by Myu

Disclaimer: Star Trek: Voyager and everything associated with it is owned by CBS/Paramount.
Notes: Spring fever on Voyager. 
Rating: PG...ish.

A soft breeze blew through the trees, carrying a warm scent from the perfumed buds and coaxing a smile from a mouth that had been frozen into a grim line for most of the winter.  She walked through the densely-packed avenues of a forest, occasionally stopping to bend down and touch the edge of a petal or fern.  The blades of grass sparkled as the dew caught the light of the afternoon sun and the tiny pinpricks of light shimmered in her vision after she had turned away.  Leaning against a tree, she twirled a single flower between her fingertips as she waited.
"Chakotay to Janeway."
She kept smiling and held the flower to her nose briefly to breathe in the faint scent.
"Janeway here."
There was a slight pause.
"It's the first day of Spring," Chakotay's voice was carefully neutral.
"I know.  Come in."
The doors opened immediately and he strode into the Holodeck, exactly as she had known he would.  He stood and looked at her for a moment.
"How's the plant coming along?"
She held his gaze steadily.  There was a neat line of tension between them that she was longing to slice through.
"There are a few shoots emerging from the soil.  They've been coming through for about a week now."
"I'm glad to hear it."
Kathryn threw away the flower carelessly and started towards him, but he was too quick for her.  In an instant his mouth was on hers, she was pushed back against the tree and spring had begun again in a feverish burst of colour and longing, just as it had done for so many years before.

Kathryn lay with Chakotay at the base of the tree afterwards, looking up through the branches above them.  The sun was setting and the light filtered through traces of cloud, casting patterns of luminous colour across the darkening sky.  She wanted to say something to him, but couldn't - there was a strict unspoken rule between them which had been set long ago.  Ever since the rule had been made she had been tempted to break it various times, but feared that if she did so then all would come to an end...

*     *     *

"It's the first day of Spring," Chakotay had noted after their dinner together that week three years ago.  The day had been busy and they were slouched around in Kathryn's living area, too exhausted to maintain any formal seated positions.
"I know," Kathryn had replied wearily, stretched out on the sofa with a cushion propped behind her head "How disappointing."
"Spring," She continued in a flat tone, "It's supposed to be a time for new beginnings -"
"I would have said New Year was more the time for that," Chakotay interrupted, looking over curiously.
"I grew up around farmers.  Spring is when the plants start to grow, baby animals are's almost like a second chance to start over again after New Year if you don't stick to your resolutions."
"So what's wrong with it?"
"Well, last year on my birthday I realised that I hadn't made any changes at all.  And I needn't remind you that there are hardly any indication of the seasons changing on this ship," She sighed and shifted on her cushion.
"Knowing the seasons are changing at home makes it seem that much further away," He remarked dolefully.  Kathryn watched him and then stood up suddenly.
"Come on, Chakotay," She pulled him upright and led him out into the corridor.
"Where are we going?" He asked, yawning.
"We're going for a walk on the Holodeck.  I have a program of a spring forest that we're going to try out."
"Yes, ma'am," Chakotay followed obediently.

