Disclaimer:  Rumor has it that Paramount owns these characters, but I’m not sure they would recognize them if they fell over them!
 
 
Scuttlebutt
Second place winner in touch of romance
 

Rated PG
 

“It’s the end of the line.”  Lydia Anderson moved through the serving line behind her friend, Mariah Henley.  “He means it this time.”

“You’re crazy.”  Mariah picked over Neelix’s selections.  “There is no way he is leaving this ship.”

“I’m telling you it’s true.  Jarvin told me ….”

“Well, now there's a source.  He never knows what’s going on.”  She poured them both what passed for coffee.  “Besides he’s still in loovve.”  Mariah rolled her eyes.

“Well, she may be the reason.  I hear she barely gives him the time of day lately and they had some kind of fight, besides Ayala told Jarvin.”

“Ayala?  Wow, that makes it different.  He might actually know.”
 

The Captain hadn’t meant to eavesdrop, but the conversation caught her attention.  It did seem like something she should know, but when they spotted her they made a quick retreat before she could confront them.  Probably just as well, a captain shouldn’t be getting her information from ship’s gossip.  She took her coffee and left the mess hall.  Chakotay would know, if something were going on she needed to know about, he would tell her.

“Computer locate Commander Chakotay.”  She stepped into the lift.

“COMMANDER CHAKOTAY IS NOT ON BOARD VOYAGER.”

“Deck one.”  She leaned back against the wall, she had forgotten, he was on the planet.  She was supposed to go, but begged off again – too much work.

The Captain nodded to the bridge crew and proceeded directly to her ready room.  She was supposed to be on shore leave so she had no bridge duty to keep her from her reports.  Chakotay had been angry when she wouldn’t go on leave, but she had so much work to catch up on.  Normally, he would have stayed and helped her, but she hadn’t been pleasant and made it clear she wasn’t going even if the reports were finished.  She was being childish, but he was being so stubborn--- Oh well, this wasn’t getting her work finished.  She replicated a pot of coffee and set about clearing her desk.

It was quite some time later when her desk was finally cleared; her head was splitting and her neck was sore.  She stood behind her desk stretching her aching muscles, rubbing the kinks out of her neck.  It would be nice if Chakotay were here to do this for her; he always knew just the right spot.

“Computer locate Commander Chakotay.”

“COMMANDER CHAKOTAY IS NOT ON BOARD VOYAGER.”

“Computer what time is it?”  She was sure he would be back by now.

“THE TIME IS 1900 HOURS.”

She picked up the pad Chakotay had given her containing the leave roster.  She knew he had been due back before now.  The padd said he was due back at 1700.

“Janeway to Tuvok.”

“Yes, Captain?”

“Tuvok, have there been changes made to the leave roster that I am unaware of?”

“Several small changes were in fact made today, Captain.  You were scheduled for leave yourself; I did not find it necessary to disturb with minor details.”

“I see. Yes, thank you. Tuvok was Chakotay among those changes?”

“Yes, Captain. He has extended his time on the planet for another 48 hours.”

“That’s no small change.”

“Sorry, Captain.  I assumed you were already aware of that particular change.  I stand corrected.”

“No problem, Tuvok.  Just send the changes through to my computer.”

“Aye, Captain.  Tuvok out.”
 

Well, with Chakotay out of the picture, it looked like her evening would consist of a quick meal and a hot bath.  She considered asking the doctor for a hypo, but she decided to try the bath first.  She exited the ready room, nodded to beta shift and ordered the lift to deck three.

“Belay that – deck two.”  She was dangerously low on rations, she wasn’t sure how giving Chakotay would be when he got back, and even a light meal would cut into her coffee supply.  She changed her destination to the mess hall, exiting the lift in time to catch the tale end of another conversation.

“---- he hasn’t told the Captain anything?”  Anderson questioned Jarvin as they rounded the corner.

“No.  Ayala talked him into waiting a couple more days to be sure.”

They were out of sight and out of earshot after that, but Kathryn was sure now this was something she needed to know.  Chakotay would be back in two days, she guessed she could wait that long for the details.  Absently she move to the counter, the assortment of foods at this time of night was even less appetizing then normal, some of it she didn’t even recognize, the rest was much to heavy for her liking.

