searching for home title small.jpg (31020 bytes)

 

Searching for Home

By Elorie Alton

Rating - PG

Disclaimer: All Voyager characters are the property of Paramount. No copyright infringement is intended.

 

 

 

I watch the beautiful blue and green planet steadily swell larger in the view screen as Voyager heads for home. It feels strange to be at the helm. For many years I held on to the dream that I would be beside Kathryn at this moment. We would be in our command chairs and she would take my hand and tell me that she has loved me for all these years. Then she would tell me that she wanted to be with me for the rest of our lives and I would be home.

"Commander, you have the bridge," I turn to see her walking to the turbolift. For a moment she looks back to me, and I think I see sadness in her eyes. An expression I’ve seen before somewhere, on someone else’s face: I just can’t quite put my finger on it. A sadness that is quickly hidden by that damned command mask she wears.

I though she would be happy to be back in the alpha quadrant after spending so much of her energy for the last seven years to obtain that goal. I turn the helm over to the relief pilot and walk to my chair.

Seven smiles at me from the duty station behind the command seats. She is accessing various astrometrical readings obtained from the trip through the Borg transwarp system. I know she wants me. She told me so. Kathryn has not. She is not Kathryn, but at least she wants me. I don’t want to move on but since Kathryn doesn’t want me, I decide it’s time.

I allow my anger to emerge. I take it out and look at it, for the first time realizing how many years I’ve hidden it. Kathryn has again chosen Starfleet over me. There was a time on New Earth that I thought she loved me and that gave me peace. I thought we would build a life together, but then Voyager came back. I nurtured my love with the hope that she would come to me if I just waited long enough.

And I waited even through that incident with Kashyk. I don’t know if they were lovers; I always hoped that they weren’t. The incident with Jaffen was the beginning of the end for me. She moved in with him, and she had only known him a couple of weeks. I knew then that she didn’t love me that she had probably never loved me. It hurt to know that they were intimate. I don’t know if my heart will ever be the same. It doesn’t want to move on but my mind tells me that it is time. I need to settle somewhere. I need to find a home.

=^=

The debriefings didn’t last long as we had previously sent all our logs to Starfleet headquarters through the Pathfinder communications. None of the senior staff had much contact with each other while the interviews were taken. I occasionally saw Kathryn in the hallways passing each other as we went from one meeting to another.

There was that same familiar sadness in her eyes for a moment and then she would smile and ask me how things were going. I would tell her that things were fine, and ask the same question. I thought that even friends shared more. I’d ask myself why and get angry all over again. After a while the anger burned out and I was left with that familiar emptiness that I tried to fill with Seven.

I expected to be arrested upon our arrival and even feared that I would be sent to Cardassia. I hadn’t trusted the information sent to us by Starfleet. I found instead a new attitude. The Maquis had been proven right with the Dominion War and public opinion had turned against those who had tried to appease the Cardassians.

I soon learned my fear of being sent to Cardassia was also unfounded. When the Dominion finally retreated back to the Gamma Quadrant, they left behind a ruined planet. The cities were piles of rubble and over eight hundred million Cardassians were dead. The price of their leaders' arrogance was devastation.

The Maquis had been pardoned during the Dominion War. Considering the loss of personnel caused by that war, Starfleet needed people with the kind of deep space experience that Voyager’s crew had gained in the Delta Quadrant. My Maquis crew found themselves welcomed with open arms.

Kathryn fought for the remaining Equinox crewmembers. Many in Starfleet wanted to give them prison time for their crimes, but Kathryn wouldn’t give up until they were given general discharges and allowed to get on with their lives.

Promotions were given out. Tuvok and I became Captains. Tom and B’Elanna were made Lieutenant Commanders and Harry Kim was bumped up to full Lieutenant. Kathryn was offered a promotion to Admiral and then seemed to disappear. Wherever she was, I’m sure it was on some important Starfleet business. She was an Admiral after all.

As I had no desire to return to space, I was offered a teaching position at the Academy. I wanted to teach anthropology; they needed someone to teach tactics. They made it clear how badly my experience was needed so we reached a compromise. I was assigned to the anthropology department, but I also taught advanced tactics to the command classes.

