The Captain sat in the big chair, her chair, on her bridge, on her ship; she was tired. Not just lack of sleep, although it would be nice to sleep, but bone weary, soul spent, emotionally drained, tired. Five long years spent in the Delta quadrant. Five years of struggle, hardship and self-denial had taken their toll. She longed for the freedom to pursue her own life; for the chance to have even one day free of the pressures of her Captaincy. She couldn't do this alone, not that he wasn't always beside her, but she never let him really into her life. Never let him in, not where she wanted him to be; she couldn't do this alone anymore. She made up her mind and she intended to tell him, if he still wanted her, she wanted more than their friendship. They had a great working relationship, a true and deep friendship, he always wanted more; so did she. Now she was ready to try and he was gone, well, missing anyway. The entire away team was missing. Gods she was tired.
It had been five hours since Chakotay had last checked in, at the time he said 'everything was fine'. Now, just five hours later, they were gone. They had been on the planet, in fact they were the only lifesigns on the planet. They were looking for supplies, gods why were they always looking for supplies? Now no life signs, at all. Scanners were reading no life signs on the planet, an ion storm let out the possibility of transport of another away team. They couldn’t establish a comm. link; a comm. link to what she wondered. Her mind replayed the words ‘no life signs’. Sitting here doing nothing was making her crazy.
The away team, consisting of Commander Chakotay, Lieutenant Paris, Ensign Wildman and Crewman Stabi, had vanished and she could do nothing but sit and wait. Wait for what?
‘What the hell are you waiting for, Kathryn?’
She thought. They couldn't transport with the storm, using a shuttle
would also be too risky, especially with their best pilot on the surface,
or where ever he was now. What was she waiting for? To send
another team in to the unknown? She couldn't---she wouldn't ----she had
to. Gods- she was tired.
"Mr. Tuvok, any sign of the storm letting up?"
"No, Captain." A straight forward, level Vulcan answer as always.
"Keep an eye on it and keep scanning for life signs. You have the bridge. I'll be in my ready room." She crossed the bridge in her usual brisk manner, but once the doors closed behind her she slumped.
"Computer lower the temperature 3 degrees, lights to 3/4." She made her way to the replicator. "Coffee, hot and black." Taking the coffee she passed over her desk for a more comfortable seat on the couch. She was hot, she was tired and she was getting a headache. She slipped off her jacket, put her feet up on the table and rested her head on the back of the couch. If Chakotay were here he would reprimand her for not getting proper rest, not eating proper meals and then he would message her neck and shoulders to help relive the headache. He's not here and that, in part anyway, was responsible for this particular headache.
"Tuvok to Janeway."
"Go ahead, Mr. Tuvok."
"Captain the storm is clearing. Still no life signs on the surface."
"Can we safely transport?"
"I believe that will be possible within the hour Captain."
"Put together a search team to be ready as soon as we're cleared for transport. I would like to lead it.” She realized she couldn’t. “but, with the Commander already planetside it's better if you do it."
"A wise decision, Captain." He heard her hesitation and he knew she wanted to go after him, He also knew the Captain would put the needs of the ship over her own needs.
"Let me know when you're ready. Janeway out."
She sat back again, closing her eyes, trying to shut out the pressure, the responsibility, the ship, the crew, the entire delta quadrant, until nothing remained of "Kathryn Janeway Captain of the Starship Voyager'. She felt only the lonely nagging emptiness of 'Kathryn the woman'. She focused on the woman. Kathryn was being crushed under the Captain's burdens. Once they had coexisted, Kathryn and the Captain, with ease, but sometime in the last five years the Captain took over and Kathryn was all but lost. It had been so long, not since New Earth, had Kathryn been allowed equality. New Earth, the memory was vivid and warm, she longed for that freedom again. For just a moment she allowed herself the memory, the sunshine, the simple quiet evenings, the damned monkey and--him—yes, that's what this was really all about. When all was said and done, it was all very simple---Kathryn was in love and the Captain forbade it. Kathryn longed to be with him, protocol wouldn't permit it. The Captain's interpretation of protocol, maybe that interpretation was wrong.
