Disclaimer:  Still Paramount’s, even if it is over

Rating:  R, to be on the safe side

Notes:  This story is set shortly after “Workforce” and refers to events of that episode.  For the purposes of this story, and to satisfy Sheri, the reason Norvallans don’t have fathers is because, in an attempt to improve their race, they practice genetic breeding.  They are perfectly capable of siring offspring just like any other humanoids.

By Mary S.
 
 

           The doctor smiled cheerfully at the captain, giving her no warning of the appalling verdict on the tip of his tongue.

           “Congratulations, Captain.  You’re pregnant.”

           She stared at him in shock, her face paling, voice frozen.  She tried to swallow, succeeding only on the second try.

           “P…pregnant?!  But….”  The words of protest died on her lips.  Oh no!  Jaffen!  What was she going to do?!

           The doctor continued, waving a PADD under her nose.  “Now, these are my instructions for the next few weeks.  Plenty of rest, regular meals, no working beyond the end of your shift – and,” he paused dramatically, “no coffee!”

           “No coffee?!” came the whispered echo.

           “None!”

           She sat on the biobed, too stunned to object.  A baby!  She couldn’t have a baby!  She was a Starfleet captain!  Captains didn’t get pregnant, at least not and remain in active service!  They were removed to desk jobs, and allowed back into the centre seat only when they had produced the child and allowed a suitable period of time to pass so everyone could adjust.  And they had help!  Lots of it!  What was she going to do?!

           The doctor was still blathering away, quite oblivious to her mental agony.

           “….so there you are,” he finished, beaming.

           “Wh….what?”  Her voice was hesitant.

           “Captain!  Haven’t you been listening to anything I’ve just said?!”

           “No.”

           “Oh.”  He sounded nonplused.  “Well, read the PADD.  And see me next week for a checkup.”  The door to sickbay opened to admit Tom Paris.

           “Hi, Doc.  Here I am, right on time.  Captain!  What brings you here?”

           “Oh…..just a headache.  Nothing serious.  I’m fine.  Really.  I’m…..fine,” she babbled frantically.  She had nearly said ‘pregnant’, just catching her tongue in time.  Oh god!  She had to get out of there!

           Quickly, she hopped off the biobed and headed for the exit.  “Thank you, Doctor,” came floating through the door as it closed behind her.

           “Captain!  You forgot the…..PADD,” the doctor called futilely.  She was gone.

           Tom reached out a hand.  “Give it to me, Doc.  I’ll take it to her when I go back to the bridge.”  He glanced at it briefly, then did a double take and stared at the words.  “’Guidelines for the first trimester’?  What is this?”

           “Nothing you need concern yourself about, Mr. Paris,” replied the doctor hurriedly, grabbing the PADD.

           Tom stared at him, his brain obviously calculating probabilities.  “Quarra!”  he exclaimed.  “That guy she was living with.  What was his name?  Jaren, Jalen, Jaffen – that was it!”  He stared at the doctor.  “She’s pregnant, isn’t she.”  His voice made it a statement.

           “Yes, she is.  And that information does not leave this room.  You tell no one, Mr. Paris.  If I find out anyone else knows, I will inform the captain that you ‘spilled the beans’.  Is that the correct terminology?”

           “Yeah, it is.  Don’t worry, Doc, I’ll keep it quiet.  It’s the least I can do.  This isn’t going to be easy for her.”

              _______________________________________________________
 

           Kathryn Janeway sprawled on the couch in her ready room, feet propped on the coffee table.  She couldn’t think, her mind was in utter turmoil.  Ye gods!  What was the matter with her?!  She had fought numerous enemies right up to and including the Borg!  And she had never lost her composure like this!  One baby, not even fully formed, apparently could cause more uproar than a whole fleet of cubes!  What was she going to do?!  She didn’t know, didn’t have a clue.

           She badly wanted a cup of coffee.  Deciding to ignore the doctor’s instructions, she got up and walked to the replicator, ordering “coffee, black, hot.”  The computer muttered but nothing happened.  That was strange.  She tried again – still nothing.

           “Doctor to Captain.”  His voice jumped out at her.

           “Yes, Doctor?”

           “You may not have coffee, Captain!”

           She almost growled at him before silencing her commbadge.  Damn hologram!  She attempted several different methods of circumventing his orders, but to no avail.  Try as she might, she could not get the replicator to produce a cup of coffee.

           She sat back down and tried to bring some order into the chaos her life had become.  Let’s see, she mused, a list!  Make a list of things to do.  Prioritize, organize.  She pulled out a padd, activating it.  First – talk to Chakotay.  Her head fell back in despair.  Oh lord!  She had to tell him – and she had no idea how!  The very thought made her cringe with embarrassment.

           She was well aware of her first officer’s feelings towards her, no matter how hard he tried to hide them.  If she were completely honest, she would have to admit that she had even used them on occasion, to coax him into doing something he really didn’t want to do.  This news was going to hurt him badly – but she had no choice.  If nothing else, his position required that he be told as soon as possible.  Might as well get it over with, she thought gloomily, and paged him before she could change her mind.

           “Janeway to Chakotay.”

           “Chakotay here.”

           “Report to my ready room, Commander.”

           “On my way.”

           There – she’d done it.  Better go sit at the desk; maybe that would help make the whole business more – businesslike.  She closed her eyes, gathering strength.  She was going to need it.

           On the bridge, the commander rose from his chair, turned command over to Tuvok, and stepped down to the ready room.

           The door chimed.  She gritted her teeth and bade him enter.  He walked in, coming to a halt in front of her.

           “Yes, Captain?”

           She looked pale, he thought, and – nervous!  Now that was strange!  He could only recall one other occasion when he had seen her this anxious – just before she left the ship to willingly allow herself to be assimilated.  A nagging fear settled in his stomach.  Whatever she had to say, he knew he wasn’t going to like it.

           “Sit down, Chakotay.”

           He obeyed and waited in silence.

           “I went to see the doctor today,” she began.  “I haven’t been feeling very well, and I thought, maybe, I had the flu…..or something.”  She paused, not sure how to go on.

           Chakotay gripped the arms of the chair hard, the fear inside growing exponentially as she continued to hesitate.  Finally, unable to find the words which might make it easier for him to bear, she just plunged ahead.

           “There’s no easy way to say this, so I’ll just say it.  I’m pregnant.”

           He stared at her in stunned disbelief.  Of all the things he had prepared himself for, this had never crossed his mind.

           “Chakotay?  Say something, anything!  Please!”

           “I….don’t….”  He swallowed and tried again.  “I don’t know what to say.”

           Her eyes fell to her desk, her face reddening as a wave of humiliation spread through her.  It caught his attention – he looked hard at her, and suddenly knew everything she was feeling.  He got up and came around to her chair, then took her hand and led her to the couch.  Her eyes jumped wildly to his face at his touch, but she said nothing.  He sat her down, settled himself, and turned to face her.

           “Kathryn, who’s the father?”  His voice was very quiet but she could hear the tension.

           “Jaffen.”

