Disclaimer:  Paramount’s as always

Rating:  PG-13
 
 

                            AFTER ALL IS SAID AND DONE
 

By Mary S.
 
 

           Voyager was back.  After seven years and seventy thousand light years, defying death and destruction countless times – they had done it.

           Kathryn Janeway stood at the viewport in her ready room, gazing at a sight she had begun to believe she would never see again – her home – Earth.  She should be happy – hell, she should be ecstatic, singing in the corridors, turning cartwheels across the bridge!  But no, here she was, quiet, sad, feeling only the ache of loneliness in the midst of her greatest achievement.

           For so long, she had dreamed of sharing this moment with the man who had stood with her all through those seven years, who had been there in triumph and sorrow, who had kept his promise to stay by her side.

           But now, he wasn’t there; he had moved on, found someone else to share his life with, and she had no one to blame but herself.  Finally, Chakotay had given up, had decided she really didn’t want more than friendship, and had begun a relationship with Seven of Nine.

           Kathryn smiled sardonically.  Of all people, Seven was the last person she would have expected him to fall for.  They had been barely civil to one another for the first couple of years after she had been liberated from the Borg, and even later, they had had very little to do with one another.  She couldn’t see it, couldn’t see them as a couple – but, apparently, they were.  And she was left alone – again.
 
           She sighed and turned back to the pile of PADDs on her desk, scooping them into a bag.  Time to go.  The Board of Review, convened to examine her actions in the Delta Quadrant, had called her to begin testifying the following morning.  She expected that the next several days would be long and arduous.
 

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           Chakotay and Seven of Nine stepped out of the Excelsior’s shuttle onto the soil of Dorvan Five.  Home at last.  He looked about, trying to pick out landmarks, but other than the range of hills in the near distance, nothing appeared familiar.

           This spaceport was new, built only in the last year to serve a small but growing fleet of freighters that had begun to stop on an irregular basis as more and more colonists returned to the planet, attempting to rebuild their shattered lives.  It appeared to have been cobbled together out of whatever materials had been lying around, but despite its haphazard appearance, it served as port, administrative centre and the only settlement presently extant on the planet.   Everything else had been eradicated by the Cardassians in a final orgy of destruction before they had withdrawn their troops.

           Besides erasing every vestige of the colony, the occupation force had burned huge tracts of forest and poisoned much of the water supply.  Whole herds of animals had been annihilated and of course, the few humans left had been stood up against a wall and executed.

           The only survivors were those who had been off-planet at the time of the occupation, among them Chakotay’s sister.

            Kaya, the youngest of Kolopak’s children, had been in her early teens when the village had been destroyed.  The local Federation representative, Ghalil Tor, a retired Starfleet officer who had served briefly with Chakotay some years earlier, had made a concerted effort to rescue as many of the latter’s family as he could from the massacre.  In the end, he was only able to save Kaya.

           Dodging enemy patrols, he had managed to get them both to the nearest port, where a Federation shuttle still waited even as Cardassian troop carriers began to land in order to seize the planet.

           In the subsequent confusion and turmoil, it was several days before Tor could get a message through to Starfleet Command.  By the time he did, Chakotay had already received the terrible news of the massacre, had tendered his resignation and disappeared to join the Maquis, unaware that his sister was alive.  It would be nearly a decade before he learned that not every member of his family had perished on that dreadful day.

           At a loss, but unwilling to abandon his charge, Ghalil Tor had taken Kaya with him when he returned to his own home, a mixed-species colony on Candor Minor, a planet located in a small solar system some distance from Earth.  She had grown up with his children in a safe, stable family home, which had done much to erase the horrors of her last days on Dorvan Five.

           But she didn’t forget her origins and indeed, Tor encouraged her to remember as much of her heritage as she could.

           When she reached adulthood, Kaya announced that she wished to travel to Earth to try to trace her ancestors, as her father had done over twenty years before.  Once there, she soon found her cousin in Ohio, and discovered what had happened to the remnants of their tribe after the occupation of Dorvan.

           Tandikay had been settled on Earth for some years.  Like Chakotay, he had found the traditional life of Dorvan much too restrictive and had opted to leave only two years after his cousin.  However, instead of entering Starfleet Academy, he had pursued a business career and at present, was comptroller of a large, inter-planetary corporation specializing in interstellar trade.

           With the annihilation of the colony on Dorvan, he had become the senior elder of the tribe, and his home the unofficial centre for the very few members who were still alive.

           Kaya had vaguely recalled hearing about Tandikay, although she had never met him as he had left before she was born.  But she did remember his name, and with a bit of luck, was able to track him down.  She was welcomed with open arms, the only survivor of Kolopak’s family, or so they believed at the time.  She felt at home at once, in a way that she had not for a long time.  Kind as Ghalil Tor and his family had been, she had always known she could never completely be one of them.  Tandikay was blood kin, her biological family.  From him and the others of her tribe, she gradually rediscovered her heritage and embraced it enthusiastically.

           Chakotay’s first letter from the Delta Quadrant arrived not long after Kaya had established a place in the household.  She had mixed feelings about her brother.   Having seen him only twice during her childhood on Dorvan, she remembered him more as some mythical being than as an actual person.  And he was still so far away that, as far as she was concerned, he might as well be as dead as she had previously believed.  She debated whether to even ask Tandikay not to reveal her existence in his reply, but in the end, it was taken out of her hands when he decided that the fate of the Maquis was the most important news.   Sveta, who had originally recruited Chakotay, was chosen to answer his message.  He didn’t learn of Kaya’s survival until over a year later.  By then, she had had time to come to terms with his situation and had initiated the contact herself.

           Meanwhile, the war with the Dominion had ended, Cardassia lay in ruins, and Dorvan was free once more.  Several of the younger members of the tribe decided to go and see what was left.  What they found enraged them, but also lit a fire of determination to rebuild their old home.  They would re-establish the colony, and live as their forefathers had done, without the benefits of modern technology.   Furious at the cowardly manner in which the Federation had abandoned Dorvan, they declared they would accept no aid – ‘handouts’, they called it.

           Two years later, they had made remarkable progress, considering the state of the planet on their arrival, but still, they lived a very basic existence.

           With Voyager’s sudden, spectacular return to Earth and the subsequent full pardon of the Maquis, Kaya invited her long-lost brother to join them in the effort to resurrect their former life.  What she hadn’t known when he tentatively accepted, was that he would be accompanied by the epitome of technology – Seven of Nine.

           Officially, the commander was on the same two-month leave granted all the crew.  Unofficially, he hadn’t made up his mind what to do.  Dorvan was one of several options open to him.  He and Seven had already decided against her entering the Academy so that one day they might serve together.  Their rank would never be equal and Starfleet protocols discouraged fraternization between different ranks.  Besides, Chakotay had had enough of deep space.  He wanted to stay in one place, put down roots, and make a permanent home.

