Kathryn Janeway sat on the floor propped up against the bulkhead in her quarters, trying to drink away the sorrow of the coming future. A bottle of brandy lay beside her, where she had placed it so that it was within reach. The room was pitch black except for the soft glow of the passing stars as Voyager made its triumphant trip towards Earth.
It was the last day that the crew of Voyager would be together as a family. The return to the Alpha Quadrant had dealt a devastating blow to the Borg Collective and to the cherished dreams of Kathryn Janeway.
For the past seven years, Captain Janeway had ruthlessly suppressed the carefree spirit of Kathryn and she was slowly losing pieces of her soul in the constant struggle. During the day the Captain ruled but at night, in her sleep, Kathryn emerged from her impenetrable prison.
In her dreams, Kathryn yearned for the moment when she would be free from all protocols and finally be able to share her love with the one person who always stood by her side. She had created a cherished dream since leaving New Earth, where she would at last find joy and fulfillment with her Angry Warrior.
But that dream had been built on a house of cards and with one swift breeze it had been torn down forever. Fate had once again lured her towards happiness only to cruelly take it away. With the arrival of Admiral Janeway, Kathryn had seen all her dreams broken with a few words. The Admiral had known what those words would do to her; after all she had already lived through the reality and loss, causing her to turn into a cynical bitter old woman. The Captain and Kathryn had reacted to the news different. The Captain was glad that her best friend had found happiness but Kathryn silently screamed in pain, at the loss of a promise made long time ago.
Kathryn took a large gulp of the strong liquor and felt it burn a path down her throat. With an unsteady hand she reached for the bottle and refilled her glass. Her blues filled with tears as she tried to hold back the hurt and rage she felt. She raised her glass mockingly, “Well, you wanted him to move forward and start living his life. Congratulations, Captain, you won.” Janeway toasted herself cynically. “Here’s to Chakotay and his current blonde of the month Two of Double D’s. And last but not least here’s to our stupidity and protocols, may they keep us happy for the rest of our life.” With that she quickly tossed back the contents of her glass.
After a few minutes, she slowly stood up, wavering slightly as she tried to get her bearings in the dark. “Computer lights 20%.” Kathryn called out as she staggered towards the couch, collapsing on top of it.
The memories of each smile, each touch and word echoed cruelly in her mind. Lying on top of the table was a peace rose and the watch that Chakotay had given to her for her birthday. Each gift treasured throughout the many years. She reached forward with a trembling hand to brush the soft petals of the rose. Chakotay had given it to her, hours ago, as a gift for getting everyone home like she had promised since the start of their journey. Kathryn grasped the watch tightly and clutched it to her chest. Tears started to fall down her face and sobs escaped from her tightly pressed lips.
“My Angry Warrior. What happened to your promise to always be by my side and ease my burdens? “Kathryn asked in a choked whisper. She reached up and angrily wiped away the tears as she felt the rage overwhelming her. “Oh, I forgot. There’s a hidden clause in the promise written with invisible ink. If there’s a young, blonde bimbo in the vicinity, the promise becomes null and void. “
Janeway bitterly laughed at herself. Was this how Admiral Janeway had become that cold, calculating bitch. Had Chakotay’s final betrayal with Seven completely destroyed the last piece of Kathryn’s soul that she had been clinging desperately to? I was a fool to think he would wait.
Kathryn couldn’t hold back the wave of emotions any longer. She cried out loud for the all pain of many years of loneliness and heartache that she had endured.
The sound of her sobs echoed softly throughout her quarters. Kathryn was so distraught that at first she didn’t hear the insistent beep of the comm line.
“Chakotay to Janeway.”
Kathryn ignored the hail and continued to look down at the tokens that Chakotay had given her.
“Chakotay to Janeway.” Chakotay hailed in a worried tone. “Please respond.”
Kathryn took a deep breath as she tried to steady her voice before answering; she knew that he wasn’t going to give up until she answered. “What is it, Commander?” Janeway asked icily.
There was a slight pause before Chakotay continued, “Most of the senior staff and crew have gathered in the mess hall to celebrate our return from the Delta Quadrant and the only person that we’re missing is our Captain. Will you be coming down to join us this evening?”
Kathryn choked back a sob as tears started once again to pour down her face. With some effort she was able to respond without sounding upset.
