By Shayenne

Disclaimer: A moment out of the episode Future's End, and addition to the ep. Paramount owns the ep, the starship Voyager and the characters. Venice Beach is beholden to nobody.

Rated PG-13


Chakotay could recognize places by the light and by the smell without needing to identify landmarks. He knew the slightly stale boarding-school smell of Voyager, too many people in a confined space with recycled air and artificial light. He knew the glare and bleached light of the Arizona desert with its buttes and turrets shimmering in the heat haze and the smell and taste of blowing dust in his mouth. He knew the muted, purplish perpetual twilight of Dorvan, where there was never a full sun, and the air was redolent with pollen and the earthy smell of fertile earth.

Now he could add Los Angeles to these instantly identifiable places. The muted diffused sunlight that blurred the surrounding hills through the haze of pollution. The city smell, tempered by ozone blowing in from the Pacific Ocean. And the slight waft of Kathryn's citrus soap as she walked alongside him, his hand on the small of her back.

Whatever the reason they were here, it was good to be off the ship. Good to walk on firm ground - as firm as it ever got in the earth-tremor ridden place that was twentieth century L.A. Good to smell the ocean breeze, and see humans mingle and buzz around the parade that was Venice Beach. Especially good to see Kathryn's face turned up to feel the sunlight kiss her white skin. To feel her muscles move under his hand. To make her laugh with a comment about the skater's legs. She looked good in the simple cream colored clothes.

Tom and Tuvok had left them, gone in a different direction at Kathryn's request. He thought that was deliberate, so that she could relax, be herself, and he hoped that part of it was that she wanted to relax with him. They walked along the promenade, chatting and laughing. His hand stole around her waist when she laughed, and he pulled her closer to him, under the guise of laughter.

She let his arm stay around her. Even moved slightly closer to him as she used his body to block her tricorder. They spent freely of the replicated old money. An ice-cream. A hot dog. Fried mushrooms in batter. They stopped at a beach side bar and had a real glass of chilled wine. Kathryn bought cheap T shirts at a stall. One for Tom, Tuvok, herself and him. Tacky, cheap white T shirts, emblazoned with the words "Los Angeles". A place that didn't even exist anymore in the twenty-fourth century. One 'quake too many and it had simply crumbled into the ocean. Tom would love his shirt, Tuvok would tolerate his. He would treasure his simply because she had bought it for him.

As the day merged into the beachside twilight, they found themselves on the beach, a short time to kill before they met Tom and Tuvok to beam up. His arm was around her shoulders now, hers around his waist. Their hips bumped as they walked. She was beautiful in the half light.

He stopped walking. Turned her towards him and wrapped his arm more fully around her shoulders. The small waves and eddies breaking on the shore were the only sound.

"Kathryn..." He breathed her name. One hand moved up to tangle gently in the pony tail she wore. The other settled on the side of her neck.

She stared up at him, lips slightly parted.

"It's been a magical day." He said the words quietly.

"Yes." She answered him equally softly. Her hands rested lightly on his waist.

"I don't want this to end."

In the velvet purple dusk he watched her face, could see her waiting.

"I don't think you're the Captain here, in this time."

Still she waited.

His hand left her neck to run a hot thumb over her lips. "Here we're just a woman and a man."

He moved closer. She moved closer too and rested her head on his chest.

"I guess this is a moment out of time." Her voice was muffled in his shirt.

He ran a hand gently down her back and then moved to cup her chin. He tilted her face up to his and his head drifted closer and closer to hers, drawn inexorably together.

He could feel her warm, moist breath on her face. Smell the sweet wine they had drunk earlier. Feel her body, vitally alive and warm through her shirt. He knew he shouldn't be doing this. He sensed that if he kissed her, then regardless of the time they were in, regardless of their reasons or excuses, then everything would change. He was nervous of her reaction. Scared of what they might ignite. But her closeness was compelling and he couldn't have stopped to save his life.

A wolf whistle crashed into their awareness. They sprang apart as Tom and Tuvok moved down the beach towards them.

"Hey man, don't let us stop you," called Tom, clearly in good humor.

Kathryn moved a pace away from him. The soft dusk hid the ribbons of color staining her cheeks.

"You saw nothing Mr. Paris." Crisp, efficient and if looks could kill Tom was six foot under.

She marched away from them, along the beach, leaving Chakotay, staring in her wake.

He turned to Tom , who noticed the broken look in his eyes.

Tom touched his sleeve. "Hey big man, I'm sorry," he offered quietly.

Chakotay's eyes were sad. "Tom, that was as close as I've come to heaven in four years. I would have given you my replicator rations for the next year if only you had kept your bloody mouth shut for another three minutes."

He hunched his shoulders and started down the beach, leaving Tom standing looking after him, mouth open.

