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I half-hoped that I would get lost on the way here. I only looked at their address on the padd once so that if I wanted to I could easily forget. Unfortunately for me, my memory is rather good, especially in situations like this. By that I mean...moments of confusion or clarity. I know that makes no sense; they contradict each other. It seems to imply that I remember *everything* which I certainly don't. I haven't the faintest idea of what I had for breakfast yesterday.
Actually...I probably didn't eat anything.
I suppose it's safe to say that I remember emotional situations. Times when I'm the most distraught or happy. I remember a lot about the last eight years - there doesn't seem to have been much middle ground between the two in all that time.
Yet I'm here. The invitation was extended and I couldn't refuse. It felt wrong, I suppose. Not that I owe them anything. But I don't hold a grudge against them either. Not exactly.
I find myself approaching the door and can't help wondering who will answer. Will it be her? I'm not sure I could handle it if it was. I need to see him first. He's always been so reassuring, so sturdy. God, I make him sound like a dog. Always by my side, at least for a while.
Ah well, it's too late now. I found the courage to come here so there's no way I can turn back. Not me. Despite the sensations fluttering madly in my stomach, despite my shaking hands. Why am I so nervous? I don't have to prove anything to them. Only myself. I sigh and shake my head. This is *not* the time for self-examination. The time for that is when I'm alone in my bedroom dreaming about what might have been. 'The saddest words ever written' apparently. I heard that somewhere once. Why it stuck in my mind I'm not quite sure - I must have been in a melancholy mood. That seems to be happening a lot lately too.
Irritated at myself for trying to analyse when I should be talking about old times, I reach forward and press the buzzer, my hand now calm which somehow doesn't befit my mood but I don't question it. It seems that the closer I get the more in turmoil my thoughts are, but the more calm my body gets. That makes no sense. But I often don't. A study in contradictions 'someone' once called me...strange...I don't even think his name anymore. I can't.
Before more deliberations can ensue the door opens and instantly his arms are around me and I'm so glad, so glad that it wasn't *her* who I saw first. I breath in his scent as we hug, familiar with the feel of each others bodies. He knows somehow. He knows what I've been going through.
"God Kath...its been so long."
I pull back, blinking away the moisture in my eyes as I smile at him. "It's only been six months Mark."
He chuckles. "I know Kath, but it always feels like so much longer. Come in, won't you?"
Nodding, I walk into their house, studying it carefully. I haven't seen him since Voyager returned and I've never been here. And of course, I've never met...
"You must be Kathryn."
I turn quickly at the sound of the warm voice that holds just a hint of a Scottish accent. Her eyes don't hold any judgement and immediately my anxiety evaporates. Coming here today I almost felt like the 'other woman', but now I find myself smiling genuinely. "And you must be the Mary I've heard so much about."
I extend my arm and we shake hands firmly, but not forcefully. I instantly know that she's just as stubborn as I am, and I'm interested to know what else we have in common.
She leads me towards the front room and we sit at opposite ends of the couch. It's only then that I realise that Mark is still with us as he sits on an antique chair three feet away. I get the feeling that he's going to be more of an observer in this conversation than a participant.
A console bleeps on the other side of the room. He instantly stands and scurries over to it. I never noticed that about him before. Did he always scurry? He doesn't have the confident walk that someone else has...
Mary and I make small talk as we wait for him to get back, and I find her surprisingly easy to talk to. I thought it would be awkward, and partly it is, but we get on much better than I expected.
I try to listen to Mark's conversation. Evidently someone has contacted him about something, but I can only hear the words 'Admiral' and 'urgent'. I know he's going to leave.
I'm right, and watch as he deactivates the console then walks over to us. A quick explanation lets us know what's going on - emergency at the embassy. He has to take care of it personally.
"Anything I can help with?" Mary asks, and I surprise myself at almost forgetting that they work together.
"No, it's okay. You two stay here and talk. I should think I'll only be a little while." He leans down and kisses her softly on the mouth, and rather than turn away I watch, smiling. I'm so glad he's happy. But as their lips linger and he reaches his hand out to caress her face gently, I can't help but think of someone who once did that to me, after I almost died on the ground of a cold, stormy planet...
