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By Stacy LaBounty
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"Commander Chakotay of the Federation Starship Voyager, I am hereby placing you on report for dereliction of your duties and refusal to obey my orders."….


 3 months earlier

They were on what seemed to be an ordinary scouting mission for dilithium. Chakotay and Lieutenant Torres had taken the shuttlecraft to a nearby planet in search of the much-needed crystals. Voyagers’ long-range sensors had gotten some energy readings emanating from a nearby M-class planet. They could detect life signs on the planet, but there was some kind of field generator disrupting Voyagers’ scanners and they could not tell what kind of life signs they were.

As per the Prime Directive of not interfering in any alien cultures and so as not to come upon any hostile aliens unprepared, they had taken the shuttlecraft to get a closer look. As the shuttlecraft neared the planet, they found the life signs were Vidiian. A small group of them, apparently on a scouting mission of their own, was camping in a clearing not far from where the dilithium readings were emanating. They must have erected the force field around their camp to protect themselves from being detected by others. Otherwise the planet was not normally inhabited. So taking the crystals wouldn’t necessarily be stealing from anybody.

"Great, now what are we going to do? That field generator they have won’t allow us to transport any of the dilithium directly to the shuttlecraft. The transporter signal cannot maintain a lock. Another wasted away mission." B’Elanna groaned.

Chakotay was not as easily deterred from his mission. "NO, I am not going to let a bunch of bullies keep us from that dilithium. Voyager doesn’t even have enough to make it to another M-class planet, that is if there’s even one close by. We have to get down there and get that dilithium."

"Chakotay….", she started to argue but was cut off.

"B’Elanna, listen to me, we’ll just land on the other side of the planet and then hike back to the dilithium. We should be able to remain undetected long enough to get the dilithium and then get back here to the shuttlecraft. Agreed?"

B’Elanna thought about what they were planning to do. So far all of their experiences with the Vidiians had not turned out for the better. It had always cost them something. But their need for the dilithium got the better of her and she reluctantly said, "Agreed."

"Good, commence landing sequence as soon as we are far enough away to avoid detection." Chakotay ordered.

"Aye, Commander."

They landed on the planet and proceeded to hike to the caves where the energy readings had told them the crystals were. There were large trees and dense foliage all around, so they had plenty of good shelter and places to hide in case they came upon the band of Vidiians camping on the planet.

They reached the caves after a long trek through trees and over large rock outcroppings. Not being familiar with the terrain, they both had stumbled many times sustaining cuts and small gashes to their knees and shins. Luckily, nothing was broken and the portable med-kit, that was standard equipment on any Away Mission they went on, really came in handy.

The caves were far enough away from the Vidiians camp to avoid detection, but Chakotay did not want to take any chances where they were concerned. He just wanted to get the dilithium and get back to Voyager as soon as possible.

Inside the caves, the temperature was very hot and arid. With their wrist beacons cutting through the darkness, they scanned the cave walls looking for a rich deposit of dilithium crystals. The tricorder’s beeps echoed through the caves many tunnels when the dilithium had been located. Chakotay got the tools out of his pack and started digging. B’Elanna had set about getting the containers ready to collect the raw crystals.

They gathered crystals for at least four hours until the heat had started to get to Chakotay. B’Elanna’s Klingon physiology enabled her to stand the heat a lot longer, so she didn’t even notice it as much as Chakotay. She could tell, though, that he was not faring as well as she, and decided to suggest that they call it quits.

"Commander, I think we have plenty of crystals now to last a while. We should head back to the shuttlecraft before nightfall. We had enough trouble getting here in the light of day, we could never make it in the dark."

Chakotay readily agreed. "Good idea, Lieutenant. Let’s pack up and head for the shuttlecraft. We can hail Voyager and let them know we’re on our way."

