Disclaimer:  Paramount owns the basics, I own the good parts.
 
 




Second place in Triple Crown

Rated: R
 

Three months after Voyager returned to the Alpha Quadrant, with the debriefings finally over, the Maquis pardoned, commissions confirmed and the Captain promoted, it was time to celebrate.  Starfleet went all out, planning a formal celebration at a swank beachfront hotel.  It was, of course, a major publicity stunt, but at the insistence of Voyager’s former captain, reporters were literally stopped at the door.  Once inside the hotel, the crew was able to relax.

Admiral Janeway arrived just minutes before she was due on the podium, thus limiting the reporters’ access to her.  She spoke briefly, answered several questions, and graciously posed for pictures before apologizing for her limited time and ducking into the hotel.

Kathryn took a quick drink as she readied herself.  She knew she would be on the dais with Chakotay, and wasn’t looking forward to it.  Occasional short transmissions and hurried conversations had been the extent of their contact for months.  However, if she worked this right, she could make a short speech, hand the microphone off to Chakotay, and disappear into the crowd before he could exit the stage.  She took another quick drink to steady her nerves.

Her plan worked well.  For most of the evening, she managed to stay on the opposite side of the room. The few times they did come together, they were in the midst of large groups. Kathryn would then carefully engage in conversations that drew her toward the edge of the group and then slip away at the first opportunity.

Kathryn knew she would have to face him sometime, but she wasn’t ready yet.  She had a few drinks to fortify herself,  a few more for courage, and a couple more just to have something to do.  Only a few hours into the evening, Kathryn realized she was in big trouble.  While she wouldn't say she was falling down drunk, she wasn’t all that far from it.  Between the cumulative effect of the alcohol and her state of mind, she knew she wasn’t in any shape to face Chakotay.

On the verge of panic, Kathryn ducked her latest close call by hiding herself in the ladies' room.  She needed a few minutes to clear her mind and formulate a plan, but she was finding that harder than she expected.  The simplest solution was to leave.  If she just disappeared, however, people would worry.  She had to speak to someone before going. Kathryn decided that she would give Owen a quick excuse, and failing that, she would tell him the truth and he would cover for her---at least she hoped he would.

Kathryn carefully exited the ladies' room and peeked into the banquet hall.  Thankfully, Owen was standing just inside the door; she slipped in next to him.  Kathryn tried giving him a quick excuse.  She wasn’t feeling well, didn’t want to ruin the party, so she would slip out quietly. Owen laughed.

“Katie, dear, I don’t suppose this illness of yours has anything to do with the quart of Irish whiskey you consumed this evening.”

“Owen, I haven’t had that much to drink?”

“Damn near!”  He laughed.  “I’ll make you a deal.  You slip out and I’ll make your excuses but in the morning I want the truth.”

“That is the truth.”  Kathryn knew he would never believe it, but she tried anyway.

“Please, Katie, there’s a whole lot more behind your strange behavior tonight than an upset tummy, and I intend to find out what it is.  I can’t have my newest admiral…”

“OK, OK, tomorrow.”  Kathryn was desperate to get away; she would promise him anything.

“I’m not sure I should let you leave here alone in this condition.”

“Owen, for god’s sake I’m a grown woman!  I know how to take myself home.”

“OK, but I want the whole explanation in the….”

Chakotay had tried several times during the evening to catch Kathryn’s eye.  He hadn’t seen her to actually talk to in months.  He wanted to speak to her privately, but she was always the center of a crowd.  Finally, he saw her standing by the doorway talking to Owen Paris; this was his chance.

“May I have this dance?”  Chakotay had finally cornered Kathryn and he didn’t even care that he had interrupted Admiral Paris mid sentence.

“I-er..”  Kathryn whirled around in surprise.  She had carefully avoided him all evening and now here he was.  Her clouded mind searched for an excuse; finding none, she resigned herself to her fate.  Kathryn handed her drink to Owen and braced herself with a smile.  “Of course.”

Owen accepted her drink silently, but he didn’t miss the desperate look in her eyes. He had suspected this was the problem.  Even if he hadn’t heard enough from Tom and B’Elanna, Katie’s own behavior whenever the man or his drone were mentioned was a clear indicator.

“It’s been months since we had a chance to talk; how have you been, Kathryn?”

“Busy.” Kathryn was having trouble keeping in step with him.  Maybe it was too much alcohol, or maybe it was being in his arms.

“Yes, if tonight is any indication, I imagine you have been.” Chakotay chuckled.  “I have been trying to get a minute with you all night.”

“Really?”  Another one word answer was all she could manage. The deep vibration of his chuckle traveled like a current through her; Kathryn couldn’t stop her body from falling into his.

“Yes, I wanted to talk to you.  You’re a hard woman to pin down these days.”

‘Pin down’, now there was an intriguing thought.  Her mind toyed with the idea of being pinned beneath Chakotay, and her body moved involuntarily against his.  He was talking, but she didn’t grasp his words.  Oh, god, she needed to concentrate, but nothing mattered but the solid feel of him as she pressed against him.