“Captain, can I get you some of this delicious Rostairain Stew?” Kathryn started when Neelix popped up from behind the counter. “Sorry didn’t mean to startle you.”

“I was daydreaming, Neelix.  I just didn’t see you there.”  The Captain tried to reassure her eager friend.   “I don’t know; this is all a bit heavy.  I was thinking of something small and light.”

“How about a salad, Captain?  I just chopped some lettuce and I have fresh Talaxian tomatoes…” He smiled hopefully.  “Only take a second.”

“OK, sounds just perfect, thank you.”

“My pleasure, Captain.  Wait right there.  I’ll just be a minute.”  He bustled off into the kitchen and after a bit of shuffling he returned carrying a tray, on it the salad, a small basket of bread and a thermos of coffee.  “Here you go, Captain.  The bread is hot out of the oven and the coffee is fresh, too.”  He winked and smiled.

“Neelix, you are too good to me.  This is just perfect, thank you.”

“You're welcome, Captain.  Have a good evening.”
 

Back in her quarters, Kathryn set the tray on the coffee table, snatching a piece of bread as she headed for the other room to start her bath.   She hadn't planned on eating much but the bread was fresh and hot and the salad seasoned exactly right; she found she had eaten most of it before her tub filled.  She took the coffee and the last slice of bread with her into the bathroom.  Stripping off her uniform, she pinned up her hair and settled herself beneath the steaming bubbles, allowing them to work their magic on her overly stressed muscles.
 
  “Computer play music selection Janeway beta six.”  She rested her head against the edge of the tub, letting her body drift with the music and her mind wander where it may.
 
 

She was sitting on a verandah under a warm night sky, sipping a colorful drink and looking out over a purple ocean.  The light breeze tossed the edge of her dress around her legs and soft music played in the background.  It was some sort of diplomatic mission, because even though she was out of uniform, the man to her left wore a dress uniform.  They enjoyed the comfortable silence until an older man in full military dress garb approached.

“General Warner.”  She stood and extended her hand.  “So nice to see you again.”

“And you, Captain.”  He bowed and kissed her hand.  “May I say you look lovely tonight?”

 “Thank you, General.”  She moved slightly to allow the man at her side to be included.  “General, you know my first officer, Commander Tuvok…”

 

Kathryn sat straight up in the now cool water.  What was that?  She must have fallen asleep.. a dream, yes it was only a dream.  She released the water and grabbed a towel to wrap around herself in.  She headed straight for bed.  Not bothering to find a nightgown she slid between the sheets and tried to go back to sleep.  There was something unsettling about it, even if it was only a dream, something unsettling about this whole day, but she wasn’t sure what.  Chakotay wasn’t here that always unsettled her; she turned over and reminded herself that he needed this time away—away from the ship and his duties and if she were honest she knew he needed this time away from her.  She had grown overly dependent on him, though she doubted anyone knew it but she and Chakotay.   She laughed into the darkness, thinking Chakotay would argue that he was the only one who knew it.  She told her self he would be back in a few days and rolled over seeking sleep.

Suddenly she was awake; she had no idea why.  Her heart was pounding and she could feel the sticky dampness of sweat on her skin.  Peering into the darkness, she tried to catch her breath, calm herself and see if there was any real cause for alarm.

“Computer lights 50 percent.”  She looked around her room; nothing.  “Computer, is anyone else in these quarters?”

“NEGATIVE.”

“Has anyone else been in my quarters tonight?”

“NEGATIVE.”

She tried to go back to sleep, but found it useless.  Instead she had a quick sonic shower, replicated a cup of coffee and decided to take a walk.  She walked several decks before heading to the mess hall for a fresh cup of coffee.

“And he still says he’s not coming back.”  Ayala was saying to Harper as the doors to the lift opened on deck two.

"I still find it hard........"  Harper stopped mid sentence when she saw the captain.
 

Harper was nervous and jittery as Kathryn observed her; she turned her attention to Ayala, who appeared quite relaxed.

"Good evening, Captain."  Ayala smiled, but his eyes seemed to be searching her face for something.

"Good evening, Lieutenants."    She returned his smile, wondering what secrets were kept behind those deep dark eyes.

