She was gone when I woke up the next morning, probably off to continue her war of attrition with the turbo-lift. I kind of felt sorry for the damn thing.

I didn't see her again until the afternoon, when we both made pit-stops at the messhall.

She waved at me from across the room, and I went over to her.

"You left early this morning." I said, as I sat down.

"Yeah, I thought I'd try and get a head start on this damn turbo-lift situation."

"How's it going?"

"Don't ask."

We sat in silence for a while, eating our loosely termed food. When she finished before me, she triumphantly sat back to watch me like a cat. I really hated it when she did that.

"I should get going." She said, after a moment.

"Mmm. Me too." I put down my cup. I smiled as she flicked her head side to side, scanning the room. It must have been relatively empty because she leaned over to quickly kiss me.

The gesture reminded me of a shoreleave, a while ago. It made me smile, and she looked at me quizzically.

"Kath, do you remember when...?"

Osculation in the Glade,
Near the Water by the Spade
by Jackee C.

Chakotay stepped to the mouth of the cavern. It afforded a lovely view of tall, lush grasses rolling along a slight decline. Ever so often half-moon treetops could be seen above the grasses as they stretched toward this world's sun, seeming to grow right up to the edge of a lazy river. They reminded him very much of the twe-vilup trees on Dorvan. Thinking of the twe-vilups reminded him of one tree in particular, and...what was her name?

"Commander Chakotay! Would you take a look at these lovely specimens?" Neelix bounded joyously out of the cavern behind him and shoved something large, and vaguely resembling a mushroom, into his face.

"Those are nice, Neelix," he said, backing away from the dusty spray of pollen and hoping the Talaxian took the hint. He didn't.

"Just smell that aroma!" He waved them closer and cackled. "Oh the fondues I'll make!"

Chakotay frowned, wondering the cook's exuberance, before a sneeze over took him. And then another. Never mind that Neelix had taken to dancing a jig, and singing something about the little fondue that was lonely no more, he needed to get away from those mushrooms.

Making a quick gesture toward the lake, he walked out of the cave, sneezing every step of the way. He was deep within the tall grasses before the need passed. He wiped at his tearing eyes and began to chuckle. Neelix's voice, amplified by the cave, floated easily on the breeze. The Talaxian couldn't carry a tune to save his life - much like... what *was* her name?

Just when he thought the name was on the tip of his tongue, his foot butted against something. It turned out to be a large stone hammer-like device, beside it was something that looked like a giant spade of some kind. Though there was no longer sentient life on the planet's surface, there was abundant evidence that in centuries past a fledgling community had existed.

Stooping among the grasses, he programmed several in-depth scans of both utensils. It was definitely warmer at ground level. Sweat droplets spilled along his brow and down into his collar; perhaps warmer was an understatement. He stood quickly when the tricorder beeped its completion. Not a good idea. The world tilted wildly and he felt himself falling.

Fortunately, there was nothing more than grasses in his path. Grasses and mushrooms. He landed in a cloud of dusty brown pollen. He rolled sideways, trying to sneeze his way to his feet. It didn't work. He lay back in the grasses and found to his surprise that the sneezes subsided on their own. The urge to sneeze was replaced by tickling mirth and the desire to sing along with Neelix, only it wasn't Neelix's tune that spilled from his lips.

Oh Senor Don Gato was a cat.
On a high red roof Don Gato sat.

That was when he remembered. Her name was Taima. Taima Menendez, his self- proclaimed worst enemy. She'd sang that very song that day in the tree....

He was there to read a letter.
Meow, Meow, Meow.
Where the reading light was better.
Meow, Meow, Meow.
'Twas a love note for Don Gato.

"What are you doing in my tree?" he'd demanded, interrupting the young woman's falsetto rendition of the Mexican classic. Taima had visited her Aunt on Dorvan every summer. They'd ignored one another previous summers, but that particular one, she'd gone out of her way to irritate him and he her. It hadn't helped that she was a head taller.

"I'm singing. And beside this isn't your tree, you can't own it." She'd continued in a wavering falsetto:

I adore you wrote the lady cat
Who was fluffy, white and nice and fat.

"It is my tree. You know I always sit in this tree during the I'buka."

"Well you'll have to sit someplace else this year," she'd turned her back and continued to sing.

For there was no sweeter kitty,
Meow, Meow, Meow.
In the country or the city,
Meow, Meow, Meow.
For she said she'd wed Don Gato

Chakotay had stood at the bottom of the tree glaring furiously at the girl. "You get out of my tree, Taima Menendez. And stop that noise, it's getting on my nerves."

"Make me." She'd stuck her out her tongue.

"Fine. Have it." Chakotay spun on his heel. "There's a better one over there, and it won't have your girl cooties all over it."

The next thing Chakotay knew, he was face down in the glade with Taima on his back. He rolled over and tried to push her off, but Taima had other ideas. She pressed her lips to his for several seconds and squeezed her eyes shut.

Chakotay stared at her speechless when she pulled away with a smile. "You like my girl cooties," she grinned at him.

"Did not!" Chakotay pushed at her.

She punched him in the nose.

Chakotay was left rolling about the ground trying to staunch the flow of blood. He'd never seen Taima Menendez again. He wondered briefly at his ability to remember the incident and the song so clearly, but that thought was replaced by the singular joy of laying flat on his back, in the dirt, belting out the remainder of the tune.

Oh Don Gato jumped so happily
He fell off the roof and broke his knee
Broke his ribs and all his whiskers
Meow, Meow, Meow
And his little solar plexus
Meow, Meow, Meow
Ay Caramba! Cried Don Gato

"Chakotay? Where are you?" He heard Kathryn's voice, but was having far too much fun singing and so carried on even more loudly.

Oh the Doctors all came on the run
Just to see if something could be done
Though they held a consolation
Meow, Meow, Meow
About how to save their patient
Meow, Meow, Meow
He up and died Don Gato

"I can hear you, Chakotay. Are you all right?"

When the funeral passed the market square
Such a smell of fish was in the air
Though he was exanguinated
Meow, Meow, Meow
He became reanimated
Meow, Meow, Meow
He came back to life Don Gato!

He smiled triumphantly at the face that appeared above him. "I like your girl cooties," he grinned, wondering if she would punch him in the nose if he tried to kiss her. He decided to risk it.

* * *

"I'm glad you did, you know." Her eyes twinkle as I finish my story.

"Did what?"

"Risk it, you fool." She doesn't bother to look around this time, she draws me to her. It's very unkind of her to kiss me like that, at three in the afternoon. I tell her that, and she kisses me again.

"I'll see you tonight." She winks. I watch her walk away.

These stories are working. I am glad of it.

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