Fresh Brewed Trouble

by Dawn

Summary: Set a year after Endgame. Kathryn Janeway finds herself in a bit of hot water. Assumes that the stardate converter is correct and that Voyager landed in late December.

Disclaimer: Voyager and its characters belong to Paramount.

Rating: R for some intimate scenes.

Chakotay walked into the small Irish pub to see some of Voyager's former senior crew gathered around their usual table in the back. During the year since they had returned to the Alpha Quadrant, it had become a weekly ritual for those still working in San Francisco to gather on Friday nights for dinner and drinks. He had tried to make it every week, but hadn't been able to attend during the past month.

"Hey, Chakotay. We were just talking about you." Tom Paris said as he waved him to the seat next to him. B'Elanna, Harry, and Libby were also at the table.

"Oh? What gossip have you heard about me lately?" Chakotay took his coat off and hung it on a wall hook behind the table.

B'Elanna said, "Well, it seems that some students think your little archeology dig was just an excuse to sneak off with someone special."

Chakotay flinched and sat down. "Well, Dr. Jim Morrow could be considered 'special,' but not in the sense that I would find even remotely interesting."

Harry asked, "How did it go? Find anything?"

"We solved a mystery by not finding anything."

Tom poured Chakotay a beer. "I'm not sure I followed that."

Chakotay explained. "Most of the relics found at the site were dated in the 1600's, but some of us suspected that the ruins had been vandalized in the late twenty-first century because of a handful of items found earlier this fall. However, Dr. Morrow and I realized that it was just a mistake in dating these newer items."

"So no harm done?" Harry asked.

"Much ado about nothing, but it was nice to get my hands dirty. Even if it was only for a few days." Chakotay took a sip of beer and asked, "So, what's new with you?"

"Not much," B'Elanna answered. "Our child is a genius, but that's about it."

Harry added, "That's not new."

"She's one year old and she can already do puzzles!"

Tom whispered to Chakotay, "Just agree with her."

Chakotay laughed quietly as B'Elanna punched her husband in the arm. "Don't worry, B'Elanna. Your daughter can't help but be brilliant. She's got you for a mother."

Tom asked, "Hey? What about me? Doesn't she get some of her intelligence from her father?"

Libby jumped in, "We hope not, Tom."

Chakotay laughed louder. He decided that a month was too long to be away from his friends.

Harry asked, "Captain, have you heard anything from the Admiral?"

"Please, drop the rank when it's just us, Harry."

"Sorry. Force of habit," Harry said. "We haven't seen her for quite awhile. Just wanted to know if she's okay."

"She's fine. I spoke with her just a few days ago when I got back into town."

"It's just that…" Harry paused for a moment. "Well, we miss her."

Libby said, "She's a busy lady, Harry."

"I know, but it seems like she'd make time for us. That she'd want to catch up on our lives."

Chakotay sighed quietly at the dejected tone in Harry's voice. "You do know what she's been working on, don't you?"

"I know it has something to do with the re-establishment of the Romulan government," Harry said. "I've watched her during press conferences."

"Not just something to do with the Romulans. The Federation President asked her to personally oversee the situation. A lot of people are involved, of course, but she's the ring leader." Chakotay added, "It's taken a lot out of her."

Tom said, "I didn't realize that her role was that significant."

"The President felt that because she had been away from the politics of the alpha quadrant for so long, that she could approach the situation with a fresh viewpoint. She hadn't been jaded by the war with the Cardassians."

"Wow," Harry said.

"She always asks about everyone, though, and I do my best to keep her up to date," Chakotay assured them.

"How often do you see her?" Libby asked.

"In person? Not that often. We try to get together at least once a month, but sometimes that isn't possible. But we talk a few times a week."

Tom asked jokingly, "Did she know about your supposed archeology trip with your someone special?"

Chakotay laughed. "Yes, she knows about it. But she's actually met Dr. Morrow, so I doubt she believed any rumors if she heard them."

B'Elanna learned forward to catch Chakotay's attention from across the table. Quietly, she asked, "Who is she?"

Leaning across to B'Elanna, he whispered back, "She who?"

"She who has captured your attention. I know there's someone. I can tell."

Chakotay shook his head and looked away. "Nah, you're imagining things."

Tom said, "Oh, come on. Your spirits have been higher in the last few months than I've seen them in years. And you blush every time someone catches you day dreaming."

"I don't daydream."

B'Elanna said suddenly, "Speak of the devil!"

Chakotay followed B'Elanna's line of sight to see Kathryn standing just inside the front door of the pub. When she made eye contact with him, she smiled brightly and it seemed to Chakotay that the once-dark room was suddenly infused with a warm glow.

He stood as she walked toward their table and enveloped her in a hug before she had a chance to take off her coat and gloves. "Kathryn, it's so good to see you."

"You, too. I was hoping you'd be here." Kathryn squeezed him tightly and then extracted herself to address the rest of the table, letting her hand linger on his arm. "Hello, everyone. I hope you don't mind that I dropped in unexpectedly. With Christmas coming this week, I was really getting homesick for my Voyager family."

"Of course not, Admiral." Harry came around and gave Kathryn a quick embrace. "We were just saying how much we missed you."

She smiled softly at Harry and said, "I missed you too." She looked down at Libby and put her hand on the young woman's shoulder. "And it's a pleasure to see you again, Libby. I trust that you're keeping Harry out of mischief?"

Libby laughed softly. "That's not too hard. I just have to keep him away from Tom."

"Very funny." Tom had also stood up and squeezed Kathryn's gloved hand. "We're glad you could join us."

B'Elanna said, "Very glad you're here. You can help us grill Chakotay."

"Oh?" Kathryn looked up at Chakotay and touched his hand. "What seems to be the problem?"

Chakotay felt his face become a little warmer and hoped that they couldn't see it. The cool softness of her leather glove felt wonderful in his warm hand. "There's no problem. May I help you with your coat?"

Unnoticeable to the others, Kathryn winked at him and said, "Of course."

As he took her coat and hung it up, B'Elanna said, "We think Chakotay is hiding someone from us, and we were just about to pull a confession out of him."

Kathryn sat in the empty chair next to Chakotay's, and asked, "Hiding someone?"

The men sat down again and Tom answered, "We think he's having a torrid affair that he's not owning up to."

Chakotay said, "The rumor is that my trip last week was a front for a romantic escapade."

"Your trip with Dr. Morrow?" Kathryn asked unbelievingly. "He's not really your type, is he?"

Everyone laughed, and Libby said, "These three seem to think that he's happier than he has been in years."

Chakotay's cheeks warmed further under the group's scrutiny. He pulled on his ear, and said, "Maybe the pressure of looking after all of you hooligans for seven years has finally let off, and I'm starting to enjoy life again."

Tom asked, "Admiral, would you like a beer?"

"A beer?" Kathryn looked at the half-empty pitcher on the table, and said, "I don't know. I haven't tried one in years."

"No time like the present," Tom said as he reached for an empty glass.

"Actually, Tom, maybe I can just try a sip of Chakotay's. I remember hating it last time I tried it, but that was years ago."

"Of course," Chakotay said. He was about to hand it to her when she leaned against him and took it. He tried to hide his smile as she stayed close and took a sip. Since she was leaning against him, he couldn't help but put his hand on her back and gently graze his thumb against the soft fabric of her blouse.

"Ugh." Kathryn shook off the taste. "That's awful. How can you drink it?"

Everyone laughed quietly at her reaction and Libby raised her almost empty wine glass. "I can't stand it either, Admiral."

Harry stood and took Libby's glass. "I'll take care of it, Admiral."

Kathryn smiled and put the beer back down. "Thank you, Harry." She asked B'Elanna, "So what makes you think Chakotay is having a secret love affair? Just the rumors about the trip?"

B'Elanna shook her head. "Not just that. He's been practically glowing for the last couple of months. I figure there's another blonde in his life that he's keeping secret."

Chakotay rolled his eyes at yet another blonde joke. "I would like to state that I have dated a total of two blondes, and only two. And one of them just wore a blonde wig. She didn't have any hair. Come to think of it… I didn't really even date her. She manipulated me. That does not mean that I have a thing for blondes."

"Three," Kathryn said. When he looked at her in question, she asked, "Wasn't Sveta a blonde?"

Clearing his throat, Chakotay said, "Yes, Sveta was blonde. All right, three blondes."

B'Elanna said, "I think we should take a look at your track record, Chakotay. It doesn't bode well."

Chakotay rubbed his forehead. "What is it that you used to say, Kathryn? I feel a headache coming on?"

Kathryn laughed. "Yes, that's exactly it." She accepted a full wine glass from Harry. "Thank you. This looks much better than that… stuff." She nodded in the direction of the beer.

Under the table, Chakotay felt Kathryn's hand squeeze his thigh just above the knee. He bit his lip to hide the smile as her hand stayed there. He could tell by the sparkle in Kathryn's eyes that she was having fun with this conversation, so he didn't stop it.

Harry asked, "What did I miss?"

Libby took a sip of her wine. "B'Elanna was about to embarrass Chakotay further."

"Oh? That sounds like fun," Harry said.

"Must we bring up these rather unpleasant memories?" Chakotay asked.

"Or you could 'fess up. Your choice," Tom said.

Chakotay sighed dramatically. "Okay, I'll tell you two things, and two things only."

