by Suz

Disclaimer - characters belong to Paramount.

I had the day off work today. Between laundry and watching Dreadnought and Once Upon A Time, I wrote this.

Set a few years in the future.


They were the only two people in the room, and Kathryn couldn't quite figure out why. It had a warm, comfortable feel here, almost as if there was a log fire on one side and a limitless array of personal momentos on the mantlepiece.

There was no fire. There was no mantlepiece.

It didn't make her feel any different.

It was mostly filled with odds and ends; there was no one specific object or type of object on sale. Her fingers passed over artifacts old and new, each one of them imbued with its own kind of beauty. If she had more money or more room in her quarters she'd be tempted to buy every item there. As it was, the only item that really caught her eye wasn't an artifact of any kind. Or at least it didn't appear to be, but who knew what something could really be on an alien world?

"Chakotay," she called quietly, beckoning him to join her from the other side of the room.

Nearly tripping over a large wooden 'thing' in the process, he quickly stopped himself and made his way to her with an embarrassed smile. "I'll agree not to tell Paris about that if you don't."

"Deal," she retorted before turning back. "Look at this. Isn't it gorgeous?"

In her hands she held a scarf that seemed to constantly shimmer with a whole array of varying colours.

"It's certainly attractive," he agreed.

An idea popped into her mind. "Oh you know who would *love* this?"

Before he could ask a loud 'BANG' caught their attention. A man had just thumped his way through the door of the shop, clearly carrying something that was much to heavy for him. Chakotay rushed over to help. After a few seconds they had everything under control and Kathryn decided they wouldn't need her help after all. In fact, Chakotay stayed there for a while, helping the man unpack whatever goods he was transporting. Almost as if he were avoiding her...

Well, fine. She had to buy something anyway.

Delving further into the shop she began to realise just how big it was. It certainly hadn't seemed that big from the outside. Perhaps it was just the lighting or decorating.

It was almost like magic the way the owner of the shop suddenly appeared in front of her. Of course Kathryn decided that it couldn't possibly be magic. Either she hadn't been paying attention properly or the woman had access to some kind of device similar to a transporter.

The woman - at least in human terms - looked to be about the same age as Kathryn, as well as looking far too much like a human for Kathryn to be comfortable with. But she had the most generous smile.

"I'd like to buy this," Kathryn stated, raising her hand to display the scarf.

"Of course," the woman replied, moving over to a counter that Kathryn hadn't noticed before. Moving to stand on the opposite side, Kathryn placed the scarf on the counter.

"That will be 75 Retiina's please." the owner informed her, waving some kind of device over her purchase.

Kathryn forced a small laugh. "I'm afraid you're going to have to help me out. I have some of your currency but I have no idea how to calculate 75 Retiina's."

The woman's smile stayed firmly in place as Kathryn raised her other hand to show what currency she had. "I can definitely understand you getting confused. I visited Platica last term and had no idea how much I was paying for anything - just thinking about it gave me a headache."

The story made Kathryn smile and she relaxed slightly.

Plucking a few coins from her customers hand, the woman looked over to Chakotay who was still helping the man near the front of the shop. "The male you're with...he is your heart, yes?"

The hairs on the back of her neck stood on end. "My heart?"

She struggled for the right word, but the Universal translator couldn't quite decipher it. "He is your...J'Qin?" She studied Kathryn hopefully, as if expecting an affirmative answer.

By now she had taken all the coins she wanted so Kathryn closed that hand. While 'J'Qin' could have meant just about anything when set out of context, it was clearly meant for a romantic associate of some kind. "Oh. No," Kathryn said, somewhat disappointed that she was disappointed. "He's my closest friend but that's all. He's actually in a relationship with another friend of mine."

Yet again the aliens smile returned. "Ah. Of course he is." And suddenly she was handing a bag to Kathryn that contained the scarf she had just bought. It was odd, because she didn't recall seeing the woman produce a bag from anywhere. Or, for that matter, put the money away somewhere.

"Thanks," was all the Captain could say before drifting slowly to the exit.

Chakotay met her there and noticed the bag. "So, what did you buy yourself?"

"A headache," she answered instantly, rubbing her forehead.


It was only after they had beamed up to the ship and were walking along the corridor that Kathryn finally admitted what she had in the bag.

"Actually Chakotay, I bought something for you."

"Me?" he asked, managing to look surprised and afraid at the same time.

"Good God Chakotay, there's no need to look so horrified. My taste isn't that bad." Stopping in the middle of the corridor she shoved the bag into his hands.

He rolled his eyes dubiously - just to annoy her - before opening the bag to take a peek. Once he realised what was in there he looked back up and rose his eyebrows. "I really don't think it's right for my skin tone, Kathryn."

