Disclaimer: I am just a poor soul who dreams up odd little stories.  I own only the ideas on this page; everything else belongs to Paramount.

Rated: PG 13
(find the NC17 version here)

First place in Captain Crystal's Big Goodbye  First place and Overall winner  in Your Choice awards

They were having dinner in the Captain’s quarters or at least that was Chakotay’s intention.  The Captain seemed to see the food in front of her as the latest hostile alien.  Kathryn kept stabbing things on her plate and then swinging her fork in the air as she aired her latest complaint.

It had been a dreary day in the Delta Quadrant, but still better than most, but the Captain didn't see it that way.  Trade negotiations, while not a complete failure, had not brought them the prosperity they had hoped for and they would be looking for supplies again – all too soon. The replicators were malfunctioning, which meant the supply of coffee was extremely limited.  Environmental controls were finally somewhat stable but the temperature was still a bit on the warm side of pleasant.

“I wish – just once, damn it! – that one of these things would work out to our advantage!” She waved her fork to emphasize her point.

“Kathryn, we got a lot of supplies out of this one.”  Chakotay tried to present the bright side.

“Yes, I know but I wish we had gotten some spare parts.”

“The environmental controls are working again.”

“I know, but the replicators aren’t.”  Kathryn made a face as she sipped the tea he had brewed them. “I wish…What?”  She looked up to see a large grin on his face.

“You have a lot of wishes tonight.”  He continued to grin at her.  “We don’t need the replicators tonight, we have enough.”  He waved his hand over the table indicating the dinner.

“Enough?!”

“Yes, it’s all we need.”  He got that peaceful look, the one that said he knew something and he wanted to share it.

“I feel a legend coming on.”  Kathryn rolled her eyes.  “Come on, tell me.”

“It’s not a legend, just a saying among my people.”

“So, share it with me.”

“When we wish someone well, sometimes when we are leaving them, we say, I wish you enough.”

“And the meaning?”

“It goes like this. I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright, enough rain so  you appreciate the sun more.  I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive and enough pain so the smallest joys in life appear much larger.  I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting and enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.  I wish you enough 'Hellos' to get you through the final 'Good-byes’.”

“That’s beautiful, Chakotay.  Makes me fell greedy.” She smiled and took his hand across the table.

“Don’t.  We all wish for more than we have sometimes.”

“Oh, what more do you wish for?” Kathryn saw the heat flash in his eyes and  immediately wished she could take back the words.

“I wish..”  His eyes bored into hers, then he smiled and they lightened.  “I wish we had enough coffee – if there is such a thing!”

Kathryn laughed with him, relieved he had let her off the hook yet again.

They had good times and bad after that, drifting apart and coming back together many times.  Kathryn knew he wanted more from her but prayed what she could give him, now, would be enough.  In the end it wasn’t.

Then one day the Admiral showed up and things moved very quickly.  Suddenly, they were home.  There were months of debriefings, a sham of a hearing on the status of the Maquis and many, many, welcome home celebrations.  Kathryn was exhausted.  In that time she had been promoted to admiral, offered numerous assignments, none of which she committed to, and spent one dreadful evening smiling at an engagement party.  The engagement was that of her former First Officer, now Captain Chakotay, and her former protégée Seven of Nine, now known as Annika. It had been one of the –no the - most painful evenings of her life.  Her best friend, the man she loved beyond all reason, was getting married and he wanted her to be his ‘best man’.  Finally, some six months after their return to earth, Kathryn was free and she was devastated.

~~~^^^~~~

Kathryn was having lunch with Chakotay in a small café near the Academy where he was teaching.  It was like most of their lunches, hurriedly arranged.  Chakotay had contacted her office while she was at a meeting so he left a message to meet him at the usual place at 13:00 hours if she could arrange it; she did.  Kathryn always made time when Chakotay called.

“Well, we have a date.”  Chakotay chuckled when she rolled her eyes.

“Another one?”

“Well, this time Irene told her there would be no more changes!”

“Wasn’t that what she said last time?”

“Yes, but she means it this time.”  Chakotay laughed and Kathryn melted at the sight of the dimples.  “I’m beginning to believe she doesn’t want to marry me!”

“Who wouldn’t want that?”  Kathryn hadn’t meant to say that out loud so she made a face and laughed to cover her blunder. “OK, out with it – When?”

“Not sure.”

“I thought you had a date this time?”  Kathryn put her hands on her hips.

“Well, we do.  It’ll be in two months, the end of May.  I’m just not sure whether it’s the twentieth or the twenty-seventh yet—whichever they can arrange.”

Kathryn suddenly felt like she had been kicked in the stomach.  She blanched, then proceeded to choke on her coffee.

“Kathryn.”  He was standing next to her instantly, genuine concern on his face.  “Are you OK?”

“Yes, yes,” She waves him back to his seat.  “just swallowed wrong; it's nothing.”

The next week when Chakotay dropped by for lunch, he was told the Admiral was out of the office for the day.  He left a message with her aide, but she had a late meeting and didn’t return to the office afterwards.  When she finally got back to her house, her terminal was blinking.  Kathryn flipped it on half listening to the messages as she fixed a cup of coffee.  Her mother wanted her to come for dinner; her sister had a man for her to meet- another man!  Then his voice caught her attention.

Kathryn, I’m sorry I missed you today.  I wanted to have lunch but I’ll be tied up the rest of this week, maybe we can do it next week.  Give me a call when you get a chance.  Oh, the date is the twentieth – keep it open.  Hope to talk to you soon.

Kathryn slapped the console to freeze the screen.  She sat staring at his smiling face, her salty tears falling into her cooling coffee. The final irony; he was getting married on her birthday!