I kept my promise to stay within transporter range of Seven, but she soon lost interest in our relationship. Before long she began to spend more and more time with Reg Barclay. They made a strange couple; both intelligent to the point of genius and both immature in their interactions with other people. They found in each other a person to grow with. I wasn’t surprised that she broke our relationship off. I was surprised at the relief I felt when it was over.

To be perfectly honest, Kathryn did leave me a couple of messages. As she didn’t know about the breakup, I deleted them before I read them. Pity was the last thing I wanted from Kathryn.

We had been back for a few months when B’Elanna invited me to dinner. I hadn’t seen my friends in many weeks so I decided to accept. She actually invited both Seven and I, because I hadn’t told them about the breakup. I guess I finally will. I haven’t told anyone yet.

=^=

Chakotay activated the call signal at the Paris’ door. He juggled the flowers for B’Elanna and the bottle of wine for Tom. He felt guilty because he hadn’t seen them in a while. He really hadn’t seen anyone. He had spent his days between his classroom and his small apartment. A lonely existence; well, he’d change that now. He decided to concentrate on his friends and forget about romantic relationships for the time being.

B’Elanna opened the door to see a windblown Chakotay standing alone on her front porch.

"Come in, old man," she laughed, pulling him inside the house and out of the cool spring breeze. She continued to pull him into her arms for a bear hug. "I’ve missed you so much." She looked around his shoulder and asked, "Where’s Seven?"

"I’m sorry, she couldn’t…"

He stopped as a familiar throaty laugh drifted into the entranceway and turned to see Kathryn Janeway enter the room closely followed by both Tom and his old friend Mike Ayala.

"Miral is growing so fast, Tom. She is bigger every time I see her." Kathryn stopped when she saw Chakotay standing inside the door. She smiled her crooked smile, "Captain Chakotay, it’s good to see you. Where is Seven?"

B’Elanna took the flowers and wine as Chakotay answered. "She couldn’t come with me Admiral," he turned to the other man. "How have you been, Mike?"

"Fine, I’m glad to see you. I’m sorry we can’t stay long, Kathryn and I just stopped for a moment to see the baby."

Chakotay saw that strange sad look in Kathryn’s eyes as Mike held her coat for her. Before he could say anything else they were out the door and getting into the hover car parked in front of Tom and B’Elanna’s house.

He watched through the living room window as they drove away.

"How long has that been going on?" he turned to B’Elanna, his eyes dark with emotion, his hands clenched into fists.

"What are you talking about, Chakotay?"

"Ayala and the Admiral, how long have they been together? When she just disappeared after the debriefings I thought she was on some Starfleet mission. I didn’t know she was with him."

"Not that it’s any of your business, Chakotay, but Kathryn and Mike are not a couple and she didn’t disappear. She just went home to Indiana for an extended leave. Her mother is very ill and Kathryn is taking care of her. You’ve just been too busy with your own life to notice. By the way, why couldn’t Seven come with you tonight?" She asked, trying to change the subject.

Chakotay ignored the last question and plowed on. "If they are not a couple, what was she doing here with him?"

B’Elanna sighed, growing more and more irritated with her old friend. There were things that she had wanted to say to him for some time. She looked over his shoulder to see Tom standing in the door motioning for her to go on.

"Kathryn is caring for her mother, and she is also cataloging a lot of the science data we brought back with Voyager. Sam Wildman is assisting her with the project. Sam and Naomi are staying with Kathryn and Lieutenant Ayala is acting as her liaison to headquarters. She is going to sponsor Mike in command school. Sam and Mike are the couple, not Mike and Kathryn. Chakotay, you are the one that disappeared, not Kathryn. Now is Seven coming later? Dinner is going to be cold."

"Seven’s not coming, B’Elanna. We broke the relationship off," he said calming down a little.

"But she is the love of your life! You can’t have broken up."

"Where did you get an idea like that?"

"From Kathryn," she answered.

"And just how would Kathryn ever know or even care how I felt about anything!" Chakotay felt his anger boiling up again. What he hadn’t counted on was a Klingon even angrier than he was.

