Morning Light by Djinn

Chakotay looked down at her as she slept, all tangled hair and sprawled limbs. Not quite the picture most people had of Admiral Kathryn Janeway...not the one that he'd had of her either, until early this morning when she'd fallen asleep exhausted and thoroughly sated. He'd been watching her since she had surrendered to sleep, smiling softly as he memorized how she looked when she dreamed, when she rolled over. She snored slightly, and drooled, at times she ground her teeth. She was only human, and he was glad to see it. Somehow, over the years, he'd begun to believe otherwise. Begun to believe she was some mythological creature, out of reach, out of his reach.

He yawned, tired to the bone. He'd wanted to sleep, to curl next to her and close his eyes, but some stronger--or was it weaker?--part of himself insisted he stay awake, watch her. Because this moment had been long in coming, and he wasn't sure what would happen when she woke up. He really didn't want her to wake up. He thought he could be happy if she just lay next to him forever, if he were given the rest of his life to study her, to touch her gently without waking her. If the morning light would never come.

She moved restlessly, and he realized she was close to waking. Sighing, he slid down in the bed, moved close to her and pulled her against his body. She felt so good next to him, her skin touching his, her cooler body against his warmth. She made a sleepy noise, and turned over, burrowing into his chest. He felt his throat catch, as he wondered if she had any idea who she was in bed with. For all he knew, this was a common occurrence for her. Maybe she had a different man every day? He laughed softly at the thought. It didn't sound like something she'd do. Even if he didn't know this Kathryn Janeway. Hadn't known her for years now. The woman he'd made love to all night was a mystery to him, an enigma. A sparkling prize that he'd wanted to win for over a decade. And now he'd won. Only he didn't know if the prize would last, or if he'd wake up to find that it would disintegrate in the morning light.

He thought of Seven, gone her own way now and making a fine go of it from what she said in her messages. Their coming together had been quiet, and their parting had been even quieter. He loved Seven, expected he always would. But what he felt for her had never been the desperate love he'd had for his captain. And Seven had known it. But neither of them had cared, and it had not been what had caused them to part. Life had done that. Life and time and the way people had of changing in different rhythms. Seven had been ready to fly at the very time he wanted to put down roots. One of them had to change, and neither was willing to do it. So they had pulled away, agreed it was time to move on. Their breakup was amicable, almost passionless. She still commed him every week to let him know how she was doing. He still laughed at the funny way she said things, teased her when she got too serious. He was her best friend, and she was damned close to being that for him. Would be that for him...but for this woman he held in his arms right now. His best friend. That role had been taken long before Seven arrived on the scene.

He looked down, realized that Janeway was staring up at him. Her eyes were unreadable. "Good morning," he said carefully, trying to stop his arms from tightening around her reflexively. He already expected her to pull away.

She didn't. Just continued to stare at him, her blue eyes were calm, serene. Finally, she gave him the cocky half-grin that he loved. "Good morning. You look like you're going to throw up. Any particular reason?"

He swallowed hard, realized he did indeed feel like he was going to throw up. Panic, fear...he'd never had so much hinge on a morning before. He didn't like it. Didn't like being a slave to his emotions again. Had actually gone out of his way to avoid this kind of thing since Seven had left. This kind of thing? Who was he trying to kid? This kind of thing didn't happen for him unless Kathryn was near, and she was never near. He had given up hope on her ever being near him again. Sure, they were both Starfleet now. Their paths crossed all the time, but she'd been so careful every time he'd run into her before. Hello and goodbye said with careful precision. A hand extended for no longer than was strictly necessary. His Kathryn was gone, this cold Admiral was a stranger and one that he didn't think he liked very much. When he'd run into her this time, he'd hardly expected things to be any different. Would never in a million years have thought they'd end up at lunch, talking and laughing and stretching the time until it was late in the evening and the sun had gone down and they were rushing back to his hotel room.

"Chakotay?" Her voice brought him back to the present.

"Sorry." He tried to grin, saw her eyes soften at his expression. "I've missed you," he said, choosing honesty, even though he knew she might run from it.

She touched his face gently. "I've missed you too."

He noticed she had not pulled away, seemed in fact to be pressed closer against him. "Last night was..." He wasn't sure if he could do it justice.

She nodded. "Yes it was. And long overdue." She suddenly pulled away, lay on her back and stretched languorously.

Chakotay found himself mesmerized by the way the sheet stretched tautly over her curves. The place where her arm joined her shoulder was suddenly the most beautiful thing in the world, replaced a moment later by the curve of her chin as she turned back to him.

She took one look at him and burst out laughing. "God, Chakotay. Lighten up. You look as though you're afraid I'm going to sneak off while you go to the bathroom."

He looked away.

"You _are_ afraid I'm going to sneak off." She was silent for a long moment, and he turned to look at her. "Why would I do that?"

"Because this was a mistake."

"It was?"

"No," he hurried to say. "But you think so."

