Chapter Ten - Possibilities

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"I'm sorry Chakotay, did you think she'd come?"

"No, but it's okay B'Elanna. I've got my best friend back and you know Kathryn. I'm not giving up, I'll see her next month when I get back." He hugged her tightly.

"Have a fantastic trip Chakotay, give my love to Sekaya and I want pictures of that baby." She waved at him until he was out of sight.

12 hours earlier...

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Kathryn was at Starfleet HQ, medical wing Trying to sit still while Beverley ran a Tricorder around her shoulder. "Mmm, it's still a little inflamed, although the tendon damage is very nearly healed. Have you been wearing the sling?"

Would she never get away with anything? Kathryn wondered. "Most of the time, and Tom has already taken me to task over that Beverley."

"I see." She smiled. "Well, I think that's the last treatment you will need, provided you can follow Mr Paris' excellent advice that is." She helped Kathryn on with her jacket. "I saw the press release. Some of those questions were tough, I thought you handled it well."

"Thanks, although I'm not so sure, that last question really threw me."

"I can see why, it got very personal."

"Do you think it did the job?"

"I think only time will tell to be honest, Admiral Hayes seem to think that the headlines were good."

"How's Chakotay?"

"He's doing better. He's heading to Trebus today to spend the next three weeks with his sister."

"That's good. She hesitated, "And you two? If that's not an inappropriate question?"

kathryn placed her hand on her hip. "It's a complicated one. We've got our friendship back on track and that's the most important thing for the moment, with everything that has happened, we've both decided to take some time." Beverley smiled a little mischeviously, "that sounds like a good idea, once you've crossed that line you can never go back, although I can highly recommend a relationship with a man of his caliber and he is gorgeous.

Kathryn mulled over Beverley's final statement as she walked back to her office. It was true she thought and she didn't want any regrets and that's what she'd told for the last seven years, but... Her train of thought was interrupted by a reminder on her PADD informing her that she had an 11 o'clock meeting with Admirals Hayes and Willows. It was at the insistence of Lieutenant Reed who wanted to review the PR 'situation' as she had termed it. Kathryn didn't like the phrase, she was hoping that there no longer was a 'situation.' She grabbed her coffee as she passed her own office, noting with a sigh the new pile of a PADDs on her desk that she was sure weren't there the evening before. She was the first to arrive and Admiral Hayes gestured for her to sit.

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"Morning Kathryn, did you see my mail?"

"No Sir, sorry, I've come straight from medical."

"Admiral Willows is working from home today, so it will be just the three of us." Kathryn sighed inwardly as Lieutenant Reed strode into the room. The three of them sat around the table and as Kathryn sipped her coffee, the Lieutenant started to speak.

"Overall, I think the Q&A after the press release went well. Obviously, there were some regrettably personal questions and for that I apologise Admiral." Kathryn softened her expression and nodded slightly to acknowledge the Lieutenant's apology. "The major networks have all chosen to tone down the story with the exception of SBN who are running a far fetched story that alleges that Commander Chakotay and Seven of Nine are having a child together." Kathryn couldn't help but roll her eyes. "On Fire TV are leading with a headline asking other media organisations not to subject Voyager crew to what they are terming unhelpful and unpalatable scrutiny based on conjecture."

Admiral Hayes smiled, "It's good to have at least a portion of them on our side. Thank you Lieutenant, your update is appreciated. Dismissed."

"Thanks for sticking your neck out Kathryn.

"Sir. It's nothing I wouldn't do for any member of my crew."

"I know." He paused, "talking of your crew I heard that Commander Chakotay is off to Trebus today."

"He is."

"And are you taking any leave?"

"No Sir, I hadn't planned on it."

"Are you sure?"

Kathryn was bemused. "Yes, I'm planning a trip away later in the year, but thank you." Leaving his office she felt confused. Had she booked leave and forgotten to cancel it? She made a mental note to check her calendar.

