Disclaimer: I ownÖmost of the following wordsÖbut everything else, including the basis for the story really isnít mine.

Authors note: I want to thank Elem for allowing me to run with the idea that I had after she posted her story Decisions, and Cori my ever patient beta *hug*


Decisions Ė Kathrynís POV


It always surprises me, how fast Ďsecretsí travel on this ship. There used to be a saying that nothing was secret in a small town, apparently the same is true for a small ship. The crew however forgets how observant that I am. I have seen the looks that they give me as I walk by them. Their stares are filled with a pity that I donít need and probably donít deserve. I know what my surrogate daughter and first officer have been up to, and although my heart aches, I know that the relationship was a choice made by Chakotay based on choices I made in the past.

I had thought about stepping in and saying something to the crew when I started to notice the looks that Seven was getting. There was no reason for her to be blamed for mistakes I had made. She deserved to be happy. If Chakotay was the one that was helping her to be more welcome on the ship, and to find out what it was like to have someone of your own, then I was fine with it. Logically that is. She definitely didnít deserve the looks of contempt coming from her fellow officers. Still, a small corner of my heart is warmed knowing that they care so much about my welfare in this situation.

Chakotay and Sevenís relationship had me thinking how things had gotten soÖcomplicated. After my shift, I sat in my quarters with my evening cup of coffee and wondered how I could have done things differently. There is no doubt in my mind how this situation came to be. Chakotay had made sure I knew how he felt time and again, and although the feeling was mutual, protocol and my own self-imposed boundaries stood in my way. I told myself that I couldnít wrap my head around having a relationship with someone on the ship. If I was truly honest, what I couldnít imagine was, having to order someone I was involved with into a dangerous situation. Losing Justin was devastating. If I had been the one that told him to go on the shuttle testing that cost him his life, well, Iím not sure even Phoebe would have been able to pull me back from that.

I shake my head; I couldnít compare my feelings for Justin with those that I feel for Chakotay. I loved Justin intensely, but Chakotay is a part of my soul. I know that. I think Iíve known that since the moment that we met. There was that something, that spark. The thing that they write about in love songs and that everyone craves. I had a fantasy once about getting home, and the two of us finally being able to be together, finally being happy. We would be married in an outdoor ceremony in Indiana with all the crew there, and later we would have two beautiful children, a boy and a girl. We would call the boy Kolopak after Chakotayís father and the girl Piper, a name that as simple as it sounded, reminded me of strength. Our lives were happy and ended well. After we had passed I envisioned people telling the epic love story of the Starfleet Captain and the Maquis Rebel that found love stranded seventy-thousand light years from home. The train of thought still brings a smile to my face even if now the dream seems impossible.

I made my way to my room and changed into something a little more comfortable for after shift relaxation. I was about to get a fresh cup of coffee when my door chime sounded

"Come in." When the doors slide open, I see Chakotayís face and canít help but smile. "Chakotay, this is a pleasant surprise. What can I do for you?"

"May I come in, Kathryn? Iíve got something very important to discuss with you." My heart jumps and I canít help but worry that heís finally coming to tell me that he and Seven are serious. No matter what though, I need him to be happy, and still in my life. I stepped aside so he could enter.

"Of course Chakotay. Did you want anything? A tea perhaps?"

"No thank you. Iím fine. Please come and sit down." He goes to the couch and sits down, patting the area next to him. Now I know that something is up.

"Chakotay, what is it? Youíre making me nervous." I sit down next to him and he places his hand on my knee. A gesture he hasnít used in quite a while. A touch I have missed very much.

"Donít be nervous." He chuckled. "Itís just something that we need to talk about, something that Seven has helped me to see."

"Alright." My mouth has gone dry and I start to wonder if I can really be happy with what heís about to say. I want to, but I donít know if I can.

He shifts a bit, then smiles at me. That huge, dimpled smile that always makes me warm. "Iím sure that youíve heard the rumors around the ship about me and Seven and I wanted to let you know she ended it tonight."

I couldnít control my surprise. Instantly I am angry with the crew for making her feel so uncomfortable about the situation. "Iím sorry to Ė "

"Donít be." Chakotay says cutting me off with a finger placed to my lips. "She made me realize that there was something I had over looked over the years. She mentioned that she had been observing the behavior that the crew was exhibiting towards her and she talked with Tom about it. Then she came to talk to me. Apparently she had misunderstood how some things work"

"I donít understand."

"Do you still have feelings for me Kathryn?" My heart nearly stops. This isnít at all what I was expecting. I donít have an answer ready. I lower my eyes and try to get my breathing back under control.

"I need to hear your answer this time." He says, and I want to tell him the truth but all the reasons I should lie flood my brain. My mouth answers though, before I have a chance to come up with a lie that made sense.

"Yes." I nod. "Always." My voice was quiet, barely above a whisper.

Chakotay takes a deep breath. "What about this time instead of coming up with all the reasons why it wouldnít work, we just gave it a try?" Before I have an opportunity to answer, he leans forward and kisses me. Any doubts I might have had have instantly left my brain and I wrap my arms around him and pull him close. The butterflies in my stomach are replaced with a feeling of knowing and of warmth.

When I wake up the next morning with him next to me, I smile, then panic He was supposed to be there, this is where he belonged, I knew that but I couldnít help but feel the fear in my stomach. I realize that protocols havenít been my constant reason to keep my first officer from my bed, it was the fear that he would one day not be able to be there, or would choose not to be, that keep me from telling him a long time ago about how I felt. My hand trembled and he grabbed it.

"Itís alright. Iím not going anywhere." He said.

"You donít know that for sure." I whisper. The tears flow freely now, and he reaches up from his laying position on my bed to wipe them away.

"Youíre right I donít. What I do know is that Iíd rather spend all the time I have with you and live for months, than spend none of it with you and live for decades. I love you Kathryn."

I lean down to kiss him. "I love you too." I kiss his tattoo, the mark that reminded me of the legend he had told me four years ago and I snuggle back into him, while waiting for the computer to chime in and tell me that I have to get up and head to the bridge.

That morning when we walk together to the bridge, everything seems as though it is how itís supposed to be. The crew looked happy and calm and the whispers I hear are joined with laughter and a sense of happiness. It is a far cry from the looks of pity and sadness that Iíd been getting for the last couple of weeks. Although Chakotay and I didnít touch during the walk to the briefing room, the crew knew that something had changed. When Seven walks in the room, she gives me a knowing smile. I will have to thank her later, but for now I have another decision to make; do I really want to know who won Tomís betting pool?

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