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“Kathryn?” she hears Chakotay’s voice calling her from the doorway, but can’t bring herself to get up or even call out to him.

Still, he finds her, huddled on the bathroom floor in the dark, arms wrapped around her knees. Her hair is hanging limply around her face and she is still wearing an old tank top and loose fitting exercise pants. The dress she had intended to wear tonight is hung over the bathroom door.

“Hey…” his voice is gentle but full of concern as he kneels in front of her, guiding her face to meet his, “Kathryn, what’s the matter?”

“I don’t want to talk about it,” she tells him, taking another sulking swig from the half empty bottle of champagne next to her.

It’s childish and petty, but that’s how she feels. What would be the point? Chakotay will try and comfort her and right now she doesn’t feel like she deserves or even wants to be comforted.

“Should I tell everyone the party is cancelled?” he asks, eyes searching her face for a clue, probably hoping that her need not to disappoint others will pull her out of the fit of sadness which has overtaken her.

It more or less works. At least it works well enough to get her to engage with the idea.

“I wish,” she sighs, “The last thing I want to do right now is go and pretend to be happy, but people will worry and we can’t have that.”

She feels bitter about needing to consider the feelings of others and disgusted in herself for resenting it.

“If you really don’t want to see people, I’ll take care of it,” he offers and she knows he means it, “As long as you tell me what’s bothering you.”

She knows it will sound ridiculous when she says it aloud, but she’s too tired and frustrated not to.

“Getting old,” she groans, “It doesn’t feel like something I want to celebrate, not this year.”

Chakotay pauses before responding, taking her hands in his and pulling them to his lips, “You are always cause for celebration.”

“Why?” she huffs, pulling away and standing up to pace back and forth in the confines of the bathroom, before pausing to stare at her reflection in the mirror, “Why I am worth celebrating? What have I done? What have I accomplished?”

In the background she can see the concern on his face, but she is focused on her own, on the lines she can no longer ignore, the softening blunted edges. She feels tired, aches in her joints she has forgotten what it was like not to feel, a heaviness in just existing.

“Are you really asking that? Admiral?” Chakotay sounds a little incredulous, “Do you want me to list your accomplishments chronologically or alphabetically?”

“I’ve accomplished nothing… not really,” she shakes her head, raising her arms to critically examinine the underside of them.

“Really? What else would you call captaining a ship across the galaxy, managing to get us home in a few years instead of decades? The first contacts you’ve made? The people you’ve-”

“None of that matters,” she insists, surveying the loosening skin of her neck, “I’ve managed to survive, to make do. I’ve caused more problems than I’ve solved. I might have gained some notoriety, but really it’s not like the world is going to be any better off because of Kathryn Janeway.”

“Okay then, if going down in the history books isn’t enough for you, what exactly is it you expect yourself to have accomplished at this point?”

“I thought I’d make some scientific breakthrough, a discovery that would improve our lives. I thought I’d find something that would honestly help people. Instead I’ve just let myself be shelved, another useless politician.”

“Kathryn…” Chakotay wraps his arms around her, resting his chin on her shoulder, “You have helped people, and it isn’t as though you couldn’t still pursue scientific inquiry if that’s what you want to do.”

“It’s too late…” she turns to face him, “I’ve wasted too many years going down the wrong path.”

“What about us?” Chakotay asks softly, “Have I been a misstep? A waste of your time?”

“Oh Chakotay,” she shakes her head, “You are the prime example of how much time I’ve wasted… almost a decade of time we could have had together if I hadn’t been so hard headed.”

“How about, instead of worrying about that, we just enjoy the years ahead of us… If you want to make changes, we will make them.”

She knows logically that he is probably right, that if she wants things to change she should change them, instead of moping about. It just feels pointless, useless.

“We could have had a family…” Kathryn fights back the tears which want to spring from her.

“As far as I am concerned we do have a family together… many of whom are waiting to celebrate your birthday as we speak,” Chakotay looks her right in the eye and tells her, though she knows he must think about it too, “If you want a different kind though, there are options.”

DNA sample manipulation, cloning, adoption… none of the can solve the problem that they are both too old and she is too caught up with work to start the adventure of parenting now. It would be irresponsible. She knows that in her tired bones. It’s the sacrifice she made for them, on behalf of the mission.

“What do you want, Chakotay? Do you ever wish you’d chosen differently and not hitched your destiny to me?”

“Never. I’ve never regretting following you, officially or personally, not for a moment.”

“So you’ll follow my lead?” she asks even though she knows what his answer will be.”

“Always,” he confirms.

“What if I just want to sulk, to mourn what isn’t for a little while? What then?”

“Well then,” Chakotay kisses her forehead, “I’m going to go and let people know there isn’t going to be any birthday party. Then I am going to grab some more booze and we can have a pity party instead.”

“No…” Kathryn sighs through the fog of ennui, “Don’t do that. It will just be one more thing to feel stupid about.”

Kathryn still feels that cold dread in the pit of her stomach but the reassurance of Chakotay, so constant in his love for her, steadies her enough to put on something that she hopes resembled a smile.

“If you start calling yourself stupid, I am going to throw you in the shower by yourself, with the water cold,” Chakotay threatens teasingly.

“How about instead, we go in there together and see just how hot we can make things?”

“See, that’s more like the Kathryn Janeway I know and love,” Chakotay’s dimples appear for the first time in the conversation.

She can’t help smiling back at him, even if it is a tired smile. Maybe she hasn’t accomplished everything she hoped she would have at this age, but… if nothing else, her choices brought her this wonderful man, a man who looks at her like she is the sun.

“Why don’t you show me, just how much you love me?” she bites her lip playfully and pulls her shirt over her head.

