The Devil and The Deep Blue Sea - part 11

She was breathtaking in the almost darkness, lit only by the ghostly starfield. His eyes devoured one finely drawn hand as it rose to brush through her hair and feasted on the elegant sweep of her cheek, her glittering eyes and dark, ruby red lips. Surely she had not intended for the effect to be so alluring? He felt himself harden just from looking at her and he was almost relieved when she ordered the lights on and spoiled the effect.

'Don't you have a couch in your quarters?' She asked with a mild exasperation that he was sure masked other, stronger emotions.

'I like this one.' She sighed, sitting down beside him, arching her head back, stretching tired muscles.

'It's been quite a day Commander - how are you doing?' He recognised this approach, friendly but distant, close but formal and he wasn't about to let her use this particular weapon.

'I'm all right Kathryn, how are you?'

'Fine.' The response was automatic and didn't sound remotely convincing. She wrenched her eyes away from his too penetrating gaze and scanned the room. 'Should we check for holo-imagers do you think?'

'I'm sure there's no need. I spoke to B'Elanna a little while ago.'

'Oh,' now her eyes were back on his, 'how was she?'

'Confused. I don't know if it was your intention or not, but since she was asking for opinions I t the opportunity to give her mine. To spell out for her how much damage her intervention had caused.'

'It's what I hoped would happen, that she'd realise there was more than one point of view, that what she'd done was wrong.'

'I can't guarantee that she saw it that way.'

She frowned and then turned to look over her shoulder at the stars for a moment before asking with elaborate simplicity, 'are you relieved the wedding didn't go ahead?'

'Honestly?' At her slight nod he paused,' I'm not sure. I know that we lost an opportunity to get home today and I haven't forgotten that is our ultimate goal. But,' this was difficult to say, worse than he'd imagined. 'I can't help but think that had we gone ahead Tanka and I would have been very unhappy.'

'You can't know that for sure.'

'I think I can say, with a fair degree of certainty, that our marriage wouldn't have been a success - put it down to certain external factors if you like.'

She stood and crossed impatiently to the replicator to order coffee. 'Chakotay if you mean me just say so.'

'All right, I mean you.' He watched as she took an over-hasty sip from the cup wincing, slightly as she burnt her mouth.

'So what are you saying, that you wouldn't have gone through with the wedding?'

'No, I would have gone through with it, unless you'd intervened.'

'I had no plans to stop the ceremony.'

'We'll never know now, will we.'

There, the challenge was laid out before them, they both knew what this conversation was going to be about - all the hedging and the prevaricating in the Universe couldn't change that.

'Kathryn...'

'It's impossible Chakotay.'

'No, it isn't.' Point blank denial, he'd expected that. 'There are lots of things in the Universe that are impossible, our having a relationship isn't one of them.'

'How can you say that after what happened today?'

'If we'd faced our feelings when we ought to have, months, no years ago, today would never have happened.

She turned around, exasperated pushing aside a tiny suspicion that he might be right. 'Our feelings cost us a way home, if I hadn't walked into your quarters last night we could be back in the Alpha Quadrant by now.'

'And have the feelings that led you to my quarters, to my bed last night miraculously disappeared?' Damn! He stepped closer to her, cupping her face with his hands and she knew she had betrayed herself with her response to his touch. Stepping away from him she rubbed her head, trying to rid herself of the omnipresent headache and wondering if the same technique would work on Chakotay.

'Chakotay, can't we discuss this some other time, when we're both less emotional?' Another tactic he'd been expecting; postponement. He dealt with it cleanly.' I don't think there ever will be such a time.'

She could simply order him to leave of course and the temptation to do so was almost irresistible. Except that it was a little late to pull rank on him over this, especially when he had so adroitly placed this discussion on personal terms.

'It's been a terrible day Kathryn, and I know you blame yourself, but what did we do, while this disaster unfolded around us? We were professional, we functioned and we left our personal issues until later. That's what I'm talking about when I say it's not impossible.'

He watched her frown, noticed that she wasn't looking at him and took two steps towards her, reaching out to pull her back against his chest. She didn't resist, but she didn't exactly melt into his arms either. 'Kathryn, I'm your First Officer, if I have my way I'll be here, supporting you for as long as this journey lasts. My loyalty is non negotiable, no matter what you decide about us. I can't promise that I'll always agree with you, but I'll do my best to support you. All I want now is an honest response - don't tell me no because of what the crew might think, or because of Starfleet protocol. Tell me no because you don't feel that way about me, tell me no because you don't want me.'

Someone should have warned her about getting involved in a conversation about emotions with someone as skilled at tactics as Chakotay. Someone should have warned her before she even let him onto her ship, Starfleet should have sent Jean-Luc Picard after him, she'd like to see her First Officer trying out his dimples on that ice-berg.

'Chakotay,' mistake. She should have moved before she started speaking, shouldn't be in such close proximity to him.

'That isn't how you said my name last night.' His lips grazed her ear as he spoke and she was suddenly burning hot, bombarded by memories.

With a concerted effort to banish images of their bodies crashing together she turned around, placing her hands on his chest. 'All right, you want honest, I'll give you honest.'

He had a sudden realisation that he'd made a mistake, that she was going to tell him that she didn't feel anything for him, that last night had merely been about satisfying her curiosity. He'd set this up, there was nothing he could do to prevent it.

'You want the kind of relationship I can't possibly give you, you want time and energy and a commitment, none of which I can spare from Voyager. If we start this, you'll end up hating me and I can't allow that to happen.'

'I'll take my chances.'

'You can't know what you're saying.' His response was a brief, fiery kiss that left her aching for more the instant it was over.

'Don't underestimate me Kathryn, I'm not a fool. I know Voyager and the crew comes first, I can live with that, I have lived with that this far.'

'You've been taking logic lessons from Tuvok, haven't you?' she said softly, before touching his cheek tentatively, 'promise me you won't let me hurt you?'

He leaned a little closer, brushing a soft kiss over her lips, feeling her lean into the embrace, her mouth opening slightly in response.

'I promise.'

TBC