Disclaimer:  I am but a poor soul with a slightly twisted tale to tell. All the characters, good and bad, belong to Paramount.




Second Place in Anniversary contest

Rated PG 13

Chakotay stared at the terminal.  Another anniversary celebration was upon them.  The flashing message had a big red ten right in the middle.  It had been ten years since they had returned to Earth, ten long and often lonely years.

The first few months after their return had been hectic; no one had much time to dwell on the future.  Quite frankly, until the end, he wasn't even sure the Maquis had a future.  There were charges and trials and times when the outcome was far from certain, but in the end it had all worked out.  The Captain’s debriefing was long and hard but she always found time to support her crew, especially the Maquis.  She attended every hearing possible and testified endlessly for each crewman.  Her unending loyalty made her subsequent actions all that much more difficult to accept.

They had barely finished her debriefing when Starfleet offered the Captain a promotion.  It seemed so strange to him that she hadn’t accepted it on the spot.  It was the one thing he thought he knew for certain about Kathryn--- that she wanted to be an admiral.  Well, it actually went beyond wanting, she needed to be an admiral.  It had been the first crack he had ever observed in the fearless Captain Janeway. This force that drove her to be an admiral was really her biggest flaw.  He remembered how odd it was to see the Captain so insecure, so vulnerable, that night so many years ago when she had finally explained this need to him.  She was so young and childlike when she spoke the words-so unlike his normally strong captain.

“I want Daddy to be proud of me.”  She had said with a noticeable tremor in her voice.

Chakotay hadn’t been able to resist taking her in his arms, holding her until the command mask slipped back in place.   So, when the Captain turned down her promotion and accepted a new, highly classified, assignment just days after their debriefing ended, Chakotay was even more shocked than the rest of the crew.