           “I see.  And what do you plan to do?”

           She was puzzled, not understanding.  “I don’t know what you mean.”

           “Are you going to carry the child and raise it, or terminate, or put it up for adoption?  Although that might be difficult, given our circumstances.”

           “I’m going to keep it, Chakotay.  I hadn’t thought of doing anything else.”

           He didn’t reply.  She stared at him, searching for any reaction, but his expression was blank, his face shuttered.  She found a clue when she noticed his hands clenching and unclenching.  On impulse, she covered them with her own.  His eyes flashed to hers.

           “Chakotay?  Talk to me.  Tell me what you’re thinking, what you’re feeling.”

           “You don’t want to know, Kathryn.”

           “Yes, I do.  Please tell me.”

           He took a deep breath.  “All right.  I can’t say I’m delighted with this because I’m not.  You know very well that I love you.”  Her breath caught at his words – never before had he actually spoken them aloud.  He went on.  “I am quite aware that you believe you can’t have a relationship with a member of your crew.  I don’t agree, mind you, but I understand your reasons.”

           He stood and began to pace, trying to sort out the jumble in his mind, put aside the anger and resentment, the grief that this wasn’t his child.

           “I’m going to need a bit of time, Kathryn, but I will support you, just as I always have.  I promise you that.  It’s just….this is a little hard to take, you know?”

           She heard the wistful note and her heart tore.  Oh, Chakotay!  He was so good to her, so kind, and she never gave anything back.

           “One more thing,” he added.  “I know I can speak for the entire crew, Kathryn, when I say that we’ll all be behind you.  Don’t try to do this alone.  You’ll only end up hurting yourself and your baby.  Let us, all of us, help you, be there for you.  All right?”  He stared down at her.

           She nodded, the lump in her throat too big to let her speak.  She tried to exhale but it came out as a sob, as she fought back tears.  He saw and sat down close to her.

           “It’s okay, you’re allowed to cry, you know.”

           She started to shake her head but he forestalled her.  “You’re human, Kathryn.  Act like it.”

           At that, she buried her face in her hands.  He put his arms around her and cradled her against his shoulder.  “That’s my girl,” he whispered.  “Let it out.  You’ll feel better.”

           She got control of her emotions after only a few minutes and sat up, wiping her face.  “I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to cry all over you.”

           He lifted her chin.  “Silly.  That’s what friends are for.”  His smile was gentle, and she felt herself start to drown in the warmth of his eyes.

           “I don’t deserve you, Chakotay.  You are far too good to me.  But I am very glad you’re here.”

           He kissed her forehead, then settled beside her, her hand enclosed in his.   “When do you plan to tell the crew?”

           “I don’t know.  I’m not looking forward to it, believe me!”

           “I think you underestimate them.”

           “Maybe.  But – I should tell Tuvok right away.”  She sighed.  “I hate it when he disapproves.”

           “I think you’ll find you’re underestimating him, too.”

           She grunted, unconvinced.

           “Are you okay now?”

           “Yes, I’m fine.  Thank you.”  Her eyes were still a bit damp.

           He rose to leave.

           “Send in Tuvok, would you?”

        ______________________________________________________
 

           In the weeks following, Chakotay became even more protective of his captain than usual.  It seemed to Kathryn that every time she turned around, she was faced with his concerned expression.  He was constantly popping into the ready room, checking on her, coaxing her to eat, cajoling her to take short rest breaks, refusing to let her work one second past the end of shift.  More than once, she lost her temper and ordered him out of her sight, but to no avail – he simply ignored her tantrums.

           It all came to a head on the day when, despite all his efforts, she categorically refused to leave her desk.  He walked around to her chair, swooped her up in his arms, and ordered a site-to-site transport.  They rematerialized in her bedroom.  He plunked her down on the bed and had her boots off before she had time to do more than stare at him in total shock.

           As she opened her mouth to reprimand him in no uncertain terms, he pulled her up, tugged off first her jacket, and then her turtleneck, before laying her down to start on her pants.
 
           “Chakotay!!” she exploded, outraged at his manhandling.  She tried to fight him off, but he was too strong for her.  Unable to call for help as her commbadge was still attached to the discarded jacket, she yelled at him to stop at once and let her go.  He ignored her completely, intent only on pulling off her trousers.

           His immediate goal accomplished, he hauled her back up, turned down the bedclothes, then laid her down, covering her up.  He said not a word, only smiled in an infuriating manner.  She ground her teeth in rage.  Finally, he spoke.

           “There!  Now, Kathryn, you will listen to me!  And don’t interrupt!”  he snapped, loud enough to make her jump.  “Starting now, either you take better care of yourself, or I’ll do it for you.  You will stay in your bed for at least the next hour, preferably more.  If you set so much as one toe on the floor, I’ll know and take further, more drastic action.  Understood?”

           She stared at him, speechless with astonishment.

           “Understood?!” he repeated.

           “Yes,” she replied, very low.  She was realizing that, for once, she would have to give in, whether she liked it or not.  She lay staring at him, her face mutinous and sullen.

           “Much better,” he approved.  “Don’t worry about the ship, I’ll look after it for you.”

           He rose from where he’d been sitting on the bed, patted her hand, and left.

           Ten minutes later, when she judged enough time had passed, she tried to get up, only to discover a force field completely surrounding the bed.  Damn!  She was stuck!

           Forced to stay put, with nothing to do but stare out the viewport, she began to chuckle.  It was funny, she thought to herself, although she would never admit as much to Chakotay!  He had behaved insufferably, even if he did have her best interests at heart.

           Her thoughts wandered as she watched the stars streaking by.  Ever since the doctor had announced her pregnancy, in the back of her mind, she had worried about just how she was going to manage to be both a captain and a mother.  Well, it would seem that, like it or not, she was going to have help on both fronts.  She smiled softly, reflecting that Chakotay would make a wonderful father.

           That idea led to other, forbidden areas.  She sighed, for once letting herself acknowledge just how much she loved and wanted him.  The recent interlude with Jaffen had shown her how badly she needed someone in her life, someone whom she could love openly and allow to love her.  She patted her stomach.  Although she hadn’t planned it, she certainly had someone now.

           Her mind drifted, random thoughts flitting by as she dozed.  Soon, her breathing slowed and her body relaxed completely.

           In sickbay, the doctor paged Chakotay to let him know she had fallen asleep.  The commander grinned, then turned to Tuvok, and told him he could drop the force field.  Others on the bridge heard the order, and glanced up, puzzled, but Chakotay just smiled enigmatically, and said nothing.  Shortly after, he left briefly and then returned without explanation.

           Over two hours later, the captain awoke, feeling much refreshed.  She found her commbadge on her bedside table, although she was sure she had last seen it on her jacket.  Mystified, but not about to look a gift horse in the mouth, she hailed the bridge.  The commander responded at once.
 
           “Yes, Captain?”

           “I need to get up, Commander.”

           “Certainly, Captain.  You are free to do so.”

