Disclaimer:  see chapter one 


Chapter 9:  Prototype 

           B’Elanna’s plan was really very simple.  The new engines, once redesigned and rebuilt, would have to be tested.  So, put Janeway on the team, bring her along on the test run, pop through the wormhole into the Delta Quadrant, find Chakotay, leave her there and return.  The whole trip would only take a few days and no one except those on board would know just where exactly they had been.  Well, in theory it was a wonderful idea.  In practice, it would need a lot of work. 

           The three conspirators decided very early on that while Owen must be kept in the dark because of his position in Starfleet, Tom would have to be told.  Two nights later, with Owen away at a conference, Tom and B’Elanna joined his mother and former captain for an informal little dinner en famille.  He had been very pleased to see his mother and B’Ela growing closer.  By the end of the evening, he sat in astonishment, stunned by just close they had become. 

           “I would never have believed it!” to his mother.  “You’re just not the kind of person who does this sort of thing!  B’Ela maybe, after all look where she came from, but you! – I don’t believe it!” 

           “Tom darling, believe it.  Now close your mouth, dear.  There’s work to be done.” 

           Tom continued to mutter to himself, pausing only to stare at Kathryn. “You know,” he burst out.  “I wouldn’t have believed it of you either.” 

           “Come now, Mr. Paris.  You participated in all sorts of covert missions on Voyager.  This isn’t so different.  Tom, I haven’t been happy for a long time – from before we even came through the wormhole.  I was lying to myself and everyone else when I denied my feelings for Chakotay.  And it wasn’t fair, not to him or me.  I’m not saying we should have acted on those feelings; I don’t think that, but we should have at least acknowledged them.  And that’s where I was wrong, because he did and I wouldn’t.  Maybe this scheme will work, and maybe not; maybe Chakotay won’t want me anymore, but at least I’ll know, at least I’ll have tried.  It’s a second chance, Tom, and my last chance.  I’m not going to mess it up again.  Will you help us?” 

           “Oh Captain, of course; there’s no question about that.  I guess I’m just having trouble fitting that prim and proper captain who bailed me out of prison into this equation.” 

           “She doesn’t exist anymore, Tom.  She’s gone.  This is the real me, Kathryn.  And I want you, all of you, to call me that.  The captain is gone.” 

           “All right, Kathryn.  But it will take a little getting used to.” 

           “I know, but you will.  Now, what are we going to tell Harry and Seven?” 

           “I don’t think we need to tell them anything.  Seven invited you to the next meeting – you come.  As far as they and everyone else are concerned, that’s it.  And god knows, we really do need the help.” 

           “That’s true, Cap – uh, Kathryn.  I’m at a dead end – we need some fresh ideas if this is going to work.” 

           “Seven has already told me the meeting is tomorrow at 1000.  I’ll see you then.  Good night.” 

           As Kathryn climbed the stairs, Tom and B’Elanna bid Doris farewell.  Tom whispered in her ear, “Mom, I am really proud of you.  Thank you for doing this for her.” 

           “You don’t have to thank me.  Starfleet left her hanging out to dry; this is the least I can do.  But don’t tell your father.  Good night, both of you.” 

           Right on time the next morning, Kathryn Janeway presented herself at the project.  In deference to the independent nature of the consultants, the site was not on Starfleet property but near by.  In fact, Headquarters loomed over the rather unpretentious warehouse in alarmingly close proximity.  Kathryn wondered if that was why all the windows were covered, and then chastised herself for paranoia.  However, Tom confirmed her fears. 

           “I don’t know if it makes any difference or not.  But they are awfully close – and it makes us feel better.  There are far too many nosy officers who should be doing other things besides bothering hardworking stiffs like yours truly.  Although I guess if they want to poke and pry, they can.  Walk with me a moment, Kathryn.”  And he led her away into an empty room and handed her a note written on paper.  It suggested that they not talk about their secret plan anywhere except at the Paris house.  They couldn’t be too careful.  Kathryn nodded.   Tom rolled up the note and ate it.  She stared at him for a minute, then started to laugh.  But he remained solemn-faced and she realized he was serious.  He turned and led the way to the meeting room. 

