puts down the padd, and he braces, readying himself for whatever command or constriction will surely come next, but instead she picks up another padd and stretches her legs out long, cracking her bare toes against the arm of the couch and bringing his head down against her thigh again, nails skritching lightly against his scalp.

He is completely bewildered. This is nothing like he expected, not at all what he asked for. Did he… did he not explain himself well? Did she not actually understand what he was looking for? His heart drops. He thought he’d been clear, he really did; she’s a smart woman, and no fool- it’s not like what he was asking for was complex. He shifts again, trying to subtly stretch out his legs a bit more as he tries to figure out a way to ask her where this is (or is not) going without causing offense.

“Restless?” she asks into the stillness, her tone wry. He freezes, but then he can’t help himself and has to shift just a little further, needs to get his toes out from under his own weight. He feels like a teenager trying to learn to meditate all over again; every cell of his body is alive with impatience.

“It’s been a little while,” he hedges, congratulating himself on being as diplomatic as possible, “maybe we could do something else for a bit?”

“Are you questioning me?” She says, and the perfect evenness of her tone makes goosebumps rise on his arms.

“No, not… questioning.” He hesitates, licking his lips as he gathers his reply. “Just… perhaps I didn’t make myself fully clear as to the… nature of this encounter.”

“Oh?” It’s not quite a dare, the way she says it, but he definitely has the familiar sensation of digging himself a hole while she watches on, amused.

“It’s just…” he ducks his head, then forces himself to look her in the eye. “I expected you to tie me up. Maybe beat me a little.”

She doesn’t break their gaze. “Did you? Think carefully- because that’s not what you said to me.” He blinks, trying to recall his exact words. “What you said to me was that you wanted someone to take your control away, to make it so that you were not the one in charge.” She’s got her fingers at the back of his neck, and he’s abruptly aware of how her thumb rests so close to the soft lines of his throat. He has a sudden overwhelming feeling of having completely underestimated her, and swallows hard, Adam’s apple bobbing against the edge of her nail. “You asked me to dominate you. Now,” she pauses and takes her hand off him, and he is alone and bereft, barely managing to stifle a sound of loss as she continues, “I’ll give you one chance to change your mind; if you would like me to… tie you up, to… how did you put it, ‘beat you a little bit’, I’m willing to do that. But,” she reaches out one finger to lift up his chin, her eyes roaming across his face. “I don’t think that’s what you want, Chakotay. And I also don’t think it’s what you need.”

He feels hypnotized, drugged by her touch, and sways forward on his knees when she removes her hand.

“What would you like, Chakotay?” she asks, her voice impossibly gentle, “Shall we continue?”

“Yes,” he says, and closes his eyes. “Please.”

“Good,” she says, her voice sounding a long way off, “stand up, and step out from the couch two steps.”

He complies, eyes still closed, his steps and balance slightly off as his other senses strain to balance him.

“Turn around,” she says, and he does. “Spread your arms, and hold them out.”

He lifts his arms, holding them at perpendicular angles to his body. He can feel the weight of her gaze on him, though she doesn’t touch him yet.

“Yes,” she says finally, “keep your eyes closed.” He hears her rise, and feels the movement of air as she takes the step forward from the couch that puts her directly in front of him. His eyelids twitch involuntarily as he pictures her standing there, examining him. She’s so much shorter without her captain’s boots on, and he somehow always forgets it- her presence is that of a much larger person, but out of uniform she’s downright petite, fragile if not for the force of the spirit that animates her.

“You’re a marvel, Chakotay,” she says musingly, and her hands land on his feet. The touch startles him; he hadn’t heard her kneel down. “Don’t tense,” she says, and he tries to relax. Her fingers are chilly on his skin, stroking firmly from his toes back to where his ankles meet the tops of his feet. Her thumbs press into the joint, and he feels something loosen under the pressure, making him exhale slowly. “Breathe in”, she says, and he does, her hands circling the base of his legs. “And out,” she instructs, and the breath whooshes out of him. “Good,” she says, and taps his ankles to make him widen his stance.

He can feel the cool skin of her legs between his feet, and it’s erotic like he can’t believe, this touch of her. He feels about her bared knees like a Victorian man must’ve about a naked ankle, that they are illicit and exciting, and that if his eyes were open, he wouldn’t be able to tear his gaze from them. Her hands are on the backs of his calves now, and it’s very nearly an impersonal touch, an assessment, an evaluation, but he feels like he’s being discovered, revealed into reality, Galeta being shaped into being from inanimate clay.

“I read your whole file, did you know that?” It’s a rhetorical question, so he stays still, concentrating on his breathing. “You were exemplary.” Her hands dig into the backs of his thighs, forcing him to strengthen his stance and spread his toes on the floor. “I can only imagine what Captain Sulu must’ve seen in you to recommend a fifteen year old to the Academy. It’s clear you exceeded expectations even then.”

Chakotay squirms involuntarily, and her hands still on him.

“Do you disagree?,” she asks, her tone calm, querying.

“I… was a good student,” he answers, “but an ungrateful child. Exemplary is not a word my father would have chosen.”

“Did you love your father?”

“Of course.”

“And your sister, your mother, your grandfather?”

“Yes,” he says, and she must’ve stood up, because her hands are now anchored to his hips, fingers pressing into the tendons in his hip socket, making him wince with the good hurt of the tender pressure. “Of course. But I was contrary; difficult.”

