AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is a continuation of the story thread started in "A Twisted Ankle, The XO, His Captain And Her Lover" and its sequel "A Healed Ankle, The Captain, Her Lover And His Cousin", both by Suz Voy. The regular characters belong to Paramount and are borrowed for nefarious purposes; Stephen belongs to Suz but is borrowed with permission; anyone else that shows up belongs to me and I'm not sharing.
I changed Stephen's age in to 25; makes KJ 47 which in this storyline's time frame is her *canon* age. (They're home after 7 years and she was forty when they vanished).
"So, Stephen," Gretchen Janeway began. "Exactly how did you and Phoebe meet?"
Seated across from her mother, Phoebe shot a nervous glance at Stephen, whose expression was infuriatingly unreadable. The trio was ensconced at an outside table at the coffee shop across the street from Phoebe's apartment building, where they had relocated to after Kathryn and Chakotay's discussion had turned too personal for outside observation. For obvious reasons, Phoebe and Stephen had kept the exact details about their first…encounter…to
themselves, as they were some things one's mother just did not need to know. Like the fact that her youngest daughter and her youngest daughter's younger lover had exchanged heated kisses before even exchanging first names. And might have exchanged a great deal more if they had not stumbled upon - literally - Kathryn and Chakotay exchanging some things of their own.
"Stephen and I met at the library," Phoebe answered carefully. "I dropped my books and he offered to help me with them, and things just sort of progressed from there."
"Really..." Gretchen said. "That was very gallant of you, Stephen."
"Just happy to be of service," came the response, earning him a quelling look from Phoebe.
"Well, since we're all friends here, would you mind if I ask you a personal question?" Gretchen directed at Stephen.
"You may ask me anything you want to," Stephen replied.
"Exactly how old...or young, as the case may be…are you?"
"Mom!" Phoebe exclaimed.
Stephen permitted himself a small smile. "I'm twenty-eight," he answered easily.
"I see. Aren't you a little young to be Phoebe's…?"
"Friend," Phoebe interjected hastily.
"Lover," Gretchen finished.
Phoebe closed her eyes in silent mortification as Stephen's smile widened.
"With all due respect, Gretchen, whatever Phoebe and I are to each other is our business, and despite any age difference there may be we are both old enough to live our lives however - and with whoever - we chose."
I'm dead, Phoebe thought idly.
"So you are," Gretchen allowed.
Their conversation was interrupted by the return of the waitress. "Anyone want more coffee?"
"No, thank you," Gretchen declined.
"I'm fine," Stephen demurred.
"I'll have a double," Phoebe requested.
"This is your own fault, you know."
"Had you been able to exert some modicum of self-control, this wouldn't have happened."
"Are you complaining?"
"Just pointing out the obvious."
"Well, thank you. I can't imagine how I could have survived the rest of the day without your personal version of 'I told you so'."
"Happy to help."
Kathryn snorted, forcing herself to concentrate on her irritation and not the reaction her body was having to the feel of his hands massaging her reinjured ankle. "You certainly weren't very helpful when you left me alone with my mother to hunt down Phoebe's unmentionables," she said. "As I recall, you once promised to stand by my side and do whatever you could to make my burden lighter."
Chakotay smiled. "I wasn't aware that included running interference for you with your mother so you wouldn't have to confess your pet names for your breasts," he returned.
"The definition has very broad parameters."
"I'll make a note of it."
He touched a sensitive spot then and she involuntarily flinched, causing him to cast her a concerned glance. "That hurt?" he asked, and at her nod of confirmation, bent over to place a light kiss on the offending area. "Better?"
"Much," she sighed in response.
"So…do you want to venture outside and track down our respective relatives?" Chakotay questioned.
"I suppose we do have to leave Phoebe's apartment eventually," Kathryn allowed.
"I like your mother," Chakotay replied.
"You do?" Kathryn echoed skeptically
"I know I'm going to regret this...but why?"
"I like her because she passed along her blue eyes, come hither smile, devil may care attitude and strength of will to you, and I love you."
Kathryn smiled. "That was beautiful, Chakotay. I love you, too."
"Oh...and she's got spunk."
She shook her head. "I should have expected 'spunk' from a man whose surname is a cooking ingredient," she muttered.
"I'm Indian, Kathryn. What were you expecting, Smith or Jones?"
"Point taken," she conceded. "So, since you're determined that we set out to find our wayward relatives, you can spring for the coffee once we do."
He eased her to her feet. "Your blood is going to turn into caffeine if you don't lay off that stuff," he said.
"Chakotay, there are two things in life I will never get enough of, one of which is coffee."
"And the other?"
She smiled. "You."
He smiled back. "I know I'm going to regret this, but which ranks first?"
"I'll tell you when we're in the shower."
Taking his hand, she hobbled toward the bathroom with him in tow.
"Why can't you tell me now?"
"Because once we're in the shower, I intend to keep you so thoroughly distracted you won't remember your own name, let alone where you rank with coffee."
A pause. "Works for me."