"How do you feel at this time of year?" Kathryn asked once they were on the Holodeck, trailing one hand over the tree trunks as they passed through the forest.
"Not much different to any other time of year," Chakotay answered, "Can you be more specific?"
"Do you ever feel lonely?" She held back a slight cringe as the question resonated in the space between them.
He thought, staring down at the leaves scattered over the ground.
"I suppose so.  Doesn't everyone at some point?"
"Most people have a chance to do something about it," She pointed out, her eyes narrowing as she looked between the trees.  Chakotay stopped.
"Does 'most people' include us?" He asked, avoiding her gaze as she turned to him.
"I don't know," She answered, although the way she had tilted her face up towards him implied that she held an entirely different opinion.  He leaned down and hesitated, lips poised barely an inch and a half above hers.
"I'd like to think it does," He murmured, keeping his eyes firmly locked on a position somewhere to the left, "But I don't know, either."
Kathryn's breathing quickened as the words she wanted to say were stolen by the breeze wafting past.  She wondered desperately how to continue when all she could feel was the quiver of her eyelids as she struggled to blink.  After an endless pause punctured by a laboured heartbeat she lowered her head, although she didn't walk away.
"It wouldn't have to be a permanent arrangement," She said slowly, hardly daring to believe what she was proposing.
"Uncomplicated, straightforward.  Just...between us," Chakotay agreed solemnly.
"How long would it take to get rid of the feeling of being alone?  What - two weeks?" She asked finally, biting the edge of her lip.
"A month?" He suggested carelessly.
"A couple of months?" She pressed.
"A season?" Chakotay slipped one finger under her chin and gently raised her head so that he could look her straight in the eye.  For the first time Kathryn realised how much a look could communicate - she couldn't understand the words, but there was a strong message coming forth from him that provoked in her an overwhelming sense of fragility she had never felt in his presence before.
"A season," She concurred, her expression unreadable as she regained some measure of control, "It's difficult to measure a season,"
She trained her eyes on the point where his tattoo curved over his eyebrow.
"It'd be hard to know...when to stop."
One glance at Chakotay's strained expression was all it took for her to know that he was having as much trouble concentrating as she was.  Kathryn could never have guessed how long they stood there, but eventually they walked on.  Both surveyed the ground intently, although neither could have admitted to whether they were admiring the flora and fauna or looking for something to say.  

After their exchange on the Holodeck Kathryn couldn't escape thinking about what had been set in motion between them.  It was as if Chakotay had driven some sort of spring bulb into her heart and it was starting to take root fast, with small tendrils already starting to wind and tighten around her nerves.  The next night she was standing outside his door with her finger poised over the doorchime and was debating over whether to press it or not when the doors opened and Chakotay almost collided with her.  He stood aside to allow her to enter and hesitated awkwardly. 
"I have something for you," He announced, brandishing a small plant pot.  In the earth a single shoot stood with a pale bud on the end.
"You shouldn't have, but thank you nonetheless." Kathryn smiled at him gratefully.  "What is it?"
"It's a rare species of lilly that I managed to grow in the airponics bay.  It flowers every Spring."  He paused and gave her a significant look.
"Every Spring.  I see." A slight nod confirmed that she understood. 
"It reminds me of you." He cleared his throat and produced a padd with a holo-image on the display.  "This is what it looks like in bloom."
Kathryn looked, and saw a delicate flower with sprays of colour scattered across the petals.
"It's beautiful," She breathed.
"I know," Chakotay said quietly, looking straight at her.
With that she carefully set the pot down and then, without stopping to think, pulled his head to hers and kissed him with all the fever and passion that had built up within her during her time alone on Voyager. 
When Kathryn left his quarters the next morning, a little dazed and more than a little dishevelled, she came to realise that they hadn't said a single word to each other.  Hugging the plant pot to her chest, she looked down at it closely and smiled when she saw a slight opening in the bud.  Spring wouldn't be over for a long time yet.

Even though the spring season had been firmly established in her mind, in the evenings she spent with Chakotay that first year Kathryn was reminded of the way she used to feel during the summer as a child - free, happy and warm.  Now, instead of being free from school, she was free from the monotony of all the evenings she had spent alone; rather than feeling happy that she had nothing pressing to do she looked forward to seeing him and as for the warmth...she didn't need to see the sun to feel the heat in the room when they were together.  Whenever they had met as friends previously they had always struggled to find enough time to discuss everything, but the one stipulation that seemed to define their spring agreement was that they remained silent.  As the days and weeks passed the strengthening stem of the lilly rose higher from the earth and, as the plant began to flower and she met with Chakotay every day, Kathryn wondered how seriously he took the whole affair.  The fact that neither of them spoke whenever they were together made it seem somewhat unreal to her, but obviously she couldn't confirm any suspicious she had regarding his feelings without asking him.  Over the course of her whole life Kathryn had been straightforward almost to the point of bluntness and had prided herself on never skirting around any issues or lacking the courage to put forth her opinion.  In fact, it was surprisingly easy not to talk - when there was nothing to listen to she could concentrate fully on looking at him and quickly found that she could interpret the smallest of gestures.  A slight twitch in his eyebrow, a crease at the corner of his mouth...they all communicated something that her instincts or experiences could translate easily.  It wasn't quite the same as the discussions they used to have that stretched on into the night but nevertheless she felt she was learning more about him, if on a different level, and the knowledge warmed her like all the summers had come at once. 

