Are We There Yet?

PG13

Summary: Set on Voyager not long after they’ve arrived in the Alpha Quadrant. Kathryn tells Chakotay what she knows of their futures and it doesn’t go as well as she expected.

 

Happy Birthday, Belanna. Have a wonderful day, my friend.

Thanks to Kim J for the beta, but again I’ve fiddled with it, so any mistakes are mine.

Disclaimer: CBS/Paramount owns everything. No infringement intended.


 

Kathryn huffed loudly and tossed the PADD she was holding onto the desk. The noise shattered the quiet and without an explanation, she crossed her arms and spun her chair to her right so she could stare out the viewport.

Chakotay’s head snapped up at the sound and she could feel his eyes following her movements but she couldn’t bring herself to meet his gaze.

Her jaw clenched and she gritted her teeth in an attempt to maintain her silence, but finally gave up. Turning towards him, she shook her head and the words spilled from her lips, “Chakotay, I just can’t let you do it.”

“Do what?”

They’d been sitting on opposite sides of her desk for the last hour, silently scrolling through reports and reviewing crew repatriation logs. The trouble was that Kathryn hadn’t made it past the first page on her PADD; her mind had been otherwise engaged.

She stared now at the man sitting across from her. It really hadn’t been her intention to say anything, but ever since the Admiral had delivered her startling revelations outside the Astrometrics lab, Kathryn had been caught in a dreadful quandary. The constant churn and tumble of thoughts – all filled with visions of that unwanted future – were driving her to distraction and the internal argument of whether or not to say something to Chakotay had been tying her in knots for days.

It wasn’t until she’d put herself in his place and imagined how she would feel if their positions were reversed that she’d decided he needed to know what future disasters were in the offing.

It sounded so simple but she had no idea what his reaction would be when presented with the facts. She glanced at his frowning face.

Chakotay’s puzzlement was genuine – and not unwarranted; he didn’t have a clue what she was talking about.

There was still time for her to demur; to brush off her outburst as something inconsequential but, damn it all, if she didn’t say something now, she never would.

The last few days had been spent in the company of the grim consequence of those events – her future self, Admiral Janeway – and she’d become all too well acquainted with what was in store for her if she stayed silent. But as much as she wanted to avoid that grisly outcome, her concern for Chakotay and the heartache that was heading his way were reason enough to break with protocol – or so she kept telling herself.

Although her inner censor was screaming at her to keep quiet, she mentally elbowed it out of the way and ploughed forth. This was something she had to do for all their sakes.

Taking a deep breath, Kathryn tried to explain. “It’s about the Admiral. She gave me some rather vivid insights into my – or rather, our – futures.”

His eyes widened slightly. “She certainly didn’t have any qualms about playing fast and loose with your precious Starfleet protocols and regulations did she? It’s hard to believe you’re the same person.”

Kathryn scowled at the deliberate dig but decided to take the high road and ignore the jibe, although she felt compelled to defend her older self. “She endured an awful lot of hurt over the years; it’s hardly surprising that she developed a certain steeliness. She had to survive.”

Chakotay shook his head and leaned back a little. “Steeliness is an understatement and I can’t imagine you ever finishing up like that, Kathryn. For a start, I wouldn’t let it happen.”

With a look of unnerving calm, Kathryn held his gaze until a spark of comprehension dawned on her companion’s face.

“I wasn’t around to stop it.” It was a statement, not a question.

Kathryn shrugged and looked past his shoulder. “You were alive, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

“I was alive but I didn’t stop you from becoming …her! I find that hard to believe.”

It was time for the unpleasant truth. She met his eyes. “We were – for the want of a better word – estranged.”

“Estranged?” He looked genuinely surprised.

Kathryn knew how he felt.

He leant forward. “Do you know why?”

Kathryn nodded but didn’t say anything.

He sounded understandably annoyed. “Well, are you going to tell me?”

Her resolve began to falter. “I shouldn’t. The temporal prime directive.”

He scoffed. “It’s blatantly obvious that you couldn’t care less about the temporal prime directive, now or in the future.” Leaning further forward, he studied her face. “You’re afraid.”

“I certainly am not. It’s a legitimate concern; if I tell you what she told me, it will change the future.”

“Sorry, that won’t wash either.” He sat back again and crossed his arms. “It‘s too late to worry about that. Your older self has already done a number on the future – a serious number. Whatever was going to happen, won’t now. It can’t.”

