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.
AUTHORS: JinnyR and JinnyW
EMAILS: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org
SUMMARY: In every time there is a season...
Seasons of the Heart
Chakotay stood in the holodeck doorway, transfixed by the sight of Kathryn Janeway, the Captain of Voyager and one of his closest friends, frolicking in an enormous pile of fallen leaves. Although he stood quietly, she seemed to sense his presence and turned to grin, then wave him over.
"I stopped by your quarters to see if you were ready."
"I got sidetracked."
"So I see. I didn't know you had any nature lovers' programs."
"I suppose that proves it then."
She scooped up another pile of golden leaves, then let them fall through her arms. "That there are still many things you don't know about me."
He grinned. "You are a woman of infinite layers."
"Not in the holodeck, I'm not", she said, peering down at her clothes. "I didn't make the temperature quite as chilly as it should really be." He rolled his eyes at her awful pun.
Kathryn picked one of the leaves off her shirt and held it up to the holographic sunlight. "Da Vinci told me once that to understand colour I need to look more at the world around me. I think at the time I wasn't sure what he meant." She pulled a face. "Probably because I spend my life surrounded by the grey of a starship."
"I could have B'Elanna's engineering teams replicate a few thousand and paste them all over the corridor walls if you like. We can certainly afford the rations now."
She glanced at him speculatively. "Do you think she'd do it?"
"Probably not," he conceded. "Might not make quite the right impression for our big homecoming. In terms of convincing the brass we haven't all gone insane, that is."
"Just as well. The real ones would probably rot by then." She let out her breath in a long sigh. "I've always missed the seasons out here. Watching the weather change around you. Seeing the first blossoms in spring, the first leaves falling in autumn. I didn't realise how much until now."
"Sounds like a plea for more shore leave to me."
"Any place on the sensors that looks just like this?"
He stepped closer towards her. "Soon, Kathryn."
She crumbled the leaf between her fingertips. "I just wish I didn't know it was holographic. Maybe then I would have found it more comforting all these years."
His forehead wrinkled in concern. "Kathryn. Is something wrong?"
She sighed, and shook her head, before responding. "It makes me feel frustrated - claustrophobic even - knowing that everything around me has been constructed. Artificial."
"Not everything is artificial."
"Oh?" She raised an eyebrow at him.
"Some things are very tangible."
"Rumour has it that Neelix is constructing a giant trifle from the ingredients he picked up at our last trading stop."
Kathryn laughed. "I stand corrected." She stretched her arms above her head, then glanced around them. "I love autumn, don't you?"
"Now you're really procrastinating."
"Would I do that?"
"Yes. Doubly so now I mentioned the enormous dessert."
She snorted. "Whatever happened to unswerving, unquestioning loyalty?"
"Never heard of it."
"I thought as much."
Chakotay stepped up behind her, wrapped his arms around her waist, and pulled her towards him. She leaned back against him with a sigh.
"Will you come with me if I tell you a story?"
She rested her hands over his. "Depends. What's it about?
He chuckled, breathing in the scent of her hair. "It's about how we actually have had seasons on Voyager."
"Of course we have. You just have to know how to look at them."
Feeling the warmth of his body diffuse against hers, Kathryn felt very reluctant to move.
"Alright", she said with a smile. "Tell me a story, Chakotay".
"Sometimes when it's Winter, the chill
reaches down to your bones, and you feel
you'll never be warm again..."
"So, do you know where we're going?" asked Captain Chakotay artlessly.
The two guards looked at each other and narrowed their eyes. The taller guard indicated a right turn at an intersection and they all veered in that direction.
"Oh, I think we can get you there, Maquis. But, if we pass an airlock we'll decide if it's worth the bother in taking you all the way to the captain or not."
There was a thump of two chests meeting and the guards gasped as the Maquis prisoner grabbed their captain to keep her from falling.
"I think it would be worth the bother, gentlemen. You're dismissed." The captain's voice was muffled but the guards had no problem understanding her order. They quickly disappeared.
"Captain Chakotay, you can release me now."
He considered for a few seconds, then shook his head. "Now, why would I do that? I seem to have you where I want you."
"If you don't take your arms from around me I'll have those two come back and escort you to that airlock. And don't think I won't."
He considered again, and slowly let his hands fall to his side. He grinned down at her scowl as she stepped back.
"Feisty little thing, aren't you?"
"Feisty enough to take you on, Chakotay. Walk with me."
His eyes slowly followed her body down to her feet and then returned back up just as slowly. By the time his eyes reached her face her icy gray-blue eyes were burning furiously into his hot brown ones.
"All right, Janeway. I'll walk with you."
He deliberately crooked his arm for her and grinned as she shot ahead with a disdainful toss of her head. Slowly he began to follow her, watching her hips and bottom carefully. She felt the heat and swung around.
It was the first time Chakotay ever saw Captain Janeway's famous act of projecting a death glare while standing with her elbows akimbo. It would not be his last. He smiled again.
"You look good in that uniform, you know."
"You mean I look like Starfleet. That is your definition of good, isn't it?
"Perhaps, in one way. But I meant it in all ways, Commander. When the lift doors opened this morning and you walked onto the bridge wearing that uniform, I could hardly believe my own eyes. So, what made you decide to put it on after all these months?"
"Would you believe that I forgot to do my laundry last night?"
"No. But you don't have to tell me if you don't want to. I wasn't trying to pry, I just wanted you to know that I was very - gratified - to see you finally report in uniform. And also," she hesitated, "to tell you that I appreciate the gesture. It's been over five months since the Caretaker incident and I just wanted to thank you personally, and in private."
The lift opened and the captain and commander stepped into the corridor to their quarters. He paused for a moment and she turned back to look back at him.
"You're welcome, Captain. I suppose it's just taken this long for me to accept the sincerity of your original offer. I mean, as Maquis my experiences with Starfleet didn't exactly warrant putting my trust in you, but over the last five months I have to admit that you've earned it. I'm sure you'll be seeing less civilian clothes on our Maquis crewmembers as time goes by."
She stepped closer and put her hand on his chest. "Thank you, Chakotay. Thank you for the uniform, thank you for finally saying 'our' crewmembers, and thank you for telling me. It's been a lonely five months and I'm glad my right hand man is now with me in spirit as well as in duty. I think we're going to make a wonderful team."
He looked into her eyes and slowly nodded his head. This silent exchange between them left them both feeling as if an enormous weight had been removed from their shoulders. The wall that had stood between them for months was dissolving even as they stood close, looking into each other's eyes.
"We'll get them home, Commander."
"I know we will, Captain, I know."