To make matters worse, Chakotay had received the news via transmission; Kathryn hadn’t even said goodbye in person.  His heart still ached as he remembered it.

~~~^^^~~~

Chakotay had been a free man only a few days and already he had an overwhelming number of offers to consider before deciding on his future.  But tonight he had more important matters to attend to; tonight he had a date, one he had begun to believe would never happen.  Tonight he had a date with his former captain.  Kathryn was finally within reach and nothing else mattered.

As they left the final hearing, Kathryn had told him she had a few matters to clear up over the next couple of days but just before she hurried away she had agreed to meet him for dinner tonight.  She probably hadn’t realized yet that this was a date but he would make sure that before the evening ended she did.

Chakotay was as nervous as a kid on his first date, unable to sit still or concentrate on anything.  He almost missed the flashing console as he rushed into his temporary quarters to change for dinner.  When the flash finally caught his eye, he impatiently tapped the keys and silently prayed it wasn’t something that would delay their dinner.

“Chakotay.”  Kathryn smiled at him from the screen but her manner was uneasy.  “I’m sorry but I’m going to have to break our dinner engagement.”  She paused swallowing hard before she continued.  “I’m sorry, but I can’t give you much in the way of an explanation, right now.  All I can say is that I have accepted a new assignment and I will be gone probably before you even received this message.  I can tell you that I will be captaining the Montgomery on a highly classified mission and we will be traveling under a communications blackout for some time.  I will contact you as soon as I can.  Goodbye.”  Kathryn started to turn away, then turned back.  “I’ll miss you.”

The screen went dark and Chakotay tried to catch his breath.  This made no sense.  Why would Kathryn take another assignment so soon?  He knew she had been offered a promotion. The admiralty had made sure it was public knowledge.  If she took this assignment, on the Montgomery, she was still a captain. He didn’t understand.

When his mind cleared, Chakotay contacted B’Elanna. She didn’t know anything either.  Tom in turn contacted his father and Owen did his best but they learned very little about the Montgomery or her mission.  The orders had come directly from the top, which in this case meant Admiral Nechayev, and no one other than her personal staff and presumably the crew of the Montgomery had any knowledge of the mission.

It was a month later before the first the news reached them.  The Montgomery had come under attack.  Badly damaged she had drifted in space until a Vulcan freighter found her and towed her into space dock.  There were scores of injuries and one fatality---her captain.

Chakotay had been on leave at the time camping in the Arizona desert.  In the two weeks he had been there, he had seen no one, so hearing voices as he approached his camp surprised him. Cautiously, he made his way toward camp, until he recognized the B’Elanna’s voice.

“B’Ella, what the hell are you doing here?”  He yelled as he pulled back the flap of his tent, his smile fading in the solemn atmosphere.

“Chak.”  She was pale and uncertain as she turned to face him.

“What’s…?”  Chakotay took in the devastated look on their faces.  “Tom, B’Elanna, what’s wrong?”

“Chak, sit down.”  B’Elanna moved closer.

“Where’s Miral?  Is she OK?”  There was panic evident in his voice.

“Fine.”  Tom quickly assured him. “She’s with mom.”

“Chak, it’s the Captain.”  B’Elanna grabbed his arm, watching the panic turn to fear in his eyes.

“Kathryn?  Something’s wrong with Kathryn?”

“Chak, the Montgomery was attacked….”

“She’s injured?  I have to get there…” He began to throw his equipment into a bag.

“CHAK!”  B’Elanna yelled trying to bring his attention back to her.  “She’s gone, Chak.”

He started at her blankly for several minutes.  Kathryn was gone she had said, but he already knew that.  She had taken that assignment.  When it was over she would be back. But B’Elanna was crying and he could see the red rims around Tom’s eyes too.  His mind cried out for another answer. His heart shattered as he fell to his knees and sobbed like a baby.

The official statement issued by Starfleet said the Captain had been working side by side with her crew, something the Voyager crew readily accepted. They knew their captain well. The Captain had been alone doing a minor repair in Jeffries Tube 17 when the surprise attack occurred.  That section of the ship was the most heavily damaged.  They reported a hull breach on deck six, section five, junction sixteen, the area where the Captain had last been seen.  They hadn't even been able to recover her body.

Starfleet held a large memorial service.  Endless lines of admirals had spoken of her heroism, Admiral Paris spoke at length about her academy days; Nechayev sang her praises for what seemed an eternity.  Tom and B’Elanna spoke as did Harry and Tuvok; Chakotay sat silently staring into space, never uttering a word but not one crewmember expected him to. The press sought to question his silence, but the crew had formed a living force field around him no one could penetrate.

It was only a few months later that the crew celebrated the first anniversary of their homecoming.  In spite of everything, their captain was very much in attendance.  What started out sad and sober became a joyous celebration of life, both theirs and hers.  Everyone had a special story, a moment where she had touched their lives just a little more than usual.  Everyone loved her and everyone missed her, but none so much as her former first officer who now had the task of holding this family together.

Chakotay hadn’t even wanted to come to the reunion; he hadn't been enthusiastic about much in the months since he had heard the news, but B’Elanna wouldn’t hear of it.  She begged and bullied and finally she told him it would be what Kathryn wanted and that he had to do this for the sake of the crew and to honor her memory.  Chakotay couldn’t discount that final argument and so he became their unofficial leader and reunions became an annual event.

In the months after the first reunion, Chakotay was promoted to captain.  He was careful to always make sure his assignments would bring him back to Earth in time for the next reunion. These people were all the family he had and they were his last remaining connection to Kathryn; he held on tightly.

Chakotay retired from Starfleet shortly after their five-year reunion because his heart just wasn’t in it anymore.  He still taught an occasionally class at the Academy but preferred to spend his free time alone in his desert home.

Chakotay was at home late one night, when the console flashed an urgent incoming message. Checking it, he discovered it came from Starfleet headquarters, which was strange since he was no longer 'fleet and the admiralty had little use for part-time professors, but he flipped it on.

“Professor Chakotay?”  The very pretty ensign smiled at him.

“Yes, what can I do for you?”

“I’m Ensign English, Admiral Harrison’s aide.  The Admiral wishes to speak with you as soon as possible.”

“All right, put her on.”

“No, Sir.  She needs to speak with you in person.  She asked that you come directly to headquarters as soon as possible.”

“All right, but it takes some time to reach a transport station out here.  I could be there tomorrow.”

“Sir, the Admiral has taken the liberty of sending a shuttle, it should be at your home in less than twenty minutes.”

“Ensign, are you and the admiral aware that it is 2300 hours?”

“Yes, Sir, we are.  If you are agreeable the shuttle will bring you to the transport station and you can meet with the Admiral at 0100 hours.”

“This must be damned important to keep the Admiral up at this hour.”

“Yes, Sir, she said it’s urgent.”

“And I don’t suppose you know what this is about?”

“No, Sir.  Can I tell the Admiral to expect you?”

“Sure.  I was only planning on sleeping anyway.”

“Yes, Sir.  Thank you, Sir.  I’ll inform the Admiral and meet you in the transporter room.

The screen went blank and Chakotay stood scratching his head.    What the hell did Starfleet’s new Fleet Admiral want with him and why in the middle of the night.  Chakotay paced the room trying to figure out what she could want.  As he passed the large window he caught his reflection and realized he was standing in his living room wearing only his boxers, well that might explain why the ensign had smiled so much.  He shook his head and laughed, then headed to the bedroom to dress.  The best way to resolve this was to go there and ask.

Chakotay materialized in the transporter room to find Ensign English waiting, the same smile gracing her face.

“Ensign.”  He stepped down from the pad.

“Sir, Admirals Harrison and Paris are waiting for you in her office.”  She moved toward the door.  “If you’ll follow me.”

“Harrison and Paris, in the middle of the night?  Oh my, I must have done something terrible.”  He chuckled.  “Did I kill some one that I’m unaware of?”

“No, Sir.”  She smiled up at him.  “As far as I know you have done nothing wrong.”

“Then I’ve done something right?”

“Not that I know of, Sir.”  She stepped back.  “They are waiting for you inside.”

“Thank you, Ensign.”  Chakotay stepped past and entered the Admiral’s inner office.

“Professor.”  Admiral Harrison came around her desk to greet him.