*     *     *    

Kathryn held that thought as she was jolted out of her dreaming when Chakotay shifted next to her.  Dusk had fallen over the forest rapidly and the last few traces of pink in the sky were fading into the approaching darkness.  In the gloom she sought his hand and as she closed her fingers around his thumb he guided her to her feet smoothly as though he had read her mind.  In the corridor she wasn't sure which person was leading the other, but nevertheless they both arrived at her quarters and celebrated the beginning of the season over and over until they both collapsed on the bed in exhaustion.  As she was about to fall asleep he took her hand and skated his thumb over the tips of her nails, surveying them critically.  She threw him an inquisitive look and he responded with a tight half-smile before settling back down on the bedclothes.  After a moment she reached over and ran her hand lightly over his back, blushing as the pads of her fingers lingered over the scarlet crescent-shaped marks her nails had hollowed into his skin.  She traced the curve of his spine up to the base of his neck, skimming her fingertips over the slight ridges of his bones beaded together like the buds on the branches they had walked beneath on the Holodeck.  Each touch was softer than the last and she watched his shoulderblades tremble as though she had drawn a feather across them.  Finally he turned to her and reciprocated with a gentleness that seemed to both fulfill and break her at the same time.  The single tear that escaped over the edge of her eyelashes drove a tingling cut down her cheek that prickled with bitter sorrow and that night she held him closer to her heart than her arms would allow, thankful for the silence that freed her from fumbled explanations and awkward questions.

After that Kathryn was touched by a haunting sadness whenever she was alone and struggled to stop thinking about it.  While Voyager had been in the Delta Quadrant the idea that the Captain should maintain a professional distance from the crew had never been far from her mind and she had drifted into a solitary life without realising it.  Now and again she felt lonely - as she had discussed with  Chakotay years ago - but she had in fact forgotten that such tenderness could and did exist and began to wonder whether she and Chakotay could have had a successful relationship had things been different.  Three years ago they had both admitted they were lonely and somehow made an agreement to help each other relieve the solitude.  It was something that she had resolved to keep completely separate from her friendship with Chakotay in her mind and something that she had always believed could be broken off easily at any time.  It was in this way that Kathryn had always concluded that the whole situation was exactly like the flower they used to measure it - had the plant withered and died she would have missed watching the bud open and admiring the hints of colour seeping across the pale petals, but she wouldn't have been especially grieved.  However, now it seemed more like her feelings regarding the situation were more deeply-rooted than she had initially believed.  Before Kathryn would have laughed at the notion that she could fall in love with Chakotay - now she wasn't so sure, and it was less easy to dismiss the idea altogether.  For some inexplicable reason something she had read in one of her first biology texts at school was ever present in her thoughts: A flower's life is short, and mostly filled with pain.

