"The Admiral's Retreat"
by CoriMariee & GillyH
Pairing : Janeway/Chakotay
Setting: The American Rockies, Earth - three months after Endgame
Summary: Endgame fixer. Janeway attends 'The Admiral's Retreat' - a friendly bonding weekend for Senior Starfleet staff affected by the Dominion war and changes within Starfleet - and finds that Chakotay has been invited to oversee some of the outdoor activities.
Rating: NC-17 For adult content
For elem, with love from us. Belated Happy Birthday, hon. This is Cori's story, which Gilly added bits to :)
Kathryn gathered up her overnight pack from the seat beside her, not waiting for the shuttle craft to land before standing ; an action that earned her a sharp look from her former mentor, Admiral Owen Paris. She didn’t see his look, but it wouldn’t have bothered her if she had. She, Admiral Kathryn Janeway, former captain of the starship Voyager had decided that protocol could go to hell.
It had taken her a lot of time and many brokenhearted nights before she reached that conclusion, but once she had, it had been freeing and she promised herself that no one could make her go back into those iron chains again. Of course, with a promotion to admiral came some procedures to be followed and duties to attend to, things she did with the decorum fitting her rank, but under that spit and polish was a new understanding of Starfleet, a new eye for seeing through the grandeur and into the heart of the organization that was her legacy and her curse.
It was with this new outlook that she approached this "Admiral’s Retreat" - Owen’s newest idea concerning the problem of Starfleet’s shattered chain of command, broken by the catastrophic losses suffered by the fleet in the Dominion War, including five of the twenty admirals that made up the top brass. Kathryn had read the official reports concerning the war, and although they were official accounts of what had transpired, they had let her know that Starfleet had changed quite a bit and that Owen was trying to get Starfleet back on track after they’d skirted the edge of their principles.
When the shuttlecraft touched down in the heart of the American Rockies a moment later, Kathryn exited quickly, not bothering to see whether her fellow passengers were deplaning or to check exactly where she should head once she got outside. It's funny, she thought. After seven years on a starship, one would think I'd prefer recycled air, but three months on Earth and I'm a weakling again. Shaking her head, she followed the small swarm of admirals which had somehow overtaken her.
The walk to the campsite reminded her just how out of shape an admiral could get as her counterparts dropped like flies around her, chugging bottles of water and pulling at the full dress uniforms they had insisted on wearing despite the heat. Kathryn was grateful that she'd insisted on wearing just her tank top and regulation shorts despite the lecture it earned her from Owen before they left Starfleet command. The most hilarious sight however, had to be Admiral Nechayev. The immaculately coiffed woman looked to be truly petrified of her surroundings. She kept lifting up her boots and visibly shuddering each time she saw the muck that covered them. Once or twice, she had even screamed when one of the larger bugs native to the region had dared to cross her path.
And to think that I was always compared to her and told that she was the standard I had to live up to as a woman in Starfleet, Kathryn mused. Now, I've been to the to the Delta Quadrant and back, and she's afraid of a bug.
For a moment, she wished that Chakotay were there with her, he would certainly have laughed at the idea of the Federation’s most intimidating admiral being driven into a frenzy by one of nature's most sacred creatures - the giant dung beetle.
Her relationship with Chakotay was never far from her mind these days. She had tried to convince herself that that was because they'd spent seven years together and never more than a few hundred yards from one another, except for their separate away missions. But, she had come to realize that it was much more than that ; she felt guilty that their relationship wasn't what it once was. Sure, they still talked about once a month by comm-line, but their conversations were often awkward and they focused mostly on work, rarely straying into a more personal realm. She felt that inspite of everything they once meant to each other, she now knew Chakotay as well as she knew her new colleagues and staff at Command, and the sense of loss she felt weighed heavily on her. But she couldn't think about that now. If she did, this whole weekend would be filled with memories of him and although she was being more lax with herself regarding protocol, she wasn't prepared for thoughts of her former first officer to keep her from doing what she needed to do to get through the weekend.
Resolutely, she began marching in the direction of what she hoped was the campsite, leaving all the huffing and puffing flag officers behind. As she trudged up what she prayed was the last hill, she could still hear Nechayev complaining from what was at least half a mile away.
At the top of the next incline, she spotted the campsite in the middle-distance and sank to her knees, taking off her pack and grabbing for the water bottle in an inner pocket. She drank thirstily, having forgotten to drink anything in her haste to get away from all that was clouding her mind, and it now felt like she hadn't had any liquid for days. She was so engrossed in her water that she didn't notice the figure standing above her until his quiet throat clearing startled her and she sent water flying in all directions.
"Easy, Kathryn. It's just me," Chakotay soothed, concerned that he’d alarmed her to such a degree.
"Chakotay, what the hell are you doing here?!" Kathryn was amazed to see her former XO standing before her. True, he had been in her thoughts, but that certainly didn't mean she wanted to see him or be forced to spend the weekend with him.
For his part, Chakotay was trying to figure out whether Kathryn's question meant that she wanted to see him, or whether she was trying to figure out how to use her rank to get him out of there as fast as a shuttle could carry him. Instead of worrying about the likelihood of either option though, he concentrated on mustering a genuine smile for her as he answered. "Admiral Paris asked if I would be willing to oversee some of the activities planned for this weekend. He figured all you desk-jockey admirals might need someone to help you brush up on our survival skills while you take the opportunity to have some fun and bond with one another."
‘I'll have you know I've barely seen my desk since I became an admiral," Kathryn said, bristling a little.
"Why... too many working luncheons to be bothered with real work?"
The comment earned Chakotay a playful slap and for a moment he relished being able to make Kathryn smile and come alive in a way he hadn't seen in a long time, but then he saw her eyes darken and the mask return to her face. Hoping he could hold on to a shred of the closeness they’d had moments earlier, he gently prodded, "How are you, Kathryn?"
"I'm fine, Chakotay," she said quietly. "I've been busy, and I'm a little frazzled after the recent negotiations on Morfark IV, but I'm doing well. And, yourself?"
"I'm good, too. Busy with my students at the Academy, and I love the work." He paused for a moment, unsure of whether he should continue, then plowed ahead. "But, I’ve missed you, Kathryn."
"You've missed me?!" she exclaimed, "But we talk every month... that's more than I talk to any of my other friends."
"That's not what I meant. I miss you," he said again, taking a step towards her.
She took a step back and an awkward silence hung there between them until she cleared her throat and said, "That's sweet, Chakotay. Do you have any coffee with you, by any chance?"
"Yes, I do, but..." he continued, frustrated that she didn't seem to be hearing him.
Owen Paris’ authoritative voice cut off anything else he might have said.
"Ah, Kathryn, Chakotay... I see you’ve found each other." The man was beaming, oblivious to the tension between them moments before. "I knew when I was planning this weekend, we’d need to have the perfect teacher and if his students’ reviews are any indication, the Commander here is just the man we need."
"Thank you, sir." Chakotay tugged on his ear as he responded to unexpected praise from a man who was almost a surrogate father to Kathryn.
"All true, my boy, all true." The older man replied. "Now, Chakotay, would you please get a campfire going for this evening before Nechayev decides she's freezing to death or …" Paris lowered his voice "... deafens me with another round of complaints?"
