Turbolift Confessions or Moonshine Madness -- NC17

 

Disclaimer: All Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount. No copyright infringement is intended.

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After taking a healthy sip, B’Elanna passed the mug to her captain, hissing between her teeth as the liquor burned its way down her throat. She’d have to have a word with the Engineering crew. If they were going to set up an illegal still, they’d better learn how to make better hooch than this. It was absolute rot gut, but it was all they had, so who was she to complain. She sniggered and Kathryn glanced at her.

"What’s so funny?" Kathryn took a slug of the drink and waited until the burn subsided and her vision cleared before she turned back towards her Engineer, waiting for an answer.

"I was just thinking how ridiculous it is that we’re the ones stuck here, of all places. The Chief Engineer and the Captain. The two people who could probably fix in no time, whatever it is that is wrong with the turbolifts and transporters, but no, we’re here, stuck in this lift with a barrel of toxic moonshine." "B’Elanna tapped the keg. "Make that half a barrel now."

Kathryn shrugged. "It could be worse. It could have been a vat of Leola Root Surprise and at least we’re not on our own." She leaned a little closer to B’Elanna. "Don’t tell anyone, but I hate being in small spaces on my own."

B’Elanna took a closer look at her commanding officer and then sat back and shook her head. "Noooo… I don’t believe it. You’re claustrophobic!? How the hell did you get through basic?"

Kathryn waggled her fingers at her. "With no fingernails. I chewed them to the quick, it was torture." She took another deep draught of the liquor and then handed the cup to B’Elanna. "I mean, I got through - just, but I don’t like being in small spaces and avoid it if I can." Again she leaned close. "But not a word, do you hear. Chakotay would never let me live it down."

B’Elanna snorted, spraying a bit of drink as she did so. She wiped her mouth on her sleeve and nodded. "Like most men, he can be such a pig sometimes. I promise, Captain. Your secret is safe with me. Besides, I have and equally embarrassing phobia…"

Kathryn waited while B’Elanna had another drink, and then prompted. "Well, what is it? Don’t keep your captain waiting."

B’Elanna looked over her shoulder as if making sure that no one else could hear. "I’m afraid of heights." She gave an exaggerated nod as Kathryn’s eyes widened in disbelief. "I know, its stupid, but it’s true. I even get a bit wobbly when I’m on the upper deck of engineering looking down at the warp core." She passed the mug back to Kathryn. "Like you, I’ve learned to live with it, but sometimes I have the scariest dreams. I even did some orbital skydiving in the hope that I could overcome my fear."

"Did it work?"

B’Elanna shrugged. "Well, I’m not scared of jumping from a shuttle at exospheric altitudes, but I still don’t like looking down at the warp core. Go figure."

Kathryn laughed.

B’Elanna drained the last mouthful from the mug. "You know, this is growing on me."

Kathryn deadpanned. "That’s a distinct possibility. I have no idea what they used to make this. We could very well be spending the next week in sickbay having our livers regenerated."

"I hadn’t thought of that, but the damage is probably already done." B’Elanna turned to the keg. "Time for another refill."

She tipped the barrel over and poured some more into the mug. Righting the keg, she took a swig and passed it back to Kathryn.

Kathryn lifted the mug in a toast. "Here’s to livers. And may we still have one when we get out of here."

"Here, here." B’Elanna frowned. "Kahless, what’s taking them so long?" She tapped her combadge. "Torres to Paris."

"Tom here, B’Elanna. How are you holding up?"

"We’re sitting down." She rolled her eyes at Kathryn. "How much longer, Tom? We’re going to run out of moonshine soon if you don’t get us out of here, and that’s not going to be pretty."

"Moonshine?"

"I found the still in engineering and I was taking it to the mess hall when the lift got jammed. It’s all we’ve got to drink, besides, its helping pass the time."

"Captain? Are you all right?" That was Chakotay’s voice.

"I’m very well thank you, Commander." She chortled. "Unfortunately, I’m leading our Chief engineer astray."

On the bridge Tom and Chakotay looked at one another with eyes wide with shock as a giggle, which sounded frighteningly like B’Elanna, came over the comm. Chakotay used his ‘concerned friend’ voice. "We’re working as fast as we can, Captain. I’d advise not drinking too much of that moonshine if you can avoid it."

"Too late." Kathryn and B’Elanna both snorted and chortled, Chakotay and Tom stared at each other. Kathryn spoke again in a decidedly slurred voice. "I’m going to designate this as shore leave for me and B’Elanna. You have the bridge, Commander. Try not to break anything while we’re stuck here."

There was the sound of stifled laughter from some of the bridge crew and Chakotay looked at Tom and jerked his head towards the ready room. They jogged down the steps and Chakotay nodded at Tuvok as he passed, silently handing over the bridge.

As soon as the doors slid shut behind them, Chakotay continued his conversation. "Umm, Kathryn. How much have you had to drink?"

"Not nearly enough, Chakotay. You’re in my ready room aren’t you?" There was a loud whisper as Kathryn spoke to B’Elanna. "He only ever calls me Kathryn when no one can hear."

"Oh… ." B’Elanna thought that over for a minute. "Yeah… he does, doesn’t he?"

"B’E, I think you’ve probably had enough too." Tom tried to sound conciliatory. He didn’t want to have a domestic over the comm. It didn’t work very well. Klingons were not renowned for being reasonable at the best of times, but with a skin full of hard liquor they were even less likely to be agreeable.

"I’ll know when I’ve had enough, thank you, Helmboy. You just fly us in a straight line and make sure those baboons in Engineering get us out of here soon." Another loud whisper. "He can be so overly protective sometimes. Its sweet, but considering I could rip his arm off and beat him to death with it, its kind of pointless."

"Good point. It’s a ‘man’ thing. Chakotay does that too. It’s sweet but a little irksome."

The two men in question were standing at Kathryn’s desk looking at one another with rather pained expressions. This could get very awkward. Chakotay turned off the transmitter at their end and spoke to Tom. "We should monitor them. They sound like they’ve had a lot to drink. If they get sick or in some sort of drunken argument, it could get nasty."

"I can’t imagine them fighting… but then again, we are talking about B’E and the Captain. Yeah, I think you’re right. We’d better keep an eye on them."

Chakotay pointed to the chair. "Pull up a seat. Engineering."

"Carey here, Commander"

"How are you going with the malfunctions? Any idea when you’ll be finished with the repairs?"

"No, I’m afraid not, Commander. That ion surge took out gel packs all over the ship and we have only one working replicator until such time as we can get more of the new gel packs in place. I’ll keep you posted."

"As quickly as you can, Joe. The Captain is getting a little impatient."

He could almost hear Joe Carey snap to attention. "I’ll redouble our efforts, Commander. Carey out."

