"Mr. Chakotay, take the helm." The Captain stood facing the station Chakotay and Seven currently shared. She watched as Chakotay stepped away; Seven’s eyes locked with her own. Although, Seven’s facial expression never changed, the triumphant look in her eyes dealt Kathryn what felt like a physical blow. Her knees weakened, but she held Seven’s eyes determined not to let her know the effect she had. Only when Chakotay had taken the seat Tom had recently vacated, did Kathryn break the stare and settle in her own command chair. "Set a course for home, Chakotay." She began to relax, they were finally home and things would be different now, at least she hoped they would be.
The Captain spent a long afternoon alone holed up in her ready room dealing with Starfleet. Having spent so many years on her own, it was difficult, sometimes impossible, to yield to their authority. After many long hours in negotiation Kathryn decided that her non-conformity, which might have bordered on insubordination at times, was a not a bad thing. Her own career might be in jeopardy, but her entire crew would be in good standing before they reached Earth.
Closing the channel, she stood and stretched. She was tired and hungry. Deciding she could discuss this with Chakotay over dinner she entered the bridge. Beta shift had just taken over and the sight of Seven walking toward the lift with Chakotay delivered another blow. Her body momentarily paralyzed by the scene, her mind kicked in full force and in that instant she made her decision.
“Commander, hold that lift.” She called out as she crossed over to where they stood.
“Certainly, Captain.” He moved closer to Seven to allow Kathryn room to enter. “I thought you would never finish in there.”
“Me, too.” She smiled. “Deck three. Chakotay, would you join me in my quarters? There are some things we need to discuss and I’m starving. We can do it over dinner.”
“You’re starving? Must be the atmosphere in this quadrant.” He chuckled. “Sure, I …”
“Chakotay, WE were going to have dinner.” Seven interrupted him.
“Oh, Seven, I’m sorry.” The Captain leaned across Chakotay ostentatiously to see Seven better. “But, I do need to speak with the Commander. I’m sure you can have dinner another time.” Her smile did not disguise the order in her voice.
“Aye, Captain.” Seven glared at Kathryn then raised her head and stared at the closed doors.
“I’ll just go and change.” Kathryn stepped out leaving Chakotay to handle Seven. “Why don’t you get into something more comfortable and meet me in my quarters.”
“I’ll just be a few minutes, Captain.”
Kathryn went on ahead, smiling to herself as she picked up bits and pieces of the argument going on behind her in the lift. It wasn’t fair to pull rank on him like that, but her life had been unfair for seven years; this might be her last chance and she was going take it. She keyed in her code and set about preparing for the evening. She replicated a bottle of chilled wine, programmed dinner and headed for a quick shower. She correctly calculated that Chakotay would only be about another ten minutes, so like it or not it was a quick sonic shower, some comfortable clothes and she was waiting when he rang the chime.
“Come in, Chakotay.” She greeted him halfway across the room with a glass of wine.
“A celebration; we did it, Chakotay.” She raised her glass to his. “To new beginnings.”
“So, I take it things went well for you with the brass.” He touched their glasses, took a sip and followed her to the couch.
“Things went well for the crew. It’s all unofficial yet, of course but it looks good. The former Equinox crew should get off with a mild reprimand and the former Maquis will all be pardoned, all field commissions will be evaluated and most likely confirmed.”
“You had a busy afternoon.” He watched her face, something was wrong. “And you?”
“Oh, I’ll be OK.”
“OK? What does that mean exactly?” She was still smiling, but he knew there was something she wasn’t telling him.
“Dinner should be ready. Why don’t we talk while we eat?” She patted his leg as she stood and carried the wine bottle to the table. “Have a seat.”
He watched her closely as she served their dinner, pouring them more wine before taking her seat. She was not herself. He couldn’t pinpoint the problem. She seemed happy enough, but there was definitely something up. He let her lead the conversation, hoping she would reveal whatever was bothering her, but she didn’t. They finished dinner and moved back to the couch for coffee and he hadn’t learned much more than she had told him in the first few minutes he had been there.
“Kathryn, you haven’t told me what’s wrong.”
“Nothing. I don’t have all the details, but I told you the crew will fare well.”
“And you? You keep avoiding that.”
“I’ll be fine. The admirals weren’t too happy that I didn’t back down and ‘yes, sir’ them to death, but I’m not sure that matters.”
“It doesn’t matter what they think of you? Since when? I should think it matters a great deal. After all you’ve done, basically alone out there, they should be more than happy with you.”
“I’m just not sure it matters to me anymore.” She sipped her coffee. “I don’t fit in at Starfleet right now; I might never. Oh, I don’t think they will do much to me, too much publicity involved for the admiralty. I’m just not sure I want to be part of it any more.”
“I don’t think I believe what I’m hearing.” He took her shoulders in his hands and made her face him. “Kathryn, did you do something stupid? Did you make some kind of deal to get the rest of us off?”