“Kathryn, are you listening?”  Chakotay was concerned with her odd behavior, but maybe it was just a bit too much celebrating. If anyone deserved to celebrate, it was Kathryn; she had sacrificed so much for their crew.

“What?”

“Maybe we should sit down?”  Chakotay stepped back creating a small space between their bodies.

“Why?” Kathryn smiled and tried to close the gap between them.  “We only just started.”

“I’m a little warm.”  Chakotay hadn’t realized she had been drinking quite this much; her unsteady step and the slight slur of her words surprised him, but the way she moved her body against his alarmed him. “Why don’t we step out on the veranda?”

“All right.”  Kathryn placed an arm around his waist and moved toward the glass doors.

Seven watched from across the room as Chakotay and Kathryn closed the balcony door behind them.  Good, she thought, he would talk with her now and finally they would be free of this albatross called Kathryn.  She smiled to herself and swirled the ice in her empty glass.

Mike Ayala also watched his former command team move to the cooler quietness of the veranda. He had always believed, as did most of the crew, that the Captain and Chakotay were destined to be together. It was only a matter of timing. Mike cared very deeply for both his former commanding officers. Seven, on the other hand, had never been Mike’s favorite person, but since she schemed her way between them, he had begun to develop a real hatred for her. When he looked back, the smug expression on Seven’s face caused his stomach to tighten.

“Seven, how have you been?”  Mike moved up next to her, his own smile as phony as hers.

“I am well, Lieutenant and yourself?”  Seven glanced at him but couldn’t keep her eyes from straying back to the glass doors.

“I’m OK, and it's just Mike now.  I resigned from ‘fleet.” Mike sipped his drink.  “You seem distracted, Seven.”  Mike nodded toward the door.  “Does that upset you?”

“The Admiral and Chakotay?  No.  Do you believe I should be concerned?”

“Probably not, but everyone did think they would get together once we got home.”

“That will not happen.”  Seven glared at him with icy cold eyes.

“You’re awfully confident of that.”

“I have good reason.”  Seven sipped her drink.  “Chakotay is right now asking her to stand with him at our marriage.”

“You’re getting married?”  Mike tried to keep the shock off his face and the venom out of his voice but by the look on her face, he was not very successful.

“Chakotay and I plan to marry in two months time. We have only kept it quiet because he wished to inform Kathryn first.”

“And that’s what he is doing now?”

“Yes.”

Mike had all he could do to keep from smacking that triumphant look off Seven’s face.  He managed to stay a few more minutes then mumbled a few polite phrases and left her standing alone in her victory.  Mike worked his way across the room, he had seen cracks in the Admiral’s mask tonight and he had noted earlier the unusual amount of alcohol she had consumed.  This could get very ugly.

~~~^^^~~~

They crossed to the far edge of the balcony, where the view of the ocean was unobstructed.  It was a beautiful clear night; a warm breeze blew off the water and the stars showered them in a platinum glow.  A peace settled over Kathryn that she knew wasn’t real but she basked in it anyway. With her arm still around his waist, Kathryn leaned against his side, enjoying the warmth of his body.  Chakotay’s arm draped around her shoulder and Kathryn let a contented sigh slipped past her lips.

“Kathryn?”

“Ummm?”

“I’ve been trying to get a hold of you, but you are never in your office these days.” Chakotay tried again.  He didn’t understand why this felt so awkward.  Kathryn was he best friend; she would be happy for him.  Why was he nervous?

“Told you I’ve been very busy.  I’m sorry.”  Kathryn reluctantly lifted her head.  “Is that what you wanted to talk to me about?”

“Actually, I wanted to ask you something.”

“OK, so ask.”

“Seven and I are getting married…” Chakotay focused on the moon as it reflected off the water below as he spoke. He had never had difficulty talking to Kathryn before; maybe it was the ring of finality this conversation had.

Kathryn released her hold on him and staggered back a step, staring at him with wide eyes.  Married?  The question rang in her unclear mind. She tried to focus on his words. Could he have said that?  No. This was just another blonde.  It would pass like all the others—wouldn’t it?

“…we, that is, I want to ask you to…

Kathryn suddenly knew what he was about to ask of her.  It felt as if he had physically assaulted her; one hand clutched her stomach while the other reached behind her to support herself on the railing. Chakotay looked up.

“Kathryn, are you all right?”  He reached to steady her, but she brushed him off and turned to lean on the railing.

“Fine.”  Kathryn hung her head. The whole ocean was spinning, the waves rising and falling, she thought she might puke; she closed her eyes and breathed deeply to stop it.

“You are not fine. ”  He placed his hands on her shoulders.  “Let me help you.”

Kathryn jerked herself out of his grasp, moving away and clutching the railing for support.

“Kathryn, what’s wrong?”

“Wrong?”  Kathryn’s glare was full of pain and anger as she fought unsuccessfully to keep the tears at bay.  The alcohol that was making her nauseous was also making it difficult to hide her emotions.  “I’m dying here, Chakotay, and my best friend can’t even see it. Or maybe he just doesn’t care to see it.”

“What the hell are you talking about?”  He was confused and frightened by her response, but he couldn’t help the anger that leapt into his throat.

“I’m talking about me! I’m talking about us….”

“There is no us, Kathryn.  You would never …”

“No one knows that better than me!”

“Then what are you talking about?”

“Chakotay, I can’t do it! I can’t stand by and watch you marry her!”

“Kathryn, I don’t …”  Chakotay didnt know whether he was more angry or confused.

“Don’t tell me you don’t understand!”  Kathryn turned back to the railing.  “I have no right, I know that.   I never once encouraged you.  But you promised and you broke that promise and--it hurts.” Suddenly, Kathryn turned and advanced on him, poking her finger into his chest as she spoke.

“Kathryn, I never meant…” Chakotay stared at her in disbelief.

“To hurt me?  Well, guess what!  I’m not the fucking ice maiden the crew made me out to be—I thought at least you knew that.”  Her voice grew louder and Chakotay reached out to calm her.  Kathryn pushed him away and turned back to the railing. Slowly, her anger subsided, replaced by a raw pain that tore through her.  “When you walked out of my life, I thought I would die. But I didn’t.  No, I get to live every day reminded of what I threw away. It hurts, Chakotay, and I can’t make it stop- I tried- god knows I tried.”  Kathryn struggled to regain control; she straightened up and faced him, her cheeks awash in her tears.  “I love you, my friend and I do want you to be happy. But please don’t ask me to watch.”  Kathryn stood on shaky toes and kissed his cheek. “Good bye, Chakotay.”

Before Chakotay could recover, Kathryn had run down the stairs toward the beach.

“Kathryn.”  Chakotay yelled as he scanned the darkness below.

“Where did she go?”  Mike stopped Chakotay on his way to the stairs.

“Down there. I was talking to her and she got upset and…"

“Yeah, I can imagine.”

“I have to go find her.”

“No, let me.”  Mike patted his shoulder.  “Seven’s waiting for you.  I‘ll take care of Kathryn.”

“Mike, she’s been drinking and she’s upset...”  Chakotay ran his fingers through his hair. “I was telling her…”

“I know, Seven told me.  Go on now; I’ll find Kathryn.”

Chakotay nodded and Mike bounded down toward the beach in search of Kathryn.