"Tuvok to Janeway." Her comm. badge broke the solitude.
"Captain the storm is clearing."
"On my way. Janeway out." She sat up pulling on her jacket. She wiped away the tears she hadn't even been aware of until now and exited the ready room. "Report." She spoke as she crossed to her command chair.
"The storm is dissipating, Captain, we should have transport capabilities in minutes." Tuvok said studying the station in front of him.
"Mr. Kim, scan the surface for life signs." She knew he had done little else for hours, but gave the order anyway.
"Nothing yet, Captain. I'm trying to filter out the ion interference,"
"Keep trying, Mr. Kim. Let me know when the readings are clear." She flipped up the console between their chairs. *'their' chairs --she couldn't even sit on the bridge without him---'it was theirs'.*
"Captain, I've filtered out everything; still no life signs." Harry shook his head in disbelief, searching his screen for any indication of life.
"Mr. Tuvok, is it safe to transport?"
"Yes Captain, I'm sending the coordinates to transporter room two, now."
"OK, let's do it. Mr. Kim keep scanning." She watched Tuvok leave the bridge then settled down to wait. Waiting was so hard. She hated waiting, she'd been waiting for a wormhole since the Array was destroyed, waiting for a let up in the pressure, waiting for a chance to resume her life, waiting to hold him and tell him how she really felt---gods she was tired of waiting.
"Tuvok to Janeway."
"Go ahead, Mr. Tuvok."
"We are ready for transport, Captain."
"Good luck, Tuvok. Janeway out."
"Captain, I'm picking up Mr. Tuvok's away team without a problem." Harry was hoping he wouldn't be able to detect them, than maybe it was just the sensors, but he picked them up clearly.
"Acknowledged, Mr. Kim." She understood, she too had hoped it was a sensor problem.
"Janeway to Tuvok."
"Tuvok here, Captain." Although his voice wasn't as strong and clear as it should have been the communication link was distinguishable.
"Any sign of them, a struggle ---anything?"
"Negative, Captain, no signs --no tricorder readings."
"Keep looking, I'm transmitting their
last known coordinates."
"Received Captain. I will keep you informed. Tuvok out."
"Mr. Kim, are you still picking up the second team?"
"Aye Captain. Still no sign of the first team."
"Acknowledged. You have the bridge, Mr. Kim. I'll be in my ready room." She left without waiting for an answer.
The doors slid closed and she slumped. Ordering the computer to lower the lights she returned to her earlier seat on the couch. Her headache was much worse. She tried to rationalize the situation. They hadn't been gone very long really, anything could be masking their life signs. It was way too early to panic and yet, she couldn't help the knot in he stomach. Something nagged at her, something bad. There was never a team they could afford to lose, never a crew member she was willing to sacrifice, but somehow this particular team, well, if there were a 'worst' team to lose this was it. Chakotay, her first officer and -god -best friend, her confidant, trusted advisor and--and --so much more. How could she ever go on without him? She couldn't even bare to think about such a desolate life. Tom Paris, her top pilot, friend. son of her mentor and B'Elanna how would she deal with this? Sam, god--Samantha Wildman was down there, a good science officer,mother of Naomi. How could they ever console the child if Sam were lost? Crewman Stabi was the last member of the team. Beth Stabi was eager, young, an expert in botanical sciences and wasn't she engaged to Ensign Carlson. She had to stop this, it had only been hours, nothing was definite, yet, she couldn't suppress the dread, the gnawing feeling of impending doom. Her head alternately pounded and throbbed, maybe it was effecting her thinking. She left her ready room and crossed the bridge.
"Mr. Kim, I'll be in sickbay." She spoke as the lift doors closed behind her.