They slowly moved apart.
"You know, if you don't have any other plans for this evening you'd be welcome to join me in my quarters for a glass of wine."
"Actually, I'd like that. Eight hours in this monkey suit is long enough for the first day and besides, these damned boots are killing me. Somehow, I'd managed to forget about them over the years."
She laughed. "You'll get used to them. Eventually. But I have some salts that you can have - you just have to add them to warm water and soak your feet for ten minutes, that will help."
"Excellent, I'll take you up on that. Thanks."
He smiled down at her and offered his arm. She smothered a smile and slid her arm through his and they continued up the corridor. He spoke first.
"Okay, so after the wine we're going to be hungry. Do you cook?"
The door to the messhall swooshed open and they entered on a wave of laughter sweeping through the room. They looked at each other and smiled.
"Spirits, that sounds good, doesn't it? I can't believe that less than a year ago one half of these people were willing to die in order to vanquish the other half, can you?"
"No, but that's pretty much due to you, Chakotay. You're command's contact with the crew and you've managed to pull everyone together without any bloodshed in less than a year. I have no doubt that another year will find us being a real family." Janeway looked up at Chakotay and smiled. "I think I have the finest first officer in two quadrants."
"Well, it doesn't hurt that we also have a captain that we can follow without compunction."
She snorted cheerfully. "Okay, this meeting of the mutual admiration society is now over. So, what are you going to eat?"
"Anything without leola root, if that's remotely possible. I spit that disgusting root out of my mouth down on that planet and I still haven't recovered completely. If the damned stuff didn't have such impressive nutritional value I would never have let it on board."
"Well, I think you're beat, Chakotay. It's not looking good here."
"Crap. Then I'll just ask Neelix to fix me up something root-free. There are some times when rank has its privileges and this is definitely one of them. I'll meet you at the table, Kathryn."
They were starting on their dessert when Chakotay finally cocked an eye at Janeway.
"Captain, has anyone ever mentioned to you that you're crazy?"
"Well, not to my face but the pips might have something to do with that. Besides, I'm perfectly sane and it's not like any of this was my idea. The whole thing was dreamt up by Neelix, Paris, Ayala, and Kim and those guys are crazy."
"But you accepted, and that's the part that I don't understand."
"Chakotay, give yourself a shake - we're going to be great. And I can't think of a better cause, can you?"
"You've been sitting here the entire meal hoping I wouldn't bring it up again, weren't you?"
"Yes. So let a captain continue dreaming, will you?"
"Forget it. You and I in a confined space with phasers, are you sure you want this to actually happen? There are still one or two on board who would like to see one of us kill the other, you know. "
"Oh, I know, Chakotay. That's why I not only want it to happen, I want us to win. So, I'd appreciate it if you would just get into a positive frame of mind about this."
"What makes you think I'm not in a positive frame of mind, Captain?"
"Commander, being positive that we'll be creamed and humiliated is not what I was talking about. Where's your Olympic spirit?"
"I have no idea but I'll ask my spirit guide where she packed it the next time I see her. In the meantime, just for the record, I want you to remember that I said it here first. You're nuts."
"Too bad, Chakotay. Nuts with four pips still outranks sanity with a commander's rank bar. So there."
"Damn it, I hate it when you're right like that."
"You realise, Chakotay, that you were an absolute embarrassment and disgrace to our command team on that court."
"Was not. And quit walking so fast."
"Sorry. Just lean on me more and hold on tight, Sickbay is just a hop away." She smirked at her quip.
He groaned in multiple levels of pain. "You know, that was a stupid detail to forget. There are always medical personnel at sporting events, how could those idiots forget to include the doctor?"
"Chakotay! You're squeezing me - I can't breath!" Kathryn caught her breath and continued. "But that doesn't excuse what you did, Chakotay - and you had the nerve to call me crazy."
"Well, let's not gloss over that because you are. And I'll have you know that I've done that move a hundred times without incident."
"Well, it cost us the championship, Commander, and I'm not going to forget that very soon."
"You're either dreaming or delusional, I haven't decided yet. It might have cost us fifth place, Captain Demento, but the championship was never within our sights. Which, I'd like to remind you, I told you so last month."
"No one likes an I-told-you-so, Commander. And, besides, I heard you the first time. Well then, what made you blow your game-winning maneuver when you've done it a hundred times before? This match was important, Chakotay, couldn't you have just kept your concentration up for a few more minutes?"
"Oh, I was definitely concentrating, Kathryn, I can state that honestly and emphatically."
"Well, it sure as hell didn't look like it. Oh thank the stars, here's Sickbay. Just a few more hops."
The sickbay doors slid open and they staggered in.
"Computer, activate the EMH. Doctor, help me get the commander to a biobed."
Captain Janeway stepped back, put her hands on her hips, and glared up at her first officer as the doctor began his scans.
"If that was concentration, Chakotay, remind me to never put you at the helm. We'd end up in a nebula of anti-matter waste as likely as not."
"We would not. My flying is exemplary; I can handle a ship or a shuttlecraft better than anyone in Starfleet, including Tom Paris. But didn't you once say that you were personally grateful that I put on the Starfleet uniform after only five months on board Voyager?"
"Yes, I did. What does that have to do with velocity and the Voyager Olympics?"
"Everything. I just thought you might be receptive to returning the favour, that's all."
"You're starting to rave, I already wear a uniform. Doctor, scan his head for damage, the velocity disk hit him square on his temple and then he twisted his ankle and knee and hit the ground face down."
Chakotay waved away the tricorder without taking his eyes from the captain's.
"Get that thing out of my face," he ordered. "My head is as clear as a bell, Kathryn. I was just thinking on the court how much you respect fair play and all that honourable sportsmanship stuff. So, I'm wondering if you'd be willing to wear those short shorts for five months on the bridge. If you are I'll be just as thankful to you as you ever were with me for my change of dress."
Her response made it necessary for the doctor to scan his head anyway.
"the Spring sunlight, like his smile,
wraps around my skin,
warms me through and through ..."
"Maybe we could demote them," Chakotay suggested.
Kathryn shook her head, her ponytail swinging wildly. "Yosa's already a crewman."
"Murphy isn't. He's an ensign."
"Was an ensign." Kathryn corrected him.
"Right. Was an ensign. So should we make him crewman, and Yosa...?"
"Sub-crewman. A non-ranking non-commissioned officer. Below rank. Completely not worthy of a title."
Chakotay had to grin at that. "Right."
They came to a halt in front of the turbolift. The doors slid open to reveal three younger crewmembers, all laughing uproariously. Their jocularity came to a rapid halt on sighting their two commanding officers. Shooting a quick glance at Kathryn's face, Chakotay could see why. Her glare could fry eggs.