That was all the convincing that Kathryn needed and taking a deep breath, she barrelled ahead. “Tuvok is suffering from a neurological condition that – had we not made it back to the Alpha Quadrant when we did – would have left him incurably mentally incapacitated. Twenty-two more crew would have died in the sixteen years that it took us to reach home…”

Kathryn was having trouble continuing.

Chakotay frowned, distress registering in his eyes. He nodded slowly, then prompted, “And…”

“And Seven would have died three years from now, in the arms of her husband…” Kathryn couldn’t control the waver in her voice as she said the dreaded words. “… you, Chakotay.”

“What?!” His shocked reaction was instantaneous.

She nodded and swallowed. “According to the Admiral, you and Seven married. She was killed in an accident and afterwards we were never the same.”

Chakotay stared at her and she could see the disbelief warring with hurt in his eyes. There was gritty edge of derision in his tone. “If that were true, then I imagine that we weren’t ‘the same’ long before she died.” He snorted incredulously. “I married her?!”

“Apparently.”

“I find that very hard to believe.”

“You’re dating her, and you can’t see the potential for the relationship to evolve?” Kathryn kept her voice even but averted her eyes. It wasn’t a great combination but it was better than what she wanted to do, which was leap across the desk, grab him by the throat and shake him until his teeth rattled.

“We’ve had three rather awkward dates; it’s hardly what you’d call a relationship. She’s exploring her emotional boundaries.”

“From what I hear, that’s not all she’s exploring.” The words were out before she could stop them.

He jagged forward in his chair and looked at her more carefully, a small smile tugging at the corner of his mouth. “Kathryn, if I didn’t know better, I’d say you were jealous.”

She snapped back, “Good thing you know better then, isn’t it?”

His eyes lit up. “Spirits, you are jealous.”

More than a little irked by his apparent glee at this fact, not to mention the arrogant presumption of the man, Kathryn sat back and crossed her arms over her chest. It would be easy to back down at this point, to deny the truth of the accusation and make an excuse about being concerned for Seven’s welfare. She could then prattle on about the very real issues of the young woman’s naiveté and impressionability. But at the moment, the last thing on Kathryn’s mind was Seven’s precious sensibilities. She was annoyed with her protégé for being so completely unthinking and self-serving in her pursuit of Chakotay.

And Kathryn was angry and deeply hurt by her first officer’s defection.

She glared at him, taking special note of the knowing smile tugging at the corner of his mouth.

So, he thought this was amusing; well, she had news for him that would wipe that smug look off his face.

She pinned him with a steady stare, her eyes drilling into his as she dropped her bombshell. “Are you completely oblivious to the fact that I’ve been in love with you for years?”

It worked. The smile disappeared but the stunned look on his face and his subsequent silence was all the proof she needed. He hadn’t had a clue.

Kathryn heaved a weary sigh. “Well, that answers that question.” She got up from her desk and walked tiredly to the upper level of her Ready Room. She needed a coffee like she’d never needed one before.

The mug was in her hand and on the way to her mouth before he found his voice.

He challenged. “You’re in love with me?! Since when?”

Kathryn turned slowly to stare at the frowning man on the lower level of her Ready Room. He was walking towards the stairs; each step measured and his frown deepening with every slow stride.

She’d already blurted the horrible truth and seen his reaction, it couldn’t get any worse – she hoped. “For years. Since before New Earth.”

“And you didn’t think that I’d like to know this little snippet of information? You know, just a hint or perhaps even a quiet word along the way. All this time, Kathryn.”

“We couldn’t do anything about it, so what was the point. Besides, I stupidly thought you had at least some inkling of what my feelings were, and that you felt the same way. You certainly gave the impression that you did on New Earth, when you made me the bathtub and told me the legend about the warrior who’d found his peace.”

He was still staring at her, yet saying nothing.

She turned towards the viewport again. She couldn’t bear to witness the pity in his eyes. “For God’s sake, stop looking at me like that. I feel foolish enough without you gawping at me as though I’ve grown antlers. Please, just go. Forget I said anything. Find Seven, marry her – or not – I don’t care. Just get out of here.”

Kathryn took a big sip of coffee although it really wasn’t helping. What she needed was a whiskey – a large one – but she was on duty for another ten minutes and although they were safe and sound in the Alpha Quadrant, she still couldn’t bring herself to break the rules even under these circumstances.

God, she was such a tragic martinet; no wonder he’d lost interest.

