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Disclaimer: All things Voyager belong to Paramount. I gain no profit from this...other than the fact that Kathryn and Chakotay behave the way *I* want them to behave, not the way TPTB think they should act!

 

Decisions - Part 2

"Come in, Chakotay," Kathryn commanded, slightly amused as her door chimed in her Ready Room. She noticed the surprise written on her First Officer's face as he casually strolled in, PADDs in hand.

"How did you know it was me?" he questioned, raising his eyebrow in suspicion.

"Well, having noticed the scant number of crewmen on the bridge this morning...no doubt due to overexertion at last night's party...there were few others who would be visiting me today." She paused a moment and began to grin. "Besides...it's *always* you!"

Chakotay grinned back. "Are you saying I'm too predictable?"

"I didn't say that at all, but if you feel that way, I can certainly add it to your file."

Listening to him bubble into laughter, Kathryn realized that it made her feel better about her situation. It didn't solve anything for her, but it helped to put her more at ease. Now if only part of her dilemma weren't standing right in front of her, sporting those killer dimples...

"Are things coming along smoothly?" she asked, diverting her attention down to her console, hoping that he wouldn't catch the blush that had crept up into her cheeks.

"I believe so, Captain," he started, as he began sorting through the PADDs, updating her on the status of all the departments. Halfway through his report, Chakotay realized that Kathryn was no longer listening. Just occasionally nodding her head...mostly in all the wrong places. With that in mind, he decided have a little fun.

"I ran into Tuvok this morning. He tried to tell me that I had violated some stupid Starfleet security protocol, so I told him where to go. Then I shoved him out an airlock."

"That's wonderful," Kathryn answered absently, still focusing on her console. When Chakotay started chuckling, she looked up at him, extremely confused.

"What?!?"

"You haven't heard a word I've said. I just told you that Tuvok is now floating somewhere out in space, and you thought that was great." His voice dropped to a loud whisper as he rested his hands on her desk. "If I had known that, I would have done it *years* ago"

Kathryn smirked, then gave an audible sigh. "I'm sorry, Chakotay. I'm just...a little distracted today. Lots on my mind."

Chakotay took a seat across from her. "Wouldn't have anything to do with what happened last night?"

She hastily dropped her eyes. "Actually, it does."

He became disheartened at the sudden mood change in the room. "This concerns the message you received last night, doesn't it?"

Kathryn nodded slowly, still not meeting his gaze.

"Bad news?" he asked, hoping to get a little more information from her other than her distressed expression.

She hesitated a moment before responding. "I guess it depends on your point of view...but I *will* not talk about it while I'm on duty. It's not appropriate, and I wish you would just drop it!"

Chakotay was taken back at her snappy reply. Realizing that he had pushed her too far, he rose from his chair and started for the door. "I'm sorry, Captain. I didn't mean to pry."

"No, wait," she called, rising to follow him. The last thing she had wanted was to hurt his feelings. It certainly wasn't his fault that she was in this bind. "Chakotay, I'm the one who should be sorry. I didn't mean to yell at you."

"It's alright. It really is none of my business. I'll go..."

"No. Not just yet," she pleaded, feeling the need to make up for her actions. "Why donít you...join me for dinner tonight...just to talk?"

The sincerity on her face sent Chakotay's spirits lifting once again. "That sounds like an excellent idea," he replied, gazing into her eyes a few moments longer before exiting the room.

Kathryn stared at the doors after he left, lost in her thoughts. She returned to her desk and opened the drawer, retrieving the picture she had been looking at prior to Chakotay's visit. A picture she had put away several years ago. Staring back at her were two familiar pairs of eyes...one pair belonging to her favorite dog, the other pair belonging to the other part her dilemma.

"Oh, Mark...what *am* I going to do with you?"

Chakotay silently cursed at himself. He had been staring at his clothes for 30 minutes, and still had not decided what to wear. Usually, when he had dinner with Kathryn, they both wore their uniforms. Mainly due to the fact that they both had either just gotten off duty, or their dinners were to simply discuss ship's business only. This time, however, things had changed. Kathryn had now expressed an interest in him...so was a uniform no longer appropriate?