“Not this evening, Commander. Please tender my regrets to all who are there and let them know that I will be speaking with everyone tomorrow.” Janeway replied.
“I’m sure that you’ll be able to keep them entertained.”
“Kathryn, the crew wants-,” Chakotay started to say but Kathryn cut him off in an angry voice.
“Commander, I am not available this evening. Please make it understood that I am not to be disturbed.” Janeway continued coolly,” Also Commander, to maintain the established protocols on that we are in the Alpha Quadrant, you are to address me as Captain.”
With a quick tap she closed the comm link. Kathryn knew it was childish to remind Chakotay of protocol, especially after all those years, but for one second, she had wanted to hurt him as much as he was hurting her. Leaning back against the sofa she stared blankly out at the star field and lost herself in her thoughts.
Chakotay entered the mess hall with Seven clinging tightly onto his arm. The crew turned as they entered and watched as he led Seven towards the galley. Chakotay felt the weight of the crew’s disapproval as they gazed upon them. He knew that the crew had always hoped that the command team would one day come together as a couple. A large amount of replicator rations that had passed hands over the years and still showed no sign of decreasing, even if it didn’t look as if there was anything romantic between him and Kathryn.
But instead of arriving with a feisty red head, he had appeared with a cool blonde and the crew wasted no time in glaring at them. If Seven noticed the cold looks being cast her way, she gave no sign that it bothered her. The views and judgments of others were irrelevant to her. Seven continued to speak to him and ignored the uncomfortable atmosphere. Chakotay glanced around the room and stopped at the trio sitting towards the back of the mess hall holding court.
Sitting at one of the sofas, surrounded by well wishers, B’Elanna sat gently rocking Miral while throwing daggers their way with her eyes and muttering promises under her breath.
With a sigh Chakotay turned to Seven,” I’ll be right back. I need to speak with B’Elanna. “
“I will accompany you,” Seven announced.
“No, I need to speak with her privately, Seven. She’s upset about something and I would prefer to settle this matter now.” Chakotay said firmly. ” I’ll be right back.”
Chakotay walked swiftly towards B’Elanna and silent asked for the spirits to protect him from the angry engineer.
“Madonna and her child. A beautiful image if it wasn’t for the fact that you look like you’re about to commit murder.” Chakotay joked, hoping to lighten the tension.
B’Elanna looked at him in disbelief and exploded at his words. “How could you? You could have chosen one of the Delaney’s or any one of the other females on this ship. But no, you had to choose, of all the people on this ship, the one person that’s become like a daughter to the Captain. P’tak!” B’Elanna flung the accusation out at him in disgust. “What happened to you? There was a time when you would never have deliberately hurt the Captain like this. We’re finally home, Chakotay and you throw away everything for an over developed-“
“B’Elanna!” Chakotay interrupted with harsh voice. “You don’t know what you’re talking about and it’s presumptuous of you to try.”
B’Elanna snorted loudly and turned to place Miral into her father’s waiting arms. Tom took Miral and cradled her gently against his chest. Chakotay watched the scene between father and child with envy. He found himself briefly lost in thought over dreams that he had abandoned many years ago.
The conversations in the mess slowly stopped as everyone turned to see the scene between the two friends. In the silence, B’Elanna’s words seemed to echo in the large room.
B’Elanna stood and stepped right up against Chakotay and roughly smacked a hand against his chest. She continued to talk in a heated voice,” Did you ever, for one minute, consider how Captain Janeway would feel about this? Did you tell her or was she going to one day walk in and find the two of you together? I know that things between you and the Captain haven’t always been the best but you always had respect for each other.”
“B’El, there’s nothing between the Captain and myself. She made her feelings clear a long time ago and regardless of what the crew wants, that won’t change.” Chakotay defended, starting to falter under those heated words.
“You’re right, Chakotay. The Captain would always want what’s best for her crew. She would never be selfish enough to want something just for her own happiness and well being. Admiral Janeway came back to save this crew from the Delta Quadrant and that was her only reason.” B’Elanna said in a quiet voice. “I never thought that you would hide from the truth, Chakotay.”
Chakotay started to deny her words but a small shadow of doubt began to filter into his conscious. He glanced around the room, trying to make out Kathryn’s petite frame. His searching eyes collide with Seven’s. Her cool blue eyes filled with regret, acceptance and realization that he had never truly been hers. Seven nodded slightly at him and smiled.