"I’d be glad to, Admiral." Chakotay smiled. "What do you say, Kathryn... want to prove to me that your fire-starting skills followed you into The Admiralty?"
"As long as you don't use my hair for tinder this time." Kathryn smiled her assent, grateful that they could table their awkward conversation.
They walked to the campsite together, neither of them caring whether Nechayev froze, and both worrying about completing an activity together after such an awkward conversation.
Chakotay, for his part, realised that Kathryn was not going to forgive him so easily for a multitude of sins, some of which he could only guess at, while Kathryn was trying to figure out just what Chakotay wanted out of her, and whether she was prepared to give any, or all, of what he desired. She had already admitted to herself
that she missed him, cared about him, and was somewhat happy to see him, but it
appeared that he wanted more from her and she wasn't sure whether she would be comfortable enough with that - despite her newly relaxed view of protocol - for anything to come of their relationship besides a cordial friendship. Even a close friendship now seemed too much for her to bear in light of all the changes that had gone on in their lives, and in their work in the past few months.
Reaching the campsite, they set about gathering the things they would need
to build a fire big enough to keep the group comfortable throughout the coming night.
Kathryn had good luck finding kindling, and she came back to the center of camp with a big armful of twigs and sticks.
Chakotay had gathered a lot of kindling too, so feeling that it was somehow her duty to take charge in starting the fire, she knelt down beside the fire-pit, took two sticks and rubbed them together over a small pile of tinder and dried leaves, trying in vain for several minutes to start a fire before she heard Chakotay's voice next to her.
"Need some help?"
Kathryn didn't appreciate the teasing tone in his voice and she shot him a mock-death glare before conceding, "I guess I do... perhaps being an admiral does take all the fire out of someone."
She was surprised when he knelt behind her, taking her hands in his to help her rub the sticks together at the right speed to cause a glowing ember. "I doubt anyone could take the fire out of you, Kathryn," he whispered into her ear, "and I'd be sad to see it go."
Kathryn was too shocked to move and so she let his hands guide hers in rubbing the sticks together as her body subconsciously relaxed against his. Forgotten feelings and forgotten sensations stirred as every nerve seemed to be standing on end. She could feel the contours of his body and the heat radiating from him. It was simultaneously a terrifying and a wonderful experience ; something she didn't want to happen, but at the same time, something she didn't want to end.
Meanwhile, Chakotay was also dealing with the situation as his body reacted to Kathryn's nearness and to her scent just as it had always done. He knew that with their relationship as strained as it was, his reactions would be most unwelcome, and that he risked
pushing them further apart when he desperately wanted them to be closer.
The former Command team were both so lost in their own thoughts and reactions that it took a lick of flame against Chakotay's fingers to remind them what they were supposed to be doing.
"Chakotay, are you alright?!" Kathryn exclaimed as he yanked both their hands away from the fire and blew on his singed fingers.
"I'm fine, Kathryn. It's just a small burn."
"Shouldn't you get that seen to?" she asked, quickly looking around for anything she could use to soothe the irritated skin.
"I guess so," he said, quietly, blushing at the fact that he'd been so entranced with her, he'd gotten himself hurt.
Seeing his blush, Kathryn decided to go out on a limb and try to cover his embarrassment with some of the banter that had served them so well before his relationship with Seven of Nine had begun. "It's alright, Chakotay. I was rather distracted myself."
The smile that lit up his face was worth all of her potential embarrassment as she saw his dimples and the true 'Chakotay' smile that had so long been hidden from her. She didn't think she'd seen it since long before they'd gotten home and it pleased her no end that she could give him some measure of happiness and comfort, especially since she
hadn't been watching either and was partly the reason why his fingers were so burned.
Satisfied that he was no longer embarrassed, she made her way to the supply tent, motioning to Chakotay to give her a minute.
Luckily, the supply tent was well-organised and she quickly found a med-kit. She knew the burn was a minor injury, but it tugged at her heart whenever she saw him in pain, and what she'd said to him was true ; they had both been too busy to notice the danger or think of their own safety - something that reminded her once again why she'd followed protocol and never allowed them to become involved with one another on Voyager. She immediately chided herself for thoughts of protocol now. Kathryn, you promised yourself you were going to let protocol go to the wind here. He's here, and he's happy. You can at least regain your friendship if you don't let duty get so in your way that you can't see two feet in front of your face. The thought sobered her and she quickened her pace, arriving back at the fire-pit just in time to see Chakotay stoking the fire which had miraculously stayed lit.
"Let me see your fingers," she said, more harshly than she'd intended.
Guessing that concern for him was driving her reactions, Chakotay offered up his hand and decided not to tease her about the way she ordered him around. He considered protesting the need for the dermal regenerator she took from the med kit, but decided that it was best just to humor her for now and said nothing, giving her a smile of thanks instead.
Satisfied with her handiwork, Kathryn put away the regenerator and returned the med kit to the supply tent, then simply got back to work, feeding twigs and sticks into the fire.
Following her lead, Chakotay said nothing as he realised that exploring what had happened between them as they'd started the fire would only lead to more awkwardness, and would perhaps destroy the progress they'd made.
Much later, after a delicious supper, everyone settled around the fire which now burnt brightly and sent orange sparks up into the star-studded night sky. Chakotay and Kathryn sat in one corner not talking, but quietly enjoying each other's company as the admirals around them seemed to be more interested in their own voices than in the camaraderie of the situation, or the beauty of nature around them.
It amazed both Kathryn and Chakotay that a group of men and women so accomplished and so intelligent could talk of nothing but themselves. Nechayev - for example - kept complaining that the ground was too hard, and that she - despite having the best seat nearest the fire - was still freezing cold. She also told anyone that would listen that she fully intended to sleep in one of the environmentally controlled shuttles that night, rather than risk the dangers of the woods. Listening to her complaints, Kathryn had trouble keeping a straight face and had to really concentrate to keep from laughing outloud after each fresh round of complaints.
Chakotay found the other admirals tolerable, although he knew they each had their own little quirks which would no doubt get on his nerves sooner rather than later. As a trained Starfleet officer he was used to that, and used to making the best of these 'bonding weekends'. Besides, Kathryn was here. He'd survived seven years in the
Delta quadrant coping with her little quirks and idiosyncrasies and he was still
in love with her, so a few admirals couldn't be that bad.
While Chakotay watched the others, Kathryn enjoyed herself watching Chakotay - although she'd deny it if anyone called her on it. He was obviously in his element here and so happy to be sharing it with others that she found his contentment contagious. Soon, she felt herself relaxing in a way she hadn't been able to do in a long time.
She allowed her eyes to close as she succumbed to the warmth of the fire, the fresh air, and the comfort of Chakotay's presence.
Kathryn awoke early the next morning unsure of where she was. The last thing she remembered was watching the orange flames of the fire dance, and feeling comforted by her best friend's presence next to her. She took a moment to admit to herself that he was probably more than that, but then resolutely pushed the idea aside as she realised that thinking that way would only cause her more heartache.
As she opened her eyes she found herself inside her tent, tucked into a warm sleeping bag. A quick look inside the sleeping bag confirmed that she was only wearing her
underclothes and she blushed from head to toe as she realised that the only person who would have had the audacity to undress her would be Chakotay. He had undoubtedly carried her to her tent, undressed her, and settled her inside her sleeping bag before
retiring to his own tent. She knew she should be annoyed with him for that, but instead, she found herself smiling. Well, he's probably always wanted to see me in my underwear. I guess he finally got the chance... too bad I wasn't awake at the time, she thought to herself.
