Unbreakable Vows

PG-13

Disclaimer: I do not own the characters from Star Trek Voyager. The rights to those characters and to the show belong to the creators of the show and Paramount.

 

“It’s not enough, Kathryn. And I want to end it before either one of us believes it to be.”

“Not enough! What do you mean? What are you talking about, Chakotay?”


“This.” He said, pointing to the bedroom and their strewn clothes on top of the bed and on the floor.

“Our love making… Did I do something… wrong?” she asked, an uncharacteristic note of vulnerability in her voice and in her eyes.

“No, no, Kathryn. You know that’s not what I’m talking about.”

“But I don’t understand.”

“You’ve been coming to my quarters, once a month for six months now. We make love, we tell each other we love each other, and then we go about being Captain and First Officer of Voyager.”

“You told me that’s all you ever wanted. To know that I love you. And it’s all I’ve ever needed too, Chakotay. That is until we get to the Alpha Quadrant. Then I plan on marrying you.” She turned up the corners of her mouth in a small smile, trying to coax him back to the easy banter that had been their companion all evening.

But he would have none of it.

“I used to think that was enough, Kathryn.” He continued, eyes serious, pupils locked with hers. “But it’s not. And you’re kidding yourself if you think it is. We can never have the relationship we both truly want here on Voyager so I think its best if we stop seeing one another and if we try, possibly, to find happiness elsewhere. I’ll always love you, Kathryn, but I can’t be beholden to a promise that I know you can’t fulfil and I can’t ask you to suffer in agony because you have some mistaken notion that we should be together only in the Alpha Quadrant. By mistaken, I don’t mean that we should be together before then, but rather that we shouldn’t wait to find our happiness with someone until we can be together in the Alpha Quadrant. We’re not the only fish in each other’s sea, Kathryn and although you’ll always be the one person I’ll long for, this is ridiculous and too heartbreaking to handle.”

There were tears in his eyes and Kathryn saw them for what they were. A desperate plea from a man who wanted to release her from a bond, not for his own sake but for hers. He wanted to give her a chance to find, even if it meant letting her go with someone else.

“Fine, Chakotay, just fine.” She said quietly, her voice choking. “I appreciate what you’re trying to do and I’ll give it some thought.”

“Kathryn this isn’t a discussion between the Captain and First Officer and this isn’t up for debate either. I’m breaking up with you and I don’t ever expect to have a conversation about a relationship with you again until we reach the Alpha Quadrant. That is if neither of us is in a long term relationship. If either of us are, Kathryn, then I expect you to honor the commitment we have to those partners and never speak of this again.”

“Chakotay you can ‘t force me to move on. ”

“We will get through however long it takes us to get home and then see where we are. For the rest of our journey, we will be the best of friends as we always have been, Kathryn and I will cherish these last six months for as long as I live.”

Kathryn walked towards him eager to hold him in her arms one last time, but he stopped her by gently grabbing her hands as they headed towards his shoulders. For a moment, he held her hands in his own, then bent down, kissing her cheek. “Good bye, Kathryn.”

They stood for a moment in absolute silence before he turned towards the door, refusing to look back one as he walked into the hallway and out of her personal life forever.

=/\= =/\= =/\= =/\= =/\=

About two months after the conversation with Chakotay in Kathryn’s quarters, Voyager stopped for a short shore leave and trade on an M class planet inhabited by a very friendly race. They were almost human in appearance with great senses of humour and a natural curiosity about Voyager and her crew. The interesting thing was that although the culture was warp capable and highly technologically advanced they had never left their planet. When Kathryn had questioned their Prime Minister about the reason behind this, the ruler had simply answered that rather than being xenophobic, as Kathryn feared they might be, they were simply cautious about encroaching upon another species’ territory. They didn’t want to be seen as conquerors so they were waiting for another species to come and visit their planet before they ventured out into space. Voyager’s crew was apparently the first collection of species to ever find their little part of the galaxy. This was not surprising since it had taken Voyager’s Borg enhanced sensors nearly two days to identify exactly where the planet was located and what its atmospheric conditions were. Seven had first thought its biosphere was merely an anomalous reading from the sensors that had resulted from her own constant tinkering with them over the years. But after many hours of detailed diagnostics and scans, they had discovered the out of the way culture and had stopped to say hello.

Kathryn, if she was honest, was quite taken by the Prime Minister. He was tall, middle aged, lightly tanned with a bit of stubble lightly covering his lower jaw.

Over the last two months she’d been grieving terribly over her loss of her relationship with Chakotay, never showing it in public, but always crying at night into her pillow where no one could hear.

She was desperate for companionship in a way she’d never been before and she hated herself for it, but when the Prime Minister offered her a chance to take a tour of the gardens with him, alone, after normal trading hours, she quickly agreed, mostly because she couldn’t stand another night with Chakotay physically just a bulkhead away but emotionally so unavailable, he might as well have been in the Alpha Quadrant.

Kathryn had seen him take up with many a blonde ensign in the weeks since they’d parted. He’d dated Ensigns Addison, Abbott, and Brown and now he was often seen with Lieutenant Carlson. In fact he was spending his shore leave with the young blonde lieutenant now. Kathryn had nothing against Carlson, she was bright, funny, outgoing, young, beautiful, everything that Chakotay wanted but the stab of jealousy just wouldn’t go away and it took everything she had to keep her from not showing a bit of disapproval and rancour towards Carlson whenever she passed her. Of course the Captain’s mask kept her from doing anything obvious but still there were times when she thought about giving the young lieutenant a piece of her mind for taking what was hers although she guessed that since the lieutenant was a lower deck officer, the woman probably had little idea that Chakotay and she had ever been interested in one another, let alone intimately involved.

It wasn’t fair to put the blame on the lieutenant when Chakotay had been the one to define the new parameters for their relationship. Parameters that were causing her even more loneliness than the original friendship had.

As she followed the Prime Minister around the garden, looking at the exotic yet somehow familiar flowers, she wondered whether he could perhaps be an answer to the heartache that had been her relationship with Chakotay.

 

 

Kathryn woke the next morning with a warm body pressed against her. Arms wrapped tightly around her as he slept. For a moment, Kathryn closed her eyes and pretended. She imagined that it was Chakotay that lay next to her as he had so many mornings when they’d been together, quietly holding her and cherishing her

 

She only allowed herself a moment of this daydream though because the longer she remained in the bed the more precarious the situation was going to be when the dignitary woke. She’d gotten the feeling the night before that he was a man who loved deeply and truly to a point of never being able to let go once he attached himself to someone. And she worried that if he got the wrong idea he could want more from her than a passing dalliance, perhaps even a lifetime commitment with her on Voyager. She didn’t think she could handle being committed to someone who she’ only slept with out of loneliness, loneliness she was already berating herself for feeling in the first place. Kathryn Janeway did not need any man; at least that’s what she wanted to believe.

