Kathryn sat down and eyed the empty briefing room. It felt strange for her to be back in San Francisco and Headquarters. She had spend past few weeks in total isolation from anything Starfleet related, so coming back to work was something to get used to again. After the four days in court martial, which was standard procedure to all lost ships in the fleet, she had decided to take some time to herself. First the very idea of vacation had felt almost obscure, but once she truly let herself rest without feeling guilty of doing nothing, she had learnt to enjoy her time. So she had spent her holiday with her family in Indiana resting and trying to figure out what she wanted from life for now on. She had finally come to the conclusion that Starfleet had still a tight grip on her, and she had finally chosen to come back; now as an admiral. And now that she was here, the thought of her considering quitting for good felt like someone else's line of thought.
Kathryn awoke from her thoughts once she heard the door opening. Then she saw a red-haired woman entering the room.
"Admiral Janeway", the woman said and smiled.
Kathryn got up on her feet and extender her arm towards the woman she recognized from the profile she had requested before taking the assignment.
"Dr. Crusher", she said then. "Thank you for coming, doctor. You're expertise is certainly required in these negotiations."
"Thank you, admiral", Dr. Crusher said and sat down on the seat next to Kathryn's. "And call me Beverly."
"I have understood that you have put a lot of extra hours on this", Kathryn said then.
"Well, whenever there are accusations of the use of biological weapon, I tend to get very serious on the matter."
"It is the most vicious way to fight the war", Kathryn sighed. "Well, your input is certainly appreciated, doctor. Only solid facts can provide objectivity when emotions are running high. My challenge is, however, get these two parties to listen to each other today."
"You're diplomatic skills are well-known, admiral", Beverly stated. "And it is a big step that they are coming to hear the Starfleet mediator; that they are willing to sit down around the same table."
"It is a significant step", Kathryn agreed. "I guess I am feeling this slight uncertainty because I have been on a vacation for the last months. But I chose to take this assignment just because I knew it would be a though one."
"Enjoying the challenge", Beverly said with a smile.
"Definitely", Kathryn admitted. "And talking about challenges, Enterprise must be one of the most challenging places to work as a doctor."
"It is and I wouldn't change it for anything."
"I'm sure you wouldn't", Kathryn stated smiling. "Working on a starship can definitely be stimulating. But you have been worked as a chief medical officer of Starfleet as well", Kathryn said then.
"I have", Beverly answered. "And working here was certainly a challenge, too. But I have learnt that my heart is on the Enterprise", she said then and Kathryn saw a sparkle in her eye.
"Care for a cup of coffee?", Kathryn asked then and got up from her seat.
Suddenly she felt dizzy and she started to loose her balance. Then she swayed against the table.
"Admiral!" Beverly said and came to the aid. She took a firm grasp on the admiral and placed her back on her seat.
"What was that?" Kathryn asked surprised.
"Just a moment, admiral. I'm going to take the medical kit", Beverly said and stepped away from the table. "How have you been feeling lately?" she asked then.
"Normal", Kathryn replied. "Well, I have been quite tired during the past week, but I guess that would be normal after working non-stop for seven years."
"Perhaps", Beverly said and kneeled down in front of the admiral. Then she opened the medical kit and switched the tricorder on.
"I guess I shouldn't have skipped the breakfast this morning", Kathryn said then and smiled.
"I guess not", Beverly said and Kathryn became aware of the seriousness in her voice.
"What is it, doctor?" she asked then.
Beverly switched off her tricorder and took a seat next to Kathryn again. For a brief moment she was collecting her thoughts, thinking about the way to tell her what she had just discovered.
"You are pregnant, admiral", Dr. Crusher said then.
Kathryn felt like the time would have stopped, and the next thing she knew was her stomach getting tighter. She had to doubt if she had heard the doctor correctly.
"I beg your pardon?" she asked then.
"You are pregnant", Dr. Crusher replied.