Gretchen wondered idly if there were a universal law that made all adult children think their parents had IQ's the equivalent of their shoe size.
Stephen and Phoebe's explanations regarding their relationship were very amusing and only partially true. Gretchen did not need telepathic abilities to know there was more to their meeting than they had chosen to reveal. Yet they were sticking to their story like flies on -
"Shit!" Stephen exclaimed.
"Stephen!" Phoebe admonished.
Gretchen glanced at them. "Did I miss something?"
Stephen cast her an apologetic glance, half-standing and brushing at his newly drenched trousers. "Sorry, Gretchen. Phoebe spilled her coffee in my lap. I apologize for swearing."
She smiled sweetly. "Stephen, I assure you that a mild profanity isn't going to send me into paroxysms of righteous indignation. Now that I think about it, however, finding you in my daughter's apartment naked as the day you were born and obviously in the afterglow probably should have."
"Shit," Phoebe muttered.
Kathryn and Chakotay chose that moment to make their appearance, settling themselves at the table and trying unsuccessfully not to look like they had just spent the better part of an hour making love in the shower.
"I was wondering of you two were going to rejoin the real world," Stephen replied.
"Man cannot live on love alone," Chakotay quoted.
"Kathryn wanted a coffee fix?" Phoebe prompted.
"Stephen, what happened to your pants?" Kathryn asked.
"A close encounter of the coffee kind," Stephen answered. "A rather hot one, too."
"I'll make it up to you later," Phoebe muttered. "Let's just drop it."
"How's your ankle, Kathryn?" Gretchen inquired.
"Much better," she answered, and cast a warm smile at Chakotay.
The waitress returned then, wordlessly placing a large Irish coffee in front of Kathryn and a mug of herbal tea in front of Chakotay before retreating back into the shop.
"How did she know what you two wanted without taking your order?" Stephen asked.
Kathryn and Chakotay exchanged a look, the former turning an attractive shade of crimson as the latter answered, "Let's just say that this isn't the first time we've...indulged…at Phoebe's apartment. And we usually wind up here afterwards for lunch. Or dinner."
"Or breakfast," Kathryn added.
Phoebe groaned. "Oh, for God's sake…" she grumbled. "Do me a favor and get a room from now on, would you?"
"Did I ever tell you how I met your father?" Gretchen asked of her daughters.
"Daddy mentioned once that you were introduced by a mutual friend at some Starfleet function," Phoebe said.
Gretchen smiled. "We were, but we weren't exactly strangers. We had actually met earlier in the day, at a coffee shop very similar to this one."
"I didn't know that," Kathryn replied.
"Of course you didn't," Gretchen allowed. "Edward and I felt it wouldn't be appropriate to tell you girls that we became lovers before we even knew each other's names."
The Janeway sisters promptly choked in unison on their beverages.
"You really should let the coffee cool a bit before you drink it, girls,"
Gretchen chided gently.
"So, Gretchen; you were saying?" Chakotay prompted.
"Hmm? Oh, yes. Edward was ordering an espresso when I approached him from behind to place my own order. He didn't see me there and when he turned around, we collided and his coffee spilled all over my blouse."
Stephen cast Phoebe an amused glance. "Does this mean we're engaged?"
"How did you go from colliding in line at the coffee house to anonymous lovers?" Kathryn pressed.
"Well, naturally your father was mortified over what happened and after grabbing a handful of napkins, began a valiant attempt to wipe off some of the coffee. However, after a few minutes I began to have a rather…heated…reaction to his touch, and I decided then and there that I wanted to have sex with him."
"Mom!" Phoebe and Kathryn declared simultaneously.
"Spare me the Puritan protests, you two. Considering your track records with the handsome gentlemen beside you, you're hardly in any position to play innocent. And besides, it's not like you girls were conceived by osmosis."
Some things in life are universal constants, and children who are horrified by the thought of their parents having sex is one of them. As horrified as the sisters were, however, their lovers were equally amused.
"Gretchen, I think I love you," Stephen declared.
"If you weren't Kathryn's mother I'd kiss you," Chakotay added.
"Well don't let that stop you," Gretchen responded.
Chakotay chuckled and obediently got to his feet, then leaned over to place a light kiss on Gretchen's cheek. Flashing him a grateful smile, she turned to Stephen. "Well, what are you waiting for? I have two cheeks, you know."
Stephen smiled and leaned over to place a kiss on Gretchen's other cheek.
By the time Kathryn and Chakotay were able to excuse themselves long enough to make a sandwich run, Gretchen had regaled her young quartet with more tales of her early years with Edward Janeway. The more she revealed, the more embarrassed her daughters became, much to the delight of their respective paramours. Finally Kathryn had ended the tawdry discussion by announcing she and Chakotay were going to get some sandwiches, and they took orders from the others before heading inside the coffee shop.
"I should be mad at you."
"Why you should you be mad at me?"
"For encouraging her. Her behavior was embarrassing."
"Not for her. She was obviously enjoying herself."
"And you and your sorry excuse for a cousin were obviously enjoying yourselves, too."