B’Elanna decided it was time to have that little discussion! So she pushed him down into a chair, daring him to get up with her eyes. He was going to listen to her, she would make sure of it.

"Maybe I shouldn’t be telling you this, but it’s time you faced the truth. Kathryn loves you with all her heart." She spat out the words, poking her index finger into his chest for emphasis.

He began to rise up in disagreement but B’Elanna would have none of it, and she pushed him back down.

"No, you listen to ME. When we got home I talked to Kathryn and tried to get her to go to you and tell you how she felt. She told me that Admiral Janeway came back in time to save Tuvok, Seven, and YOU! The Admiral told her that you and Seven were married. She said that Seven died and you never got over it. Chakotay, the Admiral loved you enough to sacrifice herself to the Borg just to assure your happiness, and she spent years planning a way to do it. How can you think that Kathryn would feel any less for you?"

"If she loved me so much why didn’t she tell me!" he roared up from the chair forcing her to step back, "I’ll tell you why – protocol – that damn Starfleet protocol. She chose Starfleet over me."

Tom could stand it no longer, "If that’s true, then you chose Starfleet too. You didn’t go to her."

"Go to her, Tom. A captain shouldn’t become involved with a member of their crew. How could I go to her?"

"That’s not what the protocol says, Chakotay." Tom was beginning to get angry himself. "It says that a commanding officer cannot initiate a relationship with a subordinate, if that subordinate has expressed any reluctance to the idea of a relationship. It does not say anything about a subordinate initiating a relationship with a superior officer. You sure were expressing reluctance that day on the bridge when Kes experienced premature elogium. It almost sounded like that you thought none of us should pursue any kind of relationship."

Chakotay closed his eyes and sank back into the chair, for a moment remembering that day. He had been thinking about the mess caused by his relationship with Seska. He had never thought how that statement must have sounded to everyone else. With his own words he had muted Kathryn and then blamed her for her silence.

In that moment of clarity he remembered where else he had seen Kathryn’s sad expression. Her counterpart, the older admiral, had that same expression as her eyes rested on him when she beamed over to Voyager for the first time. He realized in that moment that Kathryn probably did loved him, and had so for years. She loved him so much she would let him go if that was what he wanted.

He opened his eyes and looked up at the concerned couple. "Do you mind if I take a rain check on dinner? I think I have some bridges to mend." He took a shaky breath, "That is, if I’m not too late."

=^=

Kathryn quietly stared out at the cool spring night as Mike Ayala drove her home from the Indiana transport station.

One of the perks of being an Admiral was the easy access to transporters and hovercars both here in Indiana and in California. It allowed her to live just about anywhere on Earth and still work in San Francisco.

She reflected how lucky she was to have friends from Voyager as so many of her old friends had drifted away while she was stranded in the delta quadrant. Her family was still here, thank God, but her mother was so ill that for a while it seemed she would lose her one remaining parent before she could spend any time at with her.

Starfleet arranged for her to work on the science data Voyager had collected from her home in Indiana, allowing her to stay with her mother. She downloaded the data to and from headquarters to her computer station at home, and only had to go to San Francisco a few times a month. She also had easy access to the Doctor, and with his help, her mother was growing stronger.

Sam Wildman was assigned to assist Kathryn in the cataloging of the data, and both she and Naomi had moved into the Janeway guesthouse. Just having that child in the house seemed to do Gretchen Janeway as much good as the treatments she received from the Doctor.

Sam and Mike among others on Voyager had lost family members while away in the delta quadrant. Sam’s husband, like Mike’s wife, had remarried and had a new life. Mike even had little contact with his sons as they had been adopted by their stepfather and he was reluctant to upset their lives. Mike had been assigned as the liaison officer between Admiral Janeway and headquarters, and from that contact a relationship began. Mike and Sam were falling in love.

Many crewmembers like Sam and Mike, who had lost so much, bonded together and now several of them had bonded with Kathryn.

Gretchen had not only got her daughter back but in the process she acquired several other new family members, including a new daughter in Sam and a granddaughter in Naomi. She ever got an almost grown grandson in Icheb after Kathryn formalized that relationship with an adoption.

