The Subtle Art of Self-Defence

A ‘Prey’ episode addition. Chakotay finds a novel way for Kathryn to deal with her frustrations.

PG13 – R. some swearing.

 

Disclaimer: CBS/Paramount owns everything. No infringement intended.

 

 

Char has written a wonderful NC17 sequel to this story called Round Four. It can be found here

I highly recommend it. 🙂

Pook’s fabulous NC17 sequel sequel – Round Five can be found here

I highly recommend this one too. 🙂


Chakotay looked up from the readouts on his console as Kathryn exited the turbo lift and strode down the stairs to her ready room. She was angry. Very angry, and her fury trailed behind her like a comet tail. He suppressed a smile as he watched Tuvok unconsciously take a small step back as she swept past. The wave of outrage in her wake was like a living thing.

She’d been down to cargo bay two to censure Seven of Nine over the debacle with Species 8472 and the Hirogen. The drone had transported the injured alien and the hunter back to the Hirogen vessel against direct orders and in doing so had condemned the creature to a long and painful death. What Seven had done was wrong, but to be honest, Chakotay wondered why Kathryn seemed surprised by the Borg’s oppositional nature. For all intents and purposes the drone was the emotional equivalent of a child and the rigidity of her Borg ‘upbringing’ ensured that she was intractable and uncompromising. Almost everything the young woman encountered was irrelevant or immaterial, so why Kathryn insisted on getting upset when Seven behaved as she was programmed, was beyond him. He stood by his Scorpion analogy, but he and Kathryn still saw things differently in this regard.

He took a deep breath. She would want to debrief…. another word for ‘rant and rave’ about the intransigent Borg. He would sit and listen as she vented a tirade of vitriol about the obstinate young woman, and bear the brunt of her frustrations. Eventually he would wedge a word in edgeways and convince her that what she was feeling was reasonable, how she’d dealt with the problem was warranted and that in time, all would right itself. He heaved a sigh and reluctantly stood up from his seat. Giving Tuvok a nod, he silently transferred the bridge to him, as he moved to the ready room doors and rang the chime.

There was a clipped, “Enter.”

He looked sideways at the tactical station. He could see sympathy in the Vulcan’s eyes. Unemotional? Yeah, sure.

The doors slid open and he stepped through.

She was exactly how he’d envisaged her and he stifled a smile. There she was, pacing back and forth along the upper level of the room with one hand on her hip, and in the other, a cup of coffee. He stood and waited. She reached the top of the steps, stopped, and spun on her heel to face him.

She jabbed her mug in his direction and spoke in a growl. “Do you know what her reasoning was?” It was a rhetorical question. He waited. “She said that by sending that poor creature to its death she’d diverted a Hirogen attack and saved us all.”

She paced, huffing and puffing, and then turned, thrusting her mug at him again. The coffee sloshed over the rim and onto the carpet. She ignored it. “She also had the temerity to tell me that it was ultimately my fault. I made her into an individual and encouraged her to assert her independence, but every time she did, I punished her. The gall…” She slammed her cup onto her coffee table, and swung around with both hands on her hips.

Spirits, he loved her like this. Her eyes were flashing and she was spitting mad, but God damn, she was beautiful. Striding forward she placed her hands on the rails on either side of the stairs, and leant towards him as she continued her tirade. “She accused me of being afraid of her individuality and that I punish her for not being more like me.” She pushed herself back and threw her arms up. “Where on earth would she get that idea? I’ve tried so hard with her.” She jabbed her hands in the air as she talked. “I’ve accepted her quirks and unique way of doing things. I’ve tolerated her abrasiveness and her flouting of protocols, much more than I would have with any other member of the crew, and she turns around and accuses me of this. Damn her.”

“Kathryn?” He spoke quietly, but she ignored him and continued to pace, muttering under her breath. He tried again, a little louder this time. “Kathryn!”

She turned abruptly. “What!?”

“You’ve done nothing wrong. She’s just flexing her emotional muscles and asserting herself.”

She huffed at him. “I’d accept it if that was all it was, but she seems intent on pushing past any reasonable boundary and ignoring protocols. That just can’t happen on a Starship. People’s lives are at stake and if I can’t trust her to follow procedures then she forfeits her right to be a part of this crew.” She smacked her hand on the railing as she walked past. “Damn it! We have no idea what the ramifications of her latest actions might be. How dare she? We had the opportunity to make inroads on a peaceful resolution with Species 8472. God knows what will happen now.”