As soon as he said those words, the ground started trembling and rocks began falling all around them. A sizeable one hit Chakotay on the left temple, right above his tattoo. He was shaken for a moment, but was able to regain his senses. And just in time, too. B’Elanna was about to ask him if he was okay, when he lunged at her and pushed her to the ground. After she had recovered somewhat, she looked around and she saw a huge boulder sitting exactly where she had been standing only moments ago. Rocks continued to fall on top of them and around them. Chakotay had taken the brunt of abuse because his body was still protecting B’Elanna’s smaller one beneath him. Suddenly, everything was quiet. B’Elanna was the first to move and noticed that Chakotay was awfully still.

"Commander…" she gently shook him.

He lifted his head and B’Elanna noticed the large gash in his left temple and the inordinate amount of blood streaming down his face. It took him a couple more seconds to fully come to and when he realized where he was, he started to move off of B’Elanna. She cried out in pain with his movements. She had not even realized she was hurt. She could only guess, but she figured she had some broken ribs and was almost sure her leg was broken. Chakotay was now standing up, still somewhat unsteady, looking around trying to ascertain their situation. He looked down at B’Elanna and noticed her left lower leg. Her tibia was broken and had pushed its way through the skin. He hadn’t realized that her left foot had been trapped between two very large rocks when he had pushed her out of the way of the boulder.

"B’Elanna, are you okay. Are you hurt anywhere else besides your leg?"

"I’m fine, except I think I broke a couple of ribs. Probably when you jumped on top of me." she chuckled at him trying to lighten the mood. "But you’re bleeding pretty badly. Come here and let me look at that."

"No, I’ll be okay. We have to get out of here before this whole place comes down on top of us."

"But you’ve lost so much blood and you’re white as a ghost." she told him.

"No, B’Elanna, don’t worry about me right now. Let’s just figure out how to get back to the shuttlecraft, ok? Do you think you can walk?"

"Not on my own, I don’t think and it’s really starting to hurt when I breathe."

"Okay, you carry the pack and I’ll carry you." he ordered.

"Wait, where’s the dilithium canister. I was just about to put it in the pack when the tremors hit." She started wildly looking around for the canister.

"I’ll find it." Chakotay dug through the rubble until he finally saw the canister. Relief was evident in his face as he handed it to B’Elanna. His only thought was that if they had lost the crystals, it truly would have been a wasted Away Mission. He then helped her up so that he could carry her back to the shuttlecraft, her ribs crying out in pain with each movement.

Chakotay stumbled as he made his way out of the cave and she saw the look of pain evident in his features. B’Elanna could tell his injuries were worse than he let on. But he kept going. He saw her looking intently at him and broke the silence, "If we are captured by the Vidiians, we can always trade them a sample of your DNA for our freedom."

"Very funny, Commander"

They reached the shuttlecraft just before the planets two suns had set on the distant horizon. Opening the hatch, he placed B’Elanna inside and then climbed in himself. B’Elanna immediately commenced take-off procedures and hailed Voyager. She informed the Captain that they were on their way back but had sustained some injuries. As she was telling the Captain what had happened, Chakotay lost consciousness and now lay slumped over the computer console.

The Captain had B’Elanna relay their coordinates and turned to Tom, "Lay in a course, Lieutenant."

"Aye, Captain." Tom’s fingers worked their magic over the buttons on his console. It was only a matter of minutes until they were within transporter range of the shuttlecraft. Tom then locked on a tractor beam and beamed it aboard.

Once the shuttlecraft was back onboard Voyager, both Chakotay and B’Elanna were beamed to sickbay. Chakotay still had not regained consciousness and his head wound continued to bleed profusely. B’Elanna had suffered a broken leg and two broken ribs, not to mention bruises and several large cuts from the rocks falling on them in the cave. Her injuries were easily treated by the expertise of the doctor and the technology he had at hand. He used the dermal regenerator for her cuts and bruises and the osteoregenerator to repair the broken bones. She would still need a couple of days rest to fully recover, but she was going to be fine, much to the relief of a very worried and concerned Lieutenant standing over her since she got back onboard.

The Captain had been notified the moment they were back on the ship. She immediately handed the bridge over to Tuvok and headed straight for sickbay. She walked slowly down the corridor, not even seeing or hearing the other crewmembers as they nodded to her or said something to her in passing. She wanted to hurry up and get there, but could not make her feet go any faster. She feared what she would find when she got there.

