"Are you upset?"

Kathryn's eyes shot to his at the unexpected question.

"No! Goodness, far from it, why would you ask that?" She grabbed his hand and held it between them, placing her other hand on that special spot on his chest.

"I was worried… that you would be angry about me asking you in front of everyone. I know that you didn't believe we could be together for so long because of them, but I thought it would be good for you and the crew to let that go, and truly accept each other as friends. I am sorry if I assumed too much… I just.."

He was silenced by her kiss, a light-feathery one that lasted only a moment.

"Chakotay, you are right about one thing, I wasn't sure I wanted the crew to know, and when you first got down on your knee I have to

admit I wasn't sure if I wanted to slap you or kiss you."

She gave a big smile and he chuckled lightly.

"Chakotay, I am glad that you did this the way you did." Her hand slid up from his chest to the back of his neck as they pulled together for another kiss.

He broke away this time, "So this means that your yes still stands?"

She pulled her hand back and gave him and playful slap on the chest, "Will you stop that! You know I couldn't possibly say anything but yes." This time it was his turn to laugh at her while she rolled her eyes.

"Well, my dear fiance, I do believe we should return to the celebration."

"I do like the sound of 'fiance' but I think you will understand if I prefer to upgrade that title before anything happens, again."

Her playful look had dropped, and she was playing with the ring on her finger.

It was only then that Chakotay realized this was now the third time she had been engaged, her previous engagements having been ended by unforeseen tragedies.

"Kathryn I didn't realize.."

She cut him off, "it's fine Chakotay, I just want this one to get past this stage okay? I can't.. Not with you.."

He pulled her into his arms and felt her weaken slightly in his grip. "Nothing is going to stop us this time, we are together and nothing is going to change that."

He pushed her back slightly to look into her teary eyes, "Besides, it isn't me you should be worrying about, you're the one with the cosmic 'kick me' sign on your back! Hey!" He recoiled as she slapped him across the chest in passing as she rolled her eyes and walked towards the door.

He caught up to her and spun her back around to face him, "I'm sorry, I am only joking… mostly." He winked and she conceded with a half smile.

She patted his chest, "Alright, well Commander I do believe our crew will have some crazy assumptions about us being out here this long, let's not continue to feed their imaginations."

"As you wish, Admiral." He gave a dimpled smile and they joined the party one more, Kathryn carrying her flowers and Chakotay with his arm around her waist.

Seven stood in a corner near the bar with a glass of untouched champagne in her hand. As she surveyed the crowded room she noticed the small changes in each individual's facial structures. Where creases had formed from worry, new ones had formed from smiling. People who she had seen walking with hunched shoulders were now walking upright and carrying themselves smoother.

She was aware that mental condition had an effect on the physical well-being of everyone, but never had she seen such drastic change.

Perhaps the most drastic changes were those in the Captain and Commander.

As they reentered the room, with Captain Janeway holding a bouquet of roses, Seven noticed how easily her smile touched her eyes. It was her full smile, one that she had only seen a handful of times on Voyager.

The commander was a similar story. Even when they had been together she had rarely seen him smile, often he was quite serious and had lost the easy-going nature that had originally attracted her to him. Now he was laughing and interacting with those around him using his full body. He walked to people and ran to others, he used his hands when he talked, it was quite shocking.

Her observations were interrupted when someone cleared his throat next to her. She turned her head to find the Doctor standing quite close to her, no doubt trying to see what it was she was staring at.

"Hello Seven, what are you up to?" he said in a cheery tone.

"I am observing the crew."

"I see, and what about them have you noticed?"

"I was observing the change in their physical behaviour in relation to their changed emotional state since returning to the Alpha Quadrant."

The Doctor paused in their conversation to watch the couple as Seven had. They really had both changed, and both seemed significantly more happy, but Seven… didn't.

"Seven?"

She turned to face him fully.

"Yes Doctor?"

"Does seeing Chakotay with the Captain make you unhappy? Do you still have feelings for him?"

She paused a moment, "No. I do not have feelings for the Commander. What upsets me is that I prohibited them from being together, it was my fault the Captain could not express her feelings, and she was unhappy because of it."

The Doctor's eyes softened as he looked at his friend, for she really was his friend. "Seven, you shouldn't feel bad about anything. You weren't aware of their feelings for each other, in fact even had you not been in a relationship with Commander Chakotay I doubt they would have been together in the Delta Quadrant. They couldn't."

"The crew would have been accepting of their affection.."

The Doctor cut her off, "I know that, you know that, most of the crew would agree with you I am sure. It is possible they could have made it work but the Captain believed that there were Starfleet protocols against it."

"I have observed the Captain blatantly break Starfleet protocol on multiple occasions, I do not understand her reluctance to break another if it meant that she could be happy."

Doc sighed, "She is a complicated person, as are we all, but we have to accept that it is what they agreed was best. What we can do now is be happy for them and their acceptance of their feelings."

They continued to look on as the couple carried a conversation with what looked to be Janeway's family.

"Doctor."

"Yes?"

"What would be the appropriate way for me to approach them, I fear my relations with both… may be irreparable."

"Nonsense. You are not in an easy situation, and I do not envy you, but things will work out. You will just have to trust in that."

She nodded, and the Doctor left her to her thoughts. Hoping she could learn from this experience, it wouldn't be easy.

Kathryn flopped on the bed while Chakotay took off his shoes. It was nearing 0300 hours and they were both exhausted. Her head was spinning after too many glasses of wine and champagne and his cheeks were sore from smiling.

She lay there with her eyes closed and felt Chakotay crawl in the bed beside her. She turned to him and reached for his hands which he willingly gave. She cradled them to her chest, then leaned back and look at her ring intertwined in their hands.

"How did you know I wasn't a traditional engagement ring type of girl?"

He shrugged, "I just had a feeling, the only other ring I have seen you wear didn't seem to match you. It was so plain, and you're well, not."

She laughed a bit. "You're right, Mark tried but that ring really wasn't my favorite."

"I saw this one and it looked like a fire, which is what I see in you, and what you put in me. It had to be the one."

She smiled and untangled their hands to pull him into a kiss. His enthusiastic response was to pull himself on top of her and kiss her more passionately.

"You certainly know how to get my fire going." She said between kisses.

He laughed and continued his kissing, slowly moving lower.

She couldn't help but think, the perfect end to the perfect day.

To be continued? (What do you think)