Disclaimer:   Despite wishful thinking, they still belong to Paramount

Rating:  PG-13

 Notes:  Set shortly after “Endgame”.   As always, heartfelt thanks to Shayenne for her insightful comments and helpful suggestions.


By Mary S.

           “Ladies and gentlemen!”  proclaimed Admiral Owen Paris.  “I give you the best of the best – Captain Kathryn Janeway!!”

           The vast audience in the auditorium leaped to its feet as one, roaring, cheering, feet stamping in a cacophony of sound that rolled up to the rafters of the vast hall and back again.    As the din rebounded from one side to the other, a small, slim figure made her way on to the dais, a huge smile gracing her features as she stood front and center, her arms held out wide in welcome and acknowledgment of the standing ovation she was receiving.

           The roar continued on and on for uncounted minutes, but her smile never faltered as she drank it in, her eyes gleaming in triumph.    Eventually, the noise died down and everyone gradually took their seats, momentarily exhausted by the emotions swirling through the hall.

           Kathryn let her eyes travel across the vast sea of heads before coming back to the front rows where her crew was seated.  She was so proud of them, so proud of all they had done, all they had endured.

           On impulse, she laid aside the PADD with her notes and, wearing a triumphant grin as she focused on her people, she stepped forward to the very edge of the platform.

           “We did it!!” she told them, sounding almost amazed at the fact.  “We’re home!!”

           Again, the hall erupted into cheers, led by the front rows who shouted back to her, although she couldn’t hear their words over the general noise.  She did, however, pick up Tom Paris’ yell – “You tell ‘em, Captain!”

           She laughed at him even as she raised her hands for silence, waiting for the crowd to settle and the murmurs to subside before stepping back to pick up the PADD.

           “As Mr. Paris has so eloquently requested, I want to tell all of you about my crew, a remarkable group of people, a crew unlike any ever seen before – and I suspect, unlike any that will ever be seen again.    A crew originally composed of enemies, who became not only friends but family to one another; a crew who bonded together as one, not either Starfleet or Maquis, but Voyagers.   Ladies and gentlemen, this is Voyager’s crew.   And no captain, anywhere, anytime, could ask for better!”

           She paused as the room broke into applause once more.

           “In particular,” she continued when the noise had died down, “I want to pay tribute to my first officer, a man who right from the start, gave me his trust and loyalty; who, on the day we met, sacrificed his ship to save mine; who gave me his crew – to captain, while he stepped aside.   Without him and without his people, none of us would be standing here now!   Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Commander Chakotay!”

           More shouts and cheers from every side as B’Elanna leaned over to urge Chakotay to stand.   Eventually, he gave in and did so briefly, before taking his seat once more.    In the midst of all the joy and triumph, his heart ached with sorrow.

           His eyes had been opened, it seemed, as Kathryn had walked out onto the platform.  It was as if he had been away for a long time and was seeing her, feeling her presence, all over again, as he had that first day, when they’d met on the bridge of her ship.

           There she stood, just a few feet in front of him, his captain, his friend, and – he remembered now – his soulmate.   How had this happened?!  How could he have forgotten how much he loved her?  How could he have pushed aside all that she meant to him?   What the hell had he been thinking when he had responded to Seven’s advances a few short weeks ago?!

           ‘Kathryn!   What have I done?!’ his soul howled in agony and he had to clench his teeth to keep the sound from exploding out of him.

           Beside him, holding his hand, sat Seven.  As his body tensed and his fingers unconsciously tightened on hers, she glanced at him.   His features were blank, expressionless, the mask held tightly in place, but his eyes!   His eyes burned with despair!   Focused solely on the captain, he was quite unaware of Seven’s stare.   She gazed at him intently, trying to determine why he had suddenly gone rigid – she wasn’t sure if he were even breathing, he was so still!

           Anxious now, she nudged him gently, but his attention remained concentrated on Kathryn Janeway.   She began to get a strange, most unwelcome feeling in the pit of her stomach.