Harry Kim watched the Captain go in silence. He didn't like the way she looked; he didn't like the feeling of dread that permeated the bridge. He looked around him, all the bridge station were filled with the wrong people. It wasn't as if this were the first time, many times in the past he had sat in the big chair and many of these same people covered the other bridge positions, only, only this time it seemed prophetic. Harry tried to shake it off concentrate on other things, but something dark kept sneaking into his thoughts. He couldn't pinpoint it, it just wasn't right..
The Captain visited sickbay and the doctor gave her a hypospray for her headache, along with a lecture on proper eating and rest. She ignored him and returned to her ready room.
"Captain, Mr. Tuvok is hailing us from the surface." Ensign Kim's voice interrupted her thoughts.
"Put him through, Mr. Kim."
"Captain, we have been unable to locate any sign of the away team. It is fully dark on the planet now and I advise suspending the search until morning."
"Acknowledged, Mr. Tuvok. Return to the ship. I'll await you in my ready room."
"Understood, Captain. Tuvok out."
The Captain personally checked the bridge scans of the surface, no change. Mr. Tuvok had little to report on his return. His team made a search of the last known location of the away team and as much of the surrounding area as possible. They found nothing, no signs of struggle, no signs that anyone had even been there. It didn't look good, but they decided to schedule four teams to search in the morning and to continue intensive scans of the planet and surrounding space. Tuvok was dismissed and the Captain returned to her quarters. It was 2300 hours, fifteen hours since Chakotay's team beamed down.
THREE WEEKS LATER
Voyager was still in orbit, extensive searches had turned up nothing. Four crew members had vanished without a trace and there was nothing she could do about it. It was time to call off the search and resume their journey, but she couldn't bring herself to do it. Whenever she would steel herself to give the order, she would see Naomi, B'Elanna, John Carson or something personal to remind her of her own loss. The entire ship had been affected, she had done her best, they all had, to fine them. She knew they had to move on.
"Janeway to Tuvok."
"Mr. Tuvok, may I see you in my ready room?"
"On my way, Captain. Tuvok out"
He knew why she had called him, he had been expecting it for days now. He knew also, how very difficult this was for her, losing crew, especially this crew. He rang the chime twice before she answered.
"Tuvok, it's time." She sat behind her desk, desperately trying to maintain her composure.
"Yes, Captain-I know."
"Will you please discreetly have Neelix
bring Naomi Wildman up. And have Lieutenant Torres and Ensign Carlson report
to my ready room about half an hour after that. It's only fair that
I inform them in person."
"Yes, Captain. Captain, would you prefer I do it?"
"Thank you, Tuvok. I'll be fine." She saw the refection of her own pain in her friend’s eyes.
Tuvok left and Kathryn tried to imagine what she could possibly say to a five-year-old that would make it even understandable. Her mother was lost and was never coming back---there was no nice way to say that. She walked over the view port. No matter what any of them felt, no matter what they lost, nothing could compare to losing you mother---especially at five. Her door chimed. She took a deep breath.
"Come." She turned to see Naomi and Neelix enter.
"Captain, you wanted to see us?" Neelix gave her a knowing look.
"Yes, come in. Please sit down." She indicated they should take a seat on the couch.
"Captain, my mother isn't coming back is she?" Naomi looked at her solemnly.
"Naomi..." She looked at her and her heart broke, she felt the tears well up in her eyes, tried to hold them back. "We have done everything we can. We have spent the last three weeks searching. No Naomi, I don't think she's coming back. I'm sorry." She knew the tears were escaping; it just didn't matter.
"I understand, Captain." There were tears in her eyes and she held tightly to Neelix's hand, but she never flinched.
"Naomi, we have to move on ...." She couldn't go on, she watched as a tearful Nelix put his arms around the child.
"We'll be OK Captain." Then he looked down at Naomi. "Honey, I'll take care of you." He held the softly crying child.
The Captain stood by feeling helpless as she watched Nelix try to comfort the child. She knew her own personal pain and wished she could spare Naomi. There was nothing else to do. Kathryn turned away. Letting them have time to absorb.
"Captain?" The small voice was right behind her.
She turned and looked down. "Yes Naomi?"
"I know you did every thing you could.
