REFLECTIONS
PART SIX
DISTRESS CALLS
RATED PG
"Do you really think you would have been happy?"  He walked the empty corridor with his arm around her shoulder. 

"Huh?--On New Earth."  She looked up at him and smiled. "I don't know--I'd like to think so, now--but then--I wasn't ready to give up." 

"Still too much the Captain?" 

"Partly and partly because I was still hiding from my feelings for you."  She shook her head.  "Still scared to death of what I felt for you, would be more like it--and of what I saw in your face, everytime  you looked at me."  He laughed at that and she stopped walking.  "What?" 

"Just thinking---the night you first saw the monkey--that look?"  He grinned at her, she remembered it well. 

"That one was particularly bad."  She keyed in the access code and the door admitted them to their quarters. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

     They had been on the planet for twenty four days, without any significant progress in her research.  Progress, however, had been made in their living arraigments, as Chakotay searched for ways to make her comfortable--to acclimated her to this new life--alone on a wilderness planet.  His first major improvement was building her a bathtub.  It was large and deep--big enough for two, if the occasion ever arose--and under the stars, giving her two things she loved at the same time---a hot bath and a chance to examine the stars. 

     This night he worked inside the shelter, trying hard not to think of her, lying naked in her tub, under the stars.  She soaked and splashed thoroughly enjoying the luxury of the deep hot water and clear night sky. 

"Chakotay, are you there?"  She called from outside. 

"No, I left an hour ago."  He yelled back, causing her to smile. 

"I was thinking---maybe looking for protein co-factors is the wrong approach.----even if I can't find a specimen of the insect that infected us-- I could try to learn something of the bio molecular level of this planet's eco system." 

"Can't hurt to give it a try"  He answered idly as he worked over his sand painting. 

      A rustling noise in the woods, caused Kathryn to sit up with a start, grabbing  her towel. 

"Chakotay."  She yelled. 

"What?" 

"Someone's in the woods!" 

    Chakotay grabbed a phaser and light off the shelf and ran out side to join her. Kathryn stood wrapped in a bath towel staring at the woods. 

"Over there."  She pointed in the direction of the noise and he pointed the light.  In the glow they saw a small monkey holding on to the branches.  "It looks like some kind of primate." 

"I've detected primate life signs here, but I've never seen one." 

"Hello."  She stepped forward.  "Are you hungry?"  She extended her hand.  "Is that why you came here?  I'm Kathryn--he's Chakotay--we've had to move into your neighborhood, but I hope we can be friends."  The monkey climbed farther up the tree and out of sight. "Ohh, maybe he'll come back." 

"Looking for a pet?"  He searched the trees with the light. 

"No."  She laughed.  "Looking for a clue about primate physiology on the planet---they must have to contend with insect bites too."  She turned to him as she spoke. He was standing close by, gazing down at her towel clad body, longingly.  She clutched at her towel and he stepped back. 

"Well, excuse me."  He looked away guiltily and went inside. 

     The look should not have been unexpected, but it had caught her off guard.  It had occurred to her that they were now, and would be for a very long time, the only two people on the planet--the only two people in the world, so to speak.  She didn't have the command structure to fall back on any more and if they never left this planet--Mark would be a sorry excuse.  It seem inevitable and yet very unwise.  If they tried to move forward with a  more intimate relationship and it failed---there was no alternative--no one else and possibly a ruined friendship and a long and lonely life.  Yet she understood his feelings--she had experienced them herself---this needed to be handled carefully. 

     She decided the best course at present was to pretend it didn't happen.  To go inside and go on with her research as she always did.  She pulled on her bathrobe and went inside. 

"Maybe we should be out looking for other primates"  She tightened her robe and sat at her computer.  "I might be missing something important." 

"Kathryn----the Doctor worked for weeks, trying to find a treatment for this disease. You've been at it twelve hours a day, seven days a week, since we got here----we're still no closer to a cure than we were the day we got infected"  He came over to her desk and leaned on it as he spoke. 

"I'm not sure what your getting at." 

"My people have a saying----even the eagle must know when to sleep--maybe it's time we both consider that." 

"You mean quit---give up..." 

"Why do you have to see it as defeat?  Maybe it's simply accepting what life has dealt us --finding the good in it." 