She heard the door swish shut and her shoulders drooped as she turned around and found her Ready Room empty.

Well, that was pretty much what she’d expected. A perfectly disastrous outcome to her tragically timed declaration; she’d shocked him so profoundly that he’d turned tail and run.

Her lip curled cynically. That’s what one got for telling the truth. If only she’d listened to that irksome voice in her head and kept the grisly facts to herself; at least then she and Chakotay could have remained friends. It looked as though the future for this Kathryn Janeway wasn’t going to be all that different from the original after all.

Goddamn it.

Turning back to the replicator, she recycled her mug and snapped out a new order. “Computer, two shots of Bushmills single malt, no ice.” The whiskey appeared and she snatched it from the console.

Holding it at eye level, she marvelled at the way the reflected light of Earth blurred and muted through the amber liquid. With any luck, it would have the same dulling effect on the jagged edges of her broken heart.

What a monumental fool she was and what a poor judge of character. She truly had thought that he still held some glimmer of affection for her hidden away in his heart. Heaving a sigh, she took a sip of her drink and looked out at the blue planet of home.

Home; the word had resonated in her mind for so long that it was almost impossible to grasp the fact that they were really here. She expected any moment to wake up from this dream-cum-nightmare to find herself alone in her bed under the alien stars of the Delta Quadrant. For just an instant, she almost wished it were so and she could have this day to do over again. If it were possible, she’d keep silent about their futures and simply enjoy the reality of being here at last.

There truly was much to be thankful for, the least of which was the survival of those twenty-two crewmen who would now go on to live long and fruitful lives. The knowledge that Tuvok would be delivered into the healing hands of his family was another blessing, and as heartsore as she was, it still gave her comfort to know that Seven would survive.

Kathryn made a silent toast to the brilliant blue orb to which she’d fought so long and hard to return and tossed back another healthy swig of her drink. The liquor sent a trail of warmth down her throat and she took a deep satisfied breath.

Disastrous declarations aside, it really was a good day and something to be celebrated, which reminded her that Tom and Harry had organised a party in the Mess hall and she’d promised to put in an appearance after her shift. Not that she would stay long, as was her habit at these sorts of events. She was well aware that having the Captain around often put a dampener on the revelry; just another reminder of the part she’d played in her own mountain of misery.

God, she really needed to get a handle on these maudlin emotions and enter into the spirit of things.

Slugging down the last mouthful of her whiskey, she recycled the glass and left for her quarters.

Tom had insisted that the party was a no-uniforms affair, so this would add another five or ten frustrating minutes to her preparation time while she pondered her out-of-date wardrobe to try and find something half-decent to wear.

She’d stopped wearing civilian clothes to functions years ago; it was just too much trouble and, to her mind, a frivolous waste of replicator rations. Consequently, there were very slim pickings in her closet. Her uniform had become a constant companion, but it was only now that she realised it had become more a form of armour – a buffer between her and the rest of her small world.

==

Pulling herself up short as the lift stopped on deck three, she stepped out into the corridor. She needed to haul herself out of this mawkish state and put on ‘the happys,’ as her mother would say. There would be plenty of time to dissect all the mistakes she’d made during the last seven years once they started debriefings and the much-dreaded but compulsory counselling sessions.

Her door swished open unexpectedly as she approached, which instantly put her on high alert. Her first thought was that a reporter or ‘groupie’ – of which they apparently had many – had somehow beamed aboard and was hiding out in her quarters, but when she stepped over the threshold, she was met with a candle lit room, a table set for two and Chakotay in civilian clothes easing the cork from a bottle of champagne.

He grinned at her as she entered. “Welcome home, Kathryn.”

“Did I miss something?”

“Not that I know of. This is to celebrate our arrival in the Alpha Quadrant… and other things.”

She took a couple of tentative steps into the room and almost jumped as the door swished shut behind her. Frowning, she looked around the room then back at him. “I feel as though I’ve skipped a chapter – a pivotal one.” She really wasn’t sure what to make of it.

As the cork popped, Chakotay shook his head and grinned before scooping up two champagne flutes from the table with one hand, and pouring them both a glass. After placing the bottle in the ice bucket, he handed her a glass with a flourish and raised his in a toast.

“To Earth, to home and to new beginnings.”

Kathryn’s frown deepened and she didn’t sip her champagne; instead, she put it on the table and glared at him. “What’s going on, Chakotay? You can’t just waltz in here and pretend that nothing’s changed.”

