NC-17 Not intended for anyone under 18 years of age, nor for anyone who doesn't like to read scenes with graphic sexual content.
Commander Chakotay and Neelix take a shuttlecraft to an alien planet for foodstuffs, but Chakotay suddenly finds himself back on Planet Earth, face to face with a younger Kathryn Janeway, a cadet at Starfleet Academy. Is he dreaming or has he taken a giant step back in time?
This is for Heather, who thought a story about Cadet Janeway would be nice.
They're not really mine. Paramount and Viacom control them, and me.
Chakotay stalked down the corridor toward his quarters, hoping he wouldn't run into anyone. He was angry with Captain Janeway and needed some time alone.
He entered his quarters and began to pace. He felt like throwing things, and managed not to give in to the temptation only by reminding himself that he'd be the one to clean up the mess.
The past few weeks on Voyager had been difficult. They'd run into several not-so-friendly alien races nearly back-to-back and everyone was tired. Kathryn was behaving like a Captain on a rampage, and no matter what he said or did, it was wrong. She wouldn't listen to him, and she was even ignoring Tuvok's suggestions. When she got like this, there was no living with her.
He stopped pacing and took a deep breath. He didn't actually live with her, it only felt that way sometimes.
So what would he do if he did live with her? As often as he'd thought about being with her for the rest of his life, how in the universe would he live with her at times like this, when she was impossible to get along with?
He smiled. He would think of a way, if he were only given the chance. Oh, and how he wanted that chance, even after all they'd been through these past seven years.
Chakotay sat in his desk chair and took a deep breath to clear his mind. No matter how angry he got at her, no matter how much she frustrated him, he wanted her. He wanted to love her and be with her for the rest of his life. Even now he wanted to grab her and tell her how unreasonable she was being, and then kiss her until she begged for more.
He grinned again. Kathryn Janeway begging for more? Hardly. But it was a nice touch. His imagination sometimes worked overtime where Kathryn was concerned.
He took a deep breath. He had work to do, but he'd had to stop here to cool off first.
This morning they'd discovered a planet close by, and scans showed that it held an abundance of vegetables and other edible items that Neelix was sure they couldn't live without. Even though further scans showed an erratic charge around the outer regions of the planet, Chakotay's objections to going to the surface were overruled by the Captain and Seven of Nine.
Captain Janeway had agreed with Neelix that the foodstuffs were important enough to take a bit of a gamble getting to, and Seven had agreed with Janeway that the fluctuation shouldn't pose a problem with the mission or threaten the safety of anyone going through it. And since there were no other life forms on the planet to run into, the mission should be a rather uncomplicated one.
Kathryn had then asked Chakotay to accompany Neelix to the planet. She'd intentionally chosen Chakotay because he'd disagreed with her, he knew, although she said it was because he'd detected the erratic charge in the first place and would know how to track it better than anyone else.
He knew differently, though. He'd seen the look in her eyes, and knew she was punishing him for disagreeing with her. But that was all right. He would go on the Away Mission with Neelix, and after they returned she would apologize to him for her reaction and tell him again that she always expected him to disagree with her when he felt she was wrong about something.
He would accept her apology, tell her he would continue to disagree with her if he felt she were making a mistake or an error in judgment, and then he'd offer to make dinner that evening. She would smile that smile that only she could, then offer to bring the wine.
Things would be back to normal.
He ran his hands through his hair and took another deep breath. He felt better. No matter what happened, he and Kathryn would be all right and they would get this ship home together.
But he couldn't afford to think about that now. He and Neelix were due to leave for the planet's surface in an hour, and he had to get the shuttlecraft ready for the trip.
Chakotay took another ten minutes to have a soothing cup of tea and go over the mechanics of their mission in his mind. That erratic charge around the planet's atmosphere still bothered him, though, and he didn't mind admitting it. He would tell Neelix his thoughts and together they would monitor the charge and be wary of it. There was no such thing as being over-prepared for a mission.
Chakotay walked through the doors into the shuttlebay.
The shuttle would be ready for launch after fifteen minutes of pre-flight preparations. It wasn't the Delta Flyer, but the Flyer was being overhauled and they wouldn't need something that large anyway. This mission was a simple one, according to everyone who wasn't going on it, and the food they were prospecting wouldn't take up more space than they had available in the cargo hold on the smaller shuttlecraft.
As Chakotay was completing the pre-launch sequence, Neelix appeared with his backpack, as exuberant as ever, and ready to go haul in the new food supply.
"Hello, Commander," said Neelix, settling himself into the co-pilot's seat.
"Neelix," said Chakotay in greeting. "I'm glad you showed up. We'll be ready to take off in a couple of minutes. We don't want to keep the Captain waiting."
"I agree, Commander. I was just giving Chell some last-minute instructions in the kitchen," said Neelix. "He isn't a bad cook," he continued, leaning toward Chakotay, seeking confidence, "But he doesn't understand how to add flavor to the food," he said. "His dishes often lack imagination."
"I'm sure they do," said Chakotay, grinning.
"But I think he has things under control now," said Neelix, hitting several controls on the panel in front of him.
"That's good." Chakotay finished his pre-launch check, and called the Bridge for permission to leave the shuttlebay. "Chakotay to the Bridge," he said, hitting his combadge.
"Go ahead, Commander," came her familiar voice.
"Permission to launch," he said.
"Permission granted. Launch doors opening," she replied, and the doors began to slide open slowly. "Good luck, Commander."
He could already tell from her voice that she was more than ready to move on. She knew she'd overreacted and was ready to apologize. He was ready to move on, too. "Thank you, Captain," he said. "We'll see you in a couple of hours."
"I look forward to it, Commander."
Yes, she was definitely ready to let bygones be bygones, he thought, and grinned. It was a good thing he could read her so well.
The shuttle crept forward to the launch doors, then moved out into space.
As the doors closed behind them, Chakotay and Neelix were already monitoring the planet's surface below and studying the fluctuation surrounding the planet.
As soon as Chakotay directed a magnetic response to the erratic charge, it changed its course again, ever so slightly. "Neelix, we're going to have to sneak in under the charge. It doesn't seem to affect any space or time around it, only the region it actually occupies."
"I agree, Commander. And it seems fairly consistent, as long as we leave it alone," said Neelix.
"We'll remain on course for the next twelve minutes, and then reduce our speed prior to entering the planet's atmosphere," said Chakotay.
"Sounds fine, Commander," said Neelix, adjusting several controls on his instrument board. After a moment, he leaned back in his chair and sighed. "I just love the way the stars look from a shuttlecraft," he said. "It's different than watching them from Voyager. Out here, we seem so close to them."
Chakotay grinned. "Word has it you're a romantic, Neelix."
Neelix laughed. "That's what the Captain's always telling me." He leaned toward Chakotay. "Frankly, I think she recognizes that quality in me because she's a romantic herself." He sighed heavily and leaned back in his chair. "But she doesn't agree with me." He glanced surreptitiously at Chakotay.
Chakotay sometimes questioned that himself, but now was not the time to mention it.
Neelix continued. "Some of my most favorite times have been speaking with the Captain in the mess hall around 03:00 hours. She still has trouble sleeping sometimes, you know," he said, watching Chakotay for reaction.
"I know that, Neelix," said Chakotay. "The Doctor has repeatedly talked to her about her coffee consumption, but she won't listen to him."
"Oh I don't think it's just that," said Neelix, adjusting a sensor in front of him. "I think her mind runs on overdrive most of the time and it catches up with her at night."
Chakotay smiled to himself. "You think so, Neelix?" he asked. With very little prompting, Neelix could entertain for hours.
"Oh yes," said Neelix. "Why, just the other night she was telling me stories about her cadet days at the Academy. I was laughing for hours after that."
"I hear she was as stubborn then as she is now," said Chakotay, egging Neelix on. He couldn't help it, he loved to hear Kathryn Janeway stories.
"Oh I'm sure of it, Commander," said Neelix. "Has she told you about the time she played a practical joke on Captain Picard and he turned it around so that it backfired on her?" Neelix began to laugh, remembering the story.
"Seems I've heard that one," Chakotay said casually. Everyone had heard about it at some point. The incident was widely known in various circles at Starfleet and was evidently a fond remembrance for both Captain Janeway and Captain Picard, according to legend.
"Captain Janeway says that nothing romantic ever happened between the two of them, although at one time they considered dating each other," continued Neelix, glancing over at Chakotay. "She said they really didn't have much in common, and became far better friends than they would have been lovers."
Chakotay knew that Neelix was watching him for a reaction, so he guarded his expression carefully. Among all Voyager's crewmembers, Neelix somehow knew better than anyone that Chakotay was in love with their Captain. He wasn't sure how Neelix knew it, but he did. And every time Neelix was alone with Chakotay, he talked about Kathryn incessantly. This was not a coincidence, Chakotay knew.
He also knew that if he and Kathryn ever became involved in a romantic way, no one would be happier than Neelix.
Chakotay checked the panel in front of him. "It's time, Neelix. Let's look for a crack to crawl through."
Both men checked readings and made calculations. Finally, they agreed to enter through a small section of the impending atmosphere, just beneath the erratic charge. They set their instruments accordingly, and prepared to decrease speed. After they reached the other side, they would look for a suitable landing place.
"Everything looks fine, Commander. And the charge seems to have settled down a bit," said Neelix.
"Yes, it does," agreed Chakotay. "It isn't as erratic as it was. Let's take the shuttle in now. Decreasing thrusters."
They burst through the atmosphere, just as the charge shifted in their direction.
The shuttle bumped the outer edge of the stratosphere and was flung inside the planet's atmosphere. It rolled over twice, while both Chakotay and Neelix fought to regain control.
But the shuttle was propelled forward, and continued to roll over and over and over.
Finally, the shuttle crashed against the hillside in front of them, and fell over on its side. Thankfully, the hillside was densely packed with deep green moss and wild grass and the hull sustained very little damage.
But the two members of the Away Team were unaware of what had happened. They were both knocked unconscious by the crash.
And on Voyager's Bridge, Captain Janeway was desperately trying to make contact with them, but to no avail.
Chakotay walked along the beachfront, staring at the tree line to his right. This all looked very familiar, but he couldn't pinpoint it. This planet reminded him of Earth somehow.
The atmosphere was breathable, the single sun was shining brightly, and the foliage looked familiar. He could name every plant and tree within range.
Suddenly, he stopped, and listened. A gull. That was the sound of a seagull. And to his left, the water looked and smelled like the Pacific Ocean.
But he wasn't in California, he wasn't on Earth, and this wasn't San Francisco. He was on an alien planet in the Delta Quadrant. He and Neelix were on an Away Mission and their shuttle had crashed into a hillside. They were both fine, and Neelix was gathering the foodstuffs they needed before returning to Voyager.
The shuttle had sustained minor damage, but they had already repaired it
And now Chakotay was trying to learn more about the planet in order to figure out how they were going to resurface through the atmosphere to get back to Voyager.
This beachfront looked too familiar.
Chakotay continued forward, watching the horizon, and listening to the sounds around him.
Suddenly, he stopped.
Ahead, he saw a lone figure cut across the beach near the water. She was beautiful, and like the beach, far too familiar.
His heartbeat quickened and he forced himself to continue onward.
She hadn't spotted him yet, but moved forward, toward the water. She bent to retrieve a stick and began to drag it through the sand with her. Her walk, the way she'd bent over, and the way she held the stick were all familiar to him. But he refused to allow his mind to grab hold of the information he knew to be true.
Then she held her hand up to shade her eyes as she looked skyward. The very way she'd placed her hand, and her posture as she stood there looking upward, told him he could deny it to himself no longer.
There was only one Kathryn Janeway.
Chakotay moved forward with effort, no longer aware of one foot planting itself in front of the other. He had no feeling in his legs, his arms, and he could no longer think.
In front of him on the beach, and less than a hundred meters away, was Kathryn. And yet, she wasn't Kathryn. As he approached her, he could tell that this woman was younger than the Kathryn Janeway he knew, yet that seemed to be the only difference. She moved the same, and she looked virtually the same as the Kathryn he'd known and loved for nearly seven years.
He forced himself to continue forward, and once again he told his brain to ignore the possibilities he knew it wanted to consider.
Finally, Kathryn turned and saw the man walking toward her. She squinted against the glare of the sun, and watched him close the distance between them. She didn't know him, but she did know that he was trespassing on private property, and she was determined to let him know it.
She watched him continue toward her until he was several meters away. She knew he saw her waiting there for him. "Hi," she said, finally.
"Hi there," he said, and when he smiled she saw the most gorgeous dimples light up his entire face. His eyes shone, and he was looking at her as though she were the most important person in the universe. Her heart skipped a beat, but she refused to acknowledge it.
She'd wanted to tell him he was trespassing, she'd wanted to tell him he had no business being on the private beach that belonged to her father's friend, but suddenly she didn't think it was all that important.
Suddenly, her heart began to flutter and her legs were turning to jelly.
"This is a private beach," she said, only because she needed something to say.
"I'm sorry," he replied. "I think I'm lost."
"Evidently," she said, but then she smiled. He really was the most handsome man she'd ever seen, and he obviously meant no harm. On top of that, her body was not behaving itself at all - she felt butterflies in her stomach and she was surprised her legs were still supporting her.
Chakotay couldn't believe his eyes. It was Kathryn, but of course he'd known that the moment he'd seen her in the distance. Yet now, looking into those beautiful blue eyes, he was both mesmerized and stunned. But he couldn't let her see that he knew her.
She was beautiful, his Kathryn. Her hair was long and nearly to her waist. It was lighter in color, but the red highlights were still there, and it was still gorgeous. It was held back by an elastic band or clip of some sort that he couldn't see, but he could see that her hair trailed down her back. She was obviously spending a lot of time in the sun, too, because her shoulders, arms and legs were tanned and lovely. He swallowed hard. She was wearing shorts and a sleeveless top, and he was trying not to react to seeing her this way.
Where had he come from? She couldn't remember a house that far down the beach. In fact, her father's friend owned this entire beachfront and there was no one for miles in any direction. But he was obviously lost, she could tell it in his eyes, and the way he was looking around. Nonetheless, he was dressed in Starfleet uniform, although she didn't recognize his rank bar. She was suitably impressed, though she wasn't about to let him know it.
"Where are you headed?" she asked, in that voice he knew so well. The only difference was that her voice now held an innocence, if one could call it that. And he knew that it was an innocence born of all the things that were yet to happen to her. She was around 22 or 23 years old, and probably a senior cadet at the Academy, if he was any judge. She certainly wasn't dating Mark yet, and she was a scientist first and foremost. And she was studying under Admiral Paris, if his history lesson on Kathryn Janeway had clicked properly into place.
"I'm not sure," he said, but then collected himself. "I thought Starfleet Academy was around here." Where was he? Was he dreaming? A 23-year-old Kathryn Janeway? He swallowed again, and tried not to stare at her, but it was difficult not to, because she was staring at him so hard he thought she could see straight through to his soul. Some things hadn't changed.
She smiled again, and he watched the soft breeze play with the loose strands of her hair. "It is," she said, nodding east. "But you're still nearly 15 kilometers from there." He certainly ought to know that.
He saw her glancing at his collar again. "I'm a commander," he said and hoped his voice sounded sincere. A Maquis rank bar certainly wasn't something she would be familiar with because it didn't exist twenty years ago.
"What is a Starfleet Commander doing wandering around these parts?" And how did a man like this just happen to stumble upon this beach?
He had to think fast. "We were practicing maneuvers, and I was dropped back there," he said, nodding vaguely over his shoulder. "Several of my instruments were lost, and I'm afraid I got myself turned around. But I knew that if I followed the beach, I would end up back at Starfleet."
She studied him, and he knew she could see right through the lie. Finally, after what seemed several minutes, she nodded toward the pack he carried on his back. "Have you had lunch?" she asked.
