Disclaimer: Star Trek Voyager and all characters therein belong to Paramount, I'm just talking them out to play on a sunny planet for the afternoon.

Summary: An afternoon interlude sets off a chain of events that could alter two lives forever.

Bitten

By LauraJo, October 2001
E-mail: laura@laurajo.net

It was the atmosphere.  That had to be it.  This planet was beautiful, the sun shining down on scenery so different from anything they had encountered recently.  The area was mostly filled with woodland, though clearings opened up often enough for those members of the crew on the various away teams to take advantage of the sun.  Chakotay himself wasn't supposed to be on any of the teams, but when he had heard the reports from the first people back he'd found himself a plausible excuse and beamed down.

Now he stood staring, but not at the surroundings.  He was staring at his captain.  She looked... stunning, full of life.  She was talking animatedly, apparently explaining what she had found to an ensign from Security whose name escaped him right now.  He'd always enjoyed watching her explain things, although he would never admit it to anyone.  When she got stuck into her science she practically lit up, her enthusiasm diffusing through the room until anyone present couldn't help but find what she was saying interesting.  The energy running through her was almost palpable, and Chakotay imagined that if he got any closer he'd feel sparks shooting out from her.

As he thought about his captain, she noticed him looking in her direction and gave a little wave of her hand.  Her smile, if it was possible, grew even bigger, and Chakotay had to consciously dampen down the feelings that stirred within him.  It had been some time now since he'd realised he had feelings for his commanding officer that were not strictly appropriate given their positions, even less so when you remembered the fiancÚ she still hoped to get home to soon.  Returning her casual wave, he made his way over to her position at the other side of the clearing.

"Chakotay," Janeway started to speak when he was near enough, "I hadn't realised you were coming down here."

Chakotay lowered his eyes and smiled, showing just a hint of the dimples that had become one of his trademark characteristics.  "I wasn't," he started, and then looked back up at the captain, "but when I heard how beautiful it was down here I had to come and see for myself.  I left Tuvok in charge."

Janeway should have been annoyed that he had left the ship when she had left him in command, but she just couldn't summon up the energy for that particular emotion.  Instead she smiled back at him, whilst unnoticed, the ensign she had been briefing slunk into the background.

"It is beautiful," Kathryn agreed.  "Neelix has found some very promising produce, so we should be able to fully restock our food stores."

"It didn't look like leola root, did it?" Chakotay asked, lowering his voice slightly.

Kathryn laughed as she replied.  "No, but then, looks aren't everything Chakotay."

She started to walk as soon as she finished her sentence, skirting around the edge of the clearing.  Chakotay was a little slow to react, and as such was forced to hurry to catch up with her.  Kathryn found herself inexplicably pleased that she had left him to catch up, and at the effort he had made to do so.  Falling back into step with her, Chakotay continued the conversation.

"So, have you explored much of the planet yet?"

"No, too busy working," Janeway replied wryly.

"How long have you been going?"

"What time is it now?"

"About 1600 hours."

"Really?  I've been here that long?  I guess time does fly..."

"What time did you get here?"

"0900."

"And you've been going since then?"

"Without a break," Kathryn confirmed.

"I'll bet you haven't eaten either."

Just like Mark, Kathryn thought to herself, always trying to look after me.  Hang on, why am I comparing Chakotay to Mark?

"No, I haven't," she confirmed.  "I never got hungry, and I guess I didn't notice the time."

"Well, how about you take a break now?  We could explore the area a little."

Kathryn stopped to think about the offer.  She probably should take a break, but there was just something about Chakotay today, something was getting to her.  She wasn't sure it was wise to go wondering off alone with him, the last thing she needed was more fantasy material.  On the other hand, she would love to explore this planet a little, and it was always more fun, not to mention safer, to explore with someone else.  Her decision made, she stopped walking and turned to Chakotay.

"You're on.  I'll just call up to Tuvok, tell him I'm taking an hour off then will be back on the ship to relieve him."

As she stepped away slightly to contact her security chief, Chakotay surveyed the area, trying to decide in which direction to go.  He remembered a river nearby from the maps he had studied during his long, boring shift on the bridge.  If he had orientated himself right, it was just southwest from where they were now, and should be reachable without too much effort.  When the captain returned to him he explained his idea, and agreeing to the plan, they set off in a comfortable silence.

The terrain started to get a little rough as they moved slightly downhill but, although some small doubt about their direction was nagging at Kathryn, she kept quiet, trusting Chakotay to know where he was going.  Chakotay himself was almost convinced they were going the wrong way.  The map had shown fairly flat, easy ground between their previous position and the river, but the further they walked the further downhill they went and the rougher the path became.  He had two options: carry on the way they were going, and hope the going got better, or admit to Kathryn he'd taken them in the wrong direction and didn't even know how to get them back to where they started.  The first option was by far the most attractive, so he kept on walking.

He kept on walking, until the decision was taken out of both of their hands.  Kathryn tripped, on what he couldn't be sure, but as she started to tumble forwards Chakotay instinctively reached out to break her fall.  All he succeeded in doing was taking himself right along with her, and the two of them rolled down what had by now become a reasonably steep decline.

They landed side-by-side, each sprawled out amongst some fern-like growth, and neither spoke a word until Kathryn suddenly started to laugh.

"Oh, that tickles!"

Relieved that his captain appeared to be alright, but at the same time annoyed that she didn't seem bothered about how worried he had been and how easily they could both have been hurt, Chakotay replied rather tersely.  "What does?"

"I... don't know!"  Kathryn got her words out as best she could between bouts of laughing.  "Something is... underneath me.. and it's... it's moving, and... oh... it tickles!"

Her laughter was contagious, and before long Chakotay had forgotten to be annoyed.  He laughed right along with her, and then... he couldn't help himself.  He never could explain what came over him in that moment, but he started to tickle his captain.  Perhaps strangest of all about the situation was that she didn't seem to mind; in fact, she seemed to be enjoying it.  She was still laughing, and soon enough she started tickling him back.

Had any other member of the crew stumbled upon them the shock and embarrassment would likely have killed them, but the command team had wandered so far from their crewmen that no one was around to interrupt as, without warning, the tone of the moment changed dramatically.  The playful rolling around ceased, and two pairs of eyes locked onto each other, afraid of what was happening and yet unable to turn away.  Slowly, they edged closer to one another, each managing to cup a hand behind the other's neck as the distance between them decreased.  As their lips were about to touch, the moment was ruined as Kathryn cried out in shock and sprung to her feet, scratching the back of her neck as she went.  Chakotay lay stunned for just long enough, before he too leapt up rubbing furiously at his left wrist.

It was Kathryn that stated the obvious.

"I think we were just bitten, it must have been some kind of insect.  We should go back to the ship."

Resigned to what he knew they had to do, Chakotay agreed and waited for Kathryn to call for a direct transport to sickbay.  As her request was acknowledged, he took one last look around at the planet's scenery before the transporter caught them both in its beam.  He wished he could have more time there, to explore the planet.  He wished he could have more time with his captain, to explore what had just almost happened between them.

Little did he know, he would be getting both very soon...

THE END

OK, I'll admit it, I got the idea after watching the X Files movie again.... ;-)

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