"Try not to move…"
Kathryn sounded breathless. "Not a problem. I can't. In case you haven't noticed, I'm half buried under a pile of rocks…"
"When have you ever let a little thing like that stop you?" There was a tightness to Chakotay's voice that his attempted levity didn't disguise.
"Oh, that's good. Joke to hide how worried you really are. I can hear it in your voice."
"Never could get anything past you." He concentrated on moving the outer rocks first.
"And I can see it on your face."
He smiled slightly, despite the situation. "No, you can't. It's too dark in here."
"There's just enough light. Besides, I can see it with my inner eye."
"Your what?" He stopped a moment.
"My inner eye. All captains are equipped with them. It's how we see the crew making faces behind our backs. Didn't the Maquis issue them?"
Chakotay resumed moving the rubble which covered her lower body. "My 'inner eye' moved to the back of my head when I came onboard Voyager. I need it there to keep a watch on you."
"Ahhhhhhh…." She couldn't help her cry of pain.
He stopped immediately. "Where? Where does it hurt?"
"Easier to say where it doesn't hurt." Her honesty spoke volumes about how much pain she was really in.
Something snapped inside him. "Goddamn it, Kathryn. Why do you always have to wander off to explore?"
"Now you're using anger to hide how worried you are. Is it that bad?" Her voice was softer now with just a hint of fear.
"I can't see. I need to get these rocks off you."
Drawing in a deep breath, Kathryn gasped and bit down on her lip. "Sorry I can't help you. I think my right arm is broken…and my left wrist too and..." She watched as Chakotay stared down at something on the ground beside them. "What? What? Tell me…"
He looked up quickly. "Nothing."
"Chakotay, tell me."
He began moving rocks aside with more urgency now. "It's… You're bleeding…a little…"
He stopped once more and met her eyes then sighed. "Underneath you. It's not…"
Kathryn shook her head quickly and instantly regretted it as her headache intensified. "Don't lie to me. I can always tell when you're hiding the truth from me. Is it that bad?"
He looked away. "Kath…"
The fact that he couldn't look at her said a lot. "It IS that bad. I can't feel… My arm and wrist are… Pain. My head and ribs too. Nowhere else though. I can't feel anything below my waist."
His hands clawed at the rocks, his eyes on his work. "Voyager will find us soon. They'll…"
She almost laughed and wondered if it was hysteria setting in. "Ever the optimist You know as well as I do that we can't scan through these caves. That's why our comm. badges won't work either."
He glared at her. "Goddamn it, Kathryn…"
"You said that already…" Her brave attempt at humour fell flat. "Sorry. I just don't need false hope."
Looking away, he went back to work. "Maybe I do…"
Having cleared the debris from the cave-in which had covered Kathryn, Chakotay did what he could to stem the flow of blood from beneath her using strips from his tee shirt as pressure bandages. It wasn't easy because he was afraid to move her too much in case he caused further injury. He worked by touch and blind faith, with healthy doses of silent prayer added in.
Kathryn seemed to understand his need to work in silence and respected it. She saw his deep concentration but also his barely hidden fear and swallowed her pain as best she could. He didn't need to hear that.
Eventually something seemed to work and the bleeding lessened considerably. With that achieved, he covered her with his jacket and then sat back, emotionally more than physically exhausted.
Kathryn waited to see if he would speak first but he seemed removed from their situation. She wondered if he was forcing his thoughts onto something else as a way to avoid the fear he felt at the position they were in.
Finally, she could take the silence no longer. It was unnerving her. "Want to play twenty questions? Come on. I'll even let you go first."
He stared at her in disbelief. "This isn't exactly the time or place to…"
She managed a watery smile. "You've done all you can. Humour me. It'll take my mind off things. Come on. Ask a question."
He studied her a moment, traces of anger still simmering beneath the surface. "All right then. Here's one for you. Why do you always push me away?"
The question caught her off guard. "That's not exactly the kind of question I had in mind. I'd even take 'when did you lose your virginity' over that."
He merely shrugged. "This game was your idea and that's my question. I want…no…I need to know."
She cursed her suggestion for passing the time now. "Chakotay…this isn't…"
He ignored that. "So why do you? I know you're over Mark and have accepted that he moved on."