Chakotay watched as she built up a real head of steam. She wasn’t going to be easily appeased this time. Her anger was focused on Seven’s behaviour, but it had a lot to do with the catalogue of disappointments and disasters that they’d had to deal with over the last few weeks. It had been one thing after another. A veritable roller coaster ride of highs and lows.

They’d made contact with the Alpha Quadrant a few weeks ago when they’d stumbled across an alien communications network. The Doctor’s program had been sent along the network and, after a brief run in with Romulans, he’d successfully contacted Starfleet. Chakotay had seen Kathryn almost moved to tears with the knowledge that she wasn’t alone in her quest to get Voyager home. Her relief had been profound and she’d ridden that high for a short time. Then, a few weeks later, the family letters and an encoded message from Starfleet had come through the same network. There had been jubilation, but like so many moments of joy in the Delta Quadrant, it had been short lived. Once the contents of many of the messages were read and absorbed, jubilation gave way to resignation and sorrow for many of the crew. He was still reeling from learning of the massacre of the Maquis, and Kathryn had found out that her fiancé had moved on and married someone else. Many of the crew had been dealt grievous emotional blows – deaths, misfortune and relationship break ups. It had brought about a renewed sense of loss and isolation, and Kathryn felt entirely responsible. What had at first been a moment of intense joy had quickly given way to a lingering sadness, and for Kathryn, it triggered a resurgence of the immense guilt she carried for having stranded them out here four years ago.

This was quickly followed by another blow. Before the crew’s own correspondences could be returned to Earth, they’d encountered the Hirogen. Voyager had narrowly escaped the Hunters and had almost been destroyed. The relay station had not survived the battle and its destruction had created a feedback surge that disabled all the stations along the network. Their link with the Alpha Quadrant was gone and those at home were unaware that their messages had been received. Kathryn had taken it hard. Although it wasn’t her fault, she, of course, felt responsible.

And now this. He understood her anger. Seven of Nine’s thoughtless and presumptive actions were the proverbial last straw. Kathryn desperately needed to let off some steam and he had the perfect place for her to do that.

He trotted up the stairs and laid his hand gently but firmly on her shoulder. She stilled as he turned her towards him. “Kathryn, stop for a moment.”

She frowned at him and tried to shake him off. “Chakotay, let go.”

“In a moment. I want you to come with me.”

“I can’t go anywhere. I’m on duty.”

“Yes well, spirits help any aliens that cross our path. At the moment you’re likely to ‘shoot first, ask questions later’.” He looked her squarely in the eye. “As your First Officer, I’m going to insist that you come with me and try and get some of this pent up anger and energy out of your system. Tuvok can take the bridge.”

She was about to protest, but he cut her off. “Kathryn, we can do this the easy way or I can call the Doctor….” He raised his eyebrows and looked at her steadily. “It’s up to you.”

She shook off his hand and crossed her arms in front of her. “You wouldn’t dare.”

“Just try me.” He took a small step closer to her. She could be intimidating, but he was still a head taller than her and could be just as intimidating. “Kathryn, don’t fight me on this. It’ll only take an hour or so and you’ll feel so much better afterwards. I promise.”

Her eyes narrowed and she stared at him. He stood his ground, and although her death glare was a terrifying thing to behold, he was fairly immune to it these days. In the end she grudgingly gave way and nodded her head towards the door. “Alright, you win…. For now. Where are we going?”

He stood to the side as she moved towards the door in front of him. “To the holodeck. I’ve got a program that I think you’ll enjoy.”

She looked at him over her shoulder as they passed the tactical station. Speaking to Tuvok, she didn’t shift her gaze from Chakotay. “Mr Tuvok, you have the bridge.” Tuvok nodded and moved from behind his station. He gave Chakotay a wary look. Chakotay shrugged and followed his commanding officer into the turbo lift. “Deck six.”

She leant back against the wall of the lift. Her arms were still crossed and a scowl had taken up permanent residence on her face. He turned towards her and she let out a huff. “This better be good, Chakotay, or else….”

“Yes, Ma’am.” He couldn’t help a small smile as he watched her scowl deepen.

