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A Single Twist of Fate

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USS Voyager – 2371 three weeks after Caretaker

"I'm not sure how else to say this, Captain." The Doctor stated closing his tricorder. "Congratulations. You're pregnant." The Captain's eyes widened and her head snapped up in astonishment.

"Is this some kind of joke, Doctor?"

"No joke, I assure you." He observed her alarmed state with a curious gaze. "Approximately eleven weeks. I'm surprised you hadn't noticed before now, I take it this wasn't a planned pregnancy." Janeway closed her eyes and ran the calculations in her head. A baby. Eleven weeks. Somehow she couldn't wrap her mind around the concept given all that had transpired in the last few weeks. Being thrown into the Delta Quadrant, losing a third of her crew, dealing with the merging of the Maquis with her own crew, facing the guilt at stranding everyone on the ship a lifetime away from their homes and families…and now this. Eleven weeks, that couldn't be right.

"Doctor, could you be mistaken about the fetal age?" Her mind was working overtime; three months ago she had been en route back to Earth after Voyager's dry run. She had been on a two week mission but the entire trip had taken a month and given the state of their relationship when she'd shipped out, she was sure something wasn't right.

Kathryn was hastily throwing uniforms into her suitcase and avoiding the glare that was coming from the man across the room who was leaning against the doorframe with his arms crossed.

"I don't know what you want me to say, Mark." She told him as she made her way over to the bookshelf, grabbing a few books and adding them to the growing pile. "I'm going to marry you – I don't see why you need me to set a date now. I've got to report to headquarters in four hours and I haven't hardly finished packing and I still have to review my crew manifest." Mark ran a hand through his hair and let out a groan. This argument was anything but new and over the last few months with her flitting about the galaxy it seemed to be the most prominent conversation they've had.

"Kath, I love you, I want to be with you but these days I can't help but wonder if you agreed to marry me just to pacify me." He took a step closer, removing the PADDs from her hands and placing them on her bed. He wrapped his hands around her shoulders, rubbing them gently. "I just want to know you're as committed to this as I am. I'm sorry if you feel like I'm pushing."

"You know I love you, Mark. You've known me for thirty years, better than most people. Can't you see I just need some more time?" Once the words left her mouth she regretted them, knowing this particular divergence all too well.

"We've been engaged for years, twelve if I'm counting. I've been very patient, I know everything you've had to overcome, but I can't just sit back anymore and wait." He released his hold on her and turned defiantly toward the door. "Use this mission to do some thinking about what you want, because once you get back we're finishing this conversation once and for all!" His last sentence came out as more of an uncharacteristic hiss instead of the scream she'd hoped for. Mark was anything but a violent man, he'd always shown the utmost care for her heart but she knew she'd driven him to nearly the brink of madness. But try as she might and as much as she truly did have a genuine love for Mark she couldn't resign herself to committing to something as simple as a wedding date. She sat down for a moment on the edge of the bed trying to understand why she wasn't more upset at his ultimatum. Shouldn't she be livid that he would resort to such drastic measures? Shouldn't she be heartbroken and desperate for him, chasing him out of her apartment and down the hall? Instead she stood, straightened her uniform and finished packing.

"Captain I'm quite certain of the embryo's development. If you'd like I can calculate a fairly precise conception date to help you narrow it down," the Doctor offered but she waved her hand in protest.

"No. Believe me, that won't be necessary," she replied with a frown. She leaned back onto the biobed and regulated her breathing as she felt a panic attack setting in. "Doctor, I assume I can trust your utmost discretion on this matter, correct?"

"Yes of course, Captain." He gave her a puzzled glance knowing that at eleven weeks discretion wasn't going to be an issue for very long.

"Can you extract and run a DNA scan on the fetus?" She bristled when the physicians questioning glance elevated to include raised eyebrows. She sighed and rubbed away a headache that she didn't feel yet, but knew was imminent then schooled her features and locked her eyes with his. "I wasn't on Earth eleven weeks ago, Doctor. My fiancé, however was."

Voyager was on its way back to Earth following a rough test run of the bio-neural circuitry and had been granted a two-day respite on Deep Space 4 for which Captain Janeway was very much appreciative. Her sister had been able to meet up with her and Janeway was grateful for the distraction. She'd managed to keep the issue of Mark and their relationship at bay due to the drama of the ship being dead in space and their rescue by the USS Hood. Now that she had just shy of forty-eight hours with nothing official to do, she felt her mix of emotions and indecision bubbling to the surface. Thankfully as the doors to her temporary room opened and the welcome sight of Phoebe Janeway walked through, she simply pushed it back down deep and gathered her sister in her arms.

"Sis!" Phoebe exclaimed, squeezing her sister tight. "God, I haven't seen you in months!"

"I know, it's been too long," she told her as they sat down on the couch.

"Nice digs, Starfleet really knows how to take care of their own," Phoebe said looking around at the large suite Kathryn had been assigned for her brief stay.

"Don't I know it. Your bedroom is over there," she pointed to her right, then indicated a room opposite. "Mine's there. It's ours until we ship back out."

"So what do we have planned for our little stay here?" Phoebe picked up a station brochure off the coffee table and began leafing through it. "I know it's no DS9 but I happen to know there's still plenty to occupy our time." Kathryn contemplated this and strategically eyed her sister.

"I need a distraction. These last few weeks have been hell and I'm not looking forward to what awaits me at home." She stood, purposeful and determined. "I'm going to shower, change into something that doesn't make me feel the least bit like Starfleet and then you are going to buy me a drink." She vanished into the bathroom off her bedroom and Phoebe followed, curiosity abounding.

"You got into it with Mark again, didn't you?" She asked pointedly while Kathryn stood in the buff under the sonic shower. She didn't respond verbally, only turned her head and nodded. "Well, you have been stringing him along for the better part of your life. If you don't want to marry him, don't feel guilty about it, just cut him loose." Kathryn grabbed her robe and shot Phoebe a death glare that would bring an Ensign to his knees but did little to deter a fellow Janeway. Storming to the bedroom Phoebe was hot on her heels. "He's comfortable. He's safe, I get that, believe me. I know the appeal that has for you, but don't you deserve a little…heat? Some passion?" Pulling on her undergarments Kathryn made another valiant attempt at the glare, her eyes filled with pain.

"I had heat and passion once and look where that got me!" She spat, pulling her dress off the hanger so quickly she was almost certain she tore it. Phoebe just bowed her head and sighed, wishing she'd never brought it up. "What I had with Justin…you don't find that twice in a lifetime and I'd rather not spend the rest of mine alone." She pulled the straps of the dress up and turned so Phoebe could zip it from behind. She ignored the pained look on her sister's face and began a scant application of makeup. "Now," she began with both hands firmly placed on her hips. "Are you going to buy me a drink, or am I going to be drowning my frustrations alone?" Phoebe looped her arm through Kathryn's and they left for the station's bar.

Kathryn awoke the next morning alone and completely naked and if she was being honest with herself, still a little intoxicated from the previous night. It took her a minute to get her bearings and remember exactly where she was and why she was but once she took into account her lack of nightwear, tenderness of her breasts and unmistakable raw feeling between her legs she let out an audible groan. She finally opened her eyes and was thankful that there was no one in bed with her, though she knew now that hadn't been the case last night. She closed her eyes as tight as she could trying to bring memories of the night to the forefront of her mind but she couldn't remember anything after Phoebe had coerced her into that fifth shot.

"This is why I never get drunk," her voice croaked, her throat dry as a desert. Moving to sit only intensified the almost audible battle that was being waged between her temples. She stood, slowly and pulled her robe on her, noticing as she did the steady stream of clothing that continued from the side of her bed out to the couch and she winced. This was not like her. She'd never cheated on anybody and she couldn't determine if she felt better about the fact that she had no memory of it. Not that that would make it any easier to explain to Mark. "Oh, God. Mark." As if it had just dawned on her she brought a hand to her temple. As if on cue, the guilt began to set in and she guided herself to the couch. There was no way to explain it to Mark, she couldn't. She didn't want to lose him and she didn't want to hurt him. She certainly hadn't planned on…this.

After an analgesic, a shower and a change of clothes she sat down at the comm panel, pressing in the all too familiar coordinates for Mark's office and a moment later he appeared on the screen.

"Kath, this is a surprise," his smile was vague and she could see he was treading carefully. "You're not due back for another week, right?"

"A little more than a week, and then I'm afraid I'm going to be gone again soon, I can't tell you all the details, but we've had to change some plans around." She noticed an obvious change in his demeanor, he was expecting the worst and she didn't want to prolong it anymore. "So I've decided that when I get home, we'll set a date. There've been some developments between the Maquis and well, for lack of my ability to go into detail I'll just say that I'm a little more involved in a small part of it than I want to be, but once that whole mess is done and we've…recovered what's ours, we can get married." His smile returned in full force and the guilt she'd been trying to shovel off of her since she woke up lessened a barely perceptible amount. "Would that be okay?"

"Nothing would make me happier," he assured her.

"We can discuss details when I get home next week." She felt bile rise in her throat but forced it back long enough to add, "I love you. I'll talk to you soon." She nearly cut the transmission before he could return the sentiments and she bolted back for the bathroom. Leaning over porcelain she vowed to never let her sister take charge of her late night beverages again.

"I see," the Doctor's tone was quiet and not at all judgmental as he closed the arms of the surgical bay over her and began running the necessary tests. Once completed he retracted the device and helped her sit up, pressing a hypo spray to her neck. "Some fortified vitamins, I'd advise taking them every day and ensuring that you're getting the proper nutrition." He replaced the hypo on the tray and tapped a few controls on his panel. "Preliminary scans show the fetus to be fully human and perfectly healthy. It'll take a while to cross reference the baby's DNA with any we may have on record and even then, I'm afraid you're likely to not find a match. If we were in contact with Starfleet that would be a different story, but as we are stuck out here…" He paused noticing the menacing glare she was hurling at him.

