Happily Ever After by D.A. Kent


E-mail:

D.A. Kent

Date:

April, 2001

Code:

Voyager, J/C, PG-13

Rated:

PG-13

Disclaimer:

Paramount owns Star Trek Voyager, and all the characters therein. I only borrow them on occasion.

Note:

JetC8 put out a story challenge - to write a SHORT ending for Voyager. The only catch: NO C/7!!!!!!!!



Captain Kathryn Janeway stood at the viewport in the Captain's quarters of her beloved starship, Voyager, and stared out at the space station in front of her. Somehow, it was anticlimactic, and a letdown, to see the flourish of activity in front of her. She missed the stars already.

Sighing, Kathryn turned away and moved back to her desk. They were home. Voyager was home again, and now that the parties were over, and the crewmen had been debriefed and the former Maquis were allowed to go free, it was done. Starfleet had been kind, she thought, and allowed everyone to go free after little more than a good word from their Captain of seven years. Truth be known, she knew that Starfleet and the Federation didn't want negative press on the matter. They were more than happy to be done with it all, and have the entire matter end on a positive note. Good press was worth a great deal these days.

Kathryn had a few more final reports to make, and then she was free, as well. Free of it all - the burden of command, the ship she'd grown to love as she would another being. For the first time in a very long time, she felt tears burn behind her eyes. She forced herself to put away the sentimental thoughts and focus on the present. She could cry later - if she truly remembered how to do it. After seven long years of fighting off enemies and protecting her ship and crew, very little could move her to tears quickly.

And then she thought of Chakotay.

The thought of her First Officer made her angry, and she immediately ordered a cup of hot, black coffee from the replicator and brought it to her desk with her. She sat, tired, and decided to enjoy this last cup of replicated coffee from her quarters before she completed her final report.

Chakotay. She sighed and closed her eyes, and leaned her head back against the headrest. When she asked herself how he could do this to her, she already knew the answer. He wasn't doing anything to her; he was simply moving on with his life. She had never given him any reason to hope, or to wait for her. So how could she be angry with him now?

Suddenly, Kathryn opened her eyes, sensing a presence in the room. She turned her chair quickly and faced the door. Chakotay stood there, in the doorway, and the doors to her quarters were standing open.

"I apologize, Captain," he said softly. "I rang the bell, but you didn't answer."

"That's all right, Chakotay," she said, wondering how her voice could sound so normal, and yet knowing that she was automatically accustomed to using her Captain's training. "Please. Come in." She stood as he entered the room. "Have a seat. I just replicated a cup of coffee. Will you join me?"

"I'd like that," he said, sitting, and they were both strongly aware that these little rituals that they'd taken for granted for seven years were being practiced for the last time tonight.

Kathryn requested the coffee from the computer, then brought the steaming cup to Chakotay. He nodded, and she sat in her chair across from him.

"I thought you might be in your Ready Room," he said. "I checked there first."

She couldn't tell him that her Ready Room held too many memories for her, many more than her private quarters.

"My . . . computer terminal was acting up in my Ready Room, so I thought it best to use the one here, in my quarters."

He smiled.

"Maybe seven years is the magic number, after all - perhaps it represents the life span of a lot of things on this ship, Captain. Your computer terminal was failing, the replicator in my quarters wasn't working properly, Tom's Captain Proton program was beginning to malfunction, Harry's . . ."

"B'Elanna would have repaired all of those things if we were still in the Delta Quadrant," she interrupted softly, but firmly. "They wouldn't have remained inoperative for long."

Chakotay had to hand it to her; the Captain never gave up. She never surrendered - not to anything. Not to the Borg, and not to technology's failure. She was steady, and as solid as a rock.

And his heart was breaking.

Chakotay took a deep breath. He thought he could do this. He'd told himself he could. He had forced himself to face the fact that his life had changed forever just a few days ago. He'd had no choice in the matter, and no one had asked him what he would have preferred; he had simply awakened one day, safe in his quarters on Voyager, and the Captain had summoned him to the Bridge, telling him they would be home by the end of the day. And, as usual, she had been right.

