Disclaimer: The characters all belong to Paramount.  The concept of ghostly visions is borrowed from Mr. Dickens.  I don’t own them and I never will.
Phantasm
Rated PG

Second place winner in Ghost of Voyager

Author:  KJ

    She was leaning over Harry’s console, her young Ops officer had just informed her of an interesting phenomena, and she wanted a closer look.  This had been a relatively quiet week, the delta quadrant had been a roller coaster ride for most of the six months they had been here, so a quiet week was welcome.  But now she needed something more interesting to occupy her time than reports and this just might fit the bill.

“Mr. Paris, set…...”  She started to step back and straighten up, when she realized he was right behind her.  She could feel the closeness of his body, his warm breath crossed her neck and her breath caught.

“Captain?”  Tom turned waiting for the Captain to finish her order.

“Captain.”  Chakotay placed his hand on the shoulder of his suddenly frozen Captain.  “Are you alright?”

“Fine.”  It came out a little too sharply, as she struggled to regain her composure.  He was still standing there, touching her, she tried to remember what she had been doing, they were all looking at her.  Damn—yes a course.  “Set a course, Mr. Paris.”  She brushed past her first officer, shaking off the hand that still rested on her shoulder.

“Aye, Captain.”  He waited for her to give him the coordinates, when she didn’t he looked at the Commander.

“Harry.”  Chakotay nodded in his direction, as he watched the Captain make a be-line for her ready room.

“Heading 2027.4.”  Harry hastily supplied the missing information, and Tom laid in the course.

“Commander, the bridge is yours.  I’ll be in my ready room.”  She managed just before the doors closed behind her, leaving a bewildered bridge crew in her wake.

She paced the upper level of her ready room.  Damn, that should NOT have happened.  Captains do not lose their bearings just because they brush up against their first officers ----their devastatingly handsome first officers—Damn it, Kathryn stop this!  She had to get a grip on herself —it wasn’t bad enough that he was her first officer but only six months ago he was a wanted criminal—one she was sent to capture.  Oh this would never do --- she had to get past this.  She stopped pacing and replicated herself a fresh cup of coffee.  Remember Kathryn, you are engaged—yes –Mark—let’s think about Mark.  Now there was a handsome man.  Tall, dark, kind, gentle, safe, easily manipulated, totally unchallenging ---Oh god don’t do this—you loved Mark!  NO!  Love—I meant, love Mark!  Shit, this isn’t working.  OK, take a deep breath—get a grip.  There that’s better, now remember you are the Captain, he is your first officer and your friend—your friend—just your friend.  The door chimed and her heart started to pound--- only one person would follow her in here.
 

“Come.”  She called, seating herself behind the desk and pretending to study the pad in front of her.  “Yes, Commander—Is there something I can do for you?”  Making sure the Captain’s mask was firmly in place,  she looked up.

“I just wanted to be sure you were alright—you weren’t your self out there just now.”

“I’m fine Commander, thank you.”  God she thought, do not do the dimples—shit.

“OK, if you’re sure---I’ll leave you to your work.”  He smiled then reached over the desk and turned the upside down pad around, in her hand.  “I think this will help.”  His eyes sparkled with silent humor.  “Permission to return to the bridge, Captain?”

“Yes—er—Commander.”  She knew she was blushing, damn this fair skin.  “Dismissed.”

She watched him walk out and swore she heard him chuckle just as the door swished closed behind him.  Damn him, so sure of himself!  Those dimples and that cocky attitude might work on the maquis or some green ensign—but I’m the Captain- Mister and they won’t work on me!  OH Kathryn, who the hell do you think you are fooling? — one look, one flash of those dimples and your knees turn to jelly.

The Captain stayed in her ready room until well into beta shift.  When she was sure he had left the bridge, she confirmed his location with the computer and safely retired to her quarters.  She had to find a way to deal with this, but first she wanted a bath and a good night’s sleep.  Tomorrow she was sure she would feel better, tomorrow she would put this to rest and get on with the business of bringing her crew home.  She replicated a light supper, took a long hot bath and slipped between the cool sheets, falling asleep almost immediately.

She was suddenly alert, she held herself still and listened for whatever might have woken her.  Hearing nothing she slowly opened her eyes and waited for them to focus in the darkness.  Someone was seated at the foot of her bed, a woman –one she didn’t recognize.  That was strange she knew everyone on the ship, she held still and hoped for a better look at the intruder.

“Hello, Kathryn.”  The voice was deep for a woman and very smooth.  The woman smiled.  “Glad you are finally with me.”