“Admiral.”  Chakotay was anxious to know what was going on here.

“Chakotay.”  Owen Paris shook his hand solemnly.

“Please forgive my impatience but...”  Chakotay ran his fingers through his hair nervously.  “what’s this all about?”

“Please have a seat and I will explain.”  Admiral Harrison moved back behind her desk.

“Some important information has recently come to my attention and after consulting with Owen, we felt you should be informed as soon as possible.”  She paused as she accepted the tea Owen distributed.  “You are aware of Admiral Nechayev’s untimely passing---an event none of us could have foreseen, including the Admiral herself.  She had prearranged the delivery of this data chip to the new occupant of this office upon her death.”  She handed the chip to Owen. “Rather than try to explain it, we will play it for you.”
 

Owen place the chip in the console and Admiral Nechayev’s smiling face looked back at them.

“Hello.  You are apparently my successor and so you know who I am and I undoubtedly know of you.  First, I must congratulate you; it’s an outstanding achievement to be sitting in that chair.  With the heavy burden of responsibility comes an awesome power.  Enjoy it but never doubt that there is someone waiting in the wings to take it away from you.  You can never be too careful.

I worked hard for this position just as I’m sure you did, but there is always some one waiting anxiously to snatch it from you.  Remember that. There was one such person whose sudden heroic appearance posed a real threat to me and so I eliminated her.  Kathryn Janeway landed back in the Alpha Quadrant with a resounding thump just as I was experiencing some minor difficulties.  She was young, intelligent, powerful and immensely popular.  Had I allowed her to become an admiral she could have quite easily grown to an overpowering position in a very short time.  She had one flaw, however.” The Admiral paused and smiled.  “She cared for her crew. I used that flaw to my advantage, a lesson you would do well to learn.”

Admiral Nechayev stopped and keyed something into the nearby console.

“The Maquis were her special weakness, especially her first officer.  Not that I blame the woman, have you ever seen that man?  Well, no matter. I only wonder what she waited for.  She was clearly in love with the man and so an easy target where he was concerned.  It wasn’t difficult to convince the admiralty that we needed to make a show of the charges with numerous hearing and trials, even though it had long been decided they would all go free.  Of course, their Captain didn’t have this foreknowledge and so my plan was set.  I struck a deal with Captain Janeway. Her crew would all go free, they would even be offered their commissions.  All she had to do was quietly go along with my plan and live in exile on a less developed planet for the rest of her life.  Of course, she balked at this, even rumbled about making it public, but in the end she knew or thought she knew, I had the power to carry out my threats and so she agreed.

I fed her the story about taking command of the Montgomery and she dutifully passed it along, from there it was actually fun.  I allowed her to sit in the command chair and take the Montgomery out of orbit and then…"  She laughed and waved toward the screen at her side.  “See for yourself.”

The screen lit up showing Kathryn sitting on the bridge of the Montgomery. Chakotay’s heart pounded; he automatically leaned toward the screen.  He watched closely.  As professionally as ever, Kathryn gave the appropriate orders and the ship broke orbit.   Moments later the Admiral entered the shot and ordered the Captain to her feet.  A security officer fastened Kathryn’s wrists together behind her back with an electronic restraint as the Admiral removed her pips, effectively stripping her of rank.  Armed guards then escorted Kathryn from the bridge.

“Now the restraints weren’t strictly necessary, she was remarkably well behaved, but humiliation is an important weapon and I did enjoy it.”

In the next scene, Kathryn entered the brig where she was stripped of her uniform and given a lightweight jumpsuit to wear.

“Regulations say no cruel or unusual punishment but they don’t say we have to make our prisoners comfortable.   Janeway had made my position uncomfortably warm in her short stay on Earth and so I lowered the temperature so that she wouldn’t suffer the same fate.  Now, she was fed at fairly regular intervals and Greyson there…” The screen showed a burly lieutenant with an almost sinister grin.  “He made sure she was thoroughly bathed at least once a day.  Greyson wasn’t the brightest of minions but he was fiercely loyal and such loyalty needs to be regularly rewarded.  I put him in complete charge of the Janeway’s care.”

This all might seem a bit unnecessary, after all she would soon be out of the reach of society as we understand it, but remember that once you have them down you have to make sure they stay down.  I can assure you that no harm came to the good Captain…”  She laughed, something that looked totally foreign to her persona.  “at least in the three days I stayed aboard.

Several weeks into their journey the Montgomery was attacked.  Oh, yes, the attack, the damage and the injuries were very real and in the incident, they did indeed lose the captain.   No, before you get nervous, I am a lot of things and you will soon find out that you are, too---but, I am not a murderer.  The captain was transferred off the Montgomery and safely escorted to her new home.  You're curious now and I suppose it does no harm to tell you.  She was transported to Plantoes Three.  Not such a bad place, a bit primitive by our standards but livable.  I would say at the time they were developed to about the point of early twentieth century earth, primitive enough for a well-heeled child of the twenty-fourth century, wouldn’t you say? No transporters, no replicators no subspace transmission, a safe little hiding place. Of course, we somehow failed to provide her with the necessary documentation for her new life, which might have proved difficult.  The registry had no record of her birth, she lacked the proper educational and working certificates and with no paper history she was virtually a non-person. Don’t fret too much, our Kathryn was an intelligent and resourceful woman.  I’m sure she managed.  Now, you might want to find her.  It would be a mistake in my opinion, but then discrediting me might solidify your position- try if you like. I would imagine however, that if I’ve died despite all the benefits of modern medicine then she has little chance of still being alive.

I really must be going now; I’m sure I’ve taken up enough of your valuable time.  I do hope you will benefit from my experiences. Good luck, Admiral.”

The screen went dark and both Admirals waited for Chakotay’s response. His head was down his fists clenched and his breathing slow and deep as he composed himself.

“We have to find her.”  He slowly raised his head to face them.

“We have.”  Admiral Harrison came and sat beside him.

“And?”  Chakotay felt the knot tighten in his stomach. What if she didn’t want to come back? What if she had a new life? Oh god, what if she were dead! He couldn't stand to lose her all over again.

“I ordered the Mountbauten to Plantoes the moment I finished watching the vid for the first time.  They were able to locate her and, with her consent, beam her aboard.  We spoke to her just before you arrived.”

“Owen, what isn’t she telling me.”

“Chakotay, she’s fine.  She looks a bit older but otherwise she is fine. The doctor on the Mountbauten gave her a clean bill of health.”

“And what?  Is she coming back? Is she…”

“Yes, she’s coming back. But she had a different life there. Remember she was there for over ten years.”  Owen saw the rising panic in the younger man’s eyes. “She just needs a little time to adjust.”

“Adjust how?”  Chakotay fought his rising panic.  “What’s wrong?  When can I see her?”

“She isn’t ready to see anyone yet,” Owen raised his hand to stop Chakotay’s protest. “Not even you.”

“I see.”  Chakotay nodded trying to sort out this information.

“If it’s any comfort, you are the first person she asked about.” Admiral Harrison placed her hand on his shoulder.  “Just give her time to adjust.”

“She won’t be home for a almost four weeks yet.  It will give her and you time to sort this out.” Owen handed Chakotay another cup of tea.  “Sorry, you could probably use a drink about now.”

“This is fine, thank you.”  He sipped the tea.  “Does anyone else know?”

“Not yet.  We wanted to talk to her first and then to you.  She left it up to you to decide who to tell and when.”  Owen laughed.  “I haven’t even told Tom and B’Elanna and you know I’m in big trouble there!”

“Yeah.”  Chakotay tried to smile.  “Can I talk to her?”

“Not directly, not yet anyway.”

“When you talk to her, please tell her I love her.”

“Why don’t you tell her yourself. You can record a message for her and I’ll  see she gets it first thing in the morning.”  Admiral Harrison took Owen’s arm.  “Let’s take a walk, Owen.”  She moved him toward the door.  “Chakotay take as long a you need. We’ll be outside.”

Chakotay walked to the console and sat staring at the empty screen.  Ten years was a long time, he had no idea what to say to her, no idea what she felt.  He punched up the screen and stared at it.   As if it had a life of its own, his hand reached out, fingers lightly tracing where her face would have been displayed. He could almost see her, head tilted, crooked smile; he laughed.