"Crewmen," she said placidly. Chakotay winced, again marveling at the amount of sub-textual menace this woman could pack into a two syllable utterance.
Crewman Jor, the unlucky man who happened to be standing the closest to the doors nodded at both of them. "Captain. Commander."
The three of them edged backwards, pushing their bodies against the wall of the 'lift to make room for the others. Kathryn and Chakotay stepped in, then turned to face the doors.
"Deck two," Chakotay ordered.
It was without doubt the quietest turbolift ride Chakotay could remember. He could hear the measured breathing of the crewmembers behind them, could imagine the chagrined looks they were exchanging. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Kathryn clenching her fists together at her sides. Without moving his head he absent mindedly ran his eyes down a damp patch along the bodice of her exercise outfit where sweat had tricked. She was still breathing abnormally, whether from exertion or irritation, he couldn't tell.
"Commander," Kathryn snapped.
His head shot around to look at her. She was staring straight ahead, her eyes fixed to the doors.
"Don't," she muttered from behind clenched teeth.
With great effort he suppressed a grin and looked to the front again. "Yes ma'am," he said softly. What the younger crewmembers made of that exchange, he didn't know. And frankly, right now he didn't care. Mercifully the turbolift deposited them both on deck two, and they stepped into the corridor without a backward glance.
"Let's make Murphy a sub-crewman too," she said as she began stalking towards her quarters. Even with his long strides Chakotay found himself hurrying to keep pace with her.
"Do you think that's fair?"
"I'm not fair," she said shortly, "I'm the Captain." Her fingers clenched and unclenched again. "Do you think I could demote them all?"
"The whole crew?"
"Yeah. Why not?"
"Might not be great for morale."
"Phhhhh." Kathryn let out her breath in an irritated hiss. "I'm sure morale is pretty damned good at the moment. It could stand a little beating."
"Kathryn," he said, slowing automatically as they reached their quarters. "I know you probably don't want to hear this..."
"No, I don't."
"But I think I should tell you..."
"I'd rather you didn't."
"If only because nobody else will..."
She sighed, but let him continue.
"It's just a game."
Kathryn had continued walking to the door of her room. Now she slid to a halt, and turned to face him, her hands placed defiantly on her hips. Chakotay was glad of the few meters between them right then, on the off chance she decided to use the fists she kept forming.
"Just. A. GAME!?"
She repeated the words slowly, as if each formed a single sentence, her eyebrows raised mockingly. "Just a game, Chakotay? Are you insane?"
Her XO considered this briefly. "Is that a rhetorical question?"
"We had our butts kicked. We were just humiliated in the Voyager Olympics in front of the whole crew."
"Not the whole crew," he interjected. "We had a skeleton crew manning the bridge and engineering. They weren't watching."
Kathryn regarded him with a dark glare. "The whole crew," she went on slowly, "saw their commanding officers beaten... no, not just beaten... humiliated by two, by two..."
Chakotay watched her struggle over the words, again trying hard not to smile. "By two youngsters?" he supplied.
"By two children," she snapped. "Two babies. Two mere embryos."
"I think you're exaggerating slightly."
"Am I? Am I really?"
"Yes, you are. And at the risk of demotion myself, I might point out your tone is taking on just a touch of hysteria."
Kathryn rolled her eyes. "Great," she said. "So now I'm not only old and infirm, I'm losing my marbles too."
"Actually, this year you're the one who's inferring I'm insane," he pointed out. "I almost like the change."
"Hmph. Sub-crewman Chakotay. I think that has a nice ring to it."
Chakotay chewed his lip for a moment. "Well, not that much I don't. Do you still want to meet for dinner later?"
"Dinner. You said you had a surprise for me."
Kathryn blinked at him slowly, and he could tell she had actually forgotten.
"Oh, yes. Yes I do." She muttered something then, which Chakotay didn't quite catch. He thought it might have been, "if I live that long."
"Okay. Well, I'll get cleaned up, and come and see you in... what, half an hour?"
"Fine," she grouched, stepping into her quarters.
"Kathryn," he called after her.
She poked her head back around the corner. "What?"
"It IS just a game".
She shook her head stubbornly. "WAS a game, Chakotay. Now it's the highlight of the crew's gossip for the week."
"For at least the next month, I'd say."
"Go have a shower. You'll feel better."
She pulled a face, but her head disappeared without further complaint. As he stepped inside his quarters he could hear her voice calling after him through the door.
"And I know you're smiling, Chakotay, so stop bothering to hide it."
He chuckled, then winced as his aching thigh muscle began to complain.
"Come on, old man," he said to himself as he wrenched off his own dripping t-shirt, dropping it resignedly onto the carpet. The couch was beckoning to him, but he ignored its siren call and made his way into the bathroom instead. Maybe a shower would make him feel better too. As he instructed the sonic shower to begin he squinted closely at his reflection in the mirror. There were a few touches of grey in his closely cropped hair, but he hardly noticed them normally.
"Maybe I need to start my boxing programme again," he muttered. A sudden crash made him jump. It was followed closely by another. He peered around him, his forehead wrinkling in confusion, until he realised where the noise was coming from. Another muffled thud was followed by a distinctly feminine voice, cursing, if he wasn't mistaken.
He laughed as he tried to imagine Kathryn Janeway, the image of control and poise, throwing objects around her quarters
"All is right with the world," he mumbled, slipping off his shorts.
Chakotay's eyes widened as the liquor skipped over his tongue, tickling his taste receptors with a delicious combination of fruit and honey flavours. He allowed the liquid to swirl around his mouth for a few seconds longer before swallowing. Kathryn edged forward on her seat, watching him expectantly.
"Well?" she prompted.
Chakotay ran a series of responses through his mind, discarding them all. "Wow," he said after a few moments. "This is the real stuff, isn't it?"
The corner of Kathryn's mouth curved upwards.
"It is, I can tell from your expression." He glanced down at the amber liquid then back up into the blue eyes of the woman sitting opposite him. "Why, may I ask, did you have bottle of Geballian mead tucked away in your luggage?"
"I found it when I was spring cleaning my cabinets."
"Which still begs the question..."
"Why did I pack it? I know. That was bothering me too when I first saw it poking out of the corner of one drawer," Kathryn said, hefting the bottle to refill her own glass. "I couldn't think why I would have. Then I remembered it was a bottle my sister had given me. I visited her a few days before our mission. My mission," she corrected herself, grinning wryly at the slip. "She gave me this and we were intending to drink it that night, but didn't get around it. So I'd slipped it in my bag, meaning to..."