"Actually, we were. She's a very…forthright woman."
Kathryn snorted. "Forthright…I suppose that's an improvement over spunky."
Chakotay smiled. "If I didn't know better, Kathryn, I'd think you were jealous."
She shot him her infamous death glare. "Jealous?" she echoed incredulously. "Of my own mother?"
He said nothing. She sighed.
"I'm not jealous, I'm just…envious."
"Her total lack of restriction. My mother can say what she wants, when she wants, to whomever she wants, and the hell with anyone who doesn't like it. Me? I'm Kathryn Janeway, Starfleet Captain and strict enforcer of the golden rules of protocol. If I so much as sneeze funny, I have to note it in a log and clear it with the Admiralty."
"Maybe you should do something about that."
She afforded him a sideways glance. "What are you suggesting?"
He shrugged. "Do something unexpected, spontaneous…something that would cause Captain Janeway to curl her toes in mortification but would make Kathryn dance with delight."
She managed a small smile. "Does indulging in a highly erotic, exhaustingly passionate relationship with my former First Officer count?"
He smiled back, and lifted a hand to lightly caress her cheek. "Considering it was preceded by seven plus years of foreplay, no. But…"
Chakotay leaned over to whisper something in her ear, and Kathryn blushed becomingly as she shot him an astonished glance. "You're insane."
"About you, yes. As for my suggestion…it certainly would qualify as unexpected and spontaneous."
"Not to mention possibly illegal."
"Neither Kathryn nor Captain Janeway has ever been afraid of a challenge."
She held his gaze for a long moment before responding. "You realize, of course, that Stephen and Phoebe will know why we're leaving again so soon."
"Well, since as Phoebe says watching us together is 'vomit inducing', we'll probably be doing them a favor."
"And what about my mother?"
"She's already given us her blessing, Kathryn, and quite frankly she probably expects us to continue making up for lost time."
"We'll be doing time if we get caught."
Chakotay smiled. "I promise to ensure we're allowed conjugal visits."
Kathryn shook her head.
While Kathryn and Chakotay ordered lunch, Gretchen excused herself to use the restroom, leaving Phoebe and Stephen alone for the first time since their initial encounter.
"Are you okay?"
"Are you mad at me?"
Phoebe glanced at him. "What reason would I have to be mad at you?"
"For what I said to your mother before Kathryn and Chakotay showed up," Stephen answered. "Under the circumstances, it may have been a bit presumptuous."
Phoebe smiled. "Actually, once I realized Mom wasn't going to pop you for it, I thought it was kind of sweet. It's been a long time since I've had someone to fight my battles for me."
"Somehow you strike me as a woman who is more than capable of holding her own."
"Doesn't mean I don't get tired of it. So does Kathryn. When you spend your life being forced to prove you can handle whatever life throws at you, the prospect of relinquishing that control to let someone else in is frightening."
"I imagine that may be part of the reason Kathryn waited so long to admit she loves Chakotay," Stephen mused.
"Probably. And she wears her Starfleet protocols like an invisible shield. I admire Chakotay for finding a way to knock them down."
"What about you?"
She shrugged. "I've had relationships, but nobody that was ever worth the effort it would have taken to make it last. I thought I had this last time, but after six months James decided he wanted a newer model. So, he dumped me for a twentysomething Dabo girl that he met on Risa."
"Then he's obviously an idiot," Stephen declared. "Personally, I like a woman who has some life experience and is more concerned with who she is than what she looks like."
"I'll remember that when some sweet young thing catches your eye and you offer to help her carry her books," Phoebe responded drolly.
There was no accusation in her tone, only resignation, and Stephen shook his head. If I ever meet this James character, I'm going to plant my fist in his face, he vowed. To Phoebe he said, "I have no intention of going anywhere. I like you, and I like being with you."
"We all like our toys when they're fresh and new, but once we've gotten used to them and they start showing signs of wear, we start looking around for another toy. It's part of life."
Stephen looked at her for a moment before he got to his feet and grabbed Phoebe's hand. "Come on. There's something I want to show you."
"We can't just leave, Stephen," Phoebe protested, being pulled to her feet. "What about my mom? And Kathryn and Chakotay?"
"Your mother is perfectly capable of entertaining herself, and from the looks they were exchanging over coffee Kathryn and Chakotay aren't going to stay much longer anyway. So they will all understand if you and I decide to make ourselves scarce."
"But I still don't think…"
Stephen abruptly cupped her face in his hands and silenced her with a lengthy kiss, then pulled back far enough to flash her a warm smile. "Don't think; don't fret. Just trust me. Okay?"
Phoebe smiled back. After that kiss I'd agree to follow you through the gates of hell, she mused. "Okay."
Stephen's smile widened, and he reclaimed possession of her hand as they headed away from the coffee shop. Gretchen, Kathryn and Chakotay all returned to the table just as Stephen and Phoebe disappeared into the crowd.
"Where do you suppose they're going to?" Gretchen wondered aloud.
"Maybe they went somewhere to get Stephen a clean pair of pants," Chakotay suggested.
