Paramount owns all things Star Trek Voyager. I don't. Only borrowing them. Etc. Etc. Etc. Besides, I can't do any worse than you know who. An illiterate snail could do better than him.
NC 17 – as requested.
Written for VAMB Secret Valentine 2006 – for the following request:- "As for details, (since people got really detailed last time round), I'd like a post Endgame story where J/C have to fight their way back to each other. She's with someone else, he's with Boobie Borg. Then Seven, the love sick Borg, gets her newfound emotions smashed to smithereens and Chakotay knocks Kathryn up. Angst is good. Romance is great. So is having sex behind Seven's back. Or in front of her face for that matter. Hell, tie her to a chair and make her watch. I don't care as long as the sex is hot hot hot. Oh yeah and Chakotay does a sexy strip tease for Kathryn.
Did I mention this should be NC-17?
That's all I want. :)"

The Long Way Home

by Kat Lady

Home was everything it should have been. Debriefings had passed uneventfully and Starfleet had dismissed all the Maquis and Equinox crewmembers without any criminal charges whatsoever. Positions were available for those who wished to stay on with the organization and every crew member was entitled to back pay. They even organized a celebration ball to mark their return.

Kathryn stood and nursed a drink, barely listening to the elderly admiral beside her as he spoke of how things had been in his day. He droned on, oblivious to her disinterest, as she scanned the room. She finally managed to excuse herself from the boring conversation and made her way to the bar for a refill.

As she sipped her drink, she thought back over the past few weeks and all that had happened, and chided herself for not feeling happier about everything.

Their homecoming had been all that Voyager's captain could have wanted. She'd gotten her crew home and had been congratulated and promoted to Admiral. Most had stayed on with Starfleet and everyone seemed settled. Everything was as it should be, except for one thing. Kathryn had come home alone.

It was all because of one thing and Kathryn closed her eyes at the thought. Chakotay was with Seven. There was really no other way of saying the words. She'd lost him by standing back and waiting too long. Not that she blamed him in any way. She understood his loneliness and need to share his life with another…his desire for love and a family.

She drew in a deep breath and opened her eyes again, once more scanning those gathered for the celebration. And then she saw them.

Kathryn steeled herself as she watched them dancing together. They made quite a striking couple. Chakotay wore a tux like most of the men, discarding his uniform for the celebration. Seven glided in his arms, her body draped in a rich red floor length dress. She didn't so much wear it as was poured into it.

Kathryn wanted to look away but couldn't tear her eyes from them. She knew she wasn't the only one either when a voice at her side jolted her out of it. "I guess she and the Doc didn't get to the lesson on blending in."

Kathryn turned and saw B'Elanna standing beside her. The half Klingon watched her oldest friend and the woman she barely tolerated whirling around the dance floor. She smiled slightly and looked up at her captain. "OK, I admit it. I'm jealous. I may also have to blindfold Tom."

Kathryn just sighed and looked back at the couple. "She looks beautiful tonight. They make a fine couple."

B'Elanna actually snorted at that one. "If that's what you want to call it. I can understand what she sees in him long term, but he's just thinking with his dick…" She froze at her own words and looked at Kathryn. "Captain, I'm sorry. I speak first and think later. I'm really sorry."

Kathryn smiled sadly and waved away her concern. "It's all right, B'Elanna. You're just being honest. Your habit of speaking your mind is something I'm going to miss a great deal." She took a long drink of her wine.

B'Elanna watched her. "I'm sorry, Captain."

Kathryn forced a smile. "B'Elanna, it's fine. I'm fine.

B'Elanna shook her head. "I'm not talking about tonight."

Kathryn looked down at the glass in her hands and swirled the liquid. She knew exactly what the younger woman meant. "Let it go, B'Elanna. I've had to. Besides, he was a free agent. I had no claim over him."

B'Elanna tried to see what was exposed in Kathryn's eyes, but couldn't. "He knew how you felt though. I thought he felt the same way."

Kathryn kept her head down. "Yes…well…" She sighed heavily. "How I feel doesn't matter now. How he feels does. He loves her and that's all there is to it. His happiness means more to me than my own feelings." She finally looked at the woman beside her, knowing her emotions were all too visible.

B'Elanna was staring at Kathryn, her eyes wide. "You love him that much." It was a statement filled with wonder. "Oh Captain…"

Kathryn smiled sadly, a vain attempt to cover her pain. "Look at it this way. On Voyager we were both lonely and miserable. This way only one of us is."

Kathryn had started to feel the effects of the wine and strolled out onto the balcony for some fresh air. She needed to clear her head in more ways than one.

She sighed heavily as she leaned on the stone balustrade, staring down at the reflection of the moon on a small pond in the grounds. She drew in several deep breaths of the chill night air, the extra oxygen making her light headed. She closed her eyes and braced herself against the stone, swaying slightly on her high heels.

She jumped when a hand gripped her elbow. "Kathryn? Are you alright?"

Kathryn jerked backwards, almost losing her footing. Chakotay steadied her, his eyes showing his concern. "Are you ill? What's wrong?"

She pulled her arm from his hand and shook her head. "I'm fine. I just needed some air. It's quite hot and stuffy in there."

Chakotay studied her carefully, not sure whether to believe her or not. "Are you all right now?"

She nodded and moved away a little, needing that bit of space between them. "I'm fine. Thank you for your concern."

She felt his stare and looked at him, seeing his sadness at her words. "I thought we were friends, Kathryn. Why so formal?"

She forced a smile. "Sorry. I've just been talking to so many windbags tonight."

He continued to stare at her. "Are you sure? I thought it was me."

She turned away at that, giving him his answer. She heard his deep sigh. "Kathryn, I'm sorry."

Upon hearing his 'sorry' she turned on him and held up her hand. "Please, Chakotay. Please don't. I can't…"

He moved a little closer. "I have to. I need to."

She stared hard at him. "Despite the hurt and pain it will cause me?" She immediately regretted her words but it was too late. She saw her pain reflected on his face before he dropped his head.

"Oh Kathryn!!… If we'd only known…..."

She looked down at her hands. "None of us knew we'd get home so soon. You couldn't wait forever."

He moved closer still. "Kathryn, I wish so much that…"

She couldn't stand to hear that. "No…please." She locked eyes with him. "Please, Chakotay, I'm not that strong. In time…maybe… Right now though…" She knocked back the remains of her drink, welcoming the burn of the alcohol in the back of her throat. "You'd better go. Seven will be wondering where you are."

As if on cue they heard the click of heels on the balcony and turned to see Seven walking towards them, a strained smile on her face. "Captain." She nodded at Kathryn then turned to Chakotay. "Chakotay, I was looking for you. People are leaving and it is time we left also."

Chakotay looked at Kathryn who refused to meet his eyes. "Yes, I'm coming. I was just…"

Kathryn stepped back, interrupting him. "It's time I headed home as well. It's been a long evening." She smiled at them both. "May I take this opportunity to wish you both a long and happy life together." She raised her empty glass. "Well, I'd better take this back. The staff has enough to do without picking up after me." With that she turned and walked back inside.

Kathryn made a quick round of her former crew, saying her goodbyes and goodnights. She was now glad of the alcohol she'd consumed, finding it gave her much needed courage to deal with the emotions that threatened to consume her.

Once outside and alone, she decided to walk to the transporter station rather than take the door-to-door transport offered by Starfleet. She welcomed the chilly night air, hoping it would numb her on the inside as well as the outside.

With her head down and deep in thought she didn't hear Seven come up behind her. She jumped when the former drone suddenly appeared before her. This time there was no smile on her face.

Kathryn pulled her shawl more tightly around her shoulders. "Seven…"

The blond woman stared hard at her former captain before finally speaking her piece. "Please do not believe that I did not understand what I saw earlier. I know you still love him and he thinks he still has feelings for you, but they are fading. I'm making him forget you and am replacing his feelings with feelings for me. He loves me now – not you."

Kathryn felt her face flush. "Seven, I assure you I don't…"

Seven didn't want to hear it and cut her off. "Just stay away from him. You had your chance and you failed. He's mine. He loves me now. Stay away from him and from us. You've hurt him enough. Find someone else." With that she turned and walked away, her head held high.

As her footsteps receded into the darkness, Kathryn finally let her tears fall. The weight of her loss crushed down on her and she staggered to a tree to lean against it. She dropped her head back and stared up at the sky, the stars which had once been her home now mocking her as she felt her heart break.


Kathryn's head hit her desk, jerking her awake. She sat up quickly, rubbing at her forehead. A voice from the door startled her.

"I'll bet that hurt. That'll teach you to work such late hours."

Kathryn scowled at the dark haired man standing in her office doorway. "Good evening to you too, Jason."

He moved into the room and flopped down in one of the large chairs. "Actually it's night. It's well past midnight, which would really make it morning so…"

Kathryn stood up, empty cup in hand and headed for the replicator. "You were a great loss to the entertainment industry."

He gave her his best smile. "And coffee won't help either." He immediately cursed himself for the flash of pain he saw cross her face. "Sorry. I keep forgetting the forbidden subjects."

Kathryn felt his underlying anger. "We've been through this before, Jason."

He stood and walked to the window, staring out into the darkness, seeing nothing but his own reflection in the glass. It also enabled him to watch Kathryn. She ordered her coffee and returned to her desk. "Jason, I've always been honest with you and I made no promises. You knew when…"

He turned quickly. "Yeah, I know. No obligations and no ties. I knew the terms and conditions when I got into this. I just get a bit tired of living in someone else's shadow."

Kathryn rubbed at her forehead, feeling the start of a headache. "You're not in anyone's shadow. I can't turn off my feelings overnight though."

Jason returned to his chair. "Kathryn, it's been six months. He's gone from your life. He's with someone else."

She glared at him and jerked a thumb at the replicator. "Why don't you go and order the salt. You can rub it in the wounds."

He stared at her for several moments as he slowly shook his head. "I'm not trying to hurt you, Kathryn. I care about you. I care deeply. You won't let me in though. You give me your body but most of the time you're not there."

She pushed her chair back and stood but he was already moving towards her bathroom, reading her well. "I'll get it."

He came back with a hypospray and she leaned her head back and allowed him to inject her with it. "You get far too many headaches."

Kathryn rubbed at her neck. "Yes, doctor."

He couldn't stay mad at her for long. He gently pushed her back down into her chair and perched on the edge of her desk. "Kathryn, I'm not trying to put pressure on you or make this harder, but for your own sake, it's time to let go of the past and move on."

She leaned back in her chair and studied the man before her. They'd met within two weeks of the celebration ball but had only been dating for the past two months.

Commander Jason Roberts was a member of the Starfleet team assigned to sifting through the new technology Voyager had brought home and as a result needed to work closely with Kathryn. He'd admired her immediately and they'd started out as friends but in her loneliness and a moment of weakness, Kathryn had agreed to have lunch with him one day. That had led to dinner two days later, followed by other outings and eventually a weekend away.

She finally smiled up at him and reached for his hand. "I'm sorry. And you're right."

Jason squeezed her hand. "You've nothing to apologize about. I'm just worried about you. You deserve to be happy, Kathryn."

She nodded at that. "I know." She didn't sound convinced though.

They were silent for a moment and Jason decided to let it drop. He tugged on her hand. "Come on. You've had enough for one day. How about a late supper?" He pretended to think about that. "Or should that be an early breakfast?"

Kathryn laughed and smacked out at him. "Very funny." She inhaled deeply and then yawned. "You're right though. It is enough for one day."

Jason stood and pulled her to her feet. "Come on then. You can tell me all about your new assignment, although I'm sure going to miss working with you."

Kathryn went to get her coat. "Think of it this way. You won't have me nagging you about pulling my baby apart."

Jason laughed as he ordered the lights off. "You and that ship…"

Kathryn's new assignment involved composing and advising on future lectures on the Delta Quadrant and its species for the next generation of Starfleet cadets. Now that all of Voyager's logs had been sifted through, the information sorted between confidential and available, the lectures could be planned.

She'd been assigned to work out of the Academy building rather than her own office for the duration of the assignment, and reported to the department of the senior lecturer on her first day. She entered the room with her head down, balancing a stack of padds. The inevitable happened and they slipped, falling to the floor with a clatter as she frantically grabbed for them. Cursing under her breath, she bent down to retrieve the fallen padds when another pair of hands began helping.

Kathryn froze. She stared at the hands before her, knowing them well. She'd studied them enough times. She let her eyes move upwards until they met his. "Chakotay…" His name escaped her lips as a breathless whisper.

He smiled softly at her. "Kathryn. It's good to see you."

Realizing she was staring, she looked away and grabbed for the remaining padds. "What are you doing here?"

He looked surprised as he handed her the padds he'd picked up. "I've been given the same assignment as you."

Her eyes flew to his in shock, "I didn't know…"

He shook his head. "It was all in the briefing we were given. I thought you knew…"

Kathryn shook her head. "I didn't get to read it all."

Chakotay gripped her elbow and helped her stand. "As I understand it, your input is from the command angle. They seem to think I can offer insight from the Maquis perspective and other non-command areas like re-joining Starfleet and all of that. We're to work together on the Delta Quad aspect of things, uniting crews and the races we encountered there. Two experiences are better than one - or something like that."

Kathryn nodded and looked away embarrassed, realizing she'd been watching his lips the entire time he'd spoken. "I see." She moved away. "Well, we'd better get to work then…" She stopped when he moved to block her way forward.

