Note: this was a Valentine's Day 2004 fic challenge on the JetC40 list.

“After All These Years”
for Guinan
by Becca O.

The years had been kind to Kathryn. Her once-auburn tresses were silver now, and the tiny lines aside her eyes gave credence to the humor with which she had viewed almost everything her long life had tossed her way. Today, she was elbow-deep in the rich dark soil. Planting, weeding, simply creating and bonding with nature, the warm late winter sun on her back.

“Are you going to stand and stare at me, Chakotay, or were you planning to help?”

“I haven’t decided,” he grinned. “Helping would be the proper thing to do, I suppose, but …”

“But what?” she asked, sitting back on her heels and wiping the sweat from her brow. Seeing the dimples as he attempted to hide another smile she sighed, shaking her head. “You never were one to just come right out with it, were you?”

“You wound me, Kathryn,” he sighed, placing a hand over is heart.

“Tell it to someone who believes it,” she snorted. “I know that look, mister.” Her eyes narrowed and she pointed at him with a gardening spade. “Spill it, or else.”

“Why should I get down on my hands and knees to help you when I can stand here and watch your backside instead?”

“You,” she replied, blushing, “are incorrigible.”

“And you,” he retorted, “are just as beautiful as the first day I saw you.”

“Beautiful? I was a shrew.”

“A beautiful shrew, though. I knew from that first moment that there was something magnificent about you.”

“Flattery is so outdated, Chakotay.”

“But-?” he questioned.

“But it will get you almost anything you want, and you know it.”

* * * * * *

“Commander Chakotay. My name is Captain Kathyrn Janeway.”

“How do you know my name?”

“We were on a mission to find you when we were brought here by the Array.”

* * * * *

Chakotay smiled at the memory, sinking down to the ground beside his companion of the past twenty or more years. “You stood up to me right from the beginning, and have yet to back down.”

“Well, I wouldn’t want you to think I’d grown soft over the years.” Kathryn smiled, brushing the dirt from her hands, her eyes twinkling.

“Soft? I seem to recall several places that are very soft.” His large hand slid beneath her hair to wrap gently around her neck.

Kathryn’s eyes softened. “Do you ever regret it?” she asked quietly.

“Regret what?”

“Any of it, Chakotay. When I think back on all that we’ve been through, the years we struggled just to balance our wants and desires with the more urgent needs of the crew …”

“I have no regrets, Kathryn. I’ve always believed in destiny, that a higher power had predetermined the course of our lives, and I was right. Here we are together. That’s proof enough for me.”

“You’re a special man.” She reached up to gently place her hand on his face, but stopped short when she realized her fingers were caked with dirt.

“You could wear gloves, Kathryn.”

“I could, I suppose, but that would take away the pleasure I get from getting my hands into the soil. There’s nothing like it, Chakotay. Oh, mercy, help me up?”

“Come on, old girl,” he grinned, rising from the ground and pulling her to her feet. “I’ll run you a nice, hot bath and you can relax while I make dinner.”

“You? Cook?”

“Yes, me. I can do more than program a replicator, you know.”

‘Sometimes I wonder,’ she thought, but said nothing.

Sinking beneath the hot, bubble-filled water, she thought back over the years. Her memories were crystal clear and, like Chakotay, she wouldn’t trade a single one of them. Kathryn leaned her head back, drifting off to sleep and allowing her dreams to roam freely. The water had cooled and the bubbles were but a memory when a soft touch on her shoulder wakened her.

“Dinner’s ready.”

“Already? I-” She began to protest, but a glance toward the skylight showed only stars where the clouds had been. “I’ll be out in a few minutes.”

* * * * * *

Opting for only a silk dressing gown, she stopped suddenly as she entered the dining area. “This is beautiful!”

“Happy Valentine’s Day, Kathryn.”

“You remembered?”

“I did. I remember every year, and why that always surprises you-”

“Shh.” Kathryn placed her fingers over his lips. “I’m teasing you, and you know it.”

He did indeed know, as this was their custom every year, and just as every year in the past, he held her chair and bent to place a soft kiss against her throat as she sat. The yellow rose on her plate was more beautiful than any other, although she thought that every year and even said so. The champagne was the finest available, and once again they toasted to their love and continued long life together. Dinner could have been plomeek soup and neither would have noticed. Kathryn and Chakotay lost themselves in each others’ eyes, the silences saying more than words could ever express, and when they turned off the lights that night, they wrapped up in the warmth of each others’ arms.

“This is nice,” she sighed.

“Mmm hmm,” he concurred.

“I was wondering …”

Chakotay smiled in the dark. “Yes?”

“Are you tired?”

“A little.” He smiled again.

“Too tired?”

“I suppose it all depends on what you have in mind.”

She felt his chest shake with his repressed laughter, and smacked him lightly before turning over, away from him. “Good night, Chakotay.”

Laughter won out and he indulged, laughing loud and long. “Still love me?”

“No, I’m sleeping.” Kathryn fluffed her pillow and sighed, just for good measure.

“Yes, you do.” Chakotay rolled behind her, spooning closely pressing his nose into her hair. Inhaling the flowery scent, he ran his hand down her side, over her satin-covered hip and beyond, coming to rest on her thigh. “Mmm.” There was nothing like this anywhere in the galaxy.

Kathryn tried, really she did, but there was no resisting him. The feel of his hand on her body never failed to make her heart skip a beat, and the touch of his lips was her undoing. Her hips instinctively moved back against the proof of his desire, and her skin flushed with warmth. “I thought you were tired,” she accused half-heartedly.

“I never said that, if you recall.” A large hand slid easily up to capture the swell of her breast, and as she gasped, his thumb brushed against the taut peak.

“Chakotay-” Kathryn turned in his arms, and further words were halted as their mouths met. In all the years they’d been lovers, companions, the spark had never once dimmed. They were older, most certainly, but each time they made love was an adventure; a recommitment to all that had held them together for so long.

Their bodies moved together almost as effortlessly as they had twenty years ago, the sensations just as sharp and magnificent as ever. Each gave wholly to the other, and in giving so freely, received even more in return. Their fulfillment was shattering and as their bodies quaked with release, words of adoration spilled from their lips.

Another year together, another day in a lifetime of love.

As they drifted towards sated sleep, Kathryn murmured, “Happy Valentine’s Day, Chakotay.”

Wordlessly he pulled her closer, and pressing a kiss to her hair, smiled.

~ The End ~
~ 2-13-04

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