This is actually
part of my A/U series, Alternative Voyages. To understand this story,
all you need to know about that series is that Kathryn and Chakotay, Tom
and B'Elanna, and Sam and Joe are long established couples, each with a
child about one year old.
Kathryn woke slowly and shivered from the chill of the air. As her eyes focused, the outline of their now extinct campfire was all she could make out in the predawn light. She heard a crackle as a twig snapped behind her then footsteps approaching. She smiled as Chakotay slid back under the blankets and pulled her close. When his hands started to burrow under her shirt, she pushed them away.
"Stop that! Your hands are cold!"
He chuckled. "I was hoping you were still asleep."
"No, I knew you were gone and I missed you."
"You mean you got cold?"
Chakotay obliged by kissing her along her neck. "I can do that better if you let me warm up my hands."
Kathryn pulled away and slipped out from under their blankets. "You warm them up while I'm gone."
When Kathryn returned a few minutes later she noticed that Tom was missing and heard Joe and Sam whispering. She slipped back under the blankets hoping the others would stay settled for a while longer. She quickly learned that Chakotay's hands had warmed up while she was gone. She also learned that Tom thought a glimmer of sunlight on the horizon was the signal of a new day. He returned and instead of crawling back under the blankets, he was in the process of starting a fire to prepare breakfast.
Kathryn and Chakotay both ignored Tom and his rattling efforts. It had been his idea for the three couples to take a few days leave camping. He had insisted that all six of them needed the time away from their children to relax. Relax? They had spent the previous day hiking up and down some pretty steep foothills of a large mountain range on a planet with only a small preindustrial population. That population was centered on a continent on the opposite side of the planet from the island they were exploring. During the afternoon, the temperatures rose high enough to be uncomfortable but had fallen significantly after the sun set. The predawn chill was more than either Kathryn or Chakotay was ready to face so they whispered quietly.
"You never did tell me how Tom managed to find volunteers to watch all three babies."
"Tom didn't find them. I did, and they weren't exactly volunteers. What's the point of preparing the duty roster if you can't assign people to babysitting duty for a few days? You really should pay more attention to what you approve, Kathryn."
"You get us messed up with another 'relaxing' shore leave like this and I'll be approving you for double shifts until Taylor can do quadratic equations in her head!" Kathryn's smile belied her words as she moved closer to Chakotay's warmth. "Tom is a good officer. How can he come up with such bad ideas for shore leave?"
"Maybe it's his way of doing all the things he didn't get to do as a kid."
"Maybe. His father is a lot like mine – expecting a lot but sometimes forgetting that a child needs to be a child, too. With only two of us, my mom was able to balance those high expectations better than Tom's mother with four. At least he knows his father is proud of him now. But that doesn't mean I have to like being part of his missing childhood."
Chakotay kissed Kathryn gently. He was just deepening the kiss when Kathryn's nose twitched. A distinctive aroma was wafting its way toward them on the morning breeze from Tom's cooking fire. Chakotay chuckled as Kathryn turned her head to take a deeper smell.
"I suppose you want me to get up and find your clothes so you can dress under the blankets?"
Chakotay raised his voice. "Paris, you'd better have hot water for tea ready when I get over there."
Four hours later, the three couples had climbed three more hills. Only when B'Elanna bluntly refused to go further until they had eaten and rested did Tom finally agree to look for a picnic site. They quickly found one along a stream at a point where it slowed and widened. The heat from the sun had already made it uncomfortably warm, even for B'Elanna. The shade of the trees didn't offer much relief from the heat. Joe and Chakotay took off their shoes and rolled up their pants to wade downstream looking for anything interesting when they had finished eating. Tom took one look at B'Elanna and Kathryn and decided that cleaning up on his own was in his best interest.
The three women chatted quietly about their children. When Joe and Chakotay returned, Tom started making noises about continuing their hike.
"Chakotay, how warm was that water?" Kathryn had an idea that sounded much better than climbing more hills in the heat.
"Cool but comfortable." Kathryn grinned at his response.
"Ladies, let's cool off and clean up at the same time."
Sam was on her feet immediately. "Great idea, Kathryn. I only brought soap. Did either of you bring shampoo?"
Kathryn's reply surprised only Tom. "You mean you brought shampoo on a camping trip?"
Kathryn only stared at Tom for a few seconds before she turned back to her search for her bathing suit. The women quickly found their suits and headed behind some large rocks to change. Knowing they were going to be staying a while longer, the men by unspoken agreement changed into their suits and joined the women. It was only a few minutes before the couples paired off. Sam and Joe soon worked their way downstream away from the others. Tom loitered along the bank for a few minutes before joining B'Elanna.
Kathryn had just started washing her hair when Chakotay joined her. "Can I have some of that shampoo?"
"Sure." Kathryn handed him the bottle as she spoke. Chakotay squeezed out some shampoo and tossed the bottle on the shore. He quickly washed and rinsed his hair before moving closer to Kathryn.
"Here, let me do that." His hands were already pushing hers aside as he spoke. When he was satisfied that her hair was clean, he guided her into deeper water to rinse it. Kathryn's feet drifted off the bottom as they moved away from the shore, so she turned to face him and grabbed his shoulders to keep her head above the water. Still not completely stable, she pulled her legs up and wrapped them around his waist. Chakotay smiled and stopped moving. He moved his hands to her waist.
"Hold on!" As he spoke, he dunked them both deep under the surface. They both resurfaced laughing and shaking the water from their faces. The shampoo drifted downstream from them, but Chakotay wasn't satisfied. "Once more."