"Really?" Kathryn asked.

He put his hand on top of hers under the table. "One… yes, you are all correct. There is a special someone."

"And two?" Harry asked.

"Two, she is not blonde."

B'Elanna groaned. "Not good enough. We need more."

Kathryn offered, "I have a confession."

"You do?" Tom asked. "This should be good."

She winked at Tom. "I know who she is."

"Reeeeally?" B'Elanna leaned forward. "Do tell."

"Well, what I know…" Kathryn squeezed his leg again. "…is that it has only just begun, but I'm hopeful that he's finally found the one."

Chakotay's heart swelled. He and Kathryn had been talking a lot over a comm. link, but there had only been a small amount of flirting and subtle hints about getting together when things calmed down. It had been enough to make his spirits soar, but nothing more. Six weeks earlier, when they had last been together, Kathryn had been overly stressed about the Romulan situation. She had just needed a friend, and nothing had happened between them.

"Chakotay?" B'Elanna asked.

"Yes?" Her question had pulled him out of his thoughts.

She rolled her eyes. "No, you neeeeever daydream. You were just doing it again."

He blushed again. "All right. You caught me."

"I asked if the Admiral was right. Is this lady the one?" B'Elanna asked.

"Yes, I think she is."

"It's not too early to tell?" Libby asked.

Chakotay smiled, "Well, with a track record like mine, one can only learn to recognize a truly extraordinary woman." Kathryn's fingers were tracing gentle circles on his leg, causing his pulse to quicken.

"Is that true, Admiral? You've met her?" Tom asked.

"Well, I don't see her in the same light as Chakotay does, but I think you'll like her. He definitely has my blessing."

"Seven is here," Harry said abruptly.

Tom said, "I thought she was on Jupiter Station."

Chakotay took advantage of the distraction to whisper, "Thank you," into Kathryn's ear.

She smiled brightly at him before turning to greet Seven. "Seven! It's so nice to see you!"

"I can't believe you made it!" Harry quickly came around the table, and awkwardly guided Seven to an empty chair next to him.

Seven said, "I wasn't sure that I'd be able to join you tonight, but my transport arrived early."

"Oh? Are you here for the holiday? Will you be staying in San Francisco?" Harry asked.

Out of the corner of his eye, Chakotay saw Libby bristle at the attention Harry was giving Seven. His gaze was drawn to Kathryn as she leaned over to Libby and whispered something in the young lady's ear. Chakotay marveled as Libby smiled and visibly relaxed.

"What did you say to her?" Chakotay whispered.

Kathryn raised an eyebrow and shrugged slightly. "Just girl talk."

"I see," but, of course, he didn't really see at all.

Kathryn whispered, "When it comes to Seven, we girls have to stick together."

Defensively, Chakotay said, "I haven't said a word to her."

"Lucky for you."

Kathryn's reaction to his former relationship with Seven amused him. She had never said a word against his relationship until it had ended, and even then she had only asked what he could have possibly been thinking. Instead, she had let him figure out on his own that it wouldn't work. He had learned only a couple weeks ago that Kathryn had been a little miffed that he hadn't dumped Seven for her as soon as they returned to the Alpha Quadrant. At first, he thought she was joking, but when he realized that she was serious, he was overjoyed that she still had feelings for him.

After dinner, the group wished each other a Merry Christmas and went their separate ways. They had talked about where everyone was spending the holiday and promised to get together again before the New Year began. Kathryn and Chakotay lingered until everyone else had left. Chakotay wasn't sure if she wanted to extend their evening together, but didn't want to ask in front of the others.

"I guess we'd better go too," Kathryn said.

Chakotay stood up and got their coats. "I'm glad you came. They were asking about you just before you came in."


"Especially Harry. He was really missing you."

Kathryn tilted her head and sighed. "I'll try to make it up to them next year."

"They understand. Don't worry." He put his hand on her back to walk her to the door.

Kathryn stopped at the hostess stand to put on her coat. She asked, "Will you walk me home?"

"Of course."

"Do you have anywhere that you need to go?"

"No, not tonight," Chakotay answered. He thought that was an odd question, but figured she had some reason for asking. Kathryn's attention was drawn to someone at the bar, and Chakotay turned to follow her sightline. He asked, "See someone you know?"

"No, no one. This is a charming little place, isn't it?"

"Yes, it is." He watched while she put on her gloves. "This pub has really grown on all of us. We decided that next time we get lost in space together, it'll replace Sandrines."

"We weren't lost." She winked. "We knew exactly where we were… most of the time."

After they walked outside, Kathryn looped her arm through his. "I hope that I didn't make you feel uncomfortable tonight."

Chakotay held her arm tightly against his side. "No, of course not, but I think Libby may be onto us."

Kathryn laughed. "She just might be. That one doesn't miss much."

"I was very moved by what you said, actually."


"We'd only hinted about getting together. You surprised me."

"Good," she said. "I want to keep you on your toes."

"And now I don't have to be at all nervous about giving you a goodnight kiss."

"I'm looking forward to it already." She squeezed his arm with her free hand. "So, you're going to your cousin's for Christmas?"


"You're not sure."

Chakotay shrugged. "I've visited them a couple of times this year, and I always feel like I'm imposing."

"They make you feel that way?"

"No, of course not. I just feel out of place, I guess. I'll be the single guy in the midst of a family celebration. My cousin's wife is a practicing Christian, and I'm a little nervous about not knowing enough about the holiday."

"Don't worry. I grew up celebrating the Christian aspects of the holiday, and there are no secret rituals that you'll have to endure."

Chakotay laughed. "Oh, my cousin will come up with at least one… just to get my goat."

"I'm sure that they'll love to have you. My mother has been trying to collect houseguests for the holidays for as long as I can remember. She loves having people around, and I think most people are that way about Christmas."

"All right, I'll go. Although, I don't suppose you would consider going with me?"

She sighed quietly. "I wish I could, but I'm going to have to work all day on Christmas Eve, and after that, I just want to go to Indiana for some quiet time." She stopped walking and turned to him. "However, I would love it if you would come to Indiana afterwards. I'd really like to spend some time alone with you."

He touched the side of her face as she looked up at him. "I'd love to."

"And next year…" she said, "we can go as an official couple."

"I'd love that, too." Chakotay was about to lean down and kiss her when he noticed movement in the foggy shadows. Although not sure who it was, the hairs on the back of his neck stood on end, and he was immediately alarmed. He pulled his hand away from her face and touched her back to encourage her to start walking. "How much farther to your house?"

She moved on ahead, but asked, "What's wrong?"

"I'm not sure." He quickened their pace and steered Kathryn into a dark, foggy alcove so that he could turn and get a better look. He guided her to stand with her back against the wall so he could shield her with his body.

Kathryn quirked an eyebrow and asked, "You want to make out in a dark alley?"

Putting his fingers on her lips to quiet her, Chakotay stretched to look around the corner and saw a man inching carefully down the street. Very quietly, he whispered in her ear, "Do you still have the paparazzi trailing you?"

"Not unless I'm at a high profile event." She put her hands on his waist. "What do you see?"

"We're being followed." Chakotay looked around the corner again, and didn't see the man anymore, so he grabbed her and took off down the alley to find another place to hide.

"Chakotay! It's okay." She tried to convince him, but he was busy trying to move. Once secure in their hiding spot, she said, "You don't need to worry."

He put his fingers on her lips again to quiet her.

She moved them aside. "Your tracking skills have always amazed me."

"You know we're being followed?" He asked quietly.

She nodded and called out, "Lieutenant Pierce?"

"Over here, Admiral."

Chakotay jumped at the voice that was a lot closer than he expected. When he saw the man with phaser drawn, he instinctively put himself between the weapon and Kathryn.

"Chakotay," Kathryn put her hand on his back. "This is Lt. Pierce. He is chief of my security detail."

Standing aside to let Kathryn step forward, he asked, "Security detail?"

"Lieutenant, this is Captain Chakotay. He was concerned that we were being followed."

"My apologies, Ma'am," Pierce said. Nodding to Chakotay, he said, "Captain, I apologize for alarming you. I'll try to be more inconspicuous in the future."

"Don't worry, Lieutenant. The Captain has a remarkable sixth sense. I doubt anyone else would have noticed you."

Chakotay asked Kathryn, "Why do you have a security detail?"

She placed a hand on his arm. "Months ago, I received threats. The danger…"

Pierce interrupted, "Admiral, perhaps you should discuss this in a more secure location."

"Threats?" Chakotay asked with alarm.

Kathryn acknowledged Pierce's concern. She said to Chakotay, "The danger has likely passed, but it's related to my current project."

Taking a deep breath, Chakotay nodded. "Lt. Pierce is right. Let's talk about it later."

"All right. Back to my house?"

He nodded and let Kathryn tuck her arm in his again. He nodded at Pierce as they passed the Lieutenant on the way out of the alley. Chakotay's thoughts were reeling at the thought of Kathryn in danger without him knowing. He realized, of course, that her job was inherently dangerous and the situation she was dealing with was not a peaceful one. Many people had already died because of the problems in the Romulan government, but most of the casualties were Romulans or Enterprise crewmembers killed when they were sent into the situation at the beginning of the internal conflict.

Kathryn pressed close and whispered, "I'm sorry, Chakotay."