           Several crewmembers overheard and looked up, perplexed.  They were even more astonished when, ten minutes later, the captain trotted out of the turbolift, not a hair out of place and a determined gleam in her eye.  Hadn’t she been in the ready room all afternoon?  Hands paused and heads tilted towards her as her curious crew tried to understand what was going on.

           “Commander!  My ready room!  Now!” she growled.

           Uh, oh!  they all thought.  He’s in big trouble!

           Chakotay rose with alacrity and as he passed Tuvok, nodded for him to accompany him.  A show of strength and unity would be required if he was to have any success in placating his very angry captain.

           “Mr. Paris,” he called out, “you have the bridge.”

           Both men followed Kathryn, taking up a stance at parade rest just inside the door.  She whirled around, advancing on Chakotay until she was right under his nose.

           “Don’t you ever pull a stunt like that again!  Do you hear me?!”

           “Captain…..” he began, but got no further.

           “No!  Silence!  This is not a game, Commander, and I won’t stand to be manhandled the way you did today!  If it happens again, if you even think of taking similar action, you’ll spend the rest of our journey in the brig!  Do I make myself clear?!”

           “Yes, ma’am,” he answered quietly, then glanced at Tuvok, who nodded.  Chakotay took a deep breath, steeling himself and spoke before she could add anything else.  “I must inform you, Captain, that if you follow through on that threat….”

           “It’s no threat, Commander, it’s a statement of fact!”

           He went on as if she hadn’t spoken.

           “……then the doctor will exercise his medical override and order you off the bridge for the duration of your pregnancy.”

           He held his breath, waiting for the inevitable explosion.

           It didn’t happen.

           The captain turned away, knowing she wasn’t about to win this particular battle, not when her entire crew was united with the same goal.  Tuvok’s silent presence confirmed that fact.

           “All right, I won’t throw you in the brig.  But Chakotay…..”

           He interrupted her.  “Kathryn, all I’m trying to do is get you through this as easily as possible, and to give the baby the best start we can.  We’re all on the same side here. I really don’t understand why you’re fighting so hard against every suggestion I make.”

           She bit her lip, knowing how contrary she must seem.

           “Chakotay, I know that!  It’s just…..you’re smothering me!  Wrapping me in cotton wool!  I’m the captain!  You have to let me do my job!”

           “But you have two jobs now, don’t you see?  I realize you’re the one who has to find an equitable balance between them.  I’m just trying to keep things on an even keel until you do.”

           He went on, his voice becoming impassioned.  “Let us help you, Kathryn!  That’s all we want!  You don’t have to do this alone!  Accept our help.”

           She nodded her head slowly.  “All right.  I can do that.”

           He breathed a sigh of relief, the tension flowing out of him.  Thank goodness, they had been able to reach a compromise.

           Tuvok voiced his next question.  “When are you going to tell the crew?”

           Kathryn squirmed in her chair, obviously uncomfortable.  “Not until I have to.”

           They both nodded, not pushing.  Let her have the time she needed.

          ________________________________________________________
 

           Two weeks later, the inevitable happened.  Kathryn had gone down to the mess hall for a late breakfast.  As Neelix turned around to face her, coffeepot in hand, a wave of nausea caught her by surprise.  Dizzy, off-balance, she clutched at the counter with one hand, the other clamped over her mouth.

           “Captain!”  She barely heard his exclamation.

           “Neelix!”  She gasped through her fingers.  “Help!”

           He darted to her side, grasped her elbow and steered her to the head tucked behind the galley.  They barely made it.

           She came out, chin up, mouth drawn in a thin line, her face a mask of control.  He was beside her at once, concerned, babbling questions which she wasn’t prepared to answer.  She raised her hand to silence him.

           “I’m all right, Neelix.  Really.  I’ll be fine.  Just a momentary upset.  Thank you for your help.”

           She sailed out the door in full captain mode before he could say any more, hoping she had effectively cut him off.   Her hope was in vain.

           Neelix was truly frightened, and his fear and worry, always quick to appear, made him call the captain repeatedly for the rest of the day to inquire about her health.  In desperation, she finally returned to the mess hall shortly before the first dinner shift.

           “Captain!  Are you all right?  What can I do for you?  You look very pale, and,” he peered into her face, “tired, too.  Why don’t you sit down right over here and I’ll…..”

           “Neelix!” she interjected as forcefully as possible.  “Please!  Let me speak!”

           “Yes, Captain?”

           “I….I thought I should explain the…..episode earlier today.  I’m not sick, or dying, or anything.  Well, not in the usual sense.  You don’t have to worry.”

           “Captain, are you sure?  In all the years I’ve known you, I’ve never see you….like that.  Have you been to sickbay?  I know you don’t like to go, but….”

           “”The doctor is aware of my condition.”  She sighed.  Maybe she should just tell him.  Hopefully, the news would lessen his concern.

           “Neelix, you know that while we were on Quarra, I was in a ….relationship with a man there, Jaffen.”  He nodded.   “Well, you see, I…..”  She took a deep breath.  “I’m pregnant.”

           He stared at her, astonished.  “Captain!  But….!  That’s wonderful!  I mean,” he looked at her closely, “it is wonderful, isn’t it?”

           She sighed, but nodded.  “Yes, Neelix, it’s wonderful.”

           Engrossed in their conversation, neither had heard the doors on the other side of the mess hall open to admit several crewmembers.  Their movement, however, caught Neelix’ eye and he swung around to face them, exclaiming before she could stop him.

           “Did you hear?!  Isn’t it exciting news about the captain’s baby?!”

           Oh damn!

           She groaned silently, turning to face four identical expressions of stupefaction.  The one nearest to her, Crewman Lessing (oh god! it would be Lessing!) stepped forward slowly.

           “Congratulations, Captain.”

           The others followed his lead, before moving to a table in the corner, glancing back at her several times as they did so.  She thanked each one in a small, tight voice, then turned to Neelix, her eyes blazing.

           His face was contrite, his expression hang-dog.  “I’m sorry, Captain, I thought, since you told me, that it was general knowledge.  I didn’t realize – I’m sorry.”

           She breathed out slowly, unable to resist Talaxian puppy-dog eyes.  “Never mind, it’s done now.  And it had to come out eventually.”

           She turned on her heel and went back to the bridge, her mind seething.  Now what was she going to do!

           On her return, she discovered that Chakotay had retired to his office to work on his official report of the last away mission.  She sought him out there, suddenly needing his advice.

           He greeted her cheerfully.  “How did it go with Neelix?  Did you convince him you’re not going to die in the next five minutes?”

           “Chakotay, it was dreadful!  I had to tell him about the baby – he just wouldn’t let it go otherwise, and while we were talking, several crewmen came in.  And before I could stop him, he had blabbed it all over the mess hall!  Isn’t it wonderful that the captain’s pregnant!  I could have strangled him!”

           She plopped down on his couch as she spoke, her head in her hands.  He moved over to sit beside her and put his arm around her shoulders.

           “Sooner or later, you would have to tell them.  I know he’s forced your hand, but maybe it’s for the best.”