"Well, its not like he's going to keep them on very long so why bother."
"So, I suppose you two are going to abandon me now, too?" Gretchen prompted.
Kathryn exchanged a quick look with Chakotay. "Well, now that you mention it," she began. "There is something that we need to take care of."
Gretchen glanced at Chakotay. "My tolerance level only reaches so high, Commander," she stated, her use of his rank indicating she meant business. "Do you, or do you not, intend to make an honest woman out of my daughter?"
"Mom!" Kathryn admonished.
Gretchen shot her the original death glare. "Hush, Kathryn; I'm talking to Chakotay." She glanced back at Chakotay. "I'm waiting, young man."
He forced himself not to smile. "I assure you that nothing would give me greater pleasure than making Kathryn my wife," he stated solemnly.
"Good. Then I'll expect an invitation shortly. Enjoy yourselves."
Duly dismissed, Kathryn and Chakotay joined hands and beat a hasty retreat. Gretchen watched them disappear, then smiled to herself. "They are going to give me beautiful grandchildren," she declared happily.
"Who is?" a voice asked from behind her.
Gretchen turned round and discovered Kyle Riker standing a few feet behind her. "Hello, Kyle," she greeted. "I'm glad you could make it."
"Where is everyone?" Kyle asked. "I was hoping to meet Kathryn and Phoebe."
"They're taking care of some personal business," Gretchen said. "I'm sure we'll catch up to them later."
Kyle sighed. "I still think we should have told them about us before we got married," he replied.
Gretchen smiled. "I wouldn't worry about it, my love. After today I am firmly convinced that my daughters will no longer be surprised by anything I do."
Kyle shook his head. "I'm not even going to ask."
"Isn't there something you want to ask me?"
"Something to do with what you said to my mother?"
"What did I say to your mother?"
Kathryn sighed, unsure if he was deliberately being obtuse or it just came naturally. I suppose he had to sacrifice something in order to get his good looks, she mused. "Never mind."
Chakotay forced himself not to smile. Don't worry, my heart, he assured her silently. I have every intention of proposing.
"So where are we going?" Kathryn asked.
"Starfleet Academy," Chakotay answered.
"The Academy?" Kathryn echoed. "Why the...Academy…" Her voice trailed off as realization struck and she stopped in her tracks. "No way."
"I thought you wanted to be spontaneous," Chakotay replied.
"There's a fine line between spontaneity and stupidity," Kathryn countered.
"Come on, Kathryn; you know you did it when you were a cadet. We all did."
"I was younger then, with a lot less to lose if I got caught."
"Ah. Worried about tarnishing Captain Janeway's reputation?"
"Well, that's too bad, because she wasn't invited to the party. Kathryn was, and Kathryn has no qualms about doing what she wants, when she wants, wherever she wants, and the hell with anyone who doesn't like it."
A small smile creased her face. "That's a devious Maquis tactic, using my own words against me."
He smiled back. "Whatever works."
She shook her head. "I must be insane to even be considering this."
"No more insane than I am for wanting to marry a woman who prefers coffee over me," Chakotay responded.
Her smile widened. "I never said I preferred coffee over you. And if you have marriage on the brain than it might behoove you to actually tender a proposal."
"All in good time. So are we doing this or not?"
"What if they are people there?"
"Kathryn, the pool is always closed to the public on Sundays so they can clean it, and the cleaning crew doesn't show up until at least 2:00. That gives us just under two hours."
"Two hours," she echoed. "We can do a lot in two hours."
"My point exactly."
Kathryn held his gaze for a moment before releasing a resigned sigh. "Fine, but if we get caught and our pictures are transmitted all over the newswires, I'm going to kick your butt all the way back to the Delta Quadrant."
Chakotay just smiled.
"Are you going to tell me where we're going?"
"You'll find out when we get there."
"That's not the answer I was hoping for."
"Phoebe, just relax and trust me."
"I don't seem to have a choice."
They wandered for a few more minutes in companionable silence until Stephen at last came to a halt in front of a small house on the outskirts of the city.
"Is this your home?" Phoebe asked.
"It belongs to my parents," Stephen told her.
"Your parents?" Phoebe echoed in surprise. "You brought me here to meet your parents?"
He cast her a sideways glance. "I've met your mother. What's the difference?"
"That was an accident," Phoebe reminded him. "A random happenstance. This is…deliberate. It makes a statement."
"Did it ever occur to you that maybe that's the point?" Stephen responded.
Without waiting for a response, Stephen knocked on the front door and a moment later a petite woman about the same size as Kathryn answered the door.
"Mijo!" she exclaimed in delight. "What a wonderful surprise!"
"Hi, Mom," Stephen greeted.
Mother and son exchanged a hug, then Stephen gestured at Phoebe. "Mom, I'd like you to meet a friend. This is Phoebe Janeway. Phoebe, my mother, Alicia Paprika."
"A pleasure to meet you, Alicia," Phoebe greeted.
"Likewise, Phoebe. Are you by any chance related to Kathryn Janeway?"
