The Slipstream

Disclaimer: Paramount owns the characters in this story.

Still working on the challenge, but then I found this story in an old notebook. Took me some time to type it out, but then again, it also took me some time to finish writing it.

“Captain, we’re ready.”

“Okay, B’Elanna. We’ll give it a try tomorrow at 900 hours, now get some sleep.”

“Will do, Torres out.”

Kathryn could barely contain her excitement: tomorrow they’d try to put Voyager in the slipstream that Delta Flyer had reached 3 months ago for the first time. Tonight could be their last night in the Delta Quadrant. Tonight would also be her last night as fearless leader of the Voyagers: hopefully, by tomorrow she could rely on Starfleet HQ again to tell her what actions to take. That would be nice and comforting, however it would also force Starfleet’s Protocols on her: protocols which she from now on, especially when it comes to her personal life, would NOT let rule her life. Now if only she could get ready for her appointment. Over the past week, when it became more and more obvious that they’d finally go back to the Alpha Quadrant, Chakotay and she had been keeping open hours: all crewmembers could come by and ask them questions. The biggest question was of course what would happen to the Maquis crewmembers. They had explained to them that they didn’t know what was going to happen, but that one thing was sure: as soon as Starfleet gave them any trouble, they’d go back where they came from.

~ * ~ * ~

*door chime*

“Come in.”

“Good evening, Captain.”

“O hello Tom, I wasn’t expecting you. Weren’t you supposed to have a date with B’Elanna?”

“Well, yes, but she was so exhausted that she fell asleep before I had a chance to ask her, so I guess…”

“Ask her what, Tom?”

“I wanted to ask her to marry me, and I thought tonight would be the best opportunity.”

“Why, yes, I can see your reasoning, I guess tonight is sort of a last-opportunities-thing for more people.”

Tom saw the faraway look in his Captain’s eyes.

“Eh, Captain, I didn’t disturb anything, did I?”

Only now did he see the well-set table and the Captain’s outfit: she was definitely not in uniform.

“Mm.. what? O no, don’t worry Tom, I just didn’t want to spend my last night in the DQ as Captain, that’s all. Can I get you something to drink?”

“Some wine please, preferably red.”

Kathryn came back with 2 glasses of wine.

“You know, Tom, you’ve known me longer than anyone on board, and you’ve never called me by my first name. Why?”

“I don’t know really. At first it was because you were my father’s protégé, and now in the past 5 years, well, I guess I didn’t want to have to face Chakotay.”

“What do you mean, ‘face Chakotay’?”

“You know.”

“No, please Tom, explain, I need to know.”

Tom sensed her anxiousness. He had interrupted something tonight, even though it seemed that the other half of what he had interrupted didn’t suspect a thing.

“Okay, but I hope you’re ready for this, Kathryn.”

For more than one hour, Kathryn listened to what Tom had to tell her. He gave an exact run down of his observations on Kathryn, Chakotay, and Kathryn and Chakotay of the past 5 years.

Tom hadn’t realised that he’d been talking for so long, until his commbadge beeped.

“Torres to Paris. Hey Helmboy, I thought we had plans for tonight!”

“Hello there, Sleeping Beauty. I know we had plans but you fell asleep!”

“O sorry.”

“It’s okay, don’t worry, we can do this some other time.”

“Stop right there, Tom Paris. I’m coming over!”

“B’Ela wait.”

B’Elanna’s commlink was already disconnected.

Only now did Tom look at the Captain. Somehow she had managed to change her expression of enrapture to one of pure amusement. He could actually see the beginnings of giggles.

“You know something, Tom Paris. You and I are quite a pair: we manage to face our greatest demons, go through the Academy despite our last names, yet somehow we don’t get round to the most important things in our lives until the very last minute.”

Tom saw the melancholy creep up on her, but as he started to speak, the doorchime rang.

“That should be B’Elanna. Could you not tell her about the m-thing?”

“Don’t worry Tom. Come in.”

But instead of B’Elanna, the ships XO stepped in.

“Hello, I didn’t realise you had company.”

“Hi Chakotay, I’m not here for long. Just waiting for B’Elanna.”

“Have you asked her yet?”

“No, there was a glitch in my plan.”

“You knew of this?”

“Mm, o, yes, Tom came up to me yesterday to, well, you tell her.”

“You see, Kathryn, knowing how close B’Ela and Chakotay are, I wanted his blessing before I asked B’Elanna.”

