The Captain slipped into sick bay unobserved. B'Elanna and Tom were huddled together on her biobed, quietly talking. The doctor had disappeared, probably into his office. Chakotay stood alone holding Miral, gently rocking her as he murmured soft indistinguishable words. He was so absorbed in what he was doing Kathryn was able to watch unnoticed for a while. It was truly beautiful, the big man and the tiny baby, his golden fingers against her pale almost translucent skin. Of all the different ways she had seen him over the years, of all the times she had secretly watched him, this was the most perfect. His face was so serene, shining with such genuine love. Her heart was aching. How she longed to be beside him, longed for that child to be hers - theirs. She was mesmerized by the gently warmth he exuded as he cradled the child close to his chest.
Kathryn didn't know they had been talking to her; she didn't even realize she had been crying until he wiped the tears from her cheek.
"Kathryn?" His voice was soft, his fingers gentle as they brushed away the tears. "Kathryn, do you hear me." Chakotay handed Miral to Tom, taking hold of Kathryn's shoulders. "Kathryn?" He shook her gently to bring her out of her daze; she blinked, her eyes searching his face, but she said nothing. "Kathryn what's wrong?"
Once she realized they were there, Kathryn struggled hard to rein in her tears, but once unleashed the they coursed freely down her face. She saw the concern in Chakotay's face, but it only deepened her plight. He was talking to her but she couldn't answer, it took all her strength to hold herself upright. Kathryn started to shake uncontrollably; no amount of concentration could stop it. The concern deepened on his face; she totally lost control, her legs giving out so that only his hold on her kept her from falling to the floor.
“Kathryn.” He scooped her up seating her on an empty biobed. “Kathryn, what is it?”
The Doctor was scanning her while Chakotay looked on with total panic on his face. She wanted to reach out to him but her arms wouldn’t move; her mind was screaming at her heart—he wasn’t hers. Tom and B’Elanna watched in awed silence, even the baby was silent; the only sounds were those of Kathryn’s uncontrollable sobbing.
“There is nothing medically wrong with her.” The Doctor scanned again in disbelief. “Tom, hand me that hypospray.”
Before Kathryn could protest, if she had been able to protest, he pressed the hypo to her neck sedating her. Her eyes widened at the hiss of the spray; Chakotay slowly lowered her to the bed, brushing a few wayward strands of hair from her face. She opened her mouth to speak but no words came out.
“Shhh, Kathryn, relax.” His smile couldn’t disguise the fear in his eyes. “Whatever it is, we can work it out, together.”
“No.” It was all she got out before having to gulp back the tears.
“Yes, whatever it is.” He took her hand. “Rest, I’m here for you.”
“Need…” She shook her head. “feel ..” Her eyes closed but she fought the sedative, struggling to open them again.
“Sleep, Kathryn, it’s been a hard day.” He smiled with worried eyes as he stoked back her hair with his free hand. “You can tell me when you wake. I’ll be right here.”
Several hours later, it was dark in sickbay. Tom had taken B’Elanna and the baby home an hour earlier. Chakotay had left only long enough to make excuses to Starfleet for the Captain’s absence, then returned to her side. The doctor had speculated that their sudden return to the Alpha Quadrant had placed too heavy a burden on the Captain's already over stressed psyche, but Chakotay wasn’t convinced. He knew the Captain too well to believe that achieving her goal could push her over the edge. No, this was a deep and profoundly personal pain, a pain he was pretty sure he knew the cause of. He had sincerely believed that she had long ago given up on any possible relationship between them, now he wasn’t so certain. She began to stir and he moved closer as her eyes opened.
“Hi.” She smiled but the pain was still in her eyes.
“Can you tell me what happened?”
“I don’t think you want to know…” She blinked back her tears. “Sorry, I shouldn’t…”
“Kathryn, I want to know. Please don’t think there is anything you can’t tell me.” She just shook her head at him and smiled sadly. “Please tell me what happened when you came in here before.”
“I saw you with Miral--- I want--- I need…” She struggled to sit up.
“What do you need, Kathryn? Tell me, please” He tried to gently prod her.
“I need to feel again.”
“Everything. I want to be allowed to feel…”
“You do feel, Kathryn. I witnessed your pain; there was no doubt that you were feeling it. What do you want to feel?
“Everything.” She sucked in a breath to hold back the tears. “ I want it all.” She studied his face, biting her lip to keep from crying.
“Go on, tell me what you want.” His voice was soft, his touch gentle as he brushed aside an escaping tear.
“I want ..” She took a deep breath then closed her eyes. “I want to feel your touch. I want to feel your arms around me.” She began to cry softly through her words. “I want to feel you hard and throbbing inside of me-- to feel your seed spurting into my womb, taking hold and growing. I want to feel my belly swell as it nurtures a life, growing and struggling.” She was gulping air as she forced herself to continue. “I want to feel the searing pain as the child bursts forth to breathe its own air. I want to feel my heart swell with pride as I watch you cradle our child.”
“Oh, Kathryn.” He wrapped his arms around her; she buried her face in his chest.
“I’m sorry.” Barely a whisper between muffled tears against his chest.
“No, Kathryn, I’m sorry.” He stroked her back; his own tears dampened her hair. “I did this to you. I never meant to hurt you.”
“I know.” She pulled back. “I never gave you any hope, I drove you away.” She brushed away his tears. “And now I’ve hurt you again. I should have been stronger.”
“You are the strongest person I know.” He smiled through his tears. “If you were any stronger I might have lost you forever.”
“Chakotay?” Watery blue eyes searched his face for reassurance.
“I love you, Kathryn. I’ve really screwed this up, I know.” He ran his fingers through his hair; she watched, waited, afraid to speak. “I thought you had moved on long ago. I was stupid, I gave up hope.” He cupped her face in his hands. “Can you forgive me?”
“If you can forgive me.” She smiled. “I love you.”
Their lips met. A gently brush, soft moist lips pressing closer, tentative tongues exploring each other; a kiss of promise, a kiss of hope. Breaking it, they held each other close.
“Katie.” He mumbled into her hair.
“What?” She pulled back in surprise to look at him; he had never shortened her name before.
“Katie.” He smiled. “Can we name our first one Katie?”
“Only..” She laughed and rested her head against his chest, “only if she’s a girl.”
Some flowers used to make the contest graphics from