Summary: Crikey. I wrote a happy ending. Kathryn hopes for friendship and gets more. This is a sequel to "Nothing I could do to change your mind". Written, oh about five hours after I told someone I probably wouldn't write one.
Paramount owns them, not me. Once again the title is borrowed, this time it's three words from a Paul Kelly song.
The letter came unexpectedly, a short pre-recorded message, not even a minute long. She didn't expect it to affect her quite this way - she was reconciled to their ending now. Still, she sat silently in her chair for a full five minutes afterwards, staring at the blank screen in front of her. He was coming back. He was coming home.
No, not home, she corrected herself. It was a visit - another holiday. He would be on Earth for three weeks, his contacting her didn't mean anything more than that. Of course he would call her, she was his former Captain. Of course they would meet, would share a drink, share stories. Maybe even recapture some of that familiarity.
She missed his friendship. It hadn't taken her long to realise that. A little longer to realise what she had missed when she put off the possibility of something more happening between them, put it off for so long that eventually he turned away. He was the one who said no.
She'd spent weeks waiting for him to return, full of the promise of something new between them. Then after his return, when it was all over, she had spent weeks denying that she really cared. Denying that this could have been, well, she hated those sentimental lines like "the love of her life," but this might have come pretty close.
And as the months rolled on she had come to accept his decision. Not to agree with it, but to respect it. To try to understand. It had taken her a long time. She had sulked, oh how she had sulked! Later she had raged, been bitter, resentful, morose, and finally, just terribly depressed.
It had been just over a year since that day he left her apartment, left her disbelieving, alone (thirteen months, two weeks, and five days actually, an irritating part of her brain declared). They had spoken through subspace a number of times since then. She had sent the first - had been determined not to behave like a snubbed teenager. Most of their messages were short, detached. Two messages were more personal - once when Tom and B'Elanna announced they were having a child. Once, much more painfully, when Harry Kim had been badly injured on a deep space assignment. She'd relayed both messages on behalf of people who had no idea what it cost her to do so. Each stilted conversation was a reminder of what she had lost.
At least they'd managed to keep in touch, she reminded herself. At first it was excruciatingly awkward, with long silences, half-finished sentences. Over the months they'd moved on to merely painful awkwardness, forced politeness, and finally polite pleasantries. And now he was coming back.
She didn't have a great deal to share with him. She had been Earth bound for the past year. At first it had been at Starfleet's suggestion - her counselor's actually, she had later discovered. "Give her some time," had been his exact words. Later she discovered she was reluctant to leave.
At first she had itchy feet, she wanted to be in control of her own starship again, wanted to see the stars racing past her window at night. But as time past, she found herself becoming more and more involved in her work at headquarters, more involved with her family. Happy to be on Earth again, remaking her own sense of home.
She had moved back to Indiana - that was something she astonished herself with. She found herself remarkably content in the places she had always associated with wanting to leave. She'd chased up old friends, found some of them remarkably changed (or was it her?) and reformed some of their friendships anew. Mark and his wife had been a surprise. Illeana wasn't at all what she'd expected, perhaps because the dark-haired woman was so different to herself. But the two of them actually hit it off. She thought with honest pleasure of the expression in Mark's eyes as she had said goodbye to them after the first dinner they had shared.
She remembered clasping both of his hands in her own, kissing his cheek.
"I'm so happy for you, Mark." And she had meant it.
He smiled warmly. "It's good to see you in person again Kath." And she knew he meant it, too.
There had been many dinners since then. At one of those dinners Mark asked about Chakotay. She had been startled, although she shouldn't have been, Mark knew her so well.
"I wouldn't have paid the rumours any mind, you know," he said, as Illeana bustled in the kitchen making coffee. "But there's been something in your expression when you talk about your Voyager staff, about the Maquis that made me wonder. And tonight you've been looking, well - " he paused, searching for the right words.
"Depressed?" she offered. "Melancholy? Woeful? "
He laughed. "I don't think I'd go as far as woeful. A little melancholy, perhaps."