           As the days passed, Kathryn came to enjoy her new role.  Being a consultant was fun – she could do what she liked with people whom she cared for, and not have any of the responsibility.  It occurred to her that if Chakotay didn’t work out, at least she would have something to fall back on.  That fact alone made her much happier. 

           The transwarp engine was pulled apart, analyzed, retested in the lab and eventually the problem was found.  The theory was sound but the actual manufacture had been flawed.  Starfleet alloys could not bear the added stress; new ones closer to the Borg model had to be found.  Seven’s input at this stage was absolutely invaluable.  Between them all, they were able to rebuild the engine with new metals and start testing it in the lab. 

           As well as the work at the project offices, plans were proceeding apace at the Paris’ home.  Tom and B’Elanna became regular visitors, much to his father’s delight.  For years, Owen Paris had felt guilty over how his treatment of Tom had driven him away.  The guilt had led him to push for the Pathfinder project which had resulted in regular communication with Voyager while still in the Delta Quadrant.  Now, with Tom so close, he could finally show him just how much he meant to him.  Both Kathryn and Doris were pleased that their secret plans had had such a positive side effect.  And another good thing, Kathryn thought, was the growing closeness between Doris and B’Elanna.  She was relieved to know that even though she would most likely never see them again, they would all do fine. 

           The day arrived, much sooner that they would have thought possible, when the new engine was mounted in the Flyer.  Things were looking great until Seven threw the first monkey wrench. 

           “I shall come with you on the first test.  I believe I will be better able to anticipate any problems.” 

           “Uh Seven”, replied B’Elanna.  “That’s not necessary.  I think you could better monitor it from here.” 

           “I disagree.  I wish to come.  Kathryn can stay here and monitor just as easily as me.” 

           “Seven, no.  She can’t.  I need Kathryn.”  B’Elanna was starting to worry.  Seven could really cause a problem.  She called Tom and took him out for a walk. 

           “We have a problem.  Seven wants to come, in fact she’s insisting on it.  If I object too much, she’ll get suspicious.”  As she finished, Seven stepped out from behind a tree.  “And just what will I become suspicious about, B’Elanna?  Perhaps the fact that you intend to return to the Delta Quadrant surreptitiously and leave Kathryn there?” 

            B’Elanna and Tom both looked thunderstruck.  How on earth had she found out?!  Which of them had told her?  And who else knew? 

           “I would suggest you both try not to look so surprised.  Of course I know.  Anyone with an ounce of logic, and knowledge of the situation, should be able to figure it out.  Have you been in touch with Chakotay, or is he going to get a surprise, too?” 

           “Well, Seven, since you’ve already figured it out, why don’t you tell us!”  All of B’Elanna’s fears were coming to the fore. 

           “B’Elanna, don’t go Klingon on me now,” said Tom.  “Seven, tonight you are coming for dinner at my folks’ house.  And then we will talk.  Until then, not a word.  Okay?  Okay, Seven?” 

           “Very well, Tom.  Okay.”  And she turned back to the lab. 

           “My god, Tom!  What are we going to do?” 

            “Only thing we can do, B’Ela.  Bring her into the fold.  Come on, we’ve got work to do.” 

           That night, Seven and Kathryn had a long talk while Tom and B’Elanna entertained the older Parises.  Owen was fobbed off with the story that Seven wanted a long chat with Kathryn in private – which was pretty close to the truth.  Kathryn explained why they had not brought her into the plot.  They had all been afraid of compromising Seven’s position; as a former Borg, she was regarded with some suspicion.  More than one admiral had objected to her involvement in the project until it was pointed out how necessary her assistance was. 

           “You see, Seven,” said Janeway summing up.  “If by some awful chance we’re discovered, we can’t  have you put at risk.  You’re absolutely essential to the project, more than anyone else.  You’ve already proved that.  Tom was adamant that you not be told for that reason alone, and I agree.  He, B’Elanna, Reg, they’ve all invested too much into this to see it fail.” 

