Warnings: Uses the have-sex-or-die plot contrivance.
Categories: Ship, Het, Angst, Romance
Characters: Janeway, Chakotay
A/N: A while back I read A Better Cough Medicine by E.M. Bonner. It was a clever piece with plenty of humor, but I decided that the story would have been even more interesting (translation: traumatic) if the command team had not yet consummated their relationship prior to the events portrayed. So I stole the premise and wrote my own version.
Incidentally, this was my first ST-17™© story, written on a dare. Here it is redone as a T™© rated fic.
Disclaimer: Paramount owns the universe, including Rigelian fever and Rigelian Kassaba fever, but E.M. Bonner owns Rigelian lunglock fever.
The mission should have gone without a hitch. It certainly wouldn't have been appropriate for the captain and first officer to both join the away team if there had been any significant risk factor. But here they were, crash landed on an M-class planet in the middle of a thunderstorm.
Transporters certainly wouldn't function in this weather, even if the comm system wasn't down, which it was, and even if Voyager had been in orbit, which it wasn't.
Captain Janeway and Lieutenant Paris were working to repair damage to the port warp nacelle while Commander Chakotay and Lieutenant Carey attempted to restore the shield generator to working order. None were aware of the profound damage to the plausibility generator.
The weather was increasing in severity, but that only drove the four officers to work harder. They were uncomfortable with the thought of being stranded on the planet. Janeway in particular didn't want to spend the night on the surface; she was starting to feel ill and didn't know how long she would be of use to her team.
The captain paused in her work as she attempted to fight off another fit of coughing. Tom noticed her discomfort and began to worry. "Captain, why don't you go inside and rest. I can finish up here."
"No, Tom, I'll be fine. We're almost done." She paused in order to hack some more. She had to admit to herself that she was starting to feel dizzy. When she nearly lost her balance, Tom led her into the shuttle despite her weak protestations.
After getting her a thermal blanket, the helmsman fetched a medical tricorder and ran it over his commanding officer. Janeway abandoned her brave front, curled up in a ball, and coughed miserably.
"You have a fever of 38.7 degrees," Tom informed her. "Your thoracic cavity is filling with fluid. Some tri-ox might help you breathe."
She tried to answer him, but instead lost control to a violent coughing spell. When it ended, she fell completely silent and remained that way, even after Tom administered the hypospray.
Chakotay appeared, and hadn't even seen Janeway before he was asking about her safety. He dropped to his knees beside her huddled form. "Kathryn, what happened?"
She felt weak, and it seemed to her that the sound of her pounding heart filled the shuttle. Her face was burning with heat even as her body shivered with cold. "Chakotay..." she began weakly.
"Don't try to talk, Captain," Tom admonished. Turning to Chakotay, he explained Janeway's condition. "She's suffering from some type of pulmonary infection. I'm trying to identify it now."
"What can we do for her?"
"I gave her some tri-ox. I'll know more in a minute," Tom disappeared to consult with the computer.
Chakotay abandoned protocol for the moment and stroked her hair, although whether that action was meant to comfort her or himself wasn't clear. "Just rest. We're almost done with repairs. I'll be back in a minute."
She nodded slightly and then surrendered to another fit of coughing.
Joe Carey entered the shuttle. "I've repaired the shield generator, but we still aren't in good enough shape to take off in this weather."
The first officer nodded distractedly. He was busy trying to peer over Tom's shoulder.
"Here it is, Commander. She has Rigelian lunglock fever."
"How in blazes did she catch that?"
"The virus can remain dormant for years. Most humans have a natural antibody."
Chakotay didn't like the tone of Tom's voice. His heart filled with dread as he forced the question from his lips. "What's the treatment?"
Tom took a deep breath, preparing himself to explain the situation to the first officer. The Commander misinterpreted the pause.
A strangled cry of pain escaped him. "No..."
"She won't die," Tom blurted. "The news isn't good, but we aren't going to let her die."
Chakotay closed his eyes in relief. He braced himself for whatever Tom had to say. His worst fear was losing Kathryn; what else could possibly be bad news?
"Rigelian lunglock fever is fatal to anyone without the antibody, but it can be transferred from person to person." Tom's voice was soft. "You and I both have the antibody, but the captain does not."
"Then what's the problem?" Chakotay asked. He couldn't imagine what was causing Tom's distress. "If there's some risk to the donor, I'm certainly willing to take that risk myself."
"I know that, Chakotay." Tom met the first officer's gaze. "But I'm afraid it isn't as simple as risking your life for her."
"What are you trying to say, Tom?"
The helmsman could no longer look him in the eye. His face was red. "The antibody is transferred through intimate contact."
Chakotay's head reeled. He stared up at the ceiling. "Is there no other way?"