Admiral Hayes shook his head, maybe he had been too subtle, but he thought not. She hadn't taken his hint, maybe he'd have to try another approach. He opened a Comm channel.

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Chakotay stepped off the shuttle and filled his lungs with the fresh air. He could almost feel his inner peace restored with each breath. Picking his large canvas bag up from the floor and slinging it over his shoulder, he started to walk to his sister's place. He hadn't exaggerated when he had told Kathryn that it was beautiful at this time of year, at any time of year. The environment was still relatively unspoilt. His sister lived in a settlement just over 3 kilometres from the shuttle drop off point on the other side of a woodland. He looked at the densely planted pine trees either side of the familiar track as he walked towards her home. A variety of ferns and creepers with tiny yellow and white flowers edged the soft path. A carpet of rich dark green moss was thriving close to the forest floor, its rich damp, earthy smell enriching the air. He could see and hear life everywhere around him, the countless shades of green, the bees, insects, beetles and the birds overhead. It was all glorious. Whether it was because he had been away for so long or because he was so looking forward to seeing his sister, but the sky seemed an even brighter blue than the last time he was here and he struggled to find a single cloud. As he walked he silently thanked the spirits that they had made it back and that he was once again able to visit this beautiful place.

Sekaya was standing on the porch waiting for him. He walked straight over to her without saying anything and placing both his arms around her, he held her tightly. They stood in a silent embrace for a long while, her face against his chest and his chin resting on the top of her head. He could feel that she was crying and so he waited for her to step back. When she did, he took both his thumbs and gently wiped away her tears, kissing her forehead. She reached up and held his face in her hands for a moment before wiping away his. He smiled at her. "It's so good to be back." She smiled through fresh tears, "come inside and meet your niece."

Later that afternoon, he sat on a chair in her lounge, his tiny niece asleep on his chest. She was beautiful he decided, although he was biased. Her tiny features relaxed in slumber, he gazed at her mop of dark hair and long eyelashes. Tiny fingers curled around the blanket she was wrapped in and her gentle, regular breathing fascinated him. If he concentrated, he thought he could feel the rapid beat of her heart against him. He was in love with this tiny creature he had only met a couple of hours ago. Occasionally she gave a tiny sigh and kicked her lips, perhaps contentedly dreaming of her next feed he thought.

Resting his head back comfortably, he took in the room around him. It was the main living room of his sister's house, with timber walls, exposed ceiling beams and a solid wooden floor. It had an authentic log cabin feel to it, although Sekaya had told him that modern technology had helped insulate and weather proof it. A square charcoal black fireplace was set in the chimney which was built of local stone. The chimney breast itself stretched the entire height of the room, starting to taper off as it reached the ceiling. Either side of the fireplace were windows of a simple lattice design, underneath which were window benches with red and amber striped cushions extending to meet the walls. Two chairs faced the fire, with a sofa along one wall. Opposite the sofa on the other side of the room, there were glass doors out to the garden and behind him was the kitchen he had yet to see. It was furnished in his sister's simple, but warm style and as he stretched his legs out, his gaze was drawn down to a beautiful rug. It was hand woven, in a traditional Navajo style with flattened diamond shapes interlocking horizontally. Each diamond had within it another and another, the central ones were deep maroon with burnt orange edges, the outer were red and white with black around the edges. Some were bordered with a sky blue and others with a rich teal that made him think fleetingly of Kathryn's wall. He pushed that thought out of his mind as his sister approached with a steaming mug of tea. "Here, I'll put her in the crib so you can have this." He reluctantly relinquished the warm bundle and gazed into the fire.

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At 7pm Kathryn heard her doorbell chime, jogging down the stairs she opened the door to find Admiral Willows. "I was hoping it wasn't too late for coffee?" She sounded apologetic.

"Surprised, but pleasantly so, she smiled. "When you get to know me better, you'll know it's never too late for coffee. Come on up. I'm sorry, I'm not dressed for company Admiral."

"Allison please, and I'm sorry to intrude on your evening."