Now it was her turn to roll her eyes. "Obviously I don't expect *you* to wear it." She started walking again and he quickly kept up. "I bought it for you to give to-"

"Oh." he said, pausing once more.

Realising that she was leaving him behind, Kathryn stopped and turned back. "Is that okay?"

He was still staring down at the bag. "I...yes...I'm just surprised." He looked at her and smiled.

She moved a few steps closer to him. "You said it yourself Chakotay - it's not right for your skin tone." He chuckled slightly before she continued. "And as gorgeous as it is, it's not right for mine either. But it will be perfect for hers. Trust me on this. I'm a woman - she'll love it."

His smile made another appearance. "Thank you Kathryn, really. I'm very touched."

"Alright alright. I don't need you getting all mushy on me." Quickly turning away she continued her journey along the corridor, Chakotay close behind.

"Aye Captain."


Kathryn Janeway was extremely glad to be able to retreat to her quarters after bidding goodnight to Chakotay. What the alien woman had said had weighed heavy in her mind and she needed to have a good think.

The only way this could be acheived of course, was to have a hot bath while eating vast amounts of coffee ice cream. Thankfully she had quite a few replicator rations saved up that were supposed to be used for healthier options. But what the hell? Just for tonight she'd indulge herself. She didn't usually get much of an opportunity for that.

Ten minutes after she had entered her quarters, Kathryn was in the bath and licking a spoon clean. But still she hadn't really let herself think about the subject at hand.

Kathryn had been extremely, extremely relieved when she discovered that he was seeing someone else. In fact she had almost hugged Chakotay when he told her. There was no way she could possibly have remained ignorant to how Chakotay had felt about her. Even after all that time and even though they had faded a bit, the smiles were still there, the words were still there, and the eyes...God the eyes were definitely still there. And she felt like the worst person who had ever lived for not being able to respond and yet not being able to tell him to move on either.

So when he had visited her in her quarters late one night to tell her she had found it nearly impossible to articulate just how happy she was. Finally, he would be happy with someone else. Finally, the responsibility she felt on that subject - which sometimes felt like more of a burden than Captaining Voyager itself - had been taken away from her. Not that she was a person who couldn't handle responsibility, but she definitely appreciated having one less thing to worry about.

She also knew that the relationship would be good for him. Samantha was a wonderful person, and he was so incredibly lucky to be as close as he was to Naomi. She envied him that most of all. It was not by design or planning, but Naomi was still the only child aboard Voyager, and Kathryn knew that she should have gotten to know the girl better. She vowed that tomorrow she'd make a start.

As for Kathryn Janeway...she was just fine. Morale on the ship seemed to take an upturn after Chakotay and Sam had started dating. Somehow it had even led to the return of the friendly banter and intimacy that had disappeared between Kathryn and Chakotay somewhere along the way. She hadn't realised how much she missed that until it started again.

And if she found breathing a little difficult when she saw them laughing together over breakfast in the mess hall, or her eyes getting cloudy when she watched Chakotay playing with Naomi, it was simply the result of watching another happy couple on Voyager. Simply a result of the fact that she knew she couldn't have that with anyone. It had nothing to do with Chakotay.

She might have...once...thought of him as her 'J'Quin'. As her 'heart'. But that was a long time ago, at a place where the future was unknown and anything was possible.

Kathryn thought it a victory of sorts that he had finally created a family for himself here. She was grateful that he was happy.


She'd been right. Samantha loved the scarf and insisted on rushing out to Susan Nicoletti's quarters to show it off.

Chakotay loved that. He loved that about her. The way she managed to get so excited as if everything was a new experience. He found that odd though because her daughter - a six year old who looked ten - viewed everything as if it were expected. As if everything were old hat.

As he sat quietly on the sofa of their quarters, he found himself thinking about shore leave. Would he ever figure that damn Captain of his out? Probably not, which was something of a relief. Just when he thought he was getting to know her, the real her, she'd throw a curveball at him at warp nine. It made things refreshing. And as long as she didn't try and lapse into depression he could handle that.

Kathryn had gone out of her way to let him know how happy she was for him, but he still felt like awful most of the time. After nearly a decade together he knew that she had some kind of feelings for him once and that, occasionally, she might find it painful to see him and Sam together. And Sam - wonderful, beautiful, intelligent Sam...


Naomi's voice floated across the room as she peered out of her bedroom doorway.

"Hey," he said, a tired smile appearing on his lips.

Walking across the room she pulled herself up onto the sofa to sit next to him. "What were you thinking about?"

He shrugged. "Stuff."

She scrutinised him, the small horns on her head moving as she frowned. "Were you thinking about the Captain?"