"Kathryn, I really hope our working together isn't…" He sighed. "This assignment will last for several months. I can ask to be reassigned or work someplace else on this project. The last thing I want to do is hurt you."

She looked down at the padds she held, the feel of his hand on her arm burning through her sleeve. "No…" She looked at him and met his eyes, forcing a smile onto her face. "No. I'm fine." She drew in a deep breath. "We're mature adults. We've worked together before and…"

Chakotay smiled. "Worked very well together."

She nodded and looked away. "Chakotay…" They both looked towards the door as it opened and Admiral Bolton, the senior lecturer, breezed in. Typical of the man, he clapped his hands together. "OK people…work to do. Snap to it." He was across the room and organizing what he needed in the blink of an eye.

Kathryn rolled her eyes and whispered to Chakotay. "I should warn you. He's known as 'Snappy'. 'Snap to it' is his standard line to students and top brass alike."

Chakotay hid his smile. "Let the fun commence."

Over the next two weeks, Kathryn and Chakotay worked long hours with 'Snappy' always pushing them. The work was progressing well though.

Kathryn tried to keep things strictly business but it hurt to work so close to the man she loved. She sensed him watching her at times but he always looked away quickly when she looked up.

She also noticed how keen he was to leave at the end of the day, one eye always on the chronometer. That hurt most, in fact. She longed for even a few minutes of winding down with him yet knew it was probably a dangerous idea. He was obviously eager to get home to Seven.

Each evening was the same. The second it hit 18:00, Chakotay was on his feet and heading for the door. This evening they'd been working alone, Admiral Bolton giving a late lecture.

Kathryn studied the material they'd been working on. "Chakotay, could you just wait a few more minutes please? This section here about the Kazon Ogla…" She looked up at him, expecting him to help.

He was already at the door. "We'll go over it in the morning."

Kathryn frowned. "It'll just take a minute." She stood slowly as she watched him. "Surely…"

He wouldn't meet her eyes. "Seven will be waiting."

Kathryn looked towards the window. "Where? Downstairs?"

He looked down at his hands. "She meets me."

Kathryn dropped her head back and blew out a long breath. "Every day?" She looked back at him when he didn't answer and nodded to herself. "I see. That explains a lot."

Chakotay shook his head. "No, Kathryn. You don't know. It's hard for her…"

Kathryn spoke under her breath. "It hasn't been a bed of roses for me either." She looked away horrified when she saw that he'd heard her.

He moved back into the room. "Kathryn…"

She turned her back on him. "Just go, Chakotay. You'll be late. I'll see you in the morning." She heard the door close and when she turned around, he'd gone.

Jason watched Kathryn closely as they prepared dinner that night. "Want to talk about it?"

She shook her head as she tossed a salad. "I'm just tired."

Jason tossed down the knife he'd been using. "So this has nothing to do with working with Chakotay again?" He'd had a deep anxiety growing inside him since he'd first heard about her former First Officer working with her, a fact she hadn't hidden from him.

When she didn't answer he picked up the knife again and resumed chopping the vegetables. "Kathryn, you were…apprehensive…about working with him again, despite how much you denied it."

She turned and looked at him. "I didn't know he was assigned to this when I took it on."

Jason nodded. "I know that, but after that first day…" He sighed and met her eyes. "A stranger could see how it's affecting you."

Kathryn turned away. "I'm sorry if I'm not my usual cheery self for you…"

He put the knife down again and reached for her arm. "That's not what I mean and you know it. This is hurting you and I hate to see that. I'm just worried about you."

She looked down at his hand on her arm. "I know you are. I'm sorry. It's just…"

He moved his hands to her shoulders and turned her to face him. "You're still in love with him and seeing him again…spending your days with him…"

Kathryn pulled away. "Well, I'll just have to deal with it, won't I?" She saw the sadness on his face when she looked back at him.

"I'm going to lose you, Kathryn Janeway. I've never really had you, but what I do have…" He shook his head and returned to his task. "Come on. Let's just have dinner." There was really nothing else to say.

Admiral Bolton was away from his office the next day also, a fact that seemed to unsettle Chakotay a great deal and they felt the strain between them. Kathryn tossed her padd down and leaned back. "Chakotay, we need to talk about this. We've months of working together still to go. If we don't clear the air, it'll badly affect the work."

He continued to study what he was working on. "Leave it, Kathryn. We're here to work." His head snapped up at her cynical laugh. "What?"

Kathryn shook her head. "That should have been my line." Her laughter fell away and she sighed. "Please answer one question for me. Does she meet you every night? Is that also why you rush off so quickly every lunchtime?"

Chakotay put his padd down. "Kathryn, be fair. It's not easy for her. She has all these newfound emotions she can't deal with."

Kathryn pushed away from the table and stood. She'd slept badly the previous night and her conversation with Jason hadn't helped. "Oh, she knows how to deal with them all right." She instantly regretted her words but tiredness was making her careless.

Chakotay's head snapped up. "What?"

She waved her hand. "Nothing. I'm tired. I didn't sleep well…"

Chakotay stood as well and moved towards her. "No. I want to know what you meant."

Kathryn's defences were down. "Let's just say the night of the ball she 'warned' me off."

Chakotay looked shocked. "After she found us together?"

She moved to return to the table but he blocked her path. "Just drop it, Chakotay. I shouldn't have said anything…shouldn't have brought it up. Let's just get back to work. The sooner we get through it…"

He stood in front of her. "The sooner we can finish? Is that really what you want?"

Kathryn stared at him in shock. He looked flustered at his own words. "I don't know where that came from. I'm sorry."

Kathryn continued to stare at him as he walked over to the window. "It looks like we're both capable of opening a can of worms." She followed him over to look down over the grounds.

He glanced at her. "What did she say to you that night?"

Kathryn didn't look at him. "She followed me outside when I was leaving. She told me I'd had my chance and failed. You were hers…not mine. She said you loved her and not me. She told me to stay away from you and find someone else…said that I'd hurt you enough."

Chakotay sighed sadly as he looked at her. "Kathryn, I'm sorry."

She merely shrugged, continuing to look out the window. "Don't be. She was right."

He shook his head. "I'm still sorry."

Trying to hold her emotions in check, Kathryn moved away and sat down on the couch beneath the window. Chakotay followed her and sat down beside her. "Has there been anyone in your life?"

She finally met his eyes. "Yes…actually there is someone."

Chakotay looked hurt at that but tried to hide it, knowing he had no reason or right to feel anything. "Who is he?"

Kathryn wove her fingers together, watching the action as they intertwined. "Someone I worked with."

He nodded slowly. "Do I know him? Where's he from? Is he…?"

Kathryn looked up quickly. "Chakotay, stop. He's a kind man and he cares. He's good to me." She sighed. "Too good."

She jumped when he reached for her hand. "He'd better be." He removed his hand and sat forward, rubbing his hands over his face. "How did we ever get into this mess?"

Kathryn turned to look at him. "Does it matter anymore?"

He looked tenderly at her. "Seven was wrong."

Kathryn found herself breathing very slowly. "About…about what?"

He took her hand again, his eyes not leaving hers. "I still love you. I never stopped. I couldn't."

Time seemed to stand still as they stared at each other. The only thing Kathryn was aware of was the crushing pain that his words created in the middle of her chest. She snapped herself out of it and tried to pull her hand from his but Chakotay held onto her. "Kathryn…don't. I need to know. Please."

She felt her eyes fill with tears. "Don't do this to me, Chakotay. It's cruel."

He tightened his hold on her hand. "I need to hear you say it. Just once."

She closed her eyes for a moment, dislodging her tears. His hand remained on hers until she opened them again. She looked deeply into his eyes and couldn't deny him. "I love you and I have for a very long time."

The words, finally spoken, shattered her heart. A sob escaped and she felt him pulling her into his arms, crushing her to his chest.

Chakotay held her as she rode the storm, her tears soaking his uniform. Finally she pulled back, wiping at her face. "Oh God, I'm so sorry."

He reached over and took her face between his hands, his thumbs wiping at her tears. "Don't be, please."

She pulled away from him and stood, putting some distance between them. "What good can it do? All we've done is create more pain and I really don't need any more." She drew in several deep breaths and straightened her shoulders, forcing herself to turn and look at him. "This stops here. We can't talk of this again."

Chakotay stood slowly. "Kathryn, I can't forget what happened here today. I can't forget what you just said to me."

Kathryn fought her tears and backed away from him. "Seven said she was making you forget me…"

He reached her and pulled her back into his arms. "She could never do that. Not even death will be able to make me forget you."

Kathryn's emotions finally won out and she wrapped her arms around him. "Please don't talk about death. I couldn't bear anything happening to you." She buried her face in his chest. "Oh God…how can I miss this when I never had it…" Her tears fell again as Chakotay held her.

He whispered to her. "It's in our souls…perhaps remembered from another life. We were meant to be together. We just gave up too soon."

Kathryn pulled back at that. "Chakotay, we can't……please."

The pain on his face knifed through her. "I know…and it tears me apart too." He stroked his hand over her face. "At least I know. I know now that you love me." Afraid he'd never again have a moment like this, he leaned down and brushed his lips to hers. It was meant to be a gentle kiss but one taste of her and he was drowning.

Kathryn fought it at first but quickly lost the battle. She responded with every ounce of pain she'd ever felt because of this man, opening her mouth to allow him in.

The kiss left her light headed and she clung to him, her nails raking his back through his uniform. His hands wove into her hair, holding her to him as tightly as he dared. He pulled away to let his lips trail down her neck, one hand sliding down her back and around towards her breast.

Suddenly they heard a booming voice outside the door. "That's it, young Wilson. I want that by 09:00 tomorrow. Snap to it."

They jumped apart, guilt slamming into them both. Kathryn tried to smooth her hair and look anywhere but at Chakotay. "What are we doing? Oh God..."

Chakotay rubbed at his mouth, still feeling the pressure of their kiss. "Kathryn, I'm sorry."

She moved towards the bathroom off the admiral's office then stopped and turned back to look at him. "Chakotay, we can't do this. We can't hurt other people. Please…this never happened…or at least it can't happen again."

They stared at each other for a long moment. As they heard the door open, Chakotay nodded sadly. "All right." He turned and moved towards the door where he could block any view of her by anyone coming in. In that way, he didn't see her fresh tears or the look of pure agony on her face.

Chakotay feigned a bad headache at home that night, knowing that Seven would easily know something was wrong otherwise.

Seven stood stiffly. "I will replicate you a hypospray."

He couldn't refuse it and nodded his thanks when she pressed it to his neck. He then lay back on the couch and closed his eyes, finding it easier to hide inside his own mind. It was the only place he felt comfortable or at home these days, the only place that was his alone and where his real feelings could roam free.

He knew Seven was watching him closely and felt her eyes on him. She'd changed from the moment she'd found him on the balcony with Kathryn the night of the ball but had managed to hide her suspicions most of the time. When she discovered that Chakotay had been assigned to work with his former captain, she no longer tried to hide her feelings.

Chakotay had tried to explain to her that he had to accept the assignment and couldn't question it. He was still viewed in certain circles as the 'Maquis terrorist' and felt he needed to prove his worth to Starfleet. Admiral Paris had supported him all the way, and he was desperate to show that the trust Tom's father had in him was not misplaced.

Seven saw none of this though. She insisted on meeting him for lunch every day and waiting for him after work each evening, despite how difficult it was for her to get there from her own workplace.

Chakotay did understand her fear. He watched as her new-found emotions emerged and saw her struggle to deal with and understand them. He'd welcomed the positive ones, encouraging her as she discovered love and empathy. With them though came fear and doubt, jealousy and hatred.

Her negative emotions subsided slightly over time as Chakotay constantly reassured her. He saw her fight her feelings, knowing that she understood how her jealousy and possessiveness would only push him away in the end. She mentioned marriage more and more, talking to him about what she knew he wanted - a family. He didn't want to hear it though. Since meeting Kathryn again, he felt less and less committed to Seven and more and more confused about his feelings for Kathryn.

Kathryn's evening was occupied by a real headache. She allowed Jason to make dinner and administer a hypo, but when he went to give her a neck massage she pulled away.

Jason sat back and blew out a long breath. "I'm just offering a neck rub, Kathryn. Nothing more."

She rubbed at her forehead as she sat forward. "I know, Jason. I'm sorry."

He suddenly nodded knowingly. "Let me guess. That was another reminder."

The look she gave him told him not to go there. He sighed and stood slowly. "Look, Kathryn, I'd better head home and you should have an early night to sleep off that headache. I'll meet you for lunch tomorrow…13:00 outside the lecture department."

He was gone before his words penetrated Kathryn's foggy brain.

Kathryn still had the remains of her headache the next morning, despite taking a hypo when she woke up. Admiral Bolton was in the office all morning with two of his students, making any conversation outside of work impossible with Chakotay.

As lunchtime approached Kathryn suddenly remembered Jason arranging to meet with her. She checked the time and realized it was too late to cancel so she stood up slowly and pushed her work away. "I'm going to get some lunch."

Chakotay didn't look up and just nodded. "I'll see you afterwards."

Kathryn wanted to ask him if he was meeting Seven, but with 'Snappy' and his students in the room, she left it unsaid.

As Kathryn left the Academy building, the first person she saw was Seven standing stiffly just outside the doors. The two women barely glanced at each other as Kathryn moved away. Suddenly she was grabbed from behind and heard Jason's laugh as he kissed her ear.