He sighed inwardly, relieved. Again, he tried to pull his eyes from her but couldn't. "No, as a matter of fact I haven't."
"Why don't you join me?" she asked. "I was just going to go in for a sandwich." She held out her hand. "I'm Kathryn Janeway."
Even though he knew who she was, and even though he'd looked into her eyes a million times, his heart still skipped a beat when she told him her name. He took her hand in his, as he'd done so many times before. He shook it, and somehow pulled his arm back again. But not before an electric current had shot through them both.
Kathryn nearly lost her balance, the attraction between them was so strong. And she couldn't pull her eyes away from him.
Kathryn Janeway wasn't insecure, and she'd known her share of men for her age. Most she'd dated once and decided she didn't want to waste her time with them, a few she'd dated several times and kissed, and very few had she slept with. A man had to be special for Kathryn to spend her time with him, and she knew without question that she would spend whatever time she could with this one.
This man was like no other. She could see in his eyes that he was kind, and he was certainly attractive, and if she were the sort to believe in love at first sight she would believe it had just happened for her, here and now.
But, no. She certainly didn't believe in that sort of thing.
She was also going to have a career in Starfleet and she had no time for anyone or anything that would take her away from that. Still.... "Come on," she said, and started back up the beach and through the trees. "I'm staying at my father's best friend's beach house. Everyone is in Europe for the next several days, so I decided to get away for some peace and quiet this weekend."
"Oh?" asked Chakotay, following her. "I'm sorry I disturbed your quiet."
When she turned to look back at him, he was smiling that smile and showing those dimples, and she was suddenly very glad he had disturbed her quiet. "Don't worry about it," she said. "In fact, I have to admit I get bored easily when I'm alone."
The trees abruptly ended at the back yard of a pretty little cottage. It was well hidden behind the trees and nestled between mountains, so no one would know it was even there. Kathryn pushed open the back door and went inside. "It's old-fashioned," she said in what he detected as an apology.
He smiled. It was old-fashioned, all right. Quiet, peaceful, away from everyone and everything, and his idea of a perfect place to call home. The downstairs rooms were small but comfortable. Just perfect.
He followed her to the kitchen and smiled as he watched her pull out bread and cheese and things for making sandwiches. "Can I help you?" he asked.
She shrugged. "I'm not very good in the kitchen," she said. "But I think I can throw some sandwiches together if you want to get cleaned up."
He looked up into a mirror over the table. He looked terrible. He had smudges of dirt on his face and his uniform was crumpled. "I think I need to do that," he said.
"There's a bathroom down the hallway. It's actually my favorite room in this house. The tub is huge." She smiled.
Chakotay put down his pack and grinned back. "No sonic shower?" he asked.
"Oh, they had one put in a few years ago, but the tub is great. I love to take baths," she said, and then realized she'd just told a total stranger a very personal preference.
He saw her reaction, and quickly replied. "I like the sonic showers best personally."
"Then help yourself. Do you have a clean uniform, or should I find something for you to wear?"
"Kathryn, you don't have to do this," he said. Suddenly he wondered if she took in every stray off the street.
"I know," she said quietly, and stopped what she was doing. "But it seems okay to be here with you." Then she realized how lame it sounded, and grinned. "After all, you're Starfleet."
He nodded. "I am." He smiled at her again. Gods, she was beautiful.
"Of what? A starship?"
He took a deep breath. "Kathryn, I can't tell you. I can't tell anyone why I'm here, or how I got here." He paused. "I wish I could, but I can't."
She looked into his eyes again, and when she smiled this time, her eyes danced. "It's a secret mission then. I suspected it might be." She went back to working on the sandwiches. "I'll try not to ask questions, but I can't promise. It's not in my nature to accept things at face value."
No one knew that better than he.
"I'll just get cleaned up then," he said. "And yes, I have an extra uniform, but thanks for the offer." He pulled a fresh uniform out of his backpack, not having known for certain there was one in there.
Chakotay walked down the hallway and found the bathroom easily enough. She was right, it was roomy and pleasant. There were plants on the high window sill, and the smell of lilac filled the air. His heart jolted. Lilac was still Kathryn's favorite scent. He'd made a rule for himself long ago, one he didn't like but had to abide by: Whenever he smelt lilac, it meant he was too close to Kathryn for physical comfort, and he had to move away.
He shut the door and sat in the small wicker chair in the corner. It was the first time he'd had time to himself to think about his situation since seeing Kathryn on the beach.
He had no idea how he'd ended up in San Francisco, several miles west of Starfleet Academy, and on the beach with a young Kathryn Janeway. His earlier estimate of the time being about 20 years earlier than where he was now seemed fairly accurate. He leaned forward and put his face in his hands, giving himself a moment to relax. Finally, he stood and turned on the sonic shower.
He didn't understand the situation any more than he did before, but he was suddenly hungry and anxious to get cleaned up.
The shower refreshed him, and after he'd changed into the clean uniform he felt much better. He looked at his reflection in the mirror. He wasn't younger; he was the same person and the same age as he'd been when he left Voyager's shuttlebay only a few hours ago.
He hoped to find clues about what had happened to him, but the only way he was going to do that was to go back out there where Kathryn was making sandwiches. He smiled at his reflection in the mirror. That was the easiest part of all of this, being with Kathryn. She was the same, but different. Younger, but not young. He already knew she was wise beyond her years, but that didn't surprise him. The Kathryn Janeway he'd known for seven years, the one that was 20 years older than this one, was also wise beyond her years.
He took a deep breath. This Kathryn was already getting under his skin the way the other one had done years ago. He had to be careful, and he had to find out how he'd gotten here and how to get back to his timeframe, and his ship.
As compelling as a 23-year-old Kathryn Janeway was, he missed his older version more.
Chakotay rolled his dirty uniform up and carried it down the hallway to his backpack and thrust it inside. He walked into the kitchen and found two place settings at the small table, with sandwiches and potato salad at each one. And Kathryn was just carrying fresh cups of coffee to the table for them.
She saw him enter the room and barely managed not to spill the coffee she was carrying. He'd been good looking before, but now he actually took her breath away. He was handsome, but there was something else, some animal sensuality about him that aroused her and made her want to put her hands on him. She took a deep breath. She'd never felt that way about anyone before. She was a scientist and a scholar. She was a Starfleet cadet and one day she was going to make her mark on the world by discovering some new planet or solar system. Or maybe she would discover something else, but whatever she was going to do, she would do it alone. She had no room for a man in her life, not now. Maybe in 20 years or so, but not now.
"Please, sit down," she said, nodding toward the chair nearest him. He sat and she placed a cup of coffee near his plate. "I hope you like coffee. I can't live without it," she said.
He smiled. "I've come to like it in recent years."
"So. You know my name, but I didn't catch yours," she said.
He paused. No matter what, he wouldn't lie to her. She'd already seen through the lie he'd told her on the beach, and he wouldn't do that again. He'd never been able to lie well to Kathryn anyway. "I didn't give it to you."
"Ah, that accounts for my missing it then," she said.
"I can't tell you my name, Kathryn," he said softly.
She put her fork down. "I see," she said. "Is it because of this mission you're on? Does it have anything to do with why you walked into my life from down a private beach on a remote section of land that very few people know exists? Why you told me you're looking for Starfleet Academy as though you don't know where it is?" She forced herself to slow down. "You can't tell anyone who you are, and why you're here? Is that it?"
"Partly. I hope you can understand it's not that I don't trust you. I do. I just can't tell you...certain things about me, about who I am."
She studied him for a moment, then nodded and picked up her fork again. "The potato salad is really good, you should try it."
He did. "It's wonderful. Did you make it?"
She laughed, and he loved the sound of it. "No. When I told you I'm not good in the kitchen, I meant it. I don't make things in the kitchen. I bought it this morning at the deli a few kilometers away." He smiled and they continued to eat in silence.
"Why do you trust me?" she asked.
"What?" The food was wonderful. His sandwich was a nice blend of cheeses and vegetables, while hers had some sort of meat on it. He wondered how she could know he was a vegetarian.
"You said you trust me. Why? You don't even know me," she said.
"I feel as though I do know you."
"Really. How so?" she asked.
"You ask a lot of questions for someone who said she wouldn't," he said.
"I didn't say I wouldn't; I said I'd try not to," she said simply. "And I tried, but I've failed. So, what makes you think you can trust me?"
He couldn't take the silly grin off his face. This Kathryn was so much like his own. And then he realized that he truly did consider Kathryn Janeway his. His own. His love. He had claimed her for a long time, really, though she didn't know it. He briefly wondered who that was less fair to, he or Kathryn.
She was waiting for an answer. He took a deep breath and looked into her eyes. "Because I know it. I don't know the answers to all your questions, Kathryn. But I know I can trust you."
She looked away first. "Yes, you can." She took a sip of her coffee and leaned back in her chair. "I can trust you, too. I don't know why, but I do know that I can."
"Yes. You can," he said.
"Well," she said and swallowed hard. "I guess we're even."
"I guess we are," he said. They looked at each other a bit longer, and then returned to their food.
Kathryn was becoming more and more unsettled. She'd never felt this way before in her life. A stranger had walked into her life, literally, an hour ago, and she was falling in love with him. This was impossible. She didn't believe in love at first sight, never had. She was a realist, not a dreamer. She was a scientist, not a sorcerer.
She watched him eat from the corner of her eye. He was nearly twice her age, but he was exciting, enticing. He was sexy and had an incredible body, and those dimples made her go all weak in the knees. When he looked directly at her, she melted. But that wasn't all. There was something else, something else about him she couldn't quite put her finger on. It was as though she knew him, as though she'd known him forever. No, she corrected herself, it was as though she had waited for him to walk down that very beach and into her life since the day she was born.
She'd felt compelled to spend time alone at the Thomason's cottage this weekend. She hadn't been able to explain why - she didn't particularly like being alone, and she especially hated visiting primitive cottages and other establishments without replicators and modern conveniences.
Here, even the furniture was old-fashioned. But for some reason she had wanted to visit this cottage, this weekend, alone. She had felt an incredible yearning to be here. Had it been Fate? Had Fate had a hand in sending this man her way?
No, she didn't believe in Fate. People were in charge of their own fates. Romantics believed things happened to them, and for them, but scientists believed there were rational explanations for everything.
Still...this one was definitely hard to explain.
Chakotay watched her watch him. He knew she was exploring every possible explanation for his being here. He could nearly hear the wheels turning inside her head. "When do you graduate the Academy?" he asked, deciding to make easy conversation.
She laughed. "What makes you think I'm a student at the Academy?" she asked.
Chakotay stopped. Hadn't she mentioned it? No, maybe not. He had to be very careful, he realized. "I just assumed you were, since you live so close to it."
"I don't live here, but you're right, I do live close by." She took their coffee cups over to the pot for a refill. "And I graduate in May."
"What are you studying?" he asked.
"Right now, astrophysics. Quantum theory, the usual."
"I see. A scientist."
"Of course?" he asked. "It sounds as though you believe there's nothing else out there worth studying."
She grinned. "We scientists actually do believe that, we just don't always admit it."
He looked into her eyes for a moment, then pulled his eyes away quickly and took his cup of coffee from her. Looking into Cadet Janeway's eyes reminded him too much of looking into Captain Janeway's eyes. The only difference was that the cadet wasn't moving away from the attraction that radiated between them.
He suddenly realized that Captain Janeway had turned away from that attraction from nearly the first day he'd met her. She knew she was attracted to him, he saw it completely now. She's always known the attraction was there, even before he'd admitted it to himself. And she'd tried to protect herself from it for seven years. She felt the attraction as much as he did. Somehow that new knowledge made him feel much better.
"What are you thinking about?" she asked softly.
"I beg your pardon?" he asked, suddenly pulling himself back to the present.
"You were a million kilometers away just then," she said.
"Maybe even more than that," he said and smiled. He stood and carried their empty plates to the recycler. "How about another walk on the beach?" he asked. "I feel the need for a bit of exercise after eating such a wonderful meal," he said. Actually, he had to get out of the house. Being close to her like this was too close for comfort.
"I don't often get compliments on meals I make," she said with a twinkle in her eye. "'All right, but don't you want to put on something more comfortable? Those uniforms can be a bit much after you wear them for several hours."
This from a woman who once told him she hated to worry about what to wear to a special occasion, and always preferred just to wear her uniform because things were much less complicated that way.
"I think I'll stay in this," he said. "I'm used to it." He couldn't afford to get more comfortable around her.
She shrugged. "Suit yourself." They walked outside and down to the same area of beach where they'd first met. Oddly enough, they were both quite comfortable with each other, even when not talking. There was no reason to talk simply for the sake of talking. Finally, she turned to him. "If you won't tell me your name, what shall I call you?"
He didn't know. "Do you have to call me anything?"
She wasn't sure. "Why don't we see if it becomes necessary?"
He nodded. "Sounds good."
"Which way do you want to walk?" she asked.
"Will we meet anyone if we walk that way?" he asked, pointing toward Starfleet Academy.
"Not for several kilometers," she said, "And I don't know about you, but I don't feel like going that far and returning in the dark."
"Neither do I," he said. "Let's only walk for a bit."
They started off. "Why don't you want to meet anyone?" she asked, already knowing what he would say.
"I can't answer that, Kathryn."
"All right." She seemed content just to walk with him for the time being. Chakotay immediately fell into step beside her. It felt as comfortable as when they walked the corridors together on Voyager.
"When do you have to go?" she asked, trying to make her question sound innocent enough, but Chakotay detected the edge to her voice and realized she'd been thinking about how to ask that question for some time.
He stopped walking and she turned to him. "I have some time," he said, knowing that he did, but not knowing exactly how he knew it.
"Can you stay overnight at the beach house?" she asked. "It'll be dark soon," she added quickly, "And there's not much you can accomplish outdoors at night."
"I could. If you have room for me," he said. Right now he didn't know how he would be able to stay in the same house alone with her, but he would do it somehow.
"I do," she said, and her voice was soft and warm. He could listen to her voice forever, and he'd loved it for seven years.
He nodded and swallowed, unable to talk right now.
She turned and began to head back to the house, and he followed her.
When they reached the back porch, the sunset was only minutes away. "Let's grab a bottle of wine and watch it," she said, looking at the sky.
"All right," he said, watching her watch the sky.
They returned to the beach a few minutes later with a bottle of wine, glasses, and a blanket. While she spread the blanket, Chakotay opened the wine and poured.
She took her glass from him and grinned. "Gee, I guess this seems pretty romantic for a scientist," she said.
Before he thought, he reached out and took her chin in his hand, forcing her to look into his eyes. "Kathryn, you don't have to be one or the other," he said. "You can be anything and everything you want to be." Her smile slowly disappeared, but she continued to look into his eyes.
"I don't know what it is about you," she whispered, "But I feel I've known you my whole life."
He slowly dropped his hand. He'd very nearly kissed her, and he knew she would have let him do it. Kathryn Janeway would finally have let him kiss her. But this wasn't the right woman, or was it?
She was Kathryn, but she wasn't yet his Kathryn.
He sat on the blanket, afraid to remain standing next to her, and after a moment she did the same. His heart was beating so fast he could hardly get his breath. He'd nearly kissed her, the words kept playing over and over in his mind.
"Is there something wrong?" she asked finally.
"Wrong?" he asked.
"Yes. Sometimes when you look into my eyes, I see such a wonderful and caring man, and then you pull away. It's as though...you're afraid to let yourself get close to me. I can't explain it better than that."
He sighed, and looked up at the sky. "Kathryn, I'll be leaving tomorrow. I have to go away. Don't ask me for more information than that, because I can't give it to you."
"All right." She paused. "But why do you pull your eyes away from mine?"
He made himself look at her. "Because it's going to be hard enough to say good-bye to you. I don't want it to be worse."