Kathryn sadly reflected that as full as her life was, there was one very large hole, the size and shape of the man that she loved with all her heart but could never have: Chakotay. She had hoped and dreamed of him for so many years and at times felt he would surely come to her, but it never happened.

When they were quarantined on New Earth, she knew that it would be only a matter of time for their relationship to deepen. Even when Tuvok came back for them Kathryn held on to that hope. She had waited for him all that first night back, to come to her. She eventually reasoned that he just needed time to adjust to being back on Voyager.

Kathryn knew about the affair with Riley Frasier. The thought of Chakotay making love to Riley nauseated her, but the thought that he might actually stay behind with the former Borg was terrifying. She was relieved when he didn’t and took some small hope from that.

She couldn’t go to him. Starfleet protocol was pretty clear on just how a relationship between a commanding officer and a subordinate could occur. She remembered the words that sealed her fate as if they were yesterday. He spoke them on the bridge after catching a couple kissing in the turbolift.

"…we’re in a unique situation here. The development of intimate relationships might cause us problems that wouldn’t arise on other ships."

His reluctance trapped her and all she could do was wait for him to make the first move. Several times she tried to give him a hint of what she wanted. She remembered telling Chakotay that she realized that she had been using Mark as a safety net when she read the letter her former fiancÚ had sent to her. She thought she had left Chakotay the perfect opening but he didn’t take it.

She was sure that he would come to her after the alien had tried to trap her in his matrix. She had seen him cry in anguish clutching her body to his chest. His lips had touched hers when he tried to breathe life into her. That part was so different from the rest of the hallucination that she was sure it was real. She even invited him to a moonlight sail on Lake George.

He gave a rose to her, and they talked and laughed as they ran Kathryn’s holoprogram. They even drank champagne together but he never took her in his arms or leaned into her to kiss her mouth as she craved. After a while she decided that the vision was a part of the hallucination and never happened at all.

Though she never told him, her depression during the traverse of the void was caused in part by the realization of just how empty her life had become. She wanted a family, complete with children, and as that hope faded so did her resilience, and she slowly began to sink into the quicksand of depression. Chakotay did help her during that time, but he withheld the thing she needed most.

The final piece of her hope died that day in Voyager’s corridor when the Admiral from the future told her about Chakotay’s marriage to Seven of Nine and his devastation at her loss. Kathryn looked into her future self’s eyes and saw the deep pain in her own soul reflected back.

Kathryn often wondered if the Admiral had married them to each other. At least she was spared that ordeal. She saw her own long lonely life ahead of her in that one moment and she knew that she would spend it in love with Chakotay.

"Kathryn," Mike’s voice broke into her thoughts, "Are you all right? You’re very quiet tonight."

"Just lost in thought, Mike." She smiled and willed back the tears that threatened to fall.

"Maybe he’ll come to his senses someday," Mike spoke as he sat the hover car down on its pad and signaled for the pad cover to close.

"No Mike, he loves her. The admiral told me that she died in his arms and he was never the same again. Now she won’t die and he will be happy and I can live with that."

"If you say so," Ayala answered, "But he didn’t look too happy tonight." and he helped her from the car.

They found Sam and Naomi with Gretchen in her bedroom, helping the older woman get ready for bed.

"I left you some dinner in stasis," Sam grinned. "Why don’t you both go have something to eat? I’ll finish helping Gretchen."

"Where’s Icheb?" Kathryn asked as she started into the kitchen.

"He’s studying with Harry," Sam answered. "He said he would be home by ten. You know how he is. Passing the entrance exams at the Academy is his first priority."

=^=

After dinner Mike and Sam took Naomi back to the guesthouse they occupied together, and the quiet of night settled in the old farmhouse.

Gretchen was setting up in bed reading when Kathryn came to check on her.

"I hear you walked in the garden today," Kathryn sat on the side of her mother’s bed.

"It was wonderful. The trees are budding, the birds are singing, and I finally think that I’m going to get better. I have you to thank for this, you came home to me, and filled this house with the happiness of children, with Icheb and Naomi. You filled it with the joy of love with Tom and B’Elanna, Harry and Celes, and Mike and Sam. I just wish you could fill yourself like you have filled this house." Gretchen took her daughter’s hand.

