Disclaimer: The characters aren't mine.

Author's Notes: Thanks Cheshire and Froot both for the look through! I've messed with it tons since then, sorry, ladies.

For Katthryn in the VAMB secret drabble/ficlet exchange. She requested J/Kashyk. I did not complain. Her first line was "Kathryn, you look surprised to see me here. Does your offer to join you no longer stand?" Which is sort of two sentences...and she graciously didn't mind me splitting them. *hugs her*

End result:

Of Smiles and Fading Images


"Kathryn, you look surprised to see me here."

Luminous smile. Sparkling onyx eyes, gleaming leather gloves…

"Captain!" B'Elanna bristles, following Janeway's gaze to the source of a startlingly familiar voice calling to them. Immediately, the engineer moves to challenge the unwelcome intruder suddenly in their midst–

Janeway grabs her shoulder, other hand staying Ayala and Andrews simply by rising. She gazes steadily across the scarcely-populated alien promenade, blue eyes locked on black. "No," she declares. "I'll handle this."

"I'm not reading Devore lifesigns anywhere else on the station."

"We didn't detect any of their ships from orbit either," B'Elanna reminds grudgingly.

"Which means he's alone," Janeway agrees. Good. "Go back to the ship."

She still hasn't taken her eyes off his. The smile he beams at her is identical to the one from her ready room. Cocky. Smug. Satisfied.

"Captain, I don't like–"

"Secure the supplies, Lieutenant. And inform Tuvok to await my call."

There's zero room for debate.

They gape as long they can get away with it – about three seconds. She shows no concession. Reluctantly, they collect what they'd just bargained for, crucial fuel the ship desperately needs, and call for transport. She hears them dematerialize.

But for a single glance along the corridor separating her from the man she thought she'd seen the last of, she stakes out her path, weaving through the occasional moving obstacle without looking away from him.

The smile doesn't vacillate. Those dark eyes drink in her approach. Her appearance. The movement of her hips, where they linger for an inordinate amount of time before sweeping back up to her face.

He looks…haggard, she thinks. Although he still wears the uniform. The smile. And the gloves.

Oh yes, those gloves.

"What the hell are you doing here?" The question is a hiss and not a welcoming one.

"Looking for you." He's far from affected; the smile doesn't falter. "Does your offer to join you no longer stand?"

"No. It doesn't," she retorts incredulously.

"Please." The gloves gesture expansively. "Have a seat."

Her brow a warning arch, she diffidently takes the solitary chair across from him, sinking into cracked leather cold through her thin uniform. "What the hell are you doing here?" she repeats edgily.

"I did answer that. Even if I hadn't, you can't deny being happy to see me. You were just as disappointed as I was by your thwarting of our future together."

He looks so sure of that.

"You have three seconds before I call for transport. You're free to sit and play word games with yourself for as long as you want."

His smile drops; his gaze never wavers. "I need your help."

The chuckle is harsh, if a hint of intrigued. She leans forward. "And what makes you think I'd give you a drink of water if I passed you in a burning desert, Inspector?"

He debates making some joke. Mostly surveys her intensively, devouring the details of her image, her face, her hands. Especially her right hand, the palm of which traitorously tingles under that gaze. And finally seems to opt for succinctness. "Prax did some digging into my bloodlines."

Or not.

"And?" she prods, no patience for non sequiturs. "I should care about your family tree…why, exactly?"

"Well," he chuckles, gleaming onyx eyes wickedness personified, "there's a little trouble with me and telepaths, which I may have neglected to mention the last time we met."

"Which would be?" She's almost bored now.

He leans over the tiny, dinged metal table to impart, "It seems I am one."

Shock. Incredulity. Abject disbelief. They all conspire to freeze her blood, constrict every modicum of movement at a cellular level.

"Excuse me?" is all she can choke out past the dry throat.

"You don't think our paranoia against telepaths isn't grounded in deep personal history, do you, Captain? We've all but eradicated telepathic traits in our gene pool, but some elements do linger. Occasionally, we find remaining Devore with the ability."

Mouth agape, she can't even touch most of that.

Obvious absurdity aside, she has five minutes before Tuvok shows with a full security team. Probably less.

She goes for the kill.

"Your people have sophisticated scanners to identify telepathic capability. You're sitting here now, telling me you never happened to step in front of one of them?"

"There are ways to deceive any instrument, Captain."

And he knows all about deception, doesn't he?

It's that thought which snaps sense back into her. She stands, only her palms planted on the table as she prepares to walk away from his duplicitous hide…for the second time.

"You're lying," she declares evenly.

"Usually," he agrees, smiling broadly. "But not this time."

He'd smiled as he'd called for Prax, too, she recalls. It had been the same smile.

"So you see, I require asylum. The Imperium is hunting me relentlessly. They'll be on me within days. My small vessel is no match for a warship. But Voyager is. And you're the only one within a hundred parsecs who would ever consider harboring me."

"You flatter yourself." It's a snarl for reasons other than just the obvious.

His smile shallows. "Perhaps."

For the life of her, she has no idea why she doesn't immediately retreat when he stands. Her hand does go straight to her hip, closes over the handle of her holstered phaser as he circles behind her. His scent…leather, danger, lust…washes over her as he leans in. She lets his lips get within a centimeter of her ear before drawing the weapon, ready to whirl at the slightest wrong move from him…

"And yet we both know that I don't."