“O Tom, that’s so sweet.”

Kathryn went over to Tom, and hugged him, whispering “thank you” in his ear.

“Anytime, Kathryn.”

Chakotay was completely mystified by all this: Tom calling Kathryn by her first name, who obviously was very emotional about something. Before he could organise his thoughts however, the door chimed again, and Kathryn had gone into her bedroom.

“Well, Helmboy, this is a surprise. I went to your quarters, but you weren’t there, so I had to ask the computer for your location. You could’ve told me you were in the Captain’s quarters.”

“Yes, and if you would’ve stayed around to listen, I would’ve told you where I was.”

Chakotay felt very uncomfortable standing in the middle of an argument that any minute could erupt into a full-blown row.

“Chakotay? Could you give me a hand in here?”

Thank God, salvation in the wonderful form of Kathryn Janeway.

“Coming.”

“Thanks.”

Just as the doors to her bedroom closed, they could hear Tom and B’Elanna’s heated discussion explode.

“I just hope he finds the courage to try to ask her again.”

“What d’you mean?”

“Well, you should’ve seen him yesterday, he was a nervous wreck.”

“Of course he would’ve been, he was in a way asking you for B’Elanna’s hand.”

“No, I mean, after I told him I was a great fan of their union, it dawned on him he now had to ask B’Elanna: that really scared him!”

“Poor Tom.”

“Yes, but poor B’Elanna too. I think she was already wondering why he was so itchy around her, and now she really must think something ‘s wrong. Knowing her, she is probably thinking that he wants to break up with her.”

“I just hope one of them will stop long enough to listen to the other, as long as it doesn’t take them too long.”

She looked around uncomfortably: everything in here reminded her of the man she had just invited into her inner sanctum.

“Would you care to sit down? I wish I had known we were going to end up in here, or I would’ve brought some chairs in, but then again, I’ve never needed to hide in here with my First Officer.”

As soon as she realised what she’d said, she could feel her whole face turn red. Chakotay, for his part, just smiled at her and sat down on the edge of the bed.

“I suppose you didn’t bring your wine with you either?”

“No.”

Looking at Chakotay, whose eyes were outright laughing at her, Kathryn realised the situation was indeed very funny. She too couldn’t hold her laugh down, and collapsed next to him on the bed with a horrible fit of the giggles.

“What were you doing in here anyway?”

“I was looking for something.”

“Any luck?”

“Yep, I found it. I was planning on giving it to Tom, but if they’re going to continue their little argument, we just may have to use it.”

With a flourish Kathryn produced a bottle of champagne from under her bed.

“Ah, the great bubbles. You know, I actually think Tom has a betting pool on what you keep under your bed. I think he’d never come up with this item, though!”

“Well, yes, I like to keep my crewmen on their feet: never let them think they have figured you out.”

“You certainly have kept me on my toes.”

“Yes, I’m sorry for that.”

“Sorry?”

“Mm, yes. Anyway wanna see what other bets Tom has running?”

“Kathryn, why are you sorry? Not for keeping me on my toes, I hope?”

“Chakotay, what do you see in your future?”

“Excuse me? What do you mean?”

“Well, you know, when we get back.”

“Eh, I don’t know, I guess I don’t really see Starfleet, but maybe a teaching place somewhere. Something like that, why?”

“No reason, just wondering.”

“Kathryn?”

“Yes?”

“Okay, you’re not going to tell me, are you.”

“Tell you what?”

“Why this discussion?”

“I was curious, that’s all.”

“Curious? Let’s try this some other way. Kathryn, what do you see in your future?”

“I honestly don’t know. Part of me want to say: no Starfleet, but then another part keeps telling me that Starfleet is so much a part of me, that I could never let it go; I just don’t know!”

Chakotay saw Kathryn’s face cloud over. They were still lying on her bed, but now with their faces turned to each other. Slowly tears were falling down Kathryn’s face.

“Chakotay? Could you hold me? I’m just so scared.”

Tenderly he cradled her in his arms, stroking her hair and her back.

“Don’t worry Kathryn, you’ll make the right decision, you’ll find what you want to know.”

Kathryn sobs quieted down, but she kept on holding on to Chakotay as if he was her lifeline. She just couldn’t dismiss the fact that this all felt so right. Then she remembered what Tom had told her. All the events and situations he had described to her only sharpened the one image in her head. An image of the man who was now holding her standing in front of a house – their house.