~~~^^^~~~

Kathryn called him the following day, but true to his word he was tied up.  She left a message that she would be away from the office for a few days and instructed Lieutenant Rusk to tell him the same.  Beth wasn’t happy with that assignment, but the Admiral’s mood left her no room for argument.  By the end of the second week, Beth needed to do something or lose her mind.

“Admiral?”

“Yes.” Kathryn didn’t look up when the young woman entered her office. “If there is nothing else..?”

“No, nothing.  Good night.”  Kathryn finally looked up when she didn’t hear the Lieutenant leave.  “Was there something you wanted?”

“Yes, well…”

“Lieutenant, if there is something on your mind just say it.  We will both feel better.”

“Captain Chakotay has called no less then ten times in the last two weeks - it's none of my business but…”

“Correct, Lieutenant. It is none of your business.”

“Sorry, Ma’am.  I’ll be going.”

“Good night.”  Kathryn’s eyes met the young woman’s for just a second then Rusk turned to leave.  “Lieutenant.”

“Yes, Ma’am?”

“You think I’m being rude?”

“No, Ma’am.”  Rusk turned back to look at her.

“Then what?  Go ahead, you started this.  You have permission to speak freely.”

“I think you are being unfair.”

“Unfair?”

“Yes.  I don’t know either of you personally and frankly, I’m not sure what to make of your relationship, or what went wrong with it.  It just seems that you two have been friends a long time and whatever it is, he deserves the truth.  Not some excuse made up by your aide.”

“I see.”  Kathryn sat back and studied the young woman.  “You are correct.  You have no idea what our relationship entails and even less idea what went wrong with it, but you do make a good point. Thank you, Lieutenant.  Dismissed.”

Kathryn sat alone in her office for a long time after that.  Beth was right she couldn’t keep avoiding him.  Not only was it unfair but soon he would be here demanding to see her.  She called Admiral Paris’ aide and made an appointment for the next morning.

~~~^^^~~~

Kathryn's meeting with Admiral Paris didn’t take long.  He listened to her request and approved her leave without ever questioning her motives.  Kathryn suspected Owen knew all too well what had prompted this little vacation and she was just as happy that he didn’t question her.  She headed back to her office to tie up a few loose ends and planned on being gone by morning.

Kathryn had Rusk discreetly check Captain Chakotay’s schedule; he would be out of his office for the next two days.  Feeling she would safely be away by the time he received it, Kathryn recorded an audio only message and directed it to his office, just before leaving her own.

~~~^^^~~~

Annika waited in Chakotay’s office; he would be out of class soon.  Today, they were meeting for lunch and then deciding on their wedding cake, a process she found irrelevant.   She sat behind his desk and waited.  The light on his terminal flashed, after being out of the office for two days, he had quite a few messages waiting.  Annika hoped none were important enough to delay their leaving, she had much work to do this afternoon and didn’t want to waste time here.  In the spirit of efficiency, she scrolled the list of names; nothing looked important until she saw a message from Kathryn- audio only.  The message had been delivered two days earlier. The fact that it contained only audio surprised her, it had come from HQ, certainly video had been available.  Annika tried to dismiss it.  After all their friendship was nothing new.  She was aware that Kathryn had been unavailable these past few weeks and that Chakotay was upset by that fact.  He would probably want to hear the message before they left.  Annika cued the message, curiosity got the best of her and she played it.

Chakotay hurried down the hallway. He was late meeting Annika and he knew how impatient she was.  Just outside his door he was halted by the sound of Kathryn’s voice.  Chakotay couldn’t make out the words so he hurried inside to see if she was waiting with Annika.

“Chakotay.”  Annika looked up from the terminal surprised.

“Did I hear Kathryn?”

“Yes, I saw a message from her and I thought you would want to hear it before leaving for lunch.  I cued it for you and accidentally played it.”

“Anything important?”  He knew it had been no accident by the unfamiliar blush on her cheeks.

“I believe, you should listen for yourself.  It is audio only.”  Annika pressed the button, watching him closely as he listened.