~~~^^^~~~

For a long time, he followed her at a safe distance.  He was close enough to see that no harm came to her, yet far enough to give her some privacy.  He watched her meander down the beach and he wondered what had gone wrong.  He loved Chakotay like a brother and he wished him every happiness, but what he was doing here was just plain stupid.  Seven was a self serving, cold, calculating bitch; Kathryn loved him with her whole being. Mike wondered why everyone but Chakotay could see that.

Kathryn had long ago discarded her shoes, leaving them half buried in the sand as she made her way along the edge of the water, the waves wetting the hem of her gown. She moved deeper and Mike lessened the distance between them. Kathryn waded out until the water lapped at her knees; Mike moved closer.  Suddenly, she unfastened the dress and let it fall into the ocean.

Mike stood frozen for a minute, unable to believe what he was watching.  Kathryn carefully stepped out of the gown and stood in the knee-deep water wearing only the skimpiest of panties. Her body shimmered as the moonlight reflected off her pale skin, and then she was gone.  Mike strained to see in the darkness unable to locate her until the glint of the moon off her arms as they moved through the water told him she was swimming deeper.

Shedding his shoes and clothes, Mike raced to the shoreline.  His mind reeled. Having had way too much to drink, Kathryn was in no shape to be swimming in the ocean alone at night.  It wasn’t safe; dear god, maybe that was what she intended.

Kathryn swam at a determined pace; driven by pain and fortified by alcohol, she forged ahead oblivous to the distance or the cold.  Only when she finally stopped to rest did she hear the splashing and turn in the water to see who or what had joined her.  Unable to see the identity of her pursuer in the dark, she stopped swimming, treading water as she waited for him to catch her.

Mike stopped and raised his head; he needed to get a fix on her position. Instead he stared into the smiling face of his ex-captain.

“Hi.”  Kathryn smiled as she recognized him.  “What brings you out here in the middle of the night?”  She laughed at the sheepish grin that crossed his face

“Er-You.”

“So you’re following me?”

“Well, no—yes.  I was worried about you, especially swimming out here alone.”

“I’m not alone.  You’re here.”

“Now, yes, but you were alone.”

“Not really if you were close enough to see me.”

“Can we argue about this on dry land?   I don’t know how long I can tread water in this cold.”

“Oh, and you were going to save me?”  Kathryn rolled her eyes and started back toward the shore.

Briefly, as he followed her back to shallow water, Mike wondered what would happen when they reached the shoreline. He could see the dark lump on the sand where her gown had washed up on the beach; she wouldn’t be wearing that home.