“The Captain’s not here. This was supposed to be the greatest moment of her life. She managed to return her crew home and she’s not here to celebrate with her family. ” B’Elanna announced. “ And I don’t think that she will be coming.”
Chakotay snapped back to look at her and shook his head. “Of course, she’ll be here, B’Elanna. She’s probable in a meeting and can’t get away at the moment.” Chakotay replied firmly. “She knows that the crew is expecting her to be here since it’s our last night together as Voyager’s family.”
B’Elanna turned her back to him and walked towards Tom. Reaching out she carefully took Miral and held her to her breast and Tom wrapped both arms around them.
“Voyager’s family. Is this what this gathering is about? The Captain’s duty to her family.” B’Elanna mused silently. “No, for once, Chakotay, you’re wrong. The Captain won’t be here to perform her duty.”
Chakotay started to pace in front of her, “We’ll see about that. This is what she dreamed and hoped for the last seven years. She wouldn’t want to miss this.”
B’Elanna looked down at her sleeping child and recalled the look of longing on Captain Janeway’s face when she had held Miral. The older woman had for the first time, since B’Elanna had known her, looked like she was about to shatter into a million pieces as she held the tiny bundle in her arms.
“I think her dreams and hopes were more than just getting this crew home.” B’Elanna quietly stated. “She fulfilled her promise to the crew but ending up losing the one thing that would bring her peace and happiness.”
Chakotay stared at B’Elanna in shock, her quietly uttered words more powerful than anything that she could have shouted out at him. Regret and sorrow were slowly starting to fill his dark eyes. He quickly looked away from B’Elanna and started to pace the room. He ignored everyone around him as the heartache within him grew.
‘Kathryn, what have I done? I promised to wait but over the years…’ He thought in anguish. ‘I gave up the hope of ever having you in my arms and moved forward. Leaving a piece of my heart and soul with the only person I could ever truly love.’
The mess hall was completely silent as they watched the Commander. No one wanted to break the silence that had engulfed the room. An aura of despair started to surround Chakotay and it was devastating for the crew to see.
Seven stood quietly with the Doctor and observed Chakotay’s erratic behavior. The Commander had never shown this much emotion towards her and she began to question whether he was ready to move forward with her. She had heard rumors about the Captain and the Commander over the last three years, but seeing that they had never dated; Seven had decided to approach Chakotay. She found him intelligent, handsome and fair. He had always seemed to have an endless source of calm and inner peace, that she found comforting.
As she looked at him now, none of that was apparent. Instead, he seemed at a loss, struggling to hold onto something that was starting to slip through his fingers. Seven knew than that he was not hers and never would be. He had belonged only to one woman on this voyage and Seven could never replace her in his heart.
Chakotay fought to not race away from the mess hall and go to Kathryn’s quarters. Desperately he tapped his comm badge.
“Chakotay to Janeway.” Chakotay waited for her to respond, as the seconds passed he began to worry.
“Chakotay to Janeway.” He hailed again. “Please respond.” Please answer, Kathryn. Don’t ignore me. Please! Chakotay pleaded silently.
“What is it Commander?” Janeway responded in a cool voice.
Commander? Chakotay paused as her response echoed throughout the mess hall. “Most of the senior staff and crew have gathered in the mess hall to celebrate our return from the Delta Quadrant and the only person that we’re missing is our Captain. Will you be coming down to join us this evening?”
At first the Captain was silent, but when she continued to speak her voice was muffled and raspy, “Not this evening, Commander. Please tender my regrets to all who are there and let them know that I will be speaking with everyone tomorrow.” Janeway continued sarcastically. “I’m sure that you’ll be able to keep them entertained.”
What did she mean by that?
“Kathryn, the crew wants-,” Chakotay started to say but Janeway cut him off in an angry voice.
“Commander, I am not available this evening. Please make it understood that I am not to be disturbed.” Janeway continued coolly,” Also Commander, to maintain the established protocols on that we are in the Alpha Quadrant, you are to address me as Captain.”
Without another word, Chakotay heard the comm link close. As he stood there surrounded by the crew, he felt a surge of anger at Kathryn’s words. His face flushed with anger and his eyes hardened. Without another look around him, he quickly stormed out of the mess hall, towards a long awaited confrontation.