"Rumor has it, Captain--"  Ayala moved aside so she could exit the lift; his smile never wavered. "that Neelix has just put on a fresh pot of coffee."

"Just what I'm looking for.  Will you be joining me?"  Her eyes seemed to challenge him to accept.

"Thank you, Captain but we were just on our way home, early shift tomorrow."  He still made no move toward the lift.

"I see.  Well good night then."  Kathryn stepped around Harper and continued into the mess hall.

 
"Captain, I have a fresh pot of coffee."  Neelix poured her a cup.
 
"So I have been told.  Thank you."  She accepted the coffee.  "Don't you ever sleep, Neelix?"

"I was just finishing up and heading off to bed, but couldn't I ask you the same question?"

"Yes, you would be right in my case.   I never have slept much."  She took her coffee and headed for the couch under the viewport.  "Don't let me keep you, this--."  she raised her cup toward him.  "will be just fine."

"Good night then, Captain."

"Good night, Neelix."  Her reply was automatic; her mind already moving on to other things as she settled herself on the couch.

Kathryn's mind kept twisting around something odd but she couldn't quite pinpoint it.  Her encounter with Ayala had been strange, but it was more than just an odd look from a crewman; the entire day had been just short of comfortable.  It was like trying to force yourself to remember something you don’t want to remember; it never works very well.  Then it hit her.  The strangeness had to do with what she preferred not to remember, which of course didn’t make it any less true.  The snips of conversations, the unknown change in plans, being alone, dreaming Tuvok was her first officer, her uneasiness about the strained relationship she was experiencing with Chakotay and even her refusal to recognize the signs all day-- it all pointed to her hiding from her biggest fear.  She was losing Chakotay.  Dear god and if she read this correctly he was not only giving up on her but he was leaving the ship!  Could that be right?  She thought over the things she heard.  Someone was thinking of leaving, someone who was in love with a woman who did not reciprocate for some reason.  Well, that fit.  They certainly hadn’t gotten along well lately, not that it was all her fault but to be honest he did try a lot harder than she did.  Anderson, Henley, Ayala, Jarvin and Harper were all former Maquis—as was Chakotay; Ayala was considered a good source and also happened to be a close friend of Chakotay.  Chakotay was angry when he left her last night and he changed his plans with out even consulting her--, even Tuvok had been surprised by that.

Refilling her coffee cup, Kathryn twisted the theories around in her mind.  Deciding at some points, it was all circumstantial nonsense that should be pushed aside until she had the facts and at others that it all fit much too well and she needed to act on it.  It was all hearsay but each time she tried to dismiss it the pieces fell back into place and she started all over again.  She drained the coffeepot and somehow still managed to fall asleep on the couch, only waking when the voices of alpha shift, coming in for breakfast, reached her ears.  She was still sitting up, only her head was tilted to rest on the back of the couch, so she just straightened up and hoped no one knew she had been here all night.  She noticed Ayala enter deep in conversation with Anderson, they looked in her direction then sat on the other side of the room.  Of course she thought the worse, but tried to convince herself that the interesting discussion they held with their heads close together was merely gossip about why she had spent the in the mess hall.  Finally she rose and walked to the counter to refill her coffee cup, just as Anderson made a hasty exit.  She hesitated for only a second then approached Ayala at his table.

“May I take this seat?”

“Captain, good morning.  Certainly.” Ayala gestured toward the chair, his dark eyes studying her as he had the previous night.  “Is there something on your mind, Captain?”

“Yes, as a matter of fact there is--”  She could always count on Ayala to be straightforward.  “I wanted to ask you about some rumors I’ve heard.”

“Why me?”  He calmly watched her seek the right words.

“If what I over heard is correct you were the source.”

“I’ll have to be more careful.  I detest rumors and certainly never intended to start any.”

“I’m sure you didn’t.  None the less there is a rumor and it has been attributed to you.”  She sipped her coffee, watching him over the rim.

“Do you normally track these things to the source?”  It was a challenge but without a trace of it in his voice.

“No, normally I have others around me who provide the necessary information.”

“But?”