My Dearest Chakotay,

Does that sound odd coming from me?  I'm sure it does to your ears—not to mine.  I need to inform you that I will be on an extended assignment and therefore unable to serve as a witness to your marriage.  Pretty formal, huh? Forgive me, it's the Starfleet in me, being a stuffy old admiral takes practice.  This is where I had planned to put a long and detailed explanation of how important to Federation security my new, highly classified, assignment is and how I would never leave you alone on such an important day otherwise, but I can’t bring myself to lie to you - not even when it might be best.  The fact is – I’m a coward.

Not only am I lying about the important assignment, but I’m sending this transmission because I don’t even have the guts to face you with it.  The truth is – I can't bear to witness the ceremony that will bring my best friend happiness by ending every shred of hope I have carried in my heart all these long years.  I can admit now that there is only one man that I have ever truly loved –oh, I cared deeply for Justin but I was only a girl and didn’t understand love.  And although I love Mark still, it's the love of old friends not the love you build a life on.  It took you to teach me what real love is and from you I have learned that true love is not selfish. Which brings me to the fact that I must go.

I will be leaving shortly on an extended leave.  Don’t worry and please don’t waste your time trying to find me- there’s a bit of section 31 in all of us.  Just know that I will be fine and that I love you.

I wish you enough.
 

Chakotay stood staring at the back of the blank screen; Annika stared at him.  As he listened to Kathryn's words, the pain was evident on his face.  Any doubts Annika had about her feelings for this man, and she had experienced many in the past months, became clear in that moment.  She knew she cared for him because it hurt to witness his pain, but she understood that what they had could never compare to what he was about to lose.  Annika has always known how he felt about Kathryn, everyone on the ship had.  What she didn't understand until this moment was that Kathryn felt the same way and only the timing of her own relationship with Chakotay kept them apart once they had reached Earth.  In those few moments, all their lives had changed.

“I only came to inform you that I have urgent business this afternoon and will be unable to keep our lunch date.”  He nodded but she knew he hadn’t really heard her.  “Chakotay.”

“Yes?  Oh, I’m sorry.  Are you ready to go?”

“I was just telling you, I am unable to keep our luncheon date.”

“OK.”  He just accepted her answer without question and moved around to sit behind his desk.

“I will be leaving then.”  She saw him nod again.  “I am working late this evening.  I will call you tomorrow.”

“Huh?  Oh, working late?”

“Yes, it is necessary.”

“All right.  I’ll speak to you tomorrow.”

“Good-bye.”  Again he nodded and Annika started for the door.

“Sev.. Annika.”

“Yes?”

“The cake.  What about the cake?”  He smiled and came toward her.  “We were going to decide on what cake to get.”

“We will do it another time.”

“If you’re sure.”  He leaned in and kissed her cheek. “I’ll talk to you tomorrow.  Take care.”

“You also.”

As soon as Annika entered the lift, Chakotay sat behind his desk and replayed the message. It took you to teach me what real love is.  Just know that I will be fine and that I love you.  I wish you enough.  The words played over and over in his head.  Chakotay punched his console.

“B’Ella, I’m glad you’re home.  I need to see you.”  He spoke the moment she appeared not even allowing her to say hello.

“Chak…”  B’Elanna looked at his stricken face.  “Do you want to come here or should I come to you?”

“I’ll come there, if its OK.”

“Sure, come on over.”

Chakotay nodded and cut the transmission.  B’Elanna sat at her console trying to fathom what could have so visibly upset him.  It was only a matter of minutes before he walked in.  He had beamed from the Academy directly to her transport room; the privileges of have high ranking in-laws.

“Chak, what’s wrong.  Is Seven OK?” He looked at her blankly for a minute then nodded. “Sit.  I’ll get tea.”  B’Elanna replicated the tea; it was faster.  Then she sat in the chair across from him.  “Now, tell me.”

“It’s Kathryn.”  He hung his head and handed her a padd.”

“Is she sick?  What?”  B’Elanna scanned the padd; it contained a transcript of Kathryn’s transmission.  She moved to the couch and hugged her friend.

~~~^^^~~~

Annika went back to her lab but, for the first time in her recollection, she found herself too distracted to work.

“Annika?  What are you doing here?”  Markie Generral, the young lieutenant who shared her lab space, was surprised to see her this afternoon,  “I thought you had a date with that hunk of a Captain of yours.”

“He is otherwise occupied.”

“Are you OK?”  Markie had never seen Annika so unfocused.

“I believe I am a bit unnerved as my aunt would say.”  Annika turned off her console.  “I will go home now.”

“Sure, OK, see you tomorrow.”  Markie spoke to Annika’s retreating back.  Staring until the door slid closed between them.

~~~^^^~~~

 “Chak, what are you gonna do?”

“I have to find her.”  He looked up at B’Elanna like she had lost her mind.

“I know, but..”  She grimaced.  “What about Seven?”

“I don’t know..”  He dropped his face to his hands.  “I can’t marry her.”

“I know.”  B’Elanna hugged him. “Weren’t you supposed to have lunch with her?”