Allowing herself one more moment of embarrassment, she wriggled out of her sleeping bag and crawled over to her kit bag. Unzipping it, she chose an emerald-green tee-shirt and some matching shorts and pulled them on. They were going out on the river today and she understood Chakotay's sense of humor and fun well enough to know there was a good chance she'd end up in calm, but cold water, so light clothing would be best. She smiled to herself as she looked forward to the fun the day would bring, and her bouyant mood lasted through the walk to the camp showers, and even through the uncomfortable reality of a cold-water shower.
She dried herself off and dressed quickly, then made her way back to the camp fire, hoping against hope that somebody had thought to make a pot of coffee.
As she neared the fire, she saw Chakotay tending an old-fashioned metal coffee-pot. Bless him. He obviously knew what was needed to get a group of stodgy old admirals up and about for a day of bonding, out in the middle of nowhere. He also knew how to fill a black tee-shirt and shorts. She thought he looked magnificent ; lean, fit, and tanned.
Seeing Kathryn approach, Chakotay poured coffee into a mug and held it out to her.
"Good morning, Kathryn. Did you sleep well?"
She took the steaming mug from him, gratefully wrapping her hands around it and bringing it to her nose for that first heavenly sniff before replying. "Good morning. Yes... yes, I did, thank you. Someone - although I'm not sure if they were being naughty or nice - carried me to my tent, undressed me, and tucked me into my sleeping bag. Any idea who that someone was?"
Chakotay tried to look mystified, but there was a mischievous twinkle in his eyes. "I have no idea," he shrugged, "but whoever it was, they deserve a commendation for chivalry and valour. Imagine... risking life and limb just to make sure that the great Kathryn Janeway had a warm and comfortable night."
As he was talking, Kathryn hid a smile by taking a long pull at her coffee. "A commendation, huh? Well, we'll see about that, Mister." Holding her coffee mug out to him she added, "Why don't you top me off and tell me what you have planned for the group today. The itinery says 'river-rafting in boats' but that's not going to take us all day, surely?"
"It might," Chakotay chuckled. "You've met our group and witnessed the absolute, unmitigated joy they take in the great outdoors, haven't you?"
Kathryn laughed quietly and rolled her eyes. "Point taken." After another long sip of her coffee she said, "A day on the river it is then, which is probably going to mean whirlpools, rapids, and white-water. I'm going to end up in the water at some point, I just know it."
"That depends on whether you take the easy, slower forks in the river or the faster, more difficult ones, Kathryn. This isn't a race, but knowing how competetive you can be and how reckless you are in the face of danger, you might want to bring a gill-breather along."
"Reckless. You. Unless you've changed since our time in the Delta quadrant?"
"Like hell I have," she muttered, bridling at the suggestion. "Race or no race, I have a small wager with Owen, so I'll be taking the faster, more difficult routes and I'll be taking you with me."
That last bit surprised and pleased Chakotay. They had yet to talk about his brief affair with Seven of Nine and after their initial awkwardness - not to mention the way he'd carried Kathryn to her tent and put her to bed last night - he had assumed that she would want to put some distance between them again today. But, here she was, intent on spending the day in close proximity to him, as well as putting the outcome of what would undoubtedly be a competative day partially in his hands.
"Is that an order, Admiral?"
Kathryn smiled at him over her coffee mug. "I'll make it one if I have to?"
"No, that's okay. I'm happy to ride shotgun," he said, deliberately catching her eye and winking at her before adding, "Maybe I'll pack a gill-breather as well. Something tells me I might need one with you in Command."
They shared a laugh, then quieted as several grumpy-looking admirals hoved into view obviously following their noses to the pot of freshly brewed coffee. Some of them looked as if it had been a tough night under canvas, but most looked refreshed and ready to get going as soon as they had some coffee and a bite to eat.
Nodding to Kathryn, Chakotay excused himself and set about filling their proffered mugs with coffee and answering their questions about the coming activity. Kathryn watched him for a few moments before joining the line at the breakfast table ; inordinately proud of his easy manner and his patience in dealing with one or two of the 'cranky old dears' as Owen Paris called them because of their habit of always playing things safe and resisting change.
Half an hour later, the group was ready to head down to the river. Everyone except Nechayev had already found a team partner, but she sulkily accepted a belated offer to join Owen Paris and Robert Hayes to make a team of three.
When all the teams had claimed their small boats and stowed their gear, Chakotay ran through a basic equipment, safety, and procedure drill with the group. He also explained the different courses the river took, how some routes were more treacherous than others, and stressed the importance of keeping their safety helmets on at all times. When he was sure that everyone knew where their next campsite would be, he gave the order to move out.
In their boat, Kathryn pulled on her helmet and took the front bench-seat, pointedly ignoring Chakotay's teasing comments about her always having to sit in 'The Big Chair' and they set off.
The river was calm and serene at first, sparkling prettily as it glided by wooded areas and muddy shores where skittish deer and beautiful birds came to drink. With the sun warm on her skin and a light breeze ruffling the ends of her hair, Kathryn listened to the soothing sounds of the water and felt some of her cares ebb away. It was so beautiful here, so peaceful, she wondered if she'd want to leave when the weekend was over.
As if he were reading her thoughts, Chakotay tapped her on the shoulder. "Glad you came?"
She glanced back briefly to smile at him. "You bet. It's glorious. Besides, I wouldn't have missed seeing you in that safety helmet for anything."
He barked out a laugh. "I could say the same thing."
"But you won't, right?"
He chose not to answer that. Instead he said, "You're not paddling, Admiral. Have you changed your mind about making this a race?"
"I may have."
"Well, have you or haven't you? Owen and the others are pulling further and further ahead, so if you want to win that wager, we're going to have pick up the pace."
Kathryn tutted, but she didn't turn to look at him. "I'm just taking a few moments to enjoy the scenery, Chakotay. I'd forgotten how beautiful this whole area can be and how unspoilt it is. Why race through it and miss it all? When I think of the number of times I yearned to be on Earth when we were stuck in the Delta quadrant...."
Her voice trailed away and she was quiet for a long moment. "It's so good to be home, and sharing the beauty of this region with you is something I should savour... if that's alright with you?"
"Yes," Chakotay replied, his heart suddenly filled with hope that their friendship was on the road to recovery. "Yes, it is."
"I still think we should take the more challenging route when we get to the fork in the river, though, Commander. We'll make up for any lost time there, and I do have my gung-ho reputation to consider."
Chakotay chuckled as he thought, Vintage Janeway. "Aye, Captain... I mean, yes, Admiral."
An hour or so later they were doing well, having made it through several spectacular rapids and some hair-raising white water, when suddenly, Kathryn's oar got stuck between two submerged rocks and was torn from her hands before she had a chance to react.
