CIRCLE OF TIME

By Char.

Rated J/C; NC-17 for sex, of course.
Disclaimer: Not my characters. I'm only pretending they are.
Summary: Post endgame-The crew are scattered to the far corners of the Alpha Quadrant. Will time ever be on their side?

"What's a nice lady like you doing in a dive like this?"

How long has it been since I've heard that old line? I guess it's to be expected when you're alone in a place like this. Not that there's anything wrong with this club. The only apparent lack of charm is its address. They play melancholy jazz and they mix the drinks strong. I always visit this place when I'm here even though it reminds me of Sandrine's. Maybe because it reminds me of Sandrine's.

I smile at him and tell him that I'm meeting a friend. By the time he realizes that the only friend I have here is in my head, he'll have found someone willing and I won't matter anymore. He won't go home alone, as I will.

This space station rests at the brink of anything decent. I'm not saying that decent people don't live here, or pass through, but it's a tough place. Not the sort of place to pick up someone, no matter how good-looking he is. Even if his game is old, it might be nice to play it once again. But not yet.

It's funny how I don't feel ready. I can't even remember the last time I felt a man warm my bed. It must have been Jaffen. Dear Jaffen. The only man I've had the pleasure to know in nearly eight years and I don't even remember much about making love with him. We'd been so thoroughly brainwashed that recollections take on the qualities of a pleasant dream. I wish I'd savored it more. I would have if I'd known he'd be the last for so long.

Which brings me back to Voyager. I admit that I come here to listen to the music and remember my time in the Delta Quadrant. If you had told me a year ago that I'd look back on those days fondly, I wouldn't have believed a word of it. Home. That's where it would all start. I'd be free to be myself again. But it didn't work out that way at all.

During the debriefings, they kept me cloistered away from the others. They told me that my crew had an 'unsavory loyalty' to me and that my contact might keep them from honesty for my sake. Perhaps they were right, but it seemed so cruel. Here I was, free to form true friendships with the people who I'd commanded, and I wasn't given access to them. I was devastated, especially about Chakotay.

Chakotay. I don't let myself think about him except when I'm on leave. It's too hard. Oh yes, the Maquis were exonerated of their 'crimes' but only if they left quietly and completely. Chakotay left without a word, leaving no clue as to where he went. He disappeared quite thoroughly.

The temporal aspects of our homecoming seemed to bother the admiralty more than anything. You see, we aren't supposed to be here for another 16 years. Having us here threatens all that they know about temporal mechanics, incursions, and the like. They want us all to disappear and they certainly don't want us to contact each other. If we're scattered about the quadrant, making little contribution to our corners of the world, perhaps we won't muddy up their precious timeline. There were thinly veiled threats too about contacting the others. Perhaps they fear that we'd find a way to use the temporal enhancements to our advantage again. I'd be tempted if I could find a way. This life I'll live pales in comparison to the one I had on Voyager.

So that's how I'm here. They tried to make me give up my commission and retire into obscurity, but I don't know how to do anything but captain a ship. They allow me to stay in Starfleet out here in the sticks, if I keep a low profile and stay away from any of my old crew. After all, the quadrant is huge. There's no chance of me running into someone I know here and that's just the way they want it.

So I make it off that old barge once every eight weeks for an uneventful weekend on this dismal station. I come here, to this bar so I can listen to the combo, get a little numb, silently toast my friends and feel like I'm not so horribly alone.

At first, I thought I'd make some friends here, but I see that even at a decent place, the friendships don't go much further than a few drinks and someone to take home for the evening. And I'm not ready for that. I hope I'm never ready for a one-night stand, but it would be nice to feel a man moving over me in bed again someday.

Since I dress in a uniform seven and a half out of every eight weeks, I like to wear something different. But I found out pretty quickly that a woman alone, dressed like, well…a woman, might as well slap a credit price on her ass and stroll the promenade nude. I still wear a skirt, but it's long, black, and full. And the little bit of leg I'd otherwise be showing is covered in black leather from my boots. Tonight I put on a white silk blouse, but I've covered the entire thing in a shapeless, but warm ankle-length sweater. Space stations are cold places and the sweater hides the goods, but I still allow myself to feel like a woman underneath.

A familiar number starts up and as I look into the small crowd on the dance floor, I imagine I see Tom moving slowly with B'Elanna, courting her. Harry's blushing and handing me the cue. Chakotay is tossing his head back in a laugh, teasing me as I choke on an easy pool shot. I miss them. The tears flood my lids and I blink them back, swallowing them with a hearty swig from my drink. I miss them all…

I watch the door to the bar open and see a figure silhouetted against the light from the promenade. For a moment I think my eyes are playing tricks on me. I think my imagination has finally gotten the best of me. And then he moves. My God, it's him! I can see it in the quiet movement of his arms and hips, in the slow scan he makes of the place. When he walks over to a small table and eases himself onto the chair, I'm certain. I've watched that walk for hours and I know from the flood of my blood in my ears that it's Chakotay.

I want to knock over tables getting to him and throw myself into his arms, but I hold back. I wonder if they're still watching me as they did the first few months. Not that it would matter to me. I'd gladly trade my career for a moment alone with him, but I fear for his security more than my own. It would be so easy for them to have him completely disappear. I decide to watch for a bit and see if anything looks suspicious.

I'm not familiar with this man who used to be my first officer. His hair is longer and it nearly covers his marking with its blackness, and are those gray streaks shooting through it? He's allowed a very short beard to grow and trimmed it low over his cheeks. It gives him a slightly sinister look that I find appealing. His face is brown with the sun under his beard and is more angular, as though he's lost weight, but I can't be sure with the heavy coat covering him. I can't quite read his expression in the darkness, but he's not seen me, I'm sure. It takes all my inner strength to hold myself back from him, but I want to watch and see if he's being followed.

Hiding behind the large brandy glass, I peer over it at him and wait to see if he's meeting someone. After all, it is a bar and it wouldn't be unusual if he were meeting friends. Who am I kidding? It isn't quite that kind of bar. If he's meeting someone it would be a woman. Alone. And I know I wouldn't be able to greet him and then see his eyes light up as some female walked in behind me. There would be the awkward introductions and I'd be dying inside. At least this way, if he has a date, I'll have the chance to stay and watch him move, see him laugh, and then steal away when I can't stand it anymore. But he might truly be alone…

God, I hope he's alone. I'll watch him awhile to make sure.

What are the insanely impossible chances that we could end up at the same bar, on the same sleazy little space station, in the same distant part of the quadrant together? Simultaneously? It boggles my minds to think of it, so I concentrate on watching him.