"Yes, I am…I have…" She didn't like where this was going.
"Or maybe you don't have any feelings for me…"
That got her. "That's not true…"
"Then why?" His voice was calm. "I'll ask you again. Why do you always push me away? Is it Starfleet? Do they scare you that much?"
Kathryn tried to sidestep that by injecting some humour. "That's actually four questions." She saw by his face that that wasn't going to work and sighed. "No…they don't scare me."
He nodded slowly. "But you still obey their rule about not… What is it? Not 'fraternizing' with those beneath you?"
She shook her head sadly. "Chakotay, you're not beneath me. Besides, it's not a rule. It's more a strong recommendation."
Suddenly the game was forgotten and his voice rose. "What? You mean all this time…"
Kathryn grimaced as she tried to get a deeper breath. "I couldn't. It may just be a recommendation but following Starfleet is ingrained so much in me and…"
His anger was barely controlled. "Just what does this 'recommendation' say?"
She wished they could just drop this. "That a captain can't initiate a relationship with any crewmember who serves under…"
He didn't let her finish. "Ahhh…so you can't make a move on someone below you in rank, but there's nothing to say I can't come after you. Have I got that right?"
"In theory." She closed her eyes.
"And it never occurred to you to let me in on this before now?" His anger was growing. "Oh, I see. That would be against the 'recommendation' too…and your own precious principles. Maybe you just don't want to after all…"
She looked at him and knew that he deserved her total honestly. "Look…I'm scared. OK? Is that enough for you?"
Obviously it wasn't. "Scared of what?"
She looked towards where the light was squeezing through. "Loving you…it not working out…failing you…losing you… I couldn't face being hurt like that again. We're going to be out here for a long time and…" She sighed sadly. "The fact is, Starfleet has that rule for a very good reason." She looked back at him when she heard him about to interrupt. "OK…I know. Recommendation. Either way it's there for a good reason." She looked away again and let her guard down. "There were times when I wished you'd just made the decision for me…for us…" She instantly regretted her honesty and her eyes flew to his. He was staring at her in amazement.
"Kathryn Janeway, are you saying that had I pushed, we'd have a relationship? If I'd made the first move…"
She felt confused now…flustered. "No…no…I don't know. I just…" She looked down at her legs. "Look, it's not just that. I stranded us all out here. I separated people from their loved ones. I've no right to… I don't deserve…" Her voice trailed off.
"Stop. Just stop, Kathryn." His voice rose once more and his anger returned. "I've heard more than enough of all that guilt crap from you. And then there's you thinking you always have to do it all alone. I know you're in a lot of pain and you can't even stand to let me see that."
They stared at each other for a full minute, neither one backing down. Finally, Kathryn shook her head and managed a small laugh. "Listen to us. We're like an old married couple."
He allowed a small smile as the tension eased a little. "In many ways we are."
She sighed and nodded. "Yeah…with a ship load of kids to care for."
Chakotay looked at her sadly, knowing her words for the excuse and get-out-clause they were. He kept his smile though. "Oh, the kids can take care of themselves. Mama taught them well."
'Many a true word spoken in jest' came to Kathryn's mind. She looked away. "We're not though, are we?"
This time he let his smile slip away. "Not like an old married couple, you mean? We are in all ways but one…" He sighed when she turned back to him and gave him a 'trust a man to think of that' look.
"What's that look for? This isn't about 'sex', Kathryn. If I wanted that I could get it from almost any woman on the ship and probably several of the men. And that's not my ego talking either."
The thought of him with anyone else hurt but she was determined not to show that. "What's it about then?" She shook her head before looking away. "Forget it. It doesn't really matter now, does it?"
He was quiet for a moment as he studied her. He hadn't missed the look of profound sadness on her face before she'd turned away. Suddenly he seemed to reach a decision.
She looked at him and frowned. His calmness had been replaced by a kind of determination which was a stranger to her. "Look…they're going to find us. We're going to get out of here…back to the ship. Doc will heal you and then…"
He lowered his voice. It held no menace, just a promise with maybe a hint of threat. "After that, I'm going to come to you one night and I'm going to take what you want to give but are too scared and guilt ridden to give. I'm going to claim you and take you…and you can fight all you want if it makes you feel better about it…if it appeases some of your guilt. Either way, I will have you, Kathryn…and at the end of it, the fighting and spitting tiger will be a whimpering little kitten in my arms…" He watched as she stared at him, her breathing shallow now.