Mary's studying me, her head tilted to one side.
"Sorry, I was just thinking about something."
Her scrutiny intensifies and she openly stares at me until the door closes behind Mark. As soon as it does she releases a breath. "Thank God! I thought the man would never leave."
I blink at her.
"He's so concerned about us getting along that I swear he was going to sit there just watching us all afternoon."
Chuckling, I nod my head. "That sounds like Mark."
She nods her own head in agreement, then stands and offers me her hand. "Come on. Now that he's gone we can talk about anything and have some fun."
Laughing, I take her hand.
The sun permeates the afternoon, its heat striking everywhere. We're laying in deck chairs, laughing between tastes of ice cream. My hands hold a tub of coffee ice cream; hers hold chocolate. Turns out coffee gives her migraines. Perhaps I should suggest Neelix's concoction...no, I couldn't let the poor woman try that. I'm a humanitarian.
At the moment she's in the middle of telling a particularly funny story. "...and so what happened when he approached the pool?"
I shake my head, anticipating her response. "He didn't..." I state, knowing full well that he did.
She adjusts the sunglasses over her eyes as I suck on another spoonful of ice cream, the delicious cold substance creeping down my throat.
"He did. He tried to talk to the damn dog, who only charged at him knocking him into the pool!"
I snort loudly, not caring about the utterly inelegant sound or the ice cream which has now encrusted on my top. I haven't laughed this well in so long. The imagery of Mark falling into the pool starts me off on another round of laughter.
As this one subsides I glance back at her and see that she's studying me yet again. Disturbed slightly, I glance towards the ground and use the spoon to play with my ice cream. "Thank you for making this so easy for me, Mary."
We sit in an easy silence for a few minutes before she speaks again. "Why aren't you happy Kathryn?"
I've known this person for less than two hours and yet somehow I've let her get closer than anyone I've met in the past eight years. Is it because we've both loved the same man? Or that we're both women? Or is it just two stubborn people finding something familiar in each other?
Either way, I find myself talking. "A multitude of reasons. I don't know if I could list them or name a specific one."
Mary contemplates this for a moment, before looking down at her own ice cream, her eyes hidden behind her sunglasses. "Can I try naming one for you?"
I wonder what on Earth she could possibly say to me, but I tell her to go ahead. And the second before she speaks I know exactly what she's going to say. I don't know how she knows or even why she's interested, but I don't stop her from saying it.
My reaction isn't something I can control and I quickly pull my own sunglasses down from my head to cover my eyes so she can't see them. My hands grip tightly around the ice cream tub so they can't give anything away. The ice cream's almost melted anyway. I'm not sure why I notice that.
She smiles sincerely. "You may have noticed all the publicity that surrounded your return and the various trials."
"That's putting it mildly. I still get requests for interviews." Actually, I was rather surprised that no one had followed me here.
"Well, we got to see quite a lot of footage of you and him. Not always together, obviously, but when you were it always seemed that there was something there..."
They could see it even in the news reports? How obvious had we been? Had we always been that revealing? I feel a headache starting. It's not as if there was anything to reveal but it *felt* that way.
Mary continued. "That was just conjecture of course. I didn't know; how could I possibly? But then came the day of the verdict when all the former members of the Maquis were exonerated. I'm sure you remember it of course." At my affirmative response she talked again. "You came out of the court house, the press surrounding you...and you hugged. In front of all of them. I think it's possibly the most romantic thing I've ever seen. To the rest of the press it was a nice reunion for Captain and Commander who understandably became close on their mission. But I knew more about you through Mark. I'm not claiming to have any sixth sense about these things, but I just *knew*."
I sit in silence for a few moments, trying to absorb what she was saying. Just what did she see? There had never been anything between us, not really.
"So you think he's the answer to all my problems."
She actually laughs out loud, absolutely amused. "Of course not!"
Somehow I find the capacity in myself to laugh with her. "I'm glad we agree on that."
As she continues to laugh, I half expect her to make some comment about him being a 'mere' man. Of course she doesn't, but I wonder what my reaction would be if she did.
Maybe I'd agree.