"She's my sister."
"I see. " She glanced at Stephen. "Am I supposed to believe that your involvement with the sister of Chakotay's lady is simply coincidence?"
"It's a long story, Mom," Stephen demurred.
"One I am certain you intend to share," Alicia returned. "Please, come in."
Alicia stepped aside and Phoebe and Stephen entered the house. Once they were inside, Alicia turned toward the staircase. "Talon, we have company," she shouted. "Stephen is here."
"I'm coming!" a masculine voice called out in response.
As the rustle of footsteps from upstairs indicated Talon's impending arrival, Alicia flashed Phoebe a friendly smile. "Would like something to drink?" she offered.
"A glass of water would be lovely, thank you."
Alicia nodded. "You heard her, Stephen. Go get her a glass of water."
"Of course. Excuse me."
Stephen obediently vanished into the kitchen to get the beverage just as Talon reached the bottom of the stairs and crossed over to join them. It was obvious from his appearance that he was Stephen's father, just as it was obvious that he was at least a decade younger than his wife.
"Phoebe, this is my husband, Talon. Talon, this is Stephen's friend, Phoebe."
"A pleasure to meet you, sir."
"Welcome to our home, Phoebe," Talon responded.
They exchanged a handshake just as Stephen returned with Phoebe's drink, and he handed her the glass as he greeted his father.
"Hi, Pop. Good to see you."
"Stephen. Why don't you go upstairs and change your pants while your mother and I get to know your lovely lady friend?"
Stephen flushed. "Good idea. I'll be right back."
Sending Phoebe a reassuring smile, he excused himself to head up the stairs, and Talon waited until he was out of earshot before speaking again.
"So, Phoebe, how do you know Stephen?"
"We sort of...crashed into one another," Phoebe evaded.
"Is that how he got the coffee on his pants?"
"Let me guess," Alicia said. "That explanation falls into the 'long story' category about how you two got together in the first place, right?"
"Well, its painfully obvious that that neither of you are going to share the story anytime soon," Alicia replied, "but I would like you to know one thing for the record."
"What is that?"
The older woman's face creased into a warm smile. "Stephen has never brought a woman here to meet us," she revealed. "He has always been a bit...obsessive…about keeping his personal life to himself. That he brought you with him today speaks volumes about his feelings for you."
"Alicia, I appreciate what you're saying, but I don't want you to misinterpret my presence here," Phoebe said. "To be perfectly honest, Stephen and I just met this morning."
The confession elicited a chuckle from Talon, and Phoebe sent him a questioning glance. "Did I say something funny?"
"Your honesty is admirable, Phoebe," Talon commended, "but I assure you that time has no bearing on matters of the heart, especially in this family."
"I don't understand."
Talon slid an arm around his wife's waist. "I proposed to Alicia on our first date," he explained. "We were married within a month."
"Between our whirlwind courtship and twelve year age difference, our families and friends were concerned to say the least," Alicia revealed, "But thirty years and three children later we're still going strong."
Understanding struck Phoebe then, and she broke into a wide grin. This is why Stephen brought me here, she mused. To prove that he was sincere about hanging around. Aloud she simply said "Thank you. "
Stephen chose that moment to rejoin them, and slid an arm around Phoebe's waist as he asked, "So what did I miss?"
Phoebe responded by pulling him to her and claiming his mouth in a passionate kiss. His parents made a discreet exit and a moment later Stephen reluctantly broke off their kiss to ask, "What was that for?"
"For being you. And because your parents are who they are. And because you brought me here to meet them."
He smiled. "If this is the response I get for introducing you to my parents, introducing you to my sisters is probably going to send me into a cold shower for two days."
Phoebe smiled back. "I'll be happy to warm you up again."
Stephen responded by pressing a gentle kiss on her lips.
"Well, I must say I'm impressed."
"Definitely. I never realized it was so…big."
"I've always considered it fairly average."
"Maybe I'm just out of practice. Seven years in the Delta Quadrant didn't exactly present much opportunity for comparison."
"You took advantage of the holodecks often enough," Chakotay reminded her.
"Yes, but somehow it just seems larger in reality," Kathryn responded.
"Maybe you should start to use it on a regular basis."
"I'd rather have my own."
"That can be arranged."
"We can always move into a house with a pool," Chakotay said. "That way you can swim as often as you like."
Kathryn shifted to face him. "That is the third time today you've inferred that you want to formalize our relationship, but the one question which would facilitate such an event has yet to be asked."
Chakotay briefly shifted his gaze from hers before responding. "Maybe I'm just afraid that if I actually ask you'll say no," he confessed quietly. "Treating it as foregone conclusion seems to eliminate the possibility of rejection."
Kathryn felt her heart constrict. How did I ever manage before he came into my life? she wondered idly. Flashing him a reassuring smile, she lifted her hands to gently cup his face and leaned over to give him a hearty kiss. "Does that feel like a 'no' to you?"
Returning her smile, he shook his head.
"Ask your question, Chakotay."
"Will you marry me?"