The current was very strong just at that point and within seconds their little boat was swept sideways into white water churning its way through more submerged rocks and boulders. Kathryn could only hang onto the sides of the boat as Chakotay struggled to use his one oar to try and get them back on course and into deeper water. Ice-cold, stinging spray blinded them and soaked them to the skin as the little boat was tossed this way and that and spun into jarring collisions with rocks. Just as Chakotay seemed to be winning, they were swept away again and carried over a series of rapids. A huge boulder suddenly loomed ahead of them and Kathryn yelled a warning, but the next thing she knew was the shock of plunging head-first into freezing cold water and a sharp, stabbing pain over her right eye.
Everything happened so fast, and Chakotay could only look on in horror as Kathryn was swept ahead of the boat, towards another looming boulder. He shouted her name again and again, praying that her helmet had done it's job and that she hadn't been knocked unconscious when she went into the water. It was several long, breathless moments before he saw her kick out with her feet and make a passing grab for the edge of a pyramid-shaped rock before she got carried past it. His heart leapt in his chest, then he went cold all over as she lost her grip, but she immediately grabbed on again, this time with both hands. Relief flooded through him once he knew Kathryn was conscious and safely anchored, and he threw all of his attention and strength into trying to keep the boat in one piece ; using his oar to push the little craft away from the huge boulder and slingshot past it into calmer water.
A strip of partly submerged rocks was all that separated him from Kathryn now and he quickly paddled towards her calling her name.
"Kathryn...?! Kathryn, are you alright?!"
There was a cut over her right eye and she looked very pale, but she was conscious, "Yes, I think so... I hit my head... it hurts."
She sounded dazed. Fearing that she might lose consciousness or lose her grip on the rock at any moment, Chakotay quickly considered his options. His rising fear for her safety told him to leave the boat and swim to her, but his instincts and his training told him that was the wrong thing to do.
Manoeuvring as close to the strip of rock as he could get, he steadied himself and the boat by holding onto a craggy out-crop with one hand while extending the bladed end of the oar towards Kathryn with the other.
"Kathryn... grab hold of the oar with one hand, but don't let go of the rock until you have a firm grip on the oar, okay?"
She nodded to let him know that she understood and did as she was told, holding onto the oar with one hand and then both. "Okay... ready."
In a scene that seemed to run in slow motion, Chakotay pulled on the oar, bringing her nearer and nearer. When she was finally beside the boat, he reached over the side, grabbed the waistband at the back of her shorts and hauled her aboard.
They collapsed in a tangled heap in the middle of the boat, between the front and rear benches, and just laid there face to face, trying to catch their breath until Kathryn said,
"When you're S-Starfleet's newest G-Golden Girl, everything you do is m-m-magic,"
Chakotay couldn't help a sudden bark of laughter at that. He was tempted to stay exactly where he was for a moment or two longer just gazing into her face, but she was still very pale, and she was shivering with cold - and probably shock as well - so getting her warm and checking her over was his top priority now. He crawled over the rear bench to reach the med-kit in his gear and pulled out a thermal blanket, a medical tri-corder, a dermal regenerator, and a hypo-spray.
Going back to Kathryn, he covered her with the thermal blanket and administered a pain-killer and an anti-inflammatory before using the regenerator to heal the cut and most of the swelling above her eye.
"How's that... better?" he asked.
She gave him a weak smile. "G-Getting there.... Could you take off my helment?"
"Not just yet... safer to leave it on for now. Anything could happen out here on the water."
She nodded, then winced at the pain that caused.
"Hold still now, Kathryn. Let me see what the tri-corder has to say."
The familiar whir of the tricorder filled the air for several seconds.
"You have a lump the size of a robin's egg on your forehead, and a low body core temperature."
She tutted. "I could have told you that."
He peered intently at the tri-corder display as more detailed data scrolled across it. "The beginnings of hypothermia and a mild concussion. You were lucky... it could have been worse. A lot worse."
"Recommendations?" she asked, automatically slipping into Command-speak.
Chakotay closed down the tri-corder and looked around to get his bearings. Having studied a map of the area thoroughly in preparation for this trip, he was able to roughly triangulate their current position, the position of the campsite they'd left behind, and the position of the campsite they were making for.
"There are more rapids ahead - not quite as bad as the ones we just came through, but I don't rate our chances with only one oar and a crewman down, so I recommend that we get off the river. You need to dry off and get warm, then rest for a while. We should contact the next camp-site and tell them what's happened so they can send a shuttle and_____"
"No. No rescue shuttle," she interrupted. "I'd never live it down. Nechayev is just itching to take me down a peg or two, and she'd dine out for months on stories of me not finishing the weekend on my own two feet."
"Screw Nechayev! You have a concussion, Kathryn! A shuttle could have us at a medical facility within minutes."
"A mild concussion. It's really not that bad. I'm wet, I'm cold, and I have a headache. I had worse coffee-withdrawal headaches in the DQ! We have everything we need right here, and I am not being stretchered out. Got it?!"
They glared at one another until Kathryn played her trump card. "That's an order, Commander."
"As your instructor, protocol decrees that I outrank you in this situation, Admiral," Chakotay shot back.
Kathryn started to argue that point vehemently, but her headache immediately ramped up a notch in spite of the hypro-spray. Taking a breath, she tried to calm herself. "I'll be fine, Chakotay. Please... I just want to finish this trip under my own steam. If my injuries were more serious I'd agree with you, but I can do this. As soon as we get to the next campsite I'll have a medic check me over, and if necessary, I'll take a shuttle straight to Starfleet Medical. How's that... will that do?"
Chakotay eyed her, grimly wondering when it was that this woman had learned to manipulate him so easily. The sensible and stubborn parts of him were tempted to call for a shuttle right now, just to show her that he could, and would, but another part of him wanted to give her the chance to finish the trip under her own steam as she asked.
"Very well," he muttered, "but you have to promise me, no playing the inscrutable, indestructable Kathryn Janeway. If you start to feel dizzy or nauseous or if your headache gets too much for you, I want to know about it."
She held up her hand. "I promise. Admiral's honour."
"You'll rest for as long as it takes, and we will comm ahead, " he added, firmly. "We'll report our co-ordinates and advise them that we're going to be late."
"Thank you, Chakotay."
He gave her a balefull look. "Just so you know, I'm going to be right beside you when that medic checks you over, and if he has any qualms whatsover, I'll shuttle you to Starfleet Medical myself - and I'll insist on a very long, boring battery of tests. Have you got that?"
"Loud and clear."
"Good. Okay, then. There are several caves in this area. We'll shelter in one of those in case the weather changes, and while you rest up, I'll make us another oar."
"Agreed. Let's do it."
They beached the boat on a muddy bluff.
While Kathryn sat and rested, wrapped up in the thermal blanket, Chakotay used his commbadge to tell an officer at the next campsite what had happened. He reported their co-ordinates and explained that they'd be late arriving at the campsite, but that they would be on their way again as soon as possible . When the officer offered to divert a shuttle to come and pick them up, Chakotay declined for now, saying that he'd call with an update when they were ready to ship out under their own steam, or before that, if a shuttle were needed. He ended the call and sat down beside Kathryn.
"How are you doing, Kathryn?"
"Pretty good, but I think I'd better have some more pain-relief, soon. The dose you gave me is beginning to wear off."
"I was going to suggest it. Just give me a few minutes to stow our helmets, get a few things we'll need from our gear, and secure the boat. I'll be right back."
