Disclaimer:  Star Trek: VoyagerT© is the registered trademark and sole property of Paramount Pictures.  This story is non-commercial and for enjoyment only.  No copyright infringement is intended.



EMAIL:  jrossca@sympatico.ca


SUMMARY:  Some people just don't know a good thing when they hear it.




It was just a ghost of an idea running through her head.  It had been teasing and tormenting her for a week now, ever since the last TGIF in Sandrine's.  There it had felt like someone whispered it into her ear - she'd actually whipped around to admonish the miscreant.  But there was no one near her.  So, of course, she ignored it, putting it down to her own vivid imagination and one glass of wine too many.  She was the captain; she couldn't just go around planting big wet ones on her first officer.

"Evening, Captain," smiled Joe Carey as he approached the bar for his order.  "Another Friday, it's hard to believe how fast they come around now, isn't it?"

She smiled back at him.  "That's just because B'Elanna has everyone in Engineering going crazy with her refits and overhauls.  The rest of us drones are sailing along in real time."

He laughed as he gathered up the tray of drinks for his table.  "You could be right about that, Captain.  Put her on a leash, will you!"  He left laughing.

Kathryn smiled into her glass.  Pleasant thoughts filled her, how well the crew got along, how proficient even the greenest recruit now was, how even the Equinox people had earned her respect and trust and were now integrated fully.  What more could a captain of a lost ship ever ask for?

"Kiss him."

She jumped and looked around wildly.

"Ma capitaine, you are okay?"  Sandrine was looking at her with a startled expression.

"Did you hear that?"

"What, Capitaine?"

Kathryn hesitated and said softly.  "Nothing, I guess.  But I swear it was like someone standing right beside me talking into my ear."

"What did this fantôme - this ghost - say to you?  And why should you be blushing?"

Kathryn put a hand to her face and felt the heat.  She blushed deeper.  "Nothing, Sandrine.  I mean, I'm just being ridiculous.  It's a command, but so far out that it makes the Alpha Quadrant seem like next door."

"Let me be the judge, my friend.  What has been this whisper in the dark?  And do you recognise the voice?"

A funny expression crossed Kathryn's face.  "Well, what's said is just too silly, but you know, now that I think of it Sandrine, it almost sounds like my voice.  But that's impossible."

"Why so, Capitaine?"

"Because I would never say that to myself."

"Say what, Katrine?"

"The voice tells me to 'kiss him.' "

There was a silence as the two women looked at each other.  Sandrine was the first to speak up in considerable amazement.

"You mean you haven't yet?"


"You have not kissed our Commander Chakotay, yet? Katrine!  Are you a fool?  We have been out here for seven years and your only love is left hanging?  Oh, mon dieu, the poor man."  Sandrine threw her hands up in a fine display of horror.

Kathryn leaned across the bar and hissed, "For crying out loud, Sandrine, a captain does not go around making passes at her First Officer."

"Then she'd rather sit and watch someone else do it?"  Sandrine looked across the room and Kathryn followed her gaze.

While Kathryn and Sandrine had been talking, Chakotay had been playing pool with B'Elanna.  Now it appeared that their match was over and Tom, Harry, and Seven were standing around the pool table chatting with the two players.  Kathryn watched as Seven placed a hand on Chakotay's arm.  He turned to look at her and bent his head to capture what she was saying.  A short hesitation and then a slow nod, and Seven hooked her arm through his and led him to the empty booth in the corner.  Kathryn bit her lip and turned back to Sandrine.

"This is not the first time that Seven has made advances on your man, Katrine."

"He's his own man, Sandrine, not mine," she said softly.

"But you wish he was.  And he wishes he were.  But, mon dieu, Katrine, seven years!  You cannot expect a man like your commander to wait forever.  I do not think that God ever designed him to live the life of a monk."

Kathryn glanced furtively into the corner and watched as Seven once again reached over to put her hand on Chakotay's arm.  He did not pull away, but she took comfort in the fact that his hand did not reach over to cover hers.  Sandrine approached the table for their drink orders.   Chakotay looked at Seven and then repeated her request to Sandrine.  His eyes watched as she returned to the bar and then slid over and caught Kathryn's.  They both froze.  Chakotay turned away first.

"Kiss him."

She slammed her fist on the bar.

A gentle hand touched her shoulder. She looked up into the face of a friend.