"Thank you, Doctor. And thank you again for you…discretion in this matter." The captain slid off the biobed and without a second glance was out of sickbay and headed back to the bridge. Of all the things that could have gone wrong, of all the situations she could have found herself in, this one topped them all. One night, one night of sheer abandon, one she still couldn't even remember and now that night will be with her for the rest of her life. She wanted to cry, but Starfleet Captain's don't cry. Hell, Starfleet captains don't have drunken one night stands on random space stations and then get pregnant, she told herself. She braced herself on the walls of the turbo lift and called the computer to halt. Taking a few moments to regulate her breathing she leaned her head back, closed her eyes and used every ounce of her training to block out the onslaught of unbidden emotions coursing through her. Her jaw clenched and her features tightened, I can do this – I'll deal with this later. When I'm not on duty, when I'm safely in my quarters. She ordered the computer to resume, confident that her mask was hiding all as it so often did. Or so she thought.

A few hours later her first officer leaned toward her over their shared console and gently laid his hand on her forearm as he whispered, "Captain." A few seconds later she forced her thoughts clear and turned to him.

"Yes, Commander?" She replied, still a little preoccupied. Her thoughts had been betraying her for the better part of the shift and rendered her almost immobile.

"Is everything okay? You seem a little distracted today," his voice was soothing and there was genuine concern behind it. Janeway steeled her expression as best she could and after taking a cursory glance around the bridge she propelled herself upwards using her armrests.

"Of course, I'm just fine. But you're right, I am distracted. I'll be in my ready room." She turned toward the door, thankful that in about thirty seconds she could let the dam break in private. "Commander you have the bridge." She tried to make it look like she wasn't running the distance to her office but Chakotay noticed her expedience and he turned to look at Tuvok who was manning tactical. The unemotional Vulcan simply raised a curious eyebrow as if to say, there's more to it and then resumed his diagnostics.

Once on the other side of the ready room doors Janeway fell into the closest chair using all of her will power to keep a flood of tears at bay. A few escaped down her cheek and she wiped them away quickly. How can I do this, she thought. I can't be a mother and the captain. I'll never have enough time for either and one of them will suffer. I promised to get this crew home, I can't ask them to sacrifice for my benefit. But this baby is coming, I can't abandon it. She retreated to the upper level and sat on the couch with her hands wrapped tightly around her knees. She had just started to panic about how she'd ever explain the child's conception to anyone when the chime announced a visitor. Grabbing an errant PADD and shifting herself, or more so her face out of direct sight and wiping the last tears away she called for them to enter. Chakotay walked in slowly and found her sitting with her knees hunched up to her chin staring at some point in space beyond the data PADD she held upside down in front of her and he tried hard not to laugh at the sight. Uncertain of her state of mind he knew he didn't want to offend her, so he carefully stepped up and sat down next to her, gently turning the PADD in her hand and offering her a heartfelt dimpled smile. Realizing her error she quirked up the corner of her mouth at him before laying her head on her crossed arms.

"Would you like to talk about it?" Chakotay offered and she considered, taking in the deep soothing brown of his eyes and the devastating indentations framing his mouth she almost lost her breath.

"I'm sure I could use a sounding board, and it would give me a trial run, but I'm your captain. I'm supposed to be larger than life and I'm not sure the crew or I am ready for me to be brought down a peg or two," she almost gasped as the words fell unhindered out of her mouth with an honesty that left her unsettled. Chakotay, however only nodded but didn't seem put off by the statement.

"I'm sure if we had a ship's counselor your job would be easier. Unfortunately that isn't the case here." He tugged lightly on his ear and shifted, looking mildly uncomfortable. "I understand I'm probably not your first choice to talk to, I just thought you might need to vent to someone." He looked toward the door leading back to the bridge. "If you'd like I can go resume my station and send Tuvok in here. I know you're much closer to him." She reached out and placed a hand on his arm and gave it a light squeeze while she shook her head.

"It's not that, Commander. Actually I think Tuvok is the last person I'd feel comfortable discussing this with." She tossed the PADD back to the table and rose from her spot exhaling heavily as she did. "Have you ever made a mistake, not just a simple one, but something that managed to shape the course of the rest of your life?"

"Captain if you're still going on about destroying that array…" She raised a hand in objection.

"Not this time, I assure you. This…this could be worse." She turned to stare at the passing stars wrapping her arms around her midsection and bidding the tears sneaking to the corner of her eyes to remain there. "You know I have a fiancé back on Earth. Mark. We've been together a long time, he's known me almost my whole life." She paused and swiped at one of the insubordinate drops careening down her cheek. "It took me twelve years to finally agree to set a date. Three months ago before I left for the Badlands we got in a huge fight about exactly that." Chakotay sat there emotionless, trying to understand where she was going with her story, but thankful she was allowing him to see this side of her. She ran her hands through her hair, unable to make the next words come out of her mouth. "I can't do this." She turned from the viewport and walked back down to her desk, her hands rubbing her temples the whole way. "Thank you…for listening, but I need to process this." He stood and walked down next to her, placing a hand on her shoulder.

"Captain, why don't you take the rest of your shift off? There's obviously a lot on your mind. Tuvok and I can handle it and I promise we'll call you if there's any trouble at all." She peered up at him, still only an arm's length away, her eyes filled with shame and longing for someone to tell her it was going to be okay. With a great and heavy sigh she pushed herself back from the desk, letting her head droop. His hand found the small of her back and sent a shot of adrenaline through her body and she tingled at his proximity and the protectiveness the gesture conveyed. She felt herself slightly flush and silently agreed that going to the quiet of her quarters was probably the best place for her and she allowed him to usher her wordlessly to the turbo lift. "You know I'm here if you need anything. Always." He shot at her as the lift doors were closing and before the doors sealed he caught a nod and a very faint smile and then turned back to the bridge.

Chapter Text

The next day, and every one after the Captain was back, mask firmly in place as if nothing was ever bothering her until five weeks later at a senior staff meeting she dropped a bomb. They'd been carrying out the meeting normally as if there was nothing of consequence on the docket. Chakotay had thought she seemed a bit agitated but she'd been avoiding coffee and he assumed that was the reasoning.

"Thank you, B'Elanna. Hopefully there will be a suitable source of dilithium in the upcoming planet cluster." The Captain thumbed through her PADD, a little longer than anyone expected as the others were about to move for the door. Her shaky voice took them all off guard, "there's one more thing I need to mention today." She breathed unnaturally deeply and slowly exhaled. "A few weeks ago the Doctor informed me that I am pregnant." She had certainly expected a collective gasp, whispered murmurings, hushed conversations—but the response she got was dead silence punctuated by wide eyes all around the room and a raised Vulcan eyebrow. The only person in the room emitting any emotion was Chakotay and she was almost certain he appeared to be seething? That couldn't be right. She ignored the big hulking Native American and pressed on before she lost her nerve all together. "This was quite a shock for me, a very unplanned pregnancy that happened before we left the Alpha Quadrant. I'm currently four months pregnant and as it stands, I'll be unable to hide it anymore." Crickets. She could swear if they'd been having the conversation in Indiana at twilight that all she would hear aside from her own nervous breathing was crickets. "I'm certain there will be gossip and all kinds of speculation, none of which will I comment on. The Captain's personal life is her own. I will ask you please to make sure you inform everyone under you that getting home still remains my top priority, even more so now. I don't wish for my daughter to be raised any longer than necessary on a starship in an unknown quadrant." The silence returned and she chanced a look over at her first officer. Gone was his aura of anger and instead he looked as though he were trying to reach out to her with just his eyes—as if he'd finally seen from her point of view and he was amazed at her strength and fortitude.

"Then I guess we all should say Congratulations!" Tom exclaimed, breaking the silence and walking over to kiss his commanding officer on the cheek. An act that did elicit a few gasps, namely from Harry and B'Elanna. Janeway just smiled and squeezed Tom's shoulder.

"Thank you, Mr. Paris." A few muttered congratulations echoed throughout the room until Neelix burst from his chair, hands clasping together.

"Well in light of this wonderful news, I think we should have a party to celebrate!" The Captain could see Neelix's mind working on the details already and she held both her arms up in protest.

"Please, Neelix. Not now. Let's let everyone, including myself get used to the idea before something like that. Perhaps wait until she's born and throw a birthday party." She rested her hands on the desk and pushed herself up. "Now that this meeting has completely derailed, you're all dismissed." She breathed a sigh of relief as everyone filtered out of the room in a buzz of excitement. Everyone except Chakotay who hadn't moved from his seat. "Commander?" He looked up to meet her blue eyes, but didn't say anything. He was stunned. He'd spent two months by this woman's side, she'd become something of a friend to him and he was fascinated by her. He'd even, just days prior introduced her to her animal guide but in the course of the last month she hadn't been able to share with him even half of what she'd been going through, as patient as he'd been.

"Will you always do everything all by yourself?" His voice was quiet, almost menacing and its tone, more than the words spoken shocked her.

"I don't exactly have a choice here, Chakotay." She walked away and over to star out at the passing stars. He had no idea what she was going through—how hard it was trying to get used to the idea of being a mother to some unknown man's baby. How shameful she felt for even putting herself, much less her own daughter in this situation. "And you have no idea what you're talking about," she shot back.

"Of course I don't. You found out weeks ago and you wouldn't let anyone in. You wouldn't talk to Tuvok, and even though I kept giving you opportunities, letting you know you weren't alone, you couldn't tell me either. Instead I find out in a staff meeting that you're carrying Mark's child and you are going to do it all by yourself." He was almost hissing, he sounded offended, but surely he had no reason to be offended, they were friends. They'd grown close and of course she felt her throat close up whenever he was close…felt her pulse race and her skin prickle at his touch, sure she hadn't dreamt of Mark since their second week on the same ship and Chakotay had quickly taken over that role—but did she owe him anything? She was certain the answer was no, but that didn't stop the deluge of words spilling from her mouth at lightning speed.

"If you must know, not that it's any of your business but it's not Mark's and I don't know whose it is and I will not discuss this ever again with you or anyone." She threw a hand over her mouth as a hot wave of tears corralled themselves in the corners of her eyes. "Please," her voice was wavering so much he was sure she'd break down any second. "Just go." He contemplated going to her and throwing his arms around her, letting her break down on him so he could pick up the pieces but wisely decided against it. So she wasn't going to come to him, he was just going to have to change tactics.