"It's no intrusion at all, please take a seat, and I'll make the drinks." Instead of sitting, Allison followed her into the kitchen and leant comfortably against a cabinet.

"I'm not one for subterfuge Kathryn, so I'm going to be straightforward about why I'm here."

Kathryn turned around warily. "Why do I feel like I've been called into the Principal's office?"

"Far from it, actually it was me that was called in, although we are in agreement over this."

Walking into the lounge, they sat on the sofa and she continued. "I hope you won't think that I'm being too personal here, I don't want you to feel that I'm intruding. I know we've only just met, but I'd like to count you as a friend."

Kathryn smiled guardedly. "It would be a privilege, I'm really very grateful for everything you've done for me this last week."

Allison paused. "So, the reason I'm here, is to ask if you want to take a trip."

"Where?"

"To Trebus, to visit a friend."

Kathryn hadn't expected that. Of all the possibilities running through her mind, that simply wasn't one of them. She sat still, her mug in her hand while she tried to process what she had just heard. How did she, or they, if you counted Admiral Hayes, even know that Chakotay had asked her to go? She wasn't sure how she felt about this apparent ambush in her own home. While she tried to formulate a response, she placed her mug on the coffee table, stood up and walked over to the window. In the ensuing silence, Allison continued.

"I know this is highly unusual Kathryn. Admiral Hayes tried in his own way to test the water this morning." She nodded, remembering the conversation.

"So he sent you to...talk me into it? After all we went through last week with the media. Chakotay beaming in and out of here because Starfleet PR didn't even want us to be seen on the street together. And now you want me to go to Trebus and risk igniting the tinderbox? No offence Allison, but if I'd wanted to go with Chakotay, I could have just asked for the time off." She felt her heckles rise.

"You could have, but you wouldn't have."

Allison's voice was even, with a hint of kindness which Kathryn tried her hardest to ignore. "That's the point Kathryn, your loyalty to Starfleet and to Voyager means that you wouldn't have asked. I'm not here to persuade you, simply to tell you that you have the choice if it's what you want."

"And if I don't want to go? Do I have to offer an explanation? Write a report? This is my private life and you're right, it does feel like a further intrusion." Annoyed that she hadn't managed to contain her irritation, she sat abruptly back down on the sofa.

Allison leant forward and placed a hand on her arm. "I'm sorry if it feels that way, that was not my intention, please believe that. Whether you go or not, is entirely up to you. Your reasons are your own. No explanations necessary, no questions asked, no judgement made. We just want you to know the option is there." She paused. "Your integrity shines through, as does your passion for the welfare of your crew. We have seen that. And self-sacrifice is part of the job, we've all been there. But your happiness is important too."

Her mind calming, she looked towards the window. "You drew the short straw didn't you? There's no way Admiral Hayes would have come here, so he ordered you to."

"Actually, I volunteered as I think he was rather hoping I would. He wasn't looking forward to talking to you about it."

She smiled ruefully, "I can't think why."

Her attempt at humour broke the tension and she smiled at Allison despite herself. She grabbed a cushion and hugged it against her chest, her legs crossed underneath her.

"I'm assuming that this is totally off the record?"

"It is, but please don't feel that you owe me an explanation Kathryn. I don't presume to know anything about your friendship with Chakotay. I took a risk coming here and it might be best for me to head home to give you some time to think." She replaced her cup and smiled gently as she started to stand.

"Please don't go." Hearing her own words, she wondered if only now the broader picture was becoming clear. Allison was doing exactly what she had done for Chakotay, sticking her neck out to help a friend, the only difference was that she'd very nearly chopped her head off. She was relieved when she sat back down.

"I wouldn't have asked, you were right about that. And as much I would like to visit Trebus, it's too big a risk."

"But it would make you happy?"

She thought. "It would, perhaps, I think."

Allison smiled, "then I'm forgiven?"

"Only if I am."