“When your father died, did you perform the rituals? Did you take up his cause?” Her voice is firm, challenging. “Do you honor his memory?”

“Yes, but I…”

“Yes,” she says “you did. You do.” He hears an amused outbreath, and can clearly picture the small smirk on her lips. “If we are to be judged on our performance as teenagers, I’m afraid we will all be found lacking.”

“It wasn’t just when I was a teenager,” he protests, mind full of the commed fights, his disastrous trips home before he’d given up. “We never reconciled. He lived well into my adulthood, but I couldn’t ever get over myself. I buried myself in my life at Starfleet so that I could avoid them all.”

Her hands travel up to the waistband of his pants and circle from the small of his back to the vulnerable expanse of his lower belly. He’s so distracted by thoughts of his past he almost doesn’t notice his cock giving a notable twitch at her touch.

“Yes. Where you were exemplary. Where you graduated with high honors, where you were repeatedly praised by professors, by classmates and friends, by colleagues and commanding officers.” She unties the drawstring to his pants and lets them fall to his feet, leaving him in his standard issue briefs. He shivers under her hands, now roaming his thighs.

“Computer, raise temperature two degrees.”

“I wasn’t…”, he begins, but she cuts him off with her fingers laid across his mouth. The touch startles him, and he nearly lets his arms drop.

“This is not a matter for discussion,” she says, and he clicks his jaw shut and swallows hard.

“I read your records, when I thought I was coming to bring you in,” she continues, her hands now moving up his abdomen over his shirt. He thinks she’s counting his ribs, and it would tickle if her touch weren’t so solid, but as it is he feels seen, known. “Graduated summa cum laude at eighteen. An exceptional pilot, with awards for scholarship, for dedication, for volunteering. Snatched up for service on the Merrimack immediately, where you rose through the ranks.” Her hands reach his solar plexus and pause before moving up to the column of his throat and spreading out to encompass his collarbones, then coming to rest on the balls of his shoulders, cupping there in a protective gesture that makes his chest tighten with a feeling he can’t name. “While serving in your various commands,” her voice has moved behind him, and he can’t decide if he feels more or less exposed with her at his back, “you distinguished yourself many times over. You earned awards for valor, for bravery, for service. Twice you saved a crewmate at extreme risk to your own person.”

He wants to argue with her, wants to flesh out what she’s saying with his myriad failings. He is not this person, this boy scout, this Starfleet hero. He twitches as her hands move down his shoulderblades, wanting to break away from this charade. This was not what he asked for; this is not what he wanted from her. He draws a breath, and her hands close on his waist hard, holding him in place.

“It has come to my attention,” she says, her voice cracking with authority that makes him freeze still, “that you are unaware of your own finer qualities. This is not uncommon in those who spend their lives striving to do better, however I find it to be an unacceptable state of affairs. You will stand here, as I have told you, and you will listen. Do I make myself clear?”

“Yes, ma’am,” he breathes, his arms beginning to shake with the strain of having been held out as the rest of his body remained immobile.

“Good,” she says, and presses her body against his back, her arms reaching out along his. She can’t quite reach his fingers, her own hands ending just past his wrists, but the feeling of her smaller body encompassing him is intoxicating and he blows out a breath, releasing himself into the support of her. “Good,” she says again, more gently, and uses her fingers to turn his hands palm up.

She steps back from him and he is suddenly alone, only managing to clamp down on his voice before he does more than emit a faint whimper. She makes a reassuring noise as she comes around his side, her fingers running over his left hand and wrist, sliding up his sleeve to trace the lines of muscle up to his elbow before moving back over cloth to follow his bicep to his shoulder and armpit.

“When you left ship service and went to teach at the Academy, your captain begged you not to go, then, when they couldn’t dissuade you, wrote you a glowing recommendation.” She releases his left arm and moves across his body to start on his right, tracing each finger to his palm, then closing his fist and pressing into his forearm. “ ‘Chakotay is one of the most generous, loyal, and dependable officers I’ve ever had the privilege to work with. I can only imagine that he will provide an unmatchable example for our young cadets, and that his presence will serve to elevate any position in which he serves.’ ” She works her way back to his torso, drags her hands down to the base of his shirt, catching her fingers in the hem. “Arms up.”

He raises his arms, and she pulls the loose fabric up over his head, revealing his black undershirt. He hears the soft noise of his shirt landing somewhere behind her, and his arms tingle sharply at the change in position, making him clench his teeth.

“Arms down,” she says, and he obeys, his shoulders burning with the release of their previous position. Her hands are on his shoulders again, warmer now than when she started, but still cool against the heat of his bare skin.

“When I interviewed your Maquis crewmembers, they were uniformly adulatory in their reviews of you.” She slides her hands firmly down his arms until she reaches the ends of his fingers where they’re resting against his thighs, then transfers her palms to his hips, pausing over the cloth of his briefs. “They spoke of your bravery, your competence.” Her hands wrap around to the back, confirming the shape of his buttocks with a lingering touch, fingers hooking into the leg holes as they slide around to the front. “They talked about how there was no duty shift you wouldn’t take, how fair you were. How you learned about them; their stories, their families. How you never forgot a birthday.” Her fingers pull downward, and his underwear go with them, a dizzying slow drag down over the curve of his ass, the elastic catching on his now full dick and making him inhale harshly until it’s suddenly freed to the air. The fabric falls the last few inches to the floor, and one hand taps his ankle. “Step,” she says, and he does, trying not to think about where her head is if her hands are at his feet. “Other foot,” she tells him, and he complies, listening as his discarded pants and briefs are tossed away to presumably join his shirt at large in her quarters.