"A little melancholy," she repeated, shifting in her seat. She stared at her hands, thinking about what she could tell him that he would understand. That she had waited for him at first? That she had fallen in love anyway, but denied herself the comfort of admitting it? That even after her safety blanket had been taken away, she'd clung to protocol, pushed the man she could have loved away, told herself that they both could wait? Thrown it all away for an unspoken promise?
"Kath," he said softly. She looked up, and saw he was watching her with a tender expression. She gulped, and unshed tears threatened to overwhelm her.
"Kath," he said again, and reached over to take her hand. His familiar touch was all that it took for the tears to start.
"I'm sorry," she stammered, trying to pull her hand back. He held on, and covered it with his other hands, closing his fingers over hers tightly.
He shook his head. "Don't be ridiculous, Kath. There's nothing to apologize for."
"I'm spoiling your dinner," she sobbed, aware of how ridiculous that sounded.
"You can spoil as many of my dinners as you like. You know that."
She rubbed futilely at her cheek with her free hand. "I don't suppose you have a handkerchief?"
He handed her one wordlessly, and watched as she scrubbed at her face.
"You always knew how to make a good impression on a room," he offered.
They talked late into the night. It was not until later on that she realised that Illeana had quietly slipped away. It was after that night that her healing began, she knew, and she was grateful for that.
There had been other old friends too. Some from pre-Delta quadrant days, some from Voyager. Seven - known as Annika now - had decided to study on Vulcan. She paid her visits to Earth with Borg-like precision. Once the Doctor had been declared officially sentient, his programming expanded permanently, he had taken up residence in San Francisco. She saw him often. The others visited too, when they could. And then there were new friends. Her life was far from empty.
But when she thought back over the past thirteen months there was little of momentous importance to share with an old friend. There was work. There were hints of beginnings of relationships, but nothing further.
Kathryn sighed and rubbed her eyes. Well, she was sure he had his share of adventures to recount. She leaned forward slightly and tapped a button on her console.
"Jared, can you cancel my appointments for the rest of the day?"
"Of course, Admiral," the reply came back. "Shall I give any specific reason?"
"No, just the usual. Say that something has come up."
She smiled to herself. Over a year and she hadn't been able to break Jared out of the habit of calling her ma'am. He was a fine assistant though, and she had fought to keep him on when he'd been offered a promotion elsewhere.
She sighed again, glanced across the piles of padds on her desk, and decided to spend the afternoon at home. A cup of coffee on her verandah, that's what she needed to calm down. She needed to stop thinking about how she would fill the next two weeks until she would see him again.
She needn't have worried. After three days of procrastination and decidedly unhelpful daydreaming a sudden crisis at work kept her occupied until the day Chakotay arrived.
She hadn't forgotten, of course, but she had been telling herself all day that there was no possibility of hearing from him just yet. He would want to get himself settled first, he would have other people to see, other things to do. All the while looking at her chronometer every twenty minutes. Fidgeting restlessly until the call came.
"Admiral," Jared's voice interrupted her jittery reverie. "There's someone here to see you. He doesn't have an appointment, but - "
"Show him in," she said, then cursed as the padd she'd been holding clattered on to her desk. She picked it up again and placed it beside the monitor. As the doors slid open, she stood and straightened her uniform, running nervous hands down her stomach.
He looks the same, was her first thought. Well of course he does, was her second, it's only been one year, not fourteen. She stepped forward, taking a deep breath to calm herself.
"Please, come in."
Chakotay stepped forward from where he had stopped just inside the door.
"Hello Kathryn," he said.
He does look different, she thought. There were small lines etched around his eyes, a more serious expression within them.
To her credit, she managed to keep her voice steady, although she was sure he could hear the sudden acceleration of her heart beat. Still! She thought. He still does this to me, after all this time.
They stood for a moment, watching each other, measuring small changes, noting similarities. Eventually, she moved towards him. They reached out hands to shake, then both smiled at the gesture. Without thinking Kathryn wrapped her arms around him, sinking her face into his shoulder.
