Misconception

by Spiletta42

Misconception by Spiletta42

VGR J/C


Rating: T™©


t

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Warnings: The amnesia plot contrivance, discussions of head trauma.


Categories: Ship, Het, Angst


Pairings: Janeway/Chakotay


Characters: Janeway, Chakotay


Spoilers: Set in season seven, no specific spoilers.


A/N: This was inspired by Shayenne's piece Married Quarters. I didn't really mean to steal it, but I had a different take on the possibilities presented in that story and I couldn't get them out of my head. Mine has less sex and more angst. Hers is found here.


Credits: Special thanks to Alanesian for the beta.


Disclaimer: Paramount owns the universe. I, sadly, don't.


Misconception

"Where's Kathryn?" Commander Chakotay demanded, not for the first time. "Has something happened to her? Are you hiding something from me? Why are you keeping me here? Where is my Kathryn?"

Voyager's Emergency Medical Hologram turned Chief Medical Officer sighed and explained the situation to his patient once again. "Commander, please calm down. The captain is fine. She's on the bridge. I'm sure she will be here as soon as she can get away. Now please, relax and try not to aggravate your condition."

His words once again had little effect upon the first officer. Worried about his patient's escalating blood pressure, faulty grasp of reality, and inexplicable obsession with the captain's whereabouts, the physician again studied the readings on his medical tricorder.

He frowned.

Since the sedative was proving less effective than he had hoped, the Doctor crossed to his office and called the bridge. "Captain Janeway, please report to sickbay. There are . . . complications."


x

Adrenaline shot through Janeway at the Doctor's words; its metallic tang coated her tongue and her gut twisted into a bow. Complications? She didn't like the word and she liked how he said it even less.

She turned the bridge over to Tuvok and hurried to sickbay. They still hadn't discovered what had happened aboard Chakotay's shuttle, but the investigation would have to proceed without the captain.

"Kathryn!" Chakotay called the instant she was through the door. The emotion in his voice was unexpected; he sounded frightened. Icy fingers gripped her heart. She moved swiftly to the biobed, and to her surprise he jumped up to throw his arms around her.

"Oh, Kathryn, I was so worried," he mumbled into her hair. His legs refused to support him properly and he swayed heavily against her. "Are you really okay?"

"I'm fine." With a worried glance at the Doctor, she helped him back onto the biobed. Extracting herself from her first officer's grasp proved no small feat.

"I'll be right back," she whispered to him.

"Promise?" The fear wasn't gone from his voice.

"I promise." She was nervous herself at her closest friend's behavior. What had happened to him out there? "Rest for a minute. I'm going to speak with the Doctor."

Janeway followed the Doctor into his office. "What's wrong with him?" It took some effort to make her question a request, rather than a demand.

"I'm not sure," the Doctor said. "He's disoriented; delusional even. His blood pressure is spiking dangerously, and the sedative I gave him had no effect. It should have knocked him out and I'm afraid to give him more."

He spun the monitor around and showed the captain what he had found thus far. "I reduced his cranial swelling and treated his other injuries, but I'm not sure I understand what's happening in his temporal lobe. For now, I think our only option is to humor him; arguing with his current beliefs may cause more damage."

"Of course," Janeway answered. The expression on the Doctor's face gave her pause. "What?"

"He thinks you're his wife."

The captain sucked in her breath. This was going to be harder than she thought. She pushed her emotions aside and tried to sound matter of fact. "Okay, so I pretend to be his wife. Anything else?"

"I think that Chakotay might remain calmer if I didn't keep him confined to sickbay. I don't mean to put you in an awkward position, Captain, but I'd like to try releasing him into your care."

She nodded and avoided the Doctor's gaze. "For how long?"

"Until I can devise a treatment. I'll have him wear a cortical monitor. If his condition worsens, he'll have to return to sickbay immediately."

She nodded again as they walked back to Chakotay's biobed. The Doctor gave her an apologetic look. "Chakotay should not become excited in any way; you'll have to curtail physical relations until he is fully recovered." He turned to the first officer, his voice stern. "Is that understood, Commander?"