He untucked her hand and put his arm around her shoulders to hold her as they walked. "You know how overprotective of you I can be."

She put her arm around his waist. "Yes. Yes, I do."

"If you had told me at the beginning, I might have insisted on being your security detail, and then we couldn't have…"

"Gotten involved?"

He squeezed her against his side. "Exactly."

"I'll explain when we get home." Kathryn looked up at him. "I don't want to keep any secrets from you. I should have told you last time I saw you."

"If I remember correctly, you didn't want to talk about work at all that night."

She sighed. "No, I didn't. I needed an escape."

Bending down to whisper in her ear, he said, "I should have seduced you."

Laughing, she said, "Perhaps so." They finished walking back to the house quietly.

When they arrived, Kathryn took a moment to speak to the security guards. In addition to Lt. Pierce, there was one waiting at her house. Chakotay had been in her home a few times over the last year, but he hadn't noticed the security precautions until now. While she was occupied, he took off his coat and went to her kitchen. After he put a kettle of water on the stove to boil, he looked for and found the forcefield receivers adjacent to the window frames. Assuming they were active, he left them alone to avoid triggering the alarm that he was sure was present.

He pulled two teacups out of the cabinet and found her cache of herbal teabags in a canister. When the water boiled, he filled the cups to steep the tea. He looked up to see Kathryn coming into the kitchen, a look of apology on her face. He tried to assure her. "I understand, Kathryn."

She put her arms around his waist and looked up at him. "There is a group of activists who don't think we should be interfering in the rebuilding of the Romulan senate."

"And they are threatening you personally?" He handed a cup to her and they sat at the table.

"Yes. They think I'm not qualified to be making decisions on behalf of the Federation because I've been away for so long."

"Which is exactly why the President appointed you."

"Right." She rubbed her forehead. "We can all understand their trepidation over my involvement and about offering too much support to a former enemy."

"They probably feel like it would be similar to us helping the Cardassians rebuild their government."

She nodded. "So the Cardassians can turn around and start slaughtering innocent people again." She took a sip of tea. "Although in this case, the Romulans never committed such unmentionable crimes upon other races. Sure, they had their internal issues with control and violence, but they aren't an inherently evil race."

"Although you can understand the concern about helping such a violent people. They gain rank through murder."

"Oh, I understand it all too well. Some of their leaders don't recognize my authority because I haven't killed enough. But, the Klingons have a similar history, and they've found a way to blend in with Federation society."

Chakotay asked, "So, the activists, as you call them, are threatening you with violence because you're helping violent people?"

She nodded. "I actually suspect that the group is Romulan, but posing as Federation Citizens."

"That makes more sense."

She slid her hand across the table to take his. "But we haven't heard a word from them since mid-September. I'm hopeful that they're calming down as decisions are made."

"Decisions that don't involve Federation membership."

"Right." She squeezed his hand. "So, as this particular issue has been quieting down, I've felt bolder about going out in public. That's why I'm ready to move forward with our relationship now. I've wanted to since your breakup with Seven, but felt like I shouldn't expose such a weakness. And it's why I felt like I could risk being around our Voyager family."

"You didn't want to put them in danger."

"A public assassination attempt would jeopardize anyone in my vicinity."

Chakotay cringed. "During our walk here, I promised myself that I could handle this, but I feel nauseous just thinking about it."

"You aren't emotionally detached."

"No," he sighed. "Definitely not."

After a quiet moment, she said, "I have a confession to make." She stood up and came around to his side of the table.

He recognized the sultry look in her eyes and knew she was up to something. "What's that?" He pulled her down to sit astride his lap.

She wrapped her arms around his neck, her lips only inches from his. "I sent my security detail home for the night."


"You can't leave until morning without setting off alarms."

His heart skipped a beat. "I see." Smiling, he caressed her jaw with the tip of his finger and then drew a line down her neck to the V of her blouse. She shivered as he lightly caressed her cleavage and the swells of her breasts. "Perhaps I'll find some other alarms to set off instead."

She lowered her head to catch his lips in a soft and passionate kiss. His fingers found the buttons of her blouse and slowly opened it to reveal a very silky piece of lingerie. He broke the kiss to take a closer look at the black teddy that was underneath her clothes. Looking up into her eyes, he asked, "So, what exactly did you have planned for tonight?"

"Well," she undid the remaining buttons and let her blouse fall to the floor. "I've been wanting this for a very long time. I wore this for you, and I had every intention of having you spend the night."

"You were going to seduce me?" He unbuttoned the waistband of her slacks and drew the zipper down. The black silk continued as far as he could see.

"I was hoping I wouldn't need to." She stood for a moment and let her slacks fall to the floor beside her blouse. Straddling his lap again, she unbuttoned his shirt. "I thought perhaps my playfulness under the table at dinner might have encouraged you to take the initiative."

He cleared his throat as he looked at the black silk that covered her body like a second skin. The thin straps barely held up the trace amount of fabric that drew her breasts snugly together. He let his hands glide down her back to cup her mostly naked bottom, his thumbs sneaking up under the edge of the panty line. "Oh my, Kathryn. You are the sexiest woman I have ever had the pleasure of…"

"…making love to?" She pulled his undershirt up to gently run her fingers across his chest and his body warmed under her caresses.

"That too." Moving his hands slowly up her sides, he pulled her forward to kiss the swell of her breasts. He cupped each one, grazing his thumbs across the soft fabric and that which was hidden so carefully underneath.

She gasped and pulled his kisses up to her lips. The touch was deep and passionate, and stirred a smoldering fire within him.

As his tongue explored her warm, velvety mouth, he let one hand linger upon her breast while the other explored the softness of her lingerie. After drawing a series of soft moans from her, he wrapped one arm around her back and maneuvered the other under her knees. Carefully, he lifted her and headed towards the stairs.

Kathryn broke the kiss long enough to call out in her deep, throaty voice, "Lights out."

The next morning, Chakotay woke up to see Kathryn sleeping on her side, facing him. Her expression was peaceful and more relaxed than he could recall ever seeing. The sheet was barely covering her chest and hips, and he couldn't imagine anything sexier than the way she looked in that moment… until he started thinking about the night before. He had dreamt of loving Kathryn for eight long years, and it had transpired in a way he could have never imagined. Her intense passion on the bridge during a battle only foreshadowed her intensity as a lover.

She opened her eyes, blinking a few times to clear the fogginess from her vision. A radiant smile followed only a moment later. "Good morning," she said, but quickly covered her mouth.


From behind her fingers, she said, "Morning breath."

Chakotay pulled her fingers away from her mouth. "Don't worry about it. It's not like we took time out to brush our teeth last night."

She wrinkled her nose. "Yours isn't much better, sir." She moved up next to him and laid her head on his shoulder. "There, now we can cuddle without worrying about it."

"Mmmmmm…" He wrapped his arms around her and caressed her bare back. "I like this better anyway. I get to touch you all over."

"Last night was amazing." She moved her palm over his bare chest.

"I'll say. It's probably good that we never did this on Voyager or we would never have left our cabins."

Laughing quietly, she said, "You're probably right."

"Did you have that black teddy on the ship?"

"It's new. I picked it out when I decided to show up at the pub last night."

He threaded his fingers through her hair. "I think you should replicate several. Wear them every day."

"You like it?"

"It will fuel my imagination forever."

She smiled against his chest. "I'll see what I can do. Might have to make a few modifications to make it comfortable under a uniform, though."

Kissing her forehead, he started thinking about her in uniform, which led to thoughts about her current situation. "I hate to bring it up, but could you describe the threats you've received?"

Sighing, she said, "That's not exactly the conversation I want to have at this moment."

"I know, but I'm pretty fond of you, and I'd like to keep you safe."

She looked up at him. "Pretty fond of me?"

"You're nice to have around." He winked at her.

"How endearing." She rolled her eyes, and settled back against his shoulder. "It's just the usual… Cease and desist or else."

"Or else what?"

"Or else they'll make sure of it."

He asked, "Can I see the threats?"

"It's been months since I received anything. Before that, I was receiving them weekly, so I really do think it has stopped."

"Or they're waiting for you to let your guard down."

"I won't." She looked up at him. "I have an escort everywhere I go, and this house is locked down tighter than a drum. And it would take an anti-matter explosion to break through the security we use for any meetings with Romulans."

He took a deep breath. "I still don't like it."

"I didn't think you would." She caressed his chest softly. "If it would make you feel better, you can discuss what we have in place with Pierce."

"That would help, yes." He held her tightly. "But I also don't want to let you out of my sight."

"This has been going on for almost nine months, and I've been out of your sight for most of that time."

"Yes, but I didn't know about it. Now, I do." He looked up at the ceiling. "What about at night here? Are you always left alone?"

"They lock down the house and someone at Headquarters is monitoring it."

"That's not foolproof."

She raised an eyebrow. "Are you suggesting that a Starfleet officer wouldn't attend to his/her duties?"

"Lose focus? Never." He sighed. "I think you should let me stay with you instead of being alone."

She rose up on her elbows and looked him in the eye. "You're trying to find an excuse to move in with me."

"Are you opposed to the idea?"

"No, definitely not opposed. But you don't need an excuse to ask."

"It's not an excuse. I'm actually worried about your safety."

Smiling, she said, "Of course."

"You're not taking this seriously."

