Sighing, Kathryn placed her coffee mug on the table and stood up to answer the door. The last thing she wanted, after this afternoon's disaster, was company. Naomi had stopped by earlier and it had taken all of the former captain's strength not to snap at the young girl.
"Hello, Kathryn." He stood there, hands shoved deep in pockets, hunched shoulders buried deep in his coat in an attempt to stay out of the driving rain.
Any anger she might have had at seeing him there dissipated as she took in his disheveled appearance. "Good grief, Chakotay," she exclaimed as she reached out a hand to drag him inside. "What are you doing out on a night like this?"
"Had to see you," he sniffed, as a rain drop ran down his nose. "And it wasn't raining when I set out."
She couldn't help but laugh as she closed the door behind him to shut out the dark night. "I'll get you a towel," she muttered, turning away so that she couldn't see him take off his coat and boots.
He stood there awkwardly until she returned. "Thanks," he said as he took the towel and wiped it over his face before running it over his hair. "How bad do I look?"
"Bad," she said. "But I've seen you looking worse."
He laughed. "Is that supposed to make me feel better?"
"No," she replied. "It's supposed to make me feel better. I somehow feel that you getting soaked is all my fault." She turned to the replicator. "Sit down, Chakotay and I'll get you some hot tea."
"So," she continued. "Why did you have to see me?"
"Thanks," he said again as he took the mug of hot liquid from her. "I guess I needed to apologise. You throw a mean hook, Kathryn."
"You mean to tell me," she smiled, taking a seat at the opposite end of the couch, "that the great Chakotay breaks over a mere slap?"
He managed to see the attempt at a joke for what it was. "Yeah," he said ruefully. "That's what I get for not being able to use the boxing program I had on Voyager."
Somehow his comment broke the tension and they both laughed.
"Actually, " said Kathryn. "I'm the one who should be apologising to you. I should never have hit you or made those comments. Can you forgive me?"
He sighed. "I always do. Besides, I shouldn't have made those comments about Justin or about your command. I know how much his death still haunts you, and you made a damn good captain as well."
"Couldn't have done it without you, though."
They sat in silence for a while before Kathryn finally brought up the subject that had begun their argument. "I am sorry about you and Seven."
"I'm not. She was right."
Kathryn looked across at him. "Why ever not? And what was she right about?"
"You know that letter she left me?" He waited for Kathryn's nod before continuing. "She accused me of not being totally committed to the relationship. Which was true. She said it was an inefficient use of her time." He watched Kathryn's eyebrows raise. "I know," he sighed. "Same old Seven." He paused for a minute.
He looked down at the mug in his hands. "She also said that my heart was someplace else. And at first I thought she was being paranoid. Then I realised she was right. I thought I had got past all those feeling that I felt, but I hadn't. Which wasn't fair to Seven. We should never have got involved."
"Is that you meant when you said earlier about making the biggest mistake of your life?"
"Yes." He pushed his fingers back through his hair. "Look, Kathryn. I'm sorry, I kinda said some stuff I shouldn't have today. Seven doesn't blame you, but she knew damn well that you were a factor."
"No, Kathryn, don't say anything. Please? I need to continue. The truth is that several years ago I fell in love with my best friend. She didn't or couldn't return the feelings so I tried to move on, get on with my life. I valued her friendship above all else so I made a big effort. And no matter how she felt I would always be perfectly content to be her friend. At least that's what I thought."
"Chakotay, I don't…"
"Kathryn," he said in a warning tone. "I said to let me finish. As I was saying, I thought I could be happy, move on with my life but apparently I couldn't. And Seven saw that. I couldn't give her what she wanted because I wanted to give that to someone else. So she left me. Simple as that."
"Or not," Kathryn muttered quietly. She sat up straight and leaned her back against the couch. "Dear goodness, Chakotay, we placed that woman exactly where she didn't need to be. Right in the middle of our own stubbornness. No matter what she might have said, that her leaving was for the best, whatever, she's got to be hurting. It's never nice to end a relationship."
"I know," he replied. "And until you came to visit I'd spent the day wallowing somewhere between guilt and self-pity."
"I was probably the last person you needed to see."
"Actually, no. You can consider yourself a much-needed wake up call. Not that I realised it until after you'd left. At the time I just thought you'd come to add to my guilt." He grinned. "I did hear some of what you said though."
"Want to know which parts?"
She shuffled slightly. "I don't know, do I?"
He placed the mug on the low table in front of the couch before leaning close to her and taking hold of her hands which she had kept in her lap. "I think so. It was the bit about losing people you were ready to spend the rest of your life with, such as Justin. I know you and Justin were engaged to be married."
Kathryn bit her lip. "We were."
"And then you said that you'd lost the last person you could have spent the rest of your life with when you found out about Seven and I." He took a breath. "Did you mean that, Kathryn? Could you have considered spending the rest of your life with me?"
"I don't know," she admitted, looking down at their joined hands. "Once you and Seven got together I guess I put that idea out of my mind."
He shook her hands. "Well, put that idea back into your mind. Between Seven's leaving and your coming today I've realised just where and with whom I want to be with. Who I should be with."
She looked down. Letting go of one of her hands he gently lifted her chin up. "What do you say, Kathryn, would you be willing to give this old fool another chance."
She smiled at him. "And how many chances did you give me? I'd be the fool to say no after all this time. Of course, Chakotay. If you'll give me just one final chance. I won't make you regret your feelings for me. Not now. Not when I can admit just how I feel about you."
He swept his arms around her and drew her close to him. "And just how do you feel about me?"
"I think," she said, with some consideration, as she leaned back against him. "That I could very well spend the rest of my life right here. But..." She felt him tense and laughed. "I think every once in a while I'd have to get up for more coffee!"
He laughed and gave her a shove. "Well, if you're getting some, I'd love another tea. I think this one's got a bit cold."
She stood up and looked down at him, placing her hands on her hips. "Is this how it's going to be? You giving the orders?"
He grabbed her by the waist and levered himself to a standing position. "Well, I did serve under you for seven years. I think its time you served under me for a change."
"In your dreams," she laughed.
"Nope," he replied as he placed his arms around her. "In my reality and maybe, if I do things right, in my bed."
She leaned close to him. "We'll see about that mister. Just take a look around you and remember whose place this is." She kissed him lightly on the nose. "It might be your reality but it'll damn well be my bed."
"Deal," he replied and kissed her fully.