Kathryn jumped in fright and turned to face him. He smiled softly at her. "How's the headache this morning? You had me worried last night."

Kathryn glanced over at Seven as she took Jason's hand to lead him away and saw a smirk of satisfaction on the former drone's face. She also saw relief. Suddenly Chakotay was standing beside Seven but his eyes were on Jason.

Kathryn cleared her throat and tugged on Jason's hand. "Jason, this is Chakotay and Seven."

Jason nodded and smiled, extending his hand. "I'm Jason Roberts. Good to meet you both. Kathryn has told me a lot about her days on Voyager but you're the first I've met, apart from B'Elanna Paris. I know her well. She stands over my shoulder a lot." He turned and smiled down at Kathryn. "Much like this one used to."

Chakotay studied the man. "Are you a member of the team working on Voyager?"

Jason nodded and turned back to Chakotay. "Yes. That's how we met actually." He looked back at Kathryn, his arm slipping around her shoulders now.

Kathryn watched Seven closely as she in turn smiled at Jason. "It's a pleasure to meet you. I apologize. I don't know your rank."

Jason shook his head. "It's Commander, but please call me Jason."

Seven smiled again and repeated his name. "Jason."

Kathryn just wanted to get away. She looked at Chakotay and tried to read his expression but couldn't. He wasn't smiling at any rate. "Well, we'd better go get some lunch. Chakotay, I'll see you later. Seven, it was nice to see you again. Come on, Jason." She pulled him away.

Jason nodded to her and smiled again at the other two. "What the lady wants… Nice to meet you both." With his arm still around Kathryn he pulled her against him as they walked away, leaning down to whisper something to her. No one saw the pained look on Chakotay's face.

Chakotay found that a very different Seven emerged over lunch. All she could talk about was what a perfect couple the captain and Jason made.

Chakotay picked at his meal and jumped when she touched his arm. "Has your headache returned? We can call to see the Doctor before you return to work."

He thought quickly and plastered a small smile on his face. "No, I'm fine. I'm just still working in my head."

Seven accepted that. "You work too hard. The people at Starfleet are idiots if they do not see that or appreciate your worth to them." She took a sip of her water and then placed her glass back in exactly the same place it had been, something which irked Chakotay no end. He'd grown to hate her exactness to every detail.

He looked at her now and realized she'd spoken but he hadn't heard her. "I'm sorry. What was that?"

Seven ignored his inattention. "I said the captain and Commander Roberts seem very much in love." She cut her bread stick perfectly in half. "I wonder when they'll marry."

Chakotay pushed down the pain he felt at that statement. "I really don't know."

Seven studied him a moment. "Does she not speak of him when you work together?"

Chakotay played with his almost untouched meal. "Admiral Bolton works us hard. Besides, we don't talk about personal matters very much."

She nodded at that. "That is as it should be, of course. I had forgotten how professional the captain was. Work first and foremost."

Chakotay looked up at that. "Is that how you saw her?"

Seven nodded curtly. "Of course. Did she not put work and protocol before you?"

He knew she didn't say it out of spite, but her words hit him hard. He sat up a little straighter. "Yes, you're right." He put down his fork. "Well, she seems happy now…not that it's any of my business."

Seven seemed pleased with his attitude. She smiled at him and patted his arm. "Eat your lunch. We'll be late for work."

Kathryn was as quiet during her lunch with Jason. He watched her play with her pasta. "It is dead, Kathryn. You can eat it." His joke fell on deaf ears.

She looked up and smiled apologetically. "I'm not good company, am I?"

He shook his head. "Sorry about earlier. I'd no idea who she was."

Kathryn sighed and sat back. "I know you didn't. That's my fault."

He moved the food around his plate. "You've never said much about him…or her."

She looked out over the restaurant. "There wasn't much to say."

He nodded as he watched her. "He's a handsome man. He seems very nice."

She looked back at him. "I don't really want to talk about it, Jason."

He leaned across the table and took her hand in his. "Maybe not, but I need to." He drew in a deep breath. "I'm going to say the most selfless words I've ever said and I'll say them because I care." He ignored the tears he saw forming in her eyes. "I know you still love him and you always will. I can see that. I also get the feeling, even on just a brief meeting, that he's not happy with her."

He reached over and placed his fingers against her lips when she went to speak. "Just hear me out." She nodded. "None of us know the future, Kathryn. I can only guess at it with what I see. With that in mind, I'll say this to you."

He drew in a deep breath. "I care deeply about you and you know that. I may even be falling in love with you, but I've held myself back from that because I know I'd be second best for you. That's not your fault though. No one can help how they feel or who they love. So just know this. I'm here for you…now and in the future. If you and he somehow find your way to each other, you have my blessing. I'll miss you terribly but I care too much not to want to see you happy. If he can make your eyes shine the way I can't, then I'll stand back and wish you all the best. I'm man enough and I care enough to do that."

Kathryn squeezed his hand. "Jason, I'm sorry. I hurt you so much and…"

He shook his head. "It's not deliberate, Kathryn. I know that. We can't help who we love in this life. You love him and from what I saw, he loves you too." He laughed slightly. "He certainly didn't seem to like me being with you."

Kathryn let her tears fall. "How did I get into this mess, Jason? And what did I do to deserve you?"

He smiled tenderly. "It was just bad luck that you got pulled into the Delta Quadrant and the situation you found yourself in. You did what you had to do out there. I'm just sorry you had to sacrifice so much of yourself." He dropped his head to the side and smiled at her. "Meeting me… Well, that's where the good luck comes in…"

He managed to get a smile out of her at that. "You're too good for me, Jason Roberts."

He shook his head and smiled again. "I've more than made good on my investment. I've had a good return." He sat back. "Let's see how it goes. Just know this. I'll always be your friend. Remember that please."

She squeezed his hand again. "That's something I'll never forget."

They both worked quietly the next day, sticking strictly to the matters at hand. Admiral Bolton was in and out of the office but even when they were alone, they kept working and stuck to work subjects.

That set the pattern for the next two weeks in fact. The admiral spent a lot of time with them as many of his students were sitting exams, and reviewed the work they'd done so far, declaring himself more than satisfied with it. Only occasionally did he ask for clarification on some point.

And each evening Chakotay went home to Seven and Kathryn went home to Jason, both of them shutting off their feelings for each other.

Summer was slow in coming but the weather was beautiful. Kathryn strolled along with Jason through the park as the sun sank below the horizon.

"You're quiet this evening, Jason. Is something wrong?"

They held hands and he tightened his hold on hers. "There is something." He pointed to a bench. "Come on. Let's sit."

Kathryn frowned as he led her to the seat and sat with him. "What's up?"

He gave her a sad smile. "You know we've been replicating the modifications from Voyager…" Kathryn nodded. "Well, the next step is to test them on another ship."

Kathryn looked down at their still joined hands. "You're ready to test them?" She raised her eyes to his and saw him nod.

"We leave on Monday. I'll be away possibly two months." He smiled at her. "I can't turn it down and it's what we've been working towards."

She looked out over the park. "It goes with the territory of working for Starfleet." She looked back at him and smiled sadly. "I'm going to miss you."

He reached over and stroked her face. "I'll miss you too." He studied her a moment. "Kathryn, I need to say one thing." He pulled her face back when she went to look away. "Kathryn, listen to me. I need to say this."

He sighed softly. "I think you know what I'm going to say but I need to say it anyway. I've already said part of it." He managed a sad half smile. "Kathryn, if anything…" He sighed again. "What I'm saying is…follow your heart. You owe me nothing and I claim nothing from you. If you see a road open before you which will lead you to happiness, you walk it. I'll understand and I'll always be your friend."

Kathryn's eyes filled with tears at his words. "Oh Jason, you deserve so much better than me. I've given you nothing but grief and…"

He placed a finger over her lips. "No, Kathryn, don't say that. You were honest with me from the start and I went into this with my eyes open. I've no regrets. I just want you to be happy and if that happiness comes from another, then I'll be happy for you. One condition though…" He smiled at her. "I'll always want your friendship."

Her tears spilled over and she leaned into him. "You'll always have it."

He hugged her tightly. "That's what love is, Kathryn. It's wanting the other person's happiness more than your own."

Kathryn missed Jason over the next week but she came to realize it was the friendship she missed and not the romantic relationship. She didn't mention his absence to Chakotay, however, as they attempted to keep their conversations strictly professional.

They failed miserably. They continued to fight what was in their hearts but it seemed the fire, once lit, refused to die. Hands brushed hands, looks lingered and hearts beat faster. Not speaking of their feelings made no difference to how they felt. In fact, it seemed to fuel it.

Finally Chakotay could stand it no longer. Kathryn looked up one morning to find him staring at her. "Kathryn, we can't go on like this. We have to talk."

She looked back down at her work. "I know."

He stood up and began to pace. "I'm fighting and fighting this and getting nowhere. It's killing me. It's torture." He stopped pacing and looked down at her. "I love you. You're my every waking thought. You fill my dreams at night. No matter how hard I try to fight it, it won't go away. It just grows stronger."

She drew in a shaky breath. "I know. It's the same for me."

He knelt down before her. "Kathryn, I've never been happy with Seven. I was lonely and made a big mistake, the biggest mistake of my life." He smiled sadly. "Actually, it was the second biggest mistake of my life. Not being there for you was the biggest."

Kathryn looked into his eyes and saw his love for her and the sincerity of his words. "Mine was denying you all those years."

Chakotay stroked her hand. "We need to talk."

She nodded and looked around the office. "We can't talk here."

He nodded at that. "I know. Where then? When?" He hesitated before speaking. "Seven's going away for a few days to a seminar from work." He saw Kathryn's surprise and shrugged. "Since she saw you with Jason, she's been a lot more relaxed. She talks a lot about what a great couple you make. She doesn't even meet me all the time anymore."

Kathryn bit her lower lip. "Jason's away for two months. They're testing Voyager's modifications on another ship." She locked eyes with him. "My place?" Her voice trembled as she said the words.

He didn't blink as he nodded. "Tomorrow night?"

Kathryn swallowed, her breathing shallow as she answered. "20:00?"

Chakotay sat down again. "20:00."

Not knowing what else to say, they returned to work.

Kathryn was grateful that Admiral Bolton kept them busy all the next day because she didn't want to think about their decision. A small voice spoke to her of the road she'd just set foot on, but the admiral and the work kept it at bay.

Chakotay left at lunchtime to meet Seven and see her off on her transport to Mars where the seminar was being held. Kathryn opted to work through her break rather than allow her thoughts free rein.

When it came time to finish for the day, Chakotay left first. He stopped at the door on his way out and looked back at her. "Kathryn, we're going to talk. We're not doing anything wrong."

She looked at him sadly. "Why do I feel so…?" She sighed. "I don't know what I feel. Nervous…guilty…"

He just smiled at her. "We're just two friends meeting to talk."

Kathryn nodded slowly. "See you at 20:00. You have the address?"

He opened the door. "I have it. See you later."

Kathryn fussed around the place before Chakotay arrived, unable to understand why she felt so nervous. This was just talk, two friends having something to eat and some conversation, something they had done so many times on Voyager.

She muttered to herself. "Who are you kidding, Kathryn? You hadn't declared your love for each other back then." She jumped when her door chimed and checked her appearance in the mirror before letting him in.

Chakotay stood there holding some flowers and a bottle of wine. She'd grown used to him in uniform again and seeing him now in casual pants and shirt caught her unawares. She looked him up and down before realizing he was watching her in amusement. Embarrassed, she reached for the flowers and wine. "Sorry. Come in please."

Chakotay looked around her home as he entered while Kathryn put the wine and flowers in the kitchen. "This is lovely, Kathryn. It's really you."

She looked around as she came back into the living area, trying to see her home through his eyes. "It still needs a lot of work…some personal touches. I just need the time."

They were silent for several moments, neither knowing what to say. Finally Kathryn spoke. "Can I get you a drink before dinner?"

Chakotay moved towards her and smiled. "You're going to feed me?"

She spread her hands before her. "Seemed like a good idea…" She watched him as he came closer. "I wasn't sure what…" Her words trailed off as he stopped before her and she found she couldn't take her eyes off him. "Chakotay…"

His eyes drank her in as he raised his hands and cupped her face. "Kathryn, I…" The words stuck in his throat as he looked at her.

Something far stronger and greater than them both took over. One moment they were standing staring into each other's eyes and the next they were locked together. Kathryn clung to him as his lips parted hers, his tongue plundering her mouth. She moaned deeply in the back of her throat as she matched his urgency and all coherent thought fled.

The emotional still existed. They loved each other on a deeply spiritual level, but at that moment in time the physical was taking precedence. Too long denied, the floodgates opened as they came together, hands tearing at each other to free themselves from the confines of their clothing. Finally exposed, time stopped for a moment as they drank in the sight of each other before the need took over again.

They fell to the floor, the location not mattering as hands explored and mouths tasted. Kathryn lay on her back as Chakotay lapped at her skin, setting her on fire. She eventually managed to roll him over, giving back some of what he was giving her. Then she was on her back again, his head between her legs as he spread her and went in for the kill.

Kathryn cried and moaned as he drove her higher and higher, his mouth moving over her and his fingers filling her. She bucked beneath him as he pleasured her like no other ever had. Everything was concentrated between her legs, building until she exploded against his mouth, screaming out seven years of repressed desires for him.

