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Just Keep Me Warm Tonight

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Chakotay woke to the sound of his door chime. "Computer, what time is it?" he asked groggily as he dragged himself out of bed.

"The time is 0247 hours," the much too cheerful voice replied.

Without bothering to ask for lights, Chakotay padded to the door. It slid open just as the chime rang again. The brightness from the corridor momentarily blinded him, and he raised his hand to shield his eyes. A short figure slipped into his quarters and the door closed, plunging his surroundings back into merciful darkness.

Chakotay dropped his hand and squinted, trying to make out the identity of his late night visitor in the faint starlight coming in through the viewports. "Kathryn?"

She'd been looking around the dark room, but when he addressed her she seemed to come out of a daze and focused on his face. When she spoke, the words came slowly. "I'm sorry to disturb you. I didn't think... I didn't realize you'd be asleep." She turned back to the doors. "I'll let you get back to bed."

Chakotay quickly put a hand on her arm. "Wait."

Kathryn stopped in her tracks, and pulled her robe closer around her body. "It's okay, I..."

"You came here for a reason," he said, now fully awake. His eyes were adjusting to the darkness, and he could see her fidgeting. He briefly contemplated asking for lights but then decided against it; he had a feeling that she welcomed the darkness as a cover for whatever had brought her to his door at this hour. "Tell me."

She pulled at her robe again and hugged herself. "I'm cold," she whispered.

"I can get you a blanket..." Chakotay was already starting toward his bedroom when her voice pulled him back.

"It's not that." She exhaled audibly, and there was a faint sound of chattering teeth. Then she spoke again, haltingly. "Ever since the Doctor removed the implants, I... I can't seem to get warm anymore."

Now Chakotay understood. It had been two days since Kathryn, Tuvok and B'Elanna had returned from the Borg cube, and the Doctor had warned them all that he could only remove the physical evidence of their having been, however briefly, part of the Borg collective. The emotional scars might take longer to heal. "Did you tell him about it?" he asked gently.

"I tried." She rubbed her hands over her upper arms. "In fact, I've just come from sickbay. He told me to replicate a tea, and take a day off to relax and let my mind work through whatever I was trying to suppress. I tried to explain to him that it's not all in my mind, and that I'm really, really cold. But he checked my temperature and said there's nothing physically wrong with me." Her voice took on a note of despair. "Chakotay, for the past two nights I've been lying in my bed with two blankets, a pair of wool socks and a sweater, and I still can't get warm."

The last word was almost a sob, and his heart went out to her. "How can I help?" he asked.

She stared him through the darkness and for a moment, he wondered if she would change her mind and turn to leave. But then she took one hesitant step forward, then another, and another, until she was right in front of him, invading his personal space. When she sagged against him, he caught her in his arms. She was shivering wildly, and he realized that she hadn't been exaggerating when she'd complained about feeling cold. Her skin felt slightly cool but not alarmingly so, and yet the tremors shaking her body caused her teeth to chatter.

Chakotay rubbed his hands up and down Kathryn's back, drawing her closer into his warmth. "Do you trust me?" he whispered into her hair.

She nodded without hesitation.

He didn't stop to think about the propriety of what he was about to do, nor of the possible ramifications come morning. All he cared about at that moment was helping a friend in need. So he led her to his bedroom and made her crawl into the still-warm space he had so recently vacated. She obeyed his words as if in trance, and he took that as a sign for her being truly exhausted. Chakotay made her take off her robe before covering her with the blanket, only absently noticing the flannel pajamas that obscured her form. Then he went and retrieved an extra blanket from the closet, which he also spread over her. When he finally joined her, and wrapped his body around hers from behind to draw her as close against himself as he possibly could, her teeth were still chattering.

"I just wish I could sleep," she moaned, gripping his hand and pulling his arm tightly around herself. She pushed back against him, trying to get even closer.

"Try to relax," he whispered in her ear. Another shiver passed through her, and he draped one of his legs over her hip, almost burying her smaller body beneath his large frame. He consciously suppressed his own thrill at finally being able to hold her the way he had often dreamed. It didn't matter anyway; even though his private fantasies had often seen them in this position, making love to her was currently the farthest thing from his mind.

He continued to rub her hands and to whisper in her ear. Gradually, her teeth stopped chattering, and then the violent shivers subsided. When he finally felt her relax in his arms, he knew she had fallen asleep. Chakotay pressed a kiss to Kathryn's hair, and then succumbed to sleep as well.