           “But they’re putting themselves at risk, Kathryn, by actively plotting for you.” 

           “Yes, but they’re replaceable.  You’re not.” 

           Well, she couldn’t refute that argument.  Seven nodded her head.  “All right, I understand.  But now that I do know, I want to help.” 

            “Oh Seven” and Janeway reached forward and hugged her.  “I’m afraid of what might happen.” 

            “Enough people know of my demand to go that I think it would raise less suspicion to allow me to do so.  Besides, have any of you given any thought to the wormhole?  If it is still stable, then Starfleet could use it too to get to the Delta Quadrant.  You might have yet more problems.” 

           “No Seven, none of us had thought of that.   But I don’t know what we can do.” 

           “I have an idea.  Once we re-enter the Alpha Quadrant, it might be possible to collapse the wormhole in such a way as to make it appear to be a natural phenomenon.  Then, even if Starfleet does track us to the area, they won’t be able to get to you.” 

           “That makes sense.  Can you work out a way of doing that?” 

           “I already have.” 

           “Seven, I apologize for underestimating you.  I should know better by now.” 

           “Apology accepted.  And yes, you should.”  And with that, they rejoined the others. 

           In the next few hours, events began to pick up speed.  The second monkey wrench appeared out of the blue from Starfleet’s direction.  Reg Barclay had reported to his superiors that the Flyer was almost ready for another test run.  An admiral no one had ever heard of, one Brackett, suddenly announced that he wished to go along to observe.  B’Elanna was nearly at her wits’ end, Kathryn was feeling very guilty again for putting them all through this, Tom was trying to maintain a positive attitude, and none of them dared show that anything was out of the ordinary.  They managed to put down a lot of the obvious nerves to pre-flight jitters.  Most of the rest of the team accepted that – they were nervous, too – but not Harry.  He knew them all very well, and he knew something else was fueling an atmosphere heavy with tension.  When Kathryn nearly burst into tears over a relatively small problem, Harry decided to confront Tom. 

           “All right.  What is going on here?  There’s something else happening, isn’t there.  And don’t lie to me, Tom.  I know you, I know all of  you, far too well!  Tell me the truth!” 

           “Harry, I can’t.  For your own safety, your career, I can’t say anything.  Believe me, if I could I would.  Please Harry, you already know too much.  Just – just shut your eyes, block your ears, ignore us.  Please.  It’s for the best.” 

           “All right, Tom.  I will.  But if you can think of any way I can help…” 

           “You could find out who this Admiral Brackett is and why he suddenly insists on coming along.” 

           “Sure, I’ll do that.  Anything else?” 

           “Well, if you could think of a way to stall him for a few days, say a week even, that would really help.” 

           “All right.  Let me see what I can do.” 

           “Harry, uh, it might be best if you weren’t around here for the next couple of days.” 

           “Tom.  I’m one of the team – this is not a time when I’d be away.” 

           “No, I guess not.  Do what you can about Brackett.  That would be great.”  And Tom walked away, not really thinking Harry would have any luck. 

           However, six hours later, he was informed that Lieutenant-Commander Kim had taken Admiral Brackett on a tour of the Utopia Planitia shipyards so that the admiral could better understand just what their project was trying to accomplish.  Mr. Kim was nothing if not thorough.  He felt that the admiral could not properly comprehend the ramifications of transwarp without a full briefing on the history of the warp engine.  And where better to conduct such a briefing than the yards where most of the engines were built.  The admiral, who had spent his career planet-bound at headquarters and had only wanted a little joyride, was later heard to say he never wanted to hear the term ‘plasma manifold’ again. 

           The crisis had passed, but it illustrated the very cogent point that they could wait no longer.  It was time to go. 

Chapter 10:  Test Flight 

           “Delta Flyer Three.  You are cleared for departure.  Good luck.” 

           “Thank you, Control.  Flyer out.” 

