Chakotay turned in his bed. Sometimes he really hated the design of this ship. The walls conducted almost every sound. Usually he enjoyed lying in bed listening to Kathryn moving around her cabin, but some evenings like this one, she would turn up the music a little too loud. He could judge her mood from the songs she listened to, if she was angry or sad or at rare times happy, but tonight the music was really depressing. The song ended and to his surprise he heard an unconcealed sob. Kathryn wasn’t one to cry, so it had to be really bad. It was none of his business, but after another song and another sob, he pulled on a robe and walked out of his quarters. He rang her chime twice and got no answer. He tapped his communicator.

-”Chakotay to Janeway. Kathryn please open the door.” After a moment he heard her voice, barely recognizable.

-”Come in.” Her cabin was almost dark, only two candles on the coffee table, and the streaking stars outside the window illuminated the room. He found her in the corner of the couch, her knees drawn up, her whole body trembling. He walked over and sat next to her, careful not to invade her personal space.

-”Your music had me worried”, he said softly, “I thought I’d check on you, see if you needed to talk.” She just sat for a moment.

-”Computer, half volume. Thanks Chakotay, but...” He held a hand up to stop the words he knew would come.

-“If not me, then someone else, Kathryn. Everyone else on this ship has someone to talk to, because we need it, you are no different. Maybe Captain Janeway doesn’t need it, but Kathryn does.”

-”It’s hard for me, Chakotay, I don’t know how”, she whispered. He got up and went to the replicator to give her a moment. He returned with two mugs of hot chocolate. She accepted it , took a careful sip and placed it on the table.

-”Just relax, Kathryn, and tell me why you are so sad tonight.” She sat a long moment before saying anything.

-”Today’s Mark’s birthday”, she finally said. “As a child I was always invited to his party and after we started to see each other, it became a special day, I took a lot of pleasure in planning this day. Sometimes we’d invite both our families, and other times we’d just spend the day alone.” She stopped a moment not sure how to continue. “ Last year I didn’t even notice the day, there were so many problems, but it’s been quiet for weeks and I’ve had too much time to think about it. I have resolved my feelings about Mark and our situation, but then a day like this hits me in the face and I’m totally unprepared. I start missing everything back home, and I feel so lonely I’m afraid I’ll burst. I….I feel so alone”, she whispered, a few tears starting to fall again. Chakotay finally moved closer and wrapped his arms carefully around her. She accepted his embrace thankfully and let her tears fall freely. He stroked her short hair, while he whispered in her ear.

-”It’s okay, Kathryn, let it out. You are never alone, I’ve told again and again, I’m always here, always.”

-”I know, but I’m afraid I’ll lose control, like now”, she sobbed.

-”If you can’t lose control with me, who then? You just have to come to me, before you begin to bottle everything up inside. Your door is always open to the rest of the crew. Well, Kathryn, my door is always open to you.”

-”I know”, she whispered. He kept stroking her hair. Within a few minutes, she was asleep. He kissed her forehead gently, blew out the candles and then lifted her off the couch and carried her to the bed. He managed to pull the covers away and place her on the madras. When he covered her she woke and grapped his arm.

-”Please don’t leave me alone, Chakotay, not tonight”, she pleaded. She looked so small and frail with her swollen eyes and red cheeks, even a red alert couldn’t have driven him from the room. She scooted over in bed, leaving him a spot. He looked at her, surprised, but saw only determination in her eyes. He discarded his robe and crawled under the covers. She easily rolled into his arms like it was the most natural thing in the world, and he wrapped his arms around her, holding her close. She trembled again, and he stroked her back until she fell silent. When he thought she was asleep he leaned in and whispered into her hair.

-”I love you, Kathryn.” He hadn’t expected a response, but her words reached his ears nonetheless.

-”I love you too, Chakotay.