That Was a River

Delta Story
cmwende@compuserve.com

THAT WAS A RIVER PG-13

Summary: Prequel/sequel to “Dinner with Seven” — all the missing Janeway/Chakotay parts!

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“The love we’ve had before can never change this one;
We’re not imprisoned by the past we’ve brought along.
It’s just you and me, one ship in the night;
There are no boundaries, there is no end in sight.

That was a river; this is the ocean
That never carried this much emotion.
Nothing compares to this deep devotion
That was a river; this is the ocean.”
—- THAT WAS A RIVER,
by Susan Longacre and Rick Giles

***********************************************************
The doors of the turbolift opened, and Captain Janeway entered the mess hall. A quick scan of
the area and its inhabitants revealed that Seven of Nine was progressing with her social skills, as
the older woman saw the younger one seated with Harry, Tom and B’Elanna. Her smile beamed
its thanks to the three younger officers who obviously had offered their hospitality to the aspiring
human. The captain went over to the serving line and quickly strolled over to speak with them.

“Seven, I see that you are in good company this evening.” Her eyes fell to the almost-empty
plate in front of their newest crew member. “And I see that you have braved Voyager’s cuisine.”
Seven looked at her, again not understanding the in-joke about the ship’s food. “I did not know
that one had to be brave to eat,” she said. The mutual laugh came from all around her.
“No… I’m sorry, I don’t mean to confuse you. It’s just that… sometimes the food is not what we
expect.”

“I found it… acceptable,” she said.

The Captain’s face corrected itself, but there was still a glint of humor in her eyes. “Yes, Mr.
Neelix’s food is… acceptable. Do you mind if I join you?” Nods from all invited her to the
group. Harry hurriedly got up and moved another small table to adjoin their already quite
crowded one, adding a couple of chairs as he was at it. He held out one of the chairs for his
captain, and Janeway took her place.

An uneasy air hung over the group. B’Elanna and Seven were practically “sizing up” each other;
Harry was fidgeting
nervously, and Tom’s smile appeared a bit more cheerful than it should be. She began to have
second thoughts about inviting herself to join them, and was just about to excuse herself. She
was mentally fumbling with an apology, when once again the turbolift doors opened for another
arrival to the mess hall — Commander Chakotay appeared as the doors slid open. His dark eyes
focused on the group, and he strode over to the table.
“Captain, could I have a word with you?” he said in a neutral tone.

“Certainly, Commander.” She tried to hide her sigh of relief for the welcome justification to exit
herself, although his demeanor was not a welcoming one. She got up, picking up her tray as she
rose. “Please excuse us; it seems that duty calls…”

They moved to another table, away from any of the other crew in the mess hall, but still
within view of the younger officers and Seven whose eyes seemed glued to their actions. Her
bionic left eye in particular allowed her to notice small gestures in their actions that might have
slipped past the range of normal vision.

Her study of the couple was intense. She followed them from the moment they left her table.
The captain walked a pace ahead of her first officer, not once looking back at him. He was
silent, with his head slightly lowered. When they reached their somewhat secluded table, she sat
down first. He sat at a right angle to her left, with his back to the rest of the room. He obviously
was talking to her; she started to eat, only to put her fork down and look at him, her hands and
forearms to either side of her tray. She looked at him, and started to answer. Suddenly, she
stopped talking, and lowered her eyes. She took a deep breath, then resumed her vocalization.
Again, she became silent but looked at him intently. It was obvious that he was now speaking;
his shoulders moved indicating some animation of his unseen hands and arms.

