RATING: PG
DISCLAIMER: Not mine, nuff said
SUMMARY: Time in the holodeck with Miral
NOTE: Don't ask where this came from, I just don't know. It's another of those 30-minute efforts. Anyway, for the purposes of this you're going to have to assume they didn't get home when they actually did. Sorry, it's just the way it worked out! Thanks to Jo for the read through.
FEEDBACK: Always welcome! As a result of the last batch of feedback some subtle changes were made! If you've read it before see if you can spot them!

***

"Come on, Miral, you can do it," the voice of Voyager's First Officer called to the toddler a few yards from him. He held out his arms to her as she slowly staggered her way into them.

"Having fun I see," a voice from above his head remarked.

He gave a look of horror to the small girl. "Uh oh, Miral. Captain's here. Stand up straight now and give her your best salute." The little girl watched and giggled as her playmate jumped up and executed an impressive wave of the hand.

The captain, meanwhile, desperately fought to keep a straight face. "At ease," she suggested smiling, before kneeling down to the youngster's height. "And how's my newest crewmember doing today?"

The newest crewmember promptly buried her head against the commander's trouser leg.

Kathryn sighed and placed her hand underneath her chin. Looking up to her second in command she commented, "That good, huh? I really do have a wonderful knack of scaring even the youngest and most fearless on this ship, don't I?"

"Ka'in," Miral suddenly said.

Kathryn blinked. "Well, that could be good or bad."

Chakotay picked the little girl up and held her against his shoulder. She buried her head again against his shirt. "How do you mean?"

They began to walk downhill towards a duckpond. "Well, she either just called me Captain, which means she has no clue I'm also called Kathryn. Or she just called me Kathryn which means that she knows my name but has no respect for authority."

He laughed. "You do recall who's child this is, don't you?"

"Of course I do. Speaking of… what are you doing baby-sitting?"

There was a bench by the pond and Chakotay gently sat down, still holding Miral. "I made one hell of a screw up with the schedules. I managed to schedule both Tom and B'Elanna on while forgetting that both Joe and Sam had requested the rotation off. There was only one solution." He looked across at her. "What are you doing here?"

She grinned. "Actually, B'Elanna and Harry needed to test out the newly installed holo-emitters in the corridor. So I decided I'd stop by, grab something from the holo-deck and see if I could take it with me when I left."

"Sounds a good idea. If these emitters work properly the doctor won't have to rely on his own one quite so much."

"Ducks," Miral suddenly screeched. "Ducks, Cotay. Bread please?"

Kathryn laughed even as Chakotay called upon the computer to magically supply the small girl with a bag of breadcrumbs. Just when she was going to suggest that it might be dangerous for the girl to be so close to the water, Chakotay pulled out from his pocket a long plastic rope-like harness and attached it to Miral who pouted furiously.

"What in the world are those?" Kathryn asked, incredulous.

"Reins," he replied. "A twentieth century thing that parents used to use for their kids. Gives the kids a little freedom to roam but still gives the parent control. Even though we're on the holodeck with the safeties on, Tom wants her to have this on as much as possible for when they get shore leave."

Kathryn nodded. "Understandable. She probably doesn't understand what's real and what's not at the moment." She paused. "I thought those went out of fashion though back in the late twentieth century."

"Cultural politics," he shrugged. "B'Elanna made a few adjustments to the design." He turned back to watch the small girl at the water's edge. "Be careful, Miral! And stay away from their beaks so they don't bite you."

"Well, don't you know it all?" Kathryn teased him.

"I treat her just as I would my own," he replied. "And I'd give my own that very same piece of advice."

Kathryn smiled gently at him. "Do you miss not having any of your own?" she asked softly.

"Yes," he replied. "And no. Yes, I would love to have a family, and no, because its times like these that I am perfectly content with the way life is." Holding tightly to the reins with one hand, he placed his other lightly on Kathryn's. "What about you?"

