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Lapses of Judgment

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As he stared out the viewport he knew what he had to do. He reached down and gently took her hand, leading her to the center of the room, the crew still huddled against the other side.

He tapped his champagne glass and cleared his throat and smiled at the woman next to him who eyed him with a quizzical brow. "I know Kathryn said no speeches tonight, but if you aren't 'Captain' tonight then you won't be able to relieve me of command for disobeying you," he grinned at her then looked at his audience. Seven years ago a routine trip into the Badlands altered all of our lives in a way none of us could have imagined. We became one crew, friends and eventually a family, united in support of the strongest and bravest captain I know all of us have ever known. Even during some of our toughest challenges she never lost sight of her goal to get us home. Five years ago I reaffirmed my faith in her determination by promising myself that once we were home I would do this..." He pulled the metal from his pocket and in one fluid motion he dropped to one knee, a smile appearing as Kathryn's gasp and tear was muffled by a hundred others. Taking a deep breath he continued, "Kathryn I have been in love with you from the first time you reprimanded me on the bridge. You are the best friend I've ever had, you are loyal, dedicated…the most stubborn and most beautiful woman I've ever met. After sitting by your side for the last seven years there isn't any way in the universe that I want to spend even a single day without you. Please do me the honor of becoming my bride." Tears were falling readily down her cheeks—she couldn't believe how fast it was all happening.

'Fast, Ha!' She thought, seven years dancing around feelings so deep they couldn't even speak of them. And now here he was kneeling before her—in front of their family asking her to be his wife. "Yes," she finally willed herself to answer—protocol and Starfleet were the furthest things from her mind as he slipped the ring on her finger and met her lips with a tame but passionate kiss. The room erupted with cheers, applause and a handful of 'I knew it's' but the couple in the center didn't hear any of it. "You've been planning this for five years?" He nodded, rubbing his thumbs along her jaw.

"Since the day we left New Earth. I didn't know how long it would take, but now we can finally have the life we planned, together." He wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her in to kiss him again.

"To Chakotay & Kathryn." Tom toasted holding his glass up. The room echoed with "Here, here" and more cheering.

"So, who officially won the pool, Tom?" Harry asked loudly after a few minutes. This caught Kathryn's attention and she looked at Tom.

"Mr. Paris you were wagering about my personal life?" She joked with an exaggerated look of disdain.

"You bet I was," Tom admitted, a proud grin on his face. "You've been the most popular wager ever since you came aboard from that planet. We always knew there was something between the two of you. We just had no idea when you both would finally realize it, or admit to it."

"So who won?" B'Elanna chimed in. "I know it wasn't me, I lost four years ago."

"I lost the first day," Harry added. "I thought for sure they'd come back together."

"And I lost after we got the Captain back from the Borg…the second time," Tom noted while Kathryn and Chakotay, still in each other's arms exchanged secret glances. They all had no idea how right they were.

"So who did win?" Chakotay finally asked after another few speculations.

"That would be me, Commander." Tuvok said coming forward. Silence filled the room and every pair of eyes widened in shock. "It was a logical choice."

"Tuvok?" Kathryn had known the Vulcan for years and couldn't remember him ever wagering on anything.

"Yes, Captain. I was certain it was as humans often term, 'a safe bet.'" Tuvok explained and delved further into his reasoning. "I had observed in our first year on Voyager the feelings you and the Commander were developing. Under a different set of circumstances I had determined the two of you would have would have made a complimentary match. However you, Captain, dead-set and determined to get your crew home and being loyal to Starfleet—and you Commander, your willingness to support her in some of the gravest of situations led me to believe you would never act on your feelings until you both knew you had brought your crew home—which you now have done." He lifted a glass, "You have established a genuine friendship and a deep mutual respect which I am certain will carry you through many rewarding years together."

Kathryn reached out her hand to Tuvok, shaking her head. "You always manage to surprise me."