Kathryn sighed in disbelief. Then an empty glare fulfilled her eyes and there was no doubt in Beverly's mind that the admiral hadn't had any idea of her current condition. She was definitely stunned, shocked even.
"But how can this be?" Kathryn asked then breaking the profound silence of the room. "I am not exactly in ideal age to bear a child. And I have assumed that I haven't been able to conceive for a while now."
"Working under constant stress can have tangible effects on female physiology", Beverly started to explain. "If your menstrual cycle has ceased, it could have been a result from demanding workload in your daily life instead of a menopause."
Kathryn nodded but said nothing. She had heard Dr. Crusher's words; she understood fully what it meant to be pregnant. But she hadn't been expecting it to happen to herself anymore. She hadn't even given a thought about the possibility. Suddenly she felt cold wave sweeping over her chest.
"How long?" she asked then.
"About seven weeks, admiral."
That was it, then. Dr. Crusher's words succeeded to trigger something within her and she wasn't able to resist certain memories surfacing her mind anymore. The briefing room vanished around her and in her mind she was taken back to a dark room weeks earlier. She was almost able to feel strong hands on her hips again, and the quick thrusts between her legs, which had ached almost as much as her own blinding urges. The mere memory brought back the same heat between her legs now, like she would have been in the room again.
"Kathryn…", she heard a low whisper in her ear, which was full of longing and desire.
"Admiral?" she heard then and Kathryn woke from her thoughts.
Instantly she became aware of her burning cheekbones and it embarrassed her. She was almost sure that Dr. Crusher was able to realize where her mind had just been.
"Umm… doctor", she said and took the class of water she was offered. "How certain are you about the duration?"
She was being ridiculous asking it. She knew what she had done and when, and she knew she hadn't been with anyone else since then. But she had to ask. She needed to be absolutely certain now.
"The tricorder is no match for proper sickbay instruments, but admiral… I am very certain."
"Are you all right?"
"Yes… yes I am. I am just really and profoundly surprised, that's all. And this day wasn't exactly the best one to become aware of this."
"Do you want to postpone these negotiations? Because I can help you to…"
"Thank you, but there is no need", Kathryn quickly responded. "At the moment these negotiations are more important than my personal life, and I tend to give my all today."
"Understood", Beverly replied. "But if you need anything… If there is a need for take a break during the negotiations, just let me know."
"Thank you, doctor", Kathryn replied. "But I'm sure I'll be fine."
Kathryn sat behind the big desk in her own office. She felt restless. The morning had been demanding and negotiations hadn't progressed as much as she had hoped and wanted. She had finally adjourned the session for one hour, and decided to check out her office, which she hadn't seen before today.
Kathryn closed the desk drawer and sighed. She wondered how she had been able to ignore the though of her pregnancy during the negotiations, but somehow she had succeeded. She had given her full input to the session and therefore her conscience was clear. But now that she was by herself again, the quietude of her new office beckoned the though back to her consciousness. She wasn't exactly happy to let those thoughts to come back to her, but she knew it was necessary. Now she had one hour to explain her situation to herself, to rationalize it somehow without letting her emotions cloud her judgments.
She closed her eyes and went back to the night almost eight weeks ago, which she had tried not to think about for more than one reason. They had been orbiting Earth three days until they were given the permission to land. Once they were down, the families and friends were waiting them in the huge conference room at the Headquarters. The night had been wonderful for many of them; for her it had been bittersweet. She had tried to ignore her selfish emotions, but she hadn't been able to shake off the difficultness of seeing her tightly knit crew starting to shatter. Her life, as she had known it for a long time, had come to an end, and she couldn't resist feeling useless and empty. She had tried to remind herself that the feeling would pass and that she would adjust, but all the reasoning had not changed the way she was feeling at that point.