           The crowd was surging to its feet, roaring approval once more.

           Chakotay became aware that Kathryn had stopped speaking and was holding up her arms again.   Hands tugged at his uniform, pulling him up.  As if by rote, he found himself applauding even as the dam threatened to burst.

           His eyes were filling with tears, his heart seemed to be stuck in his throat, he could scarcely breathe.

           Desperate to escape before he lost all control, he stumbled towards the side door, unaware of Seven right behind.    Kathryn’s smile faltered as she observed his precipitate departure.     Not wanting to draw attention to him – obviously, something had happened very suddenly – she pulled on her command mask and continued to accept the accolades raining down on her head.

           The crowd was still on its feet, beginning to head for the exits in order to enjoy the huge celebration banquet which would be served out in the great plaza in front of Headquarters.

           Kathryn began to step off the dais but before she could escape to find Chakotay, a veritable armada of admirals descended on her, all wanting to shake her hand and pat her on the back.   She disappeared in a sea of brass,  until Tuvok quickly organized the senior staff to protect her from being mobbed by the hordes of admirers.

           Chakotay, meanwhile, had found his way to the nearest washroom where he had emptied his stomach of its contents.    As he stood holding on to the sink, he wondered how triumph could have metamorphosed so quickly into defeat.   He gazed at his reflection, wondering what he was going to do, all the time knowing what he had to do.   He had made his bed – become involved with Seven – and he would have to lie in it.

            She was such an innocent still in the art of being human.  If he told her now that he wanted to end their romance, he had no idea what it would do to her.   He couldn’t bring himself to hurt her by breaking off their relationship when he was the one at fault, not her.   He had made the wrong choice – too bad.  He would have to live with it.
           His heart shriveled yet again in despair and his breath caught in his throat at the sheer pain that shot through him.   His head dropped and he started to collapse to his knees as he clutched his stomach.

           ‘Kathryn!’ his mind screamed at him. ‘Nooo!!    I can’t let you go!  Please don’t ask me to!’   Tears poured down his face as his body contorted in agony, and he began to howl out his grief just as the door opened.

           When, after a reasonable amount of time, Chakotay hadn’t come out of the washroom, Seven had gone looking for the doctor.    In the huge numbers of people surging back and forth, it had taken her some time to find him and even longer to explain without making everyone around them aware that there was a problem.   However, once he understood that the commander was ill, he had quickly followed her.

           The sight that met his eyes as he stood in the doorway of the washroom stunned him into immobility.

           Commander Chakotay knelt on the floor, doubled over, rocking himself as tears ran down his cheeks and low, keening moans came from his throat.    Quickly, the doctor regained his senses and moved to his side, tricorder in hand.   It took only a minute to determine that whatever was wrong with the commander had its roots in emotion rather than physical illness.    He laid a hand gently on the man’s shoulder, wondering what on earth could have happened to upset him so badly.

           As he became aware of the doctor’s presence, Chakotay caught his breath in surprise.   He gulped several times, trying to force back the pain and regain his composure.   He had not heard him come in and now, on top of everything else, he was acutely embarrassed to be found in such a state.   He tried to rise, stumbling to his feet as the doctor helped him up.

           “Doctor!”  his voice was hoarse, almost unrecognizable.  “What are you doing here?”

           “Seven called me.   She was worried about you.”

           Chakotay glanced around, suddenly fearful that she had come in, too.  But he saw that there was no one else there and breathed a small sigh of relief.   He moved back to the sink and activated the tap, starting to splash water on his face, trying to obliterate the signs of sorrow.

           “Commander, can you tell me what happened?!” pressed the doctor when he showed no sign of speaking again.

           Chakotay shook his head, mumbling something unintelligible.

           “I’m sorry,” stated the doctor.  “I didn’t hear you.”

           “I said – it doesn’t matter.   Forget it!   Just – forget it.”  His voice broke on the final words and he bit his lip, fighting for control.

