Voyager and all characters are the property of Paramount

Chapter 1.

22 months after Voyager's return to Earth

Kathryn Janeway took a cup of coffee from the replicator then moved into her livingroom to sit on the ottoman by the fireplace. Staring into the flames she went over the terrible news she had recieved from Tom Paris earlier.

"Good evening, Tom!" Kathryn had said cheerfully to the familiar face on the monitor, sure this was just a friendly call from her former helmsman.

"Good evening, Kathryn." Tom said, still a bit uncomfortable calling her by name although she insisted. Kathryn's smile faded when she heard his tone. "At least I wish it was good." Tom added.

"Tom? What's wrong?" Kathryn asked.

He exhaled. "I'm afraid I have bad news. It's about Seven."

Kathryn realized she was holding her breath. "Tom?" she finally said, seeing the sadness in his eyes.

"Seven is dead." he said softly.

"No," Kathryn whispered, then quickly added, "How? When?" Her emotions reeling, she kept her gaze affixed on Tom.

"There was an accident. I was on Starbase 5 awaiting departure when I ran into Professor Fitz from the anthropology department at the academy." He paused for a moment, swallowed then continued. "He said Chakotay had told him that Seven's physician had instructed her to stay close to home because the baby was due any day."

"Oh my God," Kathryn moaned, "the baby."

"The baby survived, " Tom said quickly, "she's fine. Anyway, Chakotay was working late tying up loose ends before starting his parental leave and you know how Seven is...was." Tom's eyes misted, his expression one of great pain. "Never one to sit idle, she took a shuttle to take Chakotay dinner. Her shuttle...there was an accident..." He didn't need to go on. Kathryn was staring at the monitor in shock. For a moment, she lowered her head and closed her eyes. It was too much to accept. When she looked back up she saw Tom's concern for her.

"Chakotay?" she asked weakly.

"Professor Fitz said he's in shock of course, but has insisted on taking care of the baby himself. He's on indefinate leave."

"Where are they?" Kathryn asked.

"As far as I know, they're at their home in Churchill." Tom answered.

Kathryn was silent again, trying to take it all in. Seven, gone. Chakotay left alone with a newborn. "I don't know what to do," she said barely above a whisper, "but I feel I should do something."

"It happened a week ago. There was a private service." Tom said. "I'm at a loss too. I don't know if he'd rather be alone, or if it would do him good to have his friends around him." He paused, choosing his words carefully. "You know him better than anyone. I wanted to check with you before I did anything. Outside of B'Elanna, I haven't told anyone."

"Oh, forgive me Tom. How is B'Elanna?" Kathryn said.

"She's ready to have this baby." Tom said, smiling slightly. "This little fella has been a lot tougher on her than Miral was." His smile faded as he added "She took it hard."

"Please tell her hello for me." Kathryn said absently. "Tom, let me think about this. May I call you tomorrow?"

"Sure," he said with a nod. "Goodnight, Captain." He smiled. Calling her captain was a term of endearment now.

Kathry reached out and placed her fingertips on the screen as if to touch his shoulder. "Goodbye, Tom." she said softly.

As she continued to stare at the flames, memories flooded her mind...

The day she had officiated at their wedding, joining Chakotay and Seven in marriage. At their wish, the ceremony had taken place on Voyager while she was in dock with almost the entire former crew present. The doctor had proudly done the honor of giving Seven away, an old tradition she had researched and insisted upon. Kathryn had felt the love Chakotay and Seven had for each other and she was genuinely happy for them, although all too aware of the bittersweetness within her heart.

Next she remembered the day Chakotay had called, happy beyond measure and seemingly about to burst, announcing that Seven was pregnant. Kathryn had agreed to meet them for dinner to celebrate their wonderful news. Their joy was contageous. Seven had finally taken to smiling often, even laughing. It had been a truly wonderful evening, one Kathryn would never forget.