"Even if we were back on Voyager?"
"Given enough time, the Doctor could probably devise another treatment."
"We don't have enough time, do we?"
"No. She won't live through the night without the antibody." Tom's voice remained soft. This was no joking matter. "The...transfer needs to take place within the next two hours. Any later, and there's a chance it might not take effect in time to save her life."
Like everyone else on Voyager, Tom knew how Chakotay felt about the captain. He also knew of her adherence to protocol. Even if he had entertained any suspicions about the nature of their relationship, they were gone now. If the couple had ever been intimate, the captain wouldn't now be lacking the antibody.
"Chakotay," Tom began again. "I know how you feel right now. When B'Elanna had blood fever..."
The words trailed off but the first officer nodded his understanding. Tom had indeed been in a very similar situation a few years ago.
"Don't take this the wrong way, but if you think this will strain your relationship too much," Tom took a deep breath and forced the words out. "Well, I'm sure B'Elanna would forgive me if I gave the captain a hand with this, so to speak."
"I hope that isn't necessary, Tom, but thanks, I think. Let me go talk to her." Chakotay turned and headed for the back of the shuttle, where the captain was laying on her side trying not to cough.
"Kathryn." Chakotay took her hand. "Kathryn, we need to talk."
"You talk. I'll listen."
He studied her face. "You've contracted Rigelian lunglock fever."
Had she heard a catch in his voice? "How?"
"It can remain dormant for years, but..."
Her brain was racing to recall what she knew about the disease. The realization hit that it was probably contagious and could be fatal. She jerked her hand away from Chakotay and cut him off. "Chakotay, please. Back off before I infect you."
He retrieved her hand. "Relax, Kathryn. I'm immune. I need to discuss the treatment with you."
Something was very wrong. Even through the haze of oxygen deprivation she could tell that he was upset. She tried to sit up in order to look him in the eye.
"Hey, take it easy." His hand moved to her shoulder, gently holding her down. "You need to stay still."
As if to verify his statement, she shook with another fit of coughing. Tom Paris appeared with his tricorder.
"Chakotay, she's getting worse. You'd better take her to the cargo bay. You'll have privacy there."
At Tom's words, Janeway made a valiant effort to get up and managed some success. "Why are you talking about me as if I wasn't here, Tom?"
"Let Chakotay explain, Captain," he answered softly. "I'll be up front if you need me."
Kathryn was almost frightened now. Tom sounded nearly as worried as Chakotay. "Tell me what's wrong."
"Everything's going to be fine," he assured her. "Let's do what Tom suggested." He scooped her up and carried her down into the Delta Flyer's cargo bay.
He put her down, letting her lean up against the wall. He sat down facing her and reached for her hand. Before she could ask him again, he began to explain. "It seems that you are one of the few humans who isn't carrying the antibody for this disease. I have the antibody, and so does Tom."
She nodded. He was leading up to something.
"The antibody can be transferred to you, but if we don't transfer it tonight, the disease will be fatal."
"What's the catch?"
"It's the method of transmission, Kathryn." His voice was strained. He appeared to be trembling. "The only way to pass the antibody is through intimate contact."
"You're kidding." She didn't really think that he was. He was obviously upset, and Chakotay would never make such a joke. It would be in bad taste even for Tom.
"Kathryn..." His throat constricted, ending his ability to speak. He swallowed hard.
She reached up to touch his face. "Shhh, it's okay. You don't have to talk me into it." She forced a note of teasing into her voice. "Are you seriously afraid that I'll choose death over a night with you?"
He tried to smile. "Kathryn, you know I'd do anything for you, but I'm not sure I can do this without...You are my closest friend, and I value our friendship above all else. I hope that what I'm about to say won't damage that friendship, but I have to tell you."
She nodded wordlessly. He was finally going to say it.
"I love you, Kathryn, I have for as long as I can remember. I've dreamed about making love to you. But this is killing me. You're being coerced by circumstances, and it isn't fair. I can't let you die, obviously, but I must give you some choice."
"Chakotay, what on earth..." A violent explosion of coughing interrupted her.
"Tom has the antibody as well."
She almost laughed, but she realized that he was serious. She moved to quell his fear. "Why would I sleep with Tom Paris when I'm in love with you?"
"Oh, Kathryn," he gasped. He pulled her into his arms and buried his face in her hair. He held her for a long moment before speaking again. "I hate these circumstances. I've always wanted everything to be perfect for you, when it finally happened. I wanted to be able to show you just how much I love you."
"Chakotay, you do that every day," she whispered. "I've never doubted that you love me, and this..." She struggled not to cough. "...this situation may not be ideal, but at least we've finally got an excuse."