"Perfectly." He caught Janeway's eye. "Sorry, my love. Looks like I'll be needing the night off."

"I'll forgive you this once," she said. "Shall we go home?"

He leaned against her and she wrapped a supporting arm firmly around his waist. She was about to request a site to site transport, but changed her mind when she realized that she wasn't sure of their destination. Which of their quarters did he believe they shared?

Her answer came when Chakotay didn't even glance at his own door, but continued down the corridor to hers. She keyed in her security code and led him to the couch. He sat, pulled her down beside him, and wrapped her up tightly in his arms.

"I was so scared when the Doctor wouldn't let me see you. I thought he was hiding something from me. I don't know what I'd do if I ever lost you."

Janeway cringed inwardly at the raw emotion in his voice. For seven years they had both fought to suppress their feelings, and now the careful balance they had created was being jeopardized. What happened when he remembered this?

"Shh," she soothed. "I'm not going anywhere."

She tried to pull away, but he tightened his grip and buried his face in her hair.

"Chakotay, you'd better let me up if you want any dinner."

"I'm not hungry," he whispered, his breath hot on her neck. "At least not for food."

She found it impossible to suppress a shudder as his lips explored her skin. With some effort, she found her voice and kept it from shaking. "No excitement, remember?"

"I know." He released her. "But how can I help the effect you have on me?"

Her vocabulary failed her and she fumbled for a change of topic. "What would you like for dinner? I might be able to talk Neelix out of some mushrooms."

"Don't cook, Kathryn," he said softly. "Just replicate something and come sit with me."

"As long as you promise to behave." She fiddled with the replicator and avoided his eyes.

"Just one kiss?" He flashed his irresistible dimples. How was she going to get out of this? She ordered her teeth to release her lower lip. She needed that to smile back at him. "If you're lucky." She placed their dinner on the coffee table.

He ignored the food and reached for her, pulling her closer to him. Her discomfort did not go unnoticed. "What's wrong, Kathryn?"

Concern for her was written all over his face. Fretting about her was the last thing he should have been doing. "I know I shouldn't be, but I'm just a little worried about you."

"I'll be fine. Just as long as I have you." He pressed a kiss to her forehead.

"I'm sure the Doctor will have a solution soon. He always comes through. Now how about we eat a little dinner?"

They sat and ate a light meal. Janeway offered no objection when Chakotay caressed her arm and played with her hair. She would hardly complain if they were really married and she had certainly worried him enough. And, quite honestly, she didn't really mind his attention.

"Would you like to lie down and rest for a while?"

"Maybe I will." He grinned at her. "Now how about that kiss?"

There just wasn't a plausible argument. She reached up and brushed his lips with her own, hoping that would suffice.

It didn't. His hand slid into her hair and he pulled her into a real kiss. She sighed and let him part her lips to kiss her thoroughly.

Coherent thought became impossible as her world narrowed to include only his lips moving persuasively over hers; his tongue exploring the recesses of her mouth; his taste filling her senses; his hands stroking her back and massaging her scalp.

Unable to do otherwise, she returned his kiss, her hands sliding up over his chest, behind his neck, and into his hair. It was better than every fantasy she had ever had, and there had been many over the years.

The Doctor's voice over the comm system snapped her back to reality. "Captain! Commander! Whatever you are doing, stop it immediately."

Janeway jumped back as if scalded. She had forgotten Chakotay's condition entirely. Not only had she lost control, but she had put him in danger. "Should we come down to sickbay?"

"No, no need for that. But I'd recommend that the commander try to relax. His blood pressure is a little high."

"Understood," Janeway answered in her best captain's voice. She turned to Chakotay. "Come on, let's get you to bed."

As soon as she said it she realized the problem; his clothes were still in his own quarters. She had nothing for him to wear to bed and he was hardly likely to crawl under the covers in uniform.

She followed him into the bedroom, and when he sat down on the bed she muttered some incoherent excuse and retreated to the bathroom until she guessed it safe to emerge.