           “Get it over with, you mean.”

           “Yes.”

           She sighed and leaned against him.  “I suppose.  Or I could just let the gossip mill do it for me.”

           “I don’t think you really want to do that.”  His arm tightened slightly as he eased her closer.  “It will be difficult at first, Kathryn, certainly.  But if you can just stick it out for a few days, the crew will soon find something else to talk about.  And I think hearing the news directly from you will help keep down the wildest rumours.”

           “You’re right, I know.  It’s just…..oh damn!”  She got to her feet.  “Let’s get it done.”  She looked at him imploringly.  “Will you come support your captain in her hour of need?”

           He stood, smiling down at her and took her hand.  “Of course I will.  Don’t I always?”

           She paused at the door, looking back at him.  “You do, Chakotay, more than you know.  I don’t say it often enough, but – thank you.”

           “For what?”

           “For being there, beside me, giving me whatever I need when I need it.”

           He lifted the hand he still held to his lips and kissed it gently.  “Always, Kathryn.”

           They returned to the bridge, sitting down in their command chairs as she tried to compose herself.  He reached over and took her hand again as she bade Harry open a ship-wide channel.

           “All hands, this is the captain.  I have a brief announcement.  In approximately seven months, I’ll be having a baby.  Janeway out.”

           She spoke in a monotone, clutching Chakotay’s fingers tightly, drawing strength from him.  Once finished, she stared straight ahead, waiting, her face white.

           The silence lasted perhaps ten seconds before Tom Paris turned and rose to his feet.  He glanced at Chakotay, nodding to the helm, then moved towards the captain.  At once, the commander stood and moved down to the conn.  Paris didn’t hesitate, pulling Kathryn up into a tight hug.  She clung to him gratefully.

           When he released her, she found Harry at her elbow, a big smile on his face as he took her hands, then kissed her cheek.  As he stepped back, the others in the bridge crew came forward, one by one, each murmuring words of good-will.  The turbolift opened and out popped B’Elanna, hurrying down the steps to stand before her, grinning wildly, then throwing her arms around her captain in glee.

           “Captain!  This is wonderful news!  I am so happy for you!”

           Kathryn looked around, eyes bright with tears, trying very hard not to cry.  “Thank you, all of you.  I am so lucky to have such a wonderful crew!”  She glanced at Chakotay, who was watching her from below.  “You were right, Commander.  I did underestimate them.  I should have known better.”

           He grinned at her and stood as Paris returned to his station.  “Yes, you should have.”

            ________________________________________________________
 

           Three months later, Voyager found a wormhole that led to the Alpha Quadrant.  A week after that, they were finally home.

            _________________________________________________________
 

           The parties were over, the debriefings finished, the Maquis pardoned, and the entire crew sent on long leave while Starfleet pondered their individual fates as well as that of their ship.

           For Kathryn Janeway, five months pregnant, her immediate future was obvious – she went home to Indiana to await the birth of her child.

           Chakotay’s was more uncertain.  He had hardly seen her since their return and began to wonder if, now that they were back, she considered him superfluous in her life.  After all, she had her family to support her – she didn’t really need him anymore.  Puzzled and hurt, he departed Earth with his cousin to go home to Dorvan.  After all, he told himself, he had his own people, especially his long-lost sister, to concern himself about, plus a whole planet that was just starting to rebuild itself after the ravages of a brutal occupation.  Time to move on, put Voyager and its crew behind him, and start fresh.  He left a message at Headquarters for her in case she happened to inquire about him.  With a determined face, and a heavy heart, he boarded the transport to Bajor on the first leg of his long journey back to his birthplace.  Unfortunately, his message was forwarded to a Captain Jonewah, presently serving close to the Beta Quadrant.  By the time it was returned to HQ, several weeks had passed.

           Kathryn had been concerned by Chakotay’s sudden disappearance, but, caught up in a new round of welcomes home, she had very little time to dwell on it.  However, eventually, her life calmed down, she was able to relax and to let her thoughts wander to him.    Why had he left so quickly?  Had she done something, said something?  She didn’t think so.  In fact, she remembered, she’d hardly seen him.  She went over her actions, and his, several times, but could find no reason for his hurried departure.  Perhaps, he just wanted to get back to Dorvan to see his sister and hadn’t been able to let her know.  It all seemed quite peculiar.

           Unwilling to bother him, she decided to let the matter rest for the time being.  She was sure he would contact her soon and in the meantime, she was enjoying her mother’s coddling.

           A month passed with still no word from Chakotay.  Kathryn found herself missing him very much, more than she would have expected, but was resolved not to harass him.  Apparently, he no longer loved her, since he had left as soon as he could.  Well, she told herself, no matter how difficult, she would just have to get past him and go on with her life.

           Occasionally, Gretchen Janeway found her daughter with a melancholy expression, but when pressed, she denied anything was wrong, immediately becoming determinedly cheerful.  Her mother assumed, wrongly, that Kathryn must be mourning the loss of the baby’s father.  That she was mourning the disappearance of her former first officer instead, never occurred to her.

           ______________________________________________________
 

           One sunny morning, Kathryn received a call from Tom Paris.

           “Tom!  How are you?  How’s B’Elanna?  It’s so good to talk to you.  I’ve missed you both dreadfully.”

           “Captain, we’re fine, both of us.  We’ve been thinking about you, and wondering how you are.”

           “I’m just great, thanks.  My mother is spoiling me rotten.  I don’t even have to lift a finger!”

           “Good for her!  You deserve it, Captain, every bit!  Say, are you planning to move out of that rocking chair any time soon and come visit – before you get much bigger?” he added, eying her girth.

           “Watch it, Mr. Paris.  We expectant mothers have especially sensitive feelings.”

           “Don’t I know it!  Well, Captain?”

           She hesitated, then, on impulse, replied,  “Sure, why not?  You’re right, I should come before I become permanently attached to this chair.  I’ll bring my mother – we both need a change.  How about tomorrow?”

           “Sounds good.  We’ll get Mom and Dad, too, have a family dinner.”

           “That would be grand.  What time?”

           “Shall we say….1830 hours?”

           “See you then, Tom.”

           She signed off and hauled herself up to go in search of her mother.  “Hey Mom, want to go to San Francisco for a few days?”

           Gretchen looked thoughtful as she mentally reviewed her calendar.  “That would be fine, dear.  In fact, I wouldn’t mind doing a bit of shopping.  But I need to be back by a week Tuesday – dental appointment.”

           “Sure.  Should give us lots of time.  Tom Paris has invited us to dinner tomorrow night.  Just family.  Owen and Doris too, but no one else.”

           “That sounds lovely.  And I’ll get a chance to finally meet his wife.”

           “That’s right.  I’d forgotten you hadn’t met B’Elanna.  I think you’ll like her.  She takes a bit of getting used to, but she’s well worth the effort.”

           “High praise, coming from her captain.”

           “We wouldn’t have made it home without her, without any of them.”

           Her voice grew wistful and her face drooped for a minute before she straightened her back.  ‘Starfleet spine,’ thought Gretchen, ‘she has it just like her father did.’