She was surprised at all the emotions raging within her. She wasn’t sure exactly what she felt. Sure she was concerned for her crewmembers. That was natural. She was their Captain, after all. But she was sure she had never felt like this before. Not even back in the Alpha Quadrant when Mark, her fianc鬠was involved in a shuttlecraft accident on the way to meet her on a nearby planet where she had been on shore leave after a recent mission. She had loved him a great deal and was very worried when she had received the news. This just felt so different. All she really knew right now was that she was confused. And…very scared. And that was one emotion she rarely let herself feel.

"Tom, would you please step back and let me do my work!" the Doctor ordered impatiently. Tom took a few steps back, not wanting to leave until he was sure B’Elanna was okay.

"I’m fine, Tom. I’ll live. I just hope we can say the same for Chakotay." she said as she looked over to the bio-bed where his crumpled body lay. Her heart and thoughts went to her friend, actually he was almost like a father to her. They had fought together in the Maquis and he had saved her life on occasions too numerous to count. And once again he had saved her life. He had made sure she got back to the shuttlecraft despite his life-threatening injuries. She didn’t think she would be able to handle it if he didn’t make it. She quickly put that last thought out of her head. If he was anything, he was a fighter and he would not give up. She had to keep thinking that.

"Doc, how is Chakotay? Is he going to be okay?" Tom asked the words that B’Elanna was afraid to voice.

"We won’t know for some time now. He had many external injuries that I was able to heal, but," he hesitated before he continued because at that moment Captain Janeway had entered Sickbay.

"But what, Doctor. Is he going to be okay or isn’t he?" She demanded an answer from him. One that right now he couldn’t give. As he looked into her steely blue eyes, he could see that she was worried, but was this worry simply for a member of her crew or was this something completely different. He knew she felt very strongly for all the members of her crew, but there was something else in her eyes that he could not put his finger on.

She couldn’t even bring herself to look at his body right away. She had been apprised somewhat of the extent of his injuries by Tuvok. She knew that if she looked at him lying there like that, she would break down, and she could not do that in front of her crew. She would not allow herself to do that in front of her crew.

"Captain, I have been able to heal his external injuries, but he sustained many internal ones as well, and they make take a while to heal. He has several broken ribs. He also has a hairline fracture in his right arm that has to be set. His head wound caused a great deal of blood loss and he is in shock. He was in a coma when they beamed him to sickbay. I am hoping that he will be able to wake on his own, but right now only time will tell. He will have to stay here until he is out of danger."

The Captain started to ask another question, but was cut off by the doctor, "Captain, I must begin work on the Commander if we want to save him. I will notify you the moment I know anything. I promise."

"Thank you, Doctor." she said without showing the emotions that were raging in her head.

Tom spoke next, "Captain, why don’t we walk you back to your quarters?" He had noticed the look on his Captain’s face the moment she walked in to Sickbay.

Kathryn looked up at Tom and B’Elanna and realized she hadn’t even asked how B’Elanna was. "I’m so sorry, B’Elanna. Are you all right? Are you going to be okay?"

"Yes, Captain. Nothing that a couple days of doctor-imposed rest won’t fix. And Chakotay will be fine, too. I’m sure of it, he is a fighter and he is very strong. He won’t give up and we shouldn’t either."

She looked at her Captain. B’Elanna could tell she was worried and needed some answers. She lowered her voice when she began again, "You know, he saved my life down there. I wouldn’t have made it back to the shuttlecraft on my own. He carried me the whole way."

B’Elanna could see that the Captains eyes were beginning to brim with tears that she refused to shed. The senior staff had always guessed how their commanding officers felt about each other, even if they refused to admit it. At least, the Captain had always refused to admit it. Chakotay had confided in B’Elanna on one occasion how deeply he really felt for the Captain, but due to her stubborn reliance on protocols, had not pushed the subject.

"Tom, why don’t you take the rest of the day off and get B’Elanna settled. See to it if she needs anything, okay. I’ll take care of the coverage for your shifts on the bridge." Kathryn told them. She knew of Tom and B’Elanna’s feelings for each other. She could see the worry in Tom’s face and knew he needed some time alone with B’Elanna.

