Even in the Rain

Summary: Eight years after their return to Earth, Kathryn doesn't realise what an affect her absence in Chakotay's life has had until it's almost too late.

Rating: PG-13

Disclaimer: You've heard of Paramount, right?

A/N: I was inspired to write this listening to Rosenstolz's song Auch Im Regen. I couldn't find a copy of the song with the translation, but if you're really curious just ask and I'll write one for you.

Fleet Admiral Kathryn Janeway sighed and pinched the end of her nose. She had two hours to complete a report to the President of the Federation on the latest skirmishes in the neutral zone and she couldn't concentrate. Taking another sip of her coffee, she glanced around the café; she had always found it easy to work in here, with the subdued conversations and the constant supply of coffee. But that wasn't the case today and she couldn't understand why - everything looked the same. Then she realised, over all the other conversations a voice stood out, those deep tones that had told her she was not alone, that voice she had ached for but not heard in so long. Looking around, she spotted Chakotay slouching on a bar stool at the back, and she felt her heart constrict - how she had missed him. She could tell he hadn't seen her yet, and if she didn't move she doubted he would. But she couldn't reach out to him, she half-heartedly willed her legs to move as she watched him stand and move towards the door but they wouldn't co-operate.

"Chakotay!" she called out without thinking - she could not let him leave. Several heads turned towards her and frowned, but Chakotay didn't turn and she thought he hadn't heard. But then, achingly slowly, he turned; his face a picture of shock and disbelief. But that was quickly replaced by anger and Kathryn felt her self frowning. Then, before she knew what was happening, Chakotay had turned around and stormed out of the café, leaving some stunned patrons in his wake.

"Chakotay!" she called out again, before jumping up to follow him. Once outside, she realised it was hopeless, she would never spot him in the midst of so many people. But she wouldn't have been Kathryn Janeway if she let a little bit of impossibility stand in the way of what she wanted. Scanning the crowd quickly, she decided to move left, towards the large Christmas tree Starfleet had funded in a bid to reach out to non-Fleeters, as the other way seemed to consist only of commuting Fleeters and Chakotay's lack of uniform would have stood out.

After five minutes of fruitless crowd searching, she had moved so far into shopper-territory that her uniform actually stood out in the midst of all the festive cheer in the shop window displays, perhaps the only place in San Francisco where it did. Pausing to look around, she decided it would probably be easier to contact B'Elanna - was she still staying with the Klingons?- and find out if she knew what was wrong with Chakotay, or at least what his current address was, when she spotted Chakotay's familiar broad back facing away from her. She decided to approach him slowly, he clearly hadn't spotted her yet and she thought it was best not to startle him given his current mood.

"Hey," she said softly as she approached him, and waited for him to turn around. "What's up with you?" she asked.

"What's up with me?" he spat back, "I'm surprised you care!" he tried to turn away from her again, but Kathryn stopped him, putting her hand on his arm.

"Of course I care, Chakotay," she said, hurt.

"Eight years, Kathryn, eight years since any of us last heard from you. You were their leader and you just abandon them once the job's done?! And I thought…..I thought we were friends."

"We were friends, Chakotay, best friends, but I assumed since we were home you'd… you'd want to move on."

"Move on?" Chakotay looked livid and Kathryn had to admit it scared her slightly; sometimes she forgot he had been a terrorist. "You knew how I felt about you, how I'd always felt about you. Maybe you're cold enough to turn your feelings off like that but I can't!" He said, and this time, he managed to get away from her, wrenching his arm out her grasp and disappearing into a crowd before she had a chance to follow.

She stood there for several minutes wondering what she should do, earning herself some strange looks from passers-by, before she remembered the report she'd left on the table at the café. Resigning herself to her job, she vowed to try and get back in contact with Chakotay as soon as she could.

B'Elanna, it turned out, was no longer with the Klingons. Nor was the Doctor still at Starfleet Medical or Seven still working on Mars. She could have tried Tuvok of course, but something told her her two best-friends wouldn't have felt the need to keep in contact with each other, giving how both felt about each other. Harry, the last time she'd spoke to him, was planning on going on a deep-space mission and she had no idea what his plans had been for after that. Tom however, much to her surprise, had decided to stay in Starfleet and with her security clearance, he was easy enough to track down.

"Admiral!" Tom's voice was filled with pleasure, and surprise, as he answered the call.

"Tom, how are you?" Kathryn asked with a smile.

"I'm good, we've just moved to New Zealand," he said with a laugh, "never thought I'd willingly come back here! But it's a really beautiful place, when you're not a prisoner," he said, still chuckling.

"'We'?" Kathryn asked, last thing she'd heard, B'Elanna was leaving him. She understood that'd she taken her daughter's death very hard, as was to be expected, but Kathryn had been surprised she was planning on leaving Tom; she would have thought she would need all the comfort she could get.

"Me and B'Elanna," Tom said, confused. "You haven't heard? We got back together five years ago, after she came back from retreat. It was hard, of course, but the Klingons helped her find her way again."

"No… I hadn't heard, well, I'm happy you two are back on track, you really do belong together," Kathryn said with a smile.

Tom laughed again, but this time it wasn't a happy sound. "Apparently that doesn't always matter."

Kathryn frowned, she had a feeling he wasn't talk about him and B'Elanna anymore.

"Tom, the reason I called… I don't suppose you know what Chakotay is doing now? I saw him the other day and…there's some things we need to clear up."