Taking a silent deep breath, she opened her eyes and slowly slid from the bed, careful not to wake her companion. She knew that each step was a step closer to being out the door. She hated leaving such a nice man without a good bye, but she didn’t think she could handle his almost certain pleas for her to stay or his declarations of affection. She’d heard far too many the night before for her be comfortable facing him now. She feared that if she were still in the room with him when he woke up she wouldn’t have a choice but to continue with the relationship just to avoid making him feel bad. She was a strong woman when it came to command but when it came to relationships she was almost always a sucker for the wrong guy or for the safety net men, like Mark. And she didn’t think she was strong enough, especially now, to fight off the advances of a kind man, no matter how awkward or unwanted they may be.

She was almost to the door when she heard him stir, his sleepy voice calling out to her as he woke. “Kathryn, Kathryn, are you there?”

She debated not answering but couldn’t handle being that dishonest. She was here, she hadn’t made it out in time and now she must face the music. “I’m here, I’m here Asalin.”

“Good, good.” He said rushing over and pulling her to him for a kiss.” I’ve decided, this morning after breakfast my love, we need to talk.

Dread filled Kathryn’s gut as she registered the endearment. She recalled yesterday’s conversation about commitment ceremonies. At the time, she had thought they were only sharing information, but now it seemed that Asalin had been trying to weasel the information out of her as a way to convince her to stay with him after Voyager had departed or, she feared, invite himself aboard her ship.

“Asalin…”She tried to calm her raising panic.

“No buts. I’ve never met a woman like you Kathryn and I don’t intend to let you go this easily.” The words slid off his tongue sweetly, but Kathryn heard the command behind them.

He then released her and grabbed a sheet from the bed, covering himself. Kathryn was grateful for his sudden modesty as she tried to move away from him towards the door.

“Where are you going my sweet? You can dress here.” He said gently trying to coax her back towards him and possibly embrace her again. She wasn’t comfortable with either option.

“I’m just going to contact the ship and then I’ll be back to dress.”

“But you can contact the ship from here.”

“The signal’s rather weak here.” She said, knowing that he didn’t know enough about her technology to realise that she couldn’t tell the strength of the signal with only her combadge.

“Oh, all right then. You go in the main room if you think it will help.” He smiled once more.

“Yes, I’ll do that. I’ll be back.” Kathryn said quickly, eager to get away from him.

“Yes, hurry, love.” He said, completely falling for her excuse. A smile lit up his face and once more she felt guilty for convincing him to spend the night with her, but she’d needed comfort. She had promised her self when they’d come back to the palace that she would not be dishonest with on lead him on. She would make it clear that she was only there for the night.

Now, though, it appeared that she would have to break her promise to herself about not deceiving him. As she walked into the front room she was already planning on how she was going to explain the situation to Tuvok after she was beamed aboard. After her awkward discussion with him she would ask that the crew be beamed aboard and that they began heading towards the Alpha Quadrant earlier than expected. If she could get through a conversation with Tuvok, saying good bye to the Minister before they finished the trade wouldn’t be that hard. She honestly didn’t care that they would be missing out on some of the trading goods they desperately needed, they could find another near by planet or they could do without. She couldn’t stay here any longer. If she did, she might be in bigger trouble than just a one night stand with an alien.

Chakotay night hadn’t gone so well either. His date with Lieutenant Carlson had gone sour after he accidentally called her Kathryn while they were dancing. She’d told him very succinctly and nicely that his heart obviously wasn’t in getting to know her and that he needed to tell the captain how he felt before he ended up in a relationship that wasn’t going anywhere with someone who wouldn’t let him out of it. He had kissed her very gently on the cheek and thanked her for her honesty, wished her a happy rest of her shore leave and watched as she’d gone off with, of all people, Billy Telfer. It was, to say the least, horribly humiliating and to say the most horribly sad. He trusted the Lieutenant not to say anything about what had transpired between them to anyone else, but just the thought that Carlson had been able to pinpoint how absurd their relationship had been, embarrassed him no end.

For the hundredth time, he wished that he hadn’t been so direct with Kathryn about his reasons for breaking off their relationship. He figured there was little to no chance that she would ever feel comfortable dating him again. What was he saying? If they ever got together again it would be for keeps. He would never let her go once he had her. He’d been more than stupid to do that this time and it looked like it was going to cost him eternal happiness.

As he made his way back to the transport sit after the date he tried to think of a way to at least restart his friendship with Kathryn. He’d cut all non-professional ties with her after their break-up; he hadn’t even met her for coffee in over three weeks. He’d realised that he’d deprived himself of his best friend as well his soulmate all in an effort to draw an imaginary line in the sand in hopes that he would get Kathryn to formalise their relationship or at least increase the frequency of their time together. It was a fool’s game though, and he’d lost. He’d only hoped that Kathryn was having a nice time. Who was he kidding? He’d hoped she was having a miserable time, just so they could commiserate about it afterwards.

The more he thought about it, the more he prayed in his heart of hearts that she hadn’t spent as much time as he feared she had with the Prime Minister yesterday. If Chakotay was honest, he knew the man was handsome and well mannered. A pleasant man to be around too, from the few minutes he’d spent talking to him after the formal negotiations had ended. But not Kathryn’s type. He’d known even as he’d thought it that, he was diluting himself.

The man was exactly Kathryn’s type and Kathryn was probably fawning all over him and they were probably falling madly and deeply in love. By the time Chakotay finally made it to the beam out site, he had them married and expecting children. He’d told himself he was being ridiculous, but on his way back to his quarters, he’d practiced a speech and a smile for the moment when Kathryn told him that her lover, the light of her life, was going to stay on board Voyager with them and that she’d decided that the Prime Minister made a better First Officer than he did. Ostensibly because he was more familiar with the Delta Quadrant but secretly because she would die without the alien and had to see him everyday. When he’d gotten to his quarters, he’d slumped down on his bed, beating his pillow with his fist and cursing every last bit of his pride. His father had always said that his contrary nature was going to cost him something, but he had never believed that it was going to be something this big.

He’d awoken the next morning feeling emptier than he ever had.

=/\= =/\= =/\= =/\= =/\=

Kathryn hadn’t been able to quietly beam back to the ship as she’d hoped Asalin had decided that he was going to accompany her to the living room just to make sure that the lighting was comfortable enough for her make her comm call in. Therefore when she contacted the ship all she was able to say was that she would be at the transport co-ordinates at 1400 and that she expected all the crew ready for beam out by 1800. Life, she thought, couldn’t get any worse.