True to his word, he was back several minutes later having sorted through their gear and packed anything they might need into one pack. Pressing the hypo-spray to Kathryn's neck, he activated it. "I've increased the potency and the dosage... how does that feel?"
"It's easing already. Thank you."
"You're welcome," he smiled, tucking the hypo-spray away in a side pocket of the pack and taking out a standard tri-corder. Calling up a map of the area, he quickly checked his bearings. "The nearest caves are due North, about fifteen minutes walk from here through wooded, flat terrain. We'll take it easy, but if you need to stop and rest, you only have to say. Ready to go?"
"Ready as I'll ever be."
Hefting the pack over his shoulder, Chakotay led the way up the bluff and into the tree line.
As they approached the first cave, Kathryn suddenly stepped up the pace and overtook Chakotay.
"Kathryn, get back here!" he hissed "What the hell do you think you're doing?!"
She started to say, "Isn't it obvious?" but as she turned to face him, she saw that he'd drawn a phaser. That stopped her dead in her tracks. "What's with the phaser?"
"What's the idea of doing an end-run around your point man and walking into a cave without checking if it's occupied first?!"
Her face burned with embarrassment as she realised he was right ; what the hell was she doing? "Oh."
"Yes. Oh. This is bear country, remember? Now, get back here! I swear, Kathryn, sometimes I think you're determined to turn every single hair on my head grey!"
"Never happen," she muttered angrily, striding past him. "God-forbid you'd let the grey back in and actually look your age... that might scare off yet another nubile young blonde!"
Chakotay knew exactly where that was coming from. Biting back a colourful reply, he glared at her. "Just wait here. Don't move so much as an inch until I give the all-clear."
He stalked off, and Kathryn's embarrassment and indignation at being told off for something so rudimentary grew as she watched him go. She was half-tempted to stick out her tongue, but she didn't. That would be childish, and of course he was right ; this was bear country - big cat and wolf country, too. Could she help it if she wasn't thinking straight? Could she help it if all she wanted to do was rest, get dry, and enjoy a hot cup of coffee?! She was already regretting the cheap shot about nubile young blondes, though - partly because he would know for certain just how much his romance with Seven had bothered her. Damn!
Chakotay tri-scanned the structure of the cave to make sure there were no faults in the rock. As he scanned, he noted that while the entrance was quite narrow, the cave itself was a pretty good size, round, with a high ceiling and an even, sandy floor. He scanned for lifesigns next, but beyond a few harmless spiders and insects there weren't any. If a large, dangerous animal did use the cave for a den then it wasn't at home right now, but just to be on the safe side he looked around, using the skills his father had taught him to check for scratch-posts, scat, and tracks. The only signs he detected belonged to smaller animals like racoon, badger, and wolverine.
Reassured that the cave was empty and safe, he knelt down beside his pack to put away his tri-corder and allowed his thoughts to dwell on Kathryn's sarcastic jibe. She'd clearly meant it as a snide reference to his brief romance with Seven, which meant that the doubts he'd had about her true feelings on the matter were right on the money. She may have smiled and wished them well at the time, and she may have offered her condolences later when he and Seven had chosen to go their separate ways, but it had all been an act. He'd suspected as much, but the awkwardness and distance that had grown up between them since their return to the Alpha quadrant had precluded any chance to explain himself or apologise. Well, enough was enough. They were going to be together for several hours yet, and they were going to have this out, even if he had to barricade them inside the cave until she agreed to talk to him about it.
Standing up and lifting his pack, he called, "All clear."
"Thank goodness for that," Kathryn sighed, offering him a tentative smile as she joined him at the cave entrance. Her better nature was already asserting itself and she knew she owed him an apology. He returned her smile, but it didn't quite reach his eyes, and her heart fell.
They went inside. After setting some illuminated sims-beacons on ledges around the cave, Chakotay decided to forget about building a fire from tinder and sticks. Kathryn needed to get dry and warm quickly, so he gathered some big rocks into a pile and used his phaser to heat them until they glowed bright red. Within about a minute the cave was warm enough for Kathryn to discard the thermal blanket.
"I brought a towel and a change of clothes from your gear," Chakotay said, taking some things out of the pack. "Bra, tee-shirt, sweat-pants, sweater, and socks - oh, and a hairbrush, too. Why don't you get out of those wet things while I fix us a hot drink?"
Kathryn took the towel, clothes, and hairbrush from him, but she hesitated instead of moving away.
"I'm not going to watch you, Kathryn. Just pick somewhere and I'll face the other way."
"It's not that. I know you'll be a perfect gentleman," she said, quietly. "It's just... well... you didn't mention underwear. Did you bring any for me?"
"I tried to, but there was so much fine lace on everything and most of it was caught up on the fasteners on your other bras. I didn't think you'd appreciate me rifling through everything to untangle them, and I didn't have room in the backpack for all of it. So, no... I'm afraid I didn't. We'll be here for a while and the ones you're wearing now will dry if you lay them out on a rock or something. Can you manage until then, or would you like me to go back for some?"
"No, that's okay. Really... I'll manage." She couldn't look at him, and she blushed from head to toe as she pictured him going through her underwear, trying to separate the tiny hooks and eyes on her non-regulation bras from the little lace panties she liked to wear these days. "It's my own fault for not having the patience to pack a bag more carefully. I just threw everything in together and... I'll be over here, then."
Chakotay watched her go and tried to hold on to every scrap of righteous, indignant anger he felt over what she'd said outside the cave, but he found that he couldn't. He'd always loved her for her fearless strength of character and her sheer bloody-mindedness, but there was no denying she did something to him when she was like this ; shy, vulnerable, insecure, fallible, and right outside her comfort zone. He found this side of her adorable and endearing - and strangely comforting to his male ego.
Smiling to himself, he turned away to give her some privacy. As the sound of wet clothing leaving damp skin came from behind him, he distracted himself by phasering the stones again and rustling foil ration packs as he prepared to make coffee.
In the shadows at the back of the cave, Kathryn faced the wall and stripped off. As she towelled her hair and body dry, she berated herself again for her comment about Chakotay and nubile young blondes - in other words, Seven - and for the fresh round of awkwardness it had caused between them. What the hell was I thinking?! Well, she hadn't been thinking, obviously ; she'd been embarrassed at making the sort of mistake a first year cadet might make and she'd reacted poorly when Chakotay had called her on it. She was going to have to apologise to him as soon as possible. With any luck he would just accept her apology at face value and leave it at that, without asking her to explain herself.
Finally dressed in dry cothes and feeling a whole lot better for it, she draped her discarded wet ones and the damp towel over some boulders to dry out in the ambient warmth of the cave. She couldn't really do much about her damp hair, but she brushed it out and fluffed it up as best she could without the aid of a mirror.
"Coffee's up... come and get it while it's hot," Chakotay called.
"Better...?" Chakotay asked, as she sat down beside him on the thermal blanket.
"Much better, thanks," she nodded, briefly catching his eye as she arranged her damp sneakers next to a hot rock. "I have a little sand between my toes, but I'll live with it."
When she was ready, Chakotay passed her a steaming cup of coffee. "Go easy with that. I could only bring two packs and we might be here for several hours yet."
"Two packs... but that's only ten cups? We're doomed!"
"Don't worry, I've seen you go through coffee-withdrawal before. I'm in no rush to see it again. I'll hand over my share long before you get jittery."