It was something she was thinking over again late in April when she reached over and stroked the petals of the lilly softly, remembering how Chakotay's skin had rippled as his spine juddered under her touch.  At that point one of the petals came away in her hand and she looked down at the flower in dismay.  Closer examination revealed that the edges of the petals had dried and were beginning to brown - without a doubt, the plant was starting to wilt as the end of the season approached.  She clenched her fist and a heavy sense of dread dropped through to the bottom of her stomach like a stone, squeezing through her throat painfully on the way down.  A dull ache began to throb though her palm and her hand sprang open, revealing the crushed petal circled by a set of pinkish-red curved welts where her nails had dug into the skin; a sibling to the twin sets of similar markings on Chakotay's back.  Seeing the marks brought the memory of that night back and the tears she swallowed roused sore jolts in her chest, making her throat swell and her eyes sting.  She ripped the petal into tiny pieces with shaking fingers and as the shreds fell to the floor she was suddenly reminded of the second Spring they had shared together...

*     *     *

In that second year, Kathryn was all but desperate for Spring to begin.  The winter had been full of conflict and nothing on the ship seemed to hold her interest long enough to distract her from the problems of travelling through hostile regions of space.  She started examining the plant pot for signs of life in mid-January and spent a good deal of her free time in the following weeks peering at the soil obsessively, praying for a hint of green to appear and give her some much-needed hope.  Almost a month passed before the first shoot began to emerge and those long four weeks were almost more than Kathryn could bear, especially when she was in Chakotay's company.  One evening in the last week of February she and Chakotay were sitting in her quarters after dinner, both sprawling on opposite ends of the sofa.  The scene reminded Kathryn so much of the night they had made their Spring agreement that it was all she could do not to beat the sofa cushions in frustration.  
"Kathryn, what's wrong?" Chakotay murmured without opening his eyes.  She peered over at him.
"What?  Nothing."
"You've been distracted all evening."
"So have you." She retorted, sighing dejectedly, "It's just...everything."
"It's been a long winter," He agreed, eyeing the plant pot.  She had brought it into the living area where she could keep a close watch on it, but there were still no signs of growth yet.
"Too long.  I wish it was over," She commented grimly, not caring how he chose to interpret her words. 
"Come on, Kathryn," Chakotay took her arm and guided her out into the corridor.  Kathryn followed him to the turbolift and down to the Holodeck without comment, her mild interest signalled only by her fingers drumming together all the way.  The Holodeck doors opened and they strolled in, although Kathryn's pace slowed to a halt as she took in her surroundings.
It was the spring forest, except that it wasn't spring any more.  The wildflowers, once a distinctive mixture of vibrant colours, were a clump of forlorn stalks standing amidst some withering remains of petals; the path was strewn with a damp mass of cold leaves and the thick foliage that had once enveloped them both was now a collection of thin, bare branches forming jagged patterns in front of her eyes.  She had always liked the gentle sunlight and mild climate of the spring program but found herself shivering in the chilly air, feeling her nerves curling as light raindrops began to fall around them.  She looked at Chakotay with an expression that was stuck somewhere between horror and disbelief.  He held fast onto her arm and they walked on a few paces.
"Chakotay - why?" She implored in a low voice, almost afraid that her words would echo in the hollow emptiness.
"This is the only place where this can happen," He picked a fallen leaf out of her hair and placed it in her hand, gliding it over the lines of her palm.
"Computer, change the season to spring."
Kathryn could see everything around them dissolve and then rematerialize with a new vitality that sparkled in her vision.  They were surrounded by a long stretch of emerald-green grass dotted with patches of vividly-coloured wildflowers and stood beneath a tree with branches that were almost weighed down with frothing bunches of pinkish blossom.  The shrivelled, dead skeleton of a frozen leaf scraping the edges of her palm was no longer there - instead, a perfectly formed petal lay on her heart line.  She looked up at Chakotay, too choked to speak.  He took her in his arms gently and before long she was torn between whether she was in the embrace of a lover or a friend.  The only possible clue was in the silence and she stood absolutely still, unwilling to break the hush.
"Are you all right?" 
Chakotay's words broke the calm and the debate in her mind was neatly ripped to shreds.  She held on tightly to him, holding back the pain of longing for her lover while she was in the arms of her friend, and she felt the hurt of so many suppressed tears drip though her chest as the petals rained down on them freely...