 

Back in the lift the women were passing the mug back and forth. Kathryn looked sideways at her Engineer. "B’Elanna, as long as we’re getting drunk together, I think you should call me Kathryn."

B’Elanna smiled. "Thanks Kathryn." She lifted the mug. "reH nay'meylIjyIn Dujablu'jaj"

Kathryn took the mug after B’Elanna had taken a deep swig. "I’m not even going to attempt to say that. My tongue will cramp. What does it mean?"

B’Elanna smiled. "May your dishes always be served alive."

Kathryn laughed and lifted the mug. "You Klingons sure know how to live it large. Slainte."

They both leant back against the wall of the lift with a sigh. After a few minutes Kathryn asked quietly. "B’Elanna, are you happy?"

The two men in the ready room sat up straight and stared at the comm. then Tom looked up at Chakotay. Their eyes met and Tom gave him a wan smile.

B’Elanna shifted so she could see her Captain. "You know … I am, and sometimes I’m very happy and I never thought I would be. If you’d told me at the beginning of this journey that I was going to fall in love with that petaQ Paris and be happy, I would have disembowelled you on the spot, but I do love him and life couldn’t be better."

"I’m so pleased for you B’Elanna. He’s a good man. I always knew he was. You two deserve all the happiness you can get."

There was a sound of shuffling and then a question that made Chakotay hold his breath. "What about you, Kathryn? Are you happy?"

There was a long pause and then Kathryn answered in a quiet voice. "The short answer is no, but I have to qualify that." She turned to B’Elanna and looked at her intently. "Nothing I say leaves this room, okay?"

B’Elanna raised the mug. "What happens on shore leave, stays on shore leave."

Kathryn chuckled. "Yes, well. I just worry that these walls have ears, but I’m too drunk to care at the moment." She huffed out a breath. "I’m lonely, B’Elanna. Desperately so, sometimes." There was a small hitch in her voice and Chakotay’s heart wanted to break.

He could feel Paris’s eyes on him, but he didn’t dare look up. All he wanted to do was race down there, haul her into his arms and take away all the hurt, but that was impossible and not just because of the fact that he couldn’t get to her. The physical barriers were the least of their problem. It was the emotional barriers that were the issue and until such time as they were back in the Alpha Quadrant, there was nothing that either of them could do. Or so he thought.

Chakotay and Tom could hear the tension in the air. B’Elanna soothed quietly. "I’m so sorry, Kathryn. I didn’t know."

Kathryn huffed a laugh. "That was the idea. You’re not supposed to know."

"What about Chakotay. You’re good friends aren’t you? Can’t he help?"

Kathryn leapt on that one. "God, no. He’s the last person I can go to for help."

B’Elanna was obviously confused. "But I thought he was your best friend."

"Oh he is. The very best. But there are… complications."

"Oh, you mean because he’s in love with you."

Kathryn’s head snapped around. "How…? Did he tell you that?"

B’Elanna snorted. "Hardly. But it doesn’t take a empath to figure it out…with either of you."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, you’re in love with him too, aren’t you? The crew have just assumed for years that you were in love with one another. Don’t tell me it’s not true."

Tom looked up at Chakotay again. He was as white as a ghost and all Tom could think of was his mother saying to him… ‘if you eavesdrop, you’re bound to hear something you don’t want to.’ This was make or break time for Chakotay.

Kathryn sounded indignant. "Well, of course I love him. I have for years, but that doesn’t change anything."

Tom could almost see the weight lift from Chakotay’s shoulders. The poor man looked like he was going to collapse in relief… or be sick. He wasn’t sure which.

B’Elanna sounded indignant now. "Why doesn’t it change anything? He loves you and you love him, its simple isn’t it? And please don’t give me any Targ-shit about protocol. We’ve bent, twisted, mangled and mutilated protocols so many times on this vessel that that argument just doesn’t hold water anymore. Hell, if we’d stuck to protocol, all the Maquis would be in the brig, I wouldn’t be Chief Engineer, Tom wouldn’t be helmsman, Seven wouldn’t be here, let alone Neelix and the borg brats. Protocol on this ship got blasted to smithereens along with the Caretaker array."

There was a moments silence and then Kathryn spoke. "It’s complicated, B’Elanna. Pass the mug."

"I think this just what you need. Some liquid courage."

"Yes, being drunk is really helping."

"Well, you’re talking at least. That’s a start. But you need to tell Chakotay about this. The man’s a walking open wound. For your sake as well as his, you have to have some closure. Just tell him. You don’t have to become lovers, but at least he’d know."

Kathryn sighed. "If I told him, there’d be no going back. We’d be lovers before I could say ‘which side of the bed would you like’. I have very little resistance where that man’s concerned. You don’t know how many times I’ve almost taken that step. There have been many close calls over the years. It would be all or nothing and we’ve been at the nothing stage for an awfully long time."

"Well, if you want my vote… I say go for it." B’Elanna refilled the mug and passed it to Kathryn. "Life’s too short, Kathryn and out here there are no guarantees. Who’s to say that we’re all going to make it home alive? If you lost him tomorrow would it be any easier to deal with just because you’d never admitted your feelings, or worse because the grief would be tainted with regret." She took a deep draught and handed it to Kathryn and pointed at her. "Now, I’m just at that really articulate stage of drunkenness at the moment so listen carefully. When we get out of here, consider yourself still on shoreleave. I want you to go to him, tell him what you’ve told me and just do what comes natural…. Damn that articulate phase wore off quickly, didn’t it? Slurring’s next I think."

Kathryn chuckled. "You know what, B’Elanna. You make a lot of sense but I’m not sure whether that’s the liquor’s effect or not." Kathryn sipped slowly as she thought about what B’Elanna had said. It did make a lot of sense and not just to the inebriated part of her brain. Her mind was wandering, painting pictures of domestic bliss with Chakotay. He’d be there by her side, not only as her second in command but as her life partner. The idea had great merit. She mumbled quietly. "I wouldn’t be alone anymore."

B’Elanna took the mug from her and agreed. "No, you wouldn’t. There has to be something in that." She took a swig.

Kathryn turned to her companion. There was a fire in her eyes that B’Elanna hadn’t seen in years. Kathryn grabbed the mug from her. "What was that toast again?"

"reH nay'meylIjyIn Dujablu'jaj"

"reH nemalinDujub….. whatever." Kathryn raised the tankard high and then took a great gulp.

B’Elanna frowned. "You’re not going to eat him alive are you?

Kathryn just stared at her.

B’Elanna shook her head. "Forget I said that."

Kathryn snorted a laugh. "I don’t know, B’Elanna. I think you might be on to something there."

Both women dissolved into laughter.