           Seven was not so inclined to settle just yet, but agreed to keep an open mind.  Truth be told, while at first she had been glad to have the commander’s guidance and knowledge at her disposal, after a month, she was finding her feet and starting to chafe at his protectiveness.  She attempted to hide her distaste for his urge to return to Dorvan, but she was not good at duplicity – Chakotay knew she didn’t really want to go there.  However, he had burned his bridges when he started a relationship with her and he wasn’t about to give up on her yet.  He hoped that once she saw Dorvan, she would be intrigued enough by the challenge to want to stay and help.  He soon found he had seriously misjudged her.

           Kathryn Janeway would have reacted exactly as he hoped, but Seven was not the captain, and her belief in the value of technology was paramount.  She simply could not comprehend why these people would deliberately turn their backs on the advantages of modern life.

           Very quickly, she and Kaya were at loggerheads, as she made no effort to hide her disdain for those who, out of foolish pride and a belief in antiquated traditions, would reject all the benefits the Federation had to offer.

           Chakotay, understanding both points of view, had a strong sense of déjà vu.  He had been caught in the middle of the same argument countless times in his youth and knew there was no clear resolution.  A person either accepted technology or not – it was a subjective decision, and no amount of discussion would make any difference.

           A day after their arrival, Seven announced that she had hailed the Excelsior and requested transport back to Earth.  Was he coming?

           Chakotay looked around him at the land he had once been so desperate to leave – and knew he would stay.  He turned to Seven and caressed her cheek before kissing her gently.

           “This is my home.  This is where I need to be.”

           She gazed at him steadily, then nodded.  “You understand why I must go.”

           “Yes, I do.”  He sighed, then smiled for her.  “Have a good life.”

           He paused as if trying to find more words but remained silent as she turned and walked to the shuttle.  He watched until it had lifted off and disappeared into the atmosphere.  He knew that most likely he would never see her again.
 

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           Over the next few weeks, Chakotay settled into his new life.  On his first trip into the spaceport, he had sent a message to Starfleet Command, formally resigning his commission.  He had no response but didn’t really expect one.

            He chose to live away from the village, picking out a spot on the edge of the hills that overlooked the port – halfway between the old and the new, just as he had always been.  His days were busy as he worked to build a small adobe cabin, one-roomed but functional.  He dug out a garden plot close to the creek which meandered around the base of the hill, and began to plan a method of irrigating it.   Fortunately, this particular stream had been overlooked by the Cardassians in their effort to poison the river systems, so at least he was assured a supply of potable water.

           He had enough to occupy his mind during the day that he found the isolation bearable.  He knew he would be welcome whenever he chose to join the village, but he wasn’t at all sure he wanted to.  In his opinion, his sister and the others had gone to extremes, becoming born-again tribalists.  He had agreed with Seven that their all-out rejection of Federation aid was foolish pride – cutting off their collective nose to spite their face.  As well, he was still angry with Kaya for provoking a confrontation with Seven as soon as they had met.  All in all, he had decided that, for the time being, he was better off on his own.  Perhaps in the future, when the hurt and disappointment had faded, he would make an attempt to reestablish a connection with the tribe.

           Although his days were filled with activity, his nights were not.  Once the sun had set, darkness fell quickly, and Chakotay was alone with only his thoughts for company.  Too often, his mind followed the same path, wondering about his friends from the ship – what they were doing and how well they were re-adapting to life in the Alpha Quadrant.  From there, inevitably, his musings would stray to one particular friend – Kathryn.

           Again and again, he found himself speculating about her new life.  Had she been promoted?  Had she been given command of another ship or was she holding out for Voyager?  Or had she decided to take a ground-based posting for a change?  Was she happy?

           He knew now that he had miscalculated badly when he’d started a romance with Seven.  At the time, he had been flattered by her obvious interest and desire.  And he had come to believe that there really was no point waiting for Kathryn, that she had never been interested in more than friendship.  Later, after they’d arrived on Earth, he wasn’t so sure but by then, he was fully involved with Seven.

           Now, he wondered anew if he had misjudged Kathryn’s professional detachment for lack of interest.  He should have waited, should have stayed away from Seven, but at the time, no one had known they would get home so soon. And Kathryn had made it very clear that as long as they were in the Delta Quadrant, she could not indulge in a relationship with any member of her crew.

           The arguments went round and round in Chakotay’s head, night after endless night.  He could go back to Earth, of course, find her, see how she felt.  But he knew he was too ashamed to try.  Going back would be admitting to everyone that he had failed yet again in a relationship, regardless of the circumstances.  Besides, he told himself, she was probably an admiral by now and certainly wouldn’t need a former terrorist intruding in her life.  His presence wouldn’t help her career advancement at all.

           Bitter and lonely, Chakotay tried to make a life for himself on the planet of his birth, reflecting all the while that he wished he was still on Voyager in the Delta Quadrant.  He had been a lot happier there.
 

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           Had he but known it, on Earth, Kathryn Janeway was indulging in similar thoughts.  After all she had done, all she had denied herself in order to achieve her paramount goal of getting home, she found herself with nothing to do and nowhere to go.  Her crew was dispersed, her ship in drydock unlikely to fly again, and Command refused to give her another, citing ‘issues’.  In fact, the Board of Review, which had combed exhaustively through every log available, expressed serious reservations about her ability to command anything.

           Her decision-making process had exhibited serious flaws – the Equinox fiasco and the alliance with the Borg were mentioned as two examples among many.  In vain, she tried to make her examiners understand the incredible difficulties her crew had faced, that she had done what she had to in order to survive.  Reading about their adventures from her ship’s logs while sitting in the comfort of an air-conditioned office was one thing, actually experiencing them another.  The members of the board proved unable to comprehend the difference.

           As well, before the admiralty would even consider giving her another command, they demanded that she undergo extensive counseling.  When Admiral Hayes brought up the subject, at the same time making it clear this ‘suggestion’ was not open to debate, Kathryn stormed out of Headquarters, absolutely furious, knowing even as she strode across the main plaza that she had no choice.  Here in the Alpha Quadrant, she had to follow orders, no matter how idiotic.

           She plunked herself down on the first bench she came to and stared at her boots, wondering what she was going to do.  They were boxing her in, forcing her to do things their way.  She had a sudden urge to go back into Hayes’ office and throw the damned pips in his face but fought down the impulse, knowing she couldn’t burn her bridges if she wanted to salvage her career.

           While she was still muttering imprecations under her breath, a shadow fell across her feet.  She glanced up to find Reginald Barclay standing beside her, looking nervously hopeful.

           “Excuse me, Captain.  I h-hope this isn’t a bad t-time.  I-I just wan-wanted to say ‘hello’.  You didn’t l-look very hap-happy and I-I…”  His stammering voice trailed off at her stare.  He started to back away.  “I’ll leave. I’m s-sorry to have bothered you.”

