Slim Chance by D.A. Kent


D.A. Kent


October, 1999








The Captain and Commander transport back to Voyager from an Away Mission and Captain Janeway suddenly feels faint. What could it be?


Paramount owns the show and the characters, who in turn own too much of me.


Feel free to archive, but please leave my heading and disclaimer intact.


I'd love it! All constructive criticism welcome.


For my friend, Sylvia, who enjoys J/C fan fiction and has a wonderful ear for listening to a writer's complaints, especially when J and C won't do what the writer wants them to!

The day was bright and warm, and Kathryn Janeway thought it had never felt so good to be away from the ship. The twin suns surrounding the planet were far enough away so as not to make the day too warm, and the air felt fresh and invigorating. She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. There was a definite aroma that was almost recognizable. She took another deep breath. There. It almost smelled like lavender, yet not quite as sweet as real lavender.

When Kathryn opened her eyes again, she found herself looking into the smiling face of her First Officer.

"What are you smiling at?" she asked him, trying to act as though it were an everyday occurrence for her to stand in one place and breathe deeply, over and over again.

"Nothing, Captain. Just wanted to make sure you're all right." But he remained smiling just the same.

"I'm fine, Chakotay. Now, take a deep breath and tell me what you smell."

Chakotay took a deep breath and let it out slowly. When he remained silent, Kathryn asked, "Well?"

Putting his finger to his lips, admonishing her to be quiet, he closed his eyes gently and breathed deeply again. After a moment, he opened his eyes and looked at an impatient Kathryn Janeway, then shrugged.

"What do you mean you don't smell anything? Chakotay! It smells like lavender! Now, come on. Try again." This time both officers closed their eyes, took a deep breath and slowly let out their breath again. When they opened their eyes only a moment later, Chakotay merely looked at his Captain as though she were imagining things.

"Ah, hey, ah . . . Captain, Commander . . . is this a private party, or can anyone play?"

Captain Janeway turned to see an amused Tom Paris standing only a few feet away. "Ensign, what's the status?" she asked, ignoring his question, which was often necessary to do with Tom Paris.

"We're ready to go, Captain. The last Away Team is readying for beam up right now. You and the Commander are the last ones, and if I were you I wouldn't waste too much time in getting back to the ship. That might be the one thing that could send Tuvok over the edge."

"Thank you for your opinion, Ensign," Janeway said in her best command voice, adding just the right amount of steel Tom always seemed to need from her. "We're right behind you."

"All right then. See you back on Voyager." With that, Tom Paris started off to rejoin the rest of his Away Team, with a smile on his face. It was so obvious that the Captain and the Commander were involved in one of their little good-natured games. The Captain always lightened up a bit when she got off the ship, which wasn't often enough, if you asked Tom.

He sighed. That was one of the burdens of Command, he mused. For the most part, both Chakotay and Tuvok were dead set against the Captain venturing off the ship for an Away Mission. They had finally relented this time since the M-Class planet they were currently on was completely uninhabited except for a few forms of plant life. Tuvok and Chakotay had both agreed that an hour or so planetside, under the watchful eye of Commander Chakotay, wouldn't likely endanger the Captain.

As Tom reached the other members of his Away Team, he turned to look once more in the direction of the Captain and the Commander. He wouldn't want the Captain's job, that was for sure. She had the burden of making certain the entire ship ran efficiently each and every day. And being lost in the Delta Quadrant didn't afford her much time off from duty. He shook his head and wondered, not for the first time, just how she managed to do it. He knew that from time to time it got to her. Hell, it would get to anyone. But she was more resilient than most. Besides, she had Chakotay to lean on.

Over the years, the Captain had finally let her guard down just enough to allow the Commander to take some of the burden from her. When that had happened exactly, Tom couldn't be sure, but it wasn't until they had been stranded in the Delta Quadrant for a good couple of years. Maybe the Captain had just finally realized she couldn't shoulder the entire burden alone any longer. No one could isolate themselves from others indefinitely, and certainly not Captain Janeway. Maybe she had once thought she could remain alone on Voyager, but Tom had noticed the look of loneliness in her eyes once or twice early on. But these days, it seemed as though Chakotay had taken some of that loneliness away from her. Somewhat, at any rate. Tom sighed.

Many of the Voyager crew spent a considerable amount of free time speculating on the relationship between the Captain and the Commander. It was an often-discussed topic, and one that had provided many hours of amusement and debate for the sometimes bored crewmembers. Tom himself had instigated many of these discussions, and usually managed to get some sort of bet going regarding their interactions.

For example, one current bet on the books questioned how long it would be before the Captain asked the Commander to her quarters again for a late night of reviewing crew reports. She seemed to do that on a more frequent basis these days. At least Tom thought so, and that discussion one night in the mess hall with several of the beta shift crewmembers had prompted the bets being placed. Within a couple of hours, crewmen from all over the ship were placing their bets on the encoded betting channel.

Whoever among the crew wanted to get in on a certain pool would bet their replicator rations, and then the 'wait and watch' game would begin. Usually the alpha shift Bridge crew had the advantage of listening to conversations between Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay, and often either Tom or Harry would be able to grab onto what was considered "insider information."

Tuvok was also within range to hear some great conversation between the two Command chairs, and his heightened sense of hearing would make it even better, but unfortunately Tuvok would never become involved in Tom's betting pools. In fact, Tom knew that the Vulcan pretended not to know about the betting that went on, but Tom suspected that Tuvok was keeping a close watch over the games anyway. And although Tuvok was known to faithfully alert the Captain to any wrongdoings on Voyager, maybe even Tuvok realized that the crew needed a harmless diversion these days. Whatever the reason, at least the Captain didn't know about it.

If the Captain ever found out about Tom's betting pool, the entire operation would be closed down immediately, and Tom would be in deep trouble.

After all, five years ago, Commander Chakotay had put him on report for doing just this same thing, and Tom knew that Chakotay had informed the Captain of the situation afterward. True, he was working under cover as a ship's spy at the time, but the Captain had later informed him that this did not mean he could involve the entire crew in his betting schemes. She was adamantly against his corrupting the entire crew. Replicator rations were scare enough; she didn't need Tom Paris convincing other crewmen to give theirs up to him through some sort of illegal betting practices.

No, this time, she wouldn't send Chakotay to take care of it. This time she would take care of it herself, and he'd have hell to pay.

And as much as he hated to disappoint the Captain, he just couldn't help it that he was a man who lived on the edge.

Shaking his head, Tom crossed over to his group and picked up the remaining containers of plant life they had collected for Neelix's kitchen and for the hydroponics bay. With luck, they would be able to replicate this environment in Voyager's hydroponics bay so the young plants would grow strong and healthy, thus reproducing vitamin-enriched food products that Neelix would later destroy in some concoction he'd create in his kitchen.

Ah, the complexities of being stranded in the Delta Quadrant. Tom had never been happier in his life.

Tapping his comm badge, Tom gave the order to beam his team back up to Voyager.


Meanwhile, the Captain and Chakotay were slowly making their way to the beam-up site that Tom and his team had just vacated. "Wait a minute," said Kathryn. Both she and Chakotay stopped suddenly. "Chakotay, the scent is very strong here. Don't tell me you can't smell it at all?"

Chakotay took another deep breath. "Sorry, Captain. Maybe I've just forgotten what lavender smells like."

"I can't believe that. How can you forget what something smells like?" She looked at him then, for a good long moment. Then she took a step closer to him and peered intently into his eyes. "I think you are just trying to convince me that you don't smell anything. I think you smell it just fine."

"Captain, really. I don't smell anything remotely like lavender." It took all his resolve to keep a straight face. She really was beautiful when she was frustrated.

"Fine. Whatever you say." The Captain threw up her hands in a gesture that usually meant 'forget it,' but Chakotay knew Kathryn Janeway well enough to know that the topic was anything but closed.

The two commanding officers continued up the hill to the beam-up site at the top. They were indeed the only ones left on the planet, and the suns were just starting to set in the north as they reached the site. The Captain slapped her comm badge. "Voyager, two to beam up."

"Acknowledged, Captain," came the voice from Voyager's transporter room.

In another instant, the forms of Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay shimmered into the waning light, then reappeared only moments later in the transporter room aboard Voyager.

"Chakotay . . ." began the Captain, as she stepped off the transporter pad and down into the room itself.

Suddenly, the Captain stopped and gently put her hand out to touch the wall on her right. She shut her eyes momentarily, trying to stop the strange feeling of dizziness that had taken her unaware.

Chakotay was beside her in the next instant. He put his hand on her shoulder. "Kathryn? Are you all right?" he asked softly.

The Ensign assigned to the transporter room for the alpha shift stood by in case he was needed, watching the Captain, and holding his breath. He had heard the Commander call the Captain "Kathryn" and knew that the Commander was terribly shaken. Commander Chakotay would never have made the error of referring to the Captain by her first name in front of any of the other crewmembers, if he were thinking rationally.

"I'm fine, Commander," said the Captain finally. She opened her eyes and slowly let go of the wall. "I just felt dizzy for a moment. Not used to being in the sun anymore, I suppose."

"Maybe we should stop by Sickbay . . ." began Chakotay.

"No, thank you. I've had a lovely day, and I don't want it spoiled by the Doctor telling me I'm not eating properly . . ." She began to walk forward as Chakotay took his place at her side. Then suddenly, Kathryn Janeway grabbed at the wall again as she began to fall. But this time, Chakotay was ready and caught her in his arms as he yelled over his shoulder to the young Ensign on duty, "Ensign! Beam us directly to Sickbay!"

"Aye, Sir!" As the Ensign manipulated the instruments, then watched silently as the Captain and Commander shimmered out of the transporter room, he finally realized he'd been holding his breath the entire time. He let it out slowly, hoping like hell the Captain was all right. If anything happened to her, he knew the entire ship and her crew would suffer greatly. Nothing against Commander Chakotay and his abilities, but the Captain was fearsome and determined, and nothing would stand in her way of getting her crew home again.


"I don't know, Doctor. I just felt faint for an instant and my vision became blurred. Then, after stopping for a moment, my vision cleared and I started for the door. That's all I remember."

Captain Janeway was sitting on the edge of a biobed in Sickbay as the Doctor ran what seemed to be endless scans over her entire body. Chakotay stood several feet away, watching and listening, with a worried look on his face.

"Hmm. According to Commander Chakotay, that's when you fainted," said the Doctor, continuing his scans as he spoke.

"I told you, Doctor. I'm all right. I feel fine now."

"Yes, but even if that's true, there has to be a reason for you to have fainted into the Commander's arms a few minutes ago."

"Doctor, it wasn't quite that melodramatic . . ." the Captain began, but the Doctor ignored her.

"And my scan shows that, although you did not have a substantial breakfast, as usual . . ." here he gave her one of his 'I told you something would happen' looks, then continued, "You have enough sustenance in your stomach to prevent dizziness from a mere transport. No, there has to be something else . . ."

"Doctor . . ." the Captain tried again.

"Wait. What's this?" The Doctor continued to scan the Captain's body, although he seemed to concentrate his efforts on her stomach and abdominal areas. The fact that he was still ignoring her pushed her best behavior to the extreme. She knew she was not going to be able to hold her irritation in check for very much longer.

Commander Chakotay moved closer to the Captain and the Doctor, with unanswered questions in his eyes. The Captain sighed. She felt totally surrounded, yet completely alone, since no one was paying the least bit of attention to anything she said.

Finally, the Commander could wait no longer. "What did you find, Doctor?"

"I'm not sure. Some readings are slightly irregular, but that's not altogether unusual only moments after a transport." The Doctor shut off his scanner and walked over to his instrument table.

"Then that's that." The Captain slid off the biobed, obviously intending to leave the room.

"Wait a moment, Captain. I'm not finished with my examination. Please get back on the bed." The Doctor turned his back to her then, knowing that she wouldn't be happy with his request. In fact, he knew that she knew that he had every right to order her back onto the bed if she did not comply willingly with his request. He waited patiently while she made her choice.

Chakotay held his breath, willing his body to stay where it was. He wanted to lift Kathryn in his arms himself and sit her back on the bed, but he knew that this would only make her angry. She was completely capable and did not like to be catered to. To his relief, Captain Janeway lifted herself back up onto the bed without further comment.

The Doctor, instinctively knowing that the Captain was once again on the bed, turned back to her with a larger, more localized, scanner.

"Please lie down, Captain." As the Captain took a deep breath and lay back on the bed, the Doctor continued to speak as he scanned her upper torso and abdominal areas. "I'm taking some active scans so that I can study them after you've gone. I will make them interactive with the computer system and feed them into the medical database so that an hour from now they will look as they should, without showing signs of transport interference. Perhaps then I will be able to determine what caused you to faint. There. That should do it." The Doctor shut down the scanning device. "You may sit up now, Captain."

As the Captain sat up on the bed, the Doctor continued. "I will let you know when I have completed my examination of these scans, Captain."

"Thank you, Doctor," said the Captain, as she pushed herself off the biobed to stand between the Doctor and Chakotay.

"Meanwhile, since you obviously skipped lunch again, may I suggest you eat something light now, and then remember to eat dinner this evening, as well," said the Doctor. Then he looked at her with meaning, and said in that superior manner he seemed to have perfected: "A substantial dinner."

"Of course, Doctor. Thank you," said the Captain, giving no indication she registered the meaning behind the Doctor's words.

"I will see that the Captain has something to eat, Doctor. We'll head for the mess hall after we leave here," said Chakotay, as Kathryn sighed.

"Good. And if you don't mind, Commander, since the Captain should also lie down and rest for awhile, I would feel better if you also escort her to her quarters after she has had something to eat. Just in case she should feel lightheaded again."

"Of course, Doctor." Chakotay turned to Kathryn then and held his arm out for her to take. She bristled a moment, then grudgingly took his arm and they headed out the doors and into the corridor, with the Doctor smiling after them.

When they were safely outside Sickbay, Kathryn let go of Chakotay's arm and turned to him. "All right, I'm fine now. There's no reason for us to continue this charade, Chakotay."

"I don't know what you're talking about, Kathryn."

"Look, Chakotay, I appreciate what you did in there just now. But I'm not hungry. I promise I will eat later. All right?"

"No, not all right. I promised the Doctor I would take you directly to the mess hall, and that's where we are going."

"Chakotay . . ."

"Look, Kathryn, you can order me to walk away if you want to. But then I'll be forced to let the Doctor know you pulled rank on me, and he'll have to deal with it from there. It's up to you." He watched her face go through a thousand emotions as she considered her options, before reluctantly taking his arm again, and sending him a look that was definitely set for stun.

"I will get even with you for this, you know," she said under her breath, and just loud enough for Chakotay to hear, as they continued to walk down the corridor toward the mess hall.

"I have no doubt about that, Kathryn," Chakotay replied, smiling to himself. "But it won't necessarily make you the winner." That will give her something to think about, he thought. Kathryn Janeway was as stubborn as they came.


After the Captain and Commander Chakotay had stopped for a quick bite in the mess hall, they walked down the corridor to the turbolift, and after reaching the appropriate deck, they headed toward Captain Janeway's quarters.

"Chakotay, I can make it home by myself, you know. You really don't need to escort me to my door."

"I promised the Doctor I would see to it that you are returned to your quarters in one piece. We can't have the Captain roaming the ship alone and risking another episode like the one in the transporter room earlier today."

"I feel fine now," repeated the Captain for the umpteenth time, as she and Chakotay reached her quarters. "And you've just managed to fulfill your promise to the Doctor. Now, I am going to take that rest, then if I still feel fine in an hour, which I no doubt will, I am going to return to the Bridge to finish my duty shift."

At that, the Captain activated the door code, and the door to her quarters slid open. "You might want to make the Doctor aware of my intentions, Commander, so that we all understand each other," she said over her shoulder to Chakotay as she entered her living area and the door slid shut once again behind her.

Chakotay smiled to himself. Leave it to Kathryn to have the last word. He slapped his comm badge in order to inform the Doctor of the Captain's intentions, as commanded, as he started for the Bridge.

Both the Captain and Chakotay had taken an odd duty shift today, as had most of the alpha crew, in order to take better advantage of daylight hours on the M-class planet. Chakotay knew that the Captain was intent on completing her duty shift, mostly to prove a point. She would return to the Bridge today even if her shift lasted only a few minutes longer. She insisted on never being given priority treatment over any other crewmember aboard Voyager.


At precisely 1700 hours, the turbolift doors opened, and Captain Janeway stepped onto the Bridge of her starship. She nodded and responded to various crewmembers' greetings as she moved to her command chair. Sitting, she turned to her First Officer and nodded. "Commander," she said, as she brought her small computer on-line at her left.

"Captain," returned Commander Chakotay. "I hope you were able to catch up on those reports."

Kathryn smiled to herself, but kept her eyes focused on her computer screen. "Yes, thank you for covering Bridge duty for me."

"No problem, Captain. My pleasure."

Captain Janeway knew from Chakotay's comment that he had informed the Bridge crew that their Captain needed some quiet time in her quarters to catch up on reports. She also knew that Chakotay would do everything he could to prevent rumors of any sort to surface regarding her dizziness in the transporter room earlier. And Kathryn would have bet a month's rations, if she were so inclined, that Chakotay had even visited the young Ensign in the transporter room as well, swearing him to secrecy about the earlier incident, prior to reporting back to the Bridge himself.

As Kathryn sat quietly staring at her computer screen and musing about Chakotay's behavior, Chakotay glanced at her inconspicuously from his own computer terminal. The Captain did seem back to normal; her color was better and she had obviously picked up on his comment the moment he had said it. He had noticed the smile that tugged at the corner of her mouth as she had thanked him for covering her Bridge duty.

Chakotay took a deep breath and willed himself to let it out slowly, so as not to alert Tuvok or, worse, Tom Paris. Sometimes any small gesture could encourage comment or thought during routine Bridge shifts. And Chakotay just wanted the remainder of alpha shift to pass without further interruption.

"Did you enjoy your time on the planet, Captain?" asked Tom Paris from the helm.

Kathryn glanced up from her terminal. "Very much. Thank you, Mr. Paris," she said in her crisp command voice, which told him in no uncertain terms that she was not interested in furthering this discussion. She glanced back down at her computer data.

"Yep, it was a beautiful planet," continued Tom. "In fact, I thought I even smelled some fresh lavender in the air."

"Mr. Paris, your point?" asked the Captain.

"Oh, nothing. No point, Captain. Just making conversation," Tom said, trying to sound nonchalant.

"Then am I to understand that your report regarding your team's findings during the Away Mission has been completed?"

"Uh . . . no, I mean almost. Not quite," replied Tom.

"Then am I to understand, instead, that this conversation is over?"

"Yes, Ma'am," replied Tom, resignedly, knowing he had lost yet another one with the Captain. He could never quite figure out how it was that she always knew how to upend him. Worse, she always seemed to be able to do it so darned easily!

Chakotay hid his smile the best he could. Would Tom Paris ever learn that the Captain would always win? He had to hand it to Kathryn; she certainly knew how to handle Tom Paris better than anyone, and even when she wasn't feeling her best.

Behind Chakotay, Harry Kim shook his head slightly, then turned away as Tuvok raised his eyebrow in Harry's direction. Sometimes it wasn't the most comfortable feeling knowing that Tuvok's line of sight was directly across the Bridge from him.

Harry couldn't believe Tom still tried to get one over on the Captain, even after all these years of trying and not once succeeding. Sometimes Tom just couldn't let things alone. One of these days it was going to be his undoing.

Chakotay turned to the Captain. "Did you get through any of those crew evaluation reports yet?" he asked.

"Actually, I haven't touched them, Commander. I realize our duty shift is running later today, but if you don't have plans for this evening, how about dinner in my quarters? With your assistance, maybe we can muddle through those reports by midnight."

Tom Paris threw a quick glance over his shoulder at Harry Kim, just as Harry looked up from his console in time to meet Tom's look. They grinned at each other, then quickly looked away. One of those bets had now been concluded.

Harry shook his head and smiled to himself. He couldn't help it, even if Tuvok noticed. That little exchange between the Captain and Commander had just cost B'Elanna 10 replicator rations, and she wouldn't be too happy about that. She had bet that they would read the crew evaluation reports in the Captain's quarters tomorrow night. She had been so close . . . but close never counted in Tom's pools. How Tom always managed to call it when it came to Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay, Harry would probably never figure out.

"Sounds good to me, Captain. What time?" Chakotay was saying.

"2000 hours. And bring an appetite."

"Oh? Are you planning to try out a new recipe on me?" Chakotay grinned.

Kathryn looked at Chakotay and smiled. "Don't worry. You're off the hook - it's replicator rations tonight. I don't get ambitious about cooking twice in the same month."

Chakotay returned the smile. "I remember," he said, and Kathryn chuckled.

Must be one of those New Earth memories, mused Tom. Every now and then one of them would still hint at the three months they had spent stranded alone together on that planet before Voyager had gotten hold of a cure for their disease and returned for them. It was strange, really. The two of them referred to that time so rarely. And when they did, it was just as they had now referred to it, with a hint at what had been, a sort of shared understanding between them, especially when the Captain laughed that throaty laugh, as she had just now.

And regarding New Earth, Tom thought again how he would hand over plenty of replicator rations to anyone who could just answer a few questions for him about those 12 weeks the Captain and Chakotay had spent alone together. Alas, no one in the entire Delta Quadrant could answer those questions except the two people who were there, and Tom knew that whatever had - or had not - transpired between the two of them was locked inside their two minds forever.

But, oh, what he wouldn't give to know whether or not they had made love with each other. The general consensus aboard ship was that they had not done the deed, but at times Tom had witnessed a glance exchanged between them or the brush of one hand over the other's hand, and Tom could swear the chemistry between those two could start a fire! No, he didn't think it had happened yet, but it was going to one day. He could recognize the signs a mile away, and he was right here in front of them everyday.

Besides, if they had been intimate on New Earth, Tom didn't think Chakotay would have been able to return to Voyager from New Earth and carry on as if nothing had happened between them, no matter how much the Captain might have expected him to. Chakotay wore his heart on his sleeve where the Captain was concerned, and Tom had seen the desire there so intensely on Chakotay's part so many times . . . well, who could blame him, really?

After all, Chakotay spent a lot of time with Captain Janeway, and she was certainly an attractive woman. And Tom just knew she had to be different when she was alone with Chakotay, one on one. Hell, he had seen hundreds of hints of her other self - like the episode today on the planet, that bit about the lavender. And her voice even changed when she wasn't in the Captain mode.

Tom smiled to himself. Her non-Captain voice was like velvet, sultry and seductive, not like the steel cased command voice she used on the Bridge. Tom secretly referred to that other voice as her "brandy" voice because it was as warm and inviting as a glass of real, non-synthenol brandy. He had described the Captain's sexy voice to Harry once, explaining the term 'brandy' (Harry hadn't tasted real brandy yet at the time!), and Harry had blushed a deep crimson! So, even ole' Harry had fantasized about the Captain! Even today, all it took to make Harry's face turn red was the mere mention of the word "brandy."

But sometimes the Captain looked at Chakotay with a fire in her eyes, too, although Tom knew she didn't realize it. She would never intentionally advertise it. Tom figured that Chakotay probably mentally collected each and every tidbit the Captain threw his way, and continued to bide his time, just waiting for her. And who could blame him? Surely not Tom. Look at how long it had taken him to win B'Elanna over! Some things were just worth the wait, he grinned to himself.

It was obvious they loved each other. Hell, everyone knew that! But the Captain was just so damned Starfleet . . . she took everything about that oath seriously. Too seriously, Tom thought. Having a relationship with Chakotay wouldn't break any Prime Directive. It might stretch a Starfleet principle or two . . . but they were so far away from Starfleet now, what could that matter in the long run? The Captain still ran a tight ship, and the crew respected her for it. Tom just didn't think it was right for Starfleet to expect the commanding officers to isolate themselves from their crew, or from a relationship that ought to be. But what did he know anyway. He had never understood most things about Starfleet. Just ask his father.

Sometimes Tom really felt sorry for Chakotay, though he would never let Chakotay know it. Tom had B'Elanna now, but he had gone through hell for nearly five years trying to prove himself worthy to her! And Tom was sure it would pay off for Chakotay someday. The two of them were just so damned secretive, though. No one truly knew what their relationship was like behind closed doors. But the fire in both their eyes only seemed to grow brighter and stronger over the years.

Tom respected the hell out of Kathryn Janeway as his Captain; she was the only person in his entire life who had given him a chance to prove himself. He knew he drove her nuts with his constant bantering and untimely comments on the Bridge, but truth be known, he did that on purpose. She was the only person who could consistently best him, and though he would never admit it, he enjoyed their repartee immensely.

But there had been times, back before he and B'Elanna had gotten together, when he did stop and think of the Captain that other way. Every now and then, Tom used to imagine what it would be like to make love with her. This imagery had proved to be one of the most intense fantasies he had ever conjured up! Back when she had worn her hair up in that bun, he had imagined her coming to his quarters, or him going to hers, and she would take her clothes off while he watched, then as she came to him he would pull the pins from her hair and watch as it tumbled in waves over her shoulders. Then he would entangle his hands in it as he pulled her to him . . .

He remembered the first time he had seen her with her hair down. Tom was pulling double duty on the Bridge that day, and suddenly in the middle of beta shift the ship was attacked by a strange birdlike species. He had immediately called the Captain to the Bridge, and she had arrived in uniform, but she hadn't had time to put her hair back up in the bun. She had hurriedly wrapped a ribbon around it behind her, but the damage had been done. She had unknowingly become a permanent character in Tom Paris's mental fantasy world. He smiled to himself. Thank the gods she couldn't read his mind; he would be dead for sure.

But, one thing Tom knew was women, and he knew one thing about Captain Kathryn Janeway that he didn't have to make love with her to discover for sure: She would be as passionate in her lovemaking as she was in everything else she did. That was the secret about her that had made the fantasy so rewarding for Tom. To this day, he knew that about her as strongly as if he had experienced it for himself. And he thought Chakotay suspected as much about the Captain as well. Yes, Tom was sure that Chakotay would truly know for certain one day. Good for him; Chakotay deserved to experience it for himself. Not every man would wait for a woman as many years as Chakotay was obviously willing to wait for Kathryn Janeway. Tom grinned again. Not many men would be able to handle a woman like Kathryn Janeway once they'd won her over. But if anyone could do it, Chakotay could.

Ah, well, time to get back to that report the Captain had asked about. She wouldn't let him put it off for long. Tom smiled to himself; another thing Tom Paris knew for sure was that nothing stayed the same. And Chakotay and the Captain were destined for something to happen. Tom's mission was simply to time his own part just right. He could always use replicator rations.


At 1745 hours, precisely fifteen minutes prior to the end of the current alpha duty shift, the Captain's comm. badge chirped. "Sickbay to the Captain."

"Yes, Doctor. What is it?" The Captain was engrossed in a table of matter vs. antimatter containment and her tone implied a slight impatience at being interrupted.

The Doctor didn't seem to notice. "Captain, I have concluded my analysis of . . . the subject of our earlier conversation. Please come to Sickbay immediately so that I may share the results with you."

"Doctor . . . ," began the Captain, then immediately thought better of arguing with the Doctor while still on the Bridge, where many pairs of ears were listening. She sighed. "I'm on my way, Doctor."

"Thank you, Captain. Sickbay out." Janeway sighed again, then looked at Chakotay with an "I really don't want to do this" look on her face. "Do you mind finishing the Bridge shift alone?" she asked.

"Not at all, Captain," Chakotay smiled at her. "I'll be happy to cover the last few minutes of Bridge duty while you visit with the Doctor."

Kathryn Janeway logged off her computer station, lowered it from sight, and stood from her chair to head for the turbolift. Just as she turned, Chakotay stopped her in her tracks. "By the way, Captain, if the Doctor gets long-winded, please remind him that you have dinner to prepare this evening."

The Captain gave him one of her "drop it, mister" looks, then continued on her journey to Sickbay, with Chakotay smiling to himself long after she was gone from the Bridge.


Sickbay was deserted as Kathryn Janeway entered through the double doors. She headed directly for the Doctor's office, where she found him engrossed in his computer screen.

The Doctor looked up. "Ah, Captain. Please. Sit down." He stood and gestured to the vacant chair in front of his desk, and Janeway sat.

Although there was no one else present in Sickbay at all, the Doctor stood and glanced outside his office just to be sure.

