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Source: Starfleet Headquarters
'Dear Ms Summers,
Captain Janeway regrets that she will be unable to join you for your meeting today as previously arranged between yourselves. A matter of importance has become apparent which requires her immediate attention.
She has asked me to express her sincere apologies and hopes that the meeting can be rescheduled with a minimum of fuss.
Please direct any queries you may have for my attention.
Claire thumped her console in anger, as if the inanimate object itself were the sole cause of Janeway cancelling their lunch appointment. Dammit, she'd been looking forward to this for weeks. Months even.
'A matter of importance'. What did that mean? They were about to be invaded by a hostile alien force? Nope, she would have heard about that already, having managed to set up her own decidedly non-intrusive spy network. True, it didn't seem to garner *that* much information but that kind of news would have worked its way to her very quickly.
The death of a family member or friend? Negative on that one too. She knew from sad experience how quickly a piece of tragic news would filter through to her.
The only other idea she seriously contemplated was that perhaps the Alpha Quadrant had run out of coffee, and Janeway - having already depleted the entire supply of caffeine in the Delta Quadrant - was now heading over to the wormhole by DS9 to see if she could convince the Dominion to hand over their Richest Roast.
Laughing briefly at her own absurdity, Claire started plotting.
This was Captain Janeway. Captain Kathryn Janeway, the woman she had been trying to interview for the last six months. Okay, so the woman may be busy but it made Claire even angrier that Janeway hadn't responded personally. She'd spoken to her and sent personal messages many times. Why, now, did Janeway seem to be avoiding her?
There was only one way she was going to find out.
The sun was warm and bright but the light breeze caused goose bumps to form all over Claire's body. Shivering, she tried to pull her inadequate jacket even tighter around herself, mentally berating her own stupidity at not being prepared. Instead she had done what she always did - grabbed the first jacket she could find and left the apartment on her first impulse.
Still, what was done was done. She was here now, she could hardly go back without discovering anything.
A quick com call to a source at Headquarters confirmed that Janeway wasn't there, so on an obvious hunch Claire was now waiting outside her apartment. Casually trying to look as if she was watching the two children playing on the sidewalk, her eyes kept sliding towards the entrance of the block of apartments she was expecting Janeway to emerge from.
Five minutes passed and already Claire was starting to get bored, not something that particularly helped someone on a stake-out. She was more of a pro-active person; she wanted to go up to Janeway's apartment, knock on the door and demand to speak to her. She couldn't. This situation, at least, demanded subtlely.
Her eyes were drawn back to the children as one of them suddenly cried out in pain. Forgetting about her observations she quickly ran over. The girl, who looked about six years old, was now sitting on the ground holding her knee. The boy who had been playing with her looked a few years older but was kneeling next to her in concern.
"Let me see," she demanded kindly, bending down.
Tears falling from her eyes, the girl carefully complied, wincing slightly as she removed her hands from the limb. It was nothing more serious than a graze, but the red mark seemed almost angry. "Do you want some help clearing this up?" Claire asked.
The boy spoke. "It's okay, we have a dermal regenerator just indoors that mom can use on her."
Smiling, Claire helped her get up. "That's quite a little war wound you've got there. Wear it proudly." She wasn't entirely sure that the girl understood quite was she said, but they both grinned at each other anyway.
The distinctive sound of a door hissing open originated from somewhere behind her. Instantly turning around, Claire saw that her target was now in sight. Janeway was moving quickly down the steps in front of the apartment, tugging a cream-coloured cardigan on over her dress as she walked.
Reaching the bottom of the steps, Janeway bent her knees down slightly and launched herself off across the street, determined, barely stopping at all.
She was shorter than she'd expected. Before she'd only seen Janeway in uniform with those ridiculous Starfleet boots. Now she just had on a pair of flats that matched the colour of her cardigan.
Keeping a careful distance but walking normally, Claire followed her across the street. By the way she was walking Janeway knew absolutely where she was going. There wasn't the slightest amount of hesitation or confusion.