           And the Delta Flyer sped out of orbit, through the solar system and into deep space.  Kathryn sat at a monitor but found herself watching the viewscreen instead.  To her surprise, she felt a pang of regret.  She had thought she couldn’t get off Earth fast enough, but now she realized she was leaving a whole life behind.  All those good people who had done so much for her – she was not likely to see any of them again.  Well, she shouldn’t count her chickens, as her mother used to say.  If things didn’t work out with Chakotay, she might be back a lot sooner than she thought.  And on that note, she turned back to her monitor. 

           The engines performed flawlessly; B’Elanna was so ecstatic she nearly forgot herself and hugged Seven.  Reality reasserted itself just in time, however, so she hugged Kathryn instead.  “We did it!  We really did it!”  she crowed. 

           In just a few hours, on a journey that would have taken a conventional ship days, they arrived at the coordinates of the wormhole.  And yes, it was still there.  It seemed to be pulsing somewhat, which Kathryn hadn’t remembered it doing before, but sensors indicated it was stable and certainly safe to pass through.  Without more ado, they entered. 

           The Flyer was thrown about much more than Voyager had been, and Tom had real difficulty holding it steady.  But in due course, they exited and found themselves once more in the Delta Quadrant. 

           Tom laid in a course for Chakotay’s planet, then called for reports.  The engines were running even better than they had hoped - B’Elanna couldn’t be happier.  Kathryn announced that there had been hull stress, more than expected but that was due, no doubt, to the extremely bumpy ride.  Then Seven dropped the bombshell. 

           “Sensors are indicating that the wormhole is showing signs of decay.  Most likely the process has been accelerated by our rough passage.  We have, at the most, a few days before it is so unstable as to be unusable.” 

           There was dead silence.  Then Tom spoke.  “Are you saying we can’t go back?” 

           “No, I’m saying we won’t be able to go back if we’re here for more than four or five days.  It is impossible to give a precise estimate.  As you all know, wormholes are notorious for their unpredictability.  I would recommend that we find Chakotay’s planet as quickly as possible, and then, as Tom would say – get the hell out of here!” 

           “Okay”, said Tom.  “Transwarp engines on line.” 

           “Transwarp on line.”  B’Elanna repeated. 

           “Let’s go.”  And the Flyer shot off at top speed.  Two days later, they found the planet. 

Chapter 11:  Chakotay 

           Since leaving Voyager some eight months earlier, Chakotay had settled easily into life on this most hospitable of planets.  He had several acres of land on the outskirts of a village.  He had built a log cabin, had planted a good sized vegetable garden, started a small orchard and begun to grow the local grain which was used to make a version of flatbread.  He was determined to be as self-sufficient as possible, and was well on the way to achieving his goal.  He lived simply, worked hard and, for the most part, was content. 

           From time to time, he participated in village life and was available for emergencies, but generally he remained alone and somewhat on the edge of the community.  The local people respected his privacy and usually left him alone.  His days were always full but his nights, he found, could be very lonely.  Often he would look up at the stars and wonder where the ship was.  How much further had they gotten?  Were they managing all right without him?  Did they ever think of him?  Were they still alive?   Sometimes, he wished he had stayed aboard, but mostly he knew he had done the right thing.  He didn’t miss the turmoil and stress at all.  Overall, Chakotay was satisfied. 

           Six months after his arrival, he was asked to help at a barn raising.  This was very much a village tradition and he knew he should go.  In fact, he found he was looking forward to meeting some new faces and becoming a more integral part of the community. 

            When he arrived at the farm, he found many people already there.  The magistrate, who was the equivalent of the headman, called him over and introduced him to several of the men.  They immediately ushered him into a group of several families and before he knew it, he was laughing and telling stories to a group of enthralled children and not a few adults. 

            It began when a little girl asked him about his tattoo.  He allowed her to touch it, and then told her the legend behind it.  That led to more legends and soon he had quite an audience.  Storytellers were highly regarded and Chakotay’s place was assured. 