"It will be a lot worse by tomorrow, I'm sure," she said, and her voice held such sadness that he wanted to take her in his arms. "But it shouldn't prevent us from doing what we want to do tonight." She looked at him pointedly.
"Let's watch the sunset," he said, his voice beginning to break.
"The sunset will be here again tomorrow. You won't be," she said.
He sighed and put his glass on the ground beside him. "Kathryn...."
"Yes?" she said and moved closer to him on the blanket.
"Do you always get what you want?" he asked softly.
"No, but I try to," she whispered, and smiled, trying to lighten the moment.
Chakotay stood and moved away from her quickly. He couldn't stay here tonight. He couldn't be anywhere near her and not touch her. "Kathryn, I can't stay here."
She stood as well. "Why not? I thought you said..."
"Forget what I said, Kathryn." He began to pace, and took a deep breath. He had become very aroused already and he had to grab hold of himself.
"What's the matter?"
He stopped and looked over at her, standing there in the moonlight, hair trailing down her back, in those damned sexy shorts and sleeveless top. "I'm not right for you," he said finally.
"How do you know?" she asked.
"Because I just know it, Kathryn."
"You say my name as though you've said it a thousand times," she said softly. "It sounds lovely when you say it."
He took another deep breath as she walked slowly over to him. "Kiss me," she whispered.
"Kathryn," he took her shoulders gently in his hands, "Don't do this. We can't do this. You and I only have a few more hours together, and then I'm going to leave you, do you understand?"
"And you won't be back."
"No." He thought about it. "I'm not sure. If I ever do come back this way, Kathryn, it will be a long time from now. A very, very long time from now."
"I see," she said. "And because of that you don't want to kiss me?"
He sighed. "Kathryn, I want to kiss you more than I've ever wanted anything, but..."
"Then do it," she said, and he swore he could hear Captain Janeway speaking.
He thought about all the reasons why he shouldn't, and he thought about how he didn't want to hurt her. And then he saw the smoky look in her eyes, the look he recognized as desire, and a look he'd seen on rare occasion in Kathryn's eyes on Voyager, just before she turned away from him.
But this Kathryn wasn't turning away from him.
He swallowed hard. "Kathryn," his voice was a whisper, "I'm not that strong where you're concerned."
She closed the distance between them. He could feel her body brush his, and he knew without a doubt she could feel his erection against her stomach. She watched his eyes. "Do you want to make love with me?" she asked.
"Kathryn," he muttered.
She took his head in her hands, and slowly lifted her face to his. She gently caressed his lips with her own, while he tried to remember how to breathe.
Kathryn had never done this before - she'd never been so excited by a man, nor so aggressive toward one. And she knew without a doubt she wanted this, she wanted him. And she was not going to lose him without loving him first.
She'd made love with men before, not with many, and always with ones she knew well and cared for deeply. But this was different, and she was smart enough to know that if she didn't give herself to him tonight, she'd always regret not loving this man. She'd only known him for a matter of hours, yet she knew he was truly her soulmate, her love. She already knew she would never forget him.
She moved her mouth over his, then gently ran her tongue between his lips. He gasped in surprise, but then opened his mouth to allow her access. She pressed her lips against his, hard, and drove her tongue inside. She wanted him, all of him.
Chakotay's blood was pumping so very fast, and his legs were shaking. His erection was throbbing, and he was kissing Kathryn, his Kathryn. Time lines blended together in his heart, and he pulled her into his arms and held on tight.
He kissed her back. He ran his tongue inside her mouth and caressed hers. He nibbled her lips as she moaned and held onto him.
He gently lowered her to the blanket behind them, and she wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him down on top of her.
Chakotay ran his hands over her sides, and under her top, enthralled by the way her skin felt as he moved across it. He merely touched her bra, and she sighed into his mouth. He deliberately reached behind her and undid the clasp, then gently ran his hands back around to the front of her.
She pulled her lips away from his, but never stopped looking into his eyes. This time he held her eyes with his own as she slowly undid the four small buttons on her blouse. He looked down and, with his own hands, moved the fabric aside. He kissed the smooth skin beneath her bra and she gasped. He lifted her up to him and slipped both the blouse and the bra off her shoulders.
Now he gasped. Her breasts were firm, full and beautiful. They were incredible, and he slowly took each one into his mouth, one at a time.
Her breath came out in small gasps and she dug both of her hands into his hair and pulled him to her, as she fell back onto the blanket.
Chakotay sucked one breast and manipulated the nipple of the other one with his hand. She moaned and writhed beneath him, then pulled him up to kiss her mouth. She thrust her tongue inside him quickly, deeply, wanting to crawl inside him.
He moved his hands down her sides and buttocks. He pushed his hands inside her shorts and she immediately lifted her buttocks so he could finish undressing her. He slipped off her shorts and underwear in one motion, noting how quickly she lay naked beneath him.
He was so incredibly aroused by this woman, by Kathryn. He kissed her mouth, then her neck and chin. She moved her head to one side so he could kiss her neck more completely. He worked his way back down to her breasts and lower still, to her stomach. She moaned louder and began to push his head lower as she gasped and moved beneath him.
He sat up and looked at her face. Beneath the setting sun, she was flushed and glowing. There was the faintest hint of perspiration on her upper lip, and she smiled at him, raw, naked and unashamed. He'd managed to pull the clasp on her hair and it was splayed out around her. Her breasts were round and the nipples were pointed and firm. Her stomach was smooth and he finally allowed himself to look lower, at the curled tendrils of soft brown pubic hair.
He looked her over slowly, deliberately, while she watched him. He smiled back at her. "You're beautiful," he whispered. And she was.
He gently touched her pubic hair and she gasped, then slowly spread her legs for him. He'd never experienced so much trust, and so much urgent need, from anyone before. And she didn't even know his name.
He gently parted the soft hair with his fingers and saw that she was already pink and swollen, waiting for him. Her breath was coming out in small gasps and she was watching him look at her.
Kathryn watched him, felt him, loved the feel of his hands all over her body. He'd parted her pubic hair and was looking at her. The fact that he wasn't taking quick peeks, but was staring at her openly, only excited her more. She watched him slowly move down to kiss her open thighs. The feel of his warm breath on her privates sent a tingle throughout her entire body and made her moan again. She also knew she was so wet, and only getting wetter.
The fact that he had yet to remove any of his clothing, but was staring at her total nakedness, was also making her yearn for more, and making her wonder what he looked like beneath that Starfleet uniform.
Chakotay kissed the moist soft skin on her inner thighs and slowly moved closer to her center. He kissed the small brown birthmark on the very inside of her right thigh, noting that it was identical to the one he'd always loved on the inside of her wrist.
He moved closer to her clitoris, and he heard her gasp and whimper. Finally, he touched her pink nub with his tongue and then licked it gently, before enclosing it completely inside his mouth.
Kathryn gasped loudly and bucked up to meet him. He held her firm, while he explored every inch of her. He licked and sucked and moved lower still. She spread her legs even further apart for him, and he thrust his tongue inside her, swallowing the warm, wet moisture he found there.
She knew she couldn't take much more, but she also knew he wouldn't want her to hold back. She'd never been touched like this, never been studied so openly, explored so openly, loved so openly.
When he moved his tongue back to her warm, throbbing nub, he thrust his first two fingers deep inside her. She moaned loudly and rocked against his hand as he sucked her. Kathryn suddenly felt the explosion they'd both been waiting for - it ripped forth inside her, sending her over the edge, and throwing her vaginal muscles into spasms. Chakotay moved his lips and tongue back down to take her juices into his mouth.
Finally, Kathryn's breathing began to slow. Chakotay gently pulled his tongue out of her and began to kiss his way up her splendid body to reach her straining nipples, and then her warm, sweet mouth. He'd never known such complete joy, and no one had ever given herself to him as completely as Kathryn just had.
Kathryn kissed him, tasting herself in his mouth, wanting to feel him inside her more than anything in the universe. "Please," she whispered, "I want to see you."
Her voice was low and sexy, the voice of a woman, not a child. The voice of the woman he'd loved for longer than he could remember.
He kissed her again, gently, and ran his hand down the side of her lovely face, and through her hair.
She watched him enjoy her, and realized that in all her experiences, she'd never really made love before, not truly, not with her entire body, heart, and soul.
She unbuttoned his jacket and he slipped it off his shoulders. She sat up and helped him remove the rest of his clothing, piece by piece, enjoying every moment, every inch of his exposed skin as it was uncovered. She kissed his shoulder, his biceps, his wrist, and finally, she buried her face in his chest and trailed kisses over it until she reached his nipple.
He lay on his back, naked except for his briefs. She licked and teased his nipples as he had done hers. He gasped and pulled her mouth to his for a long incredible kiss.
She sat up again, and he touched her breasts, still admiring the very sight of them. She loved the feel of his palms running over her nipples, and felt herself becoming aroused, very aroused again, already.
Kathryn sat beside him and slipped her hand inside his shorts. He gasped and grabbed her hand. "Kathryn..."
She smiled. "I intend to see and touch this wonderful thing I've been feeling against me," she said in a voice that sent his heart reeling. That same voice had sent shivers up his spine for years.
He lay back and watched her as she uncovered his erection gently, then actually gasped. He smiled. He let her remove his underwear and then kiss her way slowly back up his legs until she reached his penis.
Now he gasped. She certainly knew what she was doing.
Kathryn kissed the base of his penis and worked her way up the shaft, licking and nibbling, until she reached the top. As Chakotay watched, she glided it into her mouth and took it in as far as she could. She could feel it become even harder in her mouth.
She lightly caressed his scrotum with her other hand, and Chakotay stopped her by flipping her onto her back and taking a taunt nipple into his mouth.
She nearly screamed from the surprise and exhilaration of it.
He pulled back and grinned. "I hope you don't mind, but I'm enamored with your body."
She laughed and stroked his hair. "I love it," she said in a husky voice.
He kissed her again, then moved carefully on top of her.
"I won't break," she said softly, kissing him.
He wanted to be with her more than he'd ever wanted anything. She was his Kathryn, even if she didn't know it yet.
She was more than ready for him. She pulled him to her and spread her legs around him. Their bodies felt good together, and so right.
He pushed inside her and she gasped. He felt incredible, and huge. She took him inside her gladly, easily. She felt every moment of it and relished in it. She'd never known making love could be like this.
He moved inside her, and thrust slowly at first, then faster. Kathryn learned his rhythm immediately and moved against him for more impact.
Chakotay buried his face in her hair and inhaled the scent of lilac, the same scent he'd smelled earlier today when sitting next to Kathryn on the Bridge.
He felt close to her, in love with her. This was his Kathryn.
Kathryn loved the feel of him on top of her, inside of her, his body against hers.
Suddenly, she felt a surge, an incredible and powerful release torpedo throughout her body and she bucked against him one last time, letting loose every part of her being, giving herself to him completely. Chakotay felt her release, felt her muscles clamp hard against his organ, then release, then clamp again...and he burst forth inside her and called her name as he pulled her tightly against him, heart beating against heart, breaths coming in spurts, bodies warm and moist and clamped tightly together.
They lay together collecting themselves, and trying to breath again.
Slowly, Chakotay raised his face from her hair and looked at her. She smiled at him, lips puffed and swollen, eyes shining. He grinned back and gently kissed her lips. He loved her. She was everything to him, and she was real. He kissed her again.
"I've never made love like that before," she whispered.
"Neither have I," he said softly.
She regarded him a moment. "You haven't?"
"No." He smelled her hair again, and closed his eyes. Lilac.
Suddenly, she felt wonderful, incredible. She sat up. "Let's go for a swim," she said.
"A swim!" And she stood from the blanket, as the remains of their juices ran down her leg, and her skin shone in the waning light. She looked down. "I think I need to rinse off anyway." She held out her hand. "Come on," she said.
He took her hand and stood. They walked down to the water together, hand in hand, naked and unembarrassed.
She waded in cautiously. He watched her and felt his arousal begin again. Immediately, he stepped into the water to calm it. Seeing her naked was a vision he'd had too many times, yet seeing her like this was even more incredible than he'd thought it would be.
They pushed out from the bank and cooled themselves off. She moved over to him and kissed him. That was all it took. He felt his penis respond, cool water or no. "Kathryn...."
"Hmmm?" She raised herself a bit above the water and clamped her legs around his waist, moving her breasts close to his mouth. She knew exactly what she was doing.
He clamped his mouth over her taut nipple and she laughed, then he heard a sigh and a moan that came from the back of her throat. She was becoming aroused again.
He held her to him and slowly walked out of the water. As soon as he reached the sand, he lay her on it and continued to kiss her breasts, to suck her nipples and nip at them. She writhed on the sand and pulled him to her.
They were both lying in the sand, their wet bodies molded against each other. He moved away from her and began to caress her. His hands roamed her entire body and when they reached her thigh she parted her legs for him again.
He reached inside her and felt the warm wet liquid that told him she was aroused once more. He rubbed her innermost button gently and watched as she spread her legs farther apart, showing herself to him, and thrust herself against his hand. Her eyes were closed and she was panting. He watched her, then took her swollen clit into his mouth just in time to feel her reach her climax. He felt her body spasm, and spasm again, and her muscles clamped tightly around his fingers. His own breathing sped up, watching her. She was the most exciting woman he'd ever known. Yet he knew she would only become more exciting as the years passed.
He knew that for certain.
She slowly opened her eyes, legs still spread, and his fingers still inside her. "That was wonderful," she said lazily.
He grinned. "It was," he said." Slowly, he slid his fingers out of her and leaned over to kiss her.
"Now what do you want to do?" she asked, smiling at him.
"I don't know," he said. "Build sandcastles?"
She laughed. He began to spread sand over her stomach and her thighs. "Actually, that does feel rather cool," she said.
He continued to sprinkle sand over her body. He watched the small particles cling to the moisture of her body, and it excited him. She saw his eyes, and watched what was happening to him. She saw his erection stand at attention, and she smiled. She spread her legs wide again, and he sprinkled handfuls of sand over her thighs, over her folds, her clitoris, over her entire pubic area. She watched his eyes as he looked at her, watched as he poured the sand over her body.
Now he began to push it away, the sand - he ran his fingers down her folds, and the friction sent shivers up her spine. And when most of it was gone, and his own erection had been rubbed into the sand as well, he looked deeply into her eyes.
"Yes," she whispered, "Oh yes."
He came to her, moved over her, and thrust deeply inside her. They both shrieked as the friction of the sand moving against them, inside her, over him, brought them both to new heights, and their passion pushed them to the edge, and over the precipice together.
Minutes later, they were both spent. They lie beside each other on the sand, sprawled apart, yet holding hands. They caught their breaths soon afterward and began to take deep breaths, stilling their heartbeats.
He raised above her on his elbow and looked into her eyes. "How are you?"
She smiled. "Wonderful."
"I know that," he smiled, "But how are you otherwise?"
"Ready for a quick swim, I think," she said. Then she looked down at herself. Her body was red from the friction of the sand, and she felt sand embedded in every pore of her body. Yet she smiled at him. "I think I need one," she said, and then actually reached for him and pressed her mouth against his.
Chakotay was reeling from her passion. He had never known anything like this, anyone like her, before.
She stood, a lovely vision of beautiful female form, and sand. He stood and reached for her hand. Together they strode back into the water to clean themselves.
Kathryn went to him and washed his shoulders, his face, his chest. She moved her hands down to take his penis into her hands and clean it in the water. He felt his heartbeat quicken at her touch, and knew this would always happen when she touched him.
She felt his penis quiver in her hand and smiled. She rubbed her hand over his entire body and felt his hands on hers. She belonged to him completely, body, soul and heart, and felt his hands move gently over her body, too, over her breasts, her back and sides, her hips and all her private areas. His fingers pushed inside her, cleaning her.
She closed her eyes and felt him take her, all of her, with his hands.