She stalked along the corridor to the holodeck and stood beside him brooding while he spoke quietly to the computer. The doors hissed open and they walked into his boxing program. She turned to him. “What the hell, Chakotay? I’m not boxing some Nausicaan. I’ll be knocked six ways to Sunday.”

Chakotay led her over to the newly programmed women’s change room. He’d organised a kit for her, with gloves and mouthguard. He handed her the pile. “Don’t jump to conclusions, Kathryn. You’re not fighting Nausicaan’s or Rigellians. You’re fighting me.”

She looked at him askance. “What!?”

“Get your gear on and I’ll help you with the gloves. And don’t worry, I’ll be gentle with you.” Her jaw dropped but he ignored it and moved away, entering the men’s dressing room. He resisted the temptation to look back and see if she was doing as he’d asked. It didn’t hurt her to be pushed every now and then, and the whole idea was to rattle her cage today. She was on a downward spiral again and he’d learned from bitter experience that the only way to reverse the process was to shock her out of it. If he could get her really angry and have her lash out, it might be enough to get her to lose control and break the worrying cycle of guilt and self recrimination. He was going to try his damnedest anyway.

He undressed and pulled on his shorts, tank and boots then carried his gloves ringside and waited for her to emerge from the dressing room. She was taking her time and just when he was beginning to wonder if she’d bailed on him, she strode out of the doors. Her kit of grey tank and shorts matched his and she looked gorgeous. He forced himself to only give her a quick once over and then focused on her face as she walked towards him. He could still see the anger glinting in her eyes as she thrust her hands forward with the gloves. He gave her a nod and went about pulling on her boxing gloves and strapping them around her wrists. Once she was ready he activated the Boothby hologram and the old gardener pulled on Chakotay’s gloves.

Boothby turned around and gave Kathryn a cursory appraisal, then turned back to Chakotay. With a jerk of his head he indicated Kathryn. “Who’s the straw weight? You could knock her over with a good sneeze. You’re being too easy on yourself. Damn waste of time. She won’t last the first round.” Boothby snorted derisively in Kathryn’s direction and Chakotay could see her eyes spark with deadly intent.

He spoke quickly. “Computer, delete Boothby hologram.” The irascible old man shimmered out of existence.

Giving Chakotay a scathing look she mumbled, “Nice company you keep.” She then moved over to the edge of the ring. “OK. What do I do?”

Chakotay hopped up and climbed through the ropes and waited for Kathryn to follow. She wasn’t quite as agile, but got herself into the ring and stood in front of Chakotay. He started jumping around and banging his gloves together, and nodded towards her. “Like this, Kathryn. You need to warm up. Just follow my lead.” He danced around, shadow boxing and blowing harsh breaths through his mouth and nose, loosening his shoulders and neck, and warming up his muscles.

Kathryn followed suit, dancing and jumping about. She threw some pretend punches and quite liked the feel of it. She threw a few more and really started getting into the whole throwing punches thing.

He was watching her. There was a pink tinge to her cheeks and perspiration was starting to bead on her top lip. He decided she’d warmed up enough.

Dancing over to her corner he called her over. “Kathryn! Over here and put in your mouthguard.” He activated a trainer who shoved it in her mouth. She pulled a few strange faces as she got it into position. He moved over to his corner. “Computer, three, three minute rounds. On my mark.” His mouthguard was shoved into his mouth and he said a mangled, “Computer, delete holograms. Mark.”

Ding! Round One.

The bell chimed the beginning of the round and the adversaries made their way to the centre of the ring. Kathryn made a few tentative stabs at Chakotay which he easily avoided. He tapped her a few times on the shoulder as he ducked and weaved around the canvas. She was chasing him, but she couldn’t get near him and was getting very frustrated with her lack of prowess. She took a wide swing and missed, and almost fell flat on her face. Chakotay moved over in front of her. “Kathryn, concentrate. Look for an opening and jab. Hold your gloves in front of you like this.” He showed her the classic boxer stance and she took the position. “That’s it. Now move and jab. Find the opening and go for it.”

She scowled at him and spoke through gritted teeth and the mouthguard. “I’m trying to do that, you oaf. If I could find an opening, don’t you think I’d land one?”