"I'm going into shock…"
He gave a self-satisfied smile. "Well, believe it, baby…because I will have…"
Panic was clear in Kathryn's voice as she tried to move. "No…Chakotay…I'm going into shock. I can feel…cold and…shaky… I…"
All their words were forgotten as her panic spread to him. "Oh God…Kathryn… I'm sorry." He pulled his jacket more tightly around her. "Hang on. They'll be here soon."
He watched in horror as her eyes began to close. "Kathryn…Kathryn…please honey…hang on…"
Chakotay stood outside Kathryn's quarters, his finger hovering over her chime. For just a moment, he let his thoughts stray back over the past two weeks and the emotion of it all.
He relived how he'd sat with her in the cave as she lay unconscious, praying as he'd never prayed before. Tuvok and his team had eventually found them, Kathryn having lost a great deal of blood by that stage. The beam out to sickbay had seemed to take forever before they'd materialized into the care of Voyager's Doctor. And then he'd been pushed aside, forced to wait and worry himself sick while the Doctor and Tom had worked on her.
After that, the hours had blurred together until he'd eventually learned that she would make a full recovery, despite the deep cuts on her back and the extensive internal injuries she'd suffered. The Doctor had tried to explain them, describing in more detail than he'd needed, where the blood had come from. All he'd wanted was the Doctor's reassurance that he'd done the right thing in slowing the blood loss and keeping her warm.
Kathryn had spent a week in the Medic's care before demanding to be released to her quarters. She'd taken three days of that before he'd given in and permitted her limited duties.
During all this time, Chakotay had kept their friendship as it had always been and neither of them had discussed their time in the cave. Tonight, that was about to end. He prayed he was doing the right thing.
Kathryn tightened the tie on her robe as she crossed her living room to the replicator for a last coffee. She instinctively knew who it was when her door chimed.
Chakotay strode straight in, his eyes scanning the room until he saw her. "I've just spoken with Doc. He told me he's given you the all clear to return to full duty."
Kathryn rolled her eyes. "Thank God. I was starting to go nuts."
He smiled at that. "You've been on half shifts. You've hardly been sitting around bored."
She shrugged. "I know…but… being on 'limited duties' is too…"
He finished for her, his smile still in place. "Limited?"
She smiled also and nodded. "Yes."
Chakotay moved towards her slowly. "So, you're fully recovered?"
"Yes…" Kathryn frowned slightly when she saw the almost feral leer on his face. There was also a dangerous look in his eyes that scared and excited her all at the same time. And that fact scared her even more. She stepped back a little and her hands went to the neck of her robe, drawing the two sides together. "Yes…well…thank you for calling, Commander. As you can see, I'm fine. Now, I really need to get to bed…" She groaned inwardly and mentally kicked herself for her bad choice of words.
He watched her carefully, his dimples showing as his smile deepened. "Care to re-phrase that?"
She looked down at the floor. "I need to get some sleep before my full shift tomorrow."
"I preferred your first wording better."
She looked up at him now, grasping for some authority to her voice. "Commander…it's late and…"
It didn't work. "It's Chakotay…but it is crunch time. I told you I'd come to your quarters one night. I also told you I'd push, and push I will… No pun intended." He was backing her into the wall.
Kathryn seemed to have lost her power of speech as she found herself mesmerized by his eyes. She felt like a hunted animal as her back met the bulkhead. Finally, she managed a few words. "Chakotay…we can't…"
His smile slipped from his face but was simply replaced with a kind look. "I know you're afraid, Kathryn, but you've faced fear before. You've seen how he can be defeated. You knew him personally and you beat him. Now it's time to do that again."
He placed a hand on the wall each side of her head. It was symbolic of holding her in place. She could easily have ducked under his arms had she wanted to escape. He stared deeply into her eyes. "I'll be honest, Kathryn. I want you. I desire you. And I know that sounds selfish. And it is. But I also love you. I told you this wasn't about sex and it's not. This is about love. Wanting to be with you and make love with and to you is just an extension of that. I'd never hurt you. When I say I'll push you it's because I truly believe you won't regret it. The thought of you spending your life alone… It breaks my heart. I believe we're soul mates, but if you can't or don't return my feelings, I'll have to accept that. What I can't and won't accept is you sacrificing the rest of your life…sacrificing love, happiness, a family, because of this misplaced guilt of yours or because you're just too afraid." He sighed and shook his head.