She reached into her bag and pulled out a PADD passing it over. "Let us worry about the risk Kathryn. You'll find leave authorisation, transportation and a watertight cover story." She smiled and raised her eyebrows. "Enjoy Costa Rica Admiral."

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Early the following morning after dashing off a couple of mails, she opened her front door to find Sergeant Lindon's driver waiting for her once again. He lifted her case into the boot and opened the door for her. Before stepping into the car, she paused. "Thank you. For everything."

He smiled and nodded "a real pleasure Ma'am."

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"Tom, did you hear back from Kathryn about lunch?"

"We arranged lunch?"

B'Elanna sighed, "Yes provisionally for today, I don't want her on her own the whole time Chakotay's away."

"No, I haven't spoken to her since Monday, did you check your mail?" Heading to the console, B'Elanna's eyes ran down the screen until she saw what she was looking for.

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To: BTorres

From: KJaneway

Hi Lana,

Thanks so much for the message re: lunch today. Can we re-arrange? I've decided to take a trip at short notice. I'll contact you when I get back.

Love to you all,

Kathryn x

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B'Elanna thought for a second. "Computer locate Admiral Janeway, authorisation Torres Alpha Sierra 2385." The computer chirped into life. Admiral Janeway is in Costa Rica.

A slow smile spread across B'Elanna's face.

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To:AdmiralHayes

From:ViceAdmiralJaneway

Sir, the thought was appreciated. Apparently Costa Rica is very lovely at this time of year. I'll see you in two weeks.

Regards,

Kathryn Janeway

Ps. You owe Admiral Willows a coffee.

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Chakotay yawned as sitting on his sister's porch, he looked out across over the forest. Sekaya joined him, brushing her long hair from her face into a ponytail. "She's asleep?" "Yes, apparently she's quite taken with her uncle." He smiled. They had stayed up most of the night talking, starting to catch up on all they had missed over the last seven years.

"I really can't believe you're back Chakotay." "Mmm, I know, it feels amazing."

"Can I take it that further space exploration isn't on your immediate agenda?"

"You can, I'm planning on keeping my feet on the ground for a long time."

They sat in silence. "Can I ask about Kathryn? You talked about her a lot in your letters. I was sad that she couldn't come with you." He sighed. "Me too, although I didn't think she would really, she's got so much on her plate at the moment. She dropped everything to help me last week, without her that one night might have ended my Starfleet career. She's always looking out for all of us."

"I get the feeling that's a big part of who she is. She sounds like a special person."

"She is, I'm hopeful you'll get to meet her soon."

"She'll always be welcome here Chakotay." He smiled. As she headed into the kitchen to start breakfast, Chakotay closed his eyes and allowed the mid morning sun to warm his face. It was so quiet and he wondered briefly if it was too early for a nap. His sister's voice interrupted this train of thought. "Porridge or pancakes?" He thought for a second. "Both." She laughed.

Turning back to the view, he started slightly when he saw what looked to be a figure in the distance on the path, heading in their direction. Lifting his hand to shield his eyes from the sunlight, he leaned forward in the chair. There was definitely a figure, and that figure appeared to be dragging a large case behind them. He stood up and walked to the edge of the porch, his stomach flipping as he recognised who it was. Sekaya appeared and stood just behind him.

"It looks like we have company for breakfast after all." She gave him a gentle shove. "Chakotay, go and help her."

He jumped the porch steps and walked briskly across the lawn breaking into a jog once on the path. She stopped walking when she saw him coming towards her, leaning against the case, one hand lightly on her hip. As he reached her, he realised he was grinning like a teenager and wrapping this arms around her waist, he gave her a huge hug that lifted her from her feet.

"You came."

"I did."

She tilted her head and smiled up at him. He noticed that she was slightly out of breath, presumably from dragging a case that was over half her height. He eyed it suspiciously. "Can I ask why you bought such a big bag?

She held up her right hand, "if I remember correctly, it was you who said that I needed to be able to carry all my luggage with my good arm."

Laughing as he took her hand in his, he picked up her case and together they headed back towards the house.