He had climbed into bed, and his uniform was draped over a chair. She couldn't tell how much, or how little, he was wearing.

"Are you joining me, Kathryn?"

She groaned at his persistence. "I don't think that's such a good idea, Chakotay. Besides, I have some work I really shouldn't put off."

"You work too much, my love. At least sit with me awhile."

"I'll stay until you fall asleep." She took a seat on the edge of the bed.

He reached out, captured her hand, and drew it slowly to his soft lips. His dark eyes drifted closed as he kissed her fingers. "I've always loved your hands," he whispered against her skin. "So strong and yet so beautiful. Just like you."

For a moment she found herself wishing that it was real; that circumstances were different and they really could afford to love one another. Never before had anyone stirred such feelings in her with such a simple touch and she couldn't help but be compelled by his poetic words. Her hand moved of its own accord to caress his cheek.

Chakotay turned his head to kiss the inside of her wrist, sending a jolt of electricity down her spine. "Come to bed, Kathryn. I can't fall asleep without you in my arms."

"Chakotay, you know I have work to do. We still need to figure out what happened on that shuttle."

"You're not leaving?"

"Of course not." She stroked his hair and tried not to enjoy it. "I'll be working in the next room." She clarified. "After you fall asleep."

"I'm holding you to that," he murmured. "Don't leave."

She smiled at him. "I wouldn't dream of it. Now close your eyes and try to relax."

It was some time before he drifted off. She almost felt guilty for leaving him, but she had to visit his quarters and fetch his belongings before he woke up.


x

Feeling like an intruder, she used her override code to slip into his quarters. She found his medicine bundle, then braced herself and slipped open his dresser drawer.

Boxers.

She smiled. After seven years, she finally knew.

When she returned to her quarters she was relieved to find him sound asleep. Still concerned that he would wake up and catch her, she opened her dresser and quickly made room for his things. The task was completed not a moment too soon.

"Kathryn?" He sat up rapidly. Apparently too rapidly, as the sudden motion immediately had him clutching his head.

She was at his side instantly. "Hey, take it easy." Her hand came to rest on his shoulder. "Should I call the Doctor?"

"No, I'm fine now. I woke up and you weren't right here...I panicked for a moment."

"Did you really think I'd leave you?"

"No. No, of course not. But my memory is a little foggy. I knew there had been an accident, and I couldn't quite remember what had happened. I thought - " He shuddered and shook his head.

"What do you remember?"

He shrugged. "Boarding the shuttle and waking up in sickbay."

"That's okay. We'll figure it out. We always do."

"Will you come to bed now?"

"I still have work to do." What of the sleeping arrangements? They couldn't really share this bed. Her only option seemed to be the couch.

With an internal groan at the ridiculousness of the situation, she decided that she had little choice but to feign nodding off over a stack of padds.

Apparently he could read her mind. "Please don't fall asleep on the couch, Kathryn."

"I won't," she said, conceding defeat. Another strategy seemed in order. She gave the matter some thought as she sat and watched him drift off once again.

Once he was safely asleep, she withdrew to the living room. First she checked in on the Doctor's progress, then she paged the bridge for a status report. Disappointed at the lack of news, she dove into the stack of padds and tried, rather unsuccessfully, to focus her thoughts away from the man sleeping in her bed.


x

Much later, his soft voice intruded on her reading. "Kathryn, come to bed. Please."

Arguing with him was hardly an option. Instead, she rose and headed for the bedroom. Without calling for the lights, she dug through her dresser for the nightgown she thought safest. It was a long sleeved, high necked, shapeless gray flannel number and she very much hoped he wouldn't question the choice.

She also hoped that he wouldn't comment on the fact that she retreated into the bathroom to change. When she emerged in the gray flannel thing he was waiting, the covers drawn back.

Janeway's heart was thumping so loudly she was sure he could hear it. They could probably hear it on the bridge. She climbed into the bed and let Chakotay pull her close, cradling her against his bare chest.