Chakotay encircles her waist with his hands, capturing her lips with his own, as he walks them backwards towards the shower. The warmth of his touch spreads through her, turning her thoughts from the abstract to the very concrete. She runs her hands through his hair, tracing the strands of grey which have become more evident of late.

“Did you ever doubt it?” he asks, releasing her momentarily to start stripping down.

“You did have me worried for a little while there… well the Admiral did,” she confesses for the hundredth time, as she bends to take off her pants and then steps into the shower, turning the knobs and letting the water hit her, rinsing her emotional outburst from her.

She minds less now than she used to. At one point it physically pained her to an excruciating level even to think about it. Now it’s barely noticeable, a slight twinge.

“I would say I was sorry, if it hadn’t finally given you the push we needed…” he murmurs against her ear, stepping into the shower behind her and pressing his naked body against the back of hers.

She leans back into the contact, enjoying as Chakotay’s lips run along her neck and the water hits the front of her body.

“Come on now…” Kathryn argues, bracing her arms against the shower wall as he kisses his way down her spine, “Once we returned to the Alpha Quadrant I always-”

They’ve had this conversation dozens of times but he still interrupts her.

“Don’t blame me,” Chakotay counters, “It was your idea… well one version of you.”

“And you just had to go along… Because you always listen to what I have to say and do as I tell you.”

“Of course,” he murmurs, kneeling now as he gently guides her to turn around to face him.

“Liar…” she retorts but instead of responding with words, Chakotay shifts to rest between her legs, kissing above her pelvic bone and making her think about where he is undoubtedly headed next.

“Do you want to argue about it, or would you rather I make you feel better?” he looks up as her as he nuzzles his face against her thighs.

“The latter,” she agrees, leaning back against the tile as he uses his thumbs to expose her more completely to him.

His tongue is light to begin with, barely touching her with twisting strokes which leave her longing for more. When he finally presses the flat of his tongue against her clit and runs it back and forth, her moan reverberates off the shower walls.

She knows they should already be headed out there door, but he doesn’t seem to be in any hurry, focused more on the process of working her up than trying to arrive at the destination. The movements of his tongue are languid and fluid, each one causing her breath to catch.

By the time he closes his lips around her clit and sucks, she’s already shaking, thankful for the support of the wall. She whimpers and writhes against his mouth. For a moment, she doesn’t think about the way this angle makes her legs ache or the way the veins on her legs are all too visible. She just thinks about the water pouring over her skin and Chakotay’s mouth providing such intense pleasure.

Chakotay drags out her climax, keeping his tongue pressed against her as she shakes and cries out, until she slides down the wall to rest against the shower floor, legs still quivering.

He pulls her towards him, drawing her into his lap, his erection pressing against her hip. Getting her off almost always arouses him, barring those occasions when he has just finished himself.

Kathryn presses her forehead against Chakotay’s, kissing him as the water runs over them. She runs her hand along the length of him, coaxing him from more or less hard to straining against her fingers.

She shifts, readjusting her positioning to press against him with more intentionality. Her breasts press against his chest as she does so, and she relishes the sensation of his warm wet body against hers.

“Happy birthday…” he murmurs as Kathryn slides down onto him, sighing at the familiar sensation of satisfaction.

“Apparently I was a much better girl than I thought,” she almost snorts, running her hands through his wet hair as she rocks against him.

“You are the single most amazing person I know, Kathryn,” Chakotay declares, running his hands up the curve from her hips to her waist and then upwards to cup her breasts in them.

Kathryn knows he means it, without a doubt. It doesn’t change any of the things she has been feeling dissatisfied with about her life, but in Chakotay’s gaze she sees reflected a vision of her that is hard to argue with.

She leans in closer, wrapping her arms around his neck and kissing him as she circles her hips a little bit wider. Her thighs ache but the pleasure she’s getting out of it seems more pressing. Chakotay meets her movements with his own, moaning against her lips.

Her circles turn to thrusts and as they become harder, her arousal building again towards release. Against her, she call feel Chakotay breathing heavily too, the urgency of desire in his touch as he teases her nipples with his thumbs.

She groans, moaning his name as she moves insistently against him. Then she makes no sound at all as she clenches, climaxing around him silently.

Chakotay slows, holding her, and she thinks he is giving her a moment to recover, but then he pulls back and says, “We’d better get to that party before someone comes looking for us.”

“But you-” she starts but he silences her with his finger against her lips.

“We can pick this back up when we get home later. It will be something for you to think instead of starting down the path towards self loathing again during the evening,” he tells her.

She can feel him, still hard inside of her, and she knows that she could press the advantage and change his mind. He’s right though, they really should get going, and the anticipation of finishing this later will give her something to look forward to on the other side of socialization she isn’t really in the mood for.

“Far be it from me to argue with you when your suggestion is so much to my advantage,” she agrees, standing up to rinse off.

He follows her lead in standing, pressing her against the wall briefly to kiss her, before releasing her.

“Why don’t you start getting ready while I cool off a bit?” he suggests.

“Okay,” Kathryn nods, giving him one more kiss before heading out of the shower, “I’ll try to get my dress on before you get out.

Toweling off she contemplates her reflection in the mirror again. Yes, she is certainly getting old. She can see the lines and the loss of firmness. Her haircolor needs to be touched up. Still, there’s a sweet sexy man in that shower who wants her, who wants to please her above everything else. There are people waiting to celebrate her. Maybe it isn’t everything she hoped it would be, but it’s an insult to the people who think highly of her to sulk about it right now. Besides, Chakotay is right; it isn’t too late for one Kathryn Janeway to make a an actual contribution.

Kathryn takes a look at the dress hanging over the bathroom door and decides she doesn’t want to wear it. It’s depressing, all maternal and washed out. She heads towards her closet to pick something else out.