But as fate would have it things did get worse, as they always do when someone thinks they can’t, and over a nice breakfast of Jabalian toast, basically earth toast with a sweet jam that tasted like gum drops, Asalin proposed that they partake in some sort of bonding ceremony there on the planet, He then informed her that while she been talking to Tuvok, he’d been thinking about whether it should be his cultures equivalent to a ceremony or hers and had decided that they should do both just for added solemnity. When she tried to explain that in her culture, most people don’t usually marry after a night together, he promptly informed her that in his species, a night together was an unspoken vow and that in some respects she was already married to him on his planet.

He also added that because he was the Prime Minister, it would look horribly improper for him to have slept with a visiting dignitary who he did not intend to bond with and therefore it was imperative that they marry to both save face and to consummate the affection he felt sure they both shared. As he finished, Kathryn blanched and choked on her piece of toast, nearly spewing gumdrop juice out of her nose.

“Consummated our relationship by…by…by staying the night.” She had stuttered.

“Why yes, Kathryn, I assumed… you… you didn’t know? Isn’t it the same on your planet? I mean, what sort of people are you that you won’t solidify your affections before joining together or at least after you do? Is joining really taken that lightly in your culture? I mean, joining in the physical sense?”

Kathryn tried to smile but the lump in her throat got bigger and her stomach moved up towards her rib cage. “As I tried to explain before Asalin, it’s taken very seriously in some instances but in others it’s a form of ...of …of relaxation, enjoyment. I…I…I can’t say that I don’t enjoy your company, but I think I was just more lonely than anything.” Kathryn hated admitting her weaknesses, but maybe her admission would help him understand

Her words just made him angrier. “Lonely?” he sputtered, standing up from the table, “Being lonely is no reason to join with someone and if I’ve been used in this matter then I demand recompense, either you bond with me or I impound your ship or better yet, I’ll let your ship go and keep you here as payment for the abuse of our legal system. I’m sure your crew can do without if you’re so lax with your duties, Captain.”

Kathryn felt her heart race in her chest. “You… you… can’t keep me here.” She finally found her command tone and thanked the spirits that it was a steely as ever. “You can’t keep me here just because I slept with you. I had no idea what the rules were regarding this in your culture and you can’t expect me to abide by…”

She stopped for a moment trying to think about when their culture had sent over their legal documents and who had skimmed over them. Ensign Hawkins, she thought to herself. The ensign was well known for his easy going nature and his propensity for avoiding getting into trouble, but he was also known to be not quite as thorough when it came to reading reports, as someone should be. In this case, his inability to process detail would force her into a marriage, possibly cost her her command, and of course, any hope that she ever had of bonding with Chakotay in any sense. They had nothing now and never would. She was in love with one man who hated her and marrying another.

 

=/\= =/\= =/\= =/\= =/\=

When Tuvok informed Chakotay that the captain had beamed back to the ship at 1400, he quickly hurried from his quarters and down to the bridge. When he got there, however, she was nowhere in sight and Harry could barely look at him.

“They’re in the ready room the young man said, after a prolonged pause. Something about Harry’s voice told Chakotay he wouldn’t like what they were discussing and that there was something seriously wrong with either Kathryn or the state of the trade or both.

Two hours later, Kathryn and Tuvok emerged from the ready room. Chakotay mad a bee line for her but she merely put up her hand and continued on her way to the turbo lift, quickly ordering the doors to shut behind her before he even had time to join her on the trip down to deck three. …

Maybe she was going back to her quarters to take a nap, he consoled himself, after all it was after 1900 and she had been on the planet for a day and a half. He also hoped that she’d had a meal while talking to Tuvok but again something told him she was in no mood to eat and Kathryn Janeway wasn’t known for taken naps.

Giving her enough time to get back to her quarters and perhaps take a bath. He decided to follow her down to deck three around 2100, having remained on the bridge through alpha and most of beta shift due to his own frayed nerves and his inability to stand being alone.

He was afraid he wasn’t being told something and more than that he was afraid that even if he was informed of the situation Kathryn had already made up her mind and he could do nothing to prevent her from making, what he feared, was a large mistake. Perhaps the largest she’d ever made in her life.

There he went with the hyperbole again, he chided himself. He didn’t even know what had happened, maybe she and Tuvok had just had some security concerns to discuss and he would find out about it when he read the report. Maybe she hadn’t wanted to be bothered after her conference with Tuvok because she was tired. Two hours alone with the Vulcan, even if he was a good friend, could strain anyone’s nerves.

But as Chakotay got off of the turbo lift and made his way to her quarters he couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that his life was about to change forever. He rang for entrance, once, twice and once final time before using his over-ride code to get in, fearing that perhaps she was ignoring him or that something had happened. He knew that the last one was far fetched and the first one was a good certainty, but still he had to check. He told himself that he was just being a good first officer. So what if it meant breaking and entering? She was his best friend after all and they had been more to each other. With a silent sigh, he reminded himself not to go down that path though, it only led to heartache and regret that he couldn’t handle whilst worrying about her safety. Walking in to her living area, he was surprised to find her front room still lit and her sitting wide-awake on the couch looking at him.

For a moment, he wondered if she was injured or in some alien trance. But the fire in her eyes told him that she merely wanted to be left alone. He could see that she was furious at his intrusion, but that she had no doubt expected it after she had refused him on the bridge. She looked at him as though he was the last person she ever wanted to see on the planet again and for a moment he let guilt fill him just as it filled him outside her quarters but again he resolutely pushed it away. There was something else to discuss and he was going to get to it, if it killed him.

She spoke first, “Commander, would you like something to drink?” Her voice was deceptively calm and devoid of emotion.

“Tea please, Kathryn. Thank you.”

“Chakotay, I’m going to say this once and only once. This needs to be a conversation between the Captain and the First Officer only. Do not use my first name or make any reference to our personal friendship or our former relationship. This conversation will go much smoother and more easily if you follow these directions, no, make that orders.” She said, as she handed him his tea and sat down on the couch with her proverbial cup of coffee. “Do you understand me?”

Chakotay was shocked for a moment and merely nodded his head. He deserved the rebuff for a myriad of things and knew that if he wanted any answers out of Kathryn, he was going to have to let her set the pace.

“Chakotay I want to inform you that tomorrow morning I will be marrying the Prime Minister of Maranah. Before you even bother to ask, its not my choice and I don’t love him, although I don’t see why any of those things are your business. I guess I should tell you too as long as I’m telling you everything that I did sleep with him. I was very lonely and to be honest I just wanted someone to care about me. I have made many mistakes in life, Chakotay, but this is the biggest and I’m willing to face up for it because it will cost you and the crew a captain if I don’t.

She leaned back against the couch and sighed, “You see on Maranah, if you sleep with someone you are legally bonded to them. The Prime Minister has told me that in order to secure my ability to command Voyager I must submit to a ceremony and must allow him to remain on board. I know that this looks like a marriage under coercion and it is, I don’t deny that, but our laws concerning coercion don’t apply on their planet. Therefore in order to keep this crew together and honour my promise to get us all home, I have to join with him. She let her breath in a defeated rush and continued.