"You're too kind. I think I know self-preservation disguised as philanthropy when I see it, though."
They laughed together until Kathryn sobered and said, "All joking aside... you really are too kind, Chakotay. After what I said outside, I wouldn't blame you if you'd left me to it and paddled out of here without so much as a backward glance."
Chakotay took a long sip of his coffee and stared into the glow coming off the red rocks. "What sort of a friend would I be if I did that?" It was a rhetorical question, and one that he didn't expect her to answer.
"Then, by the same token, what sort of a friend would I be if I didn't apologise?" she said, quietly. Their eyes met and she gave him a rueful smile. "I'm sorry for that crack I made about you and Seven. I had no right."
"No, you didn't. Apology accepted, though."
Just as she raised her cup to her lips and took a sip, he said,
"Have you heard from Seven, recently?"
She shook her head. "The last time we talked was about a month ago. I think she was excited about going on holiday with her aunt."
"That's right, they were going to Africa for six weeks. She comm'd me around the same time to ask if I'd ever been there, and if I had, were elephants really that big." He smiled, fondly. "I think her aunt had been teasing her about it. You don't blame Seven for what happened, do you, Kathryn?"
The question caught her off guard, and unable to look at him, she took a long drink from her cup before putting it down and pushing a hand through her hair. "Of course not. She's an innocent in all this."
"Yes, she is. You're angry and disappointed with me, then?"
She hugged her knees and considered denying it outright, but he obviously knew things weren't right between them and hadn't been since their return to Earth. "Yes, I am."
"Would you mind telling me why?"
"You know why!"
"No, I don't. I can guess, but I've had it with guesses and assumptions after seven years together. So much of what we expected from one another came down to an unspoken understanding - unspoken because to even talk about how we felt would have let the genie out of the bottle and compromised your principles. I was willing to go along with that then, mostly because I really had no choice, but not anymore. I want you to spell it out for me."
"Can't this wait until we get back to San Francisco?"
"If we wait until we're back in San Francisco you'll disappear into Starfleet Command and I'll bury myself in my work. We'll find a way to avoid talking about this and just go back to those awkward monthly comm-conversations. Please... we're here now, let's just be completely honest with one another and do this. At the very least I'd like to explain what happened from my point of view, and try to repair our friendship."
She gazed at him as she thought about that, and then the words were tumbling out of her mouth as if a floodgate had opened. "You want honest? Okay, I'll give you honest! I had no right to expect you to wait for me, I know that, but I couldn't help hoping that you would because I fell in love with you, Chakotay. You made me love you, and you had to know how I felt! But, where were you when reaching Earth was finally a reality? Where were you when protocol wasn't going to be a problem anymore? With Seven, that's where! Why didn't you tell me that you and Seven were dating? Why did I have to find out about everything from the admiral?!"
Chakotay's heart leapt in his chest as she said she loved him, but he had the good sense to look downcast and apologetic, for now. "Are you done?"
She gave him a kurt nod.
"I am so sorry," he sighed, sitting forward and putting his cup down in the sand. "I was going to tell you that Seven and I were dating the day the admiral arrived. But, all hell broke loose when she appeared, and then it was all hands on deck to prepare the ship to go back into the nebula. When the admiral arrived, I had no idea what her game-plan was, or that it would work so well and that we'd be home soon. You don't know how many times I've wished that I talked to you before she did."
"What difference would it have made?" she interrupted. "Same message, different messenger."
"No, it wouldn't have been the same message at all. I would have talked to you about us - about you and I - before I committed myself to a full relationship with Seven. I would have told you how much I still cared... how much I still hoped, but that I had a chance to make a life with Seven if you still insisted on maintaining protocol."
Kathryn's eyes stung and watered as she realised how everything might have turned out differently for them, if only the admiral had arrived a day or even a few hours later. Blinking back her tears, she gazed into his eyes for a long moment before reaching out to cup and stroke his handsome face. "She told me that her Chakotay married Seven in the other time-line. I wouldn't - couldn't - believe it at first, but then I found out that the two of you were dating in our time-line, and I thought I'd already lost you. All I could do was smile, pour champagne and wish you every happiness. Oh, Chakotay, I'm sorry...."
Her voice wavered and broke as she said his name and he pulled her into his lap and into a hug. "You have nothing to be sorry for there," he soothed. "It was the performance of a life-time. I was completely convinced that you were happy for us, and happy for me to move on. What else could you have done when you thought Seven and I were crazy in love and headed for marriage?"
"I know, but I've wasted so much of our time since you and Seven broke up," she said, her low voice further muffled by the collar of his tee-shirt. "We could have realised all this months ago. All this time - all through the debriefings and the counselling sessions, and the crew get-togethers, then talking to you just once a month on the comm-system. Once a month! You must have wondered what the hell was going on."
"Of course I did, but not right away. We both needed time to adjust and to catch up with our families at first, didn't we? Then there were the debriefings and the counselling sessions, as you say, and before we knew it, we both had new jobs and new responsibilities. That's a lot to pack into three months."
"I could have made time for you. You made time for me... you kept calling to ask me out to dinner, or to picnics in the park, or just for coffee."
His laughter rumbled in his chest, jostling her head. "Yes, but I'm a nicer, kinder person than you are. I always have been."
That earned him a glare and a poke in the ribs. He winced, but grabbed her hand and held on to it as they smiled at one another.
When he didn't say anything else, Kathryn realised that he was waiting for her to say why she'd kept her distance long after he and Seven had broken up. Settling herself more comfortably in his arms, she snuggled closer and laid her cheek against his shoulder, thoroughly enjoying the way his solid warmth and familiar scent surrounded her. "I couldn't be there for you as a friend, Chakotay. I still believed you were 'crazy in love' with Seven when she dumped you, remember? I couldn't be around to watch you nurse a broken heart and yearn for her. I had my own broken heart to deal with."
He hugged her to him and dropped a light kiss on her forehead. "Like I said, we've both made so many assumptions about what the other one was thinking and feeling over the last seven years. It was bound to catch up with us sooner or later."
"Yes, it was," she sighed, looking up at him with eyes that loved him. "Can we just agree to be honest with one another from now on... it would save us a great deal of time and trouble?"
"Works for me."
They shared a smile, and Chakotay couldn't resist caressing her face, lightly tracing his thumb up over her jaw to her cheekbone. As Kathryn closed her eyes and leaned into his touch like a contented cat, he lowered his head and kissed her on the mouth, lightly brushing his lips over hers just once. As he went to pull back a little to gauge her reaction, her eyelids briefly fluttered open and her hand curled into the hair at the back of his head as she firmly guided his mouth back to hers.
"Do that again...." she purred.
He laughed outloud, delighted by her response. "Yes, ma'am."
As they eased apart again, Kathryn sighed and said, "I suppose we could just sit here and 'make out like teenagers' as Tom calls it, but I have a better idea. Make love to me, Chakotay."
His dark eyes were looking directly into hers, so she didn't miss the effect her words had on him.
"Here... now?! Believe me, there's nothing I want more than to make love to you, Kathryn," he said with real feeling, "but we shouldn't. You're hurt and you need to rest."