           Kathryn had been so surprised to see him there that she hadn’t registered at first what he was saying.  But now his words sank in, and she sprang to her feet.

           Over two years before, this man had been the first to speak to her, his voice the first direct link she’d had to the Alpha Quadrant.  His contribution to her crew’s morale and her own, had been immeasurable.  She couldn’t let him leave when he’d only been trying to help her yet again.

           “Mr. Barclay!” her voice rang out.

           He turned back to her, his face apprehensive.  “C-Captain?”

           She smiled warmly.  “Please.  Come and sit with me.  I’m sorry to have seemed so rude.  My bad humour wasn’t directed at you, believe me!”

           He hurried to her side, pleased to see her smile.  “I didn’t mean to intrude, Captain, but you looked so downcast and…I thought you might like a friend.”

           “I would indeed.  Your face is the best thing I’ve seen all day!” she declared emphatically.  Before she knew it, Kathryn was confiding in him, telling him about Headquarters insane insistence that she get counseling, the thought of which absolutely appalled her.

           Barclay heard her out even as an idea percolated in the back of his mind.  When she finally paused, he voiced it to her.

           “You know, Captain, one of my very best friends is a counselor.  Her name is Deanna Troi – she serves on the Enterprise, has done for years.  Whenever I need help or advice, I go to her.  She’s wonderful!”

           Janeway turned over the idea in her head.  “Would she be willing to see me?  Would her captain – Jean-Luc Picard, isn’t it? – allow her to?”

           “Can’t hurt to ask.  She helped me twice during the Pathfinder Project and also with Dr. Zimmerman when your EMH came to Jupiter Station to treat him.”

           “Did she?  I didn’t realize she had been involved.”

           “Oh yes.  She was instrumental in getting Dr. Zimmerman to consent to treatment.  If it hadn’t been for her, he never would have agreed.”

           “Really!” drawled Janeway, remembering quite a different tale which she’d had from the doctor.  In his version, Troi’s name had never even been mentioned.

           “If you like, Captain, I could ask her ‘off the record’.  Then, if she can’t see you, well…it’s all unofficial.  Would you like me to?”

           The captain shrugged her shoulders.  Why not?  At this point, she had nothing to lose and perhaps a lot to gain.  “Thank you, Mr. Barclay, I would.”

           She rose to her feet.  “I’ll hope to hear from you soon.  Again, thank you.”

           “My pleasure, Captain.  I’ll let you know as soon as I can.”

           She watched him scurry into Headquarters, legs moving at an ungainly trot.  What an odd man!  but with a good heart.  She felt much better and decided it was time to go home.
 

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           Lieutenant Barclay got lucky twice over.  The Enterprise-E was at McKinley Station, awaiting the installation of new experimental technology, and Deanna Troi agreed at once to take on Kathryn Janeway, if Captain Picard approved.  The captain, in turn, was very sympathetic to Janeway’s situation.  He had a better grasp than most of the hell she had been through.  Lending her his counselor was the least he could do.

           Troi thanked him, adding that she was most curious, from a professional point of view, to see just how seven years of command isolation had affected Janeway.  She suspected Starfleet could learn quite a few lessons from the captain’s experiences.

           She then contacted Reg to tell him the good news but cautioned him not to say anything to Janeway.  She didn’t want any of the captain’s preconceived notions cluttering up the process.  She could learn a lot more from a surprise visit.
 

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           Shortly after breakfast the following morning, Kathryn was startled by her door chime.  Wondering who on earth could be calling at such an early hour, she opened her door to find a very pretty, slender, dark-haired woman with enormous brown eyes, dressed in a Starfleet sciences uniform, smiling a greeting.

           “Captain Janeway?”

           “Yes?”

           “I’m Deanna Troi, Reg Barclay’s friend from the Enterprise.”

           “Oh!  You’re the counselor!”  Kathryn’s voice was startled.

           “Yes.”  She paused.  “May I come in?”

           “Oh, I’m sorry!  Yes, of course.”  Janeway led the way to her living room.  “Please sit down.  Would you like some coffee?  I just made a fresh pot.”

           “No, thank you.  Perhaps later.”

           They sat, silent for the moment, each appraising the other.

           “Captain,” began Troi.  “Reg told me the basic facts of your situation, but not the details.  Perhaps if you could explain it to me, I would have a better idea of just how I can help.”

           Janeway gathered her thoughts and began her tale once more.  But this time, she discovered, she didn’t have to go into complicated explanations about why she had done what she had.  This woman seemed to have no trouble understanding the reasons for her decisions.  The captain found herself relaxing, warming to her.  She couldn’t believe over an hour had passed by the time she finished.

           Deanna sat quietly, gazing absently at the wall as she searched for just the right response.  She found Kathryn Janeway to be a fascinating personality, and she desperately wanted to take her on as a patient.  But she had sensed the deep reserve, the walls that the captain had in place.  To really help her, she would need to breach those walls and find the woman underneath.  She had a feeling that wasn’t going to be easy.

           She clasped her hands together and turned her head to stare straight at Janeway, knowing that brutal honesty was the only answer.

           “Captain,” she began, “let me be frank.  First of all, I don’t know if you were told that I am half-Betazoid.”  Janeway shook her head.  Troi went on.

           “What it means is that, while I can sense another person’s feelings and emotions, I cannot read their thoughts.  I’m empathic, not telepathic.  Do you understand the difference?”

           “Yes,” replied the captain.

           “Good.  I don’t want any misunderstanding about my abilities.”  She leaned forward.  “I would very much like to take your case.  And I believe I can help.  But, in order to do that, I need a commitment from you of complete and total honesty.  No fudging the facts, no dissembling.  I’ll know anyway if you do, so there’s really no point.  In turn, I will promise to always give you my best advice, even if it hurts.  Can you agree to these conditions?”

           “Yes, I believe so.”

           “Very well.  I would like to see you on a regular basis for one to two hours at a time.  The place doesn’t matter.  In fact, it often helps to move around.  We can meet in a park, for example, go for a walk, whatever we choose.  And I’m leaving the length of each session flexible so that we can take more time if we need it.  Are you comfortable with this arrangement?”

           “Yes, it sounds fine.  Can we meet here sometimes?  Or – do you have an office at Headquarters?”

           “Not really, no.  And frankly, I think we’ll both do better away from there.  Gets a bit stuffy, doesn’t it?”

           Janeway chuckled.  “Yes, it certainly does.”

           Deanna rose to her feet.  “I think it might be best if we spent the first few sessions here in familiar surroundings.  Then we can try out different locations.”  She had a sudden inspiration.  “Would you like to see my ship?  The Enterprise?  She hadn’t been built when you left.”

           The captain’s eyes lit up.  “Indeed I would!”

