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 Eleven.



B'Elanna studied Kathryn quietly as she helped her load the recycler and then wiped her hands on a cloth.  She felt this was a perfect opportunity to talk to her friend. 

Kathryn looked sideways at her and smiled.  “You look like a woman with something on her mind, and I’ve never known you to hold back so don’t let now be any different.”

B'Elanna blushed a little.  “This is true.”  She smiled kindly.  “Actually, I was just thinking how well dinner went, and that led me to think about how at ease you and Chakotay seem with each other.”  She drew in a deep breath and asked her question.  “So…how are you two getting on?”

Kathryn smiled slightly.  “Fine.”

B'Elanna grew serious.  “Kathryn, one syllable answers make me nervous.”  She turned and leaned back against the counter.  “Look, tell me to butt out, but I have to ask.  Is there any chance you two will ever get back together?”

Kathryn leaned against the table and looked at her former chief engineer, her expression sad.  “I don’t know, B'Elanna.  We avoid that…don’t talk about a shared future.”

B'Elanna played with the cloth she held.  “Would you like it?”

The question was direct and Kathryn gave a similar answer.  “Yes…I think I would.”  She shook her head and sighed heavily.  “I’m not so sure about Chakotay though.  He says he’ll always feel guilty, always blame himself.”  She shook her head again as she looked at her friend.  “I don’t know.”  She twisted her fingers together as she looked down at her hands.  “Sometimes I can’t help wondering if being friends is all he’ll ever want, that some part of him will always blame me for what happened even though he says he won’t.”

B'Elanna leaned forward immediately.  “Kathryn, NO.  You’re wrong.  The only blame he sees now he places firmly on his own shoulders.”

Kathryn shook her head sadly.  “Then why doesn’t he say something, or make some move?  And before you say it, I can’t make that move.  It has to be him.  It needs to be him…for his sake.  However, something is holding him back…or maybe he just doesn’t want it or no longer sees me that way.  Maybe all he wants is a friend.”  She looked around her.  “Look at me here.  I know this house and this kitchen as well as I know my own.  I know where everything is and yet…  We spend a lot of time together but as friends.  I think there’ll always be a barrier between us.”

B'Elanna interrupted.  “Maybe he’s afraid you’ll always blame him.”  She smiled kindly.  “I don’t know, Kathryn.  Maybe he needs to see some sign from you that you’d welcome it.”  She shrugged.  “However, I’m not the one you should be saying this to or asking.”

Kathryn pushed away from the table.  “True…but if I say it to him I might ruin what we have now.”

B'Elanna smiled at that and raised an eyebrow.  “Haven’t you two been here before?”

Kathryn smiled as she remembered.  “Yes, we have…a very long time ago.”  She looked behind her as if to make sure they were alone and lowered her voice.  “Can I tell you something?”

B'Elanna leaned forward.  “Of course you can.  You don’t need to ask.”

Kathryn nodded slowly, then smiled again.  “You know my holiday?”

B'Elanna nodded.  “Yeah.  You went to Hawaii.”

Kathryn nodded, her smile showing she had a secret.  B'Elanna grew serious, her earlier conversation with Chakotay coming back to her.  “Did you meet someone?  Are you…?”

Kathryn shook her head quickly.  “No…no…nothing like that…but I wasn’t in Hawaii.”

B'Elanna’s eyes widened.  “Kathryn Janeway, just tell me.”

Kathryn sighed.  “I had the surgery.  Voyager’s Doc did it for me.  You’re the only one I’ve told.  Chakotay doesn’t even know.”

B'Elanna almost choked.  “The surgery to…”

Kathryn slowly nodded.  “Yeah…that surgery.  I could have a baby now if I wanted to.” 

Her sadness wasn’t lost on her friend.  “Do you want another baby?”

Kathryn sighed heavily and played with her hands, twisting her fingers together again.  “I don’t know.  I’m not sure I can ever face that risk again.  I’m not sure I’d have the strength.”  She sighed again and looked at B'Elanna.  “Yes I had the surgery, but that wasn’t the reason why I had it.  I did it for me, not for Chakotay or any future there might be.”

B'Elanna frowned.  “Why then?”