“I didn’t enter into this lightly Chakotay. No matter what you think of me, I’m not willing to marry a man that I don’t love. Tuvok and I spent the entire afternoon going over their laws hoping there was a loophole. But, their legal system is so dense and so well insulated, that they’ve ensured for every eventuality. Also, everything is so vague in their documents that it’s hard to tell what means what and how they make their commitments to one another. They seem so concerned with their own ideas of what things are that they don’t really lay them down in stone. Each person has their own idea of what commitment is and each person can initiate a joining ceremony from as little as holding hands.” She tried to laugh and failed.

“If I’d had any idea, Chakotay, I wouldn’t have done it, you know that and not because of any relationship we had, but because one night of companionship isn’t worth this. But I did and I’m the captain. Chakotay finally found his voice and tried to interject, but she would have none of it.

As many times as I’ve said this and as many times as you refuse to hear it, all decisions are mine and mine alone and in this instance I truly am the only one who can make this choice. I know that you might tell me that marrying the Prime Minister is a violation of the Prime Directive, just as I told Harry that his relationship with Tal, the young woman on that communal space station was. And its true, I will probably be facing a court martial for this, but Chakotay, I’m willing to take that chance for the freedom of the crew.”

“You told me when we ended our relationship that we had to honour the relationships that each of us might form with other people and the time for me to honor that commitment is now.” Chakotay felt like he wanted to die.

Seeing his expression, Kathryn softened her tone, “Chakotay, I’m sorry that time came so soon. I really am, not only because I believe our relationship could have stood the test of time, but because I don’t think that either one of us is ready to even be friends with one another.

She crossed to the viewport and stared out at the stars. “I want you to know that I have enjoyed our friendship immensely, but I do not plan to continue it. Not even as simply friendly colleagues. It will be to much for me to handle knowing that it might make the Prime Minister uncomfortable. He’s a jealous man Chakotay and I don’t want you to be in danger.”

“Secondly, I want you to understand that none of the reasons why we didn’t work were your particular fault except I wish that you hadn’t given up on me, but I also understand your position and I wish that I’d fought for you more, tried so much harder to understand the need for us to be together in what way we could. And I wish that I’d tried to understand how important our bond to each other was. Be happy my friend. Know that I value you as a person and know that I’m sorry for having to put this marriage between us. You see now why it made so much sense for me to talk to you as captain and first officer. It’s too hard any other way. We much adjust. I ask you one more thing, though I know that this will be the most difficult. Please say nothing when I finish, just leave my quarters and go back to your own. Begin your life anew just think of me as Captain Janeway of the USS Voyager. That’s an order, dismissed

=/\= =/\= =/\= =/\= =/\=

Chakotay barely made it back to his quarters before the tears started. For the next two hours he lay on his bed silently sobbing and wishing with all his heart that he hadn’t dissolved his union with Kathryn over something as foolish as the time that she couldn’t give him. Now she was demanding that he take his back with him. Taking his heart back wasn’t something that he was prepared to do. It would always belong to Kathryn no matter whom she married. Getting on with his life was also something that he knew he couldn’t do. Kathryn was the only one he wanted to be with, the only one he wanted to marry. She had given him the best friendship he could ever hope to experience and it was starting to run into her personal life. Why hadn’t that been good enough for him? Why? Why was he so intent on what he wanted that he couldn’t possibly see anyone else’s side to the story?

Getting up quickly from the bed, he reached for his medicine bundle and pulling out his akoona, he slammed his fist into it, breaking it just as his dream had been shattered, first by his own arrogance and then by Kathryn’s night with the Prime Minister and their impending marriage.

As he looked at the pieces of his akoona and his bruised hand, tears began to slide down his cheeks once more. There must be something that he could do. If he couldn’t stop the marriage, perhaps he could ask the Prime Minister that he treat Kathryn with respect and encourage the man to really get to know the beauty behind the woman he himself had loved for so many years. If he could not have Kathryn, perhaps he could help ensure her happiness just as Kathryn was attempting to ensure the happiness of this crew by going through with this marriage against her will.

 

Now that he had some sort of plan in mind, he asked the computer for the location of the Prime Minister and upon receipt of it, he headed to the messhall eager to catch the man before he finished his midnight snack. While traversing the corridors between his quarters and the messhall, he tried to think of what he would say to the Prime Minister, how to approach him and what tactics were going to get him the best results. As an experienced anthropologist he’d studied many cultures and one thing that usually held them all together were the baser emotions. Even Vulcans experienced lust, pride, greed and anger. If he could tap into the Prime Minister’s need to use his relationship with Kathryn to express these emotions he could perhaps get through to him and make him see reason. Or at least make him see that Kathryn wasn’t going to respond the way he wanted her to. If all the man desired out of this union was some control over someone else the man was in for a rude awakening and Chakotay was going to do his best to avail the ruler of his professional advice on the way to adjust to living with the woman the alien had chosen as a bride. Satisfied that his skills as a counsellor would allow him to mask his real feelings in concern for both parties, he reached the messhall with a gentle smile on his face, prepared to do battle for the one he loved.

=/\= =/\= =/\= =/\= =/\=

Chakotay spotted the Prime Minister munching on a blakenberry muffin one of the newest creations that Neelix had come up with during what the cook called a fit of culinary inspiration. With the smile still on his face, he slid gracefully into the seat across from the eating man and waited until the Prime Minister had finished the last bite.

“Good isn’t it Prime Minister, its one of my favourite dishes.” Chakotay lied. He didn’t like lying but if it helped to get the conversation started he told himself the spirits would forgive him this one.

“Yes, a very interesting taste.” The Prime Minister said diplomatically, showing off the best of his schmoozing skills. “It’s rather pungent and, ah… well, let’s just say one taste I’ll never forget.”

“Well, Prime Minister would you like another? I was just going to get one myself and I wouldn’t want you to miss out of prolonging the experience.”

The Prime Minister smiled at Chakotay as though he knew what the Commander was doing, but graciously said. “That would be lovely, sir. Would you mind getting me a napkin with it?”

“Not at all.” Chakotay was pleased that his little icebreaker had worked. He knew that the Prime Minister probably didn’t want a muffin and he also knew that the man most likely understood his feelings for Kathryn were more than just friendly concern. But for a little while both could pretend that they knew nothing of what they were going to discuss here. And that suited them both just fine for the time being.

When Chakotay returned with two muffins and a napkin, the Prime Minister smiled and then spoke, ready to get down to business and to cut through the diplomatic red tape, as it were. “I take it you’ve heard that I’m marrying the captain in a few days time. Would you do us the honour of performing the ceremony?”

