Disclaimer:      Paramount owns all things Star Trek Voyager.  I don’t.  Only borrowing                 
                      them. Etc. Etc. Etc.


Rating:            PG13.


Summary:         God, I hate trying to write summaries LOL.
                       This is mainly an angst story but there are babies in there.  I wouldn’t
                       call it a babyfic but that’s your decision….
                       
                        Back on Earth, Chakotay gets a visitor who makes him face his past, a past where
                        he turned his back on Kathryn when she needed him most.  Now she needs him
                        again.  Can he get past his own pain and guilt in order to be there for her this time? 


Note:

This story has taken a long time to finish and I left it and came back to it many times.  Finally it was finished – with much help (and persuasion).

So – thanks a million to –

Judy – my ever patient beta who read and re-read this and made so many helpful and useful suggestions and corrections, of which there were many.  She cracked her whip when needed, even when I probably drove her to madness.  Thanks, my friend – for everything.  I’d be lost without you.

Gine – who also read and re-read this until I was sure she’d hit me with it.  She became my mirror so many times as I worked through this.  Dear SS, your encouragement and friendship have been beyond words.  And…  You know what I mean.




MEMORIES AND DREAMS.


By Katlady.




Part Ten.



Over the next two months Chakotay attended counselling as Elizabeth had suggested.  He called the doctor and asked her for a recommendation and she gave him the name of a colleague of hers.

Dr. Fulton smiled at Chakotay from the view screen.  “I’m delighted to know you’re taking this step, Chakotay.  You won’t regret it.”

Chakotay smiled at her.  “I know you’re right.  Kathryn thinks it’s a good idea too.”  He grew serious.  “She called to see me.  Did she tell you?”

Elizabeth nodded.  “Yes, she did.  Actually we talked about it before she made that decision.”

Chakotay accepted that.  “It was so good to see her…”  He stopped and smiled.  “Sorry.  I know you can’t talk about this.  It was just…well…I’d missed her.  I just wish I could have been able to help her more and…”

The doctor interrupted him.  “Chakotay, you did help her.  And I think you were able to do that because you could recognize the raw and emotional side of her…her vulnerability, and that was because you were so aware of your own whether you knew that or not.  But now it’s time to help yourself.”

Chakotay smiled kindly and nodded.  “I guess it is.  Thank you for this and everything else.  Thank you for helping me, and above all else helping Kathryn.”

Elizabeth acknowledged that with a broad smile.  “It has been my pleasure.  Good luck, Chakotay.”

^^^^^^^^^^ 

Chakotay kept his word and made the appointment with the counsellor Elizabeth Fulton had recommended.  He was a man in his mid-forties and saw his patients in his own comfortable home, which instantly put Chakotay at his ease. 

Within two sessions Chakotay realized it was a step he should have taken a long time ago.  While he’d been able to talk to Kathryn, he was able to pour his heart out with his counsellor without the emotional attachment.  As the work progressed, he felt a weight lifting from his shoulders and began to realize just how long everything had been eating away inside of him.  He didn’t fool himself though.  He knew he had a long road ahead of him, that dealing with his guilt would be a difficult journey.

His work with Starfleet satisfied him and Rose swelled his heart every time he looked at her or thought of her, but there was still a wound inside him he knew he needed to heal.


^^^^^^^^^^ 

Kathryn kept her word and Chakotay did see her again.  As time passed a tentative friendship developed and he saw her occasionally, meeting for lunch or having her over to the house. 

He worried about her spending time with Rose though, afraid that being around the little girl would upset her.  He found himself watching Kathryn constantly and trying to limit the contact they had, and eventually Kathryn noticed.  She challenged him on it, asking if he was afraid to have her around his daughter.  Chakotay was horrified that his actions had caused her to think that way, and fighting his embarrassment he explained why he was worried.  He referred back to the night she’d been upset watching him settle the child for the night.  Kathryn matter-of-factly put him straight, telling him in no uncertain terms that he was just reminding her and hurting her with his actions.  He heard the captain in her words as she told him that if she had a problem she’d tell him about it, but until that time she wanted him to treat her as normally as possible.

With that settled, they became easier in each other’s company and a friendship like the one they had had in the early days on Voyager started to be reborn.