“Did they tell you about my anger?” he asks, the words out before he can stop them, and he hates himself a little bit for the quaver in his voice. “Did they tell you about the people I killed?” He knows she’s aware of the entirety of his record, not just the bits she’s cherry-picking right now. His cell was one of the “most successful”, which directly translates to “most kills”, among other things. He knows the number of living beings he’s killed with his bare hands, but he’s long since lost count of how many may have been on ships he’s shot down, installations he’s bombed.

She picks up one of his hands, cradling it in her own, and he’s suddenly furious with her for treating him like this, for this kid glove approach she’s taking. His eyes snap open to meet hers, his body trembling with rage as she lifts his palm to her mouth. Her gaze never leaves his as she presses her mouth to the cup of hand, holding it for a moment before lowering it to his side.

“They told me about the Cardassian Gul whom you killed when you found him raping a Bajoran, yes,” she says, taking his other hand in hers. “About the three soldiers you shot to free a group of colonist children.” She stares him down, her hands steady on his as her warm lips encounter the roughened skin of his palm. She pulls her mouth away, and continues, “B’Elanna told me herself how you nearly single-handedly defended the ship from a boarding party when the crew had been captured, and she was injured. She credits you with her life many times over, you know.”

He’s shaking now, but the fury has left him in a rush, leaving him cold and exhausted, aching at his core. He doesn’t deserve this, doesn’t deserve her. He doesn’t understand why she’s doing this, why she can’t just hurt him and be done with it, can’t punish him and move on.

“Because that’s not what you need,” she says, and he realizes with a sense of despair that he’s spoken aloud. “Arms up,” she says, and strips his undershirt off with a burst of efficiency. “And eyes open,” she instructs, her tone insuperably gentle.

It takes him a moment, a long breath of standing there, exposed and helpless, before he can open his eyes and meet her gaze. The look on her face when he does makes him swallow hard, throat full of emotion.

“Permission to speak,” he gets out, and she nods.

“Granted.”

“It was more than that. I…” he trails off for a moment, trying to find the words in the haze of his brain, “in the moment, I was so angry , so full of hate, I enjoyed it. I was skilled at it, at killing, and I did it, again and again and…,” he clenches his fists at his side, his arousal forgotten as he tries to make her understand. “I’m a bad person, Capt...Kathryn,” he corrects as her eyebrow twitches, “I have tried to put it behind me, have tried to make amends, but I can’t take it back. I can’t change what I’ve done.” He finishes in a rush, breathing hard, and she watches him for a moment to see if he’s done. Finally he nods, once, and she tips her head, looking at him consideringly.

“Chakotay,” she says, and he closes his eyes again at the sound of his name on her tongue, “I know you.” She steps forward, and he can feel the closeness of her body all along his front. “I know you, and angry or not, warrior or not, I know that you have only ever acted in what you felt were the best interests of those for whom you are responsible.”

Her hand comes up to rest over his heart, and the intimacy of the gesture takes his breath away. It’s the same touch she’s given him a hundred times, the weight of her palm against his chest, but with the removal of the layers of cloth between the cool stillness of her fingers and the pulsing warmth of his heart within his chest, the connection is electric. His heart feels like it wants to beat out from the cage of his ribs, to be held in her hand like a light-winged bird, like a star, shining only for her.

“Chakotay,” she says, and he exhales slowly as she goes on tiptoe to place a kiss on his cheek. “You are a good man,” she whispers, and her tone brooks no argument. “Do you understand me? You are a good man .”

He nods infinitesimally, the lassitude of emotional exhaustion overtaking his body even as she takes his hands in hers.

“Come,” she says, and he follows.

--

She leads him over to the couch, and presses him down with a hand on his shoulder. He goes willingly, knees to the pillow, all but swaying where he lands. She settles directly in front of him this time, one leg on either side of his torso, knees slightly spread, and he waits patiently as she reaches down and gently pulls his arms up around her legs, resting his hands on her bared thighs and pushing his head down into her lap.

Her scent is overwhelming like this, the smell of her skin mingled with the expected aroma of replicated clothing and the standard issue body wash. There’s something faint underneath it though, the scent of her own body; he recognizes it from New Earth, when they slept side-by-side, and from a thousand moments of leaning over her shoulder at a conn, of following beside her down a hall. It wafts from his nostrils to his hindbrain, and his mouth opens unconsciously to get a better taste of it.

She winds the fingers of one hand into his hair, stroking the skin down behind his ear. He turns his cheek into the lean muscle of her leg and inhales deeply, making her knees widen around him.

“I had no idea,” she says, her voice a low rumble from above, “when I first saw you on my viewscreen, how completely integral you were going to be to this ship.” He hums noncommittally into her skin, and shivers as her nails dig lightly into the back of his neck. “We would be lost without you.”

He starts to shake his head no, but is distracted by the shifting of her body. His hands slide instinctively further up her thighs in a bid to keep his balance as she pushes her hips forward on the couch and lets her knees fall open. “You are, without a doubt, the person with whom I have worked best in all my time in Starfleet. And not just me; I can’t imagine another person that Tom, B’Elanna, and Tuvok could all jointly admire.”