Kathryn reached the shallow water first; she laughed as the splashing behind her came to an abrupt halt when she stood up and walked out of the water.  Mike jogged right past her, not slowing until he reached the area where his clothes were scattered.  He retrieved his shirt and tossed it back to her.

“Put this on.”  He yelled over his shoulder, keeping his back to her as he stepped out of his soaking boxers and pulled on his trousers.

“Thanks.”  Kathryn tugged on the shirt, slipped off her wet panties. Gathering up her ruined gown she waited for Mike to come to her.

“So, if you didn’t plan on drowning—you didn’t, did you?”

“No, I didn’t.  I like to swim, and the cold water has a great sobering effect.”

“OK, so tell me how were you planning on getting home?”

“Without this, you mean?”  Kathryn laughed as she held up her soaked dress.

“Yes.”

“I planned on walking.”

“Naked?”  Mike wasn’t so sure how sobering the water was.

“Pretty much.”  Kathryn laughed.  “I wasn’t thinking quite clearly remember.”

“Yeah, I guess not.”

“That and the fact that I have a house down here.”  Kathryn pointed to a grove of trees just above the beach.  “Right over there.  Come on, I’ll make you some coffee and we can warm up.”

Mike followed Kathryn up the beach, past a stand of trees to the old-fashioned porch of a small white house.  Tucked safely within the trees, it gave the illusion of being all alone, even though there were a dozen other houses within earshot.  Kathryn keyed in a code and the door opened onto the living area. She led him directly through to the kitchen and offered him a seat at the table.

~~~^^^~~~

Chakotay felt like every eye in the place was on him when he stepped back through the glass doors alone.  He spotted Seven on the other side of the room and started toward her, but he had only managed a few steps before Owen stopped him.

“Is Katie still outside?”  Owen held up her half-finished drink as an excuse to find her.

“No, she-–she left.”  Chakotay saw the immediate panic in Owen’s eyes.  “Mike went after her; she’ll be OK.”

“Ayala?”  Tom chimed in.  “Yeah, like sending the spider to take care of the fly.”

“What the hell does that mean?”  Chakotay knew all too well what that meant, but he didn’t want to think about that now.  Mike had always been attracted to Kathryn, only keeping his distance because he was Chakotay’s friend.  Well, he had opened the door for Mike tonight.  Why did it eat at him so?

“Nothing, Chak, don’t mind him.”  B’Elanna moved Tom aside and stood in front of Chakotay.  “How did she take it?”

“Not well, how did you know?”

“Seven has been gloa…urm.”  Tom stopped and grunted mid-sentence, with the assistance of B’Elanna’s elbow in his stomach.

“She’s been spreading the news.  Ummm, congratulations.” B’Elanna hugged Chakotay, mostly to cover her unhappiness.

“Thanks.”  Chakotay looked around the room; each person he made eye contact with smiled and quickly turned away. “Why do I suddenly feel like a leper in here?”

“They all seem to believe that you are better suited to Kathryn than me.”  Seven’s answer took them all by surprise; no one had even noticed her approach. “I am somehow a hostile intruder.”

Chakotay looked slightly bewildered when he looked at Seven; it was almost as if he were seeing her for the first time. What was he doing?

“They will adapt.”  Seven continued. “As will your precious Kathryn.”

Chakotay’s head snapped up at the bitter sound of Seven spitting out Kathryn’s name.

“Seven?”

“It is time she removed herself from our lives and permitted us to move forward.  She is crippling your ability to sustain a permanent relationship.”

“Seven, Kathryn and I had a misunderstanding but she will always be a part of my life.”  Chakotay didn’t seem to notice the force of his words, but few others missed it.  He was more concerned with whether or not Kathryn would agree with his assessment at this point, whether she would even speak to him again, than he was with Seven’s reaction.

~~~^^^~~~

“So, why were you following me?”  Kathryn put the coffee on the table and took the seat across from him.

“I saw you leave the party; I was worried.”

“Interesting.  I left from the veranda; how did you manage to see that?” Kathryn got up to retrieve a bottle from the cupboard and set the top on the side of the sink.

“OK.  I saw you go out there with Chakotay.  Seven told me what he was going to tell you and …”  He shrugged.  “I arrived in time to see you say goodbye and run down the steps.”

“And so you took it upon yourself to be my keeper?”  Kathryn poured a hefty portion into her coffee cup. “Want some?  It will warm you a whole lot faster than coffee.”

“Just a little.”  He guided the bottle upright after a few drops.  “Is this something new?  I mean I never knew you to drink—a glass of wine or two but nothing stronger.”

“Maybe you just never knew me.”

“Maybe, but not because I didn’t want to.”

“Yes, I suppose I shut you out too.  Anyway, that was then, this is now.” Kathryn drank down her coffee and refilled the cup.  “On Voyager, I was on duty for seven years.  Here, there aren’t any lives dependent on me.”

“How about your own?”

“That one doesn’t count.  It’s hardly worth living these days.”

“You’re a beautiful, intelligent woman, a hero—an admiral, for god's sake.”

