The crew had grown accustom to her pacing her ship, inspecting every part several times a day---but mostly at night--they also knew she did this mostly when she couldn't sleep---which was often. It was late, she didn't pass many, but the crew she passed nodded in greeting and let her pass. Six years---six long and lonely years.
Deck six, she would have known without the sign---she exited the lift and started to pace another corridor. Holodeck one was running--Sandrine's, she passed by -then turned and entered. Sandrine was seated at the bar, the Captain joined her. She was only a holocharacter, but she had become so much more over the years---almost a friend and she wasn't really a member of the crew so it was easy to talk to her. Sandrine believed in what she called the 'bartender's oath', listen, sometimes (more often than not) offer advise, but never, never betray a confidence. She never did---that allowed Kathryn to speak freely to her without worry.
"Captain, not sleeping again?" Sandrine greeted her, handing her a glass of wine.
"Seems I never sleep anymore." She took the glass and a seat. "Thank you."
"Perhaps, it is too lonely in your bed." Sandrine smiled. "I know the solution."
"So do I, but I'm afraid it's not possible."
"Why---does he no longer love you?" Sandrine laughed. "Please, the man is hopeless when it comes to you."
"It's not that easy and you know it. I've explained it to you often enough."
"Yes, yes you are the Captain---I know. And I know-- you are a woman, a very lonely woman. I don't know much of your world in space---but I know people are still people and no one can survive alone." She shook her head. "So I have said it again---and again you have denied yourself and him --that out of the way ---what else keeps you up?"
"You are priceless, my friend." Kathryn laughed.
As they talked, Kathryn noticed the only table occupied by crew growing louder and wilder in conversation. B'Elanna and Tom were trying to out do one another by tossing popcorn in the air and trying to catch it in their mouths, while Jenny and Harry swapped some kind of stories with Megan and Benson. Whatever it was, they all found it very funny and Kathryn enjoyed seeing their laughter.
Sandrine stopped midsentance, when Benson grabbed Megan and she let out a string of obscenities. Benson proceeded to proposition her in very explicit terms, which she replied to with some sort of dare. It was all in fun and neither of the participants really objected to the proceedings. However, about this time Tom noticed the Captain's presence and tried to quiet them down.
Kathryn tried to look away and pretend she hadn't noticed their activities, but another outburst caused her to turn and face them. As she looked up her eyes met Tom's and even though she just smiled, he immediately jumped up and started toward her.
"Captain, sorry about that---I'll make them quiet down.
“It's alright Tom--no harm." She tried to sound casual, as Benson made a grab for Megan and she wrestled him to the floor.
"Hey, knock it off!" Tom yelled and that, along with a kick from B'Elanna got their attention. "Sorry, Captain."
"I said it's OK, Tom." She laughed a little. "Nothing I haven't heard before."
Everyone took their seats and quieted down, waiting to see if they were in trouble or not. Benson was quite drunk, he kept sneaking his hand under the table to grab one of the girls. They tried to control him and then Megan decided to get him out of there. She whispered to him and helped him out of the chair. They crossed the room said a polite good night and almost made it past the Captain.
"You know --you really are a babe." Benson had stopped directly in front of Kathryn and spoke only inches from her face. "Shame ----you're the Captain."
Tom grabbed him and gave him a shove. Megan tried to drag him out the door and Kathryn just laughed.
"Halt." Kathryn spoke in her best Captain's voice and every one froze. "I have some news for you people." She looked at each startled face. "I was not always an asexual Starfleet Captain---like each of you--I was once a cadet, a green ensign and even a lustful lieutenant." She laughed again at the startled faces. Come to think of it...." She stopped and suddenly got a serious look on her face. "Once I was even a woman..." The last was said in a soft voice and she looked toward Sandrine with a question on her face.
The room got deathly quiet, Kathryn got pale and kind of green. B'Elanna had come up to join Tom and now stood watching the blood drain from Kathryn's previously laughing face.
"Captain? Captain are you OK?" B'Elanna reached out to steady the Kathryn.
"Yes, I'm---No--no I'm not OK." She looked at Sandrine and then back to B'Elanna. No one else dared to move or speak. "I will be-- though---I know how to fix this." She glanced around at the staring eyes and then suddenly smiled. "Computer locate Commander Chakotay." She looked at Sandrine, who smiled and nodded her approval.
"COMMANDER CHAKOTAY IS IN HIS QUARTERS."
Kathryn slapped her comm. badge. "Janeway to Chakotay"
"Sorry to hail you so late, Commander, but I need to see you."
"Yes, Captain---shall I meet you..."
"No --that won't be necessary---may I join you there?"
"Certainly, Captain." He had no idea what this was--it was the middle of the night.
"I'll be right there. Janeway out." She smiled at Sandrine, then headed for the door, stopping before the door she turned back to her shocked crew members. "As you were." She walked out.
"Way to go, Captain." Benson's slightly slurred voice was the last thing she heard as the door closed.
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