"Thank you, Captain, I will. Come on, B’Elanna, that’s an order from your Captain," Tom grabbed her arm and led her out of sickbay when he saw that she was going to say something more. He figured the Captain could use some time alone with Chakotay. It might very well be her last.

The next few weeks, Kathryn spent every minute off-duty in Sickbay. She didn’t eat, she didn’t sleep, she just sat there, hoping for some signs of life from Chakotay. She held his hand and spoke to him quietly when the Doctor was deactivated, telling him that she couldn’t get this ship and crew home without his help and support, without him. "Oh, God, I can’t lose him now!"

Kathryn ignored Neelix’s many attempts to get her to eat something and to cheer her up. She even gave her cook and self-proclaimed Morale Officer one of her famous Death-Stares that she saved for attacking aliens, when he had pushed a little too far. Neelix really began to worry when she even refused his offer of coffee. He truly loved his Captain and it broke his heart to see her like this. "Why can’t she just admit how she feels about him?" he thought to himself as he left Sickbay. He could see it in their faces how they felt about each other. The way they looked at each other on the bridge, the way they spent hours just talking in the Mess Hall, the pained look in their eyes after they had one of their disagreements. The whole crew probably knew how they felt towards one another. Why didn’t they?

The Doctor worked round the clock to repair the internal injuries and stabilize Chakotay’s condition. The head wound had caused massive internal bleeding and pressure on his cerebral cortex. It was touch and go now. Only time would let them know if Chakotay would recover.

"Captain, I must order you out of sickbay. Go to your quarters and get something to eat and please get some sleep." The doctor was the only one on the ship who could give orders to the Captain, where her health was concerned, that is.

Kathryn hated it when the Doctor ordered her around. "Who do you think you are talking to, Mister?" she asked.

"Well, right now, I’m talking to the Captain, who, if she doesn’t get out of this Sickbay and get some much needed rest, will be of no good to the rest of this crew or this ship for that matter." He realized he had started to raise his voice as he spoke to her. He lowered his voice before he began again, "Captain, may I speak freely?"

"Well, don’t you always?" she growled at him.

"You know what your problem is?" he asked.

"What?" she demanded.

"You are always so hell-bent on doing your duty to this ship and its crew--your crew--but you never let anyone do their duties to you as Captain. It is my duty to see that you remain healthy and alert, if only to take care of this ship, since you don’t seem to want to take care of yourself."

He knew he was treading on thin ice, but he had to get her to see what she was doing to herself. If she became sick herself, she would not be helping anybody, especially Chakotay.

Kathryn had her back to him now, starring at the bio-bed where Chakotay lay.

"And now, I’m talking to you as Kathryn, my friend, whom I’ve come to admire a great deal. You need to take care of yourself first, before you can take care of anybody else. I only want to see you happy and at peace."

‘Peace.’ Kathryn spun around to face the Doctor at that word. Could she ever find peace? ‘…the true meaning of peace.’ All of the sudden, those words were echoing very loudly in her brain. "Doctor, how am I supposed to find peace when I’ve stranded this ship and crew in this god-forsaken quadrant and…and…" she found she couldn’t continue without her voice betraying all the pent-up emotions she had so far been able to hold in check. Turning to look at Chakotay, she took a deep breath and began again, "And may have sent my First Officer, and best friend, on his last away mission." The tears began to come again as she spoke those last words.

Kathryn spun around to face the Doctor at that word. Could she ever find peace? ‘ All of the sudden, those words were echoing very loudly in her brain. "Doctor, how am I supposed to find peace when I’ve stranded this ship and crew in this god-forsaken quadrant and…and…" she found she couldn’t continue without her voice betraying all the pent-up emotions she had so far been able to hold in check. Turning to look at Chakotay, she took a deep breath and began again, "And may have sent my First Officer, and best friend, on his last away mission." The tears began to come again as she spoke those last words.

The Doctor noticed how she had said ‘best friend’, but maybe it went deeper than that. He had always hated to get involved in the ship’s gossip mill, but maybe the crew was right in their assumptions of the feelings between their commanding officers. He had to get through to her, somehow.