Seven’s eyes seemed intent on focusing on Janeway’s ocular movements. She astutely noticed a
slight change in the captain’s eyes, as if they became covered with a film of moisture. The senior
officer quickly straightened her shoulders, took another deep breath, forcefully blinked and sat
more upright. It appeared that both of the officers were silent at this time. She then saw
Chakotay’s right hand extend itself and cover the captain’s left hand, resting on the table. She
looked up, apparently into his eyes. Once again, he seemed to be speaking. She nodded. He
rose, walked behind her chair and pulled it out for her. She turned to him, and for a brief
second, she placed her hand on his chest. She then turned, and they quietly, swiftly walked
towards the turbolift, again with her just a pace or so in front. Both officers bore expressionless
faces; a visitor to the area would have noticed nothing unusual about their reactions. But to the
novice human that Seven was, the motions spoke volumes.

The silent scene had culminated. Seven looked at her companions and stated matter-of-factly,
“Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay… have strong feelings for each other.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Janeway and Chakotay had not consciously attempted to conceal their personal relationship from
the crew. They had been
circumspect in their off-duty public appearances, sometimes arriving together at functions,
sometimes separately, although they almost always left together. On duty, their professional
conduct demonstrated nothing different from the way it had been for three years. His public
actions on the bridge were always by the book — those expected of a first officer: supportive,
consultive and complying. Only the occasionally stolen glances at one another or reassuring
touches that lingered just a little too long gave any indication of another side of their lives — one
in which their heated devotion to duty was being replaced by a smoldering intensity that had
been ignited by the ever
increasing sparks of desire kindled on that fateful day over three years ago.

However, it had been evident to many of the crew that something had happened following the
Borg/8472 incident. The two were still models of Starfleet command in their posts. The senior
personnel may have noticed a little less interaction between their captain and number one in
staff meetings; but, since none was supposed to be cognizant of the personal relationship, no one
wanted to broach the subject. Even Tuvok, Janeway’s oldest and closest friend, had not been
invited into her inner sanctum of darkest concerns.

The schism seemed to be rift further by Kes’ sudden departure. No one on the ship had felt
closure with her abrupt, dramatic transition; but the Captain, even though she had been with the
young woman almost until the end, seemed to be the most lost without the young Ocampan. Kes
had been her sounding board… her confident… her daughter. If anyone had known anything
about hers and Chakotay’s relationship — its joys and its sorrows — it had been Kes. And now…
whatever Janeway’s problems, she had no one to whom she could turn.

Chakotay had also remained silent. There were some aboard who felt that he was showing a
little too much interest in the rehabilitation of Seven. Some rumors were even circulating stating
that it was the “de-Borging” of the tall blonde beauty that had prompted the commander to focus
his attention away from the captain… that he was more than willing to spend extra time with her,
to acclimate her to the Starfleet vessel, its crews and functions. But, if that had been the case,
wouldn’t Captain Janeway had shown just a little animosity towards their newest member?
Instead, the Captain herself seemed more than willing to allow Seven some of the attention she
used to emit towards Kes. No, those closest to both Janeway and Chakotay knew that the
problem had to lie deeper.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In the thirty-six hours preceding the life-changing confrontation with the Borg, they each had
finally committed themselves to the buried emotions that had been waiting to erupt for months.
He had pledged himself to be with her always; she had confessed that her life would be nothing
without him. Their concern about each other with the approaching conflict added an urgency to
their new-found desire. After the harrowing initial experience of Chakotay, Tuvok and Harry
aboard the conquered Borg cube and the horrendous discovery of the omnipotence and terror of
Species 8472, she once more was faced with the possibility that one of them could be taken
away, in the fraction of one silent breath… and neither would have known… what joy there could
be.

The hours too quickly passed, with still no plan formulated as to how they were to face the
unknown joint enemies. Chakotay had reminded her that she had not slept, and that sleep was
necessary for any successful offensive maneuver; he was there, performing a primary duty of a
loyal first officer. He escorted her to her quarters, only to make certain that she did go there.

They arrived at the entrance to her rooms. What happened next replayed a scene that has been
enacted billions of times in the history of the universe. A slight supportive touch… a
comforting hug… cheeks touching… eyelash brushing eyelash… fingers cradling faces… lips
seeking each other… hands exploring undiscovered territories.