           “Then I’ll arrange it.  Well, shall we say the day after tomorrow at the same time?  Good.  I’ll see you then.  Goodbye, Captain.”

           Kathryn saw her out and then returned to sit in her armchair, pondering this new turn of events.  She had liked Deanna Troi at once, and was relieved that she had agreed to take her on.  She recalled the counselors she had been sent to years ago, after her father’s and Justin’s deaths.  What a useless bunch of idiots they had been!  In the end, it was her sister’s gut instinct and Mark’s common sense and quiet support that had done her the most good.  If only she’d had someone like Deanna then, she would have been saved a lot of misery.

           Well, she had her now, thanks to Mr. Barclay.  She found herself actually looking forward to their next meeting.
 

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           Over the next several weeks, Kathryn Janeway and Deanna Troi became very close.  It hadn’t taken long for Troi to pick up on Kathryn’s feelings for Chakotay.  Intrigued, she questioned her in considerable detail about the turmoil she sensed in Kathryn every time his name was mentioned.  Once she learned the full extent of the captain’s feelings, she asked the next obvious questions.

           “Did he know how you felt?  Did you ever tell him?”

           “I didn’t tell him, no.  I couldn’t.  I don’t have to explain the protocols regarding captains’ fraternizing to you, Deanna.”

           “No,” replied Troi, thinking of her own captain, “you don’t.  But those protocols have eased quite a bit in the last few years.  They’re not nearly as rigid as they used to be.  Starfleet has finally seen the light in that regard.”

           “Well, as far as I was concerned, the old rules were still in effect.  Whether he knew anyway, I don’t know.  He could well have.  We were very close – he was my best friend for most of the time we were in the Delta Quadrant.  He knew me pretty well, just as I knew him.  Or thought I did.”  Her voice trailed off as she felt again her shock at learning of Chakotay’s romance with Seven.

           Deanna sensed it at once.  “What happened?  Why didn’t you tell him when you got home?”

           “I…couldn’t.  By then, you see, he was…involved with Seven.”  She tried to keep her voice under control.  “I was too late.  It was my own fault, really, I had pushed him away so many times that I guess he finally got tired of waiting.  I…wasn’t always very nice to him, Deanna.  I used him sometimes, manipulated him, using his feelings for me to get him to do something when he didn’t want to.”

           At Troi’s surprised stare, she quickly explained.  “For the ship, you understand, not for me.  Out there, I did whatever I had to for my ship.  That was the most important thing – Voyager’s welfare.  But I suffered for it, and so did he, from time to time.”  She bowed her head, trying to bury the hurt again but Troi was having none of it.

           “No, Kathryn, don’t hide those feelings.  That’s part of your problem – hiding from yourself, from who you are.”

           “Deanna!  That’s not true!  I know exactly who I am!”

           “A Starfleet captain.  Yes, I know.  But what else are you?”

           “What do you mean?”

           “Let’s look at you outside Starfleet.  What are you?”

           Kathryn sat, dumbfounded.  “I don’t know,” she answered slowly.

           “Well, I think that’s the next step – to find out.”

           Gradually, Deanna coaxed Kathryn into revealing her deepest feelings, starting with the sense of abandonment she had first experienced after the deaths of her father and fiancé.  Again and again, she had been left alone.  She had lost Mark, first when her ship was thrown into the Delta Quadrant and again, four years later, when she learned he had given up on her and married someone else.

           As Troi led her through the misery and pain, a lot of tears were shed.  But at the same time, Kathryn became aware of a renewed sense of herself, as if she had been cleansed of all the guilt she had known.  The sheer luxury of having someone to whom she could say anything was an indulgence she had never previously allowed herself.  She remembered all the times Chakotay had tried to get her to talk, to open up to him, but always she had refused, hiding behind the captain’s façade, afraid of letting down her guard.  He had known her so well that most of the time, he saw right through her and told her so, but she still hadn’t been able to let him in.

           With Deanna, she was encouraged not to hold back, to let go.  It felt wonderful.

           For her part, Troi kept true to her promise of complete honesty.  She didn’t hesitate to show Kathryn how she had been lying to herself for years, not facing up the feelings she had for Chakotay, not trusting her crew enough to support her.  Always, she had had to be the best, the quintessential captain, needing no one.

           “It was very arrogant, you know, to think you could do it all alone,”  Deanna stated in no uncertain terms.

           “But I did!” replied Kathryn heatedly.

           “Yes,” retorted Troi, “but at what cost?  Look at you now, a lonely, unhappy woman.  And, in your efforts to do it all, you lost your compassion.  You need to admit this to yourself before we can go to the next step.”

           At that point, Troi was called away and it was several days before she saw Kathryn again.  When she did, she found a chastened, but determined woman.

           Kathryn had spent the time alone in an honest assessment of herself.  Much as she hated to acknowledge the fact, she knew Deanna was right.  She had to learn to accept herself as she was, and not feel guilty when she couldn’t control every circumstance.

           “You’re not perfect, thank goodness,” Deanna reminded her.  “You’re a human being.  Remember that and you’ll be fine.  Now I have some news which I think you’ll find interesting.

           “An hour ago, I ran into Reg Barclay and guess who has just joined him to work on a new, top-secret project?  Seven of Nine!”

           Kathryn stared, astonished.  “Really?!  I hadn’t heard.”  She leaned forward.  “What exactly did he say?”

           “Well, not a lot beyond telling me I would find her ‘fascinating’, which I’m sure I would.  I did ask if he knew if Chakotay was here as well, but he said he didn’t.  However, he promised to find out and let me know as soon as possible.”

           She folded her hands and looked at Janeway.  “How would you feel about seeing him again?”

           “I could do it.  We were good friends for a long time, long before Seven.  I…I would like to see him, Deanna, even if only to say hello.”

           “Good for you.  I’ll call you as soon as I hear from Reg.”

           But both women were quite nonplused with what he had to say the next day.  Troi hurried to Kathryn’s apartment at once, anxious to be with her when she heard the news.

           “Kathryn!  You won’t believe this!  Chakotay isn’t here!  He’s on Dorvan and from what Seven told Reg, likely to stay there!”

           “You mean they’ve split up?!”

           “Looks that way.”

           “I wonder how we could find out.  Let me think.”

           Kathryn sat silent, then rose and went to activate her comm. unit.  A minute later, she was speaking to the Parises.

           “Captain!” exclaimed B’Elanna, clearly delighted.  “What a wonderful surprise!  How are you?”

           “Just fine, B’Elanna.  And you?  How’s Miral?”

           “Oh, she’s great, Captain, growing like a weed.  She’s nearly five kilos now.”

           Kathryn chuckled to herself at B’Elanna’s maternal pride.  Who would have believed it, seven years ago!  Not her, certainly.

           B’Elanna called Tom, who appeared now behind her.  “Hey, Captain, good to see you.”