"That's some nightgown, my love. I'm guessing the idea is to keep my blood pressure in check?" He chuckled. "You still look beautiful." His hand stroked up and down her back, sending delicious tremors throughout her body. She ignored her desire to kiss the hot flesh beneath her cheek.

Despite the circumstances, it was impossible not to enjoy the rare luxury of being held by the man she secretly loved. The warmth of his body stole through her and the sound of his heartbeat began to soothe her towards sleep.

Someday, once Voyager was safely in the alpha quadrant, they would have their chance at happiness. It wasn't possible here, in the delta quadrant; Not with protocol, command structure, and duty. Yet right this moment, she had an excuse, and so she pushed everything else aside and savored the rare opportunity.

"My darling Kathryn," he murmured, drifting back towards sleep himself. "I love you so much."

Her heart gave a joyous leap, straight into the level ten force field called protocol that kept her from responding in kind. It lay, bruised and aching, within the lonely confines of her ribcage.

She had known how he felt, of course, had known for years, but to hear his feelings spoken aloud was overwhelming. It was wonderful, yet it hurt, and she couldn't imagine how they would deal with this revelation once his memory was restored.

She imagined their friendship becoming strained and awkward as they both tried to pretend this had never happened. Distance was the last thing she wanted in this relationship. For once, she lost control of her emotions and her tears escaped, sliding down to drip on his bare skin.


x

The captain's combadge sat on her nightstand, chirping persistently. A slender hand shot out to retrieve it. The owner of that hand was suddenly fully awake as she was reminded that she wasn't alone in her bed.

The hand that had gone for the combadge had been intercepted by Chakotay before it could complete its mission. He pressed it to his lips and raised himself up to gaze at her. "Good morning, Kathryn. Sleep well?"

"Very well." She studied his face. "I'm much more interested in how you're feeling."

"I'll feel better once I've had my good morning kiss." He lowered his mouth to hers. Once again, she found herself without a plausible argument and once again the movement of his lips over hers seemed to erase her ability to think clearly.

As she began to lose herself in the feelings his actions evoked, the combadge on the nightstand gave another chirp. It was with a fair amount of reluctance that she broke the kiss to respond.

"Captain, I'd like to see Commander Chakotay in sickbay."

"Is there a problem, Doctor?" She forced a modicum of normalcy into her voice.

"I think I've discovered something." He sounded rather pleased with himself. "If you could be so kind as to report to sickbay - "

"On our way. Janeway out."


x

The Doctor ushered the captain into his office. "I've found the cause," he said once they were alone. "I'm just hoping I'll be able to devise a treatment."

"Go on."

"All of the various associations that form a particular memory are stored in different parts of the brain. The temporal lobe keeps track of how these associations are interconnected. I've found an alien protein structure in Chakotay's temporal lobe, and that seems to be causing his confusion. He can't tell the difference between memories of real events and dreams. Recurring dreams might actually be more prominent in his mind than the memory of any real events."

Well, that certainly explained the current situation. Now she knew what he dreamed about; the subject matter seemed to be remarkably similar to her own more pleasant dreams. "Can you help him?"

"I'm not sure how," the Doctor admitted. "At least not yet. And there is the possibility that he'll become more confused with time. I'm going to ask that you take him back to your quarters and do your best to keep him calm, but distracted."

Janeway studied the Doctor's face. "You're worried about what might happen when he realizes that his memories don't necessarily fit together."

He nodded. "That's why I think it's best if you stay with him. You're the person that he's most likely to trust, even if he does get confused."

She agreed. The reverse was true enough. "I'll let Tuvok know that he has the bridge."


x

They ate a quiet breakfast on the couch in her quarters and Janeway was grateful for the fact that Chakotay seemed little interested in anything beyond flirting with her. Like the Doctor, she worried that it was only a matter of time before he began to notice the discontinuity of his own memories.

Chakotay put down his empty plate and gathered her into his arms. She offered no resistance, settling back against his chest and crossing her arms over his. Once again, she caught herself wishing that this was real.

"This is nice," he whispered in her ear. "How often do we both have the day off? Too bad we have to be good for the Doc."