In the end of the night, just before she had decided to say her final goodbyes, she had wanted to be alone for a moment. She had found a door that led to an empty briefing room, and she had stepped in. After hours of celebration, she had welcomed the silence. Watching the city lights of San Francisco gave her an opportunity to collect her thoughts. At that point she had finally not just understood but also accepted the fact that they were home. She had truly realized that she had fulfilled her promise, and all the responsibilities she had carried on her shoulders started to lose their weight. The journey she had learnt to love was over and it was time to let go no matter how grievous it might be for her. The finality of the moment had floored her and the tears had begun to burn her eyes.
"Hey", she had heard behind her back. "Why are you standing here in the dark?"
Kathryn had flinched for the sudden and unexpected voice behind her back, but once she recognized it, she had turned her eyes on the window again.
"Just absorbing all of this in", she had said then. "And watching the city lights."
"Some of the crew started to miss you back there."
"Well, the former captain has become pretty exhausted already, so I think I'm going to call it a night", she had said and turned around to watch his face.
He had looked very handsome, even more so than usual. Perhaps she had seen him like that because she had already known what she had to do. Now that they were home she would have to let him go as well. But according to her future self, his personal life was about to start bloom, and that was reason enough for her to take a bow and let him have the opportunity to figure out how his life was going to evolve. Even though the thought of not seeing him as often as she had used to saddened her, she was genuinely happy for him, as much as she was able. He meant the world to her, and she loved her as much as she had been able to do so.
"Is everything all right?" he had asked.
"Yes", she had answered. "But I am tired. Mom and Phoebe transported already back to Indiana, so I should go as well. I need the rest."
"Oh", he said. "I was hoping we could talk for a moment."
"I'm very tired, Chakotay. Can't it wait?" she had asked, and instantly realized how rude she had sounded.
"Kathryn…" he had whispered and taken her hand to his. His sudden closeness had made her step back a little, since she knew it still wasn't appropriate for her to show how much she cared. But she cared, more than she was ready to express. And if she really was saying her final goodbye to him, she had wanted it to happen as gracefully as possible. But a big part of her had wanted to stay and the warmth of his hands had given her such a comfort.
"I really have to go now", she had said, almost pleaded.
"Why do I get the feeling that if I let you go now, I won't be seeing you anytime soon?"
"I don't know."
"Will I see you soon?"
"I don't know."
He had looked at her for a moment with such a wonder in his eyes.
"Why?" he had finally asked.
"The court martial is coming soon", she had started to explain. "I… we both have to be prepared. And there are plenty of family members and friends to see as well…"
"I'll admit that it is going to be strange not to see you everyday", she had said then without even knowing why she had been so outspoken. "But we will adapt", she added.
"Borg wisdom", he had said.
The word 'Borg' had cut her like a knife. The power of the sensation had surprised her and she had had to turn away from him to collect her thoughts. She hadn't been ready to reveal what she regarded as weakness in herself. Unfortunately he knew her well, too well perhaps.
"What is it, Kathryn?" he had asked.
"Well", she had sighed. "I guess all that is ending at the moment has a deeper impact on me than I had anticipated."
"To us all, Kathryn."
"Perhaps. I just feel that…"
"That this is the last time I am going to see you for a while. And I am feeling like I'm losing a dear friend of mine who cannot be replaced. This whole night has been one big farewell, but you… you were irreplaceable help for me during the entire journey. I couldn't have done it without you, Chakotay. I guess I should have said it you more often, and to know this is my final change to tell you this makes me a little sad."
Kathryn hadn't been able to say more, since she had felt the lump in her throat and the emerging tears burning her eyes. She had wished that he would have left her then, since she had feared she had already said too much, even though she wished she could have said more.
"It doesn't have to be that way", he had said then and touched her shoulder. "Friendships do not just end like that. We just have to make more effort in order to maintain it for now on."
After those words she had turned around and faced him again. Then, for some reason, she had said: "I think I don't want to keep in touch."
"What?" he had asked with disbelief and there were clear signs of hurt in his eyes. "Why not?"
"Well because… I feel I need to be alone now for some time", she had explained.
And it had been the truth, but only a part of it. And for some mysterious way he had known it. He had seen it in her that there was something she was concealing.
