The Unthinkable -- PG-13

 

 

Disclaimer: All Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount. No copyright infringement is intended.

 

Sitting behind her desk, across the view-screen from him, she looked as though she was teetering on a precipice. Her eyes were hollow as they stared at him and her hair was mussed in a way that only stress could cause. He did not know her well, but as ended their communication he feared for her.

When the commlink was terminated, Kathryn sighed as though the world were crushing down upon her, squeezing the air from her lungs and the last remnants of joy from her heart. She hoped that Captain Picard hadn’t paid too much attention to anything other than her words. She knew she looked as bad as she felt.

Kathryn had given him orders to follow procedure, like the good admiral she was supposed to be. But now that their discussion was over, commands issued and mission underway, she had nothing to keep her engaged. She figured most people would find it sad that an admiral with the respect of the world had no respect for herself, but at this point she couldn’t have cared less.

She wanted to cry now but couldn’t. Yet, when she could, she didn’t want to. She was beginning to believe the old saying that when things can go wrong, they will and after further thought, she added her own saying, born out of seven years in the Delta Quadrant. ‘If you think you’re alone, you are, and if you think it long enough, others will too.’

Kathryn no longer blamed herself for what had happened, she figured it just wasn’t in her nature to be loved. It just wasn’t what the Janeway’s did. They were Starfleet through and through and she took solace in that. It wasn’t really her fault. It was no one’s fault. It was just the way it was and she was content with that.

Satisfied that she had convinced herself of that fact for the umpteenth time that day, she headed out of her office. On the way to the door, she passed a small mirror that hung on the wall. It was the mirror she used for knowing where to press down her uniform before a gala or briefing and now she stopped and looked in it once more.

Kathryn didn’t want to look, but she couldn’t help it, just as she couldn’t help most things outside of her Starfleet persona. Shaking her head, she reminded herself that she had been there already and that there was no point in rehashing. Standing with her back straight, she peered into the reflective glass.

No wonder Picard had looked at her so strangely. She looked like a ghost and perhaps he was frightened that it was catching, or perhaps he was merely glad he hadn’t taken the admiralty when it was offered to him. She shook her mind free of Picard’s imagined disdain and tried in vain to square her shoulders, but somehow it failed to work this time and her body crumpled, sinking to the floor slowly, as though it were a balloon whose tie had been cut and whose air was rushing out a gaping plastic wound.

She felt her knees hit the floor, as she buried her face in her hands and sobbed. Not gentle, shoulder-racking, silent sobs, but loud agonized wailing that she couldn’t control, despite the red alert klaxons blaring in her head. They were warning her that this was conduct unbecoming of a Janeway, let alone an officer, and that she couldn’t continue no matter how much it hurt to be alone, to be pitied, to wish one were dead.

Kathryn tried wiping at the tears as they came, hoping that the mad dashing of her eyes would be distraction enough to slow the steady stream of noise that flowed from her. There was no doubt that others had taken notice of the noise coming from her office, and she figured she had about two minutes before security came busting into her office, compression-phaser rifles drawn, ready to kill whomever or whatever was causing the admiral such horrible pain.

Perhaps, if she were lucky, they would shoot first and ask questions later, ending her misery. She supposed she was worse off now than the first admiral Kathryn Janeway had been. She was home earlier, but no less alone and no more happy. In fact, being on the ship might have distracted her from what she couldn’t have and didn’t have any right to want.

The tears kept coming, as did the noise, pain flowing freely from her, in a way it hadn’t even after her father’s death. No, at that time she had at least possessed the grace to stay in bed and cry, her tears only audible to herself and her mother and sister working downstairs. She had felt badly about worrying them at the time, but that embarrassment and concern compared little to the idea of the entire Starfleet admiralty hearing her sobs.

Suddenly, she heard the door chime ringing. ‘Strange,’ she thought to herself, ‘‘Fleet security doesn’t ring the door-chime when they perceive an emergency. It must be some gun-shy Ensign afraid of intruding upon the famous heroine of Voyager, despite the fact that she may currently be getting mauled by some sort of creature, human or otherwise.’

The persistent buzzing continued and it finally annoyed her enough that she got up off her knees and wiped furiously at her eyes once more. She tried to rid her face of her tears and ease the tell-tail puffy redness that accompanied any crying fit. Taking a deep breath, she steadied herself and squared her shoulders as best she could, before calling "Come."

The doors slid open and for a moment she stood paralyzed as her eyes took in the build and countenance of her former first officer.