Her hair was haphazard - half of it up, half of it down - and seemed to have lost all semblence of neatness a long time ago. Shoulder-length strands escaped and were blown about by the light wind. Janeway didn't seem to notice the hair or the breeze.
Time passed. It was about ten minutes later than Janeway suddenly veered to the left and marched into the park. As she proceeded along the thin path she began to look around, seeing if anyone was watching her. Diving behind a rose bush, Claire just managed to avoid detection.
Paranoid now, she remained still for over a minute. Eventually she began to peek around the edge of the bush. Janeway was nowhere in sight. Standing carefully, Claire frowned. Even after a minute she should have still been able to see. The ground was very flat and there was nowhere-
Wait a minute.
Walking along the path as Janeway had, Claire looked for any place she may have gone. It was all pretty open space here, only a few trees here and there. It didn't seem to be particularly busy today, mostly due to the cold weather.
And then she saw it.
Turning her head as Janeway had done to make sure no one was looking at her, she quickly ran across the grass to a small hole in the fence that separated the park from the technically 'off-limits' woods.
Kathryn Janeway breaking rules and regulations? This had to be something worth seeing.
Squeezing through the gap - and hoping like hell she wouldn't get stuck - she nearly sighed with relief when she made it all the way through. Getting up from her hands and knees while trying to ignore the mud that now covered a large portion of her body, she paused when she heard something.
"I missed you."
"Shhh! Keep your voice down."
Curious, Claire slowly and silently walked in the direction of the low voices. She kept her eyes directed towards her feet the whole time, worried that she'd step on something noisy.
"Don't apologise. I missed you too." Janeway's voice was filled with warmth as she responded to the man. Whoever he was.
"Oh, just *this* much..."
Claire nearly swore, having a pretty good idea she was missing something good.
Finally she found them. They were standing in the middle of a circle of trees, hugging. Taking refuge behind another appropriately large piece of nature - this time a fallen trunk - Claire sat and tried not to breathe too loudly.
"Is that all?" the man asked, and Claire peered over the top of the trunk, trying desperately to see who he was.
Janeway moved back and smiled up at him and Claire finally got a good look at his face. Ah ha. It was *him*. When they first arrived home there had been speculation and rumours of course; their closeness was obvious. But both had always clearly stated they were nothing more than best friends. And Claire, unlike some others, had believed them. There may have been a hint...a suggestion...of something more, but it had never actually happened.
Until now, apparently.
She couldn't help it. She started smiling. This was just *so* romantic!
In response to Chakotay's question, Janeway grabbed his head and pulled it down for a kiss. It was no chaste kiss either. It was hungry, demanding. He appeared all too happy to comply, his arms wrapping further around her, his lips matching hers.
One of them pulled the other to the ground - it wasn't clear quite who - and they continued kissing. His hand moved under her cardigan then moved round to the back of the dress and undid that. Soon his hands were wandering over her skin.
"Jesus!" Janeway yelled out and everyone froze. "Your hands are freezing!"
His previously tense body relaxed immediately and he gently rested his forehead against hers, shaking slightly in silent laughter. Moving his head down, he murmured something into her ear that made her laugh like a hyeena before she realised she was supposed to be keeping quiet.
Claire, still watching, would have paid latinum to know exactly what he said.
Janeway moved her right hand from his back to touch his face. Still smiling, a little softer, she murmured: "I do love you."
And that was it. That was the moment Claire's conscience finally kicked in. Resigned, she turned away from them, leaning against the trunk. She was going to have to leave, there was no doubt about it. She had her answer: Janeway had a damn good reason for cancelling their appointment.
Glancing down at the ground as Chakotay whispered "I know", Claire picked up the small twig she saw there. Enjoying the feel of the rough material over her fingers she placed it in her pocket.
This was a sacred moment.
This was a sacred place.
Muddy, wet, but happy, she silently stood.
"Oh God," one of them moaned.
As she slowly began to walk away, Claire slipped her hands into her pockets. Discovering the twig there once again, she held onto it and smiled.
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