"May I join you, Captain?"

"Yes please, Tuvok, I'd like that."

"You've seemed perturbed lately, Captain.  May I enquire why?" Sandrine slid a synth ale across to him.

Kathryn planted her elbow on the bar and leant her head against her fist.  "Tuvok, I'm hearing voices, receiving romantic advice from a hologram, and watching someone I care about go where I never thought he would go.  All in all, I've had better days."

Tuvok took a long draught of his ale.  "Hearing voices is often a sign of wisdom, Captain.  You have reached a higher evolutionary plane when you have attuned your mind to accept your subconscious thoughts so clearly in an auditory form."

"But what if they're not your thoughts?  What if you're just sitting here hearing disembodied commands?"

He pursed his lips and considered.  "I apologise.  I know you are not the delusional type so I assumed it was your own voice talking to you.  Perhaps I should run a scan for an intruder."

"Oh, it's my voice, Tuvok, I just know that it's commanding me to do something I cannot do."

"Then it concerns Commander Chakotay?"

She just stared at him.

"Captain, it is hardly magic.  You mentioned romantic advice and a friend going in a new direction.  I saw the commander and Seven-of-Nine when I entered this establishment. It did not take Vulcan logic to put the pieces together, I assure you."

She sighed.  "I won't pretend to you that this doesn't hurt, but I can hardly be the dog in the manger about it either.  Tuvok, I don't know what to do."

"Kiss him."

They both jumped.  Kathryn saw Tuvok's startled face and brought her head off her hand.  She pointed a finger at him.

"You heard that, didn't you?  Don't try to deny it, you actually heard that."

"Indeed, Captain, I did hear it.  And, I concur, it is your own voice."

She jumped off her barstool.  "I'm going to kill that Tom Paris.  He's got something rigged up in here and it's probably to win some dumb bet!"

"It wasn't Mr Paris, or anyone else, Captain.  Sit down."  She did, slowly, and waited for him to continue.

"I believe I heard this voice because you and I share a special bond.  We've melded several times and it makes sense that I might share this experience with you at such close proximity.  I can assure you that it was not anything Mr Paris would ever be capable of rigging."  He swallowed the last of his synth ale and put the glass on the counter.

"Well then, what do you suggest I do?"

He slid off his stool and stood there for a moment.  "I would suggest that you follow your own advice, Captain."

"You mean..."

Tuvok stood quietly for a moment, carefully considering his words.  Finally, he looked into her eyes.

"Kiss him, Kathryn.  He's waited seven years for it and," he paused and looked into the corner, "I do not believe he truly wants to take another course.  But sometimes a heart half full becomes more appealing than an empty one.  And I believe that somehow, somewhere, you know that it's now or never.  And, as your friend, I would suggest the now over the never."

With that Tuvok quietly left Sandrine's.  Kathryn put her head back against her fist and felt her eyes welling up.  It was all very fine and good for Tuvok to make such a suggestion, but how could she pull it off?  Another glass of wine was placed in front of her.

"Your friend is wise, ma cherie.  Listen to him, even if he is only a man."

Kathryn rolled her eyes.  "You're the expert, Sandrine.  How would you suggest one woman gracefully cut out another one on a starship that neither can escape?  My experience in these matters is severely limited."

"For a start, how about a game of pool?  That's an adorable little dress you have on and I'm sure it will become necessary to bend over the table once or twice while the commander is looking."

Kathryn looked suitably shocked.  "Sandrine, get a grip!  That's just cheap and tawdry."

"Yes, it is, isn't it?"  And with a wink Sandrine went to the other end to serve a customer.

Were the fates for her or against her?  Sandrine had no sooner left than Tom was standing beside her, holding a pool cue.

"Want to play a game, Captain?" he grinned.  "I have to warn you, though, I'm hot tonight."

She slid off the stool and grabbed her wine.  "I'm a little hot myself, Lieutenant.  Let's go."  She marched towards the rack and grabbed her favourite cue.  "What are the stakes?"

"Replicator rations?"

"Boring but acceptable, I guess."  She studiously chalked her cue.

He laughed.  "Oh? Just how hot are you tonight, Captain?  And may I say how lovely you look tonight?"

She glared at him through half closed eyes.  "State the wager, Mr Paris."