For his part, he remained standing in the doorway, observing her, as he waited for permission to enter. When Picard had commed him at the academy moments ago, he’d been surprised to see the man on the view-screen, as he knew the wise gentleman before him was busy fighting a war, light-years away. The topic of conversation and the frankness of the captain’s words broached no argument; he was to follow Picard’s ‘orders’ though they were of the same rank.

Chakotay didn’t question how the man knew, or why the call was placed when it was. He just excused himself from his office, told the professors in his department that he would be taking leave, and asked Tom Paris, who was teaching Shuttle Craft Piloting, to cover his Species of the Delta Quadrant class for a week until he returned. Tom hadn’t batted an eye, the pilot wasn’t always a comedian, and he knew something was up and most likely with whom.

As Chakotay stood before the woman he loved, he was thankful that he had caught up with Starfleet security, in the turbolift, and convinced them not to bother Admiral Janeway unless he failed to contact her. He promised to let them know if he needed their assistance. Thankfully, these security officers weren’t as indomitable as Tuvok, and were intimidated enough by the first officer of Voyager that they merely nodded their assent and remained in the turbo-lift when he exited.

She looked like hell. There was no gentler way of saying it. He had never seen her with her emotions so starkly visible before. Even during the times on Voyager when it had just been the two of them, her captain’s mask had still been in place enough to prevent her from showing her tears to him, even when he wholeheartedly wished and believed that she needed to release them.

During those difficult moments in the ready room or in the briefing room after a senior staff meeting, he had always wanted to take her into his arms and at least offer her the comfort of a friend, if not the love of a soulmate. But he had known that out there that she wouldn’t have allowed it, even if her very sanity depended on it.

Now, however, he didn’t know what the rules were and he was cautious enough to refrain from believing that she would welcome his embrace now. They hadn’t spoken in months, both driven by a notion that not speaking would perhaps ease the tension between them and the stress caused by the seven years of attraction and disagreement that had pulled at them while in the Delta Quadrant.

He also found it easier not to see her after he began dating Seven and their sudden arrival home had provided him with the perfect excuse to ease himself out of her life.

Chakotay had come there that day only because he and Seven had gone their separate ways. If they hadn’t, he sincerely doubted that he would have ever seen Kathryn Janeway again. The guilt had dogged him to the point where he almost hadn’t followed Picard’s advice. He had betrayed her. He understood that now. It had come to him with blaring clarity one afternoon when Seven had casually turned to him and said "Is it customary to introduce your partner to your parental figures?"

He had smiled at her, "Yes, Seven, it is. If the person has any."

She had returned his grin, trying to use her newly acquired and still rough-around-the-edges sense of humor as she quipped "Well, I won’t have to introduce you to my mother. Admiral Janeway served with you for seven years."

His eyes had widened with shock and he’d stood frozen for a moment before smiling weakly and excusing himself to the study. Once there, he had tried to keep himself from hyperventilating as the reality of what he had done sunk in. He had begun a romantic relationship with Kathryn’s daughter. Seven was never open to him as a dating prospect. Never mind that they were different, or that Seven was young in the ways of the world. The most important reason that she would never be available to him should have gone off like a warning bell in his head the moment she asked him to have dinner with her.

She was his soulmate’s daughter and therefore should have been treated as his own child. Though she was old enough to be wise in the ways of the world and not Kathryn’s offspring by blood, he realized that neither one of those things made her any less naïve or Kathryn’s child.

All of the young people on Voyager had been their children, his and hers, parented together for seven years. This was especially true of Seven and it had taken him a long moment in that study before he could even bear to face the young woman who was as near to his own child as anyone had ever been. Why he hadn’t realized this before then, he didn’t know. He only knew that the relationship had to end and that he would have to see Kathryn soon to attempt to rectify at least a peaceable co-existence on the planet.

Now as he stood before Kathryn, watching her cry in abject despair, he felt his own heart contract painfully and his eyes moisten. Slowly, he stepped toward her, never asking her to acknowledge his presence. He merely put one foot in front of the other until he stood over her.

Tears dripped down his own face then, as he bent to cradle her in his arms, no words spoken, as both contemplated the hardship of those seven years and the wounds that had been inflicted since then.

Kathryn was too stunned to completely comprehend his presence in the room, his arms around her and his tears as they fell on her face.

He was too besieged with grief over his transgressions to take notice of her arms encircling him and holding tightly.