Neither had meant it to happen; it just did. They could not stop grasping for each other, sharing
body warmth and comfort and consolation… hoping to experience in hours what most people
would share in a lifetime. Flesh became one; souls viewed eternity. In a matter of moments,
their lives had been
transfigured… formal protocol and forbidden pleasures
interchanged, for tomorrow might bring oblivion. They were sacraments to each other, awaiting
the possible Armageddon of the approaching apocalypse. Each sigh was a prayer; every kiss a
sip of sacramental wine. Their bodies reached the crescendo of their ultimate offerings to one
another, vowing endless faith and trust to each other. Only then did they welcome sleep, as a
benediction to their union.

Janeway awoke. She heard the gentle snore from beside her, and propped herself up on one
elbow. Looking down on the peaceful figure next to her, she knew that there was no way she
could allow a victory by the Borg or 8472. She had been determined before, but now… now, life
was all the more precious, and all the more worth saving; his love had given her the ultimate
courage. There had to be a way to outmaneuver these adversaries, and she vowed that she would
find that path: for the ship… for them… for him. She quietly slipped out of the bed, dressed, and
went to the one place where she knew she could think best… in the presence of a genius.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The ancient laws of physics state that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
Just as quickly as they had found consolation and trust, Janeway and Chakotay were pulled by
opposite poles. Each was bound to his or her opposing strategy; and the more they tried to
absolve the charged atmosphere, the more their actions repealed each other. So, rather than
continually malign each other whenever they were alone together, they tacitly but mutually
avoided situations which might resolve into only the two of them being present. At first, the
ionized air was conspicuous; but as time when on, the static became silence. In space, can
anyone hear you cry?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Chakotay had been updating the personnel rosters. As he was scanning the lists, he noticed that
Kes remained in the records. Following her departure from Voyager, her name should have been
removed from the list of active crew members. Janeway was the only one authorized to execute
this duty, yet she had not
performed the finalizing act. He knew that Kes’ transformation had left Kathryn desolate,
although she had held her emotions in check. He activated the young woman’s files. There was
an attachment to them, made by Kes herself. In accessing this entry, he found that it was
addressed to Janeway and himself. He called up the addendum. It was a farewell message to the
two of them!

Kes’ loving face appeared on the screen, her soothing tones bidding them goodbye. The
communication had been posted a few months earlier, when the young woman was becoming
aware of the rapid changes in her life. It was obvious that she had a
foreshadowing of her upcoming transformation. However, her words spoke of hope and
encouragement for her Voyager family; in particular, for him and the captain. Even in
anticipating her leaving, her caring nature seemed more concerned about their growing
relationship.

He reviewed the entry three times. Each time, he felt his spirit become heavier and heavier. Kes
— lovely, warm, understanding Kes! She knew… understood… what each of them was harboring
within their troubled hearts. She alone had fathomed the depths of their warring spirits. He
knew that he should not have opened the message without Kathryn’s being there; would she
consent to join him now? Perhaps this was the catalyst that was needed to open the closed but
festering wound of their relationship.
“Computer, locate Captain Janeway.”

“Captain Janeway is in the mess hall,” came the droning response.
He left his ready room and entered the turbolift.

“Deck 2,” he instructed the computer.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

They entered the turbo lift, exiting the eating area. Janeway’s hands were moist with the cold
sweat of apprehension. He had told her nothing about the content of Kes’ message, although it
was obvious that he had viewed it. Loss was nothing new in her life; but the loss of the person
who had been the closest she would ever have as a daughter… nothing is worse than losing a
child! Part of her soul left her when Kes left… and the abyss that remained was filled with
nothing but heavy sorrow. No consolation could take that away.