"Fine, be that way.  If you don't like rations then let's go with the classic.  Truth or Dare."

She looked at him.  "What kind of a bet is that?"

He leaned into her face.  "I'm thinking it's the kind you're in the mood for.  So, are you on?"

"What makes you think there's anything I want to know about you or want you to do?"

"What makes you think you're going to win?"

"Rack them up, Lieutenant," she snapped

It was down to her last shot and the game was hers for the winning.  Almost half the patrons of Sandrine's were now clustered around the pool table watching, Chakotay and Seven among them.  She slowly drew the cue back, keeping her eye steady and her stance strong, and...

"Kiss him."

Her cue hit the white ball at a ridiculous angle and she watched it spin and then hop a few inches.  A communal gasp was heard followed by the thunk of her forehead hitting the table.  Even Tom was too amazed to say anything for a few moments, but he quickly recovered.

He dramatically leaned over the black eight-ball as if to minutely inspect it and then turned his head towards hers.  "It didn't go in, Captain," he said unnecessarily.  No response.

"I believe it's my turn now."  She still didn't move.

Then louder, "Would someone like to move this corpse over to a chair while I show the Captain how it's done?"  That had the desired effect; Kathryn's chin raised up and she gave him her best glare.

"I'll move under my own steam, thank you very much, Mr Paris.  And that ball," she pointed to his last one, "has not been dropped yet."  She marched to the edge of the crowd.  Chakotay started to edge his way to her side but she pretended not to notice.

'That' ball dropped perfectly, as did the eight ball with Tom's next shot.  A round of applause greeted the victorious lieutenant and he sauntered over to face his vexed captain.  She glared at him sullenly while he rocked on his heels.

"Okay, Captain, what do you choose?"


"Captain, you have a choice to make.  Can we hear it before we reach the Alpha Quadrant, please?"

More silence.  But now she crossed her arms belligerently.

Chakotay bent down and whispered in her ear, "What choice?  What is he talking about, Kathryn?"

She sighed and looked up at him.  "Truth or Dare."  Chakotay's eyes widened and he swung them towards Paris.

"Forget it, Commander.  She made the bet and I won fair and square.  As a matter of fact, my suggestion was replicator rations but that was too tame for her tonight.  So, Captain, which is it going to be?"

Kathryn had no idea where that disembodied ghost voice was coming from but right at this moment she could have happily strangled the breath out of the throat it came from. There was no way out of this and she could hardly set an example to her crew of a petulant sore loser.  She considered her choice.

"What are the limitations on the Truth or Dare options, Tom?"

"None.  Plain and simple Captain, you chose and then I select.  You comply or you welch, it's as simple as that."


"And Commander, you can quit throwing me those daggers, this is between the Captain and myself."

Double damn.

Kathryn surveyed the scene and met all the eyes focused on her.  She quickly decided that pulling a prank would be far preferable than baring her soul in front of these people.  She turned to Tom and put her hands on her hips.

"Dare."  Another communal gasp, but this time softer.  And very expectant.

Tom sauntered over until he was standing directly in front of her, then leaned back against the table.  "You sure, Captain?  I'll let you change your mind if you'd like."

"I'm sure.  Ensign."  A ripple of nervous laughter went through the crowd.

Tom looked over at Chakotay.  "Are you willing to help out our Captain, Commander?"

Chakotay did not look amused.  "What are you getting at, Paris?"

"It's a simple question.  Are you?"

With all eyes upon him, Chakotay slowly nodded.  "Of course, as long as it's appropriate."  He looked down into Kathryn's eyes and nodded again, this time in support.  She turned back to Tom, expectantly.

Tom pointed at Chakotay.  "Kiss him."

The crowd was a sea of shocked statues.  "And I don't mean a peck on the cheek, either, Captain.  I want to see Carole Lombard and Clark Gable here."

The shocked statues now just looked confused.  "Okay then, think Risa.  And Commander, before you say a single word, I can assure you that this is extremely appropriate."

"You don't have to do this, Captain," Chakotay said in a low tone.

"It was a bet and I don't welch."  She turned to Tom.  "I'm going to do this because you're right.  I made the bet and I chose the dare.  But it was low for you to involve another person in my forfeit so I don't want any nasty, crude, or vile statements made to or about the commander.  As far as you're concerned, he's just an innocent bystander."