Shaking her head to clear her mind, Kathryn then stood and went to the large window to look up at the nearly full moon. Her heart had felt thepain of loss before yet this was somehow worse. Kathryn had almost felt like a mother to Seven. Their years together aboard Voyager so far from home had brought them very close with a bond much stronger than mere friendship. They had become family.

Before she could change her mind, she went to her desk and placed the call. A moment later Chakotay's face appeared. He looked tired but glad to see her.

"Kathryn." he said softly.

"Hello, Chakotay." Kathryn said. The tone in her voice told him she had recieved the news. For a moment they just looked at each other. "I'm so very sorry." she added, her voice almost failing her.

"Thank you." he said, "I'm sorry I haven't called."

"It's alright," Kathryn said quickly, "I just had to..."

"Thanks." he said, forcing a brief smile.

"How is the baby?" Kathryn said, quickly brushing away a tear.

"She's fine." Chakotay answered, his expression brightening a bit. He stepped aside and Kathryn saw his tiny daughter sleeping in the cradle he had made for her. When his face reappeared he said "She's a treasure."

"I can't wait to see her." Kathryn said, finally trusting her voice again. "You're a father, Chakotay." she added, almost as if it were a miracle. The sadness descended on his face again.

"I don't know what I would have done if I'd lost them both." he said thoughtfully. Kathryn's heart was breaking and it took everything she had to hold herself together. "What's her name?" she asked. He glanced over his shoulder toward the baby then his gaze returned to Kathryn. She was glad to see the boyish grin she was so fond of.

"Kathryn," he answered, enjoying the look of surprise on her face. "Katie for short."

Kathryn Janeway was not often speechless but this was one of those moments.

"It was Seven's idea," Chakotay went on, "we talked about it just days before..." He was unable to finish.

"I'm honored." Kathryn said, finally regaining her voice. She brushed away another tear. "Thrilled and honored." There was another long moment of their just looking at one another, but much was said. "I have some time before my next assignment. Are you up to a visit? I promist I won't..."

"I'd like that." he interrupted.

Kathryn smiled. "Is tomorrow too soon?" she asked.

"Not at all." He said with an easy smile. "Katie and I will be waiting."

"Tomorrow then. Goodbye, Chakotay." she said.

"Goodbye." he said softly, and then was gone.

Kathryn turned off the monitor then stood slowly and went to the sofa. As she gazed again at the moon, her chin began to quiver and there was no holding it back any longer. Covering her face with her hands, she let go and allowed herself to cry.

Chakotay opened the door and smiled at Kathryn. He had a baby bottle in one hand and a small pink blanket over one shoulder. Kathryn stepped closer and they reached for each other in a warm hug.

"It's good to see you." he said, holding her tight.

"Good to see you too." Kathryn said as she stepped away and placed a palm on his chest, looking at him again.

"Come in!" He said as he stepped aside. Kathryn entered and he closed the door. "I just got her down. She's fussy today." He nodded toward the cradle and Kathryn approached, her hands clasped at her chest. For a long moment she stood looking down at the sleeping infant then after a quick glance at Chakotay, sat on the floor by the cradle. Carefully she pulled back the blanket to get a better look at the baby. Chakotay stood over them watching, his pain forgotten for the moment in his pride over Katie and happiness at seeing Kathryn.

"She's so beautiful," Kathryn whispered, "and she has so much hair!"

"The doctor commented on her hair too." Chakotay said as he sat on the sofa and put the bottle down on the endtable. He removed the blanket from his shoulder, folded it and tossed it onto the sofa arm.

"Our doctor?" she asked, meaning the EMH.

"Yes. He called yesterday too." Chakotay said, watching Kathryn replace the blanket on Katie.

"She looks like you." Kathryn said. She got up and sat sideways on the sofa facing him. Chakotay seemed lost in thought as he gazed at Katie.

"I miss her." he said barely above a whisper. Kathryn reached over to place her had over his as he went on. "She had come so far...she was enjoying every minute of this pregnancy." A slight smile played over his lips. "I wish you could've seen her the day she first felt the baby move. We were having dinner and suddenly her eyes got wide. She nearly tore my arm from the socket to put my hand on her stomach." He paused and the smile faded. "I couldn't feel anything, but I lied and said that I did."

