The Last Guest
by Keaton Bridges
Kathryn had quickly tired of the many formal affairs she was expected to attend when Voyager returned. She was especially tired of self-important windbag authors and professors such as this evening's guest of honor. Dr. Franklin Gregory Winston, III. Even his name sounded conceited. He was the latest civilian contracted by Starfleet to help put together an exhibit which would chronicle Voyager's Delta Quadrant travels.
This was the third such get-acquainted dinner party she had attended in the last month and it likely wouldn't be her last. With Chakotay off captaining his new ship and Tuvok on Vulcan awaiting the birth of another grandchild, it fell to her to make an appearance.
Dr. Winston finally finished yet another tale from his illustrious career from a seemingly endless supply and the guests were invited to adjourn to the living room for after dinner drinks. Kathryn politely excused herself to powder her nose and was glad when none of the other women present volunteered to accompany her. She had paid close attention earlier when the hosts had given a tour of their large opulent home and easily found her way back to the music room and the stone portico beyond.
Kathryn inhaled deeply of the warm night air as she crossed the portico to stand at the balustrade, thankful for the respite. She supposed that seven years of parties and pot luck dinners with her crew-turned-family had lowered her tolerance for these stuffy affairs. What she wouldn't give for one more of Neelix's get-togethers, to be escorted by her dearest friend and first officer. Former first officer.
Chakotay hated these affairs more than she did, but selfishly, she had hoped that he'd get back in time to attend. His presence would have made the evening much more enjoyable to say the least. If she couldn't have him in her life as her love, she would gladly settle for his friendship. Well, perhaps not gladly...but thankfully.
Her gaze traveled up to the stars and she smiled to herself as she envisioned Chakotay on the bridge of the Legacy. Never had she been more proud of him than the day she herself pinned four pips to his collar and told him that he would captain Starfleet's newest ship. The moment had also been bittersweet, made so by the knowledge that for the most part, their time together was done. Chakotay would return to space while she manned a desk at HQ.
She missed him terribly. She had made every effort to accept his decision to move on, if indeed it could be called that since they'd never actually been together, but it hadn't been easy. Even when his relationship with Seven ended before debriefings concluded, Kathryn wouldn't allow herself to get her hopes up. Though brief, his time with Seven had proven that he was past the feelings for his former captain. She only wished she could convince her heart of that.
Drawing a deep breath Kathryn turned to descend the stairs to the gardens below. Perhaps a short walk might clear her mind of the maudlin thoughts. Her absence was sure to be noticed and no doubt someone would come to look for her. The sound of approaching footsteps told her the moment had come until she determined that they came from below rather than behind her. She stopped halfway down the stairs and gasped softly when the person emerged from the shadows.
The sound drew Chakotay's attention and he stopped, as surprised by her presence as she was by his. Kathryn recovered first and smiled in greeting but her smile slowly faded when he did not return it. Instead, he stood transfixed as his eyes boldly grazed over every inch of her. She remained motionless under his intense scrutiny, barely breathed though her heart raced, and a distant memory surfaced. That look. She had seen it once, long ago when she'd stood before him wearing only a towel. Then, just as it had on New Earth, the look vanished. Chakotay cast his eyes downward as he approached the bottom of the stairs then grinned up at her.
"Have I foiled your escape, Admiral?"
Still unsettled and her mind reeling with emotion, Kathryn hesitated. "I needed some air," she finally answered. A moment later she remembered to put on a smile.
"You look beautiful, Kathryn."
"Thank you." Pleased and encouraged that he'd called her by name, she smiled in earnest and took two more steps down. "You look pretty good yourself."
Chakotay gave a nod of thanks then glanced at the light spilling from the room behind her. "Is it that bad in there?"
"You have no idea," she answered and cautiously looked over her shoulder before meeting his eyes again. She tilted her head and gave him a suspicious look. "Then again, maybe you do. I can't help but notice the convenient timing of your late arrival." Chakotay tugged an earlobe and chuckled softly. His actions, so familiar and precious to her lonely heart, suddenly had Kathryn on the verge of tears. She blinked against the moistness in her eyes and wondered what the hell was wrong with her. Chakotay's expression of concern only furthered her embarrassment.
"Do you ever miss it, Chakotay?" she blurted and saw his brow knit in question. "The Delta Quadrant."
His expression gradually softened and a faint smile played about his mouth. "No, I don't miss the Delta Quadrant," he answered softly then grew serious. "I only miss the life I had there."
He did understand. Kathryn held his gaze as she moved further down the stairs to stand at eye level with him. "It makes no sense. All those years we scratched and clawed our way toward home," she said almost in a whisper. "Now here we are looking back."
Chakotay nodded slowly and smiled again. The kind of smile that told Kathryn he was about to tease her.
"Don't you have everything you wanted, Kathryn? Against all odds you brought your crew home. You're famous throughout the quadrant and beyond. You made it to the Admiralty."
"You're right," Kathryn said, playing along. "It's greedy of me to want more."
"Purely out of curiosity, what more do you want?" He no longer smiled and his eyes searched her face.
Here was her chance, yet she hesitated. Dare she take the plunge and tell him? What if she had misread the look on his face moments ago and only seen what she so desperately wanted to see?
"Kathryn, for seven years you lived for your crew." His voice was soft but firm. "It's time to live for you. What do you want?"
"I...I want what I couldn't have out there."
"What? A puppy? Real strawberries? What?"
She smiled despite herself and playfully poked his shoulder. He gave her an I'm-still-waiting look and Kathryn sobered. "I want a man in my life."
"Now we're getting somewhere. Will just any man do, or, do you have someone specific in mind?"
In that moment she knew that he already had the answer. While she thought her heart might burst with joy, Kathryn wasn't about to let him get the best of her. Something had to be done about that rather smug grin on his face. "There is a very dashing man I've had my eye on."
"He owns the bakery near my apartment and..." The rest of her words were smothered beneath Chakotay's lips. She didn't even have a chance to close her eyes before he pulled back to look at her.
"You were saying?"
"Oh, um, well he gives me free coffee and.." Again her words were cut off by a kiss, this one a bit longer, and again he nonchalantly pulled back to allow her to continue. The lesson she'd intended to teach him was forgotten in the headiness of his kisses and an overwhelming desire for more. "Oh, what the hell," she muttered and fell on him, her arms tightly around his neck and her mouth pressed to his.
Chakotay made a small sound of surprise which turned into a gutteral moan of pleasure as he eagerly returned the kiss. He encircled her waist with his arms and crushed her to his chest. Kathryn responded by demanding entrance to his mouth with her tongue and he groaned again at his first real taste of her. Too soon they were forced apart by the need for air and as they recovered, grinned at one another like children who'd found hidden Christmas presents.
"What about the bakery guy?" he asked, still a bit breathless and with a twinkle in his eyes.
"Oh, him. No competition whatsoever." She smiled devilishly as she leaned in for another kiss. "You have much nicer....buns."