Eventually she calms down and looks up into the sky. I wonder what she sees up there. Every time I look at the sky I imagine that Voyager is up there, waiting to beam me up from yet another away mission to yet another M-class unpopulated planet.
"Kathryn...I'm not going to say that any one person holds the answers to everything for you. But don't let a little madness ruin your life."
"You think I'm mad?" Should I be insulted?
"Only a little."
"Why are you telling me this?"
She spoons a melted piece of ice cream into her mouth, licking the utensil clean. "Because we're a lot alike. And I got lucky."
"I got Mark."
I stumble into my apartment sometime after 1am. Mark didn't come back, although he sent us a message to let us know he'd be a lot later than he originally thought. We didn't mind. I love the way I can talk to another woman about absolutely anything. The topics change so quickly yet they never seem out of place or bizarre.
Of course, ever since she mentioned him I've been preoccupied with thinking about him. Chakotay. It's the first time I've let myself even think his name for months. Before now he was always a 'him'. I even thought of the speech marks surrounding the word. But I couldn't actually bring myself to think his name.
I knew what I was going to do as soon as I arrived home, and I suspect Mary did too. Throwing my bag down on the beige chair in my bedroom...beige...actually everything in my apartment is beige. Reminds me of something else that was beige. No Kathryn, don't go there yet. I have to have confirmation first.
Mary is right about the publicity surrounding Voyager. My name still holds a lot of pull and I know that if I ask these specific people to get up at one in the morning to help me, they will.
I get the information I want from them in less than thirty minutes. If there's one good thing that can be said about the media, it's that they don't waste any time. They're always finding ways to get the most happening or discovered in the shortest amount of time. It's a talent I sometimes find myself envying.
Sitting down in front of the console, I briefly consider having a drink but then instantly dismiss the stray thought. That's not my style. I always face life head on; this shouldn't be any different.
Opening the appropriate document, my hand is once again steady as I activate it.
The picture is moving jerkily, no doubt the cameraman was trying to jocky for a good position between all the other reporters. The doors to the large building open and a crowd of people step out. The crowd proceed down the steps of the court house, the building recently constructed but purposely looking old for nostalgia. Then I see myself. I'm frowning, which seems an odd thing to do considering all charges were dropped against all the former Maquis. But I know why I'm frowning of course. I remember it well.
The change in my expression when I see him is miraculous. He forces his way through the crowd and as I remember the anticipation that I felt as he approached, I can see it reflected on my own face. He reaches me and there is no hesitation as we hug. I didn't even consider holding myself back, and would have been ashamed of myself if I had.
We pull back from each other and I smile up at him. I never realised how short I appeared next to him before. I say something to him, and although the microphone is too far away to catch it, I know exactly what I said.
"We did it."
He returns the smile, *his* smile that he only ever gives me. He might as well shout to the whole universe how he feels, because that's how much the smile gives away.
And then we're pulled apart from each other as the crowd grows in size. It was the last time we saw each other. After that day we both were distracted by other things we considered more important, and which really were. Family. But now I feel that perhaps I missed out on something.
I see myself talking briefly with B'Elanna and Tuvok, trying to ignore all the cameras pointed in our direction. I look to the other side of the screen, where Chakotay is just barely in view. He's staring at me. There's no expression on his face. He's just looking.
The way I know I've looked at him so many times.
My hand fumbles over the screen as I deactivate it, leaving the room in darkness. I start shaking, so angry at myself for so many things. Why? Why didn't I ever realise I was in love with him?
Synapses start firing, legs start moving, my body is propelled up and out of the chair. I haven't made any conscious decision but I'm almost running through the dark towards the exit to my apartment.
I swear as my plan goes out the figurative window. More specifically, I swear as my leg hits the corner of the coffee table. Who invented those things - sadists? But still I don't become cautious, too eager to reach my goal that I have to be taught the lesson again. I learn it well as I trip over a foot rest.
Landing with an even louder curse, I lay on the floor until Tuvok's logical influence finally comes forth. "Lights." They instantly come on and I hold up my hand as if warding off some evil spirit. My eyes pinch shut as they try to become accustomed to the light, but I don't allow myself the time.
Pulling myself up, I grab my bag from the chair and find the exit.