“She said she had too much work or something.  I don’t know, after I heard this I couldn’t listen to her.”

“Seven heard this?!”

“Yes.”  He looked up with sudden realization.  “She heard it before I did and then she played it for me.”

“She heard it first and didn’t erase it?”  He shook his head.  “I would have—if I were in her place.”

“I should call her… but …”  He looked sadly at B’Elanna.  “I don’t know what I could say.”

“She heard this and she went away.  There probably isn’t much left to say.  Seven is inexperienced but she isn’t stupid.  Everyone in the quadrant knows how you feel about Kathryn and now she knows how Kathryn feels about you.”

“Kathryn—my god, B’Ella.  I asked her to be my ‘best man’. What that must have done to her!”

“And then you planned the wedding for her birthday.”

“Oh, spirits, I never even… how could I forget her birthday?”

Chakotay totally broke down then.  B’Elanna held on tight rocking him as he cried.

“I gave up, B’Ella.  I promised her I would always be there and I wasn’t.”

“Yes, you were.  You stood by her all the way home.  You waited years for what she couldn’t give you.  She encouraged you to move on.  How were you supposed to know?”

“I should have known.”

~~~^^^~~~

Irene sensed something when she entered the house but for the life of her she couldn’t place what was wrong.  Everything looked just the same as when she left an hour ago, but the feeling wouldn’t go away.  Irene put her groceries on the kitchen table and went to look around.  The door had been locked, the lights were out, nothing was out of place except the cat, but she wasn’t really permanently attached to the windowsill, it only seemed that way.

Irene returned to the kitchen and put the groceries away.  She wasn’t planning on cooking tonight, Annie was spending the afternoon with Chakotay and that usually meant she wouldn’t see her until late or maybe not until tomorrow.  She smiled to herself.  She had to admit that she didn’t think it would work when they first got back.  He was a very nice man but she didn’t think they were right for each other.  Annie was so inexperienced.  Well she supposed he had taken care of that! Still… but they seemed happy and Annie had finally agreed on a date.  Irene made herself a sandwich and set out to find that cat.

~~~^^^~~~

B’Elanna contacted Kathryn’s office.  She explained to Lieutenant Rusk that it was very important she reach the Admiral, but Beth refused to give any information.

“OK, I understand, Lieutenant.”

“No, I don’t think you do, Commander.  I really don’t know where she is or why she went there.”

“All right, Lieutenant, but if you hear from her, please tell her I need to speak with her immediately.”

“Yes, Ma’am, I will.”

“Thank you.  Goodbye.”

B’Elanna left her office and returned to the living area where Chakotay was speaking to Seven’s aunt.

“Honestly, Chakotay, I thought she was with you.”

“She was earlier, but she told me she was working late and she’s not at the lab.”

“Oh, my, you don’t suppose something happened to her?”  Irene’s concern deepened

“No. We had a … misunderstanding and well you know how that is.”

“Yes, a lovers' spat.  I’m sure she will come home soon.”  She visibly relaxed.  “Shall I have her call you when she comes in?”

“I’m not home.  I’ll check back later.”  Chakotay held the smile steady hoping to give the impression that he wasn’t worried.”

“All right.  Good bye, dear.”

“Good bye, Irene.”
 

“No luck?” B’Elanna spoke as soon as the transmission ended.

“No.  She’s not at work and Irene hasn’t seen her.” Chakotay ran his fingers through his hair.  “You?”

“No.  Her mother said, so sweetly, that she was ‘away dear’, but she wasn’t sure where.  Phoebe isn’t home and Lieutenant Rusk really has no idea where she is.”

“Someone knows.”

~~~^^^~~~

“Irene, don’t be concerned.  I am here.”  Seven stood behind her, holding the cat.

“Annie!”  Irene turned in surprise.  “Chakotay just…”

“I know.”  She took an uncustomary seat on the sofa.  “I was listening.”

“Annie, don’t worry these things happen.”  Irene sat on the table in front of her. “People fight sometimes, it’s..”

“We did not have a disagreement.”  Annika calmly held Irene’s eyes.

“Then why…?”

“We received some news today.”

“Bad news?”

“No.  Unexpected, but I do not believe Chakotay would say it is bad.”

“I think you better explain.”

“There is a woman, who..”  Annika looked down briefly, stroking the cat in her lap. “A woman who has been first in his heart for many years.”

“The Captain?”

“You know this, too?”

“I always wondered about them.”

“They have been friends for this entire journey.  Chakotay has always loved her.”

“You knew this all along?”

“Yes, it may even be why I find him so appealing.”

“But she doesn’t feel the same way?”

“She has always held to protocol.  She was the captain and therefore believed she could never have a romantic relationship with someone under her command.”

“But when you got home?”

“Chakotay was involved with me.”

“I see.  And now?  What has changed?”

“Kathryn has gone away.  She left him a message that she was sorry but she could not witness his marriage to me.”  Annika looked up from where she had been watching her hands smooth the soft fur.  “She loves him.”

“Did she say that?”

“Yes.  She said, just know that I will be fine and that I love you.  I wish you enough.”

“Enough?”

“It is some tribal thing- he told me once but, I have forgotten the exact meaning - it wasn’t important.”

“He must have told her too and she…” Irene stopped, watching Annika sadly nod her head.

“Yes, to her it was a part of him, important enough to remember.  I would never consider it so.”

Irene moved beside Annika and wrapped her arms around her, much as she did when Annika was a little girl.  Annika returned her hug.

