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All the Songs

Author: Claire Gabriel




AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story is a sequel to my story, "Extrapolations." It
begins two days after the previous story ends; Janeway is on leave on an
Earth-like planet in the Delta Quadrant, expecting Chakotay to join her
the next day. If you have not read both "Fireflies" and
"Extrapolations," I urge you to read them before you read "All The
Songs." There are many references in the this story to incidents in the
preceding ones.

Readers of my stories should also be aware that they take place in an
alternate universe, which branched off from the Voyager universe we see
on TV after "The 37's"--originally filmed as Voyager's first-season
finale. Character inconsistencies in second-season Voyager episodes make
it impossible for my stories to be part of "the canon."

DEDICATION: For Michelle, my favorite "true believer."

DISCLAIMER: These characters belong to Paramount in fact and to us in
fantasy. The poem "Now Voyager" was written by the late May Sarton.


As my life spills into yours,
Changing with the hours....
I can show you all the songs
That I never sang to one man before.

-- Judy Collins, "Since You Asked"


-1-

Neelix had briefed the crew before the first shore party beamed down. A
humanoid species, he had said, much like Earth humans but with slightly
longer necks and slightly shorter limbs. Colorblind; all manufactured
goods were produced in black, white, and infinite shades of gray. Except
for the Seers, that is. The Seers were able to see colors, and other
things as well.

"It's not telepathy," Neelix had insisted soothingly, aware of the
growing uneasiness in his audience. "They're not really empaths either.
But Seers can sense things about people. Not words, not emotions
exactly, but facts. 'Things that are' is what they call them.
They...read 'things that are'--past, present, and future--from a
person's aura."

"Fortune tellers?" someone had asked hopefully, trying to put what
Neelix was saying into a context they could understand.

"Well...yes," Neelix had answered uncertainly. "But they don't make a
living at it. A Seer's reading is a gift, freely given. But you have to
want it. No Seer would ever tell you about yourself unless you really
want to hear it."

Kathryn Janeway really wanted to hear it. Because she wanted to
understand how it was done.

As she approached the outdoor bazaar, it was immediately clear to her
that one of the vendors was a Seer. The bazaar was a study in black and
white--wearing apparel, pottery, dolls, jewelry--all spread on tables in
the summer sunlight. Neelix had been right. The weather in the temperate
zone on this world was a joy to the spirit as well as the body--the sun
warm but not hot, the winds gentle, the humidity high enough to keep one
from feeling parched but not high enough to be uncomfortable. The blacks
and whites of the vendor's wares were clear and sharp and pleasant to
look at. Only the scarves for sale at one of the tables were colored--
like piles of rainbows hung out to dry, Janeway thought, delighted.

Behind the table, a woman wearing a sky-blue shawl was doing something
that looked like crocheting, humming softly to herself, and watching
Janeway approach with as much interest as Janeway was watching her.

"Good day to you, Lady," she said.

_I'm Kathryn Janeway, captain of the--_ She almost said it aloud before
she caught herself and murmured instead, "Good day to you. These scarves
are lovely."

"You are alone today," said the Seer. Her fingers went on working the
yarn although she was looking directly at Janeway now, a small smile
hovering around her mouth.

"Yes." Janeway too smiled faintly. Didn't take a Seer to figure *that*
out. Gently fingering the fine, silken fabric of one of the scarves, she
dropped it with a start as the woman spoke again.

"A light brown man will come to you tomorrow with his silver dog," she
said, fingers still flying. And Janeway suddenly had the feeling that
she was watching a spider spin a web. Repressing a shiver, she
nevertheless felt the hair rise on her arms and the back of her neck.
Yet she sensed no malice in the woman's voice or expression--only a
quiet certainty tempered with curiosity. _'Things that are' is what they
call them_ Neelix had said. _They...read 'things that are'--past,
present, and future--from a person's aura._

"He doesn't have a dog," she said quietly, meeting the Seer's gaze
directly. Just before the other woman answered her, Janeway realized
that universal translator had paused momentarily before translating
'dog'--just as it had before translating 'Lady.'

"Perhaps it is a wild dog. A...." Another pause. "A wolf, perhaps? I can
only see what it looks like, not what it might be in truth."

And it came to Janeway that it was not Littlebit's presence she had
sensed on the tower stairs all those years ago.

_What did you see?_ he had asked. And she had answered, _I didn't SEE
anything...._

His animal guide. She was sure of it.

"How do you do this?" Try as she would to keep the "Report, Mister,"
tone out of her voice, it nevertheless sounded like a demand. But the
Seer remained unflustered.

"I cannot explain in words that you would understand," she answered,
ignoring Janeway's tone. "Your aura is very strong--well-defined yet
complex. A coat of many colors." Again the faint smile.

"That phrase," said Janeway uneasily, "is from my culture. If you can't
explain in words, how is that you hear in words?"

"I do not hear, Lady. I read."

They were silent for a moment, the alien continuing with her work,
Janeway again fingering the scarves. Finally she said, "I've never seen
that animal."

"You have seen it in your mind. Long ago, I think. It was dark there,
but...." Her voice trailed off. Then: "You saw it in your mind. Or one
like it, perhaps? If you had not seen it, I could not read it."

"Please," Janeway said softly, "try to tell me how you do this."

"I cannot, Lady. You could not understand."

_There are more things in heaven and earth, Kathryn, than you dream of
in your philosophy._ Bloody hell. "Can you read my whole life from my...
aura?"

"Oh, no. Only what is most important to you as you are today."

"There are other things that are important to me."

"Yes. Others who dress like the light brown man. A ship flying in black
air." A frown. "There is a conflict...."

"What conflict?" Janeway demanded uneasily. Could something have
happened since she left the ship?"

"The conflict is within you, Lady. You balance yourself and the man
against the others in some way."

"And now you're going to tell me what to do about it?"

"No. You know what to do about it. That is why you are here on this
world."

Abruptly, it came to Janeway that the scientist in her, scrambling for
answers, was depriving the rest of her of an awesome experience. She
sighed, and most of her tension eased away. "Thank you for your gift,"
she said quietly, remembering what Neelix had said about the Seers of
this world: _A Seer's reading is a gift, freely given._

The Seer inclined her head, smiling still, but gave no answer.

It wasn't until Janeway had left the bazaar and headed back down the
beach toward the cabin she had rented, that she remembered the rest of
what Neelix had said.

No Seer would ever tell you about yourself unless you really wanted to
hear it.

_You know what to do about it. That is why you are here...._


The lake was large enough to look like an ocean, stretching to the
horizon. Near the northern edge of an equatorial continent, it roiled
and smoothed and roiled again with the seasons, and sometimes from day
to day, Neelix had said. But the seasonal changes were minimal; on this
early spring day, it was like early summer on the eastern edge of North
America where Janeway had grown up, like balmy mid-summer in San
Francisco, where she had spent the last few years of her Earthly life.
Yet, because this part of the planet was sparsely populated, few of the
beaches that edged the lake were developed for recreational areas, and
they presented a great deal of variation to the eye. The one near the
town, its inland edge decorated by the outdoor bazaar, and the one in
front of her cabin skirted inlets where the water was calm except in the
worst weather and the sand was fine, smooth, and white. In between,
there were all manner of variations--some beaches rocky and unfriendly,
some overgrown almost to the water's edge with lush grasses and weeds,
some with the sand still a bit damp and clammy from winter rains, and
one that was no beach at all but a cliff dropping directly to the shore
line, requiring her to take off her sandals and wade past it.