"There may be a day when I'll come to that, Chakotay.--but I'm a long way from it right now.  I need to keep looking." 

     He just smiled gave a small shrug and returned to his work--leaving her to her's. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

     They had settled on the couch with a cup of Vulcan spice tea--something of a nightly ritual for them. 

"I was still clinging to the idea that we would find a way home--quickly." 

"It was a long time before you started to let go of that--- and Mark." 

"Mark---yes--It was difficult to let go--even after I knew it was you I loved,  I hung on to Mark.   It was safe--comfortable." 

"Your safety net--I remember."  He settled back putting his arm around her and drawing her back with him.  "Over three years, as I recall--until..." 

"Until I was forced to give him up."  She laughed.  "I guess I was a little stubborn ---the man had to get married before I could admit it was over." 

"A little stubborn--please."  He chuckled.  "Seriously, I was worried about you." 

"Hell, when are you not worried about me?" 

"Never, but at least now you'll let me help--sometimes--then you kept it bottled up.  It was frightening, wondering when you would break or explode." 

"I didn't explode, did I? --Instead we went to a party."  She snuggled against him smiling sadly at the memory of letting go. 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

     They had received a communique from Starfleet  via the same alien relay system, they had used to send the Doctor to the alpha quadrant.  They were able to down load official communications as well as personal letters, from home.  Commander Chakotay received a letter informing him that all of their friends in the Marquis were either dead or the "lucky" ones were in prison.  The Captain got a letter from Mark Johnson, the news on her dog was good- the news on their relationship was not.  Mark had held out hope as long a as possible, but eventually moved on with his life---four months ago he married a woman he worked with. 

     They had been out numbered and out gunned by the Hirogen, who claimed ownership of the relay system and had taken Tuvok and Seven hostage.  There wasn't time to feel sorry for themselves.  The Captain and Commander had an enemy to outwit, shipmates to rescue and the gravitational pull of a collapsing black hole to escape from-- only then--when all was said and done did they have time to dwell on the news from home. 

     Tuvok having been rescued, gave the Captain a rundown on the Hirogen ship and the little he had learned about the species, while captive on the ship---none of it good.  For her part the Captain tried to maintain an interest, but her distraction was obvious.  The door chimed and the Commander entered at her call.  Tuvok, quickly realizing this was not strictly a professional call, excused himself, leaving the command team alone in the ready room. 

     Chakotay crossed over and stood in front of her desk, she smiled up at him, sadly. 
 
"Repair teams have inspected the ship stem to stern---except for some maintenance on the warp coil--everything seems fine." 

"I suppose so ---want some coffee?"  She got up, walking over to the small table by the couch. 

"Thanks." 

"Cream and sugar,  Huh?" 

"Two sugars." 

"Oh--two sugars?"  She bent and poured their coffee. 

"You know you drink too much of that stuff." 

"Really?" 

"If I'm not mistaken, that's your third cup this morning." 

"Fourth and on a day like today it won't be my last."  She put the cream and sugar in his coffee.  "Coffee the finest organic suspension ever devised.  It's got me through the worst of the last  three years---I beat the borg with it."  She stood and handed him his coffee,  then laughing as she sit down on the couch.  "Oh I'm sure Voyager will be fine, but I'm worried that the crew might be a different story--I think they were hoping mail call would become a regular part of their day." 

"Nelix is putting together an impromptu party.  He thought it might cheer them up." 

"Good idea, when will it be?" 

"As soon as he can get people together." 

"Leave it to Nelix to come up with the right idea at the right time."  She put her feet on the coffee table and sat back. 

"How are you doing?" 

"Me?  I'm fine." 

"You would sat that if you just had your legs torn off by a traken beast."  He shook his head.  "Look what you've been through in the last few days--We finally make a connection with home and then it's ripped away from us."  He watched her tilt her head back against the couch. "We managed to make another enemy who's gonna try to hunt us down and destroy us-- and on top of that ...."  He hesitated. 

"It's alright, you can say it-"  She picked her head up and looked at him.  "On top of all that I got a dear john letter."  She looked down. "Wasn't really a surprise.  I guess I didn't really expect him to wait for me----considering the circumstances. "  She took a deep breath. "It made me realize that I was using him as  a safety net--ya know?--As a way to avoid becoming involved with someone else." 

