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The smell of something burning told Chakotay exactly where he would find Kathryn when he finally stepped in the front door at almost twenty two hundred hours. Sure enough, she was in the kitchen swearing violently at the replicator and the smoking remains of whatever she’d attempted to produce for dinner. From the way her dress uniform components were scattered around the living area, he was relatively sure that dinner wasn’t the only thing aggravating her.

“Rough day?” he asked, dropping his bag on the table and tossing his jacket over it.

“I hope you aren’t hungry.” she groaned, turning to face him.

“I’m sorry I’m late, the committee to revise the syllabus for the introductory level history of the federation course was an absolute disaster.”

Kathryn’s usually tidy hair was escaping the confines of its bun as she walked towards him, barefoot in only her tanktop and undergarments. The fact that she hadn’t changed or even gotten completely out of her uniform confirmed to him that her day had probably been just as rotten as his.

“Let me guess. The high ups want to sanitize and glorify just about every component of our history and it took every inch of will power you had not to tell them exactly what you thought about their ideas and them in general?”

“Got in one.” he confirmed, putting his hands around her waist and pulling her closer so that her head rested just under his chin, “It was ridiculous. I take it that the trade negotiations today didn’t go any better.”

“What gives you that idea? The sad remains of my attempt at dinner?” she ran her hands along his back, the comfort of her touch easing the ache of the tension he was carrying.

“Actually it was the trail of dress uniform pieces you left behind. After all, you are perfectly capable of destroying a meal any day.”

“I don’t think I’m cut out for diplomacy, Chakotay.” she sighed, relaxing slightly into his arms as he wrapped one of them further around her, the other unpinning her hair to let it fall free completely.

“Knowing you, it went better than you think and you are just being unreasonably hard on yourself.” he tried to reassure her.

“Sixteen hours straight and we didn’t get a single thing resolved… I miss being out there.”

He could hear the longing in her voice. There was no question as to where there was. Kathryn loved space, loved being on a ship.

“You know, my offer to resign and follow you wherever still stands.”

He would follow her, no matter where the destination was.

“You are just saying that because you don’t want to deal with this curriculum business.” she teased, then paused, “We’ve been over this… you’d be bored out of your skull without something to work on.”

“And you couldn’t leave Starfleet other than in a body bag.” he took a deep breath, “And I love that about you.”

She tilted her face up and he looked into her eyes, tired and frustrated but not quite desperate. He traced the beloved planes of her face and she pushed up onto her toes, wrapping one hand around the back of his head and kissing him, a slow deep lingering kiss. Her hands ran through his hair and they held each other close.

“I’m sorry about the committee. I’m sure you’ll find a way to at least mitigate their whitewashing. You can be cagey when you have to.”

She buried her face against his neck, breathing in deeply as she leaned into his embrace. He kissed the top of her head, hands running over her back gently, smelling the scent of her shampoo and feeling the reassuring warmth of her against him.

“And you will get that trade agreement ironed out.”

She would. He knew that. Kathryn had never been one to take no for an answer and spirits save anyone who stood between her and her objective. Thankfully, he wasn’t that… not anymore. At long last they were together, nothing between them more significant than long hours at work. This was their home, their kitchen, their sanctuary.

For a while they just stood there, holding one another close, and Chakotay felt the tension both of them were carrying fade in the face of that comfort. It seemed like a lifetime since the dark days where he couldn’t hold her like this, couldn’t comfort her and be comforted by the simple warmth of their bodies pressed together and the feeling of her heart beating against him.

Finally, Kathryn lifted her head.

“Why don’t you go run yourself one of those baths you love so much?” he suggested, seeing her smile for the first time this evening at the thought, “I’ll clean up in here and fix us something to eat for when you get out.”

“I’ve got a better idea.” Kathryn smirked suggestively, “Why don’t we forget about the mess in here and you can join me in the tub?”

“Compromise. I’ll replicate some wine and cheese and we can enjoy it in the bath.”

“That sounds more like an improvement than a compromise.” Kathryn reached up and touched his cheek gently, “Just don’t take too long. I’m liable to fall asleep if you leave me alone for more than five minutes.”

“We wouldn’t want that.” It was his turn to smile smugly. “I have plans for you that require consciousness.”

“Plans? What kind of plans would those be?”

Kathryn bit her lip and he couldn’t resist kissing her before releasing her.

“You’ll just have to wait to find out.” he teased, walking over to program the replicator, “Go ahead and get started. I’ll be right behind you.”

“You always are.” Kathryn sighed contentedly, and he understood that she meant that in a much broader sense.

“Always.” he affirmed, “Now get your beautiful stubborn self into that bathtub before I start thinking you don’t like it anymore.”

The tub was the one major modification they’d made to the place. He’d designed it himself, large enough for them to share but contoured to cradle Kathryn’s delicate form. It had been his anniversary gift to her, one that spoke to what they’d been through but also the road ahead.

“Never.” she grinned, “It’s so wonderful, Chakotay. No one has ever given me something more thoughtful.”

“I guess I’ll have to work harder to come up with something to top it next year.” he winked.

“Oh Chakotay…” she stopped and came back to wrap her arms around his neck, “As long as I have you I will be okay, even if I have to spend the rest of my life doing diplomacy.”

He couldn’t have agreed more.