"What is it, Kathryn?" he had asked. "Tell me. Talk to me."
At that point she had started to fear. They had been such a good friends, but their ranks had always kept a certain distance between them. She had gotten used to it, for her the distance had marked off her comfort zone. But during that moment she had started to feel those borders crumbling down.
"I need to go now", she had said then. Then she had leaned forward and placed a gentle kiss on his cheek. "Goodbye Chakotay. And thank you for the journey, the support, and everything."
Then she had stepped away in order to leave as quickly as possible, but he had took a tight grip on her arm and pulled her back to him.
"What is this?" he had asked. He was frustrated, a bit angry too. "After all the time, you are just going to leave like that?"
"What kind of farewell were you expecting?"
"I don't know. I guess I wasn't expecting one at all. And I was certainly not expecting you to disappear from my life or you wanting to do so."
"I don't expect you to understand, Chakotay. But I am expecting you to respect my wishes."
"I'm sorry Kathryn, but I need an explanation. I cannot believe that after all this time you are cutting me off from you life. How the hell should I understand something like that?"
"Why are you making this more difficult than it has to be?" she had asked feeling more frustrated. "Saying goodbye to you is hard enough for me, Chakotay, so I would truly appreciate if you would just let me go… just let go."
"What the hell is this?! How the hell I suppose to feel when a person who most likely knows me better than anyone else has no interest in seeing me again?"
"I did not say that! I was saying that I need some time for myself."
"You said that you don't want to be in touch with me anymore, Kathryn. I cannot believe that you actually wish that."
"Look, I do not want to spoil this moment by arguing with you. So please, let's stop this right here and now. Your future is waiting for you outside of this room. Just go and be happy. Go and live your life and let me start to live mine."
"What the hell does that suppose to mean, Kathryn?"
"Just go", she had said then more seriously. "I am sure that you are expected somewhere else now."
After those words Chakotay had started to stare her more intensely. At that moment he must have had realized that she already knew something he had assumed no one did. But she did know. She had known it for days now.
"Are you talking about Seven?" he had asked then.
His question had been like a blow to her stomach. She hadn't been able to answer so she had remained silent.
"Is this it?" he had asked then.
"Yes", she had finally admitted, since she wasn't ready to lie to him.
"Look", she had started. "I am sorry. I am fully aware that it is not any of my business. What ever there has been… what ever this has been… there has obviously been some kind of attraction, but it has never bound us to anything."
"We both have had close relationships with others during the years… so what ever you are thinking now; I want to make clear that you most certainly don't need my permission on anything."
He hadn't said anything and she had started to feel the tension in the air, the awkward silence that had filled the space between them. His relationship with Seven had obviously been more sensitive subject for him than she had anticipated. She had wished then that she hadn't said anything.
"I'm sorry. I am out of line here. I better go…", she had said then.
"Don't", she heard his voice and once again he took a strong grip on her arm. "Let's talk about this."
"No, Chakotay", she had said. "Let's just leave this right here, okay?"
"No, it is not okay, Kathryn. We need to resolve this."
"There is nothing to be resolved. I don't need any explanations; you do understand that, don't you?"
"Yes I know, but I feel the need to explain nonetheless", he had told. "Because you are… you. You are unlike no other for me, you know that. And I'm… sorry."
"No, don't be", she had said then, almost ordered. "Don't you dare to be sorry, Chakotay. To find someone to be close with… that is a good thing, nothing to be sorry about."
"I am not even sure what I have just found, Kathryn."
"But there are feelings", she had said without even knowing herself is she was making a question or stating the fact.
"Yes, there are, but whatever they may be, they still can't compare …"
"Don't'", she had said then. "Let's just leave this here."
Then she had tried to leave once again, but he had still been reluctant to let her go. He had pulled her against him once more and the closeness of his body had suddenly made her feel good in a way that had never been appropriate for her. She had lifted her eyes to meet his, and for a moment she saw something in his gaze that she knew she was feeling herself, but what was still fighting against.