To an observer, it would have looked as though they were soothing each other. But to them, they were merely reaching out for any shred of comfort they could find, unaware that they had found it.

Suddenly Kathryn pulled apart from Chakotay, anxious to get out of his arms. She didn’t deny that they felt good around her, but she knew they weren’t hers to enjoy. He was still with Seven. What was he doing comforting her?

She wanted to confront him but she didn’t think she had the strength. Embarrassed about her crying fit and she was even more embarrassed that she’d done it in her office. It didn’t matter that it was Chakotay who had seen it. In fact it made it worse. He would just take pity on her, thinking that she was an old hag, just like Admiral Janeway had been. Useless, cynical, mean and unworthy of his attention. And yet he was here, waving his kindness in front of her face.

To what end? To make her understand what she had lost? Didn’t he realise she already knew? Brushing off her uniform, she stood stiffly in front of him, plastering a professional smile on her face, but her eyes showed both embarrassment and irritation.

Chakotay for his part was well aware that Kathryn needed to get off campus before they could talk. Here, she was wrapped in the shroud of Starfleet and wouldn’t listen to a word he had to say. Nor would she discuss anything with him that he knew they needed to discuss. Here, she would feel unable to tell him why she had been upset and she would certainly be unable to discuss Seven with him, beyond offering her official sanction to their union.

He didn’t want Admiral Janeway, he wanted Kathryn and the only way to get that was to take her away. To get her away from protocol and duty and ceremony and to take her to a small coffee shop just off campus. Hopefully the coffee would relax her and help her to feel more comfortable with him.

After a few moments of thick silence, Chakotay broke the tension with a weak smile "Coffee, Kathryn?

She wasn’t sure that she could stand walking let alone accompany him for coffee, but she had to get back some of her dignity and so, in an unemotional a voice as she could manage, she said. "I’d be delighted, Commander."

"Good, then why don’t you go take a wet washcloth to your face and I’ll see what I can do about getting us out of here."

Not seeing any reason to argue and not knowing how she would if she tried, Kathryn made her way to the bathroom adjacent to her office.

While, Kathryn was in the bathroom, Chakotay called security and let them know that everything was as it should be with the admiral and that both of them were going to take a short walk off campus to a local coffee shop if anyone should need them. Then he took a seat on Kathryn’s couch and decided to wait for her for as long as she needed to get herself composed.

He wouldn’t push her. It was her choice, if and when she came out of the bathroom. He was lucky to have gotten her to agree to a cup of coffee and he wasn’t going to push his luck.

Five minutes later she emerged, having probably recycled her uniform, he suspected, as it was well… neat, clean, pressed…. too clean, too neat, too immaculate. Almost forced, just like the smile on her face as she greeted him.

"I’m ready, Commander whenever you are."

"Aye, aye, Admiral. Let’s go see if we can get ourselves some caffeine,"

"Caffeine? I didn’t know you were drinking coffee these days?" Kathryn tried to smile as she made a halfhearted attempt at a joke.

"I’m not, but you’re certainly are, and I could use a green tea. Same amount of caffeine and a bit healthier for your body."

Feeling the tension ease from their conversation Kathryn took up the old banter, albeit stiffly, "Still playing the mother hen, are we?"


Her voice was still shaky, Chakotay noticed, as they made their way to the door, but nowhere near as heart wrenchingly weak as when she’d been in his arms moments earlier. "That’s still my job, isn’t it Kathryn? We haven’t finished debriefings quite yet. I mean we’ve finished the official ones, but we’re still working on Voyager’s logs. So until that’s done, I’m still your First Officer, aren’t I?"

"Yes, I guess you have me there, Commander."

He smiled in answer and they walked arm in arm through the doors.

Chakotay felt her weight more keenly on his arm than usual and he realized that she was still feeling the effects of her emotional outburst. He studied her, but allowed her to maintain as much of her command poise as she could muster, trying not to show her that he knew that she was leaning on him.

Kathryn was grateful for Chakotay’s silence as they walked through the door. She knew she was leaning on him more than usual but her legs felt like jelly and her mind was awhirl with all the things she’d have to make up for during their conversation. All the barriers she would have to put in place.

It was silly really. They weren’t really the command team of Voyager anymore, although most people still referred to them as that. She knew they were more friends than anything, but she still felt the need to keep some distance between them, especially since…. No, she wouldn’t think of Seven now. To do that would only cause more problems that it was worth and she wasn’t willing to cry in front of him a second time.

