This Time

Summary: A Bliss episode addition and post Endgame fixer upper. The ‘I’m going to make sure it’s in transporter range of you.’ line in Endgame (said by Chakotay to Seven) is one that makes me want to hurl something at the screen, or just plain hurl, every time I hear it. I had to put it into some sort of JC context for my own peace of mind.

Thank you to Brianna for the beta.

 

For Corinna on her birthday. 😀

 

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

 

 


 

Chakotay hovered close to Seven at her console. Earlier today she’d been injured in her alcove by the Borg Queen and he’d rushed to the Astrometrics Lab to check on her.

 

“I heard what happened. Are you all right?”

 

“I’m fine.”

 

“Because if you need time to rest I’m in charge of the duty roster.” Chakotay waved the padd in his hand.

 

Seven turned towards him, her face softening into the beginnings of a smile. “It would be inappropriate to allow our personal relationship to affect your command decisions.”

 

Chakotay tried to suppress a grin as they turned back towards the screen. There was a twinkle in his eye however. “You’re right. This is a time to keep things professional. Report!”

 

“There is no sign of Borg activity within a ten light year radius.” Seven realized that he was flirting with her and she felt vaguely uncomfortable, especially considering the circumstances. This was her place of work and she found it difficult to relax in his company here. Chakotay seemed at ease though, so she tried to follow his lead.

 

He gave her a sideways glance. “That’s good news, Crewman.”

 

She smiled tentatively and attempted to reciprocate. “Yes, Sir… but we shouldn’t underestimate the Collective.” The flirtatious tone disappeared from her voice and a worried frown creased her brow.

 

“The Admiral seems confident we can make it past them.”

 

“Captain Janeway is more cautious.” Seven felt a slight pang of something slightly unnerving when she thought of her captain and mentor. All these emotions were so new to her that she found it difficult to identify and catalogue them. Her small world was spiralling out of control and it made her uneasy.

 

Chakotay was a little more optimistic. “Our chances would be good with one Kathryn Janeway on the Bridge, but with two, I’d bet on this ship any day.” He moved so he could see Seven’s face. “If we do make it back to Earth, what are your plans?”

 

Seven spoke quietly, not certain, or entirely comfortable, as to where this question was leading. “I assume Starfleet will want to debrief me, and then I suppose I’ll attempt to find a useful position somewhere. You?”

 

He was only inches from her. She was quite beautiful. Even the metal of her implants seemed less jarring these days. He looked at her intently. “I don’t know yet either, but wherever I end up, I’m going to make sure it’s in transporter range of you.”

 

Seven gave him another cautious smile and then frowned as she watched his face pale and his eyes widen in horror. “Chakotay?” He didn’t answer. “Commander, are you unwell?”

 

He was staring past her, his body rigid. Seven touched his shoulder and he jolted away from her, looking at her with a startled expression. He appeared almost surprised to see her.

 

“Huh!?”

 

“Chakotay? What is wrong?”

 

His face crumpled with a look of anguish and there was also a flash of something akin to fear in his eyes. His words tumbled, one over the top of the other. “I…, Seven, I’ve… Oh God, I’ve made a terrible mistake… I forgot…I can’t… I wish I could explain but… I’m so sorry, so sorry.” Without another word, he spun on his heel and left Astrometrics.

 

Almost at a run, he made his way straight to his quarters needing a few solitary moments to get himself under control. Closing his eyes, he tried to get his pounding heart to calm but really what he wanted to do was punch something. He’d forgotten. How could he have done that? It was the worst sort of betrayal. Oh gods, Kathryn. He’d sworn he wouldn’t forget, but he had. What a fool!

 

What was wrong with him that he could have so easily cast it all aside? All the love that he’d kept safe inside for all these years and he’d been ready to throw it away.

 

He stood by the viewport and looked out at the stars. Closing his eyes again, he pressed his forehead against the cool glass, his mind taking him back two and a half years.

 

He remembered.

 

**********

 

Chakotay peered into the dimly lit mess hall finally catching a glimpse of her silhouette over by the viewport. “There you are. I’ve been looking for you.”

 

Kathryn turned as he made his way towards her and gave him a half-hearted smile. “I’m still here.”

 

They were all ‘still here’ and that was the problem. “Are you all right, Kathryn?”

 

She shrugged. “Yes, I’m fine. I’m just trying to rationalise what happened.”

 

“Hmmm, good luck. It certainly was one of the more bizarre encounters we’ve experienced. You know Naomi has nicknamed the creature the Pitcher Plant?”

 

Kathryn raised her brow and smiled. “An apt name. She’s one perceptive child.” Picking up the coffee pot she indicated it with a nod of her head. “Would you like a cup?”

 

“I’d love one.” He headed to the servery to retrieve a mug, reaching over the bench and snagging one from behind the counter. On the way back he took note of Kathryn’s slumped shoulders and the weary look on her face. The Delta Quadrant had dealt them another vicious blow – this time in the guise of a massive space dwelling life form that had manipulated their thoughts and lured them inside its gaping maw in an attempt to devour them. If it hadn’t been so potentially lethal, he could have almost laughed. Voyager’s reality went well beyond the realms of fiction and fantasy. One couldn’t imagine this sort of thing in one’s wildest dreams and, to add insult to injury, it was the second time they’d almost been eaten by a giant ‘space monster’.

 

The first incident had been only a month or two into their journey. With their power supplies at critical and survival on a knife edge, they’d stumbled across what they’d thought was a nebula filled with omicron particles that could be converted to life saving energy. The renewed supplies also meant that Kathryn would have access to a replicator and wouldn’t have to tolerate any more of Neelix’s ‘better than coffee’ coffee substitutes, which she abhorred. He smiled as he remembered her standing on the command deck, with a wicked gleam in her eye and that signature crooked grin, looking towards the viewscreen and saying, ‘There’s coffee in that nebula.’

 

It had all been so new then and he hadn’t known her long, but he’d realised, at that moment, there was a lot more to this woman captain than met the eye.

 

The mission to retrieve the omicron particles had been a disaster, of course. The ‘nebula’ had been a life form and although not sentient, it still had tried to absorb Voyager and kill them all.

 

Terrifying as that situation had been, this time there’d been an even crueller twist to their experience.

 

They’d thought they were going home.

 

The creature had the ability to telepathically manipulate their senses – what they saw, what they heard and what they felt. It had appeared to all of them as a wormhole leading directly to Earth’s doorstep. Initially there’d been cynical disbelief and wariness, but the creature was able to tap into their psyches and before they knew what was happening, they were polishing their boots and dusting off their dress uniforms ready for the big welcome home. Seven, Naomi, the Doctor, and an alien named Qatai, had saved them. They were the only ones unaffected by the creature’s manipulations.

 

The poor crew had been stunned and shaken when they realised that their homecoming had been a figment of their collective imaginations. Understandably, some were more upset than others, but, as unfortunate as it sounded, they were becoming inured to this sort of thing. They’d had their hopes of a quick return to the Alpha Quadrant dashed more than a few times in the last four and a half years and, as time plodded on, it seemed less and less likely that they would reach Earth any time soon.

 

It was now two days post event and most of the crew were regarding it as just another misstep in their long and adventure-filled journey. All except Kathryn. She’d barely said a word to anyone since they’d escaped the creature’s insidious clutches. Chakotay had a feeling that she needed to talk, hence his appearance in the mess hall.

 

She poured his coffee and made her usual joking comments when he added his two sugars and cream to the steaming mug, but her heart wasn’t in it. Kathryn gave Chakotay a sad smile as he stood opposite her in front of the viewport. It was a familiar and comforting symmetry.

 

Her attention was directed at the stars outside, so he waited a few minutes and then asked. “Do you want to talk about it?”

 

This time she looked up at him and huffed out a sigh. “There’s not much to talk about is there? It was all a dream. It wasn’t real, so it doesn’t matter.”

 

“Obviously it does matter or we all wouldn’t be so affected by it. Whatever that creature did to us made it seem real. Real enough for us to think we were going home. We were all looking forward to starting our new lives and picking up the old. We’re all feeling the loss, Kathryn. You are allowed to feel it too.”

