Author's Note: This story talks place a few years after Voyager returned home. There are a few spoilers, so be warned. Um, well this story is a one-shot and will not be continued, so please don't ask for it to be. Because it won't.

But uh, enjoy the story and please R/R.

Summary: Chakotay finds himself wondering the gardens of Bajor when he runs into an old friend.

Genre: General, Romance

Pairings: … that would take all the fun out of reading, wouldn't it?

Spoilers: Resolutions, Shattered, and Lineage, sort of…

Disclaimer: I own nothing of Startrek no matter how cool it would.

-

Paths We Tread

Chakotay let out a moan as he walked slowly throw the gardens. Starfleet had already taken over enough of his life, now they were taking over the gardens he took his Sunday walk in.

Rubbing his neck, he looked up. Stars were appearing in the darkening sky. Some, he knew, were Starfleet ships in orbit. His eyes moved through them, finding familiar constellations. Sol… the Vulcan sun…

If you watched, you could sometimes see the wormhole open. It was interesting to see from planet side, he thought so anyway. Had that thing only lead into the Delta Quadrant…

"No! No! I will not see him. I've already told him that." Chakotay's walking paused as he heard the loud voice suddenly.

"The Minister is quite persistence, ma'am. He claims he wishes to apologize personally-"

"No. Just tell him no." He smirked, shaking his head at the dialogue. He turned to walk the other way, not wishing to disrupt the officers. "I'll talk to him over the comm. or he can leave a note… but I'm not seeing him."

"But-"

But he didn't. Something in the woman's voice made him pause, mid-turn, and he kept listening.

"Ensign… please."

"Yes, ma'am."

The woman groaned. He could hear leafs rattle and fall to the ground. She had undoubtedly kicked a bush in her frustration. He smiled. It sounded like something someone he used to know would do.

And then it clicked. The voice.

He took a closer step, peaking around the Ivis bushes. Long, amber hair fell over the woman's shoulder and over the gray top of her Starfleet uniform.

"Bajoran Ministers," she muttered.

His smiled brightened as he confirmed the identity of the annoyed officer. He moved to take a step forward, but suddenly found himself unable to move.

It was the strangest feeling. He was overjoyed at the sight of her. He had missed her, had wished to see her once again. But, now that he was faced with the opportunity to speak with her, he found his mind blank of something to say.

She paced back and forth in the open space that was the center of the gardens, as if that would burn off her anger. He watched her, his eyes glancing up to see her face for the first time in a long while.

A smile grew over his lips and he regained his nerve. When her back was to him, he stepped out of the shadows of the bushes.

"Hello there, stranger."

The woman before him jumped slightly, spinning around to see him. "Chakotay!" Her lips spread to a large grin, her legs moving quickly to him. She slipped her arms around him easily; his own wrapped around her neck. "My god, it's good to see you again."

He smiled, looking down at her face as she stepped back. "It is… you look, um… you look great."

"You don't have to be kind- I'm getting old and I know it."

"Oh, hardly. Just a few years." She laughed and Chakotay smiled for the pure fact that he was once again hearing the beautiful sound. That infectious sound he had missed for so long.

He sighed, amazed at how easily their banter had coming flooding back. But at that moment, his mind went blank, just as it had before. He could no longer come up with something to say. Finally his mouth opened, this coming from it, "So… what are you doing here?"

She sighed, "Looking… looking for my spirit guide."

"I'm afraid you're not going to find that here," he joked.

She smiled, eyes catching his. "I think I already have." A smirk graced his lips as he realized what she had said.

Then Chakotay glanced away. "Let me rephrase my question… what are you doing here on Bajor?"

"I've actually been reassigned here."

"Really?"

"Yep. Desk job."

He chuckled with her, looking over at his former Captain with astonishment. "Wow, I thought you said you would never permit yourself to be chained down to a desk."

"Yes, well, I also said that I would stop at Captain…"

"Oh, well I hadn't realized I was in the presence of an admiral." She laughed at his sarcasm, hitting his shoulder as he mocked her.

"So… um…" Chakotay looked down, hands tucked securely in his pockets. As beautiful as Bajor was, it could become very cold in a matter of moments once it reached night. "How have you been?"

"How have I been?" she echoed. "All right, I guess. This is… a nice change from what I'm used to."