           By the time the main meal was served, he had a host of new friends.  In particular, several of the younger women were quite drawn to this mysterious stranger with the flashing smile.  After meal and subsequent rest time, the actual work was begun.  With so many hands, it didn’t take long for walls to be raised and a roof put on.  Work continued by the light of the two moons until the last door was hung. 

           Chakotay walked towards his cabin with two families, both of whom made him promise to join them for evening meal in the following days.  As he rolled into his bed, he found he was happier than he had been at any time since his arrival.  And they both had very pretty daughters.  He didn’t know if anyone could ever displace Kathryn in his heart – loving her had become as much a part of him as his tattoo.  But he knew that eventually he would have to put her aside and get on with the business of living. 

Chapter 12:  Reunion 

         The Delta Flyer Three assumed a polar orbit which hopefully would keep the local inhabitants unaware of their presence.  No one was sure just how sophisticated the technology was here and they didn’t want to take any chances.  Seven began detailed scans and quickly discovered that the physiology of the indigenous people was very similar to human.  Even with the advanced sensors of the Flyer, the scan could take some time.  Kathryn gave her six hours.  If she had not found Chakotay by then, they would have to leave.  The wormhole gave them very little margin. 

           The hours passed and as they did, Janeway began to have second thoughts.  What if he refused to see her?  What if he didn’t want her?  Or worst of all, what if he had found someone else?  Knowing Chakotay, this last was a distinct possibility.  He was not a man who could live alone for long periods of time.  He needed companionship; he needed someone to love, to protect, to care for.  The more Janeway thought about it, the more she wondered if, in fact, this had all been a really stupid idea.  Let him alone; he had made the decision to go, after all.   He had known he wouldn’t see them again, ever.  Who was she to walk back into his life?  And round and round it went. 

           Just as she was about to tell Seven to cease scanning, at the five-hour mark, the latter announced she had finally located a human biosignature.  There could be no doubt.  It was Chakotay. 

           Kathryn stood up, looked at these three who had risked so much for her happiness, and knew she had to try.  Tears gathered in her eyes and she couldn’t stop them running down her face. 

           “I am going to miss you – oh so much!  (Sniff)  I – I can’t even tell you.  I’ll never forget you – know that whenever you look up in the sky, every day, I’ll remember you.  Tell the others – back on Earth.” 

           “Goodbye Kathryn.  Remember, we’ll be waiting for your signal”, and Tom hugged her hard.  Seven was next and she too hugged this woman who had brought her back to humanity.  B’Elanna was last. 

           “Tell him for me – tell him to treat you right.  Or I’ll break his neck!  Oh Kathryn, tell him I’ve missed him.  I’ll remember you both, always.” 

           “Prepare for transport.”  And she picked up her bag. 

           “Energize.”  And she faded away.  The three settled down to wait.  She had one hour before they had to leave. 

            As luck would have it, Kathryn materialized right at the foot of Chakotay’s front steps.  She paused to take in her surroundings.  In front of her was a small log cabin, maybe twenty feet square with a covered verandah extending right across the front.  A railing ran along its outer edge and two broad steps led down to a dirt path, where she was standing.   She turned around to look down the path and gasped as she took in the view.  Chakotay had obviously picked this site with care.  In the far distance could be seen a line of mountains, purple-blue in a slight haze.  Nearer were green rolling hills and she could just make out the line of a road disappearing over the closest one.  No doubt the same road that ran past the field over there. 

           In the immediate foreground were an orchard on her right and a large garden with a number of unfamiliar plants on her left.  Beyond the orchard was a forest of sorts and she could hear a creek if she listened very carefully.  Birds were singing, crickets were chirping – it was idyllic.  She turned back to the front door, which was open, and started to mount the steps.  Just as she did, Chakotay walked out.  For a full minute, he just stared at her, clearly unable to believe his eyes. 

           “Kathryn!  It can’t be!  Kathryn?!!”  he exclaimed.  And his face creased into a frown.  Oh dear, she thought. 

           “Yes, Chakotay.  It’s me.” 

Chapter 13:  Decisions 

            As Chakotay’s surprise abated, the questions began.  “Kathryn, where have you come from?  Where is the ship?  Why aren’t you in uniform?” and finally, “Why are you here?” 