Delicious. She paused and looked toward the horizon, letting the soft
breeze whip her unbound hair in every direction at once, wrapping her
light-weight shirt and skirt around her body and then reversing itself
to send the skirt streaming out behind her. She paused there for a long
time, wiggling her toes against the sandy bottom--no watch to stand, no
crew to worry about, no logs to enter, no staff meetings to discuss
something threatening or incomprehensible or both. Last night she had
slept like the dead, drifting off on top of her sleeping bag shortly
after sunset and not waking until the sun was high overhead. Sixteen
hours? Seventeen? She had brought no time piece with her, but going by
the sun, she had slept away three quarters of a day, waking in the same
position in which she had dropped off. Somebody, she decided wryly, must
have been pretty damn tired.

Moving on, she came to yet another rocky beach, and put her sandals on
again. Wrong shoes for this sort of hiking. Tomorrow she would have
to....

_A light brown man will come to you tomorrow...._

She sighed deeply, drawing in real air and then letting it go, savoring
its fresh essence, moving carefully so that she would not stub a bare
toe or bruise her instep on the rocks. But only one part of her mind was
focused on keeping her footing. Except for one embrace when she returned
from the parallel universe, she had never touched him except on the arm
or the shoulder, and yet something in her knew him as though they had
already made love. Brown, warm, solid, like fresh-baked bread....

Now voyager, lay here your dazzled head.
Come back to earth from air, be nourish-ed,
Not with that light on light, but with this bread.

She had come across the poem shortly after she became Voyager's captain,
and had printed it out and kept it even though it did not seem relevant
to her current situation or her feelings about it, reading and re-
reading it until she knew it by heart. "Dazzled" and excited as she was
by her new assignment, she had felt no need to be nourished. And yet,
something in the poet's words clung to her soul with a kind of sad
nostalgia for something she had never had. With Mark....

She paused, smiling down at a vibrant green shoot thrusting its way up
through a crack in the rock she was circling, as though it had heard its
cue.

Here close to earth be cherished, mortal heart,
Hold your way deep as roots push rocks apart
To bring that spurt of green up from the dark.

The rock was almost a foot thick. That green shoot must have deep roots
indeed.

She lingered for a moment, and then went on, no longer smiling.

She and Mark had believed that they were right for each other. Similar
interests and backgrounds, good and loving monogamy with very few
strings attached. Neither of them wanted anything more than the other
was willing to give, certainly not a permanent commitment, much less a
family. So, like good friends who see each other too seldom for there to
be obvious conflicts, they had lived their own lives most of the time
and thoroughly enjoyed the time they spent together. If she had ever
wanted anything more, that wanting was pushed aside and buried by the
demands of her profession and her single-minded dedication to it.

Until now.

In some ways it felt as though she and Chakotay had always been
together. She had sensed that from the first, but not its full
implications. Even when they argued, each knew that the other wanted the
same things--to get home safely, to be fair to their people, to keep the
crew safe and sane until they reached their destination. At least that
had been what they both wanted in the beginning. She was not sure when
it had changed--when she had begun to accept the fact that they might
never get home as more than a remote possibility. _We're not in Kansas
any more, Captain,_ the alternate Chakotay had said, and she was fairly
certain that her Chakotay had come to the same conclusion--that their
former lives were probably gone forever, that everyone on the ship would
have to accept that and begin anew or drown in anger and self-pity. The
two of them had discussed it several times in the last few months--the
same time period in which they had begun to have breakfast together. Now
it was almost as though the probable permanence of their isolation had
allowed them to give themselves permission to be themselves with one
another....

The shadows had begun to lengthen by the time she reached the beach in
front of the cabin where she was staying. With the sun setting into the
woods behind the cabin, the dusky outlines of trees and one small
structure stretched across the sand toward the water. Removing her shoes
once more, she walked the edge of each shadow as though she were playing
a child's game, smiling dreamily at the thought, sandals dangling from
one hand by their ankle straps. What an utterly mindless thing to be
doing. No purpose and no consequences, thinking of almost nothing at
all. Voyager's captain had not known ahead of time how much she needed
to do just this. Nothing. But now she knew that she had needed it very
badly.

The cabin looked primitive and even a little stark from the outside, but
inside it was replete with modern conveniences, all artfully disguised
so that its transient occupants could imagine they were roughing it even
as they replicated their food and, if they wished, their clothing. "Your
choice," Neelix had said. "You can fix meals from scratch if you want
to." There were several food shops in the rural village just behind the
bazaar, and Janeway, who had little experience and less patience with
cooking, had elected to compromise: bread, cheese, fruit, and the
makings of an omelet in the refrigeration unit, with anything else she
might need available from the replicator.

Munching on a pear-like fruit, she surveyed the room. She had been given
to understand that there was a bed of some kind hidden in the wall, but
there didn't seem to be a way to--ah, that might be it. She finished the
pear, licked her fingers, rinsed and dried them at the sink, and went to
investigate. The bed popped out of the wall and fell into position with
a plop, fully made up. She scowled at it for a few moments, chin in
hand. Damn thing took up more than half the room, made the place look
like an Academy dorm. "I don't think so," she muttered aloud, and made
the thing disappear from whence it came.

She fixed herself a light meal, ate it, and then replicated a cup of
dark liquid, reveling in the fact that she didn't need to spend
replicator rations for it. One taste, though, told her that although the
icon on the replicator's control panel depicted a steaming cup of what
*looked* like coffee, the stuff tasted like burnt buttered toast.
Sighing, she dumped it in the sink, wishing she had tried to find a
coffee substitute when she was shopping in town.

As darkness fell, she wandered again to the edge of the lake and sat
down there, arms around her knees, bare feet again luxuriating in the
feel of the sand, letting herself be mesmerized by the movement of the
water. The tide was coming in, ripples turning to waves that tickled her
toes. She'd have to move soon, or get wet when the tide came in all the
way. She did not move. The water was surprisingly warm, and she let it
slowly encircle her--like a flood, like an embrace, like desire itself.
Still with her arms around her knees, she put her head down on them, the
ends of her hair falling into the water beside her, and dreamed waking
dreams of tomorrow.

Where music thundered, let the mind be still,
Where the will triumphed, let there be no will,
What light revealed now let the dark fulfill...

Later--showered and shampooed--she pulled on an old sweat suit that she
had not worn since Earth and lay down on top of her sleeping bag. The
cabin was secure; she had programmed the door lock with the same privacy
code she used for her quarters on the ship, and the little building was
sturdily made, the window transparent aluminum. She had made a small
fire in the fireplace to warm the cabin against the faint chill of the
night and she lay prone before it, chin on her hands, and gazed into the
flames, certain that she was too excited to sleep. Every part of her
body was awake and waiting, but that was okay; even if she didn't sleep
all night....

She woke to the sun, almost as high in the sky as it had been when she
woke yesterday. But it was not the sun that had roused her. Someone was
sitting on the floor near the foot of the sleeping bag, eating an apple.


-2-

Only two people knew the code she had programmed into the door lock: her
chief of security and her first officer. And even if Tuvok had a reason
to be here, he certainly wouldn't be sitting around on the floor making
crunching noises.