Kathryn saw his shoulders slump as a lone tear trickled over his cheek. She moved closer and put an arm around his shoulder then rested her forehead against his temple. She felt the sobs shake his body yet he made no sound, and she remained close as he wept for his wife, his Seven.

Moments later when Katie stirred, Kathryn gasped. Chakotay turned quickly to look at Kathryn then began to laugh, his face still wet with tears.

"What is so funny?" she said as she pulled away and feigned indignance, taking advantage of a lighter moment. Chakotay quickly dried his face with the folded blanket, still laughing.

"I've seen you stand up to hostile aliens, but this tiny little person frightens you." he answered.

"She did not frighten me, she startled me." Kathryn said clearly then moved to sit on the floor again. Katie had settled and Kathryn gently tucked the blanket back around her.

"You should be around at 0300 for the real noise." Chakotay said with a smile.

"Oh, she can't make that much noise," Kathryn scoffed, "she's too small."

"You have no idea." Chakotay said with a chuckle. "This one is very demanding."

They were quiet for several moments just watching Katie sleep. Chakotay leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. "She'll be asleep for at least a couple hours. How about some lunch?"

"I don't want to impose.." Kathryn began.

"Well, I'm hungry." He said as he stood, offering her a hand up. "So you may as well have something too." When she was on her feet he leaned down slightly and grinned. "I'd like the company."

"Alright," she said, poking his chest with her forefinger. "you talked me into it."

"Good." he said as he went toward the kitchen. "How does a salad sound?"

"Sounds good to me." she answered, following him. "What can I do?"

When they had washed up at the sink, Chakotay took a head of lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers from the refrigerator. "Tear this." he said as he handed her the lettuce. "There are bowls in that cabinet," he added, pointing, "and utensils in the island drawer."

"Yes, Sir!" she said with a smile and went to get the bowls. Chakotay began cutting the tomatoes and cucumbers on one side of the island as Kathryn stood on the other side and tore lettuce into the bowls. "Will you have help with the baby?" she asked.

"You mean when I go back to work?" he asked. Kathryn nodded. "Yes, we...I have a nanny arranged. She's waiting on my call."

"That's good." she said. He had forgotten for a moment, his loss still so new.

"How've you been, Kathryn?" Chakotay said, his tone lighter.

"I've been very busy over the last few months, which is fine with me." she answered, catching his smile. He knew her too well. "But now, the powers that be think I need a rest! So I'm on four weeks leave. I don't know what they expect me to do with myself."

"You can stick around and spend some time with your new niece." Chakotay said as he stepped to the sink to rinse his hands. He had used the word niece becausehe knew how closeKathryn would be to Katie as she grew up.

Kathry mouthed the word 'damn' then said, "I wasn't fishing for an invitation."

"What's the matter?" he teased as he went back to the island, this time beside her. "Scared?"

"Of what?" she said, forcing a scowl. Chakotay jerked his head toward the livingroom indicating Katie. "Certainly not!" she retorted with a chuckle. Chakotay picked up a towel to dry his hands as he turned to face her.

"Then say you'll stay for a while." he said as if daring her. Kathryn placed the cucumbers and tomatoes in the bowls then turned to face him, took the towel from him to dry her own hands.

"Even you made reference that I'm better with aliens than with a baby." she said, turning the tease on him.

"It's never too late to learn." he said, grinning.

"I don't have any clothes with me." she said, tossing the towel onto the island.

"I have a replicator." he retorted.

"Chakotay," she said seriously, "this is a very personal time for you. People will be calling, coming by. I don't want to be in the way."

"First of all," he said, "you will not be in the way, and second, most anyone that comes by you'll know. They'll be glad to see you."

Kathryn opened her mouth, about to speak another excuse when Chakotay leaned a bit toward her and said;

"Kathryn, don't make me beg."

Her eyes twinkled and she threw up her hands. "Alright!"