She lay in a stupor as he came up over her, his hands spreading her thighs around his waist. He tried to slow down but all control had long gone. As he penetrated her in one deep, stabbing movement she arched her back and cried out, her nails clawing at him in pain, despite having been with Jason.

The pain faded quickly and was replaced with pleasure as he withdrew and thrust forward, his pace barely controlled. And then he lost it, pounding into her and taking her with him on the journey.

Kathryn's second orgasm claimed her just before his. The tremors rocked her to the core and continued shooting through her body until he joined her, spurting deeply inside her and filling her.

Kathryn lay curled against Chakotay, his arms around her. He looked down at her then tilted her face up to his. "This was natural, Kathryn. We're together all day, sometimes alone. I can't fight what I feel for you. I did that for seven years and look what happened." He brushed his fingers over her lips. "I understand why you couldn't out there…"

Kathryn shook her head. "It's the same back here, Chakotay. The reason has changed but that's all."

He pushed her hair back from her face. "Kathryn, I love you and you love me. No matter how hard we try to fight that, it won't go away. It just grows stronger in fact. We were meant to be together."

She sighed. "I know, and I'm tired of fighting it. I feel the same way, but there are other people involved here."

Chakotay rolled over slightly to look directly at her face. "Do you love Jason?"

Kathryn smiled at that. "Yes…but not the way you think." She shook her head. "He's a truly wonderful man, Chakotay. Do you know what he told me? He said that if I found my way to you, we had his blessing." At Chakotay's shocked look, she told him everything Jason had said to her.

Chakotay looked softly at her. "He's a wonderful man all right. That really is love. I'd welcome him as a friend myself."

Kathryn propped her head on her hand as she turned onto her side. "Chakotay, what happened here tonight…" She sighed sadly. "I hope you understand what I'm going to say here. Jason won't be back for…"

Chakotay took her hand in his. "You want to talk to him first…tell him before we…" He nodded and smiled. "I understand…and I love you all the more for it."

She leaned over and kissed him. "Thank you for understanding. I know tonight…" She smiled shyly. "And I know what he said…but… It would feel like cheating and he deserves better than that. I'd like to tell him before…" She smiled again. "I'm not explaining myself very well…"

Chakotay kissed her forehead. "It's OK. I do understand. I'm in the same situation. Seven deserves my honesty. I'll hurt her when I tell her, but I can't live a lie. I'm denying us all happiness." He lay back and pulled her against him. "I love you, Kathryn. We'll get there."

She snuggled against him. "I love you too."

Keeping their promise was easier said than done. They both worked hard to try to distract themselves from other thoughts but it still wasn't easy.

Chakotay had decided to talk to Seven as soon as she returned but he never got the chance. When he got home from work, he found her lying on the couch. "Seven? I though you weren't due in until later. I was going to meet you."

She gave him a tired smile. "I took an earlier transport. I was unwell."

He frowned and sat down beside her. "What's wrong? Have you seen a medic?"

She shook her head. "I will see our own Doctor tomorrow. He's away until then. He knows my medical history better than anyone and I trust him."

Chakotay was genuinely concerned. "Wouldn't it be better to see someone tonight?"

She waved away his concern. "I'm fine. It's just a headache and mild nausea." She sat up. "How is your work progressing? Are the captain and Jason well?"

Chakotay was a little thrown at the change in subject. "Work is fine and they're both well. Seven, I'd feel happier if you saw someone tonight."

Again she waved her hand. "I am fine. I will regenerate now and be all right in the morning." She stood and then turned back to him. "I will attend to your meal first."

Chakotay stood and smiled. "I'll replicate something. You take care of yourself." He kissed her on the cheek. "Go and rest."

Seven's illness turned out to be a bit more serious than a headache and nausea. One of her implants had begun to fail and she was off work for several weeks while the Doctor treated her.

Her illness made talking to her impossible and triggered a severe bout of guilt with Kathryn.

They managed lunch together one day in the office while 'Snappy' was tied up with meetings.

Kathryn rubbed at her forehead. "You can't tell her now. She's ill and it's not fair." She sat back in her chair, her voice a whisper. "What are we doing, Chakotay? Jason knew this would happen between us and gave us his blessing but Seven is going to be badly hurt. I'm not sure I can do that to her."

Chakotay looked over at her. "Kathryn, why are you whispering?"

She looked around the empty office. "I don't know. It must be my shame and guilt."

Chakotay moved over to sit closer to her. "Kathryn, we're not having a full blazing affair here. It was once…weeks ago…"

Kathryn dropped her head back. "Six weeks ago to be exact…"

He studied her. "And the stress of it is telling on you. Have you looked at yourself? You don't look well."

Kathryn just shook her head. "I'm fine. I'm just tired." She turned her head to look at him. "Jason is due back next week." She looked away again. "I'll talk to him then."

Chakotay nodded. "And I need to tell Seven. I can't just blurt it out though and I can't walk away from her when she's ill."

Kathryn smiled softly at him. "No, you can't, and that says so much about the kind of man you are. It's why I love you so much." She sighed. "It's just the waiting. It's so hard on us both." She smiled. "It's killing me actually. I miss you so much."

Chakotay leaned forward. "I miss you too." He nodded slowly. "I'll talk to her as soon as she's better." He looked at her, his worry clear. "Kathryn, you don't regret…" He sighed. "We're doing the right thing you know. We were meant to be together and we only get one shot at this life. We've wasted enough time and waited long enough."

Kathryn reached for his hand and squeezed it. "I know." She looked at him sadly. "I feel so bad about all this and have so much guilt, but what's in my heart is so much stronger and it wins every time. I can't fight it."


Kathryn stood at the kitchen window holding a now cold cup of untouched coffee. She'd no idea how long she'd stood there but it had been dark at first and now streaks of light painted the sky.

She'd always been an early riser but this morning had broken her own record. She sighed to herself as she heard the birds begin to sing and knew that Jason would soon be stirring.

For now though, he lay asleep on her couch. He'd stayed the night, as he often had, but this time it had been different. They'd talked long into the night although Kathryn had needed to say very little.

Jason had just known. He'd seen it on her face when she'd met him and had immediately taken her in his arms and held her for a long time. He'd finally pulled back and smiled down at her. "I promised you my blessing, Kathryn. I gladly give it to you both. I'll miss you like hell, but knowing you're happy and having your friendship, and hopefully Chakotay's, will heal my wounds."

They'd gone back to her house, sharing a pleasant dinner and talking for hours. He'd stayed the night, both of them eventually falling asleep on the couch.

Kathryn sighed again. Her romantic relationship with Jason was over but she just knew a lifelong friendship would remain.

She turned away from the window and stared down into her cup before tossing the contents into the sink. She stroked her stomach and thought of the life that lay within. A baby. Chakotay's baby.

She'd told Chakotay she was just tired when he'd said she didn't look well, but in truth she hadn't felt well for some time and had suspected this. She'd gone to see Voyager's Doctor the previous day, trusting him more than anyone else, and he'd confirmed the pregnancy.

She'd watched his face carefully and had been ready for his reaction when he'd read the paternity. He'd made no judgement as she explained the situation, merely congratulating her.

"I do understand, Admiral. When something is meant to be…well, even a hologram can understand that. Seven will…to use her words…adapt."

Kathryn had been grateful for his response. "Chakotay will tell her when the time is right…when she's well again."

The Doctor had laid a gentle hand on hers. "I'll be there for her too."

And now she just worried about Chakotay's reaction to her news. They hadn't planned on this and the timing couldn't have been worse, yet above all that she knew she wanted this baby more than anything.

She looked up as Jason came into the kitchen, his hair tousled. He scratched at his face and smiled softly. "You're the early bird. Are you all right?"

She smiled at him and nodded. "You're always so concerned for me. You're too good to me."

He came over to her and hugged her. "It's called caring, Kathryn. I want what's best for you and I know now that means Chakotay and not me. You gave me what you could and I'm grateful for that. You were always honest with me." He sighed. "I had your love, Kathryn, but I never had your heart. Your heart and soul belong to another and I can accept that. There's a better man waiting for you, and you deserve the best. Just make sure he's good to you. You should never be the other woman."

Kathryn spent the next week worrying about how to tell Chakotay her news. In the end the decision was made for her.

They were working on lectures concerning Species 8472 and their simulation of Earth when Kathryn stood to retrieve some padds she'd left on Admiral Bolton's desk. She swayed as a wave of dizziness swept over her. Chakotay was on his feet immediately and caught her before she fell, easing her back into her chair. His face was a mask of concern and worry.

"Kathryn, are you all right? You almost fainted and you're as pale as a ghost."

She drew in several shaky breaths. "I'm fine."

He wasn't accepting that. "No, you're not. You haven't looked well for some time now. I'm calling a doctor." He stood to make the call but Kathryn's hand on his arm stopped him.

"Chakotay, wait please. I don't need a doctor. Just get me some water. I'll be all right in a minute or two."

He knelt back down beside her. "You're not all right. You don't faint unless there's a reason."

She sighed and looked away. "I didn't faint…just felt light headed. Besides, I've already seen a doctor. I saw Voyager's EMH."

Chakotay's fear showed. "What's wrong? How ill are you? What's the…"

She smiled and leaned over, gently pressing her lips to his. Realizing her action, she drew back embarrassed. "Sorry."

He stroked her face. "For what? That was wonderful." He took her hands in his. "Honey, what's wrong. I'm worried here. Was it bad news?"

She forced herself to hold his eyes. "That depends on…" She licked at her lips. "Chakotay, I didn't plan it…didn't mean for it to happen and… I mean…I'll understand if…" She saw the pieces click into place before his face broke out in a wide grin and he gripped her hands more tightly.

"Are you pregnant?"

She nodded nervously. "It happened so…when we… I didn't think and… I wasn't on boosters…and with Jason…he took care of…" She looked down into her lap and suddenly burst into tears.

Chakotay pulled her to him. "Oh Kathryn…this is the best news." He rubbed up and down her back, soothing her and kissing the side of her face. He then eased her back and brushed away her tears. "Kathryn, you've made me the happiest man."

A sudden thought struck him. "Kathryn, you want this too, don't you? I mean I just assumed and…"

She stared at him in wonder. "You're all right with this? I promise you I wasn't trying to…"

He shook his head. "Sweetheart, I'd never think that. This was meant to be. It's a blessing. I'm over the moon with happiness."

She smiled then. "I'm so glad because I want this baby more than anything."

He took her face in his hands and kissed her softly. "I love you, Kathryn Janeway. You've given me the greatest gift." He kissed her again, longer this time. It wasn't a passionate kiss, just a sharing of love.

They just held each other for some time reflecting on what was happening. Finally Kathryn eased back and looked around her, smiling and shaking her head. "God, Chakotay…this office has seen some things from us."

He smiled with her as he looked around as well. "If the walls could talk…" He sobered then and looked back at her. "I'll talk to Seven as soon as I can."

The smile fell from Kathryn's face as she met his eyes. "I feel so bad about what we've done to her. Guilt and shame…even the fact that I could do this to another woman."

He sat beside her, stroking over the back of her hands. "Kathryn, we didn't plan all this. We fell in love. I believe it was divine…meant to be. And from a physical side of things, it was one time and…"

Kathryn shook her head, looking down at his hands on hers. "I still feel bad though." She looked up at him and smiled. "My love for you controls everything though. I tried to fight it and couldn't. It was always stronger. Whatever I feel about the rest, it pales when compared to what I feel for you."

Chakotay slipped his arm around her shoulders and pulled her against him. "As I said, it was meant to be. Who are we to question what the Gods ordain." He kissed the side of her face. "I'll talk to Seven tonight. She's practically recovered now. The sooner she knows, the better for us all. We can plan our life and she can get on with her own. It'll be out in the open and we'll all be better for it."

When Chakotay got home that night, Seven had dinner prepared. He watched her as she ate, her actions as precise as always. She looked back to full health too, a rosy glow in her cheeks.

They mostly ate in silence, what conversation there was being stilted. Finally Chakotay knew he had to speak.

He placed his knife and fork down and looked straight at her. "Seven, we need to talk."

She gave him a strange look. "Was the meal not to your liking?"

He shook his head. "The meal was fine." He sighed. "It's…us… We…" Seven stood and began to clear the table. He looked at her sadly. "Seven, please…we have to talk about this."

She stopped suddenly and stared at him. "You are unhappy."

He couldn't tell by her tone of voice if she meant it as a question or a statement. "Yes…and I don't believe you're happy either. Work maybe fulfils you but…" He leaned back as he continued looking at her. "I don't believe you're living the life you envisioned."

She turned abruptly. "We will talk about this when I return."

Chakotay stared at her in confusion. "The dishes can wait."

She continued clearing the table. "I meant when I return from my seminar. The Doctor has declared me well again and fit for work. There is another conference and seminar I wish to attend on Mars. It is three days duration. I will return on Sunday."

Chakotay continued to stare at her. "Thanks for telling me."

She stacked the plates on the table. "I am informing you now." She pointed to the crockery. "Will you take care of these? I need to regenerate. I have an early start."

Chakotay stood now. "Seven, we need to talk. You can't ignore me and hope this goes away. There's a problem here and we need to talk about it. You can't deny it."

She stared hard at him. "You are unsatisfied with how we live." Another statement.

