Winter Bliss

Summary:A post Endgame story written for Lil’BLT. It was inspired by her photos of the white world outside her window. 😀 Thanks for the peek.

Rated NC17

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


Kathryn wrapped the soft woven scarf around her neck and zipped up her parka. Tugging a woollen hat over her head, she tucked her hair underneath, and with her boots in her hand, she tiptoed quietly out of her bedroom. Treading lightly, she made her way down the stairs, being careful to miss the tenth and the third steps. She smiled to herself. Even after all these years, they still creaked.

It had been a long time since she’d had to sneak out of her house or worry about waking her mother. She pressed her lips together to stop herself from sniggering. The situation was ridiculous but at the same time it brought with it a shiver of delight. She reached the bottom of the stairs and took a moment to listen to the quiet of the house. No one was stirring, so she pressed on with her clandestine mission.

Dawn was just breaking and although the rest of the house was sound asleep, it had snowed overnight and Kathryn couldn’t bring herself to miss the first Indiana snowfall she’d seen in over seven years. There was something so beautiful and restorative about the world coated in pristine white.

It brought with it a stillness and a peace that nothing could equal. Holding her breath she quietly unlatched the front door and stepped out onto the porch. The door closed with a quiet click behind her and her breath puffed out in a cloud in the cold clean air.

Sitting herself down on the top step she pulled on her boots, and then, wearing a joyful smile, she stood with her hands on her hips and surveyed the snow covered fields around her Indiana home.

The white world awaited.

She’d dreamed of this day. For seven years, this moment had been her beacon, the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel and now, here she was. Her heart swelled to bursting.

After a quick look over her shoulder to make sure she was alone, she pinched herself and grinned. It was a silly thing to do, but she still wasn’t absolutely sure this was real. The biting sting on her arm was a comforting reminder that yes, it was. They were home.

She was home. At long last.

Stifling a ‘whoop’ she jumped from the top step and landed knee deep in the snow. Her face ached from smiling and from the cold, but she was overflowing with happiness and nothing could spoil her joy. With a purposeful stride she set off, trudging through the thick drifts.

She had no idea where she was going, but it didn’t matter.

This was home. There were no dangers. No fearsome aliens ready to blow her out of the sky, no angry Delta quadrant villains wanting her dead, maimed or worse. No food shortages, no damaged systems or disastrous malfunctions waiting to destroy them all. Just sunshine, silence and clean fresh snow as far as the eye could see, with a hot coffee and a caramel brownie waiting for her when she returned home.

Life couldn’t get any better, or simpler than this.

She was in Indiana, in her much loved childhood home. On home soil, or home snow, as the case may be. Safe, sound and secure.

She laughed out loud, and putting her head down, ran in great loping strides until her heart was pounding with the exertion.

Turning around she bent over with her hands on her knees, and tried to catch her breath as she stared back at her beloved home. In the muted light of the dawn, it was like something out of picture book. The green shuttered house was topped with a white fondue of fresh snow and surrounded by dark pines weighed down with their coating of white, with oaks and willows skeletal in stark contrast. It was beautiful.

Now that she’d caught her breath, she swung around again and headed for the small hills about a kilometre to the east. The snow was thickest there and it was also the highest point in the area. She would be able to stand on the small rise and look at the world around her. Taking big deep breaths she inhaled the wonderful and distinctive scent of Earth.

It wasn’t until one travelled to other planets that you realised that they each had their own distinct smell. It probably had something to do with the parasites in the soil, or the oils and perfumes of the flora, but whatever it was, it gave Kathryn a deep sense of satisfaction to smell the heady and familiar scent of her home planet.

It was something that was almost primal in its effect. This was where she belonged. She was part of this earth – this planet – and it was part of her. It went some way to explaining why the siren call of this world had been so strong. She breathed deep and grinned.

Home.

By the time she’d reached the ridge the sun was over the horizon and bathing the world in a brilliant orange glow. It was like fire dancing on ice as the rays of sunlight glinted off the snow, and the icicles that hung from the trees.

Her tall thin shadow was cast behind her and she closed her eyes and let the light penetrate her eyelids. The air was still cold but the sun was warm on her face.

In the distance she could hear the trill of winter wrens and the mournful low of dairy cows on one of the nearby farms. All these wonderfully familiar sounds filled her heart with delight, and taking another deep breath, she threw her arms out and fell backwards into the soft snow.

Moving her arms up and down and her legs out and back, she made a snow angel and lay there with her eyes closed and sent her thanks to the Admiral for coming to bring them home.