 

Tom and Chakotay were both sitting at the Captain’s desk in stunned silence. Tom was almost as astonished by Chakotay’s changing facial expressions and colour as he was by the revelations that were unfolding in the turbo lift. Poor Chakotay’s face had gone from white, to red, to white again, with varying shades of pink and green in there for good measure. When they’d decided to monitor the Captain and B’Elanna’s conversation, they’d never imagined something like this. Tom looked across the desk at the big guy. He was a wreck but a happy wreck. Tom just hoped that the Captain kept to plan and followed through with her declaration. It would make one first officer very happy not to mention a whole ship load of crew who had wanted this for years.

"Carey to bridge."

"Yes, Joe. How are things going?" There was an urgency in Chakotay’s voice now. His future hinged on how quickly they could get the Captain out of that stuck turbo lift because, like Chakotay, Tom had the feeling that if left to her own devices for too long she was likely to talk herself out of it.

"We’ve got transporters on line, Commander and most of the replicators."

"Good work, Joe. Transport the Captain and B’Elanna to the ready room."

"Aye, Commander."

A few seconds later the two very inebriated women appeared on the ready room floor. Both nearly overbalanced and fell backwards as the support of the lift wall disappeared from behind them. "What the …?" Kathryn spluttered. "Ooo, Chakotay, are we free?"

Both men had trouble keeping a straight face.

Both Kathryn and B’Elanna were sitting on the ground leaning against each other, looking very dishevelled and the harder they tried to behave in a sober manner, the funnier they looked.

"Tom, you rescued us." B’Elanna held her arms out to her husband and he came over and hauled her to her feet. She fell into his arms and mumbled against him. "My hero. I’m very tired. Take me home."

Tom looked towards Chakotay.

Chakotay gave him a nod. "Good night, B’Elanna."

B’Elanna looked up blearily. "’Nite, Chakotay. ‘Nite Kathryn." Then, leaning heavily against Tom they staggered towards the door. Just before they triggered the opening mechanism, B’Elanna swung around and pointed in Kathryn’s general direction. "Remember, Kathryn. You’re still on shore leave."

By this time Kathryn was on wobbly legs as well, after Chakotay had helped her up. She was leaning against him and gave a haphazard wave in the vague direction of the departing couple. Then she looked up at Chakotay and slapped him on the chest. "Coffee. I need coffee and lots of it. Damn, I’m going to regret this tomorrow. I really was only going to have one sip."

Chakotay chuckled. "Come on. We’ll sit down on the couch. Do you want me to get a detox spray from the Doctor?"

Kathryn slapped his chest again and grabbed a handful of his jacket. "God no. Whatever you do, don’t call him. I couldn’t bear the lecture. Just let me sit for a bit and have some coffee. I’ll be better in no time."

Chakotay had his doubts, but he wasn’t about to argue with her. She was on shore leave after all.

Kathryn flopped down onto the couch, and while Chakotay got the coffee, her head lolled forward and her eyes closed. He ordered a pot. It looked like they would need it. He poured her a cup and then placed it in her hand. Her head jolted up and she looked at him with unfocused eyes. "Thank you. What would I do without you?"

Chakotay smiled. "I have no idea. Now have a sip." He helped nurse the cup as she lifted it to her mouth.

She took a sip and smiled. "Ahh, I feel better already." She had another sip and in no time had finished that cup. He poured her a fresh one. She sighed happily. "There’s nothing that coffee can’t cure."

"I’m beginning to think you might be right about that."

She smiled at him. Her eyes were a little clearer, but they still seemed to have a mind of their own. "So what did you get up to while B’Elanna and I were on shore leave in the turbo lift?"

Chakotay tugged on his ear and looked around the ready room. "Umm, nothing really. Just, ahh, co-ordinated the repairs from the bridge and checked up on you and B’Elanna."

Kathryn nodded but her brow furrowed slightly at his reaction. She let it ride. "Has Joe got everything under control now?"

Chakotay nodded. "Yes, all the main systems are back on line. Some of the secondary backups are still in need of repair, but they should be finished within the hour. Lucky we were in such a safe sector of space. The Revaran had been monitoring the ion storm and contacted us to see if we needed assistance, I thanked them and said that we might dock at their nearest Starbase for supplies. They were very accommodating, which was nice for a change."

Kathryn nodded. Her head had slumped to the side and was now resting on Chakotay’s shoulder. It looked like the caffeine hit was only short lived. He retrieved her cup as she wriggled further down and before he knew what was happening, her head was in his lap and she was fast asleep. He watched her for a moment and giving into the temptation, stroked her cheek and swept the few stray strands of hair away from her face. She smiled in her sleep and snuggled in further. Chakotay reached around the back of the couch, found a blanket and carefully placed it over her. In a quiet voice he ordered the lights to half and, with the woman he loved resting in his lap, he closed his eyes and pretended this was how it always was.

He wasn’t sure how much later it was when the door chimed, jolting him awake. Kathryn was still sound asleep with her head on his lap. He checked her quickly and smiled. Her hand was tucked up under her cheek and she looked so peaceful. "Computer, who is at the ready room doors?"

"Ensign Harry Kim."

"Come."

Harry hesitated just inside the doors after looking up and finding Chakotay on the couch with the Captain asleep on his lap but he recovered quickly. Smiling broadly, he nodded when Chakotay put his fingers to his lips for quiet.

Tiptoeing to the upper level he handed Chakotay the Engineering report. Chakotay nodded and mouthed a thank you. Then with a quick glance at his sleeping Captain, Harry turned and left the room. Chakotay keyed open the report and began reading. A hand drifted up and grabbed the padd. Kathryn mumbled. "Is that the report on the malfunctions?"

She didn’t move, but opened one eye and had a quick look at the summary page then handed it back to Chakotay. Her arm hugged his leg. "It’s all yours."

He smiled. "Thanks."

She wriggled into a more comfortable position and he tugged the blanket up over her shoulder. He held the padd in one hand and rested his other hand on her waist. She didn’t move or shrug it away, so he left it there. The report revealed nothing that he didn’t already know, so he placed it on the couch beside him once he’d finished reading it and spent some quality time studying the woman on his lap. She was beautiful. Even after all these years of struggle and turmoil. His heart ached when he thought of her drunken confession about being so lonely. B’Elanna was right. She hid it well, but he should have known. He was angry with himself for not realising.

She was limited with her interactions. As Captain she had to maintain a certain distance from the crew, and here in the Delta Quadrant there were no other line officers of her rank with whom she could socialise. She was, in essence, on her own as much as he tried to convince her otherwise. As he studied her face his thumb began to rub back and forth where it rested on her side.

She wriggled and mumbled. "That tickles."

He stopped and Kathryn flopped over onto her back and looked up at him through bleary eyes. She took his hand and held it against her stomach. "Thank you for letting me use you as a pillow."

He smiled. "My pleasure." He wasn’t sure if she knew just how pleasurable it had been. A dream come true.

"You have a very comfy lap. I wish I’d known sooner."

"It’s always been there, Kathryn. All you had to do is ask."