"Oh, I've missed you," she said, as his arms closed around her back.
"I've missed you too."
They stood together holding each other comfortably, silently, until she broke away and stepped back.
"Shall we go out for dinner?"
At his awkward expression she amended, "Maybe it's a little early for dinner. How about a beer?"
Chakotay smiled at that, familiar dimples appearing in his tanned cheeks.
Kathryn laughed shortly. "Plenty of time for coffee later. I've quite taken to having a drink after work."
"Alright, a beer it is. I suppose you have a favourite bar as well?"
"Of course I do."
She steered him out of the door, past Jared, who gave her a small smile and a nod.
As they stepped onto the street she realised she had unthinkingly placed her hand on the small of his back to guide him. She removed it quickly, and brushed it through her hair to disguise the awkwardness of the gesture.
"You've grown your hair long again," he said.
She nodded. "Mm-hmm. I got a little sick of it being all neat and tidy. I like to let it down every now and then."
"It's down today," he said.
"Yes it is." She looked at him sideways. "Glad to see your powers of observation haven't been dulled by not being on duty." She smirked, and added, "Commander".
"Thanks, Captain," he said. "I mean 'Admiral'. Did you get my message of congratulations?"
She nodded. "Yes, thankyou. You still owe me a drink for that, though, you realise Commander. Although you're not Commander anymore either."
They walked in silence for a few minutes more, Kathryn gesturing where they were to go.
Chakotay squinted in the sunlight. "I'm glad to see that you don't transport everywhere, like some Admirals I could name."
She grinned at him. "Oh, lets not start naming names, Chakotay. Things could get really nasty very quickly."
He threw her a quick smile. "Well I wouldn't know about that. I've been out of circulation for a while. I'm out of touch with all the latest gossip."
Kathryn laughed. "Gossip does travel faster that warp speed. I'm surprised you haven't heard it all from Dorvan Five."
"I haven't been there the whole time," Chakotay said.
When she looked at him in surprise he went on.
"I spent about three months on a cruiser, travelling around. A few months here and there at different space stations. I guess I wasn't ready to put down any roots." He hesitated for a moment, looking at her out of the corner of his eye.
"I even came back to Earth for a while."
Kathryn stopped and gazed at him, bewildered at the revelation. "I didn't know that."
"No." He stared at his feet. "It was about three months ago. I came back for a research project I was doing. I had to consult personally with a Professor at Cambridge."
"You didn't call me".
"No. I'm sorry. I did think about it. I mean, I meant to. But I was only here for a flying visit. Not even a week. I was busy. And to be honest, I didn't know if you wanted to see me."
She shook her head and continued walking. "I thought that this was your first visit back. I thought that was why you called me. That you had been waiting - " she stopped, then continued.
"I would have liked to see you." She didn't look at him. "I've been keeping in contact with the rest of the command staff, you know that. And I've ... well I've always thought that you should still be a part of that. That friendship that we all had." And I've missed the way we talk, the way you always looked at me, she added silently.
"I was afraid we'd lost that."
Her blue eyes met his. "I hope not."
They held the look for a moment longer, and then Kathryn cleared her throat. "Well, we're almost there."
They walked the rest of the block in silence.
Once inside the bar the conversation became lighter as she filled him in on the Voyager gossip he had missed.
"Better. Still in rehab. But he's much better."
"Tom has been giving me weekly updates. And Neelix has been rallying the troops to make regular visits - "
" - for morale," they both said at the same time, smiling.
"Oh and you must stop in and see the doctor while you're here."
"He's still in San Francisco?"
She nodded. "Yes. And loving it. He's been working with the medical division. Improving their holograms. Performing on the side, of course."
"Of course." Chakotay smiled at her, with a warmth in his eyes she had not seen since their return to Earth.
"And you? Are you still living near here?"
She shook her head. "No. I'm an Indiana girl again."