"I need to go", she had whispered then, trying to make clear that she wasn't ready or willing to continue what ever had just started.
He hadn't said anything, but finally she had started to feel his other hand against her back, lowering towards her lumbar region. His touch had been electrifying, making cold chills run down her spine.
"Stop", she had asked, but too gently for Chakotay to obey. "Now, Chakotay."
"No, not yet…", he had finally whispered and his eyes were full of passion and love.
"Admiral?" Kathryn heard from the door.
"Dr. Crusher, please come in", she said and shook the memory out.
Kathryn pulled herself together and placed her hands on her armrests.
"I brought you lunch", Beverly said once the door closed behind her, and smiled. Then she placed two packages on the table. "You should eat regularly for now on, and avoid neglecting yourself."
"About that", Kathryn began and cleared her throat. "I need to know what my options are at the moment, doctor."
"Meaning?" Beverly asked and sat down on the chair in front of the admiral's desk.
"Is terminating pregnancy still an option for me?" Kathryn asked.
"Yes", Beverly answered calmly.
There was a brief moment of silence in the room. Kathryn was avoiding Beverly's face and looking the painting on the wall. It was a picture of Voyager. Very thoughtful from the one who had placed the painting here, Kathryn thought.
"Is that the action you have decided taking?" Beverly asked then.
"I don't know", Kathryn answered truthfully. "At this point I cannot make any final decisions, but I do need to know how long it is an option for me."
"12th week is the absolute upper limit, but I must let you know that there are doctors out there who would already refuse to terminate it."
Kathryn leaned against backrest of her chair and sighed. She was confused, lonely even, and therefore she appreciated Dr. Crusher's presence, even tough she had never even met the woman before today. But something about the doctor made Kathryn feel comfortable with her and she started to feel that she could confide in her; that she would be the one to trust.
"I used to be quite sure that I would like to have children one day", Kathryn said then. "But I guess the Delta Quadrant changed a lot of things. And having children alone isn't really something I am prepared to do."
"Would you be by yourself with this child?"
"I believe I would."
"And you are considering not having this baby."
"This child affects more lives than just mine. This is not just my child."
"So you believe that the father wouldn't want this child?"
"It's a possibility", Kathryn said. "And it is not just him."
"What do you mean?"
Kathryn pondered for a moment how much she was ready to explain. But she needed to give her thoughts a spoken form.
"If I would even tell about this pregnancy, I might end up hurting someone who is very dear to me, someone who has nothing to do with this child."
"Oh…", Beverly said. "The father has his own commitments to someone else."
"Yes", Kathryn confessed and felt shame rippling inside of her. "So this pregnancy could complicate, or most likely even ruin, a lot."
"What about the father? Do you think he would be ready to father this child?"
"He might", Kathryn said. "If I asked him to accept this child, he might even do it. But I don't know if I could do this to him. I don't want him to become father just because of sense of duty. So I am prone to think that the best course of action would be to terminate this."
"He should have the right to make that decision for himself", Beverly said.
"Maybe. But I must admit that the thought of me fixing the mistake before letting others to worry about it is very appealing."
"It would definitely be an easy way out. But I think you should let this man know", Beverly said. "I have always thought that when serious matters are decided between two people, or two parties like in our negotiations, the final conclusion requires agreement from all or disagreement from one. Either way, all parties should be aware of the truth, no matter what is been decided."
"True. I guess I am being very self-centered now. Even though I am worrying about spoiling other people's lives, I think I am fundamentally thinking about myself now, and how my life would change if I would go through this."
"It is perfectly natural response", Beverly stated.
"I guess I should also think the rights this child has, and if he could choose, I think he would rather live than die."
"That is the question we have debated centuries", Beverly said. "And opinions are still very much divided. But you are right, admiral. It is your life. If you feel in your heart that you cannot do this, then you should be honest with yourself. But no matter what you might do, what you may decide, the fact is that you're life has already changed. And so has the father's. He has the right to know."