Suddenly, Chakotay knew he had to go. He couldn't stay with Kathryn alone in this room any longer, or he might do or say things he would regret. It was time to take his leave. Putting his coffee cup on her desk, Chakotay stood.

"Captain," he said softly, as was his way, "I wanted to tell you 'farewell' alone. I'm leaving San Francisco tonight," he said solemnly.

"I see," she said, finally. But she didn't really. "Where will you go?"

"I have family on Regis Prime. I've sent word ahead that I'll be there tomorrow."

She swallowed hard and stood to face him across her desk.

"And will you take her with you there? Will you take Seven with you?"

She forced herself to look him in the eye, as she swallowed again, trying to dislodge the lump that was suddenly stuck in her throat. She was a Starfleet officer, the Captain of a starship that had survived seven long years in the Delta Quadrant, and she would be damned if she'd allow her ex-First Officer to force her to behave in any way that was not befitting an officer of her rank. Yet she had to know the answer to her question.

"I beg your pardon, Captain?" he asked gently.

"Will you take Seven with you, to visit your family?"

He could at least have the decency to make this easier for her.

"I hadn't planned to," he said slowly, trying to figure out what she meant by asking him that question. And then, suddenly, he knew. "Captain, are you asking me if Seven and I are . . ."

"Chakotay, I merely asked if Seven is going with you," she said curtly. Evidently he was not going to make this easy for her.

"No, no she's not," he said. Oh, but what I wouldn't give to take you with me, Kathryn.

"I see."

"I'm not sure you do see, Captain," he said softly. "If you're referring to the rumors that have been circulating . . ."

"Chakotay, there's no need to explain anything to me. You are no longer my First Officer, and . . . I apologize if I forgot that for a moment." She took a deep breath and her voice was suddenly tired. "You don't owe me any explanations," she said, and moved away from her desk. She kept her back to Chakotay; she didn't need to see his face just now. This was difficult enough.

"Kathryn . . ." he said softly.

She felt a tremor run through her body, but she couldn't let him affect her that way now, and not anymore. After all, he was moving on with his life, and it was time she did, too. Those days of longing for him were over; he was leaving Voyager tonight, and from what she'd overheard, he was leaving with Seven.

"Chakotay, please. This is very difficult for me. I've said 'good-bye' to Tom, B'Elanna, Harry and Tuvok today." She swallowed once more, and choked back the tears that threatened to spill from her eyes. Her throat was burning, but she couldn't - wouldn't - allow Chakotay to know it. "I was hoping I could say 'farewell' to you tomorrow."

"So was I, Captain," he said. "But I need to go tonight."

I can't stay, Kathryn. It's tearing me apart, knowing that you will withdraw from me even further. I'm beginning to lose more and more of you, of what is left of us, everyday.

"I understand," she whispered, her back still to him. Finally, she took a deep breath and forced herself to turn back to face him, knowing in her heart that this would be the most difficult 'goodbye' she would ever say.

But when she looked into his eyes, she immediately regretted doing so. She wasn't a Captain when she looked into his eyes, into his soul. She'd never been, really, not when it was just the two of them, alone this way. She was just a woman who longed for this man's touch, for his undying love. She'd had it once, and she'd killed it. She'd shot it down the moment he'd offered it to her. And she'd regretted it ever since.

"Do you?" he asked softly.

"What?"

She had lost the thread of their conversation. All she could think about was that she would miss him, that she would never forget him. Somehow she would have to go on without Chakotay. Looking into his eyes again, she knew she'd never be the same without his unfailing support.

And she also knew that it was her fault they weren't leaving Voyager together.

"I'm not sure that you do understand, Kathryn," he said, and continued to stare deeply into her eyes. "When you mentioned Seven . . ."

"No," she said, and pulled her eyes away from his. "It's all right. I don't need to know. It's not my business," she said. She wanted to know all of it, yet she would be better off knowing none of it.