He drew back and found her smiling at him. He stroked her face tenderly. "Kathryn, you're burning up."
"I know," she answered. "We'd better get started." She started to unzip her uniform.
His hands captured hers. "Let me do that," he murmured. "I've dreamed of doing that. But first, I think we've skipped something very important." With that, he leaned in and kissed her.
The kiss was soft, yet intense. They had both waited so long that it was impossible for it to be otherwise. She savored the taste of him, after all of the years of wanting. Her lips parted, granting his tongue access. He explored her mouth and their tongues tangled as the kiss grew in passion.
Chakotay, conscious of the fact that Kathryn could hardly breathe, finally broke the kiss and slid his lips over her jaw and down her neck.
When Kathryn reached up to run her hands through his hair he stopped and looked her in the eye. "Don't think that I expect your full participation tonight. Relax, and save your strength."
Her attempt to argue was cut short by an attack of coughing. She slumped back against the wall. "I guess you're right," she whispered.
Chakotay got up and retrieved some pillows and blankets from a storage bin. He made up a makeshift bed and asked the computer to dim the lights. "I wish we had some candles. I always pictured candles."
"Me too," Kathryn admitted softly.
Chakotay's heart skipped a beat at the unbelievable thought of her fantasizing about him. Then he felt a pang of regret for the reality of their situation.
Kathryn noticed the look of remorse that flitted across his handsome features. She took pity and attempted to lighten the mood. "Well, not always. Not in the turbolift."
"Kathryn!" He looked at her in shock, and found her silently laughing. Chuckling himself, he dropped to his knees beside her. "No more laughing. You'll start coughing again."
She nodded reluctantly. "We need to get out of these uniforms."
"Let's move over where it's more comfortable," he said.
Despite the aches and pains of fever, she savored the feeling of his strong arms around her as he carried her over to the makeshift bed and gently laid her upon it.
She almost forgot her illness entirely as she watched him slowly remove his clothes. That smooth, muscular chest made her pounding heart do somersaults.
He was moving slowly, and he realized that the circumstances must still be making him nervous. How could she prove to him that she wanted this, despite the situation? Hell, she was almost grateful for the situation. "Chakotay."
He turned to look at her face once again. She looked flushed, but she flashed him her patented lopsided grin and he again marveled at her beauty.
"Come here, my love," she whispered. She beckoned to him and ran her hands over his chest. Her wandering hands sent shivers throughout his body, and he gasped out loud when she lightly traced a nipple. "What are you waiting for?"
Chakotay held his breath as he reached for the zipper on her uniform jacket. Some part of him still expected some objection; a mention of protocol or parameters. Their eyes met and he lowered the zipper.
Much later, they lay together, hearts pounding, sticky with sweat. She kissed his chest and rested her head on his shoulder.
"Are you okay?" he asked softly.
Despite her near exhaustion, she laughed softly at his question. "I've never been better. That was amazing. You are amazing."
He kissed the top of her head. "You're the amazing one, my love," he told her. "Half dead with Rigelian lunglock fever and you still manage to give me the most incredible night of my life."
"You did all the work," she said. "Next time I'll try to be a little more creative. I can't believe we waited all of this time."
"We had to," he replied. He tried not to wonder how they would move forward from this moment; whether they would really be able to have a next time. "Try to get some sleep, Kathryn. You need your rest."
The Doctor dragged the captain into sickbay the instant she returned to the ship. He ran his tricorder over her, checking his readings twice before declaring her fit for duty.
"You haven't had much of a social life, have you, Captain?" The Doctor observed.
She glared at him. "What do you mean, Doctor?"
"It's been nearly a century since Starfleet Medical found anyone without that antibody. A single...encounter with someone carrying it is enough to guarantee immunity."
The scientist in her found his words interesting, even as she cringed with embarrassment. It was true; she hadn't gotten around much. And, apparently, neither had Mark or Justin.
"Nearly a century...I guess that's why they never found a better way to transfer the antibody," she said cautiously.
"Better, Captain?" The Doctor shook his head sadly. "Don't let the Commander hear you say that."
She blushed furiously. "I meant more convenient. What if Chakotay hadn't been available?"
"Then I'm sure Mr. Paris would have performed admirably."
"Over my dead body," Chakotay replied as he entered. He turned to Kathryn. "I'm here to take you to dinner. The mess hall or my quarters: your choice."
"Your quarters will do nicely," she replied with a wink. She took his arm as they left sickbay. "I hope you have candles."
This transformative work constitutes a fair use of any copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. Star Trek™©, Star Trek: The Next Generation™©, Star Trek: Voyager™© and related properties exist as Registered Trademarks of Paramount Pictures. No copyright infringement intended. No profits made here. © Spiletta42, January 2002.