"I'm used to it, Chakotay. I've been dealing with it for the better part of a year. I've lived like a hermit because of it, and I'm tired of it."

"So you'll let me worry about it for awhile then?"

"As long as you don't force me into further seclusion, yes. But I am going home for Christmas Day, and you are going to your cousin's for at least one night. End of subject."

He raised his eyebrows at her. "You're kind of bossy, you know that?"

"Years of practice," she smirked and rolled over onto her front. "Tell you what… Let me have my way with you this morning, and I'll let you boss me around for the rest of the day."

He gasped as her hand audaciously explored under the sheets. Voice strained, he answered, "I think I could handle that bargain."

Chakotay looked up from where he sat on the floor helping his cousin's six-year-old son play with the train set that Santa had brought that morning. His cousin's wife, Marta, said, "There's a call for you on the comm… a Gretchen Janeway? She seems upset. Is that your lady friend's mother?"

"Upset?" He stood up. "Yes, that's Kathryn's mother." He followed Marta to the study.

"Is it her home that you're going to in Indiana?"

"Yes, that's where Kathryn grew up," he said absently. Something must be wrong for Gretchen to be upset and calling him.

Marta activated the comm and said, "I'll leave you."

"Mrs. Janeway?" Chakotay asked as he sat down at the desk. She looked exhausted and as if she'd been crying.

"Chakotay…" Gretchen wiped at freshly dropping tears. "Katie is very sick, and she's asking for you."

"Sick?" His heart dropped in his chest. "She was fine on Thursday."

"I can't…" Gretchen wiped her nose. "I can't talk about it over the comm line. She's at Starfleet Medical."

Chakotay covered his mouth to try to contain the emotions. He knew that if she couldn't talk about it, Kathryn must have been attacked in some way. "I'll be right there."

Lt. Pierce stepped into the range of the comm on Gretchen's end. "Captain Chakotay, I'll meet you at the Water Street entrance to escort you to her room."

"Understood." Chakotay cut the comm line and put his face in his hands. Dread overwhelmed him, but he did his best to bury it. He needed to get moving. He left the study and found Marta and his cousin Mike in the kitchen.

"Everything okay?" she asked.

Chakotay shook his head. "No. Kathryn's at Starfleet Medical and very sick, but I don't know the details. She's asking for me."

Mike said, "Oh, I'm sorry. Is there anything we can do?"

"I don't think so, but I need to go."

"Of course," Marta said. "Let me help you get your things together."

"Do you want to take our hover car?" Mike asked.

Chakotay wasn't following everything they said, but he watched Marta leave the room and go upstairs. "Car?" he asked Mike.

"The hover car. Do you want to take it?"

"Oh." Chakotay took a deep breath. "No, but if you could give me a ride to the transporter station, that would help."

"Of course." Mike patted him on the back. "I'll get ready to go."

Chakotay nodded. It was still early on Christmas morning and the family hadn't gotten dressed yet. He had dressed because he didn't feel comfortable coming downstairs in his robe, but the family atmosphere had been wonderful since the moment he arrived. He had thought of Kathryn often… wishing that she could be there with him. They had been living together since that first night a week ago, and he couldn't remember a time when he had been more content… except, of course, for the threats against her life hanging over their heads.

He cleared his thoughts and headed up to pack, only to meet Marta at the bottom of the stairs with his bag already packed. She said, "I stuffed in an extra pillow in case you end up sleeping in a chair in her room."

Chakotay hugged her. "Thanks."

She held him for a moment. "Tell her we're praying for her, and hope she gets better quickly. We're looking forward to meeting her."

"Thanks, I'll let her know."

Mike came down the stairs and asked, "Are you ready?"

"Yeah," Chakotay said.

As the two men walked to the door, Marta called after them, "Call and let us know how she is."

"I will, thank you." Chakotay and Mike left quickly.

When Chakotay arrived at the medical center, Pierce greeted him at the door. "Hello, sir. Here's what we know: The Admiral and three Romulans were all poisoned by a substance that is definitely Romulan in origin. They drank a celebratory tea at the beginning of the meeting, and within an hour were all sick."

"How sick?"

"All four needed to be hospitalized, but the Admiral's human physiology is doing a better job at fighting the poison."

"That doesn't tell me much. How sick is she?" he asked as they stepped onto the lift.

Pierce sighed. "The doctors aren't telling me much because I'm not family, and I don't want to burden Mrs. Janeway by asking. However, I know she's been vomiting continuously, and I get the feeling that the prognosis is not good."

"Since yesterday morning? Why wasn't I called sooner?"

"Yesterday afternoon at 14:00 hours is when they started feeling ill, and you weren't called because the Admiral didn't want to ruin your holiday."

Chakotay sighed. "That figures, and it isn't even my holiday." The lift opened and the two men exited. "Any chance of an antidote?"

"Admiral Simmons, Chief of Starfleet Security, is working on it. He's got six starships patrolling the borders of the solar system and scanning for cloaked vessels. Admiral Sanders, who has been working with Admiral Janeway on this project, has contacted the Romulan government, and they already have a medical team en route, but it's going to be tomorrow before they get here."

"Tomorrow? From Romulus?"

Pierce stopped in front of a guarded patient's room to finish the conversation. "The team has been involved in a research project on research station near the neutral zone. Sanders managed to get the Romulans to agree to come here even though it means exposing their presence near the Federation. The ailing Romulan dignitaries are highly influential individuals."

"I assume that medical information about all four patients has been sent to them to study while they travel?"

"I believe so, Sir."

Chakotay believed Starfleet was doing everything it could. "And the medical staff here is working on something, I imagine."

"I'm sure they are."

"Voyager's EMH. Has he been called?"

"Yes, Sir. I've seen him going into and out of her room."

Chakotay nodded. "Good. Thank you, Lieutenant, for being so open with me."

"If the Admiral's condition is as bad as I think it is, I want you to know as much as possible."

"I don't like the sound of that." He closed his eyes and rubbed the back of his neck.

"No, sir, I didn't suspect that you would. I'll be near if you need anything." Pierce checked in with the guard at the door.

Chakotay took a deep breath and went in quietly.

When the door opened, Gretchen looked up from where she was seated by Kathryn's bedside. She stood and immediately embraced him whispering, "Thank you so much for coming quickly."

He let his bag drop carefully to the floor as he wrapped his arms around the older woman. "I wish you would have called me yesterday, but I understand how she is."

Gretchen nodded and dabbed at her tears with a handkerchief. "As stubborn as a mule."

Chakotay took a moment to really look at Gretchen. "You look terrible."

"I feel it." She tried to smile. "And aren't you sweet to say so."

"Lt. Pierce said she's been nauseous?"

Gretchen turned back to Kathryn and smoothed out the blankets. Kathryn was lying on her side facing them, but sound asleep. "That's an understatement. I can't believe how much she's been able to throw up considering that she hasn't eaten a thing."

Chakotay stepped up to the bed to look at her closely. Kathryn was very pale, but her skin was tinged yellow with some purplish discoloration. "Has that subsided?"

"The vomiting? Yes, for now. She hasn't gotten sick for a couple hours, but I think the Doctor finally found an anti-nausea medication that worked." She looked up at Chakotay. "I'm sorry. You probably don't want to hear about all of this."

"No, that's not true. I wish I could have been here. You look like you could have used the help."

She patted him on the back. "You're a good man, Chakotay. I knew that from the first moment I met you a year ago."

He hugged her gently against his side. "Pierce didn't know much about her condition other than the nausea. Can you fill me in?"

Gretchen sat down slowly and motioned for him to do the same. "I'm trying to keep a positive outlook, but it's hard. The poison is attacking her organs, and the doctors are doing everything they can to regenerate the damaged tissue, but they can't seem to stop it from continuing. At some point, the organs aren't going to take much more abuse."

"Do they know how long it will be before they come to that point?"

"I don't know. Every time a doctor comes in here to examine her, their expressions seem more and more grim." She grasped his hand. "Oh Chakotay, I'm scared."

"She's not going to give up easily."

"No, she's not. But the doctors don't seem to have a clue how this poison is working, and she's so weak now."

"I understand that there is a Romulan medical team arriving tomorrow. Hopefully, they'll be able to shed some light on it."

Gretchen looked at him sadly. "If she survives that long."

His heart fell again. "When you said at some point, I didn't think you meant today."

She nodded slowly. "It's really bad, but they say she is doing better than the Romulans."

Thinking about how little time they had, he looked mournfully at Kathryn. "There has to be something we can do."

"What we need, Chakotay, is a Christmas miracle. Do you believe in miracles?"

"Yes I do."

She patted his knee and stood up. "I'm going to give you some time alone with her. I need to eat and clear my head a little."

As she left the room, he nodded absently and moved over to the chair next to the bed. Resting his arms on the mattress, he looked her over carefully. Her pale skin had a yellow pallor to it, and her breathing was deep and even. She was snuggled down into the bed and covered with a lot of blankets so that only her head was visible. Her usually burnished hair was dull and lay tangled on the pillow behind her.

He watched her for a long time before she stirred. She moaned softly as she came out of her sleep. "Kathryn?"

"Mmmmmmm…" Her forehead scrunched up as she fought against the drowsiness.

He touched her face gently with the back of his hand. "I'm here now, Kathryn."