“Computer, intruder alert!”

“Kathryn, that won’t work.  Your computer can’t detect me.”  The woman chuckled.  “Besides, it can’t even hear you.”

“Who are you?”  Kathryn sat up in the bed.  “What do you want?”

“Calm down, I’m not here to hurt you---or your precious ship.”  The woman moved a little closer, making herself more comfortable on the bed.

“Who are you?”

“My name is Beatrisa Esperanza Aiko, which means bearer of happiness, hope and love, as if anyone cares.”  She rolled her eyes and smile.  “But you can call me Bea, I am your guiding spirit and you and I need deal with this little problem of yours.

“I don’t have any problems, except being stuck out her in the delta quadrant.”  Kathryn leaned back against the pillows and waved her away.  “So just go back to where ever you came from and leave me alone.”

“No can do—You’ve got a problem and I’m here to help you fix it.”

“No problem here —good night.”  Kathryn slid down in the bed and pulled the blanket over her head.

“Does the name ‘Chakotay’ ring a bell?”  Bea had lifted the blanket and was peering under at her.

“Go away!”

“Oh, I’m going somewhere alright, but you’re coming with me.”   She yanked back the covers.  “Let’s go.”

“I am not going anywhere with you.”

“Kathryn don’t be difficult.  It isn’t as if you have a choice.”

“Where are we going?”  Kathryn studied the small dark woman before her.  “Does Q have something to do with this?”

“No, lordy sakes --- don’t try to put me in the same category as that pompous ass.”   Beatrisa stood up and extended her hand  “Come on, Kathryn.  We don’t have much time.”

“Where are we going?”  She felt herself lifted from the bed.

“You’ll see –don’t worry, I’ll have you back before anyone knows you’re gone.”
 
 

Kathryn squinted against the bright sunlight.  She found herself outdoors, it was a sunny day and she was surrounded by wildflowers.

“Where are we?”

“You’ll see.”

She heard voices and turned to watch two young people come over the nearby hill.  The young woman was laughing as she ran down the hill, the man followed behind her, more slowly.

“Kat, wait up.”  He called out shaking his head and smiling.  The girl twirled and sat on the ground to wait.  “You’re just like a little kid out here.”

“Justin, you need to lighten up—you are way too serious.”  She tugged his hand as he came near pulling him down beside her.

“That’s the way I am, Kat—you know that and I thought you were too.”

“I am---most of the time.”  She was picking wild flowers and tucking them into her hair.  “Once in a while, I like to come here and just relax.  Isn’t it great?”

“Yes, it’s very nice and your parents are wonderful.”

“But?”

“But we don’t have time to play.  We have careers to build, serious work to do.”

“Come on, Just—everyone needs to relax.”  She was kneeling next to where he sat, just making her high enough to look down at him.

“We can relax without being childish, let’s go.”  He stood up and started to walk, when she didn’t follow him he turned back.  “Are you coming?”

“I want to stay a while…”

“Suit yourself.”  He turned and started to walk away.  “I’ll say good bye to your parents and then I’m going back to San Francisco.”

“We were gonna stay a few days”

“I’m not comfortable in your world, Kat.  I don’t belong here.”  He stopped and looked at her again.  “So if we’re gonna do this—you’ll have to live in mine.  Sorry.”

She sat on the ground and watched him climb back up the hill, the tears in her eyes blurring her view of him before he disappeared over the rise.  Then she got up and called to him running to catch up to him.

As Kathryn watched the young couple, tears formed in her own eyes.  She became aware of Bea,   standing beside her and blinked back the tears.

“Why did you bring me here?”

“You needed to see it clearly—from a distance.  It’s not the way you remember it, is it?”

“No.”

“No, you remember that you loved him—that you would have given up your career for him, you own identity, everything.  You forget that it wasn’t given freely –forget that he demanded it.”

“It wasn’t always like this.”