I know he won't be easy to find if I just try and look for him. But I'm pretty sure I know someone who will know where he is.
I've never seen her looking more relaxed. I feel like I'm intruding somehow just by watching them but I can't speak to her while he's there. I'm really not in the mood for one of his comments. Most of the time they amuse me, even if they are a little grating, but they're not something I want to deal with.
It's five thirty in the morning, yet they're both awake, and from the looks of things they haven't had any sleep. Young love. How sweet. How I envy them.
Eventually Tom squirms out of the hammock they're sharing, nearly causing B'Elanna to topple out in the process. They laugh as he catches her and he places a kiss on her forehead. Absurdly, I feel moisture build up in my eyes. They're so happy together, after so many years of sparring with each other. Well...they still do really, but they love each other so dearly.
She winks at him as he quickly enters their house and I know I won't have much time before he returns.
"You can come out now Captain."
Her voice is absolutely certain as she speaks. How does she know I'm here? Knowing the question I'm going to ask, she looks in my general direction and taps her nose. "There are some advantages to being half-Klingon. Better eye sight, better hearing, and better sense of smell."
I should have known she'd notice me somehow. Tom probably did too.
Stepping from behind my hiding place, I can see the genuine happiness on her face but there's something else as well. Surprise?
We remain silent as I sit next to her on the hammock carefully, not wanting either of us to fall off. Then I have something to say. "Why is it all the women I speak to lately seem to know more about me than I do?"
Pursing her lips together, she ponders the question with some amusement. "Perhaps the universe has decided that for once the great Captain Janeway should have someone telling *her* what to do."
We both smile at her comment before she speaks again. "I have to say I'm surprised to see you here."
"I know, I'm looking for-"
"I know," she interrupts "I know."
Feeling pressure on my arm, I look down and see that she's gently resting her hand there. Did she pick that up from me, or did she always do it? For some reason it's important for me to know if I affected her life in anyway. Looking back up into her eyes her expression instantly conveys that I have. She wants so much for me to be happy. My throat tightens.
"The reason I'm surprised is that you're not at home."
I shrug. "Well he's not at my apartment obviously, so-"
"No, I meant *home*. With your family. That's where he's gone."
My grip on the edge of the hammock is relinquished just a little too quickly, and I flip over the back until I land with a rather loud thump and a rather embarrassed "oof".
I call in every favour, pull every string I can - some almost to breaking point - so I can transport direct to my mother's house rather than having to wait for a shuttle or other means of transportation. I'd willingly settle for a horse and cart right now if they'd get me there but I'm too eager to wait that long. I've never had a great deal of patience.
B'Elanna smiles as she looks up at me standing on the transporter pad. She must have noticed that my hands are shaking again. I consider clenching them but decide I've spent enough time hiding my feelings from so many people.
I grin back at her, knowing that for once my fear must be openly showing, but also knowing that she's proud of me. We're both creatures of habit, B'Elanna and I. We learnt to hide our feelings so well that it became second nature.
So perhaps it's not so odd that I should need her blessing.
"Energise," I order the operator. He smiles, nods and complies. I'm surprised at how steady my voice is and just as I begin to dematerialise I notice that my hands have stopped shaking.
I appear almost a hundred yards from the house. I've always loved it, even if I was a child of the 24th Century. Beautifully constructed and several hundred years old.
Of course, my thoughts aren't focused on the house or even on my mother and sister who I know are both peering out the window at me.
My thoughts, and eyes, are locked on the man who is standing on the porch. I instantly know that he's expecting me but hasn't seen me yet.
I whisper his name and although he can't possibly hear me his head jerks around and he stares at me.
I couldn't have heard him. Couldn't possibly. Yet I did. The bond between us has always been there, almost...psychic isn't the right word, otherwise we'd always know what each other is thinking. And yet as we walk towards each other, eyes locked together, we know exactly what the other is thinking. No ambiguity, no indecision.
Every step taken is burned into my memory, and yet it seems as if he's standing in front of me almost immediately. We stare at each other, commiting every line, wrinkle and blemish to memory.
Finally he speaks, his eyes never having left my face.
"What's that on your top?"