Chakotay sighed heavily. "Seven, we function. We don't live. Our lives consist of a series of tasks to be performed. This isn't a home." He looked at her sadly. "I don't care if the bed isn't made. So what if we don't eat at precisely 20:00. We get enough of timetables and routine at work. We're not happy and I think you're in denial about that."

She was silent for a moment, then turned and walked to the door. "We will discuss this matter when I return." With that she left the room, leaving Chakotay staring at an empty space.

Chakotay dropped Seven at the transporter station early the next morning. She was quiet and studied a padd that she carried rather than converse with him.

Chakotay leaned over and kissed her cheek. "I'll pick you up on Sunday. What time do you get back?"

She slipped her padd into her holdall and shook her head. "I will call you with the time." She closed her bag and nodded. "I will see you upon my return." With that she walked into the station, not looking back once.

Kathryn looked at Chakotay over lunch and frowned. "You don't think she knows something, do you? It's strange behaviour."

Chakotay wiped at his mouth with his napkin. "Not for Seven. She's always formal." He sighed and threw the napkin down. "I laid the ground work last night but she seems to be in denial about it all. She knows there's a problem but she was just delaying talking about it. There's no way she knows about us…" He looked up in annoyance as a waiter came over to the table to remove their plates. Once the man left, he leaned closer to Kathryn. "We can't talk here."

She nodded at that and stirred her tea. "Can you come by this evening?" She looked up at him. "Snappy is in the office all afternoon so we can't talk there. He wants to go over some of the Borg lectures."

Chakotay smiled and rolled his eyes. "He's fighting the brass on what can be disclosed and what can't." He reached for her hand. "Tonight then. I'll cook. This time I might actually get fed."

She made a face at him. "If I remember correctly, I had a meal prepared the last time. Someone distracted me."

Chakotay squeezed her hand and leaned closer. "That was before you were eating for two. Your health comes first now."

Kathryn looked down into her cup. "I know. That's the only reason I let you talk me into having tea. I'd kill for a coffee."

He laughed as he signalled the waiter. "You can have all the coffee you want later. For now you must be a good girl." He grinned at her. "We'll find a substitute for you."

It was Kathryn's turn to roll her eyes. "That's what I'm afraid of."

They actually managed to eat a full dinner this time. Chakotay brought all the ingredients with him and spent two hours preparing and cooking his menu. Kathryn laid the table and couldn't resist using her best china and crystal, placing flowers and candles on the table.

They took their time over their meal, keeping their conversation away from work and their problems. It took Kathryn a while to realize that Chakotay spent most of the meal watching her eat, his eyes frequently on her lips. Testing her theory, she picked up a baby carrot with her fingers and sucked it into her mouth, playing it back and forth between her lips. Chakotay's eyes were riveted on her actions and he licked at his lips. "Kathryn…"

She smiled seductively. "What's the matter, Chakotay?"

He refocused and caught her cheeky grin. "You minx. You did that on purpose. That's unfair. Mind you…." He slipped his shoe off and slid his foot up her leg under the table. "Two can play at that game."

Kathryn jumped at the contact but kept her eyes on his. She slowly licked each of her fingers. "Indeed they can."

He ran his toes along the inside of her knee and began to unbutton his shirt. "Is it warm in here or is it just me?" With each button, more of his chest was revealed.

Kathryn leaned forward, her arms pushing her breasts together, showing a generous cleavage. She slipped her own shoe off and made straight for his manhood with her foot. "Umm…I hadn't noticed."

Chakotay jumped almost a foot in the air. "And I thought we'd already prepared a dessert." He leaned forward and almost growled at her, his own foot in place now. His toes pushed between her legs and he twisted them against her. It was her turn to jump. "Careful, Kathryn…just remember what I said about two playing at that game."

Kathryn's breathing grew ragged, her hormones getting the better of her. "Chakotay, that's unfair play with a pregnant woman. My hormones are raging enough as it is."

He continued to play with her with his toes. "My own hormones are raging quite nicely too."

They stared at each other for almost a minute, their eyes speaking for them. Unable to take it anymore, Chakotay stood up and Kathryn's foot slipped from his crotch. His arousal was obvious.

Kathryn squirmed at the loss of his stimulation, her eyes drawn downward. She bit at her lower lip then leered at him. "That would be such a shame to waste."

He moved around the table and reached for her hand. "Can we make it to the bed this time? A woman in your condition should be comfortable."

She allowed him to pull her to her feet. "Well, you're the one who got me into this condition."

Their good intentions and scruples forgotten, they blew out the candles before making their way upstairs. Neither noticed the woman well hidden in the shadows.

Chakotay stood Kathryn beside her bed and undressed her slowly. He batted her hands away when she tried to return the favour. "Patience…" He eased her naked body back against the pillows and stood away from the bed.

Kathryn lay back and watched him. The room was bathed in candlelight, Kathryn having lit them when they came up. Her eyes travelled over him as he slowly opened the remaining buttons of his shirt although it was still tucked into the waist of his pants. Agonisingly slowly he slipped his light jacket off, letting it slide down his back. He toed his shoes off as he played his fingers over his chest and watched Kathryn's eyes drink him in. He then turned his back on her as he eased his shirt off his shoulders, twisting his head around to watch her watching the sight before her.

Naked from the waist up, he now started a new show. He tossed his shirt aside and began to open his pants, revealing himself inch by inch. Kathryn's eyes were glued to him, her breathing slow. She lifted a hand to her breast and played with her swollen nipple as her mind rehearsed what lay ahead.

The sight of her playing with her breast hardened Chakotay even further. He wanted to just dive on her but held himself back. He quickly reached down and slipped his socks off then resumed work on his pants. Open now, he slowly eased them off his hips, his erection tenting the briefs he wore.

Kathryn licked at her lips and started to tug at her other nipple as well, squeezing her legs together and clenching her buttocks in an effort to control her own arousal. She glanced up at his face. "More…"

He obliged and let his pants slide down to the floor, kicking them across the rug to join his shirt. He turned again then and gyrated his hips as he slid his briefs off. Kathryn was panting at this stage. "Fine view… I bet it's even better from the front."

He turned at her words, his briefs still caught on his erection. She didn't look away for a second. "More. All of you."

He performed the final act and eased the last obstacle out of the way. He stood before her now, his penis standing erect and proud. Kathryn moaned at the sight before her. "Oh God…you're magnificent. Please…"

He inched his way towards her. "Is this what you want? What are you going to do with him?"

Kathryn got up on her knees and moved towards him, reaching for his hard shaft. "He looks a little cold. I think he needs to be somewhere warm." She gripped his hips and sat before him, sliding a leg around each side of him. Her hands then went to work, one stroking up and down his length while the other cupped his balls.

Chakotay groaned as he watched her. "Where did you have in mind?"

His question was answered when she slid off the bed to kneel before him, then leaned forward and engulfed him in her mouth. He cried out and dropped his head back. His hands reached for her head, tangling in her hair. "Oh God…Kathryn…"

She couldn't answer with her mouth full and mumbled something incoherent. She sucked hard on him, sliding him in and out of her mouth, her tongue licking at the underside of his hardness. She knew he wouldn't be able to take much and slowed down, then let him slip from her mouth. She looked up at him through lust filled eyes. "Should I continue or…"

He fought with his breathing and shook his head. "My turn…"

Kathryn was on her back with her legs draped over his shoulders before she knew what was happening. He crouched between her legs and devoured her, nipping, sucking and licking her to orgasm. She cried out as he worked her, his fingers slipping in and out of her tight heat. Her hands clawed at the bedspread as she ascended toward climax, her awareness only on the place where he fed.

Her orgasm crashed over her as she arched off the bed and cried out her release. And while still in the throes of it, she vaguely felt her legs fall to the bed before his weight came down over her. She sluggishly opened her eyes a split second before he pushed deeply into her, tearing a scream from her throat.

He then stopped, deeply embedded in her and looked down into her face. "What about the baby? Maybe…" He made the decision for them and pulled from her, Kathryn crying out at the separation. It was short lived though as he turned her and eased her onto her hands and knees. She felt his hands stroking up and down her back, his erection nudging her opening. He leaned over her and kissed and licked his way up and down her spine, one hand softly squeezing a tender and sensitive breast, the other between her legs, stimulating her.

Kathryn cried out and bucked against him. He got the message and kneeled upright, clutching her hips tightly before plunging back into her. Her head came up as she groaned deeply, her hands grabbing for the headboard. She held on tightly as he stroked in and out of her, building in tempo. One of his hands played over her clit while the other pressed against her anus, leaving Kathryn to cope with sensory overload.

Her second orgasm tore through her, making her see stars and she screamed out once more. She stayed on the high as he rode her to his own release, spearing her through her clenching inner muscles. Finally he roared out in his own completion, collapsing on her back for a split second before falling to the side and taking her with him.

Somehow Kathryn found the strength to turn her throbbing body to face him. She stroked over his face and kissed him. "Thank you for that. I love you."

Her hair was stuck to her face and he pushed it back. "Thank you. And I love you too. You know that." He kissed the tip of her nose. "We were meant to be, Kathryn."

She nodded as her fingers played over his chest now. "I know. I couldn't stop my feelings for you even if I tried."

He kissed her again and rolled her back a little, his hand stroking over her abdomen. "You've given me the greatest gift, Kathryn. Our child. He will bind us together for all time…although…" He looked deeply into her eyes, his hand still stroking her. "We'd still be bound together. We're soul mates, and nothing can ever change that."

Kathryn's hand covered his in its circular motion. "Forever." She smiled at him. "He could be a she though."

He sat up and pulled a blanket from the bottom of the bed, covering her tenderly. "I don't care as long as he or she is healthy and has their mother's good looks."

She smiled at that. "And their daddy's." They were silent with their dream for a moment until Chakotay kissed her again. "Sleep love. You need your rest."

She laughed at that. "You have worn me out."

Chakotay leaned over and blew out the candles then settled against her, pulling her into his arms. "It's your own fault for being so delectable." He nuzzled his face against hers. "Sweet dreams, my love."

She was already nodding off, warm and safe in the arms of the man she loved. "Mmmm… sweet…dreams…"

Once again the shadows kept a secret. When all was quiet, the even breathing of the couple in the bed signalling sleep, Seven crept in bare feet down the stairs and out of the house.

Seven returned to the house she shared with Chakotay and paced the floor all night, working herself up into a frenzy. Her hatred for the woman who'd once been her captain and mentor grew as the dark hours passed.

She had felt something was wrong before Chakotay had wanted to talk the previous evening, but being someone who had little experience of 'gut instincts' she'd ignored it. However, once he'd brought things out into the open she'd just known there was someone else and that someone could only have been one person.

The idea for the seminar had only been a half lie. It was taking place but she'd had no plans to attend. She'd made a spur of the moment decision to say she was attending in order to buy some time. Instead of regenerating the previous night, she'd sifted through her thoughts and feelings, deciding she needed to know for sure one way or the other. The only way to do that was to claim she was attending the conference and then remain on Earth and watch.

And now she had seen proof of Chakotay's infidelity with her own eyes. She'd seen proof of their betrayal and it sickened her. Watching their acts had disgusted her, the entire act of copulation never having appealed to her.

It had been easy to follow Chakotay from work, waiting across the street to see if he would stay home or go out again. Within a half hour he'd left the house, having changed from his uniform into casual clothes.

She'd lost him at the transporter station but had taken a chance with the operator by telling the man she was supposed to meet her friend and transport with him, accurately describing Chakotay for him. It had been easy to check the coordinates and within minutes she stood outside Kathryn Janeway's house, or what she assumed was her house.

Her suspicions had been easily confirmed when she'd crept around to the rear of the house and saw them together in the kitchen. She'd watched for some time until dusk fell, and as she saw Kathryn light the candles on the table she'd taken the opportunity to bypass the house security as only she could and let herself in after removing her shoes.

As they ate their meal, she'd hidden in the darkness and listened, forcing her emotions under strict control. They'd been so wrapped up in each other that they hadn't sensed anything when she crept closer and watched them from the darkened doorway. Their words to each other had stabbed at her, and when she heard them talk of Kathryn's pregnancy it had driven an invisible knife deep into her chest.

She'd forced herself to concentrate though as they'd moved away from the table, hiding well until they went upstairs. Nothing had existed for them after that so following them had been easy. And once again she'd covertly watched them as they came together, their oral acts sickening her.

It had always been a problem for her with Chakotay. Sex in general was something she felt no need or desire for except for the purpose of procreation. What sexual acts they had engaged in had been basic, Seven tolerating it while he gained his release. She'd always known that Chakotay wanted more but had reluctantly accepted her lack of interest. In truth, having sex repulsed her.

Now she paced her own home, her disgust at their lovemaking taking a back seat. What ate at her most was the love and closeness she'd witnessed. She knew that was the bigger threat, one she could never fight.

Towards dawn her plan was set in her mind. Lack of regeneration was taking a toll on her but she ignored it. She pulled on her coat and returned to what she saw as the scene of Kathryn and Chakotay's crime. She had a crime of her own to commit.

Kathryn woke slowly and stretched, the remaining scent of Chakotay's after shave filling her nostrils as she inhaled. Her movement woke him and he turned onto his side, his arms going around her. "Morning." He kissed her softly. "What a wonderful sight to wake up to."

Kathryn returned his kiss and hugged him back. "You're pretty pleasing on the eyes yourself." She played her hand over his chest, watching her movements. "Chakotay…what happened last night?"