I know you wouldn't leave them if you didn't have to. Tears poured down
the brave little face.
Kathryn knelt and took Naomi in her arms, they cried together for a short time and then the chime sounded. Kathryn moved back and looked at Naomi.
"I'll go now, Captain. I know you have more to do." Naomi didn't release her hold on the Captain until Neelix came and put his hand on her shoulder.
"I'll see you later." Kathryn promised
Naomi and nodded to Neelix.
Neelix led Naomi out past B'Elanna Torres and John Carlson who were waiting to be admitted. B'Elanna watched sadly as Naomi passed, she looked at John; they both knew what this was. They went inside.
"Please, come and sit down." Kathryn wiped her tears. "I'm calling off the search, I'm sorry." There is nothing more we can do. I'll be recalling all away teams at nightfall. I plan on breaking orbit in the morning." She watched them struggle with the reality of their loss.
"Captain, I appreciate your position. I wish it could be different, but I do understand." John had great difficulty reining in his emotions, tears formed in his eyes. "Permission to beam down to the planet for the last search?" He stood at attention before her.
"Permission granted Ensign, just touch base with Mr. Tuvok first." She could not refuse him, she had been down to the planet and could understand the need to see for yourself.
Ensign Carlson walked toward the door and Kathryn turned her attention to her chief engineer, B'Elanna Torres. She studied her from the back. B'Elanna had moved to the view port and stared out into space.
"B'Elanna?" Kathryn spoke softly, realizing B'Elanna's loss was twofold. She was losing a lover and a good friend. "B'Elanna are you alright?"
"NO--- but I will be." B'Elanna turned, she was crying. It was very odd to see this strong woman cry. "I'm Klingon, I'll brake something, probably alot of somethings and I'll make it.---Captain, How are you?"
"I've been better, B'Elanna." Kathryn tried to smile, she couldn't, tears streamed down her face. B'Elanna came forward and embraced her.
After a while they sat on the couch. Kathryn fixed them tea and they waited for nightfall on the planet to officially end their hope.
"I'm so sorry, Captain. At least the rest of us get to acknowledge the extent of our loss. For you…Why is it always so much harder for you?"
"I'll be alright, B'Elanna. I'm the Captain, I have to be." She smiled a weak smile. "I'll miss them all."
"I know, but, maybe I'm out of line--forgive me--but I know you'll miss him the most." She laughed a strangled laugh. "I know 'cause living without that flyboy is gonna be hell"
"B'Elanna...." She started to protest; it was useless. "You're right and I never even told him." Kathryn was crying again.
"He knew, he always knew." She held Kathryn
in her arms and together they cried for their loss. "He loves you too."
At night fall all away teams were called back from the surface. The following morning, Voyager broke orbit, her Captain sat stoically on the bridge. In the days that followed the lost crewmen were mourned and memorialized. A ceremony was held at which the Captain spoke without breaking down, although no one knew how. B'Elanna gave a short eulogy and John Carlson expressed his grief. No one managed to maintain their composure when Naomi Wildman asked to speak and ended her talk by telling her mother not to worry about her because ‘she was with family on Voyager’ and would be well taken care of.
The helm was taken by Lieutenant Perking and Kathryn found it very strange to be staring at her dark curly hair, as she sat at the conn. Tuvok was promoted to First Officer but preferred to spent his time at his old tactical station and only sat in the command chair when Kathryn wasn't on the bridge. The crew adjusted; they had no choice.
Naomi found herself surrounded by loving family, just as she assured her mother she would be. She lived with Neelix, but the entire crew continued to look after her. John Carlson stayed pretty much to himself, but as time went on her ventured out slowly. B'Elanna and Kathryn had grown closer in their grief and spent a good deal of their off time together. B'Elanna was the only one who truly understood the extent of Kathryn's grief, at least the only one Kathryn could acknowledge it to. As time passed everyone seemed to adjust. In public the crew could laugh again, even the Captain. However in the solitude of her quarters one lonely woman cried herself to sleep every night. The Starship Voyager moved forward toward home.