Slowly Chakotay could feel her relax in his arms.

“Kathryn? Hey, you okay?”

Kathryn raised herself so that her arms were resting on his chest.

“Yes, thanks for that.”

“Any time, but I think you already know that. So, your future isn’t that scary anymore?”

“No, not that scary, but still scary enough.”

“Well, you certainly go around talking in riddles tonight. I guess you’re not going to explain this one either, are you?”

“Nope, you’ll just have to wait and find out.”

“If you say so.”

“Yes, I say so, and you know why? Because I’m”

“‘The Captain’! Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten.”

“Good, just checking. So back to your future: do you have a planet in mind yet, or are you going back to Dorvan?”

“I haven’t really thought about it. I’ll probably visit Dorvan and spend some time there, but, well, it is not”

“home? I know what you mean. I’ll go to Indiana, of course, stay with my mom and Phoebe, but it won’t feel the same anymore.”

They were quiet, both too afraid to voice the obvious. Suddenly Kathryn felt a weight being lifted from her shoulders. A phrase kept popping back up in her mind. Chakotay didn’t know what was going through her mind; all he could see was her eyes, which all of a sudden seemed to change color.

“Unless.”

“What?”

“What?”

“You were saying ‘unless’, but didn’t finish the thought. What were you going to say?”

He could sense her hesitation, but didn’t want to push any further. All he could do is hope that she’d come to the same conclusion he arrived at all those years ago when they were thrown into the DQ.

“Well, something just dawned on me.”

“And?”

“O Chakotay! I just hope that I’m not too late!”

With that she got up and walked to the door.

“It’s awfully quiet in there.”

“Kathryn! What were you going to say?”

She completely ignored his question. “Do you think it’s safe to go in?”

Chakotay realised that she was not going to answer him, so instead he got up and reached for the bottle of champagne.

“There’s only one way to find out! Think you’re ready?”

“As ready as I’ll ever be.”

Slowly the door opened.

“Hello Captain, Chakotay.”

“Hello B’Ela, where’s Tom?”

“He walked out on me.”

Kathryn walked over to B’Elanna who was crying. She sat next to her on the floor and comforted her.

“Chakotay, could you get us some water and tissues?”

“Sure.”

He could also see Kathryn mouth ‘and Tom’.

“Okay B’Ela, tell me what happened.”

As B’Elanna started to talk about the evening, Chakotay slipped away to go look for Tom.

“Computer, location of Lt. Paris.”

“…that’s basically it. So much for my proposal.”

Chakotay and Tom had been sitting in his quarters for half an hour, but still no sign from Kathryn. Or B’Elanna.

“Tom, I don’t think this is the end of everything. Don’t worry, she’ll come around.”

“Chakotay, how come you’re always so patient?”

“I wasn’t always, you know, but my father taught me that I would need it in life.”

“And?”

“And what?”

“Was he right?”

“O yes, my old man definitely gave me the tools I needed for this life.”

“Do you think you could teach me sometime?”

“Of course. Now, if you don’t mind, I would like to go back to Kathryn’s quarters, because she was about to tell me something when she realised that it was too quiet in her living area.”

“Oops, sorry Chakotay.”

“Don’t worry, let’s just go over there.”

Chakotay didn’t ring the chime, but just used his override-codes. Kathryn and B’Elanna were still on the floor where he left them, but now they were talking and laughing. He noticed that the bottle of champagne had been opened, and judging by the amount of giggling, also had been emptied.

Tom walked towards B’Elanna and put a kiss on her head.

“Hi B’Ela, I’m sorry I walked out on you.”

“It’s okay, just don’t do it again.”

Kathryn got up and went into her bedroom, again.

“Chakotay, care to give me a hand?”

“Again?”, but he followed her anyway, only to notice that she’d disappeared. Then he heard a sound, and a screech.

“Ouch, stupid bed!”

Now he saw Kathryn unceremoniously wriggle herself from under her bed.

“Are you okay?”

“Yes, can you help me up?”

He lifted her to her feet, holding her slightly longer than necessary.

“I knew I had another one!”

“Kathryn Janeway, what more do you have under that bed of yours?”

Just then did they hear a yell from the living area.

“I hope they’re not starting again!”

“Chakotay!!”

B’Elanna ran into the bedroom.

“I’m getting married,” and she ran into his arms.

“Congratulations, Little One.”

Next one up for a hug was Kathryn.

“Did you hear?”