=/\=

The following evening Janeway was in her quarters reviewing the day's reports and taking it easy per the doctor's orders. He'd called her in to sickbay when her shift ended after finding a curious genetic defect that she assumed was passed down from whoever the father was. The doctor had suppressed it in no time at all and regretfully informed her that he hadn't found a match in the Starfleet database, not surprising her in the least. A part of her was grateful for the lack of confirmation knowing that, with being stuck in the Delta Quadrant it was of little consequence in the long run. Still another part of her, albeit the greater part wanted some knowledge—be able to pass on something to her child about its father and to be able to put a face to memories she couldn't conjure up. Memories. She'd explained the situation to the Doctor and asked him point blank if there was any way to force them to reassert themselves but he hadn't been very encouraging.

"But surely there has to be some way in this day in age to search out particular memories and bring them to the surface," she'd all but pleaded and the Doctor had responded with a condescending cock of his head and a pursed frown.

"My only suggestion, and one I will forbid for the entirety of your pregnancy would—very much regrettably—be a mind meld. If seven months from now you still feel it necessary, by all means enlist the assistance of Lieutenant Tuvok or Ensign Vorik or any other Vulcan on board. But for the foreseeable future, the option is off the table."

Janeway wasn't sure she wanted to go that route even if she had been given the go ahead. The idea of exposing herself in that manner, even to Tuvok who she considered one of her closest friends left her feeling uneasy and ashamed. She silently wondered to herself if she would ever not feel ashamed. Somewhere on Earth Mark was worried sick about her, most likely wondering if she was still alive instead of planning the wedding they had agreed upon. While here she sat, pregnant with another man's child, sitting on a couch in a ship over seventy years away from him. Though she had to admit she felt a tinge of relief that he was free to find someone who could love him better—more completely, she still hurt. Her self-defeating musings were interrupted by the chime and she called for her visitor to enter. The door opened to reveal her first officer who entered with his hands drawn behind his back.

"Good evening, Commander," she greeted him with a soft smile allowing herself a break from her thoughts.

"Good evening, Captain," he responded, his devastating dimples on full display. "I was wondering if you'd had dinner yet." She waved the PADD in hand toward the coffee table that held three empty mugs and quirked up the corner of her mouth at him.

"Assuming that decaf coffee isn't considered dinner, I'd have to say that I haven't. I'm afraid my mind has been elsewhere for the last couple hours." He laughed and took a few steps closer to the sitting area.

"Well I figured as much, so I made some vegetable lasagna. I also brought something." He pulled one of his arms free to reveal a soft plush stuffed animal that, though he'd never admit to anyone bore a striking resemblance to his animal guide. "Though I admit it isn't for you. Consider it your first official baby gift." He handed it to her and went over to the replicator to call up their meal.

"Oh, Chakotay! It's beautiful and so soft," her face erupted in one of the widest grins he'd ever seen and his heart soared in response. "You know you didn't have to do that." He took the dish from the replicator and began to set the table while she ran her hands over the toy admiring its detail and texture.

"You're right. I didn't have to, but I wanted to." After he finished his task he walked to her side, offering his hand, which she took allowing him to escort her to the table. "I wanted to apologize for my attitude yesterday. I can't imagine what you're going through and I just wanted to remind you that you're not alone here." He sat down and began to dish out their meal, pouring her a glass of sparkling apple juice. "We may be only a few weeks into our journey, but I'm confident that the crew will be behind you." With his last statement she bowed her head, this being one of her biggest fears.

"How can you be so sure of that? I mean, what will I say when someone asks who the father is? I wouldn't feel right lying and saying it's Mark's, that wouldn't be fair to…" she sighed heavily and continued, "anyone."

"Captain, you'll simply tell them that it's none of their business." He wanted to ask. He wanted to know how the indestructible Kathryn Janeway managed to cheat on her fiancé and get pregnant with another man's child. He wanted so badly to hear the story if anything to help him understand who she is and why she's handling the pregnancy in such a manner. Instead he attempted a change of topic. "You still have some time on that one. How are you handling everything else?" She chuckled a little reaching to take a sip of her juice.

"You mean the idea that in less than six months I'm going to become a mother?" She arched her eyebrows and the corner of her mouth turned up in a crooked grin that Chakotay couldn't help but adore. "All things considered and given that I'm still adjusting to the idea, surprisingly—I'm okay." She stared down at her plate allowing herself to imagine holding a precious baby girl in her arms, breathing in its scent and soothing it to sleep. Chakotay watched her across the table, the sense of joy that seemed to suddenly explode on her face left him breathless and unable to speak. When she finally looked up, her eyes misty, biting her lip to keep from revealing too much she simply replied, "I'm terrified. But I've wanted to be a mother my whole life and as crazy as it may sound," her voice began to crack, "I love this baby with everything that I am." It took every ounce of resistance in that moment for Chakotay not to pull her from her chair and wrap her in his arms. He'd been worried about all the pressure she was under and would continue to be under once the baby was born. Starfleet Captain's rarely had time for family but he knew, even though the ship would come first that her child would never want for love. Deciding against the bone-crushing hug he gently reached over and touched her hand.

"You are going to be an amazing mother, Captain. I have no doubt of that." She smiled in return and raised an eyebrow at him. He stared down at her hand in his and wished, not for the first time in the last twenty-four hours that he'd been the lucky man to share a child with her and hoping she'd let him be at her side and help out for as much she could handle.

"Chakotay, you've made me dinner, brought my unborn daughter a gift and paid me a wonderful compliment, which I thank you for. Do you think when we're off duty you would consider calling me Kathryn?" She chuckled a little. "I think we can drop the formalities in situations like this."

"I'd like that, but it'll take some getting used to," he said beaming. While they ate the topic changed to ships business; personnel issues, how the Maquis crew were doing with the transition and how soon would they need to restock the dilithium stores. He even managed to ask her about girl's names she was consider and tried not to make a face when she pointed out Mona and Helen. When the meal was finished Janeway stood to clear up but Chakotay refused her, offering her another decaf and pushing her off to relax on the couch while he cleaned up not only their dinner but her stray mugs from the coffee table as well. Once he was satisfied he replicated himself a tea and sat down in the adjoining chair.

"You know what's the hardest to swallow about this predicament I've found myself in?" She asked aloud, breaking a comfortable silence. He waited, knowing that wasn't meant as a question in particular. "It's not so much that we're stuck on the other side of the galaxy and even if I knew who he was he wouldn't know about the baby in his lifetime." She fought the pressure building behind her eyes as she continued to lay herself bare for no other reason than she felt she could and truly needed someone to hear. "It's more that not knowing means the baby won't either. I adored my father, did everything I could think of to make him proud of me. When my heart was breaking as a child I used to hide under his desk in his office—somehow it made me feel closer to him when he was away. He was a strong, very proud man who believed wholeheartedly in what he did and though he wasn't there as often as I would have liked, we knew how much he loved us. I can't imagine this baby not knowing anything about its father and I think in some way my carelessness has already caused it to lose someone, something important." Chakotay sat there speechless, his heart breaking for her being in such a situation. Her propensity for guilt aside, she was the most selfless person he'd ever met. He couldn't find the words to respond and he was thankful she didn't seem to need any. "I have a duty to this ship, Chakotay, but I'll be damned if I let this baby lose anything else."

"I believe it. And like I said before, you won't be alone." He finally choked out and watched while she succumbed to a yawn. "I think it's time we call it a night." She smiled brightly at him and nodded as she got up to recycle their drinks. He stood and started for the door, stopping a few feet from it. He wanted the opportunity to share the experience with her; he wanted her to know that he was there and that he cared deeply for her. "You have next Tuesday off and I'm scheduled late night on the bridge. How about lunch?" He turned to her, his face full of hope and she smiled, one that made it all the way up to her eyes.

"Lunch it is," she responded and took a few steps toward him, reaching out her hand to take his. "Thank you for tonight. You've been so understanding and it's made this easier." He squeezed gently then broke the contact.

"It's my pleasure, Kathryn." And without another word he was gone, the last word he spoke lingering through the air and sucking the breath out of her. Never in her life had she so enjoyed the sound of her name and she found herself wishing she could hear it over and over again. The soft way it fell from his lips was like a caress and it stirred something inside of her had been buried for years. What had Phoebe called it, 'heat', 'passion'—it smoldered at her core and rooted her to her spot. She would never deny how attracted to him she had been when she saw him on the view screen, he was quite the male specimen. The very epitome of tall, dark and handsome but she'd known all that before she'd left Earth. Starfleet security reports were nothing if not thorough. What the file didn't do justice was the kindness and sparkle in his eyes, the rich baritone of his voice and the most brilliant smile she'd ever laid eyes on. It also had no way of explaining the serenity of just simply talking with him, listening to his stories, learning about his past and sharing her duties with him.

When she thought about what she was meant to do upon their initial meeting it almost made her physically ill. She had been mentally abusing herself for nearly two months about her decision to destroy that array but for the first time she found herself indescribably grateful. Chakotay was not a criminal, she was as sure of that as she was of her decision to make him her first officer and for some reason the Delta Quadrant seemed a fair trade to keep him and his crew out of prison and their new found friendship intact. Willing her errant thoughts to subside she finally made her way to the bedroom and changed into her nightgown, climbing right into bed. She fell into a restful sleep thinking this journey home might not be so bad after all.

Chapter Text

After their initial dinner Chakotay had taken more initiative with Kathryn. He spent the next few months sharing meals, holodeck time, getting to know her as best he could—she'd even allowed him to stay for one of her appointments, though in all fairness he'd already been in sickbay when she'd arrived. He'd been drawn to her from the moment he laid eyes on her and their time spent was only amplifying it. She still had refused to explain to him the details surrounding the conception of her daughter and he didn't make a point to push. She would occasionally get teary, which he was certain had more to do with the hormones than anything else and she'd hold his hand and wonder aloud how she got herself into the mess and would her daughter ever forgive her. He would just squeeze her hand and remind her that her daughter wasn't going to want for anything and that someday they'd make it home and she'd have all her questions answered.

