Negotiations

I am up to my neck in reports. Fuel consumption reports, shield density reports, warp coil efficiency reports and these are just the ones I've made it to so far. I know for a fact there are a pile of data padds on my desk in my office waiting for my attention. I had no chance of a break or change of scene, I'd been to the mess hall a couple of hours ago to see what Neelix was laughingly describing as a meal this evening. I went not because I was especially hungry, certainly not out of a burning desire to eat Neelix's food, but more out of a need to be seen - to catch a flavour of the crew's mood. After discovering what in many respects I knew already, that they were tired and worried, I returned wearily to my quarters. I had hoped that the pile of data padds adorning my desk might have mysteriously vanished during my absence. I was disappointed.

There was no good news. Hardly any of Voyager's systems were functioning as they ought to. Today's negotiations with the Dramonians had not gone well. If we weren't able to persuade them to assist us we were going to be proceeding to the Alpha quadrant at Impulse power a journey liable to take a couple of centuries.

My burning the midnight oil like this was a last ditch effort to find some other options. I knew before I began that there weren't going to be any. That left us dependent on the vague hope that the Captain would be able to persuade the young, precocious Monarch we were dealing with to co-operate. Things didn't look good, the negotiating team was at a State dinner on the surface now - one last ditch attempt at diplomacy. I'd spoken to the captain earlier, before she beamed down and she'd promised to let me know when they had any good news.

The doorbell chimed and I admitted my visitor without even looking up. Probably someone bringing me more reports. When there was silence I glanced up to see what was going on... and my jaw hit the desk. For several seconds I was incapable of framing anything approaching a coherent thought unless a strangled groan counts as coherent these days.

The Captain was standing just inside the doorway, turned towards the viewport. The dim lights from the stars outside reflecting on the dark blue dress she was wearing making the soft fabric shine. She looked around at me and I lost the ability to breathe as well as to think. The dress was low and tight and there wasn't a curve left to the imagination. Her hair was piled on top of her head with a few loose curls trailing over her shoulders. I've never seen her like this before, dressed to kill, and this is clearly a good thing because if I'd ever imagined she could look this sexy and alluring my concentration would have ben shot for every moment of the last four years.

There was a little smile playing on her lips and one of her eyebrows was arched, as though she was asking a question. Something like, 'Hello Chakotay, do you realise that you haven't said a word yet and by the way you're staring?' I couldn't take my eyes off her, she was glowing. At first I put this down to her having consumed something alcoholic, but then I discounted that theory. Seeing her smile, the laughter bubbling just below the surface it was pure exhileration.

'Successful evening?' I enquire at last.

'They're organising the details of the trade now, we should be able to begin extracting the minerals in the morning.'

Finally I understand. I haven't been to the surface, I've been on the Bridge, trying to keep the ship together, but I've heard rumours the his Excellency has been drooling over the Captain for the last three days. Clearly she has decided to make use of this and it has worked to her advantage. I am very glad that I didn't know what she was planning, but on the other hand I can't help thinking that I should have been told, so that I could have been unhappy about it beforehand, rather that in retrospect. Briefly I wonder what she had to do in order to persuade him - how far she would go when there was no other option. It's not a question I am able to answer, if I had to make a choice between my own morals and the survival of over a hundred people I don't know what I would do. Tonight though, I know she has not had to make that choice - her mood is too buoyant.

Actually her mood is difficult to explain. I can not imagine she would have enjoyed fighting off the attentions of a juvenile with an ego the size of his planet. He clearly has no idea who he is dealing with, after all this is the woman who turned down a member of the Q Continuum without batting an eyelid.

'His Excellency was persuaded to co-operate. We had dinner together tonight and he was suddenly filled with a desire to help us.'

This I do not find at all difficult to believe. If I was sitting next to her for an evening looking like she does at the moment there isn't a thing I wouldn't do for her. Then I realise what she has just said.

'We had dinner together' I echo 'alone?' She nods and I am forced to comment 'I bet Tuvok loved that.' Her expression is unreadable for a moment, as though Tuvok's disapprobation is not something she wants to dwell on.

Suddenly she switches, clicks into Captain mode and crosses the room to face me. As she leans over the desk and asks me, 'how do the reports look?' I get a view of her cleavage which is going to prevent me from sleeping for some time and if I have to stand up in the near future cause me acute embarrassment.

'If we get everything we need we should be fine.'

'Do we need to stay in orbit to make the repairs? I don't want to loose anymore time.'

'Plus you'd like to keep out of His Excellencies reach?' She smiles at me again and says enigmatically.

'I think he understood the situation.' Leaving me to wonder all over again exactly what went on between them even if I am not quite brave enough to ask directly. Suddenly it dawns on me and I take another good look at her, she spends so little time with people who don't see her solely as the captain she must have been flattered by his attention.

'What is he like, our benefactor?' I ask.

'Young, spoilt, brought up to expect everyone to obey his slightest whim'

'No doubt meeting you was quite an education.'

'Actually I was very charming,' she smirks, 'I can be you know.'

'I'm sure.' Just not to me, but I don't speak that thought.

'Why don't you just ask Chakotay, it's obvious you're dying to know how I persuaded him.'

'I don't have to ask - I don't see how he could refuse you anything looking the way you do.' Her blush is a revelation, intriguing as Tuvok might put it.

'He invited the entire crew to be his guests for a protracted period, regrettably I had to refuse on behalf of all of us.' She pulls her eyes away from mine for a moment and I sense, embarrassment, but then she looks up again, unabashed. 'He offered me half his Kingdom to stay.'that doesn't require any further explanation - it's evident she made quite an impression.

'Only half his Kingdom?' I ask, eyebrow raised.

'I might have accepted if he'd offered it all,' she quips in response.

'You don't mean that.'

'No, I don't.' She smiles, 'I wasn't even tempted, but' I can tell she is just about to share something personal with me and I decide to try a theory of my own out.

'You enjoyed putting the Captain's uniform in the closet for an evening?' She nods, biting her bottom lip.

'I know it's ridiculous and I should be angry at having to flirt and show off my body to get what Voyager needs, I should feel used. But, I used him just as much and he looked as me as though I was a woman first, captain second and I'd forgotten how that felt.' I could tell her that when we are off duty together and she isn't watching that I look at her that way, that I am constrained by rules of protocol in a way her youthful admirer is not, until she decides otherwise. But before I can tell her this she does the very worst thing imaginable; perches on the corner of my desk and begins to unfasten her hair. 'I hope you don't mind, I'm beginning to get a terrible headache.' As I watch spellbound, she removes the tiny pins holding her hair in place and it falls down her back. The act of stretching her arms above her head draws my attention inexorably down her body. When she arches her head back I ache to touch my lips to her throat, to travel the line of her body with tiny kisses. But I don't.

She turns her head suddenly, catches me looking and although I expect her to blush she does not. She must have a pretty good idea what I am thinking, I wasn't exactly holding back. If she wants to remember how it feel to be looked at like a woman I have just delivered the goods in a big way. She hasn't moved away, but she isn't looking at me either. She is pushing her hairpins around on the surface of the desk, turning them in small circles. I'm wondering what she is thinking, but before I can ask she looks up at me. She has that little smile again and abruptly I realise that she knows exactly what she's been doing to me for the last ten minutes, knew exactly what she wanted from the moment she stepped into the room. I think I love her more in that moment than I have ever done before, with her hair tousled, wearing a soft satiny dress, knowing finally what she wants and how she feels. I am ready to revise my opinion of His Excellency if he has contributed to this.

She stands up, stretches slightly, 'Well, it's been a very long day, I think I'll go to bed,' and then she strolls into my bedroom.

The End