"Days Of Wine And Roses"
see part 1 for summary & disclaimers
Closing the bedroom door, Kathryn leaned her shoulder against it and exhaled.
Well, she'd really gone and done it, now ; belled the cat, freed the genie from the bottle, thrown caution - and protocol - to the wind, and kissed her First Officer. Even if she chased after him and tried to take everything back, he wouldn't let her. He'd just smile that knowing smile, tug slowly on his right earlobe and tell her that he was sorry, but he couldn't let her do that. So, unless time somehow started to run backwards, she was in it up to her neck. Tutting and rolling her eyes, she told herself to stop panicking. She could do this. 'They' could do this if they tried hard enough. Just then, slight movement at the edge of her peripheral vision interupted her thoughts and she glanced towards the bathroom. Steam. Tendrils of steam, silently snaking towards her, belying the faster rhythm of the running water they'd left behind... Suddenly remembering the shower she'd started, she realised that she had to hurry. Twenty minutes wasn't very long at all.
Pushing away from the bedroom door, she stepped into the steam-filled bathroom. Guided by the sound of water hitting the terracotta flooring and the shower's opaque screens, she paused just outside the open shower area to get her bearings - picturing the room as it was before she'd turned the water on. She remembered that the window was on the other side of the room, directly opposite the shower, to the right of the bath tub, and to the left of the shelves that held pretty glass phials and fantastically shaped bottles. Edging forward gingerly with her arms outstretched, she made her way to the window and opened it as wide as it would go. The steam quickly dissipated, leaving a light mist hovering near the ceiling and droplets of condensation clinging to mirrors and cream wall-tiles.
As she undressed, she eyed a stack of neatly-folded ivory towels and a wooden bowl filled with sea-sponges and carved soaps. She'd brought her own sponge, soap and towels with her as a matter of course, but everything here looked so glamourous and so decadent, and Ambassador Mysol really had insisted that they avail themselves of 'everything' Chaeraa had to offer. Quickly gathering up her disgarded clothes and underwear, she dropped them into a pile by the door and padded over to the wooden bowl. Choosing a golden sponge, she stroked it over one arm, surprised at it's silky texture. She'd expected it to be hard and slightly abrasive as a dry terran sea-sponge would be, but it was surprisingly supple and very soft. The soaps looked pure and creamy, but were too heavily perfumed for her taste. Instead, she spent precious minutes choosing a glass bottle from one of the shelves, finally settling on one filled with a green liquid that had a light, fresh fragrance.
Taking two fluffy towels from the pile, she shook them out and draped them within easy reach before stepping around the curved shower-screens and under the shower jets. The water temperature and pressure were perfect ; hot, but not so hot that it scalded, and firm enough to knead and relax tired muscles. Turning this way and that she allowed the water to play over her head, the back of her neck and her shoulders, moaning softly as the hot-water fingers pummeled and massaged her skin.
Pushing her wet hair out of her eyes, she unstoppered the little bottle and poured some of the emerald liquid into the palm of her hand. Putting the bottle down on a handy shelf, she quickly lathered her hair, then began to wash herself, humming softly as her fingers and the sponge spread soft suds over her skin.
As her hands moved her mind wandered, idly recalling images and sensations from the beach ; Chakotay's teasing, his laughter, their kiss and his frustration when she'd pulled away and told him they needed to talk. Not wanting to spoil the moment, she pushed that part of the memory aside, closed her eyes and rewound to just before their kiss, lingering over the way his dark eyes had watched her, the heat of his fingers on her skin as he slowly, but firmly guided her mouth to his, the way her abdomen tightened and how her breasts had felt hot and achey as first his breath and then his lips caressed her.... Her hands stilled and her eyelids fluttered open as her body responded to the memory as strongly as it had to the man. Sensation tugged at her, enticing her to continue what she'd started. Glancing down at herself, she shook her head and snorted softly, "Oh, behave! I don't have time for that."
Startled, she turned her head towards the bathroom door, straining to hear over the powerful thrum of the shower. Had she just imagined his voice? "Chakotay? Where are you?!"
"Relax, I'm just outside the bathroom door. Time's up, I'm afraid."