Chakotay took a deep breath, he’d been prepared for the request, but it still felt like a punch in the stomach. Reminding himself of his objective, he tried to quash the pain he was experiencing, “ I would be more than happy to do that for you Prime Minister. Kathryn and I are good friends and it would give me great pleasure to see her happy with a man of your stature. However…”

“Yes?”

“Well, I notice that you tend to be a man of great efficiency and control… I just hope you know you’re in for a bit of a rough ride with Kathryn.”

The Prime Minister’s eyes glittered and he smiled. A smile that under ordinary circumstances might have looked harmless, but in light of the conversation was downright dangerous. “Well, we’ll see Commander. I’ll soon have her under my control. No woman gets away with any insubordination on my planet. And I won’t have Kathryn getting away with it either. It doesn’t matter that she commands your ship, Sir, it matters that she is my wife and she will obey me.”

Chakotay’s gut clenched as he realised that Kathryn was heading for a strict if not abusive marriage, something that he couldn’t abide by even if he was really trying to be happy for Kathryn. “Prime Minister, I understand the need for keeping a good accord between husband and wife, but I won’t have you abusing the captain or controlling her in any way. I understand your cultural requirements but ours are different and I won’t have Kathryn treated in any way that would not be permitted by them or any fashion that would be deemed inappropriate by those she works with and loves. We’re her family and although I understand that she will be your wife, it is my duty as her second in command and best friend to protect her. And I will. Mark my words, I will protect her to the best of my ability even if it means doing things you may not like.”

The Prime Minister smiled uneasily. It seemed to Chakotay that the man was mentally sizing him up trying to see if he could take him in a fight. “I understand the protectiveness of family, I too was protective of my sisters. But one has to realise that after a male bonds with a female, he controls the female’s destiny. That man and no one else. You’d be wise to look up our cultural protocols. Kathryn and I will be married according to them as well as in accordance to yours and I expect to see that they are followed along with the Federations doctrines. Kathryn knows this and is prepared to meet my standards.”

Chakotay choked back any sarcastic remark he might make about how well Kathryn would respond to the Prime Minister’s posturing and control and merely smiled.

“What exactly are the bonding rituals? How did you and Kathryn get to know each other?” Chakotay knew that the Prime Minister probably wouldn’t fall for this small talk but it was best way he could think of for finding out how the Prime Minister and Kathryn had come to be eligible for joining.

“Well, when a male makes a declaration or promise to a female either physically or verbally, that he will be her protector her guardian or, I was looking in your data base… her “knight in shining armour”, as you might say…”


“Yes, that’s right, Prime Minister, but what does that have to do with your relationship with Kathryn?” Chakotay interjected, he was trying to remain impartial, but he yearned to the throw the arrogant ruler out the nearest airlock.

“That’s what I’m getting to my dear man.” The Prime Minister waved his hand dismissively. “If you’ll just be patient and wait a minute I’ll tell you what those things have to do with my relationship with Kathryn…” The man paused for a moment, smiling smugly as much to himself as to Chakotay, “ Once a man makes a promise of steadfast companionship and protection either verbally or physically, to a woman, he is bonded to her and therefore, she in no uncertain terms, is to marry him. No other males can come forward and express interest in a female that has already been promised protection by a male and no female can be joined physically with another male once the first male has made this vow of protection whether the first male has claimed her physically or not.”

Chakotay’s heart was in his throat as his mind began reeling. An oath of protection? He forced his mind to slow down as he thought of a way to excuse himself from the Prime Minister. Finally, he settled for the falsely humble approach, “Well, Prime Minister if you’ve offered your protection to Kathryn Janeway then I should thank you. Everyone on this ship has sought to protect her for seven years and if she’d finally accepted your protection it’s good of you to do the right thing by her and marry her.” He hoped that he was convincing and it appeared that he was, as the Prime Minister smiled at him smugly.

“I’m glad you see it my way, son.” There was a slight pause before the Prime Minister began cleaning up his plate, placing the napkin on top of the remnants of his muffin. I’d best be turning in. The day after tomorrow’s a big day and tomorrow itself, I have to go down to the surface and tie up my affairs before I make my permanent home on Voyager. Have a good night.” The leader got up from the table, placed his plate in the recycler and headed toward the doors.

‘Protecting’. For a moment Chakotay could barely breathe as he watched the Prime Minister walk out of the mess hall and the doors slide shut behind him. He would give the man a good ten minutes head start before making his way down to the archive in Astrometrics and seeing if he could dig up the sensor logs from their cabin on New Earth. Hopefully, Tuvok’s propensity for over thinking security would come in handy this time, Possibly saving Kathryn from a life of servitude and abuse and his own heart from breaking. Chakotay knew however that even if this didn’t result in a relationship between he and Kathryn, he was more than willing to do this if only to save her from harm. That was after all the unbreakable vow on he’d made to her on New Earth, wasn’t it?

=/\= =/\= =/\= =/\= =/\=

Chakotay made his way down to Astrometrics, hoping that Seven had catalogued the sensor data from his and Kathryn’s time on New Earth in a way that would be easily accessible, as he was well aware that he only had a day and a half until Kathryn and the Prime Minister were scheduled to commence their joining and he doubted that five minutes before the ceremony would be long enough to convince the man that his angry warrior speech was be the kind of oath of protection and that the Prime Minister would consider equal to his own physical proposal for joining.

Frantically, he punched in code after code and scrolled through hundreds of screens hoping to find the illusive files he needed. He didn’t know if Kathryn would forgive him for even showing the Prime Minister the files, let alone claiming that they had meant that he had claimed her as his wife, but they both knew he had definitely felt something for her at the time that was akin to love, but he had no idea what she thought at the time and overstating her feelings would make her feel used in much the same way if not to the same degree that the Prime Minister was trying to. He shook his head to clear it of doubts and focused on finding the file and keeping Kathryn safe. The fallout would have to wait.

About two hours in, he wanted to call Seven but he knew that getting other crew members involved would only lead to questions, questions he couldn’t answer if he wanted to keep Kathryn, his and the Prime Minister’s privacy as carefully guarded as he knew the Captain would’ve wanted. Her reaction after they’d left New Earth left no doubt that she wanted to return to the command structure without any mention of their convalescence and true to that wish, they hadn’t talked about it once in five years. It seemed as though it was a forgotten memory but perhaps a distant memory would indeed provide the saving grace that both of them needed.

“I’m definitely getting ahead of myself.” He thought. “I haven’t even found the file and I’m already assuming that the Prime Minister is willing to give up Kathryn without a fight just because of an imaginative fairy tale. Let’s hope he has a softer side I just haven’t seen yet.”