He woke several hours later and found that she had turned, snuggling up against his side, her head on his shoulder. Her skin felt warm, and she was breathing deeply and regularly. Chakotay smiled, gathered her close and fell back asleep, dreaming about her lips touching his cheek and her voice whispering "Thank you" into his ear.

He awoke to the sound of his alarm and called out to shut it off. Then he rolled over, reaching for Kathryn.

She wasn't there.

Chakotay opened his eyes. He was alone, covered with a single blanket. The other one lay neatly folded at the foot of his bed. Kathryn's robe was gone, and she was nowhere in sight. Listening closely for sounds from either the bathroom or the living room, Chakotay was forced to come to the sad conclusion that he was alone.

He lay back with a sigh. Could it be that he had been dreaming?

But when he turned on his side, something soft and fragrant touched his nose. His eyes snapped open.

On the pillow next to his head was a rose. Not just any rose – it was pale pink, an almost exact replica of the rose he had given Kathryn after her brush with death more than three years ago.

Chakotay inhaled deeply and smiled.


All throughout her shift, Kathryn was almost back to her cheerful self, even though the dark circles under her eyes still paid testimony to the fact that she hadn't gotten much rest lately. Chakotay was gratified to know that she'd at least slept for a few hours, even if he couldn't be sure exactly how many.

He contemplated talking to the Doctor about her, but decided against it to protect her privacy. He wondered if she was having nightmares, too. If her subconscious mind had enough of a hold on her to cause such a considerable misperception of ambient temperature, there was no telling what else she might be going through.

Neither Kathryn nor Chakotay alluded to what had happened during the night, but when a staff meeting broke up, she briefly squeezed his arm in silent gratitude before leaving the room. He vowed to himself to keep an eye on her, so that he might be able to provide additional help if she needed it.


That night Chakotay was already in bed, but still awake when his door chimed. It was just after 0100 hours. He left the reading light on his bedside table on when he went to answer the door. As he had expected, it was Kathryn.

"I know I shouldn't be here," she said as soon as the door had slid shut behind her. Her eyes were darting around the darkened room, settling anywhere but on his face. Once again her robe was tightly pulled around her body, and he could clearly see the tension in her posture.

When he touched her hand, it was cold as ice. He rubbed it between his own. "Stay," he said simply, and when she finally looked at him, he added, "I promise I won't tell anyone. Not even the Doctor."

She smiled faintly.

Chakotay tugged on her hand, and she hesitantly followed him to his bedroom, but it wasn't until he'd turned off the light that she took off her robe and slipped under the covers to join him. Just like the night before, she was shivering despite her warm pajamas. He spooned up against her, trying to make as much of his body touch hers as possible, in the hope of infusing her with his warmth.

The alarm woke him the next morning, and once again she was gone. However, she'd left another rose on his pillow, which he added to the vase where he'd put the first one. Bending down to inhale the roses' scent, he wondered what the next night would bring.


Chakotay stayed up until 0200 the following night, but Kathryn didn't appear. He hoped that was a good sign, but he also feared that her pride and stubbornness would prevent her from further seeking out his help. He considered checking on her, but ultimately didn't. If she really was sleeping, he didn't want to disturb her.

Then an idea struck him. Smiling to himself, he instructed the computer to recognize Kathryn's biosignature and grant her access to his quarters during night hours. That way, if she did show up later, she'd be able to get inside without ringing the chime and waiting in the corridor. He had no idea if she had even thought about being seen entering and exiting his rooms at conspicuous hours, but the less chance of exposure, the better. After finishing the setup, he quickly fell asleep.

He didn't know what time it was when he startled awake. He lay very still, hardly daring to breathe. Then a faint rustling sound came from the doorway, and he could just make out a shadow lingering in the opening.

Chakotay lifted one corner of his blanket in silent invitation. At first nothing happened, but then the shadow moved swiftly across the room. When Kathryn settled against him, he heard her sigh deeply. It was the only sound either of them made before falling asleep.


Over the next couple of days, they settled into something of a routine. Their arrangement was an unspoken agreement, never mentioned during daytime, but comforting to both at night.

She never came to him at the same hour, and he stopped trying to find a pattern to her behavior. Several nights, she only came by after he had gone to sleep, and quietly slipped into bed beside him. He would wake only halfway and drowsily pull her into his arms, or she would nudge him until she found a comfortably warm place by his side.