           “Good to see you, too, Tom.  I hear that young lady of yours is coming along very nicely.”

           “She certainly is.  And she’s the apple of her grandfather’s eye, I might add.”

           “That’s great, Tom.  I’m so glad for you and B’Elanna.”

           “Yeah, everything worked out very well in the end.”  His eyes narrowed.  “What about you?”

           “Oh, I’m fine.  I’ve been taking it easy while on leave.”  She paused, then decided to plunge in.  “Actually, I called to find out if you’ve heard about Chakotay and Seven.  It seems they’re no longer together, although no one seems to know for sure.  I figured if anyone had the inside scoop, Tom, it would be you two.”

           B’Elanna’s eyes widened in shock.  “They split up?!”

           “Seems so.  I gather you didn’t know either.  I thought you might have talked to Chakotay lately.”

           “Noo, I haven’t.”  B’Elanna hesitated, then spoke bluntly.  “We didn’t part on very good terms, Captain.”

           “She means they had an all-out screaming match,” interjected Tom.

           “Good heavens!  When?!”

           “Right before we disembarked.  B’Ela found out about Seven – and let him have it!  Good thing that I’d already packed the bat’leth or you would have been short a first officer.”

           “Tom!  Enough!  The captain doesn’t need the details,” protested B’Elanna, trying to cut him off.

           “Yes, she does,” retorted Janeway in her best command voice.  “Spill it!  What happened?!”

           “Well, I went to his quarters to say goodbye and…uh, surprised him with Seven.  They were…” she stopped, obviously embarrassed.

           “Keep going!” demanded the captain.  “They were what?”

           “They were in bed together, naked,” B’Elanna got out.  “Doing what naked people do in bed.  Captain, I’m sorry.”

           “Don’t be, B’Elanna.  You did nothing wrong.”  Janeway started to smile.  She had to admit – it made quite a mental picture.  “What happened then?”

           “Well, Chakotay was pretty angry, which wasn’t surprising, I guess.  Seven just lay there and smirked.  I was so stunned, I couldn’t move!  I mean – it was the last thing I expected!  I’d only used the override because he hadn’t answered the chime!  To hear him, you’d think I’d turned – traitor or something!”

           Kathryn couldn’t hold back any longer, bursting into roars of laughter.  B’Elanna and Tom both stared at her before breaking into grins.

           “I guess it was pretty funny,” conceded B’Elanna, “although it didn’t seem like it at the time.”

           “No, I guess not.  What did you do then?”

           B’Elanna looked embarrassed so Tom answered for her.  “She got mad, Captain, really mad.  Told him he was a p’takh and – what else did you call him?”

           “I yelled that he was a turncoat, that he had betrayed you and all of us who had believed in him, that obviously he had lost whatever integrity he’d had, and that while Seska had been bad – this was worse!  I was so angry!”

           “Yes, I can see that,” replied Kathryn.  “So obviously, you’ve had no further contact with either of them.”

           “No.  Where did you hear this?”

           “A friend of mine, who knows Reg Barclay, heard it from him.  He told her that Seven has joined his team on some new hush-hush project.  Apparently, Chakotay is on Dorvan.”

           B’Elanna’s eyebrows shot up in surprise.  “Well, if she’s working with Reg, I’ll run into her.  I’m involved in the same project.”

           “Can you talk about it?”

           B’Elanna bit her lip.  “Uh, no, Captain, I can’t.  Sorry.  I would if I could.”

           “That’s all right.  Probably better if I don’t know.”

           “I’ll see what I can find out and let you know.”

           “Thank you, B’Elanna.  And you too, Tom.”

           Kathryn signed off and turned to find Deanna grinning at her.  “Well, what do you think, Counselor?”

           “I think you shouldn’t give up hope, Captain.  The paths of love…well, from personal experience, I can tell you they go in the most unlikely directions.”
 

                                         =^= =^= =^= =^= =^= =^=
 

           It was late the following day before Kathryn heard from B’Elanna but her news was worth the wait.  She had found Seven and confronted her, practically forcing a confession out of the ex-Borg.

           “It’s true, Captain, they’ve broken up.  Seven wouldn’t say much, but I gather it wasn’t pretty.  She did confirm what Reg said – as far as she knows, Chakotay is still on Dorvan Five.  That was all I could get out of her, short of strangling her.  I didn’t think Reg would like that – he says she’s proving very useful.”

           Kathryn chuckled, remembering some of the memorable confrontations between B’Elanna and Seven in the past.  It sounded like this one had ranked right up there with the best.

           “B’Elanna, thank you. Don’t be too hard on Seven.  I suspect she’s pretty unhappy right now.  And remember you do have to work with her.”

           “I’m glad to help, Captain.  Oh, by the way, we want to know when you’re free to come for dinner.”

           “Anytime.  I’m not working.”

           They made arrangements for the following evening, then Kathryn signed off and promptly called Deanna.  Try as she might, she couldn’t stop the feeling of elation creeping through her from head to toe.  When Troi answered her comm signal, Kathryn related the latest news and asked her for advice.  Deanna noted the new light in her eye and smiled.

           “Remember what we talked about, Kathryn?  Only you know if you still want him.”

           Kathryn stared at her, then began to nod her head.  “Yes, I do.”

           “Well, then, go and get him.”

           “Just like that?”

           “Just like that.  Time’s a-wasting, Captain.  I wouldn’t sit around here and maybe give someone else a chance at him.”

           Kathryn’s head snapped up.  “Good point.”  She rose to her feet.  “Deanna, thank you for all your help and care.  I’ll let you know how it turns out.”

           “You do that.  Goodbye, Kathryn, and good luck.”

           Kathryn signed off and started to make the necessary arrangements for travel to the former DMZ.  Two days later, she left for Bajor on the first leg of the long trip to Dorvan Five.
 

                                         =^= =^= =^= =^= =^= =^=
 

           Three weeks later, a weary Kathryn Janeway finally arrived on Dorvan after an extremely exhausting journey.  She had traveled as a civilian in the hope that she would escape public notice, which could possibly alert Chakotay to the fact that she was coming.  As she wasn’t at all sure she wouldn’t turn tail somewhere along the way, she hadn’t wanted him aware of her imminent arrival.   However, she was regretting her decision within days of leaving Earth.

           She had found the several transports she had used to be dirty, crowded, noisy and not always reliable.  She had had to wait nearly a week on Deep Space Nine before boarding a small freighter which took a long, circuitous route to Dorvan, just one of many stops.  To someone used to having a starship at her command, and who had never before set foot on civilian ships, the whole experience had come as a rude shock.