An hour later, Chakotay was close to tears and hadn’t found a single thing that resembled the sensor logs and he was getting tired, too tired to keep working. All the filenames were running together and it was difficult to remember at exactly which way he scrolled through what, which code meant which stardate and how to distinguish one algorithm from another. He’d have to tell Kathryn that he’d discovered first hand just how much a captain or commander needed sleep when not in the heat of battle. His brain was melting on him and soon it would be so useless that he’d have no choice but to drag himself off to bed, leaving her to a fate worse than death, married to a dangerous man she didn’t love.

Finally he decided to try one more log bundle, the most recent data they’d sent to Starfleet. He doubted that the logs were part of it, in fact he hoped they weren’t, he didn’t really want Starfleet to see their time on New Earth. He knew they’d done nothing improper but it seemed too personal and too improper for some Starfleet admiral to be going over, despite their adherence to protocol. Still, he had to check.

Going through a bundle, he finally found two separated files, ones that had not quite made it into the transmission and that Seven appeared to be debating whether to send again in the next Pathfinder bundle. It appeared that the lost two files had been continuous files, possibly ones logging all two months of their convalescence and making them much too big for sending in a transmission with others which were much more important. Chakotay grinned, leave it to Seven to have some sense of propriety even if she didn’t know what she was doing.

 

Opening the files, he had to contain a yell of triumph as he realised that they were indeed the logs from that time, complete with angry warrior speech and the clasping of hands, or so he hoped. He would have to go through them on the holodeck tomorrow if he was to find out whether they would be of much use to his case. But still the discovery was a step in the right direction and Chakotay could go to bed, knowing that he would get up at 0500 hours, just a little under two hours from now and start searching. It would be far to early for anyone else from alpha shift to be up and far too early for Kathryn to come track him down, even for breakfast. He needed to do this in a shroud of secrecy, although he would’ve preferred to tell Kathryn of his plans. He knew though that if he did, Kathryn would insist that he not show the Prime Minister the logs and that she would seal her own fate in an effort to adhere to both what she interpreted as Starfleet principles and to constraints he had put down upon her that night in her quarters. She’d used his words against him in her quarters when she refused to let him intervene and when she’d basically given up pouring over the legal documents far sooner than he thought she should have. If he was going to save her, he was going to have to save her alone. That wasn’t a chauvinistic need to protect and serve, it was the truth.

At 0445 in the morning, Chakotay found himself on the holodeck unable to sleep, he had worked out exactly where he thought the angry warrior speech would be in the logs, knowing that he couldn’t afford to watch the entire block of sensor data in the two hours he had booked himself on the holodeck. He would have to hope that his lucky guess was pretty much on the mark though he had little need for hope. He remembered the entirety of New Earth like it had happened yesterday, it seemed as if it were burned into his heart and when he began the playback he silently thanked himself for being that way when it came to Kathryn, for he had pegged the exact day on which he’d told the story and only had to wait for about twenty minutes with the log on accelerated playback for the scene to unfold in front of him. As he watched, he recalled his own memories of telling Kathryn the story, the blush effusing his face as he had realised she knew it was a story and the joy he’d experienced as she’d clasped his hand in hers and allowed him to run his thumb across the back of her hand. He even recalled rejoicing in the one tear that had run down her face while simultaneously wanting to brush it away and take her in his arms.

On top of all the emotions that were flooding back however was the realization that this indeed was the type of promise the Prime Minister would take seriously, not because it was a good ruse but because it was clear that he had been pledging a lifetime of devotion and that Kathryn had taken it as intended. True she hadn’t said anything, but he was almost certain that she’d known it was a lifelong commitment. The Prime Minister would have no choice but to cede his claim after he watched the sensor logs. Satisfied that he had the evidence he needed and brimming with confidence, he quickly shut off the playback, downloaded the program onto a padd and made his way out of the holodeck, asking the computer for the location as he went

=/\= =/\= =/\= /\= =/\=

Halfway through his jog to the turbo lift he realised he wasn’t sure whether he should conduct his meeting with the Prime Minister in the mess hall or whether perhaps he should persuade the Prime Minister to meet him in a conference room. Though the conference room was for official functions and while he was definitely not going to be acting as the commander when he brought the Prime Minister his evidence, it might save the Prime Minister some embarrassment and it would provide him some privacy when divulging his actions on New Earth to Kathryn’s betrothed. He realised though that he was wasting precious time debating such mundane things when his first order of business was to get to the Prime Minister before the man started for the transporter room and went about tying up his affairs on his home planet. Once his affairs were tied up, it would be doubly hard for Chakotay to convince the man that he had already staked a claim on Kathryn and that she was not free to marry him. He would be adding insult to injury and the man might refuse to honour his plans simply out of a need to avoid losing face in front of his fellow citizens not to mention constituents. Stepping into the turbolift, he cleared his mind and vowed to focus on the task at hand.

He made it in record time but there was a part of him that he begun to worry that no matter how delicately he put it, the alien leader would not see his story for what it was and then his unbreakable vow to Kathryn would then be shattered in favour of a more official one.

Still, he told himself, he had to go through with it no matter the outcome just to know he had tried and done the best by the woman he loved. Walking into the mess hall, he tried to surreptitiously glance around, attempting to find the Prime Minister but he guessed he looked like a chicken with a case of whip lash by the time he found the man. Thankfully the crew pretended not to notice, probably being lenient with him because they knew about his feelings for Kathryn and probably felt sorry for the man was waiting for the love of his life to marry the ignorant and awfully pompous Prime Minister. He’d heard through the grapevine that Tom Paris when he met the man that he’d said. “Wow, his self sense of self importance is bigger than the Doctor’s.”

Chakotay had laughed at the time, of course, this was before the dignitary had tried to steal Kathryn from him, but that was beside the point. Everyone knew that the man was a jerk and Chakotay was grateful that the crew were cutting him some slack. He would need it if he were going to get through this meeting. Finally working up enough courage to sit opposite the Prime Minister once more without shaking, Deciding that he would tell the leader of the promise here and then take him to the holodeck, he smiled a good morning while offering the leader Neelix’s newest flavor of muffin.

“No, thank you, Commander.” The Prime Minister replied. “I’m not really hungry this morning, perhaps it is…what do you humans call it…ah, yes, pre wedding jitters.” The man’s smile was a little too smug and Chakotay resisted the urge to slap it off his face, covering his anger with a small laugh. “Well, you see, Prime Minister that’s what I wanted to talk to you about. I know it must seem strange to you that no one has claimed Kathryn as their own over the years although I guess it’s good luck for you.” Chakotay tried to make a joke unsure of how to proceed with his bombshell, but knowing it had to be done. At the Prime Minister’s smile and nod, he continued, “Our conversation about commitment got me thinking me thinking about commitment and…

“So you’ve come to me for advice on how to find your own female, how very smart!” The Prime Minister looked so full of himself at that moment that Chakotay hoped he might pop.

“Not exactly, Prime Minister, your explanation made me realize that I actually had made such a declaration to Kathryn and your words allowed me to see the seriousness with which I should have taken it at the time I made it.” Chakotay could see the anger boiling in the other man.