"Life's too short for that, Kathryn. Some are lucky. Happiness finds them. Others have to look for it, even fight for it." He lifted one hand away from the wall and stroked a finger down her cheek. "I won't force you, Kathryn, but I will push you. There's a big difference there and I hope you can see it. Call it cruel to be kind, if you like."
Tears spilled from her eyes but there was also a trace of anger, mostly born of fear. "You can't decide for me. I know what's best for me."
He borrowed some of her anger. "No, Kathryn, you don't know what's best for you. That's the whole point. On a personal level, you're your own worst enemy. I can see that. Every member of this crew can see that, but there's a stubborn streak the width of the Grand Canyon running through you that won't let you admit it. However, I think you want that decision taken from you. You said it yourself on the planet…that you wished I'd…"
Still she fought. "Chakotay, I was in pain. I'd lost a lot of blood. It was the situation. It was…"
He was calm again. "Sometimes when our defences are down, that's when the truth comes out and we're at our most honest." He cupped her cheek. "Let go of the fear, Kathryn. Let yourself live. Let yourself love. Let me love you." He stared hypnotically into her eyes and lowered his voice. "Let…go…"
She tried one last argument. "I can't… If I lost you…"
He shook his head. "If something happened to you, I don't want to be left with regrets…just beautiful memories. And I want the same for you if something happened to me. Regrets increase our grief. Happy memories comfort us. Think about that."
He watched the struggle between surrender and fear. Fear was putting up the greater fight though.
"I can't. Please understand…please…" The words died in her throat as she watched his face change. The Angry Warrior was alive and well and living in the man before her. The hands went back to the wall, lower this time, trapping her.
Kathryn knew she had to fight. She also knew that the battle was on two fronts. There was the one taking place inside her, the one where her fear fought tooth and nail for survival and its comfortable place within her. The other battle was against the man pinning her to the wall of her quarters. She looked into his eyes and knew he'd be almost impossible to beat. He wouldn't rape her…she knew that. What he intended for her was far more dangerous and far more terrifying.
As his mouth closed the distance to hers, she snapped out of it. Her fear surged up through her, assimilating every other emotion in its path. She raised her hands to his chest – to push him away, she told herself.
The speed of his movements stunned her. One second she was pressing against him, the next her hands were above her head, expertly pinned to the wall by one of his larger hands.
"Don't…please…I'm not ready…"
"Yes, you are. You've been hiding for so long, from me and from yourself, that you don't even see it."
"No…Chakotay…no…" Her words were whispered and held no real conviction.
He looked at her sadly. "You're not happy, Kathryn. This is no life for anyone."
His words sparked something inside her and suddenly anger was within her grasp once more. She snatched at it, hoping it would be a suitable ally. "So, what's this then? Do you see it as part of your job description to 'fuck me happy'? Is that why you're really here?"
If her words shocked or hurt him, he hid it well. "No, it's not. And I'm not here to 'fuck you happy' as you so eloquently put it. This is about breaking down those walls you've constructed around yourself so that I can get to you and let you see the life beyond them…the happy life that could be yours….the life you deserve."
His words took the wind from her sails, leaving her floundering in the middle of an ocean of confusion. "I don't…I can't…I…"
"Yes, you can…" whispered past his lips a moment before his mouth crashed down on hers, silencing any further protest.
She struggled against him, half-heartedly if she was honest, as she tried to separate what she wanted her body to do from what it was feeling. Her lips had been parted when he'd claimed them and he'd taken full advantage of the fact, pushing his tongue into her mouth and exploring it thoroughly.
Her senses swam as he tasted her, the pressure of his mouth forcing hers to move with it and respond almost against her will.
Her arms pushed against his hold on them, but he had a powerful grip – not hard enough to bruise, but strong enough to hold her in place.
His other hand was busier. It stroked up and down her body before reaching a breast. She moaned into his mouth as his fingers found a nipple, teasing and manipulating it through the thin satin of her robe.
