For Emily who, even though she's JAK, is one talented writer, and deserves a little romance. *g*

Thanks to Siubhan, who deserves the credit for "Dream Vacations."

Paramount is ruler of the universe and all the characters within it belong to them. This little fantasy, however, is all mine.

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"The Cabin" by Becca O. (this version rated PG)


It was getting dark. Again. Janeway had lost count of the number of times the times the sun had risen and set since escaping to her one solitary hideaway on Earth. Rising stiffly from the pile of pillows on the floor, she placed another log on the fire and paced to stare out the window.

"It's snowing." She smiled to herself, watching the soft fluffy flakes flutter wispily to the ground. From the looks of the clouds, it promised to be more than just a simple snowfall. Shivering, she rubbed her arms with her hands, grateful to be inside, away from the elements. "Coffee...that's what I need." Chuckling with delight, Janeway opened the cupboard and looked over the choices awaiting her ... mocha, vanilla, mint ... So many things she had taken for granted.

The Delta Quadrant seemed a lifetime away. Sipping her coffee she sat on the sofa, tucking her feet under her for warmth. The flames were hypnotizing and Janeway lost herself to her memories.

It had been a chance encounter, a fluke. The sudden temporal shifting that had resulted in the Voyager's return to the far reaches of the Alpha Quadrant had disappeared as quickly as it had come, leaving even the most scientific souls on board to re-examine their faith in the spiritual side of themselves. Jubilation had spread like wildfire through the ship, infectious in nature. The only one seemingly unaffected was her unusually silent First Officer.

Chakotay. Janeway sighed. It had been all of two hours since she had last thought of him. Once again she wondered how he was. What was he doing? Where was he? She knew he was all right; she had made certain of his fate, as well as the other former Maquis, before leaving Starfleet Headquarters. She was adamant that all of the Maquis crewmen be absolved of any wrongdoing in what had come to be known as "the Caretaker affair."

Simple name, wasn't it? A two year lifetime reduced to a name on a classified file. If only it was that simple. She had been debriefed by Starfleet's finest, grudgingly accepted their accolades and quietly disappeared telling no one where she was going. Maybe it was an impulsive move on her part, but the last thing she needed was company. Just *any* company would not have been the one person she really needed anyway, so there was no need for illusion there. The only person who could possibly trace her to her cabin was Mark, and after their last conversation it was a foregone conclusion that *he* wouldn't be coming after her.

She loved him. She really did. *Did*. That was the final distinction, wasn't it? He met her at HQ and immediately knew it was over. Janeway knew it, too. The fire, the spark just wasn't there. The only remaining ember was a warm glow for an old friend. "Kath," he'd said (no one else had ever called her that), "welcome home." A warm embrace, the feeling of relief that she was alive, but no more. Most of her crew had witnessed their reunion, including her former First Officer. Janeway had glanced over Mark's shoulder just in time to witness Chakotay turn and walk away with B'Elanna and Paris.

He'd be fine. They all would. The hardest part was coming to grips with her future. From the moment she'd taken it upon herself to destroy the Caretaker's array, she'd privately conceded the fact that she'd never see home again. She never let on to the crew of course, but in the darkest hours of her command solitude, it was what she thought. Now all that had changed. Admiral Necheyev had shaken her hand and informed her that her ship would be repaired and awaiting it's next mission within several months. The only task remaining to Starfleet was to find replacement crew.

Right then and there, Janeway knew she had to escape. The mere thought of serving with another crew, a "new" crew, on Voyager made her nauseous. Politely requesting a leave of absence, she packed a few civilian things and retreated to the mountains, but she was beginning to regret her haste. There were times she wished she had taken a moment to say proper good-byes. So many things needed to be said to so many people. But where to start?

She knew Torres was glad to be back. Her months of serving aboard Voyager had instilled in her a new confidence, and Janeway had a feeling she might stay with Starfleet now that she was home. Paris had a score to settle with his father; his time in the Delta Quadrant had proven him to be a fine officer and not the eternal screw-up he'd been labeled. Harry Kim's family had been waiting for him when the transport landed. He'd be fine, he had a loving family there to welcome him back to the fold.

But what about Chakotay? What was there for *him* to return to? He again had to make the choice between a career with Starfleet or returning to his people. Janeway knew it would be a difficult choice; she supposed that was the reason behind his reticence to enjoy the celebrations. "I should have spoken with him," she whispered to the silent air. "No, I would have had to spout all the required platitudes and he wouldn't have believed me for a second." She smiled as she remembered their banter on the bridge, the heated 'discussions' in her ready room, the late nights over cold dinner while attempting yet another way to extend their rapidly diminishing reserves. There had been some good times amidst the bad. Those would have to comfort her for a long time to come. Setting her empty cup on the floor, she pulled the afghan around her and closed her eyes.


Janeway opened her eyes and looked around in confusion. Something was amiss, but ... there it was again. An unaccustomed sound above the howling of the winter storm. It almost sounded like--

"Hello!"

A voice almost carried away by the wind, it seemed to be outside her door. "No one knows I'm here..." For a moment, fear won out over curiosity. Until she heard ...

"Kathryn! Open up!"

Scrambling to her feet, she tripped over her cup, pulling a wrap around her shoulders as she raced to pull open the heavy wooden door.

"Damn, it's cold. How do stand it up here?"

Speechless, she stared into the amused eyes of her former First Officer.

"May I come in, or do all your guests stand outside in blizzards?"