“Other than you,” he starts to say, but only gets the first word out as he lifts his head to look at her. Her hair is still up, a stylus shoved through an unforgiving bun on the top of her head, but her head is thrown back, and the hand which isn’t currently stroking down the side of his face is cupping her breast, her tightened nipple clearly visible under the thin knit of her shirt.

He goes hard again so fast he feels dizzy, only just resisting the urge to lean forward and press his dick to the base of her couch. He can feel his mouth hanging open, and his hands must grip on her legs, because she leans forward and says, “Hands behind your back.”

It takes him a moment to register the command, but he does, and grips his wrists in the small of his back, which has the unfortunate effect of forcing him to kneel in a more upright position, both pulling him away from the tantalizing comfort of her lap and bringing the head of his dick in contact with the rough fabric of the couch. He wants to touch her so bad he can’t think, but he forces himself to be still as she drags her hand down his cheek to his dimples, tracing the outline of his mouth with her thumb before pressing it lightly to the middle of his bottom lip.

“Suck,” she says, and he takes her thumb into his mouth, her fingers wrapping under his jaw as he pulls his tongue against her skin. She tastes of metal and salt, the faint residue of sweat and the space dust that permeates voyager at all times. Her skin in his mouth is smooth, the pad of her thumb pressing against the roof of his mouth.

“From the moment I suggested that we join forces to search for Harry and B’Elanna, you didn’t hesitate. You never held back, you never argued or tried to stand on status or ego. Your crew was the most important thing, and then they were our crew, and you’ve never wavered once.” She pulls her thumb from his mouth with a soft pop, and replaces it with her first finger. He takes it gladly, learning by touch the shape of her knuckle, her nail. She uses her free hand to lift her breast out of the low collar of her nightshirt, and he nearly chokes. Her hand is small, and it only makes her breast look more full and round, creamy pale skin against the lightly tanned color of her fingers as she runs them around her nipple. “You committed yourself entirely to supporting Voyager and her family. I’ve never known anyone who takes their job more seriously, who is more dedicated to their cause than you are.”

He starts to pull back from her hand, wanting to free his mouth to protest. You , he wants to say, you are all this and more , but she anticipates him, and presses her thumb up under the edge of his chin, holding his mouth in place as she shakes her head. “No,” she says, “not me. I’ve failed in my dedication, and in my duties.” Her eyes are shadowed, and he knows she’s thinking of the time she shut herself away, considered leaving them. He wants to reach out, wants to comfort her, but he can’t, she won’t allow it. All he can do is be present, and so he holds her gaze as she smiles down at him. “You have never once let them down. You support them, you keep them going. You give them someone to look up to, someone to trust, someone to be their voice.”

He closes his eyes, and she pulls her finger from his mouth, wrapping her hand around the curve of his skull and pulling his head gently in as she sits forward. Her thighs press around his rib cage, and he can feel the heat of her body radiating against the chilled skin of his chest. She strokes down his cheek with a hand, and says, “Open,” so he does, and his mouth is filled with her, the taste of her skin bursting onto his tongue as he latches on. It’s killing him not to be able to touch her with his hands, so he puts everything into the motion of his mouth on her breast; the rasp of his tongue, the scrape of of his teeth which makes her shiver against him, the suction of his mouth as he pulls against her flesh instinctively. “God,” she whispers, “your mouth ,” and presses his head harder to her as she inhales deep and long. He’s lost in the moment, the rushing of blood in his ears just white noise as he focuses on the sound of her breath hitching when he pulls her nipple just so with the edge of his teeth.

“You are responsible for the crew, Chakotay,” she says, and pulls back, forcing him to release his mouth with a soft pop. He groans with dismay, and she just smiles. “But I’m responsible for you,” she continues, “and part of that responsibility is knowing and acknowledging just how exemplary you are.”

Her left hand is still in his hair, a firm grip on his head which pulls him down, pushing him back so he is no longer kneeling up, but resting on his heels as she brings his face to her thighs. Her right hand reaches down and catches at the hem of her nightshirt and pulls it easily up over her hips.

He inhales shallowly, lips parted, the scent of her flooding over the back of his tongue. She’s bare beneath the loose knit, a revelation of soft auburn curls and translucently pale inner thighs. She pulls her right heel up onto the couch cushion next to her hip, spreading herself open to his gaze, and reaches down to run two fingers over herself and smile. He can see goosebumps rising on her flesh at the sensation of her own touch, and he lets her guide his head toward her, forcing himself to breathe deeply and slowly. She is the most stunning thing he’s ever seen, and he wants her, all of her, in any and every way that he can have her.

“Hands stay behind your back,” she says, releasing her grip on his head, and he surges forward, skipping over any thought of restraint or circumspection to bury his nose in her curls. Her body is warm here, and if he glances upward he can see the flutter of her heartbeat as it lifts her breasts in a steady rhythm.

He breathes deeply trying to calm himself, but every breath reminds him that he’s surrounded by her, and he can’t calm down. The blood is surging through his veins, leaving him dizzy and feeling as though he’s in a fever dream. Any moment he’ll wake in damp sheets, alone and cold in the sterile air of his quarters.

“Chakotay,” she says, and her hand on his cheek brings him back to the present. He meets her gaze, her eyes dark with concern and something deeper, and she strokes a finger from his temple to the corner of his mouth. “Good. Stay here with me.”

