It had been so hard to get through

Disclaimer: if it was mine I'd be rich by now, and I wouldn't be writing for this!

Feedback: pretty pretty please! With a cherry on top! (if you do not like cherry's feel free to substitute it)

Note: I haven't got a clue if they're supposed to still have phones or cars in voyager, I've just put them in cos I wanted to!

When Passion Dies

Chakotay sat cradling a cup of coffee drumming his fingers on the table, he sighed and put his head in his hands.

"Coffee please." His head shot up of it's own accord when he heard the comfortingly familiar voice, he turned in his seat and stared at the counter. A small women with long auburn hair had her back to him. Chakotay mentally crossed his fingers and waited with bated breath for her to turn round. Picking up her cup of coffee the women turned round and started walking towards the door. Chakotay felt a jolt of recognition hit him and as the women walked past his table his hand shot up and grabbed her arm, the women glared down at him, then her expression changed.

"Chakotay!" Kathryn smiled, "It's good to see you."

"You too," Chakotay's voice sounded as though he hadn't used it in a very long time, "Sit down Kathryn." Kathryn sank down into the seat and placed her cup of coffee and newspaper in front of her.

"It's been far to long," She shook her head in amazement, "It must be, what? Nearly a year?"
"A year," Chakotay agreed, "Almost to the day." Kathryn raised her eyebrows and took a gulp of coffee.
"That long, how time flies!" She grinned, "So what have you been up to? How's wedded bliss." Chakotay flinched and stared at his hands.

"Fine," He muttered. Kathryn sighed.

"I know that look."

"What look?"

"The look that says you want to talk about something but you're to polite to bring it up." Kathryn gave him a reproving look. "It hasn't been that long, I can still read you like a book Chakotay!" Chakotay managed a small smile. Kathryn sighed again. "Well my apartment's just down the road, I was heading that way so why don't you join me? We could have some lunch." Chakotay stood up and grabbed his coat.

"Sure, let's go."

* * *

"And then I spent the next six months on the base at Mars trying to organise everything." Kathryn led Chakotay down an alley way. "So I guess altogether I've been pretty busy." She grinned. "It's up here." Chakotay followed her up a staircase. "I haven't been here for a while." She admitted as she turned the key in the door.

As Chakotay followed Kathryn into the small apartment the first thing he noticed was the definite un-lived in atmosphere of the place. It was dark until Kathryn pulled back the curtains then Chakotay could see the fine layer of dust over just about everything.

"When was the last time you were here?" Chakotay looked round the room in amazement.

"About two months ago," Kathryn admitted with a grin, "I mostly live in hotels or in my office at star fleet!" Chakotay shook his head.

"I would've thought you'd have calmed down now you don't have the hassles of Voyager."

"No I'm probably worse!" Kathryn laughed, "I haven't got anyone to tell me to slow down anymore." She gestured to a chair. "Sit down, I'll get us something to eat." Chakotay settled himself into the sofa.

"What about your huge mansion anyway?"

"That thing! It's hideous, and far to big for one person, I'm renting it out to people without star fleet knowing, I live here whenever I get a moment to myself."

"Which doesn't seem to be to often." Chakotay leant back and briefly considered whether or not he should contact Seven, after all she was supposed to be his wife. "Mind you she doesn't act much like a wife," He muttered to himself. Kathryn re-entered with two baguettes.

"Tuck in," She said placing them on the table. "So come on, tell me all about it."

As they ate Chakotay told Kathryn everything that was bothering him. The way passion had burnt out for him and Seven, how he was sleeping on the couch and she regularly kicked him out for no plausible reason and just how damned unhappy he was. Through it all Kathryn just looked at him and made the right noises, occasionally reaching for his hand. As Chakotay looked into her kind eyes all he could think about was what might have happened if he had waited just a few more months instead giving up.

"I think I know the problem." Kathryn said when he had eventually finished. He glanced up at her. "Not once when you were telling me all this did you say you loved Seven, do you love her Chakotay?" Chakotay looked up at her and sighed.

"I just don't know anymore." He rested his forehead on his hands and stared at the floor. "I don't know," he repeated, before he had even realised it was happening tears rolled down his face and his body shook with quiet sobs.