“I’m not. Absolutely everything has changed.”

“No, it hasn’t.”

“You Janeway women certainly know how to complicate matters, don’t you?”

“I don’t see what this has got to do with the Admiral.”

“It has everything to do with her – and with you. Don’t you see? The Admiral ignored every known subsection of General Order One and the entire Temporal Prime Directive, annihilating sixteen years of history and willingly allowing herself to be assimilated by the Borg just to get us to this point. Don’t you think that she was trying to tell us something?”

“That she was certifiably insane is the first thing that comes to mind.”

“Perhaps. But you have to hand it to her; she did it in style.”

“You’re just easily impressed by mavericks and nonconformists.”

“Probably. I fell for you, didn’t I?”

“Did you?”

He just looked at her. “You know I did. I love you.”

“Don’t say that; I know that’s not true. Your horrified reaction to my declaration in the Ready Room says otherwise. After that display, you can’t expect to turn around and try to convince me that you really care. I’m not a naive twenty-something. For God’s sake, give me some credit.”

Chakotay appeared entirely unimpressed by her arguments and picked up her glass again, insisting that she take it. She did so, reluctantly, but still refused to take a sip.

His mouth twitched with a suppressed smile. “No, you’re definitely not a twenty-something.”

Her eyes sparked with indignation. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

This time, he laughed, which only made her anger flare molten hot.

“I don’t mean anything, Kathryn. I admit, I was shocked by your declaration but only because for years I’d assumed that you didn’t care. I don’t want you to be a twenty-something. I want you to be you.”

“You don’t even know me, Chakotay. This evening’s conversations have proven that beyond all doubt. You have no idea who I am.”

“I know you better than you think I do.”

“Now, that’s just patronising and annoying.”

“Tell me then.”

“After seven years of working by my side, you now want me to tell you who I am?” She stared at him, incredulous at his show of arrogance. “Get out.”

“I know you don’t mean that, Kathryn; besides Seven is going to be arriving soon with our meal.”

“Your girlfriend is bringing our dinner?!”

“She’s not my girlfriend, Kathryn. She never was.”

“What did you do?”

“I didn’t do anything.”

“An hour ago you were dating her and now she’s not your girlfriend. Again, I’m asking; what did you do?”

“I went to see her and explained that in the best interests of all concerned we shouldn’t go on any more dates. And that as much as I’ve enjoyed her company over the last couple of weeks, I don’t think that we’re compatible on a long term basis.”

Kathryn was gobsmacked. “I can’t believe you did that. Is she all right?”

Chakotay gave a small huff. “Oh, let me assure you, she’s fine. She agreed wholeheartedly and, in so many words, pointed out that being lumbered with a middle-aged man who wanted to ‘settle down’ was not the most efficient use of her time or experience, especially when there was an entire quadrant’s worth of likely suitors for her to discover.”

“Ouch.” It took all of Kathryn’s self-control not to snort with laughter. “She didn’t really say that, did she?”

“Oh, she certainly did; you can ask her if you like.” He leaned sideways to check the grandfather clock. “She’ll be here any minute.”

Her anger flared again. “What in God’s name possessed you to ask her to do this?”

“I didn’t ask, she offered.”

“What’s she going to think when she sees us here like this?”

“Well, if we’re arguing, she’s going to think that we’re angry with one another.”

“We are angry with one another.”

“I’m not angry with you.”

Kathryn’s eyes flashed. “I can soon fix that.”

He grinned and took another sip of champagne. “I’m sure you could but I don’t want to be angry with you, Kathryn. What I want to do is kiss you, have dinner with you, kiss you again, go to the party with you and then come back here and make love to you.”

Her eyes were almost on stalks as she listened to his audacious proposal but she reacted quickly. “This is ridiculous. If you won’t leave, then I will.”

She was all set to make a dramatic exit but before she could get to the door, it swished open and she almost ran headlong into Seven of Nine carrying a large tray loaded with plates from which wafted the most delicious aromas.

“Captain!” Seven smiled serenely.

Kathryn took a step back. “Hello, Seven.”

“I have brought your celebratory evening meal. The Commander explained the situation to me and I readily concurred with his proposed course of action. He in turn agreed with my suggestion that I prepare one of my special menus for you as a means of reparation for causing so much confusion. I wish to offer my congratulations, Captain. Please have a seat and I shall serve the first course.”