"Good!" he said as he picked up the bowls of salad and moved toward the table.

"But you've been warned. I won't be of much use with the baby."

Chakotay put the bowls down then went to get the dressing. "I'm not worried," he said with a grin as he walked past her. "I'll make an old pro of you yet."

"Don't count on it." she quipped.

Over lunch and long after their meal was done, they talked of many things, comfortable with each other as had always been the case with them. It seemed to do Chakotay good , at least temporarily taking his mind off his grief. Kathryn was happy to be with him and for the chance to ease his pain even if only for a little while. Much of their conversation revolved around the senior staff of Voyager. They had stayed in touch after returning to Earth. They had left crewmates and returned as family. Though each had gone their own way in their lives and careers, they continued to check in on each other. This pleased Kathryn and she did her part as well.

"Tom and B'Elanna are so excited about their son coming." Kathryn said when there had been a lull in their conversation. At that moment Katie began to fuss and Chakotay stood to go to her.

"I think my girl is awake." he said.

"Oh good!" Kathryn said as she stood, reaching to clear their dishes.

"Leave 'em," he chuckled, "Katie waits for no one."

Kathryn followed him into the livingroom where they found Katie with her fists clenched, about to let out a wail. She immediately calmed when Chakotay bent and scooped her up.

"Hello, Sleepyhead." he said softly. "There's someone here to see you." He cradled her in the crook of his arm and Kathryn came closer to get a better look at this little person, her namesake.

"Hello, Katie." she said, smiling broadly. "I'm your Aunt Kathryn." She drew in her breath. "How pretty you are!" Glancing up at Chakotay, who was positively beaming, she said: "She has your eyes." Looking back at Katie, she whispered; "I can't get get over how beautiful she is."

"She is, isn't she?" he said with pride, still gazing upon his daughter's face. Katie began to wriggle and Chakotay moved her to his shoulder. He crinkled his nose as he caught a whiff of her diaper and one look at the expression on Kathryn's face told him she'd caught it too. At the same time they each took a small step backwards.

"You want diaper duty or bottle duty?" he asked, pretending to be serious.

"Bottle!" Kathryn said quickly.

"Coward." he teased, turning to go to the nursery. "Come on Katie. Auntie Kathryn can't handle this, but your old Dad'll take care of you." Just as he turned into the nursery he glanced back at Kathryn who was standing, hands on hips, smiling and shaking her head.

Chakotay was just finishing up when Kathryn came in with the bottle.

"Katie, look who shows up now that the dirty work's done." Chakotay said as he picked Katie up. Kathryn playfully smacked his arm.

"But look what I brought you." she said, waving the bottle.

"You want to feed her?" Chakotay asked. Kathryn nodded and he motioned toward the rocking chair nearby. When she had settled in it, he put Katie in her arms then tucked a bib under Katie's chin. "Did you test the temperature?" he asked, leaning on the arms of the rocker.

"On my wrist," she answered, gazing down at Katie, "I'm not completely inept." She offered the bottle, touching the nipple to Katie's pink lips. The infant immediately latched on and ate hungrily, making soft gulping sounds.

"She's quite an eater." Chakotay said as he sat on the ottoman near Kathryn's knees.

"I see that." Kathryn said, amazed.

"Well, how does it feel?" he asked.

"Amazing." she answered softly then leaned down to kiss Katie's forehead. Just then a call came in and Chakotay looked at her, brows raised in question.

"Go on," she said, "we'll be fine."

As Chakotay stood he said; "Burp her after two ounces." When he was out of earshot, Kathryn said;

"Aye aye, Daddy."

Left alone with the baby, Kathryn felt herself relax and enjoy the experience. It almost felt completely natural although it had been many years since she'd held an infant. When she heard Chakotay's voice in the distance, she began to speak softly to her tiny captive.