Kathryn shrugged.  “I don’t know.  I think maybe to feel whole in at least one area of my life.  Maybe to go back to a time of possibilities, to a time when I had choices.”  She frowned.  “Does that make any sense?”

B'Elanna thought about that.  “I suppose…”

Kathryn drew in a deep breath.  “You know B'Elanna, I realized, rightly or wrongly, that a lot of what made me feel a woman was my own ability to have children.  I needed to feel whole and complete, physically as well as emotionally, in order to move on.”

B'Elanna seemed to understand that.  “And have you moved on?”

Kathryn smiled softly.  “Yes, I believe so…for the most part anyway.  I did wonder at first if I was just trying to turn back the clock, but I know that’s not it.  That’s one thing I did learn.  Looking back is debilitating.  We, none of us, belong in the past.  We live in the present and look to the future.  That’s the healthiest way.”

B'Elanna nodded at that.  “And what about that future?  You’d like it to include Chakotay?” 

Kathryn nodded slowly.  “Yes, I would.”

B'Elanna folded the cloth she held.  “Kathryn, what about Rose?  How do you feel about her because they come as a package deal?”

Kathryn smiled at the mention of the little girl.  “I already love her.  It’s impossible not to.”  She looked directly at her friend.  “However, she’s a little girl in her own right, B'Elanna.  She’s also Louise’s daughter.  She’ll always have her own mother, even if she’s not here.  I’m not looking for a replacement for the child I lost.”

B'Elanna looked shocked at that.  “Kathryn, no…I didn’t mean that…”  She reached out quickly and touched Kathryn’s arm.  “I never thought that…”

Kathryn waved away her concern.  “I know, and I’m sorry.  It’s just the first thing Elizabeth said to me when I talked about Rose.  She didn’t mean any harm.  She just needed to make sure that wasn’t what I was doing.”  She smiled and shrugged.  “Anyway…”

She turned away and reached for the remainder of the dirty dishes.  “I guess we just wait and see.  What else can I do?  He has to decide for himself and if this is all he wants, I can’t do anything about that.”  She handed her friend a plate.  “So there you go…”  She was effectively closing the subject and B'Elanna knew it as she took the offered plate. 

^^^^^^^^^^

Both women turned when Chakotay appeared in the kitchen doorway.  He obviously hadn’t heard what they were talking about.  “Ladies, sorry to interrupt.”  He smiled at Kathryn.

“Kathryn, Tom is looking through the data you wanted for your lecture.  He needs your help with some of it.  What he was showing me is over my head.”  He moved into the kitchen and picked up a dirty plate.  “Go on.  I’ll finish this for you with B'Elanna.”

Kathryn exchanged a brief look with B'Elanna as she moved towards the door then grinned at Chakotay.  “Tom’s timing is way off.  He should have said something before B'Elanna and I did most of the work.”

^^^^^^^^^^

When Kathryn had left the room, Chakotay caught sight of B'Elanna’s wide smile.  “What are you grinning at?”  He placed the last two dishes in the recycler.

B'Elanna laughed and didn’t deny anything.  “You two make a great couple.  Watching you both during dinner…”

Chakotay shook his head sadly.  “Maybe once.  We’re just friends now.”  He sent her a warning look.  “Just leave it.  It’s not going to happen.”

B'Elanna’s laughter fell away and she joined his serious mood.  “Why the hell not?  We talked about this.  You said you’d think about it.  And just so you know, she’s not seeing anyone.”

Chakotay took that piece of information on board but it made little difference to him.  “It doesn’t really matter, does it?”  He saw the look on B'Elanna’s face and felt the need to reason with his old friend.  “What’s the sense?  It was just a dream.  I know that now.”  He shrugged.  “It’s simple really.  I’m not worthy of her.  Maybe it would be better if she was seeing someone.  She deserves better than me.”  He sighed heavily and faced her.  “B'Elanna, I let her down.  She’d always be afraid I’d let her down again.”

B'Elanna actually snorted.  “She loves you and I know you love her.  I shouldn’t really tell you this but…”

Chakotay rolled his eyes and interrupted her before she could say more.  “B'Elanna…”  He sighed heavily.  “Look, maybe she does love me, probably out of loyalty, but there are two issues here.  Love and trust.  She needs to be able to feel both for me.  Love on its own isn’t enough.”