He raised his eyebrows. "You're living on a farm?"
Kathryn laughed. "No, not exactly. It's a country house. But there's no farming involved, I assure you."
She took a deep sip of her ale.
"After all, who wants to be mucking about it the dirt when you could be working on peace treaties and attending diplomatic functions."
She winced and bit her lip, wondering why she had brought up those memories, and stared down at her drink.
Chakotay watched her for a moment. "Do you enjoy your work?"
"Sometimes," she replied, relieved that he had ignored her gardening reference. "It has its moments."
"You don't miss space? Being in command of a starship? Bossing around your minions?" he added jokingly.
"I still boss with the best of them," she returned.
"I'll bet you do."
"And I have plenty of minions."
She chuckled, then sobered as she pondered his question.
"I do miss it, sometimes. I'm not saying I would like to be back on Voyager, in the Delta quadrant. But it had its moments."
She ran her finger around the top of her glass, playing with the Brussels' lace that had formed.
"But you could have had command. Surely any command you wanted. It would have been different here."
Something in his sentence was a question, but Kathryn was unsure which part.
"They weren't so keen to let me go back out there. And I wasn't so keen, either," she said. "I thought I was, but when it came down to making the decision, other things all of a sudden seemed more important."
"Family. Friends." She pointedly ignored that unspoken question.
She bit her lip again and thought about asking him. What about you? What - who - has kept you away? Instead she said, "So tell me all about this research of yours. I want to hear every little detail."
They talked until late at night and did, in the end, eat dinner together. It was informal and friendly, Kathryn noted, and gradually her own awkwardness slipped away. She wasn't sure if it was the beer, the warm night, or Chakotay's apparent determination that they should rekindle their old friendship. In any case she was grateful. And, she had to admit, as the hours passed she was thoroughly enjoying herself.
Afterwards when they walked together along the starlit streets she tried not to think about a similar warm night when they had last been this close. It felt so good to be beside him again, to hear his measured voice, see that dimpled smile.
Almost unthinkingly, it seemed, they had rambled back to his hotel. She stopped, and looked around her, the earlier awkwardness flooding back.
"Well," she said, and glanced from her boots up at him. "Thankyou for the beers. For dinner. For calling me this time," she added. "I'm glad you did".
"So am I."
She was unnerved by the way he was looking at her, his eyes flicking across her face as though he was searching her, measuring her. As she reached forward to touch his shoulder in farewell, he leaned in and kissed her softly on the lips, just once.
She stared at him wordlessly.
He cleared his throat, but she didn't wait for whatever it was he was about to say.
"I think I should leave."
"Kathryn - "
"No." She held her right hand in the air in front of him, in the space between them. "I really should go."
She turned away from him and walked away quickly. She had no idea where she was going, that hardly seemed important as long as she was putting distance between them.
He kissed me. She thought to herself, as she walked. He kissed me. What was he thinking? Everything had been going so well up until that point.
She was vaguely aware of a voice, calling her name, but ignored it and continued to stride down the street.
What was he thinking? A rational part of her mind - a part she was hardly in the mood to appreciate - noted dryly that she really shouldn't care what he thought. But the words kept coming like a mantra, as she tried vainly to convince herself that she had not noticed, nor did she care, how good that kiss had felt.
"So was it good?"
Kathryn glared at her sister across the table, annoyed she had even asked the question.
"I don't think that's relevant."
Phoebe grinned at her in that annoying manner she had. "Of course it's relevant. But I didn't just mean the kiss. I meant the whole evening. Was it good?"
Kathryn stared glumly at her coffee cup. "Yes," she admitted. "It was fabulous. So much better than I had expected. We were talking again like we used to. Sharing stories, joking. I was expecting to feel embarrassed, but it was really comfortable. Until he kissed me."
Phoebe rolled her eyes. "Yeah, he sure knows how to ruin a good evening."
"That's not the point."
"So what's the point? You tell me."