She rolled her eyes. "My head's fine, and how much rest do you think I'm going to get thinking about all the naughty, wonderful things we could be doing to one another? Besides, if we don't do this now, you have to know that Species 8472 are going to show up, or that the Borg will invade, or that another stacked young blonde will wander by, and _____ "
"Sorry... couldn't resist," she chuckled, not sounding sorry at all. "I'm fine, really. I can do this - we can do this." She got a familiar, determined look on her face as her hand stroked his thigh before disappearing under his shorts and moving towards his groin. "I promise, I'll tell you if I start to feel unwell."
The air between them seemed to pulse and crackle as he stared at her, his heart rate rising every bit as rapidly as certain other parts of him while his conscience tussled with his libido. With a low moan, his lips covered hers in a hard kiss that pulled at her top lip and nudged and toyed with her bottom lip ; sucking on it and lapping at it with his tongue, until she gasped and eagerly opened her mouth to him. His tongue swept into her mouth and his hands roamed over her torso towards her breasts as he lowered her down onto the blanket.
They kissed for a long, long time, unwilling at first to sever this newfound closeness for even a second. Finally they broke apart, their faces flushed, their eyes sparkling with desire, both filled with excitement and relief that their first kiss, seven years in the making, had been worth the wait.
His eyes met hers and she smiled ; a full joyful smile that told him she was as pleased as he was. She felt so good in his arms, and without breaking eye contact, he stroked his hands over her body again, thrilling to the way she responded to his touch. Finding the bottom of her sweater, he pulled it up over her head, taking her tee-shirt with it and tossing them away. "So beautiful," he whispered, as he took in the ethereal woman revealed to him in the silver light of the sims beacons. Lowering his head, he pressed a kiss to the small hollow at the base of her throat before trailing more kisses over her freckled skin to the top of first one breast, and then the other.
Kathryn wanted him to touch her everywhere, and she wanted to touch him ; to give to him as he was giving to her, but when she felt his hands slide over her bra to the front-opening clasp, she suddenly tensed. He had said that she was beautiful, and she believed him, but after being with Seven could he truly be happy with what he would find when her bra came off? She’d recently celebrated her 48th birthday and though she’d kept in reasonably good shape, age still did things to a woman’s body that couldn’t be fixed with a hypospray, and she was too scornful of aesthetic cosmetic surgery to contemplate more drastic measures. Shyly, she covered each breast with her hands, keeping him from pushing the fabric aside.
"Let me see all of you," Chakotay said, gently.
"I will, but you should know, I'm no Seven of Nine."
"And you should know that doesn't matter to me. I love you, and in my eyes you're always beautiful. I’ve never desired a woman as much as I ache for you, Kathryn. I've loved you since that day in the cargo bay when you were terrified many of the crew would chose to stay on that planet with the 37’s, and I’ve wanted to make love to you for just as long."
Deeply touched by his words and by the love she saw in his eyes, she let the bra fall open, revealing herself to him.
"You're everything I ever hoped for, everything I ever dreamed of," he breathed, mouthing the words against her skin as his hands moved to trace the underside of her breasts, cupping the weight of them and fondling them gently. Drawing his cheek over her skin, he paused to kiss the adorable dusting of freckles around both areolas before sliding his mouth over a nipple, lapping at it and teasing it into a hard peak.
As his mouth explored and teased each of her breasts in turn, Kathryn arched against him, whimpering softly. Every time his mouth moved there was an answering thrum of pleasure between her thighs, and she could feel herself growing wetter and more excited by the second. She desperately needed him to touch her there, but before she could ask him to, his mouth covered hers and they were kissing again ; hard, hungry, open-mouthed kisses that took her breath away.
A few frantic moments later there were clothes scattered all around them. They were both naked and Chakotay's hips were cradled between Kathryn's thighs ; so close to heaven it made his head spin just to think about it. The sharp, fresh scent of her arousal was all around him, but he held still and fought the primal urge to surge forward and take her hard and fast. He wanted to make this first time memorable for her and if he took her now, like that, he knew he wouldn't last more than a few seconds.
Kathryn herself was too caught up in the haze of arousal that enveloped her to immediately realize that Chakotay had stopped touching her. As she became aware, her eyes met his and the current of excitement running through her blood faltered, leaving her heart to thud painfully in her chest.
"Chakotay... what is it... what's wrong?"
He rose up onto his knees, his erection straining towards her even now. "Nothing's wrong, sweetheart... I just need to slow down so I can make this last. I feel as if I'm on a hair-trigger here, and I don't want to hurt you."
She smiled and gently smoothed her hands over the golden skin of his chest and down to his abdomen. "I'm stronger than I look, love - and this is hardly my first time."
Before he could reply, her smile quickly turned mischievous and her hand dipped lower to cup his balls. That alone nearly set him off, but she piled on the pressure by curling the fingers of her other hand around the rigid length of him, sliding his foreskin back and forth, and slicking the pad of her thumb over the glistening bead of moisture she found on the tip. His hips surged forward and he saw shooting stars as his breath left him in a hiss of pleasure. Arching his back, he thrust himself into her hand a few times until finally, somehow, he found the will to grab her wrists and pull away from her before he came in her hand.
He fell forward to lave kisses, licks, and little bites all over her belly. While she squealed with laughter and delight and tried to wriggle away, he chose that moment to catch her by surprise and get his revenge. Parting her thighs a little more, he slid one thick finger past her soaked auburn curls and outer folds and pushed inside her. Her laughter immediately trailed away into breathy sighs and moans of appreciation ; sounds that vibrated through him and made his cock twitch in response. She was so soft, so wet, and so completely open and exposed to him, and the realisation both humbled him and excited him beyond belief. Adding another finger, and then another, he dipped in and out of her wellspring in a steady rhythm, gently nudging and bumping her clitoris with every stroke.
All too soon, a sharp hitch in her breathing and strong, clasping flutterings around his fingers told him she was very close to coming, so he used the pad of his thumb ; firmly grazing it over and around her clitoris in tight, fast circles. The effect was instantaneous and she came hard ; clamping her thighs together around his hand, rigidly bucking her hips, and thrashing from side to side as she choked and sobbed over incoherant words. Tears filled his eyes and he forgot to breathe as he watched her writhe on the blanket. With her head thrown back, her eyes shut tight, her bottom lip caught between her teeth, and a necklace of scarlet rosettes blooming at the base of her throat as her skin flushed, she looked so wanton and so luminously beautiful. He knew he would remember this first rapturous vision of her for the rest of his life.
Kathryn gulped for air and waited for the world to right itself as her orgasm gradually faded. Strong aftershocks still shook her body as Chakotay's fingers gentled idly between her thighs and she didn't have the strength yet to lift her head and beckon him to her for a long, languorous kiss - although she dearly wanted one. As her heart-rate and breathing slowed and returned to normal, her muscles relaxed and she felt wonderfully loose and boneless. When Chakotay's fingers withdrew she felt the loss keenly as her inner walls contracted on nothingness, but she waited, fully expecting his face to appear over hers for that kiss at any moment.
A few moments passed, and she was just about to ask where he was and tell him that she was waiting for a kiss, when the soft swipe of his tongue over her clitoris made her jump.
"Nuhhh... too sensitve!" she yelped, grabbing a handful of his hair and tugging on it as she tried to hold him off. "Stop, stop!"