"Already? Uh... just a minute...." Damn. Twenty minutes weren't what they used to be. Dropping the sponge, she quickly rinsed the soapy lather from her hair, torso, arms and legs, turned off the shower and reached out to snag the towels. Tightly wrapping one around her soaking-wet hair and the other around her body, she called out, "Okay, you can come-in, now."
Chakotay walked in just as Kathryn came out from behind the shower-screen - his apology for ending her shower trailing away as she came into view. The woman before him had never looked more beautiful. Or more exotic. Lumonous, navy-blue eyes, pale freckled skin made a little tawney by the heat of the shower, tendrils of red hair escaping from an ivory-coloured towel to cling damply to the curve of her throat, lips slightly swollen and parted in surprise. Another towel wrapped 'sarong-style' left little to the imagination - clinging as it did to the rounded fullness of her breasts, the dip and curve of her waist, hips and thighs. As he tried to force his attention back to her face, his eyes lingered over several tiny rivulets of water on her freckled shoulders, the arch of her neck and the line of her jaw until another bout of deja-vu overwhelmed him. It was the same, but different, he mused ; bright sunlight instead of moonlight, a beach-house bathroom instead of a wooded clearing and a bath-tub.
Kathryn's face started to burn. As his eyes roamed over her body like caressing hands, her stomach clenched again and her heartbeat pounded loudly in her ears - so loudly that she just knew if she looked down at herself she'd see the towel shaking with every thud . What the hell had she been thinking?! Why on Earth had she told him to come in before she'd managed to get a grip on her wandering mind and hormones? She wanted him to look at her that way - needed him to - more than he'd ever know, but she'd never expected to feel this exposed or unprepared when it happened. She wasn't inexperienced, she'd been in situations like this before - just never with anyone under her Command. Clearing her throat, trying to look anywhere but directly into those dark eyes of his, she rubbed distractedly at her forehead. "My clothes... my uniform. It's in that pile by the door and my clean clothes are all in my satchel in the other room."
Her flustered tone broke through his aura of deja-vu and Chakotay stared down at his feet for a long moment before glancing back at her. When he managed to catch her eye, he smiled apologetically, "I'm sorry, I came to tell you that your twenty minutes are up. When you told me to come in, I assumed you'd be in a bathrobe."
"It's alright. Really. I lost track of the time and you caught me by surprise, that's all, or rather, my First Officer did and I... his Captain feels a bit exposed and vulnerable, that's all. We're going to work on that though, aren't we."
"Yes, we are."
She exhaled a slow breath and nodded her permission as he reached for her - tentatively smoothing his hands over her shoulders and a little way down her arms as he drew her close. She shivered in pleasure at his touch and stepped into the circle of his arms without hesitation, instinctively trusting his intention. Tilting her head to look at him caused the towel around her head to slip a little, but before she could reach up to straighten it, his hands were already there, untying the towel and freeing her hair. Tossing the towel onto a nearby vanity, he smoothed her hair back out of her eyes and dropped a lingering kiss onto her forehead.
"Better?" he smiled.
"Better. Although, not quite as glamourous. I must look like a bedraggled red-setter." As if to prove her point she glanced towards the nearest mirror, dipping her knees slightly in order to see her hair. "Yup, I look a lot like Molly-dog after a swim in the creek."
"I think you're beautiful."
Her eyes softened and a small, lop-sided smile lit her face as she straightened up again. "You do?"
"Mm-hmm," he nodded, sliding his hands around her waist and holding her a little tighter, "Always have, always will. Why do you think I did all those sketches of you?"
Deeply touched, she glanced down for a moment, hoping he wouldn't see the moisture gathering in her eyes and misunderstand. "Well, I don't remember seeing any of me like this. They're all so poised and immaculate, even that windswept one on the boat."
"That's because you haven't seen them all yet," he replied, tenderly brushing back the last few strands of her hair and lifting her chin.
"There are more?"
"I have a few loose sheets hidden away in my quarters. They're older than the ones in the book - mostly from New Earth." He paused, feeling a little guilty about having done them, but relieved to be telling her about them, finally. "I have a couple of you looking really exhausted and grubby after that first big storm hit, and do you remember the night we first saw that damn monkey? I went back to the shelter and did a charcoal sketch of you in that damp towel, with your hair escaping from that barrette you loved-to-hate. I think that one's my favourite...the sketch, I mean. When we get home, I'm going to frame it and enjoy it properly. No more worrying about one of the crew seeing it."
