Disclaimer:  Same as always.

Rating:   PG

Notes:  A might-have-been vignette, set on New Earth, shortly after the legend of the angry warrior.  As always, thanks to Shayenne for finding all the awkward spots as well as providing constructive suggestions on how to smooth them over.

By Mary S.

           The night of the ‘ancient legend’, as they came to call it, marked something of a watershed in the relationship between Voyager’s former captain and first officer.   For Kathryn, it meant finally letting go of the last remnants of command and allowing herself to explore new possibilities.   For Chakotay, his greatest wish had moved that much closer towards fulfillment.    Although both now knew where they would end up, neither was in a hurry to get there – Kathryn was still finding her way, and Chakotay was content to sit back and let her take her time.

           Several nights later found them again sitting at the table in the shelter.    Chakotay’s hands were busy with a carving tool, inscribing an intricate design on a smooth, round stone, the first of several which he intended to set at intervals around their home.

           ‘Home,’ Kathryn thought to herself, as she idly drew up several different plans for a vegetable garden.   ‘I guess it is starting to feel like home.’  A soft smile played across her face as she let her mind contemplate all the possible ramifications of that idea.   Her eyes lifted to settle speculatively on her companion, acknowledging the attraction between them.   For two years, she’d forced down her feelings, refusing to let herself be distracted from her ship, her crew and her overriding goal to get them home.   Well, she didn’t have a ship or crew anymore – the captain was gone and only Kathryn was left.   Her gaze fell to the table again as she recalled one of her mother’s pithy sayings.   ‘When one door closes, another opens.’

           Feeling Kathryn’s stare, Chakotay glanced up, then paused in his work, fascinated by the expressions flickering across her face.   Thoughtfulness, conjecture, followed by…contentment?  That couldn’t be right.   Never, in the two years he’d known her, had he seen Kathryn Janeway content – except, amended his brain, with the day’s first sip of coffee.     His heart leaped with renewed hope that, finally, she was learning to accept their fate and find the good in it.

           A thought flashed through his head.   He’d been wanting her to accompany him on his explorations of the surrounding area, but up to now, she’d been too focused on her research to even consider any diversion.   However, maybe now, she’d be more willing.

           “Kathryn,” he called her name softly.

           Her head snapped up as a faint blush covered her cheeks.

           Chakotay was so intrigued by this development he forgot all about his idea until she prompted him.    He smiled sheepishly in apology before making his suggestion.

           “When I was out the other morning, I found a hill that has a nice view from the top across the valley.   It occurred to me that it would be fun to watch a sunrise from there – I think it would be quite spectacular.   What do you say?   Want to head up there tomorrow?”

           She gazed at him silently for several seconds, before shrugging her shoulders.   “Sure, why not?”   It wasn’t the most enthusiastic of responses, but he wouldn’t complain.

           His smile was warm as he replied.   “Great.   We’ll need to be up well before dawn, it’ll take a good half hour to hike.   And we should have jackets with us – it can be a bit chilly at that time of day.”

           Kathryn scowled slightly as she replied.  “As long as I get a cup of coffee before we go, I’ll be fine.”

           “Fair enough,” he grinned as he bent his head once more over his work.

           Nearly an hour later, Chakotay laid down the stone and carving tool, then rose to his feet, remarking.    “Well, if we’re going to be up early, we probably should get some sleep.”  Walking around the table, he paused beside her chair, gazing down at her upturned face.   His hand came up to briefly caress her cheek as he bid her goodnight, before heading to his cubicle.

           As she stared after him, she lifted her hand, placing it where his had rested on her face, thinking that it would seem her mother was right.   Definitely possibilities there.    With a light heart, she took herself off to bed as well.

                                         -^- -^- -^- -^- -^- -^-

           The night sky was just starting to lighten when Chakotay roused Kathryn the next morning.   Groaning, she huddled in her bed, muttering that he could go if he wanted, but she was staying right here, thank you.    He chuckled, then disappeared briefly before returning to the side of her bed, a steaming cup in his hand.    Waving it slowly over her head, he could tell the exact moment her nose registered the fumes wafting back and forth.    There was a sudden jerk before her face appeared above the blankets and a hand shot out to seize the cup.

           Keeping it just out of reach, he coaxed her to sit up before handing it to her.   “Careful,” he warned, “it’s still quite hot – .”

           His voice broke off as she gulped down nearly half the cup, sighing in bliss.    “Thank you,” she murmured, then shook her head and got out of bed.

           “I’m leaving in ten minutes,” he warned.

           “I’ll be ready.”

           And indeed she was, although she had to scramble into her clothes.    A hasty brush of her hair – no time to braid it, so she just left it loose on her shoulders – and a last sip of coffee, before she followed Chakotay out the door.