Kathryn swallowed as she watched her best friend come apart in front of her, she moved to his side and placed a comforting hand on the small of his back. With the other hand she gently stroked his hair.

"It's Ok Chakotay," Was all she could say helplessly, "You go ahead and let it out." Chakotay reached for her and they held each other tightly as he let his grief for all past mistakes wash over him. When it had all quietened down Kathryn sat down next to him but kept her hand resting on his leg.

"What about you Kathryn?" Chakotay asked, "Has there been anyone in your life?"

"One," Kathryn replied quietly, she sighed, "I really thought that I could love him and for a little while I tried, then he asked me to chose between him and his work and I guess I didn't love him enough." Chakotay looked into her sad eyes. "I don't know Chakotay," Kathryn continued, "Maybe I'm just not cut out for love anymore,"

"I don't believe that," Chakotay answered softly, placing his hand on top of hers. Kathryn smiled sadly.

"I lost the only person I ever could have loved properly a long time ago when I refused to acknowledge what was staring me in the face." She didn't know what she was saying anymore, she was talking to herself more than him. "My fault, my loss, I suppose I should just get on with life right."

"Maybe," Chakotay looked distracted, "In a way I know how you feel, the same thing happened to me because I was too impatient."

Kathryn sighed and gave Chakotay's leg a squeeze.

"Well I suppose what's happened has happened. You and Seven will be ok, you just need to remember why you married her in the first place, and me, well I guess I'll just carry on the way I'm going and become a bitter old admiral, just the way I'm supposed to." She tried to carry off the remark by laughing but it came out forced and she trailed off miserably.

"Maybe," Chakotay said quietly, one of his hands reached up of its own accord and brushed against Kathryn's hair.

Kathryn didn't immediately move away from the soft caress although her mind was screaming at her to get out of there. Instead she stayed and exhaled softly as the hand moved down and brushed against her lips. Then she quickly pulled away and stood up.

"Kathryn…" Chakotay rose up behind her, she turned and looked at him, seeing the desire and love in his eyes. She wondered if her own eyes were betraying the same longing. They obviously were as Chakotay moved closer to her and wrapped his arms around her, he leant forwards and buried his face in her hair.

Kathryn sighed as she felt his hot breath on her neck, she allowed her hands to caress his back and leant in closer to his embrace. She felt Chakotay place a soft kiss on her neck and immediately felt a small tingle of pleasure. She felt Chakotay moving away from her and lifted her head to meet his. They stood for a long minute looking into each others eyes, then as if on a pre-arranged signal they leant into each other, lips parting.

When they met together their kiss was soft, caressing, then it filled with passion as Chakotay allowed his tongue to explore her mouth. Kathryn responded urgently and soon they were both alive with desire. Without breaking the kiss Chakotay scooped Kathryn up into his arms and carried her into her bedroom.

* * *

Kathryn pulled her bathrobe around her and closed the bedroom door softly, Chakotay was still lying in there asleep. He had ended up staying the night and they had made love so many times she had lost count. She shuddered to think how much Seven would be worrying now, she wondered what Chakotay would tell her when he got home but banished the thought quickly. She walked into the kitchen and made herself a cup of coffee , while she drank it she tried desperately to clear her head. Over the last night Chakotay had told her again and again how much he loved her. She had never been more confused, from the sounds of it Chakotay's marriage was in pretty bad shape, unless that was all one big lie. No, she reprimanded herself, Chakotay wouldn't lie about something like that. She thought she heard a stirring in the other room but she didn't look round.

"Morning." Chakotay walked through into the living room in his boxers. He came up behind Kathryn and wrapped his arms around her, he nuzzled softly at her neck before gently kissing it.

"Don't Chakotay," Kathryn moved away, Chakotay looked at her bewilderedly.

"What's the matter Kathryn?" He asked, he looked at her as unreadable emotions flashed across her face.

"You're married Chakotay," She said eventually, "That's what's the matter."

"So what're you saying? That last night was a mistake? A roll in the hay?"

"Yes, no, shit I don't know!" Kathryn fought to control the tears threatening to spill down her face. "I don't know anything anymore, anyway what last night was shouldn't be up to me should it?! Was it just a roll in the hay?"