She frowned. "I still can't remember what I thought I'd do with it. Share it with Tuvok when we caught up with the Liberty, maybe. But I forgot all about it until a few months after we were stranded here. Since then I've been saving it for a special occasion."
Chakotay's brown eyes, which had watched her with compassion while she spoke of her sister, now glinted with good humour as he peered behind the couch, then pretended to look over her shoulder.
Kathryn watched him suspiciously. "What are you doing?"
"I was just wonder where you'd hidden Tuvok."
She laughed at that. "I guess I thought you'd appreciate it more."
"Thank you," he said. "At the risk of appearing ungrateful, what's the occasion?"
Her eyebrows shot up. "You don't know?"
"No. Given you invited me yesterday, I presume we're not celebrating our ignominious defeat."
"I thought we agreed not to mention that ever again."
"Quite right." He thought for a moment. "It's not your birthday. I recorded that date the year after Neelix's first surprise party for you."
"Mmm," she said, her eyes narrowing dangerously at the memory.
"And I know it's not my birthday. I'm pretty sure it's not Tuvok's birthday, although I don't know the date. The fact he isn't here would suggest not."
Kathryn rolled her eyes. "Please tell me you aren't going to work your way through the entire crew."
"It isn't any festive occasion that I can think of," Chakotay went on. "Unless you have some sort of special holiday in Indiana that the rest of us don't know about."
"Cute," she said, "but not even close."
"Umm," he said. His brows knitted together as he thought. Kathryn tried to resist the urge to giggle at the serious look of contemplation on his face. "Is it a Captain thing?"
Kathryn flicked her wrist and sent a cushion careering in his direction. "I can't believe you don't know!"
Chakotay's face suddenly turned ashen, and he abruptly set his glass down on the table. "Oh," he said slowly. "I'm so sorry. I've... I've done it now, haven't I? I can't believe I missed it. You must be so angry."
Kathryn stared at him blankly.
"After all this time... and I forgot..." He ran his hands through his closely cropped hair in mock anguish, "... our wedding anniversary!" He finished with a chortle.
Kathryn cast her eyes around for another cushion, but luckily for her XO there were no potential projectiles within easy reach. "Idiot," she said instead.
She tried to ignore the fact that the word 'wedding' had actually sent a rapid shiver along her spine.
After a moment Chakotay stopped chuckling at his own joke and settled back against the chair. "Okay, I give up," he said, "tell me."
"It is our anniversary, in a way," she said. "It's the third anniversary of me making you my first officer."
Chakotay blinked at her, his jest forgotten. "Really?" he said incredulously. "Three years? I thought that was coming up in a few months."
"Nope." Kathryn shrugged and took a sip of her wine. "You know what they say. Time flies..."
"...when you're having fun." Chakotay finished the old cliché with her. "I'm not sure I'd characterize our first three years out here as 'fun'."
"Apart from this afternoon," Kathryn muttered into her glass.
"Nothing. Want another drink?"
Instead of passing him the bottle Kathryn slipped off her chair and stepped towards him. She refilled his glass, then sank down beside him on the couch.
"Let's have a toast," she said, stretching out her glass. "You and me, three years together." Realising how ambiguous that sounded she quickly added, "As a command team."
A smiled seemed to be tugging at the corner of Chakotay's mouth, but he merely nodded and plucked his glass from the table. "Three years together," he echoed, clinking his glass against hers.
As Kathryn sipped the sweet liquid she couldn't help wondering if he'd deliberately omitted her correction. Despite all the rationalizations she made in private, it was much harder to deny the attraction she felt for this man when she sat this close to him. Right now, for example, she could feel the warmth of his thigh where his hip was pressed up against her. It wasn't just physical either, she thought, watching the curve of his face from the corner of her eye. Not that he wasn't a good looking man - far from it - but if it was so superficial surely this magnetism would have dissipated by now. Three years, she mused, and her stomach still tensed like she was a nervous teenager when she thought of him.
"So maybe fun isn't the right word," she said, feeling a need to obscure the silence that had followed his words. "But we're both of sound body and mind. We haven't killed each other yet, or even really threatened serious bodily injury. Apart from when I said I'd break your arm after you missed that really easy shot..."
"Don't go there, Kathryn."
"Sorry. But under normal circumstances, I've never threatened you with physical violence. That has to count for something."
"I like it when you think positively."
"Three years in the Delta quadrant, huh?" Chakotay scooped up the cushion she had thrown at him earlier and placed it on his knee. He began playing idly with one of the edges as he spoke. "Do you think we should do something about that?"
"Do you mean like hurry up and get home?"
Chakotay flashed her a dimpled grin. "I was thinking more of a celebration for the crew."
"Oh. Do you think that would be a good idea? You're probably closer to the crew than I am," she admitted. "Would they think that was something worth celebrating? Or would we just be reminding them how far away from home we really are? Or would they take it as a prime opportunity to mock us about our lack of physical prowess?"
"Not if we spread the news about the prospect of demotion first." Chakotay regarded her seriously for a moment, his brown eyes flickering across her face. After a pause he shrugged, his shoulder rustling against hers. "I think most of the crew have accepted this won't be a short journey, if that's what you're asking. You know they've become friends and family to each other. I think people would be happy to celebrate the fact that we've survived this far together."
Kathryn nodded. "Okay. But we might want to word it differently on the party banner. I'm not sure how positive 'We've survived three years' really sounds."
He chuckled. "Would you prefer, 'Hey - we haven't killed each other yet!'?"
She rolled her eyes. "That would look good in the logs."
" 'Still together after all these years'?" he suggested.
"That's even worse."
"How about 'Three down, seventy three to go'?"
Kathryn tried to keep her face stern but couldn't resist chuckling. "Now you're just being silly."
Chakotay grinned at her but kept talking. "What about 'Leave a docking light on for us'? Or maybe we could have, 'Voyager: lost but not forgotten'. Or 'Three years of Delta Delights'." He snorted at his own witticisms. "Or how about, 'Your command team - they may stink at velocity, but just watch them get you home'."
Kathryn slapped her hand down on his thigh as she doubled over with laughter. "Please tell me you haven't been working on those."
"Nope," he said, "All off the top of my head. Give me a few days and I could come up with much more awful ones."
"I believe you."
Chakotay winced, and Kathryn realized that her palm was pressing down roughly on his thigh, that she could feel the warmth of his leg through his trousers. She flushed and hurriedly snatched her hand back.
"I think I injured myself today," he said.
"Oh. Maybe you should go see the doctor."
"It's just a muscle pull."