"Sweet Katie, you're such a little doll. And do you have any idea what a wonderful daddy you have? Or how much he loves you, and how proud he is of you?" Katie stopped eating and listened intently to Kathryn's voice. "Your mother was a remarkable woman too." she went on, "Someday you will hear all about her. Your daddy and I will make sure you know what a wonderful person she was. You know, in a way you gave her life." Kathryn leaned her head against the chair and stared straight ahead as she went on. "When she knew you were on the way, she blossomed, so filled with joy. I'd never seen her so happy." Her gaze went back to Katie. "She couldn't wait to see you, to see the little person she and your daddy had created." Her voice failed and she blinked back tears, unaware that Chakotay was standing in the hallway. Leaning agains the wall outside the nursery door, Chakotay closed his eyes as tears trickled from under his dark lashes. He listened as Kathryn spoke again, her voice stronger now. "Sometimes, Little One, life doesn't turn out as we'd planned or hoped for. It's up to us to be strong and to go on with our lives though, to find happiness where we can. Those we've lost would want that for us."

Chakotay brushed away his tears, composed himself and walked into the nursery.

"That was Harry," he said as he sat on the ottoman. "I guess word is getting around. I should make some calls."

Kathryn had moved Katie to her shoulder and was patting her firmly. Chakotay picked up the bottle to see how much Katie had taken. When Katie had burped Kathryn settled her back in her arms and reached for the bottle. "Chakotay, maybe I should go.." she began.

"I though we had this settled." he said and reached out to stroke Katie's black, silky hair. "Katie wants you to stay too." There was pleading in his eyes.

"Alright," Kathryn said softly. "but you'll tell me if you change your mind?"

"That won't happen, but I promise." he said with a slight smile.

When Katie had finished and was soundly sleeping, Kathryn carefully stood and put her in the crib. Chakotay covered her with a light blanket then leaned down to kiss her cheek.

"I have some calls to make," Kathryn said in a whisper, "to let some people know where I'll be."

"Help yourself." Chakotay said as he stepped around her and sat in the rocking chair. "I'm going to sit in here for a while."

Kathryn nodded and gently patted his forearm. Turning to leave she heard him say her name, turned to face him. Her heart wrenched at the sadness in his face.

"Thank you for being here," he said quietly, "it means a lot to me."

She wanted to tell him that she would always be there for him but the lump in her throat would not allow it. Hoping her eyes spoke for her, she nodded slowly then left the room.

Chakotay turned back to watch Katie sleep. The ache in his heart and spirit was almost overwhelming, yet he knew he would be alright. He had this precious baby girl to help ease the pain and loving friends to see him through.

Kathryn found him later on his back porch in one of the rocking chairs, his feet crossed over the bannister. He seemed to be deep in thought and she paused half in, half out the door, not wanting to intrude. When she moved to go back inside, he said; "Come. Join me." Kathryn took the rocker next to his. He was staring at the trees beyond his backyard when he began to speak.

"Seven spoke of you the night before she died. She asked me if I thought you would visit when the baby was born."

"She had to know nothing could keep me away." Kathryn almost whispered.

"She knows how busy you are." he said, immediately realizing he'd used present tense but continued. "I think she just had you on her mind. You meant a great deal to her."

"As she did to me." Kathryn said, barely able to speak.

"She would never admit it," he went on, "but she was nervous about the birth. Even more about being a mother." He rested his head agains the chair and looked skyward. "We were happy, Kathryn."

"I know." she said quietly, her heart aching for him.

"I felt so complete, for the first time in my life. I think she felt the same way too. She was opening up little by little...I loved to hear her laugh." He turned his head to look at Kathryn and saw the sympathy and understanding in her eyes. He was thankful for her. "If it weren't for you, I never would've had this life with her, or our baby."

Kathryn leaned back and looked up at the cottony clouds in the distance, feeling his eyes still on her. She put her hand on his forearm and left it there, needing the contact. From the corner of her eyes, she saw him glance down at her hand then look back toward the sky.

"Harry's coming by tomorrow." he said.

"Oh it'll be good to see him." she replied.

"He was so sad when we spoke. He's always been so sensitive."

There was a long silent pause before Kathryn said; "I spoke to Tom earlier."