"Mike told me that he was at the Paris’s," Gretchen continued, "that you saw him tonight. Are you ok?" There were no secrets between mother and daughter.

"Mama, it was so hard to see him," she sighed, then laid her head on her mother’s lap and the tears that she held at bay all evening began to roll out of her eyes. She sobbed in her mother’s lap. Crying for all she had lost, for Chakotay, and the children that would not be, and the life she longed for but would never have.

Gretchen held her grieving daughter until Kathryn cried herself to sleep in her mother’s arms.

=^=

Chakotay entered his apartment and called for the lights. He was shaken when he left Tom and B’Elanna’s home, begging off dinner, needing to be alone and to think.

He quickly gathered up a couple of candles, the akoonah and his medicine bundle, setting them on the low table in front of the couch. He lit the candles, lowered the lights and opened the soft suede covering. He spread the contents, first picking up the dark wing and ending with the stone he had found long ago in the river near his home.

At last he sat the stone down and taking a deep breath, he placed his hand on the akoonah, closed his eyes and began.

"A-koo-chee-moya, we are far from the sacred places of our grandfathers. We are far from the bones of my people. What I ask on this day of despair, is that the wisdom of my father find me, and help me understand my dilemma. Speak to me father, speak to me in my dreams."

As if from a great distance he heard a familiar soft feminine voice, and opened his eyes to see not his father but his mother. She was kneeling in her flower garden; the sun was shining brightly and color was everywhere.

"What troubles you, my son?"

His mother seldom came to him in his visions. When she did, however, she brought with her the peace and security he knew as a child, when he felt nothing could hurt him as long as she was nearby.

"Mother, I have made a grave error and hurt the one I love most. I seek a way to make things right and most of all I need to know if I have waited too long, if it is too late?" His last words ended in a sob, and suddenly he found himself in his mother’s arms as he poured out his soul, tears flowing down his face.

"Chakotay, my son, don’t you think it’s time to stop waiting for Kathryn to betray you? Time to stop punishing her for being Starfleet?"

"Punishing Kathryn, Mother?"

"Yes. Starfleet was your life for many years. They gave you the stars you longed for, and then betrayed you with the peace treaty that left Trebus open to Cardassian treachery. Kathryn Janeway saved you from the anger and destruction your life had become, then you feared that she would betray you just as Starfleet had done long ago. Chakotay, how many of those who were a part of that betrayal still hold power?" she asked.

"Most of those who were in Starfleet are dead or have retired, and since the Dominion War most of the politicians involved have fallen out of favor."

"Then don’t you think that it’s time to let go of your anger?"

"You are right, mother," he said. "The other, older Kathryn put herself in Borg hands just to give me the life she thought I wanted."

"Chakotay, there is only one Kathryn."

And the final piece clicked into place. He knew without a doubt that Kathryn Janeway loved him. She had loved him on New Earth and she had loved him in a future he wouldn’t see. She loved him so much that she would walk into the Borg Queen’s lair, and she loved him enough to let herself do it.

He opened his eyes as his vision ended, wiping away the tears on his cheeks. He gathered up the contents of his bundle and wrapped them in the soft leather. He would go to her, praying that it wasn’t too late and that Kathryn also loved him enough to forgive him.

He packed a small bag, and arranged to have someone take over his classes for a few days. He didn’t know the time; he only knew that he had to see Kathryn and that he could not wait one minute longer.

=^=

Chakotay walked along the quiet county road. The sun, warming the remains of the cool spring night, was just beginning to peek over the rim of the world. Its pastel colors streaked across the sky awaking the birds. He needed this walk to help him organize his thoughts so he could say just the right thing when he saw Kathryn.

He arrived in the small community in the early morning hours and checked into the local inn. He sat in the dark waiting for the coming day with only his thoughts as company. Through those dark hours he remembered and prayed. Eventually, when he could stand the waiting no longer, he started the long walk to Kathryn’s home.