"You don't have that safety net anymore." 

"That's right--"  She looked at him and smiled.  "But then again, my life is far from uneventful here in the delta quadrant.."  The smiled at each other, laughing.  "It's not like I would have had a chance to pursue a relationship---even If I had realized I was alone." 

"You're hardly alone and to my way of thinking ---there's still plenty of time." 

"Plenty of time."  She nodded and smiled again. 

"Nelix to the Ready room--the party is about to begin and only two people are missing." 

"Were on out way."  She shook her head and stood up. 

     Chakotay offered her his arm and she took it, walking out of the ready room laughing together. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

"As always, you worried about me, took care of me---When it was you who really needed taking care of." 

"I was fine." 

"Sure, nothing to worry about, you just lost almost every friend and colleague you had---before Voyager" 

"B'Elanna took it worse than me." 

"For a time, yes."  She sat up and looked at him.  "I know you---remember?" 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 
 
      They had launched an multi spatial probe and 'lost' it.  Not exactly lost--they knew where it was they just couldn't get it back.  A Malon freighter tried to steal it and the Captain  directed it into the atmosphere of a gas giant to keep it out of their hands.  The freighter imploded when it tried to follow the probe into the atmosphere, unfortunately the probe got it's self stuck in a thick hydrogen gas layer and Voyager couldn't risk going in after it. 

     B'Elanna had been acting strangely, she was late for the meeting, at which Tom proposed building the delta flyer, to go after the probe and once there showed little interest.  She appeared dazed, gave short one word, unenthusiastic answers and was easily distracted.  She just didn't care--about anything. 

     After Chakotay had discovered her injured and unconscious, on the Holodeck and transported her to sickbay,  the Doctor determined that she had had many untreated injuries, of late and alerted the Captain.  Having no success in finding the reasons behind B'Elanna's behavior, the Captain relieved her of duty and removed her from the flyer project--which also failed to invoke any interest. 

    In a desperate attempt to reach her, Chakotay searched her holoprograms for clues.  Finding what he thought might lead to answers he invited B'Elanna to the holodeck to confront her.  As they reached the door to the holosuite, B'Elanna reached for the controls only to have Chakotay stop her. 

"Computer activated Holoprogram Torres Zada one." 

"PROGRAM ACTIVATED" 

"What are you doing?"  B'Elanna was angry and tried to flee. 

     Chakotay grabbed hold of her shoulders and forced her into the holosuite.  She struggled and kicked without success. 

"Computer freeze program."  She shouted in desperation as they entered a cavern strewn with dead bodies and filled with the sounds of fierce warfare. 

"Computer-- belay that order!"  He struggled to bring her deeper into the program. 

"Turn it off!" She screamed as she continued to fight him. 

"Not until you tell me what it is." 

"You know what it is."  She broke away and he grabbed her, forcing her to look at the body he turned over. 

"Who is this?" 

"Li Paz---don't you recognize him?" 

"I recognize them all." He looked around at the other bodies.  "Meyer, Nelson, Sahreen---You created a program to watch out Maquis friends get slaughtered.  What I want to know is--- Why?" 

"I thought we came down here to talk about safety protocols.  This had nothing to do with that." 

"I'm not so sure.  The log shows you only ran this program for forty-seven seconds, the day after I gave you the news about the massacre.  Then you shut it down and started running the most dangerous programs you could find with safeties off---Why?" 

"This is ridiculous---I'm leaving."  She started for the door. 

"Computer seal the doors." 

"You can't do this..."  she spun at to face him as she screamed in frustration. 

"The hell I can't.   You're not going any where until you tell me what's going on .----B'Elanna , why are you intentionally trying to hurt yourself?" 

"I don't know." 

"Are you trying to commit suicide?" 

"No." 

"They why?" 

"Because---Because If I sprain my ankle --at least I feel something." 

"What do you mean?" 

"I'm not trying to kill myself---"  She walked toward the wall then turned to face him.  "I'm trying to  see if I'm still alive." 

"I don't understand." 

"When you look at these corpses---How do you feel?" 

"Sad---Angry---maybe, a little guilty, that I wasn't there to die with them." 