Although she was still smiling, a small tear trickled down the side of her face as an acknowledgement to the sad life her other self had lived. Kathryn tried not to dwell on it, and because of the intricate snags and snarls of temporal mechanics, the Admiral would never exist. Well, not in this timeline anyway, but to Kathryn she was very real and her loss had been a blow.

It had been disturbing, but in some ways very revealing, to meet and work with someone whom you knew so well. They could pre-empt each other’s thoughts and ideas. It was uncanny, but to be expected. They were each other after all.

Kathryn hoped that the Admiral was in someway aware of what had happened to them and that she knew they were home. It was all she would have wanted. Kathryn knew that for a fact.

She could feel the damp of the melting snow beginning to seep in through the parka but just as she was about to open her eyes and stand up, a shadow moved over her. Her eyes blinked open and she stared at the dark shape looming over her.

“Who!!??” She leapt back a little.

“Kathryn, it’s me.”

“Chakotay?” She jumped to her feet and pulled him into a warm hug and then whacked his arm. “You scared me half to death. What are you doing here?”

He laughed. “I came to see you. I’ve missed you.”

“Really? I haven’t missed you.” Her mouth twisted into a grin. “Much.”

He chuckled again. “What were you doing lying in the snow? I saw the angel, but you were there for a long time. I thought you might have fallen asleep.”

“No, I was thinking and waiting for the sun to turn from orange to gold. Phoebe and I used to do that as kids.” She was swiping the snow from her clothes as she explained. “On special days, like the first day of Spring or the first snow of Winter, Dad would wake us up very early and bring us up here to watch the sunrise. He’d tell us to close our eyes and concentrate very hard until we could feel the light around us change.”

She gave Chakotay a smiling shrug. “It’s a silly thing, but since I’ve been home, I’ve been remembering all sorts of things that were special to me as a child. I’ve been trying to visit all of them. I think out there,” she looked towards the heavens. “I purposely forgot a lot of things as a way to combat the homesickness. It’s nice to remember.” She smiled warmly at her companion.

“I’ve been doing something similar, but most of my memories of Earth are associated with the Academy. I went there yesterday.”

“How was it?”

“Crowded.” He absentmindedly brushed a bit of snow from her shoulder, her eyes widened slightly, but unaware he continued. “Did you realise we’re celebrities? I had no idea, and was swamped by a crowd of cadets. I got out of there as quickly as I could.” He grinned. “I wasn’t sure where to go after that, so I came here. I hope you don’t mind?”

She hooked her arm through his. “No. It’s wonderful to see you. How’s Seven?”

“I don’t know. She’s with her Aunt and I haven’t heard from her. I don’t expect to.”

“I thought…”

“A lot of people did. It was nothing, Kathryn. We were both just a little lonely. She was experimenting and for me it was a diversion. Nothing serious on either side. It was a continuation of her socialisation lessons.” He gave her a sideways look. “Did you know she had a holoprogram of a scenario where I seduced her?”

Kathryn looked astonished and shook her head.

He gave her a wry smile. “You didn’t? Neither did I, until the Doctor let it slip.”

“I knew she was using the holodeck for the Doctor’s scenarios, but I didn’t know it was with you. I would’ve had a thing or two to say if I had.”

“Would you, Kathryn?”

“Absolutely. There were some things that were off limits. You were one of them.”

“Off limits?” He leaned in close to her and looked her in the eye. “Care to elaborate?”

“Certainly. There are no constraints now. Regulations and protocols are history.” She met his gaze steadily. “I love you, my friend. I have for years and I hoped once we got home that we could consider taking our relationship to another level.”

“Another level? Did you have any particular level in mind?” His eyes sparkled with mirth.

Kathryn was grinning. “Well it wasn’t so much a level as a position.”

“I’m intrigued.”

“Well…” Kathryn moved closer to him, laying one hand on his chest, and resting her other hand against his cheek. She’d done this many times in the past and just as it had always done, Chakotay’s heart beat faster and arousal began to stir. She did this to him every time. Standing on tip toe, she spoke to him in deep breathy whispers. “…we’ve been doing this vertically for over seven years. I was thinking of something in more of a horizontal arrangement.”

Chakotay’s fast beating heart lurched up into his throat at her proposition. His eyes widened and his voice deserted him. Kathryn watched him carefully. She wasn’t very good at this, but she’d decided that being coy wasn’t her forte either. She was a straight shooter by nature and it shouldn’t be any different with this. At least then they would know where they stood – or lay, her traitorous mind added. She just hoped that she hadn’t left it too long and that the love hadn’t withered.