"For the record, I've heard those rumors, too."

"Rumors? What do you mean, rumors?"

Her eyes met his once more.

"Seven is going to live with her aunt, her father's sister," he said gently. "She leaves tomorrow." He took a deep breath and held her eyes steady with his. "I don't know where that rumor started, Kathryn, but there's nothing between Seven and me. There never has been."

Kathryn took a sharp breath. He was looking into her eyes and telling her that he and Seven were not having an affair.

"But, Chakotay . . ."

"Kathryn, you are the one who rehabilitates Borg, not me, remember?" She didn't respond, so he smiled gently, and continued. "Seven will be all right, but she won't be with me."

"I see." Her voice was unrecognizable, deep, filled with emotion, she thought. Yet Chakotay didn't seem to notice. Starfleet training ran deep.

"Well," he said, taking a deep breath. "I'll say 'so long' then, Captain, and be on my way." He turned to leave, but stopped when he reached the open doorway. He looked back at her, at the Captain he admired and respected, at the woman he loved. "You take care of yourself, Kathryn. And if you ever need anything, anything at all, contact me. I'll always be there for you. Always, Kathryn."

Then he walked through the doorway and was gone.

Kathryn stood still, in the same spot he'd left her in, and stared at the still-open doorway. He was leaving. Chakotay was leaving for good, after seven years, and he was not leaving with Seven of Nine. There was nothing between them, and never had been. The rumors of the past few days were just speculation among the crewmembers. Just a nasty rumor that she had allowed herself to believe.

He was leaving.

And she was letting him go.

Kathryn couldn't move. She saw his face in front of her, smiling, laughing, joking with her about her caffeine addiction, about so many things.

She remembered his anger, his temper, when she and Tuvok had used him to lure a traitorous crewmember out into the open. In her mind, she saw his respect for her reflected in his eyes, as she had many times over the past several years, even when he disagreed with her decisions. And she saw his appreciation for her as a woman reflected in his eyes, too.

They'd laughed together, suffered and grieved together; they'd buried dead crewmembers together, sending the pods into space and crying silently each time they'd lost someone else. The last death on Voyager had been Joe Carey's, a senseless death, and neither of them had come to grips with that one yet. They both knew the names of each crewmember they'd lost, remembered them all - name, rank, serial number, and their smile or favorite song, or food. And each year, on the eve of the date they'd lost their first crewmember, she and Chakotay had had their own private service, out of respect for all the ones they'd lost together. No one else knew about it, but the time for remembering had been important to them both.

She and Chakotay had sailed the waters of Lake George together, stared Death in the face more times than she cared to remember, conquered Fear, skied the Delta Quadrant's most dangerous slopes, played pool and tennis and Parisses Squares and even Kal-toh together.

They'd faced the Borg, too, on more than one occasion, and that should count for something.

He'd been there when she'd searched her soul for her beliefs, her spirituality - scientific methods vs. a higher power, and he'd helped her compile her medicine bundle, and sent her on her first Vision Quest. He'd been there with her, too, each time she questioned those beliefs.

He was a good listener, and a good friend.

Chakotay had understood when she grieved over the loss of Kes, and had been strong for her then. Kes had been like a daughter to her, and her grief was just as lasting, just as overwhelming. He had remained strong for her then, a shoulder to lean on, a soft voice to tell her that everything would be fine.

He'd been there each time she stumbled and fell, and he'd picked her up and helped her on her way again - with no judgment, only his support and kind words.

And he'd been there to tell her the haircut looked nice when she'd first had her hair cut short years ago. It hadn't looked all that nice, really, it had been far too short at first, but he'd offered his support just the same. And she knew he'd missed her long hair for some time to come. He hadn't minded the bun because he knew what lie inside it, but it had taken him a long time to get used to the shorter hairstyle. She'd seen him looking at her often, trying to hide the sidelong glances, trying to convince himself he liked her hair that way, shorter. She smiled, remembering. Then suddenly she remembered the pain she'd felt, too, the raw pain that seared through her when she realized how she'd hurt him by cutting her hair back then. He'd loved her hair, and she'd taken it from him, though she hadn't realized at the time just how much pleasure it gave him to look at it.