"I know", Kathryn said. "I'm just being confused and even a little terrified. I guess after all that has already happened in my life I should have learnt by now to expect the unexpected, but I did not in a million years imagine this to myself."
"I don't know if anyone can ever truly expect the unexpected", Beverly stated. "I think humans take great comfort from the expectations that some things would remain the same, even though rarely anything will."
"That is true", Kathryn agreed and smiled.
"Give this some time. You don't have to make your decision right now and you shouldn't," Beverly stated. "So how about having a lunch, admiral?" Beverly asked then.
"That sounds good", Janeway said took the fork in her hand. "Oh, it smells nice. What is this?"
Kathryn sipped coffee from her cup and read the relevant background information on the virus from her PADD. The dinner break had been brief, but after intense hours of negotiations any break had been more than welcome.
"Are you ready, admiral?" Beverly asked.
"Almost. I just need another ten minutes", she said.
Beverly nodded and left. Kathryn walked to the window and stared the sundown. She had seen similar sunsets in many worlds, but still the one on Earth was the most beautiful in her eyes. Suddenly she started to feel lonely again. That was ironic, since she knew that she was housing another life within her.
"I need to go", she heard her own words in her mind.
Then she remembered Chaktoay's touch almost as vividly as it would have happened now.
"Stop", she had asked. "Now, Chakotay."
"No, not yet…", he had whispered.
What happened next got Kathryn's heart still racing. She remembered how he had guided her to the dark corner of the room and without a word pushed her against the low shelf. All of her thoughts had mixed as one blur.
"You are going to regret this…", she had said then. "I don't want you to do this to her…"
"Don't say no, Kathryn, not now", he had whispered, breathing heavily. "Not now when I know you want this too."
"You are better than this… You don't want to do this."
"If I can have you, I don't' care about the rest. You're my exception, Kathryn."
He had been saying all the words she had needed to justify her own desires. And she had given in. She had felt how Chakotay lowered her trousers. The mere realization of his action made a hot wave rushing over her, and she had known right there she wouldn't be able to resist any longer, nor would she want to. She had already felt the wetness flow between her legs.
"Someone could see us...", she had managed to whisper.
"No one is going to."
"The door is open…", Kathryn whispered again, before Chakotay muted her with his kisses.
His kisses had floored her and she had responded them as hungrily, encouraging him to continue. He had quickly found the way to lower her pants, and next thing Kathryn had felt were his curious fingers touching her underpants, inciting the ache between her legs to expand until the painfully teasing sensation was the only thing she was aware of. All she knew about the world outside of his arms was the voices of their kissing and deeps sighs, which filled otherwise so silent and dark room. That was the sound of their unresolved love, which had burned between them too long.
"I love you…", he had whispered until putting his fingers inside of her and feeling how wet and read she had been. "I'm so in love with you…"
"Shh…", he had demanded.
She had wanted to touch him, to please him more, do anything which would lead her quicker to her own release. But he hadn't let her. He had made sure that he wanted to lead, and she had let him. She had been ready and willing to do anything for him. When she finally felt him penetrating her, she had tried her best not to cry out. His hands had found a firm grip on her hips and he had started to take her from the behind. She had loved that. She had felt all of him inside her, thrusting her again and again, and every thrust getting harder and harder.
"Oh yes…", she had heard herself whispering. "Right there…"
"Kathryn…", she had heard him whispering.
"Ohh!" she had moaned when he found a new angle to take her harder and going deeper. His thrusts caused the most intense sensations that rippled through her. "Ooh…!"
"Ohh!… right there … oh god…"
Quickly her climax had begun to build and before had she known it, she felt the edge approaching. Then she had felt the first spasm hit being totally unprepared for it. All she had been able to do was to enjoy the unbelievable feeling of her powerful eruption. For a moment everything else in their lives was entirely forgotten.
But the reality had gotten to her quickly. Once the heavy sights silenced, Kathryn pulled her panties up and stepped away from the shelf. She had been confused, scared even. She hadn't dared to look him in the eye.