Sighing, she took mental inventory. Old gray sweat suit, white socks,
freshly-washed hair in a golden snarl, no make-up. The hell with it. She
had briefly considered prettying up for his arrival, but the thought
made her uncomfortable and she had not dwelt on it. Now it was out of
her hands, so she needn't think about it at all. Good.

Turning on her back and raising herself on her elbows, she made a stab
at sounding grumpy even though she knew that her grin killed the effect.
"Good morning, Commander. Is one of your talents walking through walls?"

"Good morning, Captain." He was sitting on the floor with his back
against the brick wall next to the fireplace. Soft, tan shirt, open at
the neck. Dark pants and soft boots--like the ones he'd worn in the
tower, so long ago. Good for walking rocky beaches? she wondered
absently. Of course; his ancestors had walked the Western Hemisphere in
boots like that. Or in moccasins. Or sandals. Then she realized that he
was sitting in almost exactly the same position as when they were two
kids sneaking a smoke together in the tower years ago. Except this time
he sat in the stream of sunlight from the window that made him look all
gold--grinning, as delighted to be there as she was to see him there.
And he wasn't smoking, but rather chewing enthusiastically on one of the
apples from her refrigerator. "Not last time I looked, no."

"That thing on the door is supposed to be a privacy code."

"I was hungry, and I didn't want to wake you."

"Oh--you can *see* through walls?"

He shook his head. "Through the window."

"Ah," she said wryly. "Behold the sleeping beauty."

"Uh-huh." His gaze caught and held hers, and her heartbeat accelerated
as she thought _Now_? But then he rose, took his well-chewed apple core
to the sink, returned and held out his hand to help her up. She took it
and let him pull her up into his embrace--a hug that might have been
nothing more than that except that she could feel his heart beating
almost hard enough to break free of his body.

Here close to earth the deeper pulse is stirred,
Here where no wings rush and no sudden bird,
But only heartbeat upon beat is heard.

Face buried in her shoulder, he whispered, "Good morning, Kathryn," and
it was as though they had been friends forever and had time for
everything.

"Good morning, Chakotay." She snuggled into his all-enveloping embrace.
"I think you're wrong. It *must* be a bear."

He laughed softly, pulled away a little, and kissed her lightly--a kiss
smelling of fresh apples. "I told you. The animal guide doesn't define
the self. It guides us on our way."

"I know." She laid her cheek against his shoulder again and they swayed
slightly together, back and forth, not wanting their moment to end.
Then, abruptly, his stomach growled and they both chuckled. "Haven't you
had breakfast?"

"Yes. Lunch? No."

"Lunch?" She pulled away a little, weighing alternatives. "Can you cook
while I get dressed? I want you to meet somebody, and she won't be there
after sunset."

"Cook what?" He didn't sound reluctant, simply curious.

"There's stuff for an omelet in the refrigerator."

He laughed aloud. "Thus spoke Kathryn Janeway, renowned scientist. What
STUFF?"

"Egg powder and vegetarian stuff. You know. *Stuff*."

"Not in a class with eggs benedict, asparagus hollandaise, and
strawberries and cream."

After a moment, she said softly, "You have an incredible memory."

He only smiled. "Who do you want me to meet?"

"Tell you over lunch. Can you make an omelet?"

"Aye, Captain."

"Good. Do it." She turned toward the bathroom.

"Is that an order?"

Turning back quickly, she saw that he was teasing her--that there was
not a trace of challenge in his steady, smiling gaze.

"Never," she said quietly. "Not when we're like this. You do know that,
don't you?"

"I was only teasing you."

"I know. Just...please don't."


"I have no idea how she does it. I didn't feel that my mind was being
probed, but she *knew* things that she couldn't possibly have known
about me."

They had eaten their lunch on a table made of rough planks, partially
sunk in the sand before the cabin, but positioned so that, even in the
early afternoon, the table fell within the building's shadow. A soft
breeze blew in off the lake, stirring their discarded napkins and
blowing her hair forward over her shoulders.

"What did she know about you?" Although he was not a scientist, she had
noticed before that he was intensely curious about unfamiliar phenomena,
wanting to study and understand in much the same way she did.

"That I was alone here yesterday. That a 'light-brown man' would join me
today, and that there are others dressed like him who are also important
to me." She left the balancing image for later, for their inevitable
discussion of the impact of their relationship on the crew. "She saw 'a
ship flying in black air,' and she saw--" Yes, now was as good a time as
any. "She saw you with a silvery animal. First she called it a dog, and
when I said you didn't have a dog, she called it a wolf."

Slowly he leaned forward, staring at her. "She saw that image in *your*
mind?"

"Not my mind. She said 'aura.' And she called it reading, not seeing."

"But you've never seen...." His voice trailed off and their gaze held.

"Katydid didn't see it either," she said very softly. "But she knew
there was an animal up there with you, and she knew it was very much
like...like Littlebit, her dog."

After a moment, he said, "You remember."

"I had help. Your counterpart in the alternate universe called me
'Katydid.' He wouldn't tell me about the--the dog, though. When I asked.
Or the Kolvoord Starburst, when I asked about that. He said he couldn't-
-that I'd have to ask you. Chakotay, why didn't you ever tell me that
we'd met before?"

He shook his head, frowning a little. "I've always intended to, but
somehow it never seemed like the right time." The frown deepened.
"Kathryn, what did you see that night?"

"I didn't see anything. I told you that at the time." He nodded, still
frowning. "But I knew there was an animal up there with you, and I knew
it was something very like Littlebit." He said nothing. "Don't worry. I
only asked *him* about it because I was startled when he called me
Katydid. I won't press you about your...dog."

Now he met her gaze, smiling faintly. "Why?"

"You said it would offend her if you spoke her name. I have a good
memory too." They smiled at each other for a moment. "And I don't think
I have to ask you why you brought up the Starburst. You were Nova
Squadron commander the following year. It was on your Starfleet record."

"They were my people," he said slowly, "and I didn't know you then. I
had to protect them, and--and anyway, I knew it wasn't going to happen.
I'd told them so that afternoon. I just--they were all furious at me.
You were the only one who...understood why I couldn't agree do it. That
helped a lot."

After a moment, she said, "I studied with Julia the next day."

She half expected him to look puzzled, but he simply asked, "Why?"

"Damned if I know." She scowled down at the table, brushing a few
crumbs into her other hand. "No. I know." She met his gaze once again.
"An anonymous tipster gave me some...useful information, and I guess I
was following up on it." She glanced up at the sun, no longer right
overhead. "Let's walk, and on the way I'll tell you about your
counterpart."


The day was less windy than the previous one, and a little warmer. After
they had picked their way across the first beach, he rolled up the
sleeves of his shirt and unbuttoned another front button. Having passed
that way herself, she had dressed more appropriately than she had the
day before--in trim denim pants, sturdy shoes, and a sleeveless blue
top, her hair fastened at the back of her neck with a large tortoise-
shell clip. As they reached the end of one beach and began to cross a
relatively smooth strip of sand, she felt the clip spring open and then
heard it fall against the rock she had just stepped over.

"Damn." She stooped to pick it up, but before she could gather her hair
with the other hand, she felt his on her shoulder.

"Don't," was all he said. But his hand moved to stroke her hair where it
now flowed down her back, unbound. Instead of answering, she turned her
head and he kissed her. It was a gentle kiss, but it moved around a
great deal and took some time to finish. Finally he said huskily, "I
like it better down. Please?"