He was her First Officer, her friend, the man she loved and wanted to grow old with. He was her soulmate, and had been for a very long time.

Where had all her dreams gone? Were they lost inside Starfleet protocols? Was she suddenly too old to live out her dreams? Or to even try? They were home now, her crew and her ship were safely home, and now she was free. But suddenly freedom felt stifling, it felt wrong. It felt empty without Chakotay.

Kathryn Janeway had always been proud and stubborn, but she was no fool.

Before she could stop herself, or rationalize her behavior further, she slapped her comm badge.

"Janeway to Chaktoay," she said in a strong, firm voice.

"Chakotay here," came the immediate and familiar response.

She was more relieved to hear his voice than she would ever admit, even to herself. She smiled. Who was she to think she could live without hearing that voice? Without seeing that smile, feeling his constant support?

"Have you had dinner, Commander?"

The pause made her smile again.

"Dinner, Captain?"

"You can't begin a trip without having dinner. I happen to know a quaint little Italian restaurant just down the road. Well, at least it used to be there, seven years ago. Who knows if it's still there, but if it's not, I'm sure we'll find something. What do you say?"

There was another pause, and just as her heart stopped beating, his voice came across the comm link.

"Are you asking me for a date, Captain?"

She chuckled.

"I suppose I am, Commander. If you're interested," she added cautiously. When he didn't answer right away, she tried the comm link again. "Chakotay? Are you there?"

Then sensing something behind her, she turned to face the doorway.

Chakotay walked into the room and didn't stop moving until he was standing in front of her. He looked directly into her eyes, and her breath caught in her throat. A minute ago, he was leaving her behind, and now he was here, only centimeters from her. She could smell his scent, and the sweetness of his breath. And she knew she couldn't live without him.

"We've been on the same starship together for seven years, Kathryn. We've shared every meal imaginable - every combination of Talaxian spices and flavors, Utarian delicacies, Krendal vendals, Vidiian hash, Maruvian lauds, Lenian sweetbreads. And now that we're home, and you can choose anyone you'd like to share Italian food with tonight, you ask me?"

"Yes." Her voice was lower, smoky, inviting.

Chakotay swallowed hard. Her eyes were staring straight into his soul.

"You might want to reconsider your decision. It could just be habit."

"Some habits aren't meant to be broken."

Her eyes never left his.

"You're sure?"

His voice nearly broke, but he forced himself to sound strong.

"I am more sure of this than I have been anything in my life," she said calmly, and they both knew she was talking about more than just dinner.

"Kathryn . . . ."

This time his voice broke.

"Shhhhh . . . . . ." she said softly, leaning closer to him. "We've talked for seven years, too, Chakotay. I think it's time we added something new to our relationship, don't you?"

He couldn't answer, and he couldn't move. His heart sounded like drums beating in his ears, his voice was gone, and a fire was racing throughout his body. And Kathryn was looking at him in a way she'd never allowed herself to do before.

She took the one small, final step forward, the step that put her directly in front of him. A tingle run through her, and she knew it was the thrill of his body being so close to hers, even through all the layers of Starfleet regulation clothing that stood between them, even after all these years. His face was only centimeters from hers, but it was time to close the distance that had stood between them for seven long years.

Desire filled her eyes, and she looked at his mouth, that wonderful mouth that smiled so easily, and told her of ancient legends and promises of good times to come.

Kathryn lifted her fingers to touch his lips, and she felt his soft breath on her hand, and heard the low moan in the back of his throat. She felt her own pulse rate increase, and somewhere in the back of her mind she wondered how she'd gone so long without feeling his lips caressing hers.