~~~^^^~~~

Kathryn sat nervously in front to the console.  Ten years was a long time but she found adapting to the changes in the technology far easier then living without it.  Things change over time but the basics were the same and she felt quite comfortable aboard the Mountbauten.  It hadn’t hurt that Will was the captain.  She knew she could trust him the moment he had contacted her. Walking home from the shop, she hadn’t been surprised to see a man pacing in front of her house, many did. But as she drew closer and recognized him she ushered him quickly into the house,  which was nothing that would arouse suspicion in her neighborhood.  Will quickly explained what he knew, asked her if she wanted to go back to Earth and told her he would come back tomorrow for her answer.  It almost hurt how quickly her decision was made.  Kathryn gathered the handful of items that she considered important possessions, said her good-byes to the few significant people in her life and hailed the Montgomery for transport all with twenty-four hours.

Kathryn was comfortable with Will but her first contact with HQ had been unnerving. It was hard to face them, a clear reminder of the life she was forced to leave behind. She should have been standng with them, she might have accomplised alot in the last ten years.  She might have made Daddy proud, but then how proud would he be of his beloved Starfleet if he could see what they allowed.  No, she had taken the only course open to her and she had made her peace with her life.  Daddy might have even understood.  Kathryn  called out the lights and allowed the hum of the engines to sing her to sleep; she slept soundly for the first time in years.

Kathryn didn’t know what her life would be like when she reached Earth. She wasn’t the same person that left ten years ago. She couldn’t imagine a career in Starfleet anymore although they offered it.  Owen had talked about compensation and the ability to work or not as she chose, but she had had difficulty concentrating on that last night. Admiral Harrison had apologized a number of times, and given her lists of options for a future she had never thought she would have, until her head was swimming.  Kathryn tried to be polite but she was still in shock over her ‘rescue’ and she wasn’t ready to consider much beyond a good night’s sleep.

What she did remember clearly though, was that Owen had insisted on contacting Chakotay immediately, even before her family was informed, which they had decided was best delayed until she could see them personally.  Unable to even speak about him beyond her initial query, she had nodded her head in consent.  Now she stood with the chip in her hand.  Will had delivered it personally, as soon as she was awake.  Kathryn was desperate to play it. She so longed to see him if only on the screen but she was afraid, desperately afraid of what she would find.

Kathryn chewed nervously on her lower lip, as she paced the room several times before she found the courage to play the chip.  She placed it in the console and tapped the keys until the screen lit up.  Kathryn stared at the tearstained dimples.

“Kathryn, you must think I’m crazy.  Hell, maybe I am.”  He shook his head and smiled at her from the screen.  “Even after all this time, I can see your face.”  His finger caressed the screen sliding gently down one side.  “The high cheek bones, the slightly uneven texture of your right cheek.  I can see the crooked smile and those eyes.  Steel blue with determination, cornflower blue of your laughter, midnight with passion and crystal clear soft sky blue of tenderness; you told me everything with those eyes.”

Kathryn froze the screen and traced the lines of his tattoo with her finger.  There were tears in her eyes and a tight knot of fear in her belly.  He thought her dead and never stopped loving her. How sad it would be to lose him now.  Could he love her as she was now or would he leave when she shattered the illusion of the Kathryn she had been before? She tapped the keys and he started to speak again.

“I hope I’m not frightening you.”

Kathryn laughed. It was almost as if through all the miles and past all the years, he could still read her feeling.

“I’m confused---startled, I don’t know how to describe this--- what to say.”  He nodded his head.  “Yes, I do.  I’m alive. For the first time since they reported you lost, I feel alive. I know this must be overwhelming to you and I don’t mean to add to your stress.  I only want to be there to help you, Kathryn, if you'll let me.”

Kathryn desperately wanted to reach out to him but she wasn’t sure he would still want her when he understood the truth.

“Kathryn, a lot has changed in the last ten years---for both of us. We have a lot to learn and a lot to make up for.  I made Captain.”  He shrugged.  “But after a time I retired. My heart wasn’t in 'fleet anymore.  Naomi is an Ensign and Miral is a big girl now.  She has two brothers.  Harry and Tal are married and … well we can talk about it all.  But there’s one thing that will never change; I love you.  I always will.  Say the word, just crook a finger at me and I’ll steal a starship and meet you halfway.” Chakotay sat back moving farther away from the screen.  “OK, I’m starting to scare myself, now.  I’ve probably said too much for the first night. Please don’t let it frighten you.”  He laughed. “Yes, remember I’m the one who knows what frightens the fearless Kathryn Janeway. I’ll say good night now and give Admiral Harrison back her office.  I’m serious about meeting you halfway. Just say the word.  Be well, Kathryn.  I hope to talk with you soon.  I love you.”

Kathryn stared at the blank screen, unconsciously wiping the tears from her cheeks.  She tapped her comm badge.

“Janeway to Riker.”

“Yes, Captain?”

“It’s just Kathryn, Will.”

“All right, Kathryn.  What can I do for you?”

“I’m sorry to bother you but I was wondering if I could send a reply to this message?”

“Of course you can.  Would you like to speak directly?”

“NO!”  Kathryn gasped, but recovered quickly.  “No, thank you.  I think I’d rather just prepare it here and have you forward it.”

“All right.  Let me know when it's ready, Kathryn, and I’ll have it sent.”

“Thank you, Will, Janeway out.”

~~~^^^~~~

Chakotay arranged a small gathering of the former senior staff at B’Elanna and Tom’s, early the next afternoon.  Everyone was there.  After all Chakotay would not ask them to meet on such short notice if it weren’t important.

Chakotay carefully relayed Nechayev’s story to them almost word for word as if he were watching it play out in his mind.  There was complete silence while he spoke and for a long time afterward.  When the initial shock wore off and the tempers brought under control, the consensus was to keep the news to themselves, at least until someone had seen her in person and had a better idea of her state of mind.  That someone they naturally assumed would be Chakotay so he promised to keep them informed of any new information he received. They were just preparing to leave when the console beeped.

“Who the hell even knows we’re here?”  B’Elanna punched at the buttons and Owen appeared on the screen.

“B’Elanna, is Chakotay with you?”

“Yes, he is and hello to you too, Owen.” B’Elanna scowled at him.

“Sorry, hello.  Now, may I speak to Chakotay?”

B’Elanna stepped back and Chakotay took her place.

“What’s wrong? Is Kathryn OK?”

“Fine.  She’s just fine.  I spoke with her earlier and she sent a message for you.  I have somethings to discuss with you but she would like you to view her message first.”

“On my way, Chakotay out.”