Before Kathryn knew what was happening, Chakotay had taken her elbow and was guiding her back to her chair.

He sat opposite and smiled kindly at the former drone as she placed an appetiser in front of each of them. He then asked, “What have you cooked for us, Seven? It smells delicious.”

The young woman lifted the covers from the food and explained. “In light of you aversion to animal flesh, Commander, I have made vegetarian dishes for both courses. The appetiser is a courgette and ricotta melange served with an aubergine roulade and fried carrots. Main course is pine mushroom, spinach and ricotta ravioli with chive beurre fondue and a confit of tomatoes and thyme. Bon appetit.”

Chakotay nodded appreciatively. “It looks wonderful, Seven.”

Kathryn looked up and met the young woman’s anxious eyes and her heart melted a little. Seven was trying so desperately to make amends.

It wasn’t her fault that Chakotay had responded to her innocent and unsophisticated advances. He should have known better.

Kathryn couldn’t stay angry with her and offered up a gentle smile.

“Thank you, Seven. It looks lovely.”

Seven’s whole body seemed to relax and the small frown that had been marring her brow disappeared. “You are welcome, Captain.” She took a deep breath and turned back to the tray. “I shall leave your main course in the stasis unit and Commander, you have the dessert organised?”

Chakotay nodded. “Yes, Seven, it’s taken care of.”

“Enjoy your meal, Captain and Commander.”

They watched as she turned and left. As soon as the door closed behind her, Chakotay looked up to meet Kathryn’s eyes. “See, she’s all right, Kathryn. Really.”

“I can see that, but no thanks to you. Did it occur to you that she was young and impressionable, and that perhaps it wasn’t appropriate for you, her commanding officer, to make advances of a romantic nature?”

Chakotay waited a moment to answer but then shook his head. “No, it didn’t. She was curious about romance and had been experimenting on the holodeck. The Doctor encouraged her and she was keen to try her hand at the real thing.”

“On the Doctor’s recommendation?! Doesn’t that strike you as a little odd? I’m as fond of the Doctor as the next person, but as a teacher of the finer points of romance and relationships; it’s a bit like the blind leading the blind, don’t you think?”

He huffed a laugh. “When did you become such a cynic, Kathryn?”

His offhand remark ignited something explosive inside her and after the initial blinding flare of indignation subsided, she turned on him.

“Oh, I don’t know. Let me think…” Her voice was laden with resentment as she began her litany. “I’ve been captain of a lost ship for seven years, on duty for every one of those days as I carried the unrelenting responsibility for the lives of one hundred and fifty people. I’ve died, been assimilated, mutated and maimed on innumerable occasions. I’ve manipulated, manoeuvred and endangered the lives of my crew, my friends and the people I love more often than I even want to think about. I’ve been mentally suspect on occasion and doubted my sanity on many others. I’ve been responsible for the deaths of dozens of my crew, countless aliens and entire species – one that I’m certain of and probably others that I don’t even know about thanks to my arrogant assumption that I knew best in regard to Species 8472. I’ve compromised my own principles, not to mention Starfleet’s – bending, twisting and perverting the prime directive along the way, which resulted in the near demise of the Hirogen and the resurrection of the remorseless Vardwaar – I have endless nightmares about that and other disasters. I also had the resounding pleasure of confronting my future self, not to mention my dead self and my dead father. I’ve lost friends, a fiancé, fallen in love and been left broken hearted.” She took a shuddering breath. “Do you need me to go on?”

Chakotay shook his head and slowly placed his champagne on the table. His eyes dropped to his plate and Kathryn felt a satisfying surge of triumph at having taken the blustery and overconfident wind out of his proverbial sails.

She sat back, crossed her arms over her chest and, wearing a smug look of superiority, waited for his reaction. He raised his head but the instant his eyes met hers, the feeling of triumph evaporated. He looked devastated.

In a voice husky with emotion, he held her gaze and whispered, “I’m so sorry, Kathryn.”

Now she felt like crying. This wasn’t at all what she’d set out to do. Thoroughly ashamed of herself for spewing such vitriol, she looked down at the quickly cooling meal in front of her and wished once more that she could start the day all over again. It wasn’t really Chakotay’s fault, but it wasn’t hers either; it was merely circumstances and she’d learned the hard way that they could be a bitch sometimes.

Taking a deep breath, she looked up and gave Chakotay a sad smile. “I’m sorry, Chakotay. That was unfair. It’s just been one of those days.”