"Doctor, what is the problem?" asked the Captain, trying to bring the Doctor's attentions back to why she was here.

"Nothing, Captain. Nothing at all. I just want to be certain we won't be interrupted." The Doctor turned and looked at the Captain. Then he glanced away, took a deep breath, then walked to his desk and sat on the edge, near Janeway.

"If I didn't know better, Doctor, I'd guess you were about to deliver some very bad news to a very ill patient." Her voice was steady, but the Doctor's actions were beginning to unnerve her.

"I apologize, Captain. This is just, well . . . not an easy thing to do."

"Doctor, please get on with it. What is my condition?" Her voice must have betrayed her more than she suspected, because the Doctor suddenly seemed to understand that he was causing her undue concern.

"Captain, you are in perfect health." As the Captain was slowly letting out her breath, he continued. "Except for your poor eating habits, of course. I see no change there . . ."

"Doctor . . ."

"Yes, yes. To continue." The Doctor stood and walked back around his desk, then sat slowly in his chair. "Captain, there is simply no delicate way of saying this. You are carrying a child. You are . . . pregnant. There, now you know."

Kathryn Janeway simply stared at the Doctor. She had never been so shocked in her life. Of course the Doctor was wrong, but about something so simple? It had been a relatively easy thing to determine whether a female was pregnant for hundreds of years now. How could the Doctor even suggest such a thing?

Kathryn forced herself to calm down, take a deep breath, and let it out slowly.

"Doctor . . ." she began.

"Yes, I know what you are going to tell me," the Doctor retorted.

"I'm not sure that you do know," she said slowly, steadily.

"Yes. I do. Now please, let me continue." The Doctor took a deep breath, gathered his thoughts, then continued. "Captain, I know that you have not engaged in . . . sexual activities . . . in rather a long time - in a very long time, in fact. And, since the gestation period for a human female's offspring is nine months, I immediately knew without doubt that there was no way you . . . ."

"Doctor . . ." began the Captain, in a voice that spoke volumes.

The Doctor stood from his chair, and continued. "Knowing this, I ran every test known to both man, and EMH, several times. And came up with the exact same outcome every time . . . ."

"Well then, you'll just have to run those tests again, won't you, Doctor." Her voice was calm, controlled. "Or find other tests to run in their place. Because I can assure you that I am not pregnant." With that, the Captain rose from the chair and had nearly reached the door to the Doctor's office, when he stopped her in her tracks with a simple, but sure, statement.

"And I can assure you that you are, Captain."

Captain Janeway turned slowly back toward the Doctor. He held his ground, and looked her in the eye. She stood silent, a litany of thoughts running through her mind, but none that she spoke aloud. And just as she began to tell herself that there was a glitch in his program, she knew that there wasn't.

Kathryn knew that the Doctor would never have called her to his office if he had not been certain of her condition.

Nevertheless, she could not possibly be pregnant. "Doctor, you know that I am not going to believe this without proof." Her tone was even, her words measured.

"I know that, Captain." The Doctor reached behind him and slowly pulled his computer screen around to face the Captain. "That's why I prepared this data prior to asking you to come here. Here is the scientific explanation," he said gently, moving aside to allow Captain Janeway to move behind his desk and sit in his chair.

As she moved slowly towards the Doctor's chair, Kathryn thought absently that she had never sat in his chair before. Strange to think about this now. But, not so strange, either. The human mind fought for its sanity in many ways.

After several moments spent staring at data that ought to mean something to her, she sat back and regarded the Doctor, who was sitting on the edge of his desk, waiting for her to finish. "Why don't you explain this to me in your own words, Doctor," she said quietly.

The Doctor took a deep breath. Now he was on familiar ground, not dealing with feelings, but with fact. "Captain, what happened earlier today is something that nearly defies explanation. But not quite. The reason you fainted after the transport was because the transporter had actually impregnated you with human male DNA. The sudden fertilization of your eggs with this DNA resulted in your bio-nervous system's attempt to reject the action, simply because this process usually takes hours to occur naturally, while in this case the entire process took only minutes, moments in fact. You fainted because your own body was attempting to reject the impregnation."

The Doctor paused, but only for a moment. "After discovering the results of my tests late this afternoon, I contacted Ensign Kim and asked him to look over ship's sensor readings from around the same time that you and the Commander transported back to the ship from the planet. While I didn't explain to him why I needed the information, Ensign Kim reported back to me that while he couldn't be certain, he detected what might have been a spatial distortion, a frequency wave of sorts that, according to his readings, occurred at precisely the same moment you and the Commander beamed back to Voyager."

The Doctor beamed with pride at his explanation. Then he continued, since the Captain had not reacted at all to what he found to be extremely enlightening evidence. His tone was almost reverent when he said, "Captain, what happened to you today was something that had such a . . . slim chance . . . of occurring, it's nearly what was once termed a 'miracle'."

The Captain was so quiet and so still that the Doctor was afraid she had gone into shock. He literally took his medical tricorder from his desk and was about to run a scan, when the Captain stood and looked at him. "I cannot accept that, Doctor. There has to be a mistake."

"But, Captain . . ." began the Doctor, searching his database for a way to convince her.

"You said a 'slim chance,' right?" she asked him, closing the distance between them, and looking the Doctor in the eye.

"Yes, but . . ." he was still struggling to find a way to make her understand.

"How slim?"

"I beg your pardon?"

"How slim is the chance that this could happen?"

"One chance in 820,463,988. But what does that have to do with anything?" The Doctor was still not sure she wasn't suffering from some form of shock.

"If you found one way in over 820 million to prove that I'm pregnant, it should be much easier to find a way to prove that I'm not. Now get to it." And with that, the Captain left the Doctor standing alone in Sickbay, staring at the outer door as it closed behind her.

She was in shock, all right, he thought to himself. She certainly wasn't thinking logically. Best to keep himself activated tonight. Who knew when a dose of reality would hit her and she would be back.

Sighing, the Doctor decided to run some more tests anyway, just to be able to tell the Captain that he had done so. He shook his head. If the Captain were thinking clearly, she would realize he could never be wrong about something so simple. It had been a relatively easy thing to determine whether a female was pregnant for hundreds of years now.

Oh, well. She would be back . . . and he would be waiting for her.

The Doctor turned back to his work.


Captain Janeway had never experienced anything remotely like what the past few hours had brought.

Setting the table in her quarters for dinner, she smiled when she thought about what Chakotay's reaction would be when she relayed to him what the Doctor had told her earlier.

Then she stopped suddenly.

She couldn't tell Chakotay. He might actually consider the Doctor's explanation to be correct. Or at least worth consideration.

And it just wasn't possible that she was pregnant. Not only was it completely implausible, but add that slim chance that the Doctor had mentioned before to the fact that it had happened at precisely one of the few times she was alone in a transporter beam with her First Officer, who also just happened to be the only man in any universe that she would want to have a child with in the first place . . .

Just the thought of the total improbability was enough to make her head dance. No, she would wait for the Doctor to come up with something that made a lot more sense than any of this.

But . . . what if the Doctor were right?

The thought nagged at the back of her mind until she forced herself to sit down and consider it.


The Doctor was just completing a self-diagnostic (just in case he had a glitch in his system) when the Captain walked into Sickbay in her usual manner, then walked into his office and sat in the chair in front of his desk. After being certain no one else was around to overhear the conversation, she let out a sigh and relaxed her command posture. She was suddenly very tired.

The Doctor merely sat and waited for her to speak first.

"You were running a self-diagnostic?" she asked softly, nodding toward the computer terminal.

The Doctor nodded.

"And I'll just bet you are functioning at 100% proficiency."

The Doctor nodded again.

The Captain nodded, resignedly, in return. Then she looked at her hands in her lap.

Finally, Captain Janeway looked up at the Doctor. "Let me get this straight, Doctor. I beamed down to the planet earlier today on an Away Mission, something that I haven't done for several months. While beaming back to the ship after a couple of hours, while I was in the same transporter beam as my First Officer, again something that hasn't happened in months . . . .his DNA was . . . implanted directly into my . . . into me, in exactly the precise location for fertilization . . . Doctor, do you realize how incredible this sounds?"

"Yes. I do, Captain. But there is no other explanation. That is precisely what happened."

Kathryn Janeway sighed heavily and closed her eyes. The Doctor knew that she was trying desperately to hang onto her sanity. He would have to watch over her very carefully until she accepted the idea that she was pregnant with her First Officer's child.

Finally, the Captain took a deep breath and opened her eyes again, looking the Doctor directly in the eye. "So. This is the only explanation then; there is no other?"


"Thank you, Doctor." The Captain stood slowly and took a couple of steps toward the door to the Doctor's office. Then she stopped and looked out the glass partition of the Doctor's office and into the main room of the Sickbay.

"And to top it off I'm having dinner with Commander Chakotay tonight in my quarters. How am I supposed to deal with this?"

"Why not explain the situation to him, Captain?" asked the Doctor gently.

The Captain laughed slightly, an amused but disbelieving laugh, then was silent. "I can't do that, Doctor. I need time." She turned to the Doctor, suddenly. "Doctor, I need your word that you won't tell him."

"Of course not, Captain. I understand."

"Good. Thank you." The Captain turned once again to look out the glass partition of the Doctor's office. Tom Paris was administering treatment to a crewman who seemed to have strained his back.

"But I need to remind you, Captain," continued the Doctor. "This . . . child belongs to Commander Chakotay as well as to you. You must consider when a good time might be to . . . tell him."

"Understood, Doctor." She paused, still watching Tom in the other room, but not seeing him at all. "In the meantime, Doctor, I want you to remain activated and find some way to convince me that I'm not dreaming. Or better yet, that I am dreaming. And I will try - hard - not to think about this further until morning." Then she turned toward the Doctor. "Do we understand each other?"

"Yes, Captain," replied the Doctor, in a soft voice. He understood exactly what she was saying.

"Good." Then she sighed. "And I would consider it a wonderful moment in medical history if you can prove your initial theory to be wrong." With that, the Captain left the Doctor's office, and exited Sickbay, without looking back.

The Doctor sighed then, as the Captain had only moments ago. He knew she wanted this to just go away. But he also knew that it wouldn't. He had already tested and retested his initial theory more times than he had ever tested anything. And it was definitely true. She was carrying Commander Chakotay's child.

The Doctor moved to his chair and sat behind the desk. He needed to think about this.

It was indeed a strange thing that this particular incident had occurred. The odds were exactly as he had explained them to the Captain earlier today. But stranger was the fact that it was commonly known how the Captain and Commander felt about each other, and the fact that they had not acted on their feelings for each other had only served to confuse, as well as bring hours of debating pleasure to, nearly all of the Voyager crewmembers.

And sometimes, the Doctor didn't understand it, either. As a hologram who had been granted a subroutine by this very Captain, and had been allowed to evolve into a near "person" himself, he had experienced love as no hologram before him had ever done. He had fallen in love with Danara Pel, the Vidiian scientist and physician, and now he knew the loneliness and sorrow those feelings could bring when a couple were forced apart. But he also remembered the closeness, and the bond of knowing that another being had loved him and been loved by him, as well. He would not trade these memories for anything.

And the Captain and Commander were together, here on this very ship. They didn't have to experience the feelings of losing the object of their love, yet they still refused to allow their feelings to evolve, to become known, even to each other.

Correction. The Captain refused to allow her feelings to evolve. The Doctor knew that the Commander was ready for a relationship with the Captain, and had been ready since nearly the beginning of their time together here in the Delta Quadrant. Why, even a hologram could see the longing in his eyes when he looked at her.

The Captain was the cause of the wall that remained between the two of them. She felt unprepared to deal with more than one full-time occupation at a time, and he sensed that she felt a romantic relationship would detract her from running the ship.

The Doctor knew that Captain Janeway still felt guilty for solely making the decision that had stranded Voyager and her crew in the Delta Quadrant six years ago. The Doctor also knew how guilt - something that could not be seen, heard, nor detected by a medical tricorder - could tear a person apart. He could cite countless case histories about guilt-induced trauma from Voyager's massive medical database.

But there was nothing medically he could do about this situation. It was one of those things that rendered a physician completely helpless. At times like this, Voyager truly needed a ship's counselor.

And when it concerned the Captain of this ship, he knew that there was very little anyone could do to change her mind once she'd decided something.

Also, he couldn't tell anyone. And he couldn't ask anyone for help. As the ship's physician and Chief Medical Officer, he was bound by oath and by duty not to tell others of a crewmember's health concerns, unless it was, in his opinion, a threat to the health of the crew in general. At that point, he would then be obligated to inform the Captain of the vessel of his concerns. Except, in this case, it was the Captain whose health he was concerned about. In which case, he would be obligated to tell the ship's First Officer, who in this case was also involved in the incident, although unknowingly.

The Doctor sighed heavily. He could continue this line of thinking for days and still remain caught in some paradox that would be unexplainable. Any way he looked at it, this was not going to be an easy situation to handle.

Captain Janeway did not like surprises, and this one had caught her completely unaware. The life of the child itself would not even come into consideration until she had dealt with the fact that she was actually carrying a child. And until she accepted that fact, he would need to watch over her carefully.

What she had said to him tonight as she was leaving was true to form for the Captain. He would have to make her believe she was indeed pregnant. He had to find a way to make her accept it in her heart, not just in her scientific mind. He knew how stubborn she could be, and she would deny this pregnancy until he proved to her that she needed to face it.

And the Commander. This situation just became more complicated the more the Doctor thought about it. He knew the Commander would accept this situation much more readily than the Captain, once he was told of it. He was a spiritual man, and did not demand the same answers to questions the Captain's scientific mind did.

Oh, this was not going to be easy at all.

The Doctor stood and walked to the window in his office that looked out over the rest of Sickbay. He watched as Tom Paris cleaned the instruments and put things away after treating the Ensign who had earlier suffered minor back injuries.

Yes, Tom Paris was shaping up as an able assistant, he thought absently, although to acknowledge that to Mr. Paris would certainly be the last thing he would do.

The Doctor turned away from the window. Sometimes he still missed Kes. She was so eager to learn anything new, and to improve on the old.

Suddenly, the Doctor realized he was developing the human habit of wallowing in the agony of a situation instead of simply looking for a way to improve it. He shook his head and started for his desk.

Perhaps his program was evolving too much. He would have to either make a slight adjustment to it or learn to focus on positive thoughts. Hmm. Something to think about another time, perhaps. But tonight he had work to do . . .


Captain Janeway was absolutely determined to have a quiet dinner with Commander Chakotay tonight, without incident. The . . . unfortunate . . . timing of her medical situation was not going to stand in the way of the two of them enjoying the evening. They had both been working too hard for weeks now, and she was determined to see to it that they both relaxed and enjoyed the evening together, as friends. She had already decided that those crew evaluation reports could wait one more day.

At precisely 2000 hours, the Captain's doorbell sounded and she allowed Commander Chakotay entry. He brought a small bouquet of delicate pink flowers from behind his back and handed it to her. She looked at him quickly, a look of surprise on her face. It had been a long time since he had given her flowers.

"Thank you, Chakotay," she said softly. "They're lovely." She closed her eyes and inhaled the sweet scent.

Chakotay loved to watch her find enjoyment in simple things. Her eyes danced and she became the Kathryn he had first known on New Earth. He still treasured these moments, and those days

Kathryn's head snapped up immediately, then she said in a low voice, "Lavender. They smell like lavender."

Chakotay smiled. "Really?" he asked, his eyes smiling brightly at her.

She stepped up to him conspiratorially. "I knew you smelled lavender this afternoon on that planet. You didn't fool me for a moment."

"Not even for a moment?" He grinned at her, and his eyes shone with the depth of an emotion greater than mere friendship.

"No." She turned away immediately, knowing that look in his eyes intimately, but not wanting to acknowledge it, as usual. Then, forcing other thoughts from her mind, she turned back to him and her eyes glimmered with the truth of her comment, as she smiled at him, then looked back down at the bouquet of flowers. She had been caught, and she knew it.

Chakotay rarely trapped her in one of these moments and he prized them. He waited patiently for her to continue.

"Well, maybe for a moment," Kathryn admitted, her eyes sparkling. "But only for a moment, mind you." As she looked back up at him she smiled the smile he loved, then walked over to a shelf on the wall and removed a small vase. "But then I saw your eyes," she said as she turned to leave the room. "You can't hide your enjoyment of something - your eyes give you away, you know," she called over her shoulder.

As Chakotay was searching for something to say that wouldn't give him away, he realized that Kathryn had already left the room to put water into the vase, and she didn't actually expect a response to her comment. It had simply been a statement. He smiled to himself.

When she returned, she placed the vase in the center of the table with the flowers in it. "There," she said softly. "It adds a very nice touch to the table, don't you think?" she asked.

Chakotay couldn't speak. He could only look at her and think about how much he wanted to be able to please her with these small things everyday. But he couldn't. Not with the parameters she had set. He would just have to keep finding moments like these every now and then.

Suddenly, Chakotay sensed a change in Kathryn's mood. "What?" he asked, but she turned away.

"Nothing," she sighed. Then she took hold of herself and turned to face him. "I'm just tired," she said.

Chakotay closed the distance between them, and concern filled his eyes. "Kathryn, if you would rather we do this another night . . ." he began, trying to force her to make eye contact with him.

"No." Kathryn shook her head and turned away quickly, moving to the wine glasses she had placed next to a bottle of Cabernet 2243. "I'm fine, Chakotay. Really. It's just been a very long day." She lifted the bottle and offered it to Chakotay to pour. Chakotay moved to take the bottle from her and serve the wine, as he usually did.

He put the conversation aside for the moment, and smiled. "2243. Very good year," he said. Even though Chakotay spoke softly and poured the wine evenly, he kept his eye on Kathryn. She seemed preoccupied tonight, but he couldn't figure out why. He knew she had had a long day, and her dizzy spell this afternoon would have only added to her burden. But there was something more here that he couldn't put his finger on. He watched her out of the corner of his eye as he poured the wine. She was staring across the room, out the viewport.

Lifting both glasses of wine, he closed the distance between them once again and handed a glass to Kathryn.

"To a quiet evening without crew evaluation reports," he said lightly. They touched glasses and took a sip of wine.

Kathryn smiled at him softly. "I didn't think you'd mind if we put them off a little while longer," she said.

"Absolutely not," he said. "Especially since B'Elanna's engineering reports seem to be on the top of the pile." He smiled.

Kathryn made a face. "I forgot about that," she said. "Actually, I just felt like relaxing tonight. It's been a long day."

"Yes, you're not accustomed to taking time off Voyager. Perhaps you overdid it today." He seemed concerned.

"Oh, no you don't!" she said, moving away from him to sit on the couch. "I enjoyed every moment of that fresh air and sunshine! It was the best part of the day!" Then her eyes clouded over, and she looked at the glass in her hand.

"What is it, Kathryn?" he asked softly, moving to the couch and sitting a few inches away from her.

"I was just thinking about seeing the Doctor in the morning. I have never fainted in my life, Chakotay. It was a strange feeling."

"I can understand that. He didn't have any answers for you this afternoon then?"

"Hmmm? Oh, you know the Doctor. He has answers for everything; he just needs more time to prove them," she said lightly.

But Chakotay wasn't convinced. "Kathryn, I know you. And there's something you're not telling me."

Kathryn forced herself to look him in the eye. "Chakotay, in the Doctor's very words, I am in perfect health." Chakotay sighed with relief. And before he could ask another question, Kathryn continued. "And I will see him in the morning regarding the results of those tests. Now, let's talk about something a bit more interesting, shall we?"

The duration of the evening went by quickly. Chakotay enjoyed spending time with Kathryn. But something wasn't quite right. He caught her in more reflective moments than usual, and she wasn't as quick to laugh this evening. He quickly realized she wouldn't discuss it with him, though, making poor excuses for her less than customary attention span instead.

Well, he would wait until morning. Somehow he knew Kathryn's mood had something to do with the Doctor and her fainting spell this afternoon. He had a sense of foreboding, but he pushed it as far away from his thoughts as he could manage.

But tomorrow couldn't come soon enough for Chakotay . . .


The following morning at precisely 0700 hours, Captain Janeway walked briskly into Sickbay, and directly into the Doctor's office.

Tom Paris was cleaning instruments across the room and watched her as she shut the door to the Doctor's office. He shook his head to himself; she looked determined to get whatever this was about over with quickly. He couldn't blame her. The Doctor was often long-winded and Tom knew from experience that the Captain didn't appreciate being detained from her Bridge duty.

The Doctor had been working on some kind of research for the Captain most of the night. Tom had no idea what it was about, but it wasn't unusual for the two of them to hypothesize about scientific experiments, and the Doctor would sometimes even test the Captain's theories on her behalf when she had too many other things needing her attention.

Today, though, the Captain seemed pretty determined about something. But then, she always seemed determined. It was tough to tell about her. Tom sighed and shook his head again, turning back to his work. He had to finish this quickly and get to the Bridge himself. The Captain would be in no mood to forgive his lateness today, that much was for sure.

After closing the door, the Captain sat in the chair opposite the Doctor's desk. "Well, Doctor, do you have something for me?"

The Doctor had been sitting at his desk for hours, just waiting for the Captain to arrive this morning. He had fussed and tested, re-tested and then started over again. Finally, at about 0400 hours, he realized that there was only one way to deal with the Captain on this particular matter. She was a scientist by trade, and by nature. She needed facts and proof, and it had to stare her in the face and be indisputable.

And so the Doctor had changed his tactics, even realizing as he did so that the Captain would not like these results any better. But she would accept them.

This time the indisputable facts would certainly be staring her in the face.

Without saying a word, the Doctor reached over to his computer monitor and punched in a code. Then he turned the monitor around so that it faced the Captain directly.

The room was quiet, and neither the Doctor nor the Captain said a word. There was no need. But the look on her face spoke volumes.

The Doctor watched his Captain as she looked at the screen, her stubborn refusing-to-believe look slowly replaced by complete understanding, complete acceptance. There were no questions, nothing needed to be said just now.

After a few moments spent staring at the screen, Captain Janeway stood from her chair in front of the Doctor's desk. "Thank you for your diligence, Doctor," she said crisply. "I'll get back to you." The Doctor nodded at her slightly, understanding completely. Then she turned and left his office, and Sickbay, with the same purposeful stride with which she had entered. He had to give her credit. She was professional through and through. And her voice had remained strong and steady even though his proof was not the proof she had wanted.

As the Captain left Sickbay, Tom Paris glanced up. Whatever that was, it hadn't taken long, but the Captain's mood didn't seem to have improved any since she first arrived. He had to hurry more than ever now in order to make it to the Bridge on time.

The Doctor turned the computer back around so that it faced him once again. He sighed, as he watched the fetus move within its mother's body. There was no mistaking that this was a human child.

The Doctor had spent nearly three hours last night increasing the size and patterns of the scans he had taken of the Captain's abdomen the afternoon before, just a short time after she had conceived the child. Even with all the technology at his disposal, it had taken time and careful programming to recalibrate the current size of the fetus scan so that it could be seen by the human eye.

Sitting back in his chair, the Doctor touched the security key on his computer and his screen went blank. He had been successful. He had proved to the Captain that his findings were accurate. Now it was up to her to take the next step.


The first couple hours of the morning Bridge shift passed uneventfully, and slowly. Tom Paris had made it to his station with less than a minute to spare today, and was he ever glad he hadn't been late. He had been right; whatever was bothering the Captain earlier was reflected in her manner on the Bridge. Everyone was working quietly, feeling the tension in the air.

Tom couldn't figure it out. Everyone knew that the Captain and Chakotay had had dinner together last night. But they seemed fine with each other today, even though they weren't speaking unless it was absolutely necessary. No, whatever was bothering her had nothing to do with Chakotay. That was good; at least they weren't fighting.

It was always easy to know when they were having problems - the air would be charged with electricity, and they would be short with each other. Today, they were very civil. Today, the Captain just seemed preoccupied and . . . and what. As much time as they had all spent together over the past years, Tom couldn't remember the Captain being in quite this sort of mood before. He shook his head to himself; he just couldn't quite get a handle on it.

Chakotay was trying to figure out the Captain's mood, as well. She wasn't upset exactly. She was very agitated, though. And in a pensive, reflective mood as well. It was difficult to get her attention, and when he did, she was short in her response.

Chakotay felt his stomach begin to twist into knots. It had to be something she had learned from the Doctor this morning. Something was wrong with her that the Doctor couldn't cure. He closed his eyes briefly, searching for his sense of peace. Whatever it was, they would face it together.

Suddenly, the Captain lowered her computer terminal and stood. "I'll be in my Ready Room, Commander," she said, as she headed for the door. Chakotay nodded; he didn't trust his voice to answer her properly.

As the door slid shut behind her, the tension on the Bridge disappeared as well.

But Chakotay didn't notice. He was trying to calm his beating heart and reach that sense of peace that was still eluding him.

Moments later, Chakotay felt a little better. He decided to give her an hour to come to grips with whatever was bothering her, and then he would go to see her. She might not like it, she usually didn't like it when he interfered, but it was his duty as First Officer to see that all was right with the Captain of the ship. At least that was what he told himself, and told her, when it was necessary. But they both knew in their hearts that he could never put his concern for her aside. And it had nothing to do with their professional duties.

Chakotay noted the time on the chronometer, then turned back to the duty roster on his display screen.


Kathryn sat at her desk and pulled her computer terminal closer to her. She had so many reports to muddle through and she simply couldn't concentrate. And on top if that, B'Elanna was concerned about a warp core situation that could potentially become a very big problem if something weren't done about it soon.

She knew that her moods directly affected the entire Bridge crew on a day-to-day basis, and she knew that she wasn't being successful in hiding her silent, and somewhat sulky, mood today. But, damnit, she just needed some time to think.

She sighed heavily, rose from her chair and headed for the replicator. "Computer, coffee. Hot and black." By the time she reached the replicator, the coffee was waiting for her.

Kathryn crossed to the viewport and watched the stars streak by. They were currently moving at Warp 4. She and Chakotay had been trying for days to find the time to plot the course for the next several weeks, but other ship's duties and distractions were making it difficult for them to find the time to meet.

Sighing again, Kathryn thought of Chakotay. What would he say when she told him? How would he react?

She didn't want to face this; she knew she was trying to put it out of her mind and deny the facts. But this morning the Doctor had shown her what she had needed to see in order to believe his words. She was carrying a child. And not just any child, but her First Officer's child. If this situation weren't so serious, she would laugh. She turned and sat on the couch under the viewport, holding the cup of coffee between her hands to warm them. She suddenly seemed to have caught a chill.

Occasionally she still thought of having a child, but lately she was resigning herself to the fact that she would never have one, would never know the experience of motherhood. She wasn't getting any younger; Q had been right about that. And for some time now, years actually, she had known in her heart that if she ever were to have a child she would want it to be Chakotay's.

Kathryn suddenly felt a shiver run up her back, and stood. She began to pace the room slowly, holding the cup of coffee in her hands. This was the first time she had ever admitted that she wanted Chakotay's child, even to herself. It had always been a feeling before, some knowledge she had possessed in her heart, and in her soul, but not in her mind.

When had it happened? Kathryn slowed her pace, forcing herself to open that locked door of her mind, the door that she always kept bolted firmly in place, for whenever it was opened she was vulnerable, and she came away hurting. And she had no time for hurt; she had to get this ship and her crew home safely, no matter how long it took.

New Earth.

The mere thought of those two words nearly took her breath away. When was the last time she had brought those memories out of hiding? It had been a long time. She and Chakotay hadn't mentioned New Earth in a very long time, at least not to each other. It was true that sometimes they referred to something that had happened on New Earth, or things they knew about each other as a result of being there together, but they were always indirect references. She never had to stop and think about it. But sometimes, she still saw that look in his eyes. Sometimes . . .

Sometimes when he didn't think she noticed, he would stare at her as she read a report, and she would pretend not to see the look that came into his eyes. It was the look that he had begun to give her just before Voyager returned to New Earth for them. It was a look of want, and need. A look that said he never wanted them to be apart.

Well, truth be told, she no longer remembered what life was like without him. She had meant it when she had told him that, just before they had encountered the Borg over two years ago. It had been a moment of weakness, though, to tell him. She had realized too late that her words would only serve to give him hope again . . . and she couldn't afford to give him hope. Not until they were safely back in the Alpha Quadrant.