           The doctor started to protest that he couldn’t just ignore what was happening, but before he could get out more than a word, the door suddenly snapped open again.   Kathryn Janeway stood in the entrance, Seven right behind her, while a crowd surged all around them in the hallway.

           The doctor breathed a sigh of relief.  “Captain!  Quick!  Come in and close the door!”

           She stepped forward and Seven followed, slamming the door shut in the faces of several astonished onlookers.  Kathryn’s eyes were trained on the figure by the sink as he groaned and turned away from her.

           “Chakotay!!  What’s going on?!  What happened?!”

           She moved toward him as she spoke, laying a hand on his shoulder and turning him to face her.   She gasped as she took in the shattered remnants of the man in front of her.    Her calm, composed, steadfast first officer was a wreck.   Without stopping to think, she reached out for him, pulling him into her arms, embracing him tightly as his head fell onto her shoulder and he nearly collapsed on her.   She staggered slightly with the force of his weight, then steadied her balance and held him tightly.

           His arms wound around her shoulders and back as he buried his face against her neck, his body wracked with shudders.   She whispered softly to him, words of comfort, meant to soothe him.  “It’s all right, love, whatever it is, it will be all right.   Don’t cry now, it hurts me to see you so upset.   Ssh, now.   Come and sit down and tell me what has made you so unhappy.”

           They sank to the floor together as she kept her arms around him, kissing him gently on his head, stroking his hair and neck.   “Come on now, tell me what happened.”

           At first, he kept his face hidden in her hair, his arms clutching her small frame almost convulsively, but with her coaxing, he eventually lifted his head to stare into her eyes, every emotion written on his face.  And then Kathryn knew and needed no further explanation.

           “Ohh, Chakotay!” she whispered.  “What are we going to do?”

           He shook his head and tried to speak, his voice finally coming out in a hoarse gasp.  “I don’t know, Kathryn, but I can’t deny what I feel for you.  God help me, I love you and to have to leave you is tearing me apart!  I can’t live without you!     I…seeing you come out on that stage…it hit me so hard I couldn’t breathe!   I’ve been a fool and – ”

            He stopped at Seven’s gasp from the corner.   In his turmoil, he hadn’t realized she had come in and was huddled now beside the doctor, her face a mask of pain.

           Chakotay stared at her in horror, appalled to realize that she had heard him.   He reached out a hand towards her.   “Seven, I’m sorry!  I didn’t know you were there!   I never meant to hurt you!   I…”  He stopped, not knowing what else to say.

           Seven gulped and gripped the doctor’s hand, drawing strength from him.   “I understand, Chakotay, really.   I…guess I should have realized that your feelings for the captain…”  She took a deep breath and continued.  “I suggest we terminate our relationship immediately.”   She straightened her back, then turned for the door and opened it.  After a quick glance back at them, the doctor followed her, closing the door behind him.

           The two on the floor sat in silence, caught in the sea of emotions billowing around them.   Finally, Kathryn pushed herself to her feet.   “I have to get back out there.   And for that matter, so do you.  We need to talk, but obviously now is not the best time.   Maybe later, when we’ve gotten through all this…”   She waved her hand vaguely toward the door.

           He stood unsteadily, then shook himself and nodded.   “I’ll be out in a minute.   I want to wash my face again, tidy up.”

           “All right.  Be quick, though.   The media will be all over us as it is.”

           He nodded again, then as she put her hand on the keypad, spoke quickly.  “Kathryn, before you go, can you tell me?   Is there any hope – for us, I mean?”

           She came back to stand before him, her lopsided smile in place.  “My love, there is always hope.   You, of all people, should know that.”   She reached up to gently caress his cheek, then headed for the door.  “Don’t be long.”

           Chakotay watched her leave, then turned to splash more water on his face, smoothing his hair back as best he could.   He found himself smiling at his reflection, his eyes full of joy, his heart at peace.   He owed Seven a huge debt, he knew, one he could never repay.   He must remember to tell her that.

           With a light step, he opened the door, ready to find his way to his captain’s side.   At last, he felt, he was home.

     The End

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