“Today, I thought I would seek ‘the horse’s mouth’ as they say.”  He was an intriguing man and any other time she would love to continue this banter with him, but today she needed information.  He didn’t answer just sat back and waited.  “Rumor has it that someone is leaving or thinking about leaving this ship.”

“And you think I can give you information on this?”

“Yes, I do.”  She watched him; some sort of struggle went on behind those deep eyes before he answered.

“Captain, I do know something about that, but what I know is held in confidence.”

“Confidence in that you should tell no one or that you should not tell me?”

“I’m sorry, Captain.  Yes, expressly you.”  They silently sipped their coffee never breaking eye contact.  “Are you going to order me to break that confidence?”

“No, Lieutenant, I’m not.”  She rose from the seat.

“Captain, I’m sure Chakotay will bring you the necessary information, at the proper time.”

“Are you telling me he is aware of this?”

“Yes, Captain he is.”

“I see.  Well, thank you very much for your time.”  She turned to go but she could still feel his eyes on her.

“It was my pleasure, Captain.”

Kathryn had even more to think about now.  Was Ayala telling her Chakotay was about to leave the ship or was he merely reminding her the chain of command went up as well as down.  She wandered the deck for a short time; she was still on leave until later so she headed back to her quarters.  The more she wrestled with it the more sense it made, then none at all.  She decided to try another tactic. She replicated a glass of wine and headed for the bathroom; a hot bath, some soothing music and a glass of wine; so what if it was 0600.

She sipped, she soaked, and by 0630 Kathryn had finally made some progress.  She decided to forget all contrary arguments and consider the rumor to be fact.  She told herself, Chakotay was planning on leaving the ship and now she had to decide how to handle it.  Once she made herself understand this, her path was clear.  She drained the water from the tub, grabbed a towel and headed to her room to dress.

“Janeway to Tuvok.”

“Yes, Captain.”

“Tuvok I realize my leave is over in just under four hours but I have decided to go planet side.”

“I see.”

“I may not be back on time and I would appreciate if you would cover for me until my return.”

“Aye, Captain.  And when do you expect that to be.”

“I’m not sure at this time, Mr. Tuvok.  I will inform you of that within the next few hours.”

“Fine, Captain.  Enjoy your leave.”

“Thank you, Tuvok.  Janeway out.”  She nodded to the Ensign at the transporter controls and vanished in the shimmering blue light.
 

It was a beautiful planet, if a bit warm; she was happy with her choice of a sleeveless sundress and sandals.  Kathryn didn’t know where Chakotay was exactly; the computer had given her these coordinates as being the general area where he was located, but she was sure where ever he was or what ever he was doing it wasn’t here in this busy square.  She wandered among the vendors, admiring their wares, all the while searching for some source of tourist information.

“Such a beautiful woman should be dressed in these light bright fabrics.”  A deep voice came from behind her as a wisp of soft silky material draped across her shoulders.

“Its lovely, but I’m not in the market for any right now.”  She politely stepped away from the man.

“I see. Then why have you come to market?”

“I’m looking for a friend.”

“A man?”  He saw her blush.

“Why..”  She laughed to cover her sudden embarrassment  “Yes, as a matter of fact.”

“Did you have a particular man in mind or might I do?”  He lifted her hand to his lips.

“You are most charming, but I was looking for my…. friend, Chakotay.”  She noticed he didn’t release her hand.  “An attractive man about your size, darker skin, blue tattoo above his left eye. Have you noticed him by any chance?”

“He must be a fool to have left you behind.”

“I was supposed to come here with him, but..”  She realized she was telling this to a complete stranger.  “well, I didn’t.”

“Ahh a lovers' quarrel?”

“Well, not exactly…” She shifted uncomfortably.  “I’d better go look for him.”  She tried to remove her hand but he held it fast.

“I’m sorry. That was not polite of me.  You are from the starship?”

“Yes, I am and I really need to go.”

“All right, but first maybe I can help you.”  He moved toward one of the tents; she stood her ground.  “It’s alright we will step just over here and speak to my sister.”  He gestured to the woman behind the counter and Kathryn stepped forward  “Containla, this lovely lady is looking for a friend, a big dark skinned man with a tattoo over his eye.  Have you seen such a man?”