They stared at each other in silence for a moment.
"Well," he said, swallowing and glancing away, "should I ask our traditional party organizers to put something together?"
"Alright." Kathryn tried to keep her voice light to cover the perceptible change in mood. "But please don't let Mr. Paris pick the banner slogan"
"I'm sure Neelix can come up with something appropriate. Mostly appropriate," he amended.
The awkward silence stretched for a few moments longer. Chakotay turned his soft brown eyes back towards her, and seemed about to say something further, then thought better of it.
"I..." he began, then started again. "It's late. I should probably call it a night."
Kathryn was surprised to find herself disappointed. "Okay," she said again, as he pushed himself up from the couch.
He turned as he reached the door. "I'll talk to Neelix in the morning. See if we can arrange something for tomorrow night."
"Okay." Kathryn bit her lip, frustrated at her sudden lack of eloquence. "That sounds good," she added lamely.
He smiled. "Thank you for the wine. And dinner. And the reminiscences about our performance today."
"Or lack thereof."
"Right," he agreed. "Goodnight, Kathryn."
After he had gone Kathryn picked up the cushion and clutched it against her stomach. Get a grip, Kathryn old girl, she told herself. This isn't going to go anywhere but trouble.
Still, later that night it took her a long time to fall asleep, and she knew it wasn't the fault of her aching muscles. She kept picturing the way his eyes glistered when he was trying to make her laugh. The crinkly lines that formed around his mouth and eyes. The feel of his body brushing against hers. The way he'd looked earlier in those exercise shorts, with sweat trickling down his arms and back... She rolled over, pushing her face into the pillow.
"Oh crap," she muttered, as the rational part of her mind calmly diagnosed her symptoms.
When she finally did sleep she had some very interesting dreams, and when she woke her day began with the lingering feeling that something really wonderful was about to happen.
"When the heat of Summer grows oppressive, the
most delicate flowers sometimes curl at the edges,
fold into themselves, sometimes die..."
"Hey old man".
Chakotay winced at the description and nonchalantly quickened his pace. Perhaps if he reached the turbolift in time he could pretend he hadn't heard her.
"I said, 'Hello Chakotay'."
Nope. Damn. He forced a smile to his lips and turned his head to see B'Elanna jogging up beside him.
"No, you didn't," he said.
"What do you mean I didn't? Are you going deaf?"
Chakotay ignored that. "You said 'hello, old man', not 'hello Chakotay'."
B'Elanna regarded him wryly. "I see. Feeling our age today are we?" When Chakotay merely grunted she added, "Good training session, then?"
He resisted the urge to swat her with his sweaty towel and shrugged instead.
"What were you doing today?"
"Let's see... first we jogged around the training track at the Academy. The scenery is as uninspiring as I remember it. Then we did a series of sprints on some goddamn beach somewhere. Then we mountain climbed." Chakotay pulled a face. "At least I think we did. I was a little out of it by then."
"Sounds like fun."
B'Elanna peered more closely at his face. "You do look a little peaky."
Chakotay stopped walking and turned to face her. "Do I?" He groaned at the smile that tweaked at her lips, realising she'd been joking. "Awful pun, B'Elanna," he sighed. "Paris is a bad influence on you."
The Klingon rocked on her heels for a moment, eyeing her old friend. "So. How's the Captain handling the training?" she asked innocently.
"Why do you ask?"
B'Elanna folded her arms across her chest. "Just curious, that's all."
He snorted. "Curious, my ass."
Chakotay began striding towards the 'lift again, B'Elanna hurrying to stay by his side.
"Can't a girl be interested?"
"You're spying for Tom, aren't you?"
"What a thing to say."
He shot her a surly glare.
"Alright," she said, as they neared the turbolift doors. "It is possible that I may have a vested interest in how the two of you do this year."
"You're in the betting pool, aren't you?" he accused.
B'Elanna sighed. "Okay, I am."
He squinted at her suspiciously. "Who are you betting on?"
"You guys, of course."
"You don't believe me?"
"Well, last year..."
"Last year was completely different. I had no idea the Captain was taking the whole thing so seriously until I saw her on the court. I mean, the year before last you two were creamed by - "
"B'Elanna," he said sternly. "Don't speak of it. You know it's a forbidden subject."
"Okay, okay," she said hurriedly. "So, last year I was taken by surprise by the Captain's..." She struggled for a moment, trying to find the right word.
"Insane competitiveness?" Chakotay supplied.
"Um. Yeah. That's it."
"Now you know how seriously she takes this. Why bug me?" he asked, as the doors opened.
"The odds are on you winning. I just thought it might help if I had some inside information, that's all. To help me choose the size of my bet."
He grunted again and stepped inside. "If you must know, the Captain is in sickbay."
"What! What's wrong? Did she - "
Chakotay grinned as the doors slid shut in-between them. In former years he might have suspected B'Elanna would rip open the control panel and bring the turbolift to a halt, just so she could get an answer from him. Nowadays she was much more responsible. He sighed at the thought. There were times he missed the old B'Elanna.
More to the point, he thought, rubbing his aching shoulder, he missed the old Kathryn. She was in sickbay, but not for the treatment of an injury. She'd gone to bully the doctor - although of course she wouldn't think of it like that - into giving her another shot of nutrient supplements to take before the game tomorrow.
As he leant his head back against the wall, he cast his mind back to the game that B'Elanna had mentioned. They had been beaten, embarrassingly so, it was true, but at least they'd had a good time playing. Sure, Kathryn had been nettled, but the two of them joked later about their performance. The dinner they'd shared that night had been more like a celebration than commiseration.
In a way it was a celebration. It was the annual celebration of their friendship, the fact they'd been able to work together so well for the first years of Voyager's journey. It had also been, he thought, remembering the tension-filled room, one of many dinners at which he'd seriously considered kissing his Captain. That wasn't perhaps the most traditional way for a first officer to think about his Captain, but then, Chakotay had realised a long time ago that he was no ordinary XO. And Kathryn was no ordinary Captain. Or so he'd thought.
He sighed again as the 'lift doors opened, depositing him in the corridor near his quarters. As he stepped out his communicator chirped.
"Torres to Commander Chakotay."
He reached down to the corner of his shirt where he'd hastily pinned it after leaving the holodeck.
"Go ahead, B'Elanna."
"You sneak. There's nothing wrong with her."
He chuckled at the tone in her voice. "Checking up on me?"
"I called the doctor."
"You know me."
"Fraid so," he said. "I thought you might disable the lift though."
She snorted. "Amateurish. Who do you think I am, Tom Paris?"