Before she could say anything else, he grabbed both her shoulders and forcefully turned her to face him. "That is exactly the kind of thinking you cannot allow yourself. It wasn’t your fault. It’s not like you planned to get us trapped in the Delta Quadrant. And you sure didn’t know the Commander was going to be injured on this Away Mission."

"Yes, but if…"

Again the Doctor cut her off, "You can not live by ‘but-ifs’ or ‘what-ifs’"

The tears she had been holding back began to stream down her cheeks. The Doctors’ holographic ‘heart’ began to break. He hated seeing her like this. How could she keep doing this to herself?

Speaking gently to her now, he said, "Captain, why don’t you go to your quarters and get a couple hours of sleep and maybe something to eat. I’m sure Tuvok is capable of handling anything that happens on the bridge for a while."

She started to argue that she needed to stay here with Chakotay. The Doctor stopped her and said, "No, that is an order, go get some rest and I promise you, I will notify you as soon as there is any change in the Commanders condition."

Very slowly and very reluctantly she turned and walked out of Sickbay. Her heart was breaking into a million pieces. "Who was going to pick up the pieces?" she wondered. She had never let anybody get close enough to even want to or know how. She knew she was not going to get any rest until this was over. She had to go somewhere. She had to think. Her quarters… Her office... No, too many reminders of this ship and her lonely life. She just needed a moment’s peace. Then she knew. She almost ran to the turbolift.

"Computer, Holodeck 2" she said as she stepped into the lift.

She stood outside the doors to the Holodeck for what seemed liked an eternity. Finally, she let out the breath she hadn’t known she was holding and said "Computer, activate program Janeway-one-zero-one. "Program activated" came the metallic voice of the computer.

She stepped in and immediately her senses were assaulted by the sights, sounds, and smells so long ago forgotten. She was standing in a clearing of trees only a few feet from what had been their ‘home’ a few years ago. She had created this New Earth program so she would have somewhere to go when things got to be too much. She realized she hadn’t even used the program in more than a year. There were always to many things to handle. Ship systems malfunctioning, aliens attacking, personnel problems, etc. Never anytime to herself. No time to just be Kathryn. New Earth gave her that chance to see what it was like to let go of the Captain persona she so dearly held on to. Even if it was only short-lived, she had enjoyed being on that planet with Chakotay. It had allowed them to forgo command structure for a while and just be themselves.

"Oh Chakotay, don’t leave me now. I’d never make it alone." As she was thinking this, she remembered his words to her on many occasions, "You are never alone, Kathryn."

As she was thinking this, she remembered his words to her on many occasions,

She realized at that moment that she never wanted to be alone again. She had to do something. But what? How was she going to fix this self-imposed isolation? She was the one who couldn’t let go of protocol. She was the one who kept pushing him away. She was the one who had built this wall around herself. She was fully aware of his feelings towards her, and she was the one who would not let it go any farther than just their being best friends. She needed him as her friend, but now she realized that she wanted more than that. She needed him in her life. She wanted him in her life. She knew he was her soul mate. She just had to open up and let him in. But how would she go about telling him. She knew she would never be able to just come out and say what she was feeling. She had held back for so long now. Then something the Doctor had told her in Sickbay came back to her. "Yes, that’s it. This is going to work." she told herself.

With that last thought she stated, "Computer, end program." The scenes around her fizzled into nothingness and left only the black and yellow grid of the Holodeck. She walked back to her quarters with a new sense of energy and hope. Could she really do this? Would she allow this to happen? Her beloved father has always taught her that she could do anything she wanted. And now, for the first time, she admitted to herself that this is what she wanted. He was what she wanted.

Just before she got to her quarters, her comm badge chirped, waking her out of her thoughts.

"Sickbay to Captain"

"Janeway here, Doctor, go ahead."

"I think you should come to Sickbay, right away." the Doctor told her.

"Doctor, what is it? Is it the Commander?" Kathryn began to get very scared again when the Doctor wouldn’t answer her right away. She had only been gone from Sickbay for a few hours.