"How are Tom and B'Elanna, and Miral?"

"They're doing well." she said, clasping her hands now around her raised knee. "They're concerned for you." When he didn't respond she added. "They want to come by. Tom said he'd call you in a few days."

"B'Elanna is due soon, isn't she?" Chakotay asked.

"Not soon enough according to Tom." she said. They both smiled. A moment later Kathry changed the subject when she mentioned the lovely flower garden in the back yard. She was very surprised when Chakotay told her it was Seven's doing.

"She found a picture in a magazine and set out to create one just like it." he explained. "I came home early one day and there she was, sitting on the ground with all these containers of flowers all around her, a trowel in one hand, dirt all over her face. She got very upset with me for ruining the surprise..." His voice trailed off before he stood and said "I'd better check on Katie." Kathryn stood and went into the house with him. As he went down the hall toward the nursery Kathryn settled in the large leather chair, removing her shoes and pulling her feet up beside her. She glanced around the cozy, comfortable room. The influence seemed to be more Chakotay's than Seven's.

"Still sleeping like a baby." Chakotay joked when he returned and sat on the sofa across from her. She chuckled.

"Coffee?" he said, starting to get back up.

"No, no, I'm fine." she said, waving him back down. Her eyes settled on a large abstract painting behind his head. "That really is beautiful." she said, nodding toward the painting.

"One of my students gave it to me." he said as he rolled up his shirtsleeves. "She inherited it from her grandmother, and hated it." He glanced at it over his shoulder then added; "She claimed it reminded her of me."

Kathryn's eyebrows raised. "And she hated it?"

Chakotay smiled. "She was the fiesty type that always spoke her mind."

Kathryn shot him a look, knowing he was talking about her kind. He winked.

"I hope I don't have to tell you to make yourself at home. This house is your house for as long as you'll stay."

"Thank you."

"The guestroom is across from the nursery. I think you'll be comfortable."

"I'm sure I will be." Kathryn said, then changed the subject. "How's your work going?"

"It's very different from being on a starship, of course, but I wanted a change." he answered.

"You're still enjoying it?"

"Yes. For the most part. Sometimes I still have to remind the students that I'm not there to entertain them with Voyager stories."

Kathryn laughed. "You were quite the celebrity there for a while."

"We all were." he reminded her.

"Do you ever miss it? Being on a starship?" she asked, watching closely for his reaction.

"Of course," he said without hesitation, "but that part of my life is over, at least for the next twenty years or so." Kathryn understood. He had a daughter to raise.

"By then, I'll be a little long in the tooth to be crawling on a starship." he teased, grinning at her. Kathryn smiled and shook her head. "What about you? Do you ever think of making a big change in your life?"

"Rarely," she answered, "I'm too old for that now."

"Oh come on, that's nonsense."

"Well, thank you for the compliment, but what I mean is it's a little late in the game to be changing my life around."

"We're not that far apart in age, Kathryn. It can be done." he said more seriously.

"Chakotay, you know me well. You know my place is on the bridge of a ship. That is my life."

"I know." he said. Kathryn thought she heard resignation in his voice. Unsure where he was trying to go with this conversation, she got up.

"I think I'll have that coffee after all. Can I get you something?"

"No, thanks." he said, watching her leave and knowing she would never change. Behind the Kathryn that had been with him this afternoon was the more rigid, business-like Captain Janeway. The two were never far from each other. She was a complicated woman, always in control, or almost. Only once or twice in all the years he'd known her had he seen her clinging to that control with her nails and the skin of her teeth. Still, she was very special to him and he loved her in his own way just as he knew she loved him in her own way. Their friendship ran deep, forged on their long journey aboard Voyager, working together to get their crew home.

"Penny for your thoughts." Kathryn said as she returned with the coffee and paused by his chair. He was about to answer her when a call came in. "I'll go check out my quarters." she said with a smile, going toward the hall to give him some privacy. Kathryn stepped into the room and looked around, pleasantly surprised. It was almost as if it had been decorated with her in mind. There was a heavy antique bed dressed with a quilt in sage green, rose and cream. In the corner was the perfect reading nook - a sturdy but comfortable looking wingback chair, large round ottoman and a lovely floorlamp. It was so very feminine, cozy and comfortable.