“Oh yes.”  She smiled then carefully looked Kathryn up and down. “He was here yesterday, bought supplies and went to the water.  He could have stayed.”

“Behave your self Containla. Not all men are here for your pleasure.”  He smiled at his sister and turned back to Kathryn.  “Your friend has gone to the water.”

“Is it far?”

“Not very.  I could show you.”

“Thank you, but if you tell me where, I can find it I’m sure.”

“So my sister is not the only one to lose, so be it.  You go to the end of the Market, this way.”  He pointed down the street.  “Cross the meadow and follow the stream you find there where it enters the woods, it will take you to the water.  It is not very far, you can be there long before dark.”

“Thank you.”  Kathryn started to turn but he stopped her.

“Wait.”  He walked over to his sister and returned with a container of water.  “Put it on my tab.”  He yelled over his shoulder.  “Take this it is very hot and be sure to cool your feet in the stream.  He handed her the container and nodded in the proper direction.  “Much luck to you.”

“Thank you.”
 

Kathryn started across the meadow, it was much larger than it appeared and the sun was very hot; she hoped it wouldn’t burn her fair skin.  There was a path worn in the grass as if many people used this route. She followed it to the stream, where she was grateful to remove her sandals and submerge her feet in the cool running water.  Sitting on the bank she splashed water on her arms and face.  The sting of the water told her she was already burned and would pay the price for this later.  After a few minutes she slipped on her sandals and continued her journey.  The stream snaked through the woods growing wider as the thick trees grew denser blocking out the light.  Just as she considered this might not have been a smart decision she saw light up ahead and hurried toward it.  Approaching the sunshine she was met with a burst of fragrant color; a small field of wildflowers rolled down a gently slope to a deep blue pond, which was nestled between the soft meadow and the jagged rock formation that jutted straight up on the other side.  A crystal clear shower of water careened over the edge of the rocks splashing into white foam that danced about the blue water.   She spotted Chakotay and stopped just at the point where the wind could carry the light mist of the waterfall to meet her.  He was sitting on a blanket, very still.  She noticed his medicine bundle so approached quietly not wanting to disturb his vision quest.

It was almost dark when Chakotay returned from his vision quest.  He felt better now, calmer.  It had been a productive day, especially for one when he was officially off duty and the vision quest had confirmed all the conclusions he had drawn for himself.  He started to gather up his things; he needed to go back and talk to Kathryn.  He was almost ready to leave when he spotted her.  She was sitting on a rock near the edge, feet dangling in the water.  Even at this distance he could see she was sunburned.  He wondered why she had come here, why she had waited.

“Kathryn?”  He called out hoping not to startle her.

“Oh.”  She jumped a little.  “Hi.”  She jumped to her feet and all but ran toward him.

“What are you doing here?”  He said it calmly with out accusation, but she hesitated just the same.

“I, er, wanted to talk to you.”

“You could have used your comm. badge.”  He wasn’t going to make this too easy for her.

“Yes, I guess I could have, but… “  She had come up very close to him and had to tilt her head back to look up.

“So what is so urgent, that you left your ship for it?”  He allowed a slight bit of sarcasm into his voice.

She took a deep breath but stood her ground as they stood toe to toe, eyes locked.

“You.”  She stared at him.

“Why?  Have I committed a crime?”  His voice dripped with sarcasm now; he turned and picked up his things.

“Listen Mister…”  She stopped herself when he just turned and walked away.  “Chakotay..”

“Kathryn, why are you doing this again?”  He had felt so much better and now she was gonna start again.  He continued to take long strides, so that she had to run to catch up.

“Chakotay, Chakotay.. “  She grabbed for his arm, but when he yanked it away she stumbled and fell.

“Kathryn, are you OK?”  He quickly retreated to help her up. “I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean…”

“No, shhh.”  She put her finger to his lips.  “Please sit here by me.”  She patted the ground and he did as he was told.  “I know.”

“You know what?”

“About leaving the ship.”

“Oh, well its all taken care of now.”

“No!  You can’t!”  She was kneeling on the ground, her hands on his shoulders.

“Kathryn, I…”

“NO!  Please, let me finish.”

“Kathryn..”