"Ice cream," I reply quickly, not even thinking about my quick recall. God, I must look awful. I've been wearing the same clothes for almost 24 hours, food spilled down the front of them, and I haven't even touched my hair.
I don't care.
"Ice cream?" A hint of a smile appears on his lips and in my current state I feel the impact of his happiness striking through every part of my body, and I do something I haven't done in nearly nine years. I let go.
I cried a few times on board Voyager - New Earth, when Kes left us - but it was always carefully controlled. I never let go. Never.
The first sob emerges as my right hand reaches up to touch his face. My eyes fill up with tears as I feel his own on his cheeks.
"God I missed you."
"I love you."
I don't know who said what but it suddenly seems unimportant as we wrap hands and limbs around each other and fall into an inelegant heap on the grass. I bury my head into his neck, aware of the slight brush of his hair on my nape. I sob loudly as we rock back and forth for the wasted moments, indecisions, hidden emotions and for the utter futility of ever trying to fight what exists between us.
We're still on the grass three hours later as the door to the house opens and Mom emerges.
Chakotay lays with his head on my lap, no sign of worry or tension on his relaxed brow. I look down at his face again and placate myself by brushing my fingertips softly over his hair. I want so much to wake him but he looks so tired. I'm well aware of the dark circles under his eyes that match my own. Neither of us has managed to get much sleep lately. Ironic, really. We manage to get all the way home, across thousands of light years, yet we end up doing the same things we did on Voyager.
Of course, we're not doing *exactly* the same things. This didn't happen on Voyager, and I honestly can't say that it ever would have. I can feel tears appearing in my eyes and let them fall. I seem to have cried more in the last day than in the last decade.
"This is no time to be upset Kathryn."
I smile as I look up from his face into the blurry face of my mother. "I'm not upset Mom. Just...grieving. Of things past. Of not knowing."
Seeming to understand, she starts to bend over to sit next to me but instantly straightens up. Her hand moves to support her back. "Oh I regret doing that."
"Didn't Dr Mezan prescribe you with new medication?"
"Yes he did, but it leaves me feeling unaccountably drowsy. A Janeway does not lose her faculties under any circumstances."
At her words I glance back down at Chakotay. "I think it's a little late for that," I whisper.
"Nonsense," she huffs "you haven't lost your faculties. In fact, as far as everyone considers things you've finally come to your senses!"
I grin as I trace the outline of his face gently with my hand. "Really?"
"Absolutely. I've received ten messages from interested parties in the last hour alone. There was one from Owen's son, his 'friend'-"
"-B'Elanna, thank you. And one from a strange little man with a furry face."
I laugh slightly. "Neelix." Dear, sweet Neelix. "How long has he been here?" I ask, finally voicing the question I've been wanting to ask since she stepped outside.
"He arrived at about nine last night. I recognised him instantly and when I asked why he had come he was very straightforward with his answer."
She pauses, waiting for a response. I smile, giddy, trying to talk and laugh at the same time. "He came for me."
I can hear the quiet amusement in her voice. "When I told him you weren't here he looked crestfallen but thanked me for my time pleasantly enough before turning away. I almost ordered him to come back and to spend the night. The poor man was exhausted. I wanted to know just exactly what my daughter had done to him, so I asked. He said, 'Your daughter's done something awful Mrs Janeway. She's made me fall in love with her.'"
"He thinks being in love with me is awful?" The words are out of my mouth before I catch the tone in my mother's voice, and I *know* that she's not being entirely truthful.
The head on my lap starts shaking and as I look down at him I realise he's laughing. He was pretending the whole time. His deep brown eyes are revealed as his lids flutter open and I cup his face with my hand as I did earlier.
"Your mother's lying to you Kathryn. She suspected I was awake - so she tried to get a rise out of me."
"I take it her plan worked?" I query with a half-question/half-statement.
"Oh she knows exactly what she's doing. She knew I couldn't let her get away with such blatant butchering of a heart-felt speech."
"Practise it for long?"
"Only four hours." He waits for my chuckle to subside before reaching his hands up to pull my face closer to his. Our faces are still reversed - my chin to his forehead - but he moves my head until we're eye to eye. "What I actually said was, 'Your daughter's done something awful Mrs Janeway. She made me eat Neelix's leola root surprise.'"