“I couldn’t miss it, congratulations B’Elanna!”

They went into the living room, where a beaming Tom Paris just accepted all the congratulations without registering a single thing. Kathryn walked over to a cabinet and took out two more glasses.

“Well Commander, think you can open that bottle now?”

“A toast. To Tom and B’Elanna: may you always realise that home is where your heart is!” Kathryn put her hand in Chakotay’s as they were clinking their glasses.

“So, when’s the date?” Chakotay asked with a grin on his face. He knew that Tom wanted to get married as soon as possible, but he also knew that B’Elanna first wanted to get used to the AQ again.

“I guess we don’t know yet. Captain, do you think that if we tell Neelix now he could organise a party in little under 30 minutes?”

“B’Ela, Neelix can do anything, as long as someone else is in charge of cooking.”

“Jeez, Kathryn, don’t you like his leola root pie?”

“Tom, please, I am not joking.”

“Sorry, well, see you in half an hour. Bye.”

“We’ll be there.”

Kathryn and Chakotay moved to the couch, and sat down just a little bit too close.

“Kath, do you really want to drink more champagne? Looking at the other bottle”

“which you never saw me drink one glass of”

“Are you saying B’Ela finished it?”

“Yes, she didn’t seem to care much for the water you brought her, so she attacked the bubbles.”

“Well then, who am I to deny you your own champagne.”

“Indeed. So what did you want to ask me earlier?”

“Just now, you got this look in you eyes, and”

“and?”

“I don’t know, it just seemed as if you’d found some answers.”

“You’re right. You know, before you arrived tonight, Tom and I had a very interesting discussion.”

“About what?”

“Whom.”

“Okay, about whom?”

“You, and me, and well, you see, it wasn’t really a discussion, because Tom was doing all the talking.”

“So what did he have to say?”

“He basically called me stupid.”

“Noo, Tom called you ‘stupid’?”

“Chakotay, please, hear me out.”

“Sorry, go on.”

“He told me I was stupid for not getting involved with you.”

“And you of course gave him the ‘Protocol and Parameters’ speech, explaining to him why you couldn’t.”

“I never got round to that, because that’s when B’Ela called.”

“O.”

“Yeah, you see, earlier this evening I had been thinking that it would be really nice when Starfleet can help me in my decision making again, but then I also realised they would start controlling my life again. And I was, or actually am, just so fed up with all that Starfleet stuff, that I decided to just start ignoring it from now on.”

“So?”

“Well, that realisation combined with Tom’s observation finally hit me, when you were holding me. You see, I was looking for an excuse to reason why ‘us’ felt so good, but then I saw the total image.

“And what was that image?”

Chakotay couldn’t help but feel that this evening truly would become a memorable one.

“All I could see was you standing in front of a house – our house.”

“Where was it?”

“I don’t know, because then the phrase popped into my mind, you know, home is where”

“the heart is.”

“Yes, and all of a sudden everything made perfect sense.”

Kathryn just looked at Chakotay, hoping he would understand. And he did, slowly his whole face lit up, and she felt him moving towards her.

“Kathryn?”

“Mm.”

“Open your eyes.”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“Because I don’t want to wake up from this fantasy.”

He took her hands. “Here, now you can feel I’m not a fantasy. Please?”

She opened her eyes and realised that she’d sensed it right: his face was only millimetres away from her. Carefully they moved towards each other, until they met in a tender kiss. Their kisses grew in passion, but neither one was willing to let go of the other. Finally they moved apart.

“Chakotay?”

“Yes love.”

“I like that.”

“What?”

“You calling me ‘love’.”

“O, I thought you were going to say I was a great kisser.”

“That to, but I need to gather more evidence.”

“Anytime.”

“I love you.”

“—”

“Hello, Chak?”

“O sorry, you surprised me.”

“Well, yes, as I said, I like to keep you on your toes. Anyway, I don’t want to deny anything anymore. So: Chakotay, I love you and I think, no, I am sure that I am also desperately in love with you.”

“Well, Ms Janeway, I know I’m desperately in love with you, and I also know I love you with all my being.”

They kissed again, just as Chakotay’s commbadge beeped.

“Neelix to Comm. Chakotay.” Before Chakotay could answer, Kathryn had already taken it into possession.

“Janeway here.”

Chakotay could barely contain his laughter.

“O, good evening Captain, I was just about to call you. Tom told me to warn you that the party is starting in 5 minutes.”