“It’s empty, Mike. Don’t you see?  I finished my job when we made it back to Earth. I’m a hero and you all have your lives back---but there just wasn’t one waiting for me.”  Kathryn tipped the bottle over her cup again, but Mike grabbed it away after only a few drops. “Hey!”

“I’m sorry, but I hate seeing you like this.”  Mike took the bottle over to the counter.

“Too fucking bad!”  Kathryn was on her feet trying to snatch back the bottle he held over her head. “If you’re uncomfortable, just leave, but give me back my damn bottle.”

“Don’t make me pour it down the drain.”  Looking down at her ineffective death glare, Mike couldn’t hold back his laughter.

Her wet hair hung limply, dripping on her shoulders. She wore only his shirt, made shorter by her hands, which were classically placed, on her hips.  As hard as she tried to glare at him in anger, she couldn’t keep the smile from creeping across her own face.

“This isn’t funny, Mister.” Kathryn handed him the bottle cap, in surrender.

“You’re smiling.”  Mike closed the bottle and placed it in the cupboard.

“’Cause you have that dopey grin on your face.  What’s that about?”  Kathryn moved closer, resting her palm on his chest.

“I was just looking at you.”

“So, I’m funny looking?” Her fingers toyed with the thick black curls on his chest.

“No. Actually, I think you’re adorable.”

“Adorable?”  Kathryn rested her forehead on his chest.  “Dear god, how sad is that?”

“It’s not sad at all.”  Mike laughed as he moved her away from him.  “You have no idea how cute you look right now.”

“Sweet spirits, now I’m cute!”  Kathryn threw her hands in the air.  “I guess it's time for you to go.”

“You throwing me out?”

“I think I better, 'cause I was thinking of being anything but cute!”

“I know.”

Their eyes met and their smiles faded as she took a step closer.  Kathryn’s eyes dropped to his mouth, her tongue snaking out to moisten her lips as she stretched up toward him.  Mike inched closer, just barely brushing his lips against hers.  They hung together for precious seconds, breathing the same hot air, hovering on the edge of anticipation.  Kathryn’s hand stroked the short hairs at the base of is neck and with  gentle pressure she pressed his lips to hers.

Briefly, the thought crossed his mind that it wasn’t him she was kissing, but her tongue hungrily invaded his mouth, as her soft hands caressed his body and it didn’t matter. All those years of watching her, wondering what it would be like to be kissing her, touching her, came to a crashing end. His hands reached under the shirt, cupping her bottom and pressing her tight against his hardness.

Kathryn’s mind was hazy, but there was no fooling her heart. This was not the man she wanted to be kissing, but her long neglected body didn’t care as it responded eagerly to his questing hands.  She felt him hard against her belly and she wanted him.

The buttons on the shirt gave way easily, as Mike began trailing kisses down her neck, across her chest, his tongue working her breast, teeth lightly nipping the erect nipples. Kathryn moaned arching into his mouth, her hands forcing open his trousers, her fingers stroking his hardened length.

The door chimed, but they didn’t notice.  It rang again and then there was a loud pounding.

“Go away.”  Kathryn mumbled as she reluctantly pulled back and dropped her head to his chest. The pounding continued.  “Whoever you are just go away.”

“Kathryn?”

At the sound of Chakotay’s voice, Kathryn’s head snapped up, her eyes locking with Mike’s.

“Kathryn, I know you're in there.  I need to talk to you.”

“You better answer him.” Mike moved her back and tucked himself back into his pants.  “He doesn’t sound like he’s leaving.”

“Too fucking bad.”

“Kathryn!”  Chakotay began to shout. “I’m not leaving until you talk to me, damn it!"

“Kathryn.”  Mike tucked her hair behind her ear and buttoned the shirt.  “You have to talk to him.”

“OK, how about this, ‘I’m just about to fuck your friend, so go back to your borg bitch and leave me the hell alone!’  Think that will make him happy?”

“It doesn’t do wonders for me.”

“Shit, Mike.”  Kathryn rested her head on his chest.  “I didn’t mean it like that.”

“It’s OK.”  He lifted her chin to see her face. “As good as it would have been…’  He laughed at the face she made. “Oh, yes, it would have been unbelievably good.”  He laughed, bending to leave a soft kiss on her lips.  “It still would have been him you made love with.”

“Kathryn!”

“Damn him!”  Kathryn stormed into the other room and nearly ripped the door off the hinges when she opened it.  “What the hell do you want?”

“I need to talk to you.”

“Well, get the hell in here.  I have neighbors, you know.”

“Sorry, but you wouldn’t answer me.  Were you sleeping?”  Chakotay looked up to see Mike standing shirtless in the kitchen door; he looked back at Kathryn wearing the missing shirt.  “I guess not.”  He turned and started for the door.

“Where the hell do you think you’re going?” Kathryn demanded hands on hips. The stance almost made Mike laugh, until she glared at him.

“I didn’t realize I was interrupting you.”