B'Elanna seized on that.  “So the problem isn’t love?”

Chakotay dropped his head.  As a result, he didn’t see Kathryn come through the kitchen doorway.  “It certainly isn’t love.  Trust is the big issue here.”

Kathryn’s hand flew to her mouth and she gasped out loud.  Chakotay’s head snapped up and his eyes flew to the door.  B'Elanna spun around at the same time.  Before they had a chance to utter a word, Kathryn turned and fled.

Chakotay shot forward.  “Shit.” 

B'Elanna grabbed his arm.  “Go after her, Chakotay.  Tom and I will head home.  You know where we are if you need us.  Call me later.”  She pushed him towards the door.

He looked from the door to B'Elanna.  “Rose.  I can’t…”

B'Elanna thought quickly.  “We’ll take her home with us.  She’s just like Miral in that she won’t wake once she’s finally asleep for the night.  You can pick her up from us in the morning.”  She waved towards the door.  “Now go.  Quickly.”

Chakotay gave her a worried smile and nodded.  “Thanks.”  With that he was gone.

^^^^^^^^^^

Chakotay jumped off the porch and skidded on the wet grass.  It took him a moment to realize that the predicted downpour of earlier had hit with a vengeance.  The rain fell in sheets and he was soaked in a minute.  He ran back up onto the porch and shouted into the house to his friend.  “B'Elanna, it’s pouring down.  Stay over or call for a transport.”  He didn’t wait for an answer.

He ran through the downpour and searched the garden before heading out onto the road.  Visibility was poor but he thought he caught a glimpse of someone under one of the street lights off to his left.  He ran in that direction and finally saw her.  “KATHRYN…”  He hoped his voice would carry in the storm.

Kathryn stopped at the sound of his voice and looked around quickly.  She turned away then ran, heading into a park on her right.  Chakotay caught up with her quickly, his hand slipping on her wet arm as he tried to grab her.  “Kathryn…please…”

She tried to move around him but he moved to block her escape. “Please…let me explain…”

Kathryn stepped away from him, her hair plastered to her head and face and her dress clinging to her body.  “Let me go.”

Chakotay shook his head.  “I can’t.  Please come back to the house.  We need to talk.”

Kathryn glared at him.  “You don’t trust me.  Is that the real reason you were afraid to have your daughter near me?”

Her words hurt him physically.  “That’s the third smack in the face you’ve given me, Kathryn.  That hurts beyond measure.  How could you ever think that?”

Kathryn just shook her head, tears spilling freely down her face, disguised as they mixed with the rain.  “That’s what you said to B'Elanna.”  She turned away, but Chakotay blocked her escape once more. 

He stood his ground and faced her head on.  “Kathryn, you’ve got it all wrong…”

She jutted her chin out as she faced him.  “I heard what you said.  ‘It isn’t love…trust is the issue’.”

Chakotay blew out a long breath and looked around him.  Seeing a small gazebo nearby, he pulled her over to it for shelter.  “You heard one sentence out of context.”  He grabbed her by the shoulders when she tried to move away.  “Listen to me.  Let me tell you what you didn’t hear.”  She struggled slightly but there was no real fight in it.  “I told B'Elanna that I wasn’t worthy of you…that you deserve better.  I said how I’d let you down and how you’d always be afraid that I’d let you down again.  I said that there were two issues…love and trust…and that you needed to feel both for me.  I said that love on its own wasn’t enough.” 

He blew out a long breath and loosened his hold on her shoulders.  “B'Elanna said something like ‘so the problem isn’t love’…and I answered that it certainly wasn’t love…that trust was the big issue.  That’s the bit you heard.”

He stared down into her face, seeing her pain and confusion, her eyes filled with tears.  “Oh God, Kathryn…I’ve made you cry so much in this life and I’m still doing it.”  He dropped his hands from her shoulders.

Kathryn didn’t move away as her eyes followed his movements.  “You still love me?”

He turned back to look at her.  “Goddamn it, Kathryn, of course I love you.  That love is still there.  It never went away.  It was just over-shadowed.  I’ve always loved you, even when I didn’t think I did…when I hid it with anger and hate and bitterness and tried to kill it.  I was so sure YOU could never love ME like that again though…not after all that I did to you.”