Stiffening her posture, she tried to regain the admiral’s stance that had served her so well since she’d taken up the position. Everyone admired her regality or so Owen Paris said at multiple command functions. He said that she embodied everything an admiral should be…regal, careful, tidy and yet just a bit independent and maverick-like, much like her father. She accepted the compliment but inside her heart sank.

She was no more a person than she had been on Voyager. Her reasons for getting home had all but disappeared, she was just Starfleet now, not Kathryn. The thought made her soul ache but there was nothing she could do about it now, and she had to keep herself from bursting into tears again.

‘Focus on the coffee’, she reminded herself, as she tried to smile at Chakotay’s joke about Arizona and the dry heat there. She wasn’t sure what to make of his statement that he was looking forward to moving to Arizona after the debriefings were over.

Was he moving with Seven? Strangely he hadn’t mentioned her since coming to her office But this was no wonder, after all would you mention your new girlfriend to your friend after you’d seen them breakdown?

No, he was probably just trying to spare her feelings and she silently thanked him for that. Perhaps she’d gather the nerve later to choke back the emotion and ask him calmly about his relationship. Maybe they were even getting married and she could somehow bring herself to hint at an invitation to the wedding, just to hold up the pretence.

She didn’t want to seem like she as ignoring the relationship and she wanted to seem like she was comfortable with it. It didn’t matter that she obviously wasn’t and most people knew that, just as long as she believed Chakotay didn’t.

However, she knew that Chakotay would never let her get away with crying like that without an explanation, and she knew that she needed to get a few shots of caffeine into her before could think up an excuse. Therefore she remained silent, content to let Chakotay do the talking.

They walked to the transport pad and Chakotay requested that they be beamed to a location a few blocks away from the coffee shop so he could have the time to get Kathryn relaxed before sitting down in front of her. He knew she was worried about some sort of inquisition. Another one of his mother hen routines, she would probably say, but he didn’t want to question her, he only wanted to give her some space to open up to him.

Chakotay knew he’d completely ruined their relationship by dating Seven, but he couldn’t help but want to protect Kathryn, if only because he loved her as a friend. But what do you say to someone when you realize that you’ve slept with their daughter? What do you say when you realize that you might well have broken their heart? What do you say to someone when one of Starfleet’s most prestigious members had to call you up just to tell you how badly you’d ruined someone’s life?

He was beyond embarrassed, but he couldn’t let his guilt impact on Kathryn now. She’d pick up on it and she’d spend the entire afternoon trying to make him feel better about what he’d done, telling him he’d made the right choices and encouraging him to seek out whatever made him happy, never suggesting for a moment that she might be what he needed or wanted.

They’d never talk about what was bothering her and would never get the strain out from between them. Even if they were only just going to be friends, he thought as he opened the door to the café, they needed to get some sort of equilibrium established. Each of them was on shaky footing and their friendship wouldn’t survive it if they kept lying to one another. Lying about what, he wasn’t sure, as he knew his feelings for Kathryn were real, but only time would tell if she had the feelings that Picard intimated.

 

 

Kathryn and Chakotay made their way to a small table in the back of the café. Kathryn was grateful for the casual atmosphere. It made her feel less intimidated about trying to have a conversation with Chakotay when she wasn’t sure what she was supposed to stay. Gently, he guided her to take a seat, pulling her chair out for her and making sure she was settled comfortably before going to the counter and standing in line to order their drinks.

Moments later, he came back with a green tea and a black coffee, placing hers in front of her before taking a seat and sipping his. He waited a few seconds before even looking at her, allowing her to collect her thoughts before having to face his stare.

He knew how intimidating trying to talk to her was when he wasn’t sure what to say and he wanted to offer her the freedom to avoid the conversation if she needed to, but also to know that he was there if she wanted to talk.

She broke the tension with an uneasy laugh. "Chakotay how is it that we’ve been best friends for seven years and now we can’t seem to say a word to one another? Is this how bad our relationship has gotten? I could always say what I thought to you, my friend, and yet, now that you’re here, I can’t think of a single way to explain my behavior. I’m sorry."

He looked up at her and smiled gently. A smile that broke her heart and melted her fear at the same time. She wasn’t sure how that combination was possible and yet, it truly described her feelings as she waited for him to speak.