He was in his office musing about the state of their friendship instead of reorganizing the duty rosters after Tuvok's training session a week before when the ship lurched and he almost fell out of his chair. He pulled himself up to his feet and headed for the bridge, entering to find two patches of blood on the floor near the Captain's chair and grim faces on those feverishly working to maintain systems. The Captain was nowhere to be found.

"Report!" He balked, trying to concentrate on the task at hand while the ship lurched again and he grabbed a railing to steady himself.

"We are being fired on by an unknown ship. Shields are down to seventy-five percent and they are not responding to hails," Tuvok's voice was calm, but direct. Chakotay slowly made his way to his seat, gripping the armrests once he was down.

"Are they any match for our weapons systems?"

"No, sir." Harry responded just before the ship rocked again.

"Tom, evasive maneuvers. Tuvok, fire forward phasers—I want their weapons disabled." The men followed orders and he could see on the screen that their weapons array was inoperable. "Hail them." An alien they'd never encountered before appeared on their screen shouting at them in a language they didn't understand. "Harry can you work with the universal translator and clean that up a little bit." After a minute the alien's speech became a tirade in Federation standard and Chakotay stood to interrupt.

"Excuse me!" He said forcefully and the alien closed what he assumed to be his mouth. "I'm Commander Chakotay of the Federation Starship Voyager. Would you care to explain why you fired on us?"

"I am First Commandant T'kara of the Szien. This is our space you have violated. You must leave or be destroyed." Chakotay fought the urge to roll his eyes—never in his lifetime had he seen so much space "occupied" than in the last five months.

"I assure you, we never meant to intrude. We are just trying to get home. If you'd please send us a map of your territory we will plot a course out of and around it." He had sat back in his chair, but not before catching another glimpse of the blood on the floor and silently determining to make this the quickest exchange in Voyager history.

"I've got the map, sir." Harry announced just a moment later. "We're literally two light years from the border—it won't take us long to get passed their space at all."

"Doctor to Commander Chakotay."

"Chakotay here, Doctor, what is it?" His mind went to Kathryn and panic began to set in.

"Commander I'm going to need you in sickbay as soon as you are available."

"I'll be there in a few minutes, Doctor. I need to finish something up here." He looked back at Harry. "Harry, hail them. Tom lay in a course, warp six." When the alien reappeared he stood, arms behind his back. "We should be out of your territory in a few moments. I apologize for any burden we've been and hope that our quick response will only assure you of our integrity should we ever meet in the future." The alien nodded, albeit curtly and without a word closed the channel. Once the screen went black Chakotay was rushing for the turbo lift. "I'll be in Sickbay. Tuvok you have the bridge, get teams started on any repairs we need and let me know if our friends decide to show up again." He was near a state of frenzy when the sickbay doors opened. He knew the blood was Kathryn's and they'd beamed her to sickbay before he'd gotten to the bridge. But there hadn't been time to ask the crew what had happened to her—instead he'd had to push it out of his mind and focus on diplomacy. Once he stepped through the doors he rushed over to her side, noticing that there didn't seem to be anything amiss.

"Ah, Commander. I'd like you to join me in my office." The Doctor stated, already heading away from the Captain's biobed and into the small adjoining room.

"In your office? Doctor, she looks fine, what's the matter with her?" He demanded, shooting glances back at her sleeping form as he reluctantly took a seat in front of the man's desk.

"The Captain? She'll have a nasty headache in the morning. She's also not the reason I've called you here. Not directly anyways." The physician punched a few buttons on a console and turned it so Chakotay could view it with him—though Chakotay had no clue what he was looking at. "When the ship was hit, the Captain was on the way to her chair and she fell. She hit her head on the armrest and her stomach made fierce contact with the floor detaching a portion of her placenta from the uterine wall." Chakotay's eyes grew wide and he started to question but the Doctor held up a hand to keep him silent. "I was able to repair the damage to both the Captain's head and to the placenta. However the force of the fall caused the baby to lose a fairly significant amount of blood."

"So what do you need me for, Doc? Fix it." He stood up and watched Kathryn's chest rise and fall from his position against the windows in the office.

"That's precisely why you're here, Commander." The Doctor couldn't believe his five months on the job had reduced him to this role, but he had to admit it was mildly satisfying to solve such an absurd mystery. "The Captain's blood isn't the same type as the baby's—not all that uncommon. What is uncommon is her daughter's blood type. She has a protein coefficient that was never introduced to my programming before this little voyage and fortunately for her, there is one other person on this ship with not only the same blood type, but the same unusual variable." Chakotay's breath seemed to disappear in his throat and all of his weight seemed to shift to his hands resting on the window sill. "I'm sure you have plenty of questions, most of which I'm certain only the Captain has the answers to, but I'd like to begin the transfusion as soon as possible for your daughter's sake." Chakotay allowed the Doctor to walk him to a biobed just across from Kathryn and he stared at her absolutely motionless as images of sweat covered bodies tangled between Starfleet issue sheets and a lone commbadge on a nightstand assaulted his frontal cortex.

Chakotay and Seska had been what his crew deemed an "item" for far too long as far as he was concerned and as devastatingly frustrating as he knew it would be, he used their supply run to call it off making sure she knew that any further romantic advances made by her would result in being thrown off his ship. She'd put up a fight, attempted to use her feminine wiles—she did everything but physically assault him, which he hadn't put passed her. Thankfully she'd decided to catch a ride back to their rendezvous point from some allies instead of meeting their contact at Deep Space 4 which offered him a glorious twelve hours to lay low, wallow in self-loathing at what he'd let himself become and allow himself the rare opportunity to cut loose. After boarding the station he quickly found a quiet out of the way bar, sat himself at the far end, making sure he had a clear view of the door. It was still relatively early in the day when he arrived and by the time his eyes beheld a vision in a short form-fitting green dress, light auburn hair cascading down her back he was already three sheets to the wind, but functional. She'd entered with an equally stunning woman with long brown hair in a comparably daring outfit but it was the former who caused his breath to catch in the back of his throat and grab the bar to ground himself. They sat beside each other in the center of the bar and he watched their interaction as the brunette took control of the drink orders, a great many drink orders. Though he watched her bristle after every drink she took them like a champ but he could see from her form and the dullness in her eyes she wasn't drinking for fun—she was drinking to forget. The air around her seemed to fall under her command, everyone who came up to her was brushed aside but with grace and tact, a feat given the state of her consciousness. For some reason he could see that behind the dullness this woman had a fire about her and he felt drawn inexplicably to her. He caught the bartender's eye and subtly motioned him over.

"Those two women over there," he nodded in their direction. "They aren't spending a dime. Let them have anything they want and never tell them where it's from." He pulled some latinum from his pocket, he hated to part with it but he knew somehow it was worth it. The bartender took the payment and nodded then poured Chakotay another drink and went back to his duties. He sat there, trying to be a covert as possible while his eyes never left the mystery woman. He had never felt a pull this strong toward anyone…or anything for that matter and it fascinated him. He was captivated.

The bar wasn't very busy but he was having trouble in his attempt to glean information from their conversation. Though he noticed the object of his infatuation's voice had a rough and sexy timbre that sent his imagination and his anatomy reeling. What he wouldn't give to hear his name fall from those lips. He had to talk to her, he had to know her and he vowed to himself that by the end of the night he would and he was certain he'd never forget it.

Rolling over in bed six hours later he caught a peek at the chronometer on the wall and inwardly cursed himself. His movements were delayed and painful and he felt the liquor that had been churning in his stomach threatening to make an appearance. He had twenty minutes to find his clothes and get to the docking bay. He glanced to the body next to him, completely engulfed in the blankets and wished he had a moment to figure out what had happened and who he'd managed to bed in such an uncharacteristic and cheap way, but shame and the lateness of the time allowed him only to see a few errant strands of auburn lightly splaying the pillow. He quickly corralled his clothes but not before a shiny gold and white object on the nightstand caught his eye and sent him to, yet again inwardly curse himself and his lack of control. "Starfleet," he mumbled under his breath, forcing his clothes on as quickly as his still inebriated self was able to manage. After he'd slipped on his shoes and took one more look toward the bed, ignoring the magnetism that the figure seemed to invoke he shook his head defiantly and slipped out telling himself how grateful he was that he had no memory of the night and thanking the Spirits that he'd never run into her again.

"Chakotay?" Her whiskey voice broke through the fragmented memories and gave him pause. The episode on DS4 had shaken him and he'd only ever told one person, partly because he had little to no memory before setting foot on the Liberty and meeting his contact and partly because he had always considered himself an honorable man and that particular dalliance didn't sit well with that description. From what he could gather of his memories he'd assumed that he had been upset over Seska's reaction to their parting and tried to find comfort once the alcohol had sent him into a peaceful oblivion. But sitting there listening to the Doctor explain his understanding of the situation he knew he would give a piece of his own soul to know the events leading up to their encounter—there had to be more to the story. He'd felt drawn to her from the moment he stepped onto her bridge—her eyes, her voice, her commanding presence and her grace. It was captivating. "Commander?" He heard said with more insistence and he forced himself to abandon his internal battle and focus his attention on her—but she wasn't there. She was still out cold on the next bed. When his vision steadied he met the Doctor's speculative gaze. "Okay, Commander. You're all set." The doctor removed a tube from his arm and administered a hypo spray that countered the queasiness he was feeling.

"How's the baby?" He slowly brought himself to a sitting position, gazing over at Kathryn's still sleeping form on the bed next to him. "And why is Kathryn still sleeping?"

"Your daughter," Chakotay fought an unintentional cringe at the word. "Will be just fine thanks to you. And the Captain is asleep because I have her sedated. She's had quite a trauma to her brain and I'd like to give it some time to heal before she's awake and demanding I clear her for duty." Chakotay stood and walked next to her trying to place her face in the jumble of images that were swirling around in his mind. His eyes were drawn to her stomach and the bulge that held his own child. He brought a hand up to hover over the blue hospital gown but he couldn't bring himself to place it on the swell of his child. He was a torrent of uncertain emotions and he needed to leave—fast. He bid the doctor goodbye, asking him to notify him of any change and then all but ran for his quarters.

