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Those Who Wait
PG-13 

I didn't know, the first time that I saw her, that I would fall in love with her.  But I did notice that she was beautiful, which is noteworthy considering the circumstances.  I didn't let my notice influence my decisions.  I knew better.  I beamed over, phaser in hand, with two of my most trusted security officers. Tuvok's betrayal stung.  Tom's appearance - I rarely lose my temper, but that nearly did it.  Until she touched me.

Perhaps then I knew.  Maybe not consciously, yet, but the connection ignited in that moment, and I didn't murder Tom Paris on her bridge.  Maybe I wouldn't have killed him anyway; killing in anger is not a choice I'd make, but I would have cheerfully blackened his eye, before she touched me.

During those first few hours I saw that this Starfleet captain possessed wisdom, courage, anda steadfast determination to do what was right.The heroes of my imagination had driven me to join Starfleet, but it wasn't until I resigned my commission and met this woman that I saw my ideal in flesh.

I sacrificed my ship for her, and not even in our darkest hours together have I ever regretted that choice.  Never have I had second thoughts about my  silent vow to stand by her side.  Not once have I wanted to take back my words of devotion, veiledin legend, spoken aloud on a deserted planet.

Now, after seven long years of heartbreak and triumph, frustration and joy, all of the extreme emotions of adventure and friendship and love, we are at the point where our paths may no longer runparallel.  The Alpha Quadrant offers us both the freedom to choose any number of paths.

I find myself standing still on my path.  After following her for so long, I don't seem able to step forward alone.  She has my heart, and if my path diverts from hers then nothing will repair the emptiness.

So I wait.  For what, I am uncertain.  For her to choose a path, that I might follow behind?  For fate to choose for us both?  For the courage to step boldy onto her path, that we might forge a new one together?

We had coffee together.  It was late when she called, later still when we sat close on the couch in my new apartment, and she was no longer my captain. It would have been so easy to kiss her then, but something held me back.  The ghosts of the past, perhaps.

She promised me once that the first thing we would do in the Alpha Quadrant was visit Telvik.  We went, one promise kept.  We didn't go as lovers, but as friends.  Somehow it seemed right that way.

I needed my best friend beside me to face those demons; I needed her strength and her support. Had we become lovers first, it would have dishonored the dead I had come to memorialize.  Telvik is not a place for joy.

But now, as I lay in the sun and listen to the whisper of spirits, I know the time is coming. We will be friends.  We will always be friends.  But I want more, and I need to know if I am right when I think I see the answering longing in her eyes.

Another adventure.  I feel thoroughly tested, and I know what reward I wish to claim.  We meet for dinner.  There's champagne, and news from various crewmembers.  The conversation turns more casual and she tells me of a cafe she's grown fond of.  Perhaps I'd like to accompany her for lunch sometime next week?

" I answer.  My hand covers hers on the table, and I catch her eye.  "But that's where we'll have breakfast in the morning."

The End

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