“But, Commander.” The Prime Minister interjected. “You’ve never spoken of this before and Kathryn clearly didn’t speak of it before she stayed the night with me otherwise I never would have spent that sort of time with her.” Asalin had seen the bond between the Commander and Kathryn, but hadn’t thought anything of it after the night he had spent with her and rage burned in him as he realized he’d bedded a claimed female and then been out witted by her simpleton of a mate.

 

“Ah, Prime Minister, but you see there is something called protocol on our ship which sometimes forbids us to express our emotions towards one another or to explain them to outsiders. Perhaps Kathryn just thought that I would prefer that she not divulge this information to you and that she was going to figure out whether I fully intended to honour my promise before her marriage. In fact I’m sure that’s what our meeting was about at 0900 hours this morning.” Chakotay his breath, if the Prime Minister didn’t take the bait, his planned would be derailed

“Meeting, what meeting? She never mentioned it.” The ruler now seemed curious as well as confused and angry.

Chakotay now realised that he was once again going to lie to rectify the situation but now couldn’t care less, he’d deal with the fallout later.

“As I said Prime Minister, it’s all part of the protocol. Perhaps she didn’t want to bother you with the details of my claim unless I came forward and asserted my proclamation as approximate to joining. You see, proclamations aren’t usually enough in our culture. We have to officially ask that our partners marry us. But as you said that you would not have pursued this relationship had a proclamation been made, I wanted you to let you know that I did indeed make such a declaration to Kathryn and have record of it. If you’d like to see it, its here on the padd, although I think again, pursuant to our protocols, I should suggest that you view this padd either in your quarters or in the conference room. Of course I will request that I be present so as to verify my statements and as an assurance that you have indeed viewed the video.

“Very well.” the Prime Minister said, suddenly a bit subdued, “Let’s see what’s on this padd of yours and if I deem it fit, you may have Kathryn and if I do not, then I may claim her. For I was the one who first staked the claim verbally in front of others and I reserve the right to refuse you the woman if I see fit.”

Chakotay nodded his assent and both men stood up from the table and made their way quietly out of the mess hall.

The walk was to the conference room was traversed in silence, each man sizing up their opponent as though preparing to do battle. Perhaps they were doing a battle of sorts. A battle of whose will would indeed be imposed upon a woman. Chakotay knew now that Kathryn almost certainly would not have approved of this. It seemed archaic, like two men locked in a duel over a damsel in distress. Each one claiming their right to love her, control her, be her husband and yet he couldn’t think of any better way to solve the issue. He would apologise to her later and perhaps they could solve their problems together providing, of course, that the Prime Minister was no longer in the picture. If he was, there was no need to tell Kathryn of this attempt and he would make sure that the Prime Minister knew this if it was decided that the ruler was to honour his proposal to Kathryn.

Once in the conference room, the men faced each other and Chakotay handed the Prime Minister the padd, indicating the button that would activate it. Long tense minutes ticked by as the Prime Minister viewed the footage once, twice, three times, Chakotay’s heart breaking each time he heard the words in his own soft voice so full of love for the woman who sat across from him on the tape, telling her of his intention of spending the rest of his life with her. How could the man not see their commitment laid before him?

Agonising seconds ticked by before the Prime Minister shut off the padd and spoke. “I see do the depth of your proclamation and I have no choice but to withdraw my proposal if I am to honor the rules of claiming females on Manarah. I am not happy to release Kathryn from her obligation to me, but you made the first claim, therefore she is yours. Pursuant to your protocols of discretion I will not discuss with Kathryn the reasons for terminating our proposed joining, only that I have found sufficient reason to think that our marriage would not be appropriate at this time or any time in the future. “I thank you for bringing this to my attention and I hope that you and the captain find some way to get around your protocol enough to solemnise your unspoken vows

Chakotay nodded his head and reached out his hand to shake the Prime Minister’s, understanding just how difficult this defeat must be for a man who was looking forward to not only marrying a beautiful woman but also to having control over to someone else. He couldn’t understand the need of such control but he could understand how the loss of something so wanted could be damaging to the other man’s ego and for that some part of him could have sympathy for hurt feelings but nothing more.

After the Prime Minister had gone Chakotay allowed himself a few minutes to collect himself before stepping out on the bridge. He knew that it was nearly 0700 and the Alpha shift was indeed beginning, but that Captain Janeway would undoubtedly be late this morning. He worried once more that she wouldn’t be pleased by the turn of events. Of course, he knew that she didn’t really want to marry the Prime Minister but he also knew that if she knew that someone had gone behind her back to change the man’s mind, she was going to demand a reason for disobeying orders and her wishes. She wasn’t one who liked to be undermined.

He debated where and when to discuss the issue with her, but decided that perhaps the end of Alpha shift was the most appropriate time. By that time he might have figured out some sort of workable way to justify what he had done. He took a deep breath and readied himself for perhaps the most tense and emotionally stressful duty shift of his life. If he thought this morning’s conversation with the Prime Minister was hard, the one with Kathryn would be a hundred times more difficult. This morning’s had involved his pride and a little bit of his heart, but the one this evening would involve his very soul and he knew he couldn’t stand to have that broken.

 

=/\= =/\= =/\= =/\= =/\=

Kathryn was in shock. Even thirty minutes after the Prime Minister had left she still couldn’t believe that she’d managed to escape marrying him. For the past few days she’d been trying to work out exactly how to reconcile her feelings for Chakotay with the honour bound duty she had to protect her crew by marrying the Prime Minister. The man clearly was dangerous and someone who under no circumstances should marry any woman.

She had been prepared to marry him if it was what it took to fulfil her goal to get her crew home. She and Chakotay had no relationship now and any guilt she had felt over betraying him was summarily dismissed by her duty to honour the unbreakable vows of the new relationship. She’d stepped unwittingly into it of course but begun it nonetheless, and just because she had no idea what type of commitment she had signed on for hadn’t meant she had the right to back out of it. A part of her knew that the seriousness with which she had approached this relationship was partly a way to get over her feelings regarding Chakotay’s instructions on how to handle relationships. But a bigger part of her knew that the truth was she was lonely and perhaps this marriage would have given her some sort of comfort. She wasn’t about to pretend for a minute though, that she was going to have fallen into the Prime Minister’s arms. No, she’d already told the man, albeit privately that she would never stay with him in his bed again and that they would be married in name only. She’d also let him know that if she had found a way to extricate herself from the union she would have taken it. This wasn’t a union of love or submission this purely a union of coercion and she would have made sure he knew it for the rest of their lives even if she did do nothing about it. The Prime Minister had insisted that she would again share his bed but she’d known there were ways of making sure that was not possible. She just hadn’t come up with them yet. However, when the Prime Minister had come to her saying that he believed that it was inappropriate for them to join at this time and that he would remain on his planet, she had stared at him wide eyed for a moment before numbly asking for an explanation. She worried for a moment that she actually sounded disappointed but by some miracle it was clear that the Prime Minister understood that her inquiry was one of curiosity and nothing more.