"Okay," she whispered. They kissed once more, lightly this time. Then
she put the clip in her pants pocket and they moved on. After a moment,
she said, "I think I forgot what I was saying," and they both laughed
softly, contentedly.

"'We're not in Kansas any more, Captain,'" he prompted.

"Yes. That was about it, I think. He went somewhere else, and I slept on
their bed. His idea. It was the only good sleep I had either night."

"An omen?"

She took his hand, not answering, and they moved slowly on, clasped
hands swinging between them. He had said little during her
recapitulation of her experiences in the other universe, simply
listened, asking a question here and there. Now he said quietly, "You
didn't tell me what his reaction was when you told him I'm your first
officer."

She frowned, trying to decide how to tell him. Nonsense. Just tell him.

"He said, 'Full-dress cop-out. How convenient.'" Silence, but she felt
his hand tighten on hers. "He had second thoughts about that by the
next day, though." More silence. "That's when he said you'd chosen to
give me your allegiance, and we went on to other things."

"Did it ever come up again?"

"No."

Their steps slowed, and he took her other hand as well, turning her to
face him as they stopped walking. A stray breeze off the lake blew a
strand of hair across her forehead and she tossed it back, not wanting
to withdraw either of her hands from his.

"We can talk about this later," she said steadily, meeting his troubled
gaze. "If this isn't the right time for you."

"It's past time" He frowned a little, and then went on slowly. "The
Caretaker's abduction came at the right time for me, and Voyager was in
the right place. I was thinking about leaving the Maquis."

She did not know what she had expected to hear, only that it was not
this. She felt her eyes widen in surprise, and then felt him trying to
draw his hands from hers as his gaze shifted away. "No," she said
firmly. "No--don't do that." Clasping his hands tightly, she willed him
to meet her gaze once more. "Talk to me, Chakotay." Her voice was almost
a whisper, her gaze intent on his. "You're right. It's past time."

"The Cardassians killed my father," he said finally. "That's why I
resigned and joined the Maquis--to fight for my people's lives, and for
the land. But it didn't quite work out that way." A deep sigh. "Killing
Cardassians doesn't bring back anybody *they* killed, and what we were
doing--it just didn't make any *difference.* We were just a...a nuisance
to them. We weren't making any difference at all. All we were doing was
blowing things up and killing...people." The dark eyes were haunted now.
"And most of my crew enjoyed it. There were times when even I--" He
closed his eyes momentarily and shook his head.

"B'Elanna?" The question slipped out before she could stop it.

"Hell, no." A short, painful laugh. "She talks a good game, and in close
combat--we were boarded more than once--she fights like a demon. But all
she really cared about was keeping the damn engines online."

She nodded, surprised at the depth of her relief. Odd. The idea that the
once violent B'Elanna might have enjoyed killing her enemies had
disturbed her more than Chakotay's admission that he had.

Because he had wanted to stop.

"So you thought about leaving."

"There were days," he said quietly, "when I thought I would have sold my
soul to be back in Starfleet. But there was no way they were going to
take me back, and anyway--I'd made a commitment to do what I could for
my people, and I couldn't see my way clear to abandoning that
commitment. Or my crew. Couldn't see my way clear to anything." Another
deep sigh. "And then--." He smiled, and his hands tightened on hers.
"There you were, asking me to come back, and I didn't have to betray
anybody or anything to do it. But he was right. It still felt like a
cop-out."

"Does it now?"

"No." Without hesitation. Without explanation. Just No.

She bowed her head, resting her forehead against his chin for a moment,
squeezed his hands and then let one of them go so that they could walk
side-by-side again.

They came to the place where the rocky cliff dropped directly into the
water. Removing their shoes and carrying them in their outboard hands,
they waded in hand in hand. When they had gone about half way, he said,
"You said he realized almost right away that you weren't his Kathryn.
What happened before he realized that?"

To her own surprise, she giggled. "You aren't going to believe this."
Releasing his hand, she took him by the wrist and tried to pull his arm
around her neck. "No--not around my shoulders. Like this." Awkwardly,
she tried again to pull his arm around her neck, but having no idea what
she was trying to do, he was unable to cooperate. And then, suddenly, he
was. Pulling her close, he murmured, "Like this?"

"Yes. And then he--Chakotay--stop! We're going to drop our shoes in the
water!" He was laughing as hard as she was, utterly delighted, trying to
blow in her ear and being largely unsuccessful because he was laughing
so hard. Only when they both almost lost their footing were they able to
subdue their laughter and gain the beach at the far end of the cliff.
Dropping their shoes in the sand, they hugged again, and he managed to
blow gently in her ear. "How did you know what he did?" she asked
finally.

"My p--our--his--oh, hell. He got it from his parents."

Fascinated, she whispered, "What does it mean?"

"'Blow in my ear and I'll follow you anywhere.'" His arms tightened, and
for a few moments they simply held each other, no longer laughing.
"Maybe I should have told you before I did it."

"That wouldn't have made any difference." They pulled apart a little,
and he brushed a stray lock back from her forehead even as she ran her
fingers lightly over the tattoo on his and then through his hair. For
the moment, that was enough for both of them.


The sun had dropped down the sky behind the bazaar as they approached
the Seer's stall, still hand in hand. She looked up at them, smiling a
little as her gaze went from Janeway to Chakotay and back again, her
fingers flying as she continued to work the piece she had been working
the day before. An aid to concentration? Janeway wondered. The clear,
almost colorless alien eyes settled on Chakotay, and the smile deepened
as she murmured, "Ah!" Chakotay smiled quizzically at her, and after a
moment she added in a conversational tone, as though she were discussing
the weather, "The silver animal is of the spirit world, then."

Tensing a little, Chakotay hesitated before speaking; Janeway had told
him how the woman had refused to explain her talent, insisting that
Janeway would not understand. Then, watching him, she saw his eyes
narrow slightly, as though he had become aware of something he hadn't
seen before--or as though he were making a guess? "Do spirits assist you
in your readings?" he asked, and Janeway's jaw almost dropped when the
alien answered him.

"Ancestral spirits," she said quietly. "You understand, then." Her gaze
moving to Janeway, her smile now apologetic. "Your Lady does not
understand these things."

Fascinated, Janeway felt Chakotay let go of her hand and move to stand
behind her, his gaze, she was sure, still meeting the alien's. At first
his movement seemed somehow protective, even though he was behind her.
But then she realized that what she had taken for protective was in fact
supportive. Laying his hands on her shoulders, he said gently but
firmly, "No, she doesn't. But she listens for understanding, and that
too is a gift--much like your own."

Such simple words, and yet somehow they brought tears to Janeway's eyes.
Crossing her arms, she laid her hands on his where they rested on her
shoulders, and felt him touch his lips to her hair.

"That's good, then," the alien said approvingly, "and you two are good
together." It was as much a benediction as a felicitation.


After supper, they went wading in the lake together, this time not
carrying their shoes.

Barefoot and hand-in-hand, they waded into the waves now lapping gently
at the sand in contrast to the evening before, when they had attacked
the beach in a white-curled rush of dark indigo. She thought briefly
about telling him how she had sat it the surf, her clothing soaked, arms
around her knees, letting the waves wash over and around her while her
body sang with anticipation of him. But there was nothing she needed to
tell him, she realized. Everything that needed to be said had already
been said, or soon would be.