She stared up at him for a long moment. She squeezed his hand, and then letting it go, she sat up and ran her fingers through her hair. She groaned. "Oh dear God… my head."

He jumped up and ordered some analgesics and water from the replicator. "Here. These might help."

She took them gratefully and then slumped backwards. "I haven’t done that for a while. Talk about rocket fuel. I don’t know what that stuff was, but B’Elanna has got a thing or two to teach those engineers of hers. What’s wrong with Starfleet these days? Don’t they teach them how to make decent moonshine anymore?"

Chakotay laughed. "I didn’t realise it was a course at the academy."

She looked at him out of the corner of one eye. "You didn’t? Must have just been for those of us in Sciences. Illegal distilleries 101. We had a stupendous one on the Icarus. Even Owen Paris used to imbibe on occasion."

"I didn’t know you had such a chequered past, Captain Janeway. What other iniquitous activities did you get up to?"

She waggled her eyebrows. "None that I’m going to tell you about just at the moment. I may be drunk, but I’m not that drunk."

"Maybe we just need a few more glasses of that hooch to loosen your tongue?"

Kathryn shook her head gingerly. "That wasn’t the only thing that stuff loosened. I’m feeling decidedly dilapidated at the moment. I’m not going near it again. That Chief Engineer of mine led me astray."

"I think I remember you saying that you were the ringleader."

"I’m the Captain, so the buck stops here, I suppose. Although I think it was a co-operative effort." Kathryn took another sip of the water and huffed out a breath. She turned to Chakotay. "She’s a fine person our B’Elanna."

Chakotay nodded. "Yes, she’s a good friend. To both of us."

Kathryn turned away slowly and nodded. "I guess you’re right."

Chakotay opened his mouth to speak, just as Kathryn began to say something. They both stopped. Kathryn indicated that he go first but he shook his head and insisted that she speak.

She smiled. "I was just going to say that it’s probably time for me to go to bed. Shift’s over isn’t it?"

Chakotay nodded. "A couple of hours ago, in fact."

"Have I been asleep for that long?"

He shrugged. "A while I guess. I wasn’t really paying attention."

She gave him a disbelieving look, but didn’t question him. "Would you like to escort me home, Commander? There might even be a late dinner in it, if you play your cards right." He didn’t answer straight away, so she tried to lighten the moment. "That’s supposed to be a good thing, but if you’ve got a better offer… like Leola Root Surprise, I’d understand."

Chakotay chuckled. "That’s not much of a choice you know." He grinned at her outraged look. "I’m joking. I’d love to join you for dinner. I’ll even cook. I don’t think you’re in much shape to even order coffee at the moment."

"Like I said. What would I do without you? Now help an old lush up, will you? Damn. Don’t ever let me do that again."

Chakotay took her hand and helped her up off the couch and then tucked her hand under his arm. "I’ll try."

They left by the corridor entrance and made it back to her quarters without encountering any crew. She was grateful for that, she was looking rather bedraggled and wobbly. They entered her quarters and she extricated her hand. "Help yourself to anything from the replicator. I’ll just be a moment." She excused herself and headed into the bathroom, emerging five minutes later looking fresher and a little more like her old self. "Ahh, that’s better. Now, what have you got there?"

There was a steaming bowl of vegetable soup on the table and some chunky homestyle bread. Chakotay smiled. "Soup and bread. I thought it was best for you to have something light. God knows what that stuff has done to your insides."

"Oh, I think I’ll survive. There’s life in the old girl yet." He harrumphed as he held her chair for her to sit and then she smiled across at him as he sat down. "This smells delicious. Thank you."

He smiled. "Anytime."

They ate in silence. Kathryn managed about half of her soup before she sat back with a sigh. "That was lovely, but I won’t risk over doing it. Would you like a coffee or tea?"

"A tea, please."

Kathryn recycled her dishes while she ordered their tea and coffee. "I wonder what happened to the liquor from the turbo lift?"

Chakotay grinned. "It’s probably still in there."

Her head shot around and she gave him a startled look. "I hope not. We could have ship wide disaster if that’s the case."

He laughed. "Don’t worry. I had security escort the small amount that was left to the mess hall. I’m worried about what Neelix might make of it though. If my oatmeal is laced with it tomorrow morning, I’m blaming you."

Kathryn smiled broadly. "I shudder to think."

Chakotay finished his tea and stood to recycle his cup. Kathryn was sitting with her head resting on the back of the couch, her eyes half closed.

"I’d better let you get some sleep. I’ll see you in the morning, Kathryn. Are you right to get yourself to bed?"

She lifted her head slowly and nodded. A sad look passed over her face. She thought about what she and B’Elanna had discussed in the lift and maybe it was the liquor still talking but she blurted out. "Don’t go yet. Please."

Chakotay stopped in his tracks and turned. "Sure. Is there anything I can do for you, Kathryn?"

Taking a deep breath, she patted the couch next to her. "No, just come and sit. I’d like to talk. If that’s okay?" He sat down beside her and she surprised him by leaning her head against his shoulder. "I just wanted to see if your shoulder was as comfortable as you lap." She snuggled closer and he put his arm around her, pulling her close.

Looking up, she spoke, her breath feathering across his neck. "It is, by the way. Very comfortable."

"I’m glad I could accommodate." He closed his eyes and breathed deeply.

Kathryn laid her hand on his chest and spoke quietly. "B’Elanna and I had a talk today in the turbolift."

"Hmmmm?"

"It was quite enlightening. She’s very happy you know. She and Tom are good together. I’m pleased for them."

"Yes, they are good together. I’m pleased for them too." His heart was beating wildly and he couldn’t get his mind to work properly.

"She asked me a question." Kathryn could feel him tense. Now she wasn’t so sure if she could go through with this.

"What did she ask you, Kathryn?"

She was quiet for a moment or two and then surprised him with a question. "Are you happy, Chakotay?"

"Huh?" He turned and looked at her.

"I asked you if you were happy."

She’d thrown him now and he was having trouble thinking of what to say. "No, not really." Where the hell had that come from? Oh well, it was the truth.

She sighed. "Me either." Kathryn patted his chest lightly. "We’re a pair aren’t we?"

How did he answer that? He didn’t. "Why aren’t you happy, Kathryn?"

She shrugged trying to appear nonchalant, but he noticed how her hand curled into the fabric in the front of his jacket. "Lots of reasons. Being 30,000 light years from Earth, missing my family, worrying about where and when the next attack is going to come from, if we’re going to survive, who is going to survive and how I’m going to cope if anything happened to you."

"Nothing is going to happen to me, Kathryn."

She pushed herself up and glared at him. "Even you can’t promise me that. We don’t know what the future holds. You could be walking back to your quarters tonight and the bulkhead could blow and that would be the end of you. And what would I do then?"

"What you always do, Kathryn. Survive."