He's as beautiful as ever. I watch him drink his ale and listen to the combo. I wonder if this place is reminding him of Sandrine's, too. He's dressed warmly, with a long leather coat and a dark shirt. I thought I'd never lay eyes on him again and here he is, 50 feet away, close enough to…

The door opens once again and I see the outline of woman framed by the doorway. My heart stops, lodging in my throat. That's his woman. She's come to meet Chakotay, I'm sure. From the very little I can see of her, she is tallish and slim. Willowy. Her hair hangs over her shoulders and she pauses to allow her eyes to adjust to the dim light.

My breathing is shallow. I can't watch. Still holding the large glass of amber liquid in front of my face, I look down at my other hand, clenched on the table. The knuckles are white and it's shaking. I realize, almost too late, that the hand holding the drink is shaking as well, so I place it on the table, nodding forward so he won't see me if he happens to be looking. I know he's not looking at me. I imagine her walking toward him and their easy greeting, perhaps punctuated with a slow kiss. She'll sit in the chair next to him and he'll clasp her hand, pulling it to his mouth. I can't take it anymore. I've got to get out of here…

I look up, through the fringe of hair, watching for a moment when I can slip out. He's no longer there. I see the woman sitting with another couple on the other side of the bar, but he's nowhere to be seen. I've missed him? My head shoots up and I crane my neck, looking to see where he's gone. I've got to find him! I'll chase him down the promenade if I have to. Where the hell could he have gone? We're this close and I've let him slip by me?

I curse my damned imagination and put my hands on the table to push out my chair and ask the bartender where he went. But my chair only scrapes a centimeter or two before it's halted against something solid. I feel a hand on my shoulder and I nearly weep aloud because I know who that hand belongs to.

"What's a nice woman like you doing in a place like this?"

My laughter bubbles up through the tears running down my cheeks. I hear him chuckle and feel his other hand go to my neck, moving in lazy circles at the base of my skull. I lean into the hand and draw a deep, jagged breath.

I feel hot, moist air on my ear and I realize he's kneeling behind my chair. His hands skate over me, alternately caressing my hair then kneading the muscles in my neck.

I've still not turned to see his face and he's not pushing for it. The physical contact seems to be enough. Almost as if eye contact would be too much for us both.

Hot words blow over my ear. "Why didn't you want me to see you, Kathryn? Are you meeting someone?"

I'm nearly sobbing as I choke out a laugh. He was waiting to see if I had a date! My throat is suddenly as dry as it's ever been. I tell him hoarsely, "You know, you're the second man this evening to use that line on me."

"Really? And I thought I was being so original." I can feel the smile against my hair. "And what happened to the first clever man?"

"I told him I was meeting a friend."

His hands cease all movement and I realize what I've said. I don't mean to do that to him. "And it seems that it wasn't a lie after all…"

The taut fingers relax immediately. I feel the scrape of a chair and he's sitting so close to me that our faces are only inches apart. His hand slides over my shoulder and then it's in my lap, still circling, but moving over my thigh instead of my neck.

I reach up and touch the long hair over his forehead and then the soft, bristly hair of his beard. His eyes search mine for some sort of clue of my emotions and I try to read his, as well.

"I've missed you, Chakotay. I didn't know that I could miss a person so much…"

"It wasn't fair how they kept us all apart. I never got to tell you how I felt." His hand stops its circling and he squeezes my thigh, looking at me with intensity.

"Neither did I." We both know what we're saying, but the words will have to come later. "Imagine running into you like this. It seems almost like fate, don't you think?"

His face lights up in a warm smile. "Something like that." With seriousness, he adds, "It's too bad Starfleet can't understand a simple thing like temporal mechanics. They wouldn't be so afraid of us…"

I ponder his words until he interrupts my thoughts.

"How's your post? I mean, besides the backwater address?"

"Awful. I hate my first officer. I hate my sniveling crew. The only reason they put me out here is because communications are nil and I'm out of the way. And on top of it all, that damned bucket of bolts that I command doesn't have a single bathtub to its name." It feels good to whine a little.

"Poor, Kathryn… Forced to sonic shower like the lower deck personnel."

After idly caressing, the fingers under the table seem to have a destination planned. They circle closer to my inner thigh and infinitesimally higher with each rotation.

"And you? How's your life, Chakotay?"

"Good, actually. I've been working to establish a new colony outside of Federation space. I'm happy with it and I like the people I'm working with."

"I still can't imagine us meeting like this. Did you have something to with this chance encounter?"

"I've dreamed of seeing you again. I guess my dreams are coming true."

An answer, but not. "You know I was followed during my first few leaves. I guess they were making sure I didn't meet anyone. I haven't seen anyone tailing me the last couple of times, though."

"I've changed my appearance a bit since Voyager just in case. Why do you suppose I've taken to wearing my hair and beard this way?" He absently touches his chin and grins.

"I think it makes you look dashing." I touch his cheek and imagine the bristly, yet strangely soft hair rubbing against my face, my thighs.

His eyes twinkle as if he can read my thoughts. "It makes me look a bit like someone else, I hope."

"You could never hide from me. I knew you immediately."

"I saw you, too, but when you hid from me... Well, I thought I'd give you a chance to…catch your breath."

Catch my breath, indeed. I haven't breathed well in the 15 minutes it's been since he stood at the doorway. "I thought you might be meeting someone. I wasn't sure I could take seeing you that way…"

"Ah, but I was meeting someone… Only she didn't know it quite yet."

He reaches to touch my face, stroke my chin and lips with his fingers. I lean my cheek into his palm and feel the covert hand tracing the crease between my torso and thigh. Breathless, I turn and kiss the hot palm and blush as Chakotay swallows with difficulty.

"So what now? How long do you have before you have to be back at your colony?"

"I pick up a bunch of supplies tomorrow afternoon. I'll be heading out after that. You?"

"I have to report back to my transport early afternoon." We both know it means we have the night and morning together. "Will you be able to meet me again?"

"No."

The finality of that word slams into my heart.

"We're trading the long-range shuttle for supplies that we need to get started on the spring crops. I'll only have a short-range ship to make necessary trades close to the colony. I won't be able to get back here again."

"So we have tonight…"

An achingly familiar tune begins and as much as I want to be alone with him, I feel the urge for something else.

I grasp his free hand and study his face. "This is a night for firsts. Dance with me?" Standing, I pull at him and lead him to the small dance floor.

Chakotay wraps his arms around me and pulls my body into his. "But we've danced together dozens of times, Kathryn…"

"Not like I want to dance…"

Sure, we've attended scads of parties where we made the obligatory turn around the floor to the amusement of our crew. We endured the stares, the giggles, the sighs of personnel happy to see us in each other's arms.