"Captain, could you just please come to Sickbay?"

"On my way. Janeway out."

She practically ran all the way there. Not even caring about the stares she was receiving from crewmembers she passed on the way. Sickbay never seemed so far away before. It felt like an eternity before she got there.

She stood outside the Sickbay doors for a while, trying to regain a semblance of herself before entering. She stepped closer to the doors and they whooshed open. She peered through the doors and heard voices coming from within. The Doctor was talking, then she heard Tom, and then finally she heard soft laughter coming from B’Elanna. She walked into the room and saw them all standing around the bio-bed where she had spent much of her time the last couple of months. Then she heard another voice. Her heart stopped. Were her ears playing tricks on her? She shook her head and listened intently.

Tom spoke again, "I can’t even begin to tell you how grateful I am to you for bringing my B’Ella back to me."

"No problem. I love this little Klingon brat as much as you do." came that voice again.

"Oh, I don’t know about that." Tom said as he gathered B’Elanna closer into his arms.

Kathryn just stood there listening, taking it all in. Nobody had heard or seen her come in yet. She was glad because she realized she had tears streaming down her cheeks. She was just wiping them away when the Doctor noticed her standing behind them.

"I think there is somebody else who would like to have a word with our patient." He motioned to Kathryn and seeing her, Tom and B’Elanna moved aside, letting the Captain see that Chakotay was now sitting up on the bio-bed. He still looked pale and somewhat thinner, but he was awake and alert.

"Good to see you up and about, Commander." She was still trying to hold her emotions in check. She wanted to run to him and never let him go. But she told herself there would be time for that later.

He gazed at her for a few seconds before saying, "Thank you, Captain. It’s good to be up."

"How are you feeling?" she asked him, hoping he couldn’t hear the beating of her heart. It felt like it was going to come pounding right out of her chest.

"Almost as good as new, I think. The Doctor said he will be able to release me to duty in another day. I can’t wait to get back to work and catch up on the last three months."

"Commander, are you sure you’ll be up to returning to duty so soon? If you need more time…"

He cut her off, "No, Captain. I’m fine. I’ve been lying on this bio-bed for months. Believe me, I’m ready to get back to work."

"Okay, but before your first duty shift, I’ll need to see you in my Ready Room. We have to discuss some things." She looked straight into his eyes as she spoke.

He stared back at her not able to read her emotions. He could tell that something had changed in her. He could feel it in the air as soon as she walked into Sickbay. But he could not figure it out. "Aye, Captain."

He went back to his quarters and changed into some fresh clothes before heading to the Mess Hall. He needed to see everybody again. He needed to get back to his normal routines. And he realized he was very hungry. As soon as he had entered the Mess Hall, he was surrounded by crewmembers. They were telling him how happy they were that he was okay and that they had all missed him. He got hugs and handshakes from almost everyone there until Neelix interrupted.

"Okay, now if everybody would just step back and give the Commander some breathing room." He then shook Chakotay’s hand and asked how he was feeling.

"Just fine. I think I’m as good as new. Thanks to the Doctor and of course the love and support of this crew. I want to tell you all how much I appreciate it." He beamed with pride as he looked at each an every one of them.

Tom came forward first, "You’re the one we want to thank. You were the one who saved B’Elanna’s life. You carried her to the shuttlecraft, and with a broken arm and broken ribs. This ship would be lost without her. She is the best engineer we got. I would be lost without her." With that he took B’Elanna into his arms again.

By now half the crewmembers there had tears in their eyes. B’Elanna had tears running down her cheeks when she came forward and gave Chakotay the biggest hug he thought he had ever had in his life. He was starting to get tears in his eyes as well.

By now Neelix was making his way out of the kitchen with a huge cake. The icing on top spelled out "Our Thanks and Our Love -- The Crew." Neelix cut everybody a slice and they spent a few more hours just talking and laughing and retelling stories of what had happened on the planet. Tom also caught him up on the latest gossip he had missed for the last three months.