 

She gave him another sad smile. “I guess you’re right.” Sipping her coffee she studied their reflections for a moment. “I wish I could be as complacent as you, Chakotay.” Her eyes flicked to his in the darkened viewport. “Is this calm and collected exterior for my benefit or are you really this accepting of our fate?”

 

Chakotay contemplated her face in the window. “I’m disappointed. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t, but it’s no secret, Kathryn, I’m not in that much of a hurry to get back. There’s not a lot in the Alpha Quadrant for me; and, despite my enthusiastic Pitcher Plant delusions, I’m not likely to get anywhere within spitting distance of the Academy and will most likely be thrown in jail the moment I set foot on Federation soil. So you can understand why I’m not in that much of a rush to get there.”

 

Kathryn shook her head vehemently. “I won’t let them do that, you know. I’ll turn the damn ship around and head back to the Delta Quadrant if they try to put you in jail. I swear.”

 

Chakotay laughed, but she turned to him with eyes bright with passion. His laughter faded, but he smiled affectionately. “I don’t doubt that you would, Kathryn, but none of the Maquis would allow it. We know we have to pay for our crimes. We wouldn’t have been in the Maquis in the first place if being prosecuted had been a concern. Besides, we’ve got years of travel ahead of us and by the time we get back, the Maquis will most likely be a dim memory.” He shrugged. “I might get that professorship in anthropology after all. Perhaps I should send them my curriculum vitae now, just in case. They’ll have about thirty years to consider it.”

 

He was trying to lighten the mood, and although Kathryn appreciated his gesture and smiled, it was an obligatory one, and not from the heart.

 

He didn’t want to push her and turned to study the stars. Eventually, she would come to grips with the situation. She’d made a promise to him, and more importantly, to herself, that she wouldn’t again become victim to the destructive depression that she’d suffered in the Void.

 

He felt her eyes on him and turned towards her. She was contemplating him with her head cocked to the side. “You can joke, but I think you’d make a wonderful professor of anthropology. You taught at the academy before, so it’s a definite possibility.”

 

Shaking his head, he chuckled and took her empty cup and dropped it, and the pot, in the recycler. “We’ll see. Kathryn…” He was about to ask her to dinner but they were interrupted by the chirp of Kathryn’s combadge.

 

“Carey to Janeway.”

 

She shrugged as she tapped her badge. “Janeway here.”

 

“Sorry to disturb you, Captain but we’re having some trouble with the relays for the primary plasma flow injectors. B’Elanna’s in the Jefferies tube on deck seven working on some damaged gel packs and we’re a little shorthanded. She asked me to contact you.”

 

“Fine Joe, I’m on my way.” She looked at Chakotay questioningly. “What were you going to say, Chakotay?”

 

“I was just going to ask if you’d like to join me for dinner, but it looks like it’s fun and games in the Jefferies tubes instead. Would you like some company and a helping hand?”

 

This time her smile was genuine. “Thank you that would be lovely. Maybe, if we finish early enough, we can still have that dinner?”

 

“Excellent thought, and that’s why you’re the captain and the brains of this outfit.” Grinning, he indicated that she should precede him from the hall. They wound their way through the tables, exited the mess hall and headed for the turbo lift.

 

They ended up on deck eleven, crouched side by side in the Jefferies tube just behind the deflector dish. His engineering skills were about on par with Kathryn’s culinary skills, so he was there as her caddy and dogsbody, to hold and pass tools to her as she moved from one relay terminal to the next. They were checking for overloads and burnt out relays, a result of their close encounter with, and frantic escape from, the Pitcher Plant creature. They’d found two damaged relays so far, and there were still several more junctions to inspect.

 

Watching Kathryn work was one of Chakotay’s favourite pastimes. All her attention was intently focussed on what she was doing. She was completely engrossed, her mouth pursed in concentration. He admired her utter commitment to whatever situation she was involved in and, of course, he had a hidden agenda – it also meant he could watch her without the fear of being caught.

 

They’d shuffled up the tube several times, dragging tools and replacement relays as they went. It was good for Kathryn to have something constructive to do and an excellent way of keeping her mind occupied and off troubling thoughts of the Pitcher Plant alien and home. They chatted intermittently about nothing in particular, occasionally laughing at some antic of the crew’s.

 

It was hot in the tubes, especially being so close to the deflector dish and they’d removed their jackets several relays ago. Leaning back against the wall he watched her work. With her sleeves rolled up to her elbows, her nimble fingers were making short work of the stubborn relays. She’d barked the skin off a couple of her knuckles, but carried on regardless. She wasn’t a big woman, in some ways she looked quite fragile without the added bulk of her uniform jacket, but it was an illusion. He’d never met anyone as feisty or as fearless. He loved her tenacity and grit.

 

Whoa! Where had that come from? He sat up straighter and gave his head a bit of a shake. Something had happened to him since the Pitcher Plant alien had rummaged around in his brain. A sleeping giant had been awakened in the shape of his feelings for Kathryn. He’d spent years taming his yearnings for her and here they were reappearing yet again. It was important that he get them under control so they didn’t impinge upon their friendship; but maybe later. For now he was enjoying watching her and taking comfort from the inner peace that these feelings brought.

 

He was jolted out of his reverie when Kathryn mumbled something. Leaning closer he asked her to repeat what she’d said. She gave another mumbled reply and with a laugh, he reached forward and took the hyperspanner from between her teeth. Turning, she grinned at him. “That’s better. Sorry. No hands.” She was elbow deep in the wall. “I was asking if you could please pass me the new relay.”

 

Chakotay returned the smile and leant forward, pulling some of the fibre-optical cabling out of the way so she had a free hand. “Here you are.” He handed her the new component.

 

With a grunt, Kathryn clicked the new part in place. “There, done.” Wiping the sweat from her brow, she sat back, slumping against the side of the tube. She tapped her combadge. “Janeway to Engineering.”

 

“B’Elanna here, Captain.”

 

“I think I’ve got all the new relays in place on deck eleven. Do you want to do a quick diagnostic to check?”

 

“I’ll contact you in a moment, Captain. Torres out.”

 

Kathryn took a deep breath and let it out with a sigh. She turned to Chakotay. “Thanks for the help and the company. It’s much easier with two of us.”

 

“Commander Pack Horse, at your service. I hope they’re all done, I’m getting hungry.”

 

“I’m pretty sure they are, but I just want to get the all-clear from B’Elanna. I don’t want to have to crawl back in here later tonight.”

 

“Wise move.” He began packing the tools back into the kit. Once he was done he snapped the lid shut and slung it over his shoulder, ready for the crawl back through the tube. He stole a quick glance at Kathryn. She didn’t look quite so dismal now. “How are you feeling? A little better?”

 

She shrugged. “Yes, I think I am actually. Keeping busy helps. As Aunt Martha used to say… ‘Idle hands are the devil’s playground.’” Chakotay smiled and Kathryn’s mouth twisted into a grin. “I think she just used to like scaring us into doing chores around her house.” Kathryn was quiet for a minute or so, and then spoke quietly without looking at him. “She was dead you know?”

 

Chakotay frowned. “Was dead?”

 

“In my imagined return to the Alpha Quadrant.”

 

“Oh, I’m sorry, Kathryn.”

 

She shrugged again. “It was only a dream.”

 

“I know, but it must have been upsetting.”

 

“Yes, it was.” She turned to him and her eyes locked with his. Their blue depths intense in the bright light of the Jeffries tube. “She’s a crotchety old biddy, but it wouldn’t be the same without her. Was your homecoming what you expected?”

 

He frowned. This was leading to some revelation, perhaps the reason why she’d been so quiet and reticent. So he answered as truthfully as he could. “Yes and no. At the time I thought it was wonderful. I was welcomed by Admiral Hayes and Necheyev, lauded and admired, given a promotion and set up in a corner office at Starfleet Academy. I couldn’t have wished for anything more, but, as you said Kathryn, it wasn’t real, so it means nothing. It was just my own rather odd and mystifying fantasy.” He smiled and reached across to pat her hand. She looked down and he could tell she was trying to stop herself from snatching her hand away. She succeeded and left it there under his. “How about you, Kathryn? Apart from Aunt Martha, was it what you imagined it would be?”