"Well…" Chakotay was at a loss for words. "I don't know Kathryn, I think I love you!"

"Please don't say that Chakotay." The tears finally spilled over, "Please just don't!" Kathryn took a deep breath, "Chakotay, please tell me what last night was about, was it just because you were unhappy about Seven, or was it a moment of weakness or what? Because if it was we should just end it now."

"No," Chakotay shook his head vehemently. "I can't just walk away and forget about this, or you." Kathryn sighed.

"Well then are you really prepared to leave Seven, to abandon everything just for me? Because I'm not prepared to be your other women, I couldn't do that." She looked up at him.

"I…I don't know," Chakotay admitted, he loved Kathryn but he couldn't just throw away a marriage like that.

"I see," Kathryn looked to the floor.

"No Kathryn it's not like that!" Chakotay protested, "I just…I mean I love you…I just can't…I need time."

"It's ok Chakotay," Kathryn looked back up at him, "I think we both need time to think, I'm going away for a couple of weeks, on a shuttle flying course today. When I get back, we'll talk." Chakotay nodded his agreement, then he wordlessly started getting his stuff together, Kathryn just stood silently looking out of the window. She didn't even look up when he left.

* * *

Chakotay had cricks in his neck from where he had slept on the couch, again.

He couldn't even remember what the argument had been about this time. He didn't really care anymore, he wondered for the umpteenth time what Kathryn was doing, if she was enjoying herself. He rested his chin on his clasped hands and felt a fresh pang go through him as he thought about how Kathryn must feel now. He would have given anything for there to be different circumstances. A crash from the kitchen disturbed him, Seven was attempting to tidy up. He sighed and stood up, moving towards the door.

"Do you want any help?" He asked, Seven had her back to him and was busily crashing plates into their proper places.

"No, I can manage." She replied shortly, Seven was much better at expressing her emotions since they had arrived on Earth but she still occasionally reverted back to her old cold self in difficult situations.

Chakotay felt a fresh wash of sadness as he looked at the tense back of the blonde woman he had been so eager to make his wife just a year and a half ago. He found he couldn't remember why he had been in such a rush to marry her, was it because he was that much in love with her, or because he was trying to fill an empty void inside him. He had loved Seven, and still did but not in an earth shattering way. He wasn't in love with her and there was no question of her ever being his soul mate.

The realisation filled him with relief and sadness at the same time. He stared down at his hands, the ring of gold betraying his married status, he wondered if Seven still wore hers and realised with a pang that he didn't know. He looked back up at Seven, he remembered the way Kathryn had always been able to read his movements and his thoughts, during the early days of his marriage he had tried to train Seven to do the same, now he was slowly realising she never would.

"Seven," His voice was soft, Seven turned round, her passive face revealing nothing.

"What is it Chakotay?" The question was short, impersonal.

"How would you like to have a quiet evening, just the two of us, maybe we could, I don't know, just talk." Chakotay's warm eyes were beseeching, longing for Seven to show just a little love. Seven nodded curtly.

"If you wish." Then she turned her attentions back to cleaning. Chakotay sighed and left, collecting his coat on the way to the door. He didn't tell Seven where he was going, he never did anymore.

* * *

Kathryn found that flying shuttles was a very good way of venting bottled up emotions. The metal complained as she brought the thing round in a sharp turn, the underbelly of the shuttle only an inch or so away from the steep cliff side. She was revelling in the sheer abandon of flying in a way she hadn't done in a long time. The instructor had commented on her passion, she had been mildly surprised at the remark but now she understood what he meant. At first her piloting skills had been rusty but now she was flying with the best of them.

As she executed a 90 degree angle turn she wondered what Chakotay and Seven were doing, and if they had made up. The thought made her lose her concentration for a moment and the shuttle wobbled dangerously. She didn't know what she wanted from Chakotay, but she did know that if he was planning on making her his 'bit on the side' she was having no part of it. She would rather have nothing than that. She didn't know what that night had been about, if Chakotay had meant the things he said or not, and it was driving her crazy thinking about it. She loved Chakotay, she could admit that to herself freely and had been able to for some time, but she had also been able to start to forget him and move on. Now that was impossible.

