EPILOGUE

"I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where. I love you simply, without problems or pride: I love you in this way because I do not know any other way of loving but this, in which there is no I or you, so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand, so intimate that when I fall asleep your eyes close."

-Pablo Neruda

=/\=

The ocean crashed against the shore in white capped swells as rays of sun glistened on the golden sand. Waves rolled in and out, lapping at the coast, and a seagull flew overhead, dipping into the water to capture a morsel of food for dinner. High above the water on a rocky cliff stood a lone house. The home's design was simple, and its rooms overlooked the ocean through large windows.

On the deck of the house, leaning against a white railing, stood Kathryn Janeway. The salty ocean breeze blew her wet hair away from her face, and she inhaled deeply, enjoying the fresh aroma. The sun shone down on her skin, warming her as she pulled her plush, white robe tighter around her body. She gazed out over the vast water, listening to the consistent rhythm of the waves, picturing the forces that caused the changing of the tide.

Suddenly, two strong arms appeared on either side of hers, and she smelled a familiar musk and felt a tantalizing kiss on her neck. "Come back to bed," a masculine voice rumbled in her ear.

Her soft chuckle became a moan as his mouth continued its ministrations on her neck. "Don't you think we should get dressed?"

"Why?" he murmured between kisses. "I have everything I need right here. And I can think of a lot more fun things to do without our clothes on."

She moaned again as he pressed his burgeoning erection into her buttocks, feeling his hardness through the soft material of their robes. "You're insatiable."

"Can you blame me? I've waited a long time for this." He leaned forward and captured her lips with his. Their tongues danced as they savored the taste of each other's mouths until they broke apart for air.

Kathryn settled against Chakotay's chest and looked out at the ocean as his arms wrapped around her in a protective embrace. "What do you see?" he asked.

"The Earth turning. The effects of the moon's gravitational pull. The tide changing." She smiled. "A combination of hydrogen and oxygen atoms that covers approximately eighty percent of the globe we call home." She paused, feeling the vibration of his chest as he chuckled. "You?"

"The future I've always dreamed of with the woman I love."

She groaned. "You're hopeless, Chakotay."

"A hopeless romantic. I admit it. But it's one of the things you love about me."

She laughed and they lapsed into a long silence, allowing the waves and the wind to murmur and hum. Finally, Kathryn said, "Starfleet offered to reinstate my commission."

Chakotay broke the embrace and moved next to her. Leaning against the deck railing with one arm, he watched her closely. "Are you going to accept?"

"I haven't decided yet. I wanted to talk to you first."

"You know I'll support you whatever you choose, Kathryn."

"Apparently, Emperor Ch'a'fen has requested me as a special liaison between Br'nai and the Federation. He wants me to help him rebuild our alliance, and serve as an external adviser as he tries to undo the damage that V'tan did to his world."

"I see. And how do you feel about that?"

She turned to look out at the waves, leaning on the rail with both elbows. "Part of me wants to stay as far away from Br'nai as possible."

"They took a lot from you."

"From us," she corrected.

He rubbed her back gently. "And the other part of you knows you can help Ch'a'fen. He was a pawn in V'tan's game; he wasn't responsible for what happened. If he was able to rule with his own mind, and you were there to help him..."

"We could have a truly meaningful alliance," she finished. "I know. And there's no one else in Starfleet who comes close to understanding all the issues that go along with this alliance the way I do."

He chuckled. "You've already made up your mind, haven't you?"

She looked at him reluctantly. "What about you, Chakotay?"

"I'd like to do some work on that book I've thought about writing for so long."

"On World War Three counter culture?"

He nodded, slipping his arms around her waist. "But I can do that from anywhere. The Academy has granted me a year long sabbatical if I should choose to take it." He leaned forward and kissed her eyelids. "I'll come with you to Br'nai, Kathryn, if that's what you want to do."

"I can't ask you to do that."

"I don't recall you asking me to do anything."

Janeway shook her head with a smile, entwining her arms around his neck. "I want you to have the life you want, too."

"The life I want is with you, Kathryn, wherever that is."

She blinked back tears and released one of her hands to poke him in the ribs. "There you go with that hopeless romantic routine again."

"I'm sorry," he said, trying to look contrite. "It's a bad habit. You'll have to try and break me of it."

She leaned in, feathering kisses over his lips, chin and neck. "No. I wouldn't want to. Not really. Besides, it can be awfully sexy," she purred.

He kissed her deeply before pulling away. "I mean what I said. I can take a sabbatical anywhere, as long as I complete my research in San Francisco before we go."

"I'll think about it, okay?"

"Okay. There's no hurry."

She stood on her tiptoes and reached up to kiss him. "Chakotay, I love you."

Without another word, he swept her up in his arms and carried her into the bedroom. Outside, the waves crashed and the sun set with the changing of the tide. Brilliant colors streaked across the sky as distant stars began to appear above the house on the cliff. Inside the house, two people, filled with joy, gratitude and love, were overcome by the realization that together, they would never lose the things they lived for.

THE END


A/N: Thank you so much for taking this journey with me and for hanging in there till the end! I truly appreciate everyone who has taken the time to read and review this story. Thank you!

KJ115