Chakotay stood up finally and announced, "I have had a really good time, you guys. Thank you again for everything. I mean it. But right now, I am kinda bushed. I think I’ll retire to my quarters and get some rest. Good night all and I’ll see you tomorrow."

Nobody saw Kathryn standing in the doorway of the Mess Hall, watching intently as the scene played out. She couldn’t believe how lucky she really was. Who would’ve thought a Federation crew and a Maquis crew coming together like this? Becoming more than just a crew, becoming a real family.

Kathryn watched as they embraced Chakotay into their hearts and lives. She saw how they embraced each other. She was now more convinced than ever that she had to go through with her plans. She knew now that what she was going to do was right. In the end, it would be right for all of them.

She only hoped that he would not be too upset with her.

Shortly before Chakotay had said his ‘goodnights’, Kathryn had already slipped out of the doorway and was heading back to her quarters. She had to get her plans underway.

As Chakotay was heading back to his own quarters, he was wondering why the Captain wasn’t present at the little party Neelix and the crew had thrown for him. He was also wondering about her demeanor in Sickbay earlier. She had kept up professional protocols the whole time, yet he could tell she was holding something back. And he could swear that she looked like she had been crying. Was he dreaming it all? Just like he had been dreaming that she was sitting next to him all those weeks ago in Sickbay. Holding his hand, crying his name, pleading with him to wake up. It was those dreams that had kept him going. Feeling her next to him, feeling her love for him, feeling the warmth of her hands on him, her breath on his neck and cheeks, begging him not to leave her alone. Those thoughts of her needing him, waiting for him, and loving him sustained his whole being and had allowed him to recover.

He reached his quarters and punched in his entry code. The doors whooshed open and Chakotay was glad to be home at last. He was actually feeling quite good at the moment. His thoughts went back to the party and all the nice things the crew had said to and about him. Six years ago, if somebody had told him that a Starfleet crew and a Maquis crew would be serving together, striving for the same goals, and that he would be a part of it, Chakotay would have been the first one to set up an appointment at the nearest psychiatric hospital for them.

But she had been sure it would work. She never gave up on them and never let them give up on themselves. Somehow, she had been sure.

Now Chakotay was thinking back to their conversation in Sickbay and how the Captain had asked him to report to her Ready Room before his duty shift. He still couldn’t place his finger on it, but something was going to happen. He was sure of it. He just wasn’t sure what it was or what the outcome would be.

He fell into a fitful sleep that night still wondering.

The next morning, he reported to the Captain’s Ready Room as ordered. She sat at her desk working on some files in the computer. She didn’t look up as he walked in.

"Okay, Kathryn," she told herself. "There will be no backing down now. You have to get through this, for yourself and for him."

"Uh-oh" was his first thought. "What’s going on?" he wondered. Finally, she looked up from her computer monitor.

was his first thought. he wondered. Finally, she looked up from her computer monitor.

"Good Morning, Commander." she said evenly.

"There she goes with those blasted command protocols again," he thought.

he thought.

"Good Morning, Captain." Not being able to wait any longer, he added, "What was it that you wanted to discuss?"

"Oh, I just have a few things to clear up about the accident and all. You know, ship’s business."

"Ship’s business." he thought. So maybe nothing had changed after all. Maybe all was just as it was before. But he was sure that was not the case. He could feel it in his bones.

he thought. So maybe nothing had changed after all. Maybe all was just as it was before. But he was sure that was not the case. He could feel it in his bones.

"Okay, so what’s up?"

"First, I have yet to receive your reports on what happened on that planet."

"You’ll have it before the end of the day. I promise." he stated matter-of-factly.

"Secondly, one other issue that has to be dealt with before it disrupts any more ship’s business."

He could feel something coming and wasn’t sure he was ready for it.

"Go ahead, Captain." he said as evenly as he could.

She stood up and walked around to the front of her desk. She ended up right in front of where he was standing. Never taking her eyes off his, she took a deep breath and then began, "Commander Chakotay of the Federation Starship Voyager, I am hereby placing you on report for dereliction of your duties and refusal to obey my orders."

Chakotay could not believe what he was hearing. He just stared back at her steely blue eyes. Looking for something, anything. "Why was she doing this?"