           Kathryn plodded off the freighter into the spaceport, hot, tired and dirty, her bag slung over her shoulder.  With her hair a tangled mess and wearing a plain dress, even her former crew would have been hard pressed to recognize her right away.  Certainly, the over-worked young man inside the main building hardly spared her a glance as he replied to her question about Chakotay’s whereabouts.  He simply nodded toward the door and told her to head along the road toward the hills, about two kilometers, then watch for a path to her left which led to Chakotay’s holding.  Before she could ask about methods of transport, he had dashed off, shouting instructions through an open doorway to some unseen person.

           Kathryn glanced out the door.  It wasn’t that far, after all, and there didn’t seem to be any other way of getting there. She picked up her bag, settled it firmly on her shoulder, and started off down the road towards the hills she could see in the near distance.

           As she trudged along, little puffs of dust rose behind her.  This planet was almost a desert – hot, dry, not how she remembered Chakotay describing it.  ‘I wonder if the Cardassians had anything to do with altering it,’ she mused, but could see no obvious answer.

            She attempted to concentrate on her surroundings in an effort to distract herself from the coming meeting, but was only partly successful.  Even though she was tired and grubby, she couldn’t help but feel a sense of anticipation.  She tried to keep calm, reminding herself that he could well have found someone else.  He was not the sort of man to live alone by choice.  She must be prepared to act very casually in that event, although she could hardly pretend she was just dropping in on the spur of the moment.  Dorvan was too far off the beaten track for that.

           The road started to climb and as it did, she spotted a trail to the left.  That must be it.  Taking a deep breath, she straightened her back, put up her chin and stepped onto it.  Crunch time, she thought, remembering how she had defined a crisis situation to Harry Kim when he first joined her crew.

           Kathryn followed the path around a hillock to find a small mud house tucked into the hillside, with a creek winding its way below.  As she came up beside it, she saw a figure crouched in a small cultivated plot further down the slope.  She glanced about but couldn’t see or hear anyone else. Even hunched over, she recognized Chakotay immediately.

           “Chakotay,” she called softly, not wanting to startle him.  He glanced up briefly but didn’t look her way before going back to examining the plant at his feet.

           “Chakotay,” she called again, a little louder.  This time, his head snapped up to gaze directly at her, his mouth falling open in astonishment.

           Chakotay stared at what he thought at first must be an apparition.  The late afternoon sun shone full on Kathryn, lighting her hair, making it look like a halo of fire.  There could be no doubt who it was.  He tried to speak but couldn’t get any sound past the sudden lump in his throat.  He stayed motionless, unable to believe it was really her.

           Leaving her bag on the ground, Kathryn moved forward slowly until she stood at the edge of the garden.  There was no sound at all as they continued to gaze intently at each other.  She stepped forward again, her eyes never leaving his, until she halted right in front of where he knelt in the dirt.  Stretching out a hand, she lightly caressed his head, her mouth curving into a gentle smile.

           Her touch was enough to break the spell.  Chakotay gasped her name and reached out to seize her tightly around the waist, burying his face in her stomach.  She wrapped her arms about his shoulders, stroking his hair, whispering to him that it was all right, everything would be fine.  His body shuddered as he sobbed her name again, unable to hold back the emotions that her presence evoked.

           After a few minutes, Kathryn slipped one hand under his chin to raise his head.   “Chakotay,” her voice commanded him softly, “look at me.”

           As he obeyed, she wiped his cheeks dry, then tugged at his shoulders.  He stood, then enveloped her in a crushing embrace.

           “Kathryn, I can’t believe it’s you!  Tell me you’re not a ghost!”

           “Do I feel like one?” she chuckled.

           “No!  You feel wonderful!”

           She hugged him tightly, then pushed away slightly.  “I’m relieved to know you’re so glad to see me.  I wasn’t sure how you’d feel about me coming here.”

           “Of course I’m glad!”  He paused, slightly embarrassed, then spoke his thought anyway.  “I didn’t think you’d ever want to set eyes on me again – after what happened on the ship,” he added quickly.

           “Chakotay, over and above anything else, you were my friend.  I hope you still are.”

           “Always!”

           “Thank you.”  She smiled again, then stepped back out of his arms.  “Uh, could I have a drink of water?  It was quite a long walk, and the air is so hot and dry.”

           “Of course.  Come inside.”  He took her hand and led her into the house, picking up her bag on the way.

           Kathryn looked around as he fetched her a mug of water.  The cabin consisted of one large room, with a metal stove in the back corner, two crude chairs and a table, and, lining the walls, some shelves made out of scraps of lumber, holding several dishes and containers of food.  In the front, under a window, was a bed covered with a blanket she recognized, and beside it, more shelves which held his clothes and personal items.

           She couldn’t see a replicator or any other modern convenience, even a bathroom for that matter.  She drank her water slowly, then handed him the mug.  He watched her every movement, anxious for her reaction.

           “No bathroom,” she muttered.  “No bathtub either, I suppose.”

           “No,” he started to smile, “although there is a swimming hole.”

           “Hardly the same thing.  And you have to cook all your food.  What do you do for heat and light?”

           “The stove provides heat and I go to bed when it’s dark and get up at dawn.”

           She turned around again, then grinned.  “It’s primitive, certainly, but there is a certain cosy appeal.  And you’re enjoying it thoroughly, aren’t you?”

           “Not really.”

           “Chakotay!  Why ever not?!  I would have thought…”

           “It’s lonely, Kathryn.  There’s no one here but me.  I get awfully tired of my own company.”

           She looked up at him speculatively. “How would you feel about me staying for a while?”

           “I’d be delighted, but…are you sure?  As you said, it is primitive.”

           “But does it have to stay that way?  I mean, it’s not a tribal thing, is it?”

           He burst out laughing.  “Oh lord no!  I’d be glad for inside plumbing and a replicator if there was any method of powering one.  So far, I haven’t been able to figure out more than a way to possibly irrigate the garden.”

           “What you need is someone with some engineering experience.”

           He grinned slyly.  “Like you?”

           She tried to keep a straight face.  “Like me.  Well, B’Elanna would be a better choice, but since she isn’t here, I’ll have to do.”

           “Kathryn, my love, you will do very well.”  He picked her up and swung her around in joy.  “Will you stay here with me?”

           “Chakotay, that’s why I came.”

           He bent his head, kissing her soundly, reveling in the feel of her body in his arms.  He leaned into her again, this time brushing his lips across hers, sliding his tongue into her mouth.  She moaned slightly and tightened her grip on his shoulders.

           Afraid he was going too fast, Chakotay loosened his hold, pulling back.  She looked at him, a question on her face.

           “I don’t want to rush you,” he explained.  “I’ve wanted this for so long, Kathryn.   Let’s take our time, enjoy each moment along the way.

           “Well,” she replied, a twinkle in her eye, “I’ve only been waiting nearly six years.  I guess I can wait a little longer, at least until after dinner.”

           Chakotay laughed, answering that he could take a hint.   He moved to the stove, stirring up the embers, then pushed several flat round cakes into it.  Curious, she stepped closer to watch.