Minutes later, they walked together from the water and went back to the blanket and lay together. They were both sated, calm and content. The sun had somehow disappeared and the moon, the full moon, was shining brightly overhead.
They pulled part of the blanket over them, and she curled up beside him.
They lay quietly, holding each other. He sighed deeply. Somehow, some way, Fate had decided to put Kathryn Janeway in his path twice. He didn't understand why, and he may never know the reason, but for now, this moment, he wouldn't question it. Today, he would accept the stolen moments and be glad.
Chakotay felt his eyes closing, and pulled her close against him. No matter what happened, no matter if he didn't wake tomorrow, he would die with Kathryn Janeway in his arms. Life couldn't get better than that.
When Chakotay opened his eyes, she was gone. He sat up quickly, shading his eyes from the sunlight. He saw her then, by the water's edge, holding a seashell to her ears. She was naked and her hair was blowing back behind her in the breeze.
His penis reacted strongly at seeing her, and stood at attention in front of him. He sighed. This was not an unusual reaction at all when he looked at Kathryn Janeway, no matter her age or her manner of dress. Or undress, he thought, as he watched her walk toward him.
"Hi," she said tentatively. He knew that the light of day made many people wonder about the night before.
He grinned. "Hi yourself," he said. She smiled fully, knowing that everything was all right.
She sat beside him on the blanket, and the sun played over her hair. She leaned over to kiss him, and wrapped her hand around his erect penis. Chakotay gasped, but she continued to manipulate him.
"Shhhh," she said. She pushed him back on the blanket and sat astride his chest, her pubic hair opened against him. He felt her moisture and his heart leapt inside his chest. He felt incredibly rested and ready. She gently raised herself above him and lowered herself onto his waiting erection. They both gasped, and she began to ride him slowly, her breasts bobbing gently in rhythm. He reached up and took them in his hands and rubbed both her nipples as she increased her speed. He manipulated her nipples and watched as his penis slid inside her and then out again. He felt her muscles welcome him inside her, then release him again. And he knew he loved her more at this moment than he'd ever loved her before.
Kathryn felt the power, her release, and his. She felt him thrust into her one last time, and felt him spurt inside her, deeply. She felt the warmth, and didn't want to lose it. She gasped one last time, and rolled over to lie next to him. She closed her legs, wanting to keep his gift to her, but he sat up next to her and nudged her legs apart, then looked at her. He gently dipped a finger inside her and brought it out, wet with the combination of their juices. He licked his finger as she watched, then he kissed her full on the mouth. She became even more aroused and kissed him back, tentatively at first, then fully. The taste was of them, both of them.
He continued to touch her and kiss her, and enjoy her body completely as he'd never been allowed to before. Soon, he moved back and saw the lust in her eyes. He pushed her legs apart and moved down to drink from her, filling his mouth full of their liquid, then moving back to her.
He rolled over onto her and pushed his aching and straining penis inside her as he thrust his tongue inside her mouth. He knew he wasn't ready for a climax yet, yet his penis was at attention, wanting her. She took him in, his penis into her vagina, and his tongue into her mouth. They caressed each other's tongues and swallowed the combination of their love, and they were joined together; it was the best they could do, the closest they could become at being joined as One.
A few minutes later, he rolled onto his side and turned to her. "Good morning," he said, and caressed her breasts gently.
She sighed and closed her eyes, feeling his palms rub against her erect nipples. "Good morning," she said.
"You're even more beautiful in the daylight," he said.
She laughed, but he detected a sadness there. She knew, and he knew, how limited their time together was to be.
He leaned over and took her nipple into his mouth, and she sighed.
After a moment he lay back on the blanket and pulled her to him. She lay her head on his shoulder and moved her hand gently over his chest. "Last night was wonderful. I'll never forget it," she said so softly he barely heard her. "You talk in your sleep, you know," she said.
His heart skipped a beat. "I did?" he asked, suddenly opening his eyes. "What did I say?" He tried to sound casual.
She laughed and sat up. "You mean, did you say another woman's name? " She laughed again, but then grew quiet. "You called my name, several times. Even in your sleep, you say it as though you've said it thousands of times before." She paused and looked away. "It was really...special. Thank you for that. I know we've only had a short time together, but it makes me feel that I'm the only woman in your life."
"You are," he said, looking into her eyes. It was the truth.
She sighed. "I know you're going away, and that we'll never see each other again, but I'm still glad that you made love to me."
"We made love together, Kathryn," he said.
"Yes, we did," she said.
"Did I ...say anything else in my sleep?"
She laughed. "You mean, did you mention anything about this secret adventure of yours?" Then she looked into his eyes and saw that he was serious. "No you didn't," she said gently. "You mumbled something once about a voyage or a voyager...something like that, but that's all. Nothing more."
He nodded, and sighed in relief. Thankfully, he hadn't said anything foolish or out of order. Voyager. He'd dreamt of the ship, and of Kathryn, all night. He had to get back to her, to his present-day Kathryn.
She leaned over and kissed him. "Let's go inside and have some breakfast," she said. "I'm famished."
He grinned. "Somehow I don't think it's the food as much as the coffee you want."
"You remember everything I tell you about myself," she said, shaking her head. "It's amazing."
He touched her face gently with his hand. "You're important to me," he said.
She felt the tears start, so she jumped up instead. "Let's wash off and go back to the cottage," she said, starting for the water.
He joined her for a few minutes in the water and then they pulled on their clothes. "Come on," she said, "Let's go get that coffee."
He laughed. He'd put on his Starfleet tee shirt, but carried his jacket. They gathered up the few remaining items, and returned to the cottage.
Chakotay looked around the old-fashioned kitchen. "Why don't you make the coffee and I'll fix breakfast?" he asked.
She looked at him. "You cook?"
He grinned. "I'm a pretty good cook, actually."
"A man after mine own heart." She laughed. "It's a deal - you cook and I'll make the coffee. I like that."
They worked well together, making coffee and eggs and toast. They enjoyed laughing and talking about anything and everything, but they both avoided discussing Chakotay's past, and even his future. It was simpler to avoid it than either of them would have thought possible.
They managed to discuss many things during breakfast, and Chakotay saw so much of the future Kathryn Janeway in the woman in front of him. She was kind, generous, and thoughtful. She'd thought about everything at one time or another, and had opinions about everything as well. He smiled to himself. And she was more stubborn than anyone he'd ever known. Still.
Kathryn watched him, and occasionally thought about how she would miss him. But she pushed that thought away every time it came to the surface. She absolutely refused to sacrifice the present for thoughts of a future that wouldn't happen.
He was so handsome, she thought for the thousandth time. And there was something else...something special, even remotely familiar, about him. She caught herself in déjà vu moments every now and then, and had experienced them, in fact, since he'd first walked into her life yesterday afternoon, but it didn't make any sense. She knew she'd never met this man before now.
After they finished eating, he carried their plates to the recycler and cleared things away, while she refilled their coffee cups yet again.
"You're going to turn into a cup of coffee," he said.
She laughed. "I suppose I will," she agreed. "That's what my mother used to tell me, too. Frankly, I can't see anything wrong with that. Everyone has to strive for something."
He took the coffee cup she offered him and looked into her eyes. "What are you striving for, Kathryn?" he asked softly.
"I want to know everything there is to know," she said evenly. "About what's out there," she said, gesturing through the window toward the sky. She walked to the huge kitchen window and looked up at the sun. "There is still so much we don't know about our universe, and about other universes. I want to see other suns, other moons, other planets, solar systems...I want to be out there with it all."
"The Captain of a starship..." he barely knew he'd said the words.
She laughed loudly. "Captain? Oh, no! I'll leave that to those who need to feel the power of command!" She laughed again at the thought. "I just want to be out there, that's all. I want to study it all, learn everything I can about it, and maybe bring some of that knowledge back to others. Maybe." Her eyes twinkled. "Or, maybe I'll just keep it all to myself!"
He grinned. "A science officer on a starship," he amended.
"That's right," she said, moving to him. "Besides, I'd be terrible at command."
"Do you think so?" He had a huge smile on his face, he knew, but he couldn't make it go away.
"Why's that?" He had to know.
"Because I'm bossy and very stubborn," she said. "And I'm sure those qualities aren't good for a Captain to have."
He smiled knowingly. "Oh, I don't know," he replied. "I can think of several times they might come in handy." He couldn't wipe the smile off his face, no matter how hard he tried. "Besides, you might change your mind one day."
"Hardly," she said.
"You sound so sure of that." He couldn't let it drop.
"I also hate anything to do with time travel," she said, and his heart stopped beating for a moment. He'd certainly heard that one before! "And I think a Captain has to be willing to deal with those possibilities. The future's the past, the past's the future...it's all too confusing for me."
He loved listening to her talk. He'd always loved listening to her talk.
"But I intend to go out there. A science officer is a title to be proud of, you know."
"Yes it is," he agreed, still trying to quiet his heart.
She looked at him pointedly. "And maybe one day when I'm out there, I'll even see you again."
He suddenly felt the tears well up in his eyes. "Maybe you will at that," he said. "Anything's possible." His voice caught in his throat, and he walked around her and to the window she'd just been looking through. He forced himself to sip from the coffee cup he carried with him, even though he didn't really want the coffee.
"What is it?" she asked softly.
He sighed loudly. "I don't want to leave you, Kathryn, yet I have to. I want to tell you why, tell you everything, but I can't. I don't even know all of it myself."
She put her cup down and moved to him. He turned to face her and she took his face gently in her hands and stared deeply into his eyes. "I don't know your name, and I don't know anything about your mission, or why I'll never see you again, but know that I wouldn't have changed these past hours we've had together for anything. Not for anything," she whispered, and placed her lips against his.
He managed to put his cup down before it fell from his hands, and pulled her to him.
She mashed her body against his and felt his erection press against her stomach. She ran her hands over his bare arms, loving the feel of his muscles, of him.
He missed seeing and touching her breasts. He reached under her top and undid the catch on her bra, quickly undid the buttons on her shirt and pushed both off her shoulders and dropped them to the floor. He grabbed a nipple between his teeth and she gasped and pulled him to her.
She'd never felt such sexual desire in her life, such intensity. He aroused her quickly, and took her to climaxes such as she'd never experienced before.
He lifted her easily and sat her on the counter near the window. He kissed her breasts and teased the nipples until they were firm. He kept her gasping for breath, and wanting more.
She lifted her hips so that he could pull the rest of her clothing off. Then she spread her knees open and he put his head between them, kissing her thighs, nibbling her skin.
She thought she wouldn't be able to breathe much longer, but she didn't want him to stop. She gasped and moaned, and managed to hang on to the countertop while he continued running his tongue inside her thigh. She wanted him to take her, now, quickly. She was ready, and he was making her ache inside. She tried to push his head farther down, but he pushed her hands away and teased her all the more.
She moaned and thrashed, and finally he fastened his lips over her clitoris, and sucked her until she came suddenly, quick and hard. She bucked up into his mouth and he pushed his first two fingers deep inside her, as she thrashed against them.
He slowly kissed his way back up to her breasts, and licked and sucked her nipples, while her breathing began to slow. He kept his fingers inside her until the spasms subsided, and then he pulled them out gently.
She pulled him to her and kissed him deeply. "I've never experienced this," she whispered.
"Neither have I, Kathryn, neither have I," he said, and they touched their foreheads together. He was now standing between her legs and he put his arms around her and pulled her closer to him.
"Why is it I always end up naked when you're still fully dressed?" she asked playfully, once she had her breath back.
He grinned. "I don't know, but it has happened before, hasn't it?"
She sat back and reached over to pull his tee shirt over his head. "You should remember what they teach you about your uniform at the Academy. It is an important statement about who you are, what you believe, and what you represent. You are to wear it with pride, honor, dignity, and allegiance to the Federation and all its entities. You are to wear it completely, the uniform in its entirety, or not at all."
He'd heard those words before, too many times.
"So, if you don't want to wear the jacket, you shouldn't wear any of it," she continued, her voice dropping an octave, as she managed to finish undressing him.
He stood before her, naked and strong, with an erection that made her eyes go dark with desire. He couldn't believe she could want him again so soon.
She opened her legs and pulled him to her. "Love me again," she said, in a voice that sent shockwaves throughout his body. "I want you again, please, now, I want all of you."
Kathryn Janeway was begging him for more; the thought formed somewhere in the back of his mind.
He grabbed her buttocks and pulled her to him as he pushed himself inside her. They both gasped and she leaned back and put her legs up on his shoulders so he could penetrate her as deeply as possible. The angle worked for both of them; he thrust inside her again and again, gently at first and then faster, and then faster still. They reached the edge together and as she bucked up to meet him, he buried himself deep inside her, and released himself there. As their spasms calmed and their breath came back, he slowly slid out of her.
She looked at his moist, flaccid penis and took it in her hand. He gasped. He was still tender, but she gently leaned over and took it into her mouth. He watched her as she sucked it and kissed it, and then sat back up with a smile on her face. "I just wanted to do that," she said simply.
He kissed her, tasting both of them in her mouth. He reached down and slipped three fingers inside her. She gasped, but pushed against his hand. He rubbed her most sensitive spot and she moaned softly, kissing him.
He pulled his fingers out of her gently, and replaced them with his tongue. She gasped again, knowing that their juices were beginning to run out of her. He tasted her and kissed her there, then reached over and picked her up easily, and carried her down the hallway to the bathroom.
They ran water into the large, deep sunken bathtub that she loved, and sat in the warm water, cleansing each other, and looking deeply into each other's eyes. Their time was drawing to a close, and they both knew it without having to say so.
Her resilience amazed him. After several minutes they drained most of the water from the tub and lie back, he against the back of the tub and she between his legs, lying against his chest. He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her tightly against him. He reached around and gingerly began to tease her nipples. She immediately began to whimper. He looked down at her face. Her eyes were closed and he watched the pleasure spread over it. Her face was flushed and beautiful, the same face he'd found to be so beautiful for so many years.
He reached down and encouraged her to spread her legs, and she did, flinging them over the sides of the tub and leaving her open for him to see. He caressed her body gently, completely, and finally pushed two fingers inside her. He moved them in and out of her slowly, and then placed his thumb over her clitoris, and began to rub it in gentle circles. She moaned in the back of her throat and moved against his hand, as he thrust in and out of her faster, and faster still.
He watched her face as it went through every lovely expression imaginable, and when she reached the precipice and jumped off, her body arched up to meet him. She strained toward him, and gave herself to him completely.
As her spasms subsided, he reached down and kissed her, and she opened her mouth to him.
After a bit, when her breathing had mostly returned to normal, she opened her eyes and found him still staring at her, his fingers deep inside her. She sighed. "You're staring at me," she whispered, and her voice was husky.
"Yes, I am," he said, smiling down at her. "And I've loved watching you, and being a part of this with you," he said in a gentle voice.
"I've never been watched before," she said.
"You didn't seem to mind it."
"I didn't," she admitted. "Not with you." Her eyes grew moist and she turned away, pushing all thoughts of his leaving aside, at least for a little bit longer.
An hour later, they were both refreshed and dressed, drinking yet another cup of coffee in the kitchen. She had made a fresh pot, mostly in order to keep herself occupied. She refused to think about his leaving until she was forced to.
"Yes." She was trying so hard not to think about what was coming.
"When you're out there, in the stars," he paused, knowing he had to say this to her, and knowing it probably wouldn't make much difference right now, "Remember that not everything in life can be explained by your scientific principles. Some things can't be measured or understood by theory or mathematics, but is measured by faith."
"Faith?" She smiled. She loved to hear him talk.
"Some things are more spiritual than scientific. They should just be accepted for what they are, or are meant to be."
"I'm a scientist, remember? I think there are answers for every question."
"It's not always that easy, Kathryn," he said.
"I'll try to remember that," she said, suddenly feeling the time drawing nearer when he would leave her. She moved away and stared out the window again.