Once inside he walked over and collapsed into his chair, his eyes wide and unfocused as the shock of what had transpired began to permeate his mind. Of all the Starfleet officers scattered around the entire galaxy, his mystery woman had been Captain Kathryn Janeway. And of all of the ships scattered throughout the galaxy her ship, Voyager had been the one sent after him. That in and of itself was enough to try to understand but now instead of just apologizing for his behavior she was pregnant. With his child. Was this just a coincidence—he couldn't quite believe that. The odds were far too great, there must be more to it, he was certain. He cast a sidelong glance at his medicine bundle sitting on the shelf and realized just how lost he felt and how much he was longing for the guidance it provided. He grabbed it and laid it out before him on the floor, crossing his legs and pressing his finger to the akoonah, speaking the ancient words and feeling the scenery around him change.

When he reopened his eyes a wistful smile played across his lips and he was grateful she'd brought him to this place. Trebus. He took in the feel of the clear air, the greenery surrounding him and the shape of a camp alit by a fire off in the distance. He heard padding behind him and a moment later felt a rich tuft of fur being pressed against the palm of his hand as the silvery wolf nuzzled his side.

"You are troubled," the voice spoke not a question but an observation and he nodded.

"I suppose I am, I'm not sure what I'm feeling right now," he responded as the wolf sat proudly on her haunches a few feet before him. Never wanting to tower over the sacred animal he dropped to the ground sitting Indian-style before her. "I guess I feel lost. I'm a long way from home and I've done something…something that could hurt someone I care about and cause a long-term strain on a friendship I hold very dear to me that is only just beginning."

"Your decision was not a wise one, but you were not alone in it and she knows that. There you will find comfort." The animal leaned forward catching his brown eyes in her gold ones. "Home is where you will make it, Chakotay Son of Kolopak. You have not forgotten that."

"No, I haven't," he replied with a sigh. "This whole…thing—it just feels like more than a string of events, more than coincidence. Did the Spirits wish this to happen?"

"Each choice has its own outcome but in the end, or along the journey you end up where you were meant. Where are you to be?"

"At her side." Chakotay didn't even think, the words spilled from his mouth as if he'd been waiting to say them for a lifetime, the sudden honesty and revelation taking him aback.

"Now you understand." She came closer and placed a paw on his shoulder then lay down beside him.

"But what can I do? How can I help her and will she even let me?"

"Give of yourself all that you have without expectation and humbly accept what she may offer in return. The journey you will share will be a difficult one but time is the great equalizer – give her time, Chakotay. She is as scared as you." The wolf turned her head and then rose up, her head towering a few inches over his own and he was taken by the majesty of the beast before him. "You must go. Remember to give her time."

His eyes closed and when they reopened he was back in his office and for the first time in an hour his head felt remarkably clear and he knew what he had to do. He folded up his medicine bundle replacing it on the shelf and walked briskly and purposefully to Sickbay.

She roused from her physician induced sleep about seven hours later to find Chakotay sleeping and lightly snoring in the chair next to hers. His neck was tilted at a most unnatural angle and she was sure he'd be sore as soon as he moved it. His position warmed her heart but also induced suspicion—sure they were close, but she'd fallen in the middle of shift. Surely he hadn't stayed by her side through the entire rest of his shift…unless something horrible had happened. Her hand instinctively went to her still raised belly and she nudged it a few times, enticing her daughter to push back.

"Relax, Captain. She's just fine. Thanks to Commander Chakotay, that is." His mischievous grin, she was certain was due to a growth in his personality subroutines. There was no way Dr. Zimmerman had programmed an emergency medical hologram to exude smugness. As if his name was his cue, Chakotay shifted, opened his eyes and then groan grasping at his neck. "Perhaps I should leave you two alone to talk." This statement had the Captain puzzled and she grabbed his arm before she allowed him to leave.

"Doctor, what do you mean, what happened to the baby?" Her voice was frantic and the hologram sent Chakotay an accusing look, then smiled sweetly back at the Captain when Chakotay had nodded for him to continue.

"The baby lost some blood and needed a transfusion but she is fine now." The Captain seemed to accept his explanation at face value until her scientific mind began to process that they had needed to make concessions for the baby having a different blood type as her. "I have to say that I'd never thought of this sooner, checking DNA shipwide, I suppose I just assumed that you'd remember the identity of your one night stand and should you be stationed on the same ship you'd potentially realize it and the need for DNA testing would be moot. That however doesn't seem to be the case here, though it did manage to save your daughter's life." Chakotay was bristling obviously and had walked away during the Doctors relentless egotistical tirade. Kathryn was supremely confused and kept looking back from the Doctor to Chakotay standing rigid halfway across the room. She blushed at the Doctors rebuke and then once his words sank in she stared at Chakotay, her eyes the size of saucers.

"Just what the hell are you saying, Doctor?" She demanded, venom filling her voice and causing Chakotay to outwardly groan. She'd never be okay with this.

"Your daughter has the same protein coefficient in her blood as her father. Before them I'd never seen it and I'm still not sure what to make of the blood composition—"

"It's the Sky Spirits," came a soft yet determined voice from somewhere near the office. "The touch of the Sky Spirits. It changed our blood, legend has it that the gift of the Spirits gave our people abilities. But it's been passed down and never diluted from generation to generation." He looked directly at her belly and then into Kathryn's eyes. "…to generation." She held his gaze for a moment, trying to reconcile the man in front of her with the unknown man she had gone to bed with seven months prior but she couldn't conjure up the image. He'd never looked familiar to her, she'd never thought of him in that way—okay, that wasn't true, she told herself. She'd often thought of him in that way, but she always chocked it up to fantasy, not memory. She shook her head in attempt to reign in her stray thoughts and get back to the huge issue laying before them.

"I'm having my first officer's baby." She hadn't realized she'd announced it for all to hear until both men looked at her with rather pained expressions on her face and the EMH did the only noble thing and deactivated himself. "I'm sorry—I'm… I don't know what to say. I'm shocked." She shot him a desperate glance and her voice pleaded, "Chakotay?" He had no idea what words were the right ones and what she needed to hear. For some reason the word pregnant kept echoing around in the back of his mind dueling with her pronunciation of his name—the way she pronounced every single sound and syllable was driving his thoughts somewhere they dared not go. He knew he had to make a fast exit. "You aren't alone in that response, I'd spent the last seven months trying to erase what I'd assumed happened on DS4 from my mind—I-I guess I need to apologize to you, for taking advantage; though Spirits know I don't remember most of what did happen." He stood from where he'd been immovable for the last, what was it, and hour or ten minutes. He tempted her reaction and his tenuous control over himself and placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder, squeezing it lightly as from somewhere inside his psyche he pictured the small very light cluster of freckles he knew were resting just below the layered Starfleet uniform… Stop it! His brain shouted at him but he kept a neutral visage and offered her a sympathetic smile mentally kicking himself for what had to be the least eloquent speech he'd ever relayed and he knew she deserved better. Kathryn however heard his words and they cut her to the core for reasons she wasn't even sure why. He seemed ashamed, which of course she'd felt too, but now that he knew who it was perhaps she expected him to be elated. After all, they were both harboring the same deep-seated connection to one another, or at least that's what she was certain of. Suddenly the potential rejection became stifling and she needed to get away from it.

"I need some time to think, Commander." She slowly slid herself down from the biobed, ignoring his objections as she headed for the door, using every muscle at her disposal to keep her tears at bay. "We'll discuss this matter later." He watched her retreating form—if he wasn't such a study in the mannerisms of Kathryn Janeway he never would have noticed the careful set of her jaw and the moist sheen over her eyes. He thought she'd be nervous, maybe a little ashamed, but she looked hurt and he couldn't place why. All he could do was give her the space she seemed to need, knowing that everything was going to come to a head, and sooner than he ever realized.

=/\=

He'd waited a week and she avoided him at every turn. They never spoke more than necessary on the bridge. She took her lunches in her ready room opting out of spending time with her crew and he never pushed. He never spoke out of turn, never pressured her into a conversation she wasn't ready for. Until a week after the accident. She was finishing up end of day reports after shift in her ready room when he chimed.

"Captain," he began once she'd called for him to enter. "I'd like to invite you to lunch on holodeck 2 tomorrow. I know it's your day off and I'm on gamma shift." She peered over the PADD she'd been reading. She had been enjoying the status quo, almost like ignoring it made it unreal in a way—something she didn't have to face. But she knew they'd have to discuss it and she feverishly rubbed her forehead. "Kathryn…" he persisted.

"What time?" She hated giving up her control, even for a lunch session. She knew they'd talk about it. Why wouldn't they?

"1100—no uniforms," he added with a dimpled grin and left before she could offer a protest.

Chapter Text

In his time off the week prior Chakotay had taken to creating two very important holodeck programs, even having to enlist B'Elanna's help having not done it in quite a long time. She'd asked plenty of questions and he just told her with all the stress they were likely to be facing, he needed a place where he could unwind. That wasn't entirely inaccurate, but he had a much greater purpose than that. The next day at 1100 found him outside holodeck two wringing his hands together awaiting Janeway's arrival. He had been running through the next couple hours in his head for the last seven days, trying to find the best way and the right words for what he was about to tell her.

"Good afternoon, Commander," he heard from behind him and turned to see her sauntering up in a green tunic, the color almost identical to the dress he'd seen on the living room floor—he shook his head and with it the memory. No distractions. He could tell she was nervous enough, even though she was trying.

"Good afternoon, and we're off duty. Chakotay," he reminded surrendering a dimple as he opened the doors to the holodeck and ushered her in. They walked into what appeared to be a log cabin's interior. They entered into a living room with full cushioned leather couches, a burning fire in a hearth. Behind the living room was a small dining area and then a well equipped kitchen. On the table was a beautiful salad, rolls and some fresh fruits.

"This is wonderful!" She exclaimed as she walked around examining the room. "Where are we?"