This time he held them under a bit longer. When they resurfaced, Kathryn's expression had changed from one of sensuous luxury to mischief. Releasing her grasp on his shoulders, she moved both arms out to her sides and sent water splashing over Chakotay's head from two directions before pushing against his belly with both feet. Although he was knocked off balance, Chakotay managed to grab one of Kathryn's feet and pulled her back towards him. Before she could recover, he had managed to get one hand under her shoulders and another beneath her hips to send her flying through the air to deeper water.
Kathryn's shriek attracted the attention of the others just in time for them to see their captain hit the water in a twisting belly flop, arms and legs flailing uselessly in the air. Chakotay's quick retreat running through the deep water was no surprise to any of them. A few seconds later, Kathryn surfaced, got her target in her sights and started out after him.
B'Elanna was near Chakotay's path and headed him off by grabbing one arm and jerking him off his feet. She held on tight to his wrist with both hands when he tried to pull away. She eventually lost her grip but she had slowed him enough to give Kathryn time to close the distance. Kathryn managed to grab Chakotay's other arm as broke free of B'Elanna. Before he could escape Kathryn's grasp, B'Elanna had regained her grip. Both women moved in to grasp his head trying to force him under. Chakotay had trouble maneuvering with both women clinging to him.
Abruptly B'Elanna changed her tactics. She dropped off Chakotay and he turned his attention to Kathryn. Suddenly he went down. B'Elanna had gone to the bottom and pulled his feet out from under him.
"Well done, B'Elanna!" Kathryn praise was short-lived as her feet went out from under her with a little help from Chakotay. All three surfaced at the same time.
Chakotay knew when he was outnumbered but not beaten. "Paris!!! Get your wife under control!"
Tom had been enjoying the fracas but knew an order when he heard one. He hesitated. Kathryn outranked him and B'Elanna could make his life miserable. Hoping he wouldn't regret it, he moved to assist Chakotay. Both women had again grabbed Chakotay's head and were trying to push him under. Chakotay was twisting and turning trying to knock them off. Tom reached in to grab B'Elanna but Chakotay's twisting had placed Kathryn within his reach. Without thinking, Tom grabbed her off Chakotay and tossed her away. Taking advantage of the reduction in number of assailants, Chakotay pushed B'Elanna away and under the water as well.
Kathryn and B'Elanna surfaced with a common goal – revenge. They approached the two men as fast as they could. Chakotay moved closer to shore and Tom remained where he was, thinking it was safer away from Chakotay. Only when it was too late did he realize the women had changed their target. Kathryn was using the same tactic – trying to force his head under. B'Elanna had better ideas and she was not playing fair with Tom. Tom went under whining. A minute later B'Elanna released him and allowed him to surface.
"Hey, Chakotay! Aren't you going to help me? I helped you!"
"No way. I'm not about to get on the bad side of the Captain and the Chief Engineer for you. You deal with them."
Tom was desperate. Quickly he grabbed B'Elanna before she could get hold of him again and tossed her away. Then he grabbed Kathryn and tossed her toward Chakotay.
"You deal with that one." Tom tried to leave the stream but B'Elanna had caught him again. He wailed as he went under. "B'Elanna!"
Chakotay stepped forward to help Kathryn to the surface. He pulled her into his arms. "Come here, Kathryn." His words were gentle.
Kathryn's desire for revenge faded as he pulled her close. "You don't play fair."
Chakotay kissed her gently then put her down. They waded to shore and hand in hand turned upstream leaving Tom and B'Elanna to finish the water fight. They walked slowly enjoying the warm sunshine and chatting about the latest rumors and B'Elanna's still-not-public second pregnancy. Chakotay finally brought up the topic that he had been hoping Kathryn would mention.
"Speaking of children, have you thought anymore about what we were discussing?"
Kathryn flushed at the question. She had promised to think about it and tell him when she had decided. She had thought about it and made her decision but hadn't told him yet. Chakotay could tell from her hesitation that there was something she hadn't told him. He stopped and sat down on the grass and pulled her down next to him. "Kathryn? What aren't you telling me?"
"I have thought about it and I made my decision. I just wasn't sure how to tell you."
"Kathryn, if you aren't ready for another baby yet, it's all right."
"That's not the problem. I do want another baby. In fact, as soon as I decided, I went to the doctor and got the counter-agent to my birth control."
"I told him to give you a placebo for your last booster."
Chakotay looked at Kathryn in shock. "You don't think I should have known?"
"Of course you should have, but there was some crisis or other in engineering and I missed dinner, then you got called to sort out a brawl on the holodeck and I fell asleep before you got home. Then it just sort of slipped my mind for a day or two, then I spent a day or two hoping you would mention the subject, then…"
"Enough! You were afraid I'd be angry, right?"
Kathryn nodded her answer as she finally looked up to see his face. A broad grin told her that he was far from angry. "Are you?"
"No, at least not about your decision. I'm a little hurt that you thought I'd be angry about it." Kathryn's face fell slightly at his words. "But you can make it up to me as soon as we're alone in a place just a bit more private for more than five minutes."
Kathryn tilted her head up to kiss him, intent on making a start immediately. When the kiss ended, Kathryn yawned. Chakotay laughed and lay down, pulling her down next to him. "It must be all the sun and exercise."
Smiling, Kathryn curled up
next to Chakotay enjoying the warmth of the sun and her husband. Long after
she fell asleep, his thoughts were dancing around the possibility that
in a few more months they would be awakened from sleep, not by Tom Paris
or the aroma of coffee, but by the cry of their second child. He remembered
nights spent soothing Taylor while Kathryn slept and other nights when
Kathryn crawled back into bed having taken her turn with the baby. The
last thing that drifted through his mind before he fell asleep was the
contentment that came from sharing the simple things in life with Kathryn
like the sunshine and their children.
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