With that she whirled around to face Chakotay and slid her hands up his torso.  "I'm sorry about this, Chakotay, I really am.  Don't move, just stand there and let me get this over with."

Her hands continued up to his shoulders where they hesitated, softly squeezing and stroking, and then slid around to the back of his neck, fingers splaying through his hair.  She felt the hairs on his neck stand up against her touch and a little shiver course through him.  She knew that both reactions had been invisible to their rapt audience as he stood there tall and straight.

When her hands pressed against his neck in an invitation to bend down and meet her halfway, she felt his resistance.  Her eyes shot up to his in a plea and she felt him stiffly accede to their request.  Now her mouth was on his cheek and one hand was tracing a pattern around his ear.  His hands continued to hang at his sides, his hands balled into fists.  Then her mouth was on his and she swallowed his small gasp.  It's not easy to kiss a person who doesn't respond but Kathryn did her best.  She placed little kisses in the corners of his mouth and gently sucked and nibbled his lips.  She let her fingers scrape along his scalp and neck and even twisted her hips against him slightly.  All her efforts to make him respond failed, the commander stood as he had agreed, allowing her to use him in this most personal way before their crew.

Finally Kathryn drew back; her gray blue eyes locked with Chakotay's dark brown ones.  As her hands slid back down his chest he grabbed her wrists in his fists and held them against himself.  Slowly they both looked at Tom.

"Is the captain's forfeit settled, Paris?" Chakotay demanded.

Tom looked around at the stunned crowd and came back to meet the commander's gaze.  "Yes, I guess it is.  She certainly did her best anyway, can't say the same thing about you, though."

Chakotay slowly let go of Kathryn's wrists and continued to stare at the helmsman.  "Fly straight and true, Paris.  I mean it; I'm going to be watching your every move on the bridge.  And I'm telling you here and now, it's not going to take a whole lot for you to piss me off up there."

He turned and a path immediately opened to allow his exit.  He hesitated when he reached Seven and then grabbed her hand and pulled her along.  They headed straight for the exit and the crowd quickly dispersed back to their individual tables.  Kathryn stood alone, still looking at the door.  Tom sidled up to her.

"I'm sorry, Captain."

"How could you, Tom?  I thought we were friends." she whispered.

"More than you know, Captain."  They stood together looking at the door.  "I really didn't expect that from Chakotay.  Frankly, I thought that he would feel the difference between a real woman and Seven."

"That's not fair, Tom.  Seven has come a long way in four years and who can say what another four will do for her?  She has a lot to offer a man."

"You're right, of course," he said and then continued in a flat voice, devoid of any inflection and very reminiscent of the topic of conversation.  "Adolescence, no sense of humour, no spirituality, a machine's relentless immersion in work, no appreciation of beauty. I can go on, Captain, and you know it.  Do you really think that's a match made in heaven?"

Kathryn winced and turned to the bar.  "I want a drink," she declared.  Tom watched her take a few steps and then hastily caught up with her.

"And I'll join you.  Then B'Elanna and I will see you home."

Kathryn hadn't really wanted company but when she saw how Tom's presence kept Sandrine at bay, she began to appreciate it.  Sandrine broke out a special bottle of brandy that Tom kept in a secret cupboard and they both sipped quietly.  Finally Kathryn slid off her stool.

"Good night, Tom, and congratulations again on the pool game.  Don't bother getting up, I prefer to see my own way home.  I'll see you on the bridge."

The lift was empty, thank God.  In its shelter she finally started letting the tension out, leaning her head and shoulders against the wall.  Just as her eyes shut she felt the lift slowing for her deck.  The doors slid open.

"Kiss him."

"Goddammit!  I DID, and he didn't care!" she yelled to the fates and stormed out of the lift.  Head down in fury she veered to the left towards her quarters.  The damned keypad was impossible; her fingers were jumping from frustration and anxiety.  One last try before using voice command and suddenly she felt hands on her shoulders.  When she tried to turn they held her firmly in place.

"Gently, Kathryn, gently," a low voice breathed in her ear and the left hand rose to her keypad.  The long fingers had no problem with her private code and the doors slid open.  The arm slid down to the small of her back and guided her into her quarters.  The doors slid shut.

"Chakotay, what are you doing here?"

He laughed, although the humour didn't reach his eyes.  "I was walking up the corridor behind you and I heard your tantrum.  I don't pretend to understand the words, but I sure identified with the emotion."