"Not me."  She raised her hands and shrugged her shoulders."  I don't feel any thing at all." 

"B'Elanna, the Maquis were like our adopted family.  I can understand you trying to block out that kind of pain." 

"You don't--understand-It's not just the pain. I don't FEEL anything--not  about my dead friends--not about Tom--You--my job.." 

"Maybe you're afraid if you let yourself start to feel anything, you might not be able to stop.  You can't just shut off your emotions, B'Elanna.  Sooner or later you're gonna have to let your self live." 

"Why--just so I can go through it all over again?" 

"What are you talking about?" 

"When I was  six, my father walked out on me.  When I was nineteen, I got kicked out of Starfleet.  A few years later I got separated from the Maquis and just when I start to feel safe ---you tell me all our old friends have been slaughtered.  The way I figure it-- I've lost every family I've ever had." 

"B'Elanna."  He came to kneel next where  she sat.  "You have a  new family now--here on Voyager--you're not gonna lose us--you're stuck with us." 

"You can't promise me that." 

"No. I suppose I can't.  Losing people is inevitable and some times it happens sooner than we expect--but I can promise you that the people on this ship aren't gonna let you stop living your life, or break your neck on the holodeck.  You're gonna have to find another way to deal with this." 

"I don't know how." 

"We'll figure it out."  He took her hands in his.  "Together." 

"Commander Chakotay--we're under attack--report to the bridge immediately."  The Captain's voice blared over the comm. interrupting them. 

     At first Chakotay didn't react, he continued to hold her hands and search her face for some sign that he had gotten through. 

"You better go."  She nodded and gave him a half smile. He left. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

"She began to realize we wouldn't leave her, wouldn't let her destroy herself.  I remember holding my breath when you let her go on the flyer." 

"I knew she could do it --needed to do it." 

"Yes, and you were right."  She smiled and waited for a smart comment, but he just smiled back.  "It was because you were so good at solving the  emotional problems of others, that at first I didn't see it happening to you." 

"You had you own problems to contend with." 

"Please, I was wallowing in self pity--I didn't want Mark--I no longer loved him--I just didn't want to let him go.  Couldn't stand that he had moved on and I---I was alone--I know -by choice--but none the less alone." 

"It wasn't Mark at all."  He chuckled at her.  "You just couldn't stand that someone else had made the decision.' 

"Maybe, getting dumped--no matter how logical,  isn't any one's idea of fun, but it doesn't compare to your loss and it doesn't excuse me for being blind to it." 

"It wasn't just Mark, he was a part--and being stuck out here led to that too."  He was serious now. "The time you really scared me was when we hit that Void---I couldn't reach you." 

"I didn't want to be reached--I wanted to be alone to, suffer--to punish myself --for getting us stuck out her--for losing Mark, even for pushing you away and so I push you even further." 

"And everyone else with me." 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

     Voyager had reached a sector of space that was ---empty, it was space and nothing-no systems, no stars, no other ships, just a vast dark void.  They had been traveling through it for two months with no end in sight and it was taking a toll on the moral of the crew.  The hardest hit was the Captain, who isolated herself from everyone else, which only increased the strain on everyone else. 

     Seven had done extensive scans and analysis from Astormetrics and the news wasn't good.  There were no systems for  twenty five thousand light years, they were facing another two years of blackness. 
Voyager was unable to scan or see beyond that point due to heavy theta raidation, which blocked their scanners.  Chakotay went to inform the Captain. 

    He found her alone in her darkened quarters.  She stood quietly staring into the blackness outside her viewport, even as her spoke to her. 

"It's probably nothing, just some background theta raidiation, but it could mean there's someone near by.." 

"Distance?"  He voice was flat and lifeless. 

"Approximately twenty five light years." 

"It's a long shot, but alter course." 

"Yes, Ma'am." 

"If that's all Commander." 

"Actually, I would like to make a request.  I've been saving up holodeck rations and I have three full hours coming.  Any chance I might persuade you to join me for a few rounds of velocity?   It would help clear your mind." 

"My mind is perfectly clear." 

"Then, what if I told you I'm not leaving until you join me?" 

"I'd say have a seat----it will be a while." 