He nods, shuddering, and can’t resist leaning forward again, resting his forehead on the bare skin of her belly and closing his eyes. He feels exposed and unaccountably afraid, nude and kneeling on the hard floor of the deck, here in this moment with her. She reaches out to rest her hand on his head like a benediction, and he thinks suddenly of ancient rites and temple priestesses, of rituals performed between goddesses and mortals in darkened rooms filled with incense smoke. He wants to worship her like a supplicant on his knees, like she alone has the power to redeem him.

“Chakotay,” she says again, and he opens his mouth against her skin, pressing his lips to the tender skin just over the rise of her pelvis. “ God . Do you have any idea how crucial you are to everyone on this ship?” Her hair is softer than he expected, tickling against his nose as he slides his mouth down to give an experimental lick that makes her shiver around him. “You are the glue that holds the crew together,” she continues, winding her hand into his hair again, her fingers pulling against the back of his head. “Everyone trusts you, and do you know why?”

He doesn’t bother to answer, can’t answer, doesn’t want to think about it at all, but opens his mouth in silent response, running his tongue from stem to stern to get a taste of her. She’s sweet like nectar but with a salty undertone; unique and powerful, just as she is in every way, and he leans in to get another sample.

“Everyone trusts you because they know you. Because they know that you will do your best for them, no matter the circumstance. Whether they need a spare part, or a word of advice, or their life saved, it doesn’t matter. They know that you will provide for them.”

He leaves off the long, slow motions of his tongue and settles his full mouth over her, pulling gently, rhythmically at the flesh beneath his lips. “Your Maquis officers,” she says, and her voice has dropped, huskier than usual, “they didn’t trust me at first, not at all. But they trusted you. And you stood up for them. You protected them.” He traces his tongue through her folds, sliding it to the top and circling before running it down the other side to dip just briefly into her. “You commit yourself to causes, and you see them through. You’re intensely loyal, and those around you sense it. It makes you one of the finest officers many of them have ever seen.”

He doesn’t want to listen to her words, doesn’t want to hear her praising him. Kathryn Janeway does not deliver hollow platitudes, and this litany makes him deeply uncomfortable because he knows she means it, but he can’t accept it, can’t agree with it. He knows his faults, his failings, his manifold weaknesses, knows them deeply and intimately, and he can’t help but hold them up beside the things she says as shadow truths.

“Chakotay.” He realizes too late that she’s stilled beneath him, and pauses, looking up. Her eyes are clear and knowing, and he drops his gaze.

“Tell me what you’re thinking.” There’s no space for argument in her command, but even so he hesitates. “Chakotay,” she says, and her voice is so firm, so kind, and it breaks open a little piece of him.

“Listening to you… I…,” he trails off, trying to find the words and can’t, can only come up with one. “Please,” he says, “ please ,” and at her nod, crumples forward to lay his head on her belly, his whole body shuddering, hands twisted together at the small of his back. “At ease,” she whispers, touching his shoulders, and he wraps his arms around her legs and hips so hard it must hurt, clutching at her like a lifeline, an anchor as he sobs into her skin.

She curls herself down around him, her slim hands pressing him hard against her body, holding him tightly as he shivers, crooning soft noises to him under her breath. It feels like an eternity passes, the birth and death of stars and galaxies before his breathing slows and her grip loosens to a hold, one hand stroking up and down his shoulders and back. He inhales and exhales, floating with his eyes closed and concentrating on his breathing, the sensations in his fingers, his toes. There is the hum of the warp drive; there, the hiss of climate control.

“You don’t believe the things I’m telling you,” she says finally, and he nods once, dragging his cheek against her smooth skin. A long moment passes before she asks, “do you think I’m lying to you?”and he draws back sharply, appalled. “ Never ,” he says, and the corner of her mouth twitches upward.

“Good,” she says, “because I wouldn’t,” and he settles his head carefully back down.

“I know,” he answers, stretching his fingers against her bare hipbones as he searches for the words to explain himself, finds himself tongue-tied and stuck., “It’s not that I think you’re lying. I know you believe what you’re saying, it’s just…”

“You think I’m not objective.”

“I think you want to believe the best of your crew,” he says slowly, trying to make sense of how to put it, “and that you care about me, and that, yes, those things may color your judgment.”

Her hand moves over his face and he chases it with his mouth, pressing a kiss to her palm without thinking, making her belly jump with a brief laugh.

“It’s true that I like to think that my crew are good human beings, trying hard to do their jobs as best that they can in a challenging and ever-changing situation,” she says musingly, “but that has never affected my ability to see when someone was going wrong. In fact, as you have on occasion pointed out, I am more likely to be overly critical than to be overly effusive.”

“Yes,” he begins, “but…”

She lays a finger across his mouth. “ Chakotay ,” she says, “do you trust me?” Her eyes hold his like a magnet; he is riveted to her, unable to look away. “Don’t answer, just think for a moment,” she says, and he closes his mouth on the words he’d been ready to speak. “Not ‘am I never wrong’ ,” she continues, “not ‘do you never disagree with me’ . Just…” she exhales slowly, his head sinking with her skin as the air flows out of her, “just, at the end of the day, when all is said and done… do you trust me?”

The silence hangs for a long moment, only the quiet whirr of the engines echoing beneath the sound of their breathing.

“Yes,” he breathes out finally, voice cracking. “I do.”

“Okay,” she says, her hands still moving across his bare skin, her touch firm and grounding. “Then you have to trust me when I say that you are not objective. Those voices in your head, the ones saying that you’re not good enough, not worthy enough? They are as biased as you think I am.”

He bites his tongue, forces his mind to be still.