"I’m sick of just surviving. I want to live. My life has been on hold for over six years and I think I’m slowly going crazy. I’m so lonely and so tired. How do you do it, Chakotay? How do you stay so strong?"

He swallowed hard. There was a large fist gripping the middle of his chest and he couldn’t say a word. He felt her tense and begin to push away. Her voice was rough with unshed tears. "I’m sorry, Chakotay. You don’t want to have to listen to my drunken ramblings. You’d best go."

"No!" He blurted and then his voice softened. "No, please, don’t make me go. Not now." With one arm still around her shoulders he brought the other hand up to the side of her neck, his thumb stroked over her cheek. "I don’t want to go. I don’t ever want to go. Kathryn, please, let me be here for you."

She closed her eyes and he felt her tremble. "Oh God, Chakotay. This is so wrong, but I can’t see how we can keep going without this and keep our sanity. Is that a good enough reason to do this?"

"I kind of like the idea of being in love with one another as a good enough reason."

Kathryn opened her eyes and gawped at him. His eyes crinkled at the corners and he smiled.

Her face softened. "I was just taking that as a given." She rested her head back on his shoulder. "I do love you, you know. I have for years, but, of course, you knew that."

He nodded. "Yes, I did, just like you know that I love you." He kissed the top of her head. "I do have a confession to make though. I heard what you said to B’Elanna in the lift today."

Kathryn didn’t even flinch. "I thought you might have. I knew you’d be monitoring us, but I didn’t care. The liquor made me fearless and perhaps reckless, but I’m glad you know."

"I’m so sorry, Kathryn. I should have known that you were unhappy."

She patted his chest. "Don’t be. As I said to B’Elanna - that was the idea. No one was supposed to know. It’s my job to look after everyone, not to have you worrying about me."

"That’s not entirely true, you know. I do worry about you." He kissed her head again. "When you let me, that is."

Kathryn chuckled. "I am a bit of a tyrant aren’t I? It’s self preservation I think."

"Hmmm. Either that or you’re just bossy."

"Hey, I’m allowed. I am the boss." Smiling, she sat up and stroked the side of is face. "Are you all right with this, Chakotay? I love you and I need you, do you think you can put up with me twenty four hours a day?"

He leant forward and kissed her lightly on the lips. "I can’t think of anything I would like more."

Kathryn ran her fingers lightly over his tattoo and smiled. "And on that note, I have a question to ask…" She beamed at him and quirked her eyebrow. "Which side of the bed would you like?"

Her words from earlier today in the lift made him laugh. "Whichever side you’re on."

She patted his leg. "Come on then. I’m exhausted."

He gave her a look.

She laughed. "All right, I know… a handy euphemism for inebriated. But let’s not argue semantics. I’m too tired."

Kathryn stood and took Chakotay’s hand, pulling him to his feet. He wrapped his arm around her waist and together they walked into her bedroom. They stripped down to their underwear and slid under the covers. With a contented sigh, Kathryn snuggled into his side, her eyes drooped and she muttered into his shoulder. "I can’t keep my eyes open. Typical, I finally have you in my bed and I’m too zonked to do anything about it."

Chakotay chuckled. "I can’t believe that I don’t care. Just having you in my arms is enough. I’ll ravish you tomorrow."

Kathryn sighed a laugh and mumbled drowsily. "Promise."

He kissed her forehead. "Cross my heart." He felt her smile against his chest and her hand drifted up and lay over his heart. He felt her body relax and her limbs grow heavy. Within seconds she was breathing deeply and slowly. It was only a few minutes later that he also surrendered to sleep.

***************************************************

Kathryn rolled over and scrunched her eyes tightly shut. It didn’t help. Any movement of her facial muscles made her head throb and there was a small sadist behind her eyes banging on the inside of her forehead. She tried to lift her head and her stomach lurched. Oh dear God. Then she remembered. The turbo lift, the rot-gut liquor, B’Elanna and their talk and…her eyes snapped open… Chakotay! Blinking, she finally focussed and there he was - sitting on the side of the bed, smiling, with a steaming cup of coffee in one hand and a hypo in the other. The dear sweet man. If she didn’t love him already, she would now. What a life saver.

She tried to smile, but the sadist inside her head grew a twin who started hammering on the back of her skull. "Oh God," she groaned. "It’s all B’Elanna’s fault."

"Hmmm. She’s blaming you apparently. Here have this." He leant forward with the hypo and she tilted her head to give him access to her neck. She sighed at the welcome hiss of salvation. Chakotay tugged the blanket up over her. "Give that a minute and then you can have this." He raised the steaming mug.

Kathryn closed her eyes and waited for the medication to take effect. It did slowly. The pounding inside her head eased, her stomach slid back to where it was supposed to be and her vision cleared. After a deep breath, she opened her eyes and sat up slowly, reaching for her coffee in the same move. "Thank you, thank you." She took a sip and heaved a sigh. "Did I say thank you?" Her mouth twisted into a familiar smile.

Chakotay leant forward and kissed her forehead. "Yes, once or twice."

It was then that she noticed he was dressed. "What time is it?"

"Just before 0900."

"What!?" Kathryn almost spilled her coffee as she moved to get out of bed.

"Don’t panic. I spoke to the First Officer and he’s rescheduled your start of shift. You’re on a half day, starting at 1100."

"You can’t do that."

"I can and I have. Just think of it as a continuation of your shoreleave. B’Elanna’s got the morning off as well." He draped her dressing gown over the foot of the bed within reach. "Why don’t you have a long bath and I’ll see you on the bridge in a couple of hours?"

"I thought I was the boss?"

"Oh, don’t worry, you are. But today you are a boss with a hangover… just take advantage of the time Kathryn. You don’t know when you’ll next have the chance to do so. Indulge me."

"So this is for your benefit, is it?" She pursed her lips and then slumped back against the pillows. "All right then. I’ll indulge you."

Chakotay smiled. "Thank you." He glanced at the clock beside the bed. "I’d best get going or I’ll have to report myself." He leant over and kissed her lightly, but before he could pull away, Kathryn grabbed the back of his head and kissed him hard. Her tongue slipping past his lips and darting into his mouth to taste him. She heard herself moan and Chakotay’s answering groan ……

He pulled back eventually and looked at her with lust filled eyes. "Do you think you can hold that thought until after shift today?"

Kathryn nodded. "I don’t think I’m going to be able to think of anything else." She took a deep breath. "You’d better get going. You’re late."

He looked at her and then at her lips and with every ounce of willpower, managed to pull himself away. He turned at the bedroom door and shook his head. "Its going to be a long day isn’t it?"

Kathryn nodded sadly. "Oh yeah." She watched him walk across the living area towards the doors. She smirked to herself as she saw him adjust himself before stepping through the open doors into the corridor. Flopping back onto the pillows she grinned up at the ceiling. It was going to be a very, very long day.