"Like it?" Chakotay asked from behind her.

"It's lovely." she answered.

"Seven found another picture in a magazine." he said as they stepped into the hallway and turned toward the livingroom. "What would you like for dinner?"

"I hadn't thought about dinner..we just had lunch." she said as she sat in the leather chair. "Did you have something in mind?"

"Steaks." he answered as he stood by her, hands on hips.

"Oh, the doctor says I shouldn't eat red meat..." she began, placing one hand on her middle. Suddenly her head snapped up to look at him. "You're a vegetarian!"

Chakotay laughed. "I fell off the wagon." He leaned forward and rested his hands on the arm of her chair. "The doctor won't hear a word from me. Come on, live a little."

"I'm in." Kathryn said with a chuckle.

Later Katie awakened for her feeding and they enjoyed her together. Chakotay filled Kathryn in on Katie's time of birth, weight and length. He then told her of his adventures with middle of the night feedings and diaper changes the first few days she was home, accomplishing his tasks by trial and error. Most comical of all was the story of Katie's first bath. Kathryn laughed until her sides hurt.

"Here I was thinking all this had come so naturally to you," she said, catching her breath, "only to find out you were as lost as I would've been."

"Do you hear this, Katie?" Chakotay said to his daughter nestled in his arms. "She's making fun of your old dad."

Kathryn watched him feeding her and was filled with great tenderness. The sight of him so carefully handling his baby daughter only made her more aware of how special he was. She also knew that if Katie had not survived, he would be in serious emotional trouble right now. She silently thanked his spirits for allowing him to have his daughter, his little saviour.

When Katie was asleep again and tucked in, Kathryn followed Chakotay into the kitchen and watched him prepare a spice rub for their steaks. He seemed so at ease in this kitchen. She herself hated cooking but delighted in watching those who had a talent for it.

"Where did you learn to cook?" she asked.

"I learned out of necessity when my father took me into the forest for days on end." he answered as he stepped to a small herb garden in a container on the windowsill. He chose several then came back to the island and began crushing them. "He was a horrible cook." he said, smiling.

"I don't remember your cooking much on Voyager." Kathryn said.

"It was easier to use the replicators." he said, glancing up at her. "I could say the same for you, you know."

There was a long quiet period as she watched him add different spices to the crushed herbs.

"Seven tried to learn," Chakotay said softly, "but she became so frustrated when things didn't turn out as she expected, she all but gave it up. You know how she was about perfection."

Kathryn didn't answer but nodded thoughtfully.

Chakotay took two steaks from the refrigerator and firmly rubbed the concoctiononto both sides of them then stepped to the sink to rinse his hands. After turning off the water he reached for a towel and dried his hands, gazing out the window at Seven's flower garden. Kathryn remained silent, allowing him his private thoughts. Turning around Chakotay leaned against the counter, tossing the towel aside.

"I've been thinking about something and I'd like your opinion."

Kathryn pulled up a stool and sat, resting her crossed arms on the island. Chakotay paused for a moment before he spoke.

"Since I'm all Katie has now, I've been thinking about what would happen to her if I wasn't around. How do you think Tom and B'Elanna would feel about being her guardians?"

"I think they'd be honored." Kathryn said with an easy smile. "They're wonderful parents. I think they are an excellent choice."

"It's a big responsibility to take on." he said. "And they're having their second baby. It would mean three little ones instead of two." He crossed his arms and looked upward. "Maybe it's too much to ask."

"Ask them." Kathryn said. Chakotay's eyes met hers as she added, "I don't think they'll disappoint you."

Chakotay smiled broadly. "Have I said 'thank you for coming'?"

"You have," Kathryn said as she stood and went to him. They hugged briefly. When she stepped away she said "I'm glad to be here."