             ______________________________________________________
 

           The following evening found Kathryn and Gretchen walking up to a neat little house overlooking the ocean that Tom loved so well.  The door opened as they stepped onto the verandah and Tom flew out, followed by B’Elanna.  Both enveloped Kathryn in tight hugs before standing back to let her see who was behind them.

           Chakotay.

           Kathryn’s hands flew to her mouth in shock.  She gasped once, her eyes wide, then spoke his name very softly.  He stared at her, unable to move.

           Chakotay had returned to Earth just that day, drawn by an irresistible urge to try and see her once more.  He had told no one he was coming, contacting B’Elanna only on his arrival.  She had insisted immediately that he must come and stay with them – she wouldn’t hear of his going anywhere else.  Now he knew why.

           He finally recovered enough of his wits to move toward Kathryn, taking her hands in his and staring intently, almost hungrily, into her face.  Her eyes gazed back at him just as fervently.

           Behind her, Gretchen looked on in amazement at her transfixed daughter, then at the Parises.  Owen and Doris seemed to be as puzzled as she, but Tom and B’Elanna were both sporting very smug smiles.  Ahh, this attachment wasn’t new, then.  For attachment it was, she had no doubt of that.

           “Kathryn,” she spoke softly.  There was no response.

           “Kathryn,” she repeated a bit more loudly.  Still nothing.

           “Kathryn!”

           The auburn head snapped around to stare at her mother blankly.  “Mom?”

           “Could you introduce me, dear?”

           “Oh!  Yes.  Sorry.  Mom, this is my first officer, my former first officer, Commander Chakotay.”  She nodded at him.  “This is my mother, Gretchen Janeway.”

           “Mrs. Janeway.”

           His voice was soft and warm, and that smile!  Dear heaven!   No wonder Kathryn looked so stunned!  ‘The man is quite devastating,’ thought her mother.  ‘And,’ she added to herself, ‘clearly in love with my daughter.  Oh my!’  Kathryn’s tangled situation was painfully obvious now.  Pregnant with another man’s child, but apparently, if she was any judge, in love with this one.

           Tom burst into her musings as he herded them all inside, asking his former commanding officers if they liked his little surprise.  B’Elanna called him to task, reminding him it had been her idea in the first place.  They continued to argue lightly as everyone seated themselves around the table.

           As dinner progressed, Kathryn made several half-hearted attempts to act casually.  Chakotay didn’t even bother to try.  His entire universe was manifested in this woman – even when talking to one of the others, his eyes kept straying back to her face, as if he couldn’t quite believe she was here, beside him, and apparently as delighted to see him as he was to see her.

           They rapidly fell back into their familiar relationship, but with an added undercurrent of desire that neither tried to hide.  The evening passed quickly and all too soon, it was time for the Janeways to leave.  The elder Parises had offered to give them a lift and, in the midst of departure, Chakotay only had a minute to ask if he could see Kathryn the next day, adding that he wanted to have a long talk, uninterrupted.

           Gretchen came into the hall just then and overheard the last part of his request.  She was quick to announce that she had arranged to have lunch with Doris and B’Elanna the following day.  She had taken a great liking to B’Elanna, she said, and was anxious to know her better.  Perhaps, Kathryn and Chakotay could get together to catch up.  As she spoke, she grinned knowingly at Chakotay with a very familiar lopsided smile.  He shook his head, bemused.  Two Janeways!  What was he getting into?!

           The arrangements were made and very soon after, Kathryn and Gretchen found themselves back at their hotel.  Mother wasted no time in cornering daughter, settling into an overstuffed armchair while Kathryn was still kicking off her shoes.

           “Well, my dear,” began Gretchen, “that is quite a first officer.  I assume he’s as competent as he is gorgeous?”

           “Oh yes, very much so.”

           “I like him, Katie.  I like him very well, and, as you know, I don’t usually take to someone that quickly.  But I felt an almost instant connection with him.  Most odd.”

           “I know just what you mean, Mom.  When I first met him, that’s how I felt, too, even though he was supposed to be the enemy.  I’ve never been able to explain it, but right from the start, I knew I could trust him.”

           “Tell me about it, Katie, that day you disappeared.  I wondered so often what it must have been like for you.”

           “You sure you want to hear?  It’s a long story.”

           “Yes, every detail.”

           So Kathryn made herself comfortable and cast her mind back to the day, seven years before, when it had all begun.  She confessed how frightened she had been but couldn’t let on to her crew, how she had to grit her teeth and be the captain even as her ship was tossed about like a child’s toy.  How devastated she was to lose so many of her senior officers, especially Stadi, who had been a good friend.  And how she didn’t even have time to grieve as she tried to hold her ship together.  How unsure she had been about joining forces with the enemy, but with no other option open to her if they were to have a snowball’s chance in hell of getting home.  And how well that union had turned out.  Her crew had far exceeded her expectations.  Time and time again, they had achieved the impossible, every single one of them.

           She paused for a moment, lost in memories, then added in a low voice.  “Chakotay was the best thing that ever happened to me.  He didn’t always agree with me; in fact, we argued quite a bit when I think about it.  But he never stopped supporting me, even when he was absolutely convinced that I was doing the wrong thing.  And he made those years bearable.  It’s ironic, you know.  I fought so hard to get home, and yet, I wouldn’t have missed that time, any of it, in the Delta Quadrant.  So many good things happened, as well as awful.”  Her voice trailed off as her thoughts took her back over their long journey and all that it meant to her.

           Gretchen’s words brought her back to Earth.  “Did you have a romance out there?”

           “You mean with Chakotay?  No, Mom, not under those circumstances.  I couldn’t let personal considerations come before the good of my crew.”

           Gretchen nodded in understanding.  An admiral’s family needed no explanation about duty.

           “Why not when you got back?  It’s obvious you’re in love with him and he with you.”

           Kathryn’s eyes flew to hers.  “Is it?”

           “Yes, darling, to me anyway.  And probably others as well, if they know you at all.”

           Her daughter gazed at nothing, then sighed and looked over to her.  “Chakotay went back to his home planet, Dorvan Five, as soon as Starfleet finished with him.  I only found out when Admiral Nechayev mentioned in passing that he had gone.  He never called, sent a message, anything – just left.  I didn’t know what to think at first.  Then I figured perhaps he didn’t love me after all, and wanted to go.  So I decided to try to put him behind me and get on with my life.  At first, with lots of people around, it was fairly easy to keep my mind off him, but later, as we settled into a quieter time, it got much harder.”

           “Now I know why sometimes you looked so unhappy.  You should have said something, Katie.”

           “I didn’t want to admit that I wasn’t doing a very good job of getting over him.  I didn’t realize, though, that I was so obvious.”

           “What are you going to do now?”

           “I’m not sure.  I’ll have to find out what Chakotay wants, but, if it’s at all possible, I want us together.  I don’t want to be separated again.”