She ran the bath as ordered and soaked for a good hour, even dozing on and off in the warm water. After a leisurely breakfast she got dressed and grabbing one more cup of coffee, she made her way to the bridge. She arrived, with coffee in hand, just before 1100.

"Captain on the bridge." Harry announced from Ops.

Kathryn gave him a sideways glance and noticed that he was trying, not very successfully, to quash a smirk.

"At ease, Ensign." She walked past Tactical and nodded at Tuvok, then addressed the rest of the bridge crew. "Good morning, everyone."

There were several mumbled, good mornings before Tom turned around and grinned. "Enjoy your shore leave, Captain?"

Without looking at Chakotay, she sat down and leant back cradling her coffee mug in her hands. "Most enjoyable, thank you Mr Paris. And how is B’Elanna this morning?"

A look, something like pain, passed over his face. "Umm, she’s feeling much better now, but earlier things were a little grim."

"That bad, huh?" Kathryn took a sip of her coffee.

Tom nodded and then smiled before he swung back around toward the viewscreen.

Still clasping her coffee in her hands, Kathryn swivelled in her seat. "Good morning, Commander. Anything to report?"

He turned in his seat to face her and smiled. "Engineering reports that all the gel packs have been replaced and all systems, primary and secondary, are functioning at around 90% capacity. We will be coming up on the Revarran space dock in just under twenty four hours and they have offered to assist our engineering crew in the systems overhaul."

Kathryn nodded. "Excellent. Have they given any indication of what they would like in return for their help?"

With his eyes dancing with mischief, Chakotay handed over a padd and watched Kathryn’s face as she read. He wasn’t disappointed as her eyes opened wide and she looked up at him in surprise. "You’ve got to be kidding?"

Chakotay smiled and shook his head. "No. Apparently, Neelix sent them a sample of the moonshine and they were very impressed. They thought it was…" He leaned over and turning the padd towards him read from the script. "exotically piquant and smooth to the palate." He let go of the padd and grinned at her look of disbelief. "We also sent them samples of a selection of the recipes in our data base and basically they couldn’t believe the treasure trove. The Revarrans are considered the bon vivants of this part of the Delta quadrant and, where possible, will trade exclusively in food stuffs and recipes. Thanks to the uniqueness of our recipes and foodstuffs, we will have free run of the base and their facilities for however long we want to stay."

Kathryn shook her head and chuckled. "Well, I suppose you’d best get onto Engineering and get them to construct another still and it looks like Neelix is going to be busy, but remind me to stay away from anything alcoholic on the Revarran base. If they think that rot gut from engineering is smooth I can’t imagine what the liquor is like on their planet." She shook her head as she scanned the padd again then mused quietly. "What’s Aunt Martha going to say when I tell her that we swapped her pumpkin scone recipe for engine parts?" She shrugged and laughed, handing him back the padd, then stood. "Well, I’ve got a few reports to catch up on after my ‘shore leave’. I’ll be in my ready room. Commander, you have the bridge."

"Aye, Captain."

Kathryn smoothed down her uniform and then turned and trotted down the stairs, disappearing through the ready room doors. She could feel Chakotay’s eyes following her and this amplified the warm hum that had been running through her body since early this morning. She couldn’t wait for shift to be over.

The day dragged on and by mid afternoon Kathryn was almost ready to scream. She’d been drinking tea all day knowing that if she drank coffee she’d be a cot case by the afternoon, but no matter what she did to occupy herself, time seemed to have ground to a standstill. "Commander Chakotay to my ready room, please"

Enough was enough.

The doors swished open and Chakotay came to a stop just inside the doors. Kathryn was on the upper level pacing.

"Kathryn?" The doors hissed shut behind him.

She swung around and stood at the top of the steps with her hands on her hips. "This is driving me insane. I was so calm this morning, but as the day’s worn on, I’ve become nervous, impatient and on edge. You know I’m not good at waiting for things."

"How much coffee have you had?"

"None and I haven’t decided whether that is making it worse or better."

Chakotay shook his head and leaping onto the upper level in one stride, pulled her into his arms and kissed her. Hard.

Kathryn almost swooned. After a second’s hesitation her arms wrapped around him and she held on for dear life as his mouth plundered hers. He pulled away just as suddenly and sitting her on the couch he moved to the replicator and ordered two coffees.

She was sitting there, stunned, when he turned around and handed her a coffee. "Caffeine withdrawal is not going to help. Here have that and see how you feel."

Kathryn blinked and took a sip. Closing her eyes and savouring it, then her eyes snapped open. "You kissed me."

Chakotay grinned. "Yes, I did and there are a lot more where that one came from." He quirked an eyebrow at her. "You don’t like kissing?"

She swatted him. "Of course I like kissing. God, who doesn’t like kissing?" Then she turned on him again and frowned. "You kissed me in the ready room, while we were on duty. We can’t do that."

"Why not?"

"Because, it’s just… Well, we really should…. one just doesn’t do that sort of thing. I’m the captain and you’re…. we just can’t do that."

"Well, that was a coherent and considered argument for the defence." She opened her mouth to respond, but Chakotay leaned forward and kissed her again. While she was still struck speechless, he continued. "Kathryn, you don’t have to worry. I’m not going to kiss you in front of the crew, or anywhere that either you or I would consider inappropriate, but I will kiss you when we are alone and in private. I’ll touch you and hold you if you need to be held and you can hold me if I need to be held. We are both sensible people and, I think after all these years, that our command structure is secure enough that we won’t undermine it or our positions. This is something that we both need and besides, you’ll just have to get used to it. Now, finish your coffee," He looked over his shoulder at her desk. "Then finish the last of those reports and, by the time that’s done, the last two hours of your shift will be over and then the evening is ours." Standing up, he moved towards the door. "I have to go to engineering and organise that moonshine still. I’ll see you later."

Kathryn had opened her mouth, but had snapped it shut about half way through his diatribe. He had a point. She was a little miffed at his dictatorial attitude but as watched him leave the room without a backward glance, she realised that she had been a touch precious. Was there really any problem with acknowledging their relationship in the privacy of their quarters or her ready room away from the prying eyes of the crew? And would the crew really care? She had a feeling that they wouldn’t. Not after all this time.

It was rather nice to think that they could just relax behind closed doors. She’d already been worrying about how she was going to stop herself from touching him and if they removed the prohibitive rules from the mix, the problem wouldn’t exist. The man was wise, thank heavens. Kathryn smiled as she slugged down the last of her coffee and then trotted down the stairs and sat at her desk. With one last look at the closed doors, she picked up the top padd from the pile and began reading.

The door chimed and Chakotay stepped over the threshold. "End of shift, Captain."