He suppressed a grin as he jabbed at her shoulder again and then gave her a gentle prod in the stomach. He was watching her eyes intently, waiting for her to lose control, but he’d underestimated her. She’d read his intent and swung with her left hand and caught him with a perfect roundhouse, right on the jaw. He looked at her wide eyed and staggered. Following through with the powerful punch to his stomach, it was on. She was throwing punches left and right. Some were connecting but most weren’t. She was working up a healthy sweat though, and a good level of frustration.

He was too good for her and as satisfying as those first few hits had been, she couldn’t get another one in as he dodged and ducked out of her way. The bell signalled the end of the round but she kept throwing punches.

Chakotay had to grab her hands to stop her. “Round over, Kathryn. Take a break.”

He pushed her gently over to her corner. She was breathing heavily and staring at him with venomous eyes. He activated a couple of trainers and they gave them water and mopped down their sweaty faces. He could feel her eyes drilling into him from across the ring. She’d started out angry. Now she was spitting daggers. He couldn’t help smiling. He heard her huff and bang her gloves together. Her trainer towelled her down and rubbed her shoulders while whispering something in her ear.

Ding! Round Two.

She danced out into the centre and as he took a jab at her she ducked low and slammed his chest. Owww! She had a swing on her when she got going. Again she danced out of range of his soft jabs and ducked in under his gloves to land a heavy blow to his stomach. He’d cottoned onto her now and managed to stay out of reach, but still he was able to land a few taps to her shoulders and a glancing blow to her chin. She was putting a huge amount of effort into each attempted punch and it was a thrill to watch her. The determination, and the woman’s pure cussedness were something to behold. He dodged yet another attempt at an uppercut and he saw her eyes gleam with fury. She let out a battle cry and ran at him. Ploughing into his middle she knocked them both back into the ropes. She was rabbit punching him and with a giant shove he pushed her away.

Ding! The round ended. She was bent over in the centre of the ring with her gloved hands on her knees heaving in great sucking breaths. She was exhausted but still spitting mad.

She was glaring at him through slitted eyes. He shooed her back to her corner and he collapsed into his. She was nearly there. It wouldn’t take too much more to push her over the edge from this point. He watched as she grabbed the drink bottle and poured the water over her head, shaking the droplets from her damp hair. It all seemed to be happening in slow motion for Chakotay. She was extraordinary. Like a thoroughbred, she stood and danced from one foot to the other as the trainer wiped down her arms and rubbed at her shoulders and upper arms. She was tossing her head and breathing deeply. The trainer offered her more water. He squirted it over her face and it poured down her front. Chakotay sat mesmerised as her damp tank clung to her, outlining her breasts and taut abdomen. He took a deep breath.

Her eyes glinted with challenge. She was determined to best him, but he had other ideas.

His trainer shoved his mouthguard back into his mouth and wiped his face one last time.

Ding! Round three.

Chakotay mumbled, “Delete holograms.”

They moved out into the centre again. She was staring at him through narrowed eyes, her look almost feral. His nostrils flared as he fought the temptation to laugh. He dodged and feinted and she followed his movements with burning eyes. Suddenly she lunged and he caught a glancing blow to his cheek. He ducked and moved away, skipping from foot to foot. He punched her upper chest, not hard, but just enough to make her stumble back a bit. She righted herself and began to stalk him again. He kept jabbing at her. One to the chin, one to the side of the ribs, another to the cheek. None of the hits were hard enough to hurt or do any damage, but they were enough to taunt her into doing something rash. He waited, ducking and weaving. She was panting and he could see the coiled rage just about to explode. He ducked under another of her attempts to nail him with an upper cut and she spun with the force and landed on her knees. He moved over to offer a hand. Her shoulders were heaving and her eyes were black with suppressed anger. He smiled at her and watched as her pupils dilated. His smile was the trigger. She punched his hand away and leapt to her feet. With the momentum she launched herself at him with a banshee yell. “Aiyeeeeeeee!!”

She slammed into him and he finished up flat on his back with her sitting straddled across his waist punching him as hard as she could. She was yelling incoherently. “Fucking Borg and their wars, ahhhh….” Punch, hit, thwack! “Romulans … 8472… God damned fluidic space.” Smack, thud, whack! “Shit….. Borg … damn Hirogen… bastards…” Thump, hit, punch! “Mark!…. Damn him, damn him, damn him.” She pounded into his face and chest. Fortunately she wasn’t terribly accurate, but what she lacked in accuracy she made up for in enthusiasm. He was having a hard time avoiding most of the punches. She was starting to run out of steam but was still muttering in between punches and he could see the tears of frustration streaming down her face. She swung back for one last almighty blow and yelled, “I just want to go home,” and hit him full fisted right on the nose.