I half open my mouth at him, partly at his audacity and partly in humour. "You're worse than she is!" I finally exclaim.
A smile quickly appears then vanishes. "I love you too."
And suddenly I know who said what when we fell to the ground earlier. Another irony that after so long of running from him that I should be the one to use those words first. Not that it matters. Even if neither of us had ever said it, we'd still know that we loved each other.
I sniff at him. "Sit up."
He regards me cautiously. "Why?"
"Because I want to kiss you and you're not at a very good angle."
He's up in less than a second, and from the edge of my vision I see mom smile and walk away. I can just imagine her telling Phoebe everything when she gets inside the house.
My attention on her swiftly refocuses on him as we examine each other. Well, our first kiss. How do we start this? It's been so long in coming. Should it be short and gentle, or-
I soon discover it's the 'or' as we throw ourselves at each other, bodies and lips meeting. At first unsure but we quickly grow familiar with what we like. His lips are warm, soft and completely compelling. Our kisses deepen as my pulse races before we eventually pull apart for breath, noses touching. Nothing is said for several minutes as we close our eyes and I concentrate on the sound of our breath.
Slowly, I raise one eyelid and see that he's doing the same. We smile at each other in that 'newly-wed couple' way that I'd never thought I'd see on either of our faces. "Well..." I begin "was it worth the wait?" I know very well what his answer is.
"Absolutely. Although maybe the decade of foreplay had something to do with it..."
Something intrudes on the moment of perfection as a light flashes to our left. Quickly turning, we see a young man looking startled that we spotted him. Standing up from the ground, he turns and runs off.
Something that was supposedly private is about to become unbelievably public unless we stop him because we know instantly that he's a reporter.
I know the local terrain better than any member of my family. I was always out exploring as a child, always wanting to know what was around the next corner. It terrified my parents, but now the knowledge is useful. No matter how much research this reporter did he can't possibly know the area better than I do.
Ridiculously, we find him taking refuge on the branch of a tree. I know I should be furious at him, and I am...but he just looks so absurd sitting on the branch with his arms wrapped around the trunk. He doesn't look too fond of heights.
He doesn't seem like a typical reporter either.
"Come on," I order in my Captain Janeway command voice "get down."
At first it seems as if he's going to argue, but then he sighs, relents, and slowly climbs his way down the tree, one wonky branch at a time. When he reaches the ground Chakotay steps forward and holds out his hand. Understanding his meaning, the reporter reluctantly hands over the camera he had secluded in his jacket pocket. As Chakotay steps back, he brushes against me slightly and as I try to talk to the intruder I wonder if it was intentional or just an accident. It hardly seems appropriate considering what's occurring, but I'm the first to admit that sometimes you just can't help acting on impulse. It's what brought me to him.
I fold my arms across my chest and study the reporter with one arched eyebrow. "Who do you work for?"
He hesitates before telling me, but then must realise that I've figured out what he does for a living anyway. "The Federation News Service."
"And what do you think gives you the right to take a photograph of me-I mean us?" I quickly add, trying not to look in Chakotay's direction.
The reporter smiles, ducking his head slightly and looking vaguely embarrassed. "Yeah, well...I didn't think I was going to get a photo of you know...the *two* of you."
I feel a blush appearing on my cheeks. Not now, God not now...I'm supposed to be reprimanding him, not going red as a tomato. Tomatoes...another memory of New Earth.
"In fact I didn't know if I was going to get any photos at all," he continued "or *anything* at all for that matter. It's just...well you haven't given a single interview since you came back, and I was kind of hoping I would be the first to get one."
Nodding my head in apparent agreement, I manage to frown and smile at the same time. "I see. And you thought the best way of getting this 'exclusive' was to invade the privacy of me, my family and the man I love as well as taking a picture of what was clearly a private moment."
He looks away from me, and I almost believe that he has a conscience. "As I said, I didn't expect to see what happened, but even so..." he looks back at me, his eyes meeting mine "...I *am* a reporter. When something happens, even if it is unexpected, you don't have time to rationalise the ethics of it. You do what you have to."