 

Without raising her head she shook it and mumbled. “No, it wasn’t”

 

“Can I ask what happened?” He didn’t want to push too hard. She was likely to withdraw if he did, but he had the feeling that she needed to talk and sitting side by side in the Jeffries tube was neutral ground for both of them, so he waited patiently.

 

“Well, Aunt Martha was gone, but my mother and sister were there. So was Mark. His engagement had been called off, you know?” She looked at Chakotay to gauge his reaction.

 

He tried to remain impassive, but it was difficult. Looking at her, he gave her an encouraging smile. “You mentioned that before we entered the worm hole.”

 

Kathryn continued, staring straight ahead at nothing. “Hmmm, yes. More fool me. I should have realised something was terribly wrong. The man has been married for almost a year, but it seems we were willing to believe anything.”

 

Chakotay gave her a sympathetic smile. “You weren’t the only one, Kathryn. It was a powerful delusion.”

 

She shrugged. “I suppose you’re right.” She looked at him briefly and then turned back to stare at the wall opposite. “Anyway, I met him on arrival and he was so pleased to see me. He swept me into his arms; holding me tight. He even cried. It was very moving, but …” Kathryn pulled her hand away from Chakotay’s, and worried at her fingernail with her thumb. “… I wasn’t sure what to feel.” She looked up at Chakotay and tried to smile. It was half-hearted at best.

 

“I’m sorry, Kathryn. It’s hard to stop loving someone, even after all this time.”

 

She shrugged. “You’re right, but it’s not what you think. I couldn’t have cared less about Mark.”

 

Chakotay did a double take.

 

Kathryn smiled, this time much more successfully. “Yes, I know. Shocking, huh?”

 

“Just a bit. I gathered you were looking forward to seeing him.”

 

“So did I, but it wasn’t at all what I expected. It was all wrong. Everything had changed. Something was missing… or rather… someone.”

 

“Aunt Martha?”

 

Kathryn gave him a strange look. “No, not exactly.” She huffed out a breath and turned away to look up the Jeffries tube. When she spoke again it was barely a whisper. “You weren’t there and it all seemed so wrong.”

 

Chakotay leant forward to try and see her face. “Me?”

 

She swung around and met his eyes challengingly. “Yes, you. I kept looking for you, but you weren’t there. Mark was hovering and basically making a nuisance of himself and all I wanted to do was find you and talk to you, to make sure you were all right, but no one knew where you were.” Chakotay watched her swallow past the building emotion. “You were god knows where, and it was awful.”

 

Chakotay wasn’t quite sure what to say. He opened his mouth, but closed it again. It took him a few seconds to get things straight in his head. “I would have found you, Kathryn. I can’t imagine that we wouldn’t see one another when we got home.”

 

She was still staring at him and he had a strange churning sensation in his gut. Was she trying to tell him something? If he assumed she was, and assumed wrongly, it would put a terrible stress on their friendship and he didn’t want to risk that… but if she was… this was the opportunity he’d been waiting for – to tell her how he really felt and what she’d meant to him for all these years. He opened his mouth but her combadge chirped.

 

 “Engineering to Janeway.”  

 

He snapped his mouth shut and watched as the shutters came down and she reverted to command mode.

 

She tapped her badge. “Janeway here. Go ahead, B’Elanna.”

 

“The diagnostic is complete. You’ve got them all. Thank you, Captain. The flow injectors are back to normal configuration and the regulators are within point oh one percent efficiency.”

 

“Good work, B’Elanna. Let’s hope they stay that way. Good night.”

 

“’Night, Captain.”

 

Kathryn turned to Chakotay. She looked like she was going to say something, but changed her mind. Instead she gestured towards the exit of the Jefferies tube. “Well, after you, Commander. Are you still hungry?”

 

Chakotay decided to follow her lead for now and with luck they could revisit this conversation in the privacy of either his or her quarters. He grinned. “I was hungry two hours ago and it’s getting to the point where those gel packs are starting to look appetising.”

 

She smiled as he flung the tool kit over his shoulder and, after handing her back her jacket, they set off towards the exit.

 

They exited the Jefferies tube and took the turbo lift, arriving on deck three a few minutes later. Kathryn stopped at her door. “I just need to clean up a bit. I’ll meet you in your quarters in about ten minutes.”

 

Chakotay nodded. “Sure. Anything tickle your fancy for dinner?”

 

Kathryn blinked and shook her head with a laugh. “No, I’ll leave that momentous decision to you.” She tapped the code to her door, “I’ll see you soon” and slipped through the opening. Chakotay continued down the corridor to his quarters.

 

After a quick check of the menus, he programmed the replicator for some eggplant parmigiana and salad, and then had a quick spin around the sonic shower before throwing on some casual pants and a tee. Kathryn would probably bring the wine, she usually did, and so he found a couple of glasses and placed the cutlery and napkins on the table. He asked the computer to play some soft dinner music and spent a minute straightening up the cushions on the couch and lighting a candle or two until his door chimed.

 

“Come.”

 

Kathryn entered, carrying a bottle of wine. There were some things in the universe you could always rely on and one of them was Kathryn and wine. He smiled. “What have you brought us this time?” He read the label and gave an impressed grunt. “Hmmm, very nice. Chateau Haut Brion 2357… You’ve been holding out on me. Where did you find this?”

 

Kathryn raised her eyebrow. “Wouldn’t you like to know?”

 

“Are you sure you want to drink this? It’s a very special bottle, Kathryn.”

 

”I think tonight is the perfect night to open it.”

 

“Mark gave it to you, didn’t he?”

 

Kathryn’s mouth twisted and she nodded. “I don’t want to keep it any longer. Time to clean out the cupboards. What do they say? Out with the old…” She didn’t finish the saying but Chakotay turned to her, trying to read her expression. It was difficult.

 

“One of Aunt Martha’s?”

 

Kathryn gave him a sad smile and shrugged. “Probably. It sounds like her.”

 

He concentrated on opening the wine and tried not to think too hard about where this might be leading. They’d been down this road before and it had only led to disappointment.

 

The replicator chimed and Chakotay handed Kathryn the opened bottle. While she poured the wine, he collected their meals and carried them to the table.

 

Kathryn had set the cutlery and napkins in place and, after putting their food on the table, he held her chair while she sat down. Once they were settled, he lifted his glass, and toasted. “To home, wherever that may be.” Kathryn’s eyes flicked up to his and he could have sworn there was a flash of fear in them before she managed to disguise it with a smile.

 

She touched her glass against his and echoed his words. “To home and safe harbour.” Kathryn held his gaze for a few heartbeats as she sipped her wine and then placed her glass back on the table and concentrated on her meal.

 

Neither of them felt the need to talk much while they ate. It wasn’t an uncomfortable silence, more of an expectant one. Chakotay had the feeling that there were going to be revelations aplenty this evening. What they might be was a mystery, but he had his hopes. He couldn’t push though. Kathryn would reveal them in her own good time.

 

Towards the end of their meal they chatted about ship related matters but once they were finished, Kathryn brought up their previous conversation.

 

They were now seated on the couch, with the last of the wine in their glasses. She turned to him. “Do you think it’s a deep-seated desire of yours to become an anthropology professor? Is that why the Pitcher Plant used that as your fantasy?”

 

Chakotay sat back, glad that they were revisiting this, but reminded himself to think carefully before he answered. This topic was filled with pitfalls. He shrugged. “I suppose it must be in some way. Perhaps it’s my need to be accepted that is important to me – to move past my terrorist reputation and to be seen as an upstanding citizen. I have certain things I want to accomplish when I get home and perhaps the sort of acceptance a professorship would invite is what I’m wishing for. I’m not really sure.” He turned slightly in his seat to face her. “What about you, Kathryn? Can you make sense of your fantasy?”