*     *     *

The closest Kathryn and Chakotay ever came to openly acknowledging their spring arrangement was when they mentioned the flower in passing.  Chakotay would occasionally enquire after its progress and Kathryn would let him know when it started to wilt.    Each day she decided that she would tell him tomorrow and then each night she pushed any gnawing guilt behind something else in her mind - just as she slid the plant pot behind a pile of books in her quarters - blaming her unsettled disposition on something entirely different if Chakotay ever noticed when they met as friends.
In the morning on the day that she resolved to tell him, she woke early and let the words she intended to say run through her head one last time as she lay next to him.  The subject was to be broached briefly and concisely, she had decided.  She would mention it on her way out when she returned to her own quarters.
Kathryn turned her attention back to Chakotay and turned over gingerly to look at him, letting her eyes trace every feature of his face.  As she was studying the creases on his eyelids the faint lines fluttered and then rose out of sight as he opened his eyes and focused on her.  He smiled at her, the warmth and contentment in his expression warming her like a ray of sunlight.  When he didn't look away Kathryn began to wonder what he was thinking and whether it bore any resemblance to her own thoughts.  While she felt almost completely relaxed and happy, she couldn't help a small part of herself considering whether she ought to be feeling the way she did - as if she never wanted Spring to end.  She wasn't entirely sure anymore that Chakotay found their relationship to be meaningless, either - if it was just a temporary solution to reduce some of the loneliness and frustration of being stuck in the Delta Quadrant, would they be lying staring into each other's eyes?  Would he have touched her in a way that drove her to tears, then shushed her and rubbed her back until she fell asleep if he didn't feel anything more than friendship towards her?  In some way as the flower in her quarters was wilting, she was conscious of something inside her taking root and growing steadily, a small, delicate bud beginning to open and bloom as the leaves of the real plant decayed in the soil. 
Presently she had to leave to go and get ready for her shift on the Bridge.  That day the silence seemed unsettling and so it was with some relief that she drew breath to speak just before she was about to leave.
"Chakotay?" She asked as she began to slip on her boots.
"Yes?  Hold on, those are my boots," He gathered up her shoes and, as he did so, Kathryn's breath caught in her throat.  Rather than smile back, she felt a sudden chill as if she had walked into a patch of shade.  The scene seemed all-too-familiar - an uncomfortable silence, a mistake...a feeling of deja vu echoed around her head and her heart began to thump rather oddly in her chest, the irregularity throwing her off beat for a second.
"- nothing," She answered finally and left without looking back.
Once safely back in her quarters she leaned against the wall miserably and tried to make some sense of everything.  After the messy end of Spring the year before she had promised herself that she would be more careful, but now she was horribly reminded of the incident and while she was distracted by the memory it was in danger of happening all over again:
In the first two years they had kept a close eye on the flower until all but one of the petals were gone.  They had then taken the plant pot and a bottle of wine into the Holodeck and made the most of their last night together before detaching the last petal from the head of the flower and sealing it in the empty wine bottle.  The previous year would have been the same, except that they were too late...