The grip she had on his hair must have been painful, but he took one more taste of her before easing back with a regretful sigh ; a light puff of air against her hyper-sensitive flesh that sent delicious chills up and down her spine.
"I'll let you off for now, but I want more, sweetheart, and I'm going to have it, too," he promised, settling himself over her and taking his weight on his elbows. "I'm going to lick you and taste you for hours, love. I'm going to wind you up like an old-fashioned clock and watch you come apart on my tongue over and over again."
And then he kissed her, so reverently and so sweetly, she thought she might cry.
The erotic imagery of his words, the gentleness of his kiss, and the taste and smell of herself on his lips all conspired to send a surge of lust coursing through her and she writhed beneath him, causing the hard length of him to press against her belly and her mound. He was a big man, and he suddenly felt even bigger nestled there, throbbing and twitching against her skin, but it had been so long since she'd held a man deep inside her, and she was desperate to finally feel that mind-blowing connection and fulfilment with him. Her blood sang in her veins and moisture pooled between her thighs as her arousal built and she imagined what it would feel like to be so filled, so stretched, and so loved by this big, beautiful man. Unwilling to wait now, she skimmed her hands down over his back to cup his buttocks, pulling him to her as she spread her thighs and opened herself to him in silent invitation.
Suddenly pressed against her soft inner folds, Chakotay stilled their kiss and took a long, shuddering breath, stealing the air from her mouth. After a moment he drew back. His hand stroked her face as his eyes and his smile told her that he loved her, and that he accepted her invitation. With a dip of his hips, he brushed the head of his penis down over her sensitive clit and slowly pushed inside her. As he felt her softening and stretching to accomodate his size, he rocked against her in barely-controlled thrusts, moaning because of the sweet friction he felt and grunting with the effort of holding back so he wouldn't hurt her.
When he was all the way inside her, Kathryn wrapped her legs around his waist and rocked her pelvis in counterpoint to his thrusts. Her breathing quickly became shallow and thready, and she tossed her head from side to side as the coiled spring of excitement left over from her earlier orgasm ignited again, becoming white hot and coiling tighter and tighter with every thrust he made. Her inner muscles clenched, rippling and fluttering strongly as she rapidly climbed towards another release.
Sweat beaded on Chakotay's forehead and top lip as his control slipped and his rhythm faltered. Kathryn felt so wet and so hot, and the tight grip she had on him made him think of steel in a silken glove. He tried to hold it all together, but he started to lose the last shred of his control when she began kneading her breasts and pinching her nipples. Rearing up, he slowed his stroke and sucked on his thumb for an instant before reaching between them to thumb her clit in tight circles.
Just as before, the effect was immediate and she came hard ; sobbing incoherently, arching her back, and clamping her hips to his by locking her ankles in the small of his back. And just as before, he watched with love and awe as she came apart right before his eyes.
As she started to calm down he took his weight on his hands and picked up the pace again ; pounding into her hard and fast until she quickly climbed to another peak, only this time, she took him over the edge with her by looking into his eyes and telling him that she loved him. He came with a roar in the longest, hottest release of his life ; his body as taut as an overstrung bow as splintered white light filled his head.
He collapsed on top of her, utterly spent, and she held him in her arms as they whispered breathless, soothing words of love and sweet nothings to one another.
"I love you, Kathryn," he whispered, for what must have been the third or fourth time since he'd collapsed on top of her.
She chuckled softly at the way he seemed to need to keep saying it, and kissed the top of his head. "I love you, too, Chakotay."
They lay there silently for a time, coming to terms with what he gone before and imagining what the future held, before he rolled them both on their sides, holding her close as sleep overcame them.
Kathryn woke to the hum of a phaser and the smell of burning wood. It took her a few moments to get her bearings, but then everything came flooding back to her and she realised that Chakotay must be working on the replacement oar they needed. As she stretched and yawned she realised that she was wrapped up in the thermal blanket with her head pillowed on the towel she'd used earlier.
"Good, you're awake," Chakotay's voice said from several feet away. "Coffee?"
She sat up and rubbed the sleep from her eyes. "Yes, please. How long was I asleep?"
"About two hours," he replied, kneeling in front of her with a steaming cup.
He was dressed in his black tee-shirt and shorts again, but his hair flopped into his eyes and stuck up here and there, making him seem younger and giving him a sexy, rumpled look.
Taking the cup from him she sipped at it several times, then set it down beside her. "Really... only two hours? Well, I certainly feel better for it. I don't think I've slept so soundly in months... years, even."
He grinned and leaned in to kiss her lightly on the mouth. "That'll be the fresh air and the great sex."
"You're probably right at that," she laughed, kissing him back. "I thought it wasn't a good idea to sleep with a concussion though?"
"No, that's a common misconception. You should have someone with you to wake you if you sleep for a long time, but the bigger worry is if you're hard to wake. I kept an eye on you with the med-corder just to be on the safe side, but you were sleeping naturally and the mild swelling of your concussion is almost gone. Are you hungry?"
"I am. I could really go for some eggs Benedict."
Remembering a conversation they'd had many years before, Chakotay smiled and said, "What, no asparagus, and strawberries and cream?"
She looked puzzled for just a moment before remembering that conversation herself and catching on. "Maybe not today," she grinned. "So, what have you got for me... wait, don't tell me, let me guess... vacuum-packed oatmeal or stewed tomatoes with dehydrated eggs?"
He laughed and shook his head. "Sorry, not even that good. I can only offer you ration bar number six - packed with all the minerals and vitamins a body needs - and now with extra sawdust added for that authentic survival food taste."
"Mmmm, yum!" she grimmaced. "No, thanks. I'll just have coffee for now, but I'll have a ration bar before we go. I promise."
"Okay, then. I'll leave you to get dressed while I finish making that oar." He started to get up, then sank back down onto his knees and stared at her. "What the hell am I saying?! You're warm, pink, and naked under that blanket, and I already know you go all the way."
Her was on her before she had time to do anything except shriek with laughter ; pushing her down onto the blanket, kissing her neck, and sliding his hands all over her. It was just in good fun and high spirits though, and they both knew it. When they had themselves under control again, he dropped a kiss onto each of her naked breasts and then kissed her on the mouth ; a slow kiss, filled with love and some regret. "Spirits, Kathryn... what you do to me. I'd show you all over again, but I'm guessing you want to get back to civilisation first, right?"
She kissed him back then snuggled into his arms and tucked her head under his chin. "Right. I definitely need a long, hot bath or shower before we indulge ourselves again. I'll also need to go outside and find a convenient shrub, soon."
"I thought you might," he smiled into her hair. "I know just the place. There's a stand of shrubs with tiny yellow blossoms, over to the right - behind a boulder shaped like a snowman. I saw them when I went out to collect a piece of wood for the oar."
"Thanks. Actually, you know... after that coffee I think I'd better get dressed and go right away. I might not make it in time otherwise."
An hour later they were all packed up and ready to go.
Chakotay contacted the campsite ahead, telling them that they were on their way, and giving their revised ETA. They took one last look around the cave to make sure they were leaving it as they'd found it, then switching off their sims beacons, they walked out into the bright sunshine hand in hand.
They hadn't gone very far when Kathryn said, "So, tell me, love... where did you learn to wind-up old-fashioned clocks?"