“No, but it was always about Justin---never Kathryn.”

~~~

“CAPTAIN THE TIME IS 0500 HOURS.  CAPTAIN THE TIME IS 0500 HOURS.”

She sat up with a start.  She was alone, in her quarters.  Was it a dream, it seemed so real.  She tried to sort it out, it was so vivid her heart ached for that young woman.  So much in love, she would willingly lose herself in that man.  God had it really been that bad—that one sided.  She tried to be honest, see it the way it really was—she was so young, so much in love—yes she would have done anything for him, anything he asked and he asked a lot.  Now, when she thought about it, about the life and not just about the pain of losing him, she could see that it would never have worked.  She would have hated him in the long run, for the life she threw away—the opportunities she missed.  Losing Justin may have been a blessing, in spite of all the pain—it may have been for the best.  She forced herself out of bed, it was only a dream, but she was so tired.  She replicated coffee and paced her quarters, before trying to put the experience out of her mind and start her day.

She had only been on the bridge for an hour but she was incredibly tired, maybe she was just bored.  They would reach the nebula in another day and a half, but she needed to do something with herself long before that.  She paced the bridge slowly, moving from one station to another, checking reading, heading and making small talk with the various members of the bridge crew.  Chakotay had been in engineering at the beginning of the shift, a relief at first, but now she wished he were here so she could retire to her ready room.  As if on cue, the lift doors opened and her  smiling First Officer emerged.

“Good morning, Captain.”  He was bright and full of energy and she wanted to kill him.

“Good morning, Commander.”  She tried not to look in his direction.

“How are you this morning, Captain?  You look a little under the weather.”

“I’m fine Commander.”  She made the mistake of looking up and he was standing very close to her—she knew she blushed at the sight of the dimples.  “I do have rather a lot of work to do though, so I’ll leave the bridge in your capable hands and I’ll be in my ready room.”

“Aye, Captain.”  He stepped back to allow her to pass, but only just far enough so that she would have to brush against him on her way.
 

The door to the ready room closed and she let out the breath she had been holding.  Crossing to the replicator she ordered coffee and positioned herself on the couch.  She wondered if he did that on purpose.  Of course he did, the look on his face told her he knew exactly what he was doing to her.  Damn him!  He had done almost the same thing in the lift the other day.  Harry and Tom were both there so it was a little crowded but not so much that he needed to stand so close.   She felt the color rising when his hand brushed against her side, he made a quick polite gesture of apology but the grin told her differently.  Putting the coffee on the table, she rested her head on the back of the couch.  It couldn’t hurt to close her eyes for just a minute.
 

“Kathryn?”  The deep female voice penetrated her sleep.  “Kathryn it's time.”

“Time-huh? For what?”  She sat up and opened her eyes.  “Oh you again—I wondered if you were real.”

“Oh, I’m real, Kathryn, and we need to be going.”  She once again extended her hand to Kathryn.

“Where now?”  Kathryn was tired but she didn’t think she was sleeping

“Patience, Kathryn.”  She smiled and suddenly they were no longer on Voyager.

They were in a park, it looked like San Francisco—yes she knew this park.  She often came here with Mark, they walked Molly here.  Oh not again.  She began to look around and sure enough an Irish setter came bounding over the hill.

“Molly.”  She called out, kneeling to embrace the dog that just trotted past her.

“She can’t see you.”

“I know.”

She stood and watched the couple that followed the dog.  They came down the hill together, holding hands.  She was chatting non-stop about something, Kathryn couldn’t hear what, and he nodded and smiled.  By all appearances they were a happy couple, just out for a walk with their dog.  As they came closer, she could see the woman was just slightly ahead of the man, his smile was warm, as he allowed her to lead him across the grass.

“It’s such a wonderful opportunity.  She’s brand new, state of the art—the best Fleet has to offer.”  She released his hand and knelt down to pet the dog.

“I’m happy for you, Kath.  Sounds like a wonderful ship.  His gentle eyes were full of pride and love, as he watched her play with the setter.  “When are you leaving?”

“Not for a few days—I don’t know the details of the mission yet, but I have to leave for DS 9 tonight.”  She was busy with the dog and didn’t even notice the change in his expression.  “You’ll keep Molly for me…”  She hadn’t asked, just assumed, but when he didn’t answer she look up.  “Is something wrong, Mark?  It’s only three weeks, she won’t have her puppies before I get back.”  She continued to pet the dog.