“No, Chakotay, I didn’t.” She smiled at his worried expression. “I swear to you, I didn’t. I didn’t have to; just standing up to them shocked them enough to give in.”
“Then what’s wrong? I know you and something is on your mind.”
“You know me too well.” She laughed. “You’re right. I didn’t invite you here to talk about the crew or Starfleet.”
“Then what did you invite me here to talk about.” He watched her turn away, taking several deep breaths to compose herself. How unlike Kathryn to react this way.
“Chakotay.” She turned back to face him. “I know about Seven.”
“Seven?” He thought he understood but he needed to be sure.
“Yes. The Admiral told me you and Seven have been dating. She said..”
“Kathryn, I was going to tell you. I...”
“You don’t owe me any explanations, Chakotay.”
“I would like to explain.”
“Please don’t.” She held up her hand, to stop him. “It’s really none of my business and frankly, I'd rather not know the details.”
“If you don’t want to discuss the ship and you don’t want to hear about Seven, why did you invite me here?”
“Because this may be the last chance I get.” She looked up at him and smiled then focused on her hands. “My last chance to order you away from her. After tomorrow, everything will change. We won’t be on Voyager. I won’t be your commanding officer. This might be our last dinner together.”
“No, Kathryn. You are my best friend; I can’t even imagine not having you in my life.”
“You better check that out with Seven. She would have killed me tonight if I wasn’t the captain.”
“She still doesn’t take change well. She gets upset when plans are changed, that’s all.”
“No, that is not all. She was upset because you are spending time with me and not her.” She took a deep breath and looked up at him again. “And she should be.”
“What do you mean?”
“Seven may not even realize it, but she knows better than you why I asked you here tonight.”
“And that is?”
“Because this is my last chance. It may not amount to anything, but it’s a chance I have to take.”
“Shhh. Just let me do this, then you can ask me anything you want or maybe you will just leave; its up to you.” He tried to talk but she put her fingers to his lips. “Chakotay, we are home and free, or at least in a few days we will be free, to do what ever we choose with the rest of our lives.” Watching her closely, he nodded and she dropped her hands to her lap, wringing her fingers as she continued. “So, as I said, this is it—now or never, so to speak.” Her mouth crooked up into a smile then she bit her lip. “You don’t have to say anything, I just need to tell you this.” She took another breath, stalling until he thought he would burst.
“Seven to Chakotay”
Seven’s voice was harsh against the gentle mood of the room. Kathryn let her breath hiss out. Turning away, she got up and crossed the room to fuss with the dinner dishes.
“What can I do for you, Seven.” Chakotay hit his badge answering without disguising the annoyance in his voice.
“We had a date.” It was a statement made in Seven’s usual flat matter of fact manner.
“I’m sorry, but I’m not finished here.”
“You are still in the Captain’s quarters.” This wasn’t a question; she had obviously inquired as to his whereabouts prior to hailing him.
“Yes, Seven I am and I may be here quite a while yet.”
“Your shift ended four and half hours ago. We are not in crisis that I am aware of.”
“There are many details to take care of. Kathryn and I…”
If he had to make excuses to Seven, Kathryn didn’t want to hear it; she went into her bedroom leaving him to his conversation.
“Kathryn? So this is a social evening?”
“Seven, it is no secret that Kathryn
and I are friends and I won’t make excuses to you about it.”
“Yes, the entire ship is aware of your relationship with the Captain. It seems that our relationship is the secret.”
Kathryn could still hear them. Chakotay was trying to keep the conversation calm and Seven was pushing for a show down. He was calling her his friend, hearing him say that had always warmed her heart before; tonight the pain it caused was almost unbearable. Their voices droned on in the background; Kathryn tried to block out the actual words. She heard Seven cut the link. It was quiet for a minute then his footsteps came closer.
Kathryn stood on the other side of her darkened bedroom with her back to him. He took a minute to look around, letting his eyes adjust the lower level of light. Chakotay had been in here before, but not often. Some things were familiar, her hairbrush on the dresser, the warm scent of her perfume and some things he hadn't seen before. He picked up a holoimage from the dresser. He and Kathryn standing alone together on a beach, twin suns setting in the background. He had forgotten all about that shoreleave.
"I'm sorry, Chakotay. I should have been more considerate of your plans." She didn't face him as she spoke.
"It's not a problem, Kathryn, really." He moved closer to her. "You were about to tell me something."
"No, I see now that some things are better left unsaid." Kathryn could hear his footsteps crossing the room; she tried to keep her voice steady and even.
"I want you to talk to me, Kathryn." Chakotay reached her. His hands gripped her shoulders forcing her around to face him. When she looked up the sadness was evident in the moist blue eyes. "I'm sorry, Kathryn." He pulled his friend close, wrapping her tightly in his arms.
"For what? Daring to have a life?" She struggled to get the words out. "You have every right to that life, Chakotay. I'm the one who should be sorry."
"I don't have a life with Seven. A couple of dinners and a picnic, don't make a permanent relationship."