           In the early dawn, trees and bushes had taken on strange hues and shadings of colour.    Several times, Kathryn paused to look around, fascinated by the way the different light could alter a familiar landscape.    Ahead of her, Chakotay strode along confidently, sure enough of the path that he didn’t need to activate the beacon strapped to his wrist.    Periodically, he glanced behind him, encouraging her to keep moving so the sun wouldn’t already be up before they reached the hilltop.

           Although the air was chilly, the pace was fast enough that Kathryn didn’t feel the cold until they eventually arrived at their destination.   The final climb up the hill, although not long, was quite strenuous, and it wasn’t until they stood at the very edge of a steep cliff looking out at the valley spread below, that she realized, in her rush, she’d forgotten to bring her gloves.    Now she was no longer moving, her fingers began to tighten with cold.    She tucked them under her arms, shivering as an icy little breeze danced around them.

           Chakotay noticed her trembling and moved to stand behind her, enfolding her in his arms.

           Reflexively, Kathryn began to stiffen as old habits of restraint kicked in, until she reminded herself of her thoughts from the night before.   If she really wanted to explore new possibilities, here was the perfect opportunity.    Letting her body relax, she leaned back against Chakotay’s chest, her head coming to rest naturally against his shoulder.    Her mind settled as a feeling of tranquility stole through her, as if in his arms, she had found her place in the scheme of things.  Suddenly, it was all perfectly clear and her doubts were laid to rest.   She belonged with this man, now and always – in the final analysis, that was the only thing that mattered.   Sighing softly, Kathryn let go of everything, allowing herself to simply exist in the moment.   It was enough.
           Shifting slightly for balance, Chakotay tightened his grasp and dropped his chin to rest on top of her head.    His nose inhaled the sweet scent of her hair, and he sighed blissfully, his heart overflowing with a fierce joy that, finally, she was letting him in.

           Overhead, the sky grew pink, then deepened into apricot, turning a few wisps of cloud into orange streamers.    As if to welcome the sun, the forest around them erupted in sound – at first, a single bird’s liquid call, which was answered by a veritable symphony in response.

           Brighter and brighter became the sky, the entire heavens brilliant now with colours ranging across much of the spectrum.    Reds, orange, yellow, pale peach, hints of soft pink blending into a delicate mauve, even a bit of green near the horizon.

           The two figures huddled together on the hilltop, staring in silent awe at the spectacular sight before them, their ears filled with waves of sound pouring up from the valley and echoing off the hills on the other side.

           There it was.  Suddenly, they could make out the first bit of curve of the sun itself, already so bright that they could only sneak quick peeks before having to shade their eyes.    Higher and higher it climbed, bathing the land and everything in it with a golden glow.
           As the first rays shone full on their faces, banishing the lingering chill of night, Kathryn and Chakotay closed their eyes, soaking in the warmth of the new day.    Even the little breeze had magically become a warm zephyr, carrying the final echoes of birdsongs to their ears.

           They remained standing there for some time, reluctant to move even when they began to feel uncomfortably warm, wrapped together in their heavy jackets.

           Eventually, Chakotay relaxed his hold and stepped back a pace, sliding his hands up Kathryn’s arms to her shoulders.    She turned her head to look up at him, disappointment on her face.

           “I guess it’s time to go?” she asked sadly.

           He nodded, smiling.   “I think the show’s over.”

           Sighing, she moved to start down the trail, but he kept a grip on her, pulling her around to face him, his eyes, suddenly intense, peering into hers.   His hand lifted to her cheek, then slid around her head as he tugged her forward, closer.

           Realizing his intention, she caught her breath before responding, her arms wrapping about his shoulders.   His head dropped; with no hesitation, he took her mouth with his, moving his lips firmly against hers, and brushing the tip of his tongue against the inside of her upper lip.

           Unconsciously, Kathryn moaned in the back of her throat, her body straining against him, as waves of arousal shot through her.    When her mouth opened slightly, Chakotay’s tongue slid in to explore and learn her taste.
           By the time he pulled back, breathless, Kathryn could barely stand.    Her eyes were half-closed, her face flushed with desire.

           Chakotay leaned close to brush his lips across her forehead, before straightening to smile down at her lovingly.

           Answering his smile, she quirked one eyebrow at him.   “That was a pleasant surprise.  But why now?”

           Shrugging his shoulders, he glanced around.   “The moment seemed appropriate; besides, I’ve been wanting to kiss you for a long time.”
           Chuckling, she reached to hug him tightly.   “Well, you couldn’t have picked a more romantic spot.   Tell me, what do you have planned for sunset?”

           His eyes twinkled, a wicked gleam dancing through them.   “You’ll have to wait until tonight to find out.   But I think you’ll like it.”

           Kathryn glanced up at him through her eyelashes, her voice a sultry purr as she answered.   “If it’s more of the same, I know I will.”

The End

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