Oh, but that look . . . just the thought of it made her heart quicken. It was always difficult to act as though she didn't notice when he looked at her that way. She noticed, though. And she felt the power of their attraction in some way every day. She had just become very good at deceiving both Chakotay and herself, at pretending the attraction wasn't there.

Suddenly it occurred to her that maybe Chakotay saw right through her, too. Maybe he could read her as well as she could read him. And maybe he even noticed her watch him at other times. She stopped pacing and closed her eyes. Of course he could read her! That man even knew what she was going to say before she said it. He knew her moods. He would certainly be able to read the desire in her eyes.

'Oh, no . . . .,' she moaned to herself. She was so tired. She returned to the chair behind her desk and sat her coffee cup down in front of her. This was usually her most comfortable place to be. The Captain's chair in her Ready Room. It didn't feel so comfortable today. Today, she wished she could just be a woman, in love with a man whose child she was carrying.

Tears sprang to her eyes, and she quickly shook her head to clear her mind. She had no time to dwell on feelings of "what ifs."

But she couldn't help thinking that she was pregnant with Chakotay's child without having had the pleasure of actually conceiving that child. 'Stop it, Kathryn,' she scolded herself. 'What's done is done; now what are you going to do about it?'

Her reverie was cut short as the door chime sounded. She sighed once more and looked at the chronometer. It had been an hour since she'd come into her Ready Room. That would be Chakotay, checking up on her.

She took a deep breath and closed her eyes. She used every ounce of will-power she had to put her current condition out of her mind. There was simply no way she was going to let him see into her eyes and know that something was wrong. She had to clear her state of mind.

After only a moment, Captain Janeway opened her eyes, ready to greet her First Officer. Starfleet training certainly came in handy at times.

She actually managed a small smile as she called, "Come."

Chakotay entered and stood before her desk, padd in hand. "Here's a copy of next week's duty roster, Captain. I thought you might like to look it over before I post it."

Kathryn took the padd from his outstretched hand. Chakotay tried to maintain command composure, but she could tell that he had noticed the small smile on her lips before she'd managed to make it disappear. Damnit.

"Is there anything else, Commander?" she asked, looking him directly in the eye.

Chakotay knew she was giving him the opening he needed to inquire about her mood this morning. But he had certainly noticed that little smile and the twinkle in her eye upon entering her Ready Room. He wasn't expecting her mood to have changed so abruptly. He knew Kathryn Janeway, and she didn't give up her bad or melancholy moods easily.

"Yes. I was just wondering why you were so . . . quiet . . . on the Bridge this morning?"

"Quiet, Commander?"

She wasn't going to make this easy for him even if she had given him the opening to question her. "Yes. Contemplative, maybe. I was just wondering if there's anything wrong, or if I can help in any way."

Her Angry Warrior was once again offering to lift her burdens.

Kathryn suddenly had a lump in her throat, and she pulled her eyes away from him quickly.

"I'm fine, Chakotay. I've had several things on my mind this morning, and I'm afraid I haven't done a very good job of keeping them to myself. But there's nothing you can do to help me, I'm afraid." She swallowed hard and forced herself to look him in the eye once more. If she didn't, he would know something was wrong for sure and continue to question her. "But thanks for asking."

Chakotay nodded. She was good at putting the professional demeanor into place quickly, he would give her that. But he knew that something was still wrong.

"I was also wondering what the Doctor said to you this morning."

"What do you mean?" she asked, just a little too quickly.

"You were going to stop and see him first thing this morning." She continued to look at him. "Kathryn, you fainted yesterday, remember? The Doctor ran a series of tests, and you were going to see him about the results this morning."

"I'm sorry, Chakotay," she sighed. "My mind is traveling in a thousand different directions, and all at once. Yes, I saw the Doctor this morning." She suddenly stood and began shuffling through the stack of padds on her desk.


"And . . . all the facts aren't in just yet, I'm afraid. I'm going to see him again in a little while, and . . . I'll speak to you about it afterward."

"I see." But he also saw that Kathryn wouldn't meet his gaze.

"Well, if there's nothing else, Commander, I have plenty of work to do."

"Of course, Captain." As Chakotay turned to leave the room, he glanced over his shoulder a final time and saw that Kathryn had moved to the viewport to stare out the window. Odd, since she had so much work to do.


After Chakotay left the room, Kathryn sank down onto her couch.

Now what?

She was pregnant with her First Officer's child. And they had never had a physical relationship at all. How was she going to tell him? What was she going to do about it? What could she do about it? She sighed.

He knew she hadn't told him everything, too; she could see the questions in his eyes. And she had thrown him out of here as quickly as she could, before he could possibly ask her more questions. Sometimes being the Captain was handy. And sometimes it made life nearly unbearable . . .

Obviously, she would need to see the Doctor again and ask his advice. He would lay out the very same options she already knew existed, but he would also be able to tell her some things she didn't already know. He could tell her if she were still able to carry a child. And what if there was something wrong with the child? This thought suddenly struck her. The child was certainly not conceived in any proper manner; what if there was something wrong with it? Him? Her? No, she wasn't ready to consider this . . . being . . . a person yet. 'It' would do just fine for now.

And this was Chakotay's child, too. How much right did she have to make decisions regarding a child that belonged to them both?

She had to tell Chakotay. Whatever decision there was to be made, he had to be a part of it.

But, gods, if they couldn't agree over how to handle a situation with the Borg, how could they possibly agree on issues regarding a child?

And it wasn't just having this child, getting through the initial process of bringing the child into the world. What then? What about raising the child? What about making decisions together about the child's future?

Oh, gods . . . what future? What if they never got home . . .

Never got home? She hadn't considered this as an option before; she certainly wasn't going to now!

And what was she doing anyway? Actually considering having this child? How could she possibly have a child and captain this ship at the same time? And weren't these some of the questions she had already asked herself long ago when she had re-defined those parameters for Chakotay after they had first returned to Voyager from New Earth?

If she couldn't handle a relationship with the man she loved while serving as Captain on this ship, how could she handle parenting a child and being Captain? And what would Chakotay say? How would he feel about this?

And what about the two of them, together? What would become of their relationship now?

Suddenly, the world seemed to spin and Kathryn closed her eyes and took a deep breath.

She would not do this; she would not allow these thoughts to control her. She had to slow down and take things one step at a time.

Taking another deep breath, Kathryn worked to clear her mind. She had to see the Doctor.

When she felt better, she left her Ready Room. As she headed for the turbolift, she quickly informed her First Officer that she would be in Sickbay with the Doctor if he needed her.

As she left the Bridge, Tom Paris wondered what in the world would prompt the Captain to meet with the Doctor twice in one morning, and Commander Chakotay was again wondering what was wrong with her that she wasn't telling him.


"Those are your options, Captain. Carry the baby to full term, allow another human female to carry the child in your place, abort the fetus or have the fetus surgically removed and stored in a stasis tube." The Doctor was once again sitting at his desk, while the Captain paced the floor in front of him.

"I don't like any of those options, Doctor."

"I understand, Captain. However, I cannot invent new ones."

Kathryn stopped at the window that looked out over Sickbay, and closed her eyes briefly. She just wasn't in the mood for the Doctor's acerbic wit today, but she also realized that it was his way of dealing with things he felt emotional about. As a physician, he could not allow his personal feelings to interfere with his medical oath. He must put his patient first.

She sighed. This is what she got for allowing the Doctor's program to be upgraded with personality sub-routines so that he could evolve. But she also knew they had all reaped more rewards from it than not. They all appreciated and respected the Doctor much more today than when he had been merely an emergency medical holographic program.

It seemed so long ago now since he had been just an EMH. Where had the time gone?

And it had been so long since she had taken a vacation from Starfleet. Funny, she had always taken vacations when she was required to, but not because she had felt the need for rest. Today, she would gladly rest. Oh, how she desperately needed to rest.

"Captain . . . ?"

Kathryn turned to face the Doctor. "I'm sorry, Doctor, I wasn't listening . . ."

"I understand, Captain," he said in an uncharacteristically kind voice. "Please. Sit down." He motioned to the chair in front of his desk.

Suppressing a small smile, she did as she was asked. Not many people aboard this ship would have asked her to sit. But then, not many people on this ship had her undivided attention as the Doctor did just now. And he knew it. And she knew that he knew that she knew it.

"Captain," began the Doctor, in a gentle voice. "I suggest that you do nothing until you explain the situation to Commander Chakotay. This is a decision you should make together. This is not your responsibility alone."

"But it is, Doctor. The wellbeing of everyone aboard this ship is my responsibility. And the decision regarding this child's future will be mine ultimately, as well." She looked the Doctor directly in the eye, knowing what his response would be.

The Doctor actually sighed. "In this case, Captain," he said carefully, "you may want to consider that, although this . . . pregnancy . . . did not occur in the usual way, the child is still genetically a by-product of the compilation of your genetic structure as well as the Commander's genetic structure."

"In other words, Doctor," the Captain said, "even though the Commander and I have never had sexual intercourse, the resulting pregnancy is the same as though we have had."

"Well . . . in a matter of speaking, yes," agreed the Doctor. "But I can vouch for the fact that you haven't engaged in this sexual activity together, and I will certainly make note of that in the ship's medical logs," he finished, pleased to be able to set the matter straight for inquiring minds.

"An Immaculate Conception . . ." the Captain muttered, under her breath.

"I beg your pardon?" asked the Doctor.

But the Captain was no longer listening to him. "None of that matters, Doctor." She took a deep breath, stood, and walked back to look out the window over Sickbay. "But you're right. The Commander has to be told about this." The Doctor sighed silently in relief, as Kathryn Janeway added softly, "But how do I explain it to him when I don't understand it myself?"

He paused momentarily. "Captain, this child belongs to both of you. And no better understanding of the biological or of the scientific process by which it was conceived will make it any easier for either of you to accept the fact that this child exists. You must believe that part of it with your hearts."

Kathryn turned from the window and looked at the Doctor. "You're right, Doctor. But I'm having a bit of a problem with that. You see, I have a ship with a crew of nearly 150 people that I have promised to get home." Her eyes showed the strength of her determination, something that the Doctor still admired about her. She looked out the window again, and into the main room, without actually seeing it.

Finally, she continued. "This journey has already taken nearly seven years, Doctor, and we are only half way back to the Alpha Quadrant." She was quiet again, but the Doctor knew she wasn't finished with her thought. "And it has taken its toll on me, Doctor."

She swallowed hard, determined that her voice not betray her. "I don't know if I have the stamina to make it through the rest of our journey without having to eventually relinquish command, Doctor, and that's an admission you aren't likely to hear again. Nor am I likely do admit it to anyone else." She turned to the Doctor, and he nodded at her solemnly. Her voice was strong again when she continued. "But if I am to get this ship home, Doctor, I am virtually certain I cannot do it and have a child to attend to at the same time."

"Ensign Wildman . . ." began the Doctor.

"Oh, please, Doctor, don't you think I have thought about Ensign Wildman and young Naomi? Doctor . . . Ensign Wildman is damned good at her job, but she doesn't have half the responsibility on this ship that I have."

"No, she doesn't," the Doctor quickly interjected. "I was going to say that she has plenty of help in caring for her daughter."

"Doctor . . ."

"And she is a single parent, Captain. Surely the fact that your child's father is also aboard Voyager is a solace." But the Captain was silent again, and turned away from the Doctor. The Doctor stood, wanting to go to her, but knowing there was nothing he could do. "Captain, you are not alone."

Suddenly, Captain Janeway turned toward the Doctor. "What did you say?" she whispered the words.

The Doctor looked at her, wondering if he had said something different from what he had intended to. "I said . . . you are not alone, Captain," he repeated softly.

And at that moment, the Doctor saw something he hadn't seen before: There were tears in his Captain's eyes. She turned away as quickly as she had turned toward him, but not before he had glimpsed the moisture in her eyes.

"Captain . . ." he began, not knowing what to say, but feeling he had to find some words of encouragement nonetheless.

"It's all right, Doctor," she said softly, her back still toward him. "I'm fine."

She closed her eyes. Years ago, her Angry Warrior had promised her he would always be there to help carry her burdens. And after that, when they were readying the ship to encounter the Borg, he had told her she wasn't alone. She had felt so alone then anyway, when he had disagreed with her orders, and sometimes she didn't appreciate his pointing out her fallacies to her, even though it was his job. But in the end he had once again proved to her that she hadn't been alone.

And no matter what nightmares they had encountered since then, Chakotay had kept his word to her. She had not felt alone again.

So why couldn't she trust in him now? Why couldn't she trust that he would be here for her now?

She sighed, glad that the Doctor was giving her some room to breathe.

And then she realized that it wasn't Chakotay she questioned; it was herself. Chakotay would not continue to search for the scientific answers for this pregnancy as she was doing. He would ask questions, yes, but then he would accept this child as his. As theirs. He would want this child. She knew that in her heart, didn't she? But she hadn't really wanted to confirm that, not yet. She wasn't finished asking 'why' yet, not willing to accept this yet - while he would soon be wanting to celebrate this new life inside her.

Her heart stopped. Celebrate. Yes, he would want this child. If he was willing to risk everything for a child that Seska had told him was his, to rush out in blind faith that she spoke the truth, then he would certainly want a child that belonged to him and to the woman he . . . she stopped. This was where she always stopped, wasn't it?

She knew he loved her. 'Be honest, Kathryn,' she told herself. 'The time for burying the truth is past.' Her First Officer had been madly in love with her for years. And she loved him just as much.

But he couldn't know. She could never tell him. Not while they were stuck in the Delta Quadrant, still nearly 40,000 miles from home, child or no child.

No matter what they decided to do about . . . their current situation . . . Chakotay could not know how she felt about him. That would really complicate matters! No - they would both have to consider all the possibilities very seriously and make a decision that was based on the best possible outcome for everyone.

And, if another truth be known, she didn't want to relinquish the full responsibility for making the decision, whatever it was to be, either. She was used to being in control, in charge of every situation that affected her. And she wasn't sure how good she would be at sharing a decision-making effort. Well, she was just about to find out.

She actually smiled to herself. It was a small, wry smile, but it felt good.

"Doctor," she said aloud, realizing that it had, indeed, been some time since either of them had spoken.

"Yes, Captain?" he responded softly, knowing that the reality of the situation was somehow finally becoming apparent to her.

"I think we should summon Commander Chakotay to Sickbay," she said in a strong voice, but with a hint of sadness in her tone.


"Commander Chakotay," came the Doctor's voice over Chakotay's comm badge.

"Yes, Doctor," he responded.

"Could you please come to Sickbay?" he asked. The Doctor didn't say 'immediately,' and Chakotay knew that the Doctor was trying not to give anything away, but Chakotay had detected an underlying anxiousness in the Doctor's voice anyway. He sighed inwardly. In a few minutes he would know what was wrong with Kathryn, and now he wasn't so sure he wanted to know. If anything happened to her . . .

"I'm on my way," replied the Commander, and broke the link. He stood purposefully and strode to the turbolift, acknowledging Tuvok on the way.

"Your Bridge," he said to the Vulcan, who nodded slightly in response. Even though they didn't agree about everything, Chakotay was glad Tuvok was discreet. He was sure Tuvok was wondering what was going on, but he would not ask before he was told. And Chakotay knew that to this day, Tuvok's respect for his Captain and friend, was unquestionable.

As the turbolift doors slid closed, Chakotay allowed himself to relax his posture. He ordered the computer to direct the turbolift to the appropriate deck, then closed his eyes, searching for his Center, his sense of peace.

Chakotay's eyes sprang open as soon as the turbolift doors opened, and he walked purposefully down the corridor, heading for Sickbay. He had not been able to collect his thoughts, nor had he been able to find his sense of peace. Kathryn was his peace. And until he knew that she was all right, he would not be able to find the comfort he sought.

As he reached Sickbay, Chakotay unconsciously took a deep breath and steadied himself for what lie ahead. He walked through the doors and into Sickbay, but saw no one. He stopped, then saw the Doctor working with some instruments in the back of the room. The Doctor met his gaze, then nodded toward the office.

Chakotay continued to the Doctor's office. The door was slightly ajar, and he knocked as he entered. Kathryn was seated behind the Doctor's desk, staring intently at the computer screen in front of her. When she saw Chakotay, she pushed a button and the screen went dark, then she nodded at him to come inside.

The Commander sat in the chair opposite the desk, as the Captain had done earlier.

Kathryn stood, walked to the door and closed it. Then she returned slowly to her chair. She seemed to be searching for a way to proceed. This unnerved Chakotay more than he would allow her to see; Kathryn Janeway never searched for words.

"I take it the results of the Doctor's tests are in," he said evenly. He would get things started then, if she couldn't.

But Kathryn just looked at him blankly.

"The test results? The reason you fainted yesterday?" he couldn't believe she was behaving this way. "Kathryn, this is what we're here to discuss, isn't it?"

Kathryn's blank look disappeared quickly. "Yes," she said, looking down at the desk in front of her.

Chakotay sighed. "Just tell me," he said softly, trying to put her at ease. Whatever it was, he needed to know. Then they would get through this together, just as they had gotten through everything else together for seven years now.

She glanced up at him, allowing their eyes to meet briefly. Then she looked back down at the desk again. "It's not that simple," she said quietly.

"Kathryn, whatever it is, we'll deal with it. We'll get through this. Now tell me." His words were soft-spoken, but firm.

Hearing those words of concern and absolute devotion, Kathryn forced herself to raise her head and look him straight in the eye. She would not look away again. "I'm going to have a baby," she said as gently as she could.

Dozens of emotions crossed Chakotay's face in mere seconds. As Kathryn watched, it suddenly occurred to her that he actually thought . . .

"Wait, Chakotay," she began, standing from the chair. "Before you . . ."

"Who?" That one word held so many unsaid words, so many emotions.

"Chakotay . . ."

"Who, Kathryn?" He stood from the chair and looked at her across the desk with such raw pain that it took her breath away.

She walked quickly around the desk to him. "It's not what you think, Chakotay. I . . ."

"Just tell me who." He wouldn't turn to her. "Who do you care about in a way that you were never able to care for me?" His pain nearly broke her heart.

"Chakotay, listen to me. Just listen a moment." She watched him breathe deeply, staring straight ahead. "There is no one, Chakotay. There has never been anyone . . . else." She had added that last word intentionally, and maybe she shouldn't have, but it was the truth. And now was the time for truths, up to a point, whether she was prepared to share her feelings or not.

Now Chakotay turned to look at her. "Who is the father of your child, Kathryn?" he asked as dispassionately as he could. But Kathryn saw that there was a quiet storm gathering in his eyes, and one so strong she felt herself begin to back down; she had never seen him like this before.

Gathering herself together, she hung onto her command posture, knowing that she needed it now as much as she ever had. "Chakotay, listen to me." He continued to look into her eyes without really seeing her. "You are the father of my child."

Finally, when his eyes had begun to clear and Kathryn recognized the man before her as her First Officer, she let out the breath she suddenly realized she was holding, and relaxed her stance. "Chakotay, sit down. Please," she said softly, gently. She put her hand on his shoulder, and he sat, mostly from habit since nothing was making any sense to him right now.

Kathryn walked back around the desk and sat in the Doctor's chair once again. She took a deep breath, then looked across the desk at Chakotay.

Finally, he spoke. "I don't understand, Kathryn," was all he could manage.

"I know," she said. "It's no easier for me." She felt somewhat better, however, seeing that he was returning to himself. She sighed. Trying desperately to sound factual and completely unemotional, she continued. "It seems that when you and I transported back from the M-class planet yesterday, something happened with the pattern buffers at the exact moment of the transport. You are now missing some DNA, and I seem to have gotten it. In fact, it was transplanted directly into my uterus, Chakotay. The Doctor assures me that I am indeed pregnant. With your child."

Chakotay shook his head, trying to register what she was telling him. He opened his mouth to speak, but found that he couldn't respond at all. Finally, he closed his mouth again, and leaned back in the chair. He rubbed his face with his hands.

"Won't work," she said.

"What . . . ?" he managed to ask.

"I've tried to deny it as well. But the Doctor keeps reminding me that it won't just go away."

Chakotay stood and walked over to the same observation window Kathryn had looked out of earlier today. Finally, he spoke. "Now what?" he asked simply.

"That's up to us. But first, I'd like the Doctor to explain the situation to you just as he has to me. I think it's important that we both understand exactly what happened, and go forward from there." She paused, waiting for him to say something. "Agreed?" she asked softly, leaning over the desk.

Chakotay nodded, still looking out the window. Kathryn stood, walked to the door and opened it. "Doctor?" she called outside, then stood aside as the Doctor came into the office with a smile on his face.

"Well," he said, testing the atmosphere. "Can I answer any questions?" he asked, trying to move things forward.

"Doctor, Chakotay and I would like you to explain to him what transpired while he and I were in the transporter buffer, just as you explained it to me" the Captain replied evenly.

"Certainly," responded the Doctor, pleased to be able to do something to relieve the tension in the air.

And as the Doctor explained the situation to Commander Chakotay, the Captain watched the exchange from across the room. Chakotay was still shell-shocked, but he was nonetheless doing much better than she had been at this point. Mostly, the Doctor explained and Chakotay nodded, but he managed to actually ask a question on two different occasions. And they were even coherent questions, Kathryn thought to herself.

Then as the explanation progressed Kathryn noticed that Chakotay was listening more intently to the Doctor's words.

Finally, the Doctor finished his recitation. Chakotay looked at him. "And, is Kathryn all right? Nothing's . . . wrong with her? Did she come through this without difficulty?"

The Doctor glanced quickly at the Captain, but she remained focused on her First Officer.

"Yes, she's fine, Commander," replied the Doctor. Both the Doctor and the Captain realized that Commander Chakotay was still not completely himself even though many people would not be able to detect it; he would never have referred to his commanding officer as 'Kathryn' unless he wasn't thinking properly. No one acknowledged his oversight, though.

Kathryn listened to the Doctor explain to Chakotay why she had fainted yesterday. Basically, the impact of the Commander's DNA being transported directly into her system without going through its usual course had thrown her system out of whack.

Chakotay nodded. Kathryn watched his expressions, his acceptance coming closer and closer to the surface. In a sense, she was mesmerized.

"And what about now?" Chakotay was asking. "Is . . . the Captain able to carry this child?" His voice was beginning to falter, but the Doctor jumped in to rescue him.

"Commander, are you asking whether the Captain is physically able to carry this fetus to full term?" asked the Doctor gently.

"Yes," answered Chakotay softly, looking down at his hands.

The Doctor glanced at the Captain, silently asking her permission to continue. This was, after all, her health issue they were discussing now. The Captain didn't take her eyes from Commander Chakotay, but she nodded nearly imperceptibly for the Doctor's benefit. Yes, he could feel free to discuss what he knew with her First Officer, and the father of her unborn child.

"As far as I can determine with only the initial scans I have performed, yes. The Captain has kept herself in good condition," he said, then added for the Captain's benefit, "and except for her poor eating habits and her constant need for caffeine, she is doing quite well." He glanced sideways at the Captain, and she didn't even acknowledge that she'd heard him, but of course she had.

"And that is something we can discuss further . . . another time," he concluded lightly, also for the Captain's benefit, just in case his comment wasn't sitting well with her. "Meanwhile," he continued, getting back to the real issues at hand, "I will need to run a complete bio-physical scan, and then I can give you better information with regards to the Captain's physical condition, as well as that of the fetus."

Chakotay nodded. "When?" he asked.

"Well, as soon as possible," the Doctor answered. "First thing in the morning, if the Captain is available . . ." he finished.

"She'll be available," said Chakotay. Then he looked at his Captain. "I'll cover Bridge duty in the morning." Then just as Kathryn was about to put her foot down and tell them both who exactly made the decisions around here, Chakotay added gently, "We all need as much information as possible, Captain. We need to know that you are all right, and that it is possible for you to carry this baby to full term. We need to know all we can in order to move forward from here."

Just as Kathryn opened her mouth to retort, she closed it again, then nodded. What he said made sense. They needed all the facts.

"Thank you, Kathryn," said Chakotay softly. Then he moved a bit closer to her and she saw the tension in his face, knowing immediately how much this had taken from him. He was doing the best he could.

"Then if you don't mind, Captain," he said, "I'd like to take tonight off from catching up on those crew evaluation reports." Then his voice changed from Commander to friend. "I need some time to myself," he added softly.

Kathryn looked into his eyes and saw the exhaustion, and the questions, that remained. She nodded. "I understand," she said. Gods, did she understand.

He nodded, then turned and left the Doctor's office, and then Sickbay.

As soon as the Commander had gone, the Doctor turned towards the Captain. "Well! That went well, don't you think?" But the Captain just stared at him in response.

Chakotay walked automatically down the corridor to the turbolift, asked the computer to direct the turbolift to the deck where his quarters were located, left the turbolift, crossed the corridor and entered his quarters, without remembering any of the actual journey.

Kathryn Janeway left the Doctor's office shortly afterward, and took her own journey to her own quarters.

Neither of the commanding officers remembered much about the rest of the evening, except that they were both deep in thought, the Captain in her quarters, and the Commander in his.

Near midnight, the Captain decided to take a warm bath, the only thing she knew of that could relax her without fail. She soaked in the tub for forty-five minutes with her favorite scented oils that Tuvok kept her supplied with, trying desperately to seek solace, peace of mind. But finally, failing at relaxing both her body and her mind, she rose from the tub, dried herself off and headed for her bedroom, grabbing her robe as she went.

Reaching the bedroom, Kathryn discarded her towel in the recycle bin, then caught sight of herself in the mirror. She still had a decent figure, and for her age, her breasts were still high and firm. Her stomach had never been completely flat, but neither had it ever been round.

And she had never had a lover who didn't appreciate the way she looked. She sighed heavily and sat on the edge of her bed. Now what? Would her stomach grow big and round, and her breasts sag? Would she never feel in shape again?

'What's wrong with me,' she thought suddenly. Only a few hours ago she had been wondering about whether she was ever going to experience motherhood, and now she was concerned about her figure.

She stood and opened the drawer of her nightstand, searching for a gown. She found a long silk deep blue nightgown at the bottom of the pile. Nothing Starfleet about this one, she mused. Well, that had always been one of her little ways of feeling like a woman every now and then, when the Starfleet lifestyle threatened to overtake her completely. She'd wear a silky nightgown to bed. She laughed to herself. Something so simple, yet it had often helped her to remember who "Kathryn" really was.

Pulling on the nightgown, she checked herself again in the mirror. Not bad, she thought. Then she suddenly stopped and caught her breath, remembering something she had filed away in the recesses of her mind.

It must have been two or three years ago . . . she had felt so tired that evening and had gotten ready for bed early that night. She had taken a sonic shower instead of soaking in the tub in order to get into bed as early as possible, knowing she had the early shift the next morning. She hadn't heard the door chime ring. Chakotay had let himself in with his command override code, worried about her and knowing that she hadn't felt well that day.

They had met suddenly in her front room, he heading for the bedroom to check on her, and she, hearing something from the front room, and venturing forward to see what the sound had been. They had met nearly head-on, and had fallen back from each other, gathering their wits about them.

Kathryn had worn only a pale beige nightgown that evening. She had worn nothing underneath it, she had been barefoot, and she'd worn no robe. Nothing except that sheer pale beige silk nightgown.

After they had recovered from their near collision, they had laughed together. And then they had both realized how she looked. She suddenly felt vulnerable, nearly naked. And the look in Chakotay's eyes told her she wasn't being unreasonable feeling this way. She had even felt her nipples become erect, knowing that he was looking at her in that way, and wishing with her entire soul that she could take that one literal step forward and pull him to her.

She closed her eyes and remembered the feeling vividly. He had looked at her as though he could look through the very fabric of her nightgown. They had both been uncomfortable for a moment, but then Chakotay, behaving as the perfect gentleman he was, had excused himself and left.

Kathryn sighed. Maybe tonight was the perfect time to wear a sexy feeling nightgown again. She still looked pretty damned good in one, she thought to herself, then shook her head ruefully. What could it possibly matter now, came a second thought, just behind the first one.

Kathryn pulled the fresh sheet back from her regulation Starfleet bed and crawled beneath the covers. "Lights down," she said in a soft voice, and turned onto her side.

She thought of Chakotay. What was he thinking about tonight? He was probably meditating, she thought, and asking the spirits of his ancestors to guide him. Well, it had to be better than her evening.