~~~^^^~~~

Tom had returned home, they had contacted Harry and Tuvok but neither knew where Kathryn was.  B’Elanna finally reached Phoebe but she wasn’t any help either.

“I know who will know.”  Tom sat on the floor with Miral.  “My old man will know but he’s out of town until day after tomorrow.”

“That may be a good thing.”  B’Elanna scooped up Miral. “Come on honey, let’s go visit grandma.”

“That’s my wife, always thinking.” Tom laughed, but Chakotay just sat looking confused.  “Best way to make pop give in – is mom.  And the best weapon against mom – is Miral!”

“Do you think?”

“I think it’s worth a try.”

~~~^^^~~~

Anne Paris hadn’t been sure it was a good idea to try to get the information out of her husband.  Even with Miral as their secret weapon, she hadn’t given in until Chakotay gave her the padd with Kathryn’s message.  She confessed that she and Owen had been very surprised that Kathryn and Chakotay were not involved.  They seemed a natural couple to everyone who met them.  In the end, she agreed to help.

Chakotay said good night, leaving the four Parises plotting against the Admiral and returned to his own house.  He didn’t turn on the downstairs lights, just found his way to the stairs from memory.  Chakotay was half way up the stars when the living room lights came on.

“I’m sorry.”  She was standing on the other side of the room when he turned around.  “I did not mean to startle you.”

“Annika.”  Chakotay froze unable to advance or retreat.

“I must talk to you.”

“I—I –don’t..”

“It is not necessary for you to speak, if you do not wish to.”  She moved back into the room.  “But I would ask that you join me.”

He came into the room and took a seat in the chair; Annika sat across from him.

“I’m sorry to intrude but Irene believes it best if I speak to you in person.”

“You told Irene?”

“Yes and she was not surprised.  She has seen the bond between you and the… Kathryn.”

“Annika, I’m sorry.  I never meant to hurt you.”

“I understand that, but you have.  I am at fault as well.  I have always known how you felt about Kathryn.  I used poor judgment in choosing you.  Perhaps it was inexperience or perhaps I subconsciously chose to ignore the truth before me.  Irene even feels it is why I have changed the date so many times.”

“Annika.”  Chakotay moved to sit beside her, taking her hands in his.  “I don’t know what to say to you.  I never meant to deceive you.  I believed we could make a good life together.”

“Because you believed she no longer shared your feelings.”

“Its true.  I knew that Kathryn loved me once, but I believed it to be long in her past.”

“Irene tells me love is not rational or logical; one does not get to choose with whom they fall in love.  I believe we tried to do that and that is where we failed.  I have much to learn about human emotions and Irene assures me than no one ever completely understands them.  That should present a sufficient challenge to me.”

“She’s right.”  Chakotay pulled her into an embrace.  “I really wanted this to work, but then...”

“Do not blame our failure on Kathryn.”  Chakotay pulled back and looked at her in surprise.  “What she said would not have changed us, if we truly loved one another.”

“I do love you.”

“Yes and I you, but it is not the same.  It is not enough.”  Annika stood up.  “I must leave now.”

“Will you be OK?”

“It will take time, but I will adapt.”  She leaned down and kissed his cheek.  “And when I do, I hope we can be friends.”

“I’d like that.”  He stood and hugged her.

“When you go to her, tell her I wish you both well.”

“I will. Please take care of yourself and remember I’m here if you need me.”

“I will, good night.”

“Good night.”

Chakotay watched Annika cross the street and enter the public transport station.  He moved to his console.

“Irene.”

“Chakotay, dear how are you?”

“I’ll be all right.  I’m worried about Annika; she just left here.”

“Don’t worry, dear, she will mend.  I think she has known all along that your relationship was not permanent.”

“I never meant..”

“I know that and so does she.  She is hurt now, but will recover and be stronger for it.  You and the Captain are better suited to one another, anyone can see that.”

“Take care of her and please call me if either of you need anything.”

“Thank you, Chakotay, but I’m sure we’ll manage.  It’s nice to have you to back us up though.  She will be here soon, so I’ll say good night.”

“Good night, Irene.”

The screen went dark and he just sat and stared at it.