Chakotay almost forgot to breathe, and asked his next question very carefully. "Why do you think that?"

It was her turn to shrug. "Well, you just sit there and think a lot." It obviously amused her. "So a few weeks ago I asked Mom what you think about all the time."

"And she said it was the Captain?"

Naomi nodded. "Uh hu."

He shook his head. "That's silly. I don't think about the Captain *all* the time...why, I remember specifically that last Tuesday at 1900 hours I was definitely thinking about Neelix."

The little girl laughed. "I told her she was being silly."

Something was still bugging Chakotay. "Your Mom...when she said that I think about the Captain, how did she look?"

Chewing on the bottom of her lip, Naomi thought it over. "A little upset I guess. But also as if there was nothing she could do about it."

Great. Now he *really* felt guilty.

Naomi hopped off the couch. "I'd better get ready."


She grinned. "When Mom comes back she's taking me over to Neelix's for the night, so you two can..." she leant forward and whispered " alone." She clearly knew what would happen when they were 'alone'.

Fondly, he carefully tapped the top of her head. "Are you sure you don't have Tom Paris' brain in there?"

Naomi giggled, and he was instantly reassured that it was her brain and not Tom's. He'd never heard the pilot giggle. Maybe he should ask B'Elanna...


A little while later Samantha returned and Naomi was taken to her Godfathers. Upon her return to their quaters, Sam sauntered towards Chakotay who was still sitting on the couch. Within a few seconds she was on the couch and straddling him.

"Thank you for my present," she whispered, bending to kiss the side of his neck.

His arms came up to rub her sides. "You're welcome."

Pulling back she smiled at him. "I really think we should see how it looks on you though."

Chakotay placed a mock-frown on his forehead. "I really don't think it's right for my skin tone, Samantha."

Chuckling, she caressed the side of his head. "I didn't say you'd be wearing it as a fashion statement..."


The next day two crewmembers were sick with the Ancaran flu. As a result Engineering was understaffed and Chakotay gave them a hand.

It was two-thirds of the way through their shift when B'Elanna brought up the subject. "Are you alright? You've been really quiet today."

He shook his head as he pulled a few isolinear chips out of their sockets to repair them. "I'm fine. Just have a few things on my mind."

B'Elanna pretended to look enthralled at her diagnostic reports. "Problems with Sam?"

He shook his head again and smiled. "No, not really. In fact last night we-"

"Please Chakotay," she held out her hand to forestall anymore of his reply "no details."

Stopping his work he swivelled his head to look at her. "Why no details? Don't tell me you're embarrassed."

Suddenly she *did* find her diagnostic reports enthralling. "Look, I don't tell you about me and Tom and you don't tell me about you and Sam. That's the way it works."

Chakotay stood. "Since when?"

"Since always."

"We're friends aren't we? I thought friends shared information about 'that' subject from time to time."

She shrugged, still desperately looking over her work. "Depends on the friends. Depends on the type of person you are."

He tapped the isolinear chip he was holding on the knuckles of one hand. "Well maybe I like talking about it."

*That* made her pause and look at him. "Are you seriously saying you want to hear about my sex life with Tom Paris?"

Sighing, he tried again. "Look, I am not desperate to find out any secrets about Tom's anatomy, okay? I just thought it was something friends talked about. You weren't bothered about talking to me about those dreams you had-"

"But that's it, there were just dreams," she insisted, turning back to her work.

Giving up with a huff, he sat back down and resumed his work.

After five minutes of silence she finally gave in. With a growl she turned towards him. "He has a mole."


"Who else?! Tom."

An evil smile the likes of which she had never seen began to grace his face. "Is it in such a place that I would be able to use it as blackmail material?"

B'Elanna grinned, all her doubts vanishing. "Well, it's certainly-"

Chakotay grabbed his head as a sudden wave of pain hit. "Ow," he muttered, dumbly.

B'Elanna's concern went into overdrive. She reached for him. "Chakotay? Are you-"

He said nothing else. Slipping from his chair he fell to the floor. His last thought before the blackness was that he had really screwed things up with the women in his life.


Samantha Wildman had the bridge shift at science station one. It'd been a while since she'd been on duty on the bridge, but their shifts had recently been rotated so she was back here once again. She had to admit to missing it. As exciting as it could get in Engineering at times, most of the action still happened here. Besides, she generally got to see more of Chakotay here.

Smiling to herself as her fingers flew over the console she was surprised when her com badge beeped.

"Torres to Wildman."

B'Elanna's voice sounded distinctly worried. "Wildman here. Go ahead."

"Report to sickbay immediately." The half-Klingon closed the com line with no further words. Stumbling to her feet, Samantha's brain tried to make sense of what was happening. Why did they need her in sickbay?