Kathryn Janeway turned onto her back and pushed the sheet down to her waist. She suddenly felt warmer, but she knew that the temperature hadn't changed in the room. The temperature was programmed to be the same throughout the ship. No, it was her perception. She was tired and afraid to think about very much at all right now. She closed her eyes, willing sleep to come.

Meanwhile, the Captain's First Officer lay on his own Starfleet issue bed. He had tried several times to meditate, but he couldn't clear his mind enough to do so.

Why was it that everything the Doctor had said seemed so crazy, yet made perfect sense at the same time? And the craziest part of it was the absolute near impossibility of something like this ever happening. What was it the Doctor had said? Chakotay closed his eyes and visualized the number. 820,463,988. There was such a slim chance of something like this occurring that the odds were only one chance out of 820,463,988.

Chakotay opened his eyes and sat on the edge of his bed, knowing that sleep would not come for him tonight.

One chance out of 820,463,988. Maybe it was destined that they would never make love. They wouldn't have to. They could even have children together without having to commit to the act of procreation, he thought to himself, and shook his head. Win one, lose one.

Sighing, Chakotay moved to the replicator, ordered a cup of herbal tea and sat in the chair in front of his work desk. The tea was made from an old recipe, one that his father had taught him to replicate. It had been handed down in his family for many generations, literally hundreds of years. He found himself wondering if he would one day teach it to his child . . .

He shut his eyes tightly and leaned his head back against his headrest. Usually he found tranquility here, in this chair at his desk, but tonight he only felt loneliness.

Kathryn . . . was she asleep? No, he knew she was having as much trouble finding peace as he was tonight. Yet they couldn't find peace with each other on this night, either. Tonight, they had to do their thinking alone. He asked himself no questions, and searched for no answers. He knew the questions and answers would come soon enough. Right now he just had to find acceptance in what the Doctor had told them both. And something told him that this would be the easy part.

He had watched Kathryn's eyes, and her movements, as the Doctor had explained the entire situation to him. She didn't miss a thing, not Kathryn. She had watched him, looking for signs of his denial or acceptance. Looking for an answer. Oh, he knew there was a part of her that was still in denial, but she would come to terms with it soon enough. She was nothing if not resilient. After all, as Captain of Voyager, Kathryn's burden was heavier than his own, and he was certain that, knowing her, she had not taken the Doctor's initial explanation very well.

He actually smiled to himself then; the Doctor was between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Kathryn would be looking to him for explanations and guidance, yet she wouldn't want to hear what she didn't want to believe. Chakotay had been in that predicament with her before, and more times than he could count. This time he was on what was hopefully Kathryn's side of the issue. Now his smile disappeared. But how could he know that for sure? With Kathryn, there were often last minute surprises. No matter how hard he tried to be prepared for her changes in direction, she still managed to pull the wool over his eyes every now and then.

Finishing his tea and placing the cup in the recycle bin, he moved to his bed once more. He had to find a way to get some rest, if not sleep. He had the early shift tomorrow, and he had to cover Bridge duty for Kathryn while she visited the Doctor in the morning.

He would ask Tuvok to run the battle simulations they had been discussing lately. He smiled to himself, knowing that this was the best way to keep Tom Paris occupied. His overactive imagination would surely overpower his piloting abilities if there was nothing else for him to concentrate on. Well, Chakotay planned to keep him very busy tomorrow morning.

Finally, at about 0300 hours, as Captain Kathryn Janeway lie sleeping in her bed, tossing and turning restlessly, her First Officer lie in his own bed, still trying unsuccessfully to reach the spirits of his ancestors. He moved in and out of sleeplessness and tried desperately to find his measure of peace.

But his peace was Kathryn . . . it would always be Kathryn . . . and he knew she would be restless tonight as well.


The next morning, Voyager's top two commanding officers arose early, took sonic showers, put on their Starfleet uniforms and replicated themselves two cups of coffee each, prior to forcing a calm and usual exterior and heading individually to the mess hall for a quick breakfast.

They certainly couldn't afford to have people notice that something was wrong. Rumors spread quickly on a lost starship, and right now they didn't need any sort of speculation about something being out of the ordinary. The Captain and her First Officer needed time to take care of matters themselves first.

Entering the mess hall, the Captain immediately spotted Chakotay at a small table in the corner, as she headed toward the food counter. He was alone. He expected her to join him as she did every morning. And she knew he was right. Things had to appear normal at all costs right now. She sighed inwardly, glad that he had thought to keep up appearances.

After putting several items on her plate, the pink thing being at Neelix' insistence, she also took the large mug of coffee he offered her and headed for the Commander's table.

"Commander," she said in her best Captain's voice, as she approached.

"Good morning, Captain," he responded, rising to assist her with her food tray.

Both sat again, and both wondered who was going to speak first.

"What's the pink thing?" Chakotay asked her finally.

Kathryn actually smiled. The look on his face was worth carrying the thing over here for. "Who knows? Neelix tells me it's terrific. And since it's so large, I suggest we share it." She immediately placed her napkin on her lap and began to cut the item in question with her knife.

"Uh, no thanks, Captain. I am quite full, thank you. I've had plenty to eat."

For a moment or two, it was nice to believe that all was well, and that nothing was out of the ordinary. Kathryn took a small bite of the smooth pink fruit-y looking object, then smiled. "Actually, it's not bad. It's a cross between a pear and a butternut squash." She took another tentative bite.

"Kathryn, a pear is a fruit and a squash is a vegetable."

"Your point?" she asked.

"Well, it's just . . . difficult imagining those two tastes combined." Then suddenly he looked at her and saw the smile in her eyes. She handed a small piece toward him.

Chakotay took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "All right, I'll try it," he agreed, taking the proffered slice of the pink thing. He tasted it, then nodded slightly. "You're right, it isn't bad," he agreed.

Their eyes met then, really for the first time since they'd sat together.

Chakotay saw the tiredness behind Kathryn's eyes, the slight set of her jaw that always warned him when she hadn't slept well the night before, and the small lines that appeared next to her eyes when she was exhausted. It always amazed him that they were only apparent at those times, but completely disappeared under normal conditions.

And Kathryn noticed the dark circles under Chakotay's eyes, knowing that he hadn't slept either. And his mouth didn't have the usual readiness to smile at her comments this morning.

"Tough night?" she asked softly, dropping her eyes to her coffee cup as she took a sip.

"Yes. You too?" She nodded, but didn't look at him for a long moment.

Finally, Kathryn looked up and met his eyes. "I'm sorry, Chakotay," she whispered gently.

Surprised, Chakotay asked her, "Sorry about what, Kathryn?"

"That this happened." She looked away again. "The last thing we needed on this journey was a . . . situation like this one to deal with. Involving us. Something that, no matter what happens, or what decision we make, will affect us for a long time to come, probably forever."

She hadn't looked at him while she spoke the words, and Chakotay knew how difficult it was for her to say them.

"Kathryn," he risked covering her right hand with his left momentarily. They were near the wall and no one would be able to see him hold her hand unless they walked directly up to the table. She looked up at him, but didn't move her hand.

"Kathryn, we'll get the test results from the Doctor, then discuss our options. Right now, all I know is that we are in this together. We have been from the moment it happened during that transporter beam, and we will be until a decision is made." He paused a moment, looking at the table so as not to allow his emotions to show. "And yes," he continued in a stronger voice and met her eyes once more. "This will be a new part of our experience together, whatever that may be. And we'll get through this the best way we can. Together, remember?"

She felt the tears threaten her resolve and pulled her hand from his gently, as she moved to pick up her coffee cup. "I remember," she replied softly.

They sat in a companionable silence for a few moments, glad that their first conversation today hadn't been more difficult.

"Well," she said with as much brightness as she could muster. "I guess I'll just go see the Doctor and get this over with." She stood just as Chakotay smiled, then hung his head, hoping she hadn't seen it.

Leaning over the table toward him, she said in a low voice, "I saw that, Commander. And you know how I deal with paybacks . . ."

But he couldn't look at her - the smile just wouldn't go away. "I don't envy you, Kathryn. You know, the Doctor always loves to get his hands on the Captain . . ."

Kathryn shook her head in dread and made a low sound in her throat Chakotay grinned, then suddenly thought of something else and looked up at her as she finished her last sip of coffee, and put the empty cup on her tray. "By the way, if you feel the ship buck or slip a bit while you're in Sickbay, don't worry."

"Oh?" she asked, suspiciously.

"Have to keep Paris busy this morning," he replied.

"Understood," she said, putting on a slow smile of her own. Then her voice held a more serious promise, "I'll talk to you later, Commander," she said, reaching over and squeezing his arm lightly. Anyone watching wouldn't think anything about it. After all, their Captain was a touchy-feely sort of person.

Chakotay nodded, as their eyes held. They both knew what that conversation would be about. But they were in this together; their fates were sealed, in a way.

The Captain exited the mess hall as the Commander stood and collected their trays. As he took them to the recycle bins, he looked around the room. Everything looked to be quite normal and no one seemed to have noticed anything unusual about the Captain and Commander's conversation this morning. Chakotay sighed. Good. He left the mess hall and headed for the Bridge.


Kathryn Janeway entered Sickbay and went immediately to the Doctor's office. "Good morning, Doctor. Let's get this over with, shall we?"

The Doctor looked at his chronometer. "Well, good morning! I should ask the Commander to schedule all your future appointments, Captain. You are actually five minutes early today - a landmark moment."

"Don't push it, Doctor. Now where do we begin?" She was anxious to get this underway and over with as soon as possible.

"Very well. Let's move into the back room, Captain. We'll have complete privacy there." They left the Doctor's office and moved into the room off the back that few people ever had reason to visit.

"Now, please remove your clothing and put this on." He handed her a thin flimsy garment that closed in the front with a drawstring. The Captain took it from him, and gave him a 'you're kidding' look.

"I am very serious, Captain. I need to examine you thoroughly. You have five minutes to comply." He left the room, as Captain Janeway stood thinking that the Doctor had been spending far too much time with Seven.

The Captain sighed deeply and closed her eyes. 'Patience, Kathryn,' she told herself. She began to take off her uniform, then her boots, and when she had discarded every item of clothing she had put on this morning, she tried to figure out how best to wear the slight covering that she'd been handed. Finally, she wrapped it around herself and belted it tightly. Then she sat on the biobed and waited for the Doctor.

She didn't wait long. He returned, pushing a tray with several pieces of medical equipment on it. Kathryn sighed and lay back on the bed. Somehow this promised to be a long day, too.


After much poking and prodding, scanning and examining, the Doctor declared that he was done with the testing.

The Captain sighed, then stood and waited for the Doctor to leave the room so that she could put her uniform on once again.

When the Doctor turned and saw that she was waiting for privacy, he said, "Really, Captain, I have just seen everything there is to see, as if I haven't seen it before . . ."

"Nevertheless, Doctor, I would appreciate some privacy just now," she said.

"Oh, very well," he replied, exasperated. He pushed his tray of instruments out the door and shut it behind him.

Kathryn let out her breath. She needed this time to herself. She had succumbed to the Doctor's every demand for over two and a half hours. It was all she could do to maintain a calm demeanor for this length of time. She was not a patient person, by nature, and she was so exhausted to start with today. Oh, yes, this was going to be a very long day indeed.

After dressing, the Captain entered the Doctor's office where he was searching the computer screen for information. "Am I released for Bridge duty now, Doctor?" she asked, officially.

"Yes," replied the Doctor, and the Captain started for the door. "By the way, how do you feel?" he asked, as an afterthought.

The Captain turned to face him. "How do I feel, Doctor? After what I have been through this morning, I am quite sore, and I feel as though my body has been invaded. And I don't mean by Commander Chakotay's DNA." But her tone of voice was lost on the Doctor.

"Hurrmph," replied the Doctor, returning to his terminal. "Well, you should feel much better in a couple of hours. Commanding the officers on the Bridge, and dealing with Mr. Paris' charming personality, should take your mind off a few aches and pains."

She shook her head, then asked more seriously, "Doctor, when might I hear something from you?"

The Doctor looked up at her and sat back in his chair. "Later this afternoon, Captain. Today's examination was mostly routine for this sort of thing. But I did take a few additional tests. The physical requirements for a Starfleet Captain, lost in an unknown sector of space with no Starfleet assistance, and carrying a child, are a bit tougher than for someone with lesser responsibilities, after all."

Captain Janeway nodded slightly. "Thank you, Doctor," she said in a gentle voice as she walked out the door. In his own way, he had just told her that he understood and appreciated her concerns.

The Doctor remained staring at the wall in front of him for several minutes after the Captain left his office. His scans of the fetus showed that it was a completely normal human fetus in every way. Its DNA structure was definitely a combination of the Captain's and Commander Chakotay's DNA.

But he was also attentive to the physical condition of Kathryn Janeway. She was not so young to be pregnant with her first child. It was true, women were having babies much later today than ever before. But another truth was that this woman was stuck in a starship, far from her homeworld, with only an emergency medical hologram and his infinite database of knowledge, to handle the entire pregnancy, and the delivery of this very special child. Thankfully, Voyager's EMH was highly skilled.

He sighed. Truth be told, the Doctor had more respect for the Captain than he'd ever told her. Maybe he should find the time, and a proper way, to let her know this. Not to the point he would sound humble, of course. Just a small comment, given at the proper time and in the proper manner, perhaps.

Well, time to wrap this up, thought the Doctor, as he turned toward the computer screen once more. He was anxious to get the medical determinations out of the way and move on to more delicate matters, such as the future of this child.


The afternoon passed slowly for everyone on alpha shift that day. The Captain and the Commander kept watch on their chronometers, wondering about the Doctor's discoveries.

Tuvok kept Tom Paris, B'Elanna Torres and Harry Kim busy with maneuvering tactics and battle drills.

And whenever the action slowed a bit, either the Captain or the Commander would ask Tuvok to take the drills a level higher. Tom Paris just wished that whatever was going on would get resolved soon. These diversion tactics were really draining.

Finally, just twenty minutes prior to the end of the shift, the Captain excused herself and retired to her Ready Room. Tom Paris thought it wasn't a moment too soon; she had really been on top of things today. Any time he was a split second too slow to respond to a command, she'd call "All stop" and order them to do it again. Man, whatever was bothering her was really a doozie, he thought.

Ten minutes later the Captain asked Commander Chakotay to join her in her Ready Room. Tom turned to send a questioning look Harry's way, but he was intercepted by a raised Vulcan eyebrow. He sighed and turned back toward his console. Sometimes it really was a pain working with his back to the rest of the Bridge.


As Chakotay entered the Captain's Ready Room, Captain Janeway motioned him to sit in the chair in front of her desk. He did, and they were both silent a moment.

"I just spoke to the Doctor," said the Captain. "He wants to see us as soon as our duty shift ends."

"Us?" asked Chakotay.

"Yes." Kathryn paused a moment and looked at the cup of coffee in her hand. Then she found her resolve and looked Chakotay in the eye. "I've informed the Doctor that from now on, anything that has to do with this . . . situation . . . is to be discussed with both you and me, and together if possible."

"I appreciate that, Captain," answered Chakotay softly, with gratitude in his voice, as well as in the words.

"I know you do, Chakotay," she answered quietly.


At 17:26 hours, Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay entered the Doctor's office and sat in the chairs he offered them in front of his desk.

"Well, Captain, Commander . . ." he began. "I have completed the tests based upon the examination of the Captain that I took this morning." He paused, then turned toward Captain Janeway. "Captain, you are a very healthy woman of . . . your age. You should have no problem carrying this child to term." He paused, watching both the Captain and the Commander digest this information. They both seemed relieved, but of course this was a natural response. He still questioned how things would proceed from here. The Captain did not like being pressed into a corner, and when she was, she usually came out fighting.

"Of course, there are some things you will have to learn to change about your lifestyle."

"My lifestyle?" asked the Captain, and Chakotay smiled at the incredulous tone in her voice.

"Yes," replied the Doctor, very seriously.

"I'm sorry, Doctor. Go ahead," said the Captain. Better to get this part over with now.

"You will have to learn to eat better."

"Doctor, I have never been a big eater . . ." said the Captain, standing and beginning to pace the room.

"I wasn't going to suggest you become a glutton, Captain. But you will need to eat a more carefully balanced diet. I will put some suggestions together for you. And you will need to eat three full meals a day." At this, the Captain grimaced. "You barely eat enough for one now, Captain, and unless you force yourself to pay careful attention and eat on a normal schedule like most people, you most certainly will not be eating enough for two."

At this, Kathryn turned away and looked out the observation window and into the other room. Nothing was there to command her attention, but she needed the privacy. Two. The Doctor had said she'd be eating for two. As much as she told herself she was beginning to accept this situation, sometimes little things still hit her hard.

Chakotay knew what Kathryn had reacted to, he had seen the reflection in her eyes when the Doctor had mentioned her eating for two, but there was nothing he could do to help her through this part of it. He couldn't accept the situation for her, or make this burden lighter. Hopefully, she would allow him to help her with the things he could assist her with.

"Also," continued the Doctor, "there are outside conditions which I cannot control that could affect this pregnancy." At this Kathryn turned back to face the Doctor, and Chakotay looked up at him as well. The Doctor had their undivided attention. "Your job, Captain, is not an easy one in many ways. You experience a great deal of stress, some normal and some self-induced . . ." At this, the Captain gave him a 'get on with it, Doctor' look, and the Doctor forced himself to stick to the facts.

"Captain, at any moment you could become injured while on an Away Mission, or even while on the Bridge in the midst of battle. Nearly every day, in some way, you face the unknown . . ."

"We all do, Doctor," replied the Captain, as she turned back to look out the window once again.

"What is your point, Doctor?" asked Chakotay.

"I am simply saying that while I can assure you that if you have a 'normal' pregnancy, your chance of carrying this child to term is 99.4%, but of course I cannot determine your chance of carrying it to term if you are constantly in the face of danger - why, even today you were engaging in battle drills on the Bridge!"

"I understand, Doctor. Is there anything else we should know?" the Captain asked.

"Not at this point. Except that I will want to see you for an examination every other week."

"Every other week? Doctor, isn't that a bit much?" asked the Captain, turning to him.

"Not considering the line of work you are in," replied the Doctor, in an even voice, reminding her who the boss happened to be in this particular matter.

"Doctor," interrupted Chakotay, "is there anything further regarding the status of the . . . fetus?" It was difficult for Chakotay to call a child a fetus, but he realized they all had to strive to keep the conversation on a medical and professional level.

"The fetus is fine, Commander. DNA strands from both you and the Captain are present." The room fell quiet as the Doctor gave them both time to consider that this was indeed their child they were talking about. He knew that, because of the unusual circumstances, they would need a dose of reality every now and then, at least for a time.

"In fact," continued the Doctor, "I can even tell you the sex of the child, if either of you wants to know," he finished softly. He was taking a risk, referring to the emotional level of the situation, but he needed to see their reactions.

Chakotay just looked at the Doctor, surprised that such a thing could be determined so quickly. But the Captain turned to the Doctor quickly. "No, Doctor, we do not need to discuss this sort of thing just now." She paused, pushing away all thoughts of the sex of the child she was carrying. "I think we should discuss all options regarding this pregnancy," she finished evenly. Her voice was soft, but firm. "Now."

"I agree with the Captain," said Chakotay, taking a deep breath. He'd forgotten that part. In his mind, he couldn't see what other options could possibly figure into this situation now. This fetus was a human child; his child, and Kathryn's child, the child he'd dreamed of for so long now. He closed his eyes and tried to focus on the present.

The Doctor had been correct in his assumptions about the reaction to his comment. The Captain was still hoping this would all go away, and the Commander was willing to move forward and accept responsibility for the child. He even wanted this child; it was evident in his eyes when the Captain had suggested discussing options.

The Doctor knew that Commander Chakotay would do anything within his power to help the Captain through this. The entire crew knew how much he loved her, and had watched the interaction between the two of them for nearly seven years now. There were constant betting pools still going on, projecting when the two of them would become a couple. And Ensign Paris was good at stirring up gossip every now and then in order to encourage more bets.

If he caught them together late at night, or if they left a party together, you could be sure Mr. Paris would begin the suppositions, and the controversy would begin anew. On the other hand, it was quite harmless fun, and the crew truly did care about the Captain and Commander Chakotay, and wanted to see them happy together, as a couple.

The Captain was as stubborn as they came, but the Commander was stubborn in his own right. Not many human males would pursue the same female relentlessly after constant rejection. But the Doctor understood the Commander's situation. On several occasions, he had witnessed the Commander trying to move on, trying to fall in love with someone else. But each time, he came back to the Captain. There was just no one else quite like her.

Now, they were both looking his way. "Yes. Options," he repeated. "The Captain asked me about them briefly yesterday, but at the time we had no reason to discuss them in detail. There are four options available to you. One, the Captain can carry the child to term, of course. Two, another human female may be considered for carrying the child to term for you . . ."

"I don't understand," said Chakotay.

"The fetus can be surgically removed from the Captain and implanted directly into the uterus of another healthy human female. Of course, certain physical and medical conditions would need to be determined as compatible." He paused and looked at both the Captain and the Commander. Neither seemed happy with this idea. He continued, "Then there's complete termination of the pregnancy . . ."

"Abortion?" asked Chakotay, incredulously.

"Yes." The Doctor paused again. "There's only one other option, and that is to remove the fetus from the womb and place it into stasis. It would then be placed inside a stasis chamber here in Sickbay."

The room fell silent. Then Chakotay asked, "For what purpose?"

"I beg your pardon?" asked the Doctor.

"Why would we want the . . . fetus . . . placed inside a stasis chamber? For what reason? What would become of it?" Chakotay stood, and began to pace the back of the room.

"For whatever reason you deem fit, Commander. For a future time, perhaps."

Kathryn still stood on the other side of the small office. She was leaning against the wall and listening to and watching the scene before her. "What I believe the Doctor is saying, Chakotay, is that we can choose to put the fetus into stasis until we determine a better time for me to carry it to term, isn't that right, Doctor?" asked the Captain, in an even tone, still watching Chakotay's reaction.

"Yes. Providing you remain healthy and still able to carry it at a later date," replied the Doctor.

"Later? What later date?" asked Chakotay. "When will there ever be a better time than now?"

"That's a question you and the Captain will have to consider together," said the Doctor, softly. "I'm afraid I can't help you with that one."

Chakotay took a deep breath, and rubbed his face with his hands. Kathryn just watched him.

Finally, when the room had remained silent for several long moments, Kathryn stood. "Well, I think that's enough for all of us to think about just now. We both need time to consider these options, Commander."

Chakotay turned to her. The fact that she had referred to him as "Commander" had not escaped him. "What options, Kathryn? I only heard one item out of four that makes any sense at all."

Kathryn looked at the floor in order to maintain her composure and keep her voice even, but firm. "Chakotay," she began, looking up at him once again, "We need to take the time to think this through, nonetheless. I suggest we meet here again tomorrow morning, just prior to our duty shift, and see how things look in the light of a new day."

"How can things look any differently tomorrow? Kathryn, listen to yourself. You are still trying to deny the fact that you are carrying a child, a real, live, human child. Our child." He began to walk toward her slowly, but she held her hands up to keep him at bay.

"Right now, Chakotay, I just need some space, and some time to think."

"Fine, Kathryn. You take some time to think about it. I'll meet you here tomorrow morning at 0630. We'll see what we can come up with then."

And with that, Chakotay opened the door and left Sickbay, heading for his quarters.

The Captain shut her eyes briefly and took a deep breath. Yes, this had been one long day, indeed. And she still had the evening ahead of her


By 2200 hours, the Captain had paced her quarters restlessly for nearly four hours. She forced herself to replicate some soup for dinner, but barely touched it. She had downed one cup of coffee, and two cups of tea.

She had taken a bath in the hopes of being able to relax and unwind, perhaps even put her thoughts into some sort of order.

But all she could think about was how she couldn't possibly carry a child right now! She had a crew to get home. This was her mission in life, and it had to come first. She had made a promise.

She had promised the crew, herself, another self in a different reality, and even Captain Ransom. And when Captain Kathryn Janeway was on a mission, there was nothing in any universe that could stand in her way of accomplishing her goal.

But she didn't like those other three options, either.

Finally, in exasperation, she got out of the bathtub after only a few minutes. She would find no comfort this evening, she might as well face it.

By midnight, Kathryn was pacing her bedroom wearing her nightgown and robe, and trying desperately to think of a logical answer to their dilemma.

She tried to think of Tuvok, and what his advice might be. She was sorely tempted to visit him and ask his thoughts, but she felt it best to confine the knowledge of this situation to just she, Chakotay and the Doctor. It was fair this way. And she and Chakotay had to get through this together. Somehow. Some way.

She sighed, and stopped her pacing suddenly. What if they couldn't agree on the same option? She just wasn't accustomed to having to decide something in a democratic way. She'd been Captain for so long now that the thought of someone else outvoting her, or even opposing her, was foreign to her.

Well, that wasn't exactly true. She was used to people opposing her; even her First Officer had been known to oppose her on many occasions.

The truth was she had never needed to be concerned about that before. Her decision was final; she was the Captain. Period. And now she had to consider that this child belonged to Chakotay as much as it did to her. Ahhh, gods . . . What was she going to do?

She sat on the edge of the bed and removed her slippers. She had to try to get some sleep, no matter how ludicrous that idea seemed right now.


While the Captain was tossing and turning in her bed, the Commander was sitting on the floor of his quarters, trying desperately to speak to his ancestors. He had been at it for several hours, and he was no closer to his goal now than he was when he had first begun.

After several more minutes, Chakotay stood from the floor and stretched his aching muscles. He certainly wasn't getting any younger. "Computer, cup of jasmine tea, hot." He took the cup of tea from the replicator, then walked over to the viewport to watch the stars streak by.

His father had once told him that his sentimentality would one day get the better of him if he weren't careful. Well, he was sentimental, and he just couldn't change that about himself. It was a part of who he was. And tonight he couldn't concentrate on finding his Spirit Guide because all he could think about was Kathryn. His Kathryn, not Captain Janeway.

Chakotay remembered New Earth as though it were yesterday and not five years ago. He remembered how Kathryn, the woman, had come alive more and more everyday, and how she had learned to let her hair down, in more ways than one. He smiled to himself. He had treasured those days even then, perhaps somehow knowing they wouldn't last forever, no matter how much he had wanted them to.

And on New Earth he had begun to dream again, just before Tuvok had returned to rescue them.

Before New Earth, he hadn't dreamed in a very long time; too long. The heartache and strife he had known in the Alpha Quadrant had erased his restful days and nights, and the peace in his soul. He had searched long and hard to restore the peace, but he had been unsuccessful. Until Kathryn. The very first time he had laid eyes on her, she had been in her Starfleet uniform on his viewscreen. He had wanted to hate her, as he had tried to hate all Starfleet representatives, but he had known in his heart that she was not a part of his hate.

He had known the moment he saw her that she would have a special place in his life; many times since, he had found himself wishing she didn't occupy such a special place in his heart.

Kathryn Janeway was unlike anyone he had ever known. She was stubborn, but strong. She took a stand for what she believed in, no matter the cost. And she was passionate to a fault. She could melt his heart in an instant with that crazy smile of hers, and her eyes could see straight into his soul in a way he had never known. And when she spoke to him in that voice she used when she wanted something from him . . . well, Kathryn Janeway could have her way with him anytime she wanted. He smiled to himself. And she knew it.

Kathryn Janeway also did not make it easy for someone to love her. If she believed in something, she would risk everything on principle.

Chakotay sighed, and walked over to his favorite chair at his desk. This was what frightened him, wasn't it? She had made a promise to get her ship and her crew home, and she wouldn't let anything, or anyone, stand in the way of her promise. Or anything she deemed a threat to keeping her promise.

Truth be told, Chakotay was more than a little afraid of what the morning might bring. He knew exactly how stubborn she could be - more than anyone, he knew.

And he hadn't thought of their having a child together since New Earth.

Correction: He no longer thought daily of their having a child together.

But there were still times when he would catch her eye from across the room and she would smile at him . . . and his heart would stop for an instant. He would envision a young girl smiling at him with those same blue eyes and golden brown hair . . . he had loved that child for more than five years now, as though she actually existed.

Chakotay closed his eyes and lay his head back on the headrest. He had long ago told himself he would never see that child, because Kathryn Janeway was the only woman who could give her to him.