 

This time she shrugged. “Not really. It was all very confusing. All I do know is that it wasn’t what I was expecting. But then fantasies are just that, aren’t they? They’re fantasies, and rarely live up to expectation.”

 

“In that case, I’ll put my CV on hold for the time being.” He smiled and Kathryn chuckled.

 

“Yes, and I have the sneaking suspicion that Aunt Martha will outlive us all. I’ve decided I should just ignore what happened and put it out of my mind.”

 

“It’s probably a good idea.”

 

They were quiet for a time before Kathryn let her head drop onto the back of the couch as she contemplated the ceiling. She spoke quietly. “Will you promise me something though?”

 

“Absolutely. Anything.”

 

“When we do get home, make sure that you’re not too far away. I don’t want to be hunting for you like I was in my Pitcher Plant dream. Will you promise me that?” She turned to him without lifting her head.

 

“I can promise you that without reservation. I plan to be within easy transporter range of you. Maybe closer.”

 

Kathryn nodded her head and smiled. Looking back up at the ceiling she reached across and took his hand and gave it a squeeze. She held it for a minute or two and just before she let it go, she turned to him and smiled. She was happy and Chakotay knew that they’d made some sort of pact for their future. An unspoken promise, if you will. There would be something for them when they got back to Earth – they would have each other. Without saying the words, Kathryn had told him that she loved him. He had no doubt about it now. It was time for him to show her that he felt the same. He leant back and let his head drop back over the back of the couch and he reached for her hand and gave it a squeeze. This time she didn’t let go.

 

**************

 

Chakotay lifted his head from where it had been resting against the view port and stared at the haunted face reflected in the darkened window. The memories were so vivid and so real, bringing with them the intense feelings and longing that he’d felt at the time. It might as well have been yesterday.

 

He thumped his fist against the window with some force. It was wasted effort though. No physical pain could erase the ache that was in his heart. He’d betrayed Kathryn – in the worst possible way. How could he have forgotten? How could he have even contemplated a relationship with someone else, let alone, Seven? Would she ever forgive him?

 

Now that the memories and feelings had been reawakened, his yearning struck him powerfully, but the anger that he felt towards himself was bitter and all consuming. He wondered if Kathryn knew about Seven. They’d kept their blossoming relationship very low key. The reasons why had eluded him until now, but perhaps it had been a subconscious decision. He just hoped that it wasn’t too late and that his betrayal hadn’t destroyed all hope for his and Kathryn’s future together.

 

And poor Seven. There he’d been one minute, extolling the virtues of a long term relationship and the next, apologising and racing out the door. She must be confused and wondering what the hell was going on.

 

He had to see Kathryn to explain and apologise for his stupidity and then he would have to find Seven and do the same. He only hoped that he could make Seven understand that it was better that he realised his mistake now rather than risk running into problems further down the road. As much as he hated himself for doing this to her, he knew that their relationship would never have been successful. Not when his heart already belonged elsewhere.

 

Staring for a long time at his reflection he suddenly spun around to leave, but his door chimed. Impatiently he called for his visitor to enter.

 

It was Seven.

 

She stepped over the threshold and stood with her hands behind her back as the door slid closed.

 

“Seven.”

 

“Commander.”

 

“I know we need to talk, Seven. I need to explain, but maybe now isn’t the time.”

 

Seven took another step towards him and relaxed her stance. “I have not come here to demand an explanation. I know why you left, but I would like to clarify my position.”

 

Chakotay opened his mouth to speak, but Seven continued. “I am assuming that our relationship has been terminated?”

 

He closed his mouth and nodded slowly. She certainly had a way with words. “Yes, I think it’s for the best.”

 

“You are still in love with the Captain.”

 

He raised his eyebrows, and met Seven’s steady gaze. It was more of a statement than a question, but there didn’t seem much sense in denying it. He nodded.

 

Seven moved to his desk and picked up a picture frame and turned it so he could see. It was an image of him and Kathryn at a celebration on the holodeck. It had been sitting on his desk for years and he’d forgotten that it was even there. Over time it had become a part of the décor of his quarters, part of his life – part of him – much like his feelings for Kathryn.

 

Taking the picture from Seven he looked at it and smiled, then placed it back on the desk. Looking up he nodded. “Yes, Seven, I’m still in love with Kathryn. I always have been and for some reason it had slipped my mind. I’m sorry.”

 

Seven gave a curt nod and turned to go.

 

“Seven. Are you going to be all right? I wasn’t my intention to hurt you.”

 

She turned and smiled. “No, Commander… Chakotay…you have not injured or hurt me. I have always been curious about the true nature of your relationship with the Captain and I should have been more aware. It has been common knowledge amongst the crew for many years. I made an error in judgement and my main concern is that I haven’t inadvertently hurt the Captain’s feelings. Will you please tell her that I am sorry and that I hope you will both be very happy?”

 

Chakotay moved in front of her and, took her hand. “Thank you, Seven.”

 

She nodded and took a step away from him. “I think I shall go and see what the Doctor is doing. I have missed my last few appointments with him and I owe him an explanation.” She turned to go again and then spun back around, her eyes glinting with amusement. “I think it would be an opportune time for you to go and see the Captain and resolve this issue. Computer, locate Captain Janeway.”

 

“Captain Janeway is in the ready room.”

 

Seven raised her brow and, with smiling eyes and a nod, she turned and strode out the door.

 

Chakotay grinned and watched her leave, wondering if he should warn the Doctor that she was on the way. She was a formidable young woman… much like the woman who had saved and nurtured her. Now that he thought about it, she was remarkably like Kathryn and perhaps that had been part of the attraction. It was food for thought. He checked the time. 1300. Speaking of food…maybe it was time to collect on that raincheck for lunch.

 

Within minutes he was at Kathryn’s ready room door. He rang the chime and waited for admittance.

 

At the sound of the chime, both Kathryn and the Admiral looked towards the doors and called, “Come.”

 

The doors opened and Chakotay stepped through. He glanced towards the upper level, his face showing his discomfort at being faced with two Kathryn Janeways. His eyes darted back and forth from Kathryn to the Admiral, and he nodded. “Admiral.” Then he turned to Kathryn. “May I speak with you, Captain? It’s a private matter.”

 

Kathryn frowned. “Can it wait, Chakotay? I’ve got a lot to do.”

 

It was obvious what she was doing – shutting him out – but she couldn’t help it. As hard as she tried to remain indifferent about his liaison with Seven, the betrayal cut deep and the wound was still fresh. She watched him glance again at the Admiral, and then turned away.

 

The older Kathryn was watching him with interest and raised her eyebrows as she studied his face. Having known him for a good many years longer than his Kathryn, she could read his expression without any difficulty. With a small nod and a smile, and without taking her eyes from Chakotay, she spoke to her younger self. “I’ll meet with you later, Captain. I think the Commander has something important to tell you.”

 

Kathryn swung around and frowned, looking from the admiral to Chakotay, and back again as the silent communication passed between them. She felt jealousy surge within her. First Seven and now her older self. Swallowing past the bitterness, she admonished herself. This was becoming pathetic. The Admiral took Chakotay’s hand and gave it a squeeze as she moved past him and his eyes darted guiltily towards Kathryn.

 

Kathryn was tempted to dismiss them both, but that seemed spiteful and she owed him the benefit of the doubt at least. More importantly she was far too proud to let him see how hurt she was.

 

The doors swished shut behind the Admiral and Kathryn turned her eyes to him. He was silent and her irritation grew. “Well, what is it, Commander? I don’t have all day.”

 

“I was wondering if you’d like to join me for lunch. I was hoping to collect on that rain check.”

 

Kathryn bit her lip and thought to herself, ‘that rain check’. Which one? He owed her more than a dozen missed or forgotten lunches and dinners, but she couldn’t say anything without sounding churlish.

 

“We’ll have to eat here. I’ve got too much to do.” She snapped, trying, but unable to keep the sharp edge from her voice.

