Warning: Rated T™© for mild references to adult situations.
Categories: Ship, Het, Angst
Characters: Janeway, Chakotay
A/N: What's to say? It's just an angsty little thing about friendship.
Credits: Thank you to Trindajae, who I hope won't call the authorities when she discovers my theft. (Note from the future: this fic was written before Trindajae was the authorities, so I really dodged a bullet there!)
Disclaimer: Paramount used to own this glorious thing called Trek, but then they let Rick Berman and his friends break it. Good thing we've got super glue. (Psst, it's the future calling again. Super-glue might be fine for Berman-damage, but Abrams-damage will require something stronger.)
Janeway noticed the hot flesh beneath her cheek before her consciousness slammed into memories of the previous night. She swallowed and tried to keep her breathing steady. Tears prickled the backs of her eyelids. One night of weakness would cost her everything, and worse, she'd once again hurt Chakotay.
The tears escaped and she made herself ignore them. If she lifted her hand to wipe them away, she'd wake Chakotay, and it would all begin. She wanted at least these last few minutes in his arms before that happened.
She bit her lip, fending off a sob as the ache grew within her, and she felt Chakotay's breathing change. She didn't let her shoulders stiffen, or her own breath give a hint that she too was awake.
"My Kathryn." His voice was barely a puff against her hair. "I will love you with my last breath, even if this is merely a dream, a memory to cherish for the rest of our journey."
His generosity drew a silent sob from her, and she felt his hand on her shoulder.
"Morning isn't here yet," he continued softly. "We can dream a while longer."
Her voice had abandoned her, so she just nodded slightly, and pressed her tear-stained face into his chest. She felt his arms tighten around her. If only she dared whisper her own words of devotion, or had the freedom to say them out loud. Ignoring the night before made sense, but it wouldn't lessen the ache of losing what she wanted most, even though it had never really belonged to her.
When the computer announced the time, Chakotay feigned sleep, allowing Janeway to slip from his bed and retrieve her rumpled uniform. She crept down the corridor, grateful for the close proximity of their quarters, and managed to keep from crying again until she reached the safety of her shower.
Last night she had betrayed all of her lofty Starfleet ideals, but the guilt made up the lesser part of the ache within her. She wanted a life with the man she loved. She wanted the loneliness that gripped her heart to finally end. She wanted to free herself from protocol. She wanted out of the Delta Quadrant.
For a few stolen moments, she gave in to the fresh grief, and then she forced herself to pull it together, don a fresh uniform, and begin the day.
When Janeway reached the bridge, Chakotay greeted her professionally, his smile friendly, without the slightest hint of impropriety. She felt her face grow hot anyway, her mind assaulting her with images from the night before, and she retreated to the ready room.
Last night, she'd seen Chakotay only as the man she loved, the man she'd almost lost in some alien war. She'd needed to touch him, and assure herself of his presence, and his safety. It seemed only natural to wrap her arms around him for a few cherished moments, and to press her lips to his temple.
When their eyes had met, he'd looked more vulnerable than she'd ever seen him. She'd read such pain in those deep brown eyes that the need to comfort him had overwhelmed her. Her emotions had taken control as she considered just how close she'd come to losing him.
She knew they'd gone too far, but at the time it had seemed like the most natural thing in the galaxy. Now she had to force herself to accept him as simply her first officer, and put their indiscretion out of her mind.
She should be embarrassed at having let her first officer see her through a lover's eyes, she knew that, and yet she found it hard to retain the feeling. This was Chakotay, the one person who knew her better than anyone else in her life, and she had nothing to hide from him. She'd let him glimpse her vulnerability in some of her most difficult moments, and she'd opened herself to him in many ways more threatening than the physical.
Her mind returned to the night before, to the love reflected in Chakotay's eyes, and the warmth of his skin under her hands. She remembered the passion, and the tenderness, and the pleasure. How she longed to make that a regular part of their life together, but her duty to her crew came first.
At least he knew that too, and accepted her decision, so they could avoid that clumsy discussion. She wouldn't have to watch his eyes cloud with disappointment, although she knew he felt the pain of loss, because she felt it too.
The day provided enough distractions to temporarily ease the loneliness, but her shift ended without a crisis and Janeway had little energy for reports on intake valves. She returned to her quarters.
The thought of leola root failed to appeal to her, as did the thought of sitting in the busy mess hall, but she couldn't quite find the energy to replicate anything, either. She forced herself to open a book, but it simply laid in her lap ignored while she stared out the viewport.