He heard the crunch and blood exploded across his face and over her thighs. She stopped dead and stared down at him. It took her a moment to realise what had happened and what she’d done. She was stunned.

“Oh God, Chakotay! Shit. Oh God. I’m sorry. Are you alright? Damn, of course you’re not. I’ve broken your damn nose. Oh Hell! Here.” She slid off his body, spat out her mouthguard, and using her teeth, unstrapped the gloves and yanked them off. She then pulled off her tank, holding it to his nose as he sat up. He was staring at her. It was a bit difficult not to, as she sat there plain as day in just her bra and shorts. Sweat and tears mingled on her cheeks and her brow was creased in a frown of worried concern.

“It’s fine, Kathryn. Don’t worry. It’s not the first time and I doubt it’ll be the last.”

She was kneeling beside him holding the tank top to his nose. “Let me look.” She peeled the material away for a moment and her face curled into a look of distaste. “It doesn’t look good, Chakotay.” A tear tipped over her lashes. “I’m so sorry.”

He chuckled to lighten the mood. “Kathryn, it’s fine. Really. You should see the other guy.”

She tried to smile, but wasn’t terribly successful. “But I shouldn’t have taken it out on you. It wasn’t really you I was punching … It was…. I… I’m so sorry.” She swiped at her face, wiping away the tears.

Chakotay pulled his gloves off and threw them to the side. “Kathryn, the idea behind all of this was to goad you into losing your temper. I wanted you to let go of your frustrations. You spend so much time being unnaturally controlled and calm, even in the face of all that’s happened to us over the last few weeks. Everyone needs a release. Even you.”

She turned her head away, and sitting up, he let the tank drop and pulled her into his arms as she cried quietly. He stroked up and down her arms and back holding her tight.

She settled after a short while, and wiping her eyes turned to him with a small smile. “You’re a bastard, you know.” She slapped his arm.

“Owww! What? What did I do?” He was fighting a smile.

“You know exactly what you did. How did you know? I thought I was hiding it all so well.” She sniffed again and wiped at her face. Frowning, she bent over and picked up her bloody tee and mopped at his nose again. She didn’t move off his lap for which he was grateful. He was enjoying having her there.

He watched her face intently as she concentrated on her task. “You did hide it well, but I know you, Kathryn.”

“Far too well, it seems.”

He chuckled. “Don’t worry. Most of the time you’re a complete mystery to me.”

She snorted quietly, but gave a small smile. “I quite like the idea of you knowing me so well. It’s comforting, and I know that you’ll always be there to pick up the pieces. You always do.”

“It’s my job, and my pleasure.”

She smiled. “Yeah, I suppose someone’s got to do it.”

“You’re a challenge, that’s for sure. But it’s a challenge I enjoy.”

She snorted. “You’re a strange man, Chakotay. If I was you, I’d have given up long ago. I don’t make it easy for you. Or for anybody, for that matter.”

“There’s nothing that’s worth having that you don’t have to fight for, Kathryn. You know that. You’re the most stubborn, wilful, determined, frustrating, dedicated, caring and beautiful woman I’ve ever met and …” He decided to take the plunge. “… I love you for it.”

Her hand stilled for a split second, then continued its task as she nodded her head. Without raising her eyes, she took a deep breath and spoke softly. “I know and I love you too.” Then with more determination she finished. “Even though I hate you for putting me through all this.”

He laughed and stroked her sweaty hair away from her face. “Kathryn?”

She looked up at him and he noticed that her eyes were clear and the pent up anger had dissipated. Mission accomplished, but he now had another mission to complete. He took the tank from her hand and tossed it aside. “Come on, let’s go. I’ll see the Doctor and get this mended. We’ll finish our shift and then have some dinner. My quarters, my treat.”

She nodded. “You’re on. Oh, and Chakotay.”

He raised his eyebrows waiting for her to finish.

“Thank you, for caring and letting me beat you up.”

“Anytime, my love. Anytime.”