When he was finally able to speak again, "What are you talking about, Captain?" His voice rose with each word.

She noticed the emotions play across his face. Confusion. Anger. Betrayal. She steadied herself for his next outburst. She could not back down now. She had to get through this. They had to get through this.

"Just how was I derelict in my duties. I got the dilithium we needed, didn’t I? I got B’Elanna back safely, didn’t I?" He could feel himself becoming angrier with each word he spoke. "Now, Captain, you just tell me how was I derelict in my duties to this ship?" he was coming awfully close to insubordination now, but he didn’t care.

"Ah, that’s what you don’t understand, Commander. I’m not talking about your duties to this ship."

"Then what the…" he was practically screaming at her now.

She cut him off by saying, "I’m talking about your duties to Me, Chakotay."

He noticed immediately her use of his name rather than his rank. He was getting so exasperated with her that he tried again to ask, "What…"

She held up her hand to stop him. "What good would you have been to me if you died on that planet? How would that have made my burdens lighter as you swore you would do? How would I have gone on alone without you?"

"You promised to always stand by my side, didn’t you?" she asked again when he remained silent. "Isn’t that your duty to me?" Her voice almost broke and betrayed all emotions she was trying to keep under control.

Suddenly, something dawned on him. He was starting to understand and finally realized what she was actually saying. He remembered their time back on New Earth when he told her the ‘Angry Warrior’ legend and promised to do all the things she was now accusing him of not doing. He also remembered very well that if they had had more time, they could have become more than just best friends. Now he saw it all very clearly why she was doing this. He peered deep into her azure blue eyes, which had become shiny with unshed tears. "Was she finally going to be able to admit it to herself and to him?" he wondered.

Not quite sure how to proceed and wanting to make sure he was reading her right, he asked, "Kathryn, is it your First Officer you want by your side, or…" he hesitated and then began again, "is it ME that you want by your side?"

 She took a long while before she answered him. There was no turning back now. "I do need you to stand by me as my First Officer and best friend, but…" she paused and walked over to the viewport before beginning again, "I want YOU. I need YOU." The tears were now falling down her cheeks.

Still not believing his ears and not sure he heard her correctly because his heart was pounding so loudly. He walked over to her, turning her to face him and taking her hands into his, he asked gently, "Kathryn, are you truly placing me on report?"

She blushed noticeably and lowered her head, not able to look him in the eyes. She looked back up at him, placing one of her hands lightly on his chest. She could feel the rhythm of his heart increase. Hers was beating just as fast, if not faster. She then chuckled at him and said, "No, but it made it easier to say."

He began to fall in love all over again, and if possible, even deeper than before. Smiling at her, with full-blown dimples, he asked, "And what about the part about refusing to obey your orders?"

She gave him the lopsided grin that she always saved just for him. "Oh, yeah. Well those orders were…" she looked deep into his eyes and once again took both his hands into hers, "those orders were to shut up and kiss me, Commander."

"Oh, Kathryn, now those are orders I could never or would never refuse to obey."

He quickly grabbed her to him and began twirling her around. Her feet dangling only inches from the floor.

He thought he was feeling good at the party the crew had thrown for him. But those feelings were nothing compared to what he was feeling now. He set her down and reached up to cup her face gently in his hands. The tears were still streaming down her cheeks. He tilted her head back and ever so slowly closed the gap between them. He brushed his lips against hers very slightly then pulled back to look at her, making sure she wanted this. He was stunned when her hand came up to the back of his head and forcibly brought his lips back down to her own. They only broke apart when the need for oxygen became too great.

"Oh, one more thing, Commander." She said between breaths.

"What’s that, Kathryn?" he asked still holding her.

"Don’t ever leave me. Because you know I will throw you in the brig if you do." she said with a twinkle in her eye.

"Kathryn, I love you so much. I have loved you from the moment I saw you." he said breathlessly.

"And I love you, Chakotay. I always will."

"You never could just come out and say anything could you, Kathryn?" he was giving her his famous dimpled smile.

"Look who’s talking, My Angry Warrior."

 

The End

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