His eyes were still wide with surprise but in the time it took for Kathryn to blink, his lips slammed onto hers and she was swept into a tight embrace and a breathtaking kiss. After a few heady moments, he reefed himself away from her, then threw his head back and laughed. “A horizontal arrangement! You’re amazing. And I think that is definitely something we should investigate as soon as possible.”

With a sunny smile Kathryn hooked her arm through his again. “Come on then. If you’re quiet we can sneak into the house and up to my bedroom.”

“What is your mother likely to say about you entertaining strange men in you bedroom?”

“Chakotay, I’m in my forties, and you’re hardly strange. A little odd maybe, but to be honest, I think my mother will be thrilled. She hasn’t stopped talking about you since she met you. I swear she’s just as besotted with you as I am.”

“You’re besotted?”

Kathryn turned around and looked at him. “You really didn’t know? Boy, I was worse at this than I thought.” With that she shoved him hard and he toppled back into the snow. She landed on his front with a gentle thud.

“Oomph!” Grinning, Chakotay reached up and pulled off her hat. Her hair fell about her face in soft waves and he ran his fingers through the loose waves. “You’re beautiful, you know. A little pushy, but beautiful.”

She laughed. “Thank you. You’re very handsome too. I’ve always thought so and I’m sorry I didn’t tell you how I felt. I tried to show you as best I could.”

“I knew we had a very special bond. Just how special, I wasn’t sure. But this is wonderful.” Chakotay looked from side to side. “We’re horizontal now….”

Kathryn laughed and then kissed him soundly. “That we are, but unless you want frostbite on your ‘extremities’…” She raised a brow. “I suggest we wait until we’re in the warmth of my bed to get naked.”

“Naked!” He bounced to his feet and knocked Kathryn backwards into the snow. “How far is it to your bed from here?”

“Give me a hand up. Rather enthusiastic, aren’t we?”

He hoisted her to her feet and into his arms. “Just a little. I love you and it’s not everyday that dreams come true.” She shook her head and gave him a crooked smile and draping his arm around her shoulder he tugged her close and kissed her cold nose. As they marched down the hill he asked. “Which way?”

“Just down there.” Kathryn nodded towards the green shuttered house as she tugged her hat back on.

They were there within minutes and Kathryn turned to her companion, and placed her finger to her lips, urging him to be quiet. Sitting down on the top step she hauled off her boots and Chakotay did the same.

Leaving their boots on the porch Kathryn unlatched the door as quietly as she could and they stepped into the hallway. It was like a military raid. She gave him hand signals to follow her and on tiptoes they carefully made their way up the stairs. She pointed to the creaking third and tenth steps and made an exaggerated point of stepping over them.

Once at the top of the stairs they trod softly in their stockinged feet until they were at her door. Without a sound she opened the door and ushered him inside. She slid the lock into place with a dull click and then turned to her soon to be lover.

He stood opposite her and grinned broadly. She gave him an answering grin and whipping the hat off her head, she began to unzip her parka. He took a step towards her and whispered. “Can I do that?”

Kathryn held her arms out to her side and stood there waiting. Chakotay stepped closer and dragged the zipper down slowly. The jacket slid to the floor with a soft thud. She was wearing a polo neck sweater underneath that fit snugly and outlined the contours of her body. His eyes drank her in.

Her nipples were erect, partly from the cold air, but mostly from Chakotay’s heated gaze and her growing arousal. He rubbed his thumb over the hardened nubs and then looked into her eyes. Her nostrils flared slightly and Chakotay saw the want clearly in her eyes. God, he couldn’t believe it.

Kathryn reached up and unzipped his jacket and it finished up on the floor with hers. She unbuttoned his shirt and pulled it apart. He had a tee on as well which she pulled out of his pants and slid her hands underneath.

Chakotay closed his eyes as her hands drifted over his stomach and around his back. Abruptly she pulled away and hauled her polo over her head and stood before him in her bra.

His erection was caught within the tight confines of his pants and underwear and before he could touch her again, he rearranged himself giving her a wry smile. “You have no idea what you do to me, woman.”

Kathryn picked up both his hands and laid them on her lace covered breasts. “Most likely the same thing that you do to me. See?” She moved his palms over the pebbled tips of her very aroused breasts and bit her lip as his hands slid around behind her and pulled her towards him, his hard bulge digging into her belly. Damn, she wanted him.