But now she was pregnant . . . with his child . . . he suddenly opened his eyes and stood, the restlessness beginning all over again. He didn't think she would actually terminate . . . abort . . . their child. He felt his legs grow weak. No, he wouldn't let her do that. And she wouldn't want to do that. He knew that much in his heart, at least.

Be honest, he told himself. He was terribly afraid that she would want to put their child in stasis, for some later time, for some future that might not exist for them. Kathryn Janeway was very good at not facing certain truths if they interfered with her existing plans.

He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. He had to clear his mind, but the more he tried, the more clouded it became, and the peace he sought became even more elusive.

Finally, he could take the silence, and his stray thoughts, no longer. He pulled himself together and straightened his uniform. He had to get out of his quarters for awhile, before they threatened to suffocate him.

Making his way down the corridor, he reached the turbolift, and before he could question his own motives, he had stopped in front of Holodeck Two.

Tom Paris had reinstated "Sandrines" recently and he heard the loud banter coming from Holodeck One as he ordered the computer to initiate one of his personal programs in Holodeck Two. Before he could ask himself why, he entered the holodeck and engaged the privacy lock.

There it was. The river from New Earth. The river that they were going to explore together as soon as he'd built the boat. A couple more weeks and they would have made their way together down this very part of the river before him. He'd planned it all so carefully.

As soon as they neared this flat section of land, they would have pulled the boat over and out of the water. They would have built a camp right here, and lay their sleeping bags over there. The fire would have burned bright, and they would have laughed and talked and drank hot tea while the night became colder around them.

And he would have kissed her good-night. Right over there. For the first time.

Chakotay closed his eyes; he could see Kathryn now - laughing and listening to him tell stories about his people and their beliefs. He'd never forget the night he told her that his father would have loved her. She had gotten tears in her eyes then, the way she had when he'd told her about the angry warrior that had finally found peace.

Peace. Yes, he had even found the sort of peace that promised to last forever, but it had, in reality, only lasted for a short while. And then Tuvok had returned for them.

He couldn't blame Tuvok, of course. They were both glad to be rescued. It had just been so unexpected.

And, later, Chakotay had reflected that perhaps it had been for the best, after all. He was still unsure whether Kathryn could really have been happy with that life forever . . . forever was such a long time.

Chakotay sighed. He was not going to find peace here tonight, after all. He hadn't visited this holodeck program in over two years, but the memories were still raw, even after all this time. He'd thought tonight might be different, but it still brought fresh pain to his heart when he remembered Kathryn as she had been on New Earth. The woman he loved, and would always love.

Chakotay ended the program and exited the holodeck.

He missed her so much. Still.

Finally deciding to return to his quarters once more, Chakotay turned the corner and headed for the turbolift.

Just as the doors closed behind him, he heard a familiar voice over his comm badge.

"Janeway to Commander Chakotay."

"Chakotay here, Captain."

There was a brief pause, and then she pushed forward determinedly. "Commander, please meet me in the Doctor's office in 15 minutes."

"I'm on my way," he responded, as he heard Kathryn break the comm link.

He wondered what Kathryn had decided. She wouldn't tell him to meet her in Sickbay if she hadn't made a decision. And he knew that whatever decision it was, it was one she'd be loathe to change, no matter what. She wouldn't call him to Sickbay for a meeting at 0300 hours unless she had something to say.

Only minutes later, Chakotay walked into Sickbay, and the Doctor's office, to find the Doctor sitting quietly behind his desk. Chakotay looked at him questioningly.

"Yes. I am to wait, as well," said the Doctor, dispassionately. But Chakotay knew that the Doctor truly wanted this baby to be born. The Doctor was one of the Captain's greatest fans, although the Captain refused to believe it, and he wanted to be able to deliver her baby.

Also, the Doctor believed in the gift of life. It bothered him a great deal to see any patient lost, and Chakotay knew that he was trying to act as neutral as possible in order to give the Captain the space she needed to decide the issue for herself.

'And I'm doing the same thing,' he thought suddenly.

They both turned as the Captain walked deliberately into the room and closed the door. She was every bit the Captain. She was dressed in a clean, pressed, spotless uniform and she stood like a Captain. She looked each of them in the eye.

"Thank you for giving me your time at 0300 hours, Gentlemen." They both nodded, because this was the Starfleet way, but truth be told, they'd had no choice in the matter. This way, she was able to thank them, and they were able to acknowledge her appreciation.

Then she turned away from them for a moment to gather her thoughts. "I've come to a decision regarding our . . . situation . . . and I didn't see a reason to wait until morning to discuss it, particularly since neither Commander Chakotay nor I could sleep, and since you, Doctor, haven't deactivated yourself in nearly 60 hours."

She turned back to face them again as they both nodded once more. She had checked on both their locations then. And Chakotay knew that she had probably discovered him in the holodeck and had assumed he was trying to take his mind off his problems. He sighed. In a sense, that was probably true, he thought to himself.

"As you know, Doctor, I am not terribly fond of any of the four options that lie before us." Again, the Doctor nodded her way. "First, let me say to you both that there is no way in hell I will willingly terminate a life form, be it alien or human, let alone a child who belongs to me, and to Commander Chakotay." It took all the Starfleet training Kathryn had endured to get those last words out without allowing her voice to betray her.

They both nodded her way, to show their support, but Chakotay could hear the Doctor let out his breath softly, and he was sure he had done the same.

"And, Chakotay, I am sorry if you will disagree with me on this one, but there is also no way in hell another woman is going to carry my child. Our child." She looked down as she said the last part, but damnit, she couldn't help it. She was human, after all - and sometimes she swore to herself she would gladly sell her soul to be an android and not have to worry about her emotions showing her up, or confusing her thoughts.

Again, both Chakotay and the Doctor nodded her way.

"I agree with you on that, Ka . . . Captain," said Chakotay softly, trying not to let his own emotions show. Sometimes he just couldn't help it where Kathryn was concerned, and right now his heart was beating so fast that he had to concentrate hard not to let his nervousness show.

'Here it is,' thought Chakotay. 'She wants to have our child put into stasis.' He steeled himself for what he knew would be a wonderfully executed statement of reason and common sense. And then he would make his feelings known. He would listen to her, but then she would listen to him.

"As well, I cannot make the decision to have my child surgically removed from me and put into a stasis chamber, for some unknown future." Then she paused a moment, and when she continued, her voice was softer. It was Kathryn who spoke and not Captain Janeway. "Both of you know that I would be very capable of putting off having this child until I was no longer able to do so. If it took ten years, I could do it. I could reason my way right through the next millennia, trying to convince you both that I still didn't have the time to be a mother to this child."

She looked at each of them directly, first the Doctor and then Chakotay, and they both nodded in turn.

Kathryn Janeway took a deep breath, then let it out slowly. "Well, then. I believe that leaves just one option open to us." She paused a moment, and it seemed as though a great burden had lifted from her shoulders. "I don't know what sort of mother I will be, nor do I know how my pregnancy will affect the day to day running of this ship, but I do know that I have to see this pregnancy through. And I have to trust that things will work out."

Now she looked at Chakotay, and saw the tears in his eyes. Her voice was gentle, and she moved to him and held his gaze. "I can't destroy our child, Chakotay, nor can I do anything that might affect this child's chances at ever becoming a person. Somehow, some way this was supposed to happen. Maybe because I didn't have the courage to come to you before now and tell you that I've cared about you for a long time, and maybe for some other reason that eludes me now . . . but for whatever reason, we were meant to have this child. I truly believe that."

"Thank you, Kathryn . . ." he whispered, the tears glistening in his eyes. Kathryn Janeway had made her decision, and she couldn't have made her First Officer happier.

She had cared about him for a long time . . . for a long time . . . Chakotay would take those words to bed with him tonight, and carry them in his heart for all the days to come.

She continued to look into his eyes, and her own eyes became moist. "You may not want to thank me just yet." Then she smiled just enough so that the corner of her mouth turned up in that way he loved, and her eyes sparkled through the moisture there. Then she continued gently, "You know how stubborn I can be under normal circumstances, Chakotay; you may not care to imagine what I'll be like during an entire pregnancy."

He smiled at her through his tears. "I'll take the risk that you'll be no more stubborn than usual."

Kathryn shook her head slightly, before turning away and taking a deep breath. She walked to the observation window and crossed her arms in front of her. "I'll be asking more of you as my First Officer than ever before, Chakotay. And I will need additional assistance from you as well, Doctor." She turned to look at them, and as they both nodded at her, she noticed for the first time what seemed to be tears in the Doctor's eyes. Well, perhaps this was an emotional moment for all three of them. She had known that Chakotay would be relieved at her decision; she just hadn't thought about the Doctor's evolved feelings in the matter.

Then she turned back to Chakotay. "I have no idea how successful we will be at parenting this child together, Chakotay." Then her voice softened. "But I have to believe that we will both keep the best interests of our child at the forefront." Chakotay nodded, loving her more at this moment than ever before. "And we did make it through the Borg conflict, somehow. And I believe we're stronger today for it." Her voice was soft, and her eyes looked at him tenderly.

"So do I, Kathryn," he managed to whisper to her softly.

Then suddenly Kathryn Janeway became The Captain again. "Good." She took a deep breath and held her head high. Then she turned to take in both of them once again. "Then we can have further discussions on this topic another time. I am going to get some sleep, Gentlemen. Good night."

And with that, Captain Kathryn Janeway left Sickbay and returned to her quarters. She got ready for bed for the second time that evening, then fell asleep only moments after slipping between the covers. And she slept better than she had in days, waking only when her chronometer summoned her the next morning.


The following morning, the Captain entered the mess hall bright and early and took a large tray of food, along with a large mug of coffee, to Commander Chakotay's table in the corner.

Chakotay stood and helped her with her tray, as he did every morning.

"Thank you," she said, as she sat and took a drink from her coffee cup.

"You're welcome," he smiled.

Kathryn looked up at Chakotay and suppressed a smile of her own. "Don't look so happy. I was very serious about what I said last night."

"Which part?" The grin was still on his face.

Kathryn slowly smiled, unable to disregard Chakotay's good mood this morning. "I was serious about all of it, of course, but I was referring to the part about not thanking me yet." Then she turned serious. "Chakotay," she said quietly, as she leaned closer to him from across the table, "we have a long road ahead of us, you know."

"I realize that, Kathryn. I'm just taking some time to enjoy this moment first." She'd cared about him for a long time . . .

The Captain sat back in her chair, considering what he'd said. "I knew my decision would please you," she said. "I believe the Doctor was somewhat relieved, as well." She looked at Chakotay for verification. He nodded.

Sighing, Kathryn leaned forward again. "This morning, I've been thinking about when we should tell the rest of the crew . . ." she said softly, as she looked into her coffee cup. "And what to tell them."

"And . . . ?" he prompted, knowing that she needed very little prodding to tell him what was on her mind.

"I'd like to wait a little while longer before we tell anyone, if you don't mind. So far, I haven't had this . . . morning sickness . . . or anything else that might prove difficult to hide from people who are close to us."

"The senior staff?" asked Chakotay, trying to hide his smile at her look of disgust over the idea of morning sickness.


"Go on." Chakotay found himself actually enjoying this. It wasn't often that Kathryn Janeway had to come to terms with forces outside her control, and she was trying her best to pretend that it didn't bother her.

Kathryn squirmed a bit, not completely comfortable with this sort of discussion in the mess hall, even though not even Tuvok, with his Vulcan hearing sensibilities, could hear them from this corner if he were to come into the mess hall just now. "When we both feel the time is right, I'd like to tell Tuvok first. Then the rest of the senior staff. And sometime later, the rest of the crew." She paused and looked at him. "I don't know time frames, Chakotay. This just feels right." He nodded at her. "I know that I need a bit more time to . . . adjust . . . to this myself before we talk about it with others. Is that all right with you?"

Chakotay grinned at her, then nodded. He really didn't intend to irritate her with this silly smile, but it just wouldn't go away.

She continued, trying to ignore his smile. "And as for what we tell everyone, I'm just not sure about that either. I mean, do we tell them the truth about how this all . . . happened? Or do we just tell them that I'm . . . that we're . . . going to have a baby."

Kathryn was more unsure of herself than Chakotay had ever seen her, and this was something neither of them were accustomed to. And he had never seen her look more beautiful than she did at this very moment.

And she had cared about him for a long time . . .

He knew he wouldn't be able meet her eyes for very long, so he looked back down at the table in front of him, pretending to be interested in the orange thing Neelix had put onto his tray earlier. "I agree that we should think carefully about what we want to tell people. If we tell them that this happened in the . . . unusual way that it did, we may never get past the uncertainties and constant questions, and even jokes, that the story will generate, and it may affect our child as well. And if we simply say that we are having a . . . child . . . together, then people will obviously think . . . something else."

"Something else, Commander?" asked the Captain, glad that the focus could be turned in Chakotay's direction for a while, as she reached for her cup of coffee.


"Such as?"

Chakotay looked up at her, wondering if she were baiting him, or if she really hadn't thought about it yet. It was difficult to tell. "That we have a . . . physical . . . relationship." He swallowed hard, forcing himself to appear as natural as possible to Kathryn.

"Hmmmm. I think Neelix' coffee is actually getting better." She took another sip of coffee, then put the cup down and began to poke through the food on her plate. "Do you see anything here that you would recommend?" she asked Chakotay, pointedly ignoring his last comment.

"Not particularly." She had baited him, then. She'd wanted to see what he would say. He sat back in his chair, and waited for her to continue with her thoughts, trying like hell not to grin at her like a fool again.

Kathryn nibbled at a piece of breadfruit that she knew was mostly edible, then sat back in her chair, as well. "You're right. No matter what we tell people, we will have made an irrevocable choice, so we need to consider all options first." They were both quiet for a moment, thinking about what all those options might be.

When Kathryn spoke again, she leaned in conspiratorially, and her voice took on a low, throaty quality that was not missed by Chakotay. "Either way, it looks like we'll open up all sorts of new opportunities for Tom Paris and his betting pools."

Chakotay caught the sparkle in her eyes, and they grinned at each other.

"That's all right," said Chakotay softly, "The Captain of this ship is very good at keeping Mr. Paris under wraps." Kathryn chuckled softly.

During a comfortable moment of silence between them, Kathryn looked down at her lap in order to gather her thoughts. Chakotay, too, was thinking of all the things he wanted to say, and all the roads ahead of them on this new journey together. He had certainly "cared about" her for a long time, too.

"Chakotay?" she whispered softly.


"I know that we're doing the right thing." She looked up at him then, and he could see the tears beginning to form in her eyes. "But I'm still frightened by it all."

"Kathryn . . ." he said, leaning forward and easily covering her hand with his. He would do anything within his power to take away that fear, if he could.

"I just . . . wanted you to know," she said, gently taking her hand from his.

"I understand," he said gently.

"Well," she said as brightly as she could manage, forcing herself to change the subject, "Commander, I do believe we'll be late for Bridge duty if we don't get ourselves moving."

"Aye, aye, Captain," Chakotay agreed, grabbing both their trays and taking them to the recycle bins. He knew that she needed a moment to herself.

And Kathryn Janeway knew that her First Officer was giving her a moment to get herself together. Thank the gods it was Chakotay who was the father of her child, she thought, and not for the first time. If it had to happen this way, then thankfully she had been in that transporter beam with him, and not with someone like . . . well, with anyone else at all, frankly. She shuddered at the thought.

As they left the mess hall that morning, and the doors shut behind them, the Captain turned toward her First Officer. It was so unexpected that the Commander nearly tripped over her. They were only inches apart, and Chakotay caught his breath in his throat at her nearness. "Commander," she said, in that low, sultry voice that nearly drove him crazy when he heard it.

Chakotay swallowed hard. Damnit, she was so close he could smell the perfumed bath oils that Tuvok kept her supplied with. And he tried never to put himself into that position unless he was prepared to deal with it knowingly. "Yes, Captain?" he replied softly, his throat threatening to close around the words. He closed his eyes momentarily, willing his body to control itself.

"I'm absolutely convinced that we can deal with any sort of . . . rumors . . . regarding you and me, don't you think?" He could feel her breath on his face. It was sweet and fresh, and he could easily lose his mind right now and never regret doing so.

"Agreed, Captain." It was an automatic response, but it was also the only thing he could think of to say just now. At least he hoped he'd managed to get the words out.

Chakotay opened his eyes and looked at her quickly to see if she had heard him, or if she were still waiting for him to say something. He saw the mischievous look in her eyes, and knew that she was completely aware of the effect she was having on him.

"Good," she responded in a Captain's voice, then strode purposefully down the corridor toward the turbolift.

He took a deep breath, then forced himself to let it out slowly. When his heartbeat had slowed substantially, he walked down the corridor and turned the corner. Nearing the turbolift, he saw that the Captain was holding it, waiting for him to join her. As he moved to stand behind her, he nearly missed the smile that threatened the corner of her mouth.

She had paid him back for all those silly grins he'd given her in the mess hall while she was trying to have a serious conversation. He smiled to himself. She was good. She knew how to get to him in ways he wouldn't forget.

"Bridge," said Captain Janeway, as the turbolift doors closed behind them.


Over the next few days, the Captain and the Commander reviewed ship's log entries and revised rosters, charted upcoming course alterations and began the quarterly crew reports. All this was done late in the evening, after dinner, and usually in either the Captain's or the Commander's quarters.

The work was done, all right, but not nearly as much time was spent on it as the rest of the crew were allowed to surmise.

Tom Paris began a new betting pool. He wasn't born yesterday, and he was convinced that something was going on. He wasn't sure about the romantic element, though. He'd been wrong about that on more than one occasion in the past few years. Besides, he'd lost a lot of credibility with the crew because of all those times he'd bet on a romance between Chakotay and the Captain, and then lost that bet simply because he couldn't prove they had a private relationship.

In fact, he and Harry had practically thrown them at each other on a couple of occasions, but they still managed to pull their eyes away from each other - after awhile - and go on as though nothing had happened.

But they sure as hell were spending a lot of time together behind closed doors lately, he mused. Well, maybe, just maybe, he'd win that bet one day after all. Hell, they couldn't possibly stay apart forever - sometimes the energy between the two of them in one room almost made an outsider dizzy. No, something had to happen between them one of these days. And now just seemed like a good time to start a new pool . . .

Meanwhile, the Captain and Commander were spending a great deal of their evenings discussing their options and planning for an uncertain and unorthodox future for the three of them, the Captain and Commander of a starship, and their child - the one they did not create together, but who belonged to them both unconditionally.

And they did not discuss their own feelings for each other, or what that might mean down the road.


The following morning, the Captain walked the corridors of her starship, heading for Sickbay. She had a scheduled appointment with the Doctor. They had agreed that her appointments were to be made for 0600 hours so as not to alert other members of the crew regarding her frequent visits to Sickbay. This seemed the best way to deal with it, at least until her pregnancy was made public.

Kathryn knew that Chakotay often felt uncomfortable where she and the baby were concerned, because she did not share the sort of intimate relationship with him that people in this situation were supposed to share. She understood. She felt the same way herself.

And last night, Kathryn had made sure to invite Chakotay to join her for her exam with the Doctor this morning. This would be her 14-day exam. She would officially be two week's pregnant. She sighed. Sometimes it seemed like two years.

But it was a sort of milestone. If everything was progressing the way it was supposed to, according to the Doctor's guidelines, then she and Chakotay had decided to give more attention to their timeframes. She knew the time to tell the crew was drawing near, and in some ways she dreaded it terribly, and in others it would be a relief not to be so secretive about it.

Sometimes she thought Tuvok suspected something, but when she met his eyes, he would look away. It was true that Tuvok always reacted in this manner, and Kathryn couldn't quite put her finger on it, but some days she was convinced that he knew. Maybe he did suspect something, and maybe not. But the truth was that Tuvok knew her well, and it wouldn't surprise her at all to learn that he'd known all along. Tuvok was very perceptive, and no one knew that better than his Captain.

Kathryn continued swiftly down the corridor toward Sickbay and her appointment with the Doctor. She wasn't in a particular hurry to get there, but she also didn't want to attract undue attention this morning. She wondered if Chakotay would show up. He had been noncommittal last night when she had invited him, but she knew that if the truth were known, he wanted to be there.

As Kathryn turned the corner, she saw Chakotay entering Sickbay. She smiled in spite of herself.

Kathryn entered the Doctor's office only moments after Chakotay, and the Doctor closed the door.

"Well, good morning, Captain," said the Doctor. "Again, I'm pleased that you are on time."

"I'd just like to get this over with, Doctor," said Kathryn, rolling her eyes at Chakotay behind the Doctor's back. Chakotay smiled back at her with that big grin that made his dimples show. Kathryn chuckled to herself; she had seen those dimples more in recent days than she had in a long time, and she suddenly realized how much she had missed them before.

"Fine, fine. Let's move to the back examination room, please." They both followed him through the office and into the back room, where the Doctor closed the door behind them. "Now, Captain, if you will, please sit on that biobed. This is only a follow-up examination, and there is no need to undress."

Kathryn pulled herself up onto the bed, as the Doctor pulled a tray of scanning equipment from against the wall, and placed it adjacent to the biobed. "Now, please sit still, Captain."

Kathryn tried her best to sit still. She wasn't accustomed to following the Doctor's orders; in fact, if the truth be known, she actually got a kick out of letting him know who was boss from time to time. Even though his personality subroutine had much improved over the years, he could still be so . . . egotistical and enervating. She sighed. And she sure as hell wasn't patient enough to sit still for any length of time.

"Captain, please . . ." the Doctor said again.

"Sorry, Doctor," she replied, then looked around for Chakotay. He was sitting on a chair across the room and out of the way. She didn't blame him; it was a good place to be. For the hundredth time, she asked herself why the female had to carry the child and the male simply got to stay out of the way.

Chakotay smiled at the beautiful lady on the biobed. She was not very happy about having to sit still, and even more unhappy about having to obey the Doctor. Not a very good combination, and especially at the beginning of the day when she was most energetic.

"Captain . . . ! Please!"

"I'm sorry, Doctor. I will try to concentrate."

"Thank you."

Chakotay tried to suppress his grin, but lately he didn't seem very good at doing that.

The fact of the matter was that during the past two weeks he had fallen in love with Kathryn Janeway all over again.

This thought had first occurred to him last night after leaving her quarters at 2100 hours. He was getting ready for bed, and realized he hadn't stopped smiling all day. Then it hit him. He had tried to deny his feelings for her since their return from New Earth, when she had become the Captain of a Starfleet vessel again. And he had told himself he had to move on.

He knew he had never really fallen out of love with Kathryn; in fact, he often caught himself looking at her a certain way, or his heart would stop when she smiled at him . . . he could name a thousand different things that told of his true feelings. Yet, he had tried to deny all of them to himself.

Until last night. He was falling in love all over again . . . and it was with the same woman who had captured his heart nearly five years ago on New Earth.

"Thank you, Captain. Now please lie down."

"Doctor, how much longer is this going to take?"

"Captain . . ."

"Yes, yes, I'm lying down."

Chakotay knew he risked his heart being broken again; he knew Kathryn Janeway well enough to know that just because she was pregnant with his child, that didn't mean she was going to allow him into her private life along with this child. Not unless she felt she could handle it all. No, he had to let her make the choice, on her own terms.

But that was all right. He wasn't going anywhere. His very heart and soul were with this woman, and the child she carried.

. . . and she had cared about him for a very long time . . .

They hadn't discussed her words from the other night yet. And that was all right, too. She had said them. And now he heard them in his head and felt them in his heart. He carried those words with him everywhere.

"So, Captain, how are you feeling?" asked the Doctor, continuing with yet another scanning device.


"You may sit up now." The Captain sat up, as the Doctor folded his tricorder and placed it in the medical tray, alongside the others he had already used.

"You are not experiencing nausea?"


Her tone was hard to miss; who would have thought the Captain of a starship would be disgusted by something so inconsequential, after some of the things she had seen and experienced, thought Chakotay. For some reason, he found this endearing.

"And you are not experiencing undue fatigue?"

"Undue? No, I don't think so. Perhaps. It's hard to tell if my fatigue is from begin pregnant, or just from day to day ship's operations, Doctor."

"Hmmm. I see. Then there's nothing else you want to tell me? Other than knowing you are pregnant, you aren't actually feeling it in any physical way?"

The Captain thought for a moment. "Well, actually, yes. I mean, my stomach is beginning to feel . . . different."


"Harder. More firm."

"That's perfectly normal. The baby is growing, and making room for itself." The Doctor spoke in normal tones, as though he were telling her the temperature of the room. But the thought itself wasn't lost on either the Captain or the Commander.

The Doctor continued to fiddle with his instruments.

"And . . ." continued the Captain.


"My breasts are feeling . . ." The Captain realized suddenly that Chakotay was sitting across the room, and she turned to glance at him. Chakotay was looking at the ground, trying to remain in the background of the current conversation.

"Yes?" prompted the Doctor, continuing to work with his instruments.

"Slightly more . . . sensitive . . . at times," she finished softly.

"Yes. That's perfectly normal, as well. They are beginning to ready themselves for giving milk."

"But, Doctor, I don't understand. Am I supposed to feel this after only two weeks?"

"Yes. It begins now. For millennia, women often went weeks or even months before realizing they were pregnant. They went through these changes early on, as well. They just didn't realize it. But you have known from Day One, well actually Day Two, that you are pregnant. And so you are more aware of each and every change within your body." The Doctor paused, then turned to her with a hypospray. "I am going to give you some necessary vitamins and minerals, that you may or may not be getting from your diet." He applied the hypospray to her neck. "There. Just in case you don't eat properly." Then he gave her one of his 'and I know you don't' looks.

The Captain glanced again at Chakotay. He seemed to be doing better since the conversation had moved away from her personal matters.

"Thank you, Doctor. When can we expect to hear from you?" The Captain slid off the biobed and straightened her uniform. Chakotay stood from the chair and awaited the Doctor's answer with her.

"Regarding what exactly, Captain?"

"My condition, of course."

"Captain, your condition is just fine. You are pregnant, with a child who is perfectly normal at the age of two weeks. And you are also doing well. Everything is in order. I can tell you that now. And, as you know, I can even tell you the sex of your child, so just let me know when you're ready to know what it is." His glance took in the Commander as well as the Captain.

"No. I'm still not ready to know that, Doctor," the Captain responded quickly. "I need to stay focused on fact, and not move to the emotional."

"I understand, Captain," said the Doctor gently. The Doctor looked at Commander Chakotay, and Chakotay nodded his agreement.

"So . . . Doctor," Kathryn said, looking at the ground. "Even though our baby was a . . . transporter accident . . . everything is fine?" She looked at the Doctor.

"Yes, everything is fine."

Kathryn nodded. "Thank you, Doctor."

"And . . . Captain . . ." the Doctor began, not knowing quite how to say what he was concerned about.

"Yes, Doctor?"

"This child is a human child, no matter how it was conceived. It is not a partial child, nor is it an alien child. Nor is it a hologram." He paused, but only for a moment. "Captain, this child is human, and if you think of . . . him or her . . . as a transporter accident, then you will be making the child into something less than what . . . he or she . . . is. This child may be the result of an 'accident' but then again, maybe not."

"What do you mean, Doctor?" the Captain asked softly.

"What was an accident to you, and to the Commander, may not have been an accident to a higher power, whomever - or whatever - may be . . . out there . . ."

"I don't believe in Divine Intervention, Doctor."

"Fine. Then I would like very much to hear your version of how, and why, this child came to be."

"I have no . . . version . . . at this time, Doctor," she said. "But thank you for your opinion. That will be all." This last part was said in the Captain's unmistakable tone of dismissal. Even Chakotay had to smile.

"You're welcome." The Doctor knew that he no longer had the Captain's attention on this matter, but he had given it his best shot. "Well then, have a good day and I will see you two weeks from today at the same time, same place." The Doctor positively beamed as he took his tray of medical instruments and pushed them through the door and into his adjoining office.

Kathryn turned to Chakotay as soon as they were alone. "Are you all right?" she asked softly.

"Me? I'm fine. I didn't go through what you did with the Doctor just now. I'm an innocent bystander." He smiled thinly.

Kathryn shook her head. She glanced down. "Chakotay?" she asked softly.


She looked up into his eyes. "I hope you don't mind that I don't want to know the sex of the child just yet."