“No Kath—she won’t.”  He knelt down beside them.  “Be proud of your mommy, girl.”  He stroked the dog’s head.  “She fleet’s shining star.”

“What is it Mark?  Am I forgetting something?”

“It’s nothing—not important.”  He smiled as he settled on the ground next to her.

“Oh Mark, your grant dinner—when is it?  Friday?  I’ll be gone by then.”  She place a hand on his face.  “I’m sorry, I really wanted to go.”

“I know Kath—it’s alright.”

“No it’s not!  I’ll just have…”

“To what?  Turn down this assignment?—give up this state of the art ship?—pass up this opportunity?”  He smiled sadly at her.  “No Kath – you can’t do that –you don’t want to do that and----- I don’t want you to.   You wouldn’t be happy with less than the best--- I never want to make you settle for less.”  He stood up and offered her a hand.  “Someday I will be married to the most powerful woman in Fleet.”  He hugged her.  “That should be worth a few grants.”

He put his arm around her as they walked back up the hill, Molly running circles around them.  It was all so sad now as she watched them, she knew she had loved him, but it wasn’t enough.  She knew too that, this hadn’t been the only time she had come first, both in her mind and his.  So many times she took what she wanted, without giving a second thought to his needs and he always followed behind.  He was always willing to accept what she gave him and she gave him only what was left of her time and energy--- only after she exhausted herself in search of her own goals.
 

“Can we go back now?”

“Seen enough?”

“You are only showing me the worst—that isn’t fair.”

“No one said life would be fair, Kathryn.  What I show you is the truth, or at least the half of it you refuse to see.”
 

The chime sounded and she raised her head off the back of the couch, trying to get her bearings.  The chime rang again and she knew, if she didn’t answer it he would just over ride the lock.

“Come.” Rising quickly, she straightened her uniform and was at the replicator when  he entered.  “Coffee, Commander?”

“Tea, please.”

“Have a seat.”  She indicated the couch as she returned with their cups.  “What’s that?”  She nodded toward the padd in his hand.

“Engineering report.”  He chuckled.  “Nothing new, just an excuse to check up on you.”

“I’m fine, haven’t slept well, but other than that—I’m fine.”  She sat beside him trying to will herself to relax.

“I thought we were friends, Kathryn- wanna tell me what’s really wrong?”

“It’s nothing—well just that I have a few things on my mind.”  The concern on his face gave her a twinge of guilt. “Let me work on it--  I’ll let you know how it goes.”  She patted his hand and she wondered if he felt the same jolt she did.

“Alright, just remember I’m here if you need a sounding board.”

“Thank you.”  She tried to smile and make light of it, but the intensity in his eyes took her breath away.

“Here.”  He stood up handing her the padd. “You look over B’Elanna’s report, I better get back to the bridge.  We can talk later—OK?”

“Yes—later.”  She took the padd and smiled.  “Dismissed, Commander.”

He chuckled as he exited the ready room, she watched him until the door closed cutting off her view.
 

“Do you get it, yet?”  The smooth deep voice behind her startled her.

“What?  Oh, What do you want now?”  She turned to find newly appointed guide standing behind her.

“Do you get it yet?”  An exasperated Beatrisa stomped around to stand in front of her, hands on hips, taking a typical captain stance.  “Ahhh Kathryn, you’re an intelligent woman--- don’t you get it?”

“Get what?  I don’t know what your are trying to do.”

“This isn’t that hard.”  She threw herself down on the couch.  “For a woman who aced quantum mechanics, you sure aren’t very bright, sometimes.”  She put her feet up on the table.  “OK, Kathryn—from the top, what have we learned here?”

 “I’m afraid I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Relationships, Kathryn we are looking at relationships here.”  She ran her fingers through her hair.  “Specifically-- your relationships.”

“I don’t want to discuss this –not with you –not with anyone.”

“I can see why.”

“What the hell does that mean?”

“Look, Kathryn, you’re a brilliant scientist, a heck of an engineer, an excellent tactician, a pretty fair pilot and a damn good Captain, but as a woman---admit it Kathryn, you fall a little short.”

“I beg your pardon.”

“First we have the Justin thing…”

“How dare you call it that.”

“Oh Kathryn, don’t be so touchy.”  She held up her hand to stem Kathryn’s protest.  “I know, I know –it wasn’t a thing, you loved him—yeah, and in his own limited way I’m sure he loved you too—but don’t get hung up on the semantics here—it was a thing and not necessarily a good thing.  It was one sided and limiting.  Sure you were young and OK, you were in love—but Kathryn, if it hadn’t ended as it did, you would have ended up hating him or yourself or both.”

“That’s not fair.”

“Of course not –but it is true.  And your ‘relationship’ with Mark was no better.”

“How can you say that—Mark is a wonderful man and…”