"Oh, God, I'm sorry. Of course you can come in." Reaching for his gloved hand, she pulled him inside and closed the door on the wind and the night. Still not quite coherent, it was all she could do to just look at him. His large frame was covered in snow. Somewhere underneath all that was a heavy coat and all-terrain boots. He'd never looked better. Chakotay stood stoically, secretly enjoying the inspection.

Finding her voice at last, she asked, "Why are you here??"

"I was worried. No one has heard from you in weeks." His eyes took in her face, still beautiful in spite of the tiredness that still shadowed her features. "Your hair is down," he observed, watching with fascination as the firelight reflected off the auburn strands.

Flushing furiously, she smoothed the stray strands that had feathered about her face. "I seldom put it up when I'm off-duty. How did you find me?" she asked in a quick change of subject.

Smiling at her agility, Chakotay replied softly, "Mark. I called Mark when no one could reach you, and he told me about this place. We had quite an interesting conversation." Shrugging off his coat, he hung it by the door, revealing a soft, earth-toned sweater that did nothing but emphasize his broad shoulders and dark coloring. Janeway thought he seemed strangely out of place without his burgundy and black regulation jumpsuit.

Skirting the subject yet again, she asked about her former crew. Chakotay thought he'd never seen her more uncomfortable as she was at this moment, but he played along. Seating himself on the sofa as if he belonged there, he related the promotions and offers that his friends had received since official notification of their pardon. Then he became silent.

"Chakotay, what about you?" A soft hand on his arm drew his thoughts back to the present. "What will *you* do?"

"I've been offered a position on DS9. A full promotion to Commander and a place as Starfleet "liaison" with the Maquis." He snorted as he continued, "They want someone to act as an intermediary, so that hopefully the Maquis will see the 'error of their ways' and assist Starfleet."

Kathryn gasped. "You can't..."

"No. I can't. I turned down the offer."

Relief spread over her face and she closed her eyes with the force of it. "Now what will you do? Chakotay, why did you come all the way up here? To say good-bye?" Without even being aware, she had inched closer to him so that there was virtually no space left between them.

Looking directly into her eyes, he leveled with her. "I told them there was only one position I'd even consider accepting. If they couldn't accommodate my request, then I would resign my commission."

When had his arm wrapped around her shoulders?

"I told them I was quite content on the Voyager, but only if I was acting as First Officer."

When had he tangled his fingers in her hair? Why couldn't she think of something intelligent to say? Why couldn't she breathe?

"Serving under *you*." His eyes closed as he pulled her head toward his and covered her mouth with his own. Moving his lips possessively over hers, he was extremely grateful for leaves of absence. No way in hell would he have attempted this three months ago. Thought about it, dreamed about it, maybe, but never breached Captain Kathryn Janeway's command barrier. As her arms stole 'round his back to hold him closer, he sent a silent thank you to Mark. Mark, her former lover who still seemed to know and understand exactly what she needed and proceeded to see that she got it. He was a good man and a very good loser.

*I knew if I ever touched him there would be no turning back* Janeway threaded her hands through his hair, slightly longer than before, and held him as his mouth worked its incredible magic on her senses. Breaking the kiss at last, they sat together for the longest time, wrapped against each other, enjoying their freedom from the constraints of duty.

"You haven't told me what Starfleet Command had to say," Janeway whispered, leaning her head back against his shoulder.

"It wasn't easy. They still think I have a lot to prove, but finally they agreed. I have to respond by tomorrow at 1200 hours."

"And you tracked me down just to tell me that?!" There had to be more to this visit.

"Among other things," Chakotay chuckled. Gods, it felt so good to laugh again; just being in the same room with her made the impossible seem so within reach. "Admiral Necheyev," he grimaced as he said her name, "won't transmit final approval unless you agree to my appointment. I think she was counting on my being unable to locate you in time."

Kathryn spun around, an astonished look on her face. She had known there was no love lost between Chakotay and the Admiral but this --

"That's when I decided to contact Mark. As I said before, we had an 'interesting' conversation." Merriment sparkled in his dark eyes. "Aren't you the slightest bit curious what we talked about?"

"Your personal conversation is really none of my business." She was dying to know, but wouldn't give him the satisfaction of asking.

Planting a swift kiss on her soft mouth he murmured, "Kathryn Janeway, you can be so stubborn sometimes..." Taking her chin in his hand, he continued. "I knew Mark would never give away your whereabouts unless I could convince him of my sincerity, so I told him exactly how I felt about you."

"And?" Her breath caught on a note of anticipation.

Punctuating each sentence with a gentle kiss, he ticked off his answer. "I told him how much I liked serving with you. I told him how you drove me to distraction with your incessant protocols." Looking deeply into her eyes he added, "I told him how I would have served with you for the rest of my life if Voyager had never made it back. And then I told him how I'd fallen in love with you and if he didn't tell me where you were, I might never have the chance to serve with you again." He ended his confession with an odd huskiness to his voice, his eyes unusually bright. "I think that was what convinced him. Oh-- and he sent you a message."

Kathryn couldn't seem to find her voice. She could only tip her head in a questioning manner and ask with her eyes.

" 'Congratulations'. " Bending his head toward hers, their kiss was an affirmation, an acceptance of whatever lay ahead.


Much later, Kathryn stirred in his arms. "We have to contact Starfleet."

Quieting her restlessness, Chakotay whispered, "Not now. We'll have time for that in the morning. Tonight is ours." Sighing in harmony, they gave themselves to the feelings that each had held silently within for so many months.


Outside, the world was blanketed in white. The wind had long-ago stilled and a single bright star shone down on the cabin, giving its blessing to the new beginnings within.

THE END
12/29/95



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