Chakotay let his legs collapse until he was on his knees in the lake, the water's buoyancy helping him support Kathryn in his trembling arms. He pulled her head down and kissed her tenderly, first lips, then chin and nose and cheeks. He stared into her blue eyes once more, and she laid her head on his shoulder. He gently caressed her hair, and with neither of them wanting to break the spell, they remained silent as they petted each other.

When he began to feel chills across her skin, he lowered her further into the warm water and pulled his head back so he could see her face. "Are you cold?" he asked quietly as he cupped her cheek.

"A little," she said with a soft smile. She pulled her legs from around his waist put her feet under her, keeping the water up to her shoulders.

"Computer, increase air temperature by five degrees." He raised her hand and pressed her fingers to his lips. "Come on. There's a fireplace in the house. We may as well use it." They didn't bother to look for their clothes they had removed in the water, as they knew the pieces would remain when the program was ended. They swam side-by-side to the shore, and laced their fingers together as they walked back to the house, stepping over the clothes they had removed in the yard.

He led her back to the den and instructed the computer to increase the fireplace heat to one-quarter. He lay down amongst the pile of pillows, tugging her down with him and pulling her into his arms, the simulated heat of the fire and his roaming hands warming her.

He felt her gently push against his arms, and he loosened his grip. She rolled onto her back, reached over to pick up the wine, and sat up to take a big swill straight from the bottle. His laughter rolled through the room, and she innocently asked, "What?"

"Was the glass too far to reach?" he asked in between gasps.

She flashed him a half-smile and her eyes sparkled. "Too crass?"

He shook his head, still grinning. "No, no; not for me. Just unexpected, that's all."

She laughed then, her husky voice like invisible fingertips sliding deliciously down his spine. She handed him the bottle, and he drank from it before setting it aside. She ran her fingers through the back of her wet hair, trying to loosen the tangles. He pushed himself up off the floor and disappeared into the kitchen, returning a moment later from the hallway with the towel and a comb. He sat behind her and towel dried her hair, then gently combed it out for her. She tilted her head back and sighed. "That feels good."

"I used to have to comb out Sekaya's hair sometimes when she was little. From the time she was born until I left home, she never had her hair cut. She still keeps it at least to her waist."

"I bet it's beautiful," she said.

She could hear his soft smile in his voice. "I didn't think so when I was the one that had to get a week's worth of knots out of it. But now, I do. Her hair is thick, straight, and black as night. It's so shiny that it seems to pick up the colors in things around her." He leaned forward and kissed her neck. "It is beautiful on my sister, but I prefer redheads."

Kathryn chuckled. "Nice save."

He laughed and grabbed her around the waist, tossing the comb to the side as he pulled her down onto the pillows. He covered her body with his and kissed her as she squirmed against him. She managed to work her foot out from under him and pushed against the floor, flipping him onto his back and pinning his wrists above his head. His eyes widened with surprise before he melted at her tongue in his mouth. He bucked his hips, and in the split second she was off balance, he freed one hand and wrapped her tightly in his arm. He rolled with her and as she settled on her back again, she hissed when his mouth took her breast instead of her lips. He sat up on his knees and pulled her up with him into a tight hug, kissing her neck. She trailed her fingers over the strong muscles of his back, and his hand slipped underneath her hair to caress the nape of her neck.

He stood up and tugged at her hand to follow him. He led her to the simulation of his bedroom and the big, soft bed. She lay down and plunged into the dark pools of his eyes as he slowly moved over her body. He was gentle and sensual, his hands and lips and whispers washing over her with a devotion she had never felt before. When he took her, time seemed to stand still as they rocked together, and he tenderly stoked the flames within her. Each gasp from her lips was met with a thrust that reached the deepest part of her until a single word claimed her for its own. "Chakotay." She flew apart in his arms, and he followed her into the white expanse. They clung to each other long after their senses returned and the tremors stopped.


Chakotay exited the house, once again dressed in his boxing clothes, and found Kathryn gazing out over the lake, her crisp uniform and neat hair a stark contrast to the woman he had spent the last two-and-a-half hours with. He stood behind her and put his arms around her waist, leaning over her shoulder to kiss her cheek. "Kathryn, I'm glad I wasn't alone today." He could see her soft smile at the corner of her lips. "I won't push you, but I am curious what happens now."

She turned in his arms and pulled him closer. "I don't know. Why don't we start with dinner in my quarters in an hour?" She leaned into him for a kiss then stepped back to turn toward the exit arch. With her back to him, she said, "Chakotay?"


"Bring your clothes for tomorrow."

He smiled and watched her walk back into their reality of ship and duty. He returned to the house and entered the den. "Computer, decrease fireplace heat to zero percent. Increase flames to 200 percent." He watched as the simulated fire licked out into the room and over the mantle, and imagined he could hear the roar of the heat and see the blackened bricks and floor. "For you, Grandfather. I hope your wounded spirit is healed, wherever you are."

Chakotay retrieved the bottle of Cabernet and then instructed the computer to end program. He chuckled when the scenery gave way to the holodeck grid, and the remainder of his and Kathryn's clothing lay on the floor. He gathered it up and rolled up her panties and his boxer briefs in her tank until only a square of gray material could be seen in his hand. Any crewman he passed in the corridors would simply think he was carrying an extra shirt. He made his way to his quarters to dress for dinner. He wouldn't push Kathryn into something she wasn't ready for, but he would make sure that neither of them was ever alone again.