"What have I got to lose?" he muttered, yanking a shirt from the shelf and pulling it over his head. "If she wanted me to wear my uniform, she should have said so!" He pulled on a pair of slacks and tied the laces on his shoes. Grabbing the small bunch of flowers he had replicated, he took a deep breath, dimmed the lights in his quarters, and departed.

Kathryn quickly ordered the door to open as she hurried to finish setting the table. When Chakotay walked in, he took one look at her and smiled. She was wearing a pale blue casual dress covered with small white flowers. Her hair was pulled back in a decorative barrette, with soft tendrils surrounding her face. An absolute vision of loveliness.

"You look beautiful tonight," he commented, moving closer to offer her the bundle of daisies.

Kathryn finally looked up, worried that Chakotay would be in the standard, but harsh red and black uniform...their standard attire for evening meals. She was pleasantly pleased to see that he was wearing a nice pair of khaki pants, with a snug-fitting black shirt tucked in at the waist. A much more attractive combination. She couldn't help but to smile back.

"Thank you," she answered, taking the flowers from him. "You look quite handsome yourself."

As they settled down at the table and started in on the wonderfully replicated meal Kathryn had prepared, Chakotay felt amazed at how much different this evening was, as compared to all the others. They both were more at ease with each other. Even the conversation was more lively. Perhaps it was the fact that they were almost home. Perhaps it was the wine, which Kathryn had surprised him with earlier. Or perhaps...it was the simple fact that they were just meant to be, he wondered as he watched her across the table.

He was lost in these thoughts when he realized that Kathryn had asked him a question. Embarrassed, he was forced to ask her to repeat it.

"I said, what do you have planned once we get back to Earth?"

"You mean *after* I kiss the ground?"

Kathryn grinned. The very same thought had once crossed her mind. She nodded for him to continue.

"Well, I received a message from some of my distant relatives in Virginia. I'm going to stay with them for a few days. Then I thought I might start searching for a nice place to settle down...unless, of course, Starfleet wants to instantly assign me to another ship for another deep space mission."

"Oh, I don't think they would be that cruel!"

"Well, let's hope not!" He continued to smile at her. "How about you? What are your plans when we get there?"

Kathrynís eyes widened, and she felt her face flush. What *was* she going to do?

"I thought that I would go and see my mother and sister. Phoebe informed me that I was going to be an aunt in a few months. After that, I...well...", her voice trailed off, and she lowered her eyes.

Chakotay had seen the tears glistening in her eyes before she turned away. He reached across the table and took her hand, gently stroking her fingers.

"Do you want to tell me what's bothering you? I know it has something to do with that message you received last night."

Kathryn looked directly into his gaze. There was so much sorrow and pain etched on her face, and her problem suddenly became clear to him.

"You've heard from *him*, haven't you?"

She didn't blink as the threatening tears finally trailed down her cheeks. Kathryn rose from the table and walked over to her desk. Rather than repeat Mark's words, she replayed the message for Chakotay. She kept her eyes on him, wanting to see his reaction. He didn't flinch. He didn't smile. He did absolutely nothing...and that greatly concerned her.

When the message ended, Kathryn returned to the table, but did not take her seat. Instead, she stood directly in front of Chakotay, still hoping for some sort of reaction. He finally lifted his eyes to meet hers. The pain she saw there nearly broke her heart.

"Spirits, I should have seen this coming! Things were going too smoothly," he replied bitterly, shaking his head as he stood up. "Thanks for inviting me to dinner, *Captain*, but I seem to have lost my appetite. If you'll excuse me..."

Chakotay dropped his napkin on the table, and moved briskly past Kathryn on his way towards the door.

"No...Chakotay, wait!" she begged, grabbing his arm.

He spun around, catching her by surprise, and pulled her into his arms. Chakotay bent down to lightly brush his lips across hers. Once their lips touched, he knew that he could hold back no longer, no matter how hard he tried. Eight years of restrained passion came pouring forth as he drew her into a deep, powerful, yet tender kiss. He could feel her hands resting gently on his chest, gripping the front of his shirt. She was not resisting him...and suddenly he regretted his rude behavior.