* * *

Eventually things calmed back down. Kathryn could look Chakotay in the eye once again, without shivering at the thought of what his arms had felt like wrapped around her. She even managed to give Tom his T shirt. He was ecstatic.

Chakotay was resigned. So close. He concentrated on keeping things normal between them.

Tom was subdued. He realized what he had interrupted.

* * *

A couple of weeks later, Kathryn received a note from Tom.

You look like you could use some R&R. Check out my new holoprogram. I've reserved the holodeck for you, 18:00 hours tomorrow night.

She thought she would go. Ever since L.A. she hadn't been sleeping well. The memory of Chakotay's broad chest with its strong heartbeat under her cheek and the near miss of that kiss had her sleepless and staring out out of the viewport at the stars, more nights then she chose to remember. One small part of her mind was glad. She sensed, no, she knew, that if ever they kissed, really kissed, then they would be unleashing a dam of emotion. A deep well of feelings long suppressed and that there would be no going back. Ever. The next inevitable step would be to become lovers. But she still dreamed. Dreamed of the kiss that never was. Dreamed of how his lips would have felt, how she would have responded. Woke up in the night with his name on her lips. She didn't want to go back, she wanted to move on, wanted him by her side, in her heart and in her bed. But the moment had passed and maybe it was better that it had.

She arrived at the holodeck promptly at 18:00 hours, and was surprised to see Chakotay there, checking the logs.

He turned when she walked up. "Don't tell me," he smiled down at her. "Tom reserved the holodeck for you as well as me at 18:00 hours, to try his new program."

She smiled back at him. "He did indeed."

He held out a hand to her. "We might as well see what he has to offer."

Hand in hand they entered the holodeck, straight into Venice Beach on a crowded summer afternoon. The skaters, the muscle men, the T shirt vendors, the beach volley ball. All faithfully reproduced.

Hand in hand they wandered for a couple of hours, retracing their path from the real time before. His arm was around her shoulders, hers around his waist. At twilight, as the sun descended into the ocean they were once again on the beach. No-one was near.

"We've been here before," he said. "A couple of weeks ago, I turned you to face me. I tangled my fingers in your hair, touched your neck."

His actions mimicked his softly spoken words. Again, he turned her to face him and tangled a soft hand into her hair. His other hand wrapped around her, and gently urged her closer. She stepped up close to him, and placed her arms around his waist. His body brushed hers, chest to breast, thigh to thigh.

"Then what happened?" She prompted him equally softly.

"I was going to kiss you. You were going to let me."

"Yes..." She breathed the word into the charged air.

He sighed her name. Raising a hand, she traced his full lips with her fingers.

He bent his head and his lips drifted closer and closer. She felt that this moment was inevitable since the first time she had seen him. Dancing around each other for years, one step forward, two steps back.

He said her name again, reverently like a prayer.

"If we do this," she said, " we can't go back, we can only go forward. Can you do this?"

"Always," he said. His lips were a hairsbreadth away.

She was shivering, not from the simulated sea breeze, but from his proximity. He wrapped his arms around her, pulling her into his body.

He hovered one last moment, so close to her. She reached up and closed the gap, and their lips touched, just pressed together. She sighed his name, her lips opened and she started to shake in earnest.

He kissed her gently, slowly, hotly. His lips traced hers, his tongue tangled with hers. Her hand rose to his neck, the thick soft hair. Dimly she heard the sound of waves on the shore. She doubted her legs could support her, she sagged against him. Her body was on fire where it pressed against him, but the most overwhelming feeling was of coming home. How much she loved this man. How much he loved her.

He was easing out of the kiss, pressing gentle open mouthed kisses on her lips, jaw, cheeks, eyes, hair. She was still shaking. He held her close, just holding her against his heart.

"We can never go back," he whispered. "Just forwards together."

"Yes." She answered him. "I don't want to go back. I love you."

"I've always loved you," he replied.

She moved away just enough so that she could see his face.

"Will you stay with me tonight? Just to hold me? I don't know if I can make love to you right now, I'm so overwhelmed by just being this close to you, that I don't think I can take any more emotion. But I want to sleep in your arms. And we will make love. Very soon."

"Yes," he breathed. "Yes to everything. I want to hold you, touch your skin. Tell you I love you..."

Reluctantly they separated, but their arms stayed around each other as they left the holodeck and walked to her quarters, not caring who saw them. To let each other go, even for a moment was unthinkable.

* * *

Tom, who had been alerted by the computer when they left the holodeck, just contrived to be passing as they reached her quarters. He saw the closeness, saw them holding each other as if they would never let go. Felt the happiness Chakotay radiated. Saw Kathryn's tremulous smile as she looked up at her love. Saw the doors open and saw them walk in together. When he checked later, the privacy lock was engaged. He smiled. Underneath the frivolous exterior, Tom Paris was a romantic at heart.

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