"Rest up, Commander," her voice came back. "I want you in peak condition tomorrow."
He groaned inwardly. Just what he needed - another coach. "Yes Ma'am."
He keyed the code to his quarters and stepped wearily inside. There had been a time when he looked forward to every moment he spent with Kathryn. Now, he forced himself to admit, something between them had changed. They hadn't fought. There'd been no melodramatic scene where he'd declared his love for her while she pushed him away. They had just drifted apart from each other, the moment of possibility slipping past. In a way, he thought, rubbing the heels of his hands into his tired eyes, that was even sadder. Not acknowledging what could have been, not admitting how much they both cared.
Maybe, he thought, as he began stripping off his sodden clothes, it was time he admitted defeat
Chakotay pressed Kathryn's chime again. He was sure she was in her cabin. Absolutely positive, actually, given that he'd checked with the computer before leaving his own quarters. He'd had a sneaking suspicion she might have locked herself in her ready room instead on the pretext of ship's business. He hefted the bottle of wine he was carrying into his other hand and rapped on the doors with his knuckles.
"Captain," he called out. "I know you're in there. Don't make me stand outside this door and sing."
After a few seconds pause he raised his fist to knock again. It connected with empty air as the doors swooshed open.
"Sing?" A sarcastic voice replied. "Is that what first officers are doing these days?"
"When serenades are the only way to get their feet inside the door, yes. I've heard it's very effective. Especially if they sing as badly as I do, and - "
As he stepped inside the room he stopped short. Kathryn was sitting on her couch, clad only in a Starfleet tank and a pair of light blue shorts. Those short shorts. He swallowed hard, suddenly reminded of an old fantasy. In that version, however, Kathryn hadn't been glaring at him. She certainly wasn't sweating that much either, at least not this early in the piece. He blinked a few times to clear his vision. At the same time, he became aware of a few other things. The table didn't appear to be set for dinner. And he felt uncomfortably hot.
"Are the environmental controls malfunctioning? It seems a little cold in here for my liking."
Kathryn's eyebrow shot up at that, but she didn't reply.
"What, no smile? Come on." Clumsily, using his one free arm, he started shrugging off his jacket while he moved to sit beside her. He set the bottle of wine down on the table, then wrenched his jacket all the way off. Kathryn eyed the bottle in silence for a moment, then glanced up at him.
"There's a burnt out relay back there somewhere." She gestured vaguely to the back of her quarters. "It's affecting the temperature control in here."
"B'Elanna's sending someone to fix it, but they're having a busy shift down there."
"No dangerous radiation, I hope."
At that point Chakotay also became aware of the hypo-spanner resting on the coffee table.
"Did you try to fix it yourself?"
Kathryn shrugged, but didn't meet his gaze.
Chakotay's eyes narrowed suspiciously. "Kathryn," he said slowly. "You broke it, didn't you? Did you throw your velocity kit again?"
It was his turn to raise an eyebrow.
"Alright," she said grudgingly. "Maybe a little."
"A little?" He snorted. "I'm surprised I didn't hear you. Well, you'd better come next door then."
"Our celebration dinner, of course."
"Chakotay, in case you weren't paying attention, we lost today."
He shrugged. "So what? We always lose."
"Mostly. So far," he amended.
"We tried so hard this year," she growled.
"I know." Chakotay sighed, thinking of all those torturous hours spent on the holodeck. "Yosa and Murphy were just too damn good this year. Or too young again, perhaps."
Kathryn grunted, but didn't reply.
"Maybe I should put them on triple shifts for a while," he joked. "Try and wear down their youthful spirits a little."
Kathryn smiled weakly at him.
The heat of the room grew more oppressive. He peered at Kathryn curiously, wondering why she hadn't gone somewhere else. Surely her ready room would be more comfortable. She was sitting with her head slightly bent, a lock of her hair obscuring her eyes. He resisted the irrational urge to reach over and brush it back.
"So," he said, "the celebration? It's kind of traditional now, you know."
Kathryn stared at him for what seemed like a few minutes, although it was probably only a few seconds. He once thought he'd come to know all of her expressions, but this one was oddly different. Like tiredness, but not quite.
He bumped his shoulder gently against hers. "I'll start calling it an anti-celebration if that would make you feel better."
She managed a smile at that.
"Come on," he said quietly. "Don't make me say it again this year. Kathryn, it is..."
"...just a game," she finished with him, smiling tightly, and seeming to shake herself out of her mood. "A very stupid game, in fact, which we shouldn't at all feel inadequate for not being able to win every single time we play."
He flashed her a quick grin. "That's the spirit. Can I drag you next door now?"
"Sure. Dinner. I'll just put something else on, and meet you there in ten minutes."
"Okay." Chakotay patted her knee once, then stood to go. He tried to suppress his irritation at her distracted manner.
She was still going to eat with him, at least. There had been too many times lately when she'd cancelled their weekly meals because of work. Cancelled, he thought to himself in annoyance. Even the way he thought about it now made it sound like just another ship's appointment.
As Kathryn watched him leave a part of her felt the urge to call out after him. To say sometime else, make a stupid joke about the game, maybe. He seemed to be making some sort of effort to reach out to her. And she was so tired, so unresponsive. She wasn't being fair, and she knew it. By the time she opened her mouth the door was sliding shut behind him.
She rubbed her sweating temples. One more missed opportunity to do... she almost didn't know what anymore. Try to recapture the levity their relationship used to have? Try to build some sort of bridge across the distance she'd thrust between them?
"Pull yourself together, Kathryn," she muttered. She stumbled into the bathroom and switched on the sonic shower.
While the hissing began behind her she stared at the face in the mirror. Something about it seemed to hypnotize her. She pushed her hair back from her forehead with a flattened palm.
She didn't know how long she stood there, gazing stupidly at her reflection. She didn't like what she saw. It wasn't the lines. She quite liked the lines. The little depressions around her eyes and mouth always seemed to her an imprint of her life's emotions. It was her expression, the dull ache she could see so clearly in her own eyes.
Is this what he sees now? she thought, letting her hair drop down to frame her face. Am I empty?
Fifteen minutes later, as she stepped into his cabin, she forced a smile to her face.
"when I forget, Autumn reminds me
with its glorious colours
and falling leaves, that everything changes,
time moves on..."
"Hey! Admiral, wait up!"
She looked over her shoulder at the sound of Chakotay's voice, but keep striding down the hall. "If you want to talk, Commander, you'd better be able to keep up with me!" she called back.
He caught up, puffing a little. "What the hell do you do 26 years from now? Construction work?!"
"Desk jockey, Chakotay, pure padd pushing. But," she winked at him, "I keep in shape."