“Well, you were and you have, so now say whatever the hell you came to say.”

“Chakotay, it’s not what it looks like.  She went swimming….”

“It's not!?”  Kathryn turned her anger toward Mike.

“I see.”  Chakotay looked at Mike and shook his head.  “And to think I used to trust you.”

“Trust! Oh dear god! We are not going to speak about broken trust.”  Kathryn paced back and forth between the two men.

“Kathryn, be fair. You told him to move on and he did.”

“Now you’re defending him?!”  Kathryn walked back and opened the door.  “Get out, both of you, get the fuck out!”

Mike shrugged and walked past her through the door.  Chakotay stopped in front of her and looked over her attire carefully before following Mike outside.  Kathryn slammed the door.

The two men stood at the bottom of the steps and stared at one another.  The door opened a crack, shedding a stream of light across the porch.  Kathryn’s arm slipped through the opening and Mike’s shirt skidded across the porch landing at their feet.

“My friend.”  Mike put his arm around Chakotay’s shoulder.  “Let’s talk.”

~~~^^^~~~

Kathryn poured herself a drink.  Men! What the hell was she thinking!  She slumped down into the chair and smiled.  He was right about one thing—it would have been very good.

“Damn them all!”  Kathryn dumped the drink down the drain and went to bed.

~~~^^^~~~

Chakotay walked along quietly, allowing Mike to lead him away from the beach.  They walked for several blocks before Mike turned into an alleyway.  After a coded knock they passed through a scanner and found themselves in the back room of some seedy strip club.

“Leave it to you to find a place like this.”  Chakotay couldn’t help but laugh.  “And everyone on Voyager thought Paris was the sleazy one.”

“Hey. I taught the kid everything he knows.”  Mike signaled the barmaid and a half empty bottle appeared on the table.

Chakotay eyed his drink while Mike flirted with the scantily dressed barmaid.  What the hell was he doing here?  He started this night as a celebration.  They were home and free.  He and his fiancée were going to announce their engagement, he was going to ask his best friend to stand up for him and then…

“What the hell happened tonight anyway?”

“You fucked up---big time!”  Mike poured them another drink and waved off the barmaid with a nod.

“No kidding.  The entire crew treats me like a leper, my fiancée nearly assimilated me, my best friend dumped me and then…” Chakotay swallowed his drink.  “What the hell were you doing?”

“Quite well, actually, until you showed up..” Mike refilled their glasses.

“You’re lucky I don’t punch the crap out of you.”   Chakotay swallowed another shot.

“You’ve got no claim on her.  You have a fiancée, remember?”

“Yeah-er—no, well at least I don’t think so.”

“You’re not sure?”

“I don’t know.  We had words and she walked out.  It really didn’t matter to me, but when I saw you there with Kathryn…” Chakotay poured a drink and swallowed it.  “Man, I almost punched you!”

After a while the bottle disappeared and was replaced by a full one; they took turns pouring rounds and feeling sorry for themselves.

“What is it like?”  Chakotay broke the long silence.

“Huh?”

“Kissing Kathryn.  What was it like?”

“You never even kissed her?!  As our Klingon friends would say Kahless- what you are missing!”  Mike grimaced at the look of distress on his friends face.  “It was ummm, wow—er it was….

“Spirits, I want to hit you right now.”

“Lucky for me you’re my friend and a man of peace.”

“I always thought so but when I saw with her it was like—like you were Cardassian or something—I just wanted to rip your heart out.”  Chakotay took a swig and passed the bottle to Mike; he had stopped bothering with those little glasses.  “So, are you going to tell me?”

“Why don’t you go find out for yourself?”

“Yeah – if I didn’t fuck up badly enough earlier, I sure did when I saw you there.  She will never speak to me again.”

“Ummm, maybe not.”  Mike took a long drink from the bottle and passed it back. “But you don’t need her to speak to you, the woman is starving.  Just need to go grab a hold of her and…”

The bottle came across the table bottom first this time. Luckily. Chakotay’s aim was a bit off.  He missed Mikes head, instead hitting his shoulder and knocking him out of the chair.

“You son of a bitch!”  Chakotay yanked Mike to his feet and punched him.