They stood looking at each other awkwardly and, just as he was about to excuse himself, she pointed to the replicator.

"Would you join me in some coffee?  Or maybe some tea?  I had more than my usual at Sandrine's and I was hoping just to sit for a while and relax.  If you don't have any other plans I could use some company."

He hesitated for a moment and then a smile appeared.  "Yes, thanks.  I'd love some tea."

They settled on the couch with their drinks, chatting amicably.  Soft jazz helped to mellow the mood and it wasn't long before the old friends fell back into their comfortable pattern of companionship.  A funny story about Harry with an ensign in Engineering led to one of B'Elanna, which in turn led to Tom.  Their laughter was still echoing when Kathryn finally brought it up.

"You really scared the tar out of Tom tonight, Chakotay.  I think he's going to have two hands on the wheel for weeks just to keep you from killing him."

"It looks good on him.  I've come a long way in how I feel about him, Kathryn, but this evening he went too far."

"It was really my fault.  I let him goad me into a foolish bet."

"It wasn't your most brilliant move, I won't argue with that. But, a captain should not be held up for the ridicule of her crew, especially with her first officer.  Good-natured fun is one thing but what he did tonight was out of line.  And he'd better be prepared to face the consequences because he's going to get them."

"Okay.  I don't disagree and you're in charge of discipline, but I just can't help feeling a little guilty."

"Then maybe you need a little discipline yourself, Kathryn.  Tell me, what in hell was going through your mind tonight?  I'd really like to know."

She sighed.  "I wouldn't know how to tell you.  It's just too strange."

"But you can tell Tuvok."

Her head snapped up.  "How do you know I told Tuvok?"

"Well, let's see if we can figure that out together, shall we?  Two people I've lived and worked with for seven years are huddled against a bar in deep conversation.  There appears to be a resolution.  One leaves.  Does this give you any clues?"

"You were playing pool.  How did you catch all that?"

"There's not much you do in a room that I don't catch, Kathryn.  And when you're not in the same room I can make a pretty damned good guess.  Want to try me?"

She looked down at the cup she was holding in her lap.  "No," she said softly.

He edged closer and leaned into her space.  "Are you sure, Kathryn?" he whispered.  "Are you sure you don't want to try me?"

"Kiss him."

She lifted her head up slowly and looked into his steady eyes.  Suddenly she realised that this was a serious question, he wasn't teasing and he wasn't playing a guessing game.  He wanted to know.

"No, I'm not sure."  Their eyes remained locked.

"You're the captain, how are you going to make sure?"


He said nothing, but it almost seemed like his body glided closer to her without effort.

"I tried earlier tonight.  You stood there like a statue."

"You ordered me to.  Do you have any idea, any idea at all, how that made me feel?  Your body finally against mine and me having to stand there feeling your mouth and hands and hips and having just to stand there?  When all I wanted to do is flip you onto that pool table and convince you to never stop?"

"I did that for you.  And Seven, of course."

That stopped him.  "Seven?"

"You're not the only one who can keep tabs on a room, Chakotay.  I lost that bet and that was stupid of me.  And just for the record, I'm not dead despite what Tom Paris thinks.  But, I'd already made a mockery of my rank and position, how could I also embarrass you in front of Seven?"

"Why would you care?  Hell, why would I care?"

She looked at him in exasperation.  "Chakotay, unless I was mistaken, you were sitting with Seven in a dark corner booth tonight.  And, you left with her.  And, Sandrine tells me this isn't the first time, either.  You're the most important person in my life so the question is, why wouldn't I care?"

Chakotay jumped to his feet and began to pace around the room.  His hands alternated between waving in the air and clutching his head.

"Spirits!  You know, Kathryn, you can be the most aggravating woman, you really can!  Yes, I left with Seven, but only so that we could finally sit down and talk about this "us" that you respect so much.  I won't go into details but suffice to say that we are not a couple, no matter how it looks to bloody Sandrine and Tom Paris.  My word, there are days I wish I'd gone down with the Liberty! It sure as hell couldn't have been any more difficult than my life here!"

She jumped up and tried to keep up with his movements.  "How can you say that?  Especially to me, the person who depends on you 24 hours of each and every day!"  He kept pacing and she kept trying to keep up with him.  Finally, through a stroke of pure luck, she stood in front of him when he turned again.  She grabbed his arms to hold him still.


