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 ‘Damage Reports are minimal. B’Elanna reports a minor problem with the sonic clamps in Jeffries Tube 62 and Neelix reports that our supplies are holding.”

Chakotay paused, glancing at the woman standing before him.

“Tuvok reports that our Belken guest is behaving well, but requests extra personnel for security in that area.”

He paused again. She looked like she was a million miles away and paying next to no attention to his report.

“The Cardassians have taken over sickbay and the Klingons have created a pleasure club in the mess hall.”

Still she did not respond. Chakotay set the PADD down and rose to stand behind her.

“Captain, have you heard a word that I have said?”

Kathryn turned to face him, exhaustion etched into the lines of her face.

“Send an extra repair crew to Jeffries Tube 62. Tell Tuvok he can have 2 extra security personnel, but Midril is our guest and has proven himself trustworthy so far. We cannot treat him like a prisoner. Tell B’Elanna to pull whatever personnel that she needs to speed the repairs. We need to be at full strength if the Talbani return.” She paused to look at him, humor twinkling in her blue eyes. “As far as sickbay, tell the doctor to play Italian opera. I hear the Cardassians hate it. And schedule a little time for everyone in the mess hall.”

She finished laughing.Chakotay grinned at her, shaking his head.

“Does that include you, Captain?” he queried teasingly.

“No Chakotay, Not me”

“Why in the hell not Kathryn? You of all people on this ship would deserve a break.” Chakotay burst out angrily.

“Chakotay, we are in a hostile area of space. Every time we turn around, we are being attacked. I have to stay focused.”

“Are you going to stay alone this entire trip?” He asked quietly.

“What does that have to do with the Klingons in the mess hall?” she replied, trying to turn the conversation off of what she knew was coming. She had danced around this for too many years. She knew he was going to push eventually. Ten years was a long time to tip toe around something this big.

“I’m serious Kathryn. We have been here ten years and you still won’t give. When will you finally take something for yourself?”

“I can’t Chakotay. As the Captain I am held to a higher standard…”

“Damn the standards. Damn Starfleet. I love you Kathryn. Both as my Captain and as a woman. Tell me you don’t feel the same.” He dared her.

Kathryn paused, sorting through the thoughts and emotions. She finally took a deep breath and admitted her most damning secret.

“Yes Chakotay. I love you. But,” she hastily continued, seeing the victorious light in his eyes, “Right now I can’t give in. Not yet.”

She gently ran her fingers over the curve of his lip.

“You are my best friend, my support, my right hand and I don’t want to lose that.”“We won’t lose that Kathryn.”

“Let’s get through this and we will try.” She said softly, stepping a little closer to him.

Chakotay slid his arms around her waist, pulling her against him. Her lips rose to meet his, touching gently, parting on their own to taste the man who had been beside her since the beginning. The feeling of home surrounded her and with each soft touch she knew that this was where she belonged. A sound of distress crossed her lips as he pulled away with a gently smile.

“I guess that will have to do for now.” He replied thickly. “But Kathryn, we will be out of Talbani space in 9 days and all bets are off.”

He stole another quick kiss before exiting to the bridge. Kathryn smiled for the first time in three months and replied to the closed door.

“I’m looking forward to it Commander.”  

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