Becoming lost in the sensations he was forcing upon her, she was only vaguely aware of his feet between hers, nudging them apart. She felt herself toppling to the side, despite his grip on her wrists, and made the mistake of lifting one foot, intending to move it to gain a better balance.
He used that opportunity to press hard against her leg and spread her open for him. And then the hand was through the parting in her robe and up under her nightgown. Unable to close her legs, she renewed her struggle as his fingers quested and then found their target, slipping under the elastic of her panties to explore further. What they found, she knew, was an abundance of moisture produced by a body which was rapidly betraying her. Still she fought, even though she knew she'd already lost.
The panties were suddenly ripped from her body, the way now clear for his invasion. His bruising kiss ended and he let go of her hands. Numb, they fell to his shoulders and her eyes met his. The raw desire and yet deep love she saw there stunned her into a submission that was alien to her. She barely breathed as his eyes pinned her to the wall in place of his hands, but just as effective.
And then she cried out as his fingers forced themselves inside her, filling her and stretching her in a long forgotten way. He stilled for just a moment before withdrawing, only to plunge back in more deeply, tearing another cry from her.
His voice held a slight edge to it, despite its gentleness. "Let go. Come for me." As if to force that from her, his thumb found her clit.
She shook her head in some last ditch effort to 'save' herself. "No…I can't…"
His next words removed any hope she had. "I'm going to make you." She whimpered at that. "I'm going to topple that wall of yours…break through your barriers. Come on. My fingers are inside you. Feel them. How long has it been since you've climaxed on a hand other than your own?" He curled the digits buried inside her and hit a spot she had never truly believed existed before now.
Her orgasm was inevitable. He made sure of that. Her release, when it came, erupted through her. It was undeniable…unstoppable. It was beyond sexual…beyond physical. And throughout it, his eyes never left hers, bearing witness to her surrender, even if she still tried to deny it.
Drained, she slumped against him, physically and emotionally spent. She was aware of him catching her, as he always did, before lifting her and carrying her across the room. She expected him to make for her bed to complete his conquest, but instead he laid her across her desk.
He saw her confusion and leaned down to whisper in her ear. "The bed is for next time when we take each other."
She stared up at him, her mouth slightly open. Was he that sure of himself? The humming still travelling through her body told her he'd never had any doubt.
He began to strip her, torturously slowly, as he exposed her to his eyes, parting her robe and pushing it and her nightgown down over her shoulders. As he bared her breasts, he paused, his eyes drinking in the creamy mounds and dusky pink nipples. His hands stroked over them before he leaned over her, suckling gently on each one in turn.
Kathryn lay insensate, her mind begging to know why she wasn't fighting him, why she was allowing this. No answer came.
He moved lower then, his tongue tracing lazy patterns over her skin, and she vaguely wondered if they were tribal markings of some kind.
And then he stopped and stood back. He reached for her ankles and brought her legs together, then up, bent at the knees. Not once did he break eye contact, holding her in a hypnotic trance. He stood at the end of the desk and moved his hands to her knees, allowing her only a moment before he slowly parted her legs.
Within Kathryn some inner voice screamed in protest at the exposure…at the vulnerable position she was allowing him to put her in. She gasped as he pried her thighs apart, not needing anything but a token effort, until she lay fully open to him. Only now did his eyes move from hers to travel down her body, eventually coming to rest at the treasure he'd sought and found. "Beautiful."
Kathryn flushed deeply at his one word and made some attempt to close her legs but his hands moved with lightning speed back to her knees, gripping them gently and holding them open.
"Don't deny me your beauty, Kathryn." As she stared at him, he slipped his arms under her legs and slowly pulled her to the edge of the desk. One arm released her and in a small corner of her mind she realized that he was releasing himself from the confines of his pants. Then the hand was back and she felt him hot and hard against her.
She drew in a deep breath, expecting him to surge forward and fill her. She readied herself for the pain she knew would follow as a result of her long, self-imposed celibacy, but he didn't move. He held himself against her, his eyes on hers once more. The hands returned to her ankles, gripping them and bringing them around his waist. They then made their way to her hips, to hold her to him. He stared deeply into her eyes. "Anything more is up to you, Kathryn. I hope I've done what I came here to do. The rest is for you to decide."
