Neelix decided that, because they were going to be on the ship together for a long time, the crew should get to know each other better. To this extent he organised 'interviews', where someone would sit on a chair and then the rest of the crew would ask questions about his or her life. They were very informal occasions and the sole purpose was not just to ask questions to one person but generally chat as well. They had proved very popular and they had served the purpose well; the crew were more comfortable with each other and they felt more like family. They were working better together.
This particular evening it was Kathryn Janeway's turn to 'sit in the chair'. She had been bombarded with questions and they showed no signs of stopping.
The subject had moved onto Mark and everyone was very curious, they knew that he was her fiancé and that she missed him, but nothing more, and they wanted to.
"What does he look like?" Megan Delaney asked.
"Tall, dark and handsome," Kathryn told them.
"Honest, he's tall, has dark hair and eyes and I think he's gorgeous."
"Where did you meet him," Megan's twin Jenny asked.
"Right, that's it, I'm taking up tennis!" Megan exclaimed.
Kathryn laughed, "Really."
"What does the ring look like?" someone asked. This prompted a slight moan from some male crew; this constituted as gossip. Women!
"Well, I've actually got two..." she got no further.
"Two?" Jenny confirmed.
Kathryn nodded in confirmation. She now had the attention of everyone - both men and women.
"From two different people!" Jenny exclaimed.
Kathryn nodded again.
Everyone turned to stare at Chakotay in shock, eyes wide and mouths agape.
Cries of 'Ohmigod!' and 'Way to go Commander!' echoed around the room. They had known that there was something between their commanding officers right from the start and recently things had stepped up slightly and the two had started to see each other more, both publicly and privately, but no one had thought it had gone quite that far.
Kathryn smiled at Chakotay, raised her eyebrows, shrugged her shoulders, and then began to laugh.
Her laugh regained some of the attention.
"My first fiancé, Justin, died, and the second was Mark," Kathryn explained.
Sighs and sympathetic 'ah's' were heard around the room and faces fell, but Kathryn was unsure as to whether it was because she had lost her fiancé to death or that she and Chakotay were not in fact engaged.
"Tell us about the rings," someone asked.
"One was a simple gold band with a single diamond, that's from Justin, and the other was a gold band with a diamond and then two inset diamonds, one either side of the large diamond."
"Are they engraved?" someone else called out.
"Yes," she answered. When no on said anything she went on. "One says 'For Kat, Love Always, JJ' and the other says 'Kath, I love you Mark.'" She smiled as she said this, fond memories coming back to her.
"What happened to Justin?"
"He died in the Terra Nova shuttle crash," Kathryn told them, with a soft smile of regret on her face.
Everyone had heard about the crash, it had hit the news channels throughout the Federation, but none of them had known anyone in the crash and did not envy their captain for a second.
"Did you know the other people in the crash?"
"Yes, one was my father, the other was myself."
The room went suddenly silent, they knew that two people had died in the crash, and if Kathryn was here then she must have lost her father too. Chakotay looked up at Kathryn and noticed that her eyes looked slightly brighter than usual, tears there threatening to fall. He ached to go to her and hold her in his arms and keep those tears at bay, but he could not. He smiled at her, conveying his love for her, it was all he was able to do.
No, there was something he could do: change the subject.
"Did you ever go cave-diving on Mars?" he asked, already knowing the answer.
Kathryn smiled, and gave Chakotay a look of thanks. "Of course," she exclaimed. "Twice in fact. Who hasn't?"
She laughed at the faces of her crew, eyes sparkling, evidently some hadn't. Some of the crew has a hard time believing that their usually no-nonsense captain had done something so dangerous and against the rules, and she'd done it twice, especially if they hadn't done it. Others had no problem believing that the captain had risen to the challenge and the adventure and the danger.
It was late when Neelix finally concluded the interview.
Kathryn walked back to her quarters with Chakotay. She indicated that he should come in and so he did so.
He walked over to the couch and sat down, pulling Kathryn down with him to hold her in a warm embrace.
He kissed her forehead softly. "You still miss him, don't you?" he asked, referring to her father.
"I miss them all," Kathryn told him truthfully. "I still love Justin and Mark, but I'm not in love with them. Does that make any sense?"
It wasn't something that Chakotay wanted to hear but he did understand. He held her tighter. "Yes, it does."
"And I do miss my father too, but not as much since I met you." She turned her head to look up at him.
"I'm like a father to you am I?" he asked her teasingly.
Kathryn grinned. "No, you just have many of his good qualities. You listen to me when I talk; cheer me up when I'm sad; hold me when I feel alone or scared but you respect my privacy too. And you don't let me hide from myself; you make me confront things."
Chakotay felt honoured by the comparison, he knew she missed her father very much and held him in very high regard. "What about his bad qualities, or weren't there any?"
"I should probably say there weren't any, or if I say there were that you don't have any, but I have some of them too," she teased, smiling wickedly. "You don't let me drink too much coffee, you force me to eat and you force me to rest!" It might annoy her at times but she would hate it if he didn't care for her like he did.
"It's for your own good," Chakotay argued. "And I'm not going to stop!"
Kathryn smiled at him. "Good, don't you ever dare stop."
Chakotay looked into her deep blue eyes. "I won't. I promise." The look he gave her was one of deep love and he saw it reflected in her eyes. He also saw trust and he hoped that he never did anything to break the implicit trust she had in him.
He stood up, taking her hands in his. "In fact, I'll prove it to you. You've had a long day, and will undoubtedly have a long day tomorrow and you need to rest." He led her through to the sleeping area and sat her on the bed. She slipped off her shoes and then she lay down.
Chakotay bent down and touched her lips softly. "Goodnight Kathryn."
She grabbed his hand. "You're not getting away that easy," she said, pulling him back to her.
Chakotay took the hint and kicked off his shoes. He noted idly that they landed with Kathryn's. He curled up behind her, holding her close.
"Sweet dreams," he said softly as he kissed her hair.
"They will be."
Kathryn thought about her two lost loves, neither of whom she loved as much as Chakotay. She had had some unhappy moments in her life but she thanked whatever powers were out there for bringing her Chakotay.
She had a feeling that soon two engagement rings would be three. She hoped so, she was ready, although it was almost unnecessary. She and Chakotay had already pledged their everlasting love for each other; it would just be a confirmation of the promise for others to see.
Well, they said 'third time lucky' and she hoped beyond hope that it would be because she loved the man holding her in his arms with every fibre of her being. Without him she was nothing but with him she was complete. He felt right, he felt natural and he made her feel things that she had never thought possible.
"They will be," she repeated, her voice barely above a whisper as her eyes closed and she fell asleep in the arms of the man who loved her.