A Different Kiss Good Night

by Suz suzvoy@yahoo.com

Disclaimer - all characters belong to Paramount.

***

Ten years. It had been ten years to the day since they'd been pulled into the Delta Quadrant. Some had debated as to when the actual anniversary was. Some thought it should be when the Maquis ship had been catapulted there, and others thought it should be the day when Janeway barked the order to destroy the array effectively sealing their fate. The majority vote was upheld however, and the anniversary was to be celebrated on the day Voyager had been transported 75,000 light years in a few seconds. It was their home now, after all, and there were no hard feelings about the decision.

As the day approached, preparations were made. Word was passed from console to console, PADD to PADD. The Captain made an official announcement that the party would last for at least 24 hours so that everyone from every shift would be able to attend.

Spirits were high, morale was high, and everyone was happy.

Kathryn Janeway was in a damn good mood. Though she still wasn't quite as 'in synch' with the crew as Chakotay was, she still had her own insights. Besides, anything she missed he would tell her about.

She'd found it incredibly difficult not to walk with a bounce in her step these last few weeks. Their last encounter with an M-class planet had provided them with a huge supply of food. They wouldn't need to re-supply for months.

She couldn't remember how long it had been since they'd encountered a hostile alien force. A year? Maybe longer. A lack of enemies meant that more time could be spent on other things. As a result, relationships were strengthening all over the ship. Tom and Chakotay had finally worked out their differences after far too long. Tom's marriage to B'Elanna had brought about an understanding between the two men that neither of them had thought possible until it actually happened. Chakotay had found it hard at first to let go of his responsibility for his (for lack of a better term) protégéé. He'd spent so many years looking out for her, comforting her, that it was with a great deal of regret that he came to realise that B'Elanna didn't need him anymore. Through her relationship with Tom, she had realised herself that she didn't need anyone to be happy.

Kathryn smiled as she remembered Tom and B'Elanna's wedding day almost three years ago. After the ceremony, Chakotay had congratulated the young couple. He hugged B'Elanna, doing his damndest not to cry. As he pulled away from her, Kathryn had heard him say "I'm so happy for you B'Elanna. Although I have to admit to being a little jealous."

The chief engineer had grinned up at him. "Jealous? Why?"

"You don't need me anymore." he'd replied simply, knowing how selfish it sounded. Kathryn felt exhilarated that this normally private man was finally starting to show some real emotion.

B'Elanna growled and whacked his arm. "I'll always need you, you idiot! Just not in the same way." She glanced over to Kathryn. "Besides, someone else needs you more than I do."

Chakotay grinned at Kathryn as she rolled her eyes at B'Elanna. "Gee B'Elanna...could you be any more obvious?"

The newly-wed smiled happily and shrugged. "Sure. But I don't want to embarrass you."

Kathryn hooked her left arm through Chakotay's right, clearly letting him know that he had to play along. "Well trust me Lieutenant, that's not possible." She turned to look up at her First Officer whose face was carefully schooled to show no emotion. He couldn't do much about his eyes though, which were laughing. "Shall we go and get a drink Chakotay?"

"I'd love one Kathryn." And with that they walked arm-in-arm toward the drinks, Kathryn wiggling her hips as she did so. She heard for a month after that occasion that B'Elanna's expression had been one that had to be seen to be believed.

Back in the present, Kathryn was laughing as she walked down the corridor, drawing some quite curious looks from the crew members she passed. They were certainly glad that she was in a good mood, and everyone was too polite to ask why she was laughing.

Kathryn's thoughts were meanwhile, as ever, on her First Officer. The memory of Tom and B'Elanna's wedding had brought up another memory. Long before the wedding she and Chakotay had had what she thought of as 'the talk' - the one that left her feeling a little sad but comforted at the same time.

***

"So, what are we going to do?" he asked, lightly touching her shoulder-length hair which was splayed over his chest.

She sighed, and moved restlessly. "You know this can't continue."

He could hear the sad resignation in his reply. "I know." He kissed the top of her head. "It was...wonderful for a while though, wasn't it?"

Kathryn grinned seductively. "As if you need reassurance...wasn't I vocal enough for you?"

Chuckling slightly, he watched as she ran her hands over his fingers, inspecting each one. "Oh you were definitely vocal...very vocal. I imagine the people in the quarters next to yours got quite a show."