We also felt the presence of every person in attendance. Would he hold her close? Would she let him? Would she pull away when he did? Rations always seemed to be swapping back and forth when we danced. Oh, maybe it was my own self-absorption, but I don't think so. I think our few dances over the years held far too much significance to actually be enjoyed--by us. I want to feel him sway next to me, blend his movements with mine, feel the music that's kept my heart alive over the past few months. And I want to do it with only him to share the pleasure. I guess I'm selfish that way.

His large body molds perfectly to mine and I feel warm throughout with his arms pulling me against him. We start out in a respectable stance and stay that way only briefly until I feel his hand at my back, pulling me close and working at my blouse under my sweater. He's tickling at me and I realize that he's pulling the silk from the waistband at the back of my skirt. A hot hand works its way under the material and fuses with the skin on my back, tickling and rubbing, thumb and fingers stroking at my waist.

My hand that rests on his shoulder moves down under his jacket and pulls at his back, bringing us even closer. The thin material of his slacks leaves no question as to his plans for the night. As if either one of us doubted our coming together for an instant.

I suddenly feel foolish for wanting this so badly. After all, our time together is painfully limited. The sandy minutes continue to slide through the wasp-waist of the hourglass while I indulge a personal fantasy. Yes, there are other fantasies I'll live tonight, but this one shouldn't be missed. We'll never have a leisurely courtship, the pleasure of looking forward to dinner together, the heady anticipation of fleshy desserts. But we have familiar music and the atmosphere of home where we're far from it. I'm clutching at any sort of memory I can create with him. I know it needs to carry me a long way.

His hands are cupping my bottom, pulling me into him. I know that it can't be seen under the long sweater, but I feel exposed in a wonderful way.

Grabbing him in the same way, I feel the tight muscles of his rear tensing and flexing as we sway, hip to hip, making a lame showing of any sort of dance but the one where two people enjoy holding one another. I'm right. He's lost weight. The outdoors must be good for him.

I feel the creeping of his hand on my ass and it takes me a few moments before I realize he's pulling up my skirt, inch my inch, bunching it above his hand. As long as it is, it takes him at least a minute to work the hem up to his fingers. I shiver, feeling the backs of my legs exposed to the air, covered only by the stockings I wear for the warmth and the long tail of the sweater.

Working his way down the top of my hose, the heat of his hand smoothes over the cool skin on my rear, rubbing circles. The tiny hairs on the cheek of my ass prickle into gooseflesh at the sensation. Chakotay shifts in our dance, leaning more into me, so that his hot hand can work its way deeper into my panties, tracing the vertical crease.

My face presses into his thick, brown shirt, marveling at the strength of his heart, thumping madly in his chest. I work to control my own panting, knowing that he must hear me nearly gasping in surprise at the audacity of what he's doing.

And the smell of him! I roll his scent through my nose, cataloging and memorizing every nuance. He smells different here. Not that I ever got as good a chance as this on the ship, but I realize that I've always remembered the smell of Voyager as Chakotay's personal scent. Here he smells of clean soap, the faint oil from an old engine, and the slight, musky scent of passion, sex, that's his alone.

He leans in further, still trailing his fingers in the crease of my ass, tickling and teasing. His tongue traces the curve of my ear and dips in with the squishy sound of moisture. I tilt my head up to look at him and he captures my mouth with his lips, immediately sucking on my tongue.

I hear him breathing to an erratic beat that matches my own shaky panting, as we snack on each other's lips and tongues. The black beard rubs my chin, my lips and cheeks, stinging with pressure from the crisp hair. Down my chin his tongue travels, sucking at the hollow of my throat until I'm sure my skin is rosy from the assault.

The strong fingers caress and rub at my bottom until I'm choking from the restraint of moaning aloud. I feel his mouth at my ear again and he whispers to me.

"This is what you wanted, isn't it? To dance like we never could on Voyager?"

The thought of dancing with him at one of Neelix's parties with his hand down my panties and mine on his ass, grinding him into me, conjures up a comically arousing mental picture. "Yes. This is exactly what I had in mind. But I think we ought to take this elsewhere if we don't want to end up in the station's brig."

The hand is out of my clothes and I feel the heavy material of my skirt abruptly drop to my calf. He's pulling me toward the door, swiftly. Still reeling from his touch I shiver when he guides me onto the vast promenade that runs the length of the station. He turns to me, his hand possessing my wrist. His eyes meet mine and I'm struck breathless with the fire in them.

He sounds gloriously desperate. "My ship's docked a half-hour walk from here. How close is your suite?"

"Twenty minutes. That way." I nod to the left and we take off at a brisk pace, clinging to one another.

The walkway is nearly empty. It's a slow time of the year and even though space stations operate constantly, officially observing no clock, this is late evening for the locals who run the shops and service facilities. Only the restaurants and bars are open. We pass a couple of people before I feel myself being propelled into a dark alcove created by the juncture of two shops.

The wall meets my back and Chakotay's hands meet my breasts. He's roughly kneading me through my blouse and his hips press into mine. I look into his face and see everything that I'm feeling. We're both desperate to touch each other, taste, rub, lick and thrust. I keep my eyes open as he leans his face into mine, memorizing the texture of his skin, the glint of his pupils, the shape of his mouth. And then it's on me. Lips and beard take turns scratching and soothing my neck as his hands rub the length of my torso. Fast. This is much too fast. I can't help what's happening, though, so I give in to the passion of the moment.

I reach for his ears, pulling his mouth to mine. I'm desperate to feel his skin against me and I can't imagine making it the entire way back to the Starfleet inn. Chakotay's hand slides under the front of my blouse and under my bra where he rubs the sensitive skin with his fingertips.

Finally I'm at the right angle to feel his length pressing between my legs. I think I'm dying from the pleasure of the friction. His fingers circle and push at my breasts while the fabric of my underwear slips against me.

The tempo of the moment builds along with the daring we both feel. Just as I feel his hands on the buttons of my blouse, he freezes, stares into my eyes and yanks me back out onto the walkway, angry at his own loss of control.

My knees barely hold me up as he maneuvers us nearer to my room at an uncomfortable pace. Tugging me along, he closes his coat, covering what is obvious, but no one passes us.

Then I see another opportunity that can't be missed. The dark corner appears to our left and I snatch his hand and swing us into the tight space, this time with Chakotay's back to the wall. Our faces slam together in a ferocious kiss that is more saliva and teeth than lips and tongues. I waste no time in rubbing my hand inside the front of his trousers, cupping him, slipping up and down the steely shaft.