“And he loves you? –yes and you are equally as bad for him, as Justin was for you.  Another one-sided, stifling relationship.  This time it was slanted in your direction, but it doesn’t make it any better.  You were very comfortable with Mark, but you weren’t happy.”

“How can you say that?  Why—why..”

“Yes, he catered to your ever whim --- He never complained when you flew off into space—he took really good care of the dog-----boring!”  She sat up and grabbed Kathryn’s shoulders.  “Come on Kathryn, you are not the kind of woman to settle! You don’t need a love that tries to controls you or a love you can merely live with—what you need is a love you can’t live with out—a love that complements you--- a love that completes you.  A man to stand beside you, some one as bright and as strong as you are—an equal—a partner.”

“How the hell do you know what I need?”  Kathryn broke away and crossed to the viewport.

“It’s what I am, Kathryn—it's my sole purpose—to know what you need and to see that you find it.”

“Oh great and just where are we gonna find this ‘perfect’ match?!”

“You have already found him, now you must accept him.  Take my hand, Kathryn.”  She stretched out her hand, Kathryn just looked at it.  “Come on, we have another place to go—maybe it will help you understand.”

“Where are we going?”

“The future, Kathryn.  With any luck I can get through that thick, stubborn, Irish skull of yours and this will be your future.”  She grabbed Kathryn’s hand.

When she opened her eyes she was standing in a small clearing, heavy woods all around and large log home just up the path.  The door opened and three, small, but very loud, children race through almost tripping on the large black dog asleep in the shade.  A woman came out, small, white haired, at first she thought it was her mother.

“OK, you three, settle down.  You almost stepped on, Charma.”  She ushered them to the edge of the porch.  “Now sit here and wait quietly,  Grandpa will be along to take you fishing in just a minute.”

“Are you gonna come too, Grandma?”  The smallest of the three asked.

“No honey, I’ll stay here and clean up that mess you made inside.”

“But you have to, Grandma--- we need you to come.”

“Don’t worry honey, Grandpa can take care of you.”

“But Grandma, ---who’s gonna take care of Grandpa?”

“Yes, Grandma.”  Coming out behind her, he wrapped his arms around her, pulling her back against his chest.  “Who will take care of me?”  He kissed her head and rolled his eyes at the kids.  “You guys go get the poles and I’ll work on Grandma.”

“OK, Grandpa.”

“Come with us, Kathryn.”

“I have work to do here.”

“It’ll keep—I’ll help you with it later.”  The kids came racing back, poles in hand.  “Ready guys?”

“Sure, Grandpa let’s go.”

“OK.”  He stood back and reached out a hand to her.  “Walk beside me, Kathryn.”

“Always.”  She took his outstretched hand and they followed the kids down the path to the river.
 

Kathryn was seated on the couch in the ready room—alone.  She shook her head to clear it-was any of this real?  Maybe they were passing through some unknown spatial anomaly and it was effecting her mind.  Maybe she was really still asleep and this was all some crazy self-indulgent dream.  Maybe….

“Maybe you should pay attention.”  The voice startled her and she looked up to see  Bea  sitting on the back of the couch.

‘What?”  Kathryn let out a long sigh.  “Oh lord –YOU.”

“Yes me!”  She swung her feet over the couch and slid down beside Kathryn.  “And I’m not going away until you get this right!”

“There is nothing to get right.”

“Oh boy – don’t you ever listen?”  She stood up and paced the floor.  “What the hell do I have to do to convince you?”

“Just leave me alone.”  Kathryn stood and crossed to her desk.  “I have a job to do here --  don’t have any time for your fantasies.”

“OH I see—the job.”  Beatrisa leaned over the desk.  “Is that it, Kathryn—the job?  Is that how you want it?  Just the job?”

“It’s how it has to be.”  She flipped on her monitor, pretending she was able to work.  “Now please, just leave me alone.”

“If that’s what you really want.”

“I do.”

“OK.”  She walked around behind the desk.  Leaning over Kathryn’s shoulder she touched the monitor and they were once again transported.
 

She was standing in the snow, the wind blowing wet flakes against her face.  She was an old woman, in an admiral’s uniform alone in the biting cold.  She bent slowly and wiped the snow off a small stone, unshed tears frozen to her lashes.    She read the single word inscribed there “Chakotay” and her heart flooded with memories.  They had come full circle in their relationship—from criminal to first officer to friend and finally back to criminal.  She remembered it all.  The long years forging a solid relationship, the many, many times she pushed him away even when she desperately wanted him, his marriage, their return home, that awful trial and how he must have blamed her.  Seven had said as much, it was all her fault.—that part she would never forget.