"I wouldn't worry about that Chakotay,-"

"I'm not."

"as I had that wall soundproofed."

A slight pause. "When?"

"Oh a while back." was the innocent reply.

"Hmm. Why did you only do it on the one wall?"

She frowned. "How do you know I only had it done on the one wall?"

He laughed again. "Well...sometimes when you're by yourself you can be quite vocal."

It took a few seconds for the implication to settle in. "Oh." she blushed. "This is ridiculous! I shouldn't be embarrassed about that, not after what we've done."

He agreed heartily. "No you shouldn't Kathryn. Definitely not."

They lay in silence for a few more minutes, Kathryn still examining his fingers.

"Kathryn...can I ask what you're doing?"

Smiling a little wistfully, she turned so she could look at his face. "Memorising. Since this is the only time we'll be together, I wanted to-" Looking away suddenly, she tried to hide her face behind her hair. "I'm sorry. It's silly."

He sat up quickly, grasping her wrists. "Don't ever say that. *Nothing* you feel is silly, okay? Nothing."

Chakotay was looking at her so intently, his dark gaze drilling into hers that she had no option but to believe him. She exhaled shakily. "I'm sorry..."

"Dammit, will you stop apologising for once!" he exclaimed angrily. "Just enjoy yourself Kathryn, and do what you want to do. Don't make any apologies for it."

Hesitant at first, she moved her hands toward his face, her wrists still being held gently by his own hands. He had been the instigator of their first time. Certainly she had agreed, but there was something different about starting it.

Her hands reached their target and he closed his eyes as she gently examined his face with her touch. He changed his grip on her arms, moving his hands along them until he encountered her shoulders, her neck, then her face. She closed her eyes so he could mimic her own actions. Neither of them could see now, but sight was meaningless. All they needed to do was feel.

The night, despite what they had predicted, passed slowly. Kathryn had imagined it would pass swiftly. They made love far less than she imagined they would have (not that it wasn't enjoyable). Instead they spent hours blindly feeling each others bodies, with no perception of who they really were or of their responsibilities. They were just two beings in the dark, trying to make each other happy.

Every little dimple, wrinkle, and mole was explored. Occasionally one of them would giggle but soon the mood would return. It had lead to the most unbelievably intense foreplay. And incredible sex, of course.

Just being in his presence like this filled her heart with joy. Being able to be so open, not afraid to say anything for this one night. But to all things there must come an end...

It was 0600 when he seriously considered that it was time to leave. Neither of them wanted him to go, but at the same time they did. If they did continue this relationship it would only lead to complications that they couldn't afford to have in the Delta Quadrant.

He dressed slowly, methodically. She watched. He had nothing to hide from her now. She knew everyone inch of that body by sight and by touch. Finally he was ready to go. Almost.

He was unable to leave without touching her one last time, and she honestly could not blame him. She was sitting on the edge of the bed, and he knelt before her in his uniform. They looked at each other for a while, trying to commit yet another vision to memory.

"Thank-"

"-you."

Both grinned, but not happily. Sad smiles tugged at their lips.

He looked down at their hands that were clasped together, then back up at her face. "I have to go." he whispered.

"I know. But before you go, I have to give you something."

He cocked his head to one side. "What?"

She tugged her right hand out of his left and opened it. "This."

Chakotay looked down at his Commission bar, his eyes widening when he saw what it was. With his free hand he reached up to his collar to feel what was there. "I could have sworn I put it on already..."

It hovered between them. Slowly he reached out and took it, wrapping his hand around the object. He looked at up her again. "Before I put this on, there's something I need to say..."

She shushed him. "It's alright. I know."

He grinned devilishly. "It's not that actually. Does you ego know no bounds Kathryn?"

"Only every time you look at me." she responded truthfully, then almost regretted it. He lowered his head and she could tell he was trying not to cry.

"Dammit Kathryn, you're not making this easy." He took a steadying breath before looking up. "I know we agreed that this would be the only time, and I respect your decision...but if you ever need to be comforted again, you know where I am."

Her heart contracted at his offer. She wanted desperately to take him up on it. No, she wanted more than that. She wanted everything. She wanted to give to him what he had given to her: his heart.