"You’ve got nothing to be sorry for, Kathryn." Chakotay said gently, trying to ease her fear with one more smile. "I’m your friend and I want to help you, if you want help. I want to be here if you need me to hear something and I want to be a shoulder if you need to lean on me. That’s what friends are for. Especially best friends and I fear I have been remiss in my duties." He tried to give her a shallow laugh of his own, but it didn’t even pass as well as hers had.

"Chakotay, I’ve just cried all over you. It isn’t what Starfleet Admirals do. Nor is it what Kathryn Janeway does. You’ve gone above and beyond the call of duty.", she responded, trying to put him off.

"Kathryn Janeway doesn’t do a lot of things. Perhaps it’s time that she did." His gentle teasing was intended to be a way to relax her, but he could see in her eyes that it had only served to remind her of what she believed were her failings. He frowned as her eyes blazed with barely suppressed anger. "Kathryn, I’m sorry, that didn’t come out like I meant it to…"

"Yes it did, Chakotay You meant exactly that. You think that I’ve been some sort of repressed monster and that I’ve spent years putting you off, putting everyone off, when I should have shared what I was feeling. But I couldn’t. I was the commanding officer and I believe in the loneliness of command. Well… not quite the loneliness. I guess I just mean…"

"I know what you mean, Kathryn and I don’t even agree with that. You think that captains have to have some sort of distance from their crews. But we weren’t a normal crew Kathryn. Our mission wasn’t a normal one and the people we were serving with weren’t your average Starfleet crew. Three or four years in you needed to let go, but I wasn’t going to push you and I won’t push you now."

"Three or four years in. How is it that you came by that timetable?"

"That was when you started to lose your connection to yourself."

"My connection to myself? How do you know who I am?" Her voice was rising in pitch and volume and some of the patrons in the café had turned to look at them, causing her to blush and get even more irate with herself that she already was.

"Kathryn" He said, lowering his voice and softening it. "I don’t presume to know everything about you, but what I do know is that I care about you and it’s enough for me to know that you shouldn’t be so hard on yourself. You did it. You did the impossible, and you got almost everyone safely home."

"Almost everyone. But then, perhaps if I’d been I’d been a better captain, I’d have brought them all home." Kathryn averted her eyes from him knowing that her statement would make him angry.

"And how were you supposed to do that? Be a superhero. Get by on no sleep, work yourself to the bone. Oh, wait… you already did that." Chakotay was teasing but the anger that had interrupted their peaceful conversation was back and it was starting to get to where he couldn’t control it. He wasn’t really angry at her but with the impossible conditions that she’d put on herself and the way in which he had betrayed her.

When he’d left Seven’s house that morning, explaining that they could no longer be together he hadn’t know exactly how to say he was sorry to either woman. Seven had accepted his decision rather well. She been sad, but seemed to understand that her comment had profoundly and adversely affected him. She’d hugged him, kissed his cheek and wished him well, trying to hide the few tears that were falling down her cheeks. He felt horrible, but the aching pain in his gut eased slightly as he’d set off for the transport station nearest Seven’s home.

He’d already known when he’d transported to campus that there was no way to say all that he needed to say to Kathryn, but now that they were here and in this moment, they just seemed to be fighting rather than dealing with the issues at hand. He feared that if he waited any longer, their fight over her command behavior and her not taking care of herself, would take precedence over discussing any of what he worried was the cause of all this in the first place.

"Kathryn, look, I didn’t come here to fight with you." Chakotay said softly as he set down his tea and took her hand across the table.

The unexpected contact made her eyes well up at the comfort she knew was no longer hers to have. "I know you didn’t, Chakotay and I’m grateful for what you’ve done for me, but …"

"But what, Kathryn? You deserve all of the comfort, friendship and love you can possibly have from everyone in your life. Your mother, your sister, B’Elanna, Tom … even me." He said the last part as a whisper and she barely caught it.

But once she had, her heart plummeted and the tears started to roll down her cheeks.

Chakotay blanched at the overt display of emotion. He hadn’t known he’d caused her so much pain and it sickened his heart to know that he in fact was the root cause of much of her despair.

"That’s right Kathryn. I do love you." He coaxed her gently. "I always have and I always will and that’s why I..."

Kathryn cut him off, "Chakotay don’t… don’t. I know you’re supposed to be with Seven and I know that you need to be with Seven. It’s what the Admiral said and I have no right … no claim on you. Thank you for the coffee, but I need to …" She stood up abruptly and wiped at her eyes, pushing her chair out and walking quickly to the exit, leaving him sitting alone and heartbroken at the table.