"I do?" She looked confused.

"Don't you?"

"Well, I didn't until you started talking."

"I'll shut up now," he said quickly.

She sighed. "We were doing so well yesterday."

"That's because I wasn't afraid of losing you yesterday." He reached out, moved a piece of hair out of her eyes. "I'd already lost you, it was easy to be light."

She just nodded. "But we're not light now, are we?"

He shook his head.

"Why? Why can't we be light?" She rolled onto her side. "Why is it always life or death with you?"

"With me?"

"Yes."

"Why is it never life and death with you?" he countered sharply.

"Because this isn't life and death."

"Maybe not for you." He hated how needy he sounded and pushed himself out of the bed. As he walked to the bathroom he called back to her, "I don't even like this part of me, Kathryn. I imagine you don't either. Go if you want."

He turned the water on so he wouldn't be able to hear the sound of her leaving. When he opened the door a few minutes later, she pushed past him. "I thought you'd never get done."

Her tone was untroubled, and he was suddenly immensely grateful. He went to the replicator, ordered coffee for them both. Turned and handed her a mug as she came out of the bathroom.

It took him a moment to realize she hadn't gotten dressed. Then he realized he was still naked as well. It should have felt strange; standing here in the cool morning air drinking hotel coffee with the woman he had wanted for too long. It should have, but it didn't. Maybe there was something to be said for lightness?

"This coffee is terrible," she finally said.

He nodded. "You'd think they'd work harder at that."

"You would." She put the mug down, then reached for his and took it from him. "Come back to bed," she purred, the sound unfamiliar but enticing, as she pulled him gently with her.

He followed unresisting. As she pushed him down onto the bed, he stared up at her.

"Stop it," she said.

"Stop what?" he asked.

"Looking at me like I'm a damn hallucination." She moved on top of him, her body brushing his even as she chided him.

"I'm sorry."

"Well quit that too." She leaned down, kissed him passionately.

He lost himself in the sensation of holding her, of loving her. As his body took over, he found he could let go, be light. Not worry.

But as soon as they lay together, their bodies cooling down together, he felt the tightness inside his chest begin again. "Why?" he asked, his words interrupting the silence.

"Why what?"

"Why now? Why here?"

"Us you mean? Why are we together now?"

He nodded. She shot him a look, as if asking why he couldn't just accept. But he had to give her credit. She didn't give him a flip answer, seemed to consider the question.

"Because I love you," she finally said.

It was not the answer he expected. "You do?"

She nodded, her face puzzled. "You knew that, surely." As she studied his expression, her own clouded. "You had to know that?"

"I didn't know that."

"I've loved you since New Earth, Chakotay. Possibly before then. How could you not know?"

"You never said."

"I shouldn't have to." She seemed angry.

He stroked her face, waited until she settled some before answering. "Maybe not. But it would have helped." He grinned ruefully at her. "We're different, Kathryn. This morning is a perfect example. You're light and I'm anything but. Maybe our love is the same way, or at least the way we express it. If yours was there all the time, as you say, it was in the air, where I'd never look for it. Heavy things don't hover, they land, they root. I was too busy looking down to see anything so light."

She smiled grudgingly. "You always did have a way with words."

"You mean I talk too much?" he teased.

"Sometimes." She moved slowly, rolled so that her chest was against his. Sighed softly as his arms drew her nearer. "I'm sorry then."

He just looked at her.

"For not telling you. I guess it explains a lot...about what went wrong with us. I understood one thing. You understood another. Neither of us understood a damn thing."

"I thought you didn't want me." His tone was matter-of-fact.

"I didn't. I couldn't." She looked at his raised eyebrow and smiled. "I wouldn't let myself."

"Ah, the truth."

She shifted slightly. "Truth is so heavy."

"Yes. It is."

"Why is it?"

He shrugged. "Maybe because you're with me. If you want light, I may not be the best person."

She smiled again. "You're the right person."

"I annoy you."

"Yes, at times you do." She moved her hand down, began to do things to him that made his reasoning ability recede. "And I annoy you."

"Not at this moment, you don't."

She laughed. "That was pretty light, Chakotay. Think you could keep that up?"

"Keep what up?" He knew his grin was wicked.

"The lightness," she said, in mock disapproval, even as her eyes glinted with enjoyment of his humor.

"For how long?" He closed his eyes, surrendered to the sensation of her touching him.

"For a lifetime?"

He opened his eyes. Reaching down, he stopped her hand. "Don't joke." His tone was anything but light. Heavy and harsh, the Chakotay of earlier...the one that didn't joke. He regretted his words instantly, but found that he couldn't take them back, didn't want to.

"I'm not joking," she said softly.

He stared at her, and their eyes locked. Hers were placid, but as she stared at him, as he refused to be teased into a better mood, they turned stormy. "Damn you!" she finally said, pulling away. "Can't anything be easy with you?"

"You always want the easy way, the quick way, even if it isn't right. Even if it hurts someone."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"You know what it means."