“I want you too.”

She started, not realising that she’d spoken aloud. “Damn, I’m not myself when I’m with you. But I’m glad we have consensus.”

“Is that what they’re calling it these days?” His mouth twitched and hers curled into a smile.

“Don’t be such a smartass.” And her hand slid down between them and cupped him, then stroked up and down his length through his trousers. With a gasp he bent at the waist and scooted himself away from her. She smirked.

He shook his head. “Don’t laugh. It could very well be over before it starts. Just give me a minute.”

She grinned broadly and stood a little distance from him.

His eyes were riveted to hers as she reached behind her back and undid her bra. The straps slid down her arms, and holding the garment in her fingers, she held it out to the side and dropped it to the ground. She popped the clasp on her pants and slowly unzipped them, wriggling her hips until they slid down her legs.

She stepped out of them and was now standing in front of him in her panties and socks. Looking down she frowned at the thick woolly socks and then with laughter in her eyes she bent over quickly and pulled them off. There really wasn’t any sexy way to remove socks no matter how hard one tried.

Fire burned in Chakotay’s eyes, although he did quirk a smile at her sock dilemma. But now she was standing in front of him in just her panties and the heat returned to his gaze. Her breasts, topped with the dusky knot of her nipples, drew his gaze downwards. His hand rose and he ran the back of his fingers over the puckered peaks. Kathryn shivered.

He looked up. “Are you cold?”

She shook her head, her nostrils flaring slightly. He nodded and continued his tentative explorations, stroking down her front and running his fingers along the edge of her panties.

“You can take them off, if you like?” Her voice was a husky growl.

His mouth had gone dry and he licked his lips. Her eyes flashed and her tongue darted out mimicking him. It was his turn to groan and he slid to his knees in front of her, his hands stroking up her outer thighs to rest on her buttocks and pulling her towards him. He kissed the soft pillow of her belly and then nuzzled her panty clad mons, his nose bumping against her clit.

She wove her fingers through his hair, and pulled him towards her. His hot breath against her made her throb with want and it was almost too much. Hooking her thumbs into the sides of her panties, she pushed them over her hips. He pulled them down the rest of the way and tossed them aside.

Stroking her hands over his head she rasped. “I need you now.”

Chakotay grinned up at her and after darting his tongue out to quickly taste her. He stood, and pulled her into his arms, kissing her soundly.

Her hands slid down his back and into his pants, her fingers playing over the smooth skin of his buttocks. Taking handfuls of that delicious flesh, she squeezed. He thrust against her, and then pulled her hands away from him, hoisting her into his arms and carrying her to the bed.

He laid her down on the sheets and quickly shrugged out of his clothes. She watched him through half lidded eyes, and holding up the bedcovers, shimmied across the bed to make room for him. He slid in beside her and they lay there looking at one another, not touching but just savouring the moment.

They’d been meandering down this winding and obstacle ridden path towards one another for over seven years and having finally arrived, it was a moment to be cherished.

A gentle smile lit her face and he smiled in return. Kathryn felt a rush of such intense feeling that she was surprised that it didn’t burst from her chest. She truly loved this man with all that she was, and to be with him now made her happiness complete.

One experienced so few moments of perfect joy in a lifetime, and for Kathryn, this was one.

Without a word, and as if pulled by an invisible force, they moved together. Their naked bodies melted into one another’s, chest to breast, groin to groin and heartbeat to heartbeat.

Chakotay held her in his arms as if she was the most precious thing in the universe. His heart thudded in his chest, in unison with hers, but words escaped him. He wasn’t even sure if there were words that could express just how much she meant to him and what this moment held for him.

Her head was nestled on his shoulder and he could feel her warm breath feathering across his neck. He shivered. Her small body pressed hard against his, her breasts hot against his chest, her belly soft against his and their sexes meshed together.

The thought sent a rush of blood to his groin and he thrust against her, his hands stroking over her buttocks, teasing her inner thighs and brushing up against her wet folds.

She moaned and kissed his neck, giving him an answering thrust and opening her legs wider. His hand slid further and their world spiralled down to one of touch, taste and need. Eyes, lips and fingers travelled over bodies, learning, tasting and stroking. Kathryn writhed and trembled under his touch and Chakotay groaned as her fingers and tongue found all the spots that made him jolt and shudder.

With her whispered, “Now,” he rose up over her and Kathryn’s legs spread to accommodate him. His head dipped to toy with her pebbled nipples and to lick and suckle her breasts. She pushed her chest towards his hot mouth.