"Than I'll be blunt.  You picked a bad time to isolate yourself from the crew.  This ship needs a Captain--especally now." 

"Would you be satisfied with--I'm just catching up on some reading?"  She threw her hand in the air.  "I'm not sure I understand it myself.  It started when we entered the ---what does the crew call it?" 

"The Void." 

"Charming."  She turned back to the view port, putting one hand to her head.  "Ugghh, What I wouldn't give for a few borg cubes about now---Anything for a little distraction--strange as it sounds, I almost long for the days when we were under constant attach.  No time to stop and think about how we got stranded in the Delta Quadrant."  She turned and walked toward him. "How did we end up here, Chakotay?"  He said nothing,  "Answer me." 

"We were faced with a difficult choice---we had the means to get home, but using it would put an innocent people at risk, so we decided to stay..." 

"NO--no--I decided to stay---I made that choice for everyone." 

"We are alive and well and we have gathered enough data about this quadrant to keep Starfleet scientist busy for decades---our mission had been a success." 

"They are the same words I've been telling myself for the past four years--but--then we hit this void and I started to realize how empty those words sound."  She walked closer, shaking her head.  "I made an error in judgment, Chakotay--it was short sighted and it was selfish and now all of us are paying for my mistake----So if you don't mind Commander--I'll pass on that little game and I'll leave shipboard moral in your capable hands.  She turned and walked back into the darkness on the other side of the room.  "If the crew asks for me, tell them the Captain sends her regards." 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 
"A little action  snapped me out of it." 

"Yea that and a small muntiy."  He laughed. 

"There is nothing small about muntiy and you were it's leader."  She playfully punched his arm and laughed at the memory---at the time it hadn't been funny. 

"I had help, Tuvok was completely on my side--ya know I always knew that damn old Vulcan had a thing for you." 

"For me?  No--it wasn't that at all.  He would have done just about anything not to have to work for you!" 

"The look on your face when, one by one the bridge crew refused to obey your orders----it was priceless, and when you finally understood." 

"I knew we were a family on this ship--and I was it's caretaker, but --that day I realized I was truly a part of that family and you would all take care of me, if I needed it----whether I wanted you to or not!" 

"We take care of each other  and if would be easier if some of us weren't so stubborn" 

"Excuse me--but I'm not the only one who shuts themselves away.  You preached at me--you preached at B'Elanna and than you did it yourself." 

"I know it's a good thing we're both so stubborn or we'd never have made it this far." 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

     After their run in with the Malon and the success of the delta flyer, B'Elanna slowly got back to her  old self.  With each bit of progress she made, Chakotay seemed to take a step in the other direction.  At first it wasn't very noticeable-- he was quieter than normal, spent a little more time on his own, he seemed sad most of the time, but it was normal to go through a period of grief, so people gave him room to mourn.  The Captain noticed the difference, he made excuses to spend his time alone, he smiled less, but she let him go.  After all he was, in reality, a very private man and she didn't want to intrude on his grief.  She did make several overtures, but if he declined she didn't push. 

     He scheduled himself a few more night shifts than was normal, but nothing drastic.  Slowly, over a period on months, he managed to almost totally isolate himself from his friends, the crew and mostly from Kathryn.  She noticed, but he didn't exhibit any destructive behavior, break any rules and he made every shift and performed his job to perfection--there was nothing she could do.  If the man wanted to be alone--it wasn't a crime--she couldn't interfere. 

     They were on the bridge together, a rare occurrence of late,  he smiled at her jokes, replied to her comments, but made little attempt at conversation on his own.  The Captain was about to retire to her ready room, when the scanners picked up a small ship on an intercept course. 

"Captain, we are picking up a ship on a direct intercept course."  Tuvok reported. 

"Time, Mr. Tuvok?" 

"At current speed they will intercept in seven minutes." 

"Do you have a visual, Mr. Kim?" 

"Aye, Captain." 

"On screen." 

     A small ship appeared on the view screen.  It was less than a quarter  Voyagers size and appeared to be advancing on them at a rapid rate.  She glanced in Chakotay's direction, but he seem fairly uninterested in the ship. 

"Captain--their weapons are powered up and they are increasing their speed."  Harry reported. 