Chakotay snatched back his commbadge, “We’ll be there, Chakotay out.”

“If only we’d set up a camera in the Mess Hall to see everybody’s reaction.”

“I can think of a few ‘actions’ we could undertake to make sure they fully understand what is going on.”

“Like what?”

Chakotay pulled her up from the couch, took the bottle of champagne and their glasses, and dragged Kathryn out of her quarters.

“I’ll tell you on the way.”

The Mess Hall was already buzzing with people when Kathryn and Chakotay arrived. Filling the 2 glasses with champagne, he handed one to Kathryn.

“Chakotay, I’ll make you a deal.”

“I’m listening.”

“You hold on to that bottle, and I’ll hold on to you.”

“You know, that has got to be the nicest offer I’ve had in a long time.”

“What? You never received my memo that every time Sandrine’s was run, you’d have to beat me at pool?”

“Kath, that was not a NICE offer, just plain torture.”

“Hey, don’t blame me for trying. So, deal?”

“What happens when the bottle is empty?”

“I think you better make sure it never goes empty.”

Kathryn took Chakotay’s glass from his right hand, and made him hold it in his left also holding the bottle. She then put her hand in his and began to move towards Tom and B’Elanna.

“Ah, Captain, Commander. So nice you responded so quickly.”

“Good evening, Mr Neelix. We had sort of expected the call.”

“Really? I see you brought your own champagne. There was no need to do so: Tom has already brought over his entire collection, and he mentioned something about an unlimited supply from under a bed? I still don’t understand, but anyway, it’s a party!”

“It sure is. Now Neelix, where did Tom put his personal stuff?”

“It’s right behind him, Commander.”

“Neelix, don’t you think that you should call me Chakotay?”

“Okay, Chakotay.”

“Yes, now that we’re on the subject anyway, I’d like you to meet someone.”

“Chakotay I can assure you, I’ve already met everyone at this party.”

“O no, not this person. She’s very beautiful, and smart, and she means a lot to me.”

Kathryn felt her cheeks go all red, but she didn’t mind because she also felt herself go all warm and tingly while she was listening to Chakotay’s words.

“Well okay, but I don’t have all night.”

Chakotay pulled Kathryn forward and encircled her waist with his right arm.

“Neelix meet Kathryn, Kathryn this is Neelix.”

“Chakotay, I already know the Captain.”

“I know, but I don’t think you’ve ever been introduced to Kathryn. Don’t worry, you can shake her hand , she won’t bite.”

“Hello Neelix.”

The Talaxian was too stunned to say anything. Having observed these two for 5 years, he realised what had just happened. Feeling so happy for them he couldn’t help but shout “Okay people, who had the bet on today?”, and then hugged Kathryn.

Tom heard Neelix’s outburst, and produced a PADD from behind his back.

“Tom honey, what are you doing?”

“O nothing.”

“Tom!”

“Sorry, I just need to check something.”

“Really, I’d thought you closed this bet a year ago?”

“Yes I had, but then this morning I was going through all my bets and well, I don’t know, I felt that it might become an issue again.”

“Right, they’re not going to let you get away with it, you know.”

“Mm, yes, o my!”

“What!?”

“That cunning.”

“Tom!”

“Yes, sorry, I’m a bit surprised by our ‘winner’, you see.”

“Why?”

“I can’t tell you, not before I have some more details.”

“Where are you going, Helmboy?”

“Just follow me.”

Kathryn saw her whole crew stare at her in wonder.

“Sorry Captain, that sort of well, I’d better check.” Neelix left.

She was still leaning against Chakotay, and felt his laughter.

“So much for that.”

“Yes, but it was a great way to do it, wouldn’t you agree?”

“You had this planned?”

“O no, this was all Neelix’s doing.”

“Right anyway, my glass is empty. You wouldn’t happen to have some more of those bubbles?”

“Coming right up, Ma’am.”

“It’s not crunch time, Chakotay.”

“Yes it is, because look who is heading this way, holding a PADD in one hand and his – at this moment very angry – bride in the other.”

“Great, that’s all we need.”

“Well, good evening you two. It is a lovely evening, isn’t it Kathryn? The perfect night to work on those ‘last-opportunities-things’, wouldn’t you say?”

“Hello Tom. What’s on the PADD?”

“O nothing.”

“Really Tom, by the look on B’Ela’s face your entire amount of replicator rations is at stake.”