He nipped and laved her nipples and jolts of arousal shot straight to her groin. She moaned and thrust against him.

They were rocking against one another in a slow steady rhythm. He was cradled in between her open thighs, his penis sliding back and forth through her wetness.

He rose up again and looked down at her. Kathryn gave a guttural moan as he slid inside her in one fluid motion. They both stilled. The sensation was exquisite.

He filled her with heat and silky hardness and she enveloped him in warmth and yielding softness. It was as close to perfect as anything could be. They kissed, swallowing their moans as their bodies pressed together.

He pulled his head back and looked down at her. She opened her eyes and gazed up at him with such an open look of love that he didn’t ever want to let her go or leave the warmth of her body.

Her hands dug into his hips and tried to pull him closer. She wanted to crawl inside him.

Instinct finally took over. Chakotay began to press deeper as Kathryn pushed harder against him. They rocked in an ever increasing rhythm, kissing and fondling as they wound their way inexorably towards their climax.

Her hand drifted down to feel him moving in and out of her heated flesh. His hand joined hers and they explored each other. He flicked at her clitoris as she gently cupped his balls and massaged that sensitive spot just behind them. Chakotay groaned and Kathryn whimpered.

The sweet drag in her belly tightened and her inner muscles began to flutter. Her orgasm was almost upon her.

Chakotay’s thrusts became erratic and she could feel him swell within her.

Her orgasm trickled up from her toes and down from her chest to meet in her lower belly, and with each thrust that trickle became a torrent.

His hands were stroking, leaving trails of fire in their path and with one final lunge her climax slammed into her and she arched against him. Her fingers dug into his back, her moans smothered in his shoulder.

The clench and pull of her orgasm triggered his and they were locked together in a straining, heaving mass for endless moments until with a great sigh, Kathryn collapsed back onto the bed, with Chakotay still gently rocking against her. He kissed her neck and her lips then pulled back and they smiled at one another.

“Beautiful,” he husked.

Kathryn smiled. “Amazing.”

They lay there for endless moments sated and blissful, breathing in unison, wrapped in each other’s arms and sweet silence.

Eventually Chakotay slid from her and rolled to the side, tugging her into his arms. She snuggled into his warmth, her hand stroking over his chest, learning the feel of him. In some ways it was so familiar, but in others it was achingly new.

She chuckled to herself and with an eyebrow raised in question, he looked down at her. “You’re fondling my chest and laughing. A man might get a little worried.”

With a smile she pushed herself up higher and kissed him, her fingers coming to rest on the side of his face. “I was just thinking how good horizontal was, and how we must endeavour to be horizontal as often as we can.”

He grinned. “We’ll just get vertical to eat.”

With that thought, her stomach rumbled and he jolted back and stared. “Kathryn Janeway, I do believe you’re hungry.”

She rolled her eyes. “We’re in caramel brownie territory. Of course I’m hungry. And once you’ve had one you’ll understand. There’s nothing like my mother’s cooking.”

He grinned. It was wonderful to see her so carefree and happy. He kissed her hard on the lips, and then leapt out of bed. “Okay, caramel brownies it is. A shower first though.”

Kathryn nodded and pointed to a door. “Down the hall and on the right. Towels are in the cupboard.”

Chakotay slipped on his trousers and grabbed his shirt. With a smiling glance back towards her he stepped through the door.

Kathryn flopped back onto the bed and grinned broadly. She breathed deeply a few times and then threw her arms out to the side and let out a silent squeal of delight and laughed quietly to herself. She couldn’t believe it. He’d come after her. She’d hoped he would, but if he hadn’t, she’d had every intention of going after him. Pride didn’t enter into it anymore. They were meant to be together and she needed him. She always had, but now she was free to tell him just how much. She couldn’t stop smiling.

Climbing out of bed she pulled her dressing gown around her and moved towards the door. There were voices in the hallway. She listened and smiled.

Chakotay had showered quickly and after drying himself, hauled on his trousers and shirt, not bothering to button up. He stepped through the bathroom door, drying his hair with his towel and came face to face with Gretchen Janeway. They both jolted to a stop and stared at one another. Chakotay opened his mouth to say something, but was struck dumb. He felt a blush streaming up his neck to his cheeks.

Gretchen’s shocked look softened into a smile. “Chakotay, this is a surprise.”

He cleared his throat. “Um, yes. Uh, good morning, Mrs Janeway. I was just having a shower.” He held the towel out towards her.

