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Strawberry Fields Forever

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Let me take you down
cause I'm going to strawberry fields
Nothing is real
and nothing to get hung about
Strawberry fields forever

He'd asked her to join him on the holodeck during the last five minutes of their duty shift. He was sure that she would turn him down. She often did. But she surprised him. As she still could. She said yes.

"I hope you haven't planned anything too strenuous," she teased. The last time she'd agreed to share his holodeck time they'd ended up scaling crags in his replication of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. She'd been a good sport about it and had followed him gamely over some very difficult rock faces, but she had also commented rather wryly that she hadn't thought down time would be taken quite so literally.

So this time he decided to try something completely different.

When Kathryn Janeway arrived at Holodeck 1 her First Officer was waiting for her. He couldn't quite suppress a grin. She was dressed in serviceable Star Fleet issue sweats and sneakers, her hair, which he happily noted was growing longer again, was tied rather haphazardly into a small pony tail.

"Ah, Kathryn" he said. "I see you're ready for more exercise."

"I learned my lesson the last time Chakotay. Your idea of relaxation can be quite...ambitious."

He didn't say anything more, but turned to the holodeck control panel and punched his code into the system. The doors opened with their regular swoosh and he ushered his captain inside.

He watched her carefully as she took in the scene that unfolded before her. A hazy mist over an undulating field. A fruity fragrance, familiar, but as yet unidentified. A barely discernible path that led towards a stand of trees in the distance.

She turned to him, her face reflecting her delight.

"Chakotay" she sighed. "How did you know. How did you know just what it was I needed?"

Living is easy with eyes closed
Misunderstanding all you see
It's getting hard to be someone
but it all works out
It doesn't matter much to me

"Perhaps Kathryn because I need this too sometimes." He offered her his arm. "Shall we?" he asked.

She surprised him yet again and took his hand. "Oh yes." She said, and tugged at him, almost like an impatient child. "Let's go."

They walked in companionable silence, each lost in thought. But every once in a while Chakotay was aware of Kathryn's quick glance in his direction. And he was very aware of her small strong hand in his.

Finally she spoke. "I've missed you."

He stopped abruptly and reached for her other hand, pulling her to face him. "Kathryn, I've been here all along. I think you've got it wrong."

"What do you mean?"

"You are the one who's been missing. The Kathryn Janeway I first met disappeared a long time ago. I think she's been hiding away… I'm not sure where she is, but she's left a stranger in her place. And that stranger is not a particularly pleasant one. We need her to come back to us. Her crew needs her, and… I need her."

He watched her react to his words. He had learned to read her so well. First that spark of anger in her eyes, then reflection and finally a tiny nod. He breathed in a quick sigh of relief. He had spoken from the heart, and although it was his truth, he realized, almost before he had completed the thought that hearing it was not what she had expected. Or wanted. She wanted approval. His approval for her behavior. And he was not prepared to give it to her. Not here. Not now. This was a place and a time for honesty.

She turned away from him and started to walk again. But she left her hand in his.

Let me take you down
cause I'm going to strawberry fields
Nothing is real
and nothing to get hung about
Strawberry fields forever

They reached the first of the trees as the mist turned into a gentle summer rain. He pulled her into the shelter of a thick willow.

She shook her head to rid herself of some of the raindrops that had started to run down the side of her face. A few strands of hair escaped from her ponytail, and without thinking he reached out and pushed them gently behind her ear. She raised her hand to her face to trace the path that his had made along the side of her jaw.

"We had a tree like this." She said. "At home in Indiana. When I was very small I used to sit in it and read. I always felt safe there. Protected. In my own world, surrounded by its branches I was safe and alone."

No one I think is in my tree
I mean it must be high or low
That is you know you can't tune it
but It's all right
That is I think it's not too bad

"I needed that protection here, in the Delta Quadrant." She continued. "I needed my tree, I guess, and I couldn't find it. Because I have to hide here."

"What are you hiding from Kathryn?"

"I didn't know, until just now." She said. "I hadn't ever really been able to put it into words. But now I know. Myself. I'm hiding from myself."

She paused then and looked up at him, astonished at what she had discovered.

"I'm not very good at it, am I? Don't answer, that's a rhetorical question." She smiled at him then. "And I think that you found me out a long time ago. Don't answer that either." She added quickly.

He grinned.

Let me take you down
cause I'm going to strawberry fields
Nothing is real
and nothing to get hung about
Strawberry fields forever

Chakotay took her hand again. He pulled her out from the under the branches of the willow tree. "Come on Kathryn, let's go."

"Where?"

"Out. Into the rain."

She laughed. "Are you…yes…"

They stood together in the rain and let it wash over them. The drops were warm and comforting as only a summer rain can be. Kathryn bent down and removed her Star Fleet issue sneakers. She tied the laces together and flung the shoes far into the field. She bent again and rolled up the legs of her sweat pants.

"Let's walk some more." She said. "I think we need to explore this place." And she marched off ahead of him.

Always know sometimes it's me
But you know I know when it's a dream
I think a "No" will mean a "Yes"
but it's all wrong
that is I think I disagree

He watched her stride away. And saw her stop abruptly and turn back to him. Hands on hips, legs apart. Grinning. Laughing now. His captain. And his best friend. And...

She was back. Standing right in front of him. Looking up at him with that Kathryn quirk of a smile.

"Thank you," she said.

 

Let me take you down
cause I'm going to strawberry fields
Nothing is real
and nothing to get hung about
Strawberry fields forever
Strawberry fields forever
Strawberry fields forever