"Seven seems to think you do." Her words, spoken into his chest, were slightly muffled. "The Admiral said ..."
"The Admiral's future was changed forever the minute she cross the timeline. Those things will never happen now." He lowered them to sit on the edge of the bed. "Please don't be afraid to tell me what you wanted to." He moved her back so the he could see her face. "Kathryn, whatever it is, please just say it."
“Chakotay, I…” She took a deep breath, placed one hand on his face and he could see her struggle to hold back the tears that filled her eyes. “I love you.”
“Kathryn.” He stared at her, his face betraying the wide range of emotions he was over run with.
“You don’t have to say it. I know I‘ve waited too long; I’ve loved you for so long, but I wasn’t free to tell you until now. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said anything even now, but I just had to tell you.”
Kathryn tried to move off the bed but he grabbed her hands and held her still. He suspected this had been her intent, but he never really let himself believe it. Running his hand through his hair, he opened his mouth to speak, but no words were formed. Chakotay studied her face; she tried to turn away but his eyes held hers in place. A tear overflowed and slid down her cheek; his gentle fingers brushed it away lingering on her face. Watching her somber expression, her sad loving blue eyes, the Admiral's words came back to him. Her eyes had looked just this way in spite of the crooked smile she had given him. It finally struck him; they really were the same person, even though he related to them as two.
"You told me this already." His voice was soft and gentle, his expression told her that his words surprised him just as they did her.
"I don't understand"
"I didn't either at the time." His thumb gently rubbed the back of her hand as he watched it and sought his words. "The Admiral, she told me."
"What did she say?"
"She refused to discuss the future, she said some of her timeline was better left unknown. Then she looked at me, almost like you are now, but with that cute little crooked smile of yours." He watched Kathryn's mouth quirk into that special smile. "She said she could tell me about the present, about what was true for her right here and now in my timeline. She said she still loved me even after all those years." He raised her hand to his lips, brushing light kisses across it. "I didn't fully grasp the scope of what she was trying to tell me. Now I do."
"Chakotay, do you love Seven?" She stumbled on the words; it was the hardest question she had ever asked and even as she did she wasn't sure she wanted to know the answer.
"No." He didn't hesitate at all with his answer; he hadn't realized until now that it just was that simple. He didn’t love Seven. "I though maybe I could. Maybe if we worked on it..." He smiled. “Thank you." She cocked her head in response and he bent brushing a quick kiss on her lips. "I could never love her, Kathryn. I love you."
Their eyes locked; they solemnly searched each other's faces for doubt. As reality seeped into their brains, smiles spread, slowly reaching their eyes. Kathryn’s eyes dropped to Chakotay’s mouth, as she licked her lips. She stretched forward as his lips slowly descended to hers. Soft and moist lips pressed hotly on hers; her tongue traced his upper lip then demanded entrance. Chakotay eased her backward on to the bed; she brought him with her. Hands touching, caressing, moving over unfamiliar territory.
Kathryn felt the rumble in his chest first, and then his lips were smiling against her neck. He snickered in her ear; she pulled back to look at him. Chakotay was grinning, dimples in full bloom.
“What?” He just laughed and she couldn’t help herself, she laughed too.
“I..I.” He stuttered and laughed the merriment in his eyes contagious. “Oh god.” He shook his head but couldn’t control the laughter.
“Chakotay, easy, breathe.” She was laughing with him and he was trying to catch his breath. “Are you crazy?”
“Yes.” He nodded wildly, the laughter continuing “OK OK.” He sat up slowly bringing the laughter under control. “I’m sorry.” But the grin on his face said differently.
“So kissing me is funny?”
“Yes, NO!” He chuckled. “OK, I’m OK.”
“I’m sorry. It’s not funny, but all of a sudden I had to laugh and I couldn’t stop it. Maybe I’m crazy or maybe its nerves.” He cupped her face in both his hands, spreading moist butterfly kisses all over it as he spoke. “It suddenly dawned on me, I was kissing you and you were kissing me, we were home and I was kissing you and I am so happy and I was kissing you and oh god I love you! And..”
“I know you were kissing me and I loved it and I love you.” She laughed as his tongue tickled her ear.
“Say it again.” He stopped kissing her.
“I love you.”
“I love you.” She laughed again. “Even if you are crazy.”
“See, it feels good, doesn’t it?” Chakotay pulled her down on the bed next to him, their eyes sparkling with laughter. “This is so good. I never want to see you cry again.”
“But I will.” Her expression grew serious.
“Yes, and I will probably be the reason some time, but when that happens let’s remember tonight. If we remember the laughter, we’ll never go wrong. Promise me you will remember.”
“How could I forget?” She smiled again. “Our first serious kiss and all you can do is laugh!”
They kissed between the laughs, holding on to each other as the bed shook with their giddiness, until exhausted they curled together on the bed, drifting gently into sleep.
“We can do this sometimes without the laughing, can’t we?”
“I promise.” He pulled her tightly into his arms and promptly fell asleep.
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