As she paused to savor the reflection of the setting sun across the
water from the horizon, he laid his arms around her from behind as she
had somehow known he would. One went around her waist, the other
underneath her hair, lifting it to the side and forward over her
shoulder, exposing the nape of her neck to the coolness of the lake
breeze and the warmth of his lips. She drew in her breath; if he had
exposed her breasts and kissed them, the act could not have been more
intimate, yet his hands did not wander. One arm still around her waist,
he laid the other over her hair, now spread across the skin left bare by
the neckline of her shirt, his hand resting lightly on her opposite
shoulder; his mouth was doing the wandering, across the back of her
neck, its lingering touch as light as the pleasure it gave her was
intense. Pressing her body back against his, she kissed the hand on her
shoulder and then rubbed her cheek against his arm.

"Hold still." But he was teasing. She could feel the smile.

"Can't," she whispered, smiling too, arching her neck so that the back
of her head caressed his cheek.

"Dare you."

"No fun," she insisted, giving in to the irrepressible urge to wriggle
against him even as both arms tightened around her. Bad idea, she
realized immediately. Neither of them had been thinking about keeping
their balance against the waves that lapped against them thigh-high, and
the small, smooth stones that covered the lake's bottom tended to shift
without warning. Wrapped together as they were, they were utterly unable
to break their awkward tumble once it began, and ended up sputtering and
splashing, then helping each other to stand again, both of them laughing
helplessly and completely drenched, her hair tangled and damp as high as
her shoulders.

Catching each other by the hand once more, they ran back across the sand
together in the failing light. Through the open doorway she could see
the fire still burning as they had left it, only a little sunk into
itself in their absence, still sending shadows dancing over the walls.
Now, she thought, exultant. Now. And as he let go of her hand to strip
off his sodden shirt, she grasped the bottom edge of hers, arms crossed,
and pulled it off over her head.

Here let the fiery burden all be spilled,
The passionate voice be calmed and stilled,
And the long yearning of the blood fulfilled.

He turned before she had completed the movement, and at his expression--
lips slightly parted, dark eyes shining as she had never seen them--she
paused, arms raised, the shirt still around her wrists, and tossed back
her air, letting the lake's faint breath caress her bare breasts even as
his gaze did.

When she began to lower her arms, he whispered, "Don't. Not yet."

She paused again, letting him drink her in as though he were parched,
letting herself imagine the sensation of pressing her breasts, nipples
erect, against his chest. Then she tossed the shirt away and moved
toward him, surprised when he put up his hands as though to ward her
off. Instead, he took her hands in his, his eyes never leaving hers,
laid her hands gently against the fastening of his pants, then his
against hers. Taking their time, each of them stripped the other, barely
touching one another, fingertips brushing lightly across hips and
buttocks as their clothing slipped to the floor. He's all bronze and
firelight, she thought, her arms reaching for him, again surprised when
he made a movement that seemed to resist her. But it was only to touch
her lightly on the insides of her upper arms, guiding them upwards until
they went around his neck, allowing their bodies to come together naked
length against length.

For an instant neither of them could breathe, and in the next they were
moaning against each other, her face in his neck and his buried in the
damp hair on her shoulder, his erection pressed hot and hard between
them. All of her fantasies of slow, sensuous lovemaking fled upward into
the darkness like sparks from a log splitting asunder; the only thing
she wanted--mind, body, soul--was to come with him inside her. A small
part of her thanked every deity in the universe that she had left the
sleeping bag spread out that morning instead of putting it away; the
floor was unfinished wood, and they would both have had splinters up
their spines if they had rolled on it like this....

"Can't go slow," he gasped, thrusting uncontrollably as she drew him in
and in and in, she so tight and he so hard. So much wanting, so long
denied. "Then don't," she responded in kind, and then everything turned
dark and red and gold and exploded. Somebody was groaning and she had no
idea which of them it was or if it was both of them but it didn't
matter, nothing mattered except what was happening to their bodies
convulsing together in the firelight and the soft, wet breeze from the
open door.

Even when it was over, it wasn't over; neither of them seemed to be able
to let go of the other. He was still half-hard inside her, and she was
joyfully unsurprised when his hands slid down and grasped her buttocks,
pressing and releasing, pressing and releasing as half-hard slowly
swelled to fill her again. Her hands imitated his, but this time both of
them moved more and more slowly instead of with increasing tempo. Their
mouths found and ate each other, hungry and probing and then slowing
too, tasting and nourishing each other while their hands continued in
the same gradually decreasing rhythm. Somewhere deep within her a dark
indigo wave was moving toward its crest; she could feel her muscles
begin to contract around him and knew that he could feel it too, and yet
it was all inside; the rest of her was barely moving now, as was the
rest of him. Only their hands moved, pressing, holding, releasing, their
lips barely touching, sweet and soft....

"I'm--" she whispered almost inaudibly. "It's c--." Her voice caught.

"I know," he answered, and she could hear the utter delight in his
voice. "I can feel it." And then the wave crested--pulsing down her
thighs and up through her breasts and throat to her face--no longer
indigo but rosy-pink and warm. He shivered and came with a gasp; she
felt his mouth tremble against hers as he poured himself into her until
it seemed that there was nothing left of him but one long, drawn-out
sigh.

He shifted his weight as he slid out of her so that he lay partially on
top of her and partially beside her, his cheek against her shoulder, one
hand gently caressing her slick inner thigh. She had just discovered how
delicious it was to bury her face in his hair when she felt the cheek
against her shoulder begin to curve and found herself grinning even
before he spoke.

"Oops," he said lazily, his voice full of mock regret, "we forgot the
foreplay part."

She could not remember ever having laughed like this. He seemed startled
at first, raising his head to look into her face as though the reassure
himself that she wasn't hysterical. "I'm okay," she gasped, patting his
shoulder and then wiping her eyes with the heel of the hand that wasn't
pinned underneath him. Every time she thought she was winding down, it
would bubble up and overflow again, and she gave herself up to it as she
had given herself up to his desire and his love.

Raising himself, he slipped one hand beneath each of her shoulders and
then hid his face against her breasts, rubbing one cheek and then the
other against her as she gradually subsided into near- exhaustion.
Putting both arms around his shoulders, she held him, cheek against his
hair, until she could trust herself to speak coherently.

"We've been foreplaying all day long."

This time she felt the grin against her breast. "I noticed." But the
words were slurred with fatigue, and she knew he was more than half
asleep already, one hand still under her shoulder, the other arm lying
across her body, his palm against her side just beneath her armpit. She
knew too that she should wake him up and get them both into a more
comfortable position before they slept; relaxed as he was, he was dead
weight, and she was barely able to move even though he was not
completely on top of her. But she did not want to move, ever. And that
was all that was important at the moment.

She woke to full night. She had not brought a chronometer with her,
trusting Tuvok to contact her two hours before it was time for her to go
back as she had asked him to do. But the silence and the darkness spoke
tacitly of small hours after midnight. The fire had long since died to
embers, and the only sounds were the waves, lapping softly against the
beach outside, and the muted but insistent whisper of wind in the trees
behind the cabin.