She lifted her chin and slowly moved her mouth closer to his. He didn't move, but she could feel the heat radiate from his body, engulfing hers. She gently kissed the corner of his mouth, and felt the strength of his lips beneath hers. She moved slowly toward the center of his mouth, touching, caressing. But suddenly he wrapped his arms around her and deepened the kiss himself. She heard herself gasp from the contact, from the feel of his mouth on hers, his arms hugging her tight, the taste of his lips.

And Kathryn knew that everything she'd ever imagined about this kiss had been wrong. It was more delicious, more satisfying, more real and steady than anything she'd ever known before. And she knew without a doubt that this man belonged to her, and she to him. She pressed her body against his and felt him tremble in her arms. Wrapping her arms around his neck, she drew him even closer into her embrace.

And when she opened her mouth slightly, and he slid inside, they both moaned their response, taking pleasure in each other, in the moment they'd both waited seven years for.

It no longer mattered how many times he'd imagined kissing Kathryn for the first time, all of those images were gone now, dead. They were nothing, had been nothing, compared to kissing her now.

And if he had known what he'd truly been missing; he was certain he wouldn't have survived the seven years it had taken them to get to this moment. Nor did it matter what happened now. He wouldn't let her get away. He would follow her wherever she led, and be there for her, for the rest of their lives.

When she finally removed her lips from his, her eyes were dreamy, glazed, and the look on her face was more beautiful than anything he'd ever seen. He smiled at her, and she slowly grinned back.

Finally, she took a deep breath.

"I hope you realize we've just changed everything about our relationship," she whispered.

"No," he said softly. "We haven't changed anything. We've just added the final layer."

"Oh, I think there's one more layer left," she whispered, and her voice was full of promise and her eyes shone with longing. "The icing on the cake, one might say."

He swallowed.

"Kathryn . . . ."

She touched her fingers to his lips as she'd done before, and looked at them longingly.

"I'm a lousy cook, Chakotay, but I'd really like to make dinner for us tonight."

"What about the Italian restaurant?" he managed to ask.

"I think it might be nice to . . . stay in this evening," she said in a low, throaty voice, as she looked meaningfully into his eyes, and then kissed his chin. "What do you think?"

What did he think? He thought he would follow her to the ends of the known universe, and then some. He thought he would eat whatever she bothered to cook, or replicate, tonight, and think it wonderful. He thought he had never known love, or had any idea what it meant to truly love someone else, until now. He thought he was the luckiest person that had ever lived.

And he knew that he would live the last seven years all over again, just to get to this moment.

And Kathryn Janeway knew she'd finally come home to her knight in shining armor. His heart had belonged to her for a long time, but now she could touch him, feel him close to her. He had been there for her for seven long years, stood by her side and believed in her, come what may. Not everyone was lucky enough to be in the profession he or she loved, as she was, and not everyone understood when the time was right to swallow some pride, yet win in the end. She hadn't let him go, after all. There was something to be said for that. She might be stubborn, but when it finally came down to it, she wasn't a fool.

Chakotay was the most important thing in her life, and had been for a long time. He was her strength when she felt weak, her voice of wisdom when she needed another perspective, and even when she didn't. She smiled to herself. She wouldn't let him down. He had stolen her heart when he told her about the angry warrior all those years ago, and she'd never gotten it back. He didn't know it, but she had replayed that little speech in her head many times over the past years, each and every time she needed a shoulder to cry on, and had no one. Yes, he'd always been there for her, somehow, some way. And he was here now.

And she'd be damned if she ever let him go.

Chakotay kissed her again, gently, tenderly, and vowed to himself that he would never leave her side, not until the gods deemed their time together was up, no matter what lie in store for them now, or how stubborn she might be. He was here to stay.

"Kathryn . . . .?"

"Hmmmm?"

"I don't know about you, but I could do with an early dinner tonight."

She chuckled, and he grinned.

"Why not?" she said. "I think we've waited long enough."

And Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay left the Captain's quarters on the Intrepid starship Voyager for the last time, together.

THE END


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