He nodded slowly but then vehemently shook his head. “No, it’s my fault, I shouldn’t have presumed. I did this all wrong. I owe you an apology, several actually, and I should have had the decency to realise how much all of this has cost you. I’m a fool and deserve every ounce of your contempt.” He placed his napkin on the table and moved to stand up. “You need to know though, Kathryn that I do love you and have loved you for years. I just didn’t expect you to tell me in the way that you did and my stupid reaction was a pathetic attempt to make you suffer a little for making me wait so long. It was cruel and petty and I’m sorry; sorrier than you’ll ever know.”

He made a move to leave and Kathryn was tempted to throw something at him but instead she jumped to her feet as well. “Oh for God’s sake don’t leave again, it’s becoming a very bad habit. Besides, your dinner’s going to get cold.”

He stopped but didn’t turn around. “Are you sure you want me to stay? I’d understand…”

She slumped back into her chair. “No…yes. Hell, I don’t know, but we can’t just leave things like this.”

He turned and walked back towards the table but didn’t take his seat again. Instead, he knelt in front of Kathryn, clasped each of her hands in his and rubbed his thumbs over the soft skin on the back of her wrists. Kathryn watched as he lifted them and reverently kissed her fingers. Laying them back in her lap, he looked up to meet her eyes. “I wish more than anything that we could have this day over again. And I know in light of what the Admiral did, that’s a contentious thing to say but, if I could…”

Kathryn pivoted to her feet and with her hand still in his, pulled him up. Letting go of his hands, she picked up the plates from the table and placed them in the stasis unit, and then she turned to him again. She grabbed the champagne bottle from the ice bucket and shoved it into his hands. “Wait there.” She then turned towards the door.

“Where are you going?”

“We’re turning back time.”

“Not literally, I hope.”

Kathryn gave him a narrow-eyed glare and then watched his brow rise in surprise.

He took a small step towards her. “What else did the Admiral tell you?”

Her face broke into a genuine smile. “Don’t panic, she wasn’t that reckless.”

He gave her an incredulous look.

Kathryn shrugged. “Okay, point taken. Maybe she knew me too well and didn’t want to tempt me.”

“Perhaps.”

Kathryn tried to explain. “You see, I had the same thought earlier. I wished that I could have this day to do over again. We can’t – for obvious reasons – but perhaps we can improve upon what’s already happened and maybe get it right this time. I’m declaring the last two hours an aberration – a glitch in the space-time continuum. I’m going to leave and once I’m gone, the timeline will reset. We’re rebooting the afternoon and when I come back, we do it how it was supposed to be done before we messed it up.”

Chakotay burst out laughing and took another step towards her. “That’s my Kathryn.”

She stepped away from him and quirked her eyebrow. “I’m not yet, but I plan to be.”

Chakotay’s eyes widened, and he blew a sharp breath from between his lips.

Kathryn saw his eyes flash with something that she hadn’t seen in a very long time and hope sparked a welcome fire inside her.

She took one last look around the room, noticed something and moved to the table. She picked up the champagne glasses and handed them to Chakotay as well. “We can’t leave anything to chance.”

Seemingly satisfied, she marched out the doors without looking back.

==

The doors swished shut behind her and before she turned, she took five paces – one for every year she hadn’t told him of her feelings. She wasn’t a superstitious woman by nature but as she trod each one of those five steps back towards the door of her quarters, she felt the weight of guilt lift a little. The door opened again and candle light and a smiling Chakotay greeted her.

He took the two glasses of champagne that he was holding and moved towards her.

She took the one he offered her and smiled up at him. “A toast?”

He nodded. “To Earth, to home and to you.”

Kathryn cocked her head to the side. “How about, to us?”

“I’ll drink to that.”

They both took a sip and as soon as she lowered her glass, he took it from her and placed both on the table behind him.

Kathryn raised her eyebrow in question. “Time for dinner?”

He shook his head and took a step closer. In the same movement, he cupped her face in his hands and lowered his mouth towards hers. His breath whispered across her lips. “Change of plans. I’m going to kiss you.”

Her mouth curled into a smile. “I’m not going to argue.”

“About time.”

She opened her mouth to protest but before she could utter a word, his lips descended, capturing hers in a breath-taking kiss.

As Kathryn wrapped her arms around him, she mentally tipped her hat at the Admiral and revelled in her true homecoming.

 

Fin.

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