His eyes involuntarily swept her body. "Yeah, I noticed that."
Her eyebrow raised and, as he started to blush, she laughed.
"What can I do for you, Chakotay? I'm in a little bit of a rush here."
"I want to have a little talk with you before you leave us. It's - well, it's important to me."
The admiral slowed down and laid a hand on his forearm. "Chakotay, you know you're important to me but you've left it a little late. I've only got an hour at most to get everything done before I leave."
He twisted his forearm and slid it back gently to grasp her hand. "That's just it, Admiral, I don't know. And, as far as I'm concerned, this is definitely part of what has to get done before you leave."
"Don't know what? I don't have time for riddles, Chakotay."
He stopped walking but kept her hand in his. She had no choice but to stop.
"You've got all the time in the world, Admiral. It's wrapped around your little finger just like everything always is....was....damn!"
He looked around and recognised a doorway and pulled her into it. It was a small meeting room, used mainly for short briefings for this deck's duty personnel.
"Okay, Admiral Janeway, I want the truth. Why the hell did you come back here?"
"I was sure I saw you at all the meetings," she started lightly, but the tone faded away at the sight of his face. "Are you suggesting, Chakotay, that I didn't do this for my crew?"
"Our crew. And we both know that you'd do almost anything to get Voyager home, Admiral. Spirits, like you have to convince me of that; I live it every day of my life on board this ship. But don't try to con me, Admiral - 22 dead crewmembers are not going to sleep better just because their captain disobeys the Temporal Prime Directive 26 years in the future and comes back to change history today."
They both mulled that one over. It would appear that tenses and pronouns would be flying freely in this conversation.
"I owe it to them, Chakotay."
"That's doubtful, especially if 23 others die in the attempt, but I'll bet your twisted logic worked on the captain. You've - she's - been a little obsessed the past few years. And why is that, anyway?"
She didn't reply and refused to look up at him.
He crossed his arms and stared at her. "What do I have to do, Admiral? I want to know and you're the only one who can tell me. You're - you're our last chance, aren't you?"
"The captain," he interrupted, "is on a long journey into denial and loneliness. She's still holding up pretty well now, but it's going to get a lot worse, isn't it?" He gently lifted her chin. "Am I one of the 22, Admiral?"
"You? No! You get home, Chakotay, an older man but you get home." Her eyes looked down again.
This time her gaze was fierce. "But nothing. I told you, you get home."
He shook his head. "After all this time you still think I don't see through you. Somehow, somewhere, I get the strong feeling that I'm dead in your time and Admiral, that's not the future I've got planned for myself."
She smiled deprecatingly. "Yeah well, I know some of your plans and you're full of surprises yourself, Chakotay."
"You're referring to Seven, aren't you?"
She stared at him. "Blunt and to the point as usual, Commander. But, since I've broken just about every temporal directive on the books, one more shouldn't hurt. You're falling in love with Seven, Chakotay. You're going to marry her - and I'm going to perform the marriage ceremony."
He could hear the pain in her voice. "I just wanted to hear you say it, Kathryn."
She nodded and looked at her feet. "I know," she whispered. "You've been feeling a little guilty, although goodness knows why after how I've - how the captain's been treating you the last few years. You just had to hear from me that I was okay with it in the end. I understand."
He snorted. "Kathryn, I don't think you've understood a damned thing for almost three years now. The captain already told me what you said about my so-called big romance which, by the way, has consisted of three, no four, dates more confusing than any I ever had at 16. She bravely told me that, after our marriage, Seven dies on an away mission and I practically pine away to my own death. What a crock."
"Look, you stubborn, miserable, conniving, egotistical, inflexible, obstinate, arrogant, presumptuous fraud. I don't know what the hell you were up to 26 years ago....damn, I mean now....but one thing is certain. You really screwed up back then. Now. And you finally figured it out and you're back for us, aren't you? Because, Admiral, if you are it's about bloody time. So, like I asked you before, what do I have to do?"
She was a little dazed. "Do you really think I'm all those things, Chakotay?"
"Admiral, that's just the tip of the iceberg. You should hear me when I'm in my quarters and I'm angry with you. I mean, angry at the captain."
She looked up at him. "I thought that all our caring for each other had slowly faded away over the years - these past few years. I remember literally feeling you physically drawing away from me, as if our connection was crumbling to dust. I used to lie in bed at night mentally calling out to you to see if I could bring it back. That's why, when you told me about Seven, I just tried to accept it. What else could I do?"
"I haven't told you about Seven yet. I mean I haven't told the Captain. Spirits, I hate alternate timelines."
"I have to go, Commander," the admiral said softly.
"Oh, no you don't," he insisted. "Just tell me, Admiral. Please God, just tell me. I'm not saying I couldn't love Seven or even B'Elanna or Sam in another timeline, but this isn't the one. Please Admiral, let Kathryn and I fulfil our destiny in this line, in this here and now. Let us bring our crew home together. If nothing else it will help justify the reason why you risked becoming Starfleet's most wanted temporal outlaw."
"I tried, Chakotay. She knows, but she's very stubborn and scared. She acted like she wouldn't even listen to me. And even if I told you anything there's no guarantee that this Seven timeline would change into a timeline that is ours. It could be a future where you have no love at all, and I could never do that to you."
"One possible future, Admiral, that's all I ask for. Please believe in us."
Slowly he approached her. His hand came up and stroked her wrinkled cheek, her slackened jawline. "You're still my beautiful woman, Kathryn," he whispered and then brought his mouth down to hers. His kiss was soft and she returned it gently, glad for one last opportunity to share a special moment with the most exceptional person she'd ever cherished in her life. But then she felt the excitement, the pressing, the insisting, the unmistakable request from his tongue.
The years fell from her mind and she was finally in the arms of her first officer. His strong arms wrapped around her and she felt the erotic satisfaction of his broad chest pressing against her breasts. Her mouth opened and they shared the intimate caress of two people made for one another. Slowly they pulled away.
"Kathryn, I'll make a deal with you," he whispered as they touched their foreheads together.
"What's that, Chakotay?" she breathed.
"If you tell me what I need to know on this day, in this time, to bring my Kathryn back from the empty life she's headed for...."
"Yes?" she whispered.
He slid his index finger down her nose and let it stay on her swollen lips. "Then I promise that when you come back home to me tonight on this day, in your time, there'll another one of those waiting for you. Plus dessert and coffee."
She told him.
"Chakotay, stop it! People are looking."
He kept looking straight ahead. "Stop what, Kathryn? I'm not doing anything."
"You're looking smug, again," she hissed. "Stop it!"