They exchanged another kiss just as the sound of applause rang through the supposedly deserted swim gym. Kathryn and Chakotay pulled apart and glanced across the pool to see a familiar elderly man standing beside the diving board.
"Very touching, you two," Boothby said. "Obviously I don't need to ask what you're doing here."
"Boothby..." Kathryn stammered. "It's good to see you again."
"Likewise, Captain, although I didn't expect to see quite so much of you."
Kathryn closed her eyes in silent mortification, blushing furiously as Boothby's remark reminded her that she and Chakotay were swimming sans bathing suits.
"We can explain…" Chakotay began, but Boothby silenced him with a wave of his hand.
"Whatever it is, son, I'm certain I don't want to know," the older man replied. "Just get yourselves dressed and take your...amorous pursuits someplace less public."
On that note, Boothby vanished as silently as he had come, leaving two large towels beside the piles of clothing. The lovers quickly scrambled out of the pool and hastily toweled themselves dry before pulling on their clothes. As Kathryn knelt to pull on her sandals, however, Chakotay bent over to gently grasp her wrist.
"Leave them off," he requested.
"More spontaneity?" Kathryn asked wryly.
"Just humor me."
Kathryn frowned but nonetheless left her shoes off. Chakotay claimed her free hand and they exited the gym. They walked in companionable silence for several minutes before Kathryn suddenly burst out laughing.
"What's so funny?"
"It just dawned on me that I am engaged to be married to a man who proposed to me while we were skinny dipping in the Academy pool, and now has me walking barefoot through the streets of San Francisco. Seven years ago - hell, seven weeks ago - I would have snapped in half before I allowed myself to bend this much."
"Spontaneity is good for the soul."
Kathryn suddenly stopped in her tracks, causing Chakotay to cast her a questioning glance. Before he could voice his query aloud, however, she slid her arms around is neck and pulled him to her for a passionate kiss. Several minutes later she pulled back just far enough to meet his gaze.
"You're good for my soul, Chakotay. Never doubt that."
He smiled. "I love you, Kathryn."
"I love you."
Seated side by side on the porch, Gretchen and Kyle were discussing the messages they had left for their respective children informing them of their marriage and inviting them to a reception at their new home in San Francisco.
"Do you think they're coming?"
"Of course they're coming. It's not every day they get an invitation to their parents' wedding reception."
"I'm just glad that the Enterprise was here for a maintenance layover," Kyle replied. "The party wouldn't be the same if Will and Deanna weren't coming."
"After dealing with Kathryn and Phoebe for close to fifty years, I'm looking forward to having a stepson and son-in-law," Gretchen remarked. "There hasn't been a man in the family since we lost Edward."
"Well from what you've told me it sounds like you may getting two sons-in-law," Kyle returned.
"I hope so. It would be nice if at least one of my daughters could take less than three quarters of a decade to realize they've found their soulmate."
"I don't know if I should be insulted or embarrassed," a familiar voice replied dryly.
Gretchen and Kyle glanced around to see Kathryn and Chakotay standing a few feet away. Following their adventure at Starfleet Academy, the lovers had returned to Chakotay's apartment intent on enjoying an intimate evening alone, only to find the message from Gretchen and Kyle. It had taken Chakotay close to thirty minutes to get Kathryn calm enough to change clothes and reign in her irritation with her mother so they could make the party.
"So," Kathryn continued. "Which one of you wants to explain why neither of you bothered to tell Phoebe and me you were involved before you got married?"
The elder Janeway released a dramatic sigh and glanced at Chakotay. "And here I thought you were going to be a calming influence on her," she said.
Chakotay shrugged. "I've learned that it's better to just smile, stay out of the way and always bring coffee," he responded.
"Did someone say coffee?"
The question came from Phoebe, who had arrived with Stephen just in time to hear the last part of Chakotay's comment.
"What is it with Janeway women and coffee?" Kyle asked of no one in particular.
"Depending on the circumstances, the combination can be hazardous to your health," Stephen answered dryly.
Phoebe shot him a quelling look. "There was no permanent damage done," she said tightly.
"You have first hand knowledge of that, do you, Phoebe?" Chakotay prompted, earning him a muffled snort from his fiancée, a smile from his cousin and an annoyed glare from his future sister-in-law.
"Remind me again why you didn't just blow him out an airlock while you were in the Delta Quadrant," Phoebe asked of Kathryn.
"Too much aesthetic value," Kathryn responded.
"And I replicate a mean cup of coffee," Chakotay added.
"That too," Kathryn agreed.
Will and Deanna chose that moment to make their appearance.
"Hello, everyone," the latter greeted. "Sorry we're late."
"We miss anything?" Will asked.
"Don't ask," Kyle and Gretchen declared in unison.
After the requisite insults and innuendoes, the celebration proceeded without incident. Once their initial shock had passed, Phoebe and Kathryn were delighted to welcome Kyle into the family and Gretchen had granted Will permission to call her Mom. While she prepared a fresh pot of coffee in the kitchen, Will decided to indulge in a little harmless needling.