"The point is, how dare he kiss me like that! How dare he," she gesticulated wildly in the air with her free hand as she spoke, "come back into my life after a year doing the gods know what, and think that he can just kiss me and that will make everything alright."
Her sister sipped her coffee thoughtfully, then asked, "What did he say afterwards?"
"Yes, after the kiss". Phoebe smiled at her impudently. "You do remember that bit don't you?"
"Of course I do. He didn't say anything."
"Nothing?" Phoebe seemed surprised.
"Well, I was walking away straight afterwards. I couldn't hear what he was saying."
"You walked away," Phoebe repeated.
"Straight after he kissed you".
"Yes," Kathryn tried to keep the irritation out of her voice, unsuccessfully. "I was annoyed! No, I was angry. How dare he - "
"Yes, I think you said that part already. Kath." Phoebe put her coffee cup down and started to pace about the kitchen. "So you really don't know what he meant by it. Apart from trying to ruin your good evening of course."
Kathryn glared at her but didn't respond.
Phoebe stopped pacing and leaned her back against the kitchen bench, watching her sister carefully.
"I'm not making fun of you Kath. Not much anyway," she amended. "I know how much he means to you. How badly you were hurt last time."
She looked distractedly out the window for a moment, where her husband was throwing a stick to their enthusiastic border collie pup, then turned back to her sister.
"But that doesn't mean that the same thing will happen again. What if he's changed his mind?"
"He said he wouldn't". Kathryn was surprised by how bitter she sounded. "I mean, back then, he said that talking about it wouldn't change his mind. It wasn't what he wanted. I wasn't," she corrected herself, "what he wanted. He said that we weren't meant to be. I remember that part very clearly."
"I know." Phoebe's voice softened, and Kathryn felt some of her anger slipping away. Why was she attacking Phoebe, of all people? Treating her like a convenient punching bag yet again?
"But it has been a year, Kath. Sometimes people make decisions like this when they're not thinking clearly, then later on regret what they've said or done. It doesn't sound like Chakotay was thinking too clearly then. Now he's had time to think about what happened between you, about what he really wants."
They sat in silence for a few moments, then Phoebe asked, "Do you still want him?"
"Yes." She surprised even herself with her immediate reply.
"But I don't want to put myself in that position again. I don't want to be the one putting it on the line. I need to know what he wants."
Phoebe slid back into her chair. "Then why don't you ask him?"
"He's still on Earth, isn't he?"
"Yes but - "
"But nothing. Kath," Phoebe reached over and squeezed her hand, "if this is really a second chance, don't throw it all away because of pride. Because you wouldn't talk to each other. Because you weren't willing to give him another chance."
"Do you think he deserves another chance?"
"I don't know. I think so." Phoebe squeezed her sister's hand again then let it go. "That part is up to you. But I'm pretty sure that you deserve one."
"Don't make this into some great tragic saga, if it doesn't have to be that way."
"Is that what you think I'm doing?"
Kathryn shook her head. "I do want to know what he really wants."
"So go. Be brave. Put it all on the line." Phoebe picked up her sister's coffee cup and her own, and stood to take them to the recycler.
"And if his intentions aren't honourable, well you just come straight back here and I'll join you in a chorous of how dare he."
Kathryn laughed despite herself. She pushed her chair away, stood and gave her sister a brief hug.
Kathryn waited in the lobby of the hotel, toying with her drink, with her fingers. When Chakotay appeared in the doorway she quickly forced her fingers into fists and hid them at her sides. Damn him! She didn't want him to know just how apprehensive she really felt.
"I didn't expect you'd come back to see me," he said, as he slipped onto the stool next to hers.
"I know. I did leave in quite a hurry. That's a bad habit of mine," she said, then bit her tongue. She didn't want to begin this conversation with recriminations.
He was silent for a moment and she waited, expecting him to say something else about leaving.
"Do you want another drink?" he asked instead.
"No thankyou. I came here to talk. We need to talk."
He nodded, running his fingers along the surface of the bar. "I suppose I should have expected that much from you."