Mike recovered and came up swinging.  They broke the table, three chairs, and countless glasses, before the bouncers tossed them into the street.

~~~^^^~~~

Kathryn never slept very well and tonight, in spite of the large amount of alcohol she had ingested, wasn’t any different.  She tossed and turned for several hours before she finally dozed off.  Her dreams weren’t any more settling than her waking thoughts; she still heard the sound of Chakotay’s fists pounding on her door. Kathryn rolled over as the knocking came again.  She sat up and checked the chronometer-0430.  Who the hell was at her door?

“Keep it down; I’m coming.” Kathryn pulled on a bathrobe and stumbled out of the bedroom.

Opening the door a crack, she spotted two crisply uniformed men on her porch.  This probably wasn’t good.

“Can I help you?”

“Admiral Janeway?”  She resembled the woman in the news clips but, but he wasn’t sure.

“Yes.”  Kathryn smiled, knowing she must look a wreck after last evening's adventures.  She opened the door wider.

“I apologize for the late hour, Admiral.”  Two young police officers stood nervously on her porch.  “But we found these-gentlemen --- resting--- outside an establishment on Savor Street and they insisted that you were expecting them.” He stood back so Kathryn could see the two men leaning on each other and the railing for support.

Kathryn looked them over slowly.  Mike’s dopey smile was now enhanced by a fat lip, one eye was swollen shut and the shirt she had worn earlier was muddy and torn.  Chakotay didn’t look much better with his bloody lip and black eye.  His clothes were also dirty and torn and both were obviously very, very drunk. They slumped down onto the steps.

“Ma’am?”

“Yes?”  Kathryn just shook her head at the sight and returned her attention to the officers.

“Ma’am, will you vouch for them?”

“What happens if I don’t?”

“Well, Ma’am.  We should have taken them in already but seeing they said they were coming here and who you are and all…” The young man blushed.

“If you don’t take them, Ma’am, we will have to arrest them.” The second officer glanced at her face and looked at his partner as they both wondered if they had done the right thing.

“I’m not sure I want them.”  Kathryn walked past the officers and stared down at them.

“You know you want at least one of us, Kathryn.”  Mike reached out to touch her, but she slapped his hand away.

“Keep your hands the fuck off her.”  Chakotay’s staggering swing missed Mike but connected solidly with the post.  “Shit!”

Kathryn rolled her eyes and shook her head before turning back to the police officers.

“If I could impose on you gentlemen to assist me?”  Kathryn gestured toward the two men slumped on her porch. “Just dump them inside the door and I will take them off your hands.”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

Kathryn thanked the officers and closed the door behind her.  She walked right past them gathered up washclothes and first aid items and came back.

“Here, wash your face.”  She tossed a washcloth at Mike and knelt down beside Chakotay.

“How come he gets personal care?”

“He only has one hand to work with.” Kathryn examined Chakotay’s already swollen hand.  “Doesn’t look broken—good thing, I don’t have an osteo-regenerator. Here, keep this ice on it.”

Kathryn cleaned up Chakotay’s face and brought out two more ice packs for their bruised eyes.  She handed one to Chakotay and went to toss one to Mike but he grabbed her and pulled her closer.

“I need some TLC here, too.”  He pulled her down in his lap.

“I told you before to keep you hands off her.”  Chakotay threw his ice pack and climbed to his feet.

“Make me!”  Mike dumped Kathryn on the floor as he stood up to face Chakotay.

“Knock it off, you two.”  Kathryn stepped between them, getting knocked on her butt a second time for her efforts. “Damn it!”  Kathryn climbed to her feet and pushed Chakotay down on the couch.  “Stay there!”  She shoved Mike toward the hallway.  “You are going to bed!”

“Only if you come with me.”  Mike leered.

“I’ll kill…”  Chakotay grumbled as he tried to get off the couch.

“Shut up, both of you! You are acting like children.”  Kathryn pushed Chakotay back and shoved Mike again.  “You sit! You are going in the spare room.  Move.”

It took a few more tries but Kathryn finally succeeded in getting them to bed at opposite ends of the house.  Once separated and prone they each passed out and Kathryn tried to catch a nap on the couch.

She was just drifting off when the door chimed.

“Who the hell is here now!”  Kathryn switched on the light and opened the door.  “Seven?”

“Admiral.”

“You could call me Kathryn when you wake me up in the middle of the night.”

“I would rather not.  And I believe 0600 is morning.”

“Yes, so it is.” Kathryn just wanted to smack the borg correctness right out of her.  “What can I do for you at this hour of the morning?”

“I inquired at the local police station and was told that Chakotay was last seen here.”

“You did what?”

“He did not return home and I was concerned for…”

“Yes, yes come in.”

“He is here then?”  Seven stepped inside and glanced around the room.

“In the bedroom.”  Kathryn pointed toward the door, ignoring the very Vulcan looking raised eyebrows. “He’s out cold, I’m afraid.”

Seven just nodded and walked past her.

Kathryn thought about trying to sleep but the sound of rising voices from her bedroom changed her mind. Giving up the idea of rest, she put on a pot of coffee.  Just as she poured her first cup, the chime rang again.

“Dear god!”  Kathryn stomped to the door and flung it open. “Does the entire universe know where I live?”

“Good morning, Katie.”  He smiled at her disheveled appearance, although he thought she looked better than he had expected her to.