As soon as the doors had shut behind the Commander, the mess hall erupted with excited voices. It looked as if the Command team was finally going to deal with chemistry between them.
“I think that everything that’s been simmering under the surface is about to explode!” Paris called out with a large grin. “Who do you think will survive?”
The mess hall filled with laughter and soon everyone was shouting out bets. Paris quickly grabbed a padd to keep track of the bets.
“20 replicator rations on the Captain!” Chell called out.
“20 replicator rations on the Commander!”
B’Elanna shook her head at Paris’ antics and went back to looking at Miral, but the next bet caused her to look up in surprise.
“100 replicator rations,” Seven called out coolly.
Everyone turned to look at the ex-borg. They had forgotten her being in the room in the excitement of what happened. Paris looked startled. This was the moment that all the crew had been waiting for years, but it had to be difficult for Seven since she had started dating Chakotay.
“What did you say, Seven?” Paris asked.
She arched her eyebrow at his query, “I said 100 replicator rations, Lt.”
“Who did you want to place your bet on?” B’Elanna called out.
“The Commander and the Captain.” Seven answered. “They both deserve a chance for happiness together, provided that they survive the battle yet to come.”
The crew looked at Seven and smiled. She had final learned one of humanities greatest lessons, compassion and sacrifice for the well-being of another person.
“To the Captain and Chakotay!”
Laughter rang out and the bets continued.
Chakotay rushed through the corridors until his was standing in front of Janeway’s quarters and he quickly rang the door. As he waited, he tried to cool his anger, but as the minutes passed and he was denied entrance, his anger blazed anew. Damn it, Kathryn! Open the door. Chakotay rang again. Still no response.
“Computer, open the door to the Captain’s quarters, authorization Maquis Delta 07143 Omega.” Chakotay ordered in a soft voice.
His control hanging by a thin thread, Chakotay stormed through the open door and walked into complete darkness. Chakotay was instantly reminded of the void and he knew that Kathryn was in here somewhere, hiding from everyone.
“Computer, lights 30%” Chakotay called out.
“Computer, belay that order.” Janeway called out in a slightly slurred voice.
“Commander, I didn’t give permission to enter my quarters.”
Chakotay looked around the room and found Kathryn sitting on the couch. A half filled bottle of spirits sat on top of the coffee table beside the peace rose he had given her, just hours before. From the looks of things she had been drinking for sometime and was likely not in the best of moods to deal with him. Chakotay looked carefully at her; her eyes were overly bright as if she had been crying. Her face was flushed, she wavered slightly even while sitting down. She was holding something tightly in her hands that he couldn’t make out.
“Kathryn, this isn’t like you.” Chakotay said softly. “You should be around the crew not sitting alone in the dark.”
Kathryn stared at him before responding in a hollow voice, “How would you know? Tell me, Chakotay. How would you know that this isn’t like me?”
Chakotay glanced at her in disbelief, “Kathryn, you’re the strongest woman I know. It was your belief in our future that allowed us to make it home.”
Kathryn laughed out loud mockingly, “That’s right, I sacrificed the present for future that did eventually happen. I’m sure that my coming future will be filled with my faith in myself to continue forward.”
Chakotay’s breath caught as he noticed the words she spoke. “Kathryn-“
“It’s late; Commander and I have a lot of things that I need to finish before tomorrow.” Janeway said without looking at him.
Chakotay’s tightly held control snapped and he walked towards Kathryn and grabbed her shoulders. He shook her slightly, “Look at me, Kathryn! I’ve been your first officer and best friend for the last seven years. I’ve stood by you and you sit there calling me Commander as if these last few years don’t matter!”
Kathryn looked into his furious eyes and struggled to keep her tears at bay. She regretted hurting him but she needed this distance; this was the only way she would be able to walk away from him forever.
Chakotay’s grip on her tightened was painfully, “Chakotay, you’re hurting me.” She whispered.
Chakotay let go of her and ran a hand through his hair in agitation. “I suppose it’s only fair, Kathryn. You’ve been doing that to me for the last five years.”
“I’ve been hurting you?” Kathryn asked skeptically.
“Kathryn, if you don’t realize it by now then I doubt that you ever will.” Chakotay replied tiredly and started to walk towards the doors. “Good night, Captain.”