She smiled and slid off his lap. Holding out her hand she helped him to his feet. He looked down at her and shook his head slightly. Following his gaze she looked down at herself and her smile broadened. “Hmmm. Time to get dressed.”

He raised his eyebrows and grinned. “There’s no hurry.”

She took a step back and gave him a candid look. “Oh, yes there is.”

They climbed out of the ring and made their way to their respective dressing rooms. They both looked back over their shoulders and smiled at one another as they opened the doors. Chakotay gave his head a shake and stepped into the room.

She took a few minutes longer to get ready than Chakotay and when she emerged he smiled and crooked his arm. Tucking her hand into his offered arm she grinned back at him. “Computer, end program.”

As they walked up the corridor he turned to her. “Kathryn, I’ll meet you back on the bridge after I’ve seen the Doctor.”

She nodded. They’d arrived at the turbo lift and stepped in through the open doors. “Deck five. Bridge.”

He took her hand from his arm as the lift slowed and gave it a squeeze. “See you soon.”

She squeezed his hand in return. “Thank you.”

He stepped out on Deck five and turned and smiled at her as the doors closed.

Chakotay sat, wearing a satisfied grin, throughout the Doctor’s remonstrations about the dangers and stupidity of boxing. Nothing, not even the Doctor’s incessant berating, could dull the joy of knowing that Kathryn loved him. It had been a quiet and restrained exchange of sentiments and he was relieved to have finally acknowledged their devotion to one another. Once the Doctor had finished he sent Chakotay on his way with a warning to choose a less violent sparring partner in future. Chakotay agreed with a smile and left sick bay. He’d been tempted to tell him who his opponent had been, just to see the look on his face, but had held his tongue.

He arrived back on the bridge to find Kathryn ensconced in her ready room. Tuvok nodded to him as he went past, a smile lurking behind the passive visage. So she’d been in a better mood when she arrived back. He was pleased.

He left her to her own devices for the last hour of their shift, which thankfully passed without incident. After handing over to the Beta shift he made his way to the ready room doors and chimed for entrance. The doors slid open.

She was sitting behind her desk studying a padd, and she looked up with a smile. He was back in one piece, she was pleased to see. “Commander.”

“Captain.”

She indicated with a nod that he take a seat. “How is everything?”

“Wonderful.”

She smiled softly. “I meant on the bridge.”

He gave her an answering smile. “Still wonderful.” He leant forward a little. “Tuvok is positively chipper, in his own Vulcan way and there is nothing on sensors. Your first officer is deliriously happy. So… wonderful it is. How is the captain?”

She placed the padd on the table and smiled. “Wonderful.” She leant forward as well. “And hungry. My first officer made me work up quite an appetite this afternoon with some unscheduled exercise. He’s promised to feed me though.”

He glanced at the chronometer. “And he will. Just give me half an hour and dinner will be ready. I’ll see you then.” He stood up and moved to the door.

She smiled and picked up the padd again. “Half an hour.”

He slipped out the door with a smile and she sat and looked at the closed doors for a minute before looking back at the padd and trying to finish the engineering report. She gave up after a few minutes, her mind now pleasantly preoccupied with thoughts of dinner with Chakotay. Tidying her desk quickly, she decided to call it a night and left for her quarters wishing the Beta shift a good night on her way across the bridge.

She arrived at his door half an hour later with a bottle of wine in her hand and butterflies in her stomach. She was nervous and wondered how they were going to interact after today’s revelations. The doors swished open and all trepidation fled. He was standing over by the table putting the last pieces of cutlery in place, looking just the same as he always did. He smiled a warm welcome. “Hello, Kathryn. Oh good, you bought wine. I haven’t had time to go down to the cargo bay. Would you mind grabbing the glasses from the cabinet?”

“Sure.” She sniffed the air as she opened the cabinet where he kept his wine glasses. “What’s for dinner? It smells delicious.”

“Just some pasta and salad. I was going to make something exotic, but I couldn’t think of anything. I’ve been a little preoccupied.” He grinned at her as she approached with the glasses of wine. She handed him one and they touched them together and he smiled. “To…wonderful.”

She laughed. Now that she was here she wondered what she had been worried about. It’s not like they hadn’t known how each other felt. They’d been showing one another for years, with touches and gentle gestures. Saying the words was only a natural progression in their relationship.

He placed his glass on the table and pulled out her chair for her. “There’s enough here to feed an army . You’re still hungry, I hope?”