"I used to imagine someday that I'd build a house when the war was over and I was able to settle down." He ran a hand over the wood of the mantle, leaning against it and relishing the warmth emanating from the simulated fire. "I only created the one floor, but it's exactly as I always imagine it. This is the first of two programs I intend to show you, but it's a cozy place for a meal." He showed her to the table, pulling out her chair for her and allowing her to begin serving herself. Over lunch she marveled at his attention to the details in the house. He shared with her about his tribe, of his decision to leave them for Starfleet and his father's reaction to him leaving. He shared with her about his growing frustration with Starfleet over the handlings of the situation with the Cardassians and living in fear for his family every day until he got word of the attack and joined the Maquis. He told her about how his sister had survived the attack and was living on Trebus. She listened with genuine interest, thankful that he avoided the subject she knew they were there to face and fascinated by the depths of his character and loyalty. When the meal came to a close they moved to the couch where he'd replicated a large pot of tea which he poured for them both and they sat back.

"You said this is the first program you wanted to show me?" She asked making herself comfortable pulling her legs up under her and leaning into the soft leather. He nodded, sat his cup on the table and turned to face her.

"It is, and I'll get to that. But first there's something I'd like to share with you." He took a long deep breath and offered up a prayer to the spirits for the words and for his frayed nerves. "You asked me the day you found out you were pregnant if I'd ever made a mistake that changed the course of my life. I've made two. The first was missing an opportunity to force my family from Trebus before the Cardassians attacked. In all likeliness they never would have left, but the fact that I didn't try has haunted me ever since. The second, sent me into a mild bout of depression and meditation while I tried to understand my own actions." He paused, collecting his thoughts and then looked straight into her dark blue eyes. "I've always considered myself to be honorable, respectful, especially to women—it's the way I was raised and has always been important to me. After I left DS4 I could only see my actions from one perspective and it shook me to my core." Another pause.

"You may not know this but Seska and I used to be—involved, for lack of a better word. Looking back now I can't understand why or how it even began but I reached a point where I could see her for who she was and I decided to end it. I ended up drinking myself into a stupor and stumbling into bed with the first woman I saw…or at least that's what I thought, anyway. I couldn't tell you the last time I'd had that much to drink, I can't even tell you the events that led up to it. But I can tell you that when I left I felt a pull to the woman lying in that bed that I'd never felt up to that point in my life. I ignored that feeling at the time seeing only the product of wounded pride and too much alcohol and went on my way without a word or even a look at her face. For weeks while I was off duty I avoided any social interaction, hiding away in my cabin, searching out my spirit guide and meditating, trying to understand how I would be so callous and attempting to forgive myself." He shot a glance at her and watched her breathing visibly slow as she took in his story.

"I left because I was ashamed of what I'd done and because I almost missed meeting my contact in the docking bay. Underneath all that guilt and self-loathing I couldn't shake the feeling I had when I looked at that woman buried underneath the covers, it was as if I was drawn to her somehow. The only time I've felt it since," he made direct eye contact again and felt like his soul was going to burst open. "was when I met you." He heard her sharp intake of breath, watched her jaw drop and her eyes widen. "I had no idea who you were until last week when the doctor called me to sickbay. I've spent the last week trying to wrap my mind around everything and trying to understand how hard this will be for you. You'll never know how sorry I am for taking advantage of you like that—you deserve so much more."

Kathryn wanted to pace but she couldn't find the ability to get up. Her thoughts were a jumble, each new piece of information was piling onto the next, fighting for top billing in her analytical mind. It felt like she was receiving brand new information. Like in the last week she hadn't allowed herself to dwell on what had happened between them at all, though she knew that wasn't true. It was all pretty clear, she'd slept with Chakotay, been sent to capture him, aligned his crew with hers, made him her first officer, befriended him, confided in him and now she was having his baby. She felt like she was living some cosmic joke. She must have sat there a while because he gently said, "Kathryn say something. Please. Yell, scream, cry, order me to the brig, anything. How do you feel?"

"Relieved." Her hand shot up to cover her mouth as she gasped at the response she had not intended to let slip out. His shock at the statement mirrored her own and they descended into silence once more. Relieved? Where the hell did that come from? I should be angry, I had an affair with the man I was sent to capture and I'm having his baby, the last thing I should be is relieved. She sighed inwardly, resigning herself to the softer more persistent accusations running through her. But neither of us knew who the other was and I'm certain neither of us meant for me to get pregnant. He could have run for the hills when he found out I was pregnant, instead he stood by me, listening to me, reassuring me, taking care of me when he could and being a friend. And now that he knows he's here putting it all out in the open, willing me to talk about it with him, still supporting me. I am relieved. "You carry the gene for sensory tremons, don't you?" It wasn't the first question that popped into her head, but it was the one that came out.

"Yes." He said simply. "I watched my grandfather deal with the disease. My mother suppressed it in me before I was born and I was grateful the Doc found it when he did. I want to make sure my…your—" he shook his head. "I want to make sure our child never has to know that kind of suffering."

"Why today?" She wondered aloud. "You could have forced the issue a week ago, you could have denied anything had happened and ignored me and the baby. Why'd you bring me here today?"

"I know this was a huge shock for you—it was for me as well. I'd had a couple hours to meditate and let the news sink in, you didn't and I know you needed to work it out on your own as much as you could. So I let you have your space and time. But if I'd known sooner I would have jumped at the chance to tell you. Watching you react and respond to this pregnancy, even as someone who was as jealous as can be that it wasn't his child you were carrying moved me—you're beautiful, Kathryn. I'm talking to you know because seeing you talk about how much you love the baby rendered me speechless. And because in spite of everything that can and very well may transpire from this revelation, I don't want to miss a single moment of your pregnancy." It took seconds for the tears to begin flowing down Kathryn's cheeks as the words he spoke sunk in. Ever since she'd found out she was pregnant she had been terrified about the prospect of parenting a child alone and having a child grow up without knowing it's father and in one fell swoop he had eradicated both of them. For Chakotay's part, he wasn't sure how to read her tears or how to react to them. Very slowly, very intentionally he scooted closer to her and subtly offered her his open arms. She stared at them with clouded vision, attempting to shove her pride and insecurities behind her need to be held. With both hands up covering her mouth to hide her sobs she leaned toward him, molding herself to his shoulder and giving into the swell she felt overwhelm her once his arms met around her back; his warmth spread into every corner of her and his reassuring whispers fell by her ear. The tenderness with which he held her and the security she felt in his embrace was not lost on her and she allowed them both to sooth her soul and calm her. The captain inside was keenly aware of the inappropriate nature of their contact and quickly aided Kathryn in ceasing her tears and finding some balance for her hurricane of emotions. Feeling her finally coming back around Chakotay placed a chaste kiss to the top of her head and moved back to his end of the couch.

"Would you like to throw me in the brig now?" He joked, his dimples in full glory and she chuckled, wiping her cheeks with her fingertips.

"Not right at this moment," she gave him a wry smile. "I'll reserve the right to revisit that offer if the need arises." His response was a thundering laugh as he shook his head.

"I believe you will."

"Chakotay," she searched his face until his brown eyes met her own. "Thank you. For this, for being honest with me, for being so considerate of my needs and my feelings and for reserving judgment. I'm afraid I wasn't quite—myself that night and I wasn't making the wisest decisions. I wish I could offer you more in the way of a heartfelt apology but I truly have no memory of…it." She felt a blush beginning somewhere around her neck and she looked down at her hands. "I truly am sorry."

"I'm sorry too and like you I have very little memory of it either…" her head snapped up at his choice of words.

"Little memory?" She wondered, unsure of whether or not she wanted to hear this and he nervously tugged his ear.

"Little. A few, none that led me to recognize you when we met. I remember going to the bar, I don't remember you coming in." His smile became sheepish as he twisted his hands in his lap. "I vaguely remember…during, kissing the light patch of freckles on your right shoulder." The air suddenly became charged with awkward sexual tension and they both made valiant efforts to avoid eye contact, not noticing how red the others face had become. He cleared his throat and continued. "And I remember waking up, realizing I was going to be late. You were wrapped up in the blankets and I only caught sight of your hair across the pillow. I dressed quickly, cursed when I saw your commbadge on the nightstand, lingered at the doorway for a split second trying to make sense of my desire to crawl back next to you and never leave but I hung my head, ashamed of myself and left without a word." They both sat in a disconcerting silence for a while and Chakotay decided that he needed to change the subject. "Kathryn, I need you to know I don't take any of this lightly. I know what we did and I know what's resulted and I would be grateful and honored if you'd allow me to be a part of our child's life, in any way you'll have me." She reached out and placed a hand on his knee giving it a squeeze.

"You already know I wouldn't have it any other way. I told you I was relieved, and while I didn't intend to be so blunt I meant it. The idea of raising a child alone and unable to even share its father's name was terrifying." She brought her hand back and poured herself another cup of tea, preparing herself mentally for what she was about to say. "Our positions on this ship are going to be a challenge in many ways. We've only really known each other a few months, but you know I consider you a friend. Probably my best friend. And I won't deny that I am attracted to you—and if we were in different circumstances I wouldn't hesitate… No matter what Starfleet says, and whenever we do make it home please know I will defend you to the last. I know you are kind, and gentle. I know how loyal and selfless you are and how passionate you are about things that are important to you. And in a way, I feel very lucky to be having your child." Once the words had left her mouth she gasped as if she hadn't realized it until then and her eyes clouded over, her face alit with a radiant smile when she caught his eye. "Chakotay, we're having a baby. Our baby." She knew she should have felt dreadful, a child brought about in such shady circumstances, while she still had a fiancé at home. But the truth of her statement filled her instead with a sense of joy that she found difficult to understand. She wanted to throw her arms around him and enjoy the moment but she couldn't bring herself to it. Sensing her excitement and also her timidity he reached out his hand which she immediately took and his grin exploded.

"Our baby," he repeated, rubbing circles with his thumb across her hand. She absentmindedly scooted a little closer and brought their joined hands to rest on her engorged lower abdomen. She released his hand and placed his palm open on the surface then replaced hers on top of it, lacing her fingers with his. In spite of their declarations and the precarious nature of their situation they sat in peaceful quiet, their hands resting over the swell of her stomach and both knew they were more relaxed than they had been in weeks.

After about ten minutes of simply enjoying their solitude Kathryn spoke, "You said there was a second program you wanted to show me. Are we ready for it?" He kissed the back of her hand and pulled her with him to stand.