They stood silently beside each other for the quick trip to the bridge. She had suggested the
somewhat neutral area of her ready room in which to share the communication; absolutely
nothing more intimate! As it was, she was concerned that she would not be able to disguise her
anguish, not knowing that he could already sense the desolating pain that ran through her. They
quickly paced the distance from the lift to her office, being followed by the curious, concerned
eyes of the beta shift’s crew on the bridge.

Stalling for time, as they entered the room, she asked him if he would like some coffee. The
words seemed to be the first civil statement she had made to him in many weeks. “Yes, please,”
he answered quietly, moving a chair beside hers at the desk. She poured each of them a cup,
from her ever-present silver coffee pot, and brought them over to her desk. She sighed as she sat
down, and called up Kes’ personnel file, and scrolled down to its last entry. A brusque command
to the computer… “Open ‘Kes – Omega'”. And the smiling, elfin face appeared.

“Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay, I hope that both of you are together to view this.”
Janeway cast a quick look at her first officer; he had once again disobeyed a request by
reviewing its contents without her being present.

“My time on Voyager seems to have been one step in the sequence of my life. It has allowed me
to experience so many
opportunities and share with so many people. No matter where my growth takes me, I want you
to know that I could not have had better teachers… or parents. That is what you have been to
me: far more then mentors or friends. You have given me the guidance and the freedom to
explore and grow; allowing me to make mistakes and choices; picking me up when I have fallen
and urging me onward when I was uncertain… but always being there for me, whatever the
consequences.

“I am presuming that I have moved on to still another level in my existence if you are looking at
this message. I want you to know that I leave you with all my love and thanks for your patience
and concern. In doing so, I want to share with you some of my feelings and observations about
you yourselves, things of which you are either unaware or do not want to acknowledge. Just as
you always encouraged me to explore the unknown, so would I put this in front of you.”

Janeway shifted uncomfortably, recrossing her legs and gripping the arms of the chair; Chakotay
nervously cleared his throat.
“Each of you cares strongly for each and every member of the ship. You each continually go out
of your way to be fair to all, but many times, at the cost of your own individuality by denying
yourselves the very qualities you espouse for them. In doing so, you can harm others. You must
learn to be good to yourselves, too. Only when you are truly happy can others around you be
content.

“Your trip will be a long one. In looking at Starfleet history, already your trip is longer than any
other one recorded in warp annals. Voyager is unique; it is no longer just a Starfleet vessel, but
a home. As such, you should provide a homelike atmosphere… be firm when necessary; be
supportive; be loving. Allow yourselves and the rest of the crew to create a home-like structure.
Good command experience tells you to look at the long range picture. Where will you be in 10
years… 20… 30? Who will be there… how will you be functioning?

“Look to yourselves. You must continue to be the examples to the entire crew. They look to you
for guidance.” For the first time in the message, Kes appeared ill at ease. “Trust in yourselves.
You will not always agree, but allow yourselves to grow and learn from your disagreements.
Share your trust, but allow for
differences. You are going to be together for a long time… is it easier to shoulder burdens alone
or with help? Just as you rely on each other for command support, you need each other for
personal support. Talk to each other; don’t talk with each other; but, let each other understand at
all times.

“I have grown in so many ways over the last three years, and so have you… including your love
for each other. Yes, I said ‘love’. You may not have recognized this, but I have seen and felt its
continual growth. Each of you has hidden this feeling, presuming that it would jeopardize the
mission and the crew. But I think that it would be beneficial for Voyager to be allowed to share
the joy that I have felt from both of you. Be that
example… share that love and joy openly.

“I will not be the last person to leave Voyager… and future departures will occur in different
ways. Preserve the good that you have; pass it along to others. I trust that you both will find
ways in which to do this, and to encourage it in others. I love both of you very much, and want
you to know that wherever I am when you are viewing this message that I will be there with you;
*you* be there for each other.”