“Funny you should mention them, Old Man. Helmboy here is very keen to gather some more details, but before he does, I just want to tell you two that in my honest opinion this should’ve happened aeons ago.”

“15 Ã?½ months ago, to be precise.”

“Should ‘what’ have happened, B’Elanna?”

“Well, you know, you two.”

“Right, so Mr Paris, what kind of details do you need?”

“Only the basic stuff.”

“And you expect us to just tell you?!”

“No, I was hoping maybe either one would slip, and then the rest would be history.”

“A very sound strategy, Tom.”

“Thanks, Chakotay.”

“I was being sarcastic.”

“O.”

Kathryn suddenly let go of Chakotay’s hand and walked over to Seven.

“O shit. I’m really sorry Chakotay. O man, I can be such an ass some times.”

“Why?”

“Why?! Let’s just say that once again I have let down the Captain, and she’s got to be angry with me, that’s why she left, you see.”

Chakotay noticed Kathryn’s empty glass on a table nearby, and realised the bottle was empty as well.

“Tom, this is not your fault. Don’t worry.”

“It isn’t? You could’ve fooled me.”

“It’s mine. Say.”

“Yours?”

“Mm, well, yes, it’s part of a deal we made. Do you have anymore champagne?”

“Yeah, right here. Do you want a glass?”

“Your largest bottle, actually.”

“Sure, but what are you going to do with it – apart from drinking that is.”

“I am going to uphold my part of the deal, I just hope she doesn’t expect me to do this always.”

He walked away, leaving Tom behind.

“What was that all about?”

“I really don’t know, and believe me, I don’t want to know.”

“Whatever you say, sweetheart.”

“B’Ela, promise me you’ll never let me find out.”

“I promise.”

~ * ~ * ~

“Captain?”

“Yes, Seven.”

“Based on my previous experiences on seeing you and large crowds.”

“Yes?”

“Well, after Mr Neelix’s comment, I was expecting you to leave, or at least say something.”

“What would you have liked me to say?”

“I don’t know.”

“That makes two of us. Neelix comment was very ‘Neelix’, so there wasn’t anything I could’ve said.”

“Yes, I can see your point. So, Captain, how has your relationship with the Commander changed?”

“Excuse me?”

“I noticed him holding you in his arms earlier. I do not mean to pry, but it was very obvious.”

“Well, Seven, let’s just say that I finally came to my senses.”

“Senses, Captain?”

“Yes.”

“And who instigated all of this?”

“I believe it was a mutual thing.”

“Thank you Captain.”

“You’re welcome Seven.”

Seven walked away, and left Kathryn standing on her own. She was completely engrossed in her thoughts when two arms encircled her. One hand was holding 2 champagne glasses and the other a bottle.

“Care for some more champagne, Ma’am?”

“I’d love some.”

She leaned into him, enjoying the closeness.

“You gave Tom quite a scare, you know.”

“Good, he deserved it.”

“You are a wicked woman, Kathryn Janeway.”

“And you are a very handsome champagne server, Chakotay.”

“Good evening, Captain, Commander.”

“Mr Tuvok, care for some champagne?”

“No thank you, Captain”

“Enjoying yourself, Tuvok?”

“I am, Commander. It is good to see people celebrate unity.”

“I couldn’t agree more.”

“It is all very logical.”

“Logical, Tuvok?”

“Of course. I could have told you long ago, if you had only asked me.”

“Told me what?”

“There is strength in unity. Enjoy yourselves. Captain, Commander, good night.”

“Well, that’s one way of putting it. He never ceases to amaze me.”

“So what were you and Seven talking about?”

“She’d made some observation, and she wanted me to clarify them. Do you think Tom needs reassuring that I’m not going to throw him out of an airlock?”

~ * ~ * ~

“Tom, look.”

“What? O great. I hope Chakotay has explained to her that I am sorry.”

“Hello Tom.”

“Hello Kathryn.”

“O no! He is doing the hurt puppy look. I can’t stay angry with him when he does that! Tom, please lighten up.”

“I’m really sorry.”

“You’re forgiven, as long as you don’t do it again, mister.”

“What? I can’t place bets on when your child is going to be born, jeez!”

“Chakotay?”

“Yes, love.”

“Throw him out of the nearest airlock, please.”

Before Chakotay could do anything, Tom had already turned around, but he bumped squarely into Seven.

“Hello Seven.”

“Hello Lieutenant. I believe you owe me two months of replicator rations.”