           “Chakotay, please, one at a time.  It’s a long story.  Can we sit down?” 

           “Yes, of course.   Now tell me.” 

           “Well, very simply, I have come from a new modified version of the Delta Flyer.  We did it, Chakotay; we got back to Earth!  Two months after we left here, we found a wormhole that led to the Alpha Quadrant….”  As she went on with her tale, and it was long, he had to agree, he was able to read between the lines.  She had been rejected, thrown out like so much trash, first by Starfleet, then by the only family she had left.  She didn’t even have to tell him what she’d done next. 

           “Where did you hide, Kathryn?” 

           “What – what do you mean?” 

           “You were rejected by all you held dear.  Everything you had worked for, sacrificed for, was worthless.  They threw you out.  So where did you hide?” 

           His brutal candor frightened her.  He knew her too well. 

           “The truth, Kathryn.” 

           “I, uh, found a place, a hotel in San Francisco.  I stayed there for several months, well four, to be exact.” 

           “Did you go out – at all?” 

           “I tried to, Chakotay, I did!  But I didn’t know anyone and it was so hard.  If I hadn’t met Seven that day…” 

           “What happened?” 

           “Well, I’d gone out, forced myself out really, for a cup of coffee.  And there was Seven, bold as you please, walking down the street.  She told me about the project she and Tom and B’Elanna were working on.” 

           “What project?” 

           “To develop a reliable transwarp and/or slipstream drive, using our experiences here as a guide.   The Federation is most concerned about a number of perceived enemies – the Borg, the Dominion, species 8472, to name only a few.” 

           “Yes, I can imagine.  What happened?” 

           “ In short, I was invited to join the team.  They had reached a dead end and needed a fresh viewpoint.” 

           “I’m surprised they all stayed in Starfleet.” 

           “They didn’t – only Harry did.  They are all acting as consultants.  The project is financed by the Federation Council; Starfleet have a lot of engineers working on it, but Tom and B’Elanna are running it, along with Reg Barclay – you remember him from the Pathfinder project – representing ‘fleet.  They’re doing very well.   Tom was able to find Seven and bring her in, and then Harry – who is now a lieutenant-commander!” 

           “Is he really!  Good for Harry!” and finally she saw a faint smile. 

           “Chakotay, I don’t have much time – they’re waiting for me and well, I have to tell them very soon.” 

           “Tell them what, Kathryn.  You haven’t answered my last question.  Why are you here?” 

           She took a deep breath.  “Chakotay, ever since we left you here, I’ve known I made a mistake, a big one.  While we were still in this quadrant, I felt I couldn’t do anything to rectify it.  Once we were through the wormhole, and then with everything after that, I didn’t think I was able to do anything about it.  But now, with the help of a lot of people, I have done something.  I’ve come back to you, and I’m hoping you’ll let me stay.” 

           All through this speech, Chakotay’s resentment had been rising.  Here she was, waltzing back into his life without so much as a by-your-leave, turning everything upside down again.  The old feelings of being used and thrown aside resurfaced and his face darkened in anger.   Kathryn quailed inwardly as she watched him.  Her worst fears rose up and threatened to swamp her.  He didn’t want her anymore.  She had pushed him away once too often. 

           “Damn it, Kathryn, how dare you just walk in and expect to take up where you left off!  What do you think I am anyway?  Someone you can pick up and discard as you like?  Someone whose feelings don’t matter?!  Well, they do matter – to me anyway!  This time, lady, I’m calling the shots.  I will not be used anymore!”  And he turned away, breathing hard. 

           Her head fell forward, her face crumpled.  All her worst fears were realized, and she knew now beyond a doubt, how much she loved him and wanted him.  Just to see him, to hear his voice had made her feel alive in a way she hadn’t in eight months.  Oh god!  She couldn’t leave – but it seemed she would have to. 

