Disclaimer:   Paramountís, although they certainly didnít know what to do with them

Rating:   G

Notes:   Some weeks after returning to the Alpha Quadrant, Chakotay writes a letter to Kathryn Janeway.   As always, thanks to Shayenne for her patient and unerring eye.

By Mary S.

Dear Kathryn,

           Iím sitting in the main concourse of the interstellar space station, waiting to board a civilian transport to Bajor.   Iím not alone here Ė Iím accompanied by one of Starfleetís finest, his eyes constantly roaming the crowds flowing past as if to detect some insidious plot by my friends that will free me from the exile Iíve been sentenced to.   He hasnít yet realized what I discovered several hours ago Ė there will be no escape, no dash for freedom.    Beyond a select few at Starfleet Headquarters, no one knows Iím here.

           Do you know, Kathryn?   My head tells me that maybe you do, although my heart assures me that if you did, youíd be here by now, demanding my freedom, protecting me with all that you are.   Youíre the last remnant of the allegiance I once swore to Starfleet and the Federation.    Time and again I have been betrayed by those I trusted, but not by you, never by you.

           I actually debated with myself for nearly half an hour whether I should even attempt this letter, since I donít know any more what you feel for me.   Fondness and affection, perhaps, or maybe hatred and contempt, because I thought Iíd fallen in love with Seven?  Can you forgive a foolish manís ego, which allowed him to believe that he had finally found a woman who would love him just for himself?   She did love me that way, Kathryn, for a little while anyway, although what she feels now I donít know.    I havenít seen her, or anyone else, since the day after our official welcome home, a week after we returned to the Alpha Quadrant.   I hope, wherever she is, sheís happier than me.

           Have you wondered why I didnít contact you after that night, although I promised I would?   Perhaps you thought that, wrapped up in Seven, Iíd forgotten you.    But even if I had been with her, that would not have been true.

           For the last six weeks, Iíve been sequestered in a secure location known only to the higher echelons of Starfleet Security.   I have been questioned, over and over again, about every detail of my actions while in the Maquis Ė what rank I held, what ships I served on, where they were located, what missions I participated in and who was targeted.    The odd thing is that my interrogators seemed to know the answers before I could open my mouth.    Itís as if I were simply verifying information already learned and processed.    When I tried to find out what they were looking for, I was told very brusquely that I was to speak only when asked a direct question, and otherwise to remain silent.

           I still donít know what they wanted, or even who they really were.   At first, I thought it was a standard board of inquiry Ė three officers of captainís rank or higher Ė but now, Iím wondering if they were even members of Starfleet.   Despite the uniform, they certainly didnít behave like any officers Iíve ever known.

           Well, itís all over and done with now, and I no longer care.   Whoever they were, they decided my fate and gave me an ultimatum.   Comply with their decision or be extradited to Cardassia.   As you can imagine, I didnít have to think very long.    And itís not so bad.   Iím still free, well Ė sort of, but not locked up in a prison somewhere like the rest of the Maquis.   As well, they promised to recommend full pardons for every one of my crew.   I have no way of knowing if theyíll keep that promise, but Iím hoping you will keep an eye on our people.   Thatís what prompted me in the end to write to you.   I can endure just about anything as long as I know our crew is safe and free.

           So, are you fidgeting impatiently because I havenít yet told you what happens to me?   Sorry, I know how you hate secrets.   Iím exiled to Dorvan Five for the rest of my life.   Once there, I will be allowed a certain amount of personal freedom, but I will only be able to go to the spaceport, which is also the main settlement, if I make arrangements ahead of time so that a Starfleet officer can accompany me and make sure I behave myself.   I am not to send or receive messages of any kind to anyone off-planet, nor ask anyone else to do so on my behalf.   As well, I canít associate with any former Maquis who might be living there, even if they are in the same village.    If I break any of these edicts, I will be taken into custody and placed in a maximum security prison for the remainder of my days.

           I suppose, if Iíd really pushed hard, I could have demanded and maybe even gotten a trial, but you know, Kathryn, in the end, I was just too damn tired to be bothered.     My heart is weary beyond exhaustion, Iím worn out and all I want now is to be left alone.    I guess Iím no longer an angry warrior or even much of a man, but merely an insignificant little speck in the universe, destined to disappear without a trace.   However, there could be worse fates than spending the rest of my life on Dorvan.  At least Iíll know my way around, that is, if the Cardassians left any recognizable landmarks.

           When I look back, my greatest joy as well as my biggest regret is you.   I should have waited for you, I know that now.    You have been my best friend, my confidant, my source of strength.   Oh, I know you always said I was your rock, but really, I think it was the other way around.   Without you, I am nothing, I can be nothing.

           I miss you, Kathryn.   God!  How I miss you!   It tears at my soul that Iíll never see you again.   Anything else Ė losing my crew, Seven, even BíElanna Ė I can bear, but to know you are forever beyond my reach is more than I can stand.   How can I survive without seeing that gleam in your eye?  Without hearing your voice?    I know Ė youíre saying that if Iíd left with Seven, I wouldnít have seen or heard you then, and I guess thatís true in a way, but I would have been able to contact you at will, to talk to you whenever I wanted.    Now, youíre gone with all the rest and all I have is a holoimage, one of the few possessions I was allowed to keep.

           Itís one I took of you on New Earth, just a day or two before Tuvok contacted us.   You were working in the garden when I called your name and you looked up in surprise.   The picture shows you half-kneeling, hands filthy, hair a tangled mess, face smudged with dirt and wearing that beautiful smile, the one I always think of as your ĎKathryní smile.   Do you remember that day?   Perhaps not, there was nothing particularly special about it, but oh!  the poignant memories it brings back!   So many times Iíve wished Voyager had never returned for us.   Is that selfish?   I suppose it is, but I was so happy there, so filled with peace and contentment.    I donít expect Iíll ever feel that way again.

           The guard is telling me itís time for us to go.   Iím hoping, Kathryn, that with a little subterfuge, this letter will find its way to you.    I know I donít have to ask you to care for my people Ė you couldnít do anything else, and Iím grateful theyíre in such good hands.    If I never see you again in this life, perhaps somehow, weíll find each other on another plane of existence.   I have to believe that Ė itís all I have left.

           Goodbye, my brave woman warrior.  Think kindly of me, and know that, for all the years past as well as those yet to come, I love you and I always will.

                                                         Yours for eternity,



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