The screen went blank. The room echoed with silence. Neither Janeway or Chakotay appeared
even to be breathing. A movement in the air… his hand went over to hers, and quietly covered it,
much as he had done earlier. She remained ramrod straight, her hand just laying there.
Seconds… or was it minutes?… passed; neither wanted to speak first. Their faces turned at the
same time; their voices blended as they broke the silence together.
“Chakotay”… “Kathryn”… The simultaneous words prompted nervous laughs from each of
them… the first time that they had laughed together in weeks. Again, as if sensing the need for
synchronous movement, they rose from their chairs. No
premeditation was necessary — his arms were outstretched and she walked into their comforting
embrace. As his hands went up to her face, he realized that her cheeks were marked with wet
tear tracks. He gently wiped them away as her face turned upwards. Her eyes were still filled
with droplets; he leaned down to kiss her. Her lips were warm and wet and salty from the tears.
They slowly drew apart from the intense embrace; they could feel each other’s heart beating as if
giving a new rhythm to their lives. She led him over to the sofa. “We need to talk,” she said
quietly.

He followed, but did not allow himself to relax; he sat on the edge of the sofa, at an angle to her
more firmly seated position.
“Kathryn, we don’t have to make any decisions right now. I don’t want you to feel that you have
to commit to anything right away. We’ve been here for long time, and we’ll be here a lot longer.”
“Chakotay, are you playing hard to get? After all this time of cat and mouse, now that the mouse
has stopped, is the cat going to ignore its prey?” Her eyes were still brilliant, but now from a
growing tease.

“No,” he said, chuckling at her analogy and tapping the tip of her nose. “But, I *am* tired of the
teasing… the ‘will she or won’t she?’ games. Kathryn, no more games. If you really mean it, let’s
move forward; if not, let’s hold off until we know that the commitment is… forever. I won’t deny
that it will be difficult. We *will* have disagreements… arguments… but we must always be
willing to back off and try to understand each other. We cannot throw up a curtain of silence
every time we contest each other. Kes was right when she said that we are an example to the rest
of the crew; what sort of a statement are we making to them by our current actions?”

She sighed, leaned her head back over the top of the sofa and closed her eyes. “You’re right, of
course. A lifelong… or at least journey long… pledge deserves serious thought and
discussion. This is a promise not just to ourselves but also to one hundred and forty other
people. Does this put us right back where we started?” She looked at him.

“No,” he stated simply, his eyes, filled with a mixture of sorrow and hope, staring into the depths
of hers. “Because right now I am going to say… Kathryn Janeway, I love you. I have for almost
our entire time together, and I will for whatever time we are given, now and forever.”

She sat upright, speechless for one of the rare times in her life. He continued, “There. You can’t
say that we’re back to the beginning now.”

Again, she fell into his waiting arms. He held his breath, both fearful and anticipating her
response. But… finally, he had now said it. Months… years… of waiting, suppressing his
feelings. Was he just another duty for her? Or, were Kes’ sensings correct? Surely she couldn’t
remain silent.

“Chakotay”… her voice was low, sweet and resonant…and
agonized. “My sweet, brooding, tormented Chakotay…have I really tortured you that much? Do
you consider me so horrible? I have not meant to cause you such pain. Can you forgive me?”
She was tenderly tracing the lines of his tattoo with her forefinger. From there, it went down to
his lips. He kissed her finger, then opened his mouth and drew it inside. She slowly pulled it
out, the wet tension causing a familiar tautness inside her body. She emitted a deep sigh as she
sat back. “I have known… since New Earth… that this day was just as inevitable as the
confrontation with the Borg.” (She winced at the mention of the incident that had precipitated
their disagreement.) “I knew that the minute…wherever, whenever… you said… those words…
that I would have to respond by saying… I love you, too.”
He now leaned into her. With his kiss, the barricades of the last few weeks came tumbling
down. Now, it was time to rebuild, with a firm foundation… stone by stone, step by step,
thought by thought. No more shifting sands or unknown feelings. Much had to be discussed and
shared; where to begin?