For her part, Kathryn continued to see Elizabeth, determined to finish the work she’d started.  She also began to gain more confidence in herself and nurtured a will to begin living again.  In time she moved out of her apartment and bought a small house for herself with the garden she had dreamed about.  Chakotay even helped her move in and decorate it. 

Once she felt settled there she went back to work, lecturing for Starfleet.  She knew her days of space travel were well and truly over and didn’t feel the loss the way she had feared.

She worked part-time to begin with, slowly increasing her hours but refusing a full time position.  After all she’d been through, she never wanted to let work consume her again. 

She also eased her way into a social life.  She saw Chakotay now and then, spending time with him and his daughter, even sharing occasional outings with them.  She socialized with others too, slowly building a circle of friends again.  She visited with Tom and B'Elanna, enjoying her time with them and their daughter in a way she’d never have been able to before.  And there were new friends too among those she worked with.  She felt proud of the progress she’d made.


^^^^^^^^^^

Kathryn was sitting in Chakotay’s kitchen one weekend going over some work with him.  They had both ended up sharing several students and often had to work together when planning lectures or helping a student plan his or her future.  

They finished work and were sharing a late supper when Chakotay finally broached something he’d long wanted to bring up with Kathryn.  He felt she was stronger now and ready for what he wanted to ask her. 

“Kathryn…”  He hesitated and she sensed that something was troubling him.

“What is it, Chakotay?”

He finished his tea and rested his elbows on the kitchen table where they sat.  “I’ve wanted to ask you something for a long time, but I never felt the time was right.”  Kathryn merely nodded, tacitly giving her permission for him to continue.  He cleared his throat and took the plunge.

“It’s about Caylem…”  He watched her carefully, afraid of upsetting her.  She shocked him by smiling softly.

“You want to visit his grave.”  She took in his shocked expression.  “I’ve waited for you to ask and I knew you would.  I also know you were waiting to ask until you felt I was ready.”  He just nodded.

Kathryn leaned her elbows on the table in an imitation of him.  “Do you want to go alone or do you want me to come with you?”

Now that the subject was out in the open, he realized he hadn’t thought that far ahead.  He knew his answer though.  “I’d really like it if you could come with me.”

Kathryn nodded and smiled softly.  “That’s fine.  When do you want to go?”

Their conversation felt surreal to Chakotay.  “Whenever suits you.  I don’t…”

Kathryn saw his uneasiness.  She leaned over and laid a hand on his.  “Tomorrow is Sunday.  If you’d like, we could go then.”

He nodded at that.  “I can ask B'Elanna to take Rose.”  He felt close to tears and his heart constricted as he looked at her.  “Thank you.”

^^^^^^^^^^

The following day, Kathryn took Chakotay to the resting place of their lost son.  She walked silently to the grave with him and then gently touched his arm.  “This is it.”  

They stood before a small area of flowers, marked only by a carved stone with their son’s name and date of birth.  A cherub holding a dove was carved on top of it and beside the name and date, a copy of Chakotay’s tattoo was carved.

Chakotay felt overwhelmed with emotion and was too choked up to say anything.  Kathryn read him easily and squeezed his arm.  He looked at her as she pointed to a large tree with a wooden bench below it.  “I’ll just be over there.  I’ll wait for you.  Take your time.”

Chakotay nodded in confusion and she smiled at him.  “I’ll join you when you’re ready.  Just take your time.”  She smiled again then walked away slowly, leaving her child’s father to make his peace with himself and their son.

^^^^^^^^^^

That evening Kathryn offered to put Rose to bed while Chakotay cleared away in the kitchen.  He simply smiled his thanks and continued clearing the dishes, leaving Kathryn feeling they had overcome another hurdle. 

When she returned, Chakotay had her coffee waiting.  He was sitting on the couch watching the flames dance in the fireplace.  He looked up and smiled at her.  “Did she go down all right?”

Kathryn smiled and nodded.  “She’s exhausted.  She was asleep before her head hit the pillow.”

Chakotay smiled and pointed to her coffee.  “Your drug of choice.”

Kathryn sat and lifted her mug, inhaling the aroma of the coffee.  “That’s good.  For someone who doesn’t drink the stuff, you sure know how to make it.”

Chakotay laughed.  “I aim to please.”  His laughter faded as he looked at her.  “Kathryn, thank you for today.  It meant so much to me…gave me a connection to him I didn’t have before.”