She knew that if her worst fears were confirmed and the night had been just a one night stand then she just wouldn't be able to see him again, it would hurt her to much.

She was brought abruptly from her thoughts by a very odd noise from the engine in her shuttle. She looked sharply at the instruments in front of her and only just managed to register that something had gone horribly wrong before the craft began a heart stopping nose dive towards the ground. She had no time to do anything except brace herself and hope that the shuttle didn't go up in flames on impact.

* * *

Chakotay sat back and waited in anticipation for Seven to return home, he had really tried, he wanted to re-light whatever had burned between him and Seven that had been so good as to make him give up on Kathryn, he wanted to see what had made him fall in love with her.

The door opened and Seven stepped through, she took in the scene calmly, there was no delighted gasps, no smiles. She looked at the romantic atmosphere as though she had planned it herself.

Chakotay felt a mild flash of irritation that she hadn't made any comment, he had tried so hard, he had made dinner, he had lit candles. He had even played her favourite music in the hope it might get her to soften up. Kathryn would have made some reaction, Kathryn would have appreciated it. Stop it, He told himself firmly, Kathryn had no place here, he was trying to save his marriage.

Seven seated herself at the table opposite him and smiled at him, he attempted to smile back but the small thought of Kathryn had already swamped him with questions he couldn't answer.

The meal went by politely, they acted as if they were two strangers, not husband and wife. Chakotay found himself craving just a touch of affection, a small display of love that Seven seemed impossible of these days.

"We need to talk," He said eventually as Seven was clearing away the plates.

"What about?" She said calmly.

"Us," Chakotay followed her into the kitchen, "About whatever has gone wrong between us."

"I have no problems." Seven (to Chakotay's mind) was avoiding the issue and dodging his questions.

"Godammit Seven! Of course there are problems!" Chakotay exploded, "How about all the arguments, how about the fact I've slept on the couch for god knows how long!"

Seven regarded him evenly, "I believe you have issues to sort out."

"Like what?"

"Regarding Admiral Janeway."

Chakotay was taken aback, he knew Seven knew nothing of the night he and Kathryn had spent together, he tried to search her cool blue eyes, so different from Kathryn's sparkling ones, but he found nothing. It took a while for his voice to work again.

"How do you mean?" He croaked. Seven's eyes glinted.

"One night, when we were intimately together." She said haltingly, "You…You said admiral Janeway's name."

"What?" Chakotay's voice was no more than a whisper.

"You said her name, more than once." Seven looked back up at him, tears glistening in her eyes. "I also found the photo of her in your wallet."

"Seven…" Chakotay trailed off miserably, "I'm so sorry." Seven looked away from him.

"Do you love me Chakotay?" She asked the window, Chakotay paused for a long time.

Before he had a chance to answer the phone rang, he shot Seven an apologetic looked and went and picked it up.

"Hello? Tom hi…listen now isn't really a good…what? You're sure? Yes I know I'm sorry. Where is she? Hang on let me…oh god that sounds bad…I'm going to get over there, yes bye." Chakotay hung up the phone and looked at it for a minute in shock.

"That was Tom," He said eventually, he looked back up at Seven, tears evident in his eyes. "Kathryn was in a shuttle crash, she's in hospital, it doesn't sound good." He turned and grabbed his coat, "I have to go there."

"Chakotay if you go," Seven paused and stared at him, "Don't bother coming back."

Chakotay hesitated, he looked to the door and back at Seven, then he looked to the piece of paper clutched in his left hand with the address to the hospital in it. He looked back at Seven, the striking ex-borg who had inflamed his passion when he needed it most. He loved her, he realised, but in a caring, friendly type way. He thought of Kathryn, the woman he hadn't been able to forget even in marriage. The woman who could not only light his passion but keep it burning and even if there was no passion they still belonged together, as soul mates. He looked at Seven sadly, the passion had burnt out between them, and now it was gone there was nothing left, she had been there when he needed a distraction, it had just got too out of hand.

He looked again at the piece of paper and transferred it to his right hand, he lifted up his left hand and looked at the gold wedding band. Strange, it didn't seem to glitter as much as it once had. He carefully slipped it off his finger and placed it on the table.

"I'm sorry Seven." He turned and left.