His head snaps back at the neck and makes a dull thud against the metal of the wall. I know it's got to hurt, but the moan coming from his mouth doesn't tell of pain. "Oh, God, Kathryn… I want you so much…"

I try to resist the urge to unbutton his fly and kneel before him, truly, I do. Once I have him in my mouth, he'll never be able to peel me off. It will all be over here, in the darkness, next to the litter bin of a take-out bistro. The mental picture I create shakes my resolve and I loosen the waist of his slacks, lowering the zipper.

His hands are pushing at my shoulders, urging me to my knees in front of him. I'm amazed at him, asking for this, here. Neither one of us wants to wait long enough to get to my room.

His dusky cock bobs in front of my face and I place the flesh at my lips. Tasting him, I tickle his foreskin with my tongue before I pull it back, revealing the purple head. I hear him hissing just before I take a deep breath and push my face all the way to the black hair at its base, swallowing his entire length. Chakotay's trembling hands are at the back of my head, grabbing at handfuls of my hair, pulling me off of him and then pushing me back on, choking me with his considerable size.

At different periods of my life I secretly prided myself on being quite good at this. But I've lost my touch with years of celibacy. Gagging, I feel his hands pulling me off of him. He lifts me back against his chest and kisses at my hair and neck, soothing. He murmurs, "Sorry… I was too rough…"

A young couple passes us, giggling. I feel a rumble of laughter in Chakotay's chest and look to see his smiling eyes and mouth. His hair's a mess, sticking up in places and I'm sure I'm a sight, too. Snapping himself back into his pants, he takes my hand and we renew our trek with a decidedly less frantic mood.

Walking with my arm around his waist feels so natural. His is around my shoulders, hugging me to him. We fit. I always knew we would. I've imagined strolling the decks of Voyager in this exact position for years now and I can feel just how right we are together. The silence is natural and although we have so much to share, it feels right just to soak in each other's presence and the anticipation of what's to come.

His hand squeezes my shoulder and he looks over at me, his face full of love. I'm aware of how many years I wasted, holding him back. In the midst of this elation, the pain of leaving him tomorrow afternoon pokes at my ribs. At least we have right now. We've never had that, and I'll live on it the rest of my life…

We both see the darkened alcove we're approaching and chuckling, we turn to it simultaneously, not able to pass up one last opportunity for a good grope.

Entrenched between two walls, his hands study my body, running under my blouse, touching every square centimeter of my skin. I breathe into his kisses, feeling his chest under the shirt, working my way around to his back, trailing fingernails across his shoulder blades.

He's getting worked up again after the quiet stroll, much to my delight. I love it that I'm doing this to him, that I leave him such lack of control over himself. One hand tickles down my belly, under the skirt waistband, snaking into my panties, ending in the curls between my thighs. I bite at his shoulder and press closer to him, moving my own hand over his, showing him what I like through my clothing. My underwear is dripping and I feel him touching the cotton crotch between my legs.

He whispers into my hair. "You're a little damp, here…"

"Oh, just a little…" I'm moaning into his neck. "But I'm sure it's only going to get worse-"

My own gasp cuts me off as a finger fills me. We both start to pant as he slides in and out of me, pulling back to watch my face. I'm wheezing through the assault. I manage to blurt out, "Not here…Take me home…I want to wait for you…"

"No. Just let me do this, Kathryn… I need to see you lose control…Right here, right now…"

His thumb shifts and I feel the pressure of it flicking the tiny fist of nerves as his wet fingers move up and down inside of me. I twitch and my breath catches. I can't look away from his eyes as he works at me, skillfully, bringing me closer to oblivion against the wall of a jewelry store.

I've never been this easy. I can feel my climax rushing towards me and I marvel at how quickly he's able to do this. He knows what pleasures me even better than my own hands.

And in my fog, I realize that it isn't just his skill, but that I'm intoxicated by the entire situation. I'm drunk on his scent, his solid form against mine, his fingers nailing me to the wall, the desperation of our lust, and the narrowed, blackness of his eyes searching mine.

My vision blurs and I'm shaking from head to foot, thrusting against his hand, knees buckling. I stifle a shout and grasp at his shoulders, hanging on to consciousness by a thin thread.

The hand that isn't between my legs holds my face tightly, right in front of his. As he comes back into focus, I see the intense line of his mouth turn softly to a knowing smile as he soothes my face with his thumb, and my sex with his palm.

I go limp against the wall and pull his lips to mine for a lazy kiss. His hand retreats from my clothes and he turns the kiss into an embrace.

"As long as I've known you, I've imagined you like that…"

"As a matter of fact, I've had a few fantasies about you, too…" I feel my strength coming back to me and I duck underneath him, tugging at his hand to follow me. "Let's get going…"

Out on the walkway again, we hold hands, glancing at one another often. When I see the glowing sign announcing my quarters, I'm almost disappointed that we've arrived. But not quite.

We walk to the desk in the foyer. Chakotay stands just behind me, as I press my palm to the reader on the desk. The young security ensign nods to me. "Captain Janeway, did you have a good evening?"

"Yes, quite. Thank you." I see him eyeing Chakotay. I've never come back to my room with company and I can't tell if it's simple curiosity or if there's a procedure for this. Chakotay hangs back, apparently knowing more about this than I do. Passing the desk, I'm startled when the young man stops me.

"If I can get you to sign in your guest, please." His tone is polite, but I don't like the way he says 'guest.' I realize that Chakotay can't sign in. He isn't supposed to have any contact with me.

"He'd rather not sign in, if you don't mind." My voice is crisp with command, but the young man doesn't back down.

"Captain, I assure you that all of our records are kept confidential. It's for your security that we ask him to sign in." He turns to Chakotay. "If you're registered with the station's entertainment board, we already have you in the system."

He thinks Chakotay's a professional! He thinks that I'm bringing home a prostitute! I open my mouth to give the little shit a piece of my mind.

Chakotay steps between us. "Actually, I'm an old friend. I've, uh, worked for her before…I just arrived and I'm hoping to be registered in the next few days. But right now, I'm only on station as a personal favor to the captain." He pauses a beat, giving the young man a knowing smile. "She's a special customer. You do understand…"

Chakotay puts his arm around my waist and pinches me softly to stop my tirade.

The ensign doesn't move. Chakotay looks down at me and winks. Leaving me there a few feet away from the desk, he leans forward, speaking softly to the man. "She's a bit embarrassed about the whole thing… I'll be registered by the time she makes her next visit, but it'd be a shame to disappoint her tonight." His hand slides toward the ensign, palm down. Acknowledging each other, something is passed between them on the desk, out of sight. It looks as though my date is bribing the desk clerk to let us up to my room.