"Yea… he's still with Starfleet, I'm surprised you don't know. He left yesterday for a three week mission.

"Right…well, I guess I'll try and contact him when he gets back." Kathryn said, suddenly awkward.

"If I'm not being too forward…why don't you come and stay with us for a while? I know B'Elanna misses you, and we could invite Harry over at some point as well."

"Oh…I don't know Tom, I'm due to leave for the Neutral Zone in a month and I've still got so much to prepare." At Tom's pleading look, she sighed, she had always been far too soft with him. "Alright, but in a couple of weeks alright? That'll give me a chance to get everything sorted out, and I can only stop for a few days." Kathryn smiled suddenly, her whole face lighting up, "but it will be lovely to see you again."

With a light heart, Kathryn walked up the steps to the Paris family home.

"Captain!" B'Elanna cried as she saw the older woman approaching up her yard. "Admiral, sorry," she amended as she embraced her.

Kathryn laughed, "Just Kathryn, please."

"Right, well, Kathryn" she said experimentally, after all this time the name feeling strange on her tongue. "There's been a slight umm… change of plan. You won't be our only guest after all; we had a friend who needed a place to stay."

"Fine, the more the merrier right?" Kathryn grinned, although she couldn't explain the sudden sinking feeling she got in her stomach.

"Right. Well, come inside, Admi-Kathryn!"

Kathryn smiled as she stepped inside the large, but still homely, house. The transformation she had seen this woman come through from an angry Maquis into a loving wife was still incredible to her, and as she walked through the hall into the lounge she noted with pride the portraits she saw of the family.

"B'Elanna, your house is lovely," Kathryn commented as she looked around the lounge: large sofa; a roaring fireplace with an inviting rug in front of it and Chakotay sitting in a corner, flicking through a book.

Chakotay looked up, scrutinizing Kathryn's appearance and the look that he gave her, though it wasn't unexpected, made her insides feel like they had been filled with titanium.

"Admiral," Chakotay nodded, with barely a glance at her.

"Chakotay," Kathryn replied, sure her voice was shaking.

"Right, well can I show you to your room, Kathryn?" B'Elanna asked, somewhat awkwardly.

"Thank you, B'E, that would be lovely," Kathryn replied, taking one last, long look over her shoulder at Chakotay.

Following B'Elanna through the house, she led her to a small, slightly rickety staircase just off the dining room.

"Tom suggested putting you away from the rest of the bedrooms, the other's are all right above the kitchen and they tend to get noisy in the morning; he thought you might appreciate some sleep before your mission." B'Elanna explained as Kathryn eyed the staircase.

"That's very thoughtful, tell him thanks won't you?"

"Sure, but you can tell him yourself, he'll be home in time for dinner."

Kathryn smiled, and looked around her new bedroom. For a guest bedroom, it was really rather charming, with several photos hung around and an armchair you could lose yourself in next to a bookcase. She sat down awkwardly on the bed, looking up at B'Elanna. She had been Captain to these people for so long, she had no idea how to really be their friend. She supposed that was why she had lost contact with them, she had wanted to give them their space, hadn't wanted to seem like a mother-hen, but in the process she'd managed to cut off all ties altogether. She'd never wanted that.

"I thought Chakotay was on an assignment?" Kathryn asked, trying not to let her emotions creep into her tone.

"Yes, but that was just for two weeks, didn't Tom tell you?" B'Elanna asked, confused.

"No, he said…" Then, sighing slightly, Kathryn realised they were trying to set them up, or at least Tom was at any rate. "Yes he did." Kathryn corrected herself, trying to change the subject.

After a few moment's awkward silence, Kathryn realised there really was nothing to talk about, and this really needed to be addressed. "Chakotay…" she wasn't sure what she should say; he was B'Elanna's best friend and she hardly wanted to seem like she was complaining about him. "Chakotay has his reasons for being upset. You all do. I should never have…I never wanted to…I'm sorry I haven't seen you in so long, I really am." She said, hating how clumsy it sounded. She had never been one to struggle with words.

B'Elanna nodded sadly. "We were upset at first, of course we were, but it was one hell of a journey - for you especially. We understood that you needed to find yourself again, needed to let go of the past. We hoped that you could do that without letting go of us, but you put the entire crew before yourself for seven years, we had a lot to be grateful for. Chakotay just…Chakotay wasn't in the same situation as us, but I guess only you two know what position he was actually in, what happened between you two. But he'll come round - if he knows what's good for him." B'Elanna added with a vicious smile.

Kathryn laughed, marvelling again at how much this woman had changed. She wasn't sure if it was her place to feel proud of her, but she did and she wouldn't apologise for that.

"I'll see you later," B'Elanna said, leaving Kathryn with her thoughts.

She wondered if B'Elanna was right, if her friendship with Chakotay was salvageable. She hoped so; she knew now that it would never be anything more than friendship, that ship had long since sailed, but he had been one of the most important people in her life and she would hate to lose contact with him completely. She wondered what Jean-Luc would make of her bumping into Chakotay like this. She hadn't mentioned that she saw him in the café, he was posted away on Romulus for two months and it hadn't come up in their any of their calls. She'd never imagined she'd get involved with someone who was just as committed to Starfleet as she was; it wasn't a great basis for a relationship, their main source of contact was through subspace but neither of them really minded. She knew that he'd taken Beverly's death hard, and she was still… well, she wasn't sure she'd ever really get over Chakotay. But they took whatever happiness they could get and they were glad of it; it sure beat being alone.