"Kathryn...", he had called her quietly and stepped towards her.
"Go", she had asked him.
"Okay, I am going."
"Why are you angry?"
"You need to ask, Chakotay?"
"What is this?"
"Nothing", she had said behind her defenses. "This was nothing, Chakotay. But at least we can stop wondering now."
Then she had tried to leave, but once again he had stopped her. But she had been adamant; she needed to get out. Because to truth was that the first thought she had had on her mind once they were done was Seven Of Nine. Therefore she had started to feel anger. She had been disappointed to herself, but also deeply broken because she hadn't been able to enjoy their love making. She had had to deny it, strip it from all of its meaning.
Once she had rushed out of the briefing room, she had headed straight towards the side door that lead to outside. She had needed the air, but more than anything, she had needed the escape. On her way she had bumped into someone.
"Doctor… Excuse me.", she had said and rushed off.
Kathryn sighed and looked the ceiling. Suddenly she remembered something, which made her stomach turn, something she hadn't thought about before, because it had felt such an insignificant detail. It was The Doctor. Yes, she remembered it now. Once she had bumped into him, he had looked at her angrily.
"Oh god, no…" Kathryn whispered aloud. "He knows… He saw us…"
The night was already dark once Kathryn and Beverly stepped out of the Headquarters and walked towards the transporters.
"Thank you, Beverly, for everything", Kathryn said. "For both conducting your best at the negotiations and being such a good support with… the other thing. I truly appreciate your support."
"You are welcome", Beverly said and smiled. "This was certainly a long day and we both require rest before tomorrow morning. I just hope you will get some sleep tonight. I'm sure there's a lot in your mind now."
"There is and I hope that too. But I am not holding my breath."
"Have you had any chance to give the situation a further thought?"
"No. But in all honesty the way I feel about all of this at the moment… I just see there is just one logical choice for me and that would be to terminate this. I just cannot make someone else paying for my own mistake."
"It is not your mistake alone", Beverly reminded. "And therefore it is not solely your decision either."
"I just hate the thought of something this wonderful being something so regrettable. It shouldn't be this way."
"What about the father? Are you sure he would regret it?"
"No, I am not sure. But he has just started to build his life with someone else. If I would tell him about this, I would feel like I was invading, stealing even."
"This is a difficult situation without a doubt and there are no easy answers", Beverly started. "But I think you should try to approach this situation similarly than you have approached the crisis during our negotiations."
"What do you mean?"
"You, as a mediator, have tried to separate the people from the problems, and you have tried to focus on the needs instead of current positions. So I suggest that you should try to identify the problem in this case, instead of thinking how feelings might get hurt. And try to be honest to your own needs, the child needs and the father's need, instead of thinking about how things are. Perhaps you will find your solution."
"That is a good advice, doctor", Kathryn said.
Both Kathryn and Beverly stopped. The next thing they saw was a tall figure walking from the shadows towards them.
"Chakotay?" Kathryn asked surprised.
Chakotay got closer and Kathryn started to feel unsure. She had no idea why he had come, and the situation took her by a surprise. She wondered if she looked abashed in Dr. Crusher's eyes.
"Dr. Crusher", Kathryn began. "This is Chakotay, my former first officer. Chakotay, this is Dr. Beverly Crusher."
"Nice to meet you", Beverly said with a smile and shook Chakotay's hand.
Beverly, who had just got to know Janeway, sensed the admiral getting uneasy. It took about a nanosecond for her to realize who this man was.
"Well, I better be going", Beverly said then. "But we will see tomorrow at 0800 hours."
"We will. And thank you once again", Kathryn said.
Beverly smiled, until turned her back on them and headed towards the transporters. While she was walking, she kept her fingers crossed. She had her own ideas of the reasons why admiral's former first officer had appeared, and she hoped that she was right.
"You have been avoiding me", Chakotay said once Dr. Crusher disappeared from their sight.