Sitting down, she dropped her napkin in her lap and picked up her fork. “Ravenous.”

They sat and ate, chatting about their day, the crew, Dilithium and all manner of topics, just as they usually did. After they finished their meal, they quickly recycled the dishes and tidied up, then took their wine and sat on the couch.

She smiled at him, not quite sure what was going to happen now, but knowing that it was important for her to keep control of the situation. As usual, he was able to read her mind and he addressed her concerns. It astonished her how he could always do that. My God, she loved this man.

“Kathryn, I know you’re concerned, but nothing has to change with us. I’ve loved you for years and I’m happy to continue to do so without any change in the way things are. I’m delighted to know that you love me too, but to be honest, I’ve known that for a long time too. I’m happy to leave it up to you as to when and if you want to reassess the parameters of this relationship.” He took a sip of his wine. “Does that ease your mind?”

She shook her head at his unbelievable kindness, and smiled. “Oh, Chakotay. I do love you, so very much and more at this moment than ever before. Thank you. You’re right, I am concerned about this and how it’s going to impact on our command, the crew and countless other things that I can’t even begin to think of at the moment. But as always, you’ve taken the burden upon yourself and left me free to make up my mind, and I thank you for that.” She took a sip of wine. “Just give me a little time. I’m sure about us. It’s me that I’m having doubts about.”

He leant forward and kissed her cheek. “Kathryn, take all the time you need. As I see it, you have plenty of time.”

She smiled at him as she remembered those same words, spoken only a few weeks ago. At the time she’d realised that there was so much more couched within that statement than he let show. His love, devotion, respect and approbation. He was a giant of a man and she was deeply aware of how lucky she was to love him and be loved by him.

She raised her hand to cup his cheek. “Thank you, my love.” She sighed and put her glass on the table. “I think I should go. I’ve still got some reports to finish for the morning. Thank you for a wonderful dinner.”

“My pleasure, Kathryn. See you in the morning.”

He walked her to the door.

She was torn. Her heart wanted her to stay, but her head was warning her that she had to think about this. “Chakotay? Would you join me for breakfast tomorrow morning in my quarters? At say 07:00.”

“I’d love to. Sleep well, Kathryn.”

“I’m bound to after today. Three rounds with the Maquis Mauler – I’ll sleep like a baby.” She laughed at his look.

He tapped the side of his nose. “Yes, well, my encounter with the Starfleet Slugger had its moments.” She looked suitably chastened, but then a twinkle lit her eyes.

She reached up and slid her hand behind his head and pulled him towards her. “Maybe this will make it better.” Their mouths were only inches apart and he closed his eyes waiting for the moment when their lips would meet, but she stood on her tiptoes and he felt her soft warm lips kissing the bridge of his nose instead. He chuckled and opened his eyes as he pulled back. “Thank you. That’s much better.”

She took a step away and triggered the doors. Slipping into the corridor she grinned back at him just before the doors closed, then strolled dreamily up to her door.

She’d showered and changed into her nightclothes but the walls were closing in and she wandered aimlessly from room to room. There was no way she was going to be able to sleep. Her heart was leaping about in her chest. She was the happiest she’d been in years but the weight of responsibility sat heavily on her shoulders. Responsibility to the ship, the crew, her mission but also to the man she loved. She thought back over the day and what he’d done. He knew her so well, almost better than she knew herself. What was really keeping her from moving forward with this relationship? He’d taken the burden from her as he always did and she knew what she wanted to do. She was the one dodging and weaving now and maybe it was time to let him land a punch, so to speak. She smiled to herself and made up her mind. There maybe plenty of time, but there was no time like the present. Before she could think too much more about it, she walked out of her quarters and up the corridor.

Chakotay was pacing his quarters unable to sleep. He knew what he’d done was the right thing. If he pressured her she was likely to run a mile, but the want and need were almost overwhelming. He stood in the middle of his living area and took a deep breath. Time would tell and no matter what her decision, he would stay by her side, loving her, supporting her and caring for her. Knowing Kathryn though, once she made her mind up about something she would follow through. He had a feeling……

There was a sense of expectancy in the air and his legs carried him towards his door. He stood for a moment, waiting, and then the chime sounded.

He laughed as the doors opened and there she stood.

Ding! Round Four.

fin

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