19 MONTHS LATER
Voyager was in orbit around the planet Bentar. It was a pretty planet with a well developed civilization, a warp capable space faring race and so far they had been both welcoming and accommodating. The Captain had successfully negotiated for food supplies, dilithium and even spare parts for various systems on the ship. The crew was to be allowed shore leave, the Captain as usual declined any leave, claiming she had plenty of time on the planet during her negotiations.
Negotiations ended and shore leave was in full swing. Two day later Kathryn worked in her ready room on her half empty ship. The door chimed, she answered without looking up.
"Come." Kathryn looked up when the door swished closed. "Naomi, what can I do for you?"
"Captain----Aunt Kathryn..." Naomi started to cry and Kathryn came around the desk to her.
"Naomi, what is it? What's wrong?" Kathryn knelt down.
"Everybody left. I didn't get to go..." She sniffled.
"You went down yesterday, sometimes grownups
need some time too. I'm sure nobody meant to hurt your feelings."
"I just, sometimes it's hard to stay here. Mommy would never leave me here." She wiped her eyes and sniffled.
"Naomi, maybe you can go tomor..." Kathryn's heart melted when Naomi sucked in her breath, lip quivering, trying to hold back the tears. "OK---let me change and I'll take you down for lunch."
"Thank you." Naomi yelped with a big smile and Kathryn knew she's been had.
Kathryn changed and they beamed down and had lunch in a small cafe. They spent the afternoon in a nearby park and planned to have dinner before beaming back. They walked hand and hand through the market on their way to dinner.
"Naomi!" They both turned at the shrill sound of the woman's voice.
Kathryn turned with Naomi to face the sound. Before Kathryn could pinpoint the source of the voice, Naomi broke free and ran away. Kathryn stood gaping.
"MOMMY!" Naomi jumped into her mother's arms.
Kathryn joined the happy reunion and waited tearfully for them to remember her. There was nothing happier than the reunion of mother and child and Kathryn was so absorbed that for a minute she didn't realize what this might mean.
"Captain." Sam stood in front of her holding Naomi. "I thought I'd never see you again."
"Samantha, are you alright? What happened? Where is everyone?" Kathryn stopped, shook her head and embraced both mother and child.
"God it's good to see you." Sam was hugging Kathryn and kissing Naomi. "Everyone is here--all fine."
Kathryn stopped and looked at her. Her heart was pounding, could it really be? Could he be alive--here--close by? The tears started a new.
"Do you know where everyone is?"
"Yes, Beth is here in the market and Tom and Chakotay are at home." Sam looked around and spotted Beth. "Beth, over here hurry."
Another round of hugs and kisses and Kathryn tapped her comm. badge.
"Janeway to Voyager."
"Voyager here, Captain."
"Mr. Tuvok, locate B'Elanna Torres and John Carlson and have them meet me at these coordinates as soon as possible---Janeway out."
While they waited, Sam and Beth filled Kathryn in on what they knew, which wasn't much. One minute they were on the planet and the next they woke up here. They stayed together and tried to find a way to contact Voyager, but they were apparently a great distance from where they started. They worked and lived together and never gave up hope of finding a way home. Sam gave Kathryn directions to where Tom and Chakotay were; it was a short walk. Then they heard the whine of the transporter.
Kathryn faced John and B"Elanna, who were uncertain as to why they had been summoned. She welcomed them and then stepped aside to allow them to see Sam and Beth. They stood for a minute, open mouthed and then John swooped Beth into his arms and B'Elanna hugged Sam. After a short time, Sam, Naomi, Beth and John beamed back to Voyager and Kathryn and B'Elanna set out to find the men. It was a short walk, only a few blocks and they were standing just on the other side of the door. Neither could breathe. Kathryn knocked.
"It's open." Tom's voice called and Kathryn turned the knob and let B'Elanna go first.
"Tom" It was just a whisper, as they stood staring at one another. Then B'Elanna ran to him.