Whatever it was that Chakotay gave the man appears to work. He smiles sweetly at us. "Just make sure that you're registered by the next leave, sir."

Chakotay nods and places his hand at the small of my back, ushering us to the lift.

When we're safely inside, he presses me against the wall, kissing at my neck over my sweater.

"What did you bribe him with, Maquis?"

"A tiny strip of latinum. It seems that desk clerks all over the galaxy work on the same system…"

His mouth moves to mine and we're caught in the same dance of tongues as we've been all the way here. So close… Only a few more seconds until the lift opens onto my floor…

His hands are under my skirt again, pulling me against him and lowering my undergarments. The knit tights and underwear are bunched at my thighs and the warmth of his hands work at the cool skin on my ass.

Raising his mouth from mine only long enough to speak, Chakotay asks me, "How far is your room from the lift, Kathryn?"

"Mine's the first one…We might actually make it there in time."

"Maybe…"

The doors open and we spill into the hallway. He picks me up in his arms and I press my hand on the panel at the side of my door, still lip-locked with him. The door to my room opens as the lights inside come up automatically. Taking a quick look around, he turns us sideways, so we'll fit, and heads through the doorway into the bathroom, sitting me on the vanity next to the sink.

It's unnaturally light in here and the large mirror covering the wall behind the lavatory reflects the glare back into our eyes. But neither of us seems to mind as he lifts my skirt, revealing my undergarments riding just below my hips.

The frantic pace of before is on us and now we're free to do as we please. I'm groaning as he pulls open my blouse and pinches the snap at the front of my bra. His head bobs at my chest as he licks at my nipples. I run my hands through his hair and in the light I see that he's finally letting the silver show.

He's pulling at my clothes again, trying to gain access to me. Spying the manicure set on the vanity, he pulls out the small scissors and snips them over the elastic waist of my tights, cutting the panties along with them. Only an inch into the cut, he drops the scissors back onto the marble and rips the crotch open, exposing me completely.

"I could have taken those off, you know…"

"I couldn't wait that long." And he shows me by releasing himself from his slacks and nudging my entrance.

"I've always loved you, Kathryn…"

"I know…"

And he's gloriously inside of me, still and perfect, tasting, savoring, waiting for me. We've finally made it to this. And it's more amazing than I've imagined. Full with him, I cling to shoulders, sobbing into his jacket. "You know I love you, too."

And I need his skin against mine. He helps me work the jacket off of him and onto the floor. Pulling the shirt over his head, his brown chest invites me to suck at it, lick the flavor of him onto my tongue.

I pull at his hips, begging more from him. He only manages a few thrusts before he gathers me to him, still deep inside and turns, leaning his ass against the sink. I link my still-booted ankles at the small of his back, holding on, and push off my own sweater, blouse and bra onto the heap of clothes at our feet. Jerking the stretchy skirt from between us, I pull it over my head.

In the mirror behind him, I see the tawny back with its muscles moving under the skin, strong and powerful, holding me up against him. My own booted legs wrapped around his waist mesmerize me. I'm wanton and erotic, a completely different person than I've been for so long, but I do recognize this man pulling me onto him, needing me. He's the man I always dreamed he would be, if I ever let him.

Stumbling on the pile of clothes, he hefts me against him and heads for the doorway. Just as I think he's going through it, making his way for the bed, his feet tangle in the pants around his ankles and he falls, pinning me to the mirrored door with his body.

"Ahh!" God, he's deep and I think I'll die from the pleasure. My back slides against the slick glass as Chakotay grunts. He looks at me and I feel him decide to forget the bed and take me here. Or rather, continue taking me here.

We both look to our sides and see our profiles reflected in the mirror behind the sink. The ripped half of my panties dangles from my thigh and I'm struck by the ridiculous position we've gotten ourselves into. Swallowing an urge to laugh out loud, my attention is jerked back to him by a forceful thrust. Who are we trying to kid? We're both pushing 50, for crying out loud! I never knew he'd be this forceful a lover or I'd dragged him to my bed years ago. I'll be reliving this scene in my head for the rest of my life, and if I can tell by the stretching of my limbs and soft tissues, I'll be reliving it to the hiss of daily hyposprays for a week, as well.

There's a squeak of my skin rubbing against the glass in time to shallow thrusts and I feel Chakotay trembling, holding his lust in check. I need to see him completely unleashed on me. Neither of us will last more than a few moments, and I don't want him holding back after all that we've been through tonight. Too cruel. I take his lips against mine, gathering my command presence around me like a shroud, barking, "Now."

He responds to my tone immediately, like the good first officer he is-was-and slams me again and again against the door, taking me in heat and desperation. The mad friction against my walls could have me climaxing almost immediately, but I hold back, choosing to witness his release instead of experiencing my own. I don't want to miss a fragment of his performance.

His face screws up in a grimace that, if I didn't know better, could only be interpreted as anger. Curling his lips, huffing through his teeth, hot sweat beading on the cool blue lines of his marking, he's magnificent. The black eyes nail into mine and I'm slapped with the realization that I am seeing anger. Anger at what, I can only guess. At me? Our lost time together? My damned sense of responsibility that's kept us apart until now?

Shifting my weight higher against the cold glass, he's able to thrust up into me with more satisfaction, but the feral look remains. I fight my body's reactions with all of my strength, but he's too good for me. Moving against me, he hammers all of my control from me, leaving me shuddering, squeezing him in my completion.

And then he's growling, howling his release into my face as his hips deliver the final blow below.

My legs go numb and slide from his waist where he slumps over me, kissing the top of my head and murmuring my name over and over like a mantra. Bending before me, he pulls each boot and stocking bit off, kissing my belly and thighs as he moves. Threading my hands through his hair, I'm amazed at the tenderness after the violent storm of only a moment ago.

We make our way into the other room and lie across the bed, touching and caressing each other in our haze. His full lips nibble at mine and work their way around my face, lightly plucking at my skin. As his tongue grazes my eyelids and my forehead, I study the silky skin of his back, feeling the bulk of his shoulders. His elbows hold him up on either side of my arms as his fingers run tiny circles around my breasts.

We shift to lie side by side, still watching one another. Chakotay strokes his hand over my side from by breast to my hip and then back up.

I squeeze a large shoulder. "Your body's…different from before. It must be all of the manual labor at the colony?"

He flashes me a seductive smile.