She shook her head.  “I was happy to take you.  It meant a lot to me too.”  They were silent for several minutes, both watching the fire.  Finally Kathryn broke the silence.  “Thanks for letting me put Rose to bed and not making a big deal of it.”

Chakotay met her eyes.  “You explained and I accepted.  I was just afraid of hurting you.”

Kathryn leaned back and nodded.  “I know that, but thank you anyway.  Besides, you weren’t alone.  I saw Tom and B'Elanna doing the same thing with Miral.  I know you all meant well and if the tables had been turned, I’d probably have been the same way myself.”  She settled herself more comfortably into the cushions and studied him for a moment. 

Chakotay frowned slightly.  “What’s on your mind?”

Kathryn smiled slightly.  “I always forget how well you read me.”  She shrugged a little.  “Can I be very bold and ask how you’re getting on with your counselling?”  She held a hand up.  “I’m not asking you for details.  Please don’t think that.  I just hope that it’s helping.”

Chakotay looked towards the fire and sighed.  “I don’t mind you asking at all.”  He sighed as he looked back at her.  “It’s going well.  I don’t know how I got through without it, in fact.  It’s a great outlet and Philip is great…”  He smiled at her.  “Philip Barrow.  Elizabeth recommended him.”

Kathryn nodded as she watched him.  “I’m glad he’s helping you.”

Chakotay pursed his lips a moment.  “It’s not easy, but he is helping.”  He looked off into the distance, his thoughts his own, and Kathryn kept quiet, giving him space if he wanted to say more.

Finally he pulled himself back and looked over at her.  “He asked me something early on, something Elizabeth Fulton also asked when she first came to see me.”  He sighed.  “When I told him the details…he asked if a previous girlfriend had ever terminated a pregnancy or lost a baby.  He was looking for a reason for my behaviour.  It hit me hard to realize there was no reason…no excuse.  My behaviour was all because of my own ugliness.”

Kathryn sat up and laid a gentle hand on his arm.  “Chakotay…”

He shook his head.  “He asked me if I thought Seska had had something to do with the way I acted.”  He sat forward.  “That made me feel even worse.”

Kathryn frowned.  “How?  Maybe all that had something to do with it.”

Chakotay laughed cynically.  “Oh come on, Kathryn.  Whatever I thought of you at the time, I’d never have compared you to that…”  He held off on whatever expletive he’d like to have used.  “No…the fact is…”  He shrugged.  “There are no excuses for how I behaved.  Oh, don’t get me wrong.  It would be wonderful if there was a reason I could point to and say ‘that’s why I did this or that’ or ‘that’s the reason I was this way’, but that’s not the case.”

Kathryn studied him.  “Only pain and grief and loss…”

He shook his head.  “All of which you had.  I’m not the first man this has happened to and they didn’t behave the way I did.”

Kathryn just shook her head.  “You don’t know that, Chakotay.  You don’t know those men, whoever they are.  Besides, each person’s situation is unique to them.”

Chakotay stared down into his tea.  “This was me though.  I still don’t have any excuse for the way I was.”  He looked back at Kathryn.  “I know some believe that being a man…not showing emotions and all that…made my pain come out as anger to cope…  Even Elizabeth talked to me about that.  I told you all this before.”

Kathryn studied him.  “Was she any help?”

He sighed.  “She was right about one thing.  Up to the time I went to see you, I hadn’t faced any of this.  According to her, I’d built up hate and anger towards you since it happened…probably in order to cover all my other feelings and avoid dealing with them…dealing with my hurt and pain.  It was easier to hate you and direct it all at you…so I converted my pain to anger and hate and aimed it at you.  I needed someone to blame and it supplied an explanation for something that had no reason and just happened.”


Kathryn thought about that.  “And your counsellor.  What was his take on it all?  Did he offer any insight?”