Kathryn shook her head very slowly.  “I’ve always loved you.  I still love you, whether you believe that or not.  I couldn’t turn off my feelings for you, no matter what happened.” 

Chakotay felt his heart quicken at her words.  He moved back to her and placed his hands on her upper arms.  For several minutes he just stared at her until he felt her shiver.  “Come on.  Let’s go back to the house.”

Kathryn nodded at that and then suddenly a thought struck her and she panicked, grabbing Chakotay’s arm.  “Rose…where’s Rose?”

He felt a glow fill him at her concern.  “It’s all right.  She’s with Tom and B'Elanna.  They either stayed with her if they couldn’t organize a transport or took her home with them.  She’s fine.  If they took her with them, we can pick her up in the morning.”  He slipped his arm around her shoulder.  “Come on.  Let’s get back before we freeze or drown.  You’re soaked and shivering and I don’t want you to get sick.”

She pressed against the warmth his body offered.  “I’m cold but I won’t melt.

^^^^^^^^^^

The house was quiet when they got back and Chakotay checked his comm unit to find a message from B'Elanna, a cheeky grin on her face.  “We ordered a transport and took Rose with us.  You can pick her up in the morning - or afternoon - whenever suits you.”  She then laughed and winked.  “Have a good night.  All the best.”

Kathryn stood shivering and dripping beside him as he closed the terminal.  “She’s something else.”

Chakotay looked around at her.  “She is indeed.”  He suddenly felt lost for words.

Kathryn smiled at his embarrassment.  “Chakotay, I’m dripping all over your rug.  Can I take a shower?”

That kick-started him.  “Of course.  I’m sorry.  I’ll leave a dressing gown or something outside the door for you.  Just throw your clothes in the utility room when you’re done and I’ll dry them for you later.”

Kathryn nodded and moved away.  “I know where everything is…towels and so on.”  She looked back at him.  “You’d better have one yourself.  Whoever finishes first can make the coffee.”

^^^^^^^^^^

Chakotay was in the kitchen stirring their drinks when Kathryn appeared in the doorway, swamped in his dressing gown.  “What do you think?  Will I win any fashion shows?”

He laughed at that.  “It is kind of swimming on you but it’s all I have.  At least it’s warm.”

Kathryn wrapped her arms around herself.  “It’s lovely and cosy.” 

He gestured towards their drinks.  “I made hot chocolate.  Is that all right?”

She smiled and moved into the room.  “It’s perfect.  It’s been years since I had it and I’ve always loved it.”

They moved into the sitting room where the fire still burned and settled on the couch.  They were silent for several minutes, sipping their drinks and studying the fire.  Finally Chakotay broke the silence as he turned to look at her in wonder.  “You really loved me all that time?”

Kathryn studied her chocolate for a minute and nodded shyly.  “Yes I did.  I couldn’t stop it.”  She sighed heavily and looked up to meet his eyes.  “I’ll be straight with you though.  I did have times when I didn’t like you very much.  At the clinic I asked you to leave because, to be honest, you reminded me of a time I wasn’t ready to revisit or deal with.  Can you understand that?  Remember what we said about mirrors?  The good and bad reflecting off each other?”

He closed his eyes a moment as he nodded.  “I remember…and I do understand why you needed me to leave even though it hurt.”

Kathryn looked down into her lap.  “I said some very hurtful things to you and I’m sorry for that.  I’m sorry I hurt you but I was angry…about you being there…about you saying you wanted to help…as if you were the only one who could make me happy.”  She smiled apologetically.  “I realized that I needed to do that for myself.  I had to be strong for me.”

He was smiling sadly when she looked back at him.  “I did understand, Kathryn.  I really did.  It hurt at the time but later, I understood.  After that…  It felt so good when you came to see me afterwards…gave me hope for…  I don’t know what.  As we developed a friendship again, I felt better but I didn’t dare hope that there could ever be anything again….  I just couldn’t believe that the woman you are now…”

Kathryn jumped on that.  “See…that’s a part of all this.  You see me as…  Chakotay, I admit I’m a different woman now, but the old one is still in there…still a part of who I am.  I just see her as added to with a lot of life experiences.  She’s grown, matured, become a lot stronger after being a lot weaker.”  She pushed her still damp hair back from her face. “Yes, I’ve changed but for the good I think…for the better.”