"In keeping with my new role as 'big brother'," Will began, "I have to ask Stephen and Chakotay just what their intentions are toward my sisters."
"Here we go again," Kathryn muttered.
"You outrank him," Phoebe pointed out. "Can't you order him to shut up?"
"Family rank outweighs Starfleet rank," Will declared. "Stephen, Chakotay; I'm waiting."
Stephen glanced at his cousin. "Age before beauty, Cuz," he said.
"Not really," Kathryn mumbled to herself.
Chakotay smiled at that as he responded to Will. "This isn't exactly how we intended to break the news, but since you asked, Kathryn has agreed to marry me."
"Thank goodness," Gretchen said.
"About time," Phoebe added.
"Congratulations," Will replied. "Your turn, Stephen."
Stephen exchanged a look with Phoebe, who shrugged, and he glanced at Will. "We haven't worked out all the details yet, but suffice it to say that appearances notwithstanding Phoebe and I are together for the long haul."
"I'm glad to hear it."
Gretchen returned then, setting the coffee on the table as she asked, "Does anyone want dessert with their coffee?"
Will glanced at Deanna before answering. "Deanna and I will have to pass," he said. "We're due back on the Enterprise in less than an hour and we have another friend to see while we're here."
"Lieutenant Barclay?" Kathryn prompted.
"How did you know?" Deanna asked.
"I ran into him at Starfleet HQ the other day and he mentioned he was looking forward to seeing you," Kathryn clarified, and took a sip of coffee.
"I imagine he was thrilled to see you," Deanna remarked. "He has a bit of an obsession with Voyager."
"After his part in initiating our first direct contact with home while we were still in the Delta Quadrant, he can obsess about Voyager as much as he wants to."
Rising to their feet, Will and Deanna bid the group farewell and hugs were exchanged before they left the house.
"Phoebe and I should be going too," Stephen said. "I promised I would help her clean up her apartment after everyone's…visit…this afternoon."
"Surely it can wait until tomorrow," Gretchen suggested.
"Actually, it can't. I'm due back on the Excalibur first thing in the morning."
Phoebe shot him a surprised glance. "You're in Starfleet?"
"Yep. Lieutenant Stephen Paprika, assistant Chief Engineer at your service."
Phoebe shook her head. "I suppose it would have been too much to ask that you were a philosophy professor," she muttered.
"Don't fret, Phoebe," Chakotay said. "I have it on good authority that those scholarly types are pretty boring."
"Mind your tongue, Commander," Kathryn cautioned. "I outrank you, too and you're not family yet."
"I'll save you two the trouble of creating your excuse," Gretchen said. "I want you to get started on conceiving my grandchildren."
"Don't encourage them, Mom." Phoebe requested.
"Forgive me for saying so, but they don't seem to need any," Kyle remarked
Kathryn choked on her coffee. Chakotay simply smiled.
"Well, all in all I'd say the evening turned out rather nicely."
"It was certainly entertaining."
"Embarrassing your children usually is."
"I like Phoebe and Kathryn. They have style."
Gretchen snorted. "What they have is over active libidos," she corrected drolly.
"They come by it naturally," Kyle pointed out.
"That they do," Gretchen allowed. "And Stephen and Chakotay certainly seem to know how to handle them."
"I take it that means they meet with your approval?" Kyle prompted.
"I've already given Chakotay my blessing, but the verdict's still out on Stephen. It's simply too soon to tell."
"Phoebe doesn't seem to think so."
"Phoebe's heart is bigger than her brain, which is why she usually acts first and thinks later. More often than not it's gotten her burned and I don't want her hurt again."
Kyle smiled. "I can understand that, but from a male perspective, I can tell you that Stephen wouldn't have put himself through what he did today if he didn't have honorable intentions."
Gretchen smiled back. "He did hold up admirably under the circumstances," she allowed.
"Then maybe you should give him the benefit of the doubt."
"Maybe I will."
"Speaking of which, I hope my son will borrow a page out of Kathryn and Chakotay's book and make an honest woman out of Deanna."
"I take it that means I'm not the only one anxious for grandchildren?"
"The more the merrier."
Gretchen smiled again, then suddenly grew serious. "The girls did seem happy, didn't they?"
"They've both been through so much."
"The same could be said for you," Kyle reminded her.
Gretchen slid her arms round his waist. "Maybe, but now I have you, and I want them to be as happy as we are."
"I love you."
"I love you, too."
"Care to prove it?"
"I thought you'd never ask."
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True to his word, Stephen had helped Phoebe restore her apartment to some semblance of order before reluctantly bidding her goodnight and returning to his own. Once he was gone, Phoebe glanced around the empty room and was suddenly overwhelmed with loneliness.
I miss him already, she mused. I wonder if it really is possible to fall in love in a day?
Smiling to herself, she retreated into her bedroom to prepare for bed. Exchanging her clothes for an old fashioned flannel nightgown, she wandered into her bathroom to wash her face and brush her teeth before returning to her bedroom and crawling into bed. No sooner had she slid under the covers than the doorbell announced the arrival of an unwanted visitor.