"And to top it off I'm hearing voices!"

"What?"  Kathryn shook the arms in her hands.  "What did you say?"

He sighed as he gently removed her hands and rubbed the deep red marks they left behind.  "You may as well call the doctor now.  I'm hearing voices and I guess it's time for me to go meet my grandfather.  Between you, Seven, and the damned ghost that has been haunting me for a week, I'm about ready to pack the whole thing in."

"So, you too.  What does your ghost say?"

"My ghost?  Are you saying..."

She nodded.  "For a week now.  A definite voice, even Tuvok heard it, although he puts it down to our having been melded several times.  Until then I thought I was losing my mind, and maybe I am because it's already caused a friend more pain than I could ever willingly inflict."

"Who?  How?  And what does your ghost say?"

She felt the colour rising in her cheeks again and swallowed before continuing.  "You, of course.  And tonight, count the ways.  The voice is mine and it gives the order 'kiss him.' "

"Oh yeah?  And who is it directing you to kiss, anyway?"

"Oh, who knows?  All I can say for a fact is that the only man I've kissed or even wanted to kiss has been you.  And although it was nice, it certainly wasn't magic."

He raised an eyebrow.  "You really know how to kick a guy when he's down, don't you?  Order me to stand still so you can 'get it over with' and then blame me for a lack of sparks.  Thanks, I really appreciate that."

She was in no mood for wounded male pride.  "You're welcome.  So, what does your ghost say?  And whose voice is it?"

"He orders me to 'kiss her,' " replied Chakotay.  "And, let me tell you that that has given me no end of anxiety all week long.  For some reason every time I heard that damned voice I'd turn around and there would be Seven looking like, well, looking like she does.  And, there I'd be with the echo still in my head, thinking about you and how you don't want me.  I thought I was finally succumbing to the degenerative disease that runs in my family."

"You heard it this evening, didn't you?  When we were looking at each other from across the room?  You got a funny look in your eyes for a second or two and then you looked away.  I thought you did that because we got caught in eye tag."

"Kathryn, I've got news for you.  We've been playing eye tag and assorted other games for seven years now.  Getting caught has never concerned me.  Getting cut off has.  Besides, anyone would look funny after hearing that voice.  It's Q's, and I can almost hear him calling me 'Chuckles' at the end.

Her eyes widened and she gave a short laugh.  "Of course.  He had to be involved in this. Why didn't I think of that?  That son of a bitch!"

The gravestone wavered slightly as Admiral Janeway watched it, then there was a slow dissolving shimmer and it was gone.  Considering the tension that she had been holding in for the past hour it seemed almost anticlimactic.  She looked over at the omnipotent being standing beside her and then out across the bay.


"Well what, Admiral?"

"Did it work?"

"The stone is gone, obviously something happened."

"Q, I really don't want to stand here and quibble with you.  Just tell me what happened."  She paused and added quietly, "Please."

He seemed to give in, his eyes gentle as he looked at the old woman.

"Your new memories will gel over the next hour or so, Kathy."  He snapped his fingers and a full picnic appeared.  "Let's sit down and relax, it'll help you remember."

He held his hand out to the admiral and helped her get seated on the blanket.  Then he plunked himself down and reached for the bottle of wine.  While he poured he hesitated, looked at her, and then looked away again.  Finally he passed her a glass and opened his mouth.

"Kathy, I have to ask; why now?  Why now, 26 years after that particular night? And now after being back in the Alpha Quadrant for ten years?  What made you finally wonder about all the possibilities you let slip by?

"I'm old now, Q; you won't ever understand that but I'm learning the hard way.  I've been remembering Voyager's journey for years now and I finally narrowed down that night in Sandrine's as my personal turning point.  Tuvok didn't just show up because he wanted a beer, he must have been concerned about me.  I played Tom for replicator rations and watched Chakotay leave with Seven.  A few days later I invited him for lunch and he had other plans; I learnt much later that it was," her voice hiccupped a pitiful laugh and her hand swept over the food and blanket, "a picnic with Seven."

The irony wasn't lost on him.  "But, that doesn't really answer my question.  Why now?"