 

Chakotay nodded and headed to the replicator, speaking to her in his soft voice, ignoring her abrasiveness. “What would you like, Kathryn?”

 

She took a deep breath and tamped down her irritation. He was trying to be kind and whatever may be happening in his private life, it didn’t have anything to do with her. There had always been the risk of this happening and it had been arrogant and presumptuous of her to think that he’d wait around for her forever. She’d known, and in a way, resigned herself to seeing him with someone else. All she hoped for was that he wasn’t here to tell her that he and Seven were getting married or worse still, about to ask her to marry them. That would be almost too much to bear in the face of everything else that was happening.

 

Forcing a smile onto her face she turned to him. “If you’re buying, I’ll have the works.” It was one of ‘their’ jokes and she raised her brow and he smiled at her. It wouldn’t hurt to remind him of what they’d had over the years. Then she silently admonished herself…they’d had nothing and it was no one’s fault but her own that he’d looked elsewhere for affection. She’d been a fool and was now reaping the benefits of her arrogance and stupidity. He was still her friend and she would just have to live with that. It was better than nothing.

 

“One ham, cheese and tomato sandwich, one cheese and tomato sandwich, a coffee, black, tea blend 42 and two pieces of pecan pie… with ice cream.” He turned to her and grinned. Kathryn’s smile came a bit easier this time and it felt good.

 

Leaving the desserts in the replicator so the ice cream wouldn’t melt, he carried the sandwiches to the couch and Kathryn retrieved their drinks. They sat down beside one another and Chakotay lifted his tea in a toast. “Here’s to home.”

 

Kathryn tapped her cup against his and gave him a sad smile.

 

His heart ached. “Kathryn?”

 

She took a sip of her coffee and looked up at him. “Hmmm?”

 

“I don’t know whether you’ve heard about Seven and me… but …”

 

Kathryn lifted her hand and shook her head. “Chakotay, you don’t have to say anything. You don’t owe me an explanation.”

 

He shook his head and placed his tea on the table. He leant forward and reached for her hands but she shifted away and placing her coffee on the table, held her hands in her lap, out of reach. He drew back. “That’s where you’re wrong, Kathryn. I owe you everything. I have to tell you…”

 

She interrupted again. “Chakotay, please. I don’t want to hear about it.” Why was he doing this? If they were to only remain friends she could cope. She’d survived for seven years with only that and she could keep on surviving as long as he didn’t feel compelled to involve her in his love life.

 

“Kathryn…?”

 

She glared at him and he wanted to laugh. Trust them to be coming to blows at this point. Just when he wanted to tell her that he loved her. She was so damned stubborn.

 

He opened his mouth again, but she looked like she was about to bolt, so before he could talk himself out of it, or think too much about the consequences, he reached forward and took her face between his hands and planted his lips firmly on hers.

 

Kathryn’s hands slapped onto his shoulders ready to push him away but, as his lips moved gently over hers, nudging them apart, her hands slowly curled into the fabric of his jacket and she held on for dear life. Her mouth opened under his and he moaned as her tongue slipped past his lips to sweep through his mouth, toying with his tongue and tasting.

 

The kiss deepened and Chakotay’s fingers wove into her hair, pulling her closer. Before he knew what was happening, he was lying on top of her, cradled between her open thighs and they were rocking against one another.

 

Kathryn dragged her head away and arched her back. The weight of him and the press of their heated bodies against one another’s was exquisite, but they couldn’t do this here. They were in her ready room for God’s sake and anyone could walk in at anytime and besides, he was with Seven, wasn’t he?

 

She pushed against his shoulders but it was a half-hearted attempt – although she did manage to gasp out a question. “What about Seven?”

 

He was nuzzling her neck and it made it very difficult to concentrate. When he mumbled against her and his hot breath wafted across the sensitive skin right below her ear, she couldn’t help but thrust against him. But she hadn’t heard what he’d said so she pushed at him again and repeated her question. “What about Seven?”

 

“There is no Seven, Kathryn. It’s over. It should never have happened in the first place. It’s finished.”

 

Kathryn pushed him away in earnest this time and looked him in the eye. “This isn’t going to become a habit is it? I’ve had enough of the blondes, Chakotay.”

 

He cupped the side of her face and kissed her gently. “No more blondes. Only redheads from now on. I promise.”

 

The door from the corridor swished open and they both jolted away from one another, almost falling off the couch. Admiral Janeway was standing inside the doorway. They both relaxed and pulled themselves slowly to sitting position. Kathryn patted her hair into place and glared at her aged doppelganger. “Don’t you know how to knock?”

 

Admiral Janeway just stood there smiling. “No, not when I know I’m going to see something like this. I’m glad you’ve both come to your senses. The timeline has been corrected now and it should be clear sailing from here on in.”

 

Kathryn frowned and glanced at Chakotay, her look conveying her concern about the older woman’s sanity. “How do you mean? I don’t understand.”

 

Admiral Janeway moved to the upper deck and sat facing them. She smiled sadly and then her gaze wandered to the viewport and she spoke quietly as she stared into space. “It never seemed right – the deaths, the losses, Tuvok’s illness, everything. We passed this nebula and from that moment on it was like the fates were against us. We muddled through, but not without great loss and despair. It took us years and we finally got home, but we were all mere shadows of the people we once were. We’d been hollowed out; desiccated by so many tragedies along the way, that there was very little left of the people we once were. I can’t explain it. It just seemed wrong somehow.” Her voice started to falter. “Too many sacrifices and too much pain.”

 

Chakotay looked at Kathryn, their worried frowns mirroring each other’s. Without a word, Chakotay moved to sit next to the Admiral, pulling her gently into his arms. She stiffened for a moment and then collapsed against him. Soft shudders shook her body and she mumbled against his shoulder. “I never stopped loving you. In all those years until you died in my arms, I never stopped.”

 

Kathryn fought her own tears and watched Chakotay kiss the Admiral’s hair as he held and soothed her. His eyes met Kathryn’s over the Admiral’s head. “I never stopped loving you either. I couldn’t have.” Their loving gazes reflected the pain and loss that had befallen the older woman.

 

The Admiral pulled away and standing up, wiped her eyes, then, turning to them both, she whispered, “Thank you.” Leaning over, she picked up Kathryn’s hand and placed it in Chakotay’s. “This is where you belong, don’t ever doubt it.”

 

Still holding Kathryn’s hand, Chakotay picked up the Admiral’s, and brought it to his lips, kissing her fingers. “I won’t. I promise.” He looked at Kathryn intensely and then back at the Admiral. “Will you do something for us, Admiral?”

 

She shifted, pulling her hand from his grasp and straightening her spine. “Yes, Commander, if it’s within my power.”

 

He glanced at Kathryn again. “Will you marry us?”

 

Kathryn gasped and her hand reflexively gripped Chakotay’s tighter. “Chakotay?”

 

He turned to his Kathryn. “Will you do me the great honour of being my wife, Kathryn?”

 

There was a giddy swirl in her mind of all the reasons why she shouldn’t do this and then she looked at the Admiral. The lonely life she’d led was reason enough to blast the doubts from her mind. She nodded and rasped. “Yes, I will.”

 

They both turned to the Admiral. She chuckled and smiled. “I would be honoured, but I don’t know how legal it will be.”

 

Kathryn shook her head. “It doesn’t matter. It seems appropriate, though, don’t you think?”

 

The Admiral smiled. “We’ve always been something of a maverick, haven’t we, Kathryn? Why should this be any different?”

 

Chakotay chuckled and, leaning over, kissed Kathryn sweetly on the lips.

 

The Admiral raised her eyebrow. “Kathryn, we’ve never been particularly lucky where engagements are concerned, might I suggest that you do this as soon as possible? I don’t want to be a doom merchant, but….”

 

Kathryn tapped her combadge. “Janeway to the Doctor.”

 

“The Doctor here, Captain.”

 

“Could you please report to my ready room immediately?”

 

“Certainly, I’m on my way.”

 

Chakotay frowned. “The Doctor?”