Once more, she was cradled in his arms, resting against his strong body. He stroked her hair,
taking courage from her scent. “Kathryn, this is a new age for Voyager. As Kes said, we are a
family. The protocol of Starfleet disappeared the minute that the Caretaker’s array did. We must
create our own community; our own culture. It has already started, I think you will agree. And
we *are* the leaders, whether we like it or not. Our actions, as well as our words, are influential
on everyone. While I don’t suggest that we make all our actions public, I think that we should
lead others into understanding what they should… and could… be allowed to do.”

Her thoughts were jumbled, tumbling around each other. She had an idea that she knew where
he was going with the conversation, but was afraid to continue with its thread. Her ready room
was not the best place to continue this discussion. Yet, for all that already had been said in the
past few minutes, she knew that more had to be spoken before they could finally conquer their
impasse.

She suddenly jumped up, pulling him upright also. “You
interrupted my dinner. Let’s go back to the dining hall and see if Neelix has anything decent for
us. Besides,” she winked back at him, “I want to show you off!”

“I take it that you won’t mind being treated… um… more personally in public?” he teased back.

She laughed that wonderful throaty laugh of hers… hearty, honest, all woman. “Chakotay, I know
that you will ‘always’ be a gentleman!” She turned and gave him a quick kiss just before opening
the door back to the bridge. They exited, walking side by side, smiling broadly at each other as
they strode quickly to the doors of the turbolift. As they walked into the transport chamber, the
bridge crew noticed that their first officer’s left arm firmly and completely encircled their
captain’s waist. A silent smile of acknowledgement spread across the room.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

They entered the eating area. There were a few stragglers still socializing over the remains of
the evening meal. Wafting through the air was the distinct odor of warm cookies. Mingling with
the inviting aroma was a high pitched squeal of glee, that of a child. It seemed that Neelix was
making something special for the ship’s youngest inhabitant.

Sure enough, they all of a sudden saw Sam Wildman and her
toddler, Kimberley, in the kitchen area with Voyager’s
bewhiskered chef. He had just taken some cookies from the oven, and was *trying* to convince
the excited little girl that she would have to wait until they were cool enough to eat. Sam bent
down to pick her up, hoping that she could distract Kimberley for just a few more minutes. As
she raised her precious load, Kimberley became “tall” enough to see the newcomers to the area.
Before Sam or Neelix had a chance to properly respond to their senior officers, Kimberley
squirmed out of her mother’s arms and ran over to Chakotay.

“Cho-key… Cho-key… I wan’ pway; les’pway!”

The tall man bent down and scooped up the young human/Katarian girl. Her childlike laughter
escalated as he spun her around, and finally perched her atop his shoulders. His smile broadened
as she gripped his hair for balance. Sam reached out to take her again, but both Chakotay and
Kimberley voiced their reluctance. “Commander, she has to learn that she can’t play with you
every time she sees you,” the mildly embarrassed mother said.

He looked at the ensign with nothing but pleasure in his eyes. “Sam, she’s the only one any of us
can spoil on Voyager. I enjoy every minute we can be together. Besides, I think you are doing an
admirable job of raising such a fine daughter. She brings all of us much delight.” He looked at
Janeway, hoping that she would concur with his statement.

The captain smiled back at Sam. “Ensign, Kimberley is a fine young lady. Even though it *does*
seem that she is making an awfully lot of male conquests at a very early age! I don’t know of any
other person on board that gets cookies especially made for her — or high flying rides from our
commander!”

Neelix came forward with a tray of his aromatic delicacies. “Cookies, anyone?” Kimberley, in
her youthful fickleness, was now swayed from Chakotay’s attention, as she asked to be let down
to be the first to get a cookie. Much to everyone’s surprise, she took a cookie and promptly
offered it to her friend, “Cho- key”. “Here… for you,” she said, proffering the cookie in her
chubby hand towards Chakotay.