She drained her cup and placed it on the table.  “Back then the captain was always the strongest of the two parts of me, but now Kathryn is just as strong…and that feels good.  I can’t go back to who I was and I don’t want to.  The captain is gone and will never be again.  That woman had so many cracks in her façade…”

Chakotay shook his head.  “No.  You were always strong.  When you faced an enemy…”

Kathryn sighed heavily.  “Chakotay, I’m not talking about the captain.  I’m talking about Kathryn…me…the woman.”

He frowned at that.  “You speak of yourself as two different people…”

She smiled sadly at that.  “I was in a way.  When I wore that uniform I was Captain Janeway…dealing with business and in control of everything under my command.  Without it, I was Kathryn…an ordinary woman facing her personal demons.”
 
She shook her head.  “Don’t get me wrong when I say that.  I don’t mean I was two separate people.  I’m talking about the woman I was in the different roles I had to play.  As I am now though…who I am now…I’m strong.  I’m complete.  The captain is gone, but her strength is now a part of Kathryn, the woman.  Can you understand that?”

Chakotay couldn’t tear his eyes from her face.  “I think I do.  I guess I just never thought of it that way before.” 

Kathryn reached for his hand.  “I love you dearly, Chakotay.  I do.  And I don’t mean to hurt you with this, but if something happened to you or if you weren’t here, I’d survive.  It would hurt me like hell, but I’d survive.”

He nodded, still staring at her.  “I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

She drew in a deep breath and rubbed a hand over her face, her eyes trained on his.  “All that aside, I love you and I trust you completely.”

Chakotay closed his eyes a moment.  “Oh Kathryn…I love you too.  I also trust you completely.  The trust I was talking about with B'Elanna was yours for me.  I couldn’t see you trusting me, but I trust you with my life.  I trust you with my daughter’s life.”

Kathryn watched him until he looked at her again.  She shook her head slowly and drew in a deep breath.  “Then you have to accept that I trust you too.  It’s that simple.  I do.  But I’m not going to spend the rest of my life trying to convince you of that.  You just have to believe me and accept it.  I can’t make you believe it.”  She sighed and looked away.  “We’ve been through this so many times…”
 
He looked down at his hands.  “I know.  I just find it so hard to think that you could ever…  I still don’t know how you could forgive me for all that.  Even though I don’t deserve that forgiveness, there’s nothing I want more.”

She looked back at him.  “This is the trust that’s lacking here.  Trust in each other to trust that the other trusts us.  Can you understand that?  We hurt each other before.  We need to trust that we can move past that and have what we have now.”  She smiled softly.  “As to forgiveness…  It’s yours, Chakotay.  It was always there.” 

She sighed wearily.  “Look, you want me to tell you that the way you acted back then was wrong?  OK.  You were wrong.  All right?  You were wrong and you made a big mistake, but you’ve long since paid for it.  I can put the past behind me.  Why can’t you?  Why do you still feel blame and guilt?  Why are you still punishing yourself?  I thought your counselling would have helped you with this.” 

She dropped her head to the side.  “Chakotay, here’s where more of that trust comes in.  You have to trust me that I forgive you if that’s what you need.  You have to trust me that I don’t hate you or blame you.  And you have to trust me that I trust you…that I love you.  I thought we at least had that as friends.  I thought we were good friends.”

Chakotay swallowed loudly.  “We are…but despite what we’ve said here tonight, I think that’s all we’ll ever be.”  His sadness spoke volumes.

Kathryn moved a little closer to him.  “Is that what you think or is that what you want?  Is friendship all you want from me?”

Chakotay studied her for a moment, his heart thumping in his chest.  Suddenly he took a leap of faith.  “No.  I want more.  I’d love more.”

Kathryn challenged him on that, needing to be sure.  “Why?  Why would you really want me?  Is it for you?  Is it because you think Rose needs a mother?”  She leaned back a little.  “Or do you still pity me?  Do you want to try and turn the clock back?  Is it your ever present guilt?  I can tell you now that I could never accept any of those reasons.”