"Mmmm.. kotay." She didn't open her eyes.

"Can I get you anything?" He leaned forward and kissed her forehead.

"Mmmmm…no." She pushed her hand out of the blanket for him. When he took it, she asked, "Still Christmas?"

"Yes. It's not even noon yet." He rubbed the back of her hand with his thumb.

"Mmmerry Christmas."

He lifted her hand to his lips and kissed it. "Merry Christmas to you, too."

She blinked a few times to try to look up at him. Her eyes were very red and bloodshot. "… drank something… shouldn't have."

Smoothing her hair back away from her face, he said, "So I've heard."

"Is it bad?" she asked, a little more alert.

"I haven't spoken to a doctor yet, so I'm not sure."

She closed her eyes again. "I think they're afraid to tell me."

"What I know is that you've been poisoned with a substance that is definitely Romulan in origin. It's attacking your organs, and the doctors are regenerating them."

She sighed. "That's what they said." Squeezing his hand, she added, "I don't believe 'em."

"If I hear anything different, I'll let you know."

"Mmmm…kay." She looked up at him again. "Would you stay with me?"

"Forever." He winked at her, and then fished into his pocket. "Actually, that reminds me. I have your Christmas present here. I was going to give it to you tonight in Indiana, but I want to give it to you now."

She squinted slightly as he pulled out a small black box. "A present?"

After taking the ribbon off, he turned it so she could see inside without lifting her head. It was a square diamond set in a platinum ring.

"Is…. beautiful!"

He took it out of the box and put it on her ring finger. "I want you to have this now, but I'm not going to ask you the question until you're well."

Gazing at the brilliance of the ring, she asked, "Afraid of my answer?"

Chuckling, he said, "Not at all. I just want it to be a moment that you'll enjoy remembering."

She closed her eyes again, this time with a tiny smile on her lips. "Mmmm… kay. Sounds nice." Yawning, she said, "I'm sleepy again."

"You've had a long night." He caressed her face softly.

"Should have called you, but didn't want to disgust you. …was awful."

"It wouldn't have mattered to me. I wish you had."

Holding his hand again, she said, "Was craving your touch. Wanted to be held."

Chakotay toed off his shoes and stood up. "That, I can do."

She opened her eyes to see him taking off his sweater. "Do what?"

"Hold you." He climbed into the bed and lay on his side facing her. It took them a minute to get situated, but soon he had Kathryn resting comfortably in his arms. He pulled the blankets up around her to make sure she stayed warm.

Resting her head against his shoulder, she said, "Doctors are going to see us."

"Then I guess our secret will be out." He kissed her temple and left his lips touching her as he held her close. "I love you, Kathryn."

"Love you, too." She sighed contently and drifted back to sleep.

Chakotay woke to the sound of someone stirring. He looked up to see Voyager's EMH standing on the other side of the bed scanning Kathryn. "Doctor?"

"Ah, Captain. You're awake. Comfortable?"

He stretched a kink out of his neck, and whispered, "She wanted to be held."

"Of course."

Not able to untangle himself without waking her, Chakotay decided to just stay put. "How is she?"

Kathryn stirred and opened her eyes. "Chakotay?"

He nodded in the direction of the Doctor. "We have a visitor."

She looked up, "Oh, hello, Doctor."

Chakotay asked, "Am I in the way of your scans?"

"No, not for what I'm looking for." He drew the blankets down Kathryn's back. "Admiral, if I may, I need to get a detailed scan of your kidneys."

Kathryn nodded and laid her head back down on Chakotay's shoulder. "Doctor, you asked me to tell you if the pain got worse… it's not as bad as it was, but it's definitely there."

"In your abdomen or kidneys?" the Doctor asked.


Chakotay said, "You didn't tell me that you were in pain."

She looked at him for a second and then closed her eyes again. "That problem you mentioned about my organs being attacked?"


"It hurts."

"Oh, I guess it would." He kissed her forehead.

The Doctor said, "I need to get another scanner. I'll be right back."

After the Doctor left, Chakotay asked, "A lot of pain?"

She shrugged slightly. "Before the pain medication it was very sharp, but now it just feels like a strong ache. And it's gradually getting stronger."

"Time to repair the damaged tissue again."

"Probably so." Kathryn sighed. "I'm so tired, and feel so weak."

"Just rest." He kissed her head again. "We'll take care of you."

She nodded. "Promise me that if it looks like I'm dying, wake me up and tell me."

"Oh, Kathryn." He squeezed her close. "Don't you know that you're never going to die? I won't allow it."

"Okay." She snuggled against him. "Let's go with that, then. I love you."

"I love you, too."

Kathryn didn't acknowledge the Doctor when he came back into the room, so Chakotay couldn't tell if she was asleep or not. He watched the Doctor work, noticing that he was concentrating very hard and had a grim look on his face.

When the Doctor was finished working on her kidneys, he whispered to Chakotay, "I need access to her abdomen."

He gently untangled himself from her arms and crawled out of the bed while managing to turn her onto her back. If she was asleep, she didn't wake up. Chakotay watched as the Doctor pulled down the blankets and pulled up at her shirt to expose her abdomen.

Chakotay gasped at the sight of bruises all over her torso. "Was she assaulted too? Why haven't these been healed?"

"Captain," the Doctor said with a patronizing tone. "The Admiral is suffering from the affects of a poison that is affecting the productivity of her organs. Her hemoglobins are off and her blood is unable to clot, thereby causing bruises at the slightest touch." The Doctor lowered the waistband of her pants. "You'll notice that it's worse here where there is constant pressure."

Kathryn moaned softly, but didn't open her eyes or say anything.

Chakotay asked, "And the yellow pallor of her skin?"

"Her liver and kidneys are not functioning well enough to remove the toxins from her system."

"Jaundiced?" Chakotay asked.

"That's right. Her liver, pancreas, and kidneys can't keep up with the affects of the poison."

"Any chance of getting the poison out of her system?"

The Doctor shook his head. "It has subverted some of her cell groups and keeps reproducing itself. There's a medical research team working with the Romulan medical team that is on its way here. We hope to have a cure soon."

"And if we don't?"

"We'll keep regenerating the organs and removing the toxins from her system."

Chakotay closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He touched Kathryn's hair. "Kathryn? Can you hear us?"

"She's borderline unconscious, Captain." The Doctor turned on his scanning tool. "She's been going in and out of consciousness as if she's just going in and out of sleep."

Rubbing his face, Chakotay said, "I didn't realize that." He watched the Doctor work for a minute before asking, "Mrs. Janeway said that her organs might not take the regenerating forever. Is that true?"

Not looking up from his work, the Doctor said, "Only the liver. The kidneys and pancreas will be fine with regeneration. When I get done with this, I'm going to order a filtration of her blood. It will only take a few moments, and then we'll see how the regenerated organs respond."

"And if they don't respond well?"

"We'll put her fluids on continuous filtration, and do a liver transplant."

Chakotay sighed. "Is she strong enough to survive that?"

The Doctor stopped for a moment and looked intently at Chakotay. "I'll make sure of it. After everything she's survived, I'm not letting her die over a cup of tea."

Chakotay looked up from where he was resting on the couch in Kathryn's room to see Gretchen enter. She looked at Kathryn's empty bed, and asked quickly, "Where is she!?"

"In surgery." He stood up and stretched. "They took her about a thirty minutes ago to do a liver transplant."

Gretchen sat down abruptly. "Good heavens."

"I was getting worried about you. Where did you go?"

"After I ate, a nurse helped me find a place to lie down. I slept for five hours."

He brought Gretchen a glass of cold water. "That's what I thought. You must have needed it, and you do look a lot better."


The look she gave him was so much like her daughter that he couldn't help but smile.

"What?" she asked.

"You just look so much like Kathryn."

"Poor kid." Gretchen took a sip of water. "So, did you speak to her? What did the Doctor say?"

Chakotay became very serious. "They still don't have a cure for the poison. It's reproducing itself faster than her body can fight it."

"Oh, my."

"However, the Doctor has found a method of filtering her blood so that her organs don't have to work so hard. Her liver had done all it could and was in acute failure."

Gretchen nodded. "They said that might happen."

"It took twenty hours to grow this new liver, and they've already started growing a second one, just in case."

"So, they'll just keep this up forever?"

"You wanted a Christmas miracle, right?"

Gretchen nodded.

"It'll happen. I know it."

She reached out and clasped his hand. "Katie is lucky to have you for a friend."

"More than a friend."


Chakotay smiled. "I gave her a special Christmas present today… a ring."

"Oh really?" Gretchen's face lit up. "What was her answer?"

"I didn't ask." He winked. "I told her I'd ask when she recovered."

"That's wonderful. She's been so lonely."

"She won't ever be again." Chakotay let go of Gretchen's hand. "I know you don't know me that well, but I would like to ask your blessing."

"I know you better than you think." Smiling, she added, "Katie talks about you. A lot."

He laughed. "Hopefully it's nothing too incriminating."

"Of course not. She adores you, and yes, you definitely have my blessing."

"Thank you."

"And now she really has something to live for, right?"

"Right." Chakotay nodded. "And I have something to fight for."

Chakotay was at Kathryn's bedside when she stirred again. She moaned softly and scrunched up her face.


"Mmmmmmm… seepy."

"Go back to sleep. You're okay." He pulled the blankets up around her.