* * *

Chakotay sat by Kathryn's bedside clutching at her still, lifeless, hand. The doctors had told him that everything depended on this night, as to whether or not she recovered from the surgery. He looked down at her still face, it was covered in bruises and the flesh that wasn't black and blue was a deathly pale. He glanced at the clock on the side, 3 o'clock in the morning.

"You're doing well Kathryn," He told her comfortingly, "You've just got to get through tonight and everything will be okay." He watched her chest rise and fall slowly. "I've been an idiot Kathryn," He whispered, "I was so stupid to ever have let you go, if I had just waited a little longer." He pressed her hand to his lips. "I've left Seven Kathryn, I don't love her in the way she deserves to be loved, she deserves a soul mate. Not somebody settling for second best." He sighed, "I should never have messed you around like that Kathryn, it wasn't fair for you, I realise that now." He smiled softly, "I haven't been able to stop thinking about that night with you, I had been waiting for it for so long. It was amazing and it made me realise that I want to spend every night with you." Chakotay glanced at the clock again, 3:05. "Come on Kathryn," He whispered again. "Come on. I love you."

Kathryn heard the voice as if it were coming from a long way away. She heard it telling her that it had left Seven, she heard it say it loved her. She felt marvellously relaxed and had the sensation of slowly drifting away from life's problems. It felt so easy to just let go, just let nature take its course.

What the hell are you doing Kathryn? A little niggly voice in her subconscious spoke up, You don't quit, that's the easy road out!! You can't give up now, you can't leave Chakotay.

Chakotay was fast asleep when a sudden pressure on his hand woke him up, he blinked rapidly. He hadn't meant to fall asleep, he jerked upright and looked at the clock, 6:30.

"Kathryn," He looked at her urgently. Kathryn looked up at him

"Hi," She said weakly, Chakotay smiled ecstatically at her.

"Hi," He said softly back, his hand reached down and brushed her hair away from her face.

* * *

Kathryn looked at the still face before her. "I'm so sorry Seven."

The blonde woman looked at her sharply. "It wasn't your fault admiral, I am… glad, Chakotay found what he needed." It obviously took her a lot to say it.

Kathryn smiled gratefully. "You know if you ever need anything…well you know where to find me."

"Thank you Admiral," Seven stared at the ground, her hands clasped so tightly the white showed on her knuckles. Kathryn cleared her throat awkwardly and stood up, picking up Chakotay's bag.

"Goodbye Seven." She walked out. Chakotay met her out on the street, she gave him a reproving look.

"I have never felt so bad in all my life." She sighed, placing the bag in the boot of the car.

"I'm so sorry," Chakotay came up behind her and put his arms around her waist. Kathryn leant back into the embrace, savouring the moments peace.

"What for," She gave his arm a squeeze then disentangled herself.

"For putting everyone through this," Chakotay smiled sadly, "If I had just tried that little bit harder then we could have been together a long time ago."

"Yeah and if I had stopped following such strict protocol then things could have been different but let's not dwell on it," Kathryn opened the car door and shot Chakotay a look, "Stop thinking about the past, let's just deal with the future."

Chakotay grinned, "Deal." He jumped into the car.

Kathryn looked back up to the still window where she was sure Seven stood. She silently bade the woman goodbye and hoped with all her heart that she would be happy and find a real soul mate. She looked back down at the car where Chakotay was sitting impatiently waiting for her. She smiled crookedly and placed a hand on her abdomen where her and Chakotay's plan for filling up her 'hideous' mansion had already begun.

Before she could think about it anymore she fell into the car seat and closed the door.

"Let's get out of here Chakotay," She reached across and placed a hand on his leg, just to show him that she had no doubts. Chakotay nodded with understanding and started up the car.

Seven watched them speed away from her window, she swallowed painfully and sat back down. She picked up Chakotay's wedding ring from where it still sat on the table, she twisted it in her fingers for a minute, watching the way the gold glinted in the sunlight. Then with unexpected force she threw it across the room, with trembling fingers she reached for the telephone and started dialling the number of the hospital where the doctor was working. She had no need for a phone book, she already knew the number off by heart.

"Hello?" The doctors familiar voice answered.

"It's Seven. I need someone to talk to,"

The End