Chakotay opened his backpack and reached inside. He pulled out a carving he had made from a piece of driftwood a few weeks ago. He somehow had known he'd brought it with him, that it was inside his backpack, though he had no knowledge of putting it there. It was vaguely the shape of a man and a woman, drawn together, two forms that would have been unidentifiable if seen separately, yet together there was no question about who and what they were, and how much they meant to each other.
He had felt compelled to carve it, not knowing why, and not knowing what the finished product would become. He'd been surprised at what he'd created as he'd held the finished carving in his hand. Yet as he'd worked he'd thought of Kathryn, and had felt his love for her in his heart and in his soul.
Now, finally, he knew why he'd carved it. What he didn't know was how it had gotten into his backpack now.
He turned it over in his hand and looked up at Kathryn. Her back was to him and she was staring out the window. He knew that she knew he was preparing to leave.
"Kathryn..." he called her name softly.
She turned to him, and he saw that her eyes were moist. "I told myself I wouldn't cry. I never cry," she said. "If I'm hurt, I force myself to get upset instead, but I don't cry."
"That's good," he said, though he knew he would shed a few tears himself after he left her.
He walked to her and handed the piece of carved driftwood to her.
She looked deeply into his eyes, the way she had of doing, the way she'd done for years.
"What is this?" she asked.
"A carving I made not long ago," he said. "I want you to have it."
"It's beautiful," she said softly, immediately knowing what it represented.
He sighed. "When I started the carving, I had no idea that it would turn out to be what you see now. And I've wondered many times since what made me create it. I've never known a love like that one," he said, nodding at the piece she held in her hand. "Not until now," he said, and looked back into her eyes.
The tears spilled over and ran down her face, and from nowhere she slowly raised her right hand in a gesture he knew well and recognized immediately. His heart began to race as he lifted his own hand to hers.
They laced their fingers together in the way they'd done only once before, one other time that now seemed like a dream to him, a time when he'd told her that he loved her in the only way he knew how.
She lowered her head, no longer able to look into his eyes. He pulled her to him, and rested his chin on top of her head. He held her for a long time, allowing her to cry silently while she held onto the small token of remembrance he'd given her, and allowing himself the same space, the same silence.
Finally, she pulled away and stepped back. Her eyes were wet and shining, and her cheeks were flushed. He reached out and gently wiped away a stray tear that was making its way down her cheek.
"Thanks," she said softly.
He nodded and turned away to gather his backpack, and she went to the sink and washed her face.
Finally, they both headed down to the beach knowing it was time for him to go. He carried his backpack and she carried the piece of driftwood he had given her, as though she were afraid it would disappear if she left it behind. She was determined to be brave. He was going to leave her anyway, so she might as well start accepting it in her heart as well as in her mind.
They reached the edge of the beach, and the same spot he'd first set eyes on her the day before. He turned to her. "Kathryn..."
"Don't tell me good-bye," she said in a weak voice. "I still think I'll see you again someday, up there," and she nodded at the sky.
He followed her gaze, and briefly wondered if his Kathryn were up there, waiting for him to return. He hoped he could. He missed her. But when he looked this Kathryn in the eyes, he knew they were one and the same. He just wished he could put it all together in his mind.
He sighed. She took a deep breath.
He moved to her and lifted her chin so she would look him in the eye. "Kathryn, no matter what happens, no matter where you go or what you do, and no matter who you become, know that you are the most special woman I've ever known. And know that I love you." He leaned over and kissed her deeply.
She wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him to her, kissing him back. "I love you," she whispered. "I'll always love you."
He kissed her again, gently, and then forced his legs to move him away, to carry him down the beach and back in the direction he had come from yesterday.
As he moved away, his legs felt heavy, and heavier. It was all he could do to leave her. When he was several meters away, he turned and looked back. She hadn't moved. Her hair was blowing in the breeze, and the sundress she had slipped on that afternoon was gently whipping around her gorgeous legs. He had never seen a more beautiful woman in his life.
Except when he looked to his right, at the woman in the Captain's seat next to him, on Voyager.
He smiled and waved, and she waved back sadly.
He would see Kathryn again, soon.
He turned again, and set out.
Kathryn watched until he was out of sight, and then she watched a little while longer. The tears were still streaming down her face. Her eyes were swollen and her legs were tired from holding her up for what seemed like hours.
Finally, she lowered herself to the sand. She looked at the piece of driftwood in her hand and the tears began anew.
The most incredible man she had ever known had walked into her life, literally, and she had fallen in love with him. He had loved her as she'd never been loved before, and she had loved him back. He'd given her his heart, she knew that, and he had taken hers with him. They belonged together. And no matter what, she would find him again someday, secret mission be damned.
And after today, she would never cry over him again.
She just wished she knew his name.
Chakotay walked and walked. The landscape looked unfamiliar, yet familiar. He had no idea where he was, and all he remembered from yesterday was that he had walked and walked until he had stumbled upon Kathryn Janeway on Planet Earth.
He was hoping he would stumble upon the shuttlecraft and Neelix; he didn't know what else to do.
He forced himself to concentrate on his surroundings, and on getting back to the shuttle, and not on the woman he'd left behind.
His path turned sharply to the left, following the tree line.
Suddenly, Chakotay saw the sun ahead of him. He stopped. Considering the time he'd left Kathryn earlier, along with the amount of time he'd been walking, it should be early evening, but the sun in front of him told him it was closer to noon.
He continued walking.
Another kilometer ahead, he came upon a second sharp turn in the path. When he came out of the bend, he stopped and took a quick breath. The shuttle was only a few meters ahead.
Chakotay hurried down the path. He took his backpack off, and dropped it onto the ground. "Neelix?" he shouted. "Neelix?" He looked into the shuttle and saw that it was nearly packed full of greenery - herbs, spices, and other stalks and bushes and greenery, but there was no Neelix.
Chakotay turned to the surrounding tree line, and wondered if Neelix was nearby. "Neelix?" he called again.
"I'm right here, Commander," said Neelix, coming from behind the shuttle, and carrying some large palm-like plants in his arms. He put them down on the ground and turned to Chakotay. "I don't think you should be up and moving around quite yet, Commander."
"What do you mean, Neelix?" asked Chakotay, walking down the shuttle ramp to meet him.
"Well, you hit your head on your console when we landed, Commander. I've been a bit concerned about you, but I was able to contact the Doctor and give him your tricorder readings. He said you would be all right until he sees you, as long as you don't move around too much."
"Move around too much?"
"Why yes. You've been lying over there for the past hour," said Neelix, eyeing Chakotay suspiciously, then nodded toward a blanket and makeshift pillow on the ground near the shuttle. "I've just finished collecting the items we need for the kitchen, and we'll be ready to leave in a few minutes." He paused. "Are you all right, Commander? You look a little pale."
Chakotay nodded vaguely. He had been knocked unconscious? Did he dream the entire meeting with Kathryn, the lovemaking, the desire in her eyes, the tears she'd shed for him earlier? He shook his head as if to clear it.
"Commander?" asked Neelix tentatively, moving closer to Chakotay. "Are you all right?"
"Neelix, how long have we been here?"
"Just under two hours, Commander," replied Neelix. "Why don't you go inside the shuttle and lie down. I'll get us out of here and back home to Voyager."
Neelix nodded. "Mr. Tuvok has been watching the distortion field around the planet and he believes there will be a small window of opportunity for us to slip back through. He says it will occur at precisely 14:00 hours and only last for 3.5 seconds, but that should be time enough for us to get back to the other side." He paused. "Commander?"
Chakotay pulled himself back to the present. "Neelix, have I been sleeping the entire time we've been on this planet?"
"I believe so, Commander. You were lying over there sound asleep each time I returned to the shuttle with another arm load of plants and vegetables."
Chakotay took a deep breath. Now was not the time to try to put all the pieces of this puzzle together, and he wasn't sure he wanted to know what it all meant anyway. Yet he had to know what happened. "I was knocked unconscious?"
"That's right, Commander. In fact, I was knocked out for a few moments myself, but the Doctor is satisfied that I'm all right now, though he's going to give me a thorough examination when we get back to Voyager. He says I have a hard head," he said with pride.
Suddenly, all that mattered to Chakotay was getting back to Kathryn. "Let's get moving, Neelix." He went to pick up the makeshift bed and his backpack.
Neelix helped pack up the rest of their belongings and stow them in the shuttle.
They entered the shuttle for the last time and closed the doors. Neelix began the pre-launch sequence from the pilot's seat. Chakotay knew he would be expected to act as co-pilot on the trip home since everyone was convinced he'd been hurt.
Chakotay leaned back in the chair and thought about all that had happened to him. He couldn't wait to see Kathryn. He didn't know why, but he wanted to look into her eyes and see if she knew him. That thought sounded crazy even to him. He'd sat beside her for seven years, and what had happened to him today had obviously never happened to her. She'd never laid eyes on him until they'd met up in desperate circumstances in the Delta Quadrant.
He sighed. He had obviously dreamed or imagined the entire thing. He'd never touched Kathryn, never kissed her.
"Are you ready for takeoff, Commander?"
"What? Yes, I am," he said and forced himself to pay attention to Neelix's instructions.
"Commander, the Doctor told me to make sure you're comfortable," said Neelix, slightly uneasy.
"I am, Neelix," he said.
"Commander," said Neelix, taking a deep breath, "The Doctor doesn't want you to assist me in the return flight."
"What?" asked Chakotay.
"He feels you have suffered a trauma to your cerebral cortex," he said as gently as he could. "And that you may have some cranial swelling." He swallowed hard. "Please, Commander, just sit back and relax. With Mr. Tuvok and Captain Janeway ready to guide us back through the fluctuation from the other side, I won't need your assistance."
"Captain Janeway?" he asked. He suddenly needed some confirmation that she even existed.
"Uh...yes, the Captain," he said.
"Neelix, I know who she is," he said, "And I'm fine. I'm just surprised she's still on the Bridge, that's all." He had to think fast. "Did she miss her usual lunch break?" He knew it was a bad comment; maybe he wasn't thinking clearly at all.
"Oh, she's not left the Bridge, Commander," said Neelix gently, as he would to a child. Chakotay sighed. He'd asked for that one.
Neelix lifted the shuttle off the surface and began the ascent to the coordinates Tuvok had sent him earlier. "Captain Janeway has been plen-ty concerned about you today," he said, eager to let Chakotay know all about it. "She's contacted me several times personally to find out how you were doing."
"That was good of her, Neelix," said Chakotay.
"Oh yes, plen-ty concerned," said Neelix, directing the shuttle forward, but managing to glance Chakotay's way once or twice.
Chakotay felt a little disoriented. He tried to tell himself it was because he'd hit his head on the console. But now he was seriously beginning to believe his imagination had played tricks on him. He had dreamed the whole thing.
"I'm fine, Neelix. Let's just get this shuttle back to Voyager." He sighed. He knew Neelix was concerned about him, and right now he was concerned, too. He had no idea what had happened to him. And he had a funny feeling the Doctor wasn't going to be a lot of help there, either.
Chakotay closed his eyes. He was feeling a bit lightheaded, but he was determined to remain in the co-pilot seat just in case he was needed to assist Neelix. He didn't want Neelix to worry further about him, or to alert the Doctor, or worse, the Captain, that their first officer might be in trouble again. In fact, he really wanted nothing more than to go quietly to his quarters and spend some time thinking this thing through. He told himself to remain still and quiet until they were safe and sound inside Voyager's shuttlebay.
Kathryn removed her jacket and placed it on the back of the chair. She took a deep breath and wondered not for the first time why Sickbay had to be located in a section of the ship where there were no windows. She missed seeing the stars.
She turned to look at Chakotay. He was still in a coma. The Doctor detected normal brain activity, and felt that it was only a matter of time until he awakened. They just had to be patient. The Doctor had told her that Chakotay's brain had simply shut down the rest of his body's unnecessary activity so that it could rest until he was mended.
She certainly wasn't the most patient person in the world, but watching Chakotay sleep and wondering if he was going to be all right when he awakened was driving her out of her mind. She had to know that he was going to be fine, that he would sit beside her on the Bridge once more, and greet her every morning with that smile she counted on seeing when she stepped out of the turbolift each day.
She took a deep breath and held it, willing the oxygen to stimulate her brain. She couldn't go back to the Bridge because she would be useless there, waiting to hear how Chakotay was doing in here, and she would be just as restless in her own quarters, contacting the Doctor every few minutes to check on Chakotay's progress. And she knew that wouldn't last long; the Doctor would put an end to those progress reports quickly.
Suddenly, the door to the back room she and Chakotay were in opened. She smiled when she saw Neelix walk in with a serving tray containing a large coffee pot and various other items, including sandwiches. "How's our patient?" he asked in a low voice.
"According to the Doctor he seems to be doing fine. I just wish he'd open his eyes and tell us the same thing himself." She looked at Chakotay. He hadn't moved.
"I'm sure he will, Captain. You just wait." He saw how tired his Captain looked.
Neelix put the tray on a nearby table and poured her a cup of coffee. He moved over to stand beside her again, and handed her the cup.
"Thanks, Neelix, this is the best thing I've seen all day," she said.
"I brought some sandwiches and cookies, too," he said.
"Thank you, Neelix."
"Please remember to eat something," he said, knowing that admonitions about her eating habits were certain to be forthcoming from the Doctor, so he needn't bother to say more.
"I will. I promise," she said.
"Captain, have you considered getting some rest yourself? I'm sure the Doctor will contact you the moment the Commander is awake."
"I'm fine, Neelix," she said and nodded toward the biobed behind them. "I've been getting a bit of rest, when I can."
Neelix knew she felt responsible for the shuttle accident. She felt responsible for everything bad that happened to any crewmember on her ship. "It wasn't your fault, Captain," said Neelix, in a soft, comforting voice.
"I made the decision, Neelix." She remained focused on Chakotay, wishing he'd just turn his head and look at her.
"But you couldn't have known our ship would have a problem getting through...."
"Neelix, I appreciate the vote of confidence, but the fact of the matter is that I shouldn't have agreed to the mission in the first place. I should have gathered more data before overruling Chakotay's objection." She continued to watch Chakotay breathe, wanting to breathe for him, silently asking him to just open his eyes. "If I had, I would have seen that he was right."
"Captain, he'll be all right. The Doctor said so." He felt so helpless when she was like this.
"Somehow that doesn't make me feel much better, Neelix" she said. And then she turned to give him her full attention. "But I do appreciate your kind gesture," she said, nodding toward the coffee pot.
"Just be sure you eat something, too," he said. She nodded her assent, but Neelix knew it really didn't mean anything. She always promised to eat, but at times like this she focused solely on the situation. She wouldn't eat or sleep properly again until she knew Commander Chakotay was fully recovered.
Neelix also knew that in this case her focus was on more than just another crewmember. It was on a friend, an advisor, a confidante, and whether the Captain would admit it or not, the Commander was also the man she was in love with. He sighed heavily. She was the only person who wouldn't accept it, or admit it. Everyone else had realized it a long time ago.
"Well, I'll leave you now, Captain," he said, knowing there was nothing else he could do for her.
"Thank you again, Neelix," she said, taking a sip from her mug. "This is wonderful." She gave him a tired smile.
He nodded and left her to her vigil.
Suddenly, Chakotay opened his eyes. He was lying on a biobed in Sickbay, that he knew for sure. His entire body was sore and he felt as though he couldn't move.
Had he fallen asleep, sitting in the co-pilot's seat on the shuttlecraft, listening to Neelix tell him stories? He couldn't remember.
He turned his head to the side slowly, and saw her.
She didn't see him, though. Kathryn was standing two meters away, staring at a padd she held in her hand, and holding a cup of coffee. Her Starfleet jacket was hanging on the chair beside her.
He watched her glare at the padd, willing the information on it to change. Then she closed her eyes and lowered it, taking a deep breath. She put the padd on the chair along with her coffee cup, then rubbed her face and neck, as though trying to stay awake.