“Chakotay,” she says, “answer me. Do you trust me?”

“Yes,” he manages, his fingers digging into the curve of her waist, holding on to her warm solidity as they spin through the deep reaches of space in a tiny tin can going faster than the speed of light.

“Good,” she sighs, caressing the curve of his skull, “you’re so good, Chakotay.”

He starts with surprise as his dick, which had momentarily lost interest in the proceedings, suddenly remembers that he’s naked in the lap of an incredibly sexy, mostly bare, woman. He sucks in air over his teeth, abruptly desperate to put his hands and mouth all over her, to please her, to make her proud.

“Look at me.” She gets her fingers under his chin and lifts his face up, waiting until he meets her eyes to continue. “Chakotay. What do you want to do?”

This ,” he answers without hesitation, “but I need to touch you. I can’t…” he trails off, pleading silently with her to understand. “I need to be with you, not separate from you. Please.”

“Yes,” she says, and pulls her nightshirt off over her head without ceremony. “Come on.”

He buries his face in her with a groan, pulling her hips forward to the edge of the cushion, large hands cupping the curve of her ass as his thumbs curl around the front of her hips. She grips his shoulders for balance, her fingernails biting into his skin as he gets his mouth on her, licking into her wet heat.

“Yes,” she says, “like that,” and spreads her legs, leaning back against the couch as he chases his tongue down, slicking her skin and making her hips push against his face. He runs his hands up her legs, settling one into the bend of her lifted leg and pushing it back while the other covers her thigh and sweeps upward onto her torso. She groans aloud, and he pulls his head up from the warm dampness of her curls and replaces it with his free hand as he leans forward to get his mouth on her breast. He’s captivated by the different flavors of her, by her responsiveness, but the texture of her skin under his hands, his fingers, his lips.

“You’re incredible,” she says, and he hums around her nipple, eyes closed. She’s got one hand tight around his bicep, and another playing with her free breast, cupping it and sliding her palm roughly across the peak. “You are one of the most remarkable human beings I know. The way you give yourself over to whatever it is you do, the way you support everyone around you. The way you see the potential in people, and work tirelessly to encourage it.”

His world has narrowed to the touch of her skin, the taste of her under his mouth. The quiet sounds she makes as he moves his hand up and in, his thumb tracing infinite looping trails on her slick flesh that make her shiver against him. He releases her breast and slides down, wrapping his arms around her legs and letting her hand steer his face to where she needs him. All he wants is to please her, to meet with her approval, so he goes happily where she guides him, adjusting his position as she slides two of her own fingers in under his mouth, moving them deliberately in and out in a pattern that speaks of long familiarity.

“Chakotay,” she says, her breath coming hard, and he applies all his focus to the movements of his mouth, matching the speed and angle of her hand, “Chakotay, you are the most... “. She doesn’t get the rest of it out before she’s gasping deeply beneath him, her fingers clutching hard into his hair as her body tenses for a long moment, then goes limp as she sags back against the couch. He takes her lax position as permission, and curls himself into her lap as thoroughly as he can, head against her belly, arms wrapped around the small roundness of her hips, her knees drawn out under his arms.

“Thank you,” she says, stroking her fingers through his hair, and he nods slightly against her. He wants to do it again, and again, wants to have dinner with her every night and wake next to her every morning, and worship her with every breath he has in his body, but that is not the bargain, nor is it something she is making any overture toward, so he stays there, surrounded by her scent and her warmth as she strokes him thoughtfully. “Did I hurt you?” she asks thoughtfully, her fingers pressing his hair into some sort of order from where she’s pulled it into chaos, and he shakes his head once against her, not trusting his voice just yet. He’s still got the taste of her in his mouth, and feels like he’s falling.

“Good,” she says, and gently loosens his grip on her. “Up.”

He’s struck with sudden panic that must show on his face, because she makes sure to keep firm skin-to-skin contact with him as she pulls him to his feet.

“We’re just going to the bathroom, that’s all. I’m not leaving you alone.”

He nods to show he understands and rises, then gives her space to stand up in front of him, wrapping her arm around to guide him to the small washroom that adjoins her quarters. He feels cold and slightly seasick, but her grip around his waist is reassuring. She closes the door behind them and turns the shower on, opening the curtain to steer him into the cubicle before squeezing in behind him, her breasts pressing against his back as they cram into the small space. It smells like her in here, her shampoo, her cleanser, and it’s reassuring.

The water is hot on his skin, the steam rising almost instantly around them, and it helps him feel a little more calm, a little less disconnected from reality. He’s still erect, his penis standing out hard in front of him, but it’s like an afterthought as she carefully runs water and soap over them both, then rinses them both thoroughly before turning the water off again. She’s got him out and wrapped in a towel before he’s fully aware that they’re done here, and she lays a finger across his mouth and says, “Shh. Trust me.” before he can worry about how it seems like this is over, and he doesn’t feel ready to leave her yet.

“Computer, lights to twenty percent.”

The room dims, and she leads him across her quarters, still clinging to the large, rough towel she’d wrapped tightly around him from his shoulders to his knees. He expects them to return to the couch, but she bypasses it entirely, shepherding him matter-of-factly into her bedroom.

He’s never been in here before, and an absent part of him tries to focus on taking it in, wants to notice the pictures on the wall, the blanket draped on a chair in the corner, but her hands are pulling the towel off of him and laying it on the bed, making him tense at its loss.