*     *     *

It was early in the morning and Kathryn had been reading a book while she waited for Chakotay to wake up.  As she sat curled up in the armchair in her nightdress and Chakotay's uniform jacket she thought herself to be more or less content, save for the fact that spring would soon be over and the flower was drooping, losing petals fast.  The thought provoked a slight shiver down her arms and she drew the jacket more tightly around herself, burrowing into the soft material.  She pushed the idea to the back of her mind and read on until she heard Chakotay stir, at which point she looked up from the book and over to him.
Kathryn smiled at him and wondered if he was thinking the same as she was - one of the things she missed was waking up with someone.  He got out of bed and, after setting her book aside, drew her out of the chair gently and was in the middle of pulling her back towards the bed when his arms around her waist went rigid and she felt his fingertips tense in the small of her back.  She looked at him curiously, the question of whether she should ask him what was wrong pounding in her mind anxiously.
"The lilly -" Chakotay uttered abruptly and Kathryn turned immediately to the shelf behind her, twisting her back awkwardly underneath his heavy grip.  The stalk of the flower was bare and the last two petals lay on the edge of the shelf, the pale hues highlighted like stains on the grey surface.  She glanced back up at him and found she couldn't read his expression.
"I bumped into that shelf last night when we..." She looked away uneasily and they broke apart, Chakotay suddenly looking very uncomfortable.  He began to dress hastily and Kathryn stood rubbing her neck in embarrassment, not quite sure what to do or where to look as he bustled around clumsily.
"Chakotay, that's my jacket," She pointed out distractedly as he tried to force his arm through the narrow sleeve.  He stopped, discarded the jacket and looked around the quarters in confusion.
"Er - may I?" He gestured to her and it took a moment for her to realise that she was still wearing his uniform jacket.
"Oh - of course," She mumbled, shrugging out of the garment hurriedly and handing it over.  As she watched him pull it round his shoulders she was suddenly very aware that her own shoulders were bare, save for the thin straps of her nightdress.  She wrapped her arms around herself self-consciously.
Kathryn was still standing there after he left, numbed by a bewildering sense of uncertainty and shivering as if touched by the cold of winter even though the room was perfectly warm.