Kathryn stood back, not wanting to interrupt this happy reunion. She looked around the small place. It was neat and clean, a little crowded and empty except for Tom. She waited. Finally Tom and B'Elanna came up for air and remembered her.
"Kathryn, sorry---I.." B'Elanna stammered.
"Don't worry about it, Lanna, I understand."
"Captain, great to see you." Tom came forward and she hugged him.
"Good to see you, too." She didn't ask but the question was in her eyes.
"Chakotay should be back any minute and the girls... How did you find us?"
"We ran into Sam and Beth. It was purely by acc..." B'Elanna started to explain and stopped when she saw Chakotay come in. He walked with his arm around a dark haired young woman.
"B'Ella!" He yelled grabbing her up in a bear hug.
Kathryn turned and watched, waiting. He hugged B'Elanna with his eyes closed and when he opened them, she stood before him.
"Chakotay." She said quietly, watching his expression, trying to hold back her tears.
"Kathryn." He released B'Elanna and wrapped
his arms around Kathryn, who cried softly into his chest.
It was several minutes before anyone in the room could compose themselves. They all kept staring, laughing, crying and shaking their heads. Finally, Chakotay remembered the other person.
"Starrla. This is Kathryn Janeway and B'Elanna Torres, from our ship." He put his hand on her back to move her forward.
"Nice to meet you Starrla." Kathryn and Starrla smiled at each other.
"Nice to meet you, Captain." She extended her hand and Kathryn took it. "B'Elanna, I'm happy to meet you. Tom can talk about nothing that doesn't include you." She took B'Elanna's hand.
"I hope these boys haven't been too much trouble." B’Elanna tried to ease the building tension.
"Not at all. I enjoyed every minute. " Starrla looked around at their faces. "Well, you have a lot to catch up on. I'll just be going."
"Starrla, what about dinner?" Chakotay turned to her, his back to Kathryn. "We were supposed to have dinner, in fact I believe it is your turn to cook,"
"I don't think so I..."
"Starrla, don't let us spoil your plans" Kathryn said. "I should get back anyway. I'll.."
"No, I'll tell you what. I'll cook, if you both will stay for dinner." Starrla offered..
"I really should.."
"Kathryn, please stay." Chakotay looked at her and she had all she could do not to cry.
"OK, thank you, Starrla.
Can I help?"
"NO! I mean---err.." Starrla turned crimson with embarrassment.
"I see, he told you about my cooking. Very well, do it yourself." Kathryn laughed and everyone felt a little better.
"Go sit and catch up. I'll call you when dinner is ready."
"Can I help you?"
"No, Chakotay. Go and talk to your friends, it's been a long time." She smiled as she gave him a little shove toward the other room.
They did a lot of catching up and when Starrla called they joined her for a wonderful dinner. B'Elanna and Tom sat on one side of the small table leaving the others to spread around the other three sides. Chakotay sat across from Tom and B'Elanna, leaving Starrla and Kathryn to sit on either side of him, facing each other. The conversation remained light for the most part, while Tom and Chakotay regaled the lighter side of living so closely with Beth and Sam. Kathryn couldn't help but notice that a lot of the stories also included Starrla.
Although there were a few uncomfortable moments, they enjoyed the evening and it had gotten quite late before they realized it. The table was cleared and coffee served in the living room, where the seating was even more difficult. Chakotay sat on the chair and Starrla automatically went to sit with him, but opted for the floor instead. Kathryn took an end of the couch and B'Elanna sat in the middle leaning against Tom. As soon as the coffee was finished Kathryn excused herself, to return to the ship.
"I'll go with you." B'Elanna stood up.
"No, Lanna, stay here tonight." Kathryn smiled. "I'll see you tomorrow."
"Kathryn thanks, but I have an early shift , I better.."
"Lieutenant Torres, this is the Captain speaking,stay here. I do believe Carey has volunteered to take your shift tomorrow." Kathryn winked at them. "That's an order."
"Starrla it was nice to meet you. I'm sure I'll see you again." She turned to Chakotay and managed to smile. "Talk to you tomorrow."