“Lie down,” she says, pushing gently on his hip, and he steps toward the bed. “On your stomach,” she calls from somewhere near the corner of the room, so he arranges himself carefully on his front, pointing his toes and tucking his hands under the fronts of his thighs. It’s nice like this; he can hide his face in the rough material of the towel and let his mind drift, feel the light touch of the air moving around him and the firmness of the Starfleet issue mattress beneath him, listen to the sound of Kathryn moving around the room.

He must make some noise without realizing, because she says “I’m right here,” and then she’s settling on top of him, her warm weight coming to rest on his hips, her legs shifting around him as she gets situated. Her finger traces a line low on his back, and he feels her muscles tense. “Oh, Chakotay,” she sighs softly, and he knows she’s following the mark left by a Vidiian knife. It would be easily enough removed, but he’s always found it strange, the idea of removing all traces of injury or harm from a body as though they never were. He’ll have things fixed if they hamper his ability to move, or do his work, but not for cosmetic reasons- those marks simply stay, layered under his uniform and recording a history of a life lived, pain felt, and wounds healed.

“I’d do it again,” he says without thinking, because this particular scar, a jagged half moon of flesh around five centimeters in length, was received when he turned to shield her from an attack as they both transported away from a fight, and he knows she feels guilt over it.

“I know you would,” she says, and he feels the startling sensation of a puddle of skin-warm oil pooling in between his shoulder blades. “I would never ask you to, would never want you to. But I know you would.” Her hands press down, spreading the oil across his upper back in a long, slow, push that has him melting into the bed. “I’d do the same for you.”

“You’re the captain,” he mumbles, “you shouldn’t.”

She’s quiet for a long moment, her hands digging into his shoulders, thumbs pressing down the line of his spine. “You are no more expendable than I am, Chakotay,” she says finally, directing her attention to his upper arm, her hands kneading into the muscle from his shoulder to his elbow, bending his arm up to reach the tender muscles of his inner arm. “And where you’re concerned, I’m afraid I’m very much compromised.”

He stills at the admission. They’ve never needed words to say what they mean to each other, have never crossed the line of speaking openly about the feelings they bear for one another.

“I think I fell for you before we even met,” she continues, “just from reading your file, from listening to the sound of your voice on your log entries.” She shakes herself a little, directing her attention down his arm to press into his hand, making him groan as she deftly manipulates the pressure points in his palm and wrist. “I would have gotten over it; or, I think I would have. I would have captured you, and found you fascinating, and then returned you, maybe followed your trial in the news.” She chuckles briefly. “ Maquis hero brought to justice . All the holos would’ve been very flattering, I’m sure.” Her hands move to his other arm, pulling the muscle carefully away from the bone, releasing the knots and re-aligning the tendons. “But then you were here, on my ship, in my ready room. Challenging me, but always supporting me. Calling me on my bad decisions, but always ready to accept my word as final, always ready to defend me to the crew.”

She pulls his forearm up to lay along the inside of her thigh, bringing his hand in contact with her damp curls. He can’t help but stroke a finger through them, earning his knuckles a light smack. There’s laughter buried in her voice she she continues, intentionally dragging the back of his hand against her wetness and making him bite his lip as she massages his palm, his fingers, a slow up and down motion that contributes to the release of tension in his body in one area, and the build of it in another.

“I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again; I can’t imagine life out here without you.”

She pulls his arm away and lays it down on the mattress next to his torso just like the other, then returns to his back, beginning at the top and working her way steadily back down. The push and pull of the heels of her hands along his backbone rocks her hips back and forth against the small of his back, and the sensation of her rubbing herself against his bare skin would stand the chance of driving him mad if her hands weren’t so busy forcing his body into relaxation it hasn’t felt since the Alpha Quadrant.

“I have no idea how I got so incredibly lucky as to end up with a first officer like you,” she says, and pushes up onto her knees. She reaches back to spread his legs, then climbs carefully over them to kneel between his thighs. He starts to push up, turning his head to see her, but she gets a hand between his shoulders and says firmly, “Stay,” and he goes back down without protest.

Her hands on his thighs are masterful, strong and direct, digging into soreness he didn’t even know was there. Her thumbs press into the hollows of his hips and he moans, the sensation overwhelming as his legs jump in response. Her small hands are unexpectedly strong, wringing pain and stiffness from each limb, following the line of his body down to his knees, his calves. She’s gentle around old injuries, firm across tightened lines, and he feels reborn under her ministrations, feels sparking sensation in skin that hasn’t felt the touch of anything other than a uniform or a sonic shower in years.

“You are the consummate first officer,” she says, reaching his feet and rolling her knuckles hard across his instep. “You are unfailingly conscientious in your duties. I have never once had to worry whether you would take care of the things I’ve asked you to do, or whether you would report to me anything which I needed to know. No matter where I go, what I do, you are there with me. You back me up, you advise me, you watch over me.” She pulls on his toes one by one, then rubs her thumbs hard into the balls of his feet, moving them in tight circles. “More than that, beyond even doing your duties flawlessly without fail, you take on extra work, just to make my life easier.” She lays his feet down, and taps his ankle. “Turn over.”

It takes him a moment to muster the brain and will power to roll over, but he does, careful to keep the towel under him, eyes closed even in the dimness of the darkened room. He hears the sound of oil being poured into her hands, hears her set the bottle aside. She drips the oil down his legs, then sets her hands on the tops of his feet and pauses.