He smiled a genuine smile this time. "No, I understand, Kathryn. Your reasoning makes sense."

She took a sigh of relief and nodded briefly. Then she turned and left the room, and Sickbay, with Chakotay following her.

Besides, Chakotay didn't need to be told the sex of their child. She was a little girl, with golden hair and blue eyes. And when she smiled at him in his dreams, his heart would stop. She looked so much like her Mother.


That evening, the Captain and Commander had decided to let the reports actually pile up for another day and take some much needed time alone, for themselves. Kathryn really wanted to just relax and read something mindless, maybe take a long soak in a hot tub, drink some . . . hot tea . . . .and then turn in early.

At 2300 hours, Kathryn Janeway had read some 18th century poetry, soaked in a hot tub for nearly an hour with the last of her bath spices from Tuvok (tomorrow she would remind him that she needed more) and had selected a deep blue green robe from her dresser drawer that she hadn't worn more than once or twice.

As Kathryn headed into the living room for one last cup of hot tea before bed, her comm badge chirped. She smiled, knowing damned well who it was.

"Chakotay to Janeway."

"Janeway here." Her voice was soft and completely relaxed, not the usual Captain's voice that came through the comm link.

"Captain, I have the Engineering report on the warp core deficiency you wanted delivered to you as soon as it was complete. And since you have the later shift tomorrow, I was wondering if you'd like me to bring it to you tonight so that you'll have it for your early morning entertainment at breakfast, since I will be on the Bridge and not able to amuse you myself."

Kathryn chuckled. She could hear the smile in his voice. But gods, she hated reading Engineering reports. B'Elanna was a brilliant engineer, but her reports were absolutely boring. And Chakotay felt the same way. She knew he was doing this on purpose.

"I suppose, Commander," she replied. "You'd better bring it over now, before I change my mind. Janeway out."

And before she could reach the replicator, her door chime sounded. He must have been awfully close by.


Chakotay entered, wearing that dazzling smile that made her heart beat faster. Even after all these years. Damn him.

"Hi," he said easily.

"Hi," she said, meeting him half way in the middle of the room and taking the padd from his outstretched hand. She looked at it briefly. "Ugh," she said, placing the padd on her desk and walking back toward the replicator. "I will definitely enjoy that report over my morning coffee."

"It's a good thing doctors discovered years ago that there's no real harm in drinking a modest amount of coffee during pregnancy," he said casually.

"Oh, I see you've been doing some homework," she said. "How about having a cup of . . . tea . . . with me?" She stressed the word 'tea' and he smiled at her.

"I'd love one, thanks." He moved to sit on the couch, as she ordered the tea.

"Computer, two cups of Vulcan spice tea. Hot," she ordered. Seconds later, they appeared in the replicator slot.

Kathryn took the two cups of tea and moved up to join Chakotay on the couch. As she turned, she noticed his eyes drop quickly to the floor, but then he forced himself to look up at her again.

"Something wrong?" she asked softly.

"No. I just haven't seen that robe before," he tried to say casually, as he took his cup of tea from her.

But Kathryn had noticed the way he had looked at her a moment ago. It was a look of pure lust, and her hand was nearly shaking when he took the cup from her. She wondered that he couldn't hear her heart beating. Damn, she simply hated not being in control of a situation, or of herself.

Kathryn sat a few inches away from him, and smiled. "Well, I'm not surprised. I've only worn it once or twice before. I got it on the K'tumi homeworld when we were there a couple of years ago. In fact, the First Ambassador gave it to me as a gift. Do you like it?" she asked.

"Very much," he said, dropping his eyes again. "And I'm sure the First Ambassador was hoping he might see you in it personally."

"Why, Chakotay," she said, with an air of amusement, "I haven't heard you sound this jealous since Q wanted to . . ."

"Kathryn, I'd rather not discuss Q, if you don't mind. You know how I feel about him." His voice was firm, but weary.

"All right," she said, with a smile in her voice. "Let's talk about something else for a moment," she continued, her voice turning more serious.

"All right."

"This morning . . . in the Doctor's office . . ."


"I'm sorry if I made you uncomfortable."


"When I told the Doctor about my . . . physical changes. It wasn't my intention to make you uncomfortable."

Chakotay sighed. Then he reached over and took her hand lightly in his. "I know that. And I'm glad that you were able to forget I was there and say what was on your mind. I just . . ."


"Sometimes I feel as though I'm not really a part of what's happening. You involve me in every way that you can, and I appreciate that. But you and I are not as close in a . . . personal way . . . as most couples who have decided to have a child together."

"Yes. But we didn't decide to have this child together, Chakotay. The child sort of decided to have us." They both smiled at that thought.

"It's all right, Kathryn. I know there will be some . . . awkward moments like this morning. I'll try to be more prepared for them."

"So will I." They smiled at each other, and then Kathryn looked away. She seemed distracted.

"What?" Chakotay asked her softly.

"I was just thinking." Then she looked at him. "Do you believe in Divine Intervention?" she asked.

"No," he said quietly.

"Then what? What, who - how, did our child come to be?"

"I don't know the answer to that, Kathryn," Chakotay said in a strong, yet gentle, voice. "We may never know. But if we never find out, it won't matter to me. I won't keep searching for an answer to that question; instead, I will accept the fact that our child exists. And simply love that child for existing, for being a part of us."

Kathryn looked at him and smiled. "I admire that about you, you know," she said quietly. "The fact that you can accept something so strongly, without an explanation. Without a scientific explanation. I wish it were that easy for me."

"It can be, Kathryn," he said, rubbing his thumb over the palm of her hand absently. "You just have to want it to be." She nodded. "I refuse to think of our child as just a transporter accident, Kathryn. I, like you, believe that this happened for a reason; and that reason may well be something that will always be beyond our reach. But that's all right with me, Kathryn. I'll accept the wealth that has been bestowed upon me, and be grateful." Chakotay smiled at her, and Kathryn smiled back. Then Chakotay put his cup on the coffee table, knowing that it was time for him to leave her. "Well," he said, standing, "I'd better turn in, since I have the 0600 shift tomorrow."

Kathryn put her cup on the table, and stood, as well. "Chakotay," she said his name softly, and then took a step toward him. Now she was only inches from him, and they both felt the attraction surge between them, although they both tried to ignore it. "Give me your hands," she whispered.

"What?" he asked quietly.

"Do you trust me?" she asked, looking up into his eyes.

After only a moment's hesitation, he whispered to her, "With my life."

"Then give me your hands," she said again softly. Chakotay raised his hands slowly between them. He heard the soft rustle of fabric for only a moment, and then she took his hands gently.

Kathryn moved her eyes from his and dropped her gaze. Their bodies were nearly touching, but not quite. Her face was turned slightly away from him, yet near his chest, but still not touching him.

Kathryn moved his hands onto her stomach gently. She heard his breath catch in his throat, and then he slowly exhaled. "Do you feel how . . . hard . . . my stomach feels?" she asked softly, gently. She could feel his warm hands on her skin, and she tried desperately not to think about it.

Chakotay managed to make a sound through his ragged breathing.

"My stomach has never been . . . hard . . . like this before," she said, hoping he would understand. "This is what I was mentioning to the Doctor this morning, when he explained that the baby is making room for herself."

Chakotay was having difficulty breathing. The complete surprise of Kathryn's action, and her total trust in him, brought tears to his eyes. He closed his eyes then, reveling in the feel of her, the softness of her skin. She had said her stomach was hard, but to his hands it was soft, and warm. Firm, yes. And soft, and warm.

He felt himself respond to her nearness, to the scent of the bath spices that remained on her now, to the silky sheerness of that beautiful robe that did little to hide the outline of her body from him. And he wanted to hold her close to him. He wanted to kiss her, to feel her hands on him . . . .gods, he had never wanted anything so badly in his life . . .

Kathryn closed her eyes, at first allowing herself to relax so that Chakotay could understand what she was telling him by allowing him to touch her stomach in this way. But she was unprepared for what she was feeling now. This is not what she had intended to have happen when she'd placed Chakotay's hands beneath her robe. But then suddenly she felt a longing, a need that she hadn't allowed herself to feel for so long. She caught her breath sharply, and she could feel his pulse racing as well as her own.

After a moment, Kathryn gently removed Chakotay's hands from beneath her robe and closed it and belted it once again.

Chakotay was vaguely aware of the sound of silk moving again for a moment. He couldn't move his eyes from the wall over Kathryn's head for fear he would not be able to control himself as he knew he had to.

"Chakotay?" she whispered, still looking into his chest.

"Yes?" he managed to whisper in response.

"I . . . just wanted you to share in what I'm experiencing. I hope you understand that." Her voice was soft, gentle, seeking reassurance.

"I understand," he whispered gently. He closed his eyes again briefly, and forced himself to take a deep breath and let it out slowly. Then he brought his eyes down to her, and Kathryn instinctively raised her eyes to his. "Thank you, Kathryn," he whispered, and he heard his own voice break as he said her name.

She nodded slightly, her eyes moist, and then she looked away again.

Chakotay forced himself to move past her, without touching her, no matter how badly he wanted to.

But he stopped just before he reached her door. "Kathryn?" he risked turning back to look at her. She raised her eyes to him, the depths of them full of emotions he wanted to know, to taste, to touch.

Yet he only smiled at her. "You've never looked more beautiful than you do right now."

His comment caught Kathryn completely by surprise. She nearly blushed, but caught herself. Starfleet Captains do not blush. But she smiled at him, and shook her head. "You do know how to say all the right things, Commander," she said in that low, throaty voice that he was sure he didn't need to hear right now.

What the hell, Chakotay thought to himself, enjoying looking at her. She was beautiful.

Then both their smiles began to fade, and the longing that remained caught them both by surprise once again.

"Thank you, Kathryn. Sleep well," Chakotay whispered.

"Good night, Chakotay," she answered softly, as he exited quickly through the door.

Without quite realizing it, Kathryn walked into her bedroom and, a few moments later, fell into bed. She was numb; what she had intended to be just a moment shared between the two of them had become much more than that. It should not have come as a surprise to her, she knew. But she was just so damned good at denying those things she didn't want to think about.

Kathryn Janeway was in love with her First Officer. There was no doubt about that. And since he also just happened to be the father of her child, what would happen between them now? She was asking herself the same questions over and over again, it seemed.

Kathryn sighed, then closed her eyes. She was suddenly tired. But she had to admit, Chakotay's large, warm hands had felt so good on her skin. She smiled, as she fell asleep thinking of his comment to her from the door. She hadn't been called "beautiful" in a very long time. People didn't call Starfleet Captains "beautiful" to their face . . .

And as Voyager's Captain was falling asleep, her First Officer was doing the same thing in his own quarters. He couldn't get the picture of her in that robe out of his mind, though, and just remembering the feel of her skin beneath his hands made his heart beat faster.

She was beautiful . . . Chakotay smiled to himself as he finally drifted toward sleep. Suddenly he opened his eyes and sat bolt upright in bed. Herself. Kathryn had said the baby was making room for "herself."

After a few moments, he slowly lay back down on the bed and forced his heartbeat to slow again. A girl. Kathryn knew the baby was a girl, too. Chakotay smiled in the dark, then drifted off to sleep only moments later.


The following day was a busy one; Tuvok had scheduled follow-up battle and safety drills, and most of the day was full of bumps and fumbles. For the most part, the Captain had left the drills to both the Commanders and had spent the day in her Ready Room sifting through four day's worth of Engineering reports from B'Elanna. The warp core problem was definitely becoming a priority.

It seemed as though the rotation device in the warp core was the cause of the power drain. The rotation rate had somehow slowed just enough to allow a slow trickle of antimatter fluid to escape. The deficiency was not enough to matter right now, but if nothing were done to repair it within the next couple of weeks, the tickle would become a hemorrhage and they would truly be in trouble then.

Kathryn sat back in her chair and sighed. She was exhausted. It had to be these damned Engineering reports; reading one of them was like reading the rest of the senior staff's reports combined. And Kathryn had just spent the past six hours concentrating on nothing but Engineering problems.

She tapped her comm badge. "Janeway to Chakotay."

"Chakotay here, Captain."

"Please report to my Ready Room."

"On my way."

As Chakotay rang the chime to her Ready Room door, Kathryn was on her way up to the replicator. "Come," she called over her shoulder.

Chakotay entered the room and stood before her desk with his hands behind his back. "You asked to see me, Captain."

Kathryn had noticed that Chakotay was being even more careful than usual lately to be the best First Officer he could possibly be. She had to smile; he was determined to let her know that duty would not interfere with their new . . . situation.

"Cup of coffee, Commander?" she asked, reaching the replicator. She noticed a very slight pause before he answered.

"No, thank you, Captain."

Kathryn knew he was biting his tongue by not commenting on her caffeine intake, and she smiled to herself as she turned from him and ordered herself a cup of coffee. "Commander," she said, as she walked down to her chair, and motioned him to sit in the chair in front of her desk. "I'd like you to see B'Elanna as soon as you can arrange it and assist her in scheduling some repair time for the rotation device in the warp core."

Chakotay sighed, and sat in the chair he'd been offered. "Then it is the rotation device?"

"Seems that way. Every one of these damned reports points in that direction," she said, motioning at the piles of padds on her desk that were literally falling over in heaps. "And we cannot afford to ignore this power drain."

"Agreed," said the Commander, looking down quickly.

"What?" asked the Captain, knowing him well.

"It's not important," he said, wanting to move on.

"Chakotay . . ." she leaned forward. "What is it?"

He sighed, knowing that he had to respond. "I was just imagining you in here all day with that pile of Engineering reports," he said, still trying to hide his grin.

"Oh? And what exactly were you imagining?" she asked, pointedly.

"Let's just say I don't envy you your position as Captain today," he said lightly.

"Well, it wasn't pretty in here, I can assure you," she said, stifling a yawn.

Chakotay noticed the yawn anyway. "Captain, it's nearly 1830 hours, and you haven't taken a break all day."

"Yes. Chakotay," she began, ignoring the hint in his previous comment. "I've been thinking."

"Uh oh." He grinned.

Kathryn gave him a watered down version of her "death glare," then continued. "I want to tell Tuvok."

Chakotay's smile slowly faded. Kathryn was ready for a serious discussion. "Are you sure?"

"Yes. But I want to be sure you're ready, as well."

"I am."

"Chakotay, immediately after I talk to Tuvok, we tell the rest of the senior staff. We've agreed." Chakotay nodded. "Are you ready for everyone to know about this?" she asked softly.

"Kathryn, I've been ready for some time now," he said.

"Chakotay," she sighed, "I've only been pregnant for two weeks!"

They were both silent, thinking about how much had changed in both their lives over the past few days. "Kathryn, I know that I'm ready for this. But are you?"

She was quiet again for several moments, then she looked Chakotay in the eye. "Yes," she said softly.

"Then let's do it. Talk to Tuvok tomorrow."

"All right."

"When, will you tell the others?"

"If all goes well with Tuvok tomorrow morning, then perhaps immediately afterward, at the staff briefing. If it doesn't go well with Tuvok, I may need another day or two." She looked at him briefly, then turned away. "It's important to me, you know," she said softly. "What Tuvok thinks."

"Yes, I know. And I respect that." She nodded at him, grateful.

"Kathryn . . ."


Chakotay leaned forward in his chair, and Kathryn turned to him. "You know that people will think . . . many different things about this. Some will doubt how this . . . happened."


"There will be rumors . . ."

"Tom Paris will reap many rewards from his betting pools . . ." she said lightly.

"I'm serious, Kathryn."

"I know," she said softly.

"Some people will believe the story to be a ruse, a way to remove focus from ourselves."


"They will believe that you and I have had a . . . relationship . . . and the rumor mill will turn. Some will say we've been doing more than working on crew reports late into the night; some will believe we've been sleeping together since we began to work together on Voyager, and others will say they believe it only happened recently . . . or that it only happened once, and that it was a mistake we're trying to cover."

Kathryn nodded absently, but listened intently to Chakotay's words. He had given this a great deal of thought. "Kathryn," he continued, "look at me." She did. "Do you understand what I am saying?"


"I have a suggestion."

"Go ahead," she said.

"When you tell the senior staff, perhaps it would be a good idea to have the Doctor explain his transporter theory to them immediately afterward. That way, we'll be sure that the senior staff understands the situation fully, and that no rumors will be started from any of them."

"Do you really think that will make a difference, Chakotay?" she asked softly.

"Yes, it might. Kathryn," he said, leaning toward her. "I don't want undue rumors to circulate about you, or about our child. And the entire crew knows that the Doctor wouldn't tell a lie. He wouldn't create a fabrication about how this baby was created. So, whether the crew wants to joke about transporter accidents or not, at least they will know the facts, as well."

"Do you care what people will say, Chakotay?" she asked softly, looking deeply into his eyes.

"No." He looked back into her eyes, and they told her of the utmost respect he had for her. "I just don't want you . . ." He broke off, and looked away.

"What, Chakotay? You don't want my honor compromised?" She chuckled softly.

"It's not that, Kathryn. I just don't want people to say unkind things about you when none of it is deserving."

"Chakotay, we've agreed to tell the truth about how this happened. Do you now think we're wrong to handle it this way?"

"No, I didn't say that." He sighed. "I just don't want you to be under more pressure than you're under already."

"I understand what you're saying, Chakotay. And while I appreciate that very much, one of the many necessary traits a Captain must possess is the ability to develop a tough skin. Things may be taken out of context, and there will always be those who oppose the ones in command. You know that." She looked at him, and smiled. "I'll be all right," she said in a softer voice.

Chakotay sighed. "This is different, Kathryn. This isn't about command. This is personal. And, yes, you've developed a thick skin as Captain of Voyager. But you are a very private person beneath all that Starfleet exterior."

Kathryn looked away, and then down. After a moment, she responded quietly. "Yes, I've always remained private." She paused. "It was easier that way. But now it may be necessary for me to make some changes, too. I may need to learn how to be both a Captain and a woman at the same time." She was thoughtful for a moment, then looked up at Chakotay. "But I'll do it, Chakotay. I'll survive. And I'll be just fine."

"This is about more than just survival, Kathryn."

"Yes. But first things first. Every new journey begins with that first step, Chakotay. You know that. In fact, you are always the one to remind me." When he didn't respond, she leaned over the desk , closer toward him. "Chakotay, we have to let the cat out of the bag sometime. And I'd rather do it while we are in control of the situation. If we wait, people will begin to make up their own stories when their Captain begins to wear replicated maternity clothes." She grimaced.

Chakotay smiled at her obvious displeasure at growing larger. Who would have thought Kathryn would allow vanity to intrude in her thoughts, considering all they had to get through in the days and months ahead?

"What are you thinking now?" She was looking at him, trying to figure out what he was grinning about this time.

He shook his head, but she continued to stare at him. Actually, Chakotay thought 'glare' would describe that look even better. "Kathryn, you probably won't gain very much weight, at least for several months. And I wouldn't worry about it if I were you." He tried to sound nonchalant, but he knew he had struck a chord.

"Chakotay, no one will want to see their Captain waddle around this ship. And what if there's a battle situation? Would you trust a pregnant female to take charge and watch out for the good of the ship and her crew?"


His quick answer surprised her. "You would?"

"Yes. You are not going to change who you are, Kathryn, just because you are carrying a child. You will be the same person you are now." They were both quiet, while Kathryn thought about what Chakotay had just said.

"You give me a great deal of credit," she said softly, sitting back and taking a sip from her cup.

"I always do, Kathryn."

She looked at him then, and they smiled at each other tenderly. "Yes, you do, don't you?" she whispered. Then she broke her gaze away from him and her smile slowly disappeared. "And sometimes, when I look back at how I handled certain situations, I judge myself by whether or not I've disappointed you."

"That's not a good measuring stick, Kathryn," he said gently, but obviously touched.

"Yes it is, I'm afraid. You know me well, and you give me a lot more rope to hang myself with than anyone else." She chuckled softly.

"You mean more than Starfleet."

"Yes. Or Tuvok."

"In this instance, they stand for the same thing, Kathryn."

They sat in a companionable silence a moment longer. "Chakotay," she said, sitting up in her chair and facing him. Chakotay looked at her and saw a spark in her eyes that he hadn't seen there in a long time. Maybe having a baby would actually be good for her. "Have you thought about this . . . child . . . at all? I mean what she, or he, will be like?"

Chakotay smiled broadly at her. "Of course I have, Kathryn. I've thought about what she'll be like on several occasions."

"You have?" She sounded slightly surprised. "With all that's been going on, when have you had the time? I've just thought about it for the first time in the past couple of days, and then only fleetingly . . ." Then his words truly hit her. Kathryn's head shot up quickly and she looked at him again. He watched her eyes soften. "So, you know she's a little girl?" Her voice was soft, and quiet.

Chakotay nodded.

"How do you know?" she whispered to him.

"I've always imagined us with a daughter." He said it simply, not realizing the impact the words would have on Kathryn.

Kathryn looked down at the cup in her hands. "So have I," she admitted finally, and he could hear her voice break. "I used to think . . . on New Earth . . ." her voice trailed off.

His heart leapt, but he saw that she was having difficulty continuing with her thoughts. "I know," he finished for her. "Me too."

Both were silent for a few moments.

"Thank you, Kathryn," he said finally. "For mentioning New Earth. Sometimes I wonder if I dreamed those weeks. Other than the occasional reference we make to things that we would only have known from being there together, I can't decide if it were real."

"Oh, it was real, all right," she replied so quietly he had to strain to hear her words. "It was real." She was still looking at the cup in her hands and Chakotay realized that she had tears in her eyes.

Kathryn wanted so much to say the words, 'I fell in love on New Earth,' but she couldn't.

Chakotay knew that he had to move the conversation forward. Now was not the time to wallow in New Earth memories, although he desperately wished they could just reminisce about it for awhile and remember the experience sweetly. But neither of them could do that, evidently. It was still bittersweet for him, and obviously for Kathryn as well. Perhaps they would be able to discuss it one day.

And maybe someday he could take her to his holodeck program of the river on New Earth . . .

That thought brought him out of his reverie quickly.

"Kathryn, if you're ready to tell Tuvok and the rest of the senior staff about our child, then let's do it."

"I want to do it tomorrow," she said quietly, but with determination.

"You're sure?" Kathryn nodded, and Chakotay sighed, then looked away. They had a long road ahead of them, and he needed to be sure Kathryn was ready to take the plunge. After they told others, they could never go back to this time again.

"Chakotay, I've realized over the past few days how much I truly want this child." She paused. "Whatever people may say, or think, you and I will know the truth. And that is all that matters."

Chakotay considered her words. Then he smiled at her, and nodded slightly. "All right, then. Let's tell everyone the truth, and let the chips fall where they may. Agreed?"

Kathryn grinned, then reached across the desk and touched his hand. "Agreed," she said.

"Now, why don't you get some rest, and I'll go talk to B'Elanna?" he asked her, noticing that she looked even more tired than when he had first come into her Ready Room, only moments earlier.

Kathryn paused, knowing she couldn't lie to him. "I will admit, it's been a long day."

"Go to your quarters, take a long bath, and have something to eat. I'll go see B'Elanna and fill you in on the warp core maintenance schedule first thing in the morning."

Kathryn smiled at him. "As I said last night, Commander, you always know the right thing to say."

Chakotay grinned back. He hoped so.


The following morning, the Bridge crew seemed unusually quiet. Even Tom Paris seemed quite mellow, and Harry seemed to want to blend into his operating terminal this morning.

Kathryn smiled to herself. Yesterday's series of battle drills had tired them all, and today they were wondering if there was anything else in store for them. Well, perhaps, she mused. Perhaps today would prove to be one of those days that would shake the ship up even more than yesterday's simulation.

Chakotay handed Kathryn a padd. "My assessment of the warp core situation, Captain."

Kathryn sighed. Another Engineering report. But this time it had been written by her First Officer, and he would be quicker in his report to get to the point.

Kathryn read the report critically. Time was of the essence, but B'Elanna seemed to have the situation well in hand. Right now, B'Elanna needed every available crewman to help the Engineering staff recycle the antimatter through different relay channels so they could better determine the cause of the leak. Kathryn made a mental note to address that issue later today in the senior staff briefing. She completed the report, and handed the padd back to Commander Chakotay.

"Thank you, Commander," she said, and Chakotay couldn't help but smile. Her tone implied not only the obvious courtesy, but he knew that she was glad the report had come from him, and not B'Elanna. She'd read too many from B'Elanna lately.

After an hour or so of quiet, Kathryn decided it was time to tell Tuvok the news. Besides, this quiet was driving her crazy. She knew that Chakotay was amused by the fact that the quiet drove her nuts; she just didn't have the patience that he did. Never had. It would certainly prove interesting to see which trait this child inherited. Please, she thought, let her have her father's sense of peace, and that way of making others feel cared for. She looked at her First Officer, and smiled.

Chakotay turned to the Captain, and noticed that small smile on her lips. He would love to know what she was thinking just now.

"Commander, I have some work to do in my Ready Room. You have the Bridge," she said in her best command voice.

Chakotay smiled, noticing that Tom Paris' back had relaxed slightly at her words. "Understood, Captain," he answered dutifully.

Chakotay grinned to himself as he watched Kathryn stand and intentionally walk down to her helmsman and clap him on the shoulder. "Keep up the good work, Mr. Paris," she said in a voice loud enough for the entire crew to hear.

"Ah, thank you, Captain," Tom managed, as he turned and watched the Captain leave the Bridge for her Ready Room. He turned back to the Conn and shook his head. You never could tell about her, he thought to himself. He never knew if he was in trouble or not.

After entering her Ready Room, Kathryn took a few minutes to replicate herself a cup of coffee and actually enjoy half of it. She stretched her muscles, and forced herself to relax. It was time to tell Tuvok. Putting it off longer would not make it go away.

"Janeway to Tuvok," she said, slapping her comm badge.

"Tuvok here, Captain," the Vulcan replied from the Bridge.

"Please report to my Ready Room, Mr. Tuvok," she replied.

"Acknowledged, Captain," he responded, already moving aside so that the Ensign behind him could take over his tactical station.

Chakotay felt his heart thunder in his chest. It was time. Kathryn was going to tell Tuvok now.

He and Kathryn had decided that the best way to handle it was to let her speak to Tuvok alone. She and Tuvok had shared many years and many experiences together. And they both felt that Tuvok would be more apt to share his true thoughts with his Captain if Chakotay wasn't standing nearby. Of course, Kathryn would have to ask Tuvok to actually tell her what he thought, Chakotay knew. Tuvok wouldn't likely give his opinion unless asked.

Chakotay sighed. This was not going to be an easy day.

As Tuvok entered his Captain's Ready Room, he stood at attention in front of her desk, and moved his hands easily behind his back. "You asked to see me, Captain," he said easily, looking directly over her shoulder.

Kathryn moved down to her desk, and pulled her chair out to sit. "At ease, Commander. Please," she said, indicating the chair in front of her desk.

As soon as they were both sitting, Kathryn took the lead, knowing that Tuvok was waiting for her to do so. "Tuvok," she said, "I haven't asked you here in an official capacity. I've asked you here as my friend, and someone I respect completely."

"I appreciate your faith in me, Captain," he responded, and Kathryn recognized the nearly imperceptible softness in his voice that he reserved for her, for their more personal conversations.

No one else would notice this subtle change in his voice, but Kathryn knew it well. She had been listening for it just now, needing it to be there. And it was. She sighed. She needed this conversation to go well. She once again realized how very much she depended on Tuvok, for his friendship, and for his counsel, as well as for his professional countenance.

"Tuvok," she continued, gathering her thoughts around her, "there is a . . . situation . . . that I need to make you aware of."

Tuvok nodded.

Captain Janeway took a deep breath. "Two weeks ago, during the Away Mission to the M-class planet, something happened during my return transport to the ship." Tuvok waited while the Captain gathered her thoughts. "Commander Chakotay and I were in the same transporter beam, and when we arrived back in Voyager's transporter room, I fainted. Commander Chakotay beamed the both of us directly to Sickbay, where the Doctor examined me and ran a series of tests."

Tuvok nodded again, and then turned his gaze directly toward his Captain. "Are you ill, Captain?" he asked.

"No. Not ill, Tuvok." She sighed. There was just no way to do this except to jump in. "I'm pregnant."

Tuvok continued to look at her for a moment, then nodded slightly. Finally, he turned his gaze back to the wall over her shoulder.