~~~^^^~~~

Chakotay listened to his message in the privacy of Admiral Paris’s office.  It was so wonderful to see Kathryn. She was older but still as lovely as ever to his eyes.  Her auburn hair with generous silver streaks hung to her waist. He thought it was even longer than it had been on New Earth. Her moist blue eyes held him captivated and the soft music of her husky voice soothed him.  He was so mesmerized that his mind couldn’t wrap itself around the words she was saying.  He played the message a third time before he understood what she was trying to tell him.

Chakotay played it one more time, stopping occasionally to try to envision Kathryn in the world she depicted. This vision of Kathryn, alone in an alien society, saddened him.  It was far from a normal first contact situation.  In this case Kathryn has been the alien and she couldn’t divulge her origin to any of them.  Luckily, the Plantoen physiology was remarkably similar to that of humans so Kathryn could easily pass for native.  It would take an expert to detect the physical differences, but they were centuries behind Earth in development.  Very few women worked outside the home and even fewer lived on their own.  He listened to her recap again.

“At first I found myself in a small town, but I quickly made my way to a larger city where my presence would be less conspicuous.  Having no local currency, I stole my first meal off a street stand and ate my second in a soup kitchen that I stumbled across a few days later.  Without a universal translator, I didn’t understand anyone around me so I relied on chromo-linguistics and sign language.  The first person I tried to communicate with assumed I was deaf and mute, so I played along and I continued to use this ploy until I had a solid grasp on the local language.

It didn’t take me long to discover that I couldn’t work without the proper documentation and I couldn’t obtain that documentation without a record of my birth.  Of course, all things are possible given time and money but I had no money and with winter quickly approaching I was running out of time.

I spent my days in various shops and public buildings, learning what I could of the culture and history. At least they were warm.  I slept in the park in a sort of natural lean-to that was created by the low hanging branches of a native evergreen tree.  The branches were thick, the needles matted together so that they kept out the wind and most of the rain, but it did nothing for the cold. A kind woman at the soup kitchen had given me an old coat. It helped but as the nights got colder I knew I had to find another solution or freeze to death.

On a particularly bitter night, after the stores had closed, I was making my way home to the park through the freezing drizzle when a man approached me.  He offered me a hot meal, which I politely declined but he persisted. He told me he wasn’t evil, just lonely and he thought I looked like I could use a friend too. I had been there a few months by then so I imagine that was quite an understatement.   It didn't take much to see that I was alone and he told me he had observed my movements for a few weeks before approaching me, so he knew I was homeless and, outside of an older woman I met at the shelter, friendless.  He had a place nearby, he said. It wasn’t fancy but it was dry and warm and he would make us dinner.   The drizzle turned to rain."  Kathryn took a deep breath.  "Hell, I was going to freeze to death soon anyway. What did I have to lose.  So, for a hot bath and a warm bed I sold the only thing I truly owned.  And that was the beginning of my new life.”

For the first time since she had started the message, Kathryn looked away.  He could see her struggle to keep her emotions in check.  Her blue eyes were moist when she turned back and continued.

“Of course that only covers the first few months of my stay but it gives you an idea of my life.  Owen has agreed to provide you with transportation if you still want to meet me. If you don’t I’ll understand.”

The screen went dark and Chakotay sat in silence for the next hour until Owen finally came to check on him.

“Hope I’m not intruding.”  Admiral Paris stood just outside the open door.

“It’s your office, Owen. Come in.”  Chakotay lifted himself from the Admiral’s chair reaching back to take the data chip.  “ I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be so long I just lost track of time.”

“It’s not a problem.”  Owen placed two glasses and a bottle on the table.  Are you OK?”

“Yeah.”  Chakotay lifted the glass and swirled the brown liquid.  “What’s this?”

“My finest Irish whiskey. Drink up.”

Chakotay didn’t drink often and then only an occasional glass of wine, but he took a hefty swallow.  The whiskey made his eyes water and his mouth burn, but it spread a warm and welcome glow throughout his body as it slipped down his throat.  He swallowed the rest and allowed Owen to refill the glass.

“So are we celebrating or drowning our sorrows?”  Chakotay sat back and sipped his second glass slowly.

“You tell me.”

“I take it you know what was in my message.”

“I haven’t listened to it, but I talked with Katie earlier and she told me she planned to tell you the major points of her life on Plantoes.”

Chakotay nodded and downed the remainder of his whiskey.

“And she told me you would arrange transport, if I still wanted it.”

“And do you?”

“Yes.”

“Are you sure?”

“Owen, how can you ask me that?”

“You sat here a long time thinking about it, but I‘m not sure it was long enough to make a rational decision.”

“There is no decision to make.  Kathryn is waiting for me.”

“Yes, but she’s a different Kathryn and right now a very vulnerable one.  I won't send you out there to tear her heart out.”

“I’d sooner cut out my own.”

Silence settled over the room.  Owen poured another round of whiskey; they drank it slowly.  Finally Owen stood and moved around the desk.”

“Tell me how you feel.”

“I love Kathryn.”

“You know what I’m talking about.  How do you feel about it?”

“I don’t feel anything about it.  Kathryn did what she was trained to do, what she’s always done--- she survived.  That’s all that matters.”

“You say that now, but will you feel that way when you see her? Can you hold her knowing a thousand other men have paid for the privilege?  Can you live with her, Chakotay, without seeing their faces, hearing their laughter mocking you for your devotion to their whore?”

Chakotay bolted out of his chair backing Owen around the desk until he fell back into his own chair.  Owen shuddered as Chakotay’s fist pounded into the desk.

“You want to know what I feel?!”  Chakotay leaned in closer.  “I’m angry-NO, I’M GOD DAMN FUCKING MAD!”  He grabbed the front of Owens uniform lifting him out of the chair and continued in a low menacing growl.  “If she weren't already dead I would rip Nechayev's heart out with my bare hands.”

Chakotay let Owen drop back into the chair, poured himself another shot and swallowed it.  He dropped his head to his hands and slumped back into his chair.