Her head lowered and she sipped her wine.  "Because I still love him.  Back on that night I'd loved him for almost seven years and thought he felt the same way about me.  I'd finally realised that he was worth any risk involved with loving him, but I still didn't say anything.  And then he left with Seven.  There's nothing quite like a life revelation, Q, when the life you love is no longer part of yours.  I've borne the pain silently for over three decades thinking I would eventually find my peace in death.  And then suddenly, after all these years, you appear again and stir things up.  As usual."

"Well, I just had to come back to see you.  I'd forgotten how fast time slips away for you mortals, it's only been a moment since I saw you last.  And seeing you has been better than I could ever have imagined!   Projecting your desperate command to your past self!  Having a little fun for myself at Chuckles' expense!  Kathy, I'd almost forgotten how much fun you two were.  But I never thought I'd see you wink at any of your precious Starfleet's prime directives, especially that temporal one.  You've improved with age, you know.   You used to be quite the little tight ass."

She glared at him.  It was just like old times...almost.  "You're too kind.  Incidently, I've decided to consider this help of yours as payback for all the trouble you caused me back in the DQ."

He leaned against the tree and waved her comment aside.  "Rationalization becomes you, Admiral.  I suppose taking 33 years to finally admit something as basic as love isn't that long for a stubborn woman; I can surely wait for a little gratitude.   But it's a good thing you're on close personal terms with a Q is all I can say."

"I suppose so," she said doubtfully.

Well," he said pompously to the sky, "I always knew it.  Humans can be so wonderfully brilliant at times, enough to shock and amuse even the Q, but then there was you and Chuckles.  Individually above average and together quite formidable, but there was never any question that the two of you were dumber than dirt when it came to things that really mattered."

She snorted.  "And, I can't even defend myself because you're right.  You still have that streak of cruelty, Q.  Just wait until Chakotay gets here, he'll have sometime to say about that."  She stopped suddenly and looked into Q's smiling eyes.  He didn't say anything immediately but pointed to the picnic basket.

"Three plates.  And, we don't have to wait long, he's already halfway up this hill.  Apparently your kids couldn't come with him because they both had to get back to work, but they'll be joining you later tonight for coffee and ice cream with the grandkids."

Tears welled up in her eyes.  "I'm remembering now..."

"Kiss him."

Slowly her hand reached out and touched his cheek.  "Could we go back to your question?"

His hand instinctively covered hers as he asked, "Which one?"

"Something about me trying you.  If I do and I like it, can I keep it?"

His turned so that his mouth was on her wrist.  "Money back guarantee," he said softly.

"Where would you ever find any money?"  Kathryn inched her way closer until she was pressed against him.

"I don't intend on needing any, Kathryn."  And, with that statement one arm wrapped around her waist while the other wound around her neck as he brought his face down to hers.  He felt her hands slide up his chest and past his neck to his hair for the second time that day, but this time he allowed his pleasure to show.  His fingers dug into her as his mouth found hers.  A light touch of the lips, sliding to the corners for another one.  A nibble on her lower lip and then he couldn't stand the suspense any longer.  His mouth became insistent, his tongue sweeping her teeth with a command and a thrill coursed through him as she opened to allow him entry.  Her tongue met his and they caressed briefly and then they both explored each other in a delicious dance.  He felt suddenly alone when their mouths finally pulled apart and they touched foreheads, breathing deeply for oxygen.

"I love you, Kathryn," he whispered.

"I've always loved you, Chakotay," she whispered back.

"I think I'm going to have to let Paris off the hook."

She pulled away and looked up into his dark eyes.  "Why's that?"

"He made you kiss me, Kathryn.  This evening I was on the brink of spacing all my feelings for you out of a desperate need for survival.  You'll never know how close I was, and then you kissed me.  Now I owe him for everything of value in my life."

"But you didn't even react!"

"That actually made my mind up more than anything.  I was a starving man denied the banquet in front of him.  It burnt a memory into my soul that I'll never forget.   Suddenly the thought of settling for anything less than you was impossible."

She reached up and pulled his face back to hers.  "I don't know how or why or when or where, but I owe the world to someone.  A Janeway smarter than I was this morning, and a Q who never could keep his opinions to himself.  I wouldn't know where to start to pay them back for this."

"Well, let me take care of the Janeway and you can take care of the Q someday.  He finally got something right."

They were still smiling at each other when their lips met again.




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