~~~^^^~~~

Admiral Paris was delayed on Mars another week and Anne didn’t want to chance approaching him until he was home.  Even after his return, Owen steadfastly held to the story that he didn’t know Kathryn’s whereabouts; another week passed with no sign of his weakening.  Anne did her best, Tom tried every trick he could think of and B’Elanna begged, but he wouldn’t give in.  Chakotay had a long talk with the Admiral but the best he had gotten was a promise that he would ask Kathryn to contact Chakotay if she called.
 

“Admiral, Annika Hansen is here and she is insisting that you see her.”  Lieutenant Canfield stood in front of Owen’s desk.

“Who?” Paris replied absently, surprised by the Lieutenant's sudden appearance.

“Annika Hansen.”  He jerked his head toward the closed door and lowered his voice.  “You know, Voyager’s drone.”

“Oh, Seven. What does she want?”

“I don’t know, Sir.  She insists she must speak to you personally.”  He shrugged.  “I tried to send her away..”

“Yes, she has a habit of being—insistent.”  Owen sighed.  “All right.  Show her in.”

“Admiral, thank you for seeing me.”  Annika brushed past the lieutenant.

“Did I have a choice?”

“I am sorry to be so- pushy, but it is vitally important that I reach Kathryn Janeway and I believe you are the only one who can help me.”

“You, too!  What is it with you people?  No wonder she needed to get away.”

“I know the others have tried to get you to disclose her whereabouts and failed.  I will not ask for that information.”

“That’s refreshing.”

“I simply wish you to transmit this to her.”  Annika handed him a padd.

“What’s this?”

“Admiral, Kathryn Janeway gave me back my life.  She taught me, fought with me, and forced me to embrace my humanity.  She is as much my mother as the woman who gave birth to me.  And I have repaid her love and kindness by betraying her—it was not my intent, but a betrayal just the same.  And she has forgiven me even that and wished me well.  But I have realized my mistake and I wish to try to correct it.”   She watched him turn the padd over in his hands.  “You may read it, if you wish.”

“I’m sure that won’t be necessary.”  He studied the young woman in front of him.  Kathryn had told him he hadn’t seen the true person Seven was becoming, yet but he would.  Maybe she was right.  “I’ll see what I can do.”

“Thank you, Admiral.  Again I apologize for my aggressive actions, but as you know Kathryn’s well being is a matter of utmost importance, to many of us.”

“I’m beginning to understand that.”

Annika nodded and left him to contemplate her visit.

~~~^^^~~~

When the courier arrived with a delivery for Kathryn, she was surprised.  It was of course from Owen, he was the only one who knew how to reach her.  It had been three weeks since she came here; Kathryn was beginning to feel a bit isolated, but the package worried her.  Owen had promised not to tell anyone where she was and to contact her only in an emergency.  Nervously she opened the package, retrieved the data chip and inserted it in the console.

Kathryn Owen’s face greeted her with a smile; she hoped it was genuine.  I know I promised to contact you only in an emergency but I am concerned and maybe this is an emergency. At this point, I am beginning to doubt my sanity, never mind my judgment.  No, Katie, no one is sick or injured or in any danger at all, so don’t worry.  I do have news though, so go get a fresh cup of coffee and sit back and relax while I tell you how I have spent my last two weeks. Go on! I’m not waiting forever!  Owen’s laughter was followed by a long silence and a blank stare. Kathryn took the hint and got herself a fresh coffee.

He began by telling her that Chakotay and Annika had canceled their wedding, no more changing dates or stalling—there would be no wedding.  He proceeded with an almost blow-by-blow account of the all out assault his family had launched immediately upon his return.  Even Miral was in on it.  Kathryn had to laugh. He explained that his son had pulled out all the stops and tried every tricky maneuver he knew, and lord knows Tom knows them all, to find out her location.  His daughter in law had raged and then begged for any scrap of information and his wife stopped just short of a divorce action. But Katie, I resisted!  Damn, they are worse than the Cardassians! Refill that coffee, I’ll wait.

He told her a few more anecdotes about the others that had her rolling with laughter.  Then he mentioned Chakotay and she held her breath.  Owen said they had talked a long time and Chakotay never pushed him to give information he knew Owen held in confidence.

It’s none of my business, Katie, but please consider your next moves carefully.  I have always believed you two belonged together and talking to him extensively has only strengthened that belief.  Don’t let that stubborn Janeway pride get in the way of your happiness.

I had successfully resisted the onslaught from all of the above and then I got another visitor.  She ‘muscled’ her way past my aide, weathered my rage and sarcasm and when I began to believe she would assimilate me, she sucker punched me- no, not physically.  She told me that Kathryn Janeway ‘is as much my mother as the woman who gave birth to me’.  It was the last straw; I prepared this chip for you.  Annika gave me a padd and asked me to pass it to you, the contents follow.
 

Kathryn,

I can not begin to thank you for all you have done for me, nor can I erase the hurt I have caused you with a simple apology, although I am truly sorry for any pain I have caused you. All I can do is hope to set right the wrong that has been done. Chakotay and I did not set out to hurt you nor did we intend to hurt each other but that is exactly what we have done. Perhaps I was trying too hard to be the woman you expected me to become. I was not emotionally mature enough to know love so I played at it with the one man I knew I could trust.  I can see now that I chose him because he had your respect and approval.

For his part, Chakotay was only trying to fill the void and ease the pain of his loss and he truly believed your love was lost to him.  I always knew I could never own that place in his heart that belongs to you, even though he truly tried to love me.  The oddest part is that we both did this because we believed it was what you wanted us to do.

When I watched him listen to your transmission, I came to understand that I truly do care for this man.  The pain I witnessed on his face cut me deeply, but it also made me realize that what we shared could in no way compare to what you and he are in danger of losing. He would be saddened if he knew I came to you because, noble man that he is, he has taken all the blame upon himself.  He feels responsible for your feelings and mine even thought he knows he can control neither of us.

I know that you will understand when I tell you that what Chakotay and I have to offer each other is not enough.  Please accept my apology. Come home to his heart and make his soul whole again as only you can do.

With gratitude and love
Seven

Katie, I know I broke my promise by passing these thoughts along, but it was done with love.  Please know that I love you every bit as much as each of these crazy people.  We only want your happiness, whatever you decide.

Now, put down the coffee and go to the cupboard behind the stack of firewood.  Take a few good belts of good old Irish whiskey and sleep on it.  You will be surprised how much clearer this will be in the morning light.

The screen went dark and Kathryn did as Owen asked.  The whiskey burned her mouth. She could feel the fire roll down her throat and warm her belly.  A few shots of whiskey and she curled up on the couch, pulled the afghan over her and slept like a baby.