Chakotay seemed in shock at her words.  He knew though that she had every right to question him.  “Let me tell you this.  I love Rose.  I have her and I have my work…my home.  I have friends.  Rose is my life though.  In the evening, when it’s just the two of us, I’m fine.  Later though, when she’s gone to bed and I’m sitting here alone with the evening stretching out before me, I’m consumed with loneliness.  It brings it home to me just how alone I am.  It makes me very aware of what’s missing from my life.”  He reached out and took her hand.  “It makes me aware of who’s missing from my life.  Yes, I’m lonely, but not for someone.  I’m lonely for you.”  He drew in a deep breath.  “So no, Kathryn, it’s for none of your reasons.  It’s because I love you.”

Time seemed to stand still for a moment.  All he could hear was their breathing and the crackle of the fire.  He squeezed her hand and held her eyes, his voice softer now.  “Can we have a future together, Kathryn?  Before everything, we were friends.  We are again.  Can we work from there?  Could you need me?  Could you want me?  I certainly need and want you.”

Kathryn leaned a little closer.  “Chakotay, there’s a difference between need and want.”  She dropped her head to the side again without breaking eye contact.  “I’ve missed you.  And I need you, and I want you.”  She sighed.  “I need you because I want you…but I don’t need you because I need you.  Can you see the difference?”

He nodded slowly.  “I understand.”

She watched him closely.  “And what about Rose?”

He smiled softly.  “That little girl needs you too, Kathryn.  She needs a mother.”

Kathryn shook her head.  “I could never be her mother, Chakotay.” 

His heart stopped for a moment.  “I thought…”

Kathryn’s next words started it again.  “She already has a mother.  Louise will always be her mother.  The fact that she’s not here doesn’t change that.”  She looked him directly in the eyes.  “Don’t ever deny that little girl her real mother.”

Chakotay shook his head.  “I wouldn’t, even though Louise begged me before she died to find a mother for her.”

Kathryn nodded sadly.  “I can understand why she said that.  I’d probably have said the same thing in her place.”  She smiled gently.  “I can’t be her real mother, but I could be a mother figure, and I can be her friend.  I could love her as much though.  I mean, I already do…”

Chakotay took both her hands in his.  “What you can do is love her like a mother, and be there for her as she grows.  She’ll need that.”

Kathryn nodded slowly and looked at their joined hands.  “Yes, she will.”  She looked up into his face.  “I just want you to know something.  I’m not trying to see Rose as some kind of replacement for Caylem.  She’s a little girl in her own right and Louise is her mother.  Elizabeth and I talked about this because she was worried I might try to do that.  I know I’m not.”

Chakotay squeezed her hands.  “That never crossed my mind…and never would have until you said it.”  He leaned forward and kissed her fingers.  “I know that, Kathryn.  At one time, after she was born, I worried that I might have been doing the same thing.  I know now I wasn’t.  You’re right.  She’s a child in her own right.  What we can do together is love her as much as we can and raise her the best way we can.”

They were silent for several minutes as everything sank in.  Chakotay felt drained physically and emotionally, felt he had no more words.  He leaned in towards her, his intention clear yet hesitating enough that she could pull back if she needed to.

Kathryn wasn’t going anywhere.  She closed the distance between them and brushed her lips to his, her breath catching in her chest at the contact.  It was new and old all at the same time, like a newly decorated room in an old familiar and much loved home.

Chakotay slipped one arm around her back, his other hand pressing against the back of her head as he held her to him and deepened the kiss.  He felt nervous and excited and a thousand other things he didn’t even want to decipher at the moment.  All that existed was the feel of her lips beneath his own and the scent and taste of her.  He felt as if he’d finally come home.

Kathryn’s hands explored his chest, slipping beneath his dressing gown to trace over his skin.  She felt his heart beating against her fingers and leaned into him again, wanting nothing more than to lose herself in this man.  When he broke the kiss and traced his lips across her cheek and down her neck, she knew she had to pull back.  “Chakotay…”

His answer was murmured against her shoulder.  “Mmmm…” 

She pushed gently against his chest.  “Chakotay…we have to stop…”

He managed to pull away and looked deeply into her eyes.  “I’m sorry.  It’s too soon.  I didn’t mean to…  I’m sorry…”  He pulled back again until she reached up and took his face in her hands.