“Why have you come?”  Seven stood in front of her former mentor and captain.

“I’m sorry, Seven.”  Kathryn tried to retain her composure.

“Sorry?  What exactly are you sorry for?”  She stood straight and tall, not as unemotional as she had been during their years on Voyager.  “Sorry that you lost him, that you betrayed him or maybe that he died alone in that prison?  Just what is it, Kathryn?”

“Seven, I know you are bitter but I never…”

“Never what?  Betrayed us – betrayed HIM.  You turned your back on him and on everyone who cared about you—who supported you all those years, you became the darling of fleet, at the expense of your crew.”

“There are rules and protocols to follow—I was only….”

“Yes, Admiral—only doing your job.  We know.  We have all heard it and all suffered for it.”

“I never intended…”  It was becoming a real struggle to keep her composure.

“ Intended what? – to become an Admiral- the pride of Starfleet?---I believe it was your sole intent from the day you stranded that crew in the delta quadrant--- The amazing Captain Janeway, no sacrifice too great--  You had the entire crew fooled for a long time, but not anymore--- I would appreciate it if you left now.”

“Alright, Seven.”  She couldn’t stop the tears from slipping out as she turned to go.

“Admiral.”  Seven called and she turned back.  “ You should know, I did my best to make him happy in our little time together.  He was a strong and honorable man and he did his best to return my feelings.   He loved you even to the end, even when you betrayed him for your beloved fleet and it ate away at him until his spirit could no longer live.”  She turned her back, leaving Kathryn to ponder her last words.

The tears flowed freely, she couldn’t stop them and she wasn’t sure she wanted to.  Was that the future she was working so hard to preserve?

“Beatrisa, how can they both be my future?”  She turned accusingly toward the guide.

“They can’t, Kathryn—but one of them will be—the choice is yours.”  She sat on the edge of the desk.

“It can’t be that simple—one good and on bad.”

“Sure it can—didn’t I just show you?”   Beatrisa replicated coffee and handed it to Kathryn.  “Drink—and listen.  You don’t have to tell me which one you want—or even which one you choose.  You get to decide –  I can show you the past and the possibility of a future, but you get to make the choice ---so what will it be?  Happy loving Grandma or withered old spinster whose crew feels betrayed by her ambition?”

“This is ridiculous.”

“Have it your way, Kathryn—I give up.”  She stood and walked to the other side of the desk.  “You never were very good a relationships, so maybe you shouldn’t try.”  She leaned over the desk looking deeply into Kathryn’s eyes.  “So I will leave you now, having found the one thing the ‘great Kathryn Janeway ‘ can’t do—she must always have a hierarchy, some one always in command – she’s afraid of a man who is her equal—afraid to stand beside him and fight for the life they both want.”  She vanished leaving the echoing voices of Seven and three small children swirling around in Kathryn’s mind.

“Come.”  When the door chimed, she had been sitting there a long time.  She knew who it would be, and she realized what she must look like, it didn’t matter.

“Captain, it’s well past shift change I..”  He hesitated when she looked up and the fact that she had been crying was clearly marked on her face.  “Kathryn, what is it.?”  He moved around the desk and pulled her into his arms.

“Commander?”  The command voice struggled to emerge from where she was crushed against his chest.

“Kath—Captain, I’m sorry.”  He moved back, but didn’t let go of her.  “I just…. Your face…. You’ve been crying.”

“It’s OK Chakotay, I know what I must look like.”  She tried to smile.  “I’m OK—really.”  She stepped back and moved around the desk toward the view port.

“Want to talk about it?”  He stood behind her.

“Yes, I think I would like that very much.”  She turned back and smiled, crossing to the bathroom.  “Let me wash my face—wouldn’t want to scare beta shift.”  She laughed as she disappeared behind the door.  “We can talk over dinner in my quarters----- if that’s alright with you.”

“Sure.”  He was still concerned but she seemed to be alright. “What ever you’d like.”  He watched her walk toward him, a strange look on her face.  “What is it?  You look like you just saw a ghost.”

“Maybe I did.”

“What?”

“It’s a long story, I’ll explain over dinner.”

“I can’t wait to hear it.”  He ushered her toward the door, when it opened on the bridge, he stepped back to allow her to exit first.

“NO.”  She stopped short and smiled at the surprised look she got for the forcefulness of her reply.  Extending her hand to him, she drew him up beside her.  “Together, Chakotay.”  He said nothing as he stepped up next to her.  “Stand beside me, Chakotay, please.”

She didn’t release his hand and beta shift tried not to notice, but the large dimpled grin was hard to ignore as the lift doors closed behind them.
 

The End.

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