 

“We need a witness and he’ll have a record of the ceremony if anyone ever doubts our union and besides, who else are we going to ask? Do you want to choose? We’d have to ask everyone and someone has to fly the ship.”

 

“You’ve got a point, but I’m nominating you to tell, B’Elanna. She’s going to kill me when she finds out.”

 

Smiling, Kathryn leant forward and ran her fingers down his cheek. Just then the ready room door chimed. Both Kathryn and the Admiral chorused. “Come.” Chakotay grinned at the looks on their faces.

 

The Doctor strode through the door with his medical case. “Is there an emergency, Captain?”

 

“Of sorts, Doctor. We need your assistance. Chakotay and I would like you to witness our marriage.”

 

“I beg your pardon?” He looked incredulous and Kathryn was surprised that he didn’t scan them to check their sanity.

 

“The Commander and I are going to marry, and the Admiral has consented to perform the service. We would like you to record and witness the ceremony.”

 

He still looked shocked but stammered. “I’d be honoured.” Looking back and forth between the two Janeways and Chakotay, the Doctor frowned. “Am I to understand that this is a fairly recent development?”

 

Kathryn looked at Chakotay and the Admiral, and then back to the Doctor. “No, it’s been going on for nearly seven years, it’s just taken us a while to ahhh… get here. The decision to marry was made about three minutes ago.”

 

The Doctor looked rather pleased with himself. “Well, we know when you make up your mind, you’re not one to dillydally. Where would you like me to stand… or sit?”

 

“Just where you are will be fine.”

 

Kathryn and Chakotay stood in front of the couch and the Admiral stood opposite them, on the other side of the coffee table. The Doctor was just to the side of the couple and they all looked towards the Admiral as she began to speak. “We are gathered here today to take part in the most time-honoured celebration of love, uniting this woman and this man in marriage…”

 

It took only minutes, but it meant a lifetime of difference. The Doctor was grinning from ear to ear and the Admiral had tears in her eyes as Kathryn and Chakotay kissed for the first time as husband and wife. They smiled at one another and then Chakotay leant forward and kissed the Admiral gently on the lips. She whispered, thank you and swallowed past her tears.

 

Kathryn gave the grinning doctor a quick hug and then made him promise that he wouldn’t say a word to anyone until such time as she and Chakotay deemed it appropriate. He was so thrilled to be a part of the whole conspiracy that he promised without reservation. Still grinning, he picked up his case and after another round of congratulations, turned toward the door.

 

“Doctor?” He looked back and Kathryn shook her head. “Please stop grinning like a lunatic. Everyone is going to know that something is up just from the look on your face.”

 

He wiped the smile from his face and tried to look stern, but he was too excited for it to last long. “I’ll try, Captain. But I can’t promise anything.” He smiled broadly at her again.

 

Kathryn rolled her eyes. “Just do your best and thank you.”

 

“My absolute pleasure, Captain. And may I wish you both, every happiness. This is a wonderful day, a wonderful day.” And with those exultant words he left the ready room.

 

Kathryn and Chakotay looked at one another and shrugged. Kathryn squeezed his hand. “Well, that’s that.” With a deep breath she was back to business. “I’m afraid the honeymoon is going to have to wait though. We have the Borg to contend with and a transwarp conduit to navigate.” She gave him a broad smile and touched his face with her fingertips. “There are even better reasons to get home now and this is as good a time as any for you to hear our plan.”

 

For the next three hours, Chakotay, Kathryn and the Admiral went over and over the plan to use the Borg transwarp hub to get back to the Alpha Quadrant. Their plan was audacious as it was clever, but it came at a cost. Chakotay was distressed to hear of the Admiral’s intention to stay behind and confront the Queen, but she convinced him that it was the only way. There was only room for one Kathryn Janeway per reality and she would die a happy woman knowing that his Kathryn was leading the life she’d always dreamed.

 

Once they’d nutted out the finest of details, Kathryn contacted sickbay to organise for Icheb’s neurolytic pathogen to be made ready for the Admiral. They would put their plan into action first thing in the morning. The longer the Borg Queen had to analyse their defences the more likely she was to find a way around them. Time was of the essence as the Admiral had laughingly put it.

 

Kathryn and Chakotay bid her goodnight outside her quarters and she kissed them both and wished them long life and happiness. The Admiral pulled Kathryn aside and whispered in her ear. “Grant an old woman one last request?”

 

Kathryn nodded, wondering what her elderly twin was up to.

 

“Tell me about it tomorrow.” She glanced over at Chakotay and it dawned on Kathryn what she was asking.

 

Trying not to blush, Kathryn nodded. “I’ll tell you everything.”

 

The Admiral nodded. “Never forget, Kathryn. Live life like there’s no tomorrow.”

 

They were prophetic words and could very well be true. There may not be a tomorrow, but now wasn’t the time to dwell on negatives. With an encouraging smile, Kathryn nodded to the Admiral then turned, taking Chakotay’s hand and walked to her quarters.

 

“What did the Admiral want?”

 

Kathryn tugged him closer to her side as she keyed in her door code, then looked up at him. “A glimpse of what might have been.”

 

Chakotay frowned at her enigmatic answer, but he didn’t have long to ponder as she led him through her quarters to her bedroom and within moments all thoughts of the Admiral, the Borg and everything that wasn’t Kathryn were wiped from his mind.

 

~8~

 

Kathryn walked slowly into the shuttle bay. The Admiral’s flyer stood in the middle of the bay with the side hatch open and the engines primed for launch. It took a great deal of effort to stop her hands from shaking. She’d come to know her older self over the last few days and although initially she’d disliked the strident and hard-edged woman, the Admiral had softened over her time here and it was going to be difficult to say good bye.

 

Kathryn moved into the flight deck with the hypo in her hand. The Admiral was sitting in the pilot’s seat, looking out the forward viewscreen. She barely turned as Kathryn entered.

 

“It’s about time. I’m not getting any younger, you know.”

 

Kathryn wanted to laugh, but the moment was too intense. Trust her to make a bad joke at a time like this. “You’re sure you want to do this?”

 

“No, but Voyager isn’t big enough for both of us.” That was true enough but, as the Admiral put it to her at breakfast this morning, if their roles were reversed, what would she do? The question was a temporal nightmare, but she got the gist of it and it was no surprise that if she was in the Admiral’s shoes, she’d do exactly as the older woman was doing now.

 

The Admiral tilted her neck and Kathryn placed the hypo against her and pressed.

 

“Good luck, Admiral.” There wasn’t much else she could say.

 

“You, too.”

 

Kathryn nodded.

 

“Captain.”

 

Kathryn looked back at the Admiral.

 

“I’m glad I got to know you again.”

 

Kathryn smiled, genuinely pleased that she felt that way and then reached down and took the Admiral’s hand. Turning it over, she placed a small computer chip in her palm and holding the older woman’s hand between her own. “My gift to you.”

 

Without another word, Kathryn turned and left the shuttle. Almost at a run, and swallowing past the tightness in her throat, she escaped the hanger bay and made it to the corridor. Falling back against the bulkhead she heaved a deep sigh. There, a few feet up the corridor, was Chakotay.

 

His eyes were pained and he glanced towards the doors. “Is she all right?”

 

Kathryn nodded.

 

This time his eyes met hers. “Are you all right?”

 

Although her smile was sad, she replied, “I am. I really am.”

 

He nodded and moved to her side, placing his hand on the small of her back. “Then, if you’re ready, we have the Borg to beat.”

 

She grinned. “You sure know how to show a girl a goodtime. Let’s do it.”

 

He chuckled and together they walked up the corridor to the turbo lifts and their bridge.