"Tuvok?" she leaned forward and spoke gently. "Tell me what you're thinking."

"I was thinking, Captain, that I was unaware that you and Commander Chakotay have had intimate relations."

Kathryn sat back in her chair slowly. "How do you know that the child belongs to Commander Chakotay, Tuvok? All I said is that I am pregnant."

"I cannot imagine that your child would belong to anyone else, Captain. You and the Commander have had . . . feelings . . . for each other for a long time. I was simply unaware that you had committed yourselves to each other in this way."

Kathryn paused for a moment. So, even Tuvok had wondered about her relationship with Chakotay. Kathryn shook herself, then leaned forward. "Tuvok, Commander Chakotay and I have never made love with one another."

Tuvok turned to look at her again, and Kathryn nearly smiled, but not quite. If she didn't know better, she would have sworn she saw a fleeting look of disbelief in Tuvok's eyes. "Are you saying that this child belongs to someone other than Commander Chakotay, Captain?" he asked.

"No." She sighed. "Tuvok, this child does belong to Commander Chakotay and me. The Doctor tells me that during the transport, some of the Commander's DNA . . . impregnated me. At the time of the beam-out, Voyager passed through what might have been a spatial distortion, some sort of frequency wave. And now I am pregnant." She stood and took her empty coffee cup to the recycle bin. She needed to move away from Tuvok in order to give him some space, and to give herself distance, as well. "This child is healthy, Tuvok, and I am going to continue this pregnancy." She turned back to him. He hadn't moved. "I am going to have this child."


He stood, and turned toward her. "Yes, Captain?"

Kathryn sighed. Of course. He would not simply tell her his opinion. She would have to ask him for it. She walked back down to Tuvok, stood nearly toe to toe with him, and looked up into his eyes. "Tell me your opinion about what I have just said."

"I do not believe my opinion matters in this case, Captain," he said, looking over her shoulder.

"Oh, but it does, Old Friend," she said, suddenly feeling the tears gather in the corners of her eyes. "I need your words of advice, your wisdom."

Tuvok turned to her then. "Captain, at the moment you need neither. You have made the only decision possible in the face of a situation in which you have no control. There is no option available to you, except to destroy, or otherwise endanger, the life of this child who has been entrusted to you. And no Starfleet officer would make such a decision, Captain. Further, no mother would knowingly endanger the life of her child, and certainly not the Captain Janeway I have known for these many years." Kathryn knew the tears were pouring down her face, but she didn't care.

"Captain, since you have asked my advice, I would further suggest that you consider solidifying your relationship with Commander Chakotay. I believe you will find him most . . . willing . . . to commit to a bonding relationship with you. You and he will need to come together as One to parent this child, and it might prove to be in both your best interests to quench your own passions as well."

"'Quench' our passions, Tuvok?" she asked quietly, smiling slightly through her tears.

"Yes, you must . . . master . . . your human emotions, Captain. And since you and the Commander both have human passions which run deep, I suggest you consider exploring your own physical relationship. In this way, you will be able to parent together more effectively."

Kathryn bit her lip, and looked away. "And what about command structure, Tuvok?"

"Captain, you and the Commander have both demonstrated your abilities and commitments to this crew throughout the years we have been in the Delta Quadrant. I do not believe anyone will question your dedication to this ship, or your commitment in getting her crew home."

Kathryn nodded, then moved away. "Thank you, Tuvok. I appreciate your advice," she said softly.

"Captain, I am certain I have said nothing you haven't already determined for yourself," said Tuvok.

Captain Janeway turned back to her friend. "Yes, but I needed to hear it from you, Tuvok. More than you'll ever know."

Tuvok nodded slightly, trying to understand his Captain's words. There were some things he would never understand about human nature. Why humans needed to be told things they already knew was only one of those puzzlements. However, he was devoted to this human, and he would do everything within his power to aid her during what he knew would be difficult times ahead.

"Is there anything else, Captain?" he asked.

Kathryn briefly wondered what else there could possibly be. "I plan to tell the rest of the senior staff at today's briefing, Tuvok." Tuvok nodded. "But I wanted you to know first."

"I am honored, Captain."

But Kathryn noticed one of Tuvok's eyebrows slightly move. "Is there something you wish to ask me, Tuvok?"

"Yes, Captain."

"What is it?" she asked.

"It is a rather odd occurrence in the way the transporter beam rearranged the Commander's DNA to precisely the location necessary for you to become impregnated."

"Yes," she sighed. How many times had she thought about this herself.

"Did the Doctor say by what chance this incident were likely to occur?"

"Only a slim chance, Tuvok. One in 820,463,988," she said, looking at him.

But Tuvok only nodded, considering. "Then, one could say you were 'lucky' it happened at all."

Luck. She certainly hadn't considered that.

"Congratulations, Captain. I am quite certain that you and Commander Chakotay will be fine parents, and that this child was somehow destined to be born. May she live long and prosper."

"She?" she whispered, her breath catching in her throat.

"Or he," he replied.

Kathryn nodded absently. "Thank you, Tuvok," she whispered again.

"Will that be all, Captain?"

Kathryn turned toward her friend. "Yes, Tuvok. And thank you again," she said, trying to hide the emotion in her voice. Tuvok nodded, then left the Captain's Ready Room and took his place at the tactical station on the Bridge.

The Captain, meanwhile, took a few moments to get her bearings.

Luck. Perhaps they were lucky, after all.

"Janeway to Chakotay."

"Chakotay here, Captain." Chakotay was aware that Tuvok had re-entered the Bridge and had taken his station. He noted that Tuvok had only been gone for twenty minutes. That could be good, or bad. There was no way to determine which way the conversation had gone, judging from Tuvok's countenance. Sometimes the Vulcan demeanor was unnerving.

"Please inform the senior staff that there will be a briefing at noon, Commander." Chakotay sighed with relief. He knew that if the meeting hadn't gone well with Tuvok, Kathryn would have pushed today's briefing to later in the afternoon.

"Acknowledged, Captain," he replied, automatically. It had gone well with Tuvok, then. He breathed a sigh of relief, ever careful not to alert Paris.

Chakotay looked at the chronometer. The meeting would be in a little over an hour. He alerted each of the senior staff individually, as was his custom. He wondered how it would go today. At the very least, it should be a memorable day in Voyager's history logs.


At 1150 hours, Voyager's senior staff began to filter into the Captain's Briefing Room. The Captain was already there, waiting for the room to fill, and gazing out the viewport with her usual cup of coffee in her hands.

Chakotay had briefly wondered if Kathryn would call him in earlier than the others to tell him about her conversation with Tuvok, but she hadn't. Perhaps she just needed some time to herself. They would have plenty of time to discuss it later.

Entering the room, Chakotay sat at his customary place on her right. Tuvok sat on her left, as usual. The others gathered and sat in their usual places, as well. They were all creatures of habit, Chakotay reflected. B'Elanna, Tom, Harry, Neelix, the Doctor with his holoemitter on his sleeve, Seven of Nine, and he and Tuvok. They all sat at their designated places and waited for the Captain to acknowledge them and begin the meeting.

"Welcome, Everyone," said Captain Janeway, turning from the viewport and walking over to her place at the head of the table. "We have a lot to discuss today. B'Elanna, why don't you fill us in on the warp core situation."

While B'Elanna began to speak, the Captain took her seat and pushed her coffee cup to one side. She glanced casually at her First Officer, but he saw a determination and a resolve in that look that told him the Captain was going to continue with her plan to tell the rest of the senior staff.

Chakotay was glad. This needed to be done with quickly so they could go about their lives freely again. And he was grateful that the meeting with Tuvok had gone well. He glanced at the Vulcan, but Tuvok did not meet his eye. Chakotay glanced back down at the padd in his hand, and smiled to himself. He was glad to know that Tuvok held steadfast to his Captain, and that he would support her until the end, whatever that 'end' might be. Chakotay knew that if anything ever happened to the Captain's First Officer, Tuvok would be at her side in the blink of an eye. Tuvok would take care of her, as best as anyone could care for Kathryn Janeway. And Chakotay also knew that Tuvok would care for the Captain's child as he would his own.

Not for the first time, Chakotay thought of his past controversies with Tuvok. They no longer seemed relevant, and hadn't for quite some time. Actually, he and Tuvok had put aside most of their remaining differences when the Captain had experienced her greatest depression during their time in the Void. He and Tuvok had watched over her then. And they would watch over her now.

Chakotay looked at the Vulcan again, and this time he saw a slight pause in Tuvok's sweeping glance. Maybe he was imagining things, but he thought Tuvok had raised an inquiring eyebrow in his direction.

"All right. Those who have spare time on their hands, or who have crewmen reporting to them who have spare time on their hands, are to help B'Elanna and her crew get that warp core stabilized. We don't have time to sit around and wait until it decides to repair itself for us."

Chakotay smiled, and he noticed Tom Paris smile as well. All said and done, Chakotay knew that Tom Paris adored his Captain. He also knew that Tom would be quite surprised to find that most of Voyager's crew knew that he adored his Captain. Even the Captain herself would be very surprised at just how much Tom Paris respected her.

After B'Elanna had had her say about the warp core, Tom told the senior staff about his new theories on maneuverability. The Captain asked him to give her an updated analysis with 24 hours.

The Doctor spoke of the new virus that was going around, and explained how to prevent getting it, and Tuvok delivered the results of yesterday's tactical experiments and suggested that everyone on board ship participate in his holodeck safety drills. The Captain agreed, and asked him to schedule the entire crew for drills based on the current crew rotation.

Seven and Harry gave their own brief updates, and the Captain gave them further orders. Chakotay was once again amazed at Kathryn's resilience, and her ability to focus her concentration on matters at hand, putting all other issues aside. It was part Starfleet training, and part Kathryn Janeway. Most officers simply weren't as good at grasping this concept as Captain Janeway.

Finally, after Neelix' lengthy explanation of the vitamins and minerals found in leola root, and how by eating more of it the crew could keep themselves healthy and free from the effects of the virus that the Doctor was concerned about, the Captain informed him that he could put a special edition of "Cooking With Neelix" on the internal network, and devote the entire episode to the miracle of the leola root. This seemed to make Neelix feel much better, and he agreed to begin work on it at once.

Now all the reports were given, and all the directives were made. Everyone grew quiet. This was where the Captain usually dismissed the meeting, but she was unusually quiet and contemplative this morning. And she seemed to have something else on her mind.

Captain Janeway slowly rose from her chair. "We have just one more item on our agenda for today. There's something that I . . . Commander Chakotay and I . . . wish to share with all of you." She looked at Chakotay and he met her gaze. They held eye contact for a moment, and she drew strength from him.

Kathryn Janeway moved behind her chair and looked around at her senior staff. "We have all been through a great deal together, here in the Delta Quadrant, far away from our homes. And I'd like to think that even though the circumstances that put us here are not ones we would have chosen, we have made the best of our time here thus far." She paused, and began to move slowly around the room, first behind Tuvok's chair, and then behind B'Elanna's. "We have all grown, I think. And we have all learned how to think quickly, and how to support our fellow crewmen." She paused to think, and to allow her words to sink in to those around her.

Kathryn continued, "I believe we have all learned how to change when we've needed to, and we've all become better for it, in spite of ourselves." She paused again, and squeezed Tom Paris' shoulder gently as she walked by him. The message was not lost on him, and he looked down to cover the moisture that suddenly sprang to his eyes. But no one acknowledged this. And Kathryn Janeway continued to move around the room. She touched Harry's shoulder, too, and he took a deep breath and let it out slowly.

"We are no longer Starfleet and Maquis, and we haven't been for a long time now. We are a united force, trying to get home. And we will get home, People. We are closer now than ever before. And we now know that, barring those things outside our control, we will make it home within our own lifetimes."

Now, Captain Janeway stood between the Doctor and her First Officer. She looked him in the eye again briefly, then turned back to the rest of the senior staff. "Yet there will be other changes in our lives before we reach home. And we must all continue to support each other, as we have already learned to do."

She paused, then moved to the front of the room again, until she was between her own chair and Commander Chakotay's. She gently put her hand on his shoulder.

"Commander Chakotay and I are going to need all of your support, in the days and months ahead." She paused, looking at the confused faces around the room. Her voice changed, and she spoke gently to these people she cared about deeply. "Another thing is going to change now. Commander Chakotay and I are going to have a baby."

There was sudden silence, and the Captain and Chakotay both watched as each face independently registered shock, and then, gradually, understanding. But each face also held a look that asked many unanswered questions.

No one spoke for a time.

And then, suddenly, Tom Paris jumped from his chair and walked around the room, and straight up to his Captain. "Captain," he said to her with meaning, "Congratulations."

"Thank you, Tom," said the Captain, barely containing the tears in her voice.

Tom took her by the shoulders and gently placed a kiss on her cheek, and then drew her close and hugged her briefly. "I'm so happy for you, Captain," he whispered to her. Then he stepped back. "I apologize if I'm out of line, Captain."

Kathryn smiled at him, but she was unable to hide the tears in her eyes. "I think the Captain will allow it this time, Ensign," she whispered.

Tom smiled, then turned to Chakotay, who had finally managed to stand.

"Congratulations, Chakotay," said Tom, with heart-felt emotion. "I don't know how you and the Captain managed it, but no one knew about you two." Chakotay could only nod, yet somehow managed to shake Tom's outstretched hand. "Well, this is great! I for one am glad it's out in the open." With that Tom moved away, and the others in the room moved over to the Captain to congratulate her, and then to Commander Chakotay, to bestow their heart-felt words of congratulations to him.

B'Elanna moved to Chakotay and grinned at him. "And to think I've felt sorry for you all this time," she whispered to him, as she hugged him.

"What do you mean?" he managed to ask.

"I thought you were pining for the Captain all this time; no one had any idea you two were actually seeing each other . . . privately," she finished. "But I'm so glad, for you both. You're good together," she whispered.

Chakotay saw that she had tears in her eyes. "Thank you, B'Elanna," he finished lamely.

B'Elanna moved to the Captain. Kathryn turned to her then, and both women looked into each other's eyes. They had never been enemies, but neither had they been very close. B'Elanna's anger had initially kept them apart, and later they had simply accepted a peace between them, a peace that had somehow never become more than that.

Now B'Elanna moved to the Captain and hugged her fiercely. Kathryn hugged her back, and closed her eyes, willing her tears to stay away. Oh, how good this felt!

"Congratulations, Captain," B'Elanna said softly. Then she pulled back and looked into her Captain's eyes. "I'm so happy for you and Chakotay. And I'm glad that you managed to find each other, after all." B'Elanna's eyes were moist, and now Kathryn felt her own tears threaten to return.

"Thank you, B'Elanna," she whispered, unable to say more.

Neelix was even more exuberant than usual, glad that Naomi would have a companion, even if a somewhat younger one. Harry blushed as he kissed his Captain's cheek. Seven hugged the Captain, not quite sure why this was a custom, but still pleased for the Captain and the Commander.

Tuvok nodded at his Captain, letting her know he believed she had handled the situation well, then moved to congratulate Commander Chakotay in much the same way he had congratulated his Captain earlier.

The Doctor simply took all this in, and smiled to himself. It was certainly a surprise, the way this had turned out, although not an unpleasant one.

After a few moments, the crew began to gather back around the table, talking softly among themselves. Chakotay stood close to the Captain, showing her his silent support. The Captain looked at Chakotay, then cleared her throat in order to demand attention in the least obvious way.

The senior staff quieted down and looked to the front of the room. "Thank you, Everyone. Your congratulations are very much appreciated by both Commander Chakotay and me. For the time being, we'd like this news to remain with those of us in this room only, to give all of us some time to . . . adjust." She noted the small nods of acknowledgement from around the room. "Dismissed."

The staff filed slowly out of the room, save Commander Chakotay. The Captain didn't need to ask him to stay behind this time, as she had so many times in the past seven years.

As the doors closed behind her staff, the Captain walked up to the viewport and looked outside. Chakotay did not move from where he stood, but turned to watch her, knowing that she would speak when she was ready.

After a few moments, Kathryn took a deep breath, then turned around to look at Chakotay. "I couldn't do it, Chakotay. I couldn't tell them that our child only exists as the result of a 'transporter accident.'"

She turned back to the viewport. "This child deserves not to have a mark against her before she's even born. She's going to have enough to contend with; the child of the two topmost commanding officers, both of us needing to put our duties ahead of her needs at times." She paused for a moment. "And, if she inherits her mother's stubbornness, she'll need all the help she can get." She said the last part softly, then turned to Chakotay with a glint of mischief in her eyes.

Kathryn took a deep breath, suddenly realizing how exhausted she was. This had certainly been a long morning.

She walked down to Chakotay, and looked up at him. "I hope you understand," she said softly.

Chakotay smiled at this incredible woman. "You do realize what you've just gotten us into, don't you, Kathryn?" he asked gently, the hint of mischief now apparent in his own eyes.

"What's that?" she asked.

"Tom Paris' betting pools will run rampant now. There will be pools regarding how long our 'relationship' has been going on . . ."

Kathryn nodded. "I understand," she said, solemnly.

"And we will have people trying to catch us in an embrace, or in each other's quarters, anything to win the bet." She nodded again.

"People will be wondering when we are going to join our quarters, or when I am going to move in with the Captain . . ."

"I don't care about any of that, Chakotay," said Kathryn, cutting him off impatiently. "I just want to do the right thing for our child. And I need to know that you support me on this."

"I do, Kathryn," he said, becoming more serious. He took her by the shoulders gently. "I will always support you. You are not alone. I've told you that for years, and if I have to keep saying it, I will. I just want you to be prepared for the brunt of what you did here today."

She smiled up at him, and Chakotay's heart nearly skipped a beat. For the very first time, Kathryn did not hide her feelings from him; he saw her love for him reflected in her eyes. "I'll be just fine, Chakotay, particularly since I'm not alone."

Chakotay felt the tears well up in his eyes, and he pulled her to him and held her close. No, this wasn't the proper way for a Captain's First Officer to behave in the Captain's Briefing Room, but just this once he thought it would be all right.

And the Captain allowed him to hold her. In fact, she wrapped her arms gently around his waist, laid her head against his chest, and didn't say a word.


"Good work, B'Elanna," said Chakotay, checking the padd in his hand. "Looks like you're ahead of schedule."

"Don't thank me yet," said B'Elanna, crawling out from under the relay station. "We haven't tested these new relays with the Bridge crew. We need to do a system's check at Warp 7 and above." She stood and brushed her uniform off with her hands. "But first we need that full stop so that we can do a system realignment for the rotation device."

"Don't worry; we'll be at the coordinates for full stop procedures soon. Then if the realignment goes well, we'll test the new relays first thing in the morning," he smiled. "And I'm sure they will work just fine."

"Speaking of which . . ." B'Elanna crossed her arms over her chest.


"Now I know why you've had that silly grin on your face lately. Just exactly how long have you and the Captain been seeing each other in an . . . off-duty sense, anyway?"

Chakotay smiled, still checking the calculations on the padd in his hands. "You wouldn't believe me if I told you."

"Try me," she said, teasingly.

"Another time." He looked up at her and smiled again. "I'll see you in the morning, Lieutenant."

And with that, the Commander exited Engineering and headed for the mess hall, leaving a smiling B'Elanna behind, shaking her head, as the doors to Engineering closed behind him.


Commander Chakotay had a quiet meal in the mess hall that evening as he checked and double-checked the figures on his datapadd. The warp core rotation device was due to be back on-line and functioning properly within the next 12 hours, and if Tuvok's calculations were accurate, that meant that the course he and Kathryn had charted only recently needed only a slight change to still be a viable option.

After finishing his dinner, Chakotay returned to his quarters to replicate dessert for he and Kathryn.

He smiled to himself, remembering the look on her face earlier when he had promised her he would stop by with dessert. She had smiled that smile that melted his heart, and her eyes had shone with the innocence that he had grown to know and love on New Earth.

At precisely 2100 hours, Chakotay rang the chime at the Captain's door. He had her favorite dessert on a covered tray. He had been saving his replicator rations for a special occasion, and this seemed like a good time to use them.

"Come." He heard her voice from a distance.

Chakotay entered the Captain's quarters and immediately noticed that the lighting had been dimmed. Just then she emerged from her bedroom in a much less form-fitting robe than last night, and then she noticed the lighting herself. "Computer, lights to full," she said quickly.

"That's all right, Kathryn. If you'd like to turn in early, I can come back tomorrow."

"Absolutely not," she said, gesturing him up to the couch and meeting him there to push aside some things on the coffee table so he could put down his tray. "I had a slight headache when I came in earlier, so I turned the lighting down."

It suddenly occurred to Chakotay that Kathryn had felt uncomfortable with the dim lighting while the two of them were alone together. For some reason, that made him feel terrific. "And how's your headache now?" he asked.

Kathryn looked at him a moment, then realized what he had asked. "Oh, it's much better, thank you," she said. "Now - what did you bring for dessert?" she asked in a softer voice. It was a voice he recognized well, the excited eager voice of a child; the voice he had first heard on New Earth. He grinned. It was good to see her like this again.

"It's a special dessert," he said, gesturing to the couch. As Kathryn made herself comfortable, Chakotay removed the cover from a carafe of champagne and began to pour two glasses.

"Oh . . . champagne?" asked Kathryn. "Does the Doctor know about this little indiscretion?" she asked conspiratorially.

"Absolutely," answered Chakotay. "I asked his permission before I came here tonight," he said, handing her a glass.

"Hmmm, I should've known," she said sweetly.

Chakotay smiled at her. "Yes, you should have." Then he opened the cover of the dessert tray, and moved aside so that she could see what lie beneath it.

"Oh, Chakotay!" she exclaimed. "Strawberries! And they look marvelous!"

Chakotay put them onto two smaller dishes, then dribbled a bit of chocolate syrup over hers. Finally, he sat and offered it to her. "M'Lady, your dessert," he said as majestically as he could manage.

"I think you're supposed to do that on bended knee, aren't you?" she asked, smiling.

When he didn't reply right away, but started to move the plate away from her, she grabbed the plate from him. "But it's certainly not necessary," she said quickly.

Chakotay laughed, then picked up his own dish. He also picked up his glass of champagne, and held it up for a toast. But Kathryn was awfully quiet, and eating her strawberries with the same passion that she gave to everything else. She had closed her eyes, and was enjoying the taste sensations to the fullest.

He smiled at the image, then cleared his throat. She opened her eyes and looked up at him, noticed his raised glass, then sat her plate aside and picked up her glass of champagne.

"To our baby," he said. "May she know a loving and happy life."

"To our . . . daughter," she said softly, touching her glass to his.

They touched their glasses gently, then sat together silently thinking about the improbability, and the wonder, of their situation.

"Kathryn, maybe we should ask the Doctor to officially tell us the sex of this child. We could be wrong, you know. Maybe it's not a little girl, after all."

"I know we're not wrong, Chakotay. Just as I believe this has happened for a reason. I don't know why; maybe it's because we were meant to have a child together, and that's all there is to it. But, whatever the reason, I want you to know that I'm . . . glad . . . my baby will have you as her father." She looked away, willing herself not to cry.

Kathryn's eyes were moist, and now so were his. And Chakotay had to swallow the lump that had suddenly formed in his throat. He closed his eyes briefly, "Kathryn . . . you have no idea what that means to me," he managed to whisper to her.

Chakotay sat his glass down, and reached for Kathryn's glass, putting it down on the coffee table as well. Then he moved his hand toward her face, and she didn't move away. He touched her cheek, and she closed her eyes and turned her face toward his hand. He moved his thumb over her lips, something he had wanted to do since the day he had first seen her on his viewscreen, when he had become angry with himself for thinking that she had the most kissable lips he had ever seen.

And now, nearly seven years later, he was touching those lips.

And as he brought his face closer to hers, Kathryn's comm badge came to life, jarring them both upright. "Bridge to the Captain," came Harry Kim's voice, faltering slightly at having to disturb Captain Janeway in her off hours, but trying to remain focused at the same time.

"Janeway here," she answered automatically, in her best Captain's voice. If it sounded a bit deeper, Harry didn't seem to notice.

"Captain, we are now entering the region of space that Commander Chakotay told me about earlier today. We are also nearing the coordinates the Commander indicated for full stop procedures so that the Engineering team can make repairs. Ah . . . are those instructions all right with you, Captain?" Kathryn sighed. Harry was growing up, but he still had a lot to learn.

"Yes. Proceed, Mr. Kim," said the Captain, warily.

"Understood, Captain. Kim out."

"Well, Commander," the Captain said softly, "perhaps you should update me about ship's systems. And let me know what it is I just agreed with you about," she added, with a twinkle in her eye.

Chakotay smiled. "Well, at least I know you trust me," he said lightly.

"Oh, I trust you, all right," Kathryn answered, more seriously. "I trust you," she whispered, then looked away. She picked up her nearly empty plate of strawberries. "You've barely touched yours," she said, nodding toward his plate, and changing the subject. "And they are quite incredible," she said in that low voice he loved.

Chakotay loved to watch her. "I believe you," he said.

"You didn't put chocolate on yours," she said, looking at the strawberries on his plate. "You have no idea what you're missing," she continued. "That's why you still have a plateful left." Then she picked up a nice plump strawberry and dabbed it in the chocolate that was on her plate and held it out toward him. "Come on, you have to at least try it," she said, with a smile in her voice, leaning in closer to him.

Chakotay leaned in toward her automatically, meeting her half way. He would have done anything for her. Kathryn brought the strawberry up to his mouth and he parted his lips slightly.

Kathryn's heart actually stopped beating for a moment, and she watched in awe as her First Officer closed his lips around the berry and bit it from the stem. And then he licked the small dab of chocolate from his bottom lip as he began to chew. Kathryn watched his mouth, mesmerized. Suddenly, all she could think about were those lips. Watching them caress the strawberry made her want to feel his lips on her, anywhere on her body. And then she felt herself go weak, and she didn't know if she had the strength to sit back again. 'Ah, gods,' she thought to herself, 'what is the matter with me tonight?'

And then Chakotay moved his head to her hand which she had not moved, and licked the remaining bit of chocolate from the tip of her index finger. Kathryn gasped at the unexpected contact. Chakotay watched her face as she watched his mouth. He had never been so turned on in his life. And neither had she.

"Chakotay . . ." she whispered so softly that he wasn't sure he had actually heard her. But her voice had caressed his name somehow; either she had said his name aloud, or he had heard her voice inside his head. Either way, it didn't matter. She was all that mattered to him. He closed his eyes briefly; he had never loved anyone the way he loved her. And he never would . . .

"Chakotay . . ." she said again, and he opened his eyes and looked at her. Her face was inches from his. He turned his head slightly and moved to kiss her. Nothing else in this universe, or any other, mattered. He had to kiss her.

"Kim to Captain Janeway." They quickly moved apart again, and Chakotay took a deep breath, then forced himself to let it out slowly, as Kathryn responded to Ensign Kim.

This time there was a slight pause while Kathryn closed her eyes to collect herself. A very slight pause. "Janeway here," she answered, managing to sound composed. If Chakotay hadn't been so aggravated at Harry for this second interruption of the evening, he would have chuckled. He recognized Kathryn's voice as that of the calm, collected Captain Kathryn Janeway. But he had first-hand personal knowledge that this voice was the one she used when she was near a breaking point. Beneath that cool exterior was an impatient Captain who was trying desperately to be patient.

"Captain, we've reached the coordinates for the Engineering repairs to be made. Shall I contact B'Elanna . . . uh, Lieutenant Torres . . . and let her know we're ready for her team to begin their system realignment?"

"Yes, Harry," Kathryn Janeway said in a voice that somehow managed not to give away her current mood. "And please let the Lieutenant know that I will meet with her tomorrow morning for an update."

"Understood. Good night, Captain. Kim out."

Kathryn sat back on the couch and closed her eyes. Harry was learning; being in charge of the second duty shift was affording him a great opportunity, but tonight she really didn't want to be disturbed. She glanced at Chakotay. Not at any cost.

Chakotay glanced back at Kathryn, then looked away quickly. He had nearly kissed her. The moment had been so close, and yet so far. Right now it was nearly too much for him to bear, just thinking about it. She had invited him, and he had been responding. And then they had been interrupted. Again.

Kathryn sighed, but Chakotay refused to allow this moment to get away from them completely. "Kathryn?" he called her name gently.