           “I’m pretty sure that’s what he wants, too,” Gretchen smiled.  “Now, it’s late and we should get to bed.  Don’t worry, my dear, it will work out, I know it will.  Goodnight.”

           “Goodnight, Mom.”

           The next morning found Kathryn and Gretchen at the Parises’ once more.  Chakotay was watching for them, and wasted no time in greeting them on the steps.  He told Gretchen that B’Elanna had said to go on in – Doris would be along shortly.  He added that he and Kathryn were going for lunch to a restaurant that Tom had recommended, and he promised not to let Kathryn get overtired, and to have her home before dinner.  Gretchen laughed at him and patted his arm.  He looked slightly stunned and she wondered why until he explained that Kathryn always touched him in exactly the same spot.

           B’Elanna came out just then to see them off and bring Gretchen into the kitchen.  On impulse, she hugged Chakotay, telling them both to have a good time.  She and Gretchen settled down for a good chat while waiting for Doris.

           “Have you known Chakotay long?” inquired the older woman.

           “Yes, nearly ten years.”

           “How did you meet him?”

           “It’s a long story – are you sure you want to hear it?”

           “Yes indeed.”

           B’Elanna began at the point when she joined the Maquis after Chakotay had saved her from Cardassian soldiers.  She explained how they became not only her friends, but her family.  And she described just how close she grew to Chakotay.

           Gretchen interjected delicately.  “I hope you don’t mind my asking, but were you always just friends, nothing more?”

           “Yes.”

           “But you would have liked something more?”

           B’Elanna hesitated, then took a deep breath.  “Yes, I would have.  But he never showed any interest.  You must remember, too, that he was involved with Seska at the time I joined the Maquis, and once on Voyager, he had eyes only for the captain.”

           Gretchen nodded slowly, then straightened as the door chime signalled the arrival of Doris Paris.  Abandoning the topic, the three departed for lunch.

           Meanwhile, Kathryn and Chakotay had headed south in a rented hovercar to the Monterey area.  Finding a quiet bay, he stopped, saying he wanted to walk on a real beach.  They stepped carefully onto the sand, then strolled slowly along the shoreline, enjoying the crashing waves and the piercing cries of the gulls.  He spotted a log that looked good for sitting on, and led her over to it.  As he seated himself, she stood in front of him, feet braced, and asked him what he wanted to talk about.

           He stared out at the ocean for a minute, then looked up at her hopefully.  “Us.”  As he spoke, he laid a hand on her stomach, silently including the child she carried.

           She sat down beside him, knowing that her last doubts could be laid to rest.  Sighing, she leaned against his arm, then spoke softly.

           “I’ve been thinking a lot about you in the last month, more than I expected to, I must admit.”  Her voice dropped to an intense whisper.  “I missed you so much, far more than I would have believed possible.  It was like part of me was gone, just vanished, leaving a gaping hole.  I tried to get past it and move on, but – I couldn’t.”  Her voice broke and she had to stop.

           “Kathryn, why didn’t you contact me?  I would have come in an instant!”

           “I thought….”  She took a breath to steady herself.  “I thought you didn’t love me anymore, that you believed that, with our return to Earth, your commitment to me was over.  You were gone so quickly after debriefing – I didn’t even know you’d left!”

           He wrapped his arms around her, putting his chin on top of her head.

           “I’m sorry, Kathryn.  I was led to understand that you would be tied up at Headquarters for some indefinite length of time.  I did leave a message for you.”

           “I never got it.  I wish I had.”

           “I couldn’t reach you, and I was very anxious to see my sister on Dorvan.  There was a misunderstanding there, too.  I thought she had been a prisoner of the Cardassians all these years.  I was terrified she would be little more than a vegetable, and I was desperate to see her.  But, it turns out that she escaped as our village was overrun, and after living as a fugitive for a few days, a Maquis ship rescued her and several others, maybe half a dozen, just as they were about to be captured.  She spent a long time trying to find me, but never could, and eventually assumed I was one of the nameless thousands killed in the final massacre.  Later, she settled on Bajor, rejoining the remnants of the group she had been rescued with.”

           “The Federation authorities didn’t try to arrest her?”

           “No, she kept a low profile, and I think she received help from some Bajorans.  She didn’t say much but I suspect the Federation was unaware of her existence.  Once the war was over, she and the others decided to return to Dorvan.  They’ve been there about a year now.

           “You remember when we started to exchange messages with the Alpha Quadrant, I contacted my cousin – the one in Ohio.  And how he told me then that he had just discovered that she was still alive and apparently on Dorvan.  But that was all he knew.  So, as soon as I was pardoned, he and I left at once.”

           “And is she all right?”

           “Yes, she’s fine.  She married one of the other survivors, had a baby a few months ago.  It’s not an easy life – Dorvan was left in a shambles when the Cardassians pulled out – but they’re working hard to rebuild.  She’s happy.”

           Kathryn hugged him tightly.  “I’m so glad you found one of your family, Chakotay.”

           They sat silent for a few minutes, then she asked the question she wanted answered the most.  “Why did you come back?”

           He raised his head, then lifted her chin so he could see her face.  “I missed you.  I was miserable.  Oh, I tried not to be, told myself I could get over you, that you didn’t love me, and it was time to let go.  But – god Kathryn!  I couldn’t do it!  It was tearing me apart!  When I couldn’t stand it any longer, I made some lame excuse and came back, hoping that maybe I might be able to see you.  I didn’t know what you were doing, anything, but I had to come back.  When you walked up to the door last night, I was completely stunned!”

           “No more stunned than me!” she interjected.

           He chuckled, then asked as his thumb caressed her chin.  “What now?”

           She stared into his eyes, for once letting herself drown in their dark depths.  Finally, she remembered to breathe.

           “I love you, Chakotay, I won’t deny it any more.  And….I want to build a life with you.  I’m hoping that you want to as well.”

           He gazed back at her, nodding solemnly as he slowly breathed a deep sigh of relief.

           “I would like that very much,” he answered softly as his mouth curved into a joyous smile, the one guaranteed to turn her into a puddle of goo.  He bent his head and kissed her lightly, just brushing her mouth.

           She smiled back almost shyly, before stretching her head up to him.  He kissed her again, harder, his mouth moving over hers, tasting her, then pulling back to run his tongue lightly over her lips.  She felt a bolt of desire jerk through her and gasped.

           Immediately, his tongue was in her mouth, touching, exploring, twisting around hers.  She moaned, trying to get closer to him but couldn’t.  He lifted his head, grinning, and told her that her stomach was in the way.  She stared at him as the lust gradually faded from her eyes and then let her body relax against him.  He hugged her once more, then announced he was getting hungry and perhaps they better go find that restaurant.  And, he added, they had a lot to talk about.

           She took his hand as he stood, letting him pull her up, then tugged his head down for another kiss.

           “I’m hungry, too,” she replied in a sultry voice, giving him a hard stare that left no doubt just what she was hungry for.

           He burst out laughing.  “Why, Kathryn Janeway!  I never would have believed you could be so wanton!  Where’s my prim and proper captain?”