"Not used to being planet side, huh?"

"Hardly. I feel like I have lead in my boots!" He nodded with a smirk. Two years ago he had felt very similar. After Voyager, nowhere really seemed like home. Not even Bajor. "You? How long have you been here?"

"Oh, uh… almost a year now. An old friend in the Maquis told me that… that if I ever gave up space, he knew some great land here on Bajor."

"Don't tell me… you're growing Coba now?" A slight blush grew in his cheeks as he shrugged. "Well, I'll just have to come to you to get my stash. My spring wine is running low."

"Well, I don't know… I only sell to people I like…"

The two laughed, falling shortly into an awkward silence. Their feet continued moving them forward, walking nowhere as the two struggled to find something to keep the conversation going.

"How has Seven been?" Kathryn asked suddenly, her voice hesitant and unsure as she broke the silence.

Chakotay looked over at her. "Ah, I… don't know. We uh… we broke up before I came here."

"Oh… I'm sorry."

He shrugged again. "We weren't really… well it just didn't work."

"Right." Kathryn quieted, looking away.

Chakotay's eyes drifted over the Ivis flowers, catching sight of the tall Manar tree. He thought for a moment about the ancient, twisted tree, it's mangled bark growing red with age. It must have been nearly five hundred years old.

It amazed Chakotay how such a wonderful piece of nature could survive even the harshness and cruelties of things like the Cardassians.

He sighed, looking away, his mind finding its way back to years past. "Seems like yesterday I was battling the Cardassians…"

"Yesterday?… Yesterday seems more like the first few week in the Delta Quadrant." Kathryn sighed, shaking her head. "You were such a pain in the ass back then…"

"Last thing I need is for you to be a pain in my ass, Chakotay."

Chakotay looked up at the Captain, a scowl on his face. "A pain in your ass?"

"You and your crew are going to be with us for a while," she continued without pause, not acknowledging his comment.

Chakotay stepped forward. "And we'll stay out-"

"I want you to be my first officer."

"Excuse me?"

Janeway sighed, looking at him seriously. "You are the Maquis Captain, they will respect and listen to you. My crew is too small now, we'll need the Maquis to help to keep Voyager running."

"And you want me to be your first officer?"

"Yes."

Chakotay sighed, looking away.

Chakotay glanced suddenly at her. "Hmm?"

"Are you ignoring me?"

"Did you say something?" The man let out a grunt as her elbow connected with his ribs. "Hey! I'm sorry, what did you say?"

"Nothing."

He looked over at her. "No really, what did you say? I'm listening."

"I didn't say anything."

"No, come on," a smirk grew on his lips as he shook his head, "What did you say?"

"I didn't say anything, Chakotay."

"Really?"

Kathryn walked faster, moving to stay one step in front of him to hide the smile on her face. "Bajor is lovely."

Chakotay's strides grew wider to catch up with his friend. "Don't tell me you've never been here before."

"No, I haven't."

He nodded, "Well… it is beautiful."

"So what brought you here? Besides your Maquis friend, I mean."

"What brought me here? Um… I don't know. I thought it'd been a great way to, you know, settle down and…"

"Start growing Coba?"

"Oh yeah. Definably, my dream in life… growing Coba."

Laughter filled the silence, their spasms ending once they reached a turn in the maze. Chakotay glanced over at Kathryn as they walked around the Ivis bush, watching her try to calm herself, the smile not falling from her eyes.

"But seriously, I love it here. It's nice. Better… sometimes… than out there."

"You mean the battles and… and things battling the Borg and other such things."

"Yeah," he nodded, rubbing his arm slowly. "Things like that… but not all the people."

They both grew quiet again, this time more comfortable in the silence. Kathryn sighed, looking back over a Chakotay.

"So, what do you think about Bajor joining the Federation?"

"I don't know," he sighed. Then he shrugged. "I don't really have an opinion, I guess."

"Well, I always have an opinion."

"I always have an opinion," Kathryn laughed, Chakotay's laughter echoing with hers as they walked into the Starfleet shelter.

"Really?"

Their laughter died down as the door closed behind them. Chakotay led her to the monitor, hitting a button to activate the machine. "What do you think?"

Kathryn grabbed the towel, wiping away the dirt on her hands as she peered over his shoulder. "A boat!"