He smiled at her. "Well, I would have thought it was a bit late for the birds and bees talk but…" He let his smile slip when he saw she was serious. "Kathryn, we love each other. It's not humanly possible to ignore that. We got carried away again but…"

She sighed. "We were going to wait until I'd spoken with Jason and you'd told Seven. We've cheated on Seven…"

Chakotay cupped her cheek. "If anyone has cheated, it's me. But it's over between us and I think she knows that. She's back home tomorrow and I'll tell her then. As to this though, I've no regrets. I love you and want to be with you. Sharing our love isn't wrong." He hated seeing her upset and leaned over to kiss her, feeling her respond immediately. As his hand wandered over her body and dipped between her legs, they both forgot everything.

Kathryn pulled her dressing gown around her body and leaned up on tiptoes to kiss Chakotay as he stood in her open doorway. He smiled at her and ran a hand over her hair. "Your neighbours will get quite an eyeful."

She smirked at him. "After that performance this morning, I'm beyond caring. I don't give a damn anymore. All I know is what I feel for you."

He hugged her to him. "Your own performance was pretty mind blowing." He pulled back and kissed her again. "I'll call you later. You take it easy today. I'll pick Seven up when she arrives and talk to her then. By this time Monday morning we'll be heading off to work as an official couple."

"So you plan to move in straight away?" She got a dreamy look in her eyes at that. "I can't wait."

He kissed her again. "Neither can I." He slapped her bottom. "Now you go soak in that tub of yours and pamper yourself all day. I'll talk to you later."

They shared a last lingering kiss before Chakotay skipped down her steps and made for the transporter station. Kathryn watched him until he rounded the corner then went back inside. Neither of them had seen Seven watching them from behind a tree in a garden across the road.

Kathryn hummed to herself as she went back upstairs, still feeling Chakotay's lips on her own. She went into her bedroom and looked at the crumpled bedclothes, smiling at the memories of their night together.

She went to her chest of drawers and pulled out a pair of sweat pants and shirt, then headed for the bathroom. She took off her dressing gown and pulled off her nightgown, having a quick wash for now. She planned a long leisurely bath later once she'd tidied up. She pulled on the pants and shirt and walked back into the bedroom, running her fingers through her hair, then leaned down to begin making the bed.

A noise from the landing made her pause and she called out. "Chakotay?" Hearing no further sound, she shrugged and went back to pulling the sheets off the bed. Suddenly she stopped, her instincts telling her that someone was watching her. She looked towards the door and gasped.

Seven stood there, looking at the bed rather than at Kathryn. "Cleaning up the scene of the crime, Captain?" Her eyes moved from the bed to Kathryn's face. "Is this where you fucked my man?"

Kathryn felt rooted to the spot for a moment, her throat suddenly dry. "Seven…what are you doing here?"

The younger woman continued to stare at her. "You thought I was away and felt you could steal Chakotay away from me."

Kathryn watched her carefully but her mind was still in shock. "How did you get in here?"

Seven's expression didn't change. "I was Borg. Your security is inadequate." She moved into the room slowly. "I was here last night. I watched you both in your disgusting act."

Kathryn's eyes widened. "You broke into my home? You watched us?" Anger was winning over any fear. "How dare you!"

The former Borg was untouched by her words. "I know all about your sordid and dirty little affair with my man. I know about your bastard child too."

Kathryn moved away from the bed but kept her eyes on the other woman sensing that danger was lurking in Seven's eyes. "I'm sorry you had to find out that way but you have no right to break into my home like this…"

Seven turned on her. "I warned you once. You didn't listen. Why did you not listen? Does Jason know?"

Kathryn nodded. "He gave us his blessing. Seven, Chakotay and I love each other and have for many years. We never wanted to hurt you…"

Seven advanced on her, her voice rising. "I do not wish to hear your pathetic excuses for your deception. You betrayed me."

Despite all Kathryn's training and normally quick reactions to any situation, nothing prepared her for the swiftness of Seven's attack. She saw her coming, her face twisted in anger and tried to move but only made it to the bedroom door. Hands grabbed her hair, almost pulling her off her feet.

Kathryn cried out and tried to free herself but to no avail. She felt herself being dragged out onto the landing and she clawed at the hands that held her. Seven was screaming at her and released her hold for a moment then grabbed Kathryn's head and smashed it against the wall.

A light show exploded before Kathryn's eyes as her head connected with the wall, weakening her chances of fighting back. She felt herself being pulled around like a rag doll as Seven slammed the side of her head and face into a glass frame which hung on the wall. Kathryn screamed as she felt the glass shatter and cut into her and her hand went to her face, feeling pieces of glass in the wound. Her hand came away covered in blood, her nose gushing as well.

Then before she realized what was happening, she was flying through the air, bouncing off the far wall. She slid to the floor and slumped against the wall for a moment, tasting blood in her mouth, the coppery taste unmistakable. Fighting to keep her breathing under control, she looked up to see the former drone come at her again. She twisted her body and tried to crawl away but couldn't move fast enough. Seven began kicking her, still screaming her abuse as Kathryn tried to curl herself into a ball to protect her child. "No…the baby…please…"

The frenzied attack continued. "I care nothing for your bastard child. You will pay."

What followed was a blur of pain and fear for Kathryn. Seven's attack was relentless as she kicked and punched her victim. Kathryn's efforts to fight back were no match for Borg strength and the rage which fuelled it. She was vaguely aware of being picked up again and flung against the newel post at the top of the stairs, her back slamming painfully against it.

Pain and dizziness washed over Kathryn as she tried to focus. She felt her right eye swelling and her vision blurred. Her injuries slowed her thinking, but she was aware enough to know what the woman before her planned. She tried to move away from the stairs as more punches rained down her but it was hopeless. Seven's hands twisted in the shirt she wore, easily dragging her back across the landing. Kathryn grabbed frantically for the rail but her fingers were torn away.

She struggled fiercely to save herself but lost. She screamed one final time as she was flung down the stairs, pain exploding throughout her body as she fell. A natural instinct to protect the baby kicked in and she tried to curl in on herself. And then she wasn't moving anymore.

She had no idea what position she lay in. All that existed was pain and the woman standing over her, a look of pure evil on her face. Kathryn tried to focus, tried to speak and plead for help but the only sound that came was a choked cry. She gagged on the blood in her throat, gasping for air. As the darkness began to close in, she saw Seven raise her foot before it connected with her face. There was a brief explosion of pain and then nothing.

When Chakotay returned home, he was amazed to find Seven's travel cases on the floor of the hall. He called out to her and checked the house but she was nowhere to be found. He searched through her luggage and found her travel details, seeing that her documents hadn't been validated, meaning she'd never left for Mars. The fact that she'd just left the cases there worried him. Anything out of place went against everything that was Seven. Something felt very wrong.

He found himself pacing up and down the living room, unable to shake off a feeling of dread he didn't understand. She had to know something. He spun around when he heard the front door open and saw Seven enter. She clutched her coat tightly around her body.

She looked up and glared at him. "So you came home."

Chakotay studied her, something about her demeanour bothering the hell out of him. "You didn't go to Mars. Where were you? And yes, I'm home. Where did you expect me to be?"

She stared coldly at him. "I expected you to be with HER. I know all about your sordid little affair with your whore."

Chakotay moved towards her, his voice hard. "Don't call her that."

Seven glared at him. "You cheated on me with her."

The truth hurt and Chakotay softened his voice. "I know…and I'm sorry." He sighed heavily. "I was going to talk to you weeks ago but you were ill. I tried talking to you before you left but you shut me off so I was going to tell you when you got back." He looked at her sadly. "I'm sorry you had to find out for yourself but I think we both know that you and I were never meant to be. My heart has always belonged to Kathryn, even though I didn't see that for awhile. I never meant to hurt you and for that I'm truly sorry."

Seven didn't want to hear that and moved away from him. "I saw you together."

Chakotay stood stock still. "What? Where?"

She looked him up and down. "At her house. I stayed here on Earth and followed you. I needed to be sure you weren't with her. I went there and let myself in."

Chakotay stared at her in shock. "You broke into her house and spied on us?"

She ignored that. "I covertly observed you both as you copulated."

Chakotay drew in a deep breath to calm himself. "We made love…and you had no right to do that."

Her anger rose and she practically screamed at him. "YOU had no right. You belong to me."

Chakotay felt his own anger bubble to the surface as he followed her. "I belong to no one, Seven. People don't own each other. This isn't the damn collective." He shook his head. "There's nothing between us anymore and you know that. Think about it. You're as unhappy as I am." He looked at her sadly. "If you're honest with yourself, it's not about losing me but the relationship failing that you can't take."

She spun around to face him, her eyes cold. "You are mine…not hers. I warned her before."

Chakotay felt the stirrings of hate for the woman before him. "So I heard."

She gave a sly smile now. "She should have heeded my warning. Her error was in not listening to me."

Something about the coldness of her words scared Chakotay. He moved closer to her. "What do you mean?"

She just laughed and moved away but Chakotay grabbed her roughly by the arm and held her. "Seven, what do you mean by that?"

She tried to pull away from him, using her other hand to try and pry his fingers loose. As a result, her coat fell open.

Chakotay let go of her arm and stared in shock at the blood stains on her blouse and skirt. He felt light headed and had to force his words out. "What have you done?" He moved his eyes to hers, his voice rising. "What have you done?"

Seven merely shrugged. "I reiterated my earlier warning. I made sure she got the message this time." She locked eyes with him. "Her and her bastard child."

Chakotay sprung forward and grabbed her around the throat. "Where is she? If you've hurt them…" They fell backwards onto the couch, Chakotay choking her. He looked down into her face and suddenly stopped. He spit his words out. "You're not worth it. You're not even human. Kathryn is all that matters…Kathryn and our baby." He heaved himself off of her.

Seven stared up at him, his insult hitting hard. "She was taking you from me."

He grabbed her again and shook her. "Where is she? Where is she?"

She looked scared for the first time. "Her house…"

He moved for the door. "If anything happens to them, I will kill you." With those as his parting words, he ran from the house.

As Chakotay transported to Kathryn's house, he alerted security to arrest Seven and ordered a team with paramedics to Kathryn's.

He raced up the steps to her home, seeing the front door ajar. "KATHRYN…" He skidded into the hall and looked towards the living room on his right.

"KATHRYN…" The house was silent and his fear increased. He made for the stairs which couldn't be seen from the hall door and froze.

Kathryn lay unconscious in a crumpled heap at the bottom of the stairs, blood pooling beneath her head. Chakotay slid down beside her as he cried out. "KATHRYN… NO…OH GOD!!!!!…" He moved his hand towards her and then pulled back, afraid to touch her. He saw the cuts to her head and face, her hair matted to her head with blood. Deep bruising and swelling was already forming on her face and blood ran from her nose and mouth. Panic overtook him as he looked at her and he felt frozen in time. His eyes travelled down her body, seeing more blood now as it soaked the sweat pants she wore. "Oh God…NO!!…the baby…KATHRYN!!!!…"

He snapped out of it and forced himself to think straight. His training kicked in and he stood shakily, moving to the comm panel in the hall. His fist slammed down on it as he called for more help, help that seemed a very long way away.

Chakotay stood back feeling helpless as the paramedics worked on Kathryn. A voice floated to him. "You didn't move her?"

He looked at the young man and shook his head. "I was afraid to."

The man nodded. "You did the right thing. How far along is the pregnancy?"

Chakotay continued to stare at the frantic fight for life taking place before him. "Just over two months." He tore his eyes away from Kathryn lying there and looked up at the paramedic. "Is she going to be all right?"

The man wore a guarded look. "We're just stabilizing her. We'll have her transported to hospital in a few minutes."

Chakotay recognized the answer for what it was. The man didn't know but it was bad. "There's so much blood…"

The paramedic nodded as he looked down at his patient and his colleagues working on her. "She's haemorrhaging…" Another man came over and whispered something to him. He nodded and looked back at Chakotay. "We're ready to transport her now."

Chakotay pushed away from the wall. "I'm coming with you." He left no room for argument.

Chakotay paced up and down the corridor while the doctors worked on Kathryn. Voyager's Doctor watched him sadly. He'd been called in to consult on Kathryn's previous history but nothing more. He hadn't been allowed to assist with the surgery, and this upset him.

Chakotay stopped and looked at the medic. "Why didn't I see this coming? Why did she do it?"

The Doctor shook his head. "The emotions she was feeling… It was all too much for her. Too soon." He sighed and tried to explain. "Chakotay, humans go through their teenage years and all that entails for a good reason. It's a time to explore your emotions and learn to control and understand them. Call it a training period if you like…an apprenticeship for adulthood. Seven never had that. She had no training. She had a short early childhood and then adulthood, with no understanding or exploration in between and nobody to teach her how to be human until the captain came along."

He sat forward. "Imagine if I threw you in the deep end…no training…and told you to perform surgery."

Chakotay forced himself to sit. "I know what you're saying, Doc, but she knew right from wrong. I can understand uncontrolled possessiveness and jealousy, but she should have directed it at me. I did the wrong here. I'm the one who couldn't keep it in his pants. I cheated on her."

The EMH shook his head. "She loved you and she saw Kathryn as the threat. She won't or couldn't have seen her as innocent. With that in her mind, her emotions got out of control and she had no understanding of how to deal with them."

Chakotay stared at the Doctor in disgust. "Kathryn was the threat? Not innocent?" His face was like granite as he stood and stared down at him. "Tell me, Doc. Just what was the baby?" There was no answer. Chakotay just walked away.