*     *     *

After the abrupt end to the season the previous year Kathryn had been determined not to let the same thing happen again, but nonetheless found herself completely disinclined to let Chakotay know that the plant had begun to wilt.  The knowledge that the season was ending remained buried under heavy layers of denial and excuses almost to the point that Kathryn could pretend she had forgotten about it.  Underneath the carefully-placed shrouds of fantasy the truth began to fester and eat away at her insides, consuming all that she had tried to protect herself with.  It was with a sick heart that she met Chakotay in the third week of June.
The holographic forest was still blooming brightly, although the sun appeared remarkably warmer and a balmy fragrance lingered in the air.  Chakotay took his uniform jacket off almost as soon as they sat down on the grass underneath one of the trees.  He had brought along a picnic lunch and as he started unpacking the basket Kathryn gulped some water noisily to try and alleviate some of the dryness in her mouth.  She sat stiffly as he began to eat and didn't touch the plate in her lap, feeling too queasy with guilt to contemplate food.  After a while Chakotay looked at her curiously and she quickly shoved a strawberry into her mouth, fighting back a wince as the sharp flavour grew sourer with every forced chew.  She strained to swallow the lumpy mass as her parched throat revolted and retched and she struggled until she had no choice but to spit the half-eaten food into a tissue.  By that point Chakotay had set aside his own plate and shifted over to her with an expression of some concern.  As the arduous coughing and spluttering began to subside he moved in closer, rubbing her back gently.  Kathryn just managed to avoid another fit of coughs as she twisted away - Chakotay touching her the way he had that night was more than she could bear.  She skirted backwards clumsily, her ragged breaths echoing in the silent space around them. 
"The lilly wilted five weeks ago," She uttered desperately.  "I'm sorry."  Some blossom petals were dislodged from the branches and fell to the ground in tormented spirals.  As she caught the sight of them fluttering from the corner of her eye Kathryn couldn't help but feel like she was breaking everything around them.  Chakotay's expression was inscrutable.
"I see." He said simply.  Kathryn rose to her feet steadily and began to walk away.
"Wait.  Sit down and we'll speak -" He started, standing up hastily.
"- No." She interrupted.
"Why not?" His voice was coming closer and she quickened her pace in response.
"We don't talk about this, Chakotay." Kathryn's tone bordered somewhere between a regret and a warning.
"Maybe it's about time we did."
Kathryn stopped and Chakotay almost ran headlong into her, only just managing to stop himself in time.
"Maybe," She agreed, eyes glinting in a face pale with anxiety and anticipation.
"So let's talk," He said, his tone neutral, "How do you feel?"
"How do I feel?" She repeated slowly, pausing while she desperately searched for something in his appearance to give her any kind of clue as to what he was thinking.
"Yes," Chakotay answered pointedly.  Even as he was giving her the opportunity to open up to him she felt for the first time that he was completely closed to her and that she had no inkling as to the true nature of his feelings at all.  Kathryn was about to turn away again when a breeze blew past, enveloping her in the forgotten scent of spring.  She sensed the emotions within her burst into bloom with a raw intensity that battered her insides.  All the joys and miseries of the season culminated into one string of words that kept lashing across her mind incessantly:
A flower's life is short and mostly filled with pain...
"It hurts..." She mumbled, hardly able to hear herself over the pounding in her ears.
Kathryn suddenly launched herself at him, kissing him fiercely until she ran out of breath and sank to the ground, pulling him down to his knees along with her.  He let her rest her head against his.
"I know you asked me a question," She said finally, grazing her bruised lips over his cheek, "But, even though I've had years to practise, I didn't think I could put the answer into words."
"I couldn't have put it better myself."  Chakotay remarked, feeling her eyelashes quiver against his cheekbone.
"These past few weeks..." Kathryn began, stumbling over her words, "They've been difficult - I felt like..."
"I didn't want Spring to end," He cut in abruptly.  She flinched.
"I didn't know you felt the same," She said quietly, resting her fingertips on his collarbones as she began to relax.
"I only began to wonder if you did when you didn't mention the lilly.  It was turning out to be a very long Spring - not that I'm complaining."
"Are we doing the right thing?" Kathryn watched the blossom petals fall from the branches and felt as though layers of her skin were falling away, leaving her exposed and vulnerable.
"Why do you ask?"
He wound his arms around her and this time she let him, wondering dimly how he had known exactly what to do.
"This - everything - it all seems to get harder every year.  I don't know if you understand - it hurts..." She repeated,
"Do you think it was easy for me to leave you standing there shivering in your quarters last year?  Do you think I didn't feel anything when you were upset and I couldn't ask why?  Kathryn, I -" Chakotay stopped and drew back, looking her straight in the eye.
"I don't want our first conversation about this to end in an argument."
Kathryn bit her lip.
"At least I finally know what you're thinking," She murmured with a grimace.  He glanced at her in surprise.
"I tried to tell you things without speaking," He admitted, smiling faintly, "I always wondered if you understood."
"Well, I know that you thought my nails were too sharp."
"Is that all?" Chakotay gazed at her intently.  "It wouldn't take long to transcribe everything.  Every third word or so was 'love'."
Kathryn watched him steadily and didn't break their eye contact.
"I wanted it to be the first thing I said to you, but nevertheless..." He continued softly, "I love you, Kathryn."
"I love you, too," She confessed, and ran the tip of her finger over his lips lightly, "It was easier said than done, wasn't it?"
He laughed, then brushed away the tear from the edge of her eye with his thumb and held her close.
"Does it still hurt?" He asked, voice tinged with a hint of disquiet.
"No, it doesn't," She answered truthfully, the pain in her chest having already receded into memory. 
As they emerged from the Holodeck Kathryn was happy as the Spring ended for the first time in four years, and she looked upon the bare soil in the plant pot without remorse.  A new season was beginning and within her she could feel all of the different aspects of her relationship with Chakotay crossed together in a hybrid to create a lasting blossom that would flower and flourish in her heart long after every other lilly had withered on the grounds of their life together.

-- End --

Additional notes: This was my fifth completed Voyager fic and was written for VAMB's Spring Fling 2007.  Unfortunately I was already underway with the story before realising that the whole concept was really quite weird.  I decided to keep on with it and well, come the deadline...let's just say that if I had incorporated all of the colourful language I used while writing this, the age rating would be significantly higher.  Oh, bugger it - it's almost two in the morning and I'm tired of being polite.  I - effing - hate this fic!  Go and read something worthwhile!!  Aaagh!