"I'm not sure it's necessary now, but—Computer, save program and run Chakotay Delta Sigma 4." Kathryn gave him a curious glance at the program name as the room around them shifted to a very familiar scene. They were standing at the entrance to the bar on DS4. "I knew you wanted to know how it all came about, and I wish I could offer you more than this, but I thought maybe being here would jog our memories." He walked through the doors and across the room to the opposite side of the bar. "I was sitting here drinking scotch," he told her indicating a stool with a clean line of sight towards the door.

"So you had a nice view of Phoebe and I when we came in, but I don't remember seeing you there," she admitted, walking to the middle of the bar and sitting on the stool directly in front of the bartender. "I remember by the time we got here the bar was mildly busy. You'd think I would have remembered a handsome face with that tattoo."

"Maybe the handsome face. Not the tattoo," he said shaking his head. "Maquis criminal traipsing around a Federation space station…I had to cover it up." She laughed aloud, shaking her head at the idea.

"And yet somehow you managed to charm and woo a Starfleet captain."

"Woo, huh? You admit that I could have wooed you?" His eyes danced mischievously.

"Chakotay, I'm twenty-eight weeks pregnant with your child. Alcohol playing a factor, I don't think the question is if you could have wooed me. I was either so drunk my judgment was impaired, which is obviously partially the case—or you're just one hell of a smooth talker."

"I don't think I would have been able to keep my eyes off of you," the extreme sentiment and deep tone of his voice jolted her and sped her heart rate. "Knowing what I know now, from the moment you walked in there wouldn't have been a soul in the entire bar that would hold a candle to you." He was staring at his folded hands on the bar and she was sitting stock still trying to regulate her breathing. "Until last week I'd spent months trying to come to grips with my casual treatment of you that night. It wasn't until I understood just how much of an affect you had on me that I started to realize that in spite of the alcohol there's no way I would have settled for just one night with you. I don't want you to ever feel like you were taken advantage of. Our positions may make this next to impossible, but I need for you to know how I've felt. I know from the moment I saw you—I need you to know—you weren't a fling, Kathryn. You were cherished and if it's ever in my power, you always will be." The stool made a loud scraping noise as he pushed to stand up, interrupting her stoic and far-off look. He walked right over to her, bringing his hand up to her cheek, brushing away stray tears with his thumb. "I will always be at your side. As a parent to our child, as your first officer, as your friend and as a man who fell for you from the moment he first laid eyes on you. I'll always be whatever you need from me." He leaned his forehead to hers and placed a soft, sweet kiss to her lips sending a current of sensation down every nerve ending. "But for as long as we're out here, I know you need my friendship. And that will be enough." He pulled her off the stool and into his arms, holding her tightly to his chest. "Computer end program." He let her go after a quick kiss to her forehead. "We have plenty more to talk about. Co-parenting, what to tell the crew—but I think we've said enough today and I need to get some rest before my shift." She nodded silently, still in awe at his declaration and brutal honesty. "Why don't we have dinner Thursday night?"

"Your quarters or mine?"

"Yours, but I'll cook," he smiled and headed for the exit. "1900." He turned back before triggering the doors. "Will you be okay?" She walked over and cupped his cheek with her hand, a wistful grin on her face.

"You've given me a lot to digest and plenty to think about, but yes. For the first time since the Doctor told me I was pregnant, I think I'm going to be okay." She gave him a quick side hug and then walked out of the holodeck heading straight for her quarters. Once inside she sat down at her desk and breathed, long slow intentional breaths, attempting to gain some perspective over the events of the last week and finally allow a flow of balance between Kathryn and the Captain. Her mind went back four months ago to the sight of a Maquis criminal pointing a phaser at her. She thought of the moment before she'd ordered her crew to stand down when their eyes had met and lingered. He'd seemed dangerous, of course but somewhere behind his fiery eyes she'd sensed a magnetism much similar to what he'd described. Then he'd holstered his weapon and without question, after a few run ins with Tom and Tuvok, had assisted her. She thought about how he'd stood between she and B'Elanna on the bridge before she gave the order to destroy the array. "She's the Captain" was all he'd said—that statement had stayed with her and played a large part in her decision to make him her first officer. She remembered him going over her head on the issue with B'Elanna and Joe Carey—his first misstep which had in turn brought them one of the finest Chief Engineers she'd ever worked with. Even in light of his defiance, he'd done so for the benefit of the ship and she'd been grateful for that. He was a remarkable officer, thorough, full of ingenuity, diligent and dedicated—after all, he'd been in Starfleet much longer than the Maquis, some things just stay with you.

Even in their short time working together she found him to be a calming presence, generous and with a scathing humor that she found refreshing. Even in their few disagreements they had developed a seamless rapport and they fell into friendship as though they always had been. When she'd gotten the news of her pregnancy he had still been there for her, listening, offering meals and giving her time to adjust. He was an amazing blend of faith, science and soldier. He believed deeply, thought intently and fought honorably; he challenged her, stood up to her and defended her—and he was her first officer. The idea of him becoming a permanent fixture in her life, tied to her by their child was something she was certain she could handle. It was the idea of him only being a permanent fixture in her life because of their child that she was having difficulty accepting. True, Starfleet had never made it a purpose to regulate the relationships between officers, but how would it reflect that she not only had a child with the man she was sent to capture who in turn had become her XO, but if they were to ever enter into a relationship—what would the admiralty say once they made it home? She would be hailed a Maquis sympathizer, which if she was honest with herself, after hearing some of their stories, she truly was and that didn't matter much, but it would likely be the end of her Starfleet career. She wondered fleetingly what her father would say if he were still alive. He'd probably tell her to do her duty, do what she knew was right…whatever that was.

She rubbed her temples, frustrated and emotionally spent. "What a mess we've made," she said to no one in particular finally rising from her chair and walking to her bedroom. She eyed the room for a minute, imagining briefly a cradle in a corner then lay down, still in her clothes and fell asleep with a smile on her face.

Chapter Text

They met for dinner every couple days, trying to get to know one another better and decide how they would be able to be parents together while not being together, although all the meals were making it difficult to hide attraction for the other. One dinner after she was well into her eighth month presented one such problem.

"So, we have been skillfully and fully avoiding the topic of names ever since I brought it up a month ago…" Chakotay began, trying to hide his smile at her awkwardness. "As I stated, I don't relish the idea of a daughter named Mona or Helen—there's got to be some common ground here somewhere." He watched her blanch and then visibly blush from the base of her neck to the tip of her scalp. He chuckled a moment and tried to understand why she was so embarrassed. She shifted in her seat, glancing a little too obviously at the chronometer, searching for her escape.

"Perhaps we could discuss this tomorrow, it's getting a little late." She lay down her napkin and moved to stand but Chakotay moved his chair next to hers and pulled her back down with a hand on her shoulder. He moved from her shoulder to hold her hand in both of his.

"Oh no. You're not getting away that easily. You've been dodging this topic for a while, but I don't understand why." He watched her hang her head and he lost hope—she apparently wasn't ready, though he still didn't understand.

"Those aren't names I'd consider for our child." Her admission was just above a whisper. "I've always imagined our children with different names. Names I would only use for our children." A lone drop of a tear landing on his hand managed to rip him from the daze her words had put him in and he quickly cupped her face in his hands, wiping the tears with his thumbs.

"What were they?" His face was so dangerously close to hers, their breath mingling between them. Her blue eyes searched out his brown eyes before she continued, needing his acceptance to make her brave.

"I wanted to name our daughter Taya, for you or maybe Kaya after your sister Sekaya. And if we ever had a boy we'd name him Kolopak after your father but we'd call him Kole or we'd name him Kotay after you." Her tears were flowing a little more freely now. "I never expected I'd have your child, but I came up with names, in case I ever got that lucky. Names that would never be used for any child but ours." He wanted to kiss her. He wanted to pull her the three inches to his lips and coax three little words out of her mouth with his persistent lips and tongue. He wanted to pull her into his arms, carry her into his bedroom and make love to her as though they were attempting to create a twin. He did nothing of the sort. He sniffed, his tears were beginning to make themselves noticeable, then he pulled her into his arms and just held her until all his other urges faded while he whispered his thanks and how honored he was into her ear.

=/\=

She'd been in sickbay with B'Elanna, attempting to assist in her retrieval of the Doctor's program when the first pangs of labor began and being the stubborn woman she was, she ignored it, choosing to simply shift her leg and lean on the console whenever a contraction was particularly strong. By the time they'd gotten Chakotay in the holodeck talking some sense into their CMO she was certain they were almost five minutes apart, but she still managed to breathe through it and not attract too much attention to herself. She'd barely been able to walk with Harry to the holodeck, let alone standing waiting, praying for his return to existence. The last thing she wanted was for Tom Paris to deliver her child. After she'd sent the EMH to sickbay she collapsed in Chakotay's arms.

"I was wondering when you were going to say something," he told her, shaking his head while she gripped his elbows with strength he didn't know she had. "Would you like to walk, be carried or transported to sickbay—the option is yours." She shot him a glare to end all conversation and Harry semed to slink back behind the console.

"I'm perfectly capable of walking, if you'd be so kind as to assist me." Harry watched her lean into Chakotay and right herself, smoothing down the lower half of her maternity uniform and pulling him towards the door.

"I'm going to guess you're about three minutes apart and have been in labor for hours but you've been smothering your reactions so much that even B'Elanna didn't realize what was going on." He looked down at her pants. "Your water must have broken at some point because those weren't the pants you had on this morning." She scoffed in spite of the contraction building through her lower body.

"And—just—how—pheeeeeew—would you know-uggggh—that, Commander." She demanded, not bothering to wait until the pain had passed to question him about his knowledge of her clothing. He laughed in spite of himself as they exited the turbo lift on deck five.

"Easy. When we had breakfast this morning you wiped some sort of gravy on your side and it left a small smudge on your pants, which were there when I left to enter the holodeck." They paused outside sickbay. "It suppose it's a good thing we got the Doctor back in one piece." His dimpled grin, instead of melting her heart, infuriated her and had her forcing him through the doors for the sole purpose of getting off her feet and hopefully pushing out the weight of her daughter that was resting heavily in her midsection.

"Ahh, Captain, Commander. I wondered which method of transportation you'd take to arrive here. I've been expecting you." The Doctor tossed Chakotay a gown for her and erected a privacy wall. He already had an infant bed waiting and all his instruments were carefully assembled next to the bed in the surgical bay.