She nodded and huffed a laugh. “So I gathered. Is Kathryn up?”

He could feel his cheeks burning. “Yes, she is.”

“Good. Well, tell her to hurry up. I’m going down to get some breakfast ready. Do you like waffles?”

His shoulders relaxed a little and he nodded. “Yes, thank you. I love them.”

Gretchen patted his arm. “Good. Don’t you two be long now.” She turned towards the stairway, but tossed over her shoulder. “Glad you’re here, young man. She’s missed you.”

Chakotay watched Gretchen Janeway disappear down the stairs and then wandered back to Kathryn’s room. She was standing just inside the door. “I hear you met mother.”

He grinned. “Yes, and she said she was pleased that I was here. I’m relieved. I had visions of being chased out into the snow in my underwear.”

Kathryn slid her hand down the back of Chakotay’s trousers. “You don’t have to worry about that. You’re not wearing any.” She grinned and gave his buttock a squeeze. “We’d best get moving. Did I hear Mom say she was making waffles?”

Chakotay nodded.

“Well, they wait for no man. I’ll be back in a minute.” Kathryn raced out the door, but then shot back in and slammed a kiss on his lips before she took off again.

He just stood and grinned after her. He was falling more and more in love with this Kathryn. He adored his captain and loved the Kathryn Janeway he’d known for all those years in the Delta Quadrant, but this happy and carefree woman was something to behold. He took a deep shuddering breath. Life was almost too good to be true.

With a grin on his face he buttoned up his shirt and finished getting dressed. He was just tugging the last few wrinkles out of the bed covers when Kathryn burst through the door again, waltzed straight up to him, and threw herself into his arms. She smelled of clean, fresh woman, and he felt himself hardening against her.

She stepped back and grinned, then sniffed the air. “Smell that? Waffles.” She sighed and laid her hand over his burgeoning erection. “This, I’m afraid, will have to wait for later. Although…” She quirked her eyebrow at him.

He grinned and pulled her hand away. “I’m not going to risk getting on your mother’s bad side on my first morning here by letting the waffles get cold while I’m having sex with her daughter.” She snorted and made to lunge towards him but he held her off. “Later?”

Kathryn pulled a face, but nodded. “Definitely later.” Although his good intentions were sorely tested when she dropped her dressing gown onto the bed and drifted naked across her room to find her clothes. He shook his head but took delight in watching her dress. The intimacy of all this made his heart beat faster. This morning had been filled with firsts.

Once she was ready, she turned towards him and held out her hand. “Okay, waffles and awkward question time. Are you ready?”

He shook his head. “No.”

Kathryn tucked her arm though his and pulled him towards the doorway. “Come on. Don’t worry. You know how to handle these Janeway women. You’ve been handling me for years. Just give her one of those smiles and she’ll be putty in your hands.” He turned towards her and smiled. She laughed. “Yes, that’s the one. Good Lord, how did I ever resist?” She shook her head but turned to him at the top of the stairs. “I’m so glad you came to find me, Chakotay. I love you. I always have.”

He pulled her into his arms and kissed her. “I’ve loved you since the moment I clapped eyes on you, woman.” He looked towards the ceiling. “What a day.” He grinned. “Here I am with Kathryn Janeway in my arms. She’s telling me she loves me and I’m about to eat her mother’s waffles.”

There was a cough from the bottom of the stairs. “You won’t be eating anything if you don’t stop chit chatting and get down here soon.”

Kathryn pursed her lips to stifle a laugh at Chakotay’s panic stricken face. “Come on.”

He and Kathryn entered the kitchen together just as Gretchen was serving the waffles. “Here you are. There’s syrup and butter on the table.”

Chakotay took his plate. “Thank you, Mrs Janeway.”

“It’s Gretchen and sit before they get cold.”

He looked up at her slightly scowling face and grinned. “Thank you, Gretchen.”

She was about to offer a sharp retort but instead did a double take. That smile. He and Kathryn would make her some handsome grandchildren. Her mouth twisted into a familiar lopsided smile. “You’re most welcome, Chakotay. And welcome home.”

Gretchen turned back to the stove and he and Kathryn exchanged a look.

Without turning Gretchen snapped. “Stop looking goo-goo eyes at one another and eat your waffles.”

They jumped and answered simultaneously.

“Yes, Mom.”

“Yes, Gretchen.”

The sound of cutlery on plates was the only noise in the room as Gretchen smiled and flipped a waffle.

And so began the first day of the rest of their happy life.

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