"Mmm… kay?"

"Yes, my love." Kissing her gently on the lips, he said, "You're going to be fine."

"Mmmmm… kay. Sleep."

Unable to sleep, he watched her carefully while she rested. It was after midnight, and Gretchen was asleep on the couch behind him. Eventually, he drifted off, and when he woke again, the room glowed with the light of the approaching dawn.

He got up, stretched, and stepped into the lavatory. When he returned, Kathryn's eyes were open and she was examining a cuff on her arm. He smiled and said, "It's filtering the toxins out of your body."

"I see." She laid her arm back down. "I thought I remembered you saying that it was over. I guess I was dreaming."

Smiling warmly, he took her hand. "You weren't dreaming. It is over, but your kidneys and liver have so much to do that the Doctor left this filter on to help them out a little."

"So no more poison?" she asked hopefully.

"No more poison." He sat on the edge of the bed, still holding her hand. "But you're still a little jaundiced, and it'll be awhile before you get your strength back. The Doctor is contemplating another liver transplant, but he's going to give it a day to see how it's functioning."

"Another transplant?"

He poured her a glass of water, and helped her take a sip. "Acute liver failure two days ago."

Kathryn looked over at her sleeping mother. "How long have I been out?"

"Just two days." He held the cup of water for her. "Saturday - Christmas Day, is when you last were awake and speaking to me. It was late that afternoon that they did the transplant. Now it's early Monday morning, so you really only slept through Sunday."

She took another drink. "So, how was the virus cured?"

Mischievously, Chakotay said, "I should let the Doctor tell you. He's quite proud of it."

"No doubt. So he did it?"

"I think it took about a dozen people, but he coordinated the effort. Did you know about the Romulan medical team on DS4?"

She nodded. "I think I recall that."

"They figured it out and reproduced the original substance. A plant native to Remus."

"So it was Remans?"

"That, we don't know. But once the properties were known, the Romulan doctors, a Federation medical research team, the Doctor, and Seven figured out a way to stop it."

"Seven?" She held up a hand. "Wait, don't tell me. Nanoprobes."

Chakotay nodded. "And you thought you were done with nanoprobes."

"Will I ever be?"

Smiling, he said, "So, it was an amazing effort by scientists from five different species. Six, if you count holograms."

"And the Romulans? How did the ambassadors fare?"

"Brought back from the brink of death at the very last minute. It was very dramatic."

"Thank heavens." She sighed and thought for a moment. "So, if anything… this has been a display of the strength that can be gained by inter-planetary cooperation"

"Very much so."

"Which was the point of the celebration last Friday."

"Really?" Chakotay laughed. "That's great."

She closed her eyes. "So much for their attempts to divide us."

"If anything, it has been a unifying incident. Pierce said that a Senator Ryjek, who was formerly opposed to working with the Federation at all costs, has been singing the praises of working together."

Kathryn smiled. "Ambassador Syrak, the one who I've spoken with the most, is Ryjek's brother in law. It was causing a lot of dissidence in their family."

"I would think so."

"So, what now? Nobody caught the activists?"

"No, they didn't." Chakotay rubbed his thumb gently across the back of her hand. "I'll talk to Lt. Pierce today about what we should do next to keep you safe."

"Maybe they blew their only chance on this one attempt. It must have taken months to plan, and they'd be pretty obtuse to come after me again."

"But we won't rest until they're caught."

She looked up at Chakotay. "I love you."

"I love you too." He kissed her hand. "Rest now. You don't want to wear yourself out."

"Okay." She closed her eyes and settled into the bed. Chakotay pulled up the blankets and tucked them around her.

Chakotay saw B'Elanna coming down the medical center corridor. He had Pierce send for her only twenty minutes ago, and was amazed at how quickly she arrived.

"Chakotay?" B'Elanna asked. "Are you okay? What's going on?"

He directed her into an empty conference room. "Let's talk in here."

As he closed the door, she yelled, "Do you have any idea how scared I was when I got a call from Fleet security that you were here and wanted to talk to me!"

"Lower your voice, please?" Chakotay took a seat and indicated that she join him. "I'm sorry that I scared you, but I can't leave."

"Are you sick?"

"No, I'm not, but the Admiral is."

"Janeway?" B'Elanna's eyes grew wide. "What's wrong? We just saw her."

"I can't give you all of the details because of security issues, but I can tell you this: She and three Romulans were attacked last Friday by an unknown terrorist. They have all recovered enough to be released, but the Admiral, her mother, and I are going to a safe house until the assailants can be identified and apprehended."

"What!" B'Elanna stood up abruptly and pounded her hands on the table. "Attacked? By who?!"

Chakotay took a deep breath. It was typical B'Elanna behavior to only hear half of what he had said. "We don't know who attacked them."

"What are we going to do about it?" she demanded.

"We are not going to do anything. I just wanted you to know that we'll be disappearing for awhile and why."

"That's not good enough, Chakotay." B'Elanna started pacing. "We've got to help. We can bring the crew back together, and… "

"No, B'Elanna. The entire Fleet Security Force and the Romulan Military is working on the case. I'm sure that should suffice."

"You're just going to let them get away with it?"

"Of course not. What I am going to do is go with Kathryn and her mother to the safe house and do what I can to protect her personally." He motioned to the chair and calmly said, "Please, sit down."

She sat with a huff. "Who would do this? What did they do? Is she hurt badly?"

Glad that she was relatively calm, he said, "Someone who doesn't want the Federation and the Romulans working together would do this. It was a poison, and they've been cured. However, the Admiral is very weak from the experience. I'd take you in to see her, but I don't think she's up to receiving visitors."

"Poison?" B'Elanna looked at him disbelievingly.

"Yes, but she's fine now."

She had a despondent look on her face. "Damn. When did you say this happened?"

"Friday afternoon. It's been a rough weekend."

"I'd say." She touched his arm. "So, you're going away?"

Nodding, he said, "Yes. That's why I wanted to talk to you. I didn't want you to worry."

"And you think this helps?"

He smiled sadly. "Well, now you know what to worry about. That's better than not knowing why we suddenly disappeared. I'm depending on you to calm any of our Voyager family that might get concerned. I don't know how long we'll be gone."

"You're asking me to keep people calm?"

"Yes, because you'll say that you've spoken to me and you know that we're safe. They'll trust you because you'll be calm about it."

"I will?" she asked.

He stood up and drew her to her feet. Hugging her, he said, "Yes, you will."

"Is she really okay?"

Chakotay was quiet while he tried to control his emotions. His voice was strained when he said, "She is now."

B'Elanna pulled back and looked at him, and he knew she could see the moisture in his eyes. She asked, "It was that bad?"

He nodded and hugged her again, not daring to speak.

"Hey… She's okay now, though. Right?"

"Yes." He cleared his throat. "She's out of danger, and she'll regain her strength within a couple weeks."

She released him. "Do me a favor?"

"What's that?" he asked.

"In that safe house, give her a phaser and tell her it's from me. I don't want you two caught unawares when she's not strong enough to kick…"

"Got it. Got it, B'Elanna." He chuckled. "Thanks for making me laugh."

"So tell me something, Old Man…" She quirked an eyebrow.

"What's that?"

"How is this new love of your life going to react to you going off with the Admiral?"

He tilted his head. "Is that a serious question?"

She shrugged. "If I were her, I'd think you'd offer to take me with you."

Chakotay studied her for just a moment and realized that she really didn't know. "I thought you were more perceptive than that."

"Why do you say that?"

"Kathryn is the love of my life."

She did a double take. "What?"

"She's the one."

"But… last week at dinner, she said…"

"She was pulling your legs and no one picked up on it," Chakotay said.

"Wow." B'Elanna put her hands on her hips. "Really?"

"Really." He winked. "You might want to think of some ideas for a surprise bachelorette party for when we get back."

B'Elanna started coughing and then cleared her throat. "Any other bombs you're going to drop today? She's not pregnant, is she?"

Chakotay laughed. "No, she's not. I'm not really sure that's in our future. We'll just spoil your baby instead."

She reached up to hug him. "Congratulations, Chakotay, and please… be careful."

"I will."

Chakotay finished walking around the house with Commander Mogid from Starfleet Security. Mogid was giving him a rundown of the security measures that would ensure their safety.

Mogid said, "In addition, there is a laser security grid surrounding the property at a distance of five kilometers." He handed Chakotay a set of wristbands. "If you go out there, take these with you and they'll light up when you're close. An alarm will go off if you cross it."

Chakotay nodded. "And what kind of security personnel will be on site?"

"None, sir, unless you request it. It's our intent to avoid having Starfleet personnel coming and going from this location. The property is monitored continuously for life signs, energy fluctuations, and transport activity. If someone tries to get in, we'll know about it."


Mogid picked up a black bag off the table. "In here. There's a phaser for each of you, in addition to secure communicators, and emergency transport modules. If activated, the individual holding it is set to end up in a holding room at Starfleet Headquarters. The communicators are secure used among the four of you, or directly to security at Starfleet. That's who you'll contact if you need anything - food, medical supplies, or whatever."

"Four of us?" Chakotay asked.

"You, Admiral Janeway, Mrs. Janeway, and the EMH."

"Oh, I didn't realize that the EMH was joining us." Chakotay paused. "But, I'm relieved."