Now she really did feel like crying. Their lives had come full-circle in spite of everything they'd done to keep the threads straight and seperate. In spite of so many lost years and so many lonely nights after New Earth. The scientist in her baulked at the idea of three determined Aspects of Fate weaving the tapestry of her life ahead of time, but somehow, incredibly, after everything they'd been through, here they were again, right down to the damp towel. The tangled skein had been unknotted, smoothed and repaired and made to follow the intended pattern, once again. Smiling up at him, she blinked away her unshed tears. "Can I have a copy of that one, when we get back to the ship?"
"Of course. Are you alright? I didn't mean ___"
"Ssh," she whispered, lifting her mouth to his and brushing a soft kiss across his lips to quiet his concern. "I'm fine... just fine."
Sliding her hand to the back of his neck, she pulled him closer and kissed him again - a searching, lingering kiss with all of the emotion she felt in her heart on her lips. He moaned into her mouth, laced his fingers through her hair and returned the kiss just as deeply. Soon, fighting for breaths they couldn't catch, they had to come up for air. Holding onto one another, not willing to let go, they simply leant against each other ; heads on shoulders, hands stroking over arms and backs.
Through the open window, Chakotay watched a white and green bird glide out to sea on silent wings. On the shore, a family of small, brown and black birds busily trawled the sand with long, curved beaks, chittering and calling to one another. The moment couldn't have been more perfect. As he sighed in contentment and held Kathryn even closer, a sudden dazzle of bright lights at the far end of the beach caught his eye. Lifting his head, he squinted at it, trying to figure out what it could be.
"Oh, no," he groaned, as he realised what he was seeing.
"What's the matter?"
"We have company coming."
Kathryn straightened up and turned to look out of the window. "Someone's coming here... now?"
"I'm afraid so." Letting her go, Chakotay moved to the window. "They're still a long way off, but from the glare... from the way the sunlight is being reflected off their shiney clothes, I'd say it's Neelix and Mysol, and that they'll be here in about ten minutes."
Kathryn joined him at the window and they watched a shimmering, multi-coloured heat-haze slowly move towards them.
"Let's make a run for it," Kathryn said, suddenly."
Chakotay feigned shock, but a corner of his mouth quirked. "Is that an order, Captain?"
"Oh, no you don't!" she glared at him, "Whatever we do, it's going to be a joint decision. So, what's it going to be, Commander? Flight or diplomacy?"
Any guilt he felt about avoiding Neelix and Mysol evaporated as he looked into her face. They'd come so far in one morning and it really would be tempting the ire of the Fates to stop now. Neither of them wanted to seem ungrateful for Ambassador Mysol's kindness and generosity, but the way their luck ran, the glow-in-the-dark duo were here to invite them to some boring, day-long ceremony or event. At any other time he and Kathryn would go gladly, but not this time. This time they were going to put themselves first. Besides, if they weren't here when Mysol and Neelix reached the beach-house, they couldn't be invited. "How long will it take you to get ready?" he asked, with a broad grin.
"Not long," Kathryn grinned back, "A couple of minutes to slip into some swimwear, a sarong and flat shoes. You?"
"I'll need a few minutes to gather some water, food and my diving gear. Clothes-wise, I'll just go as I am."
She gave him a heated look that said that was more than okay with her and was pleased and surprised when his skin flushed a rosier shade under his tan.
Trying her best not stare, she said, "Okay then, so what's the plan?"
"There's a glass door at the end of the hall. It opens out onto a small garden, but beyond that there's untamed jungle. I'll meet you at the door as soon as you're ready to go." Dropping a lingering kiss onto her lips, he turned to leave, then added "Don't forget to bring your diving gear. We're going to go where they can't or won't follow us. I know just the place."
"Everything I need is in my bag. I'll just grab that. Go, go!" she shooed him ahead of her, out of the bathroom and into the bedroom.
After one last, quick kiss, she closed the bedroom door on him and snatched up her satchel. Before she did anything else, she was going to take a moment to use some spray-in conditioner and run a comb through her hair. A red-setter was one thing, a frizzy ginger poodle was quite another.
On To Part Five