They had moved a little apart in sleep, but lay on their sides facing
one another, close enough that she could feel his breath on her cheek--
what breath there was. He slept so deeply that he seemed to be scarcely
breathing at all, and yet his free hand, the right one, rested gently on
her right breast, the fingers barely curved, palm to her skin. Even in
the darkness here at the center of night, she could see them: her breast
pale as porcelain, his hand light golden brown, as warm as his palm that
caressed her even as he slept. Smiling to herself, she drifted off
again, imagining waking up to find him waking too, his fingers lightly
stroking....

She came awake again with her stomach muscles contracting in a spasm
very like a mini-orgasm, but without the violent release an orgasm
normally gave her. The hand that had been on her breast when she fell
asleep was now between her legs, stroking her swollen sex with one
exploring finger. She was already so wet that there was almost no
friction, only the intense pleasure of being touched awake by someone so
obviously focused on discovery.

Propped on his elbow, lips curved in a half-smile that in no way
suggested that he was teasing her but only that he was enjoying himself
immensely, he watched her face as she spasmed again, exhaling sharply
through her parted lips, her thighs spreading involuntarily, pelvis
rising to meet his touch.

"Put your arms up again," he whispered, eyes shining as they had the
night before when she had pulled her shirt over her head and then stood
luxuriating in his gaze with the shirt around her wrists. At the time,
she had wondered briefly if it was the illusion that her wrists were
bound had excited him, but now it was more than clear to her that that
had not been a factor. The raised arms also raised her breasts, and
exposed her entire body in a way that could not be duplicated when her
arms were at her sides. Stretching, hands above her head, she began to
roll slightly back and forth, muscles contracting once again.

Still stroking her, he sat up, pulled his legs under him and sat back on
his heels, his gaze traveling the length of her body as she twisted and
moaned, now raising her knees to stretch herself open as wide as she
could. His penis was fully erect; she could see the underside of it
faintly even in the dark. Yet he made no move to enter her--

And then he was between her legs, the finger gone, touching her instead
with his mouth--touch and gone, touch and gone, until she wanted to
scream, _NoNoNo!_. Somehow, the word she gasped out instead was
"Please--"

"Don't beg." He raised his head momentarily, mouth already glistening.
"Never beg. Just tell me what you want."

"Once you've--just stay there," she managed, and then he was there and
staying, and she had to fight to keep from pressing herself against him
as hard as she could because she had no idea whether he would want that-
-until she heard him murmur "Kiss me back" and she cried out and came
violently, rubbing herself against his probing lips and tongue.

Her first coherent thought was _Do it again_. But wet as she was now,
there was something else she wanted even more.

Instead of going limp as a towel as he probably expected her to do, she
sat up, motioning silently for him to sit facing her, both of them with
their knees drawn up, one of her legs over one of his. She suspected
that he knew what she was after, for she did not have to explain in
words; both of them shifted position until they were close enough to
each other that the tip of his penis was brushing against her. Taking
him in one hand, she paused for a moment to let them both savor the
shudder of pleasure that passed through him at her touch. Then, very
gently at first, she began to rub the tip of his sex against hers.

He was sitting with his head bent forward, his forehead almost touching
hers, and it was easy to whisper directly into his ear: "Spread me
open," and when he had complied, "Watch us."

Again he complied, but it was only a few seconds later that he said in a
strangled voice, "If you don't plan for us to finish it like this,
you're in for a surprise."

"Surprise me," she whispered, and when he groaned and began to
ejaculate: "Keep watching us." And then he did surprise her. Without
urging, he began gently to rub the thick, milky fluid from his body into
hers, mingling it with her own. Her pleasure was intense, and yet she
did not come ; she did not want to miss anything. Instead, she slowly
spread their mingled essences over the part of him that she still held
in her other hand and the softness beneath it until he was as slick and
sticky as she. Finally, resting her forehead against his, she murmured,
"I thought this up last night. If you hadn't arrived today, who knows
that I would have come up with."

He chuckled appreciatively. "How 'bout I go back up and--"

"Don't get greedy. And don't go back to sleep on me." She sighed,
uncomfortably aware of her dry, parched mouth. "I have to get a drink of
water or I'll die of thirst. Don't know what's the matter with me."

He touched her again--lightly, intimately. "A little dehydrated, maybe?"
Then, when she snickered and began to get up: " Stay here. I'll get it."

Putting her arms around her drawn up knees, she realized that a chill
had crept into the room and that the light was subtly changing. Outside,
a few sleepy birds were tuning up for their dawn chorus. Shivering a
little, she hugged her knees until he returned with the water, noticing
as she drank it that, as had happened after their first time, he had not
completely lost his erection. Several options presented themselves to
her in rapid succession, but by the time she had emptied the cup, she
had made her choice among them.

He had squatted down next to her to watch her drink, as he had watched
her do nearly everything she'd done all day. One knee was on the floor,
his hand resting on it. The other supported the arm he had draped over
it. Thinking she had finished with the cup, he reached for it, but she
avoided his hand, catching his gaze with hers and holding it as she
lingeringly and deliberately licked the remaining moisture from the
cup's rim. Setting it down, already feeling herself soften and swell at
the look in his eyes, she absently began to wipe her mouth with the back
of her hand. But he caught her wrist, released it, and as deliberately
as she had licked the cup, he ran his thumb across her top lip, then the
bottom one. The cup fell over and rolled off the sleeping bag, but both
of them had forgotten it.

Pushing him gently but firmly down on his back with one hand and
spreading his legs with the other, she began to stroke him, watching his
eyes and the way his body moved as he had watched hers after he had
awakened her. It was the first time she had seen him naked and supine,
and the pre-dawn light was sufficient for her to see him well. If he had
been golden brown in firelight, this light did him as it did the rest of
the room--in soft shades of gray and black. Like his hair, she thought.
Or his wolf. Eyes half closed, his body tense and yearning toward her
hands and what was to come, he was paradoxically extremely relaxed at an
even deeper level. He was, she realized with a surge of pure joy,
utterly enjoying himself in the act of turning ownership of the moment
over to her, even as she had to him.

Not a passive participant either; every part of his body was active even
in stillness, the more so when he moved, now raising himself on his
elbows to observe her hands moving over him with delight faintly tinged
with wistfulness. No sooner had she identified the source of that
insight than he murmured, "Promises, promises" in a tone of mock
reproof. Yet there was something almost shy about the way he said it,
and in the velvet softness of the dark eyes now fully open. _Just tell
me what you want_, she thought, and touched a kiss to the smooth tip of
the part of him she held in her hand.

If he had been relaxed before, that state ended abruptly as she ran her
tongue down the underside of his penis. His arms went out from under him
as his hips jerked uncontrollably; he caught his breath and held it for
a long moment as she went on loving him with her mouth and the tips of
her fingers. Then: "Too fast," he muttered thickly. "I c-- do you want--"

"Rain check on that." She kissed him one last time and then knelt up to
straddle him, guiding him into her as his hips jerked again at the
contact. Expecting him to come immediately, she tossed her head back to
enjoy it, her hands resting on her own thighs. Not anticipating complete
arousal this time, she was suddenly conscious of how deeply he was
penetrating her as he began to run his fingers lightly over her breasts,
sending shivers all over her skin. Thrusting herself forward into his
hands, she rotated her hips, forcing him deeper even as he thrust
upward, kneading her. Needing her....