"I have tried to reach you many times, but you never returned to my messages."
"I have been on a vacation and therefore out of reach."
"I know. And once the global media watch reported that 'Janeway The Great' has been spotted on the Starfleet uniform again, I figured out that this would be the place to finally reach you. So can we talk?" he asked and offered his arm.
Kathryn didn't respond, but took his arm and they started to walk.
"So back to work?" Chakotay asked then.
"Yes. I am the mediator in the negotiations. Dr. Crusher is the medical expert who has studied the virus allegations behind the crisis."
"She's the chief medical officer of the Enterprise."
Kathryn smiled. She was a little surprised to see how uncomplicated it was to be with Chakotay again. Unlike her expectations, there were no traces of awkwardness between them, even though they both knew what had happened during their last engagement. It had been two months already, but seeing Chakotay and being with him made the past weeks feel significantly shorter period of time.
"So what exactly brings you here?"
"You", Chakotay answered. "I have missed you."
Kathryn's smile grew even wider.
"I have missed you, too", she said then. "How is everything?"
"Good", he answered briefly.
Then her smile started to fade away. "And how is Seven?" she asked then trying to maintain her neutral exterior.
"Good, I guess."
"You guess?" she repeated.
"I haven't seen her for a while now. She and Doctor accepted Fleet's work offer to join their 'think thank'".
"I'm surprised you didn't know that."
"Like I said; I have been pretty much out of contact during the last weeks."
"I thought that I was the only one to have that privilege to be ignored by you", Chakotay joked.
Kathryn stopped walking and turned to Chakotay.
"I must apologize for my behavior", she said then. "Last time… well let's just say that I behaved extremely immaturely and I was rude as well."
"Apology accepted", Chakotay said and smiled.
"Thank you", Kathryn said and continued walking.
"It's over, you know", Chakotay said then.
"What is?" Kathryn asked.
"My dating with Seven."
"I'm sorry to hear that."
"You are?" Chakotay asked and Kathryn thought she heard disappointment in his voice.
"Of course I am. I have never wanted anything but good things for you."
"Well you shouldn't be sorry, then, since this moment is the best thing that has happened to me in two months."
Kathryn stopped again and looked Chakotay seriously.
"Did she find out what happened between us?"
"Are you sure?"
"Pretty sure. Why do you ask?"
"Because I think the The Doctor saw us."
"Yes, he knows", Chakotay said then. "He confronted me that night and told me what he had seen. And he was pretty furious. I guess his "speech" was the final straw for me to realize how things were and where my heart truly is."
"Did he tell Seven?"
"I don't think so", Chakotay said. "I hope not. I don't see what would be accomplished by that."
"I hope you are right."
"So where are you going now?"
"To my apartment, I guess. I have one in San Francisco, you know, given by the Starfleet. I am not exactly sure where it is, since I haven't lived a day in it. But I think I'm going spend my first night there now, because you heard Dr. Crusher – I have an early morning ahead of me."
"Well I guess I'm going to help you finding it."
"That is very kind of you", Kathryn said and smiled.
"Kind has nothing to do with it", Chakotay pointed out. "I am expecting to crawl between the same sheets than you, you know."
"Oh?" Kathryn asked smirking. "So much for helping a friend unconditionally."
"I have been patient for weeks now. I think I'm entitled to fair compensation."
"And what comes to that friend part – you should know by now that it has never been just that for me, Kathryn. You are the love of my life."
Kathryn stopped and looked Chakotay in the eyes.
"And now that we are not in the command structure anymore, I am going after you with all I got. So consider yourself forewarned."
Kathryn started to laugh.
"You don't know where you are getting into, Chakotay."
"I think I do."
"Oh, you may think you know, but the fact is that you have no idea."
"Really?" he asked and smiled. "And what is that exactly?"
"Well, let's find this apartment of mine first. I'll tell you then."
Chakotay nodded and put his arm around her waist. Then they continued walking, stars shining above them in the San Francisco sky.