He opens his eyes after a moment to find her gazing at him, a vision in lightly freckled pallidity, her hair hanging loosely over one shoulder and her face an eloquent study in feeling. Her mask is gone entirely, everything she usually suppresses with surgical precision writ large across her face, and his heart seizes in his chest, forcing him to sit up and reach for her without thought. She holds a hand up instantly, palm flat toward him, making him pause with his elbows on the bed, straining toward her.

“Lie down,” she says, and he resists, challenging her silently, eyes locked with her nakedly emotional gaze. “ Chakotay ,” she says, her voice lined with steel that defies the tears in her eyes, “Lie. Down.”

He gives way to her, as he always does, and as he always will, letting his body fall backward, his arms go limp, but he keeps his eyes locked on her where she sits at the foot of the bed.

“Good,” she murmurs as she strokes her hands over the tops of his feet, “ good ,” and he shivers with how much her praise means to him. “Just listen to me,” she says softly, and he nods once in acknowledgement.

“The fact that you are an incomparable first officer,” she begins as she lets her hands make their way up his shins to rub at the tendons around his knees, “holds not even the slightest significance when compared to what you do for me as a friend.” Her voice is subdued, but direct, and her hands have moved to his thighs, her knuckles kneading the hard muscles of his legs with determination. His cock stands out a little ridiculously between them, reaching into the air, desperate for her attention, her touch, but they both ignore it. “You are my rock, my refuge,” she goes on, “You protect me from dangers outside the ship, from trouble within it, and from my own fallible self. You have never once hesitated to save me from myself, whether it’s because of my own arrogance, my own guilt, or my own loneliness.”

She moves forward up his body to settle herself over his hips, sighing as her bare flesh comes in contact with his, both of them groaning as her wetness slides over his shaft, pressing the head of his dick into his belly. She brings her hands up to his shoulders, rubbing methodically into the dips beneath his collar bones, his pectorals.

“You seek me out. You refuse to let me hide. You don’t…” her voice trails off for a moment, and her body moves slowly against his as she takes a deep breath. “You never leave me alone,” she says finally, her hands moving against the spaces between his ribs, massaging carefully down his sides to his waist, where she captures his hands and slides his fingers between her own. “You take the most exquisite care of me, whether I deserve it or not, and Chakotay, half the time I don’t even remember to thank you.”

She sighs, her eyes lowered, and guides his hands to her hips before looking up to hold his gaze.

“Do you want this?” she asks, “I need to hear you say it. With all its complications, is this what you choose?”

Her face is completely open, and he studies it, reading the fear, the determination, the steadfast love that are tattooed across her delicate features.

“Yes,” he says, “ please , Kathryn,” and, using his grasp on her hips, helps lift her upward until she can reach down and guide him into place. They catch their breath in unison as she sinks slowly down his length, her fingers clutching hard on his until she reaches the bottom, the curve of her ass settling into the cup of his thighs.

Suddenly he can’t stand to be so far away from her, so he pulls himself upright, tipping her back so that her weight rests in the space of his folded legs, wrapping his arms around her middle and lowering his face to get his mouth on her breasts. Her arms come tight around his shoulders and her heels are digging painfully into the small of his back, but he can’t begin to care. She’s got her mouth at his ear as he runs his tongue around her nipple, feeling it harden when he breathes gently over it.

“Chakotay, I have never loved anyone like I love you,” she says, and rocks her hips back and down, shifting the angle of them together before pressing her thighs wider and rocking back up again, dragging her pelvis against the line of soft hair running down his stomach. “I can’t even  conceive of my life without you. I am so incredibly, unbelievably grateful that you are here, that you are you, that you choose , every morning, to stand by my side.”

Her movements are getting stronger against him, and he releases her nipple to suck a bruise onto the arc of her chest right over her heart, biting lightly at the thin skin which is too often all that stands the woman he loves and the emptiness of space. He can feel himself tightening, straining, and knows he’s not going to be able to hold out too long. His hands cradle her lower back, pulling her lower body snug against his as she speeds up the rhythm of her motions. He whines deep in his throat, fingers tightening involuntarily against her as she leans in to lick the shell of his ear.

“Come for me, Chakotay” she says, and he explodes, body stiffening from head to toe as he grits his teeth through the overwhelming sensations. He’s barely aware of her digging her nails into his shoulders as she comes apart above him, her shout of pleasure blending into the white noise in his ears as he works on remembering how to breathe. Finally it runs its course and he comes back to himself, her body limp against him, her head resting on his shoulder as she breathes slowly through her mouth. He can’t begin to process it, to take it all in, so he leans down and captures her lips with his own, pressing their mouths together in a soft, slow, kiss.

He maneuvers them down against the mattress, flipping the covers back with the arm that isn’t cradling her to him and nestling them carefully down into the sheets. She pushes him over until he’s lying on his stomach again, head turned to the side with one hand beneath his face, and drapes herself across him, the weight of her body anchoring him to the bed. She nuzzles her face into the curve of his neck, and he just breathes, surrounded and encompassed by her, in and out, in and out. Her weight begins to grow slack against him, and all he can think is how he wants to stay here, right here, in exactly this space, forever.

“I don’t want to leave,” he whispers finally, reaching for her fingers with his free hand and interlacing them with his own.

“So don’t,” she whispers back, and presses a kiss to the edge of his mouth. He smiles, heart full to bursting as her breathing evens out into the gentle consistency of sleep.

“Computer,” he says, “lights off”.