He seemed mesmerized with his tea.  “He said much the same.  Same stock answers and reasons.  Many men grieve in the same way.  They hide the pain and it comes out as anger.  They see it as weak to show their feelings…pain, grief, sadness.  He said I felt cheated at my lost dream and because I could see no reason for it, I invented one or sought one.  To cope, I lashed out at you…the one I loved and needed most.  What I believed in was gone and because I couldn’t show that, I used the anger and hate to cover it.  I was blinded to your pain by my own.  Nothing I hadn’t heard before.  You’ve heard it all too.”  He shook his head.  “He did offer one other insight though.  He traces it back to when I lost my family to the Cardassians.  I used anger and hate then too.  Instead of grieving, I joined the Maquis.  He thinks I saw having you and the baby as a way to heal all that…heal all the losses.  Not replacing one family with another but…  And then it was snatched away.”  He shook his head.  “I loved Seska…or believed I did…but she betrayed me…so that added to my losses.  Having you and then the baby was like coming home…and then it was gone.  I felt doubly vulnerable.  He thinks my anger was a form of self-defence…my only way to cope.  So I became…  I shut it all out…turned off…and thought only of getting the crew home…”

Kathryn nodded slowly.  “The way I once was…”

He barely nodded at that.  “I drifted into a relationship with Louise out of loneliness.  He thinks I also somehow saw her as a safe way of getting some of my dream.”  He shrugged.  “Oh I loved her, but it was a safe love…more like friendship.  Philip thinks it was a neutral place where I felt I wouldn’t or couldn’t get hurt.”  He looked towards the fire.  “We didn’t plan Rose, but once she was on the way…I saw glimpses of my dream again.”  He shrugged once more and looked back at her.  “I don’t know.  In my mind, it was still down to me.  I have to take full responsibility.”

She nodded slowly.  “So he’s given you answers.  That’s good.”

He shook his head.  “There’s a big difference between answers and reasons and excuses.”

Kathryn sighed heavily.  “That’s not you talking, Chakotay.  That’s your inability to forgive yourself speaking.  If I can let it go and leave it in the past, why can’t you?  I wish you’d just let go of your guilt.”

Chakotay managed a small smile.  “Kathryn Janeway is telling me about letting go of guilt.”

She smiled sheepishly.  “All right.  Point taken.  I owned the monopoly on that, didn’t I?”  She shrugged.  “OK then…if I can eventually learn to let go of guilt, you can too.”

Chakotay took a drink of his tea.  “It took you a long time though.”  He smiled at her.  “I think it may take me just as long.  Just be patient with me.”

^^^^^^^^^^

Over the next two months Kathryn continued to improve.  Physically she’d been given the all-clear, and she only saw Elizabeth Fulton occasionally.  In her words, she was slowly weaning herself off therapy.  She knew that making a life for herself would be the best therapy of all.

Chakotay, for his part, continued with his counselling, needing the outlet it provided.  He felt he was making progress but still believed he had a long way to go.

Both Kathryn and Chakotay were now settled into a comfortable friendship, taking each day as it came.  They occasionally discussed their past, at ease with the good times they’d had, but now they mostly left the painful topics untouched.  Mainly they lived in the present, enjoying the time they spent together.

They didn’t talk about the future at all, except to plan a student’s career and best course choice.  It wasn’t a conscious decision, each just feeling that the other wasn’t ready or afraid of upsetting what they had.

Outside of the contact they had at the Academy they saw each other about two or three times a week, sometimes having dinner with Tom and B'Elanna or attending a celebration for a former crew member.  In this way they established a comfortable routine, one they both relied on even if they didn’t realize it at the time.

^^^^^^^^^^

Chakotay smacked the ball hard, leaving Tom unable to make the return.  He stood up and wiped at his forehead, his breathing heavy.  “You’re getting slow, Paris.”

Tom tried to control his own breathing.  “You’re not too fast yourself, old man.”

Their weekly game of racquetball had become a firm date in their diaries, both men needing the workout and time to themselves.  It gave them time to bond, and both were enjoying the enhanced friendship they were now enjoying.

Tom slid down the wall and reached for a bottle of water.  “Let’s take five.”

Chakotay joined him and laughed.  “You don’t need to ask me twice.”  He took a second bottle which Tom offered him and drank deeply.  “Thanks.”

They drank in silence for several minutes, both catching their breath.  Finally Tom asked a question he’d been dying to ask for ages.  “How are things going with you and Kathryn?”

Chakotay laughed.  “Taking lessons from your wife in direct questioning?”

Tom laughed at that.  “Plain talking is a survival technique in our house.  It tends to spill over into the rest of my life now.”