"So you've noticed…" Playfully flexing his arm, he tenses the muscles in an uncharacteristically vain way, then chuckles at himself. "It's been hard work, but I only do what I enjoy. I've been putting in a vegetable garden, truth be told. It'll ensure that I have some fresh food if our trade partnerships break down." He strokes my breast, watching the flesh jiggle against his fingers. "Breaking new ground and settling a place is exciting, Kathryn. We've done it before, although our colony only consisted of two people. What we're doing reminds me a lot of New Earth…"

"Living off the land, huh? Sounds like you're a farmer."

"In a sense, yes. But there's so much more to it than that. We're establishing a government, dividing labor and skills, building an infrastructure…fascinating stuff, really… You'll like it on Nalia."

He lowers his head to suckle at my breasts, his lips and tongue working at the sensitive skin. I know he must mean for me to visit him some day, but I can't imagine how I'd do it. Starfleet would never stand for it. We'd never be able to pull it off.

Fire trails from his tongue as I find out just how talented the man really is…

~ ^ ~

"Let me. Stay here and I'll bring you a washcloth…"

My body hums, remembering the rhythm of his mouth on me, and then his body moving over mine. Over the sound of water running in the bathroom, I hear the faint hiss of a hypo. I wonder if he's taking a stimulant. He confessed to me that he's had very little sleep over the past few days and neither of us wants to miss out on a moment of our time together.

Even in the dim light, I can see the beauty of his body as he crosses the floor toward the bed. I've seen him completely nude at only one other time since I've known him.

Nearly six years ago, on New Earth, I watched him bathe in the river. He never knew I followed him, hiding in a thicket of bushes as he stripped and soaped himself, rinsing in the frigid stream. I'd felt like such a child making my way back to the shelter and decided then that I'd confront him with my feelings. But Voyager had contacted us that afternoon before I got a chance to say anything. At the time, I'd been relieved at the timing, but as our years together wore on and wore thinner, I'd cursed my rotten luck and wished I'd had the chance to let him know…

And he's more beautiful now than he was then… Or is it the knowledge of his body and its pleasures that makes him so much more attractive? Either way, I could spend my life watching him, knowing what he looks like under the clothing, reveling in it when we're alone. My breath catches at the thought of leaving him in a few hours. He pulls the cloth away from me, thinking he's hurt me. How could this not hurt? Knowing him and then leaving him… But I wouldn't trade this time for all the years of my life I have yet to live.

The stimulant gives us a few more hours together and we spend them alternately wrapped in each other, resting, or wrestling for control in our lovemaking. He's playful and serious, tender and feral, generous and delightfully selfish in bed. We wear ourselves out again and again, refusing to let the sweet call of unconsciousness steal our time. Finally, in the late morning hours, Chakotay loses the battle and succumbs, drifting peacefully into a deep sleep. He holds me tightly in his oblivion, unwilling to let me pull away from him, even as he dreams. But eventually, his limbs relax and I slip away.

I pack silently, dressing in the same clothes that are scattered about the bathroom floor. I want to keep his smell with me for as long as possible. From the tiny closet, I retrieve my case that holds a change of clothes and my uniform. I drop my shredded hosiery into it and zip the entire thing shut before I stand over his sleeping form, etching the sight into my brain. He's turned onto his stomach, his head to the side, clutching the pillow as if it's alive. As if I were still lying beside him. His shoulders and back are a deep golden brown from the sun of his world, and its rays have kissed his muscular legs. I can imagine him, bare-chested, stooping over tender seedlings, pulling strange weeds from the soil of his new planet.

It's wrong to leave him without saying goodbye, and I know it. But I can't bring myself to stay long enough to voice the words. Without them, I can pretend that I'll travel to see him someday, but I know I'm only lying to myself. I'd never be able to leave him if I see him surrounded by his belongings, happy and satisfied in his natural habitat. And I can't take the risk that they'd take him from me permanently.

Wanting to touch him one last time, I hesitate, my palm over his leg, knowing that I'll wake him. We've been so in tune for the past several hours that he'll feel me and then I'll have to peel myself from him with more pain than I can fathom. So my hand hovers over his calf, warming with the heat from him, and withdraws. Brushing the tears from my cheeks, I turn and slip through the doors, knowing I'm leaving every good and decent part of me wrapped in the sheets with Chakotay…

~ ^ ~

The dingy space station mocks me with its gloominess and I know that the ship I'll return to isn't any better. As I make my way to the shuttle platform, my chest aches. This is it. I'll never see him again. Chakotay's a proud man and after I leave him while he's sleeping, without a word, he won't come for me. As wonderful as the past few hours have been, I've hurt him, I know. But it makes the break easier in the long run, doesn't it? How could we stand it, meeting a couple of times a year? He deserves to have someone who can share his life with him. Someone who can be there for him, raise his children, love him at night. Maybe someday he'll see this cruelty for the act of kindness I intend.

The shuttle dock is at the other end of the station and to get there I have to travel the same promenade that I walked with Chakotay only hours before. I try to avoid looking at the spots where we stopped, but I can't seem to turn away from them.

As I pass the bar where we found each other, I'm struck by how inconsequential it looks. How could we both have stumbled into such a place at the same time? I mean, we have an entire quadrant of star systems to wander in with perhaps millions, no, billions of possible places to be at any given time. What are the odds that he would end up in the same exact location at the same precise time?

I stop in my tracks and I realize what's been bothering me about this whole thing… It's too unlikely. I don't believe in coincidence or serendipity. And I know Starfleet practically made me disappear from their books. Chakotay doesn't have the connections or the capabilities to dig that deep into 'Fleet records. Hell, my mother can't even get in touch with me!

So, how? How in the hell did such a thing happen? I've been too caught up in the excitement of seeing him to question how he made it happen. And if he had been able to track me down through Starfleet channels, he wouldn't have missed a chance to share his means.

So, how the hell did he find me?

Something feels different. Hell, I feel different with this knowledge. And I need to know. How? Of all the places for two people to be, how did we happen to stumble upon each other?

I should go back to ask him. But I can't. I won't be able to leave him then, and that will put us both in jeopardy. This is one mystery I'll have to live with. I'll never know how he pulled it off.

I shake myself and walk on to the shuttle dock.

As I climb the landing, I'm surprised to see that my shuttle's not already waiting for me. My prig of a first officer is a stickler for punctuality and I'm 15 minutes late as it is.

I approach the dock manager and interrupt a game he's playing on a PADD. "Excuse me, but I'm expecting the Lexington to meet me here at 1600 hours. Have you received any messages from them?"