Sam immediately leaned down and whispered to her daughter, “I think that we should offer the
cookie to Captain Janeway first.” Kimberley looked up at her and said, “Nex’ one.” And with
that, she then gave a cookie to Kathryn. Her good manners continued as she made sure that her
mother had one, too. Only then did she keep one for herself. While munching away on the
sweet, the toddler again walked over to Chakotay, and wrapped her free left hand and arm
around his right leg. She leaned against him, as if he were a comforting support. He placed his
hand on her head, and softly rubbed her head. Kathryn quietly took upon the scene taking place
in front of her. A large, oppressing lump formed in her throat… and in her heart.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Following a quick meal, Chakotay said that he had heard that Sandrine’s was “open” that night,
and suggested that they drop by, “for appearance’s sake.” He had noticed that Kathryn had
become more and more quiet as the evening progressed, and
interpreted it as an apprehension of making their “togetherness” known to the crew. A trip to
Sandrine’s should alleviate that concern of hers. She docily agreed.

They joined the raucous festivities in the saloon atmosphere. Chakotay even challenged her to a
game of pool. Whether he let her win, or whether her skills were *really* that good was a hot
topic among the “patrons” for the rest of the evening.
Outwardly, it was evident that whatever had happened between their two senior officers was
now behind them. There was a very open teasing, playful attitude between them. And the
glances once more were filled with the unspoken bond between them. However, Chakotay could
sense that there was still a nagging, unresolved doubt plaguing Kathryn. He wanted to get
whatever it was out in the open, before she once again walled it off and allowed it to become a
cancer in their relationship. She was not alone — when was she ever going to learn that lesson?

After a third round of humiliation at the pool table, Chakotay suggested that they join a group
from engineering, who had just ordered a round of syntheholic Sarian brandy. At the other side
of the room, they could hear Seven of Nine talking with poor Harry. It sounded like she was
asking him about… “what is dancing?” *Yes, poor Harry!* sulked half the males in the room. As
the others finished their drinks, Chakotay couldn’t help but wish that he dared drink some of the
real brandy… he felt that he still had a difficult hurdle to pass yet that evening.

The time passed, and the atmosphere took on a new tone. Groups broke into smaller ones or into
pairs. The background music had become more mellow and intimate; someone had lowered the
lighting level to a romantic overtone. Gradually, people started leaving, frequently as pairs.
*How long had this been going on?* thought Kathryn, watching some couples departing together
whom she had never “suspected”. Certainly, hers and Chakotay’s “example” in just one night
could not have produced so many… Her thoughts were interrupted.

“Kathryn, it’s getting late. And… I think there are some other… “things”… that we need… um,…
to talk about.”
*He knows…* she thought, with tight flutters of panic taking flight in her stomach. “Yes, I guess
you’re right,” she agreed. They got up and made a round of “good nights” and left the holodeck as
they had left the bridge, with his arm around her.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

They arrived at her quarters. Both of them were as uncomfortable as two teenagers following a
first date. Both knew that they would end up inside her suite; both knew that there was one
more barrier that had to be breached. Yet neither knew how to reach out and over the impasse.
After a few moments of small talk that neither of them could remember later, she said, “Come
in. We have to talk; alone…”

“Yes,” he said as he followed her inside. Once the doors closed, he walked over to her, and,
placing his hands tenderly on her shoulders, he asked, “What happened? Something happened…
when… what?”

She quietly reached up and removed his hands from her shoulders, only to take them lovingly
into hers and lead him over to the sofa. They sat, and she looked down and took a deep breath,
as if summoning the courage to speak.

