by Keaton Bridges

Chakotay stepped off the transporter pad and walked quickly toward the door, giving the Ensign on duty a cursory nod. With less than forty-eight hours before his ship would leave again, he had no time for pleasantries. He was a man on a mission.

Fortunately it was the dinner hour and foot traffic in the halls was light as he made his way to the lifts. Not that anyone would've dared get in his way. One look at his expression, at arms stiff at his sides ending in tightly clenched fists, warned to give the man a wide berth. Nor was anyone brave enough to share a lift with him.

Chakotay strode past the vacant desk of the Admiral's aide to the main office door, swung it open and stepped inside. "Kathryn, do you know what day this is?" he barked, hands now settled firmly on his hips.

Momentarily stunned by the sudden and unwelcome intrusion, Kathryn quickly recovered. With jaw clenched and eyes narrowed she rose slowly from her chair and leaned forward on palms flat against the desk. "If I were any other Admiral, you..."

"Do you know what day this is?" he repeated loudly.

"The day you get busted down to crewman?"


"Don't bet on it."

Unfazed by her anger, Chakotay shut the door hard then approached the desk. "It's the eighth anniversary of the day we met," he said firmly. The flash of surprise in her eyes told him she hadn't known. The way she slowly straightened and crossed her arms told him that she wasn't about to admit it.

"So?" she said with a defiant tilt of her chin.

"Eight years. One sixth of my life." Chakotay paused as the words of his first officer, Tom Paris, rang in his head. 'How many more years of your life, and hers, are you going to waste playing this game?' His next words to Kathryn were heavy with warning. "I've waited eight years and I'm not about to wait another day."

"Wait for what?"

"An answer!"

Kathryn's glare faltered a bit in confusion. "An answer usually comes after a quest.."

"Do you love me?" Chakotay asked loudly. Kathryn's mouth fell open and her eyes widened slightly. He knew this woman well, had spent seven years by her side, seen her at her best and worst, in every possible mood, but seeing her speechless was a rarity. He hoped the element of surprise worked in his favor.

In the six months since Voyager's return, Chakotay and she had slowly recaptured the kind of friendship they'd forged in the early years of their journey in the Delta Quadrant. The playful flirting returned. They always had dinner together when he was home between missions but Kathryn never referred to those dinners as dates. Nor had she ever mentioned his brief relationship with Seven. Then, he and Tom Paris had had that talk in his ready room and Tom made some very good points. 'God, Chakotay, you're as stubborn as she is. You two love each other! Did you actually think the entire crew wasn't aware of that? What I can't figure out is why neither of you has done anything about it.'

"I beg your pardon?" Kathryn finally managed weakly.

"You heard me," he said as his eyes drilled into hers. "Do you love me?"

She huffed and settled her hands on her hips. "You come storming in here like some kind of crazed animal, blustering about what day this is, then throw that questions at me out of the blue!"

"Out of the blue?!" Chakotay shouted, throwing his hands in the air then letting them fall to his sides. "We've been dancing around this for eight years! You know it and I know it!" He leaned toward her over the desk resting on his knuckles. "The difference between us is that I'm not playing games anymore. Now. Do you love me?"

"Now you wait just a min.."

"Do. You. Love. Me?"


"A simple yes or no, Kathryn. If it's 'yes', I'll lock the door and we'll take care of business on that sofa over there. If it's 'no', I'll put these pips on your desk, buy fare to Dorvan and find myself someone who will love me. It's up to you." Blackmail wasn't exactly his style, and he was pretty sure he hadn't meant all of the threat, but it seemed to have had the desired affect. Kathryn's eyes twice darted to the sofa before meeting his again and her lips had softened from a tight line into a whisper of a smile. "What's it going to be?" he demanded.

Kathryn uncrossed her arms and leaned in until she stared him square in the eye. Chakotay held his own breath and felt hers on his face. His gaze fell to her mouth and he watched one side of it lift into one of her crooked smiles. Finally, she answered.

"Lock the door."