“Uh”

“As you can recall, I was the one who.”

“Not now please, Seven.”

“What is going on, Tom Paris?”

“Nothing, Kathryn.”

“Captain. I am merely trying to get Lt. Paris to pay me my winnings.”

“Aha, and how have you won your winnings?”

“It was very easy, Commander, I believe that I have put down the correct information.”

“How can you be sure, Seven?”

“You, Captain, gave me that information.”

~ * ~ * ~

“Really, you should’ve seen your face: it was worth a million glances from Tom.”

“I know, but still, I hadn’t realised that I gave them the answer they needed, it’s just well.”

“Kath, come here.”

She moved into his arms, and tried to ignore the strong feelings inside her. For now, she would just enjoy the feeling of security.

“Chakotay?”

“Yes?”

“Will you hold me?”

“Of course.”

“I mean tonight?”

“I will hold you tonight, and all the nights in our future.”

He picked her up and carried her to her bed. He carefully removed all her clothes and pulled the sheets over her body. Kathryn had already fallen asleep when he joined her. Her spooned her up against his chest and wrapped his arms around her.

“Sweet dreams, Goldenbird.”

“Love you, Chakotay.”

Slowly she woke up. She had not slept this well in, well, longer than she cared to remember. Chakotay murmured something in her hair, but apparently he was still asleep. Looking at the chronometer, she saw it was already 8 am. They’d better hurry if they wanted to be ready for duty in 30 minutes. She turned in his arms, and started to kiss his face. He stretched lazily, enjoying the feel of her body against his. Before he had uttered a word, he took her face in his hands, and gave her the most wonderful and passionate kiss: it made her toes curl.

“Good morning to you too. I could really get used to waking up like this.”

“Good, because I plan to do this in the many years to come.”

“I hate to break this up, but we have to go on duty in less than half an hour.”

But Chakotay had other plans this morning. His mouth and his hands were all over her body, and Kathryn almost gave into him; just as he was planting a big sloppy kiss on her belly button, Kathryn crawled over him and headed for her bathroom.

“When I get back, I’ll expect some coffee, understood?”

“Aye Sir, Captain, Sir!”

Just as he heard the shower off, he replicated a cup of coffee and put it on Kathryn’s desk, right next to the PADD. He then left for his own quarters to change into his uniform.

“Chakotay? Hello, where’s my coffee?”

Half-dressed Kathryn stepped into her living area and noticed her coffee with a PADD next to it. Drinking her coffee she read

‘Morning, Goldenbird,

Here’s your coffee. Guessing that you probably didn’t have a spare uniform for me, I just went into my quarters to change. I’ll see you on the bridge. Love C.’

‘Goldenbird’? Her father uses to call her that. Now that she saw it written down, she realised that this is what she’d heard Chakotay call her right before she went to sleep. But why did her call her by this name?

~ * ~ * ~

Their voyage in the slipstream was very uneventful, and after about 20 hours, they found themselves staring at Earth: they were back in the Alpha Quadrant. Contact had already been made with Starfleet, and they had been told nothing would happen to the Maquis: they were free to go and do whatever they wanted. Starfleet had however told them that until the official Welcome Home Party they were not to see any of the other crewmembers. The crew was just happy to be back, and most used the 3 weeks to travel to their homes.

Kathryn stayed with her mother, and saw her sister Phoebe and her family almost every day. She had most fun with her 3-year-old niece, Kathy. Gretchen Janeway had noticed, that, although her daughter was happy to be back, the happiness hadn’t reached her eyes. After listening to her stories, she concluded that Starfleet had been wrong to isolate the crew: they were family and needed each other. But the party would be tomorrow. She had never seen her daughter so nervous over picking a dress, but Phoebe, who had heard the story about Chakotay, had realised that it had to be the perfect dress.

~ * ~ * ~

They had already been at the Ball for one hour, and Kathryn had danced with Tom and later with Owen Paris. Apparently the two had finally managed to talk, and she was now watching Owen dance with B’Elanna. They were having a good time. Phoebe was talking to her, but she didn’t really listen; all she did was wonder why Chakotay hadn’t turned up.

Suddenly two arms came over her shoulders, one hand holding a bottle of champagne, the other 2 glasses.

“Hello gorgeous, would you care for some champagne?”

As soon as Phoebe saw the look on Kathryn’s face, she could see her total love for the very handsome man standing behind her. Kathryn just turned around, put her arms around his neck, and gave Chakotay a toe-curling kiss. A little out of breath she let go of him again, and took the bottle and the glasses.