For a moment, shock prevented him from doing much more than staring at her retreating form. He hadn’t meant for their conversation to be so heated but he honestly didn’t know what else to tell her other than the truth. She, for too long, had believed that she was alone and now that there wasn’t any command structure to keep them from expressing their true feelings, he wasn’t going to let her hide behind it in order to escape from him.

Shaking his head, he suddenly realized that it was raining outside and she was going to be cold if he didn’t find her soon. Getting up from the table, he plunked some credits down on the worn surface and signaled to the waitress that he was ready to leave. She nodded acknowledgement of the payment and he pushed his chair in quickly before following his wayward admiral, unmindful of his own attire.

About half a block down though, he realized that he had no idea where Kathryn had gone and no idea how to start looking for her. He didn’t really have any tricks up his sleeve for finding someone in a city as large as San Francisco with no natural patterns to be seen and with no markers that were easily identifiable.

After walking for another half a block, he decided that the best course of action would probably be to ask someone, although he knew that Kathryn wouldn’t appreciate having someone else aware that there was an issue or that anything had happened to necessitate him knowing her whereabouts.

She was a private person and the less anyone knew about her or anything that she wanted, needed or felt, the better off she was in her own mind. Chakotay, though, figured that this was the only way he was going to know where she went and the rain had started to fall harder.

She was no stranger to harsh weather, he knew. Growing up in Indiana where the rain was big and fat and hard, very unlike the light sprinkle that covered the city now but still there was only so much a Starfleet uniform could take and he want to have to explain how she contracted pneumonia on top of everything else. Besides who wanted to drag Kathryn to the doctor at a time like this? He knew he didn’t. It was hard enough on Voyager and the way she was feeling now, she wouldn’t go near the hologram now even if he possessed a lifetime’s supply of coffee.

No, better ask someone, and solve it himself. Maybe take her home and get her dry and maybe finally convince her to take a nap. If nothing else, they could hold off their conversation until she was more stable. Then they could work on maintaining at least a civil report, maybe even friendship.

He stopped his brooding long enough to ask a young man at the corner if he’d seen an admiral come in that direction, knowing full well that if the man had seen Kathryn he’d know exactly who she was and would know him as well. Still he figured that if he was nonchalant about it, he could avoid arousing curiosity.

He hoped he didn’t look as agitated as he felt, if he did, no amount of acting would keep the someone from calling ‘Fleet Security as soon they left, and alerting them that both he and Kathryn had most likely escaped from Starfleet Medical.

Little did he know that the passerby he’d so kindly spoken to was a reporter for the Daily Orbit, one of the most well known tabloids in the Federation and one of the most hated. Dan Abbott had been looking for any news on the famous admiral since she’d gone into relative seclusion over two months before.

She’d been Starfleet’s Golden girl for about three weeks after her return, but then had refused to make more public appearances and by all reports was now working herself to death in her secluded Starfleet Office. He wasn’t able to get much more information than that, even from the inside Starfleet journalists who he’d managed to commandeer onto his team. Now, it looked as though the Admiral had finally broken out of her seclusion and was being tailed by her First Officer, no less.

Abbott had always wondered about the relationship between the two, and was determined to find out if this incident was indeed the culmination of all the rumors he’d heard since they’d returned home. The most recent one being that they were lovers, meeting in secret, but that Admiral Kathryn Janeway kept the relationship purely on her terms. She apparently decided where they met, when they met and how they met. Boy, he didn’t know if he wanted to be on that short a leash, but if it was for an admiral who was that nice looking he might consider it.

From what he’d read in the reputable journals, Abbott knew that Commander Chakotay was a serious man and an anthropologist by trade and a good one if his Starfleet academy record was anything to go by. Later in his career, students had loved him when he taught at the academy before joining the Maquis. Now, it appeared that Commander had a new passion… Kathryn Janeway.

Boy, he had hit the jackpot. Now all he had to do was follow the couple and see where all this went. Perhaps he would actually get that front page commission he’d been working towards for two years now. Finally giving his boss something that would prove him to be a reputable reporter. As reputable as they came in his profession.

Following the Commander, at a short distance, he tailed the big man until they came to a park about two and a half miles from the coffee shop. Abbott was tired, but the walk had been worth it, for in front of him he saw the Admiral sitting on a bench and looking like she’d had the worst day of her life. Seconds later, he watched as the Commander approached her –calling her Kathryn and sitting down next to her. He watched as Commander Chakotay put his arm around the Admiral, pulling her close to his side and holding her there. The Admiral looked… oh dear, she looked to be crying.