“Shhhh.”  Her fingers softly pressed against his lips.  “I’m a fool, I know that.  I have taken you for granted and pushed our friendship to the limit.  I’m sorry.”  She watched him settle down; he would listen to her now.  “You can’t leave Chakotay.  I can’t do this with out you—I don’t want to. I don’t just mean the ship. I mean you, I need you ---- I love you.  Please don’t leave me.”  It all came out in a rush of words that he couldn’t have stopped even if he could have found his voice and then her mouth came crushing down on his.

She kissed him with such force that she knocked him backward on the grass, landing on top of him.  His surprise was shortly over come with the sensation of her mouth pressed to his, her tongue tracing his lips seeking entrance.  Her one hand supported her, the other explored whatever parts of him she could reach, touching, teasing fueling his desire.  The weight of her body draped across his was next to nothing, but he could clearly feel her stiffening nipples as they pressed against his chest through the thin clothing they wore.

Almost having a mind of their own, his hands began to explore the contours of her body, caressing soft curves over lean muscle.  How long he had wanted this, longed for it and now she was here, in his arms; his arousal evident as he cupped her bottom and pressed their lower bodies tightly together.  Her hands had unfastened his shirt and she broke the kiss to explore this new territory with her mouth.  He groaned as her tongue paid homage to his naked flesh, but when slim fingers reached for his waistband he stopped her.

“Kathryn, we can’t do this.”  It took all his willpower to say those words.

“Yes, we can.”  She struggled to free her hands.

“NO!”  It was more forceful then he intended and when she jumped back he opened his eyes to the hurt and confusion in hers.  “Oh, Kathryn..”  He reached for her but she moved back.

 “No.  I see.”  She turned away.  “I’m sorry.”

“Kathryn, you don’t understand.”  He put his hand on her shoulder but she walked back toward the water picking up her sandals.

“I’ll go now. “  She tapped her comm. badge.  “Janeway to Voyager”

“NO!”  He followed her toward the edge of the water.

“Voyager here, Captain.”

“One to beam up.”

“Voyager, belay that order.”  He turned her toward him.  “Please, Kathryn, let me explain.”

“Nothing to explain.  Go ahead Ensign..”

“No don’t go.”

 “Captain?”  The ensign in transporter room one was getting interestingly confused.

“Please, Kathryn.”

“Voyager, I’ll call for transport later.  Janeway out.”  She broke the comm. link and sat on the ground.  “So?”

“Kathryn.”  He sat next to her, raising her chin so she looked at him.  “I love you.”

“But?”

“No but, I love you, I have loved you and I will love you forever.”

“But you don’t want me.”

“Yes—oh yes, I very definitely do want you.”  He adjusted his trousers as if to prove his point.

“Then why are you leaving me?”

“That’s what I have to explain.  I’m not.”

“You’re not?”

“No and I never was.  I don’t know what happened to confuse you, but I am not leaving Voyager.  I could never leave you.”

“I heard them talking, overheard several different conversations, they were all former members of your crew and someone was leaving.  You were mad at me.  Ayala said he couldn’t tell me but you could – my dream—oh it was such a mess and I thought…”  She reached out to touch his face.  “I thought ‘my god I’m gonna lose him’ and I didn’t even want to breathe anymore, so I came here to find you …”  Tears were running down her cheeks.  “I love you, whether you are leaving or not.”

“Kathryn, I’m sorry you were confused and I’m sorry that hurt you.  I was angry when I left and then I ran into this problem with Ken and..”

“Dalby?  Dalby is leaving?”

“Yes, well no, it's OK now.  I was on my way to explain to you and to apologize for being so stubborn, when I saw you by the water.”

“So no one is leaving and you aren’t angry with me anymore?”

“That’s right”

“See?”  She brushed the tears off her cheek and rested her head against his chest.  “I really can’t do this without you.”

“Yes, you can Kathryn, but I hope you never have to.”  He lifted her chin again, moving closer to see her in the growing darkness.  “I love you.”  He moved to kiss her and she shivered; he ran his hands down her arms to warm her and she flinched.

“Ouch, I guess I’m a little burned.”  She leaned in, pressing her lips to his. “Got anything in that magic bag of yours for sunburn?”