Her breath caught in her throat as his meaning sunk in. He'd shown her what he needed her to know and now he was leaving the completion up to her. In theory anyway. She knew he still held all the control and power, that he had indeed broken through her barriers. She was his now and they both knew it.
Her walls crashed down on her at that revelation and crushed the breath from her body, much like the cave in which had started all this. Her eyes left his and travelled around the room, somehow expecting to see her ship in chaos but everything was as it had always been. Nothing had ended at her surrender, but something wonderful was waiting to begin if she just let it.
She looked back into his eyes and saw that he knew. He'd witnessed it all. She reached out to him with both hands and he released her hips to complete the connection. Pulling on his hands and using her legs around his hips, she pulled with every ounce of the strength she'd just gained, causing him to sink deeply into her now willing body.
Her head snapped back as the emptiness inside her was finally filled, over riding what physical pain there was. She felt Chakotay fall over her, his arms slipping underneath her and raising her upper body off the desk. Tears poured from her eyes and he kissed them away. "Take all the time you need, Kathryn. Let your body adjust."
She gasped for breath and shook her head. "No…now…please…" She clung to him and pushed against him as best she could.
It was all he needed. He withdrew slowly and pushed forward once more, being as gentle with her as he could. She shook her head. "Harder…please…I need…"
He knew what she needed and gave it to her. He held her against his body as he plunged repeatedly into her, building them both up. Her breathy little gasps and grunts spurred him on as he took her, sapping what control he'd had.
She tried to match his rhythm but failed miserably. All that was left for her was to take each penetration and withdrawal he subjected her to and ride the waves of pleasure which surged through her body. She felt the tightening begin deep in her belly before it travelled outwards and ignited every nerve ending it found.
A keening wail burst forth from her as it hit, taking him with her. She felt his warmth spreading up through her as she convulsed in his arms and ground her teeth together. Chakotay gloried in the sounds which issued from her, holding her tightly to him and pumped slowly now, bringing them both back down. "I have you. I have you." He almost felt as if he was soothing a child, unsure of where those feelings were coming from.
Eventually Kathryn stopped quivering in his arms but he continued to hold her as he rocked her now. He kissed her cheek and tasted the salt of her renewed tears. He stroked up and down the side of her face, his concern evident. "Did I hurt you? I'm sorry."
She shook her head. "You didn't hurt me. My stubbornness and refusal to have a life hurt me. It's been so long. You were right about that."
"Hush now. It's all right." He separated from her, then stood and lifted her, carrying her to her bed. He lay her down gently on it.
Kathryn reached for him. "Chakotay…I…"
He pressed his fingers to her lips. "Let me take care of you first. Then we'll talk."
He silently spent the next twenty minutes cleaning her up and changing her into a fresh nightgown. His only communication was gentle smiles and loving touches. She knew he was giving her the time to digest all that had happened, to quietly come to terms with it and absorb any repercussions she felt would result from their coming together. She knew now that there would be none. The world as she knew it hadn't exploded or ended. The ship and the crew continued as they had the previous day, and the day before that. They were all fine…and she would be too if she just accepted the wonderful gift she'd been offered.
After quickly washing himself, Chakotay slipped on his boxer shorts and joined her on the bed. He pulled a rug over them both and drew her into his embrace. "Please just tell me you don't regret this." He studied her face closely, committing every pore to his memory. "Talk to me, honey."
She shook her head. "I don't regret this. I have so many regrets, but this isn't one of them." She watched his face carefully. "Do you regret…?"
He stroked up and down her arm. "I don't regret it, and I don't mean that from a typical man's point of view. What about my method though? Can you forgive me that? I told you this wasn't about sex and then I go and…"
"Then you go and show me how we can love each other without the world ending. You just used the physical to reach the emotional."
He smiled at that. "So, did I 'fuck you happy'?"
Kathryn blushed deeply. "I'm sorry for that. I should have 're-phrased' that too." She smiled almost shyly. "It is fitting though."
His fingers played with her hair. "Are you happy?"