She opened her eyes and looked at him. Sadly. She looked at him sadly. Even now, they needed to have things happen a certain way, the first time.

"I know you're tired. Come. Let me massage your shoulders a moment, and then you can get some sleep." He somehow managed to find the strength in his legs to stand, and then he held his hand out toward her. She paused, looking at him. Then, slowly, she raised her hand and placed it in his. And then she looked deeply into his eyes.

Chakotay pulled her gently to her feet, and she led him into her bedroom. She turned to him then, a question in her eyes, as they stood there, and he gestured near the foot of her bed. "Sit there. Let me rub your shoulders for you." She paused a moment, and he smiled at her. "I'm quite certain I haven't forgotten how."

Then she smiled softly at him, remembering.

Kathryn turned and sat on the edge of the bed. Chakotay stood behind her, at the foot, and placed his hands gently on her shoulders. Her hair was shorter this time, but just as lovely. And it smelled of the same scent he had fallen in love with over five years ago, the first time he had held her hair in his hands.

Chakotay closed his eyes, and kneaded her shoulders gently. He loved the feel of her, the smell of her, the nearness of her. He rubbed her shoulders, thinking about how brave she was, and how larger-than-life she somehow always managed to be, while in reality she was a petite woman. He smiled to himself. Yes, Kathryn Janeway could walk into any room and stand toe to toe with anyone who dared usurp her, but right now she was melting into his hands, because she was allowing herself to, she wanted to. He wanted her to . . .

Kathryn closed her eyes, enjoying the feel of Chakotay's hands on her shoulders. Yes, she was tired, exhausted really, and she was beginning to feel the tension move slowly away from her. She sighed softly, giving herself over to the pleasure of his hands, and allowing herself to be pampered, just this once.

Just this once . . . she couldn't remember ever knowing this sort of pleasure. Before . . . on New Earth, it had all been so new, and they hadn't known each other as they did now . . . and everything was different now anyway . . .

Kathryn didn't quite realize how it had happened, or when exactly, but Chakotay had turned her gently and she was lying back in the middle of the bed. And he was saying something . . .

". . . Kathryn, just keep your eyes closed, and relax. Don't think about anything, just relax. Let your mind drift . . ." She heard his voice vaguely, from a distance. But she didn't open her eyes. She didn't want these wonderful sensations to go away.

Slowly, gently, Chakotay began to caress her. He was sitting beside her on the bed, and he moved the loose sleeves of her robe up her arms without her even realizing it. He had picked up a bottle of lightly fragranced lotion from her dresser. He knew that this was something Tuvok kept her supplied with, because the fragrance was the same as that of her bath oils. It was Kathryn's special fragrance.

Chakotay ran his fingers lightly down each arm, waking every cell in her body. Then he poured a bit of the lotion into his hands and rubbed them together, warming the lotion. He gently massaged Kathryn's right arm, then the palm of her hand and each of her fingers, one by one. Then he did the same to her other arm, and her hand.

Kathryn moaned slightly, allowing her eyes to remain closed, and her body to react as it wanted to. Perhaps the small glass of champagne had helped to loosen her spirit, and her inhibitions. Or perhaps she and Chakotay were just more comfortable with each other than ever before. Whatever the reason, she knew it was all right. Chakotay loved her, and she loved him. And maybe one day they would even be able to say the words to each other.

Chakotay continued to massage her arms for a while longer, knowing that she was enjoying it. Then he moved to the foot of the bed, and massaged her calves and her feet, as well. As he rubbed the warm lotion onto her toes, Kathryn moaned and wriggled slightly. Chakotay watched her let go of all the tension in her body, and embrace the pleasure he was giving her. So now he knew how to get her to relax, he thought absently. But, knowing Kathryn, he didn't know if he would ever have the opportunity to do this again.

She moaned again, and Chakotay quietly asked the computer to lower the lights to 50 percent. He lost himself completely in pleasing her, and when he finally returned to her neck and shoulders, and then began to part her robe gently, he felt her tense. She had nothing on beneath her robe except a pair of panties.

"It's all right, Kathryn," he whispered to her.

She moved her head toward the voice, and opened her eyes slowly to look at him.

His hands slowed, then stopped, their explorations. "Do you trust me?" he asked gently.

She looked into his eyes. After only a moment, she whispered, "With my life," in a voice that stilled his heart and brought a lump to his throat.

Then she turned her head from him and closed her eyes once more. She was giving him full reign. Yes, she trusted him. Chakotay felt tears threaten his eyes.

Gingerly, Chakotay moved beside her onto the bed, and turned onto his side, looking at the beautiful woman next to him.

Slowly, he eased the robe from her shoulders and opened it to her waist. His breath caught in his throat and he heard himself gasp. Kathryn opened her eyes slowly and turned to him again. He was openly admiring her breasts, and she could see the desire in his eyes.

Kathryn slowly moved her hand up to his cheek and Chakotay closed his eyes briefly and moved to kiss her palm. It was so very warm and soft. He kissed her fingers, her fingertips. How many times had he watched these slim fingers move gracefully across a console or a keypad, and imagined them moving across his body instead?

As Kathryn watched him kiss her fingers and the soft palm of her hand, she felt as though she were losing all sense of who she was or where she was, or of even being a single entity. Time stood still. She was at one with this man.

Chakotay gently lay her hand back down onto the bed and turned to look at her breasts again. As she watched him look at her, Kathryn felt more sexually awakened and aware than she had been in a very long time. She felt her nipples harden, and she knew that he noticed.

"You're so beautiful, Kathryn," he whispered to her.

As she watched his eyes while he looked at her, she felt those familiar stirrings deep inside her that she had long forgotten existed. No, that wasn't quite true. They were feelings that she had tried desperately to ignore these past years. But now they came rushing to the surface - the want, the desire for this man that she had held at bay for so long. The truth was, she belonged to him, and she had for a long time.

Kathryn closed her eyes again, trusting him completely. The fire was burning in her belly, and she moaned as Chakotay continued to touch her, to love and massage every fiber of her skin, her very being. She sighed, then called his name softly. All the tensions of the workday were long gone now, replaced by a sexual desire that made her forget about everything else.

Chakotay heard her whisper his name, and he sighed. How long had he wished for this moment? How many times had he heard her say his name in his sleep, or while his consciousness was moving towards sleep? Yet it had never sounded as good in his mind as when Kathryn had said it just now. He wished this moment could last forever. In many ways it would last forever, he realized, as he gently moved a few stray stands of hair back from her face so that he could watch her expressions as he brought her pleasure. This moment would live forever in his thoughts, and in his memories.

Chakotay ran his fingers ever so gently down her neck, and then to her chest, where he began to softly trace circles around her breasts. Then he moved his fingers lower, to her stomach. Her lovely stomach, where their baby was. He touched her with feathery caresses, along her stomach, and her sides, and back up to her beautiful breasts. But he didn't touch her nipples.

It had been so long. Kathryn felt the fire burning beneath her skin. Her breasts were reaching for him, for his fingers, but he refused to touch her nipples. Instead, he gracefully and playfully touched her everywhere else, which only made her ache for him more.

But he would not touch her nipples. She moaned louder, arching her back and moving her breasts toward his hands, but he was ignoring her needs.

The more she burned with desire, the more Chakotay seemed to know it, and the more he refused to touch her where she needed to be touched. And it had been so long . . .

Somewhere in the back of her mind, a thought occurred to her that she should be pulling away, covering herself. She needed to stand and be strong again . . . she was the Captain, after all . . . she was strong, she had to be strong in order to get her crew home again, because nothing else mattered but that . . .

And this. This mattered too, now.

His hands were moving, roaming . . . he touched her skin reverently, worshiping her silently. Kathryn felt her body writhe beneath his touch . . . gods, she wanted him, she wanted him to take the rest of her clothes off and then to take his off, while she watched, and then she wanted him to move between her legs . . . oh, gods, oh, gods . . . she was whimpering now, and her breath was coming out in ragged gasps and she had never felt every single fiber of her body as she was feeling it now . . . she had never been made love to this way . . . never . . .

Kathryn didn't know how much longer he would continue to torture her, and yet she couldn't move away, and she couldn't open her eyes, and she didn't really want to either, if the truth be known, and oh gods, she loved this man . . . and she wanted him to love her . . . but he did love her, and he was loving her . . . her skin was on fire, her body was on fire, and he was stroking her and touching her with love and with care, and she knew her nipples were screaming for attention, and she knew he was watching them . . . and then suddenly she felt his breath on her breasts, and then his tongue on her nipples . . . oh, gods . . . his mouth and his tongue, licking, then sucking gently . . . she knew that she was completely ready for him, that it wouldn't take much to take her to her peak, where she wanted to go, where she needed to go . . .

She pushed her breast further into Chakotay's mouth, and she heard him moan deep in his throat. She was panting now, and the fire was blazing within her, and her body was melting into it, and then suddenly the fire became an inferno, and Kathryn's heart was beating so fast she thought her chest would explode, but it didn't . . . and then she felt it beginning to happen, and she didn't quite know what to do, or how to tell him, and she hadn't felt this way in so long . . . .hell, she'd never felt this way before . . . .and then just as she thrust her chest forward into his mouth one last time, and the explosion burst forth within her, she felt his hand move deftly, but gently, beneath her panties, between her legs, and his fingers moved inside her as he bit her nipple gently.

Kathryn's world shattered, and her body thrashed and spasmed around her. She felt the incredible release she'd needed so desperately, and she heard Chakotay's name tear through her throat, somehow, but he was there to catch it.

Chakotay's heart was beating quickly, and an occasional tear made it's way down his face, but he never noticed. His world consisted only of Kathryn and her moans and cries of pleasure. She was so lovely as she moved beneath his hands. Her skin was flawless and her breasts were so beautiful he could hardly tear his eyes from them to look at the rest of her. When she had cried his name, twice, he had swallowed the words inside his mouth, then gently touched her lips with his. Afterward, he could only whisper her name over and over again.

Just as Kathryn's spasms were beginning to subside, she heard the words, "I love you, Kathryn. I will always love you." She thought she had heard the words, she might have heard the words, she wasn't sure if they were real or imagined, but they were warm and inviting, and she knew that he loved her whether he had actually said the words or not. Then the words faded, and the spasms had finally run their course, and she heard him whisper to her again, telling her to relax, to relax . . . she rolled slightly onto her side and drifted off toward the best sleep she could ever remember having.

Chakotay lay quietly, and held her for another half an hour, lying just behind her with his face buried in her hair and in her neck. He lay still, smelling the scent he so loved, and wanting to be sure she slept. Chakotay wanted more than anything to stay with her tonight, but he knew he couldn't. Tonight had been for her. And he would not push her. He would wait for her to come to him.

After awhile, when he knew she was sleeping peacefully, he gently, slowly removed his hand from inside her, bringing a sigh from her lips. His heart fluttered in his chest. Something special had happened tonight, and no matter what happened now, he would never be the same again. Kathryn had given him a part of herself tonight, and he was leaving a part of himself here with her.

He moved her hair away from her face again, and touched his lips gently to her neck, careful not to wake her. He gazed lovingly at her perfect lips and her beautiful skin, knowing that tonight she had belonged to him as much as Kathryn Janeway had ever belonged to anyone. She had trusted him, and she had allowed him to love her.

Chakotay gently moved off the bed, and admired her breasts one last time before closing her robe tighter around her. Then he covered her carefully with a blanket he found on the nearby chair.

Chakotay sighed deeply, knowing that the tears stinging his eyes were the most real tears he had ever known. He had loved her for so long now. And he didn't know what tomorrow would bring, but he would always remember loving her tonight.

Taking a deep breath, Chakotay took a mental holoimage of her, then turned and left the room.

He stopped in the Captain's main room just long enough to put the dirty dishes and glasses into the recycle bin, pausing to smile at the memory of the look on Kathryn's face when he had licked the chocolate sauce from her finger.

Then suddenly Chakotay turned quickly and left the Captain's quarters, calling for the lights to dim to 50 percent behind him. He knew that he had to leave now, or he might never be able to leave her again.


That night, three of Sandrine's usual patrons were involved in an intensely private conversation in the corner.

Harry shook his head a lot, and Tom Paris was spouting 'I told you so's' to both Harry and B'Elanna.

But even Tom couldn't give specifics. It was beyond him how this relationship had, at some point, developed right in front of him, well behind him actually, and he hadn't known about it. He hadn't even felt the . . . dynamics . . . change between the Captain and Chakotay.

B'Elanna laughed at Tom. "Well, Helmboy, maybe you just aren't as sensitive as you think you are."

After an hour of idle chitchat, B'Elanna grew tired of all the theories and weak explanations. Frankly, she didn't really understand how Chakotay had managed to become involved with the Captain without her knowing about it. It was true that she and Chakotay didn't spend much time together anymore, but she always thought he would give her some indication of his personal relationship with the Captain, if he ever got so lucky.

Oh, well, Chakotay was as private about his personal life as the Captain was, and B'Elanna could certainly understand that. After all, the two of them dealt with enough problems on a daily basis. And there was plenty of focus on them. Maybe they just needed some time that belonged solely to the two of them, without prying eyes or betting pools interfering. She smiled. Tom was convinced that the Captain didn't know about those betting pools, but B'Elanna would bet 10 replicator rations that she did.

What was she doing? She'd just lost 10 replicator rations, and she wasn't about to play that stupid game again.

Shaking her head, B'Elanna bade Harry and Tom goodnight, then left Sandrine's and headed for Engineering. At least the people and the conversations there served a purpose. She thought again about Chakotay; so he had persevered long enough to finally win the Captain over. She had to give it to him; he had been more patient than most men would have been. But he'd come out the winner, with the woman he loved and a child on the way.

And Tom Paris spent the rest of the evening in speculation. The highlight of his evening was leaning over to Harry and telling him that Chakotay evidently knew what real "brandy" tasted like, and seeing Harry blush that crimson red that Tom knew he would.

The thing Tom couldn't figure out was that nothing was sacred or even secret on this ship! How this could have happened without Tom's knowledge, or anyone's knowledge obviously, was simply unexplainable.

Oh, well, thought Tom. He was happy for them. He knew it had to be lonely indeed at the top, and he sure wouldn't trade places with them for anything.

He sighed. The only problem was that once the entire crew knew about this, they would be looking to him for some sort of new betting scheme. He would just have to figure something out.

And with that, Tom Paris left Sandrine's and, realizing he was the last to leave, shut the program down for the evening. When had Harry left anyway?

He would just have to think of something else for the crew to place their bets on. And he was really low on replicator rations this month . . .


The next morning, the Captain opened her eyes at 0730. Her first thought was that the automatic lighting system in her quarters wasn't working correctly; it couldn't possibly be so light. But then her eyes snapped open wider and she sat up quickly. Oh, gods . . . she saw the time on the chronometer, and then she looked around her. She was on top of the bedding with the extra blanket over her . . . and then she remembered. And then she felt the wetness between her legs . . .

And then she lay back against the pillows. Oh, gods . . . she covered her eyes with her hands. How could she have allowed . . . allowed . . . that to happen?

But after she got over the initial shock, she didn't feel nearly as guilty, and her conscience didn't bother her nearly as much, as she remembered thinking it was going to. In fact, she felt pretty damned good. She was even smiling, she realized suddenly.

Kathryn pulled the blanket back up over her and shut her eyes again. This was the first time in years she'd slept until 0730, so it wouldn't hurt to stay in bed a few more minutes.

She stayed in bed for fifteen more minutes, enjoying every second of it. She closed her eyes and recalled everything she possibly could about the night before. Chakotay had touched her so gently, so reverently, and then she remembered the look in his eyes when he had looked at her breasts . . . and she shivered suddenly. That look was one of pure lust . . . and she suddenly ached for him to touch her again. But this time, she wanted to touch him, too, and to feel him move inside her . . .

Kathryn sat bolt upright and threw the blanket off. She got to her feet, and moved quickly toward the bathroom. She had to put these thoughts out of her mind, and right now. She was due on the Bridge in an hour and she didn't have time to daydream about . . . these things.

And as the sonic shower cleaned her skin, and allowed her some time to clear her mind, Kathryn Janeway knew that she had not felt this alive in longer than she could remember. She smiled to herself. Today was going to be a good day.


At precisely 0900 hours, the turbolift doors opened and Captain Kathryn Janeway strode onto the Bridge of her ship.

"Good morning, Everyone," she called out.

Murmurs of "Good morning, Captain" rang out. The crew looked dubious; they weren't used to their Captain being in such high spirits so early in the morning. Usually, it took another cup or two of coffee in her Ready Room before she felt this good.

Could their Captain be planning yet another day of battle drills for them? Oh, please the gods, they'd had enough for the time being . . .

Maybe she just felt better about telling a few people about her and Chakotay, thought Tom. Nah . . . not the Captain. She was tough. No, she must have something up her sleeve . . . just please don't let it be more evasive maneuvers tactics from Tuvok!

Chakotay hadn't turned when she'd entered the Bridge. He wasn't sure what her attitude would be concerning last night, now that she'd slept on it and was rested.

But the moment he heard the lilt in her voice, he knew that everything was all right. He closed his eyes and let out a deep breath, slowly. Every so slowly - Tom Paris noticed when any little nuance was out of place, and Chakotay sure didn't want to risk Tom's snide remarks this morning.

But Kathryn walked right down to Tom Paris at his Conn station, and clasped Tom on the shoulder. "Good morning, Mr. Paris, how are you today?"

"Ah, fine, Captain. Fine. Just fine."

"Good. Anything to report?"

"We're on course for the Alpha Quadrant, Captain. Uh, did you sleep well last night?" he asked, trying to recover his usual cocky attitude.

"Like a baby, Mr. Paris. Maintain course," she added, closing the conversation once and for all.

Kathryn heard a defeated "Yes, Ma'am" from her helmsman, as she turned and headed toward her Captain's chair with a smile on her face. She faced her First Officer squarely for the first time since entering the Bridge.

"And how are you today, Commander?" she asked, with just a twist more lilt to her tone than usual. But even Tom Paris was quiet about it. She had warned him. Chakotay had to give it to her; Tom Paris was putty in his Captain's hands; she knew better than anyone how to handle him, even better than B'Elanna, in certain situations.

"I'm just fine, Captain, thank you." Chakotay turned and looked her straight in the eye, and she returned the look. She wasn't going to pretend that last night never happened, Chakotay thought to himself. He grinned at her, and she smiled back, her eyes twinkling.

Maybe this was what life was about, after all . . .


Later that afternoon, as the Bridge shift was changing, Chakotay rang the door chime at the Captain's Ready Room door.


He entered, and stood before the Captain's desk with his hands behind his back. She looked up at him, and they smiled at each other. This was the first time they had been alone with each other all day.

"You wanted to see me, Commander?" she asked lightly.

"I wanted to remind you that your duty shift ended ten minutes ago."

"Ah . . . well, I still have all these Engineering reports to go over," she said. "That system realignment took only two hours to complete, yet the description of it will take me about the same amount of time to read. Of course, it would take much less time if I had some help plowing through B'Elanna's description of warp core antimatter masses."

Chakotay smiled. "Some help just might be available."

"Good. Grab a padd and take a seat." She took a sip of what Chakotay saw was tea. He smiled to himself.

"Sure, after dinner."


"The Doctor said you should maintain a schedule of sorts as far as meals are concerned. I thought I'd help you keep some semblance of time frames, so after we have some dinner, why don't we both come back here for awhile and finish those reports together?"

"I believe I'm being bribed, Commander," she said, leaning back in her chair.

"Really? I don't see it that way at all."

"No, I'm quite certain that you don't." She smiled at him and sat her cup on the desk. "You know," she said softly, and in a voice that the Captain did not use, "I either had an incredible dream last night, or you and I reached some sort of milestone as far as our relationship is concerned."

"I don't know which version you prefer, Captain," he said, smiling, but never taking his eyes from hers, "but I prefer the milestone."

Kathryn stood and moved around to the side of her desk, stopping directly in front of Chakotay. "So do I," she whispered, "And it was quite a milestone . . ." she added, allowing her voice to drop suggestively at the end. But she was looking deeply into his eyes.

Chakotay suddenly felt himself begin to respond to her, and he had to force himself to quell his desire, to think of something else, anything else.

"And I've been thinking . . ." Kathryn continued.

"About?" he asked softly, and Kathryn noticed that his eyes were becoming darker, full of want, and she swallowed hard, remembering those eyes from the night before.

"I realize that the steps toward the development of our relationship have been very unconventional. I mean, usually two people make love with each other before one of them becomes pregnant," she said in a smokey voice that made Chakotay's heart race, no matter how hard he fought it. "And I'd like to make a request . . ." she said softly, looking longingly at his lips.

"Anything," whispered Chakotay.

"Would you . . . kiss me?"

"What?" Chakotay couldn't move. She was standing only inches from him.

"Kiss me?" Her voice was nearly a whisper.

Chakotay managed to smile at her, and he saw her eyes twinkle, as she smiled back at him mischievously. "Kathryn . . . ," he said gently, bringing his hands up to her face. "If you only knew how many times I've already kissed you . . . in my mind . . ." he whispered, as he began to lower his lips to hers.

"Oh, really?" she answered in the most incredibly sexy voice he'd ever heard. "Well, I can assure you that I kiss much better than you've ever imagined."

"Really?" he whispered, as his lips moved closer to hers.

"Absolutely . . ." she responded, tilting her head slightly to meet his lips.

And Commander Chakotay kissed his Captain in precisely the way he had dreamed of for years.

The only difference was that she did, indeed, kiss much better in reality than she ever had in his dreams.


After dinner that evening, Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay returned to her Ready Room, where they perused Engineering updates and verified slight course corrections for several more hours.

Finally, at 2200 hours, the Captain yawned.

"Chakotay," she said. "I have come to a conclusion."

"Oh? What is that?" he asked, taking a sip from his cup of coffee. He smiled at the thought of coffee at this late hour. Who was changing whom?

"I think B'Elanna's primary goal is to inundate me with just enough endless reports to keep me out of her Engineering room."

Chakotay looked up at her. He smiled, putting his cup on the corner of Kathryn's desk. "You could have a point there," he said.

"I'm convinced of it. The upgrades to the warp core relays are coming along just fine. But to tell me that, she has written a five-page report. And this morning, I had three reports to read before I realized that all she was trying to tell me was that the progress was being made on schedule, yet not as quickly as she would like." Chakotay smiled. "You know that what I said is true, don't you?" she asked, leaning toward him. "She's trying to keep me occupied so that I leave her alone."

"What? Oh, no. I know no such thing, Kathryn. Don't try to put me in the middle of this. If you want to know the answer to that one, go and see B'Elanna yourself, and ask her."

"But you smiled just now," she said sweetly.

"Yes. It's because I can imagine her doing just as you said. I didn't say I knew for certain that's what she did. There's a difference."

"Oh, really?"

"Yes, really."

They were both quiet then. A comfortable silence fell between them.

"Chakotay?" Kathryn asked, so softly that Chakotay had to look over at her to be sure she'd spoken.


"What will we do if our daughter is as stubborn as both of us combined?"

Chakotay sat his padd on the edge of her desk. This question made it all real for him, all over again. They were having a baby, a daughter, together. All his dreams were coming true. Well, most of them. And, in time, when he and Kathryn were more comfortable with this situation, and with each other on a more personal level, then all of his dreams might be realized. He sometimes had to shake himself to believe this were real. He had all but given up hope that he and Kathryn would share a life together at all.

"Chakotay?" she asked softly, concerned that he hadn't answered her question.

"I'm sorry, Kathryn. I was just woolgathering." Kathryn smiled at the old-fashioned expression.

"What were you thinking?" She stood from her chair and moved around the desk to Chakotay, and then she knelt beside him. He looked at her, so near and yet still so far.

"I was thinking . . ." he broke off, and shook his head.

"Yes?" she asked, looking into his eyes, imploring him to continue.

"I was thinking about how you and this child are all I want in life, Kathryn. You and our daughter." He looked away from her, surprised at the tears that sprang into his eyes so quickly.

"Chakotay?" she whispered, moving closer to him. "Look at me."

He did.

Kathryn moved her hand to his cheek, and looked deeply into Chakotay's eyes. "In some way, you tell me how you feel every day." She looked away in order to clear her mind, then stood.

"I just need to take things one step at a time, Chakotay," she continued, moving away from him. "I do care about you very much."

Then suddenly, Kathryn took a deep breath and closed her eyes. She was pregnant with this man's child. Now was the time for truths, all of them. And if not now, when?

Kathryn turned back to Chakotay. He looked up at her, and saw a look in her eyes that was different from any he had seen there before. He stood and moved to her. "What is it?" he whispered.

"I just told you that I care about you," she said softly. Chakotay nodded, not trusting himself to speak. His mind had replayed those very words for days now. "But it's so much more than that, you know. I love you, Chakotay. I've been in love with you for a long time."

Chakotay swallowed hard and closed his eyes. These were the very words he had waited so long to hear . . .

"We are about to experience some very drastic changes in both our lives, Chakotay." He opened his eyes to look at her, and nodded, forcing himself to concentrate on what she was saying now. "I just don't want to rush things. Concerning us, I mean. I want to move as slowly, or as quickly, as you and I feel is right for us." He nodded again. "Soon everyone will know about . . . our child. But that doesn't mean I'm ready for you to move into the Captain's quarters." She paused. "At least not yet," she added, with a suggestion in her voice and a spark in her eye.

Chakotay smiled at this incredible woman. She was strong and steadfast, and he would always be the same for her. He felt his heart soar and his body begin to respond to her nearness. But this was nothing new. He had felt his body respond to hers for years.

"Do you understand what I'm saying, Chakotay?" Kathryn whispered, her eyes shining brightly.

"Yes, I understand, Kathryn. My primary concern is you and our child," he managed to say. "But I haven't forgotten who we are, Kathryn, and what we have ahead of us. And the fact that we have to get this crew back home to the Alpha Quadrant, and to their families."

"Even though our family will be right here on Voyager . . . ?" she asked.

"Yes. I'll tell you what: I'll worry about our family first and let you worry about the crew and getting them back to their families, all right?"

Kathryn smiled. "Agreed," she said. Actually, she saw it as her responsibility and not their responsibility anyway, but she knew her Angry Warrior would argue that point, especially now. And that was all right with her. It felt good to have someone around to help lighten her burdens.

Chakotay pulled her into his arms and held her. And Kathryn did not resist.

After a moment, Chakotay moved his lips close to her ear and whispered, "Kathryn, how long have you been in love with me?"

She smiled to herself, enjoying the feel of Chakotay's arms around her. "The Woman Warrior fell in love with her Angry Warrior on New Earth," she said, her voice deep with emotion. "But she's fought hard for years now not to let him know that . . ."

Chakotay felt his eyes grow moist again, but he moved back from Kathryn a bit in order to look into her eyes. "After we returned to Voyager, you never wanted to discuss New Earth . . ."

"I tried like hell to forget about it, Chakotay. I needed to forget who we were there." She paused and looked deeply into his eyes. "But I still remember it like it was just yesterday . . ." And then she knew she had to ask him something. "Chakotay, I've always wondered: Do you regret that we had to leave there?"

Chakotay nodded. "Often, Kathryn. For myself. But I don't know if you could have lived that life . . . the rest of our lives, just you and me, alone together. I don't know if you would have been happy."

She nodded at his words, then smiled up at him. "I may have surprised you," she whispered softly.

And at that, Voyager's First Officer kissed his Captain. He loved her beyond words, and he now knew what he had always suspected: She loved him, as well.

They may have more difficult times ahead, but they would get through them; they would survive. After all, they had survived the Borg. Twice. They could survive anything else, even raising a child together.

Chakotay had tried desperately for years to convince himself that there was such a slim chance of ever winning Kathryn's heart that he would have to move on with his life somehow, some way, without her. But his heart had known differently. It had not allowed him to move on, always telling him to hold out, to wait a little while longer. And so he had waited. And he had won his dreams because of it.

Kathryn Janeway was determined, and as stubborn as they came, which was probably why they had made it this far home, Chakotay surmised.

One thing Chakotay had learned long ago never to do was underestimate Captain Kathryn Janeway. It was a lesson he had learned well throughout the years.

And although he would always be there to help her shoulder her burdens, Chakotay would let the Captain worry about getting her crew home to their families.

He would worry about getting his own family home to Earth.


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Want more? Good! Because this is not really the end. Go to the sequel The Stubborn Hand Of Fate