"I...thank you Chakotay. But as you said, we agreed this would be the only time."

Chakotay smiled tenderly. "I...know. I just wanted you to know. And it's not just for the fact that the sex was incredible." he added with a saucy grin.

She laughed and he gently wiped away the wetness in her eyes. "None of that now Kathryn. No regrets."

Kathryn forced a watery smile, trying to sound confident. "No regrets."

"Just remember who you're talking to here Kathryn. You can't hide anything from me." He leant forward and wrapped his arms around her waist as she desperately clutched to him. How did he know that right now, all she wanted was to be touched?

Holding her for precious few seconds, Chakotay released his grip and settled back onto his knees. "I really do have to go, you know."

"I know."

Smiling a little watery himself, he opened his hand and stared down at his bar.

"Here," she volunteered and picked up the object "let me." Raising her hand to left side of his collar, she looked into his eyes as she clicked it into place.

"Well Captain, I'll see you on the bridge." he stated as he stood up.

"Yes Commander. See you there."

He nodded, then turned and walked out of her quarters without looking back. She was amazed at his will power.

***

Shoving away the welcome memories, Kathryn entered her quarters and headed toward her closet. Opening the door, she pulled out her outfit knowing exactly where it was hanging. She'd debated for a while about what to wear and had eventually she had decided on this dress. It was sexy, but not overtly so. Just enough to raise interest. Not that she was trying to raise anyone's interest...

An hour later she stood looking at herself in the mirror. Patting down a few stray hairs she checked that her make up wasn't smudged as she waited for him to arrive.

<BEEP-BOOP>

She glanced at the chronometer and smiled slightly. Right on time. As always. She almost wished that just once he would arrive early and surprise her. Not that he wasn't exciting...good God. What was she thinking?

"Come in."

He did. And he looked gorgeous.

"Hellooooo." he greeted warmly, walking up to her and placing a kiss on her cheek.

"Hello yourself." she responded, hugging him warmly.

He pulled back all-too-soon. "You ready?"

"Yup. Let's go."

They walked to the holodeck, holding hands. Their closeness was something she'd come to cherish over the passing years. It was also something the crew benefited from. While they weren't 'involved', they were obviously the best of friends. Kathryn had to admit that it was hard not crossing the line again.

Chakotay seemed to sense that something was bothering her, because he gave her hand a small squeeze as they entered the holodeck, even as he was saying hello to Neelix.

Happy greetings were passed all around, amid smiles, handshakes and hugs. Kathryn was still amazed by how well everyone got on now. Even two years ago, the anniversary of being stuck in the Delta Quadrant wouldn't have been something the crew would have celebrated with much happiness. But their recent lack of enemies had given everyone the time to patch up old hostilities. B'Elanna was even getting on with Vorik now.

They released each other from their mutual grips so they could move about the room, doing their duties even in the relaxed atmosphere. Chakotay ended up talking to Harry and Seven about Naomi Wildman's recent birthday party, and Kathryn soon found herself accosted by Tom and B'Elanna who seemed intent on one purpose.

"Hi Kathryn." B'Elanna said, giving into the impulse to hug her superior officer. Clearly she'd been drinking more than just synthehol.

Kathryn raised her eyebrow at Tom, who shot her look that seemed to say I didn't get her drunk. Then he spoke. "You're not here by yourself, are you Captain?"

B'Elanna giggled, not even trying to control herself. "Of course not Tom! She came in with Chakotay, as you know. You even commented on it to me."

He gritted his teeth a faked a smile towards his wife. "I must have forgotten."

The half-Klingon snorted. "Or maybe you just wanted to bring up the subject of Chakotay. Not very subtle."

"Neither are you."

"True. But then I'm not bothered about being subtle. She knows that I think she and Chakotay should get together."

"What makes you think that we haven't?" Kathryn suddenly found herself asking, even as she blushed. Why the hell had she just said that?

B'Elanna's drink, which had been part way up to her mouth, paused and proceeded to dribble its contents all over her top. She didn't notice. Tom's mouth was stuck somewhere between hanging open in shock and smirking. It made for the most unusual expression.

Chakotay noticed their absurd expressions as he advanced on their small group. "Okay, what did I miss?"