"Hail them as soon as they are in range, Mr Kim."  She turned to her tactical officer.  "Mr. Tuvok, your assessment?" 

"Captain, they have phasers and torpedoes--shields and appear to be quite maneuverable, but certainly they are no match for Voyager." 

"Hailing range, Captain."  Harry's hands crossed the panel in front of him. "No response." 

"Open a broad range channel."  She glanced at Harry and he nodded.  "Alien Vessel, This is Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Starship Voyager, we are on a peaceful mission. Stand down your weapons." 

"Firing phasers." 

"Shields.  Evasive maneuvers."  She ordered as they rocked. 

"Shields holding 98% --no damage." 

"Again, Harry."  He opened the channel again.  "Alien Vessel, stand down your weapons--we do not wish to engage you....."  The ship rocked with a  more powerful blast.  "Tuvok send a  warning volley of phaser  fire, across their bow."  She looked at Harry again.  "Then turned to the screen and saw the ship toss in the wake of their phasers.  She nodded to Harry. "Alien vessel --we do not wish to engage you cease fire and stand down your weapons.  Another blast hit Voyager. 

"Shields down to 85%" 

"Another warning shot Mr. Tuv...."  The ship shuttered and the console next to the Captain's chair exploded sending her flying across the bridge. 

     The Commander reacted for the first time, jumping from his seat and lifting her limp body.  Tuvok fired another warning shot and the alien vessel returned fire. 

"Target their warp core and fire Mr. Tuvok."  The Commander shouted from the deck where he still held the listless body of his Captain.  

"Sir?"  Tuvok hesitated.  "They would be destroyed." 

"Do it--Tuvok." 

    The ship shook again, and when Tuvok still had not fired Chakotay set Kathryn back on the deck and forcefully took over Tuvok's station.  He targeted the alien warp core and fired.  In seconds a blinding flash appeared on the view screen and then the blackness of space returned. 

     The Commander picked up the Captain and slapped his comm badge. 

"Chakotay to sickbay--emergency medical beam out."  Just before he shimmered away he looked at Tuvok. "You have the bridge." 

     After depositing the Captain in sickbay and leaving the doctor strict instructions to update him immediately, Chakotay returned to his quarters. The Captain had received a minor shock from the exploding console, but it was her  trip across the bridge that had caused the problem.  She had fractured her wrist and received a major blow to her head upon landing.  The wrist was easily  and quickly repaired, the neuro damage caused by the blow took longer.  It was several hours later before the Captain, with a severe headache, was allowed to leave sick bay. 

"Captain, I want you to go directly to your quarters and rest."  The Doctor ordered as she slipped off the bio bed, smiling and holding her head. "Yes, well I didn't really think you would.  Sorry about the headache, but I won't risk any more medication at this point." 

"That's fine Doctor and I will rest."  She walked to the door and turned back.  "Just as soon as I have a few details of what happened." 

"Yes, of course--I expected as much."  He doctor gave her a disgusted look as she left. 

     When the Captain reached the bridge, Tuvok was just turning it over to beta shift. She nodded to the crew as she crossed to her ready room. 

"Mr. Tuvok, when you are finished there--my ready room please." 

"Yes, Captain." 

     While she waited for Tuvok, the Captain reviewed the log from this afternoon.  The alien ship had been destroyed--strange--it couldn't have been necessary to destroy them.  Her door chimed. 

"Come"  She looked up to find Tuvok. 

"Captain." 

"Have a seat, please Tuvok."  She waited for him to comply.  "The log says the ship was destroyed." 

"Yes, Captain.  They continued to fire after your injury and the Commander ordered them destroyed." 

"I see--was that strictly necessary?" She knew she should have this conversation with the Commander--but had gone to his quarters directly after leaving her in sickbay. 

"The Commander deemed it so." 

"Yes, I see that."  She watched him carefully.  "Let me rephrase that---Do you believe it was necessary." 

"No, I believe we could have disabled them--but if I may?"  He looked to her. 

"Go ahead Tuvok." 

"The vessel attacked us without provocation, refused to answer our hails, we fired several warning shots, and Captain you had sustained a sever injury--The Commander was acting well with in his rights when it ordered it destroyed." 