"You said you wanted to explore the river." He glanced over at her, smiling as he saw her own smile. "I think I could build this."

"We could go on a camping trip," she said, eyes darting from the computer image of the boat to Chakotay.

"I'm not sure we could fit the bathtub in the boat."

The two chuckled, their earlier conversation about Kathryn's camping habits returning. "Well that's alright. I'll have the river." Chakotay smirked, trying hard to dispel those thoughts from his mind.

"Do you hear that?"

Kathryn looked up, a garbled voice reaching her ear. "Yes."

Chakotay straightened and walked over to the other side of the room. His hands slowly picked up their two combadges, handling them as if fragile glass imitations.

"Tuvok to Captain Janeway… this is Tuvok to Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay. Please respond," they heard the Vulcan say through static.

Kathryn picked up one comm. in her hand, bringing it up slowly to her mouth. "This is Janeway."

Chakotay watched, hearing the hope in her voice, even as he saw the torn emotions running through her eyes.

"Captain, it's good to hear your voice. We have news."

"What is it?"

Chakotay held his breath, waiting for the response. But suddenly realized he couldn't choose which he answer wanted to hear.

"We have medicine which we believe will effectively treat your condition. We plan to be in orbit within thirty hours."

They looked up at each other. Chakotay forced a small smile at the news, but knew it did not reach his eyes. He caught Kathryn's eye, watching the sad disappointment come and fade.

"Thank-you, Tuvok. We'll see you then." Her voice was quiet, seemingly in sorrow. She set down the combadge before looking back at Chakotay. She forced a slight smile. "Well, I guess there will be no camping trip."

"No, guess not."

She sighed. "Who knows… maybe the holodeck can surprise us." He laughed. It was small and short, but he still laughed and smiled at the thought.

"Well, I guess there's a lot of packing to do."

"I think it's a good thing for Bajor. Hopefully, this will help her get up off her feet."

"The Occupation ended two decades ago. And she's picked herself up rather well since… especially since the discovery of the wormhole."

"Well, true… but the Federation will help her get the rest of the way."

"I guess." Chakotay shrugged, looking away from the Admiral. A grin tugged at his lip as his eye caught the Bajoran rose. Pulling it from the bush, he turned to Kathryn.

She had stopped and turned to face him, watching him, bemused. Her fingers brushed over his as he presented the flower, her smile shinning on her face. The tip of her nose burying in the soft pink petals, she inhaled the soft scent.

"A beautiful flower for a beautiful woman."

"Poetry isn't your strongest suit."

"No, but it's the thought that counts."

"Perhaps." A soft laugh ended the conversation and, after Kathryn slipped the rose into her pocket, the two walked on, continuing to loose themselves in the mazes of the Bajoran garden.

Eventually their feet led them to the south edge of the garden, Kathryn pausing to rest on the manar wood bench. Chakotay sat beside her, his thigh brushing against hers. Their laughter died slowly, Kathryn gasping for breath to finish her story.

"I still can't believe that I had to pretend to be Arachnia. That was so humiliating!" Chakotay laughed with her, a new wave of spasms taking over him. "And this, My Liege, must be your death ray!"

His laughter grew at hearing the deep, commanding voice Kathryn had invented for 'The Queen of the Spider People'. "You… had to say that?"

"I don't know. Something like that. As long as I live, I will never, never be in another of Paris's holoprograms. Never."

"Not even Fairhaven?"

"Well… that's an exception. That one wasn't in black and white and a cheesy old… whatever that one was." He smirked, laughing hard as he looked away. "What is it?"

"What? Oh, nothing. You just reminded me of something."

"What?" Kathryn leaned closer, curiosity talking her over.

He sighed. "Do you remember that time, about ten months before we got home? We encountered an anomaly and I wouldn't tell you what happened, claiming it was because of the Temporal Prime Directive?"

"I think so." Chakotay nodded and looked away. "Well? What about it?"

"Mind if I ask you one last question?" Kathryn asked, walking towards the warp core where he stood.

"Will I have to break the Temporal Prime Directive to answer?"

"Maybe, just a little… For two people who started off as enemies, it seems we get to know each other pretty well. So, I've been wondering, just how close do we go?"

"Let's just say, there are some barriers we never cross."

A look of disappointment flashed across her face, becoming covered over with a smirk. Her hand reached up to shake his and he took it lightly, starring down at it for a second. "See you in the future."

