Disclaimer: See part 1.
You nagged, you begged, you asked nicely. So here it is. You should realise though, that in the process of writing this I actually found I felt sorry for Seven. Damn it!
"I know, but I'll never forget the look on your face when I told you that he wanted to mate with me."
Chakotay and Kathryn both laughed. Seven shifted uncomfortably in her chair and reached forward for her glass of wine. She wrapped her fingers tightly around the stem and sank back against the cushions. Her eyes flickered from one to the other. She couldn't remember when she'd seen either of them look this relaxed. But it was something more than relief at the events of today. They were both unusually cheerful. She didn't know when she had last seen Kathryn smile in that manner.
"I'll never forget the look on Tom Paris' face when the female Q called him helm boy," Chakotay said, stretching back on the couch and smiling warmly at Kathryn, who was sitting opposite him.
"Oh, I know, I missed that."
"Too bad", he said, "you were busy saving the continuum."
"Trying not to let Q drive me crazy, I would have said."
"You almost sound like you miss him."
"Gods no", Kathryn said. "Though I do wonder if he knows that we got home. That everything turned out alright. That you and the others were pardoned and I," she said with a grin, "am not getting in trouble for any one of my command decisions."
"Or all of them", he said.
Kathryn chuckled. "Or all of them", she agreed. She glanced over at Seven, who was sipping her wine and staring absently at the coffee table.
"Did either of us ever tell you that story?" she said. "About Q wanting me to be the mother of his child?"
Seven shook her head. "No", she said quietly. "Excuse me." She slipped off the couch and made her way into the small kitchen.
Chakotay and Kathryn shared a look. Seven had been withdrawn all evening. An hour earlier, just before the others departed, Tom and the Doctor had led the group in a celebratory sing along, but she had declined to participate. Instead she sat quietly in the corner, rebuffing Chakotay's attempts to encourage her.
Initially Kathryn was glad they had stayed behind. After their discussion last night she'd been reminded how much she treasured Chakotay's friendship. Later as she'd walked home alone, she'd told herself she wouldn't let this relationship, or any relationship, get in the way of that.
After the others had left, she opened another bottle of wine and they settled down on the couch in her living room. She and Chakotay unthinkingly began to reminisce. Instead of cheering Seven up, their stories only seemed to depress her further.
"Is something wrong?" Kathryn said. "Did I say something?"
Chakotay shook his head. "I don't know. I'll go talk to her."
Seven stood by the kitchen window, staring out at the darkness. She turned at the sound of his approach and offered him a half-smile.
"You've been awfully quiet tonight."
"Yes", he said. "And I'm not buying that excuse for a smile, either. What's wrong?"
Seven stared at him for a moment before responding. When she spoke her voice was soft. "I am... uncomfortable."
"Uncomfortable? Seven, why? I thought we were having a good time. This is suppose to be a celebration." He reached out to rest his hands on her shoulders but she twisted away from him.
"I saw the two of you last night, when you were sitting outside by the pool", she said. "You made me feel like... I believe humans call it being a 'third wheel'."
"Excluded?" He sighed. "And we've been talking about things that happened before you came aboard."
Seven nodded. "I am not a part of this conversation either."
Chakotay reached down to take her hands in his own. "Seven, Kathryn and I are just friends. It's perfectly normal for couples to have friends, even close friends. In fact it's pretty important. That doesn't lessen our relationship in any way." Seven stayed silent, not meeting his eyes. "And it's true that Kathryn and I have .... that I have a history which you're not a part of. But you have a history that I'm not a part of. That's goes along with being in a relationship, any relationship. You can't be jealous of that."
Seven continued to stare down at their entwined hands, then deliberately untangled her fingers from his and crossed her arms over her chest. "Last night, by the pool, you were holding hands with her."
Chakotay frowned at her. Was that it? Was she jealous? "Kathryn was upset."
"And I saw her rest her head on your shoulder."
"Seven, we were just talking."
She shook her head. "No. That's the problem."
"I don't understand. What problem?"
"You say you were just talking. The same way you say that she and you are just friends. You never say, 'Kathryn and I are friends'. You say, 'Kathryn and I are just friends'. Or 'only friends'."
"I'm not sure I understand-"
"Your need to explain is the problem," she snapped.
Chakotay continued to stare at her in surprise.
Seven lowered her voice slightly. "It is true that I am inexperienced at this type of relationship. I am unsure where the boundaries should be. And perhaps my inexperience makes me unnecessarily jealous."
"But if all you and she have is a history, then why does she continue to touch you?"
Chakotay rubbed his forehead in frustration. "Touch me? Seven, Kathryn touches everyone. That's how she is."
Seven shook her head again. "No. With you it is something more. And I don't just mean physically touching you. Sometimes when I see her looking at you, her expression goes beyond friendly affection."
He sighed. "Now I think your imagination is running away from you."
She narrowed her eyes. "Don't patronise me."
"I am not imagining this", she said stubbornly.
"Then what are you saying? You don't want me to be friends with Kathryn, one of my dearest friends, because you're insecure and you think something else is going on? Because, Seven, this isn't going to go away. If you feel this way, it's going to eat at you every time Kathryn and I meet for dinner, or go for a walk together, or accidentally brush up against each other. Are you asking me to give her up?"
Seven chewed her lip miserably. "How could I be so selfish and expect you to forgive me for it?" she said quietly.
"Then what? What do you want me to do?"
"Tell me that you don't love her."
Chakotay didn't respond. Seconds ticked past. Not many in reality, but for both of them it felt as if the time was stretching palpably in the silence. Eventually he said, "Seven, I-"
Seven met his gaze, her blue eyes firm. "I see."
She moved to push past him, but he held her upper arm. "Seven, I'm sorry."
"I am sorry too. But I do not wish to be a third wheel. I can not compete with Kathryn Janeway." He shook his head and she smiled slightly. "Perhaps in time you will admit the truth to yourself. Both of you."
By the time he returned to the living area Seven had offered Kathryn her hurried farewell and departed. Kathryn turned to him with a questioning glance. He shook his head and sank down on the couch. She stood watching him for a few moments, then moved to sit beside him.
"You can tell me that it's none of my business-" she began.
"I think I've made a mistake", he said.
"Oh?" She wondered if he could hear the hope in her voice.
Chakotay didn't look at her. "I think you know what I mean."
"I'm not sure that I do."
"You know, I found out what was bugging B'Elanna."
She glanced at him, a small smile tugging at her mouth at his change of subject. "Did you? I thought the two of you were having an intense conversation before."
"She also warned me that she thought Tom might be up to something."
"When is Tom not up to something? So what was it? The problem, I mean."
"She felt like she'd lost a part of herself over the last few years."
Kathryn snorted. "I know what that feels like."
"Do you?" He shook his head. "Yeah, I guess you do."
"I'd like to think", she went on in a soft tone, "that what we've gained is greater than what we've lost. Or," she added, "that what we've lost isn't necessarily irredeemable."
"Are we still talking about B'Elanna?"
She grinned. "I think you know what I mean", she said.
Chakotay watched her for a moment, then without a word stretched his arm out and wrapped it around her shoulders. They both leaned backwards against the couch with simultaneous sighs.
"Tell me what Tom Paris is up to now", she said.
"Are you sure you want to know?"
"I think I'd better."
"Okay. B'Elanna says he's fancying himself as Cupid again."
"This could be interesting."
In the comfortable silence that followed, Kathryn rested her head against his, breathing in his familiar scent. This time, it didn't feel so bad. Not bad at all.
Still not satisfied? Janna has kindly written No More Distance, a more saucy epilogue to my epilogue. Check it out!
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