He puts down the game and pulls up his console, tapping a few commands. "The Lexington? Is that Starfleet shuttle?"

"Yes. It's due to transport me back to the U.S.S. Illiad."

He scrolls through the dock logs with a furrowed brow. "I don't show any record of a Lexington or an Iliad in this sector, Ma'am. Are you sure it's Starfleet?"

"Quite." I feel the flesh on my arms prickle into bumps. Something is different.

"Here. Let me find my comm badge and see if I can hail my ship." I place my duffle bag on his desk and rummage around in the side pocket for my badge. It's not there. I can't imagine not packing it.

The bumps on my arms creep into my scalp as I open the main compartment to find my uniform. I might have left it attached to the jacket. I've done it before.

But I can't find my uniform. I can't find my uniform?

I dump the contents of my bag on his desk in my haste and I barely notice him eyeing the shredded hose and panties from last night. No uniform. No slacks, no turtleneck, no tank, no jacket, no pips. Nothing but civvies.

What the hell?

He's amused by the scene, I can tell, and watches me with a small grin. Looking into his face, I see how ridiculous this must be to him. 'She's lost her comm badge. No uniform. Probably not even Starfleet.'

"I know it was here. I must have left it in my room." I know this isn't true. I never removed it from my bag and I'd seen it tucked into the pocket just last night. And in a 'Fleet room, security shouldn't be a problem. Chakotay wouldn't take my things and he'd have had nowhere to put them even if he had.

Blood reddens my face as I gather my dignity around me while I gather my torn underwear and silk nightgown from his desk, stuffing them back into my bag.

I look from the empty platform to the man and then back at my bag. I feel like the wind is knocked out of me and I finally shake myself from my stupor long enough to descend the platform and sit on a wide bench in front of a floor-to-ceiling viewport.

What the hell do I do now? I decide to give it one last go, emptying my bag, feeling along the inner seams of all the pockets and sorting through each article of clothing, looking for any sort of clue to my life. Nothing.

"You won't find what you're looking for, Kathryn."

It's Chakotay. Behind me. I turn to look at him, tears forming in my eyes. "What? How? I know I packed them…" I look back down at my things, but I can't see them through the puddles in my lower lids. Chakotay helps me scoop up my lingerie and civvies once again, dropping them back into the bag and zipping it up.

"They're not coming for you."

"I don't… understand this." I keep my eyes lowered on my bag, afraid to see his.

He settles onto the bench, sitting next to me, and takes my hands. I find it difficult to meet his gaze, so I turn toward the viewport, studying the spacecraft from other ships arcing against the backdrop of stars before I bring myself to look at his face.

His soft smile is not what I expect. I expect him to be angry, humiliated that I'd leave him like that, but gentle amusement and wonder shine on his face. I'm ashamed of myself for leaving him without saying goodbye, and he's here, smiling at me. And is happy. What could he know that I don't?

"They won't come for you Kathryn, because things have changed. Our being together has changed the future, and therefore, changed history."

I feel the confusion across my face. "I don't know what you're talking about, Chakotay…"

"Starfleet. They're no longer a threat to us. What's gone on between us, here, last night, this morning, has affected the present."

I can only imagine the disbelief he must see in my eyes because he smiles again, pulling my hands to his lap, rubbing the backs with his thumbs. "I know…temporal mechanics give you a headache. But I think I can explain, if you give me a chance."

I nod toward the dock. "It's not like I have anything else to do right now. You might as well give it a shot…" I feel the tears sliding down my cheeks as my eyes squint in a smile to match his. A dark hand brushes my face, and with a fingertip, Chakotay touches my tear and moves his hand to his mouth, tasting it with his tongue.

"When they told me to disappear, I had a lot of time to think about where we'd gone wrong, Kathryn. It seemed completely unfair and without…logic…that Starfleet would be so frightened by our return. I mean, it's not as if we planned to get here sooner. Thanks to Admiral Janeway, we didn't have much choice in the matter."

"That's true. We didn't commit a crime, but we've been treated as criminals."

"Yes. And without cause. It flies in the face of reason that they'd think we could do so much damage by her time travel. I mean, since time travel is possible, isn't it already a part of the past?"

The statement floats into my head through my ears, swirling around in my consciousness. A lifetime of temporal information flashes through my head. The Relativity, Henry Starling, the strange message from the future Harry Kim after the slipstream disaster, hours upon hours of lectures, essays and experience with my nemesis, temporal mechanics… I can't imagine he's right, but it makes sense in a tiny way.

Chakotay chuckles and squeezes my hands. "I can see the headache forming behind those beautiful eyes of yours Kathryn. You're trying to figure it all out, like you always do. But this time you're just going to have to trust me about this. In time, you'll see I'm right."

"But what did this do to my ship? Where's my uniform? Why can't I even find my goddamned comm badge?"

Settling closer to me, he pulls me to his side, curving my body into his as we sit, looking out the viewport.

"Think about it Kathryn… The present affects the future, right?"

He looks down at me, his eyebrows raised to see if I'm following him. "Of course. We all know that."

"Then why couldn't the future affect the past? Maybe we're mistaken about time. What if it's not as linear as we think?"

He must be able to see that he's losing me so he tries another tactic.

"Let's imagine for an instance, a circular model for time. Not only does the past affect the present and the present affect the future, but the future can also affect the past. When something changes, like the Admiral traveling to us, the past is changed. We wouldn't be here if not... But who's to say that only time-travelers can make changes? There must be other ways to allow the future to change our present. And I think that's what's happened to us here." He pauses and looks deeply into my eyes. "I was never meant to be here at this time, but I am, and somehow, our being together in the future has changed our present."

"But how? How did you know where to find me? I mean, they've practically buried me so deep I can't find myself in the mirror. And here you come waltzing into that bar like you knew exactly where I was…How'd you do it, Chakotay?"

His smile is deep and his eyes twinkle. "Ah… Kathryn Janeway wants to know the science behind the magic. It's not enough that I'm here…You want to know how I got here. And I can't convince you it was just a coincidence, I suppose."

"You know me… I don't believe in that kind of a coincidence. How did you find me?"

Looking over his shoulder at the stars, he stands up and walks over to the transparent aluminum and gazes out at the view. He gestures grandly, both arms stretched wide. "It's right here, Kathryn. I just had to follow the celestial pattern."

For the first time, I notice the breathtaking view over his shoulder. The gas giant that supports this station in energy throbs and glows in the center of the scene. A semicircle of natural satellites arc below in graduated phases, from full at one end to fingernail at the other, giving the curve a slightly lopsided appearance. Above the planet, two larger moons shine, reflecting the system's star light. One is full while the other glows in phase, obviously caused by a partial lunar eclipse. The view altogether takes on the strange look of a smiling face, winking at us, the reddish planet, a giant nose.