It seemed that she'd been here for some time.
He loved looking at her, always had. She was sexy and beautiful, and he imagined himself being with her...holding her in his arms and kissing her, loving her. As lovely as the younger Kathryn Janeway had been, this one was all woman, completely woman. She hadn't been a child in a very long time. His heartbeat increased and he forced himself to take a deep breath. He couldn't allow his thoughts free reign, not now.
More than anything, he wanted his time with her younger self to have been real.
But now, suddenly, he realized it couldn't have been real. How could it? If it had been, Kathryn would have recognized him long before now. She would have known who he was from the start. She had been a cadet, and yet he'd been the same person he was now. She would have experienced their time together long ago, even though he'd just experienced it for the first time.
Suddenly, she sensed something. Kathryn turned quickly and saw Chakotay staring at her from the biobed. She couldn't speak at first. "Chakotay?" she finally managed to say in a whisper. Had he really awakened, or was her mind playing tricks on her?
He smiled at her; he couldn't help it. Gods, she was beautiful. She was everything he'd ever wanted or needed. Nothing else mattered. And no matter what happened, he would wait for her, he would be there for her, he would somehow, some way hold her in his arms again.
She took a deep breath to collect herself, then walked gingerly over to the biobed, as though she were afraid he'd fall back into a coma if she moved too quickly. "How do you feel?" she whispered. His hands were lying on his chest, and she took one of them in hers.
"Fine," he said, and his voice sounded strange to his own ears. He tried to swallow, and she immediately found a glass of water beside his bed. She brought it to his lips and he drank a small sip. He lay back again and wondered why he felt so sore, and a bit strange. She took his hand again, as though she were afraid to let him go. He rather liked it. "What happened?" he asked. "How did I get to Sickbay?"
"Neelix transported you from the shuttlecraft. You passed out while in the middle of a sentence evidently," she said in that soft voice that moved him so completely. He couldn't look directly into her eyes quite yet for fear she'd see the raw desire in his own. "You've been here for three days," she said softly, watching him for signs of comprehension.
"Three days? It can't have been three days," he said. "We went to the planet for vegetables."
"Yes," she said gently. "And the shuttle was thrown through the planet's atmosphere and you had a bumpy landing, to say the least," she said, and looked away. "You were right, Chakotay, it wasn't safe to go there. I made the decision to proceed, a decision that could have killed you."
He heard her voice break. She was tired, and he figured she'd probably been here beside him for much of the past three days. He squeezed her hand, and forced her to look into his eyes. They were the same eyes, the ones he'd loved for seven years, and the ones he'd watched while making love with her three days ago. He simply couldn't have imagined being with her. "Kathryn, you couldn't have known about that."
"You did," she said, and the tone reminded him of her stubbornness.
He smiled at her.
"What's so funny?" she asked.
He could tell she wasn't in the mood for trivialities. "I'm just glad to be home," he said, remembering that his father used to remind him that "home" was where the heart is.
She looked at him steadily. "And I'm glad you're back," she said, somehow managing to keep her voice steady. "And that you're all right."
He grinned at her again, which only frustrated her. "Chakotay..."
"Ahhh, you're awake, Commander," said the Doctor, walking into the room and picking up his tricorder from a nearby tray. "I'm so glad I was informed." He looked at the Captain meaningfully out of the corner of his eye.
She took the bait. "I apologize, Doctor. He's only been awake for a moment."
"Hrumph." He turned to Chakotay. "How are you feeling today, Commander?" he asked, as he passed the tricorder over Chakotay's body.
"I feel fine, Doctor. When can I return to my quarters?"
"Not so fast, Commander. You took a nasty bump on your head and have been unconscious for several days. There," he snapped shut his tricorder. "I've just taken some scans that I want to feed into the computer and analyze. My initial examination doesn't show anything abnormal, but I'd suggest you get some sleep. And Captain, I'd suggest you do the same." He glanced at the biobed that was only a few meters from Chakotay's. "In your quarters," he finished.
"Fine, Doctor, in a few minutes." When the Doctor continued to stare at her, she turned to him. "I need to speak with the Commander a bit longer."
The Doctor sighed dramatically. "Fine, Captain. You may stay for a few more minutes, as long as the Commander is feeling well enough."
"I'm fine, Doctor. And I'd like to talk with the Captain as well." He watched Kathryn stare a proverbially hole through the Doctor, until he retreated to his office and left them alone. This was the woman he'd dreamed of his entire life.
He sighed. He had to know that what had happened between them on the beach hadn't been a dream. He knew it hadn't been a dream. Or was it? Why didn't she recognize him?
She turned to him and sighed, then walked over to the biobed as Chakotay sat up. "Do you feel all right, sitting up?"
"I'm fine, Kathryn. What did you want to talk to me about?"
She grinned that half-grin he loved so much. "Nothing, but if you tell the Doctor that I'll deny it." Then she turned serious. "I just wanted to see for myself that there's nothing wrong with you, and to tell you to rest and do everything the Doctor tells you to do..."
He grinned. "Just like my Captain."
She ignored him, but threw him a glare. "And I'll be back to check on you later." She looked deeply into his eyes, and he felt a shock run through his entire system. She'd always affected him strongly, but the attraction was even stronger now, since he'd made love with her.
He looked away. Had he made love with her? It had to be real, it had to be.
"Chakotay?" she asked softly.
She was standing so close to him he could smell lilac. And that wasn't a good thing right now. He didn't need that reminder.
"Look at me," she said. "Tell me what's wrong."
He forced himself to look her in the eye. "I'm fine, Kathryn. I just had a ... dream while I was unconscious, that's all. It was a bit disconcerting."
She nodded slowly. She didn't know whether she believed him or not, but he certainly seemed fine to her otherwise.
"All right," she said. "If you want to talk about it, let me know. You know where to find me. Oh, and by the way, you're off duty for the next 48 hours, and maybe longer, depending on the Doctor's report." She took her jacket off the back of the chair and turned back to face him.
"Kathryn..." How could he have dreamt being with her, making love with her, so vividly? It just wasn't possible.
"No argument." She put the jacket on and zipped it, putting the Starfleet Captain firmly into place once again. She put her hand on his shoulder and squeezed it briefly, then turned to go.
Suddenly, Chakotay took her hand from his shoulder before she could move away. He looked down at it, her lovely fingers, her....
He stopped thinking, and turned her wrist over. There, on the underside was the birthmark, the one birthmark he'd seen a thousand times before, and now he knew it was one of a pair.
"What is it?" she asked, fear creeping into her voice.
"Yes, what about it?"
He rubbed his thumb over it. Suddenly, he felt infinitely better. His head seemed clearer, and he took a deep breath. She had two of these. He knew that now. Even if she didn't remember their time together, he did.
He let her take her hand back.
"I'm all right, Kathryn," he said as calmly as he could manage. "But I wondered if I could have some of that coffee," he nodded toward the mug she'd left on the chair next to her padd. He needed to buy some time before she left Sickbay.
"Coffee?" she asked suspiciously.
"Yes, I've had ... a craving for it, lately."
She stared at him a bit longer, then went to the coffee pot Neelix had brought her earlier and poured him a fresh cup. "Cream and sugar?" she asked, knowing that when he drank coffee that's how he took it.
She carried the mug to him and watched him take a sip from it.
"Can you stay a bit longer?" he asked.
"I'll tell him I was lonely," he said.
She took a deep breath, then removed the padd and sat in the chair facing him. "What do you want to talk about? The shuttle landing? The sad condition Neelix found you in?" She tried to make light of it, but in truth it had scared her to death.
He shook his head. "None of that."
"All right. Then what?" She could tell he had a specific topic in mind, but he was hedging. And for some strange reason she couldn't put her finger on, she didn't want to hear what he had in mind to talk about.
He took a deep breath. It was now or never. And he had to know. He couldn't go back to his quarters, back to his duties on Voyager until he knew for sure. "Kathryn, have you ever had one special person in your life you just can't get out of your head? No matter how hard you try, no one will ever replace him in your heart?"
Oh how she wanted to tell him that she was looking at him right now, but she couldn't. She looked away instead. "Chakotay..."
"Has there been someone?"
She forced herself to look at him. "Everyone has someone they've always...." She paused and took a deep breath while he waited. She wasn't going to talk about something that was deep in the recesses of her mind, and still in her heart. It was no one's business, not even Chakotay's. "I was in love with Mark..." she said, determined to lead the conversation into safer waters.
"No, I'm not talking about that."
"Then I don't understand," she said. Where was he going with this? And how long should she let him continue before she called the Doctor?
"I'm not talking about a relationship like the one you had with Mark, or even Justin."
"Justin?" Her voice was a whisper. She was surprised he even remembered her telling him about Justin, it was so long ago. And why would he go back that far in time?
"Then what, Chakotay? What are you talking about?"
"Someone special...someone who stole your heart."
She stood. "Chakotay, I don't have time for this, I have to get back to the Bridge."
"Kathryn," he had to stop her. It was now or never. "Please. Indulge me for a few minutes." She stopped and looked at him. He took a deep breath and looked into her eyes. "I don't ask you for very much."
It was true. She knew that. She looked at him for another long moment, then sat back down. "All right, a few minutes."
"Has there ever been anyone like that in your life?"
She glanced at him quickly, and he saw a shadow cross her face. He saw an awareness in her eyes, and then she glanced away.
"Kathryn?" his voice was a whisper and he could barely speak at all. Tell me, Kathryn, he thought, tell me I was there.
"Once," she said. "Once there was someone." She wouldn't lie to him, and he was obviously not going to let her go until she admitted it. Her voice had grown quiet, and she looked down at her hands in her lap.
"Tell me," he managed to say.
"He was only a part of my life for a short time," she said. She sighed, remembering. "I was staying at a beach house for the weekend, alone, and he walked down the beach and into my life. Literally." She was quiet a moment, remembering. "I was young, a cadet, and he was older, though you wouldn't have known it that weekend..." She caught herself, and looked up at Chakotay quickly, then away again. He could have sworn he saw a flush start across her cheeks, but she stood and moved away, turning her back to him.
"He stayed with you that weekend?" His heartbeat quickened.
"Yes. For a part of it."
They were quiet for a moment, both of them realizing they were crossing delicate territory. "Why do you ask?" she asked him softly.
"Tell me about him," he said, ignoring her question, and somehow remaining calm, even though he felt his pulse racing.
She would indulge Chakotay for only another moment. She'd only told one other person about her experience, and telling Chakotay about her lover wasn't something she relished. "He was a Starfleet Commander, he wore the uniform. He made some excuse as to why he was lost on a private beach, but I knew he was covering up the real reason. He led me to believe he was on a secret mission from Starfleet, though I realized later he never actually said that; he simply allowed me to assume it."
"Was he really a Starfleet officer?" he asked, encouraging her to talk, even though he certainly knew the answer. His heart was beating loudly in his chest; he was surprised she couldn't hear it from across the room.
"Yes, I think so," she said. "He didn't lie to me about anything else, and I had no reason to believe he would lie about that." He'd tried to lie about where he'd come from, she remembered, but he knew that she didn't believe him, and he didn't try to convince her of anything else. He simply told her he couldn't answer her questions.
"How do you know he was telling you the truth?" he asked before he could catch himself.
She turned slowly to look at him. "Because I know." He nodded, and tried to catch his breath before he hyperventilated. She turned away again.
"He stayed for 24 hours, and then he left." She took a deep breath. "He said we would never see each other again, that he had to leave and he would be up there," she nodded upward, "In some starship." Her voice had been thoughtful, and then sad, but now she paused for a long time. Chakotay thought she was finished with her story, but then she started to talk again, and he realized she'd just been remembering.
"I used to look for him. For years, I looked for him - first at the Academy, then around the grounds at Starfleet, on various missions, at conferences. But I never saw him again." She paused, and swallowed hard. "He was right about that." She felt the tears burn her throat, the ones she'd denied herself all these years, since the day following his walk back down the beach, returning the way he'd come.
"And then one day, several years later, I realized I couldn't afford to remember him."
"What do you mean?" he asked a little too quickly. His heart skipped a beat.
"Everywhere I went, I looked for his face. I checked for his face on rosters, on manifests. I looked for him everywhere. I was beginning a promising career at Starfleet, yet I couldn't get him out of my mind. I couldn't concentrate wholeheartedly on my job." She paused, remembering. "And one day I knew what I had to do," she said.
"What did you do?" he asked. His voice was barely more than a whisper.
"I had him erased from my memory."
Chakotay took a deep breath and forced himself to remain silent. He waited for her to continue.
"I made a bold move, I'll admit, but then I was presumptuous and hard-headed in those days." She smiled to herself, still not looking at Chakotay. "Some would say I haven't changed much." This trip down memory lane wasn't one she relished taking, but now that she'd started it, she owed Chakotay the rest of the story. "I went to Admiral Paris and told him there had been a man in my life, one I'd never see again, but one I had to forget. I told him I had to be rid of his memory for fear I'd never be able to move forward in my career." She paused. "Or my life."
He waited, and realized he'd been holding his breath.
"He agreed," she said. "Finally. And only after he'd heard the entire story. He sent me to a Starfleet doctor, as I knew he'd do. This doctor said he would rid me of my 'painful' memory of this man completely." She paused again. "He told me I wouldn't remember him at all after our session together was over. I told him that was the way I wanted it."
Chakotay realized what a distraction he had been in her life.
"I went to the session, knowing full well what I was doing. This was the sort of memory cleansing they did to people who had been tortured by Cardassian terrorists, for goodness sakes. I knew that I'd leave there not remembering him at all." She took another deep breath. "But when we were ready for the session, after I'd been prepped and was about to undergo the treatment, I told the doctor I didn't want to forget him. I wanted to be rid of his face, because I couldn't afford to keep looking for him, but I wanted to remember the time we had together, the man himself and what he'd meant to me. I didn't want to lose him completely." She sighed and fought the tears again. When she found her voice, she continued. "I couldn't do that. I couldn't let go of him."
Chakotay held his breath, swallowed hard, and felt his throat close.
"I allowed Starfleet medical to erase his face from my memory, but nothing else. I can still remember him and the time we shared together." She paused. "But I couldn't look for him forever. I couldn't spend my time on a fruitless adventure, particularly one that was interfering with my life." She took a deep breath. "The funny thing is, he mentioned my going into command, and I laughed at him. Somehow he knew I would do this, but I don't know how he knew it."
"You remember it all..." he managed to say.
She looked at him. "Yes, but I don't remember his face." The look on her face at this moment nearly made him cry. "And now I wish I did," she said. "I'm sure I could deal with it much better now than I did then."
"But his name..."
"I don't know his name," she said, cutting Chakotay off. "He never told me his name."
They were both quiet for a moment, wondering what there was left to say, or to ask. But Chakotay had to know the rest. He had been with Kathryn, he had loved her and he had fallen in love with her all over again.
For him, it had happened backwards; he'd fallen in love with Captain Janeway and then had gone back in time and fallen in love with Cadet Janeway.
He only hoped she'd fallen in love both times, as well.
He swallowed. "Maybe he was from another time," he said, trying to sound casual.
She gave a small sarcastic laugh. "He probably was," she said, but he knew she didn't seriously believe so. "It would serve me right since I detest time travel. The past is the future, the future's the past..." she shook her head, and Chakotay couldn't help but grin.
"But you wish you knew his name now?" he asked.
"Of course," she said. "But I also understand that he couldn't or wouldn't tell me. I don't blame him for that." She closed her eyes. "I also understand that I did what I had to do a few years later, even though I've certainly regretted it at times." She looked down. "I fell in love that weekend, and I gave my heart to a stranger." She took a deep breath. "And later, I needed help in forgetting him so that I could move on with my life. I've accepted that."
"And you never saw him again," he said aloud.
