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Summary: Kathryn reflects on years gone by.

 

Petals

She was fighting a losing battle. There was simply no way around it. Tuvok's security report would simply have to wait until later. Tossing the PADD on her desk, Kathryn returned her attention to the object which had been disrupting her focus all afternoon. She rested her chin in her hand, sighing as she gazed at its beauty. Although it had been there for several days, for some reason, today, Kathryn found it to be quite fascinating. A smile tugged the corner of her mouth. He never failed to amaze her. How did he always know exactly what she needed?

Kathryn carefully lifted the blush-tinged rose from its container. As she did, a single petal fluttered down to her desktop. She giggled, suddenly recalling a childhood game she and her sister had played so many years ago.

"He loves me," she muttered as memories flooded her mind. Memories of times when Chakotay had been there for her...not just as her first officer, but as her most trusted friend. Remembering a similar rose given to her by the very same man she could never seem to stop thinking of...

She gently grasped one of the petals, tugging it from the stem, this time whispering, "He loves me not." An overwhelming sense of distress consumed her, thoughts of how many times she had caused stress in their relationship. The countless times she had forced him to disobey her direct orders.

Kathryn felt her heart begin to flutter. She knew that she was going to go through with this activity, meaningless as it was. But then, she always *was* determined to complete her missions. And any mission that required her to remember her time spent here with Chakotay..well, it couldn't be *that* meaningless. She pulled another petal, continuing on.

He loves me. Twentieth-century Earth. A reminiscent stroll down long forgotten streets. Idly chatting with her best friend. Wishing that their brief time back home would never end.

He loves me not. A lost Borg cube, sought after by a colony of ex-drones to destroy their link to the Collective forever. A colony led, more or less, by one persuasive woman, Riley Frazier. A beautiful woman who had saved his life by linking their minds together. Offering him a new life with her.

He loves me. Lake George. Champagne and moonlight sailing. His powerful arms holding her, soothing her as she tearfully released all the pent-up emotions from her experience with the deceitful alien being. Strong hands caressing her hair. Nestled close to a man who cared so much, yet wouldn't dare do anything to violate those precious barriers. Barriers which she alone controlled.

He loves me not. Their first "real" encounter with the Borg. Alliances gone bad. His deliberate actions to dismantle her agreement with the Hive in order to save the ship. An action which forced her to admit that she was taking a far greater risk than necessary. Forcing a small rift into their relationship.

He loves me. Evening dinners, supposedly to discuss ship's business. Evenings spent usually discussing anything *but* ship's business. Two friends sharing personal time and private experiences. A friendship that was blossoming into something more.

He loves me not. A Maquis uprising. Tuvok as the unknowing culprit, transforming each of the former rebels back to their wayward selves . How easy it had been to convert Chakotay from her caring first officer to the stalwart Maquis captain who despised Starfleet. A man capable of forcing Tuvok to attempt to kill her in order to prove his loyalties.

He loves me. A bathtub, delicately crafted with care. A cozy shelter that with each passing day became more like a home. Gentle massages. Longing looks. An ancient legend. Moments she would never forget. The most precious of her entire life.

He loves me not. Kathryn felt a shiver creep up her spine. The incident with Equinox crew. If there were ever a time for him to doubt their allegiance, this was the one. By far, their darkest hour. It still stung deep inside, even though 2 years had passed since Captain Ransom's sacrifice. Her crazed obsession for justice. Sometimes, she wondered how Chakotay *ever* forgave her.

Higher and higher, the petals of the rose began to pile up in front of her. Kathryn was amazed at how many there were, also realizing that she could probably fill the entire ship with flower petals representing all the good and bad memories of the past seven years. Seven years she wouldn't trade for anything in the universe.

He loves me. An offer to spit-shine the ship while she was gone. Voicing his approval of her radical idea to save the drones in Unimatrix Zero. Offering his full support as he held her hand, gently squeezing it before letting her leave on her mission. This man who initially opposed everything she stood for, and all the things she fought for. Yet still, to this very day, he stood beside her. Guiding her when she went astray. Protecting her when she was in danger. Providing her with all her needs...as only an angry warrior could do.

He loves me not. Kathryn laughed in spite of herself. Why did most of their bad experiences involve the Borg? This one was still a mystery to her. Seven of Nine. Another of her "reclamation" projects, as Chakotay had once called it. A project that was now threatening to disrupt her life forever.

She knew about the programs which Seven had been running on the holodeck. About her fantasy life, one in which she was romantically involved with her tattooed first officer. Kathryn also knew that it would only be a matter of time. Could it be that she could actually lose all that she had dreamed of to an ex-Borg drone? She sighed heavily. It had almost happened before. It could most certainly happen again...

BRREEEP!

The rose quickly fell to the desk, many of the petals shedding quickly in the fall, as Kathryn leapt startled from her chair. Hastily, she attempted to push the floral debris behind her console before racing to the front of her desk. Collecting herself, she ordered the doors open. Suddenly, she wished she had done otherwise.

Chakotay meandered in, staring at her with genuine concern.

"Is everything alright?"

Kathryn could swear that he was part Betazoid. How did he always know when she was hiding something? She shrugged her shoulders, hoping to dissuade his suspicions.

"Yes, of course...why do you ask?"

"Well, it took you a long time before you let me in...and you seem a little flustered. Did I interrupt something?" He was now standing directly in front of her, slightly craning his neck in search of some signs of deception. Kathryn tried to move her body to block him from seeing her desk.

"No...nothing. I was doing absolutely..."

"Nothing...yes, I can see that," he interrupted, finally noticing the petals. He was smirking as he reached around her, picking up the rose stem from her desk. Chakotay held the rose between them, arching his left eyebrow in curiosity.

Kathryn was hoping that he wouldn't figure out what she had *really* been up to. Hoping that he would just think the petals had naturally fallen to the desk as the flower began to fade. Hoping that she could disappear into the bulkheads. Hoping that he would leave before her pounding heart leapt from her chest.

Chakotay was now standing extremely close to her, not allowing her any room to run as she so wished she could do. He was still holding the rose between them, blinking, but not speaking. Finally lifting his eyes to catch hers, he presented her with a bemused grin.

"I hope you know that this is really an unnecessary activity, because I can tell you the answer now," he finally spoke, hearing the breath catch in her throat. Slowly, he reached up, capturing the last remaining petal on the stem and tugged at it. Admiring it for a few moments, he delicately began to brush the petal against her lips, his other hand gently resting on her waist.

"He loves you," Chakotay murmured before replacing the petal with his lips.

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