“I am not at liberty to speak of It.”, he had said. I can only say that you are free to continue on your journey without further correspondence from my government on this matter. The trade will be completed and you will be asked to leave the system within two days. Shore leave will be extended to the remaining crew members who wish it in those two days but after that time you will be fired on if you are still in this system.”

For a moment Kathryn could not believe her ears. The trade would be finished and more shore leave would be extended! How had this miracle come about? She was a scientist and she didn’t believe in such things but the word was the only one she could think of that would describe the Prime Minister’s complete change of heart. After smiling at him and thanking him for his generosity with as much civility as she could muster she saw him to the doors of her ready room and watched as he walked off the bridge to the turbo lift, leaving her in peace. She was determined to find out what exactly had caused his change of heart but she allowed herself to breathe a sigh of relief before comming Chakotay. She had a feeling that he had something to do with her suitor’s departure but didn’t want to accuse him over the comm system in case she was mistaken. In the privacy of her ready room they would be able to discuss what had gone on and what, if any role, Chakotay had played in proceedings.

Chakotay arrived promptly but seemed rather preoccupied and nervous as he stepped into the ready room. He was standing at parade rest, a position she hadn’t seen him take in her ready room in years. Now she was more certain than ever that he’d had something to do with this morning’s events, but decided that she could prolong the confrontation for a moment more by asking him if he wanted something to drink.

Strangely, he refused even his tea, prompting her to ask if he minded if she had a coffee just to ease the tension. He smiled a bit then, saying that he knew better than to refuse her the one thing that kept her alive. She tried to smile in return, grateful for his sense of humour even in a moment like this, but the attempt failed and she feared that she looked like she was frowning instead. Sitting at nearly the end of the couch, she invited him to sit down next to her only to have him say that he preferred to stand for their conversation. She nodded and for a moment they stood in absolute silence until she said. “Well, Chakotay are you going to tell me why the Prime Minister called off the marriage that he was so keen on hours ago?”

“I can tell you the reason Kathryn.” He said quietly. “But I’m not sure you want to hear it.”

“Oh, believe me, Chakotay. “ she said, steel edging her voice. “I want to understand and I want to understand as quickly as possible. If something was done against protocol it will be my head on the line when Starfleet gets word of it.”

“Is that all you think about, Captain? Protocol? Of course it is. Why should I ever think with something as personal as being set free from a marriage that would have been dangerous to say the least would have been enough to make you think about yourself for once. But no. Precious protocol has to come first. Well, Captain maybe I’d best not explain how exactly you were set free from your bonds because it may land me in the brig and it might also make you squirm a little when writing a report to Starfleet. Yes, perhaps I’d better go.” He turned toward the door, not caring that she hadn’t dismissed him, but her slightly softened voice caused him to turn around once more.

“No, Chakotay I’m sorry, I’m just used to dealing with the official channels and I’d forgotten that some things are just better discussed between two…. friends.”

Chakotay heard the uncertainty in her voice it gave him the courage to press forward. “The Prime Minister called off your marriage because I said that another man had made a promise of protection to you years ago and the Prime Minister had mentioned that such a promise of protection would negate any claim that he had over you at any time.”

Kathryn’s face blanched as she realised just what oath of protection had saved her from being the Prime Minister’s property. “The logs from New Earth.” She whispered, haltingly, understanding now that it had been Chakotay’s gentle proclamation of love all those years ago that had saved her, in more ways than one. “You… you…”

“That’s right, Kathryn. I misrepresented my legend as something more than it was but I can’t deny that the intention that the Prime Minister saw was there. It was Kathryn, and if you had been ready to accept it I would have joined with on that day, on that planet, but since you weren’t ready, I’m just grateful that my poor excuse for a cultural artefact saved you from that man, Kathryn. I would have rather rotted in the brig than seen you marry him. Not just because I love you, but because he would have disrespected you and harmed you and as even your friend and colleague I couldn’t abide that. I know you don’t feel the same way about me, Kathryn but I have to tell you that this entire experience has taught me just how foolish I was for putting those constraints on you, for demanding a relationship you couldn’t give me all those months ago. I was happy with what we had. I just wanted to share my life with you, each day with you and instead I gave you an ultimatum that you couldn’t answer the way I wanted.” Chakotay was close to tears

“Chakotay.” she said, reaching her hand up to him, grasping his open palm in hers. “It’s not all your fault. I could have given you more in our relationship. I was just afraid that I would be unable to let my guard down and then I would be exposing myself to more pain if I let you completely in. While you could have been more gentle with the dissolution of our relationship, I bear some of the blame myself and I won’t let you take it all on your shoulders. You’re such a giving man. You give and give until you have nothing left and finally you took something from me but neither of us was aware of the price each of us was to pay for that. I also have to tell you Chakotay that despite the harsh conditions you placed upon me, I value your commitment to relationships and I understand the meaning of unbreakable vows.
I should have realised that such vows were already made to me.” Her eyes were filling with tears and Chakotay kneeled in front of her desperate to offer some comfort.

“Kathryn, those vows weren’t meant to be a prison, they were meant to be an offering of companionship and love and if you couldn’t see them that way, you did nothing wrong by not keeping them. I only hope now that you know the depth of my affection for you and you know that I will wait until the Alpha Quadrant if I have to before asking you again whether you are ready to act upon them.

“Chakotay.”, she quietly as she buried her face in his chest. For a long moment they sat together saying nothing, just deriving comfort from the truth of their bond was now out in the open. There was nothing to hide the commitment had been made and neither one would doubt its veracity again.

Later when her tears had dried, Chakotay believed there would time to talk about everything else between them, perhaps allowing them to come to some sort of understanding. He wasn’t in any hurry. So he was shocked when Kathryn lifted her head and off his shoulder just enough to kiss him gently on the mouth before saying quietly but resolutely “I don’t want to wait. I want to cement those vows for all time now. Whether in our hearts or in front of a very surprised Tuvok, I don’t care. But I want you to know, now, forever and always that you are the one I want to spend my life with, you are the one I want to join with and you are the one whose vows of protection I accept.

Chakotay froze, not sure that he’d really heard those words from Kathryn’s lips. The expectant look on her face however, jolted him into saying. “Kathryn, if you do me the honour I will solemnise my oath of protection in front of this entire crew, including a shocked Vulcan,”

She smiled up at him and tightening her grip on his hand, she allowed him to pull her up from the couch and into a light embrace before both of them walked out onto the bridge in search of the Vulcan they were both determined to surprise that day.