"It's close to one o'clock in the morning," Phoebe muttered irritably as she headed for the door. "Whoever it is had better be someone damn important and bearing coffee."
Swinging the door open, her tart greeting died on her lips when she discovered Stephen standing in the hallway. "Stephen…"
"I thought you'd be home by now."
"I got about halfway there when I realized I'd forgotten something and needed to come back for it," Stephen replied.
"You could have called," Phoebe told him. "I would have arranged to get whatever it is to you before you returned to the Excalibur."
"I didn't want to wait until tomorrow to have it."
"Must be something important," Phoebe remarked.
"It is," Stephen said. "The something is you."
It took thirty seconds for his comment to register, and once it did she felt her eyes well with tears. I think I have the answer to my question, she thought happily. Aloud she said, "Well, since you came all the way back it would only be fair to let you inside so you can get what you came for."
He smiled. "There's a slight problem with that," he responded. "If I came back inside I may never want to leave again."
She smiled back. "That does present a challenge, as you're due on your starship in about twelve hours."
"Come with me."
Phoebe's gray eyes widened in surprise. "Excuse me?"
"Come with me," Stephen repeated, and stepped inside her apartment. "You're a specialist in diplomatic relations. There will be plenty of things for you to do on the Excalibur. As a matter of fact, I happen to know that Captain Tesco has been looking for a civilian attaché to serve as the liaison in first contact situations."
"Stephen…I love you for wanting us to be together," Phoebe began, "but I can't pick up and leave just like that. I have responsibilities…"
"To who?" Stephen countered. "Your mother? She's married now, sweetheart, and obviously quite happy. And as for Kathryn, as much as I know she loves you, she wants this time with Chakotay. They've earned it."
Knowing he was right, she remained silent, and Stephen pressed his point.
"I know you're scared, Phoebe; so am I. Despite what my parents have said and their own history, I never believed it was possible to meet someone and just…know…that they're the person you're meant to be with. But when you literally came crashing into my world this morning, I finally realized that my parents were right. I love you, Phoebe, and I want this. I want us. And I know you do, too. Please don't let fear prevent us from having it."
By the time Stephen finished his plea, tears were streaming down Phoebe's face, and he lifted a hand to gently wipe them away.
"Well, then I suppose there's only more thing left to settle," Phoebe said lightly.
"Who gets to sleep on the right side of the bed?"
Stephen flashed her a delighted grin before lowering his head to capture her mouth in a searing kiss.
Moonlight filtered in from the nearby window, illuminating the lovers comfortably ensconced under the bedcovers and curled spoon fashion against each other.
"Chakotay…are you awake?"
A muffled sigh against her neck "I am now."
"Do you think my mother is happy?"
"Is that a rhetorical question?"
"I don't ask rhetorical questions."
Stifling another sigh, Chakotay propped himself up on one elbow to meet Kathryn's gaze. "Okay, then you tell me. She has a new husband that she loves deeply and who obviously returns the feeling; her eldest daughter has safely returned from being stranded on the other side of the galaxy and is now engaged to be married a man who adores her more than his life; and her other daughter is involved with a man who treats her with the respect and affection
she deserves. Do you think she's happy?"
Kathryn smiled sheepishly. "I'm sure she's very happy."
"What about Phoebe?"
"I'm sure Phoebe is sure that she's happy, too."
"That's not what I meant."
Now he did sigh again. "Kathryn, Phoebe is a big girl and quite capable of managing her own affairs," he said. "No pun intended."
"I know, but she's never been very lucky in love. I just don't want to see her hurt."
"You know Stephen in every sense of the word, Kathryn; do you really think he's only interested in a casual affair?"
"I suppose not." A pause. "What about you?"
"If you're suggesting that I sleep with Phoebe in a twisted attempt to make us all even, I don't think she and Stephen will go for it," Chakotay deadpanned.
Kathryn snorted. "As if I would," she said. "In this case possession is all tenths of the law."
He smiled at that. "Thank you, I think."
"What I meant is, are you happy?"
"Well, now that you mention it, I suppose I should be honest. No, I'm not happy."
Kathryn blinked. "You're not?"
"No." A pause. "You see, not only have I been blessed to have spent the last three weeks almost exclusively with the woman who illuminates my life simply by being a part of it, but today I was granted the privilege of meeting and befriending both her mother and her sister, and she also agreed to become my wife. Am I happy? No. Am I delirious with joy? Absolutely."
Kathryn flashed him a loving smile. "Have I mentioned lately that I adore you?"
"The feeling is completely mutual."
They exchanged a warm kiss.
"If you're done asking questions, may we go to sleep now?" Chakotay asked.
She released a dramatic sigh. "To tell you the truth, Chakotay, I'm not really very sleepy."
She shook her head.
"Well then, how about doing something that will make both Kathryn and Captain Janeway curl their toes in delight?"
"I thought you'd never ask."
To Be Continued in "Two Weddings, The Reception, An Uninvited Guest and An Unexpected Gift"
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