If he's a telepath…an incredulous huff escapes her as she stares straight ahead, blurred gaze not detecting the few enthralled observers they've drawn in the near-deserted common area by now. If he really is one, he does know.

Doesn't he?

"Think about it, Captain. How else would I have known exactly where to look for those telepaths?"

How indeed? She'd wondered that in her ready room the last time he'd "defected". There'd been a fleeting instant of considering…

She'd discarded the notion as ludicrous then, and it still is now.

"If you're a telepath," she grates, only further horrified by the notion, "how could you do the things you've done? That little girl. If she really was real…"

"She was."

"You would have felt her terror. And what? You just…ignore it? Ignore the silent pleas from every victim you've encountered as they're hauled away to die slow deaths under your orders?"

Is he really that cold?

"The terror of the mind is no stronger than the pleas of the vocal, Captain. We both know you're well aware of how I can do that, under the circumstances."

Screw him.

"We're not alike, Kashyk," she spits out vehemently, whirling on him in an instant. "And no amount of delusion on your part can ever make us that way."

Grey eyes flash so many things at him…and anger had only ever made her more alluring. He's painfully cognizant of that as he taunts through the mask of his smile, "Can it not? Telepaths are threats to a peaceful Devoran existence."

"Then by that logic, you are," she snaps back.

"Never to my people."

"You just told me the telepaths are your people!"

He's absurd. A pathological liar. They only have about a minute left, at any rate…

"No. The Devoran people are my priority. I've served them well. I've even seen that my brother and I will be the last of our line; I've gone to great lengths to ensure the trait dies with us."

She doesn't have a clue what that means, can't begin to imagine – doesn't want to.

"In spite of my tainted heritage, I've never once wavered in my commitment to my people. At least," he has the good grace to blanch, softly correct, "not until you."

Thirty seconds…

"I've never met anyone like you. I can still taste you, Captain." His eyes are on her lips. And damn her, her eyes have been glued to his mouth for a full minute as he drones on seductively, "Sometimes, late at night. When I'm drinking that vile substance you addicted to me to… "

She smirks. She had wondered, on particular nights. "Caught up with you, has it?"

"My supply ran out two days ago. The replication specifics were damaged in my last brush with the bounty hunters."

"Ah," she taunts, shifting imperceptibly closer, leaning in. "Then it's the coffee you want. Not Voyager."

Her smile holds him. Blinds him. Draws him.

"It was never either that I wanted, Kathryn," he finally admits softly. "And you always knew it."

The statement hangs in the sparse, stale air between them. She supposes she did know, now that she thinks on it. Yet he wanted none of the three the way that he wanted to advance his career, to eliminate the "threat" he still hasn't denied so zealously believing in.

He's evil incarnate. It doesn't negate that she still wants him.

She stares him down. Searing him under whatever metaphysical elements of telepathy she can aspire to: logic, experience. Intuition.

The dimensions of her personality that could come alive, thrive under the companionship of a man like Kashyk… She won't bother denying the raw lust he inspires, is inspiring at the tingling in parts of her that don't often get to tingle like this.

"Have them scan me," he coaxes. They both know she will the second they beam up. "Can you really deny yourself what we both know you and I will be?"

She's unused to having her innermost thoughts so well pegged, so accurately thrown back in her face.

She's unused to wanting so keenly.

"You and I…are destined, Kathryn. Fighting it only makes the attraction stronger."

She's melting into the sonorous certainty of his words, the whisper of breath against her cheek, the skim of his glove over her arm, which feels bare under the expert touch.

He's right, of course. The two of them joined will be something most humanoids only ever dream of. That they managed to walk away from each other once is a miracle in and of itself–

His warm, hungry lips close over hers, meeting her halfway into the distance between them. Her hold on the phaser tightens as his arm around her lower back hauls her against him with certainty.

She comes painfully alive under his skilled mouth, pressed against his hard, so-firm body. Her free hand tangles a determined grip in his slick hair, sealing the connection, drawing a low rumble of warning/promise from his throat.

Breaking, disentangling is something neither does without strong reluctance.

She raises a hand, fingertips tracing the edges of his smiling lips. That smile which hides as many things as hers does. Lowering, her fingers tap the commbadge on her chest, eyes never leaving the Devore standing so close.

Even if he is telling the truth, he has no way of knowing her answer. Not until she herself decides it.

"Janeway to Voyager." Her voice, smooth as it ever is, doesn't falter though it's muted.

"Chakotay here, Captain," comes the immediate response.

She frowns faintly. He's not supposed to be on the bridge at this hour. B'Elanna woke him. Possibly Ayala. Either way, the tinge of the unsaid nestles every syllable he utters.

What the hell is going on? Why are you down there alone? Give me one good reason not to yank you back up here. I thought we were safe from him. I thought you were.

Despite Chakotay's…personal view of what had occurred between her and Kashyk, which of the two of them has ever been in the most danger from the other has never quite been settled.

"Captain?" he presses. "Should I prepare for the arrival of any…guests?"

She smiles. Kashyk's eyes alight. His pleased, answering grin is dazzling.

She decides.

"One to beam up."

He reaches for her, too late, his gloved hand passing through nothing.

Through the fading image of her smile.