"I'm sure he'll have some answers soon." It better be soon, she thought. This couldn't continue. It wasn't exactly hardship duty, but that was precisely the problem.

"What did he tell you?"

She stalled. "What?"

"What did the Doctor take you into his office to tell you?"

"He was showing me his research. Try not to think too much about it; he thinks that worrying might aggravate your condition."

"You're worried," he observed.

"Yes, I am." She knew that he'd see right through any claim to the contrary. "A little. But I have complete faith in the Doctor."

"You'd feel better if you could be doing something."

She turned in his arms to look at him. "But I am doing something. I'm taking care of you."

A soft smile spread across his face. "Yes, you are." He kissed her cheek. "Don't think I'm not appreciative."

"How are you feeling?" she asked. "Can I get you anything?"

"I've got everything I need right here." He kissed her cheek again for emphasis. Another pang of regret shot through her heart at the affection in his voice and she began to wonder how she would respond if he told her again that he loved her.

The night before, her inability to return his affection had hurt, but he had been drifting off to sleep; he hadn't noticed. If he said it again, he would expect a response. Yet she couldn't say the words. They weren't words she could say and not mean; not that she wouldn't mean them, didn't mean them, but...

Her thoughts were chaotic.

Starfleet protocol existed for a reason; for a number of reasons, in fact, and she knew them all quite well. Yet she had fallen in love with her first officer. If she had managed to keep her emotions under proper control, then perhaps this present situation wouldn't be so awkward.

And yet it wasn't awkward; not really. Relaxing in his arms felt right. It was future consequences that were the true source of her concern. Trying to pretend all of this hadn't happened would be awkward. But right now this just wasn't so bad at all.

"Kathryn?"

"Mmm?"

"Why aren't we wearing wedding rings?"


x

The Doctor wasn't letting anything distract him from his work. The captain hadn't said as much, but he knew that the situation had to be difficult for her. She and Chakotay were close, and he feared this would put a strain on their carefully balanced relationship. He shuddered to think how Seven would feel if he forced her into a similar situation. She'd probably run from him in blind panic if he revealed his feelings towards her in such a sudden and drastic way.

Yet at least he and Seven had a chance at a future, if he ever got past his own insecurities and found a way to tell her of his feelings without scaring her away. The captain and Chakotay had to wait another thirty thousand light years.

Protocol. He shook his head.


x

Janeway's sense of comfort shattered at Chakotay's question. Did she dare make an excuse, or would that make it worse? "Maybe yours is in sickbay."

Even to her own ears, the suggestion sounded weak, and she had no idea what to say about her own non-existent ring. She turned in his arms to study his face, and the confusion she read in it pierced her heart.

She lifted her hand to his cheek, as if she hoped to physically remove the troubling emotions. "I know you're confused. But please, don't try to think. Just relax, like the Doctor said. Can you do that for me?"

"I'll try. For you." He clutched her to him. "It's just that I can't remember so many things."

"I know. The Doctor is working on it."

"Kathryn, I can't even remember our wedding. The most important day of our life, and - "

"Please, just don't think about it."

"How?" His voice was strained. "Trying not to think about it just makes me think about it."

"I know." She offered a sad smile as she tried to find a distraction. "Let's find something else to think about. Perhaps a game of kadis-kot?"

He brightened a bit. "What do I get if I win?"


x

The game was not going well, Janeway observed. They both, impossibly enough, seemed to be losing. Neither of them were employing a strategy; they were just moving the pieces.

"I can't concentrate," Chakotay admitted.

"Neither can I," Janeway agreed. "I think Naomi could take us both right now. Why don't we stop and eat lunch?"

"Who's Naomi?"

Janeway swallowed hard. "Ensign Wildman's little girl."

"Kathryn, I don't remember Ensign Wildman either. I know I should, but - "

"Don't try," she said softly. "You'll make it worse."

"I can't picture any of our crew, not even B'Elanna - "

There was nothing she could say to that. She took his hand and squeezed it.

"And you," he continued. "I know you, but I can't remember certain things about you, about our life. All I'm certain of is how very much I love you."