~~~^^^~~~

Chakotay had stayed late preparing for his new lecture series.  It was well after dark when he got home.  Before he even turned on the lights, he checked for the tiny flash from the console that would mean he had a message waiting; it was dark.  It had been six weeks since he had seen Kathryn, four since she had gone away.  Chakotay wondered if she would ever come back.

He tossed his jacket on the chair and followed it by his turtleneck; pips scattered across the floor.  He thought about eating. It was probably a good idea but he wasn’t really interested.

“Where are you, Kathryn?”  His fingers drummed the silent console.  “Will you ever come back?”

“I’m right here, Chakotay.”

“Kathryn?” The distinctly husky voice came from the darkness behind him causing him to spin around.

“Yes.”

“How did…?”

“I’m sorry.  I told you there was a bit of section 31 in me.  I broke in.”  He heard her laughter in the darkness.  “Are you going to have me arrested?”

“Depends on why you’re here.  I’ll let you know.”  Chakotay turned on the light to find Kathryn sitting on his couch, bare feet propped on the table, coffee in hand.  “Made yourself comfortable I see.”  He smiled at the welcome sight.  This was the Kathryn he had loved for so long.

“You were very late getting home.”

“I’m sorry.  Next time you plan a break in just let me know and I’ll try to be more accommodating.”

“I’ll do that.”

The smiles faded slightly as they watched each other.  It had been a long time since the silence between them had been so awkward.

“I was sorry to hear about you and Annika.”  Kathryn broke the uneasy silence.

“Were you really?”  He moved farther into the room.

“Ending a relationship is never easy.  It must have been difficult for both of you and yes, I am sorry that you suffered that.”  She sipped her coffee.  “If you are asking if I am unhappy that you won’t be marrying her- No.”

“I’m sorry, Kathryn.”  He sat near her on the couch.  “This whole mess is my fault.”

Kathryn stared at him blankly for a moment then began to laugh.  She continued with deep belly laughs until tears rolled down her cheeks.

“Kathryn?”

Kathryn only laughed harder when he was looking at her like she had lost her mind.

“I’m sorry.”  She put down her coffee and tried unsuccessfully to control her laughter.  “I – Oh—sorry.”

“OK, take a deep breath.”  Chakotay tried to calm her but he was getting caught up in the laughter himself.

“All right—I’m OK.”  Kathryn wiped her tears on the back of her hand and took several deep breaths.  “Sorry, must be nerves.  It’s just that we are all so good at blaming ourselves.”

“We are.”

"It’s all my fault for holding you away all those years.  I never gave you any hope because to see it dashed again would have killed me.  You turned to Seven because you needed some one.  She is young and beautiful and she was very interested in you.  Seven choose you because she trusted you and I respected you.  We can go on and on.  The reasons don’t matter anymore.  What matters is what we choose to do now.”

“I love you, Kathryn.”  He brushed a stray tear off her cheek.  “Since I met you we have been together almost every day on some level.  On the ship and even since we came home, I could always reach out and find you there.  I thought I had accepted that we couldn’t have deeper relationship.  I actually thought – I don’t know maybe just because we never physically expressed our love—I thought that we were friends and nothing more.  Then you went away and I existed these six weeks without you.  I realized that we can never have anything deeper because there just isn’t anything deeper than we already have.  You are more than my friend, more than just the woman I love, you are the missing pieces of my heart, the companion to my soul.”

