I saw my Kathryn again today. It has been so long that I almost thought I had imagined her. But there she was, every detail the way I remembered it. The long hair pulled into a neat bun, the expression confident but lacking the combination of arrogance and exhaustion she wears now, the eyes still capable of laughter and love. Yes, this was my Kathryn.

It was like a gift to hold her for a moment, even if I had a hypospray to her throat, a phaser pointed at me. To feel her warmth, her life, I wanted to keep her close to me forever.

Nothing could destroy the joy of one last adventure with her. Not Seska. Not the possibility of destruction. Not even the reminder of the days that brought our relationship crumbling down. Seeing Seven amid the Borg should have tasted bitter, should have brought back the memories of the rift that split us apart. But it didn't. Because that Kathryn wasn't by my side. My Kathryn was.

To watch her struggle with the implications of her future decision nearly broke my heart. I had to support her; I didn't lie when I told her she would make a difference in our lives. She would. She touched us all. Made us stronger, better. I didn't lie.

I watch the older Kathryn as she attempts to wheedle what happened out of me. She knows which buttons to push but I am resolved. Despite my noble protestations, I am not defending the integrity of time. I am protecting my own memories. Keeping safe my one last adventure with the Captain I love. And my Kathryn could see that I loved her. Seemed to even like the idea enough to ask what we would be to each other in the future.

Words are so imprecise. Even the truth can be used to deceive. "There are some barriers we never crossed." It was not a lie. But it was a misdirection. She accepted my words to mean we had never been lovers. It was not quite what I meant.

I look at the Kathryn of now. As she coyly suggests another bottle of cider. So this will be one of those nights. I suspected it would, that's why I retrieved the precious bottle. I've served enough years with her to understand her moods. And her desires.

Some barriers. Easy words to say. I will think of them when I pull her clothes off, when her mouth claims mine, when we lie intertwined. Our bodies are old friends now; hands and lips well acquainted with the routes to pleasure.

And many hours later, when it is time to start our shift, we will have a companionable if silent breakfast before reporting to duty. No promises will be made, no next meeting set. We will not discuss what just happened. Those are her rules, her parameters. I accepted them long ago.

But I wasn't lying to my Kathryn. Some barriers we will never cross and I know that now. But with her, for those few hours, I rediscovered the woman I fell in love with. Saw the time when the possibility existed that she might love me too. For that brief time out of time, I once again played with a Kathryn Janeway that didn't erect barriers. And I was once again a Chakotay that would have dared to cross them if she had.

She is looking at me in that speculative way she saves for these moments. Concern written deep in the lines I see more and more on her face. More than once she has thrown me out of her bed for saying "I love you." I have since learned the art of lightness. I turn to her. My smile is perfect, my eyes playful. I rise to get more cider.

And inside, I erect my own barriers. Walls of dreams and hope that will keep the memory of my Kathryn alive and safe. Forever vibrant. Forever full of possibilities. Forever mine.

FIN.