Once or twice, Kathryn arrived early, before Chakotay had even changed into his pajamas. Those nights she curled up in one corner of his couch, reading a padd while he went about his business in the bathroom. After they went to bed and he called for lights out, they lay holding each other in the darkness, and he tried not to think of the day when she would stop coming to him. She wasn't as cold anymore as she had been in the beginning, but instead the nightmares had set in; more than once, he'd been awakened by her moaning and crying in her sleep, and had soothingly stroked her back and arms until she quieted.

For now she still needed him, but sooner or later she would retreat behind duty and protocol again, and his heart ached when he contemplated the possibility of no longer being able to hold her. Most nights she fell asleep long before he did, and he lay awake committing the sound of her breathing and the feel of her body pressed closely against his to memory.

Invariably, she would rise before he woke in the morning, disappearing like a ghost but always leaving a rose on his pillow.


On the twelfth morning, Kathryn overslept.

Chakotay woke to the sound of his alarm as usual, and blearily called out to shut it off. Then he noticed movement beside him and opened his eyes. Startled blue eyes were looking back at him.

Kathryn tried to sit up, but Chakotay's arm across her stomach kept her down. "Good morning," he smiled.

She hesitated, but then smiled back. "Good morning." And then she thoroughly surprised him by leaning forward and softly kissing him on the lips.

His mind was still reeling when she slipped out from under his arm and the blanket, pulled on her robe and turned to leave. "I'll see you on the bridge," she said huskily before disappearing through the doorway. A second later, he heard the outer door open and close.

Chakotay rolled onto his back, his heart pounding wildly. He didn't know what to think – was this the end of their forbidden encounters, or had they just crossed the line to a new level? She had to know that her kiss, soft and sweet as it had been, would set ablaze all the secret longings which he had so carefully held at bay until now.

He groaned loudly as he thought of sitting beside her all day, without being able to touch her. There was no way he could face her in his current state of mind without making a fool of himself.


Avoiding Kathryn for a full day turned out to be easier than Chakotay had thought. She also seemed to feel the need to keep some distance from him, and spent most of her day in her ready room, and then later in engineering. When she returned to the bridge for the final two hours of their shift, Chakotay retreated to his office, and thus the day passed without incident.

That night after dinner, he nervously paced his quarters. He still wasn't sure how to act around her, and he would not have been at all surprised if his bed remained empty from now on. But at 2330 hours, the door to his quarters opened and Kathryn quickly stepped inside. She lingered just inside the door, regarding him across the room.

Chakotay was on the couch. He made to rise but then changed his mind and plopped back down, looking at her somewhat helplessly.

Kathryn laughed shakily. "I'm sorry. I didn't realize this would be so awkward."

Chakotay nodded slowly. "To tell you the truth, I'm not sure what to think. Or what to say, for that matter."

She advanced a few steps into the room. "Could we, maybe, not talk about it? Just... let it be?"

His heart sank, but still he smiled. "If that's what you want."

She hesitated, and then nodded. He fully expected her to leave then, but instead she turned toward his bedroom.

"I'll just... go ahead and... lie down then," she said haltingly, searching his face as if asking for permission. Apparently she wasn't sure if she was still welcome, now that the parameters of their agreement had been changed.

Chakotay's stomach started tingling as realization hit. She wasn't retreating, at least not completely. He would still get to hold her – but keeping his raging emotions in check would be the hardest thing he'd ever done. Still, if it meant being close to her, he was ready to endure anything. "I'll be right there," he choked out, and his heart skipped a beat at Kathryn's relieved smile.

It was only when he climbed into bed a few minutes later and gathered her in his arms that he realized just how much the parameters between them had changed. Instead of the flannel pajamas he had come to expect, his fingers brushed over a silky nightgown that closely hugged Kathryn's slim body.

She snuggled against him, one hand reaching up to cup his cheek in her palm. "Good night," she breathed, and pressed a kiss to his lips before laying her head down on his chest.

It was a long time before Chakotay managed to fall asleep that night.


They made love for the first time two nights later.

It had taken Chakotay nearly twenty-four hours to get over his initial shock. He'd been so completely dazed by Kathryn's unexpected behavior that he didn't dare kiss her again until the following night, for fear that it might all turn out to be a dream. But she had still been there in his arms, the living, breathing proof that the spirits of his ancestors did grant wishes to those who asked nicely.

He'd kissed her almost shyly, like a teenager on a first date, and she had responded in kind. They'd both moved slowly, exploring only up to a point, and had forced themselves to stop before things could get too much out of hand. Their parting kiss in the morning had been a lot more ardent, and had held a definite promise for future explorations.