“Chakotay, I would like you to meet my sister Phoebe; Phoebe this is Chakotay.”

Phoebe couldn’t help but laugh at the very surprised look on Chakotay’s face.

“So nice to meet you, Chakotay.”

“Eh, yes, sorry about that. It’s good to finally meet you as well, Phoebe. Kathryn has told me a lot about you.”

“Well, you have an advantage on me. Kathryn only mentioned you when I forced her to tell me.”

Only then did Phoebe see the crowd of Voyager crewmembers that looked in absolute amusement at the Captain and the Commander. They had all been waiting to see what would happen when Chakotay turned up, but this was more than they could’ve hoped.

“Well, Kathryn, Chakotay, you sure have quite an audience!”

“They must have known something was going to happen. Kathryn? Phoebe, I’m sorry, but I need to talk to Kathryn for a moment, in private.”

~ * ~ * ~

Phoebe walked over to her mother and her husband Peter.

“Did you see that? I’ve never seen Kath behave like that!”

“Your sister is quite a woman. Do you think it is safe that we named our daughter after her?”

“You two, don’t worry. My Kathryn has just never been in love like this: she really has met her soulmate, and that is something us mere mortals can only hope for.”

“Mom, don’t you think he’s handsome?”

“Yes, he certainly s, Kathryn sure knows how to pick them. You know, in a way he reminds me of your father.”

~ * ~ * ~

“Kath, sorry I took you away from you sister.”

“Honey, don’t worry. I was just afraid that you would not show up.”

“Of course I’d show up. Did you think I would not want to see you?”

“Well, no, but”

“Come here.”

They held on to each other, letting their bodies return to their perfect fit.

“I’d always come back for you, Goldenbird.”

“What did you just say?”

“That I’d alw2

“No, what did you call me?”

“Goldenbird, why do you ask?”

“Why do you call me Goldenbird?”

“It’s a long story.”

“I’m not going anywhere, I’d love to hear it.”

“Okay, let’s sit down here.”

Chakotay told her about his parents, Kolopak and Kelsfire. As a young boy he’d always wonder at the way his father spoke his mother’s name: it was almost as if every time he says a prayer – a thank you for this love. When he was older, his mother told him that Kelsfire wasn’t her real name, but Kolopak’s nickname for her. He asked her what Kelsfire meant, and when he understood he vowed to his spiritguide that he too one day would call his love Kelsfire.

“That is so sweet. I wish I could’ve met them. Their love sounds very special.”

“It was. I guess it still is. I’d like you to meet my mother.”

“Of course, but, you still haven’t answered my question. Why Goldenbird?”

“Kelsfire is my people’s name for a bird of gold: my Goldenbird.”

Kathryn leaned into his embrace, and started crying. Chakotay hadn’t figured she would be this emotional over his confession, but he just held her and stroked her hair.

“O Chakotay, you must think I am an emotional fool, but you see, my daddy had a nickname for me as well.”

“You were obviously very special to him.”

“Yes, I was his little bird, his little Goldenbird.”

Chakotay was shocked by the familiarity he felt with Kathryn’s father. He had tried to explain to his mother that he had found his soulmate, but she hadn’t been entirely convinced. She had told him one night that according to the ancient legend, there needed to be a clue that she was indeed his soulmate, because only then were their spiritguides allowed to meet.

“Chakotay? Are you okay?”

“Yes, I was just thinking about something my mother told me. Kath, I know this may be a bit quick, but”

“What?”

“Will you marry me?”

“O Chakotay, I though you’d never ask – YES.”

“So, any of you seen Kathryn and Chakotay?”

“I’m sorry Tom, but they went outside, and that was over an hour ago.”

“Well, I for one wish they’d come back again, because I know my dad wants to make a speech, and knowing his speeches”

“What? Don’t you like your father’s speeches, Tom?”

“There you are. Come on, you’ve got to get on stage, both of you!”

~ * ~ * ~

As Owen Paris was rambling on about Voyager’s return, Kathryn and Chakotay were standing on the stage holding hands. When they looked into each other’s eyes, all they could see was love and peace, and it took them some time to realise that Adm. Paris was addressing them. The crowd was enraptured by their obvious emotional speech, and an enormous applause filled the hall when Chakotay told them that Kathryn had agreed to marry him. This was a homecoming that everybody had hoped for.

FIN