“Luther."  Owen paged his assistant,  "Tell Captain Hardgrove his passenger will be aboard within the hour.”

~~~^^~~~

Chakotay was assigned the VIP Suite on board the Excelsior, Starfleet wasn't sparing any expense as they say.  These quarters were quite large for a ship this size Chakotay could only imagine the luxury of the VIP suite Kathryn currently occupied.  He hoped she had a large bathtub. Kathryn always loved a bathtub.

Chakotay listened to her message over an over again. In the stillness of the cabin he could almost hear her breath. As he watched her calmly retell her tale, he came to realize that she had come to terms with this life long ago. The only emotion she showed was based in her uncertainty of his ability to do the same.  He would just have to show her.

~~~^^~~~

“Kathryn, if you would rather be alone…” Will had been speaking but after they finished dinner Kathryn had slipped into a deep meditative silence.

“No, Will, please don’t go.”  Kathryn finally responded to the concern in his voice slowly looking up to see the smile widen.

“Well, I’m glad to hear you say that—after all these are my quarters.”

“OH!” Kathryn laughed.  “So, they are.  Sorry, I’m not thinking clearly tonight.”

“Want to talk about it?”

Kathryn silently debated his question then answered with one of her own.

“Did I make a mistake---asking him to come here?”

“I don’t believe you did.”  Will covered her hand with his.  “ I don’t think you really believe that either.”

"I don’t know.  Owen said he listened to my message and still asked to come but that’s all he told me.  Did Owen tell you anything?”

Will hadn’t intended to tell her, but the apprehension in her eyes pulled at him.

“Well, apparently he made an attempt to demonstrate on Admiral Paris the technique he wanted to use to remove Nechayev’s heart with his bare hands but …”

“Oh, spirits!  He didn’t hurt Owen did he?”

“Chakotay?  Never.  He's a man of peace if there ever was one, but that aside---I don’t doubt for one minute he would yank her heart from her chest if she were still around.”

“My angry warrior.”  Kathryn laughed when Will raised an eyebrow.  “It's a story…”

“From your time on New Earth.”  Will smiled at her surprise. "I got to know Chakotay fairly well, in the years after Voyager’s return.  We met at your memorial actually and accidentally a few times after that.  Then we wound up on a couple of review boards together.  He and I made Captain around the same time and we got to know one another. He only actually said the words to me once but I have never forgotten how I could feel the intensity of his love for you.  It was easy to see in almost everything he did.  I remember when Boylan, you remember Frank? He was a crewman on Voyager.”

“Of course, I remember every one of them.”

“Well, Frank got himself in a real jam.  I don't have the details but I’m telling you they were ready to toss his ass in the brig and throw away the key.  Chakotay stuck his neck out pretty far for that guy, even got him reassigned to his own ship---took full responsibility.  I asked him why and do you know what he said?”

“Because Frank is family?”

“Yes, partly.  He said he’s family and because it’s what Kathryn would do.  That was four years after you were gone.”

"That was a different Kathryn."

"No.  You're the same Kathryn now that you were then.  We're all older, maybe wiser, and we have all weathered what life has thrown our way.  Experiences may have change our perspectives but we're all fundamentally the same."

"I don't know, Will, but I hope you're right."

~~~^^^~~~

Kathryn had been on board  just under two weeks when they rendezvoused with the Excelsior.

"Riker to Janeway."

"Janeway here, Captain."

"Kathryn, the Excelsior will be in transporter range in fifteen minutes  Would you like to meet him in the transporter room?"

"If you don't mind, I'd rather wait here for him."

"All right.  I'll meet him myself and show him the way."

"Thank you, Will."

"No problem.  And, Kathryn, relax.  Riker out."

Kathryn paced her quarters. The time had come. She had waited anxiously for this day and she was scared to death.

~~~^^^~~~

Chakotay materialized on the padd.  His eyes immediately swept the room, then settled on Will with noticeable disappointment.

"Chakotay."  Will extended his hand.  "Good to see you again."

"Will, it's been a while."   Chakotay stepped down from the pad and took Will's hand but continued to scan the area.  “Thank you, Will.  I’m relieved you were the one close enough to pick her up.”

“Me too.  I’m not sure she would have trusted anyone else, except you of course.”

“I’m not so sure she would have wanted it to be me.”  Chakotay scanned the almost empty room sadly.

"I'm sorry, she was a bit nervous.  She's in the VIP suite.  I'll take you to her."

"That won't be necessary, Will."  Kathryn stood nervously just inside the doorway, smiling crookedly as she chewed her lower lip.  "I couldn't seem to stay away."  She shifted her weight from foot to foot, her moist blue eyes searching Chakotay's face for any sign regret or rejection.

"Kathryn." Chakotay breathed out her name. His eyes drinking in the tiny woman before they locked with hers.

Will heard the sound roll reverently off Chakotay's tongue and stepped back out of their line of sight. He could feel the connection between these two people almost as strongly as he felt his own connection to Deanna.  He silently dismissed the Ensign at the controls with a nod and followed him into the corridor.

"Chakotay."  Kathryn stepped closer allowing the doors to close behind her.

She stiffened as he approached her closing her eyes tightly as a gentle hand reached out to wipe away the tears from her cheek. The soft touch of his fingers hit her like a bolt of lightning, her head snapped up her eyes opened wide in shock.  He looked startled too, but he quickly smiled. Chakotay opened his arms to her.  Without hesitation Kathryn stepped forward and allowed him to wrap her tightly in his embrace.

It was a long time before Kathryn reluctantly moved back from him.

“I think maybe we should go somewhere else.  Will might need this room.”

“I doubt that. He has three more on this monster ship, but I would like to go somewhere more comfortable.”

“VIP quarters OK?”

“Anywhere you’re going to be is just fine with me.”

Kathryn nodded with an uncertain smile and led the way to the lift.  It was a quiet ride up seven decks to the VIP suite.  Kathryn’s concentration seemed centered on her feet. Chakotay had never seen her this unnerved before.  He watched her fidget shifting her weight from side to side. Chakotay fought the urge to pull her into his arms and try to make it all right.

Kathryn looked up when she felt him watching and forced a smile.  The Borg had not frightened her as much as the possibility of his rejection. He touched her cheek, his eyes wrapping her in the soft warmth of his love; she relaxed a little.

The lift door opened and Kathryn instinctively straightened as two young crewmen entered; Chakotay laughed.