"You've only been active for twenty minutes," she hissed from behind the screen where once he'd done all he could she'd banished Chakotay so she could continue changing herself. "How the hell did you know I was in labor?"

"Captain, I'm a doctor. It's my job to recognize flexed facial muscles, elevated heart rate and blood pressure, and increase in core body temperature. You either have the flu, or you're experiencing labor pains, most likely fairly closely together." He watched as she emerged around the screen and once again doubled over into Chakotay's waiting arms as he helped her breathe through yet another contraction.

"Maybe three minutes Doc," Chakotay told him in between breaths and helping her up onto the biobed.

"Ok, then let's take a look." She settled on the bed, her hands clasping Chakotay's while she stared into his eyes, trying to regulate her breathing. The Doctor emerged a few minutes later, coming up around to her side.

"You still have at least a couple hours as you're only about seven centimeters." He pressed some buttons on a hypospray and placed it at her neck. "This should take the edge off but not completely rid you of the pain. It's also a healthy shot of caffeine, you could be at this for a while." She began to groan and pull herself up onto her elbows with the onset of another contraction. Chakotay climbed in behind her after tilting the bed up and began rubbing slow and deep circles down her spine.

Two hours later found him still behind her, his arms holding her thighs apart while she let fly curses he didn't know she knew, some of which he wasn't even aware of. She'd been pushing for an hour and with each push the Doctor just kept telling her one more. He was certain that if all three of them made it out alive Kathryn would most certainly decompile his program inspite of her earlier efforts to keep him in working condition.

"I've got the head, Captain. Just a couple more and she'd be here." She bared down, squeezing Chakotay's hands with almost all the reserves of energy she'd saved and pushed. Her eyes grew wide when a sudden fullness like she'd never before experienced filled her to her core. Though she continued to push she was supremely aware of the individual shoulders that were emerging from her opening. One before the next and after one more light push she felt herself shrink back to comfort—or a varitable compromise for comfort. After some suctioning and a clean cloth the shrill and glorious sound of a tiny baby—their tiny baby echoed throughout sickbay and Chakotay leaned down and kissed Kathryn's lips. Neither had time to react before the Doctor was wrapping their little girl and placing her on Kathryn's chest. "You should try to breast feed, Captain. It'll contract your uterus and help to expel the placenta, plus it'll get her used to eating." The Captain looked a little shy while she tried to tamp down the overwhelming feeling of perfection that flowed through her when she looked at the tiny baby girl in her arms. Chakotay hadn't left her side and was running a fingertip through their daughters soft dark hair while she pulled down a corner of the maternity gown she'd been given, exposing her breast and guiding the girls tiny wandering mouth to the engorged nipple and squeezing a little to expel some liquid. She gasped and her eyes sought Chakotays when she almost immediately felt the girl latch on and begin to draw nourishment from her—tears filling her eyes and his eyes alike. "So have the two of you decided on a name?" The Doctor asked after her placenta had slipped free almost without Kathryn noticing as she was too entranced in the wonder of feeding her daughter. Chakotay, who was a little more grounded at that point, though not by much responded.

"I think we agreed on Tayryn Kaya Janeway," he said timidly, as though seeking her approval. She nodded through misty eyes and a euphoria clouded mind, grasping his hand in hers. The Doctor nodded his approval and finished cleaning up the area before adding the name and birth details to the log and escaping to his office, allowing the new family some time to themselves. "She is so beautiful, Kathryn." She turned and smiled up at him.

"She is, she looks a lot like her Daddy." They both stared for what seemed an eternity at the small child nuzzling her breast until she fell into a milk-induced sleep coma and Kathryn passed her off to Chakotay so she could right her gown. She watched him walking slowly and softly around the surgical bay, Tayryn resting sweetly on top of the chest of his uniform while he whispered quietly of his love for her and promises to always be there for her and her mother no matter where their journey takes them.

=/\=

The birth of Tayryn was, as Neelix deemed it, the biggest morale booster the ship had ever seen, and no one, save for the Doctor and Kes knew that Chakotay was the father. They hadn't purposefully left it out, but they'd only had so long to get used to the idea that they hadn't been ready or figured out how best to share it with the crew. His constant presence in sickbay after her birth and constantly helping out once Kathryn had been able to take her home had made some of the crew question his motives, but had accelerated the gossip chain a bit. Most thought he was just hopelessly in love with her and wanted more than anything to be a stand-in father for her fiancé's child. No one knew what Mark looked like, but there had been a few speculations by some lesser crewmen about how with her dark hair and lightly golden skin she almost looked like she could be Chakotay's child.

In the four months since her birth Kathryn had gone back to work, worked out a nanny in Crewman Tal Celes who had expressed her dislike in stellar cartography, set up a schedule for she and Chakotay who was keeping her as often as he was able to work off shifts. They'd discussed letting the crew in on their secret, but things just kept happening and time kept getting away from them—until it made the decision for them.

Chakotay had just been scolded for running after Seska, a conversation that had broken Kathryn's heart. Oh, she understood why he didn't, but that didn't take away the hurt she felt that he had made the decision on his own and tried to take matters into his own hands. All hurt had vanished, however when they'd been called out to the bridge to hear Seska's latest message. Upon her declaration of his impending fatherhood his eyes met Kathryns and they both just stared, incredulously at one another until he stormed into her ready room, her hot on his heels. She stopped just inside the door as he paced large circles around the lower level, never allowing her to come any closer and allow the door to close. Before long he began throwing his arms in the air and gesticulating as he spouted off just about anything that came to his mind.

"How DARE she!" He continued storming around. "How could I have EVER gotten involved with that manipulative—" The pacing continued, an incredibly brisk pace. "I could just—" He couldn't seem to finish any sentences and finally he came to a stop right in front of her, unable or unwilling to realize he had a clear shot of the entire bridge crew, most of which had their eyes trained on the pair of them. He placed his hands on her shoulders and shook his head, hanging in low in obvious pain. "Just once, I'd like to father a child the old fashioned way. Not completely inebriated with a total stranger on a space station, no DNA extractions from a woman I consider my enemy." Kathryn was growing painfully aware of the stares that focused on her back, but there was such a hurt in his eyes that she put them out of her mind and reached up to trace a single tear down his cheek. He cupped her face in his hands, pulling her close. "Promise me when we have another baby I'll be able to be an active and willing part of it." Both of them jumped a little but they weren't sure if it was the words spoken or the gasp from behind them. Suddenly the both were aware of their onlooking crew and almost synchronously they took a step away from the door sensor.

"If memory serves me correctly, you were an active and willing participant with Tayryn," she told him with a mischievous grin, getting lost in the slow and steady caress of his thumbs across her cheeks. "And since when are we planning on having another baby? We never even planned the first one." He felt his cheeks flush and leaned his forehead on hers.

"I'm certain I never meant to say that out loud. And most certainly not to the wide open ears of our bridge crew." He smiled, revealing the full spread of his dimples. "Call it a dream—like those baby names you'd been holding onto since the first day you met me."

"You seem awfully sure of yourself, Commander." He could see a light in her eyes and maybe it was the adrenaline from his pacing—maybe it was his anger at the whole situation; perhaps it was just the way the starlight kept shining in her eyes but he became emboldened and he lifted her in his arms and set her down on the desk, never moving his face away from hers.

"Oh, I'm certain." One of his hands came up to brush through her hair, along her cheek, resting against her neck.

"Can we really do this?" She breathed, so carefully, her eyes closing never wanting to see a world where she couldn't have this man at her side. He pulled her a little closer, her legs parting around his hips.

"I think you're question is should we—the answer is, I don't know. As for can we," he inched his mouth dangerously closer to hers, her breath creating little points of heat above his upper lip. "I'm certain we're going to." Without anymore fanfare he pulled her the remaining space letting his lips mold and meld into hers, tasting her lower lip and groaning into her mouth when they parted and allowed their tongues to join in the caress. He pulled back, resting his head again on her forehead while they caught their breath. "Kathryn, think you know that I'm in love with you." He watched as tears crept into the corner of her eyes and he kissed them away. She nodded and kissed him again.

"I do know. And I'm in love with you too." The excitement she saw reflecting in his eyes sent a surge of arousal through her body that only accentuated when she watched him clear the desk and crash his lips onto her neck, hitting sensitive spots she wasn't aware existed. They were both alit in a haze of passion when her commbadge chirped.

"Celes to Janeway." Chakotay fought the urge to grab it and hurl it across the room with a force he was sure would smash it to pieces and render it inoperable. Instead he pulled back, allowing her to sit up on the desk and tap the badge.

"Janeway here. What is it Tal?"

"You had asked me to comm you when Tayryn was up and ready to eat…" They could hear some quiet sobs from somewhere in the background.

"Right, sorry – I guess I was a little distracted." She surpressed a laugh when Chakotay's face grew innocent and naïve. "Thanks, Tal. We'll be right down." She closed the comm and pressed her lips to Chakotay's in a promise. "We're going to find a babysitter and continue this…conversation tomorrow night. I'm sure Kes might willingly oblige." He laughed out loud and she felt the chuckle reverberating through her own chest.

"Tell the crew we're finally together and I'm pretty sure that we'd have the whole ship volunteering to babysit." He joked as they made their way, no longer touching back through the bridge and to the turbo lift. Chakotay shot a look behind him—there wasn't a single eye not penetrating their backs, even Tuvok had raised a curious eyebrow. This is ridiculous. This speculation has gone on long enough. He glanced down at Kathryn, then back at the crew. Oh the hell with it. The lift door opened and he pushed passed her so he could stand directly opposite the door, looking out at the crew. He then pulled her in so that she crashed up against him and with an eye open on the crew and in spite of the tension he felt in her he kissed her, deeply letting his arms wrap around her back forcing their bodies closer together. When he finally broke the kiss he said loudly, "Computer, Deck 8." Before the sound of the turbo lift doors closing she'd already laced her arms around his neck and pulled him back down to meet her lips in another kiss. They weren't certain, but they were almost positive they could hear loud whoops and cheers echoing down the turbo lift shaft as they made their descent.