           “She’s retired, gone for good.  Now there’s only Kathryn.”

           He hugged her as tightly as he could, whispering in her ear.  “That’s good, because, fond as I am of the captain, I’m very much in love with Kathryn.”

           He kissed her hair, then turned and led her back to the hovercar.

            ________________________________________________________
 

           Late that afternoon, Kathryn and Chakotay returned to the hotel where Gretchen awaited them.  At once, she noticed a subtle difference in their bearing and expression.  Watching them settle into chairs, their eyes rarely leaving each other, she realized now there was an air of serenity and peace about them that had not been there before.  She knew then that matters had been settled between them and waited impatiently.

           “Mom,” began Kathryn, “we have something to tell you.”  She paused, glancing at Chakotay, who nodded.  Gretchen could wait no longer, and jumped to her feet.

           “Don’t tell me.  You’re getting married!  Well?!  Am I right?”

           “Yes,” replied Chakotay, surprised.  “But how did you know?”

           She stopped in front of him and took his hands.  “My dear, it’s written all over you!  And before you ask, I’m very pleased.  You have made my daughter happy in a way that I never thought I’d see.  For that alone, I am more grateful than I can say.”

           Chakotay had risen as she spoke, and stood, gazing down at her.  When she finished, he squeezed her hands.  “Thank you.”

           “No, thank you!  And welcome to the family.”  She stretched up to hug him and kiss his cheek before they both turned to Kathryn.

           “I’m happy for you, Katie, beyond words.  He is what you need.”

           “Thanks, Mom,” she whispered.  “I think so too.”

           Gretchen sat down next to her, and asked the obvious question.  “Have you thought of a date?”

           The two looked at each other.  “No.”

           “Well, I assume you want a Starfleet ceremony.”  At the blank looks on their faces, she patted their hands.  “Come, come now.  You must have something in mind.”

           Chakotay took the lead.  “Just a small, quiet gathering, I think.  I, we, hadn’t given the ritual any thought.”  He looked to Kathryn.  “What would you like?”

           “I think,” she spoke up, “that I’d like some dinner actually.  I’m starving.  I’ll be able to plan much better on a full stomach.”

           “Good idea,” approved her mother.  “Let’s order in.”

           The evening passed quickly as plans were made, altered and remade.  It was decided that for the foreseeable future, they would live at the Janeway family home in Indiana.  Gretchen, of course, was delighted, telling Chakotay when he finally got up to leave, that she couldn’t be happier.  He paused as a sudden thought struck him.  He turned to Kathryn almost sheepishly.

           “Can I tell B’Elanna?  She’ll know something is up and badger it out of me anyway.”

           “Sure, go ahead.  I know you’re itching to.”

           He bent over her, tilting up her chin, and gave her one last long kiss.  “Goodnight, sweetheart.  I’ll call you tomorrow.  Sleep well.”

           “You too,” she replied, smiling mistily.

          ________________________________________________________
 

           Chakotay had barely stepped in the door when Tom and B’Elanna pounced on him.

           “Well?” she demanded.  “What happened?  Are you together, apart?  You look pretty happy.  In fact, I’d say you look as if you’re in love.”  She turned to her husband.  “What do you think?”

           “Absolutely!” Tom was beaming with satisfaction.  “So!  When’s the wedding?  Have you made any plans?  Where are you going to live?  What kind of…..?”

           Chakotay held up his hands in an attempt to stem the barrage.  “Whoa!  Hold it!  Slow down, both of you.”  He tried very hard to look solemn, which confused them momentarily, until B’Elanna caught the twinkle in his eye.

           “Oh, you!”  She punched his arm gently.  “I should break your neck for teasing us like that!”

           “Now, don’t do that.  The captain wouldn’t like it,” advised Tom.  “All right!  Details!  All of them!  Now!”

           The three sat down in the kitchen while Chakotay explained all that had happened that day, and what they had decided so far.

           “….so, you see, we only want a small ceremony, something quiet and dignified.  I think Kathryn may be feeling a bit uncomfortable getting married when she’s seven months pregnant.  And we want it soon, before the baby’s born.”

           Tom’s eyes began to gleam.  “How soon?”

           “I don’t know.  We didn’t set a date.  Why?”

           B’Elanna spoke sharply.  “Tom, what are you thinking?”

           “Why not ask my dad?  I’m sure he’d be delighted to officiate at your wedding.”

           Chakotay looked intrigued as B’Elanna jumped on the thought.

           “That’s a great idea!”

           Tom added, “I think the captain would like it.  Dad was her mentor for a long time, you know.”

           Chakotay rose, suddenly very weary. “I’ll call her first thing in the morning and ask her.  Right now, I’m going to bed.  Goodnight.”

           “Goodnight, Chakotay,” the others replied as they huddled over the table, already engrossed in making plans.

           Kathryn approved Tom’s suggestion as soon as she heard it the next morning, exclaiming that she should have thought of it herself.  B’Elanna appeared briefly to suggest that she and Gretchen come over right away for breakfast.  She and Tom had come up with a lot more ideas and wanted her opinion.

           In no time, they were all seated around the Paris kitchen table.

           “Captain!  Mrs. Janeway!  I’ve….”

           “Tom!” interrupted Kathryn.  “No rank, no title.  It’s Kathryn and Gretchen, period.  That’s an order!” in her best command voice.

           “Uh, yes, ma’am!” he retorted smartly.

           “B’Elanna, the same goes for you.”

           “Yes, Captain – I mean K…Kathryn.”

           “There, see?  That wasn’t so hard.  It’ll get easier with practice.”

           “Kathryn!” interjected Tom.  “I took the liberty of contacting my dad.  I hope that was all right.  I didn’t tell him anything.”  He held up his hands defensively as her brows lowered in a scowl.  “I just asked him to come over as soon as he could.”

           Her face cleared.  “That’s okay.  But let us make the request, all right?”

           “Oh yeah, sure.”

           Just then, the door chime sounded.  “That’s probably him now.”

           Very soon, both the elder Parises entered the kitchen.  Doris instantly went to B’Elanna, saying, “I hope you don’t mind my coming along, but I sensed something was up.”

           Her daughter-in-law hugged her.  “That’s fine, Doris.  In fact, I think you’ll be a big help.”

           “Oh good.”  She settled beside Gretchen, whispering to her.  “Do I smell a wedding in the air?”

           Gretchen smiled warmly, nodding her head.   Doris said no more, but patted her hand.

           Kathryn began.  “Owen, Chakotay and I are going to get married.  And we would like you to perform the ceremony.  Would you?”

           “Kathryn, my dear!  I would be honoured!”  He clasped her hands, then turned to Chakotay, beaming.  “This is wonderful!  Name the day!”

           “We hadn’t settled on a date yet,” replied Chakotay.  He tugged his ear.  “This has all come about pretty quickly.”

           Tom spoke up.  “Well, then, why not today?  Unless you have something else to do.”

           Gretchen chimed in.  “That’s a wonderful idea.  Why wait?”