"Oh, Chakotay." Unable to meet his eyes, she wrapped her arms around him. "I think we'd better check in with the Doctor."


x

"Chakotay's temporal lobe is completely overrun with this alien protein. To be honest, Captain, I'm surprised he can even remember his own name."

"Can you remove it?"

"Not without doing permanent damage. With your permission, I'd like to take a shuttlecraft and do some further research."

"I don't want to put anyone else in danger."

"B'Elanna and Harry found no evidence of damage to the computers on board Chakotay's shuttle, and there's no reason to think that this can affect me the way it has affected the commander. I'll go alone."

"I don't like it."

"In my position you'd want to do the same thing."

He had her there. "Okay, do it. But I want an open comm link and a transporter lock. Understood?"

"Aye, Captain."


x

Dinner consisted of replicated pasta, steamed vegetables, and herbal tea. Chakotay peered at his cup suspiciously. "Do I like tea?"

"You do." She studied his face. "I could get you something else if you'd rather. Perhaps Neelix would whip you up a home remedy complete with leola root."

"No. This is fine. But don't you usually drink coffee?"

She cringed at how he had ignored her attempt at humor, and answered his question. "Yes, but I thought I could do without the caffeine tonight."

"I know what you mean." He reached across the table and took her hand in his. "I'm not ashamed to admit that this is starting to scare me."

"I know," she said. "Not that I don't have faith in the Doctor, but I'll feel much better when you're back to your old self."

They sat and ate. Janeway wasn't hungry, but she doubted that he'd eat if she didn't. She picked at her food and considered calling the bridge for a status report. Was the pasta a little sticky?

Her eyes returned to Chakotay and she reminded herself firmly that the Doctor was doing everything he could and his efforts did not require her interference. It didn't make sense that pasta from the replicator would be sticky; it was replicated, not cooked.

Thoughts of Chakotay, plagued forever with a failing mind, haunted her. She hoped that the Doctor had found the answers he needed and returned safely to the ship.

She poked at the pasta. Chakotay would be fine. He had to be fine. She needed him. The pasta, however, was most decidedly not fine. She glared at the replicator. Somehow that glorified toaster had managed to foil her again.

Dinner finished, they cleared the table together in silence. Their eyes met and Chakotay pulled her into his arms. His big hands softly stroked her hair, and she let herself draw comfort from his actions. Protocol be damned; her closest friend needed her, and she needed him just as badly.


x

The Doctor returned to sickbay, not completely convinced that he was satisfied with the data he had gathered aboard the shuttle. It was entirely possible that a cure for Commander Chakotay's condition could elude him for weeks. He hated to think of the strain that would put on the captain.

There was also the possibility that Chakotay could suffer further complications. Grateful that he didn't need to sleep like the rest of the crew, the Doctor threw himself back into his work.


x

Chakotay had retired to the bedroom. Janeway, anxious to speak with the Doctor, wasn't quite ready to sleep, and was resisting his efforts to convince her to join him.

"Please," he said plaintively. "I don't want to be alone. I'm afraid I'll forget what you look like and I couldn't stand that."

She sat down beside him and took his hand. He was studying her intently.

"I remember the first time I saw you," he said. "It was on the viewscreen of my old ship."

"It was," she agreed. "But please, you mustn't try to remember things, Chakotay."

"I can't help it. So many of my memories are muddled. I want to think about the ones that are sharp and clear while I still can."

She couldn't argue with that. "I understand. I'd feel the same way."

"You had the most beautiful long hair back then. Not that it isn't lovely now. I love that you can wear it loose now. But I used to have such fantasies about your long hair."

Against her will, her mind skipped back five years in time, to New Earth, and the way he had handled her hair with such reverence before that nearly fateful backrub.

He reached for her hair now. "I love this color. It suits you so well." His fingers traced her throat, his touch light but scorching. "When you used to wear your hair up all I could think about was kissing your neck. You have such a beautiful neck."

She knew she should make some excuse and move away. But she couldn't. His voice and his touch held her captive. At least he was distracted.