At that point, he decided to get back to a more traditional approach. Even though they'd shared the same bed for the better part of a month, they hadn't had dinner together for just as long. He missed talking to her, laughing with her, just the two of them cut off from the rest of the ship.

He sent the invitation to her ready room, where she had been holed up for most of the day. Her reply was almost instantaneous, and Chakotay spent the rest of his shift planning the evening in minute detail. At the last minute, he managed to secure holodeck two, and sent the changed itinerary to Kathryn just as the beta shift personnel appeared to relieve the bridge crew.

It was a magical night. They ate at a small restaurant on a Hawaiian beach, and then went for a walk along the moonlit seashore. He kissed her in the shade of a palm tree, and she pulled him into the ocean for a midnight swim. When the water swept their clothes away, and sand threatened to get into places where it might cause more pain than pleasure, they traded their surroundings for a cozy log cabin with a blazing fireplace. In the flickering light of the red-golden flames, they let passion overtake their senses at last, and surrendered willingly as it consumed them.


Several weeks passed.

Little by little, the crew began to notice the changes to the command team's relationship. There had been rumors for a while about the captain spending her nights in Chakotay's quarters, but most hadn't believed it or hadn't cared. Now though, even the most skeptical of officers had to admit that there was definitely something going on between them. Their behavior on duty hadn't changed, but during their off duty hours they could often be seen sharing dessert in the mess hall or walking the corridors arm in arm. And when a surprised Crewman Tal caught the captain and commander kissing in a turbolift, and ran to tell her friends about it, half the ship laughed at her for not having noticed anything earlier.

By this time, Kathryn had practically moved into Chakotay's quarters. He often teased her about it, pointing out that her rooms were much larger than his, but she countered by stating that she felt a lot more at peace at his place. He couldn't argue with that.

It was late one night when they lay in his bed, wrapped in each other's arms and looking at the stars through the viewport, that Kathryn spoke quietly. "I think we should talk to B'Elanna about combining our rooms."

Surprised, Chakotay looked down at her. "Have you changed your mind?"

"About what?"

"About preferring my place to yours."

"No." She was silent for a moment, absently tracing patterns on his bare chest. Then she met his eyes. "But we're going to need the space."

Now he was confused. "For what?"

"For the baby." She held her breath.

Chakotay was speechless for almost a minute. "Baby?" he finally managed with an effort.

Kathryn exhaled slowly. "Baby," she confirmed.

His hand moved to her stomach, pressing lightly. "How?" was all he could think to say.

She covered his hand with her own. "It's the Borg's fault. The Doctor discovered that the assimilation countered my contraceptive. Something about all the hormonal changes that are induced alongside the mechanical enhancements. He didn't think to check for it when he removed the implants, so I never knew..." Her voice trailed off, and she looked at him with concerned eyes. "Are you upset?"

"Upset?" Chakotay finally found his voice. A beaming smile broke its way across his face as he pulled her on top of his body and laughed. "Ecstatic is more like it! I never expected..." Then he broke off, and studied her intently. "What about you? I know you don't like to think of children aboard Voyager."

"I didn't originally, but look at Naomi. She's thriving, and I honestly can't imagine the ship without her anymore." Kathryn smiled. "I think we have room for one more, don't you think?"

"Oh, definitely." Chakotay pulled her head down and kissed her passionately. When they came up for air, he pushed Kathryn's hair back from her face and whispered, "And where there's room for one, there may be room for two."

"Let's not get ahead of ourselves," she laughed as she kissed him again, and then gasped as he rolled her around and kissed his way down her body, gently caressing her still flat stomach.

"I may actually have to thank the Borg," Chakotay murmured, laying his head on her belly as if listening for his unborn child.

Kathryn stroked a hand through his short hair. "For what?"

"For everything." He shifted so he could look at her. "For bringing you to me. For giving us... this." He placed another kiss on her skin.

There were tears shimmering in her eyes. "I had only hoped that you'd be able to keep me warm at night. And it scared me to be so dependent on you. But when we managed to keep our days completely separate from those nights, I realized that maybe... maybe we could have more. Although I had never imagined just how much more that would turn out to be."

He moved back up until he could take her in his arms again, and she nestled close to his side. "I promise that I'll always keep you warm," he whispered between placing kisses on her forehead, cheeks and nose. "You, and all of our children." And before she could protest, he covered her mouth with his own, and she yielded to the promise of their future.

-==/ The End \==-