Chakotay nodded, a faint smiling crossing his lips. Sighing, "Yeah…" His eyes caught hers and he noticed, for a brief second, the fear that had fallen over her face. "The future."

Silence draped over them, their eyes never breaking from their gaze. Kathryn leaned forward, her lips brushing over his. Chakotay's mind stopped for that moment, barely able to process what she was doing.

She moved away, grinning when she saw his face. "Better get going."

"Right," he sighed.

She nodded, not making to move. Her voice came as a whisper as she said, "Good luck."

"Well? What did happen then?"

Chakotay turned his attention back to his old friend. He smirked. "You wouldn't believe me."

"After… macro-viruses and time travel… and everything else we went through, I don't think there's much that I wouldn't believe."

His grin grew as he shook his head. "It's much more fun to keep you guessing."

"Not far!" Punching his arm mockingly, the two laughed.

Chakotay pushed himself up, offering a hand to Kathryn. She grinned as she took his and they walked on.

He pulled his hands from his pockets, breathing warm air on them and rubbed them together. Suppressing a shiver, he heard Kathryn laugh at him.

"Would you like to go in? You seem cold."

"No," he shoved his hands in his pockets, "I'm fine."

"Are you sure? You could borrow my overcoat."

"No. You'll get cold then."

"Unlike you, I'm in a Starfleet uniform. They are designed to keep the wearer warm."

He sighed, shaking his head. "Thanks, but I'm good. Besides, I recall many times that I was not very warm at 'all."

"Are you sure?"

"I'm fine."

"Okay. Because you could have-"

"No, I'm fine."

Kathryn chuckled. "Okay."

They continued walking through the maze of bushes and flowers, another long silence passing between them.

Kathryn finally breaking it by saying suddenly, "I feel so behind with everyone."

"It's understandable," he shrugged.

"No," she sighed, slowing her pace, "it's not. I miss all of them… I missed you so much." Her hand ran down his arm, looping it through his. "How… how are B'Elanna and Tom? Oh my, Miral must be huge by now!"

"Yeah, she's a walking disaster! But adorable. I talked to them just last week. Can you believe that it was her fourth birthday three days ago?"

"Oh god! No, I can't. So… what has Tom been up to?"

"Oh, um… he got one of his holoprogram published."

"Really? One I might?"

"I don't think it's in black and white." She laughed, listening as he continued, "And he's been piloting shuttles for the Mars transport system. Did you know they moved to Mars?"

"No, I didn't. And B'Elanna? How is she doing?"

"How's she doing?" Janeway asked, pouring the amber liquid into Chakotay's glass.

"Careful. This is the last of the cider."

She smiled, pouring herself a cup. "All the more reason to enjoy it."

With a shake of the head, he took a large sip before answering her question. "Well, you know B'Elanna. She insists she's fine."

"Of course she does. Must be a Klingon thing."

"Hardly… every woman does it."

"And how would you know?"

He shook his head, putting up his hands in mock surrender. "Fine. Never mind. I'm not going to get into this with you."

"And what is that supposed to mean?"

"Nothing," he insisted, turning back to his cider. He starred down at the cider a moment, collecting his thoughts as he watched the ripples form as he moved his cup.

He had been thinking a lot in the last few days. Thinking a lot about what had happened a couple weeks back when the ship had been shattered into temporal zones. No one may have known about it, but it didn't mean he couldn't think about it.

But it was only really one thing he had been thinking of lately… Kathryn. Even seven years ago she had liked him and immediately- well, almost immediately- trusted him. And that said something to him about the Kathryn he was with at that moment.

"Kathryn-"

"Yes?"

"I…" he stuttered out, feeling her eyes upon him. Suddenly the words he had rehearsed a thousand times in his head disappeared, leaving his mind blank. She was watching him intently now, waiting for him to continue.

"I just wanted to know," he began slowly, the words coming back, "if you… if you had heard about the Doctor being the baby's godfather?"

"Oh… yes, I had. The doctor told me. He seems excited."

"Yeah, that's an understatement."

"Uh… great. She's found some jobs here and there, I guess to keep her working. But Miral keeps her busy enough."

"I'd image." She smiled with Chakotay, the joy not reaching her eyes.