Kathryn stood up and carefully walked towards him. “You have not been dismissed, Commander.”
Chakotay stopped in mid step and glanced back at her, his eyes filling with ire at her reprimand.
“You think that you’ve been the only one hurt throughout these last few years, Chakotay?” Kathryn asked sharply. “Stardate 49690.1, you promised that you would always be at my side. Easing my burdens. Only at my side would you know the true meaning of peace. That was the first time that you had held me and for the first time since we arrived in this quadrant, I was able to start forgiving myself for trapping all of us here. Stardate 50518.6, when the alien tried to lure me into his matrix. I saw you desperately trying to breathe life into me. I saw you pleading for me not to leave you. You held me tightly to your chest and your eyes filled tears at the thought of losing me.” Kathryn stood facing Chakotay with tightly clenched fists, tears starting to stream down her face, as her grief overwhelmed her. “After our return from New Earth, I forced us to return to our duties and protocols; I convinced myself that you no longer cared for me. But as I stood there and watched you fighting to save my life for that one moment, I knew that you still cared for me deeply.”
“Kathryn, I’ll always care for you,” Chakotay replied quietly to the shattered woman in front of him as his anger slowly melted away with each word she heartbrokenly uttered. “I’ve always cared for you.”
Kathryn wiped away the tears angrily. “You were trapped with me on New Earth and who else were you going to turn to. I was the convenient choice, the only choice on that planet.”
“That’s not true,” Chakotay denied.
Chakotay paled slightly.
“Do you remember that date, Chakotay? That was the first time that I realized I had built something out of nothing. That was the day that my dreams started to die.”
Chakotay stared at her, his dark eyes filled with shock and sorrow. “Kathryn…”
“How long did you wait, Chakotay?” Kathryn asked in a harsh voice, as she clenched the watch tightly in her hand.
“Kathryn, please stop, “Chakotay beseeched.
Kathryn turned away from him and wrapped her arms tightly around herself. As if, that one move could hold her broken spirit together. Her next words were silently whispered, but still audible within the quiet room.
“It hadn’t been very long since our return from New Earth, mere months, really.” Kathryn said, “I knew when you’d returned from that mission that something had changed. Tell me something, Chakotay. Were you that angry at my decision that you went after the first blonde that crossed your path?”
Chakotay stood in front of her silently, not denying the words she had said.
“Riley, “Kathryn said, “But of course at that time you were under her control and anything you did was against your wishes. As your Captain, I was worried about what had been done to you. They made you betray this ship and her crew.”
Kathryn turned to look at him with icy blue eyes, “But Riley didn’t force you to sleep with her.”
Chakotay felt his temper flare up, “With all due respect, Kathryn, that was none of your business. I would have been with you in an instant, if you had just stopped hiding behind your protocols.”
“Did you think that by sleeping with another woman, it would make me want to let go of my protocols?” Kathryn asked in disbelief. “No, I forced myself to cling even tighter to them and denied myself everything.”
“What about Michael or Kashyk, Kathryn?” Chakotay threw back angrily. “ Where were your protocols then?”
“ Michael was a hologram program. There was nothing between us, except that with him I could ignore my responsibilities and be myself. He was a good friend that I could talk to about-” Kathryn stopped abruptly.
“ About what, Kathryn?” Chakotay asked furiously. “ What could you talk with Michael about that you couldn’t talk to me about? We’ve been best friends for all long time and I thought we could talk about anything.”
Kathryn shook her head and refused to answer. She pressed her lips tightly together as if trying to hold something back.
“ Fine, don’t say anything,” Chakotay said in a hollow voice. “I guess the only way a person can get close to you is if you have the power to delete their memories. Anything that’s said that makes you feel like a woman instead of a Starfleet Captain can always be erased.”
Kathryn looked startled at his verbal attack.
“ And all that time that you spent alone with Kashyk was safe too, because you knew that he would never stay. There was no risk of you falling in love. Just physical attraction, “Chakotay continued bitterly.
Kathryn stood before him, her breathing ragged and her eyes hardened until she was glaring at him.
“ Kashyk, was only a ruse and you damn well knew that from the start. You knew that I would try to gain his trust by making him think that I fell in love with him.” Kathryn flung out heatedly.