“Chakotay, it’s not that.  It’s…  I want to go further but…”  She licked at her lips and swallowed.  “There’s something I need to tell you…about my holiday…”  She saw his stricken look.

“You met someone…”

She quickly shook her head.  “No…no…nothing like that.”  She drew in a deep breath.  “I wasn’t in Hawaii though.”  She saw the fear on his face.  “There’s nothing wrong.  I promise.  I just needed to do something…”  She sat back and told him about the surgery.  She watched him carefully as she spoke, trying to gauge his reaction but all she saw was support and love.  “I needed to do it for me.  Can you see that?”

He smiled and lifted her hands to his lips, kissing them several times.  “I’m very happy for you.  And I’m delighted that you did this for you and you alone.  That was the only reason you should have done it.”

She brought his hands to her lips now.  “That’s why I had to stop before we got too carried away.  I’d love nothing more than to…”  She blushed.  “You know…  I’m just not physically able to yet…and…”

He felt a surge of love for her wash over him and pulled her against him.  “Oh Kathryn…being with you is all that matters to me.  I can lie with you and love you just as well without us…”  He pulled back and smiled down at her.  “Without us…you know…”

She punched at him playfully.  “Well, you still knew what I meant…”

He grew serious a moment and stroked over her cheek.  “Elizabeth Fulton once told me that I’d never find the woman I once knew, but she was wrong because I still see her.  That woman is still there.  You’re right.  She’s grown…been joined by this new one…but she’s still Kathryn…and I’ve discovered I love her just as much.  More, in fact, and it’s growing day-by-day.”  He smiled down at her.  “I love you, Kathryn.  I still feel somewhere deep inside of me that I don’t deserve your love in return but…”

She silenced him with her fingers pressing to his lips.  “Can we just accept that we love each other?  We were…then we lost our way…but now we’ve found each other again.  Let’s just accept the gift we’ve been given and enjoy watching it grow.”

Chakotay held her hand against his lips and closed his eyes, silently thanking the Spirits for the gift of this woman in his life.  “I love you so much.  Thank you.”  When he opened his eyes, he saw his love reflected back to him from her eyes. 

She leaned forward and withdrew her hand, replacing it with her lips.  “I love you too.”

^^^^^^^^^^

That night Kathryn and Chakotay shared his bed.  They lay together all night, whispering and caressing each other, making plans for a future neither of them had ever imagined possible.  Towards dawn they fell asleep, still holding each other.  As the new day broke, a new beginning came with it and when they finally stirred and looked into each others eyes, the past fell away.

Chakotay pulled Kathryn tightly against him.  “For a brief moment when I opened my eyes, I was terrified all this had been a cruel dream.”

Kathryn snuggled against him.  “It’s real, love.  It’s real.  I promise you I’m here and I’m not going anywhere.”

He kissed the top of her head.  “I almost lost you.  I can’t believe how…”

She sat up quickly, her expression warning him to stop.  “Enough of that, Chakotay.  We decided this last night.  This is our gift now and we just concentrate on our love.”

He tightened his arms around her.  “You know, I went to that clinic the first time to help you.  In the end, you helped me.  You saved me.”

She leaned up and kissed him on the cheek.  “Thank you for that.”  She smiled lovingly at him.  “Now…let’s get up and out.  Our little girl is waiting for us.”  She saw the tears spring to his eyes and kissed him again.  “And I happen to know certain friends of ours who are going to want all the gossip.”

He laughed and groaned at the same time, hugging her tightly to him.  “As long as I have my ladies, I don’t care who knows what.  I know B’Elanna and Tom will grill us but I don’t care.  I want to scream to the world I feel that happy.”  He became serious and ran his hand over her hair.  “Except for one thing.”  He drew in a deep breath.  “Kathryn…marry me.  Do me the honour of being my wife.”

It was Kathryn’s turn to become tearful.  She stared into his eyes for a moment, not trusting her voice.  Finally she nodded.  “Yes.”

He smiled down at her.  “Yes?”

She nodded.  “Yes.  I would love to be your wife.”  It was another hour before they left the bed.

^^^^^^^^^^


ON TO PART TWELVE.



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