           “What are those?” she asked, pointing at the cakes.

           “Fuel.  Here, feel it.  It’s like peat.  You can find it in a lot of places here in low-lying areas, anywhere it’s a bit boggy.  Comes in handy as a source of fuel when there isn’t anything else.”

           She nodded thoughtfully, struck anew by the resourcefulness of Chakotay’s people.  They were certainly experts at survival.

           He watched her, drinking in each expression, still hardly daring to believe she was really here.  A question hovered in the back of his mind and finally, unable to wait any longer, he voiced it.
 
           “Kathryn, what about Starfleet?  Are you still part of it, or…what?”

           She sighed slightly, looking out the open door.  “Officially, I’m still on leave.  Unofficially, it depends on you.”  She turned to face him full on and took a deep breath.

            “One of the things I’ve learned in the last few weeks is to be completely honest – with myself and those around me.   I love you, Chakotay, and I have for a very long time.  I know I could have saved us both a lot of misery and unhappiness if I’d admitted this years ago, but – well, I didn’t.  You know why.  Anyway, it’s all water under the bridge now.  I am putting my fate in your hands.  If you want me here, in your life, then I’ll resign my commission.  If not, then I guess I’ll go back.  It’s up to you.   All I ask is that you be equally as honest with me.”

           He had held his breath as she spoke, his eyes glued to hers.  By the time she finished, a huge smile had spread across his face.  He reached for her hands, clutching them tightly, then lifting them to his lips and kissing them.   His eyes shone with happiness.

           “My love, you have filled me with joy this day!  I…it’s incredible!  You’re incredible!  Want you??  Lady, you bet I want you!  But I had come to believe that, in all probability, I would never see you again!”

           He tugged on her fingers, pulling her into a bear hug.  “Oh, how I love you!”

           Kathryn hugged him back, relieved to know that her worst fears would not be realized.
 

                                         =^= =^= =^= =^= =^= =^=
 

           Later, after a meal, they sat outside, enjoying the view.  Chakotay glanced over at her, remarking that he would like to introduce her to the members of his tribe.  Kathryn answered that she would like that, too.

           She let her gaze roam across the valley in front of them, then over the garden before coming back to him.
 
           “What happened here, Chakotay?  Somehow, from your descriptions, I had pictured it a lot…greener.”

           His face clouded over with a scowl.  “It was, before the Cardassians tore it apart.  There used to be thick forests covering these hills and lush meadows in the valleys.  One of the first villages settled on the planet was just down there.”

           He fell silent, recalling the landscape as it had been.

           “They destroyed it?”

           “They certainly tried.  They burned a lot of the forests, all the ones around here, and poisoned as many of the rivers and streams as they had time to.  As a result, the land dried up.”

           “And the villages?  The people?”

           “Oh, they were the first to go, years before.  Every settlement, no matter how small, was razed to the ground, the inhabitants murdered for the most part, or in a few cases, imprisoned.  The women…” his voice trailed off as he looked away.

           She nodded her head, understanding his meaning only too well.  She reached out a hand to him, letting her fingers catch and grasp his firmly, then changed the subject.

           “Well, you know, primitive as it is, I can see a lot of possibilities here.  A person could make something of this place, if he or she were prepared to work.”

           Chakotay agreed, saying with a sly glance that it could be quite a challenge; he wondered if she would be up to it.

           Kathryn stared him straight in the eye and declared firmly that he should know her well enough by now to know the answer to that question!

           He laughed delightedly.  “Kathryn, you’re wonderful!  You haven’t changed a bit.  Oh, we’re going to have a good life.”

           She sighed happily.  “You bet we are, Mister.  Now, to the first order of business.  We need to plan how we’re going to develop this place.  And the first item on the list will be…”

           “…a bathtub!” he broke in laughing.

           She grinned at him.  “Actually, no, that’s the second item. Chakotay, we simply have to come up with a supply of coffee!  I can’t function without it!  You know that, so how about first thing in the morning, we go to town.”

           “Uh, Kathryn, I don’t know if they have coffee there.”

           “Well, if they don’t, darling, we’ll just have to order it in,” she drawled, a mischievous twinkle in her eye.

           “Just like that?”

           She snapped her fingers.  “Just like that.”  She rose to her feet.  “It’s getting dark.  Does that mean it’s bedtime?”

           “Yes.  I’ll sleep out here, you take the bed.”

           “I most certainly will not!   That’s your bed!  We’ll sleep in it together.   It looks big enough.”  She walked inside as she spoke.

           He hesitated, wanting very much to follow her suggestion, but not sure if he should.

           “Are you coming?” floated out a seductive purr from inside the cabin, followed by a low mutter about adding lighting to the list.

           He stood in the doorway.  “Kathryn, are you positive about this?  Because I won’t go back.  Sleep with me tonight, and you’ll sleep with me every night for the rest of your life.”

           She grinned up at him and held out her hand.  “That was the idea, my love.   Now why don’t you come to bed?  I don’t know about you, but I’m beat.  It’s been a long day.”

           He moved closer to her, eyes never leaving her face, then bent and slowly kissed her, savoring the touch of her mouth and the feel of her body pressed against his.  He lifted his head long enough to hug her tightly to him, whispering just how much he loved her and how happy she had made him.  Kathryn hugged him back, knowing that finally she was home.
 

                                         =^= =^= =^= =^= =^= =^=
 

           Approximately two weeks later, shortly after breakfast, Chakotay was startled to suddenly hear a transporter beam directly behind him.  He turned in time to see three figures, two men and a woman, materialize right in front of the cabin.  The woman, dark-haired and very attractive, and dressed in a blue Starfleet uniform, stepped forward, her face smiling.

           “Hello, I hope we didn’t shock you.  You’re Chakotay, aren’t you?  Is Kathryn here?  I’m Deanna Troi.  I’ve brought her the coffee she asked for.”

           Chakotay stood, eyes wide, mouth agape, for a good twenty seconds before his brain finally caught up with him.  “Excuse me, you caught me quite by surprise!  Yes, she’s inside.”  He turned to the cabin and shouted.  “Kathryn!”

           The older of the two men, clad in command red and exuding a natural authority, moved up to him, extending his hand.  “I’m Jean-Luc Picard.  I was here once before, many years ago.  It was a beautiful planet then.”

           “Yes, it was,” agreed Chakotay, shaking his hand.  “And with a lot of hard work, it will be again.”  He peered at the man.  “Jean-Luc Picard?  As in captain of the Enterprise?”

           “Yes.  Deanna is my ship’s counselor.  She treated Kathryn on Earth, and they became very good friends.”  He waved forward the third man.  “You might remember Mr. Barclay.”

           Chakotay smiled, remembering the name more than the face.  “Indeed I do.  We owe you a lot, Lieutenant.”