They climaxed almost at the same time, and suddenly spent, she leaned
forward, hands flat down on either side of him, and let her head hang
between her arms, her hair falling forward over her shoulders. He lay
flat on his back, not moving, and she realized that he was slipping out
of her, no stiffness left anywhere in him. Raising her head, she sat
back with a sigh, keeping him under her, the contact oddly almost more
intimate in satiation than it was in arousal. Dreamily, she moved her
hips again, and was rewarded with a faint squishing sound.

Heavy-lidded, eyes only half open, he smiled. "Need another drink o'
water?"

Certain that if she started laughing now she would never be able to
stop, she smacked him playfully on the behind, crawled off him and lay
down beside him, completely exhausted but unable to relax. With the
dawning light, a cool breeze had sprung up off the lake, and she found
herself shivering uncontrollably with a combination of chill and
fatigue. "C-can we get inside this thing?" she asked, and clenched her
teeth to keep them from chattering.

He roused himself with an effort, then took one look at her and went
into action, pulling the sleeping bag out from under her almost before
she could crawl off it. Then his expression changed, hovering between
his wry sense of the ridiculous and actual annoyance. Displaying the
apparently saturated surface on which they had made love virtually all
night for her appraisal, he grimaced. "What'd you have in mind--life
jackets or a raft?"

"The l-lining's m-moisture-proof," she managed, and his annoyance
vanished in his concern for her.

"Get inside. Come on." Unzipping the bag, he laid it open, took her by
the arm, thrust her into it, and zipped it up almost in one continuous
motion. Still shivering and hugging herself, she watched him pad across
the floor to close the window and the door. Glancing at the dead fire on
his way back, he frowned. "Should I make another fire?"

"Only if you d-don't plan to get the hell in here and w-warm me up."

A small cool draft accompanied him inside, but once he had her in his
arms, his chest pressed to her back, she no longer felt it. Crossing his
arms over hers, he curled his body around her, pushing against the backs
of her knees with his until she pulled hers up to her chest. Burying his
face in her hair, he held her tightly until her shivering stopped, then
relaxed his arms a little. But if she had expected him to drop off right
away, she was mistaken. As the first shaft of dawn light fell across
them, he asked softly, "How many nights have you fantasized going to
sleep like this?"

She considered the question thoughtfully. Yesterday, it had been a year
to the day since he and his crew had come aboard Voyager. "Oh, three
hundred, give or take." Trying not to let the grin show in her voice:
"The last three hundred, of course. You?"

"Three hundred sixty-five," he answered smugly.

"Oh, right."

"You forget, Katydid. I had a head start."

And she thought: How do I know he's smiling when I'm not even looking at
him?


-3-

It was clear to both of them that this was not the first time that
either of them had taken a shower with a lover after spending the night
together. They didn't even discuss it, but simply stepped into the tub
and turned the water on. When she began to fiddle with the faucets, he
sighed with mock resignation. "Ah, she likes it steaming hot. I
should've known."

"Why should you have known?" she asked, turning the hot water down a
little. She was slightly bent over, and he put one arm around her front,
the other around her back, and hugged her against him. "You don't need
to persuade me. I'm turning the hot down." Grinning, she rubbed her
cheek against his bare arm.

"Fast burners always like hot showers."

"Am I a fast burner?"

"Yup." He drew quick, zigzagging lines across her back. "Zip over here,
zip over there, talk fast, make fast decisions--"

"This wasn't a fast decision. Being here with you, I mean." She soaped
her hands, passed the soap to him, and began later his chest and neck.
He closed his eyes at the first touch and stood still while she ran her
slippery hands over his body. Finally he whispered, "I know," and began
to lather her.

She rested her head against the tile, surveying him with interest, and
then giggled.

"It's standing straight up!"

Puzzled, he glanced down along his body. "Not hardly." His voice broke
into a chuckle on the word, and she knew the pun had been unintentional.

"Not _that_, you idiot!" Laughing helplessly now, took him by the ears
and shook him gently. "I mean your hair!"

"Well, yeah. Isn't it always?"

"Not like this." She ran her soapy hands through it, massaging his scalp
with her fingers, and he sighed with pleasure and closed his eyes again.
"You look like a porcupine, but it feels like fur." She drew the word
out as though she were purring.

"Thank you. I think," he answered wryly. "Yours feels like wet silk."
And he reached for the shampoo bottle she had brought into the shower
with her.

No one had washed her hair for her since she was a child, and they both
enjoyed the procedure so much that the morning was almost over before
they dried themselves off, dressed, and took their breakfast to the
table in the sand.

"We have to talk before we go back," she said when they had finished
eating. The day was a little cooler than the previous one, but the sky
was bright, the breeze gentle, and the lake almost calm. "About us, and
the crew, and how they're going to react to...us, and what we're going
to do about it."

He laid his hand over hers when they finished eating. Now he looked into
her eyes, gave her hand a gentle squeeze, and withdrew his. And it
seemed to her that he was a little less relaxed than he had been a
moment ago. *What does he think I'm going to say?* she wondered, and
decided it was time to find out.

"I don't want to sneak around, Chakotay. And I won't."

The smile broke over his face like dawn, and his eyes shone with
something she could only describe as joy.

"What in the world," she whispered, "did you think I was going to say?"

"I didn't know."

"But--but you _couldn't_ have thought--"

"Kathryn." His hand moved a little, but he visibly kept himself from
taking hers again. It was mandatory that they maintain what little
objectivity they could, and being in physical contact wouldn't help. "We
think alike on so many things, but--" He shook his head and sighed. "We
can't assume we're in sync on everything. You're Voyager's captain. I
really didn't know how you felt about this. I just...hoped." Again, that
sunny, joyful smile.

"Everything's different now," she said slowly, still meeting his gaze.
"Out here, where there is no Starfleet. Where we're all the Starfleet
there is, I mean. There's no assurance that we'll ever get home. You and
I have talked about this." He nodded, intent on every word. "Sometime
soon we're are going to have to decide, deliberately and systematically,
how much of what we've always taken for granted as Starfleet officers is
truly relevant to the life that Voyager's crew is living _now_. Because
barring something virtually unimaginable, it never gets any better than
this."

She didn't catch the double meaning in context--Freudian slip?--until
the words were out. But he caught it immediately; she could see it in
his eyes. For a split second, she was tempted to push on, ignoring that
look, being only his captain and not his lover. But she couldn't.
Letting a slow grin replace her previously serious intensity, she felt
her cheeks grow warm and reflexively lifted her hands to cover her
blush.

Taking her hands, he drew them away from her cheeks and replaced them
with his, leaning his forehead against hers. They were silent for a
time, listening to the waves lapping and the birds chirping. Then she
whispered, "Your turn. I'm not doing too well at this, am I."

"You're doing fine." He sighed and reluctantly withdrew his hands. "Can
I go back a ways?" She nodded. "I've wanted you from the beginning."
Another simple statement of truth, without emotional fanfare, yet it
sent a thrill of longing through her. "At first I thought we all might
take leave on some planet like this, and you and I might indulge
ourselves in a little friendly fire. But that was only at first."

