by Suz

Disclaimer - Paramount owns them, me just playing...hee hee.

Short and sweet.


"Can I ask you a question?"

"Of course. If you're not too worried about the answer."

Normally that comment would have elicited a smile or brief chuckle from him. Not today. Not in this moment. Was this how different he had become already? Had her brush with death brought about this change? Or was she being self-indulgent thinking that everything he did was for her in some way?

Perhaps she was over-analysing.

He spoke again. "When was the last time you touched someone?"

She sat forward, raising her knee slightly, trying to examine the dark features of his face in the poor light. "What do you mean? I always-"

Chakotay shook his head, causing starlight to reflect in his eyes. "No, I don't mean your 'Captain' touch. You use that on everyone, to give them support, to let them know that you're there for them." He moved forward slightly, grabbing her hand, shattering some unspoken barrier. "When was the last time you touched someone just for the pleasure of it? When was the last time you touched someone because *you're* the one who needs support? When was the last time you hugged someone?"

She could feel the pulse in his thumb pounding against her palm. Kathryn dragged her gaze from their hands and toward the darkness of her quarters. "I don't know. I guess..." her voice was contemplative "it must be..." her eyes widened slightly when she realised just how long it *had* been.

"Nearly six years." he stated.

Kathryn shook her head without responding verbally, somehow feeling ashamed to admit it. Even though she knew that he would never deliberately shame her, that he would never do anything that would make her embarrassed or feel unwanted. Even though she knew he loved her.

He released her hand as he sat back and sighed, running the hand over his face. "That's a hell of a long time, Kathryn. A hell of a long time without physical contact."

She had her reasons, or at least that's what she tried to tell herself. Despite her history with Tuvok, his restraint left Chakotay as the only one she could turn to. She couldn't risk that. Oh she knew that she wouldn't succumb to a kiss - she was an experienced woman. She wasn't a teenager gazing adoringly at her highschool sweetheart. It was more of the emotional side that she was concerned about. It was hard enough to control that part of her as it was around him. He was always so comforting, so willing to help...and so dangerous.

"I know." Was that her voice?

But then...wasn't that why she had joined Starfleet? She certainly hadn't become a Captain to lead a boring life. No, she wanted to find new races, fantastic discoveries, and defeat enemies of unknown danger. How was this any different? It was just another enemy to conquer.

Her theory had its own peculiar sense of logic. It was correct, but when his arms moved around her she also realised that there were many things wrong with it.

He pulled her to him, gently resting both of them against the back of the sofa. She settled against his left side, feeling his arm sneak around her back until his hand settled on her stomach. She tried to relax into his arm, realising that he was letting her decide just how close they were going to get.

Her eyes blinked open.

It wasn't enough.

She turned suddenly, pulling her legs up until she was kneeling on the sofa. Her arms found their way around his neck and she pulled him to her, burying her head into his neck. He shifted slightly, his arms surrounding her, engulfing her as her hands moved down to around his waist where her grip tightened, clutching onto his uniform, onto him, onto anything so that she could keep herself grounded in reality, repeating to herself that he was here, that he was always here and that he wouldn't leave her as all the others had.

And then it changed. The desperation that had lasted mere seconds vanished and she was amazed to discover that she had tears on her face. When had she started crying? *This* was why she hadn't hugged him. She knew it would happen. Only now it didn't feel as bad as she thought it would.

Her grip on him lessened, and they found themselves in a more comfortable hug. His hands moved in slight circles over her back, relaxing tense muscles. She almost purred and moved her head up to rest against his forehead to forehead. "You keep that up and I'll be asleep in no time."

Chakotay smiled, maintaining an eye contact that for once she didn't feel threatened by. It was as if she couldn't be bothered to hide from what either of them felt. At least for tonight.

"That's not a bad idea. You could use a good night's sleep."

She pulled back, moving her hands from his back until they rested on his arms. "How romantic."

He chuckled, causing a new smile to blossom on her own face.

"Okay," she said, releasing his arms so she could reach behind her to pull his hands from her back and hold them "I'll get some rest, but *only* if my First Officer joins me. After all, isn't a First Officer always supposed to be by his Captains side?"

The starlight caught his eyes again, and for one insane moment she thought she could see her own reflection there. It was her...yet different. She saw another woman, another Captain, another Kathryn. One who didn't find it necessary to hide behind fear or protocol.

Was such a woman possible?

As they lay against the cushions of the sofa she knew, of course, that such a woman was possible. Because today, in this moment, if only for one night...she had become that woman.


e-mail // voyager fic