"If this is about the Borg, or the Equinox..." She pushed him away.

"I don't give a damn about the Borg or anything else that happened in the Delta Quadrant. Anything but us. Would it have killed you?" He took a deep breath, tried to control the anger swirling around inside him. "Would it have been so hard to just tell me, to let me in? I loved you, Kathryn. For ten goddamn years. For seven of them, I was by your side. Loving you, supporting you. Would it have been so hard to open up?"

She looked stricken. She rolled onto her side so that her back was facing him. "Yes. It would have."

"Why?" He stared at the ceiling, tried not to think of all the times he'd lain sleepless in a similar pose on Voyager. Usually after some encounter with her. A dinner that never quite went far enough. A moment on the holodeck that should have been romantic but wasn't. "Why?" he asked again, his voice coming out in a whisper.

"Because you would have made me weak." She seemed to shrink in on herself. "You would have tied me down. I had to stay free. Had to get us home."

"You got us home."

"But would I have, if I'd been with you?"

"I can't answer that, Kathryn. No one can."

She slowly rolled to her back, then to her other side so that she was facing him. "Then why are we trying to now?"

He sighed, rolled over so that he was facing her too. "Because we never even talked about it. You wouldn't even let us talk about it."

"Don't you know why?"

He shook his head.

She reached out, traced his tattoo. "Because if we had, then I'd have told you I loved you. And once you knew that...once you believed that...you'd have never let me go."

He looked down. She was right.

"You scare me Chakotay. Your love is so complete. So heavy. I needed to fly. To get us home."

"We could have done it together."

She shook her head. "Maybe. Or I might have given up. Might have surrendered to being yours and loving you. And I couldn't take that chance."

"Getting us home meant that much?" Even as he asked, he knew the answer was yes.

She looked down. "It did...until we got here." She inched closer to him. "At first, there were the moments of triumph, the pride in the crew, the inquiries, the parades, the ceremonies, the lectures. It was heady, and easy to forget what we'd just lost by getting home. Then the crew scattered, and we weren't a family anymore."

He nodded slowly.

She smiled sadly. "I honestly never knew how much I would miss it. Miss all of the crew. My family."

He moved closer to her. "Our family."

She nodded. "Ours. Yes, ours. And I suddenly wanted there to be an us, Chakotay. But you had moved on. You were with Seven. The door was closed." She shrugged. "I resigned myself to that. I moved on. Did well too. Turned down the promotion to Admiral when they first offered it to me. Told them I wanted to earn it like anyone else, not have it handed to me because I brought their ship home. And I did. I earned it for what I did here. What I did once I got back."

He nodded. "You did. I watched the ceremony."

She smiled. "Really?"

He nodded.

She seemed pleased, then her expression became more serious. "I moved on with my life, Chakotay. I let you go."

"Yes, I noticed. Every time we met." He shook his head. "You were cold."

"I had to be. There's no middle ground with me, Chakotay. You think I'm light, but I'm not. I like to pretend I am. I laugh, and joke. But inside, it's all or nothing. And since I couldn't have all, I expected nothing. And gave it right back."

"I'd have given you all."

She shook her head. "Not then, you wouldn't have. You were still with Seven."

He looked down. Nodded in defeat.

"But you're not now. And I know that. I have my spies." She smiled playfully. "Do you really think it was an accident that I ran into you in the corridor yesterday? That your afternoon meeting was cancelled and that my calendar was remarkably clear? You think this"--she touched his naked chest, then her own--"just happened?"

He stared at her, then slowly felt a smile spread across his face. "You engineered this?"

She nodded.

"You set this whole thing up?"

She nodded again.

"Why?"

She smiled then, a gentle, loving smile. "Because I love you. Because I've always loved you. Because I don't want to lose you again." She leaned in to kiss him. "Even if you do annoy the hell out of me a lot of the time."

He laughed, kissed her hard, pushing her down onto her back, his hands roaming over her skin. As she moaned, he smiled. "I'll try not to annoy you." He pulled away. "All or nothing, huh?"

She nodded.

"I want it all, Kathryn. I'll expect it all. And I'm not sure I believe you can give it."

He expected her to at least glare at him. Instead, she grinned. The grin was the one that the Kathryn Janeway he'd first met, first fallen in love with used to wear. "So it's a dare?"

He nodded. "I'll try to not be annoying, and you'll have to love me with everything you've got. Deal?"

"Deal." She took the hand he held out to her, solemnly shook it, then pushed him hard onto his back. Her hand again moved lower. "Now where was I before you so rudely interrupted me?"

"Right about there," he agreed, as he surrendered to her touch. Watching her, he saw the morning light hit her hair, turning it copper. She had never looked more beautiful to him. Or more fey, even as her body against his provided more substantial evidence of her presence.

She kissed him then. He heard her mumble, "I love you, Chakotay."

"I love you too." He had never felt more light. It was a good feeling.

FIN