This was one thing that Abbott was always careful about. Yeah, he would report about affairs or drug deals or broken families but crying subjects were not news. He’d always drawn the line at pain. For some reason he found that despicable to report on. Everyone had their breakdowns at sometime and the Admiral deserved to have her own minute to herself. Even if it did involve the Commander.

Abbott would start taking notes again once she’d stopped crying. Sitting down in the grass he let the rain wash over him as he waited, camera in hand, to capture the discussion that he knew the pair would have. His wait proved to be longer than he had anticipated as twenty minutes went by before either party spoke and then it was the Admiral in a whisper.

"Thank you." she said to her former First Officer, quietly and without the steel that was present in her command tone, the only tone Abbott had ever heard her use at any function, Starfleet or not.

He was surprised at the vulnerability in her voice and even more surprised when the Commander said nothing. He just held her tighter and waited for her to say more, allowing the Admiral to take the lead.

Finally she spoke again. "I needed that. I needed someone to actually give a damn about me. I know you have for years but I wasn’t really ready for it until just now. I don’t know why, but I’ve always felt like I should be able to handle my emotions on my own. Perhaps it’s a little too much Starfleet training."

Abbott saw the Admiral try to pass it off as a joke but watched as her eyes filled with tears again and saw the Commander merely pull her closer once more, the big man still having not spoken since the conversation began.

"I don’t know why I didn’t tell you when we were on the ship, Chakotay, but I love you and I know its too late now, but I appreciate all that you’re doing and I just wanted you to know."

Abbott knew that he should be taking notes, preparing for the biggest scoop in Starfleet gossip history but he couldn’t bring himself to tear his eyes away from the pair who were sitting on the bench, clearly in a world of their own.

Finally the Commander spoke, his decisive and gentle tones startling Abbott, "Thank you for telling me, Kathryn. It does matter. I stopped seeing Seven. I don’t know why I saw her and I certainly don’t know why I didn’t talk to you about it first. I don’t mean as Captain or because of regulations, but because first and foremost she was your daughter and of course, because I love you, but that goes without saying…or, at least I hoped it did. There wasn’t much we could do out there, and I understand that. I could even forgive myself for picking up a younger woman, or older woman for that matter, but your daughter was inexcusable Kathryn. And although you just told me that you love me, I can’t imagine you could forgive me for that. You’re the woman I love and I dated your child. You can’t commit a much more grievous treachery than that, can you?"

The Commander’s voice was laced with tears and Abbott had long forgotten his objective as he watched the Captain stroke her former first officer’s cheek.

"Of course I can forgive you, Chakotay. I guess she is my daughter in a way and it did hurt that you were with someone else, especially Seven. I just wish I knew…"

"What?" Abbott heard the Commander ask her.

"I just wish I knew how to tell you that we can go on from here. That I was certain that everything would work out between us, but I’m not, and it’s not because of the seven years we spent on Voyager or because of your relationship with Seven. Those I can forgive but…"

Abbott saw the Commander’s face blanch as he waited for the Admiral’s refusal

"But I’m not sure that I know how to be in a relationship anymore. I’m not sure that I know how to let my guard down. I’m not sure that I could be of any support to you and I don’t want to saddle you with the burden of an unemotional, unavailable woman. You deserve much more than that and I can’t guarantee that I’ll ever be able to get back to my true self, Chakotay. The Kathryn that was before Voyager, even the Kathryn that was on New Earth, I can’t guarantee that she’s not gone somewhere. If I can’t even feel comfortable crying to myself and end up breaking down in my office, how stable a partner can I be for you? No, I don’t want to curse you with this, Chakotay. I love you too much to do it."

The Admiral started to stand, but Abbott watched as the Commander reached up and held her shoulders, pushing her down on the bench.

"Kathryn, now you’ll listen to me. I’ve listened to you and I’ve let you cry and get out all the emotions that you needed to. I’ve apologized for Seven and we’ve settled that as much as we can for the moment, although I’ll always feel guilty for it and I’m sure we’ll talk about it again, even fight about it, but Kathryn why won’t you give me a chance to show you that the relationship can work.

