Warnings: Shades of the Aliens Made Them Do It plot contrivance.
Categories: Ship, Het, Angst, Romance, AMTDI
Characters: Janeway, Chakotay
A/N: Written as my entry in the Spring 2002 Blue Alert fanfic contest. It didn't win. Set anytime between Hunters and Endgame.
Disclaimer: Paramount owns the universe, but you knew that.
"Some beings approach who are in need of our assistance," the young woman announced solemnly.
Her companion nodded in agreement. "I feel it as well. There are two in particular who could benefit greatly from a night's lodging here."
"I will hail them."
"Captain, we are receiving a hail."
"Onscreen." Captain Kathryn Janeway exchanged a look with her first officer as she stood.
A young alien woman with somewhat feline features appeared on the viewscreen. "Greetings, alien vessel. We welcome you to Lao-Naia space and hope you will take the time to visit our planet. I am Ambassador Blai."
"Thank you for the invitation, Ambassador. I am Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Federation starship Voyager. We would welcome the chance to visit your world."
Arrangements were made and a course was set. Janeway retired to her ready room, and Commander Chakotay followed.
"Are they too friendly or am I growing cynical?" she asked immediately.
"They seem too friendly. But they're willing to trade and we do need some supplies."
Janeway sighed. They always needed supplies. There were times when she was seriously sick of this journey. Too few supplies, too many hostile aliens, too many tough choices, no personal life.
She turned to the replicator and ordered them each a coffee.
"Two sugars, Kathryn," he said.
As always, she ignored his request and handed him a coffee with one sugar. And as always, he didn't push the issue.
Chakotay watched his captain with concern, recognizing her discontent. Not for the first time, he wished she would take the shoulder he was always offering. And, he admitted to himself, he wished she'd take a few other things he had offered long ago.
But as long as she was his captain, they couldn't cross that line. Someday. But not now. Not on the ship. Not in this quadrant.
Janeway surprised herself when she decided to beam down to the planet with Chakotay instead of Tuvok. A captain and first officer on the same away mission, alone, and in a first contact situation. Well, it wasn't exactly Starfleet by the book. Later, she would have to admit that she had no idea why she had done such a thing.
Chakotay, for his part, wasn't complaining. He knew, in a vague sort of way, that he probably should have questioned her. It was his job, especially when her actions seemed to lack a certain logic. But he didn't say anything. And, rather oddly, neither did Tuvok.
The planet's inhabitants were hospitable enough. They weren't subjected to long, stuffy diplomatic formalities, slavering fanfare, pushy merchants, hostility of any kind, or even the overenthusiastic friendliness that had sometimes signaled trouble in the past.
After dinner had been eaten and some trading arrangements had been made, Ambassador Blai interrupted the casual socializing with the offer of a gift.
"A gift?" Janeway asked.
"I cannot explain. I must show you."
The command team exchanged a glance. Something wasn't quite right; it didn't feel dangerous, and yet that was precisely the problem. It should have.
"You are wise to be cautious," their host said. "But please, trust me for just a moment.
They complied, unwilling to offend their host. She showed them to a cabin, set back in the woods on the edge of the city. They followed her inside.
"It is a night's lodging," Blai said. "And yet it is far more. There is an anomaly in this place. Once you walk back out that door, you will remember nothing of the time you spent inside this building."
Janeway and Chakotay exchanged a glance.
"Whatever you say to each other tonight, in this place, will never go farther because even you will not know what happened here. There will be no need to promise you will never mention certain events because neither of you will possess the memories of those events. There is a certain freedom to be found in a night of no consequences."
The implications were all too clear. Janeway locked eyes with Chakotay. Could they allow themselves this? How could they? And yet, how could they not?
Neither noticed when Blai left. They stared at each other. She was trembling. The longing he had kept hidden for so long showed plainly on his face.
Oddly, neither of them questioned the validity of Blai's statement. Both left their tricorders untouched, distracted from logical action by their emotions.
"Dance with me," Chakotay suggested softly.
Only then did Janeway notice the soft music playing in the cabin. The word protocol floated through her head, but for once it had no hold on her. A powerful sense of freedom filled her and she stepped into his arms.
He enfolded her against his chest. That was where she belonged, close to his heart. His eyes drifted closed and he rested his cheek against her soft hair. The smell of her shampoo filled his nostrils and he cherished the moment as feelings long suppressed were allowed to rise and swell within him.
She looked up at him and her breath caught as she witnessed all that he felt for her reflected in his handsome face.
Their lips met.
It was a tender kiss, full of meaning. Lips traveled slowly, tugged gently, as hands slid through hair and bodies pressed together.
Lips parted, and they stood clinging to one another for support. He opened his eyes to gaze at her. "I love you."
A tremor ran through her at the words. Her hand came up to wipe a tear from his cheek. "I love you, too."
"Oh Kathryn." He clutched her to his chest and pressed a kiss to the top of her head. "Do you know how long I've waited to hear that?"
"As long as I've waited to say it. I had hoped that you knew. I knew."
"I thought that you did. I hoped that you did. But I wanted to hear it; to say it. I love you, Kathryn. So much. So very much."
They held each other and savored the moment.
Eventually, she broke the silence. "Make love to me."
"Are you sure?"
"Never been more sure of anything."
His lips descended to caress hers once again. Her hands were already opening his uniform; tugging his shirt from his pants; sliding underneath the fabric to reach up and caress hot skin.
They spent the night desperately trying to make up for all they couldn't have in the light of day. Finally, spent, they lay in each other's arms, both dreading the coming dawn.
"I knew that I wanted you the moment you stepped between Tom and I on the bridge, that first time. I knew that I respected you, and would serve you with pride, the moment you gave the order to destroy the Caretaker's array. My feelings towards you grew as our friendship developed, and I don't know exactly when I fell in love with you, because now it feels like I've always loved you. But I know when I first realized it."
"We were on the bridge, and you said something I'll never forget."
"There's coffee in that nebula." He smiled fondly. "When you said that, I knew that I loved you."
"Wow," she said softly, remembering the incident which had inspired the comment. "That long ago?"
"Yes, that long ago," he answered.
She kissed the hot flesh beneath her cheek. "I want to remember this."
"I know. So do I."
"It's best that we can't."
"A choice?" Chakotay demanded. His voice conveyed the anger they both felt at this news. "You said we wouldn't remember. There was no mention of a choice."
Blai cocked her head. "Why are you angry? You may still choose not to remember. If that is your desire, nothing has changed."
"But it has," Chakotay replied. He didn't try to explain what he meant. Kathryn remained uncharacteristically silent.
When they were alone again he turned wordlessly and pulled her into his arms. He knew what they would choose; what they had to choose. They both knew.
Then she surprised him. "You remember, Chakotay. You remember for both of us. I could never doubt your love for me; I never have. You show it in so many ways. But I've given you so many reasons to doubt what I feel for you, and I don't want you to have to wonder ever again. I love you. I want you to know that I love you."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes. I can't afford to keep this memory, although I want to with all my heart. But I can't take it from you. I don't want to take it from you. And I really don't think I need to take it from you. Tell me about it, when we get back to the Alpha Quadrant. Okay?"
"If you're sure."
"I am. Promise you'll tell me every detail, once we reach Federation space."
"I promise, Kathryn. One more kiss?"
"One more kiss, my love. One more. Never forget that I love you."
"And I love you. You may not be able to remember this, Kathryn, but I won't ever let you doubt that I love you, too."
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, May 2002.