His hand moved to caress her cheek. "This face. I never want to forget this face." He lightly traced her lips with the tip of his finger.

She knew she was trembling. It was all she could do not to bend down and kiss him. She reminded herself of the dangers. His condition. The balance in their relationship. Protocol. His blood pressure.

Then he rose up from the covers to kiss her, and nothing else mattered. His hands slid up under her shirt to caress her back. She felt each of his fingers as points of fire, igniting her skin, and she returned his kiss eagerly. Not until her exploring hands encountered the cortical monitor did she remember it all and stop.

"We can't." She tapped the monitor for emphasis. "I'm sorry but we can't."

"I know," he answered, his voice strained. "But please, just come to bed and let me hold you."

She gave in, her body still buzzing with arousal long after he had drifted off to sleep. The Doctor would find the answer, and then someday they'd be home and this would all be real. She had to believe that.


x

The Doctor's simulated pulse quickened as he realized what he was looking at. His hand flew to his combadge and he eagerly delivered the news.

"I've got it, Captain. Bring him to sickbay."


x

Relief washed over Janeway at the Doctor's words. The danger was past. A solution to the mystery; a cure for Chakotay's bizarre form of amnesia.

Chakotay stirred. "Kathryn?"

"The Doctor has a treatment."

A smile lit up his handsome features. "Then tonight I can finally make love to my beautiful wife."

It was like a phaser blast to the chest. He was so happy; he loved her, trusted her, and here she was, lying to him. He didn't understand the full implications and she could well imagine how he'd feel when his memory was restored.

She had to lessen the inevitable as best she could. She looked him in the eye, willing him to remember her next words and hoping that he'd understand what she had meant once his memory returned.

"Chakotay, I want that as much as you do, but we'll have to wait. I have obligations to this ship." The words weren't enough -- the ones she wanted to use were too dangerous.

She leaned in and kissed him softly, her lips caressing his with all of the tenderness she felt.

"A down payment," she whispered. "Until more is possible."


x

She left him in sickbay, abandoned and sedated on a biobed. When he awoke, he would remember the last few days. At best, he'd be embarrassed. She hoped he wouldn't avoid her; the thought of losing the closeness they shared was unbearable.

The fact that they both wanted more hadn't been an obstacle before, but it hadn't exactly been in the open then. Oh, they both had known. But the words had not been spoken.

Or had they? There had been the legend he had shared on New Earth. It was a memory that she cherished. But even carefully disguised, that story had been a contributor to the tension in the weeks following their return to the ship, and she didn't want a repeat of that awkwardness.

All of the looks that lingered too long, all of the casual touches, and all of the light flirting over meals in her quarters...

All were important to the fabric of their relationship. These were the things that sustained their unspoken promise for the future. They were also the things that kept the loneliness of her situation from becoming overwhelming. She did not want to lose them. She couldn't bear to lose him.


x

Several long hours later Janeway finally heard the door chime. She carefully ignored the acrobatics her stomach seemed determined to perform and willed herself to remain calm. "Come."

He stood in the doorway, looking as uncertain as she felt. The silence roared between them.

"Captain, I came to say thank you," he said softly. "You didn't have to humor me. I know it was awkward for you - "

She forced her eyes up from the carpet. "No, it really wasn't. I'm just glad you're . . . feeling better. You are feeling better, aren't you?"

"Yes, yes I am."

"Good. That's good." Her hand rose and started to reach for him before dropping back to her side. "Chakotay . . . "

He took a step towards her. "Go on."

She took a step towards him as well. She reached to touch his shoulder; a familiar gesture, and one she didn't want to become forbidden.

"Kathryn?"

She shrugged. "I'm not sure what I should say."

He nodded. "I know. Let's just say we have possibilities to explore in the future."

"Possibilities," she agreed. She met his gaze and smiled. "Now how about some herbal tea." She grinned. "Unless you'd prefer a leola root blend."

Those dimples appeared again, and Janeway knew that all was indeed right with the delta quadrant.



AAA


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beta by Alanesian

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