 

~8~

 

Admiral Kathryn Janeway’s shuttle lifted off and shot out of Voyager’s hanger doors and into open space. She took one last look behind her and sent them all her love. It had been a revelation and a joy to see them again. All of them so whole and happy. She could go to her death with a clear conscience and a joyful heart. Time had been set to rights and they would find their way home. All the years of planning had come to fruition and now her job was done. Within moments she was inside the nebula and, after scanning the hub, entered the aperture that would lead her directly to the Borg Queen’s chamber in the Central Nexus. It would take her approximately thirty minutes before she was in place to initiate the next phase of their plan, so picking up the small computer disc the Captain had given her, she slotted it into the console and setting the shuttle on automatic pilot, sat back in her seat to listen to her younger self.

 

“Admiral, as promised, your last request. But before I begin, I want to thank you one last time for what you’ve done and for what you are about to do. I know that you came back to save us all, but in my heart of hearts I know that you also came back to save me from myself. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. This is my gift to you.

 

“After Chakotay and I left you last night, we went back to my quarters. The air was thick with tension but as we stood looking at one another, I saw our future in searing clarity and felt it tumble gently into place. I knew then, without a doubt, that this was how it should be and that we would succeed in our mission. Quietly, I took his hand and pulled him through to the bedroom.

 

You and I have never been shy or faint-hearted, have we? We’ve always known what we wanted; so as soon as Chakotay and I were standing beside the bed, I began to undress him. He was grinning like a schoolboy as I hauled off his jacket, and his happiness brought a fresh stab of joy to my heart. This was a special moment, a culmination of years of unrequited love and need. I was so filled with delight and love for this man, I could barely breathe and, as I looked into his eyes, I could see that they shone bright with love for me. It was a perfect moment and exactly how it should be.

 

“Pulling his tee over his head I placed my hand over his heart, and leaning forward I kissed the soft skin near my fingertips. Do you remember his chest, Kathryn? Those times on New Earth when we would see him shirtless, working in the sunshine covered in a sheen of sweat? That broad expanse of golden skin glistening in the sunlight, the few sparse hairs and bronzed flesh that reminded us of warm honey? Memories of that have comforted me at night for many years and he’s still a beautiful man, Kathryn. Smooth skinned, but with the press of hard muscle beneath the soft edges. You can feel the power of him as he moves and, as I ran my hands over his skin, I became almost drunk with the feel of him.

“They drifted over his chest and abdomen, skimmed his shoulders and arms, and then swept up his neck to cup his face. I kissed him then, deeply. Those lips, we’ve dreamed of for so long, taste like a warm summer’s day and feel like freedom, life and love. Words cannot adequately convey what I felt like at that moment.

“It was his turn next and he began to undress me, pulling each article of clothing from my body with slow, almost torturous deliberation. He looked so serious, his face caught in a frown of concentration as he kissed and lightly grazed my bare skin with his fingertips. I was covered in goose bumps and painfully aroused. My nipples were aching and my inner muscles throbbed. I trembled as his hands swept over my body, dipping and pressing, touching and kneading. They looked large and dark against my skin, and, as he palmed my breasts and chafed my nipples, I became almost giddy with desire.”[/i]

The Admiral closed her eyes and smiled as she listened.

“We laughed as we hauled off our boots and socks, tossing them into the corner of the room, our eyes never leaving one another. Both of us were bare-chested now, and we stepped closer, reaching for the fastenings on one another’s pants.

“His hands are so warm, Kathryn, and as he slid them down the back of my panties and over my bottom, my legs began to shake. I was almost boneless with need, wet and so ready. The pulsing of my lower belly made me long to wrap my legs around him and let him take me, hard and fast, but before I collapsed in a puddle at his feet, I needed to see him. I slipped my hands down the back of his trousers, over the cheeks of his ass and pushed his pants down over his hips. That ass we’ve been watching for all these years is as gorgeous as we thought it would be. Oh, and he’s a boxer man, just in case you wanted to know.”

There was a smile in Kathryn’s voice and the Admiral chuckled to herself. That, at least, was one of life’s mysteries solved.

“As I tugged his pants down, his erection sprang free. It is a mouth watering sight. He’s big, like we imagined – long, thick and solid, but silken to the touch, and jutting proudly from a wiry nest of dark hair. I stroked him, my hand sliding up and down the length of him, my thumb pressing into the tip as he groaned. His teeth were clenched as he tried to retain control but, after a few moments, he stilled my hand. He was teetering on the edge already and I had to smile. We could do that to him, Kathryn. Drive him to the brink with such ease; it was a heady feeling.

“We toppled onto the bed and I thought I was in control at that point, but that idea was dashed within seconds of his touch. His hands are like magic, not the least bit tentative, but strong and assured, much like him. He stroked and caressed me, fingers pinching gently at my nipples and the tender skin at my sides, his mouth demanding on my neck and breasts as he suckled and nipped. I lay there, wet and hot, desperately trying to keep my mind intact. I wanted him in me, to drive into my depths, to take me and make me his. I was almost rabid with need but in turn I wanted to crawl inside him, to become a part of him. His hands and mouth were doing things to me that I couldn’t begin to describe and in the end I hardly knew what I wanted. All I really knew was I didn’t want this to end.

“His hands skimmed over my hips and down my legs, stroking up my inner thighs, so close, but not touching where I wanted him. I tried to manoeuvre my body so his fingers would find my sex, but he continued to tease me and I thought I might die from the pleasure of it all. Right when I thought I’d go mad with the waiting, he swept his hand down over my belly, through my curls and plunged two fingers into me, his thumb pressing hard against my clitoris. I arched off the bed, climaxing hard. I have never experienced anything like it before. My body was not my own, it was his to do with as he pleased. I thrashed against his hand, crying out as he pushed his fingers into me again and again, his thumb grinding against my clit so that I kept riding that wave of bliss until I couldn’t take any more. Almost sobbing, I collapsed onto the bed, thoroughly sated but wanting more.

“He was so gentle with me then. Caressing me and muttering soothing words of love until the jolts and shudders eased. When I opened my eyes all I could see was his loving face with his eyes brimming with tears. He kissed me and said that my coming apart under his hands was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen. He was so sincere, Kathryn and I felt like crying too, but instead, I pulled him towards me and kissed him. A deep and passionate kiss and I felt our souls touch in that moment. In the dark, with only the starlight surrounding us, we truly became one.

“His hand eased from my body and I pushed him gently onto his back. I was desperate now to have my fill of him; so, starting at his neck, with the bristles of his unshaven chin rasping against my cheek, I began to kiss and lick my way down his body – his chest, his abdomen, and following that narrow strip of hair from his navel to his groin – I was finally where I so wanted to be. I palmed his erection, holding him in my hand, learning the shape of him, the heat and hardness throbbing against my fingers. I traced his length and watched him harden even more as I stroked along the ridge underneath from his heavy scrotum to the tip. My tongue followed the same path and as I kissed the tip, I glanced up at his face. His eyes were squeezed shut, his face contorted in a grimace of pleasured pain.

“It was then that I took him in my mouth, holding him firmly with one hand while I slid my lips over the head of his penis. I heard him groan as he thrust towards me, grunting words that I didn’t understand but that spoke to something deep and primal within me. One of his hands was tangled in my hair and the other was grasping at the bedclothes as he tried to find purchase, fast losing control as he spiralled higher and higher towards orgasm. I cupped his heavy balls and stroked him, manipulating him with my fingers, tongue and lips. I hummed around him and could feel him tightening, his penis thickening as his body readied itself. I could taste the salty precursor of his spend, but before he came, I pulled my mouth away from him and quickly slid up his body, straddling his thighs. I held him against my opening and before he could comprehend what was happening, I lowered myself onto him, pressing him home, deep and secure in my warmth.

“He cried out and grabbed my hips, holding me to him as he tried to gain control of his body. His eyes were closed and his mouth was open as he gasped for breath. He trembled under me, his penis thick and hot inside me.

“I stilled, lightly stroking his chest until he calmed. Opening his eyes, he held my gaze, telling me for the hundredth time that he loved me. I echoed his words and then started to slowly rock back and forth, allowing myself time to adjust to his size, and trying not to bring us to climax too quickly. Before long though, the pleasure became too much and I gave into the burning need. I planted my hands on his chest, my nails biting into that golden skin while his hands pressed into my hips to guide me. I thrust faster, up and down, forward and back, riding him, squeezing my inner muscles as he groaned in unison with my thrusts. I couldn’t get enough of the delicious sensation of his length moving in and out of me. My movements became jagged and uncoordinated, my body betraying itself in its need for completion.