He glanced at her, noting her tense posture.
"Are you angry with me?"
"Angry?" she waved the bartender away as he stepped forward to serve them.
"For kissing you the other night. After what happened between us," he shook his head, "it was presumptuous."
"Yes, it was," she agreed. "But I'm not angry. Well, not now anyway. It has been a few days since I broke any furniture."
Chakotay expelled a large breath and she realised he had been holding it, waiting for her response. "I'm glad to hear that. I - "
"Actually," she went on as though he hadn't spoken. "It was quite a good kiss. For a brief peck on the lips, I mean."
He looked at her, obviously startled by the remark.
"But that's not surprisingly, really. I already knew you were a good kisser."
"Is that so?" He seemed at a loss for words.
"Mm-hmm," Kathryn said. She tapped her finger on the bar for a few seconds. "I was surprised at your choice of occasion though."
"Occasion?" Chakotay was struggling to keep up now.
She swiveled on her stool to face him. "I mean we haven't had a decent friendly conversation for a year. Oh, I know we've 'kept in touch'. But it was all so superficial. Hello Chakotay," she mimicked, "how are you? how is work? how's the weather?"
"I thought you liked my weather reports".
She glared at him.
"I'm sorry. You're right. We didn't do a very good job of staying real friends. That's one of the reasons I didn't come to see you the last time I was here. If ten minutes over subspace is painful, I imagined that an hour or two over drinks would be -"
"- torture?" she supplied.
"I was going to say exhausting."
"Oh." She couldn't deny that was true.
"Then why did you call me this time?"
"Honestly?" he shrugged his shoulders in frustration. "I was ashamed."
"Ashamed? Of what?"
"Of a lot of things. The way I behaved back then. The way I didn't let you know more about what was happening in my life. My determination to keep you at a distance."
Chakotay looked down at his hands for a moment, then back at her. "The way you did to me for all those years".
She started to reply but he interrupted her. "No, don't say anything about that. I don't want to go over all of that again. You had your reasons. I thought they were bad ones," he added with a wry smile, "but there's no point reopening old wounds."
"I never meant to wound you."
"I know that. That's one of the reasons I'm not still angry about it."
He sighed. "Kathryn. I'm not proud of the way I behaved. I don't regret -" he stopping, searching for a suitable phrase.
"Our night of passion?" she suggested.
Chakotay grinned. "That's very poetic. I don't regret our night of passion itself. If we're honest - ," he looked sideways at her, "- we both know that's what I've always wanted from you. From us."
He shook his head slightly. "It was our timing that was terrible. I'd just spent hours convincing myself that there wouldn't be anything long-term between us. That you would never let that happen. But I didn't explain myself very well afterwards."
"You were quite concise. " Kathryn said.
He snorted. "Abrupt would be a better word."
As Kathryn started to shake her head he stopped her with a brief touch of his hand. "No, you know I'm right. I was damned rude to you that night when we had coffee. And all those weeks later, when I came to see you in your apartment."
She thought about his explanation, about the words that had resonated through her head for months afterwards.
"You said that talking wouldn't help. That it wouldn't change your mind. You said, that we weren't meant to be."
"Gods I was dramatic. I'm sorry Kathryn. You didn't deserve that. I was the one who wasn't clear about what I wanted. I was the one who was too tired, too restless to want to have this conversation. You were the decisive one, in the end. Once you'd made up your mind, I mean."
"Once I'd made up my mind," she echoed.
She stared at him blankly while he chewed on his lower lip. "So what does this all mean?"
"I just wanted you to understand my reasons. And know how sorry I am for being such a jerk."
"I'm still not sure that I do, understand I mean."
He sighed. "Some of it doesn't seem to matter now." He stopped, lost in thought.
Kathryn touched his hand, urging him to continue. "It matters, Chakotay."
At that he looked at her quickly, something in her quiet reply causing his breath to catch in his throat. He spoke hastily, throwing out the words as though afraid he would lose the chance to say them.