She remembered to look to the Captain for permission to leave but Janeway was already standing and looking at her. "Go!" she ordered.

Was it her eyes watering or the Captains?

She fell into the turbolift. What if something had happened to her baby? What if something had happened to Chakotay?

On the bridge, the crew turned to look at their Captain. She had no doubts. No doubts whatsoever. Forcing the tightness out of her throat she spoke. "Resume your stations. Mr Tuvok, you have the bridge."

"Aye Captain," he answered, even as she entered the turbolift.


It didn't happen how anyone had expected it to. Over the years nearly everyone had joked that Chakotay would die in a way that at least involved a shuttle craft.

In the end it was nature that caught up with him. There was no transporter malfunction, no explosion, no climatic battle. A blood clot. A stupid blood clot. There was nothing anyone could have done.

The Doctor was wrong.

There was so much she could have done.

After it had been confirmed, Kathryn had sent Samantha to her quarters with a weeks leave and gave her thirty minutes to tell Naomi before she made the official announcement. As hard as it was to tell the crew, Kathryn did not envy Samantha's position at all.

The funeral would be held in two days time to allow for plans and preparations. Until then his body would be held in statis in sickbay.

Kathryn found herself wandering the ship, an old habit that she had returned to with the return of her closeness with Chakotay. They'd walk for hours, checking on the crew, talking about life. Talking. She would always miss that.

The doors opened quietly.

Everything seemed quiet lately.

There were only two other people in the mess hall and their voices were probably spoken no lower than usual, but to her ears they seemed to hold the tone that was always required to revere the dead.

Neelix was no where to be seen, probably arranging something for the funeral or acting as counselor to anyone who needed to talk. It still surprised her - sometimes - how he had made himself so vital to their mission. It still surprised her - sometimes - how *everyone* had become vital. Had become people she thought she could never live without.

Theirs was a strange journey.

Theirs was a strange family.

She studied two members of that family now as they sat opposite each other at a table in the middle of the room. Both had their hands wrapped around big cups of coffee and it was a close contest between the two in determining who had the reddest eyes. She certainly had her own share of those, but she'd never been a crier. At most she'd come in as a close runner-up.

For a moment she considered retreat but they had noticed her by now. Besides, there was nothing on this ship for her to hide from anymore. He was dead. There was nothing left to hide from.

Ordering an appropriately large coffee for herself, Kathryn made her way over to their table and sat next to Sam and B'Elanna. "Hi."

They nodded with glumness and a little apprehension. It concerned her that they would be afraid.

"Captain," Sam greeted.

Kathryn's response was immediate. "Sam...after nearly ten years, after everything we've...shared...don't you think it might be time for you to use my first name?"

Sam blinked for a few moments before responding. "You have a first name?"

They chuckled, briefly, before returning to their former glumness.

Kathryn had told the alien woman that Chakotay was in a relationship with another friend, but that had never been true. She and Sam had never been friends. Her fault. At best they had been acquaintaces. When their journey started there just hadn't seemed to be enough time for her to get to know Samantha. And later...after...well she wouldn't say they avoided each other exactly. They just didn't go out of their way to spend time together.


The absolute last thing Chakotay would want would be for three strangers to sit around a table and not know what to say to each other. There's no peace in that. Besides, there was something that she equally did and didn't want to know.

"Sam, my curiousity is bothering the hell out of me."

B'Elanna and Sam shared a look. "Why?"

Kathryn leant forward. "I have to know...just what was Chakotay like in bed?"

As B'Elanna gaped at the question, a fond smile appeared on Samantha's face for a moment. Just for a moment. It was quickly replaced by a smile of such utterly evil enjoyment that Kathryn was almost shocked by the expression on her 'innocent' ensign's face.

A most definitely impressed Samantha Wildman spoke. "He was pretty damn good."

"How good?" B'Elanna demanded, then glared at the others expressions. "Hey, I had a crush on him once."

Swallowing a sip of her coffee, Kathryn nearly laughed. "Look at us. Should we form some kind of society?"

"I'm sure there's one already, Captain."

Nodding at how logical B'Elanna's response was, Kathryn pressed on with what she really wanted to know. "Sam, you didn't answer her question."

The ensign was still in the same place, with the same expression on her face. Words were completely unnecessary.


Captain Janeway swearing was enough to drag Samantha out of her memories. "Pardon?"

"This is so absolutely typical! He was good wasn't he? He was *damn* good. Come on, admit it. He was the best lover you've ever had!"

A faint blush finally began to appear on Sam's face. "Well..."

Kathryn thumped her hand down on the table dramatically. "I knew it! I knew I should have had sex with him!"

It took a few seconds for her words to set in but once they did, despite themselves, they began to laugh.


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