He remembered New Earth and Kathryn the woman. He remembered the sight of her wrapped in a towel, her shoulders wet. He had held her once there, under the table while that plasma storm rained destruction all around them. He remembered giving her a neck rub, and afterwards telling her the angry warrior story.

He knew now that if he had only told Kathryn the whole truth, told her how very much he loved her, they would have been together, maybe that very night. He remembered the look of despair on her face while they waited for the transporter to take them back to Voyager.

He remembered another time, holding her lifeless body in his arms, begging her not to die. He had held his mouth to hers as he tried to breathe life into her. The short time it took Tuvok and the doctor to revive her felt like hours.

How many opportunities had he missed through the years? She had invited him to a moonlight sail on Lake George later that day. What if she had wanted to be more? His heart tightened with the thought.

He knew one thing for sure. If Kathryn Janeway thought that he was reluctant to the idea of a relationship, she would never have pursued him, Starfleet protocol or not.

He told her younger self, when they worked together to save Voyager from being shattered into different time lines, that there were barriers they never crossed. He now realized the barriers were of his own making.

Looking around he saw that he had arrived at his destination. Chakotay walked up the steps and onto the porch. He took a deep breath and reached out to the call signal.

=^=

Kathryn awoke early, surprised to find herself still in her mother’s bed. She got up, being careful not to wake her mother. Entering her bathroom, she started the shower and prepared to start her day.

The early morning was one of her favorite times of day. She sat at the desk sipping her first cup of coffee, looking out of the windows at the shadows retreating in the early morning light. She could see over the back of the property, at the flower garden, and down to the pond and her thinking tree.

She allowed herself a moment to think of Chakotay, wishing him happiness, then setting down her cup she opened her connection to Starfleet headquarters and began to work. She always seemed to be able to get the most done during the couple of hours before everyone else got up.

She had just got the links open and began to download new information, when the call signal at the front door activated. She hurried to the front of the house to answer the door before the signals awakened anyone.

Her breath caught in surprise as she opened the door to see Chakotay standing on her front porch.

"Good morning, Kathryn," he said with a slight hesitation.

"Chakotay!" he glimpsed her sad expression before she covered it with her smile. "I didn’t expect to see you again so soon. What brings you all the way to Indiana this early in the morning?"

"Do I need an excuse to visit my best friend?"

"No, never," she said, taking his hand to pull him into the house. "Are you alone?"

"Do you mean ‘is Seven with you?’ No, she and I have parted ways. She is in a relationship with Reg Barclay. It’s only me, Kathryn, and I’ve come alone. I need to talk to you."

Her heart almost stopped with his words, but she quickly gathered herself and led him to the kitchen.

"Are you hungry?" she asked, searching for something to say. "Would you like some coffee?" She was confused by his words; how could he and Seven be apart? The Admiral had told her that Chakotay never got over Seven’s death.

She turned from him and began to pour two mugs of coffee, adding cream and sugar to one. She sat the mugs down on the counter as she felt his hands on her shoulders and with a gentle pressure he turned her to him.

"Kathryn, I need to talk to you. Is there someplace we could go where we wouldn’t disturb anyone?"

The intense expression he wore disturbed her as much as his words. "Chakotay, what happened? Do you want me to talk to her for you?"

"No!" he answered. "Please, I want to talk to you."

Kathryn nodded her head and motioned him to follow her out of the kitchen. She stopped in the hallway long enough to grab a sweater from one of the hooks by the door. Throwing it over her shoulders, she opened the door and taking his hand she led him out onto the back porch.

They crossed the lawn heading down to a pond at the back of the yard that was surrounded by trees that hung branches out over the water. In the summer it would become the perfect retreat.

She stopped by a large oak tree and invited him to sit on the bench that wrapped around the tree trunk. Even though she had taken his hand first, Chakotay now clutched at hers like it was a lifeline. Sensing his distress, Kathryn gave his hand a gentle squeeze.

"How can I help you? Did you have an argument with Seven?"

He drew a deep breath. "Kathryn, Seven and I have agreed that a relationship between the two of us will not work. But that’s not why I’m here. I’m here to see you, to talk to you."