"Do you have anymore questions, sir?"

"None for now. Thank you, Commander."

"Of course, Captain." Mogid nodded and activated the transport to take him back to San Francisco. While waiting for his housemates to arrive, Chakotay put away the provisions that were left for them. A replicator would provide most things that they needed, but Mrs. Janeway had requested some non-replicated food staples as well.

About thirty minutes later, a transporter beam appeared in the living area and deposited luggage and supply containers. Moments after that, another transport beam deposited the two ladies and the Doctor. When the beam faded, Kathryn put a hand to her head and wavered slightly, but the Doctor stabilized her.

The Doctor said, "Perhaps you should lie down, Admiral."

She reached for Chakotay's hand and said, "Hello," before turning to the Doctor. "I'll take a nap soon, but I'd just like to sit for now." She nodded towards the sofa, and the Doctor helped her over.

Chakotay arranged the pillows to help her get comfortable. She looked up at him and smiled warmly. "Do you have the lay of the land?"

"Only the inside of the house. I haven't gone farther than the porch."

She looked out through the large picture windows at the pine trees that surrounded them. "It looks beautiful here."

Gretchen opened the front door and said, "Yes, and it smells wonderful too. I really love the scent of pine."

Kathryn asked, "Do you think we're in Colorado?"

"I don't know," Chakotay said. "We could also be in the Pacific Northwest, or even somewhere in Europe."

Kathryn took a deep breath of the fresh air. "As soon as I'm up to it, I want to walk out there. How far can we go?"

"Five kilometers. Should give us plenty of freedom."

"Well, at least for now." She sighed. "As nice as it is here, I hope this doesn't last long."

Chakotay said, "It'll be fine."

Kathryn spent the rest of that first day sleeping, and most of the second day doing the same. The others spent time reading, playing cards, or sitting on the porch enjoying the fresh air. They received a security update three times a day, and by the end of the day on Wednesday, there was not much in those reports.

On Thursday, their third day at the house, Kathryn finally felt like going for a walk. She and Chakotay took their communicators, sensor wristbands, and phasers, although neither thought she would have the strength to go far.

They walked down a path to a small stream where they found a bench to rest on. Kathryn sat down and said, "Now, this is nice. I was getting cabin fever in there."

"Me too. Your mother is a good sport, but I just don't think she's all that interested in playing cards."

Kathryn smiled. "She's anxious and wants to be doing something else."

"I can understand that." He sat next to her and took her hand. "I'm thankful to be here, though."

"I can't imagine a nicer place to be sequestered." She leaned her back against his chest and let him wrap his arms around her. "I'll tell you one thing, for certain."

"What's that?"

"I am never, never, never giving up coffee… and Klingons will take up ice dancing before I drink hot tea again."

He pressed his lips into her hair and laughed quietly. "I haven't had a drop of tea either."

"But you love the stuff."

He whispered, "But I love you more."

"Good answer, mister." She turned her head to kiss him softly and tenderly.

Breaking for a moment, he brushed a stray lock away from her face and looked intensely into her clear blue eyes. "Will you marry me?"

"Oh, yes. Today, if I could."

He kissed her again, this time cradling her close to his body. She wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed against him. Maneuvering her around even more, he had her sitting sideways on his lap. One of his hands held her back, and the other held her hip, massaging it softly as his tongue caressed her mouth deeply and intimately.

When they broke the kiss, she said, "Mmmm… that was nice."

Their foreheads touched and he said, "If I could, I'd make love to you right here."

"With our luck, Mom would come looking for us."

"Or worse, the Doctor."

She laughed. "He's probably monitoring my vital signs as we speak."

Taking a cleansing breath of fresh air, Chakotay asked, "What do you think about finding a house in a setting like this?"

"Sounds perfect."

"I might look into that."

She kissed him softly again. "You could ask tonight in the security check for someone to send a listing of properties available."

"Good idea. It'll give us something to do."

Chuckling slightly, Kathryn said, "And now that you've actually proposed, Mom can stop fidgeting and get out all of the wedding planning materials she brought with her."

He laughed. "Is that why she's so restless?"

"Yeah, I think she has checklists for her checklists. She showed them to me at the medical center."

"Well, maybe tonight we can brainstorm about what kind of wedding we want so she can get started." Chakotay squeezed her close for another short kiss.

"We'll have to make some assumptions since we don't know how long we'll be here."

"And what kind of…"

His sentence was cut off by the sound of breaking glass and then a loud pop.

"What the hell was that?" Kathryn got off of his lap and they ran for the house.

Chakotay quickly assessed the situation and realized that if someone had broken through the security net, alarms should have gone off. But if someone had, Kathryn was in serious danger. He grabbed hold of her and said, "Stay close to me."

She nodded and pulled a phaser out of her jacket pocket. As they ran back, she grabbed the communicator and said, "Admiral Janeway to Starfleet Security." After getting no response, she tried again and got nothing. Chakotay tried his communicator and failed as well. When they arrived, they saw purple smoke coming out of a broken window and the Doctor was carrying Gretchen out of the house.

"Mom!" Kathryn shouted.

Chakotay clamped his hand over her mouth and pulled them behind a pile of firewood. He said tensely, "The Doctor has her."

Kathryn hunkered down into a defensive position with her phaser. Out of breath, she said, "Damn! I'm not thinking straight."

He pulled out his phaser and scanned the tree line carefully for any signs of movement. When he saw a flash of something, he nodded to Kathryn. "Over there." They scooted around the firewood to get a better defensive position. Chakotay thought the best strategic move would be to go into the woods and come around behind them, but he didn't want to leave Kathryn undefended.

She nudged him. "Go. Get around to the other side."

"I'm not leaving you."

Glaring at him, she said, "I do know how to use a phaser."

He shook his head in surrender and moved out. Ducking around trees and rocks, it took him a few minutes to find a secure spot behind the attackers. Although he couldn't tell what species they were, two men were huddled behind a rock with phasers pointed at the house. He was thankful that they weren't focused on Kathryn's position. Creeping closer, he found a large tree to hide behind for cover so that when he fired, he would be sure not to miss.

With a clear aim, he easily shot one of them, but before he had a chance to get the second, a third man fired at Chakotay and got him in the upper thigh. Ignoring the pain, Chakotay rolled into a defensive stance, and fired blindly into the woods.

Off in the distance, he heard another phaser go off and saw the second man fall to the ground. Chakotay backed towards the house and took cover behind a large rock. He scanned the horizon intently, but couldn't detect any movement. Suddenly, a heavy weight landed on his back, pushed his face forcefully into the rock face, and knocked the phaser skittering away from him. After Chakotay fell heavily onto the ground, his attacker grabbed him around the neck and pulled back on his head. Chakotay roared up with anger and rolled the other man underneath him. He saw that it was a Romulan and punched the alien hard across the jaw. The Romulan was stronger than he was, and was able to buck Chakotay off and roll him to the ground. A hard punch landed in his gut, and Chakotay thought he felt a pop in his ribs. The two men rolled around, each gaining and losing the upper hand until Chakotay heard phaser fire again, and the Romulan slumped weightless on top of him.

Winded and in pain, Chakotay did his best to push the man off of him, but couldn't get the leverage until help came and rolled the Romulan off. He looked up to see Kathryn kneeling over him. "How did you have the strength to do that?"

She said, "You're hurt."

"Not… badly." He did his best to catch his breath. "You sure that's all of them?"

She grabbed a handkerchief out of her coat pocket, and pressed it against his lip. The sting made him realize that his lip must be split wide open. She said, "The Doctor used his tricorder to take a scan and only found the three. He's treating Mom… she inhaled a fair amount of a paralyzing gas."

"The security sensors… they should have alarmed Starfleet." Chakotay coughed and tasted blood.

"The Romulans must have found a way around it. Hold still." She felt along his ribs until he cringed under her touch. "Is it broken?" she asked.

"I don't know, but my right thigh took a phaser blast."

Alarmed, she turned her attention to his leg and gasped at what she saw. "You're not going to be able to walk."

"It's numb." He reached down to touch it, but she moved his hand away.

"It's going to need surgery. You don't have much muscle left."

"Sorry…. I know how partial you are to my muscles."

She glared up at him in surprise until what he said sunk in and she smiled with reassurance. "I'm sure the Doctor will fix it up good as new."

The Doctor rushed in with his tri-corder and scanned Chakotay. Kathryn asked, "You left Mom alone?"

"She insisted that I check on you two. She's breathing comfortably and will be fine in a few hours." The tricorder beeped a lot as it scanned Chakotay. "We need to get him to a medical facility."

Chakotay said, "Kathryn, check the Romulan for something that might be blocking the signal."

She moved around to the fallen alien and pulled off a communicator. Examining it, she said, "I don't think this is it." Unzipping his coat, she found more equipment attached to his uniform. "Without a standard tricorder, I have no idea what this stuff is."

"We need to see if the transporter modules work. They're in the house." Chakotay coughed again.

The Doctor said, "I'll go. I don't want her breathing any of that gas."

After he left, she kneeled over Chakotay again and laid her hand on his jaw to get a better look at his bloody face. "What did he hit you with?"

"Looks bad?" He watched her take off her jacket and rip out part of the lining. "When he jumped me, I bounced off that big rock."

She cringed and held the fabric against his forehead. "Are you dizzy?"