Kathryn looked up from the padd she was reading and glanced at the chronometer in surprise. He’d been right, the time had flown. Kathryn sat back in her chair and smiled at him. "I’m almost done." She waved the padd in her hand. "Last one. Can you give me a couple of minutes?"

His shoulders slumped. "Is this payback?"

She laughed. "No, but I’ll be much more relaxed if my in-box is empty."

He gave her a strange look and then shook his head. "Okay. Can’t argue with that… I think."

Kathryn rolled her eyes. "Get out of here… before I toss this at you."

"I’m going, I’m going." He held up his hands in surrender. "Five minutes… any longer and I’m coming in here and carrying you to your quarters."

Kathryn grinned. "You wouldn’t dare?"

Chakotay’s eyes darkened with desire. "Just try me. Six minutes and you’re over my shoulder and out this door."

This time Kathryn threw her hands in the air… "I get the idea. Go, go, so I can finish."

He gave her one more piercing look and then turned and left. Kathryn blew out a slow breath between pursed lips. Suddenly the last report didn’t seem all that important.

She tossed it onto the desk and stood. Patting down her hair and straightening her uniform, she strode around her desk and out the ready room doors. Taking the steps at a trot, she pulled up in front of Chakotay’s chair.

She spoke softly so only he could hear. "Commander. I do believe we have an issue that we postponed that requires our attention."

He looked at her with a frown until she extended her left hand. His face softened into a warm smile.

She grinned. "Oh, and dinner, if you feel like cooking." With her tugging on his hand, he rose to his feet. She was standing very close and he could smell her scent and feel the heat of her even through the layers uniform.

He ran his fingers over his chin and spoke into her ear. "I think I have a solution to that issue."

Kathryn almost snapped to attention. "Excellent. We can implement that as soon as we get back to my quarters then."

With that, he crooked his elbow and she slipped her arm through his. They left the bridge after wishing the beta shift goodnight. After the turbolift doors shut, the crew looked at one another across the bridge. All were smiling. Life on board Voyager was looking up.

Kathryn and Chakotay stood side by side in the turbo lift. Their senses heightened by arousal, each of them acutely aware of the other’s presence. Their arms rubbed together and Kathryn felt as though sparks were arcing between them. Her body thrummed with excitement. They arrived on the deck three and strolled down the corridor. To anyone looking, they appeared leisurely and carefree, but under that calm façade hearts were pounding, skin was heating and hands itched to touch and feel. With a trembling hand, Kathryn keyed in the code for her door and Chakotay stood aside and she entered, he followed directly behind her.

The hiss and soft thud of the closing door was like the crack of a starter’s gun. Kathryn swung around and threw her arms around Chakotay’s neck, dragging his face down to hers and kissing him deeply. He wrapped his arms around her and they staggered and shuffled around the room, kissing and pawing at each other. A day spent with their arousal bubbling just below the surface, meant that now, without the constraints of duty and command, it boiled over.

Kathryn was pulling at his clothes and he was pulling at hers. They thudded against furniture and walls finally finding themselves, with most of their clothes removed, over by the bedroom door. Chakotay pushed Kathryn away from him, holding her by the shoulders and staring at her. Both were breathing heavily, with eyes wide with passion and mouths swollen from their kisses.

They just stared at one another for a long moment and then Chakotay’s face broke into a dimpled smile. "I’m sorry, but…" He panted a few more breaths. "I have to take my boots off or I’m going to fall in a heap tripping over my pants."

Kathryn started laughing, it bordered on hysteria when she took a moment to process their appearance. They were a dishevelled mess, and yes, they were both in danger of having a dreadful accident if they didn’t get their shoes off.

They stood a couple of feet apart and toed off their boots then bent over and removed their socks. Kathryn shimmied out of her pants and underwear then unhooked and tossed aside her bra while she watched Chakotay remove his boxers. They were now safely naked… or, not so safe, Kathryn thought.

He was something to behold.

Their smiles had slowly faded and the dark look of want took its place again. Chakotay was the first to move. He reached forward and ran the back of his fingers over her nipples and watched as they hardened. Each one puckering into a perfect peak.

Kathryn’s breath hitched as she watched his hands touch her and then she dragged her eyes up to his. Her hand drifted to his chest and she stroked through the few hairs there, her fingers then trailing down over his stomach and her forefinger traced along the line of hair from his navel to the top of his penis. He too was watching her hand and his breath caught and he twitched at her touch.

He looked at her. "Bed?"

She nodded. "Oh, yes please."

He smiled and in one smooth movement, he scooped her into his arms and carried her to the bedroom. He placed her on the bed and climbed in next to her. They lay beside one another, the urgency of a few moments ago, giving way to a gentleness and ease. Although ravishing had been on the agenda, sweet gentle lovemaking was what both the both wanted and needed. Their bodies came together, touching full length for the first time and both Kathryn and Chakotay sighed.

They fit together perfectly. She knew they would. Her head was tucked into his shoulder, the hot tips of her breasts burning into his chest, the soft pillow of her belly pressed against his and their sexes nestled together. They kissed and languidly moved against each other. Rubbing and caressing. Touching and tasting. Hands stroked over heated flesh, fingers gently touched and probed and lips tasted and touched.

Kathryn rolled them so she was lying over him and worked her way down his body with her hands and mouth. She explored his chest, his abdomen and following that trail again, she took a moment to study him. He was hard, hot and deliciously thick. Without hesitation she lowered her mouth over him and he thrust towards her. She laved the head and down the shaft, fondling and stroking in a slow rhythm. She could feel him harden further and the heavy sac behind tightened. He groaned and wove his fingers into her hair, pulling her off him gently. Dragging her body up over him, he rolled her under him.

He began his own explorations. First her breasts. Each one was nuzzled and teased. His large hands cupping her soft flesh as his lips suckled and nipped at her sensitive nipples. Kathryn arched, pressing herself into him. He kissed and stroked his way down her body and pushing her legs apart with gentle hands, he also took a moment to study her. His fingers probed the delicate folds before he lowered his mouth to her. Again Kathryn arched up towards him and she moaned. He used his tongue to explore her and with his thumb pressed against her clit, he licked her in firm broad strokes until she could bear it no longer.

Her hand flailed towards him and grabbing a handful of his hair she pulled him away from her and spread her legs wide in invitation.

"I need you now."

He nestled between her thighs and as he lowered his head to kiss her, he slid into her in one steady thrust. He stilled and his arms wrapped around her, holding her tight against him. They were locked together in bliss. It was almost impossible to believe that they were finally here. He’d dreamt of this moment for so long that he wanted to memorise it - to burn it into his mind so that he would never forget the sensation of being with Kathryn for the first time. He mumbled words of love into her hair.

Kathryn could feel him straining against her. The moment was intense. He filled her and not just physically. Her heart and her mind were awash with him - his scent, his taste mingled with hers and just the feel of his warm body pressed against her and inside her was spinning her towards overload. If she could, she would stay like this forever. She’d never felt so whole, so safe and so loved in all her life.