“Foolish girl..”  He trotted over and grabbed his bag and wrist light.  “You know better.”  He shined the light on her arms, then move back the edge of her dress, just to enhance the effect.  “God it doesn’t matter what I have in here, you need to see the doctor.”  Before she could protest he hit his comm. badge and called for transport.

They materialized in transporter room one, with Kathryn still sitting.  The ensign on duty was still confused as to who was giving the orders.

“I’ll check with Tuvok; you see the doctor.”  She started to protest but he placed his finger on her lips.  “Don’t start again, I’ll meet you in sickbay.”  He turned to the ensign.  “Transport the Captain to sickbay.”

Ensign Ashmore looked from one to the other; the Captain smiled and nodded and Ashmore completed the transport.
 

When Chakotay felt that Kathryn had endured a sufficient dose of the Doctor’s medicine he headed to sickbay to collect her.

“Commander, what can I do for you?”

“Nothing, Doctor.  I just came to pick up the Captain.”  He looked around at the empty sickbay.

“As you can see, I no longer have the privilege of her company.  I made the necessary repairs to that skin she is so determined to destroy and sent her on her way.”

“I see.”

“Oh yes, she said to tell you she will be waiting in her quarters “to give you what you deserve” what ever that means.”  He shook his head at Chakotay’s laughter.  “She was not in a good mood.  I wouldn’t be so happy if I were you.”

“I’m not worried Doc., I know how to handle Kathryn.”
 

“Yes, well, good luck to you anyway.”  He started to turn away.  “Commander, I know it’s not my concern but your health is—tell me why DO you love that impossible woman?”

“You don’t understand she’s—well she’s ..”  He laughed.  “Yeah, impossible about says it.  Sorry, Doc. I can’t explain—I just do.”
 

‘Deck three.”  He stepped into the lift.

“On your way home or to the Captain’s quarters?”  Ayala avoided looking at his friend.

“Captain’s.”  Chakotay looked straight ahead but he saw Ayala nod.

“Interesting woman.”

“Keeps me on my toes.”

“Had a talk with her.”

“So I heard.”

“I knew what she was thinking.”

“And you let her think it.”

“Seemed best.”
 
The doors opened on deck three and Chakotay stepped out, with out looking back.

“Night, Mike.”

“And a good night for you my friend.”

Chakotay proceeded down the corridor to the Captain’s door.  Ringing the chime, he waited; he was about to sound it again when the door slid back.  The room was only partially lit; scented candles burned around the room and a bottle of wine with two glasses sat chilling on the low table by the couch.

“Come in, Chakotay.”  It was Kathryn’s voice, he would know that anywhere, but it certainly wasn’t the Captain’s.

“Kathryn?”  He stepped in and let the door close behind him, finally spotting her by the view port.  She was dressed in silk lounging pajamas, soft and flowing, the type of thing he had only imagined before.  “How are you?  Burn all taken care of?”

“Like you haven’t checked on me?”  She met him half way across the floor, wrapping an arm around his waist and leading him to the couch.  “I’m fine, if a bit embarrassed.”

“It was only a misunderstanding.”

“It’s not the confusion that embarrasses me; it’s the way I acted.”

“Never be embarrassed to act on your feelings, Kathryn.”  He sat beside her on the couch.  “Certainly never with me”

“I’d like a chance to start this over again.”  She turned to face him.  “Hi, my name is Kathryn.  I’m headstrong and stubborn, I thrive on giving orders, I’m addicted to coffee.  I can’t cook to save my life, and I love you.”

“I’m Chakotay.   I might be just as stubborn and headstrong as you, but I take orders fairly well, I' m a pretty good cook, I make a mean cup of coffee; I think we are perfect for each other cause I have loved you almost from the first time I saw you.”  He pulled her into his arms, hugging her body close.  “Kathryn, does this mean we have to start at the very beginning and get to know each other all over again?”

“I think it means.”  She moved back and poured them each a wine.  “We have things to talk about and much to learn about each other.”  She handed him a glass.  “So I think we should drink this wine and talk for a while and then…”  The crooked smiled danced in her eyes as strong fingers gently massaged his thigh.  “I think we raised an interesting issue, down by the water earlier, that warrants further investigation.”

The End
 

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