"A little." He gasped as she put pressure on the wound. "Careful."

"Sorry, but it's bleeding heavily." She leaned over and kissed the side of his mouth that wasn't injured. "The adrenalin is probably wearing off now."

"Yeah." He sighed. "Everything is starting to throb, but it's not too bad."

"I hear the Doctor coming back. Hopefully he's bringing a medkit."

Chakotay reached up and covered her hand with his. "Are you holding up okay?"

She nodded, "I'm wearing out, but I'll be fine until we get help."

The Doctor arrived and pulled out his tricorder again to scan Chakotay. "There were five transporter modules. Shall we send us or the Romulans?"

Kathryn said, "We'll send one Romulan. That should alert them to our situation."

The Doctor pressed a hypospray against Chakotay's neck. He rubbed at the slight sting, and said, "It will transport him to a holding cell at headquarters."

She attached the module to the Romulan and activated it. He disappeared in a blue shimmer. "Good, it worked."

Chakotay blinked his eyes to clear the sleepiness that was settling over him. "What was in that hypo, Doctor?"

"The only pain killer I brought has a sedative in it. That's all that was safe to give the Admiral."

Kathryn clasped his hand and said, "Go ahead and sleep. Help will be here soon."

Unable to fight it, he nodded and let sleep overtake him.

They were taken from the safe house back to Starfleet Medical on that Thursday morning. Kathryn was correct in that as soon as he let the sedative take affect, Starfleet had shown up with guns blazing. It was quite the coup that the Romulans had figured out how to get through the security net, and Fleet security would be working feverishly for the foreseeable future trying to figure out how they did it.

All three of them spent the night at the medical center. It took about six hours for the affect of the paralyzing gas to wear off for Gretchen, but they were all thankful that there weren't any complications from it. Kathryn was medically fine, but completely exhausted from her part of the battle. Chakotay was rushed to surgery as soon as they arrived to repair the phaser wound, a broken rib, internal bleeding, facial fractures, and to reduce swelling from a concussion. He woke that evening feeling sore and tired, but mostly back to normal although it would take a few weeks of therapy to regain full use of his leg. Kathryn crawled in bed with him in much the same way he had done for her only a few days before.

The next day was Friday and New Year's Eve. They were released that morning and went back to Kathryn's home in San Francisco. Chakotay knew that the usual gang would be gathering at the pub for their Friday night drinks, but staying until after midnight to ring in the New Year. Gretchen decided to stay in and read up on wedding reception options while Kathryn and Chakotay went out.

He and Kathryn arrived about two hours after the rest of the group. They had gone out to dinner at an elegant bistro to celebrate their engagement before heading to the pub. They used a hovercar to go everywhere that night, because neither felt up to walking. The air wasn't too chilly, so they left their coats in the car and let the valet take it to park.

He hadn't called B'Elanna to let her know that they were back, but the situation with the Romulans had reached the public news stations, so he assumed it wouldn't be a huge surprise if they arrived unannounced.

Kathryn took his elbow as they entered. "I'm not sure if I'll make it until midnight."

"We'll only stay as long as you feel up to it. Don't want to wear you out."

"Besides," she winked at him. "We might want to ring in the New Year all by ourselves."

He chuckled as they made their way to the table in the back. Nodding towards their friends, he said, "The group is much larger than usual tonight."

Tom saw them first. "Admiral! Captain! You're here!"

Chakotay smiled as the entire group turned to them and rushed to welcome them at once. He counted about twenty of their former crewmembers, plus a few extras. It seemed like they were hugged by most everyone, with a barrage of good tidings and questions about what had happened. He was worried when he saw Kathryn falter a bit, and quietly said to Tom, "Can you find the Admiral a chair? She doesn't have her usual strength."

Tom got everyone to sit down while Chakotay stepped in close to give Kathryn support. She looked up at him in thanks while she leaned back against his chest. When everyone shifted around to make two chairs available for them, he helped her sit down before taking the seat to her right.

When everyone had quieted down, B'Elanna asked, "So you two had a big day yesterday?"

"Somewhat." Kathryn winked. "What have you heard?"

Harry said, "That you two took out three Romulan terrorists and brought about the first ever open peace accord between Romulans and the Federation."

Kathryn smiled at the Doctor who was sitting across from them. "The Doctor was there. He helped too."

"Oh, no." The Doctor held up his hands. "I just put Chakotay back together afterwards."

"Yeah, Old Man," B'Elanna said. "I noticed you had a limp walking in here."

"Well, half of the muscles in my right leg are brand new and I'm not quite used to them." He smiled. "I need to break them in yet."

Kathryn put her hand in his. "You would all have been impressed to see just how well this old guy can still fight."

"Gee thanks." He put his arm around her shoulders. "That makes me feel a lot better."

Libby asked, "So how long has this terrorist thing been going on?"

"Forever, it seems." Kathryn leaned into his arms. "I received the first threat about nine months ago."

"But it wasn't until a week ago that they attacked?" somebody asked.

"And you were poisoned, Admiral?" someone else asked.

"That's right." Chakotay said. "What you can credit the Doctor for is an absolutely remarkable accomplishment in keeping the Admiral alive. It's been one hell of a week."

"One I will be happy to forget. Well… most parts." She smiled affectionately at Chakotay.

Samantha Wildman asked, "Something is up between you two. What is it?"

Chakotay looked at B'Elanna who said, "Hey, I haven't said a thing."

Kathryn tugged on his arm so he would look at her. She laid her left hand upon his cheek and pulled him down for a chaste kiss.

He heard someone say, "Would you look at that rock on her finger? Impressive."

Letting her hand linger on his jaw after the kiss, Kathryn said loud enough for everyone to hear. "This extraordinary man has asked me to marry him."

As the group erupted in surprise and congratulations, Chakotay's heart swelled with the look of pure love in Kathryn's eyes.

One Month Later…

"That…" Chakotay cleared his throat. "…is not the same outfit."

"Nooooo, it's not." Kathryn stood in the doorway with one hand resting on the doorframe and the other one saucily draped upon her hip. "Disappointed?"

"Ummm… no. No, I wouldn't say that." He had to force himself to blink as he looked at his very sexy new wife. She wore a white, see-through, lace nightgown that hugged her supple body in all the right places, and left just enough hidden to really stir his imagination in regards to all the others.

She walked over to the nightstand and turned the lamp to a dim setting. "I thought you'd like it. Did you lock up?"

"Yes." He swallowed as she bent over to turn down the bed, and the edge of the gown rose just enough to show that she wasn't wearing anything underneath.

"The food is put away?"

"In… a… yes." He was having trouble focusing as she brushed past him to adjust the covers on the other side of the large king-sized bed.

After she was done with that, she walked past him again to turn the lights out in the living area of the cabin. The room was now bathed in only a hint of a soft, warm glow. "It's really a shame, you know."

"It is?" He watched her walk past him again on her way to the mirror where she raised her arms to run her fingers through her hair, exposing the soft curve of her bottom.

"We have this secluded cabin…" She slowly sauntered over and un-buttoned his shirt. "… and the whole of Lake George practically to ourselves." She parted the shirt with her hands and grabbed hold of him around his bare waist. "But it's too cold to go outside."

His lips curved into a smile. "That really is a shame." He traced the thin strap of her gown down to the curve of her breast. "Especially after being cooped up for a long, cold month with your mother in Indiana."

Kathryn's hands moved slowly up and over his shoulders to push his shirt to the floor behind him. "It would have been nice to take our honeymoon where we could have gotten more fresh air." Her hands came back over his shoulders with her fingernails lightly trailing behind, until they stopped to rest on his well-defined pectorals.

He gasped as her thumbs drew across his sensitive nipples. "What were we thinking?" He hooked his fingers under her nightgown straps and lowered them over her shoulders to trap her arms against her sides. The gown dropped slightly and exposed more of her breasts, now pushed together by the position of her arms. His hands fell to her waist to bring her closer, but she had other ideas and resisted the pull.

"Well…" Her hands dropped back to his waist where they unfastened his slacks and let them fall to the floor. "We finally have our strength back. It's probably best to stay in bed to preserve it." She stared at his underwear for a moment for looking at him with a raised eyebrow. "Those are new. Did you wear them under your tuxedo today?"

He glanced down at the black silk briefs that were doing their best to contain him. "Yes. I thought they might match what I assumed you would be wearing under your dress."

Kathryn ran her fingertips across his silk covered rear. "Hmmm… black wouldn't really be the best thing under a wedding gown, but those are quite nice… and, after all, white lace wouldn't really suit you."

He took advantage of having her arms behind him and pulled her tight against him. "No, but it definitely suits you." He lowered his lips to catch hers in a deep, sensual kiss. As her hands moved up his back to hold on, his hands dropped to cup her bottom just under the edge of her gown. His hands gently massaged the soft curves and made her shiver.

He pulled her further against him, and she pushed her arms between them to reach up and hold him around the neck. The kiss deepened as he grabbed hold of her thighs and lifted her so that she wrapped her legs around him. He walked slowly over to kneel on the bed and lowered her onto the soft sheets. He broke the kiss to say, "I love you."

She stopped him with a touch to his face before he lowered his lips to her chest. "Thank you."

"For loving you?"

"Yes, and for a million other things. But most of all, for making me truly happy."

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