“We’ve always been rather quiet and controlled when making love, but Kathryn, I couldn’t help myself. I grunted and moaned, howling his name and God knows what else as I rode him; my fingernails leaving red-welted tattoos on his chest as I slammed myself down onto him time and time again.

“The closer we came to climax, the harder his fingers dug into my hips until finally, bending his knees and digging his heels into the bed for leverage, he lifted his hips in counterpoint to my thrusts, pushing deeper and harder into my body. He grunted and muttered words that I couldn’t understand, and I was teetering on the edge again, my body humming with the thrill of oncoming orgasm. I leant back, arching my back over his bent knees, thrusting my pelvis forward and changing the angle of penetration. The jolt through my g-spot sent my arms flailing and then he touched me – his hand on my breast and his fingers finding their way to where we were joined. He massaged my clitoris gently and that was it, I clenched around him, and I think I screamed. I felt him lengthen inside me, pressing against my cervix and filling me. My body was in rigor, arched and taut. It was too much for him and he let out a cry, grabbing my hips and holding me hard against him as he came. I could feel the hot wash of semen inside me and I wished in that moment that I’d thought to counter my contraceptive, but as I collapsed onto his chest, sated and joyous, I decided that it would be the first thing I did when we were safely home.

“We held each other for the rest of the night, making love again early this morning. We slept very little, you know we never do before a worrying mission, but I rose feeling rested and truly at peace for the first time in many years. We showered together, washing away the sticky remnants of our first night together and then brought each other to climax with our hands. It’s a wonderful way to start the day and, as much as I never thought I’d say this, it’s almost better than coffee.”

 

The Admiral laughed out loud.

 

“I am recording this in our quarters. Chakotay is on the bridge going over the last minute preparations and, in a matter of moments, I’ll be giving you this, saying goodbye and sending you on your way. I’ve had some strange experiences over the years, Kathryn, but your arrival on Voyager would have to top the list. I was shocked at first and in a way, horrified at what I’d become. You appeared so cynical and jaded, and I think my fear lay in the realisation of how much alike we already were. However, I’ve come to know you and understand you a little, and realise that the losses and trauma of all those years in the Delta Quadrant would have destroyed a lesser person and I’m proud to know that I survived and am honoured to have known you. I give you my solemn promise that I will live the life that you should have lived, taking each day as the gift that it is and living it like it’s my last.

 

“Chakotay won’t say goodbye to you, I asked him this morning if he would accompany me to the shuttle bay, but, with tears in his eyes, he said he couldn’t. His heart is breaking with just the thought of what you are about to do. I didn’t push him and I knew you would understand. I know how I would feel if he was sitting in the shuttle, taking this final mission.

“Kathryn, please know that he loves you, he always did and he always will.”

 

The Admiral let a tear tip from her lashes and course down her cheek, before she swiped it away and took a deep calming breath.

 

“You gave us back our future, Kathryn, and for that we will be forever grateful. We’ll never forget you. Here’s to the journey.”

 

The recording ended but the console came to life and a picture appeared on the screen. It was a holoimage of a sleeping Chakotay. He was lying naked, sprawled across the Captain’s bed and the Admiral smiled. Kathryn was right, he was a beautiful man. Reaching forward she brushed her fingers over the image on the screen and whispered, “I love you.” Then with a sharp jab, she tapped the end button and the picture faded from view. Picking up the computer chip, she held it tight in her hand for a moment then dropped it into the recycler and watched it fade away. There was no way she was going to allow the Borg to get hold of that.

 

The proximity alarm sounded and within seconds she shot from the conduit into the middle of Borg space and her destiny.

 

***************

 

Kathryn rolled onto her side and stroked her hand down Chakotay’s chest. He mumbled in his sleep and turned towards her, his hand reaching out blindly to find her and pull her close. She smiled at his innate protectiveness, which had quadrupled over the last few months.

 

Her hand rested over the swell of her belly, feeling the tiny movements from the small life inside her. They’d been home for six months and true to her word she’d had the Doctor reverse her contraceptive as soon as they were home. She’d become pregnant almost immediately, much to everyone’s surprise and delight and were now living in Indiana, not far from her childhood home.

 

The crew had settled well into life in the Alpha Quadrant, each of them finding their way in their new lives and coming to terms with the old. The Maquis were given amnesty and many had chosen to stay on in Starfleet to continue their careers, as had most of the Starfleet crew. They saw many of them on a regular basis. B’Elanna, Tom and baby Miral lived close by, and Kathryn and Chakotay’s large rambling farmhouse had become the meeting place for the Voyager crew. Most weekends and also some weekdays, would find several of their fellow Voyagers dropping in to see them, to either touch base or just catch up on news of their friends and shipmates. Both Kathryn and Chakotay loved that their Voyager family wanted to remain close-by. The bonds formed on Voyager were enduring and something that they all nurtured and cherished.

 

Kathryn had jokingly said to Chakotay one day that he’d finished up with the entire crew ‘within transporter distance of him.’ He’d had the good grace to look abashed but had then made her pay for her facetious remark by kissing her until she apologised, which had taken no small amount of time.

 

In a strange twist of fate, Chakotay was now working at the Academy. The professorship he’d dreamt of had become a reality and the day he’d walked onto campus had been a moment of disconcerting déjà vu. Instead of his airy corner office, however, he’d found himself in a poky cubby-hole in the basement with the rest of his faculty. The reality of his subterranean office was reassuring.

 

Kathryn had been promoted to Admiral, a poignant moment for everyone. She’d been very grateful for the honour and when Admiral Paris had pinned her new rank on her collar she’d closed her eyes briefly, remembering the other Admiral Janeway.

 

There was movement beside her and a gentle press of his body against her. “Good morning, my love.” Chakotay kissed her, breaking her from her reverie. His hand joined hers on her swollen belly as he leaned down and kissed the taut skin, whispering something in his language to the new life growing inside her. She smiled.

 

As his head rested against her belly, Kathryn sent a message of thanks to the admiral, something that she did most mornings as each day she rejoiced in the life she now had thanks to the older woman’s sacrifice.

 

Chakotay kissed his way up her body until he met her lips, kissing her languidly and rubbing his rough cheek against her smooth skin. He mumbled in her ear. “What time are they coming?”

 

Kathryn looked over his shoulder at the chronometer. “1300, but we’ve got plenty of time.”

 

He murmured what sounded like, “Good,” against her breast and she surrendered to his questing lips and hands.

 

Later, when they were showered and ready for the day, they set about organising the house for their guests. The crew were coming that afternoon for their six month reunion. It would be a busy afternoon, but that wasn’t unusual for the Janeway-Chakotay household and they were looking forward to seeing everyone together again.

 

Several hours later, Kathryn stood with Chakotay as they watched the revellers milling about the back yard. Seven, the Doctor and Icheb were there, Harry and his wife, Libby; Sam, Greskrendrek and Naomi. Even Kathryn’s mother and her Aunt Martha were there, herding children and adults alike through the obstacle course of tables and chairs.

 

They were having a wonderful time. All together again and enjoying each other’s company, happy and carefree here in the Alpha Quadrant, safe from harm. Kathryn decided then and there, that she couldn’t have asked for anything more.

 

She felt Chakotay watching her and turned, giving him a warm smile but there was a touch of sadness in her eyes. He tugged her close and kissed her forehead. “She knows, Kathryn. Never doubt it, she knows.” Her heart swelled with the knowledge that he knew her so well. He’d been right of course; her thoughts had been of the old Admiral Janeway and Kathryn’s wish that she could have seen this. It was an impossibility she knew, but she took comfort in his words.

 

Wrapping her arm around his waist, her smile brightened and together they stepped down to join their crew and family, to celebrate this precious gift, this wonderful life that was theirs to live.

 

fin

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