Her hands stroked down over his straining back, trying to soothe and calm him. All of a sudden he moved, pressing into her, hard. And then again. His voice a frantic whisper as he began to thrust. "Oh god, Kathryn I can’t…hold…"

She whispered back, holding his head to her as he pounded into her. "Don’t even try… just love me."

He reared over her and with his face contorted in a look of pleasured pain, he thrust into her again and again. Each time pushing deeper and deeper and she welcomed him, giving herself over to his needs as he fulfilled hers. His body was rigid with the building pressure and she could feel the throb of impending orgasm coiling in her belly. The tingles started in her toes and she arched up against him, countering his thrusts with those of her own, and grinding herself against him.

Feeling him lengthen inside her she opened her eyes wide as her inner muscles began to clench. With a guttural moan, she grabbed his shoulders and held on as he pushed into her one final time. His moan echoed hers as he pumped into her depths and his arms wrapped around her, still taut and tense.

Kathryn slowly relaxed, coming down from the high of her climax, with the soft shudders still jolting through her at intervals.

With her hands stroking over his back the tension finally began to leave him and Kathryn kissed his shoulder and neck and, pushing his head back, she placed her lips on his and kissed him deeply. He cupped her face between his hands and kissed her back, whispering against her lips. "Thank you, Kathryn."

She smiled. "My pleasure, and I mean that most sincerely. We’re damned good together."

He kissed her neck and shoulder, and hummed in agreement. Then he rolled to the side, taking her with him. They were still joined and neither was ready to break the connection just yet.

Kathryn idly traced the outline of his tattoo with her finger, and then ran her finger down his nose to his lips. "I was thinking that we might be able to take a night or two on the Revarran Station, if their accommodations are acceptable. Just a couple of days of shore leave. What do you think?"

"More shore leave, Kathryn. Where is my, nose to the grindstone, over worked, never take time off, Captain that I know and love?"

Kathryn smiled, a little sadly. "She’s taking a break, maybe a permanent one. I didn’t like her very much."

Chakotay swept her hair off her forehead. "I loved her and I still do. I love everything about you, Kathryn. Those are facets of you that make you who you are. I couldn’t help but love them. I get frustrated with them, but I will always love them. And you."

"Well, I’m sure they’ll visit, and often, so you’ll get your chance to be frustrated and irked again, but for now, I just want to relax and enjoy this…" She leant forward and kissed him.

She snuggled close and sighed. He slipped from her. "Damn. That felt so nice."

"If you give an old man a bit of time, I’m sure we can do something about that."

Kathryn snuggled into his side. "There’s no hurry. I’m liking this too."

He pulled her close and she draped her thigh over his and pressed herself against his hip.

"How did you go with the still in engineering? Have they built one?"

He chuckled. "Oh, yes. Under B’Elanna’s gentle guiding hand they’ve got the Rolls Royce of illegal stills set up behind the landing gear gantries. You must promise not to look."

Kathryn grinned. "Cross my heart."

"I think the first vintage will be ready by tomorrow night. Just in time for our arrival at the Revarran Starbase."

"Let’s hope it meets with our host’s approval. I’m looking forward to our time off." Kathryn yawned. "Oh God, I’m sorry. But I’m fading fast here. You’ve worn me out."

Chakotay kissed her head. "Sleep. We’ve got a big day ahead of us tomorrow."

Kathryn sat up a little and kissed him. "I love you."

Chakotay took a deep breath. "I’ll never tire of hearing that. I love you too, Kathryn."

They snuggled together and within moments, they were fast asleep.

*****************

The Revarran Cultural Minister met Kathryn, Chakotay and Neelix just outside the station’s airlock after they’d docked. He was extremely exuberant in regard to the gastronomic treats that Voyager had in store for him. Kathryn invited him and the other members of the ruling council to an evening of sampling the gourmet delights for which Voyager was now renowned. Neelix and the Cultural Minister talked incessantly of food and beverages of the Delta Quadrant, while Kathryn and Chakotay tried to keep track of their conversation. The Minister introduced her to the maintenance crews and their foremen. She settled on a time when they could meet with B’Elanna to organise a roster for the Engine overhaul and systems analysis.

Neelix excused himself and returned to Voyager to prepare for the evenings festivities and Kathryn and Chakotay spent an hour or so exploring the station. They were looking for somewhere to stay for their shore leave. They found a small bed and breakfast type of affair. It was located on one of the outer arms of the Starbase, well away from the hustle and bustle of the central dome, but clean and quaint in its own way. They booked two nights for the following week. The overhaul would be almost completed by then and they could afford to take some time away.

That night they were all gathered in the messhall with their Revarran guests. Neelix had worked miracles and had created a veritable feast of delicacies from both sides of the galactic core. Kathryn had just finished speaking to the Head Consul when Neelix had dragged him away to sample some Bajoran Hasparat and Andorian redbat. Kathryn shuddered and whispered to Chakotay. "Better him than me. I wonder what happens if we poison someone?"

Chakotay smiled. "Their protocol officer was here earlier and he scanned everything. Apparently its safe… well, as safe as any of Neelix’s cooking can be." Chakotay looked around. "Did you want a drink?"

Kathryn was just about to shake her head when B’Elanna and Tom arrived at her side and thrust a tankard into her hand. B’Elanna knocked her mug against Kathryn’s. "Slainte, Kathryn. This is the new vintage… all of eight hours old and I think you’ll be impressed."

Chakotay looked at her warily. "Are you sure, Kathryn?"

She sniffed it. It didn’t smell too bad at all. The fumes that had come off the version in the turbo lift were enough to make your eyes water and curl your hair, but this was surprisingly mellow. She took a tentative sip. Her eyebrows shot up and she looked at B’Elanna. "I think you’ve found your calling, B’Elanna. I’m impressed." She took another sip and nodded. "The Torres Tipple. There could be a market."

Chakotay didn’t look convinced so Kathryn handed him her cup and he had a small sip before handing it back to her. Even he was impressed. "Not bad, B’Elanna. I’ve had a lot worse."

B’Elanna and Kathryn looked at each other and grinned. "So have we." They held each others looks for a minute and then laughed. Kathryn raised her mug again, tapping it lightly on B’Elanna’s. "Here’s to friends, truth, livers and rot gut."

B’Elanna glanced at Chakotay, then back at Kathryn and smirked. "reH nay'meylIjyIn Dujablu'jaj"

Kathryn burst out laughing and raised her cup with a hearty. "Here, here."

Tom and Chakotay looked at each other. They knew there was a secret message in there somewhere, but they couldn’t figure it out. Both shrugged and stepped a little closer to their partners and smiled.

Kathryn winked at B’Elanna and smiled.

B’Elanna nodded, lifted her mug again and whispered. "To happiness."

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