I get up and stand next to him, enjoying the phenomenon. Without taking his eyes from the planet, he pulls me to his side, his arm around my waist.

Chakotay sighs deeply. "It took me four months of searching the star charts to find this exact pattern. I nearly gave up a couple of times thinking I was misreading my visions, but here it is. And when I did find the location, I had only two months until the moons lined up just as in the vision. This exact phenomenon won't occur again for 57 years, so I knew I had to get here for this one. I knew if I found it, I'd find you." He finally looks at me, his eyes bright. "And here you are…the pot at the end of the rainbow…"

"You saw this in your visions? But how?"

"I've got a clue, but I'm not sure how you'll take it." He moves over the bench again and sits with me. "I was visited in my visions by someone's animal guide."

"Maybe it was mine…Was it a-" Chakotay cuts me off with a finger over my lips. "You don't want to insult your guide, Kathryn. Remember I told you never to tell." He smiles and moves his finger from my mouth when he sees I won't share it with him. "Besides, I know it wasn't yours, Kathryn. I'd know your animal guide if I saw it… No…this one…she was quiet and thoughtful with great big eyes that kept looking at the sky."

"You think it was the animal guide of a female?"

"No, the guide herself was female. My guide is female, too."

"Oh." So much for the masculine grizzly bear I'd always imagined belonging to him.

"The first couple of times she visited me in the spirit world, I missed her meaning. I kept looking at her, trying to figure out who she was, why she was there. But then I noticed the sky. This is what she was looking at." He nodded to the viewport.

"Who do you think she is?"

"I don't know. But I have a guess."

"And?"

"I think she belongs to our child."

"What? But…we don't have a child…"

"Our future child. I don't know why, but I feel like I know her. No…I feel like she knows me."

We turn again to look at the celestial vision that's led us to the same place.

"But how do you suppose…she…knew this pattern. How could someone who doesn't even exist lead you here?"

"Who knows? That's the beauty of it… For all I know, one of us told her about this so she could, in turn, tell us." Chakotay grins as I shake my head with his line of reasoning. "Circular, Kathryn… Think in circles."

~ ^ ~

"This one's going to be a girl." His hands move in circles over the taut skin of my belly, rubbing the sweat around my flattened navel. This is the only way he lets me love him now, this close to my delivery. He's afraid we'll hurt the baby unless I sit astride him. But I like it this way, seeing his face change with the pleasure I'm giving him. I'm always insatiable this far into my pregnancy. Even though Kolotay's nearly two, I know our intimate time like this will be limited as soon as the baby's born.

"How do you know, Chakotay? It might be another little boy… You've given me a beautiful one already… Let's name this one Edward."

"No, this one's a girl, I can feel it." His hands mold at the shape of my belly, grinning as the baby kicks. "And she'll be brilliant like her mother, with your fire. I can't wait to get to know her."

"Oh, I can." I laugh to myself. "Remember the sleepless nights? The dirty diapers?"

"Remember the tiny sighs, the first smile, saying 'Mama?'"

"Hey! Whose side are you on, anyway?" I poke at his chest, giggling as he carefully flips me off of him onto the bed.

"I'm on your side, Kathryn." Then he's serious. "Let's name her Kalia. Part of you, and part of our new world."

"Kalia? Kalia… I like it… It sounds exotic, but not over the top."

Chakotay's pleased. "Kalia it is…" He moves to the great mound that used to be my waist and whispers the name against my skin. Tears form in my eyes as I realize how happy I am. My days are full, with little time for reflection, but at moments like this, I'm struck by the delight of my life. And I to think, I tried to walk away from it all…

~ ^ ~

The attendant gives me permission to beam over to the space station in spite of my sketchy shopping explanation. I can't tell him that I'm on a mission of remembrance.

Everything's as it's been described to me throughout my life. My father was quite the storyteller, and the observational details that he left out, my mother was always quick to supply. I find the large viewport with the bench, but I'm horrified to see a freighter ship parked between me and my intended sight. I hope they're only taking on cargo for a short time and I decide to wait. I've spent the bulk of my life waiting to see this in person. What's a few more minutes, or even hours?

Don't get me wrong… I know exactly what scene sits on the other side of the hulking ship. The swirling red planet with its arc of moons below and the winking eyes above was painted on my wall long before I could remember. Daddy had recreated it with iridescent paint so it would glow long after my lamp had been extinguished. Every evening it was the last thing I'd see as I lost consciousness. Kolotay used to make up stories about the people who lived on the moons. They were fanciful descriptions of beautiful creatures, but they never failed to fascinate me.

Kolotay's a wonderful big brother. He wanted to come with me, but since he's in charge of trade now for Nalia, he had to let me make the pilgrimage alone. My children are grown with their own little ones. And my sweet husband has the good sense to see when I need space for my own thoughts. He's still aboard the Nobel, with our tiny science team.

Closing my eyes, I finger the akoonah hidden in the pocket of my coat. I feel as if it's necessary to connect with them while I'm here. More and more I'm able to see him in my visions now. Daddy always said that he spent more time talking with the spirits of his father and grandfather than he did with them in person when they were alive. He said it took their deaths for him to see their wisdom.

I'm grateful that I'm not so contrary or my little science lab in orbit around the station wouldn't exist. My parents are to thank for much of the research that led to the publication of Kalian Temporal Physics. The ensuing prize gave me the seed money to purchase my ship.

A large brown doe appears from the heavy wooded landscape and beckons to me with her eyes. My spirit guide is quick to find me tonight. She looks to the heavens and I see the familiar collection of glowing orbs, winking at me and the arc of moons smiling my mother's lopsided grin.

Pressure on my shoulder pulls me from the vision quest. "Excuse me ma'am. Are you all right?"

"Yes… I'm just waiting for…a friend."

I look to the viewport to see that the ship has moved and my breath catches at the sight. I've been waiting my entire life to see this. This is the view of a lifetime… The view that caused my lifetime…

I re-etch the sight into my mind's eye where it's existed since before my birth. I can almost see my mother and father standing here, holding hands, and watching the sky together. They were both younger than I am now, but not by many years.

The faint echo of my own image reflects in the transparent aluminum and I can see the moons super-imposed over my face, lighting up my eyes as they must have done with my mother's.

My connection to them deepens, as if the two ends of an arc have curved to join, making the circle complete. The two of them touch…turning toward a life as lovers after so many years as friends.

End.

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