"No, not that I'm aware of." She tried to smile and lighten the mood. "No stranger has ever walked up to me and reminded me of that day." She paused for a long time, and looked into his eyes. "But sometimes..."
"Yes?" He whispered it.
She continued to look him in the eye, and he saw that her eyes had become moist. "When I first saw you on my viewscreen seven years ago, there was something...I don't know. I thought you looked a lot like him."
He couldn't speak.
"But I knew that I couldn't remember what he looked like, so I put that thought away. But sometimes still, when I look into your eyes..." She pulled her eyes from his suddenly, not wanting to feel the pain of remembering. When she spoke again, her voice was so low he could hardly hear her. "Sometimes I think you're a lot like him."
He realized he'd stopped breathing again, and tried to remind himself to breathe normally, but he didn't interrupt her.
"His face may have faded over the years, but the feel of his arms around me and his body next to mine hasn't faded," she whispered. "I can still feel his presence, if I try." She paused, and then forced herself back to the present. Her voice was Kathryn's again. "Of course, I don't try anymore." She turned to him. "There's no reason to." She put the Captain's exterior into place once more. Time had moved on.
But he knew better.
"You loved him," he said.
"Yes. I was young, but I wasn't a girl, Chakotay. I fell in love with a stranger." She sighed. "We were together for a short time, he loved me completely, and then he left."
"Do you resent him for that?"
She looked at him fully, wondering again what he wanted from her, why all the questions. "No," she said. "He told me from the start that he would leave me. It was my choice."
He nodded. And was grateful.
"No one has loved me so completely since then." She felt herself blush and turned away again. She did not blush! But she'd suddenly recalled their lovemaking and the thought of it sent a shiver up her spine. She hadn't allowed herself to think about that for a very long time, for years in fact. She pulled herself together and turned back to Chakotay.
She gasped. Tears were welling up in his eyes. A strange feeling was beginning to work its way inside her heart, but she forced it away. She was also starting to feel strange butterflies in the pit of her stomach, but she refused to pay attention to it. She didn't want to know what her conscience was telling her. "Tell me why you're asking me about this," she said in a low, controlled voice.
He swallowed. He knew he would have to tell her, and she wouldn't like it.
"Yes." She needed to take control of this conversation, but things weren't turning in her favor.
He didn't know how to tell her. How could he tell her, how would he be able to convince her, that he was the man she remembered from so long ago?
"Kathryn, after Neelix and I crashed on the planet..."
She knew she didn't want to hear this.
"I...experienced something I'd never experienced before, but something you experienced once - a long time ago..."
She shook her head and started for the door. She didn't want to hear any more of this. She would get the Doctor. He would know what to do for Chakotay, how to make him well again.
"Kathryn, listen to me," he said, pushing himself off the biobed and moving to intercept her.
"No," she said. "I have to get the Doctor."
And then he knew. He took a deep breath, then took her hand in his again. "That birthmark, the one on your wrist..." He turned her wrist over.
She instinctively looked at it. "Yes?" Why was Chakotay changing the subject?
"You have another one, identical to this one, some place else on your body."
He looked into her eyes, and she froze.
Kathryn literally froze, but somehow managed to pull her hand from his. She began to back slowly away from him. He had no way of knowing about that. The other birthmark was in a...very private place.
"Kathryn..." he said softly, but she continued to back away, her eyes brighter than usual, and not very trusting right now.
But he saw in her eyes that he'd been right. The only way he could have known about that second birthmark was to have been with her, to have made love with her at some point in time. And he had made love with her, back on Earth, when she was a cadet at Starfleet Academy.
He had to have been a part of her past, a part of it that had just caught up with him, but had been a part of her for a long time.
"Kathryn...?" He started to move toward her.
The Doctor entered the room. "Commander! Please! Get back onto the biobed!"
Chakotay stood still for a moment, staring into Kathryn's eyes from across the room. She didn't speak, but continued to stare at him.
Finally, Chakotay broke the eye contact, and looked at the Doctor. "I'm fine, Doctor," he said.
"I'll be the judge of that, Commander, now please - get back onto that bed!"
Chakotay took a deep breath. He knew the moment was lost with Kathryn, and that he had to do as the Doctor asked. "All right, Doc," he said, and turned slowly to get back onto the bed. His movements were slower than usual; his body was telling him he'd had a bit of a setback, but his mind wanted to clear things up with Kathryn.
As soon as he'd raised himself onto the bed, the Doctor began his ritual lecture and started to scan him again. Chakotay lay back onto the bed gingerly and looked across the room at Kathryn. She hadn't moved, and her eyes showed something akin to both hope and fear, an intense combination of the two. He couldn't even tell if she were breathing properly.
"Commander, until I know for certain..." The Doctor's voice continued, but Chakotay heard nothing of what he said. He continued to watch Kathryn. She still hadn't moved, but stared back at him from her corner on the other side of the room.
Just as Chakotay was going to say something, anything, to break the silence between them, she pulled herself together, squared her shoulders and moved forward. "I'll be in my quarters if you need me, Doctor," she said in a soft but clear voice, and turned to exit Sickbay.
"Of course, Captain, I..." the Doctor started, but then saw that the Captain had gone. "Hrmph," he said. "She wouldn't leave at all before, and now...well, as I was saying, Commander..." he continued.
Chakotay lay back on the biobed and allowed the Doctor to continue his scans, and his lecture. The sooner he was released, the sooner he could see Kathryn. He was weak with worry about her, yet he was intensely happy that he'd been right. What he'd experienced with her hadn't been a dream, and it hadn't been fantasy. He had somehow shared an incredible 24 hours with her, a day that had just happened for him, but one that had happened to her approximately twenty years ago.
He had no idea how it had happened, or why, or why she'd experienced their time together long before he had, but there was one thing he knew for certain and had known for seven years - they belonged together. They were destined to be together.
He closed his eyes and willed the Doctor to be done, and to let him leave Sickbay.
Kathryn entered her quarters, stopped in the middle of the room, and closed her eyes. Here, she was alone and didn't have to put on the Captain's front for anyone. She was a human being, a woman, and she could let herself think like one.
She had no idea what the hell had happened back there in Sickbay with Chakotay, no idea at all. That's what she tried to tell herself, but her heart and her mind were telling her two different things.
"Computer, one cup black coffee, hot." She started for the replicator, doing what she normally did at the end of each day. But her body and mind were behaving automatically - she wasn't even aware of what she was doing.
She took a deep breath and scrubbed her face with her hands while she waited for the coffee to appear in the replicator slot.
She suddenly recalled making coffee for her weekend lover all those years ago. The memories were coming back freely now, too freely. She'd tried to remember him today, and she still thought about him every now and then. But it had been so long ago, and she had learned to move on.
And then seven years ago, she had met a handsome ex-Maquis renegade and fallen in love with him. In spite of herself, she grinned at the thought. Though she'd never so much as kissed him, they'd come close so many times. The attraction between them was electric, incredible. She'd only experienced that feeling one other time in her life.
Just one other time.
She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Could it be true, what Chakotay had been trying to tell her in Sickbay?
She was exhausted, having worried about Chakotay for three days. He'd been in a deep coma, and obviously he'd had quite a dream while he was out of it.
But she knew better, deep inside. And now she had to take that knowledge out and examine it.
She had to accept the fact that something had just happened that she was completely unprepared to handle.
Chakotay lay quietly on the biobed, not wanting to do anything to prevent the Doctor from giving him a clean bill of health.
He had to see Kathryn.
Tuvok was covering Bridge duty for both of them, and had been for the past two days. Kathryn was unavailable, taking a rest in her quarters since everything seemed calm and in order once again.
Chakotay sighed. The Doctor was going to let him go today if the swollen tissue in his cranium had returned to normal. The bump on the head had caused the swelling, and the Doctor attributed Chakotay's three-day coma to that. And until everything was the way it should be, the Doctor refused to allow Chakotay to leave Sickbay for fear he'd become dizzy and pass out.
He tried to find out what was going on outside Sickbay, and he wanted to contact Kathryn, but the Doctor wouldn't allow him to do anything but rest until he was mended, and he was allowed no visitors. The Doctor didn't want anyone interfering with Chakotay's rest.
Chakotay tried to relax. He willed his body to mend quickly. He had to see Kathryn. She knew that she now realized that he and the man she'd fallen in love with nearly twenty years ago were one and the same. He'd seen the look of fear and recognition in her eyes, and that look was still haunting him.
He took a deep breath and tried again to relax. He also knew it was best to leave Kathryn alone and to let her work through it in her own mind before he tried to talk to her.
But his heart was telling him something different.
He had to see her.
He wanted to look into her eyes and tell her that he'd fallen in love with her seven years ago on Voyager, and that he'd fallen in love with her all over again just a few days ago, when he met young Kathryn Janeway, the cadet at Starfleet Academy.
He closed his eyes. He tried to tell himself to calm down, not to assume anything. Kathryn had kept him at arms length for nearly seven years. This new knowledge did not mean she would change her mind now. In fact, knowing Kathryn, he also knew that he had no idea how she was really taking this new information, how she felt about the fact that he had been her mysterious lover all those years ago.
He had to see her.
Now if the Doctor would only release him.
Chakotay walked down the corridor toward Kathryn's quarters. He made sure his pace was brisk enough so that he didn't look suspicious to anyone he might meet, yet he didn't hurry. He realized that as much as he needed to see Kathryn, he was also afraid to see her.
The Doctor had given him a clean bill of health only moments ago, and had ordered him to his quarters. He'd promised, not wanting to defy the Doctor, but knowing it was the only way he'd be allowed to leave Sickbay at all.
Chakotay stopped in front of her door and took a deep breath. He couldn't linger here for fear he'd be seen. His heart was beating so fast he could hear the blood pounding in his ears. But he rang the chime.
He was about to ring it again, when he heard her faint response and the door opened. He walked inside, afraid to see her, yet needing to see her.
She was sitting on the couch, legs crossed, with a mug of coffee in her hand. She looked up slowly.
He waited. She looked calm, but with Kathryn looks could be deceiving.
"The Doctor ordered you to your quarters," she said matter-of-factly.
"He did," he said softly.
She nodded. "I knew you would come here first," she said.
He nodded. And waited.
"Yesterday morning Seven and I tried to access scans of the planet you and Neelix visited. The scans we'd taken were no longer in Voyager's database." She looked at him. "They weren't erased, they simply never existed, according to the computer."
He waited, knowing she wasn't finished yet.
"I asked Tuvok to take us back to the planet. He set the appropriate coordinates, took Voyager to Warp Six, and we reached it in just over five hours." She paused. "Rather, we reached the area of space where the planet had been, but wasn't now." She took a deep breath. "Of course, that isn't a correct assessment, either. According to the ship's computer, the planet never existed at all. The coordinates our computer had indicated led us to nothing but empty space. And according to Voyager's latest computer analysis, there had never been a planet there at all." She paused.
"And you ran a thorough diagnostic of the ship's computer system," he said softly.
"Naturally. A thorough examination showed that the computer is in perfect working order, and that a malfunction had not occurred." She paused again.
Chakotay didn't know what more to say. Somehow he wasn't in the least bit surprised by all of this, yet he knew Kathryn needed sound answers. Suddenly he remembered the plants Neelix had painstakingly carried to the shuttle. "The vegetables, the foodstuffs that Neelix..."
"They've all been tested and retested. They are all edible." He nodded. "And they are all found in at least one geographic location on Earth," she added.
He nodded again. There was nothing else to say.
"Do you know what I think, Chakotay?" she asked softly, and her voice was suddenly more Kathryn's than the Captain's.
"What's that?" he managed to say.
"I think that perhaps not everything can be explained scientifically."
He swallowed hard. It wasn't like her to accept a non-scientific explanation of anything so readily.
She picked something up from her lap and stood. She held it out for him to see. "I still have it," she said, and her voice was low, tired, yet strong. And he couldn't help but notice that smoky quality creep into it, the one that could seduce him in an instant.
She was holding the piece of driftwood he'd given her. He nearly gasped. When he'd given it to her only days ago it had been newly-carved, but now it had aged, although it still looked well cared-for.
"I've carried it with me for twenty years, to every training session, every conference, on every mission. It's been my proof that we were together."
He noted that she'd said "we." He nodded.
Her voice changed slightly. "And for seven years I've thought there were two men in my life who had been able to move me beyond words."
He swallowed hard.
"I would never have dreamed they were one and the same." She put the piece of driftwood on the coffee table in front of her, along with her coffee mug, and moved down to stand in front of him.
She looked deeply into his eyes in that way she had of doing, and he held her gaze. "What do you propose we do now?" she asked in a low voice.
He found his voice. "That's your decision, Kathryn," he said. "Whatever it is, I'll abide by it."
She continued to look at him, and she didn't speak for a long time. "I always wondered why you left the same way you'd come," she said.
He was caught off-guard. "What?"
"Twenty years ago, when you walked into my life you said you were looking for Starfleet Academy, and I told you it was ahead of us. Yet when you left, you returned the same way you'd come."
"I had to get back to Neelix, and the shuttle. I had to get back to Voyager." He took a deep breath. "And you."
Finally, she pursed her lips and nodded, then looked away for the first time. "I'm glad you did." Then she thought of something else. "The first time I saw your Maquis rank bar seven years ago, I knew I'd seen it before. Somehow it was very familiar to me, but in all these years I hadn't placed it." She shook her head and took a deep breath. "Evidently I wasn't meant to."
He breathed better. She had made her peace with his confession. Now he had to see how she felt about their relationship.
"I hate time travel," she said quietly. "Always have."
"The future is the past, the past is the future..." Her voice died away.
"I know," he said softly.
She looked into his eyes again. "Do you believe in Fate, in Destiny, Chakotay?" she asked.
He took a deep breath before he answered her. "I believe some things are meant to be, Kathryn," he said. "I've believed for years that you and I are meant to be together, and now I know it even more deeply in my heart than I did before."
She nodded slowly, thoughtfully. "In other words, some things aren't intended to be measured and understood. They are spiritual, rather than scientific."
His eyes shone with hope. "That's what I believe," he said.
"I was trained as a scientist, you know," she said.
"I know." He couldn't help but smile.
"I've always believed there's a scientific explanation for everything."
"And you know how I hate to be wrong," she said.
He nodded again. And though he tried, he couldn't get rid of the smile completely.
She took a deep breath before continuing. "However, if Fate or that which we call Fate, has seen fit to send you my way twice, I can't just ignore it, can I? Experiencing what I feel for you twice in a lifetime isn't something to be taken lightly."
He hoped she was saying what he thought she was saying.
"Do you believe in your heart that we can continue to work together to get Voyager home and have an intimate relationship at the same time?" she asked.
"I've always believed that, Kathryn," he said in a strong voice.
She nodded, considering. "I see." Admiral Paris had taught her years ago that when negotiating, never ask a question you don't already know the answer to.
She moved closer to him and his breath caught in his throat. He caught the scent of lilac, and knew he was too close to her. "Kathryn?"
"Neelix tells me I'm a romantic, but I've never believed him," she said softly.
He swallowed hard, and nodded.
"But I'm thinking about making some changes," she said in a whisper, as she tilted her head and brought her lips to within a millimeter of his. "What do you think of that?"
"I think one or two changes would be a good idea," he whispered. He could hardly speak at all.
"Good," she said, and closed the distance between them.
She brushed his lips with hers, and he felt a tingle rush up his spine and spread throughout his body.
This was his Kathryn, the woman he'd waited for his entire life.
She brushed his lips again, tentatively, testing.
He held his breath, thinking he might be dreaming, either for the first time or the second. Right now he wasn't sure of anything.
Suddenly, she placed her lips against his firmly and slowly slid her arms around his neck as she pressed her body close to him.
It only took Chakotay a moment to regroup, to realize that what was happening was real. Kathryn was kissing him, and he was kissing her back.