"Kathryn." He took her hands and smiled down at her, she blushed. "Are you sure you have to go? Tuvok hasn't even called. I'm sure he can handle things."
"I--I have to go." She dropped his hands and walked out the door.
There was a heavy silence in the room. Chakotay sat back down in the chair, Starrla watched his face.
"Hey, listen, I have to run." No one responded so Starrla got up. "Good night."
"Starrla." Chakotay stood up.
"Hey, I'll see you tomorrow. OK?" And
she quickly left, before anyone thought to stop her.
When she got outside, Starrla looked around. She knew about the transporters but she didn't think Kathryn went back to the ship. She walked toward the park and then she saw her. She was seated on a bench just looking out into the night.
"Can I join you?" She stood next to her and Kathryn nodded. "Not ready to go back to the ship?" Kathryn didn't answer. "He's quite a guy."
"Yes, he is."
"He's been good to me, always treated me like a lady." Starrla looked away as she spoke. "It's something I'm not used to. I come from the wrong place--the wrong side---He told me the saying once, but I forget. You know the not so good side?"
"Wrong side of the tracks?" Kathryn offered quietly.
"Yea that's it. So people around here don't treat me so well sometimes." He always has."
"He would. That's the way he is, never judges anyone."
"Yea, He taught me a lot. He respected me, taught me to expect to be respected, that I deserve it. No one ever told me that before."
"He's right. You are just as good as anyone else here and probably better than some. You deserve respect." Kathryn looked at her. "I don't know you, but he apparently does and I trust his judgment."
"I love him." She looked back at Kathryn for reaction.
"I know. So do I."
"What?" Kathryn looked at her in surprise.
"Tell him how you feel." She held Kathryn's eyes. "He loves you. Oh, he cares about me, I know, but his heart belongs to you."
"I wanted to. I intended to --tonight, but..."
"I was there. Kathryn, go back and tell him." She stood up. "I'll keep him if you give me the chance." She looked down silently.
"Thought you two went home?" They both looked up at the sound of his voice.
"I'm on my way." She reached up and kissed
his cheek and turned back to Kathryn.
"Remember what I said, good night." She walked away without looking back.
"Mind if I sit?"
"What did she say?"
"That you're a great guy. Always respectful and that she learned a lot from you." Kathryn took a breath and looked at him. "She loves you and ----she'll keep you if.."
"She's a good person. Deserves better
than she's gotten." He glanced at Kathryn who was studying him. "If what?"
"If I give her the chance."
"Will you?" He looked deep into her eyes.
"It's not up to me." She touched
his face. "I've missed you so." Tears rolled down her cheeks.
"Kathryn don't cry." He wiped her tears with his fingers.
"I've cried every night for the past
nineteen months..." She turned her head, but he turned her back to him.
"Why?" He knew, but he needed to hear her say it, even if it was just this once.
"I love you." She held his gaze.
He held her eyes for minute, then bent to capture her lips. Her arms reached around his neck as he pulled her close and the kiss deepened.
"Voyager to Janeway" Tuvok interrupted.
She pulled back, keeping her eyes on his and hit hit her badge.
"Janeway here." They smiled at each other.
"Captain, It has been some time since you checked in. Ensign Wildman and Crewman Stabi explained their situation. I just want to be sure you are alright."
"I'm fine Tuvok. Sorry, I should have checked in. Please ask Mr. Carey to cover B'Elanna's shift tomorrow---she'll be staying here tonight."
"Aye, Captain and yourself? Will you be returning to the ship?"
"No, Tuvok. She will be staying here tonight."
"Commander, good to hear your voice."
"Likewise Tuvok. See you tomorrow, Chakotay out." He silenced the link and smiled down at her. "I love you, Kathryn Janeway." He brought her back to him.
As Voyager passed over head, two figures
embraced on a bench, in a park, deep in the delta quadrant. Once again
life on the Starship Voyager was about to change drastically. This
time the change would be good.
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