“Chakotay.”  Kathryn took his face in her hand.  “I have loved you for so long it seems like forever.  I could never tell you that, not on the ship, not when I didn’t know if we would ever get home.  I wanted you to wait.  I hoped that you would but I couldn’t sentence you to a life of waiting for what might never be.  So many times, I almost gave in; so many times, I nearly wrapped my arms around you and begged you to love me.   When you started your relationship with Seven….”  Kathryn bit her lip but couldn’t hold back the tears.  “I wanted to be happy for you, I hoped she could give you all the things I couldn’t - make you happy, give you the children I know you have always wanted.”  Kathryn swallowed her tears. “To be honest, I don’t think I could have survived living next door while you and Seven raised a family.”

“I was so blind.  If I had known how you felt, I never would have put you through that.”

“You weren’t supposed to know.”  Kathryn tilted her head and smiled “It’s the..”

“I know, the section 31 in you.”  He laughed.  “I’m sure I don’t want to know the story behind that!”

“I’ll tell you about it- sometime.”  Kathryn leaned in closer bringing her lips only centimeters from his. “But not now.”

As she spoke their breath mingled and her lips lightly brushed against his. Kathryn could hear her own heart pounding in anticipation.  Chakotay lowered his lips tenderly kissing her, trying desperately to show her his love, before need would inevitably consume them.  He continued to kiss her, soft moist lips each seeking the other's, hands roaming, tangling in hair, his running down her back, hers tracing the muscles in his chest.  With each kiss, she grew bolder more demanding; their breathing escalated.  Chakotay’s tongue invaded her mouth, exploring, tasting; his hands moved under her tunic.  Kathryn’s body trembled at his touch; her back arched, she sighed into his mouth.  Her fingers frantically tugged at his clothing as she moaned her encouragement.  His lips wandered across her cheek, teeth nipping at an earlobe, his hot breath sending chills down her spine as it moved across her ear; his tongue licked that sensitive spot behind making her quiver.  Her fingers traced the outline of his growing desire then reached to unfasten his pants.

“No.”  Chakotay gently removed her hands and held them still as he rested their foreheads together.  “Let’s not do it this way.”  Kathryn groaned and Chakotay chuckled, pulling her into a tight embrace.  “I’m sorry.”

“No-you-are-not!”  She emphasized each word as she squirmed against him.  “Are you going to make me pay for every time I pushed you away?”

“I’m not making you pay.”  His laughter ruffled her hair.

“Oh, yes you are.”  She nipped his neck.

“Ouch! OK, maybe I am, but that’s not what I’m trying to do.”

Good, 'cause I’m trying…” She struggled to free herself from his grasp, then quickly straddled him.

“I know what you trying to do.”  Chakotay grabbed her hips to hold her still.  “I want
to do this right.”

“I don’t think we can do it wrong.”  Kathryn had his tank pushed up, her mouth devouring his chest, her fingers working the fasteners on his trousers.

“Kathryn..”  Chakotay groaned  “We need to slow this down.”

“Slow is for later.”  Kathryn forced herself up against his grip allowing her room to slip
a hand between them.

“I want..Oh god..” Chakotay gasped as her mouth recaptured his and her hand closed
around him.  “Kathryn...” He mumbled against her mouth. “Kathryn.” Chakotay forced his mouth away from hers, pulling her handS free, he held them while she growled at him. “I want to make love to you- properly... not like this.”

“Chakotay..”  Kathryn voice resembled a low growl, steamy blue eyes bore into his.  “I know that you love me.  I need..”

“You need to slow down.”  He smiled, holding her hands until she slumped against him. “Kathryn?”  He ran his hand up and down her back, his head resting on the back of the couch as he tried to even out his own breathing.

“Ummm.”  She mumbled into his neck.

“Mad at me?”  He lifted his head and kissed the top of her head.

“No, just wondering how you got to be in charge.”

“Don’t you think I could be in charge sometime?”

“Sure.”  She laughed.  “But, I’ll let you know when.”

“Nice.”  He slapped her bottom and she yelped.

“OK, you can be in charge of finding us something to eat.  Suddenly I’m starving.”
Kathryn sat up and smiled, then leaned in and kissed him.  “I love you.”

“Then I guess I won’t have you arrested after all.”  He smiled as she rolled her eyes.

“I’m going to take a shower.”  Kathryn pulled her bag out from behind the couch.

“Came prepared to stay?”  He chuckled as he straightened his clothing.

“I came straight here from the transport.  I could go home if you want me to.”

“I think I have the room.”  He smiled.  “Make yourself at home.”

“Shall I use your guest room?”  She looked back over her shoulder as she started for
the stairs.

“I don’t give a damn where you put you clothes, Kathryn, as long as you put your body in my bed.”  He spun her around and kissed her.  “Slow is for later-isn't that what you said?”

“Yes.  And be warned, once could never be enough.”
 

The End

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