Chakotay smiled at that and then grew serious, shrugging slightly.  “We’re friends…I hope.”  He saw the sadness on his friend’s face.  “Outside of work we have dinner occasionally…attend the odd celebration…see the two of you.  It’s actually like the early days on Voyager except we have this history.   Oh we know it’s there, but mostly we don’t acknowledge it.  We did talk about it and in some ways came to terms with it….probably said everything that needed to be said.  We haven’t talked about it in months though…and now it’s like being in no-man’s land…marking a ceasefire of sorts.  It’s comfortable for the most part.”

Tom played with this water bottle.  “Is she still OK with Rose?  We worried about her with Miral but she’s fine.”

Chakotay sighed at that.  “I was so afraid about that.  At first I was keeping Rose away, afraid being with a baby would hurt her even though she’d spent time with her already.”  He laughed slightly.  “She actually called me on it…asked if I was afraid to have her around my child.  I was treating her differently, and she didn’t want that.  She’s very comfortable with her now, as Rose is with her.”

Tom nodded slowly at that.  “She told us about you both going to visit Caylem’s grave.”

Chakotay dropped his head back.  “It took me a long time to ask her about that but I finally did.  She was actually expecting me to ask.  I’d been afraid to say anything for so long.  In the end…”  He sighed.  “It was something we both needed to do together.  And it was fine.  It’s such a peaceful place, beautifully tended.  She’d arranged a lovely little marker stone with an angel holding a dove and my tribal marking.  I was amazed at that, but it meant so much to me.  It was a very healing visit for us both.  It helped me a lot and I think her too…helped us.  I’ve been there on my own since our visit together, and I know she has too.  I saw her flowers there as I’m sure she’s seen mine, but we haven’t talked about it.”

Tom smiled at that.  “She’s certainly come a long way this past year.”

Chakotay smiled as well.  “Yeah.  She loves lecturing at the Academy.  Being behind a desk wasn’t for her and going back into space was the last thing she wanted.  We actually share some students and work together occasionally in planning lectures.  It’s great.  She’s a different woman.  She has her house and garden, which she loves.  She’s even in touch with former crew.  She has her friends and socializes with them a lot…not just the crew, but faculty members…other staff.  She’s made a great life for herself and I’m just a small part of it.”

Tom looked around at his friend.  “It sounds like that hurts.”

Chakotay was honest in his answer.  “It does in a way, but I think that’s just my arrogance showing.  She doesn’t need me.  She doesn’t need anyone…and that’s great.  Don’t get me wrong.  It just feels…”  He sighed heavily and ran a hand through his hair.  “I don’t know.  I let her down before.  Badly.  I feel this need to try and make up for that.”

Tom saw the sadness on the other man’s face.  “She was like this before though, on Voyager - confident and in charge of her own life.”

Chakotay just nodded.  “I know.”  He studied the far wall of the court.

Tom took a drink and closed the bottle.  “You need her to need you.”

Chakotay turned to look at Tom, seeing his friend meant no harm in the statement.  He nodded slowly.  “I’ve wondered and thought about that, and if I’m totally honest…”  He sighed.  “In one way, I guess I feel her needing me more would help my guilt.”  He turned the bottle in his hands.  “Mostly it’s not that though.  Yes, I want to make it up to her, as impossible as that is, but mainly it’s because I love her.  I now think I never stopped loving her.  I just let other feelings overshadow that…or refused to see it.”

Tom remembered his wife’s opinion on that but said nothing.  He shook his head.  “I’d think seeing her happy with her own life would help you more.”

Chakotay took a drink too.  “Maybe…  I suppose I’m still confused by it all.  The counselling is helping, but I guess I still have a long way to go…”

^^^^^^^^^^

Their routine continued as time passed, much as it had been.  The only break in it came when Kathryn took a holiday, announcing that she was going to Hawaii for a week to eat, sleep, read and generally just laze about.

Chakotay remarked on her plans to B'Elanna.  “The old Kathryn would have hated a vacation like that.  She’d have been bored to tears within ten minutes.”

B'Elanna smiled as she cleared away after their lunch.  “She’s not the old Kathryn anymore though.”

Chakotay nodded at that.  “I know…and I’m slowly learning to accept that.  It just seems strange.”

B'Elanna stopped what she was doing and studied him.  “What’s really bothering you?  Is it that she didn’t ask you along or are you afraid she’ll meet someone?”