When Chakotay calmed down, he returned to the Doctor who still waited. Just as he got there one of the doctors who was treating Kathryn approached.

The surgeon smiled guardedly and indicated for Chakotay to sit. "Please sit. I'll tell you what I can." He pulled a chair up to them and sat down.

Chakotay tried to read the doctor's expression. "Will she be all right?"

The man pulled off his surgical mask, which hung around his neck. "She had severe injuries. She was badly beaten and then the fall down the stairs…"

Chakotay tried to hold his anger in check. "She was pushed or thrown down the stairs."

The doctor nodded. "She sustained a broken arm and wrist…right arm. Her left ankle and leg were broken as well along with several ribs, one of which punctured her right lung. She had some bad facial and scalp lacerations, some of which had pieces of glass embedded in them." He rubbed at his face. "There was a skull fracture and this caused a blood clot to form and swelling of her brain. Her jaw was also dislocated."

He sighed. "She had damage to her kidneys, severe bruising, internally and externally. There was also considerable internal bleeding."

Chakotay swallowed, his throat dry. "She was…pregnant…"

The doctor nodded at that. "She still is, although I don't know how. It's a miracle she's held onto the baby…" He hesitated and looked sadly at Chakotay. "She could still miscarry. You need to prepare yourself for that."

Chakotay tried to take it all in. "What's her condition now? She's been in surgery for so long…"

The other man nodded his head. "It was a long haul but I'm hopeful. Our biggest concern is the head injury. We've removed the blood clot and treated the swelling on her brain as much as we can. We've also stopped the internal bleeding and we're hopeful it won't start again. At this stage, it's up to her and whatever God you believe in. She's still unconscious but if she shows signs of coming out of that, we'll sedate her. It's the best way to treat the swelling on her brain. There's also the risk of renal failure…her kidneys. We're keeping a close watch on that."

He cleared his throat. "I also have to tell you that she suffered a spinal injury. We've done what we can but won't know the extent of that until she's conscious."

Chakotay closed his eyes and dropped his head back for a moment. He drew in a deep breath before looking back at the doctor. "Just tell me she'll live."

There was no reassuring smile. "I'm sorry. Only time will tell."

Chakotay made fists with his hands. "Can I see her? Sit with her?"

The man finally gave a small smile. "They're just settling her. One of the nurses will call you shortly."

Chakotay nodded and stood. He glanced at the Doctor then at the surgeon. "Thank you for all you've done. Excuse me." Needing to be alone with his emotions, he walked away.

Chakotay took a walk around the hospital gardens before returning to the relatives' room. He saw that the Doctor still waited there so he made his way over to the EMH and sat down beside him. "I needed some time. Thank you for staying with me."

The Doctor nodded his understanding. "Of course, but I love the captain too. She's very special to me." He rubbed his hands on his thighs. "Security stopped by. They've taken Seven into custody."

Chakotay just stared straight ahead. "Doc, I'm sorry but I really don't give a damn. What remnants of feeling I had for her died the moment I knew she'd hurt Kathryn. She knew about the baby…that Kathryn was pregnant…and she didn't give a damn." He looked at the hologram. "You have to understand. The woman I love, and I make no apology for that, is lying in there fighting for her life. Her body is fighting to hold onto our child's life. That's all that matters to me now. Seven can go to hell."

The Doctor looked at him sadly. "She's already there, Chakotay."

He looked at the Doctor. "Meaning?"

The hologram shrugged. "Her worst nightmare…her biggest fear." He shook his head sadly. "She once confided in me that she was afraid Earth would mean a cage. And now that has happened. She's in custody…in prison."

Suddenly it all caught up with Chakotay. He dropped his head into his hands. "This is all my fault. I should have seen it. Seven was like a bomb and I armed her. I hurt her and was the trigger that sent her to hurt Kathryn." He groaned and dropped his head back. "I should have left her a long time ago. None of this would have happened then. I was weak though and I was living a lie. I stayed because I didn't want to hurt her."

The Doctor sighed sadly. "That wasn't love, Chakotay. That was pity. I think she knew how you felt at the end but was in denial about it." He placed a hand on Chakotay's arm. "You can't blame yourself for this. It was a combination of things that…"

Chakotay's head snapped around. "Why not? It's the truth. It was all my doing."

The medic shook his head. "There were problems there from the start." He smiled wisely. "Chakotay, there will always be problems in life. It's how you overcome them that matters. Everyone involved in this had some hand in it. You and she should never have been together. Kathryn should never have denied herself a life. Seven should have known that what she was doing was wrong. I should have seen her struggle with her emotions." He looked away. "I spent enough time with her lately when I was treating her, but I just wasn't paying attention."

Chakotay continued to look at the Doctor. "Why? Why did she do it? You said yourself that Kathryn was the first person to try and teach her to be human. She was her first friend."

Once more the Doctor had no real answer. "I can only imagine she was desperate to hold onto you…was terrified of losing you."

Chakotay barely nodded. "That's not love either. The man Kathryn was with gave her his blessing. He cared about her, and her happiness came first for him. That's love." He shook his head. "What Seven did… Let's just say I'm very low on sympathy for her right now."

They were silent for several moments, each lost in their own thoughts. Suddenly Chakotay looked up. "You said Security called. Do they need to see me?"

The medic nodded. "There's no hurry."

Chakotay looked across the room. "The results of their investigation…..I'm not sure I'm ready to hear what happened. Seeing Kathryn like that was…" He stood suddenly and moved over to the window. He looked down at people going about their daily lives and felt angry that they were unaware and unaffected. He turned and looked at the Doctor.

"You know what gets me the most?" He didn't wait for an answer. "All the dangers we faced in the Delta Quadrant, and she had some close calls out there. We survived that and made it home, and the biggest threat came from one of her own in her own home." He ran a hand over his face and turned back into the room.

"Seeing her lying there…all that blood…" He closed his eyes but the images remained. "I felt so damn helpless…and it seemed to take forever for the paramedics to get there and…" He shook his head. "I need to stop this. Kathryn will need my strength. She's all that matters now."

Chakotay sat quietly beside Kathryn's bed, her hand held loosely in his. It was evening and the room was dimly lit. The only sounds came from the machines monitoring her vital signs. The Doctor had stayed with him until he'd been allowed to see her, and he'd accompanied Chakotay into Kathryn's room. Without anyone knowing, he'd scanned her and looked at her monitor readings, but could only tell Chakotay what the doctors had already told him. It was touch and go.

Alone now Chakotay studied her face, seeing only vague bruising remaining and shook his head. She looked so small and frail against the crisp white sheets. He leaned closer and whispered to her. "Fight this, honey. Fight your way back to me. Fight for our baby." He reached over and stroked her hair, soft and loose on the pillow, free of the blood which had caked it earlier.

He heard the door open and looked around to see a security officer standing there. The man cleared his throat. "Commander, I'm sorry to disturb you. Could I have a few words please?"

Chakotay looked back at Kathryn then at the nurse. She smiled kindly. "She's fine. I'll call you if there's any change."

He reluctantly stood then leaned down and kissed Kathryn's forehead. "I'll be back in a little while. You rest." He looked up at the nurse. "I have my comm badge. Anything…you call."

She nodded as she checked one of the monitors before looking back at him. "I will. Don't worry. She's in good hands."

With a last look at Kathryn, Chakotay went to speak with the officer.

"I'm sorry to disturb you, Sir. I'm Ensign Phillips of Starfleet security. My commanding officer is at Admiral Janeway's house. He needs to speak with you. I'm to inform you it won't take long."

Chakotay was reluctant to leave the hospital but he knew this had to be dealt with. He nodded and blew out a long breath. "All right. Let's just get this over with."

They materialized just outside Kathryn's house. Chakotay looked up and saw that lights burned in every window. He followed the young officer inside, steeling himself for what lay ahead.

An older man in uniform came up to him and held out his hand in greeting. "Commander Chakotay, I'm Lieutenant Wang. I'm sorry to take you away from the hospital but we need to do this right away. I'll get us through it as quickly as possible."

Chakotay nodded his thanks. "I'd appreciate that. I don't want to be away from her for too long."

The man nodded his understanding. "Of course. This way please." He led Chakotay down the hall to the stairs.

When they reached the bottom of the stairs, Chakotay stopped dead. Kathryn's blood still stained the floor and he looked away. "Can't someone clean that?"

Lieutenant Wang shook his head. "I'm sorry. They're just finishing up gathering evidence. It'll be cleaned as soon as possible." He sidestepped the stains and started up the stairs, indicating for Chakotay to follow.

Chakotay stood on the landing and stared around him in shock. There was glass and blood everywhere, and a small table had been knocked over. His head snapped up when the officer spoke to him. "The admiral was in the bedroom when she encountered Ms Hansen."

Chakotay frowned, the name strange to his ears. "I'm sorry. Please go on."

The man gestured to the open bedroom door. "She was making the bed when Ms. Hansen appeared in the doorway. Words were exchanged and Admiral Janeway tried to leave. Ms. Hansen then attacked her, grabbing her by the hair. She dragged her out here onto the landing." He pointed to the remains of the picture frame which still hung on the wall at an angle, the glass smashed. "She…" He hesitated.

Chakotay swallowed loudly. "Please just say it and get it over with."

The man nodded but he looked uncomfortable. "It was a frenzied attack. Ms. Hansen smashed the admiral's head against the glass. You can see…" He cleared his throat. "Admiral Janeway fought her…pleaded for her baby." He forced himself to ignore the pain he saw on Chakotay's face. "As I said, the attack was frenzied. Ms. Hansen beat Admiral Janeway…punched and kicked…" His voice trailed off as he moved towards the top of the stairs. Chakotay followed, stepping over the numerous bloodstains. "She was thrown against the post here. I believe she knew what Ms. Hansen planned…"

Chakotay turned angrily to the officer. "Stop calling her 'Ms. Hansen'. She doesn't deserve…" He stopped and shook his head. "I'm sorry. This is hard."

The lieutenant gave a short nod. "I understand…and I apologize." He turned towards the stairs. "From what we've learned and from the evidence, the admiral fought to hang onto the railing. Ms. Han…" He cleared his throat again. "She wasn't strong enough and…"

Chakotay looked down the stairs and closed his eyes. He could still see the pool of blood at the bottom though. "Kathryn didn't fall, did she?" He opened his eyes and stared hard at the man beside him.

Lieutenant Wang shook his head. "I'm sorry. No. She was thrown down with some considerable force." He drew in a deep breath. "We also know that as she lay at the bottom of the stairs, Ms. Hansen…she kicked the admiral in the face."

Chakotay turned away, staring at a blood smear on the wall. "The dislocated jaw." He ground his teeth together. "What happens to her now?" When there was no answer, he turned to look at the officer.

The man looked down at his feet before meeting Chakotay's eyes. "They took Ms. Hansen into custody at your house. She offered no resistance. She was brought to the detention centre. She was interviewed and spoke freely of her actions here today. That's how we know so much detail. Her statement was taken and she was being brought back to the holding quarters."

Chakotay moved closer to the man. "What are you trying to tell me?"

The officer drew in a deep breath. "It's under investigation… She overpowered the guard and took his phaser."

Chakotay felt fear grip his heart. "She escaped? Kathryn. You need to put officers at the hospital. Kathryn needs protection. She…"

Lieutenant Wang held up a hand. "Commander, Ms. Hansen's dead. I'm sorry."

Chakotay stared at the man in stunned silence.

He looked away for a moment before looking back at Chakotay. "She used the phaser on herself. It happened so quickly. The officer tried… He just wasn't quick enough and…"

Chakotay held up a hand to stop his words. "Please. I get the picture."

The officer stood back and gave Chakotay some time. Finally he broke the silence. "Commander, I'm sorry. I'll take you back now. If you have any questions…"

Chakotay looked at the blood on the floor and shook his head. "Thank you. I appreciate that. That's the only place I want to be now."

Lieutenant Wang accompanied Chakotay back to the hospital and waited until he checked on Kathryn.

Chakotay came back out of Kathryn's room and nodded to the man. "No change." He sighed. "What happens now?"

The man sighed. "There will be a full investigation into what happened at the detention centre. We'll also need to take a statement from you and one from the admiral when she's ready…" He looked down at the floor a moment before meeting Chakotay's eyes again. "Outside of that…"

Chakotay finished for him. "The matter is closed."

The lieutenant nodded slowly. "As hard as it sounds, there's no one to lay charges against and we have most of the details and evidence."

Chakotay held his hand out and shook hands with the officer. "Thank you for… Well, for being …handling this the way you have."

Lieutenant Wang smiled kindly. "I'm sure the admiral will be fine. She'll be in my thoughts."

Chakotay smiled his thanks. "All we can do is hope and pray."

Kathryn remained unconscious during Seven's funeral. Chakotay didn't attend, staying at Kathryn's side day and night.

Several crew members stopped by including Tom and B'Elanna. They weren't allowed to see Kathryn but wanted to be there for Chakotay. Even Admiral Bolton called by to offer his support. For Chakotay the most welcome and supportive visitor was Jason Roberts. He thanked the man for everything and shared his hope that they could all be friends in the future.

Kathryn haemorrhaged twice more during the following week but each time managed to hold onto the baby, amazing the medical staff. Her heart also stopped late one night, giving the doctors a hard fight to re-start it. The only good news was that the swelling on her brain was slowly going down.