“See, Kathryn, some things never change.”

“I hope you’re right.”

They exited the lift on deck four and he followed her, standing back as she keyed in the door code.  Chakotay set his bags just inside the door.

“Can I get you some tea?”  Kathryn called over her shoulder.

“Yes, thank you.”  Chakotay made himself comfortable on the couch.

“Vulcan spice, do you still drink it?”  Kathryn put the cups on the table.

“Almost every night.  I live in the Arizona desert now and every night I sit under the stars with my Vulcan tea and think of you.”

There were tears in her eyes when she looked away and she jumped slightly when he touched her shoulder.

“I’m sorry.  I keep touching you.  I guess I just need to know you’re real.”

“I know.  I’m not sure this is happening yet myself.” Kathryn leaned forward sipping her tea and placing it back on the table.  “Chakotay, things are different; I’m different.”

“No, things have happened and there are differences but I don’t think we are any different.  We’ve experienced different things but I don’t think we’re so very different than we were.  I know I’m older but I’ve never felt more alive than I do right now and I love you. That hasn’t changed.”

“How can you say that, knowing how I’ve lived?”

“How can I not? I hate what happened to you---to both of us, but…”

“But?  Look at me.”  Kathryn stood up and stared down at him. “I’m not the duty bound captain anymore.  On that planet I lived because I prostituted myself.  I sold my body to survive like any other cheap whore.  How could that not change things?”

Kathryn didn’t wait for his answer.  She walked to the view port and rested her forehead against the pane.  Chakotay gave her a few minutes then followed.  He could see the slight shudder of her slumped shoulders as he stepped closer. Chakotay gathered the long auburn locks and weaved them into a lose braid.  His gentle fingers then sought to release the tension in the tight muscles of her neck and shoulders.

“Why did you ask me here?”

“I wanted to see you.   I couldn’t wait to see---to know how you feel.”

“I told you how I feel and you won’t accept that.  Do you want me to reject you?  Punish you some how for things that weren’t your fault?”

“How can you accept this so calmly?”

“I accept this because I have to.  It's what happened and we can’t change the past, but calmly, no. My god, I hate it!”  His voice was low and she could hear the force behind it.  “ I hate what you were forced to do, how you had to live but I don’t hate you.  I hate Nechayev for what she did.  I hate the admiralty for allowing her that kind of power but, spirits I can’t hate you.”  Chakotay pulled her back against his chest.  “We have waited so long and now we have a brand new chance.  Please don’t deny us this opportunity.”

“I love you, Chakotay.”  Kathryn turned to face him. “but I certainly don’t deserve you.”

“Yes, you do Kathryn and we both deserve this chance to finally be together.”  He bent and placed a soft chase kiss on her lips.  “Now, let’s heat up that tea. We have a lot to talk about.”

Chakotay told Kathryn about his life on earth for the past ten years, about their crew, his friendship with Will and his home in the Arizona desert.

“You haven’t told me much about your life.”

“I told you what I did there.”

“No, you told me about your job now I want to know about your life.”

“I didn’t have much of a life.  There was never anyone I could be completely honest with.”

“That must have been very difficult.”

“I got used to it.”  Kathryn smiled.  “There were the children.”

“Children?”  Chakotay saw the light in her eyes and he wanted it to continue.

“Orphans.   There was this home not far from where I lived.  The couple, Cattal and Serb, who ran it didn’t have much to work with but they did the best they could.  I worked with the kids sometimes and if I had any extra money I shared it with them.”

“Tell me about them.”

“Intus.”  She laughed. “Now that was one tough little boy.  He was ten when I met him and he hated everybody.  Cattal told me if he didn’t come around they were going to have to turn him over to the state.  He was disrupting the whole house, the other kids were afraid.  He was my first project.”

“From the smile I’d say it was a success.”

“Not at first.”  Kathryn laughed a deep hardy laugh as she remembered.  “I tried to be nice, take him places and buy him things.  It didn’t work.  He reminded me a lot of Tom.  The 'world owes him' kind of chip on his shoulder.”

“So what did you do?”  Chakotay love how alive she was when she talked about the children.

“I tried all sorts of things and then I taught him to fight.”

“Boxing?!”

“No, that’s your game.  I taught him self-defense.  I showed him some martial arts techniques. Boy, he was mad.  Bad enough to get thrown down by a girl, but an old lady, boy that pissed him off.”

“So how did that work?”

“Well he couldn’t let me beat him so he worked harder and the harder he worked the more disciplined he became.  The better he got the more self-esteem he developed.  He began to gain the respect of the kids where he went to school, some of whom were really rough on him before.”

“Sound like he was as big a success story as Tom.”

“Yes, but I almost lost it all when he was about 14.”  Kathryn’s eyes misted over.  “One of the older boys at his school told him his mentor was nothing but a common street whore.”  Kathryn looked off into the distance and got quiet.

“What happened?”  Chakotay quietly prodded her.

“They got into a fight. The other kid was older, bigger but Intus was well trained.  Intus knocked the kid around a bit, enough to let him know he could hurt him if he really wanted to and then he came looking for me.”

“And when he found you?”

“It wasn’t pretty. He came to my house.  He had never come there uninvited before.”  Kathryn drew a deep breath and continued.  “He passed a man on his way out.  He ran inside yelling, calling me names and accusing me of lying to him. He demanded to know how I could preach to him about self esteem when I was a just a common whore.”  The tears flowed freely down her cheeks as she continued.  “I tried to tell him that this was what I did for a living; it wasn’t who I was.  He didn’t understand that.  He was crying and yelling at me, calling me awful names and then he ran out.  I contacted Cattal and she had Serb go out and find him.  I stayed away from the house for a while.  We decided it might be better, at least until he calmed down.”

“I take it he eventually came around?”

“About a week later he knocked on my door.  Said he needed help.  He wanted to set up a program and teach martial arts to the other kids.  He wanted them to learn discipline and self respect especially the girls.  I worked with him and I found he was a great teacher.  The program was so successful that he was soon teaching kids from the neighborhood as well as the home.  It took months before he came and apologized to me, but by then I think he truly knew the difference between what I did and who I was.”

“What’s he doing now?”