He shook his head and smiled sadly.  “Can’t ever say you’re not direct…”  B'Elanna merely shrugged at that.  He sighed.  “It’s probably a bit of both, to answer your question.  The more she emerges as this new stronger and independent woman, the more I feel I’m losing someone who was never mine to start with.  Does that make any sense?”

B'Elanna nodded her understanding and smiled sadly at him.  “Do either of you ever mention the future to each other?”

Chakotay shook his head, his expression sad.  “No.  I’d be terrified to bring it up.  I hinted at it ages ago…asked if I could ever be a part of her future but she was still finding her feet at that stage and was just dealing with things day to day.  Besides, at that time I meant her immediate future and we both knew that.  Since then though…  No.  I’d be afraid to say anything that might jeopardize what we have.  We’re friends…good friends, I think.  We’re comfortable together most of the time, but she has another life, all her own, outside of that.”

B'Elanna folded the dish cloth she held and sat down beside him.  “Chakotay, having that means she’s recovering, but she still wants you as part of her life.  She wouldn’t be with you if she didn’t want that.”

He sighed at that.  “I know.”  He shook his head suddenly and stood up.  “Don’t mind me.  I’m just being stupid.”  He checked the time.  “I have a lecture.  I’d better get going.”

B'Elanna looked up at him, knowing he had plenty of time.  “OK.”  She stood also.  “Chakotay, just take time and think about this.  Don’t write it all off.”

He nodded again as he picked up his text padds then leaned over and kissed his friend on the cheek.  “I have to go.”  He was already moving for the door.

B'Elanna called after him.  “Don’t forget we’re all having dinner at your place next Friday night.”

Chakotay nodded.  “I know.  Kathryn gets back that day and said she’d make her own way there.  I offered to pick her up at the transporter station but she said she’d be fine.”  Before he got thinking along that line, he opened the door and walked up the hall.  He called over his shoulder.  “See you Friday.”

^^^^^^^^^^

Kathryn lay back on the biobed and gritted her teeth as the Doctor worked.  “I’m sorry, Kathryn.  I know this is uncomfortable but it’s necessary.”

Kathryn sighed and nodded.  “I know, Doctor.  It’s just part of being a woman…even in this day and age.  Lying back with your legs in stirrups and your bits on display is just part of it.”  She jumped as he slid something inside her.

“Sorry.  Almost finished.”  The Doctor finished his exam and then stood up, draping the sheet over her.  He released her legs and covered her.  “All done.”

Kathryn grunted in discomfort.  “And what’s the verdict?”

The hologram came up to her and smiled.  “The surgery was a complete success.”

Kathryn closed her eyes a moment and sighed deeply.  Finally she looked at the medic again.  “Did I make the right decision?”

He pulled over a stool and sat down beside her.  “We talked about this.  You were sure before.”

She nodded at that.  “I know and I agonized long and hard over my decision.”  She ran a hand over her stomach.  “Sorry.  I know it’s the right thing and I do feel better…more like a woman again…”

The Doctor touched her arm softly.  “My dear, you were always a woman.”

She shook her head.  “Not being physically able to have a child…  I never felt like one.  I felt like half a woman and now…”  She looked over at him.  “I know you think my decision was because of Chakotay being part of my life again but there’s nothing like that between us.  I needed this for me.  I just couldn’t see that before.  And being able to have a child doesn’t mean I will ever have one, but….  I need to know it’s possible.  Can you understand that?  I need to feel whole.”

He patted her arm.  “I do understand…but my dear lady, I’ve never seen you any other way.”

^^^^^^^^^^

Kathryn made it to Chakotay’s house about ten minutes after Tom and B'Elanna.  Chakotay watched her as she helped Tom set the table and jumped when B'Elanna came up beside him.  “Rose is asleep.  Miral wasn’t too happy at being left behind with her Granddad and Grandma though.  She wanted to ‘babysit her Wose’.”  When she saw he wasn’t really listening, she smacked him playfully on the arm.  “Anyone in there?”

Chakotay shook his head and smiled softly at her.  “Sorry.  I was just…”

B'Elanna interrupted him, keeping her voice low.  “Yeah.  I know what you were doing.  You haven’t been able to take your eyes off her since she arrived.  Did you miss her that much?”