"I was afraid we wouldn't work here. I was afraid you would be swept up in your job. Be promoted. That I would lose you to Starfleet, for the second time."
She watched their hands resting together on the bar. It did actually make sense, she thought, from his perspective. If he had stayed, would she have put her work first? Drifted away from him?
She thought carefully before responding. "I can't say," she began slowly, "what I would have done. Not for sure. But you didn't even give our relationship a chance."
"I didn't intend to start a relationship at all, Kathryn."
"Isn't that the same thing in the end?"
His eyes met hers. "Now I don't know what you mean."
"Well," she took another deep breath, then ploughed ahead. "Even if you hadn't intended to sleep with me before you went away, your end point was the same. You still intended to go without me. With or without our little fling. And I still wanted you to stay, either way. I'd been looking for you for hours when we met outside the coffee shop that day. I would have kept looking for you."
She looked down at their hands again, the fingers now gently entwined. "I would have tracked you down across the galaxy."
He smiled at that, the familiar warmth returning to his expression. "Again."
Kathryn looked up at him, her eyes sparkling. "Yes, again."
Chakotay met her gaze for a moment, then looked back at the bar. "Now its my turn to ask. So what does this all mean? Here we are, together again. And you -," he broke off.
He met her eyes again, "You got your promotion."
She tried to keep her voice steady. Put it on the line, Kathryn, she told herself. You both need to know.
"I think I've learned a few things about priorities, Chakotay. Back here -," she gestured to the room around her, "- a lot of things aren't the way I remember them. But I've come to realise that it's me who's changed. I might love my work, but it isn't everything anymore. There's no way that it could be. I've already given up so much."
"Oh". He didn't look up, but she could see that his lips were starting to curve upwards at the edges.
Kathryn's voice cracked a little as she spoke. "I realised that once I'd tracked you down, I wouldn't let you go again."
Chakotay was definitely smiling now.
She decided he was starting to look a little too comfortable, and needed some prodding himself. "So you came here because you were ashamed of your behaviour back then. Was that all?"
He swallowed hard. "No."
Kathryn squeezed his hand. "Go on."
"I couldn't stop thinking about you. For the past few months I've been questioning whether I did the right thing. By walking away I mean, not the way I actually walked away. I realised how insensitive that was a long time ago."
"And what did you conclude?"
Chakotay gazed at her, his eyes intense. "I thought I made that part clear the other night."
"When you kissed me." She found her heart beating faster just at the memory of that moment.
"When I kissed you. With that 'quite good' kiss."
She laughed lightly. "Perhaps you're a little out of practice."
He curled his fingers more tightly around hers. "Maybe I am."
"So - ?"
"So. If I extend my trip here on Earth. If I decide," he began to lean closer to her, "to make it more permanent, perhaps we could come to some sort of arrangement".
"I think I heard a few 'ifs' in there, Chakotay," she said softly.
"Well," he smiled, as though at a decision finally made after a long struggle, " I am a stranger to Earth at the moment. I'd need some help finding my way around."
"And I'd need some company."
"Yes." She edged towards him.
"And I'd need a place to stay."
Kathryn smiled. "Did I tell you how many bedrooms there are in my country house?"
She brushed her lips against his, then pulled back. "Only one, actually".
Chakotay grinned. "You are joking."
"Yes, I'm joking. There are plenty. Four actually. But we wouldn't need the rest."
"If I improve my kissing."
He leaned forward and kissed her again, more soundly this time. Kathryn rested her head against his shoulder and sighed. "We really need to work on our communication, Chakotay."
"Oh? Why's that?"
She smiled against the soft material of his jumper, "Because you shouldn't have to ask, you should know already. I'll always have a place for you to stay."
Whenever you fall
you can put your shoes under my bed
anytime, anytime you're passing by this way
remember you will always have a place to stay
whenever you call
you can put your shoes under my bed...
from "(you can put your) shoes under my bed" (Paul Kelly)
~ Jinny's stories ~ feed the author ~