"You have to be willing to take a risk, as much of a risk as you’d take if you were in the Captain’s chair. Only, this is with your heart. I understand that this makes it more dangerous but it also makes it more worthwhile. I’m willing to give it a shot. I’ll always understand, Kathryn, if this doesn’t work, because of one reason or another, but I won’t let you tell me that you’re too closed off to receive love. Everyone needs love at some point in their lives. You can give it, Kathryn. You gave it for seven years to everyone on that ship whether you’re able to believe that or not. You gave it to me. I was just foolish not to recognize it. Now you’ve got to give it to yourself and give yourself enough of a chance to see if this could work.

"I’m not going to promise forever and I’m not going to promise that everything will work out perfectly. Not that I don’t think it will, but because I don’t want to frighten you into believing that you have to be something that you’re not in order to make it happen. I believe that, us, as a command team in Starfleet and in life, can work out all our differences and be a good partnership, Kathryn. A loving and equal partnership. But you have to take that risk and you have to allow yourself to experience the wide range of emotions that you taught Seven to explore. You have to trust yourself, and you have to trust me to be able to catch you if you fall. That’s all I’m asking."

Abbott watched in amazement as the Admiral smiled. Not one of her crooked smiles, which graced the covers of every magazine for those few weeks that she’d allowed it, but a full smile.

For a moment, Abbott wondered if it was the first one she’d smiled in seven years. But by the look on the commander’s face it was clear that he’d seen it before.

Both of them seemed as though they were about to cry and Abbott figured that he wasn’t going to get his story after all. Some part of him cursed his no crying rule. But another part of him, a bigger part of him relished being able to have seen true love between two people. He himself had never experienced it and wondered if he would ever find someone as willing to accept his faults as the Commander was the Admiral’s. He sighed.

He then watched as the Admiral nodded her consent to the relationship and the big man beside her gently leaned down to kiss her cheek, surprised as the Admiral turned her face and allowed the Commander to touch her lips with his own. That was true love right there, he decided. There was nothing remotely seedy about it and therefore nothing worthy of tabloid news.

No matter what his boss said or if some other paper should catch wind of it and was more than happy to print it, he wasn’t going to. The reality was that somebody had probably seen him there and would tell his boss that he hadn’t reported the scoop. It would probably cost him his job, but at this point he didn’t care.

Abbott watched the couple kiss again gently before the Commander helped the Admiral up from the bench and they wandered slowly towards the edge of the park. Golden Gate Park, he now realized. He hadn’t paid attention to where he was, when he’d first gotten there, he’d been too focused on getting his story, but now he realized that this famous park was the perfect setting for the command team’s romance. Close to Starfleet but far enough away to encompass nature, an interest of the Commander’s personality that had been touted all over women’s magazines for the months since their return.

Standing, he looked on as the Commander gently held the Admiral close with one arm and pointed out, with the other, a bird nesting in a tree high above him. They looked like any other couple in the park.

Reaching for his holoimager, which he’d sat in his lap ready to capture the explosive fight that had never materialized, he raised it to his eye and caught the Commander’s smile as the bird flew past the couple. No doubt on its way to a warmer climate for the winter. The Admiral had a small smile on her face and she looked more contented than she had in any of the holovids he’d ever seen her in or any of the pictures that other tabloid reporter friends had managed to take.

Snapping the image, he quickly put the imager away and decided to walk away as quietly as he’d come. He’d decide what he’d do with the picture as soon as he got out of the park. Walking to the edge of it, he pulled his imager out once more and stared at what he’d captured. Just an ordinary couple in the park, a couple no different than any of the hundreds that he captured by accident when trying to capture Federation celebrities over the years. Not worth anything to him and not worth much to the tabloids either. After staring at it for one more moment he pressed the erase button on his imager and set off in search of real tabloid news.

Hell, perhaps the Borg had found a new boy toy, that always made news. She was the only Borg he knew of who was dating and it would certainly please his boss if he could catch… What was her name? Seven of… oh yes, Nine and her new boyfriend. He’d get a commission for that. After all it was still Voyager news.

Swinging his holoimager over his shoulder, he walked towards the nearest transport station and tried to remember where the newspaper had said the Borg lived. France? He wasn’t sure. Deciding that he needed more information he turned away from the path to the transport station and decided to walk to the tabloid office. They would have more information for him and perhaps he could dig up more dirt on the drone before he went to visit this villa. Maybe he would toss around some ideas with the guys and run it by his boss to see what he thought. Yes, that’s what he’d do, and he’d make a good buck doing it too. Pleased with himself, he walked down the street, not noticing the couple locked in a gentle kiss behind him.

After all it wasn’t news. It was what everybody had expected and the ordinary didn’t make the front page.