Chakotay was exhausted. He slept on a small cot in Kathryn's room with the nurses taking care of him as well, providing him with meals and drinks. The doctors tried to reassure him, telling him that although Kathryn was still critical, she was improving. It was all he had to hang onto.

Two nights later Kathryn began to regain consciousness. Chakotay held her hand tightly and called to her. Her eyes fluttered open for a few moments before she groaned and began to shake, her body going into spasms and then full convulsions.

Fighting his panic, Chakotay called for the nurse who quickly took over, paging the doctor and pushing Chakotay out of the way. As the medic rushed in, she called out to him. "She's fitting."

Chakotay stood back and watched the medical staff working over her. Eventually her body was still and he heard a collective sigh of relief from those around her bed.

It took him a moment to realize that one of the doctors was talking to him. "Is she all right? What was that?" His voice was tight with emotion.

The medic squeezed his arm. "Do you remember Dr. Ellis telling you that if she came around on her own, we might have to sedate her until the swelling goes down?"

Chakotay remembered the first doctor he'd spoken to. "I remember something but…"

The other man smiled kindly. "Well, that's what this was about. She started to come around before her body was ready for it, if that makes sense. We've had to sedate her and we'll keep her that way until the swelling has gone." He saw how worried Chakotay was. "It's a positive sign. Just keep remembering that."

Chakotay embraced whatever hope he was offered. "I'll try. It's just so hard seeing her like this."

The following day Tom and B'Elanna stopped by. Although Kathryn wasn't allowed visitors, the doctor gave permission for Tom to sit with her while B'Elanna took Chakotay for a break and some lunch.

As they sat in the cafeteria, B'Elanna watched her friend closely. "You're exhausted, Chakotay. You won't be any good to her in that state."

Chakotay sipped at his tea and played with the omelette B'Elanna had insisted on ordering for him. "I have to be there. Yesterday proved that to me."

B'Elanna put her cup down. "Tom is with her and he has medical training. She'll be fine."

He nodded and sighed, then looked out the window for a moment before looking back at her. "Did you attend the funeral?"

She nodded slowly. "A few of us went. We wanted to be there for Icheb and the Doc."

He nodded at that. "I'm glad someone was there for them. I couldn't…"

B'Elanna reached over and gripped his hand. "Everyone understood that, my friend. We just felt they needed some support. She was like a mother to Icheb and Doc cared deeply about her. I think he had hopes of more at one stage."

Chakotay looked down at her hand on his. "I'll contact them later." He looked up. "I know it must have looked bad that I wasn't there. Do you think they understood? Does Icheb blame me?"

She shook her head. "No, Chakotay. He doesn't blame you. In his words 'she never belonged here'. And he understood. Everyone understood. After what she did…" She licked at her lips. "We didn't go there for her. We were just showing some support for Icheb and Doc."

Chakotay sighed and sat back, having given up on his food. He drew a pattern on the table with his finger. "The spiritual man in me at best pities her…but mostly I hate her." He shook his head. "Oh I know all the 'reasons'…in my mind 'excuses'…for why she did what she did, but it makes no difference. I'll never forgive her. I hope she's found peace wherever she is, but for me, as regards her, that door is firmly closed. The best I can hope for is to feel nothing for her."

B'Elanna squeezed his hand. "I can understand that. I'd have torn her limb from limb." She smiled a little at the slightly amused look Chakotay gave her. "Can I help my Klingon genes?"

Chakotay sat forward, serious again, and took her hand in both of his. "You know what's eating at me?" B'Elanna shook her head. "I left Kathryn that morning…kissed her goodbye on the doorstep. I went home and found Seven's luggage there. She came in…" He blew out a long breath and told his oldest friend everything. "I could have killed her when I saw the blood on her clothes and knew what she'd done. I almost strangled her." He withdrew one hand from hers and rubbed it over his face. "All the time I was there at home, Kathryn was fighting for her life." He released her hand completely and covered his face. "I didn't know. She could have…"

B'Elanna reached over and pulled his hands away from his face. "Chakotay, you got her to the hospital in time. You…"

He shook his head, his eyes filled with unshed tears. "What if I hadn't gone home? She'd have laid there….died there… What if…"

B'Elanna gripped his hands tightly. "Listen to me now. Listen carefully." She shook and squeezed his hands to make sure she had his full attention. "You have to put all that behind you. It didn't happen. You found out and got to her in time and got the help she needed. Dwelling on what could have been…thinking down any other road…will twist and knot up your guts and get you nowhere. You need to concentrate on now and the future. Let the past go…and let Seven go. It's past and gone. Concentrate on yourself and Kathryn now. Kathryn needs you to look forward…not back."

Chakotay let that sink in. He studied the table before looking up. "Kathryn's pregnant. Seven knew that when she…"

A look of pure hatred filled B'Elanna's face. "That evil fucking…" She clamped her mouth closed and looked around to see if anyone had heard.

Chakotay shook his head. "I was so sure she'd lose the baby but she's hanging on…"

B'Elanna looked directly at her friend and gripped his hands tightly. "Chakotay, if that little one hung on through all this…" She managed a smile. "They're tough little critters and Kathryn's no different. They'll both be fine."

Chakotay grabbed for the comfort her words offered. "I have to believe that. She's had so many close calls…haemorrhaged…and her heart stopped…and yet they both still fight on…"

B'Elanna smiled lovingly at him, then stood up and leaned over, kissing him softly on the forehead. "They have someone waiting for them who's worth fighting for." She sat back down, the smile still on her face. "Congratulations to you both. This time next year, Chakotay. And I'll remind you too."

Chakotay continued to draw strength from B'Elanna's words as he sat beside Kathryn's bed day-by-day.

And two days later, with no further setbacks, the doctors were happy to begin reducing the sedative doses, easing their patient back to consciousness. By the third day she began to slowly come around, groggy and confused for some time before she recognized Chakotay.

He held her hand and leaned close to her, whispering her name. She eventually managed to turn her head in his direction. "Chak…how…where…"

He squeezed her hand gently. "Easy now. All in good time."

He saw her try to work everything out, fragments of memory clicking into place. Suddenly she panicked and tried to sit up, crying out. "THE BABY!!!…OH GOD!!!…"

He stood and gently eased her back against the pillows. "The baby is fine, Kathryn. I swear to you. He's fine."

Tears filled her eyes as she looked up at him. "No…couldn't be…I…"

He stroked her face. "Kathryn, I swear to you. You're still pregnant."

She continued to stare at him, trying to read the truth in his eyes and finally seemed to accept it. Her tears spilled over though. "I…I…"

Chakotay wanted nothing more than to pull her into his arms but had the good sense not to. He looked around when someone tapped his shoulder and saw one of the doctors. He nodded at the man then smiled down at Kathryn. "I'll just let the doctor check you over. He'll tell you." He looked at the doctor. "She was afraid she'd lost the baby."

The dark haired man smiled down at his patient. "Your baby is fine, Admiral. I give you my word on that. I'll arrange for a scan a little later so you can both see your little one for yourselves."

Chakotay saw his words convince Kathryn. She held onto Chakotay's hand as he went to move away. He smiled down at her. "I'll be back the second the doc finishes checking you over."

Chakotay waited outside until the doctor had finished his examination. He jumped when the door opened and the man came out.

He was smiling and he saw that as a good sign. He gestured for Chakotay to sit then eased himself down into the seat beside him. "I've been on my feet too long today."

Chakotay smiled and nodded. "You'd hardly be speaking to me that way if there was any bad news."

The doctor shook his head. "No, I wouldn't. That's very astute." He stretched his legs out before him. "She's making good progress. All her fractures have healed, including her skull fracture, and there's no swelling left on her brain. No sign of any more clots either and her dislocated jaw is fine too. All her internal injuries have healed…the puncture to her lung and so on… There's no damage to her heart either from the cardiac arrest or the convulsions she suffered. And the pregnancy is stable."

Chakotay let out a breath at that news. "Thank God…" A sudden thought struck him. "What about… You said she had a spinal injury…that you wouldn't know for sure until she'd regained consciousness. And her kidneys…"

The man nodded. "She has full sensation and movement in her legs." He smiled kindly. "Her kidneys are also fully functional. No fallout there." He laced his fingers together. "Look, she still has a bit of a way to go. She'll need time to recover fully. She had serious injuries and even with modern medicine, they don't just disappear overnight. They leave smaller problems that need time. She'll need some physiotherapy and time to regain her strength. She'll be unsteady on her feet for a while but she'll get there." He cleared his throat. "We will have to monitor her pregnancy closely, but I'm very confident she'll go to term and deliver a healthy baby."

Chakotay felt the weight he carried finally lift from him. "Thank God." He turned to the doctor and extended his hand. "I can't thank you enough…you and your team. And don't say you were just doing your job. You've all been wonderful to Kathryn and to me."

The doctor shook Chakotay's hand and smiled. "Thank you for thanking us. It means so much. It's been our pleasure to see a happy ending."

After talking with the doctor Chakotay hurried back to Kathryn's side. He watched from the doorway as she lay there with her eyes closed, one hand stroking over her abdomen. He sighed to himself, his heart so much lighter now that he knew she was going to make a full recovery. He didn't fool himself though. He knew there'd also be some emotional issues to be dealt with, but they'd work through those together.

As if sensing him, she opened her eyes and gave him a tired smile. He moved into the room and sat down beside her to place one hand on top of hers on her stomach. "Our baby is just fine, Kathryn. He or she is a real fighter." He stroked over her hair with his other hand. "Just like his or her mother."

She smiled at him for a moment but then it all came crashing down on her, just as he knew it would. A sob tore from her throat. "I tried so hard…I begged her…but she…"

He gripped her hand more tightly and cupped her cheek with the other. "Kathryn, it's over. You're both safe."

She didn't seem to hear him. "I was falling…tried to protect the baby…"

He leaned closer and kissed the side of her face. "You did, honey. You did. You're both fine. I promise you."

She stared at him, panicked again. "Where is she? Did she hurt you too? How did I get here? What…?"

He grew concerned as he tried to calm her. "Kathryn, hush now. You need to rest. There's plenty of time later. You're safe here."

She fought his hands. "No…I need to know. She could come back…"

He took her face between his hands and stared directly into her eyes. "She won't, Kathryn. I promise you."

She didn't look convinced. "She was arrested?"

He nodded. "Yes…she was…" He drew in a deep breath. "Kathryn, she's dead. She grabbed a phaser at the detention centre and used it on herself."

He saw her try to digest his words. "Dead?" He nodded. She looked away from him. "I'm sorry…and yet…"

Chakotay gently pulled her back to face him. "Don't go there, honey. It's over, in the past. Our lives are about the present and the future now." He lowered his hand and stroked it over her stomach. "It's about the three of us now. No one else matters."


B'Elanna stood on the porch of her friends' home. She looked out over the garden and watched Tom playing with Miral as Kathryn soothed five month old Jason in his rocker. She looked around her then smiled at Chakotay. "It's hard to believe you've only been ten months in this place. Everything is perfect."

Chakotay sighed contentedly. "We wanted somewhere away from both our old houses. Neither of us needed the bad memories. We wanted and needed our own home, and we fell in love with this place at first sight." He ran a hand over the wood of the porch. "It's been hard work but well worth it. We found this place together, chose it together and made it a home together."

B'Elanna reached for his hand and squeezed. "You've all come a long way. I said I'd remind you of that."

He slipped his arm around her shoulders. "Yes, you did. I've never forgotten that." He watched his wife and son and felt his heart swell. "We had to fight to get here, but it's perfect now. I just tell myself that it took us a bit longer to get home than the rest of you." He smiled at that. "You could say we took the long way home but we made it in the end."

B'Elanna leaned against him. "What you have together was meant to be. Nothing was ever going to stop that." She saw a brief cloud pass over his eyes. "Chakotay?"

He shrugged. "We almost lost it. I don't want to ever forget that either. It's dangerous to take it all for granted."

She looked at him kindly. "She's gone, Chakotay. She can't ever hurt you again."

He sighed at that. "I know. And we've dealt with it. Apart from the time in the hospital, we only spoke of it one more time. It was a cleansing…exorcising the matter, if you like." He shrugged. "Who was to blame? We left that. There were too many questions with many possible answers to each one. In the end we made our peace with it and put the subject away forever. We closed the door on it all and moved on. We just walked away from it."

B'Elanna smiled and slipped her arm around his waist. "And here you are. You have each other and a beautiful son. A lovely home as well." She tossed her head back. "Excellent friends too…"

Chakotay grinned from ear to ear as he looked at Kathryn and the baby. "Oh yes…we're rich beyond words." He pretended to think then. "Although the friends bit…" He jumped back to avoid the punch that came his way. "OK, excellent friends. Jason has been wonderful."

B'Elanna laughed with him and slapped at him again. "Well, I have to agree with you on Jason. I was thinking closer than that though. Tom and I are just the perfect friends…and think carefully about your answer to that, old man. We also make perfect babysitters."

Chakotay laughed and pulled her against him. "OK, I know when I'm beat." He smiled to himself as he watched his wife cooing over his son and nodded. "Perfect." He turned to see that his friend had witnessed his private moment but she said nothing. Her smile said it all.

"Come on, big man. We'd better get that dinner on the table. They'll descend on us in a few minutes and I'm not taking the blame."

With his arm still around her, he pulled her inside. "Ahh, but you have to…because I always out-ranked you." He was wise enough to let go and make a run for it.