She nodded again; she had entertained the same fantasies at first, but
with little intention of ever giving into them. "Friendly fire" was a
Starfleet euphemism, never mentioned in any course or in any book of
rules, but familiar to all from Academy days on. It described a
situation in which two trusted friends who worked together closely on
long voyages in deep space spent shore leave in a pleasurable interlude,
with the complete understanding on both their parts that the
relationship might not be permanent or even continue when they returned
to duty. Evolving over two centuries, the arrangement had attained the
stability and predictability of ritual in a society where the
participants were light years from home for long periods and in need of
intimate human contact. Sometimes there were problems: jealousy,
possessiveness, unrequited quasi-permanent attachments, an occasional
exploitive relationship when the participants were not of equal rank.
But for a race so long mired in ambivalence about sexuality and its
expression, Starfleet humans had shown themselves surprisingly able over
the years to accept and practice a new and adaptive set of values. And
it had become increasingly obvious that among many alien races, friendly
fire was not a new idea at all.

The most important components of such an arrangement were mutual consent
and open-endedness; no commitment was stated, implied, or ruled out. And
that was why Janeway had never seriously considered such an arrangement
with her first officer. No relationship between her and Chakotay could
be temporary. She knew that in her soul, and was sure he did too. It was
simply a given: all or nothing.

"With us, it has to be all or nothing," he was continuing, and she saw
him move his hand slightly toward her and then repress the impulse.
Following gut instinct instead of her command-trained better judgment,
she reached out with both hands across the narrow table, and he
immediately clasped them in his. "Thank you," he murmured, dark eyes
alight.

"It just felt right," was all she could think of by way of explanation.
"How did we both know how it has to be? We never talked about it
specifically on the ship."

"Neither of us would be here now if it wasn't going to be all or
nothing. We both knew that."

"Yes." There was no doubt in her mind, even though she still didn't
quite know why. "But what about our crew, Chakotay? We're their
commanding officers. That puts a whole different slant on it. We know
what's best for us, but what about what's best for them?"

"This is what's best for them." His hands tightened on hers. "My
counterpart told you that. They're safer this way, and so is the ship."

"I want to believe that."

"Then believe it. Because it's true. What's the alternative? We go on
having breakfast together and kidding around on the bridge, talking
about people pairing off and mating behavior while they all give us
knowing looks? Even Harry knows, and Paris has been doing a hell of lot
of smirking lately." She laughed at the exasperated resignation in his
voice, and he smiled briefly in response. But he was on a roll now, and
whatever was still coming had to be said. "Some of them are going to be
resentful, and some of them are going to be jealous, and some of them
are going to feel betrayed and aren't going to be able to trust us to be
fair--for a while. And some few of them are even going to find it
offensive."

"That sounds like something out of the 21st century."

"There were still Puritans in the 20th--even if they weren't called
that."

"Anyway, that's not what I'm worried about. It's the ones that aren't
going to trust us that I'm worried about."

"Kathryn--" He sighed. "The ones who aren't going to trust us are the
same ones who don't trust us now. It'll just take a little longer this
way, that's all."

After a moment, she asked softly, "What about Tuvok?"

"Tuvok," he said slowly, "is going to need a great deal of reassurance
from you and a great deal of patience from me. More than I've shown him
so far, I think."

"Do you dislike him?" she asked soberly.

"Hell, no. I don't think I dislike him. I just resent his resentment. Of
me. As first officer."

"I think," she said carefully, "that you're reading too much into that."
He shook his head--convinced, adamant. "When I told him that I was going
to ask you to serve as my first officer and explained why, he agreed
with me. He even said it was logical."

He snorted. "Great." But he was surprised. "What are you going to tell
him about us? That it's logical?" Relieved, she saw a small, wry smile
some into play around his mouth.

"No. I'm going to tell him we're bondmates."

For a moment he simply stared. Then, slowly, a haze of tears came to his
eyes.

"Well," she said softly, "it's true. Isn't it?"

He rose, drew her into is arms, and held her tightly. Finally she asked,
"Why does it feel like we're on borrowed time?" But she knew the answer.

"Because we are." He sighed. "Tuvok'll be on the horn telling you it's
time to come back in what--three or four hours?" Yet the prospect didn't
seem to bother him nearly as much as it was beginning to bother her.

"About that." They both knew that he had two more days of shore leave
after she returned to the ship, but his expression was content and
almost...smug? "Is there something I don't know that I should know?"

"Uh-huh. But I'm not telling yet."

"Why not?"

"Because if I tell you later, we'll have less time to argue about it."
He grinned. "Come on, Katydid. I want to go see the Seer again and see
if she Sees anything she didn't See yesterday."

They walked the beaches toward town as they had the day before, but
without nearly as much conversation. As they reached the point where
they had to take off their shoes and wade, she said quietly, "Let's
compromise, okay? You tell me now what we're going to argue about, and I
promise not to argue about it until we get back to the cabin."

"You drive a hard bargain," was all he said, but he said it with a grin.
As they waded out, again hand in hand, he went on. "I'm not staying
here, Kathryn. I'm going back with you and take the rest of my leave on
the ship."

She felt as though a heavy burden had been lifted from her--much heavier
than she had consciously acknowledged. But she had to argue, as he had
known she would. Their steps slowed as she told him of her time alone--
doing next to nothing, even thinking next to nothing, sleeping the clock
around and more for two nights. "I needed that, and you do too."

He turned, and they faced each other, the water lapping softly against
their legs. "You did," he agreed quietly. "But I don't."

"But--"

He interrupted her with a word in his native language--multi-syllabic,
complex, containing so many sounds that she could not have repeated it
without coaching. "That's you. It means 'One who can walk alone.'"

"I don't want to walk alone any more," she whispered.

Leaning over, he kissed her gently. "The operative word is 'can.' You
_can_, and there are times when you need to. I know that. But the word
for me is--" Another complex combination of syllables. "It means 'One
who walks with others.' A vacation alone isn't restful for me. It's
empty. Voyager is my home and our crew are my people, and you are my
best friend and my dearest love, and I want to go home with you today."
She made a small, inarticulate sound as he pulled her against him, her
head tucked between his cheek and his shoulder. "Now argue with that."
She shook her head, unable to answer. "Or don't." And she could feel his
cheek smiling.

After a while she said unsteadily, "As your captain, I should order you
to stay. But as your lover, I can't do it."

"Here. Look." Pulling away a little, he pointed down into the water
where their reflections wavered and rippled, she with her head on his
shoulder and he with his arm around hers. "How many people do you see
there?"

"Two."

"Not four? Not Kathryn and the captain and Chakotay and the first
officer?"

She gave a small, painful chuckle. "No."

"Funny. Just then you were sounding like there are four of us."

"Chakotay, we have to be able to separate--"

"No," he said, calm but very firm. "There are only two of us. Not four."

"I--can't feel that. Not yet."

"Will you try?"

She stood silent in his embrace, thinking over all that he had said.
Wrong as it had sounded at first, it was just barely beginning to sound
right.

"Yes," she said. "I'll try."


The Seer's booth was gone.

They stood on the beach together, a bit like two forlorn children, hand
in hand. But the jewel-like colors were gone from the bazaar, and all
that was left was black and white and gray.

"Business as usual," she said finally, and sighed, feeling the terrible
everyday close in on them like a fog. He drew her against him again, and
it suddenly came to her that she was doing all the worrying and he was
doing all the reassuring. Not right. Not right at all.

Turning, she put both arms around his neck and blew very gently in his
ear.

"My dearest love," she whispered, and felt his arms tighten around her.
"Let's go home."

Now voyager, come home, come home to rest,
Here on that long-lost country of earth's breast
Lay down the fiery vision and be blest, be blest.




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