Tears threatened, but she held them off.
The door chimed.
She closed her eyes for a moment, steeling herself for the necessity of conversation. "Come."
Chakotay entered and went straight to her replicator. "In many civilizations, ice cream is the traditional treatment for heartache. I could use some of that today, and I'd prefer to eat it in the company of my dear friend."
She watched him, unsure of how to reply, and took the bowl he handed to her.
"I need a sympathetic ear, Kathryn, if you're willing to humor me?"
"Go ahead." If he needed to talk about it, she owed him the courtesy.
"As you may have guessed, it's about a woman. An extraordinary woman, one who owns my heart and soul. I've loved her for so long that I have trouble remembering a time when I didn't, but circumstances have kept us apart.
"Last night I finally held her in my arms, and we made love. In all my travels, I've never seen anything as beautiful as the love I saw in her eyes last night."
"That sounds wonderful," Janeway said softly.
"More wonderful than anything else in this life. Have you ever experienced a night like that, Kathryn, where the universe grants you the opportunity to live your fondest dream?"
"Oh yes." She felt the sparkle of tears, and looked down at the ice cream slowly melting in her bowl. "Yes, I've had a night like that."
"Then you'll understand how I feel. I will treasure the night's memories for the rest of my life, and I don't think I could bring myself to regret a moment of it, even if perhaps I should."
She nodded. "I know just what you mean, Chakotay."
"You might wonder, if it was so wonderful, then why do I need this?" He indicated the ice cream. "Well, there's a complication. I can't ride off into the sunset with my love, not just yet. I can't ask her to marry me, or share a life with her. That all has to wait."
"That sounds . . . difficult. You must want her to change her mind."
"That's the problem." He met her gaze. "You see, I agree with her. We have to wait. I think it's the right thing to do, for many reasons."
"That's really how you feel?" Her dry throat barely formed the words.
"It is, although I've spent hours trying to convince myself . . . " He shrugged and turned his attention to his ice cream.
Janeway did the same, savoring how the ice cream felt on a throat hot from a day spent choking back tears. That he'd come here, and pour his heart out like this -- she had to tell him just what that meant to her. He needed to know just how much she loved him.
"I'm glad you're here, Chakotay. An evening with my closest friend was just what I needed. As it happens, I spent the day nursing my own heartache."
"Would it help to talk about it?"
"It would. You see, there's this man." She caught his gaze and held it. "I love him, deeply and completely, but I can't share my life with him like I want to. Someday I can, but sometimes I fear it'll be too late. Sometimes, when I'm alone in my quarters, I think about what it would be like to lose him, and it's all I can do to keep breathing."
"Oh yes, I know that feeling. Too well. The woman I love has a reckless streak, and sometimes . . . I've almost lost her more than once. At times like that, the smallest touch is more precious than anything in the galaxy."
"The man I love crashed his shuttle in a war zone recently. Once he returned safely, the need to hold him nearly overpowered me."
"You had to touch him to make him real."
She nodded. "I went too far, and I feared -- but it's okay now. The waiting is hard, but what I have to remember is that the Alpha Quadrant grows closer every day. And I'm not completely alone. I have you. I have my best friend."
Tears threatened again, and she wanted to join him on the couch, but she feared that if she touched him, the charade would crumble to dust, and her self control might not fare any better.
"Don't stop touching him," Chakotay said.
She looked up at him.
"Don't stop touching him, out of fear that things might go too far again. Those moments of contact are too precious to withhold." He set his bowl down and knelt before her. "When I touch her hand, it feels like our hearts are beating as one." His hand covered hers, on the arm of the chair. "In moments like that, I feel at peace with the universe."
She looked down at his hand as the warmth of his touch stole through her. "I would miss those moments if I gave them up."
"Life is full of sacrifices, some of them as painful as they are necessary, but you aren't required to give up everything that brings you comfort or joy. Some things are too important."
"Like our friendship. Nothing is more important to me."
"Or to me, Kathryn. Whatever else life may hold for us, we will always be friends."
She smiled. "I think friends traditionally share holodeck time. How about I pay you back for that ice cream with a moonlight sail on Lake George?"
He grinned and pulled her to her feet. "That sounds good, but I think we'd better use my time."
She eyed him suspiciously. "What's so funny?"
"I used your rations for the ice cream."
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, September 2005.