Everyone turned to him suddenly, surprised to see the subject of their conversation standing there. While Kathryn and Tom tried to think of a neutral conversation they could have been talking about, B'Elanna, who at the best of times wasn't subtle, went ahead and told him.

"Well, we were just discussing the fact that you and Kathryn are lovers."

He blinked, but before he could even get a shocked response out Kathryn's voice cut in.

"I said no such thing..." Kathryn insisted, wondering why it was bothering her so much. If she could handle B'Elanna's teasing at her wedding, why couldn't she now?

She was saved by Neelix, who interrupted to remind her of the speech she had to give. Thank God she thought, as she walked to the small stage that had been created for the occasion.

She didn't even know where the words came from as she spoke; she hadn't prepared anything. She just said whatever came to mind. Strangely, she couldn't remember any of what she said, but it must have been good because she received a great deal of applause and cheers as she stepped down.

Kathryn was half way down the stairs when a hecklers voice called out from the crowd "Captain, aren't you going to perform the Dying Swan for us again?"

She knew exactly where that comment had come from. Scanning the crowd, she met his eyes and shouted "Not unless you get up here and strip Commander."

He blushed at the cat-calls that comment created, and Kathryn grinned defiantly as she made the journey to the bottom of the stairs.

***

Four hours later, Kathryn and Chakotay wearily made their journey back to their respective quarters together. Any tension she had been feeling earlier had now evaporated, thanks to the good mood the party had created.

They shared brief anecdotes of the best moments - Harry nearly passing out when Seven asked him to dance, Sarah Hickman doing her Janeway impression, and Neelix and the Doctor performing a wonderful ceremony dedicated to Kes.

Eventually they reached her quarters, and he hugged her good night before intending to turn and enter his quarters next door.

As he pulled back however, Kathryn couldn't help but notice that something changed. She didn't know if it was their good mood, the celebration, the synthehol or the actual anniversary itself - whatever the cause, they suddenly found themselves wrapped around each other and almost falling into her quarters.

They quickly rid each other of their clothes, mouths meeting and hands touching whenever they could. Neither of them were coherent enough to think about consequences.

Somehow (she never did figure out quite how) they made it to her bed before they made love.

Through it all, Kathryn Janeway came to a realisation: she was so tired of being alone.

***

He sighed. "Yeah, it's official. I can't keep my hands off you."

She giggled even as she yawned. "Well we knew that already."

"We did?" he asked, sitting up in her bed.

"Of course. You're always touching me."

"No more than you touch me." he insisted.

Kathryn frowned. "I must touch you an awful lot then..."

"Believe me, you do."

The humour phased out of the conversation then, as both wondered if they were about to lose what they had again.

Kathryn knew the decision was ultimately hers. And if this hadn't happened, they probably would have stayed 'just friends'...

"I love you."

The words had come from her own mouth, and Kathryn didn't even realise she was going to say them until they were out.

He smiled happily. "You think I don't know?"

She looked at him, shocked. "You did?"

"Kathryn...after that last time, how could I not? I know this isn't something you do lightly."

"You know, you're far too patient for your own good."

"I am?" he queried, baffled.

"If you had tried something before now I would have capitulated." Kathryn said, reaching up her hand to cup his face.

"But it wouldn't have been what you wanted..."

"Maybe." she said simply. "Maybe not."

"Kathryn, please don't say that because I don't want to regret anything. If you keep saying that...I will."

She sat up slightly so she could cup his face with both hands. "Don't regret anything Chakotay."

He laughed in irony. "It's funny. Last time we were together I was the one reassuring you..."

Grinning, she placed a quick kiss on his lips before looking down uncertainly. "I'm not exactly sure where we go from here...but I'm willing to try."

Chakotay reached up and placed his hands over her own. "That's good enough for me."

Kathryn cocked her head to one side. "How can you be like that? So selfless?"

He actually laughed out loud. "I am not selfless Kathryn. Do you know how many hours I've spent plotting so I could spend more time with you? How many little situations I've tweaked to my own advantage?"

She spluttered. "I should probably be disgusted...but somehow it makes you more appealing."

"I hope so."

"Yeah, it's official. You're evil."

"That's not what you said earlier..."

"I beg your pardon?"

"In fact I think your exact words were...Kathryn, put down the pillow..."

~FINIS