He refused to look at her. "I am not looking smug. I am looking like a man who has spent a very nice afternoon with the woman he loves."
"That's the definition of smug, mister, and there isn't a person on board who isn't recognising it. Although, come to think of it, it does beat the hell out of the looks we got after all those damned Voyager Olympics."
Tom and Harry came around the corner further down the corridor and walked in their direction. Before they were even in speaking distance Kathryn and Chakotay watched them look at each other and grin. The grins were almost gone as they neared.
"Captain. Commander." They nodded respectfully, barely keeping straight faces. They walked past.
"What did you do, Chakotay, put it on 'Breakfast with Chell'?"
"Kathryn, leave me alone. If you must know I didn't do a thing - it was you."
"Me?! I don't think so!"
"Well, that's the scuttlebutt I overheard in the messhall. Before they noticed I was there, that is."
"If you say one rude word about how loud I am....."
He laughed. "That's not rude to me, Kathryn! I love it! But that's not it."
They stopped at a lift and waited for the doors to open. The doors slid open and they entered, turning to watch the lights flicker by. Kathryn's foot began to tap impatiently.
"All right, Chakotay, I give. How did I let the cat out of the bag?"
"You told the bridge staff that anyone who'd let a kisser like me get away was a complete fool."
"COMPUTER, STOP LIFT!"
"And then you said the two of us wouldn't be on duty for several days after your mission was successful and that no one was to disturb us."
"I did not!"
"Yes you did - and Tuvok concurred."
"Now you're stretching it just a little too much, Chakotay."
"And then you were very loud in my quarters and - I'm assuming here - we were overheard."
"And in what dimension is all this supposed to have happened, Chakotay?"
"The here and now, Kathryn. Of course, Admiral Janeway knew exactly what she was doing, she was a spry old thing, wasn't she? Very chipper."
"Yup. Right before she left; she came to the bridge to say good-bye to everyone. Kissed Harry and Tom and even Tuvok good-bye and said 'see you all on the other side.' Very chipper."
"And by any chance did she also kiss you good-bye?"
He smiled at the closed doors. "She may have."
"And did you kiss her back?"
"Well, Kathryn, what's a gentleman to do in a situation like that?"
"So. That explains it."
"The look on her face when she finally got to the shuttle bay. I'd been waiting for her for ten minutes. First she's late and then it's all go-go-go as if her pants were on fire."
Chakotay innocently looked in the upper corner of the lift. Kathryn's eyes narrowed.
"Her pants were on fire, weren't they, Commander?"
"I have no idea what you're talking about, Captain. She came and said good-bye to some old friends knowing that she was going to the Borg on a suicide mission. Kissing is not against Starfleet rules, no matter what some people think."
"Suicide mission, my ass. You two were up to something, it's all becoming very clear now."
"Too little, too late, Kathryn. And besides, I really don't hear you complaining. And she did infiltrate the Borg and we're now in the Alpha Quadrant heading for Earth, are we not?"
"Yes, we are. But something still bothers me...."
"The last thing she said to me....."
"What was that?"
"Something about not wanting to be late for a date with coffee and dessert...."
He finally looked down at her and smiled. "I give great dessert, Kathryn."
She smiled back. "Computer, resume lift."
Kathryn sighed happily. "Thank you, Chakotay, that was a wonderful story."
They had settled on the ground amongst the leaves; Chakotay leaning against a tree and Kathryn resting against him between his legs. He pulled his head away from the trunk and kissed her cheek.
"Thank you, Kathryn. Our seasons on Voyager; it's how I finally made peace with us."
"It wasn't you, Chakotay," she whispered. "It was never you."
There was a short silence. She spoke and her voice couldn't disguise her grin. "I really enjoyed spring. It was so much fun, all that eye tag and everything."
His voice also smiled. "Spring certainly had its moments but still, I think I prefer autumn."
Feeling his warm arms wrapped so comfortably around her, Kathryn could only murmur her agreement.
"I'll bless the Admiral for the rest of my life for showing you the way home. As it were."
"Time travel - I still can't handle it. You're blessing me when you bless her, you know."
"Yes, I know," he laughed with her. "So, are you about ready to leave now?"
"No, I'm not. I'm going to sit here in your arms until Owen Paris comes and drags me out by force. You realise, Chakotay, that we're in for a nightmare of protocol, publicity, and hearings when we get home."
"Yeah." They both fell grimly silent until he suddenly slapped his forehead. "Oh spirits!"
Kathryn stiffened in his arms. "What?"
"I can't believe I forgot."
"Forgot what? You're not still worried about the old Maquis crewmembers, Chakotay? Because I promised you..."
"No, this is much worse." His voice sounded strained.
"Worse?" She pulled away and twisted around to face him. "What's worse, Chakotay? Tell me - I have to be prepared for Starfleet....."
He groaned. "Velocity. The final Voyager Olympics."
Kathryn stared at him blankly.
"I can't believe I forgot. I mean, I know we've both been, well busy, but our game is scheduled for later tonight."
"You're kidding. Why didn't I know? Shouldn't I have known something about this? Surely some report would have crossed my desk or..... What aren't you telling me, Chakotay?"
Chakotay shrugged sheepishly.
"It's why I came looking for you. Paris mentioned it the other day but it completely slipped my mind until he left a message for me on my terminal. He said it had become one of Voyager's traditions and that we should make a special effort to fit a final Olympic games in before the end of our journey. You know, as a reminder of the past seven years. Of what it stands for. Etc etc etc, well, you know Paris. So I said sure and promptly forgot about it."
"I guess you were distracted."
"I guess I was."
"There's that smug look again."
He grinned. "So are we going to play?"
"If you're talking about velocity, do we have any choice?"
"Of course we do," he said. "We could finally admit defeat. Announce to the whole crew and two quadrants that we know we're never ever going to win a game. I'm sure no one would argue with that."
Kathryn raised an eyebrow. "Very subtle reverse psychology there, Commander."
"Why, thank you, Captain."
"But of course we'll play. We can hardly expect the crew to think of the Voyager Olympics as tradition if we don't."
"Kathryn, we're completely unprepared. I haven't been working out for weeks now." At her smirk he added, "In the gym, I mean."
"So what? That doesn't matter. It's the game that counts."
He stood up stiffly and held out a hand to her. "I've been waiting years to hear you say that."
"Of course," she went on lightly, tightening her fingers around his, "we still might win. You never know."
He chuckled at the look of determination that had suddenly crept across her face. With hands on their backs they slowly stretched and straightened up. Then, holding hands, they walked towards the holodeck's door and home.
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