"Chakotay, I don’t understand." Her confusion was evident on her face.

"I know what your counterpart from the future told you, but I don’t love Seven. I never did. I was only trying to fill an emptiness with her. I’m just now realizing that she could never fill that empty place in my heart."

"Chakotay, I…"

"Kathryn, I don’t know what happened in the other time line. I do know when we got back to Earth I found that a lot of things are different. The Dominion war changed the Federation; the people in charge now would never have left Trebus at the mercy of the Cardassians. I have come to understand that I’ve carried a lot of anger at a situation that no longer exists, and even worse, I let that anger spill over into our relationship. All this time I’ve been confusing you with Starfleet. I’ve only realized now that I have been waiting for you to betray me like they did, but you didn’t."

"I would never…"

"I know, but now I’m able to trust that knowledge. Spirits, Kathryn, you walked into the Borg Queen’s den in an effort to insure my happiness. You would face assimilation for me. Can you ever forgive me? Everywhere I go I keep looking for something, and now I know that something is you. I have missed you so much and I would like to have my friend back."

Kathryn sighed. She wanted so much more from him than friendship but she missed him so much that even that seemed like a gift.

"Chakotay, you know that I’d be here for you. I’ll always be your friend."

"Kathryn, I’m being clumsy here. I practiced all night so I could say just the right thing to you and now I can’t seem to get the words right. I have always been so afraid that I would lose you when we got back to the alpha quadrant that I never allowed myself the chance to be close to you." He drew a deep breath, and pulled her hand tightly to his chest. Then he continued. "I once tried to tell you something by disguising it as a legend among my people and I need to tell you straight out while I can. I love you, Kathryn Janeway. I have for years. Please tell me that I’m not too late."

"Oh, Chakotay," Kathryn reached up to wipe the tears from his cheeks with her free hand. "I don’t know. I hope not." Then her tears began their slow descent. "I don’t know if I can make myself believe this could be true."

He gently pulled her into his arms. She leaned into him resting her cheek against his chest as he dropped his face down into her hair. He sat a few moments savoring the feeling of Kathryn in his arms, gratified that she hadn’t pulled away.

"I know I’ve made mistakes. My anger and mistrust caused me to make assumptions concerning us. I was wrong. Please forgive me. My father once told me I was a contrary, but I didn’t really understand what he meant until I realized that my contrariness cost me you."

"Chakotay, I don’t know where we go from here. I’ve wanted you for so long, but I had accepted that I would never have you. I’d given up on you, I tried to go on without you. None of it worked. I need you and I want to be with you because I do love you with all my heart."

He let out the pent-up breath he just realized he was holding and lifted Kathryn until she was setting in his lap, cradled in his arms. Together they watched the morning come and the world reawaken to the new day.

=^=

 

I look around at the multitude of friends and family gathered around Kathryn and I as we celebrate the uniting of our lives.

Here on a beautiful summer evening in that special place by the pond, where I found my way to the place I really belonged. We pledge our love, taking the vows that will unite us forever.

Kathryn is beautiful. She is almost ethereal, dressed in some kind of filmy material that drifts around in the soft summer breeze.

Gretchen, freed from her long illness, basks in our happiness. I once again find that I have a mother. The only thing she asks of me is that I take care of our Kathryn: an obligation I am overjoyed to fulfill.

On separate occasions, shortly after Kathryn and I began exploring our relationship, Tom Paris and Mike Ayala spoke to me alone. They each told me in detail just exactly what would happen to me if I hurt her like that again. I have known Mike long enough to believe every word he said and I’ll admit that for the first time Paris actually scared me. I told them both that I’d sooner die than hurt her.

Almost everyone from Voyager is here, sharing in our happiness. Tom and B’Elanna, Harry and Celes, Tuvok and his wife, Mike and Sam, and even Seven and Reg are all here. We are all family.

My long journey is over. From the time I left Trebus for the Academy until we returned from the Delta quadrant, I have been searching for a place to be. I found what I needed with this woman. I let go of my fear and anger and finally listened to the message from my heart. My life is with Kathryn; it has always been. I am finally home.

The End

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