"Chakotay, Talia... he's beautiful."
Kathryn Janeway held the small bundle in her arms, marveling at his dark hair and tiny features. Young Kolopak, however, wasn't having any of this scrutiny. He screwed up his little face and let out a mighty yowl.
Chakotay cocked an eyebrow at his wife. "Dinner?" Talia nodded quietly.
"That's my signal to leave, then," Kathryn chuckled, gratefully handing the little one back to his mother.
"I'll walk you back to the shuttle, provided you have time for a quick tour," Chakotay offered. On their way out, Kathryn stopped to hug the toddler who was playing quietly on the front steps. "Bye now, Kataya. I know you'll be a wonderful big sister. Probably better than I ever was," she whispered into the child's dark curls.
She and Chakotay walked together, easily falling back into the same rhythms. He proudly showed off the settlement's progress in recovering from the Cardassian occupation. She was only half listening, though. This was the first time they'd been together since Voyager returned home three years ago, and she was trying to quiet the butterflies in her stomach.
For reasons she couldn't fathom herself, she didn't stop him when he decided to go back to Dorvan. He, as usual, didn't push the issue.
And so the game continued. They stayed close ... but not too close. There were infrequent letters, occasional vid calls, always a promise to have dinner if they ever were in the same place.
She wasn't surprised when he married; even less surprised that she wasn't invited. When Kataya was born, she took on the role of surrogate aunt; remembering her birthday, sending presents from her missions ... just as she did for Phoebe's children.
His question brought her out of her reverie.
"I am happy to see you, but I assume your visit isn't just a social call .... I imagine it has something to do with Dr. Vorak?"
Kathryn shrugged. "Well, he always liked your reports on the Saurians better than mine." Indeed, her experience with the race that had evolved from dinosaurs was a bit more ... militant. Then again, they had her ship ... and her first officer. "When he found evidence of their travels on Zeta Prime, he was hoping you'd ...."
"Join him?" he finished, shaking his head. "I think about Gagen sometimes, wonder how he is. It's hard to deny your beliefs ... your feelings." He said the last phrase rather pointedly, and for an uncomfortable moment, Kathryn had the feeling he wasn't talking about a Saurian professor.
"Besides," he continued, "I've discovered that children grow very quickly, and I'm not going to miss six months of my son's life." His voice dropped off, almost as if he were talking under his breath. " And I don't think taking off with you for six months would do much for my marriage."
Oh gods, here it was, she thought. The conversation they should have had years ago.... and shouldn't be having now.
She stopped and looked at him, trying to read the expression in his eyes. "I'm sorry," she said. "I didn't mean to cause trouble for you."
He looked vaguely surprised. "You didn't ... Talia and I are fine," he said in a voice that cut off any further discussion.
She didn't know what to say, realizing she didn't know enough about his life ... or his marriage ... to say anything. He touched her arm, signaling her to resume their walk. "I guess what I'm trying to say ..." he continued, "is that I've made my choice to stay here, just as you've made your choice to stay aboard a starship."
It was her turn to be surprised. "A little analysis, Commander? " she said, using the old title affectionately.
He laughed. "Come on, Kathryn. You like setting out for the unknown, your vow to get out of the Delta Quadrant aside. "Maybe it's the adventure, or maybe you just like having control of a ship. But you haven't allowed anyone or anything to stop you ... not even an admiralcy."
"Ouch!" she said. He was probably right, though. She had shocked the hell out of Starfleet when she turned down the promotion, instead asking for command of another ship. She couldn't quite explain that either, except that the prospect of being tied to headquarters was ... suffocating.
"Well, thank you for your insights," she said, dryly. "I suppose you're going to tell me that I'm doomed to wander the galaxy?"
He shrugged. "That, I think, is something you should ask your spirit guide ... provided you two are still speaking," he said playfully. "I personally think that when you're tired of the solitary life, you'll move on."
They were at the shuttle site now, and they stepped behind a large tree, out of the pilot's view. She had meant to give him a quick hug and be on her way. But when she felt his heart beating wildly against hers, his hands on her back .... she couldn't let go.
His mouth found hers, and he groaned at the contact. He pinned her against the tree, pressing his hips into hers, as they devoured each other. Her knees were about to buckle, it would be so easy to just lay down with him .....
He groaned again and slid his mouth away. They held onto each other, shaking, both of them shocked by the ferocity of their response. His face was wet; so was hers, she realized.
"I'm sorry," she gasped. "I didn't mean to ..."
"No.." he cut her off. "It's all right. Choices, remember?"
They held each other lightly now, quietly, their eyes saying what they couldn't put into words. She raised her hand to gently stroke his tattoo. He put both his hands to her face, and using his thumbs, gently wiped away the lingering tears.
Then quickly, he dropped his hands, and without a word, turned, and walked away.
A few moments later, she was on the shuttle. As Dorvan slipped quietly away, she stared out the window, lost in thought, an unread PADD dangling from her hand.
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