"Yes, Tuvok--I am aware of the regulations and I am aware that procedure was duly followed.  Tell me-- according to the logs, the Commander fire on the vessel himself--why is that?" 

"I was hesitant to obey his order, and when I did not comply immediately he moved me aside and fired himself." 

"I see."  She  smiled, but he didn't return it.  "That will be all Tuvok, thank you, Dismissed." 

     She contemplated the situation, sitting alone in her ready room.  Chakotay was the most compassionate man she had ever met--this was inconsistent with his personality.  Reflecting on it, she realized his behavior for months had been contrary to the norm and slowly deteriorating.. 

"Computer located Commander Chakotay." 

"COMMANDER CHAKOTAY IS IN HIS QUARTERS." 

     She left the ready room and took the lift to deck three.  Standing out side his quarters she wondered what she would say to him.  Finally she rang the chime. 

"Come in" 

"Commander." 

"Captain."  He stood and walked in her direction. 

"As you were, Commander.  Am I disturbing you?." 

"No, Captain, come in"  He retreated to the couch.  "Can I get you something?" 

"Answers"  He looked up startled .  "You can get me some answers, Chakotay." 

"Captain?" 

"Chakotay, what happened up there today?" 

"Captain, the Vessel attacked us without provocation, we followed procedure  and ..." 

"I know that--even Tuvok was careful to point out that your actions were by the book.  I'm not questioning procedure---I'm questioning you." 

"Captain?"  His look told her he was retreating further. 

"Chakotay, please--I'm concerned about you.  You're behavior has been --unusual for months now--I though you would work it out in time--but today... " He got up and walked away from her.  "Chakotay?" 

"Captain If I've neglected my duties, I'm sorry---I'll be more conscious of it in..." 

"Chakotay --you have neglected nothing--except maybe yourself. Your work has been by the book and frankly, that's what has me frightened."  She got up and cross over to him, putting her hand on his back---he moved away.  You are not a by the book kind of person-- you have never been this stiff and formal."  She moved and placed her had on his shoulder.  "Chakotay,  what is it?---let me help you." 

"I couldn't do it--I'm sorry.."  He moved back to the couch, without looking at her. 

"What?"  She sat next to him, placing her hand on his shoulder again.  "Chakotay, tell me what's wrong---please." 

"Everyone of them is dead--I should be too.  I wasn't there to help them."  He shook his head, facing the viewport. 

"The Maquis."  It was more a statement than a question.  "Chakotay, you didn't desert them--you didn't choose to be here--what happened is not your fault." 

"I know that, here."  He tapped his head "But here." His hand moved down to his chest.  "Here I can't forgive myself.  I can't forget them." 

"You'll never forget them--they were like family--just like we are now, here on Voyager."  Her hand caressed his back as she spoke.  "You said yourself --we lose people -it's inevitable, some sooner than others, but...." 

"When I saw you.."  He shuttered and she realized he was crying.  "You were so still--lifeless..  I -- I was so frightened--I snapped."  His shoulders shook and she wrapped her arms around him.  "Kathryn, I couldn't bear the thought of losing you too.----God- I killed them-- I did it because --I was afraid --afraid of losing you---I was angry and scared and...."  He bent forward shuttering. 

"Shhh."  She moved around in front of him, wrapping him in her arms.  "It will be alright---let it out." 

      She held him for a long time that night, glad that he had finally trusted her enough to open up.  He allowed her to share in his grief and lighten the load he carried, so silently, for all these months and she was grateful.  She stayed with him until he slept, peacefully in his bed, then she quietly returned to her own quarters. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

"I'd seen you get teary eyed before--on happy and sad occasions, but that really broke my heart---seeing you like that." 

"Hell, If I knew you would hold me ---I would have cried every day all day long." 

"Maybe you should have." 

"It was a turning point.  Although we still had a long way to go." 

"And way too many battles to fight ---- come on, I'm tired, let's go to bed." 

"And solve the universe's problems tomorrow?" 

"No were "home" now--we've done our duty---from now on let's stick to solving our own."  She stood up and offered him her hand. 

"Think you can do it?"  He stood and held her in his arms.  "Walk away?" 

"If you'll walk with me.  Together?" 

"Together."  He kissed her and she took his hand.  They walked out of the room--together. 
 

TBC

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