She sighed contentedly. "Yes, I am." Running her fingers over his chest she stared deeply into his eyes. "All the fears I had…of loving you or it not working out between us. Of failing you…or losing you. Being hurt again terrified me. And yes, all that guilt over the crew. Somehow though I think all my so-called reasons blended together to form one enormous fear…until I really didn't know why I was so afraid anymore. I just knew I was afraid and that I couldn't do it."
Her eyes followed the movements of her fingers. "It sounds like a contradiction but while I still have many of those fears, they don't scare me anymore because I've suddenly realized that I don't have to face them alone. I can cope with them now because I have you to help me." She looked back up at him. "And yes…I should have known that already. I did know it but I was afraid to face that fact too. It would have undermined my other fears." She smiled sadly at him. "I couldn't even let you see my fear. Showing that meant showing weakness and pain. I forgot that love is about being able to show all that…that it doesn't matter. I felt I had to look strong to you because if you loved me, then that's the woman you loved and fell for. And I do love you. I'm sorry I haven't said that before now."
He let that flow over him as he gold-plated the memory. "I love you too. And I know you love me. You've never said it like that before but I saw it in a million little ways. It's still wonderful to hear it though."
She snuggled closer to him and they were quiet for a moment, both treasuring the moment. Eventually Kathryn pulled back a little and studied his face, playing a finger over his lips. "I didn't know what was missing until…" She frowned slightly. "It's complicated. I was missing something I'd never had and at the same time I didn't even see that I was missing it. And it scared me to death to even consider thinking about it. I was so afraid." She sighed.
He pushed her hair behind her ear, then kissed her forehead. "It's not complicated at all. It's simple in the end. It's only complicated if you chose to make it that way. The trick comes in accepting rather than questioning."
Her hand snaked down his chest and around his waist. "I fought for survival twice this week. One was physical. The other was for my soul which I didn't even realize was in such danger. And each time you saved me. You stormed my defences and made me see reason. I wasn't capable of doing that on my own." That brought tears to her eyes which she tried to blink away. Instead they spilled over and slipped down her cheeks.
Chakotay pulled her against him more tightly. "Let it all out, honey."
And she did. The floodgates opened and she found that once she started, she couldn't stop. He held her until her tears ceased and dried. He didn't say anything, just stroked up and down her back and rocked her gently.
Kathryn dropped her head back and smiled softly at him. "I'd forgotten all this, being able to cry in front of someone without shame or embarrassment, the wonder of holding each other afterwards…the true beauty in just being together." She shook her head sadly. "I guess the more time passed, the easier it was to accept being alone, to forget what being loved is like."
Her words pained him. "You were always loved, Kathryn, right from the moment I set eyes on you."
Her eyes filled with tears again. "I know. I saw it and felt it too. Somehow though… I don't know. It slipped away and life out here took over. I saw them all and how much they missed their families. I felt I had no right to think about being happy when I'd done that to them. The more I felt for you, the more scared I got. My fears just grew and…"
He reached for her hand and squeezed it gently. "It's the dark corner syndrome. You fear the unknown…fear what's there in the dark…what you can't see. Once you shine a light on it, you see there was nothing to fear there at all. You were afraid of what was in the dark, but the trouble is, if you don't face it, you eventually fear the dark itself." He studied her face closely. "What about now? How do you feel right at this moment?"
Drawing in a deep breath, she held it a moment and then released it. "Now? Now I don't know what I was scared of. Well, I do but…." She thought for a moment. "I think maybe that's what I was most scared of…that once I'd tasted this, I could never let it go again. Now that I have tasted it, I know I can't go back…but that comforts me now. It doesn't scare me like I thought it would. Lying here like this with you…I've never felt safer." She leaned up and kissed him gently on the lips. "You're my light. You chased away all my darkness…even though I fought hard against you. I'm so glad you didn't give up on me."
He sighed contentedly as he pulled her against him. "I just saw it as a game of 'Hide And Seek'. You hid. I sought. I found."
Kathryn squealed as he suddenly leaned up and rolled her beneath him, pinning her hands over her head once more. He wormed his way between her legs and pressed against her. "And you know the best rule of that game?"
She stared at him through passion filled eyes. Words escaped her and she only managed to shake her head.
He grinned down at her and at the same moment pressed himself deeply into her body. "Finders keepers……"
She was quite literally in no position to argue with that.