"And, uh, the doctor has been working at Starfleet medical, on Earth. And… Harry is back on a ship… somewhere. Deep space stuff. Oh, and Tuvok-" Chakotay cut himself off when he looked over at Kathryn. "Hey, are you okay?"

She sniffled, rubbing her cheek. "Yeah, just miss it all. Maybe I shouldn't have gone."

"What do you mean, shouldn't have gone?"

"I just mean… I missed out on so much with… with our family. With my crew… Miral… all of them."

"How was it?"

"I'm sorry?"

"How was it? Out there?"

"How was it?"

Chakotay jumped slightly at the sound of a voice behind him. Pivoting around, he saw Kathryn there behind him. He sighed, shaking his head.

"That bad, huh?"

"They drilled me for hours."

"Yeah, same with me." She took a step forward, noticing how flustered he seemed. She touched his arm. "Are you alright?"

"Just… bad memories they brought back."

"I'm sorry."

"You have no reason to be apologizing," he scolded and then gestured for them to continue down the corridor. "How did yours go?"

"Not too bad. Just finished an hour ago. But I guess yours was worse." Looking over at him, she saw him shrug and shake his head.

"You are the Captain. You made the hard choices… You made the questionable choices that they're looking at."

Sighing, "Yeah," Kathryn looked away.

"What?" Chakotay tried to catch her eyes, the Captain not making it easy for him. He stepped in front of her, stopping her movement and forcing her to look at him. "What is it?"

"There's something I haven't told you. Something I should have told you a while ago."

"Well?"

She sighed. "Voyager is being decommissioned… after everything she's been throw, well… "

"Oh."

"And, um… I'm being transferred… to the U.S.S. Connecticut…"

"That's a science vessel… assigned to the Gamma Quadrant."

"Yes. I know that," she stepped around him, walking away. Chakotay followed, hearing her say, "But it's a good ship and crew."

"Right." His hand rubbed the back of his neck, exhaling as he processed what she was saying. "How long?"

"I don't know. A few years." She stopped, taking his arm to stop him. "I'm sorry. I should have told you sooner."

"The Gamma Quadrant?"

"Was it worth it? Going out there, missing all this. Was the Gamma Quadrant worth it?"

Kathryn sighed. She stopped and looked away. "I don't know. It was great. More than that. It… it was just as amazing as the Delta Quadrant for the most part. Wonderfully exotic but… but it wasn't Voyager."

"No… nothing will ever be."

"I want that back.."

Kathryn looked up, catching Chakotay's confused gaze. "You miss being stranded?"

"No… I miss my family."

His fingers brushed her upper arm, stepping in to wrap his arms around her. "Come here." She melted into his embrace, her head comfortably settled beneath his chin. Chakotay stood, rubbing her back, letting his other hand run through her long hair.

"Admiral! There you… are…" The two jumped apart, turning around to see the breathless, and embarrassed, Ensign behind them.

"Yes. Here I am, Houghton."

"Uh, the Minister is still here. He says that he refuses to leave until you talk to him."

Chakotay smirked, looking to Kathryn. She sighed, massaging her temples. "Chakotay… I'm sorry, but-"

"Duty calls. It's okay, get going. Bajoran Ministers aren't known for their gracious patience."

She smiled, nodding. "I've noticed. Well um… Ensign, I'll be right behind you."

The Ensign glanced at Chakotay, and then to the Admiral's back, before nodding. "Yes, ma'am."

Kathryn sighed. "I am sorry."

He shrugged and shook his head. "Now that I know where to find you, I expect to see you more often."

Kathryn smiled and nodded. She moved to turn, but, as if as a second thought, she turned and leaned forward. Her lips brushed his cheek, smiling at the blush that formed.

Chakotay smiled, nodding at her as she walked away. But as she headed around the Ivis bush, she turned back and called out, "How 'bout dinner? Tomorrow night?"

"Yeah, that'd be great."

"Okay. I'll see you then. Here? 1900?"

"I'll see you then."

-

Uh, just a note. This story was kind of a challenge, actually. My sister wanted to see a story that took place either during or involving Shattered, or after Voyager returned home. She wanted a kiss, Janeway with a slight attitude, and for the possibility (or the fact) that they got together.

So, how well did I do with that?

R/R and I hope you enjoyed the story. Remember, it is all over.