           Reg protested, stammering that he really hadn’t done very much, and a lot of other people had contributed, too.

           “Nonsense, Mr. Barclay,” came a firm voice from the doorway.  “Without you, Voyager would still be in the Delta Quadrant.”

           “Kathryn!” exclaimed Deanna and moved forward to hug her.  “You look wonderful!  A little grubby perhaps, but – wonderful!  Obviously, this life agrees with you!  Or is it the company?” she teased, her eyes dancing.

           “Both, Deanna.  I am so glad to see you!”

           Kathryn stepped up to the men and held out her hands.  “Captain Picard, thank you for allowing the detour.  You’ve probably saved my life, and certainly Chakotay’s!”

           She turned to Barclay.  “Reg, how are you?  It’s grand to see you again.  Now you’re all introduced?  Good.”  She turned back to Troi, slightly anxious.  “Did you bring it?”

           “Yes, my dear, I did.  Tons of it!  Well, pounds anyway.  And we’ll make sure to get you more when you run out.”

           “Darling, I don’t know what I’d do without you.  You’re a saint!”

           Chakotay suddenly remembered what Troi had said when she first spoke to him.  He turned to Kathryn in amazement.  “You mean you’ve had the Enterprise, the flagship of the fleet, deliver you coffee?!!”

           “Well…yes!”

           Chakotay looked to Picard, who smiled quite amiably at him.  “And you…were willing to do this?  Sir?”  He remembered to add.

           “Well, I wouldn’t do it for everyone, you understand,” explained Picard cheerfully, “but Kathryn Janeway is a very special person.  Besides, Deanna insisted.”  He stopped there, as if that statement was explanation enough.

           Chakotay shook his head in disbelief, then remembered his manners.  “May I offer you something?  A cup of tea, perhaps?”

           Picard’s eyes gleamed.  “Why thank you, Chakotay.  I would like that very much.  And perhaps you can tell me what happened here since I last visited.”

           Barclay moved over to join them, shading his eyes as he looked across the valley.  “Com-Commander,” he stuttered, “I notice you’re building some kind of irrigation system.  Could you tell me what kind of pump you’re using to move the water from the creek?”

           Chakotay chuckled.  “You’ll need to ask the resident engineer.  I have no idea what she’s planning, but knowing her, I’m sure it will work – by sheer force of will, if nothing else!”

           Picard laughed, then turned the conversation to more serious matters.  By the time their visit was over, he had promised to see what could be done to help along the resettlement of Dorvan Five, keeping in mind the colonists’ determination to accept no assistance.  Unlike Chakotay, he could quite understand why they were refusing all offers of aid.

           “I don’t have to tell you how badly they were treated.  And it got a lot worse after you were gone.  I have a great deal of sympathy for these people.  I think their wishes should be respected, but at the same time, I would like to do something for them.  Let me see what I can do, unofficially of course.  I don’t think we need to involve Starfleet or Federation bureaucracy.”

           “Captain, that is a most generous offer.   On behalf of my people, I thank you.”

           “You are most welcome.  Now,” he turned to look at Chakotay, “is there anything else we can do for you?  Besides supplying Kathryn with coffee, that is.”

           Chakotay thought for a moment, then nodded.  “Would you have an extra replicator?   And a solar generator to power it?  Kathryn is a most talented woman, but she is absolutely useless in a kitchen!  A replicator would make our lives a lot easier in many ways.”

           “Consider it done.  Anything else?”

           “Not that I can think of right now.  It may seem strange to you, but in a lot of ways, living like this is quite satisfying.  The results of your efforts are very tangible.”

           Picard nodded, understanding, then rose to his feet.  “Time for us to go, Chakotay.  But we’ll keep in touch and drop in when we can.”

           “I’ll look forward to it, Captain.”

           They started out the door, just as Deanna came to find them.  “Kathryn and Reg are deep in a conversation about pumps and hydraulics and – whatever!  I’m lost, so I came to find you.  Captain, I think our time is almost up.  Will has been very patient, but...”

           “Quite right, Counselor.”  He tapped his commbadge.  “Picard to Enterprise.”

           “Enterprise here.”

           “Stand by to beam up the landing party.”

           “Standing by.”

           Kathryn and Barclay joined them, still chattering back and forth about various irrigation possibilities.  Deanna walked over to them, putting her hand on Barclay’s arm.  “Time to go, Reg.”

           “Already?!  Ohh, Captain, and I wanted to tell you about…”

           “Mr. Barclay!” came Picard’s firm tones.

           He cast Kathryn a regretful look then went to stand with the others.

           “I’ll get those items for you, Chakotay, and send them down directly.  Unofficially, of course,”  Picard murmured.

           Chakotay grinned.  “Again, thank you.”

           Picard tapped his commbadge once more.  “Energize!”

           The three shimmered away into nothing.  Kathryn watched, almost sadly, then turned to Chakotay, grinning.  “Come and see just how much coffee Deanna brought me!  It’s enough to keep me on a caffeine high for years!”

           “You know, you drink too much of that stuff, Kathryn.”

           “Now, how can you say that when I haven’t even had any for weeks!  Be fair, Chakotay.”

           The sound of the transporter caught her attention.  She whirled around in time to see the beam deposit two items on the ground.

           “What’s this, then?”

           “A little present from Captain Picard.  Very unofficial, I might add, so don’t go telling everyone about it.”

           “A replicator!  Chakotay, look!  And a generator to power it!  That man is heaven-sent!  This is wonderful!  Think of how much easier it will be having one of these.  Oh, Chakotay!”

           He grinned at her enthusiasm as he moved to pick them up.  “Here.  Come and help me get them inside until we figure out where to put them.”

           She moved at once to his side and in no time, the replicator was installed in the front corner of the room across from the bed.  After some discussion, it was decided that the generator would fit very well on the verandah against the other side of the wall.

           They set to work, and soon had the units connected and powered up.

           Chakotay stood back to admire their handiwork.  The generator hummed softly and the replicator flashed a light in response.  “There you go.  Now remember.  Don’t call it names because, if it refuses to work, we’re stuck.”

           She laughed, remembering the ongoing war she had conducted with the replicator in her quarters on Voyager.  “I promise.  I’ll pat it on its console every day and say only kind things to it.”

           He moved close to her, wrapping his arms around her.  “Are you okay with our life here, Kathryn?  Not pining for the comforts of the twenty-fourth century?”

           Kathryn sighed.  “I’d be lying if I said that life here is a bed of roses, Chakotay, it isn’t.  But it is satisfying in so many ways.  And best of all, we’re together.  I don’t ever want that to change.  And I’ll do whatever I have to, to make sure it doesn’t.”  She turned in his arms to face him.  “Does that answer your question?”

           “Oh yes,” he breathed as he bent to kiss her, his heart full.  “It does indeed.”
 

   The End

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