I still hate him for what he did...but God, I think I'm beginning to like him. "You do your job...just the same as I do mine. I don't agree with what you do, but you pursue it with all your heart." In that respect at least, we are similar.
"So what do we do now? Do I get my camera back, or should I just leave you two alone?"
His voice changes to a lower, inneundo-filled tone. Chakotay laughs. I roll my eyes.
"*We*, all *three* of us," I declare very sucinctly "are going to the house."
"Kath, he's gorgeous!" Phoebe exclaims, as I try to manoeuvre her towards the exit of the study.
"Yes, yes. I know." I agree, my tone telling her that she really should be leaving now even though I agree with her completely.
She stops in the doorway and braces her hands on either side, making my job much harder. "I'm so happy for you Kathryn."
The sincerity in her words stops me. I smile at her, really smile. "Thank you," I reply, before pulling her right hand from the doorway and propelling her out of the room "now go and keep Mom and our 'guest' company." I close and lock the door behind her quickly.
I stand in silence for a few seconds with my forehead resting on the door, trying to absorb everything that has happened this morning. In fact, everything that has happened in the past nine years. His arms slip around my waist, comforting but exciting at the same time. His body is warm, his touch tender. "Why is it?" I ask, moving my hands to rest over his on my stomach. "Why is it that we can never have a normal life? Why is it something life shattering is always happening? Why are we always interrupted?"
I can feel the smile that forms on his lips as he kisses the top of my head. "I think Kathryn, that if it were otherwise...you'd be bored out of your mind in two minutes."
He knows me so well. "Perhaps. But I think that right now, more than anything, all I want to do is lay down and hold you."
"Then that's what we'll do," he whispers, and with the barest tug of his hand guides me towards the couch.
"Do you think we'll fit?" he asks, having a valid point.
"We will somehow." I inform him, suddenly feeling exhausted. It's not exactly a surprise - I can't remember the last time I *didn't* feel tired. But this is different because it's a good tired. It's not an exhaustion caused by working too many hours and drinking too much coffee. It's exhaustion that comes from the knowledge that for the first time in so long I have done something right. I can be at peace now. The rest can take care of itself.
Extract from an interview with Jake Sisko, reporter for the Federation News Service. November 3rd, 2380.
JS: '...so it was with a great amount of surprise on my part that Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay granted my request for an interview. In fact, they insisted that I tell their whole story. Their only stipulation was that they be able to read what I had written before I sent it to my editor. Naturally, I wasn't too happy and I had to make quite a few changes before both they and my editor were satisfied, but we eventually got there.'
INTERVIEWER: 'Is there a part of the article that you had the most fun making?'
JS: 'Umm...you mean besides from the photograph?' (laughs) 'Actually, I think the part I had the most fun making was the interview with Gretchen Janeway, the Captain's mother. She's a wonderful character. I remember when I interviewed her she was constantly complaining about her back ache but refused to take the medicine because she "wanted to stay fully alert while she was talking to such an interesting young man". It's not often a reporter gets a compliment.'
INTERVIEWER: 'She obviously doesn't know you as well as we do, Jake.'
JS: 'Why thank you. I'll remember you said that.'
INTERVIEWER: 'How did Mrs Janeway take the news of Captain Janeway's and Commander Chakotay's relationship?'
JS: 'She was very happy for them of course. In fact I asked her that question herself.'
INTERVIEWER: 'Don't keep us hanging Jake.'
JS: (smiles): 'She said, "Young man, the first time I met Chakotay he looked absolutely exhausted and was knocking on my door looking for Kathryn. When I asked him why he had come he simply replied, 'Your daughter's done something awful Mrs Janeway. She wants to be happy but doesn't know how.' I frowned at him, rather troubled by what he was implying. I asked him if he thought *he* was the one thing that could make her happy. He adamantly denied it, although he softly admitted "I think that she's what *I* need to be happy."'
INTERVIEWER: 'That's very sweet.'
JS: 'Yes, Mrs Janeway thought that too. Although she later pointed out that he could do with some serious self-assertion.'
INTERVIEWER: (laughs) 'Well thank you for that Jake. Unfortunately our time is up, so I'd like to say it was a pleasure talking to you.'
JS: 'As it was talking to you, Neelix'.
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