They pulled apart, and he reached up to softly brush away the remaining tears. Her hands dropped to his waist, and they stared deep into each other's eyes, not sure of what to say. He felt that he should apologize, but the words wouldn't come. Kathryn finally broke the long silence that passed between them.

"That's not quite what I intended...but that's not to say that I didn't enjoy it," she whispered, half-smiling.

Chakotay released a deep breath. "Iím sorry. I don't know what came over me...I've never been one to sulk."

"Well, you sure fooled me!" she joked, reaching up to wipe some of her lipstick from his lips.

He finally returned her smile, still stroking her cheeks. "All I have ever wanted is your happiness, Kathryn. I want you to do what you feel is best for *you*, and if that means..."

Kathryn placed a finger across his lips to silence him. "This means nothing, Chakotay. I haven't told Mark anything yet. He's given me a lot to think about, that much is true. But I think this is something that I need to talk to him about personally."

Chakotay dropped his glare, obviously upset. Kathryn quickly touched his chin with her finger, lifting his eyes to hers once more. She didn't want to hurt his feelings any more than she already had. "I have to see him, Chakotay. I owe him that much."

He released another deep breath. "I know...and I understand. This is *your* decision, and no one else's feelings should make this decision for you." He pulled her closer and brushed another kiss across her lips. "But you certainly can't stop me from trying," he commented, offering her a large grin.

Kathryn was relieved. Placing her hands on his chest, she whispered, "If you've regained your appetite, then why don't we finish our dinner?"

"Actually, I was sort of hoping that I could have just a little more *dessert*," he teased, not letting her out of his grip.

"Don't push your luck, Commander!" she responded, wriggling out of his arms and making her way back to the table. "But if you finish all of your dinner, like a good little First Officer, then maybe you *can* have a little more...*dessert*," Kathryn cocked her left eyebrow and took her seat.

Chakotay quickly sat back down and began to devour the rest of his meal.

As Voyager touched down at Federation Headquarters, Kathryn had to restrain herself from running down the corridors towards the cargo bay, where the crew would make their final departure. Chakotay kept making smart comments about his difficulty in keeping up with her pace. She cut him a sly glance, feeling the excitement building with each hastened step.

Once they arrived in the cargo bay, Kathryn gave brief speech about what a pleasure it was to have each and every one of them as a crew member. After many cheers and even more applause, the doors opened, and the crew returned to their long lost home and waiting relatives.

Kathryn scanned the crowd for familiar faces. Surrounding her were relieved husbands and wives, excited children and old friends welcoming her crew. She stopped to shake hands as she passed by several of them. But her attention was immediately diverted to one face she had longed to see throughout her entire mission.

Her mother, Gretchen, was walking towards her and her sister, Phoebe, began waving frantically. Kathryn's pent-up anxiety came gushing forth in tears as her mother encircled her with her arms, softly patting her hair. She could hear Phoebe chattering about the dogs, her husband and the baby on the way. Kathryn listened absently, thinking how good it was to be able to hear her sisterís voice again.

Over her mother's shoulder, another familiar face appeared, and the rest of her resolve melted away. Kathryn left her mother's arms and walked right into Markís arms. It felt as though she had never left them. He held her tightly, whispering his gratefulness for her safe return. After a few moments, he pushed her back, just so he could take a good look at her.

"You havenít changed, Kath...well, except for the hair. And I absolutely love it!"

She couldnít say anything. She didnít know *what* she would say if she could speak. After many years of separation, she could not find the words. All her preparation had been pointless. When Mark leaned forward to kiss her, Kathryn didnít stop him, allowing his lips to move over hers softly. This was not the reaction she intended to have, and she felt herself tense up.

Kathryn quickly pulled back, wanting to let him know that this was too much, too soon, but realized that she was too late. Just over Mark's shoulder, she saw Chakotay watching them. Before she could make a move, he lowered his head and briskly walked away. She tried to call out his name, but her words could not find a voice. He soon disappeared into the crowd. Disappeared out of her view...and probably, she thought, out of her life forever.

"Kathryn, are you alright?" Mark asked, somewhat concerned at her expression.

"I'll be fine," she finally said, blinking back her tears as she took his hand. The words did not come easily, but at least, she thought, she had found her voice again. "It's time for us to celebrate."

[ Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 ]
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