"Oh, I'm content too," she laughed, not wanting to spoil the moment. "I don't know, Chakotay. I was always so focused on a career and when we got stranded out here, I think I focused a little too much on it."

"You focused on getting us home," he reminded her. "And you're still doing that and there's nothing wrong with that. But you need to live as well, take some personal time, to be yourself. Look at Tom and B'Elanna… didn't they manage to surprise us all? Full time parents and full time crewmembers. Engineering's still running smoothly and we've not crashed yet either. I know you're the captain but you've got a good team standing beside you, just as B'Elanna has a good team down in engineering."

"You're saying I should focus on myself a little?"

"Focus on Kathryn," he told her. "And yes, I am."

"Perhaps you're right," she sighed. "Perhaps you're right. It is time. I had thought we'd maybe be able to use those conduits to get us a passageway back to known space but it didn't happen and I have to go on with my own life, don't I."

He nodded. "Yes, you do." The grip on her hand got tighter. "And you know I'll always be here for you."

Maybe it was the way he said it, maybe it was the look in his eyes, or maybe it was just time. Either way, Kathryn began to lean forward and he, seeing her movements, mirrored them. Their lips had just begun to brush.

When Chakotay was dragged backwards, off the bench, and with a loud splash found himself sitting knee deep in water. A giggle from a nearby bush confirmed Kathryn's suspicions; that somehow the reins had got caught and Chakotay had not let go of them in time.

He sat there motionless, while Kathryn joined in with Miral's giggling. "And you think this is funny?" he asked, putting on a serious tone.

Unable to speak, Kathryn stood up and walked around the pond until she was next to the small girl. With a bit of effort she managed to loosen the girl from the harness and pick her up. "Who's a silly Chakotay, then?" she asked her.

Miral was still giggling.

Slowly, Chakotay managed to stand up. His uniform was sodden and the water was running off him as though he were a waterfall. There was a squelching sound as he took a step forward and he appeared to sink an inch on one side. "I think I just lost a boot," he muttered.

"Better be more careful then," Kathryn chided. "Or you'll lose the other one as well."

With small, hesitant steps he made it to the water's edge and scrambled up over the low brick wall. Kathryn, by now, had come back around to his side of the pond and both of them stared down at the puddle that was slowly developing at his feet. "You're improperly attired, Commander," she rebuked him. "I suggest you change before you report back for duty."

He stared at her. "You know, Kathryn," he began. "There I was having this nice little daydream about one day having a family with you. I think I've changed my mind."

She laughed, hugging Miral, who had now decided to drift off to sleep now that the fun was over. "Well, there's your problem," she grinned. "You've got your thinking wrong. You need to stop your daydreams and turn them into reality. Lot more fun that way." She turned and began walking towards the exit. "Computer, display exit." The arch appeared and she began to walk out the door. "We'll be in my quarters, Chakotay, if you decide to change your way of thinking. But I'd suggest you change first. My quarters really don't agree with wet unless the person concerned's been in a shower first."

Chakotay stared at her. "What are you saying, Kathryn? Be honest here."

"I'm merely thinking back to our conversation earlier. And I'm sure Miral would appreciate a friend closer to her own age, don't you think?"

The doors closed behind and Chakotay began to wring out his uniform jacket. What perfect timing he thought. B'Elanna gets the long-awaited holo-project complete and he got to be the first one to confirm it worked. There really was no hope that he'd dry off but he was damned if he was going to leave a trail of water droplets between the holodeck and his quarters for anyone to follow. Of course, he could always lead the trail to her quarters but he suspected that would not be a good idea. He thought about calling for a transport but decided he'd have to explain it to B'Elanna, which he didn't fancy doing, even if it was her child that caused all the trouble, No, he decided, he was going to have to run.

By the time he got back to his quarters he'd come to the horrendous realisation that he really was out of shape. He badly needed a workout. He smiled to himself as the next realisation hit. If he was going to be a father then he'd need one hell of a workout. And he had just the workout partner in mind!

FINIS