           In a desperate attempt to preserve a shred of dignity, she turned and tried to walk away.  But the tears were pouring down her face, blinding her, and she tripped over a stone.  As she fell, a muffled sob escaped.  That caught Chakotay’s attention and he turned to see her on her knees, shoulders shaking, hands over her mouth, attempting to stifle her cries. 

           As she began to get up, he went to her and lifted her head.  The truth was revealed on her face as he stared at her in dawning comprehension. 

           “Kathryn, tell me the truth – all of it this time!  Why are you here?” 

           “Cha – Chakotay,” she sniffed, trying to catch her breath and speak at the same time, “I told you – I want to stay with you.” 


           “Because I love you, damn it!  I’ve always loved you!  And I’ve missed you terribly and everything went wrong and you weren’t there, and…. I don’t know what to do anymore!” 

           “Oh Kathryn, Kathryn!  What a mess we’ve made.”  And he sat down beside her and pulled her in tight against his chest.  He could feel her shiver, then relax against him and wrap her arms around him.  They sat there for several minutes before Kathryn raised her head to look at him. 

           “Chakotay?  Will you let me stay?  No, let me rephrase that – do you want me to stay?” 

           As he looked down at this woman he loved so much – and he did still love her, there could be no doubt – he felt a peace creep into his heart, and knew that he did want her.  There was a sense of completion now – he had everything.  So he nodded his head. 

           “Yes, Kathryn.  I want you to stay.  Despite everything, I still love you; that won’t ever change.”  Her shoulders slumped in relief.  “But,” he continued, “we’re not going back to the way things were on the ship.  This will be a partnership, an equal one.  Decisions will be made together, we will discuss any problems together.  I don’t want to see the captain.  Do you understand?” 

           “Chakotay, the captain has been gone for a long time now.  I’ve learned how to be Kathryn again.” 

           “Then, my love, I will be very, very happy to share the rest of my life with you.”  And he hugged her tight before bending his head to gently kiss her mouth, her eyes, her nose and wherever else he could reach. 

           “Uh, Chakotay, before we get carried away, I must contact Tom.  They have almost no time left.” 

           “Time for what?” 

           “Time to get back through the wormhole.  They gave me an hour – then they have to leave.  The wormhole is destabilizing. If they don’t go now, they will be stranded here.”  She tapped her comm badge twice, then took it off.  As they watched, it shimmered away. 

           “Well, that’s it.  Too late to change my mind, or yours.”  She sighed.  “I guess we’ll never know if they get through safely.” 

           “Sure we will.  If they can’t get back, here is where they’ll come, isn’t it.” 

           “I guess it will be, at that.  B’Elanna sent her love, by the way, and said if you didn’t treat me right, she’d break your neck.” 

           “I’m so glad to know that some people never change.  But she’ll have no cause to do that.  We’re going to have a wonderful life.  I’ve made a number of new friends here.  They’re good people, Kathryn, you’ll like them, and I’m going to take great pleasure in introducing you to them.  We’ll start with the magistrate…” 

           As he spoke, he drew her to the cabin steps and sat down, wrapping his arms around her.  She leaned back against his chest and closed her eyes in peace. 

Chapter 14:  Epilogue 

           Two lovers lay on a blanket on the ground watching the two moons rise one after the other.  He pushed himself up on an elbow to look at her face, running one finger down her cheek and across her chin.  It seemed like a miracle to him that she could be here, and he had to pinch himself now and then so he would know he wasn’t dreaming.  God knows, he had, often enough. 

           She turned her head to look at him with an expression very similar to his.  I guess I’m not the only one, he thought.  He leaned over, kissing her eyes, forehead, cheeks, working his way around to her mouth.  At the same time, his free hand wandered across her shoulder, then down to the front of her dress.   He worked open the fastening and pushed it off her. 

            Her hands were busy, too, unbuttoning his shirt, pulling it out of his pants.  He pulled her up to stand and dragged her dress off with everything else she was wearing.   She did the same with the rest of his clothing.   Nude bodies gleaming in the moonlight, they faced each other, silently making promises – no words were needed.   And then he fell to the blanket, pulling her down with him and covered her body with his own.