“Chakotay… tonight… in the mess hall… you and little Kimberley…”

His eyes lit up; he interrupted her. “Isn’t she just about the cutest thing you’ve ever seen? For
some reason, she thinks that I’m her own personal playground. Sam has let me…”

Now it was Kathryn’s turn to interrupt. “You are wonderful with her… you are wonderful with
*all* children. I’ve seen you planetside several times with children… you attract them like a
magnet… like the old story of the Pied Piper. Then there was the young Kazon boy… and Karya,
even though she was only a hologram. And there was there was Seska… with your… your… and
how you thought that… and wanted to…” she stammered. Her voice was getting tight; her eyes
burned with hot tears she was trying to will herself not to shed. She found it almost
impossible to go on. “You would make a wonderful father,
Chakotay,” she said with a choking voice.

He wrapped his arms around her, pulling her tightly to his warm body. He took one hand and
tenderly wiped away the tears that had escaped, as he kissed her eyes. “And you would make
one terrific mother,” he responded.

In spite of herself, she let out an anguished sigh and pulled away from the comfort of his
embrace. “Chakotay, this is why we must talk.” She sat back, bracing herself by leaning back
onto the sofa. Her right arm extended across the back, grasping the upholstery for further
support.

“Chakotay, when I saw that my Starfleet career was taking me into a captain’s position, I knew
that certain decisions had to be made. I knew that there was a great deal of truth to the old
saying of ‘it’s lonely at the top’, and I accepted that.
With…” she lowered her voice, and barely whispered, “…with Mark and me, we knew that my
career would always come first. He knew that one of the most difficult things I ever had to
accept in my life was a father… a Starfleet captain… who was always away… during critical
times in my life. I loved my father, but it was so very hard not to have him… be there… for
acceptance and approval… when I needed him.

“I vowed to myself that no child of mine would have to ever go through that form of denial and
unacceptance… that there would be just that… no child, no children.” She looked into his eyes
and saw that what she was saying was being understood. He waited, allowing her to continue.

“Every member of this crew is my child, Chakotay. In our
particular situation, even more so than it could ever be in a ‘normal’ existence. Even if we
allowed ourselves to… pledge ourselves to a degree of… um… permanent bonding… my
responsibility would still be to my ship, no matter where we are. And I believe both of us share
this devotion to our Starfleet responsibilities. Yet… when I saw you tonight with Kimberley, it
broke my heart to think that… if we… committed ourselves to the point where… besides, I’m not
that young anymore…” Again, her voice trailed off into failed words.

He once more lifted his hands to her face, cradling her beautiful countenance as his thumbs
traced her lips. “Kathryn, I
understand what you are saying. And you would not… *could* not… be the wonderful woman
you are if these thoughts didn’t produce such agony for you. It’s just because of that quality that
we… *I*… need you just as you are.” His hands now were rubbing the back of her neck, trying to
relax her tense muscles. “I would be lying if I did not tell you that I would like to be a father, and
the father of ‘our’ child. But, even more than that, I want to be with you… to be *for* you. You
are very correct in stating that every person on Voyager is your child… your responsibility. And
I want to share that responsibility with you. Together… we will raise ‘our family’… together, we
will see other children come, and enjoy and love them with their own parents. Together, we will
see that we produce a safe and harmonious home, for whomever is with us for the rest of our
journey. The important thing is… that we are together.”
He got up, pulling her up after him. As he gathered her to himself, he looked into her
questioning eyes; he gave her a teasing wink. “Besides, we can have all the fun with everyone
else’s children without the wet diapers and midnight feedings; for that their parents get them
back!” She allowed herself a weak smile. He leaned down; his kiss gave her all the response she
needed. *She* was all he needed and wanted.

“Besides, we couldn’t do *this* just anytime we wanted,” he said as he gently pushed her towards
her bedroom.

Her laugh became more strong, as she turned and started to unzip his uniform. “No, all we have
to worry about are interruptions from Tuvok.” His hearty laugh overtook hers, just as his arms
overtook hers. He lifted her into his arms and carried her the rest of the way to her bed.

“Not *this* time,” he said as he put her down, completing the job she had started by removing
his jumpsuit and he began to take hers off, too. “Not *this* time.”

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