He ran his tongue over her lips and pushed gently inside her mouth. She sighed and pressed her body tighter against his. He pulled her against him hard and thrust his tongue deeper inside her mouth.
They had waited so long for this. It was new and different, yet familiar, for both of them.
Chakotay managed to undo her jacket and slip it off her shoulders. It fell onto the floor beside them. They pulled apart, both of them gasping for air, and he pulled her tee shirt over her head quickly, then kissed her neck and shoulders.
She gasped and lifted her chin to give him better access. He smiled. She'd done the same thing the first time he'd made love with her.
He kissed her chin and her throat, and made his way back to her lips, while her breath came out in gasps. He wanted to be with her, to hold her and love her and take her places neither of them had been before - or to a place they'd only known together.
She unzipped his jacket and pushed it off his shoulders. It fell to the floor. He undid her pants and as they fell, he lifted her into his arms and carried her from the room, into the bedroom.
He put her gently on the bed, and kissed her, then carefully removed her boots and looked at her, lying in the middle of the bed wearing only her underwear and a look of steamy desire in her eyes.
Chakotay admired her body, and moved beside her. He raked his fingers gently down her sides and over her curves, watching her body react to his touch, listening to her moan and writhe beside him.
Kathryn had never felt more desire in her entire life. This was the man who'd made her feel more like a woman than anyone else had ever done, the man she'd pined for, searched for, the one man she thought she'd never be with again. It was the man she'd fallen in love with twenty years before, and also the man she'd fallen in love with all over again just seven years ago.
He had set her body on fire then, and he was doing it again now. And no man in-between had ever managed to do it, not like this, not so quickly, passionately, and so completely.
She felt his fingers trace lines over her body, arouse every inch of her. She moved beneath his hands, his gaze, and looked into his eyes to see the same depth of arousal she felt herself.
No matter how many times she'd told herself not to become involved with her first officer, to allow him to move on with his life and find peace, she'd ached for him, and he'd always been there for her. Every time she had needed him over the past seven years he'd been there. No matter how much they disagreed, or what happened between them, they couldn't let go of each other. They both had tried, but neither of them had moved very far away, or for very long.
Chakotay looked into her eyes. They'd turned from the most beautiful blue-gray color into a lovely and smoldering deep gray, and they penetrated into his very soul. His body responded, and he felt his erection press into her side as he lay next to her and touched her.
He kissed her again, and moved lower, to her neck and her shoulders, to her arms and to her chest. He kissed every inch of her, bringing her to heights she barely remembered ever reaching, and she whispered his name and pulled him against her.
He reached behind her and undid the fastener on her bra, then slowly peeled it off and eased the straps down her arms.
She watched him look at her, and her nipples became even more erect. She felt a stirring in her groin and lower, and she knew she was ready for him. She wanted him, now.
But he wasn't ready for that. As she reached for him, he took her nipple into his mouth and sucked it, already knowing it intimately. He licked it and gently grazed it with his teeth, sending her into throws of passion she never expected. He moved to the other nipple and did the same, then kissed both breasts reverently and began to move lower, lower, to her stomach, where he renewed his memory of her belly button, and then he moved lower still.
She was panting and gasping for breath, feeling his tongue, his mouth, his lips, his breath upon her. He left no part of her alone, and she didn't want him to. She wanted him to take her, all of her, and become One with her. It was going to happen, she knew, but she didn't know how much longer she could stand this. She wasn't a patient person by nature, but he knew that, she'd told him that herself a long time ago, and had told him again many times since, these past seven years.
She loved the feel of his hands upon her, the feel of his tongue taking charge of her body, and when she felt him moving down further still, her breath came out faster, and her heartbeat increased.
His hands hooked into her panties and slowly moved them down, down her thighs and past her knees and then onto the floor. He grazed the inside of her calf and kissed her ankles and her toes, one by one. He kissed her instep and sucked her big toe, which made her cry out and beg him to come to her.
This was only the second time he'd ever heard Kathryn Janeway beg for anything.
As he slowly, deliberately, made his way up her legs, and then kissed the inside of her open thighs, she called his name over and over and urged him to move more quickly. But he wouldn't do it. He took his time, knowing that she was aching with need. He lovingly kissed her birthmark, the one that was identical to the one on her wrist, the same one he'd discovered only a few days, and twenty years, ago.
She moved her legs further apart and he gently parted her completely with his hands so that he could look at her.
She wanted him, needed him. It had been so long, so very long, since she'd been with a man, and holodeck substitutes were simply no substitute at all when it came down to it. When he parted her, she thought she would burst from anticipation.
He gently touched his tongue to her swollen nub and licked it gently. She arched her back and moaned, as the thrill of his tongue on her worked its way through her entire body. He closed his mouth over her and continued to suck and manipulate her until she couldn't hold out any longer. As she arched her back one last time and called his name, he slipped his tongue inside her as the spasms rocked her body. Her juices rolled onto his tongue and he tasted her as he had once before, loved her as he'd done before.
As her body calmed and her heartbeat slowed, he began to kiss his way back up her body to her beautiful breasts. Her nipples were still aroused and firm and he sucked them again before he made his way back up to her mouth.
She turned to him and pulled him to her, thrusting her tongue deep inside him and making him gasp. He felt his erection throb against her thigh, and through the fabric of his uniform.
She pulled back and looked into his eyes. Her face was slightly flushed, her eyes sparkled, and her lips were swollen from their heated kisses. Chakotay thought she'd never looked more beautiful, sexier, than she did at this moment. And he'd never wanted her more.
"Why is it that once again you are completely dressed and I am completely naked?" she asked in a husky voice, recalling their experience together twenty years ago as though it were only yesterday.
"It has happened before, hasn't it?" He grinned. "At least I'm not wearing my jacket," he said.
She shook her head and began to pull his shirt from his pants. "It's still a situation that needs remedying," she said.
Less than a minute later he lay naked beside her. She stared at his erection, and the fire in her eyes began to smolder again. She leaned over and gently took him into her mouth as he lay back and tried to catch his breath. She was gentle, yet she knew all the right buttons to push, and he suddenly flipped her over on her back and rose above her.
"Not bad," she whispered, gasping for breath herself.
"I want to be with you," he said hoarsely.
"Now," she growled.
He moved into place and gently pushed inside her. She threw back her head and gasped. He was huge, and she was so ready for him, so very ready. She'd been ready for this for twenty years, and she took him inside eagerly.
He thrust slowly at first, and when he saw she could take all he could give her, he moved faster and harder. She met his pace and his thrusts evenly, and he pumped harder and faster still, until her body ached and strained and the passion inside her soared high and far, and she threw her head back and came again, hard and fast.
Chakotay was right behind her. He watched the pleasure spread across her face, and felt her body spasm and contract against him.
Finally, he let himself go and exploded inside her, slamming against her one final time. He quickly grasped her hands in his as he emptied himself deep inside her. They both gasped and strained together, then slowly quieted and lay together, still joined, their bodies moist and shining with moisture.
Their breathing calmed and he raised himself to look into her eyes. She smiled at him, her face radiant and satisfied. He grinned back and kissed her deeply. She kissed him back, gently at first then more passionately.
When he felt himself begin to slip out of her, he rolled over to the side and she turned to face him. "That was wonderful," she said. "Just the way I remember it."
"How can you remember it so well when it was so long ago for you?" he said.
"I recall it vividly," she said. "I've never forgotten how you felt, how you kissed me." She ran her finger slowly over his lips and he watched her eyes literally darken with renewed passion.
She covered his mouth with hers and rolled on top of him, thrusting her tongue inside and over his teeth, making his heart beat faster, and enjoying the sensations of his tongue pressed against hers.
He raised himself higher against the pillow, taking her with him, and she sat back on his stomach.
He reached up and cupped one breast in each hand, teasing the nipples and making her gasp. He couldn't believe she wanted more already, but he was willing to give her more, much more, anything she wanted.
They belonged together, they both knew it now. They were bound in ways that neither of them could explain, but it was real and true nonetheless.
She pushed forward, burying her breasts deeper into his hands, loving the feel of his warm fingers teasing her nipples.
The juices from their lovemaking of only moments ago were still inside her, and he bent his knees and gently pushed her back against them.
He continued to massage her nipples, then slowly ran his fingers down her chest to her pubic area. He spread her with one hand and gently thrust first one and then two fingers inside her. She gasped and leaned further back against his legs to give his hands better access.
She was so beautiful, and she was giving herself to him completely. He moved his fingers in and out of her and watched her face as she moaned and breathed harder and faster. His fingers were wet with their combined juiced and he rubbed some of it on her folds and over her clit, which made her body tremble and ache for more.
He touched the special birthmark on her upper thigh and smiled. Only a short time ago he would never have guessed she had two of them, a second one identical to the one on her wrist that he'd loved for seven years.
He massaged her clit gently with the finger on one hand and thrust three fingers of his other hand in and out of her. She began to move against his hand, slowly at first and then faster, and her breath became quick gasps. She managed to spread her legs even wider, and his fingers all seemed to find just the right places at the same time. He watched her as she climbed to the top of her climax and jumped over the edge.
His own heart beat faster as he watched her take pleasure in what he was doing to her. And he felt his penis become hard again beneath her, as he watched her and felt her body shudder and her vaginal muscles clamp hard against his fingers. He pulled his wet fingers out of her slowly and gently raised her buttocks up and brought her vagina down over his penis, bit by bit, until he was fully inside her, taking her up completely.
Kathryn began to move again, and she took him in even more deeply than ever before. He felt so good inside her, and it felt so right. And when she thought she was too spent to climax, the thought of him being with her, inside her again, loving her again, overtook her and she fell against him, the spasms weakening her. He spilled himself into her, and then pulled her against him tightly, rolling them both onto their sides, facing each other.
He'd fallen out of her and she felt the liquid run out of her as well, and down her leg, but it was welcome and wanted. She kissed him.
He looked at her, beautiful, satisfied. Her hair was damp, as was all of her skin. And his. "I love you," he whispered, and he saw her eyes fill with tears.
"And I love you," she said, as though she'd said it before, and of course she had, once before, just before he'd left her and walked back down the beach the way he'd come.
She sighed and her eyes grew heavy.
He pushed her hair back from her cheek with his hand. "You're beautiful," he whispered. "Go to sleep. I know you're exhausted." He kissed her forehead, then pulled her to him. She turned over and he spooned against her. He kissed the back of her neck and reached over to cup her breast as she fell asleep with her back against him.
He felt her heart beat beneath his hand, and soon he too fell asleep.
Chakotay awakened to find that Kathryn had turned to face him and was breathing softly against his chest. He smiled. She was everything he'd ever dreamed of, and had ever wanted. He kissed the top of her head and heard her sigh.
He would never have dreamed of loving Kathryn twice in a lifetime, even though for him both times had happened at once. For her, it had happened over time.
She wakened slowly, feeling her skin come alive, her very pores tingle. She smiled before she opened her eyes. "Hmm, I wonder who this could be," she whispered.
"It's hard to say," he whispered back.
"No, it's not," she opened her eyes and kissed the tip of his nose.
They stared into each other's eyes and smiled.
"I think we'd better get cleaned up," she said.
"I agree," he said. "And then I'll make dinner for us."
She grinned again. "That sounds wonderful," she said. "I might even be able to find a bottle of real wine, to celebrate our finding each other again."
"I won't ask where you got it," he said and kissed her.
"Good," she said, and ran her tongue over his lips.
"We'd better get moving," he said and got up from the bed. He looked over at her, lying there, completely naked and comfortable, and he felt a tingle in his belly. He shook his head and started for the bathroom. "I finally get a chance to use the Captain's sonic shower," he said.
She came in behind him. "Oh no you don't," she said. "We're going to use real water, the old-fashioned way."
"Like we did before?" he asked, and grinned.
"The way I always prefer it," she said, starting the water running in the bathtub.
"In the tub?" he asked.
"In the tub," she said, and took fresh towels out of the cupboard.
"But..." he said.
She kissed him. "You'll like it, I promise," she said and her voice had lowered an octave. He had no doubt he'd love it.
They got into the tub and sat at opposite ends, grinning at each other. "Now what?" he asked.
"Tsk tsk, you're so impatient," she said, and began to lather his feet and legs.
"Look who's talking....Kathryn...." he said with a catch in his voice.
She continued to massage his feet and legs and began to work her way up his body. She spread his legs apart enough so that she could move up between them. His breathing was becoming more labored, but she ignored it. Finally, she began to soap his pubic hair and when he thought he couldn't take the suspense any longer, she took the base of his incredible erection and lathered the full length of it completely. The feel of her hands on him, and the smoothness of the soap only made him want her more.
He reached for her and she came to him.
She raised herself above him and rested there on her knees. She took the soap and began to lather her own pubic hair and vagina as he watched, in agony from wanting her. When she was finished soaping herself she raised above him and lowered herself onto him. The slickness of both of them helped her to slide down around him easily, quickly, and they both gasped at how deeply he was inside her.
She rode him slowly at first, and then faster. Her breasts moved with her, and he reached to take them in his hands. She leaned forward so that he could take turns teasing her nipples with his tongue. He nipped at them gently and grazed them with his teeth, sending waves of pleasure through her.
Finally, she slammed down upon him hard, sending both of them over the edge together. She called his name, and he reached his peak with her, feeling himself shoot upward and into her, and when she finally lay down upon his chest, both of them were spent.
He soaped her shoulders and back as they caught their breath and when she sat up again he soaped her breasts and her nipples, making them rigid again. "I love your breasts," he said.
"Still?" she whispered, remembering that he'd told her that a long time ago.
"Always," he said, and looked into her eyes. "They're beautiful, and I'm aroused every time I look at them," he said and continued to wash them.
She lifted herself off him finally and when she moved back to her side of the tub, Chakotay soaped her pubic hair and vagina again and cleansed her of his seed and all traces of their lovemaking.
But he knew they would make love again, and that she wouldn't turn him away anymore.
This time he was with his Kathryn, in a present that was meant for both of them.
Things were the way they were meant to be, here on their ship, and on their way home from a very long mission. This time they were united as One, and it would always be that way.
He would never leave her again, because he had no other Kathryn to return to. She was the love of his life, and his very soul.
They left the tub and dried each other, then returned to the bedroom.
Kathryn pulled a fresh uniform out of the closet and ordered one for Chakotay from the replicator. She dressed quietly then suddenly turned to him. "Are you sure about this, Chakotay? Do you still want to pursue a relationship with me? If you don't, I'll understand." She paused, and he realized again what a large step this was for her to take. She wasn't just accepting a lover into her life, or someone who might not stay, but a man who would be here for all time, one who would never leave her heart.
He took a deep breath and waited for her to get it out of her system.
She continued. "I'm stubborn, spoiled, opinionated, and have been known to get testy when I don't get my way." He grinned. "It's true, you know," she said softly.
"I'm not sure about the spoiled part," he said, "But I might be able to help you out with that one." He pulled her to him and kissed her deeply.
"I'm very serious," she said, when she could get her breath.
"I know," he said. "You're also bossy."
"I am," she said.
"As well as the most loving, caring, giving person I know." He sighed. "Yes, I'm very sure, Kathryn. I've been sure for seven years." He paused, thinking. "Are you sure, Kathryn?"
She looked into his eyes and all her fears and questions disappeared. "I've been sure for twenty," she whispered.
He kissed her again, and they walked out of the bedroom and into the front room together. Chakotay started dinner for two while Kathryn found a bottle of wine.
The Doctor contacted Captain Janeway to find out why Commander Chakotay had not reported directly to his quarters as he'd been instructed to do by the Doctor. She informed him calmly that she and the Commander had been involved in a very intense meeting most of the afternoon.
Chakotay smiled and watched Kathryn pour the wine into glasses. She handed him one for a toast.
"To finding each other again," she said, and he heard a catch in her voice.
He took her chin in his hand. "For the last time," he said, and kissed her.