He shrugged.  “A week in Hawaii……..she seems rested…”

B'Elanna nodded slowly, picking up on his low mood.  “Yes, she does.  Aren’t you happy for her?”

He nodded.  “Of course.”  He looked down at the bottle of wine he was opening.  “Sun, sea and sand.  She hasn’t got much of a tan.”

B'Elanna rolled her eyes.  “Chakotay, haven’t you heard of sun block?  You know the dangers of too much sun.  It’s all right for you, but with Kathryn’s colouring…”

He pulled the cork from the bottle.  “I know but…”  He looked at his friend and lowered his voice even more.  “I just don’t think she’s been in a hot climate for a week.”

B'Elanna whispered back to him.  “And just where do you think she has been?”

Chakotay turned away slightly.  “Before she went…”  He sighed.  “A few times she couldn’t make lunch or a lecture.  She said she had ‘appointments’.  I just felt she had a secret.”  He shook his head studying the cork.  “I don’t know.  I guess it’s none of my business.”

B'Elanna leaned closer.  “You think she’s seeing someone?”  He just shrugged but didn’t answer.  B'Elanna’s expression softened.  “How would you feel about that?”

His head snapped up.  “How can I feel?  I have no claim on her.”  He answered her question before she asked it.  “But would I be hurt and jealous?  Yes…even though I have no right to be.”  He shook his head again.  “God…I’m jealous of anyone else who has her time.  I even envy her damn students.  And the really sad thing is that I had it all – her – and threw it all away because I was so selfish and cruel.  I made her pay dearly for my own hurt and pain and I let her down in the worst possible way.” 

B'Elanna couldn’t help the smile which graced her lips.  “Have you told her how you feel?”

He actually laughed at that but it wasn’t a happy sound.  “Are you kidding me?  And risk ruining what I do have?”

He studied the label on the bottle.  “Anyway, it doesn’t matter.”  He looked up when Tom called him for the wine.  He nodded at him then leaned closer to B'Elanna.  “Just drop it.  Come on.  Let’s eat.”

^^^^^^^^^^

Dinner went very well, the four people at the table sharing their friendship as well as a meal.  The wine flowed but no one was drunk.  Tom regaled them with stories of his childhood and teenage years and the things he’d gotten up to that his parents never knew about.

Kathryn had tears of laughter rolling down her face.  She dabbed at her eyes with her napkin.  “Tom, I can’t believe you sneaked twins into your bedroom.  Owen would have had a fit.”

The pilot merely shrugged.  “What can I say?  I couldn’t make up my mind and they both fancied me.”

B'Elanna slapped him hard on the arm.  “Well, just as long as you know those days are over.”

Tom feigned fear.  “Youthful transgressions, darling.  Nothing more.  I have no need of anyone else now.”

She kicked him under the table this time.  “And you’d better remember that.  I can always tell your dad your secrets.”

Tom threw his hands up in mock surrender.  “No….anything but that…”

^^^^^^^^^^

Kathryn leaned back and rubbed at her stomach.  “Chakotay, you sure can cook.  I honestly couldn’t eat another mouthful.”  She leaned forward and stroked his arm.  “It was delicious though.  It was a meal to be proud of.”

Chakotay smiled at her and reached for some of the plates.  “It was nothing special.  I’m glad you enjoyed it though.” 

Kathryn reached over and took the plates from him.  “You cooked.  I’ll take care of the dishes.”

B'Elanna stood and began to help.  “Come on, Kathryn.  We’ll do these and let the men have a break.”  She stuck her tongue out at her husband.  “Not that Tom did any work.”

Tom leaned back.  “Ahh…but my presence inspired greatness.  And my company…”  He sat up and looked at Kathryn.  “Seriously…  What I will do is look over that material you wanted for your lecture, Kathryn.  Do you have it with you?”

Kathryn nodded towards Chakotay’s computer terminal.  “It’s on there.  Chakotay will show you.  It’s under ‘Janeway 214 Delta’.”

Tom pushed back from the table and stood.  “Right you are.  Come on, Chakotay.  Let’s earn our dinner.”

^^^^^^^^^^


ON TO PART ELEVEN.




RETURN TO STORY INDEX ONE.


RETURN TO STORY INDEX TWO.


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