“Owen, welcome to DSJaneway.”  Kathryn stepped back to allow him to enter.  “Seems busy enough around here to be a space station.”

“I heard you had visitors.”

“You, too?  Was it a subspace broadcast or what?”  Kathryn walked back into the kitchen; Owen followed.  “Can I get you some coffee?”

“Word gets around.”  Owen laughed as he took the coffee and a seat at the table.  “So, how are you feeling this morning?”

“I consumed way too much alcohol, have been up all night dealing with two bull headed drunks handed to me by two nervous police officers in the middle of the night – at high volume I might add. I’m sure not a single neighbor missed it.   I have a rogue Borg running rampant in my bedroom.  Let’s see, Chakotay thinks he owns me, Seven wants to kill me and Mike just wants to fuck me—what the hell do you want from me?”

“Only an explanation, but I think you covered it.”  Owen laughed.

“What the fuck is with all the noise?”  Mike stumbled into the kitchen.

“Good morning to you too.”   Kathryn laughed at the sight of him.

“Nice, kick me when I’m down.”

“You do look like shit.  Want some coffee?”

“Yeah and something for this head---please.”

“A little hair of the dog?”  Kathryn waved last night’s bottle.

“God, no.”

Mike sat next to Owen and hung his head while Kathryn retrieved a hypospray from the other room.  He jumped as it contacted his neck with a cold hiss, and then he smiled.

“Thanks.”  He rotated his neck and took a long drink of the coffee.  “Yes, that is much better.”

Kathryn poured herself a cup of coffee and joined them at the table.

“Hey.”  Mike reached for her hand across the table.  “Thanks for bailing us out last night; we would have been in real trouble if you had turned us away.” Mike laughed, then made a face at the sound of the slamming door.

“No problem.  What are friends for?”

“Are you still my friend, Kathryn?”  Chakotay stood in the doorway, looking like he’d gone ten rounds with a targ.

“Sure.”  Kathryn managed after a long silence.  “Want some coffee?”

“I’ll take whatever he had.  He looks damn good for a dead man."

“I’ll get it.”  Kathryn came back with another hypospray.  “How’s the hand?”

“OK.  Purple, greenish around the knuckles, but it works fine.” He tilted his head so she could administer the hypospray. “Thank you, that’s much better, already.”

“Tea?”

“Thanks.”

 They sipped their drinks in heavy silence. Kathryn poured another round of coffee and still no one spoke.

“Kathryn, if it's all right… “  Chakotay finally managed.  “I‘d like a chance to talk to you.”

“Yeah, I suppose we have somethings to straighten out.”

“Mind if I take a shower first? Seems that I’m not welcome at my house anymore and a shower just might make me feel almost human again.”

“Sure, there are towels in the closet.  I’ll get you something to wear.”

Mike laughed and was rewarded with a glare.

“Sorry, I just got a visual of him in your clothes.”

“I have…” Kathryn smiled and shrugged.  “I have something larger---I think.”

Chakotay wanted to question that, but he knew he was in deep enough as it was.  He nodded and headed down the hall.

“Come on, Michael, I’ll buy you breakfast.  God knows we don’t want her to cook.”  Owen stood up and Mike followed.

“Thanks.”  Mike turned to Kathryn and kissed her cheek.  “Thanks again and remember- if he doesn’t shape up- just yell.”

“Katie, I’ll see you tomorrow or the day after.  Take your time and work this out.”

“Thanks, Owen.  I will.”

After they left, Kathryn cleared away their cups and dug out an old pair of faded jeans she kept in the back of her closet. The t-shirt came from the drawer with her favorite comfort clothes.  She knocked on the door and opened it slowly.

“I’ll put these here.”

“Thanks.”

Kathryn watched his silhouette through the smoked glass of her shower doors, suddenly reminded of the partitions in their shelter.  She closed the door and put on a fresh pot of coffee.

When Chakotay joined her in the kitchen, she had a fresh cup of tea waiting for him.  Kathryn turned from the stove to find him watching.

“Sit, I won’t bite.”  Kathryn put the cups on the table and took the chair opposite him.  “Clothes fit well.”

“They should, they’re mine.”

“Didn’t think you would notice.”

“Not notice? I’ve been looking for the jeans for – god years.”

“Yeah, I’d say about five and a half.”  Kathryn shrugged.

“You kept my clothes hostage for five and a half years?”

“Never know when something like this might come in handy. Besides it gave me something…”  Kathryn stopped and studied his face.

“To what?”

“Something to hang on to.”

“God, have I fucked this up.”

“We both did.”

“So now what?  Can I do anything to fix this?”

“Well, I think I made my position clear in the last day or so. You can start by telling me about Seven.  She was obviously unhappy and you said she went home.  What now?”

“She said I was not adapting well to our living arrangement and that if I refused to sever my connection with you, she would seek companionship elsewhere.”

“And?”

“You really have to ask that? Kathryn, no matter what we do, or who we do it with there will always be a connection. I don’t think we could break it if we wanted to.”

“We have strained it.” Kathryn placed her left elbow on the table, raising her hand and spreading her fingers.

“Yes, we have.”  Chakotay raised his right hand, meshing his fingers with hers in the familiar symbol of their bond.

“We can work this out if you want to.” Kathryn held his eyes.  “Do you want to, Chakotay?”

“More than anything.”

Kathryn tightened her grip, renewing the old vow and affirming the promise of their future.
 

The End
 

EMAIL                                                    RETURN TO INDEX