           Kathryn looked at Chakotay, eyebrow raised, silently asking his opinion.  He shrugged his shoulders, then took her hand and kissed it gently.  She nodded, lightly caressing his hair.  Chakotay turned to the admiral.

           “Is that all right with you, sir?”

           “Absolutely!” boomed Owen.  “1700 hours, at the house.”

           “Let’s use the garden, make it an outdoor wedding,” suggested Doris.  “The roses are all out in full bloom.  They would make a lovely backdrop.”

           “Ohh, that sounds wonderful!” exclaimed B’Elanna.  “Chakotay, you’d like that, wouldn’t you?”

           “Yes, indeed.  Kathryn?”

           She nodded, smiling, more than a little bemused.  This was all happening so fast!  She felt out of control, riding a whirlwind.  And yet – it all made sense, as if the universe was unfolding just as it should.

             Tom pulled out a PADD and began to make notes.

          __________________________________________________________
 

           Promptly at 1700 hours that afternoon, Gretchen and Kathryn arrived at the Paris’ family home.  Kathryn was dressed in a cream muslin gown over which she had draped a large pastel-coloured silk shawl.

           They were met at the door by Doris, who ushered them into the den.

           “Darling, you look radiant!  Now wait here, both of you, while I get B’Elanna.”

           She slipped out, winking at Gretchen, and a moment later, the door flew open as Kathryn’s sister, Phoebe, burst in.

           “Katie!  Mom!  This is wonderful!”

           “Phoebe!” exclaimed Kathryn.  “How did you….?!  Oh, never mind!”  She reached out, hugging her hard.  “I’m so glad you’re here!  Did Mom call you?”

           “Well of course I did, Katie,” retorted their mother.  “Really, dear, I couldn’t not tell her!  I’d never hear the end of it!”

           “I’m glad you did!”  She turned to Phoebe.  “Are Jack and the children with you?  How did you get here so quickly?”

           “We’re all here!  Wouldn’t miss it!  We dropped everything!  Told them all it was a family emergency – well it is! – and bolted!”  Phoebe sounded triumphant.

           B’Elanna came in, carrying a bouquet of peace roses.  “Kathryn, these aren’t traditional, but Chakotay said that nothing else would do.”  She handed them to her as she spoke.

           “He’s right.  They’re beautiful.  Thank you, B’Elanna.  And thank you for being my matron of honour.”

           “I’m the one who’s honoured.  Are you ready?”

           “Yes.”

           Gretchen took Phoebe’s arm.  “Come, dear, time to go.”

           They hurried out, Phoebe making some remark to her mother that sent Gretchen into roars of laughter.  The two behind them looked at each other, then shrugged their shoulders.

           “I don’t know,” muttered Kathryn.  “Probably some crack about who’s going to deliver first – the bride or her attendant.”  She glanced down at their protruding stomachs.  “I guess we are a matched set, aren’t we?”

           B’Elanna grinned.  “I think I stick out a bit more than you.”  She paused, wanting to say something more, trying to find the right words.  “I’m so glad you two found each other at last.  It’s been such a long road, hasn’t it?”

           “Indeed it has.  With a lot of twists and turns along the way.”

           “But you’re here now, and so is Chakotay.  And that’s all that matters.”  She grasped Kathryn’s hand tightly, her eyes shining.

           “Yes, B’Elanna, it is,” Kathryn replied in a whisper, suddenly unable to say anything else.

           B’Elanna had turned as she spoke, and now led the way through the house to the French doors which opened onto the garden.  As Kathryn slowly followed, she found herself remembering the angry young Klingon she had taken onto her ship so many years before.  ‘Look at you now,’ she mused.  ‘You’ve come so far.’

           When she reached the bottom step, she lifted her head to find Chakotay waiting for her, Tom beside him as best man.  There were two more consequence of that same decision, she reflected.  Who would have believed, on that first day in the Delta Quadrant when these two were nearly at each other’s throats, that they would become such good friends.  Or, for that matter, that she would be marrying the man she had been sent to capture.

           A movement to her left caught her eye, and she glanced over to see Harry Kim, Seven and the doctor.  Her face broke into a wide smile.  Her day was complete.

           As she reached the admiral, B’Elanna took her bouquet, Chakotay moved to stand beside her, and the brief ceremony began.

            __________________________________________________________
 

           The celebration lasted well into the evening, and indeed, it was nearly midnight before the newlyweds finally made their way to the hotel.  Chakotay led his bride into the sitting area and ensconced her in a comfortable chair.

           “What a day!  Are you completely worn out?”

           “It has been remarkable,” she smiled up at him.  “And while I’m tired, and my back is a bit sore, I wouldn’t change a minute of it.  Come here.”

           He knelt by her side as she took his face in her hands and stared into his eyes.  “Our wedding may have happened at warp speed, but it has been brewing for a long time.  I love you and I always will.”

           “As I do you.”  He stood, lifting her up into his arms, then kissed her and carried her into the bedroom.

           The following day, they returned with Gretchen to Indiana.

             ____________________________________________________
 

           Two months after their marriage, Kathryn delivered a baby girl.  Chakotay stayed with her throughout her labour, taking the child from the doctor as soon as the cord was cut.  The baby’s eyes, ocean blue, gazed at him with the most trusting expression he had ever seen in his life.  In that instant, he felt a deep, instinctive bond with her that transcended any biological commitment.  He was her father, pure and simple.

           A few days later, he found himself watching Kathryn as she sat on the couch, nursing the child, and reflected on his amazing good fortune.  He had the woman he loved more than life itself, and now she had given him the most beautiful daughter in the galaxy.  When he thought back to his days as a rebel, living life on the run, he could barely believe that he was the same person.   A contented smile graced his features.   She glanced up and caught his eye.

           “Happy?” she asked softly.

           “Oh yes,” he replied.

           “What are you thinking?”

           “Besides what a miracle she is?  Well, actually, I was wondering if you had decided on a name yet.”

           “Not really.  I haven’t been able to make up my mind.  Why?  Do you have a suggestion?”

           “I was wondering what you would think of Taya.  It’s the feminine form of Chakotay.”  He sounded unsure.  “But if you don’t like it….”

           “I love it!  It’s beautiful!”  She paused, then asked the question she had wondered about ever since their marriage.

           “It doesn’t bother you anymore, that, biologically, she isn’t yours?”

           “Kathryn, in every way that counts, she’s mine.  That’s why I’d like to give her my name.”

           The baby had dozed off as they talked.  Kathryn looked down at her, then handed her to him while she adjusted her clothing.  As Chakotay laid the baby on his shoulder, an expression of such total peace came over his face that she stopped to stare at him in wonder.  She was so damn lucky to have found him again, she thought.  For the rest of her life, she would bless whatever spirits looked after errant starship captains, for bringing him back to her.

           “Kathryn?”

           His voice caught her attention.  She held out her hand, he took it and settled beside her, the child at rest on his chest.  He wrapped his other arm around her.

           “It doesn’t get any better than this, you know,” he whispered into her hair.

           “I know.”
 

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