“ Was that why you kissed him?” Chakotay asked mockingly. “ Was it part of the act? How far were you willing to take it? Would you have slept with him or would that have been just an added benefit?”
With those words, that tightly held control that Kathryn Janeway had been holding onto by a thread had snapped. The watch fell to the floor unnoticed in her fury, as she strode angrily to him and slapped him as hard as she could.
The sound of the slap echoed throughout the room and an imprint of her palm burned brightly on Chakotay’s cheek. She stood before him, remorse instantly showing on her pale face. She had never hit anyone before, unless it was in self-defense, and her angry action sobered her up quicker than one of the Doctor’s detox sprays.
“I’m sorry, Kathryn, I shouldn’t have said that. We all knew what you were doing.” Chakotay murmured. “It just hurt me to see you with him and I lashed out now without thinking.”
“I understand that kind of the pain, Chakotay, “Kathryn replied. “ Stardate 51813.4. Do you remember that date, Chakotay? The crew will never remember it but I do. Do you know why?”
Chakotay closed his eyes to hide from the pain reflected on Kathryn’s face.
“I found your hand written log entry. You never told me what had happened and I’ve kept silent about it all these years.” Kathryn stated. “ I know all about Kellin and how you fell in love with her, not just once but twice.”
She started to shake slightly and her eyes filled with tears that she refused to let fall, “It might not seem like much to you, Chakotay, but to me it was further proof that you didn’t care for me. New Earth had been an illusion that had been created because there was no one else around for you to be with.”
Chakotay grabbed her arms and shook her slightly, “Kathryn, that’s not true! I meant everything that I said to you on New Earth!”
“But we weren’t on New Earth, we were on Voyager.” Kathryn replied shakily. “On Voyager things had to be different until I got this crew home. I had always hoped that when we got home that we would be able to fulfill those promises made so long ago. But…”
Her voice trailed away and she lifted a trembling hand and placed it over Chakotay’s heart.
Chakotay felt the heat of her hand burn through the many layers of his Starfleet uniform. He placed his hand over hers and grasped it tightly. With his free arm, he pulled her closer into his chest. After all these years, he was finally holding her close, as he had always wanted to.
She rested her head against his chest briefly, then slowly slid her hand from under his and gently pushed away. She took a step back and looked deeply into his eyes.
“But…You’ve let someone else into your heart and you’ve made promises to her. I can’t, regardless of my feelings, ruin that for the both of you,” Kathryn stated, “especially, since I think of Seven as a daughter. I won’t do anything to hurt her.”
Kathryn turned away from him and started towards the sofa when she felt Chakotay pull her back into his embrace. He wrapped his arms around her waist and pressed her closely to his chest. She looked up startled and felt herself becoming lost in his eyes. He tenderly gazed at her and slowly lowered his lips to hers.
The tender kiss was more powerful than anything they had ever experienced and it quickly ignited into a blaze of desire. They remained locked within each other’s embrace until Chakotay reluctantly lifted his head and waited for Kathryn to look up at him. Both were breathing heavily as they stared at each other with passion-filled eyes.
Chakotay took a moment to calm himself before he started to speak, “Seven knows where I am and she knows why I’m here. I came here to claim the most stubborn, beautiful woman in the universe, a woman who still cares deeply for me regardless, of how much I’ve hurt her over the years.” Chakotay said. “I just wasn’t expecting all my past mistakes to come up during the conversation.”
Her eyes sparkled with joy and a smile spread across Kathryn’s face, “Well, you know that I would never waste a tactical opportunity, Commander. Just make sure that I don’t need to ever do that again,” Kathryn implored.
As he nodded, he noticed the watch lying on the floor beside them and he carefully reached down to pick it up. As he stood up, Chakotay held the timepiece towards her.
“This is our time here and now, Kathryn.” Chakotay promised as he pulled her close again. “Nothing will come between us again, Kathryn.”
“I’ve always loved you, Chakotay. All these years, I was just too stubborn and afraid to admit it.” Kathryn whispered, as she placed her hand in his.
“ I love you, and I will always be there to make your burdens lighter. ” Chakotay vowed, repeating the promise given so many years ago.
“ Now, where were we?” Kathryn asked, with a cheeky smile.
“Right here,” Chakotay replied, laughing aloud as he reclaimed her lips.