“He’s about 19 now; he goes to college, wants to be a teacher, but he still comes back to the home and teaches the younger kids.  He’s very good with them.”

“Did you get to say goodbye?”

“Yes, I told Cattal and Serb I was leaving. They weren’t happy but they accepted it without question.  Intus was angry at first, but then he said he always knew I didn’t belong there.  He said there was a better life that I should have been living somewhere else and that he hoped I found it and that he would miss me but he thanked me for helping him and promised to pass my gifts along to the others.  He’s become quite a young man and I’m very proud of him.”

“You should be.  It sounds like you did some wonderful work during your stay.”

“I hope so.  I will miss the kids.”

“Marry me and we can raise our own kids.”

“What?”  Kathryn’s head snapped around in shock, surely he wasn’t serious.

“Marry me.  Come live with me in the desert-or if you don’t like Arizona we could live in Indiana or anywhere else you want.”

“You’re serious?  How can you think we can just pick up …” Kathryn studied his face, watching his eyes closely. His eyes could never lie to her.

“I love you.  We have spent hours talking and learning that neither one of us is very different then we were ten years ago.  You may not believe that yet but I don’t mind taking the rest of our lives to show you.”

Kathryn got very quiet, just watching him as he watched her.  It was so much like their time on Voyager.  When Chakotay totally rejected some crazy idea she had but he countered with some equally outrageous idea of his own and the crew always thought he was the more sensible one.  At first glance it would be crazy and impractical, but he let her think about it, twist it a bit and make it her own.  In the end they would blend the ideas together and it usually worked.

Kathryn thought of all the years without him.  He was here now offering her the future she never thought she could have, the one she was afraid to grasp even now. She didn’t want to live without him any longer.  After all wasn't that why she had asked him here, in the hopes of regaining what they once had?  What he now claimed they had never lost. She didn’t have to live without him any longer, she just had to take that one more step.  Kathryn watched the smile cross his face; he knew exactly when he had won.

“Arizona sounds nice but I think I’m a bit old to be having babies.”

“There have been many medical breakthrough in the last ten years—but if that doesn’t work we could adopt.”

“Chakotay…”

“OK, so we could volunteer at an orphanage or something if you don’t want kids of our own.”

“Chakotay…”

 “We could always just start with the crew. Wait till you see how many kids we have!”

“Chakotay…”

“We could go back to Plantoes if you want. Owen could get us proper documentation.  We could work with the kids.  Whatever you want.”

“Chakotay.”  Kathryn laughed as she put her hand over his mouth to stop him from talking.  “Slowdown.  I love you and yes I want to marry you-I don’t care where we live but let's take this one day at a time for a while and see where it leads us.  OK?”

“We get married first and slowdown later?” Kathryn nodded; his smile broadened as he continued. “Kathryn, do you want a big wedding?”

Kathryn could see one of those crazy ideas brewing.  He smiled at her, the dimples melting her heart, just as they always had.

“No.”  She finally managed to say, grinning back at him.  “I wonder what Will is doing.”

~~~^^^~~~

It was short notice but the senior staff managed to arrange it.  The ten-year reunion had been changed from the usual gala evening event to a family picnic held on the grounds of Presidio in the shade of the Voyager Museum.

The word was leaked and spread like wildfire among the crew.  Their family had increased again.  This time it wasn’t the birth of a new child or grandchild. This time they would meet Chakotay’s bride.

People were surprised, stunned might better describe it.  Some thought that he might move on in the early years after the Captain’s death, but ten years later they had given up hope.  In a way it was sad, sad that he had moved on but they were all glad he was finally seeking some happiness for himself.  Still it was odd that at last year's reunion he was as solitary as ever and now he was married.  Those that had seen him more recently were even more surprised.  No one knew who this woman was except apparently the senior staff and they as usual weren’t talking.

The speculation went on until every member of the crew and their families was present.  Only then was everyone’s attention drawn to the museum as Tom Paris and Harry Kim made a big show of opening the doors and holding them wide. Chakotay stepped out of the shadow of the doorway, squinting in the bright sunlight and smiling at the quieting crowd below.

“Come on, old man, don’t keep us waiting.”  B’Elanna heckled from the bottom of the steps.

“Uncle Chakotay, I want to meet my new aunt.” Naomi shouted from the sidelines.

“Yeah, bring her out here we won't bite.”

“If you try it, Mike, she just might bite you back.”  Chakotay laughed and the crowd joined him.

After a few more friendly jeers, Chakotay silenced the crowd with raised hands then reached back into the darkened doorway for her hand.

There was a collective gasp as Kathryn took her place in the bright sunshine beside her husband.  She was older but not very different looking, the hair was long and loose in a way most had never seen, but even the children recognized her.  Everyone in this family, from the oldest to the very youngest knew who Kathryn Janeway was and what she had done for them in their years on Voyager.  It was a kind of folklore passed on to the new generations.  Now she stood before them once again.

“I know you are all in shock. Believe me no one was more shocked than I was.”  Chakotay laughed and the group murmered along with him.  “There is of course a very long story, which you will all know in due time.  For now, I’ll just say it was another sacrifice our captain made for us, a terrible injustice that has finally been righted. As always we are here to commemorate our past and celebrate our futures.  We know we took you all by surprise but Kathryn and I could think of no better way to start our lives together then to celebrate our future with you.”

The crowd cheered as the couple started down the steps toward them.  Kathryn took a deep breath and tightly grasped Chakotay’s hand as she prepared to reenter her family.

Phoebe watched as her sister slowly moved down the steps to be welcomed by the people she had sacrificed so much for. She was saddened that their mother had not lived to see this day when Kathryn could finally embrace the happiness she so deserved.  Phoebe remembered the young cadet, the hard working ensign and all the steps her sister had worked so hard to climb.  Kathryn was driven; she was going to be an admiral someday, just like Daddy. In then end, after half a lifetime of work she gave up her dream to protect the people she loved.

“Katie.”  Phoebe yelled above the noise of the crowd. Kathryn stopped and turned back as her sister rushed down the steps to hug her. “Katie,” Phoebe whispered in her ear. “Daddy would be so proud.”

Tears clouded the blue eyes as Kathryn nodded at her sister and reclasped her husband’s hand; together they descended into their family.

 The End

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