The Keeper

Summary:A look at our command team during the journey through the eyes and ears of Tom Paris. A very Happy Birthday to our dear, Delta. Many happy returns and much love, my dear friend.

Rated G

Many thanks to Mary S for the wonderful beta.

Disclaimer: CBS/Paramount owns everything. No infringement intended.


I listened to them everyday. I’m not sure whether they were aware or not, but from my station at the helm, I could hear almost every word they said.

They were our commanding officers, but they were so much more than that. They were our leaders, mentors and especially for some of the younger members of the crew, almost surrogate parents. I know Harry saw the Captain as a mother figure of sorts, and he wasn’t the only one. For a lucky few of us, they were also our friends.

On a small ship like Voyager, and in light of our situation, all our lives were inclined to merge and overlap. We were a small lifeboat of beings adrift in this vast unknown quadrant, and the isolation tended to blur the boundaries. I felt intensely privileged to have been witness to this very private part of their lives. It sounds voyeuristic, but it wasn’t. Well, not really.

When I was first given the position of helmsman and realised that I would be privy to all of their intimate conversations, I saw it as an opportunity to manipulate the crew, exploit their hunger for gossip and rumour, and line my pockets with extra rations in the process. But the years mellowed and changed me, and I don’t so much listen to the words these days, but rather to the timbre and tone of their whispers. Over time, I learned a lot about them and their relationship, and I also learned a lot about me.

In the beginning, just after the Caretaker pulled us to the far reaches of the Delta Quadrant and we began our long trek home, their conversations were stilted and officious. There was a sense of something there, a kind of presence when they were together, but as captain, Kathryn Janeway was determined to adhere strictly to Starfleet protocols and regulations. She was uncompromising and inflexible, Starfleet to the core. Time has mellowed her as well, but back then, there was no bantering on the bridge and no mindless chatter. Everything was by the book.

The rigid stance was necessary to keep order. There were problems, you see, with the Maquis, with integration and with the emotional impact of our isolation. Not to mention the fact that the very basics of survival took precedence over everything else. Finding enough food to eat and enough raw materials to keep Voyager going were a priority and a constant source of tension and concern. Now that I think about it, there were issues with just about everything… but slowly things began to change.

She made B’Elanna Chief Engineer. That was Kathryn Janeway’s first giant step outside the square of rigid Starfleet ideals. Making Chakotay her first officer had been a calculated move on her part. She needed him and his support to keep the Maquis in line, and, of course, he was ex-Starfleet, so he knew the ropes. But B’Elanna? Now, she was a shot in the dark. It was a brilliant manoeuvre in hindsight, but it had been a big risk at the time. B’Elanna’s promotion had been at his suggestion – I wish I could have been a fly on the wall of the ready room for that conversation – but I heard enough to know that initially the Captain wasn’t too ‘taken’ with the idea.

In the end, it was B’Elanna who convinced her when, a few weeks into our journey, we became trapped in a quantum singularity. We were in the briefing room weighing up our options and I’ll never forget the look on Chakotay’s face when the Captain and B’Elanna began discussing a way to escape the anomaly. They were like rapid-fire machine guns – shooting intricate and complex suggestions back and forth at lightning speed. I couldn’t help smiling. No one else could make head or tail of what they were saying. Spatial distortions? Temporal fluxes? Event horizons and warp particles? We were all in the dark, but I noticed Chakotay’s eyes sparking with something other than admiration for his captain’s scientific prowess. It was at that moment that I realised that there was something special happening here. Then and there, I vowed to keep tabs on this new development and catalogue the ebb and flow of their relationship.

Time moved on. There were moments when it seemed so obvious to me, like when the Captain first visited Sandrine’s. She floored us with her blatant innuendo, by asking Chakotay for ‘his stick’, and then proceeded to clear the pool table and wipe the floor with the lot of us.

Poor Chakotay didn’t quite know what to make of her. She was quick witted, feisty, stubborn as hell, but vulnerable in a very appealing way, and I think we all fell a little bit in love with her.

To add to her appeal, she cared deeply for her crew. Too much sometimes and I know that the deaths and losses were hard on her. I heard a lot of lower deck rumour-mongering and conjecture. Many of the crew saw her as a hard-as-nails captain, firm but fair. Although to me, it didn’t take much to see past the tough outer shell to the soft centre beneath. Her compassion caused her some grief over the years, but she would never allow anyone to see her as less than the consummate Starfleet officer. Anyone, that is, except Chakotay, of course. And I was glad she had someone.

I was in a unique position, you see, and I don’t just mean my place at the helm, but because I’d known her before. Before Voyager, before the Delta Quadrant, before a lot of things. We were both ‘Fleet brats and she’d served with my father on both the Icarus and the Al Batani. I knew her history and where it intersected with my life through my father’s, and this gave me a certain insight and awareness of her vulnerabilities. She hid them well. Sometimes too well and that took its toll. But she was aware that I knew and for that reason, our relationship had a slightly different tone to it than with the other members of the crew. Perhaps it was why she was able to look past my shortcomings and allow me a certain freedom and informality with her. It was something, I think, she enjoyed, but I know Chakotay was a little resentful, and it added fuel to the fire of his initial antagonism towards me. Fortunately, that slowly faded as each of us lived through our own trials and ordeals and over the years faced our own crucibles of loss and pain.

Too many times, as Captain, she had to go against her nature and toe the hard line; every now and then I glimpsed chinks in her armour, but to most everyone she was the infallible captain and our admired leader. We would do anything for her. And we did.

As time passed and we continued to travel the seemingly endless light years towards home, we all found our places here on Voyager, and so did she. Her relationship with the Commander deepened. They were dear friends. As close as two people could be without being lovers, although I always wondered about the time they spent on that planet alone, but I could never be sure. There was a look in their eyes after their return and I could tell that something significant had happened, but, as hard as I listened, I never heard them whisper about it. Once they were back on the ship, it was never spoken of again. They behaved as though those few months had never happened, which was why I was suspicious. But I’ll never know.

Their attraction to one another was very apparent and I think they thought that we didn’t know. They were wrong of course. It was obvious to one and all. If she touched him – which she did often – he’d light up like a supernova. If he walked into a room, her eyes would home in on him immediately and they would drift towards one another as if pulled by an invisible force. When they were standing close, they would unconsciously lean towards one another. Sometimes the moments were so intense it was as if electricity was arcing between them. Every single person on the ship could see it and every single person on the ship was happy for them. We’d bonded, you see. As each battle was fought and won, we grew closer. We were a band of brothers, a family – united by bonds stronger than blood. We had only each other, and every one of us was vital to the survival of all. This was our strength.

Then we met the Borg.

This single entity, made up of millions, put a wedge between the Captain and Commander that was insidious and destructive. Taking a calculated risk, the Captain made an alliance with the Collective, against Chakotay’s advice and without his backing, and then nearly died in the process. She almost pulled it off, but the Borg were not to be trusted and in the end they reverted to type and tried to assimilate us.

I’d watched from the Doctor’s office just after she’d been injured as she begged Chakotay to keep faith with her and follow her orders, maintaining the alliance. The man was a wreck. The woman he loved was dying and he would have said anything to ease her anguish and his, but he had to break that promise and when he did, something else shattered as well. To be honest, I thought he’d done the right thing. I never trusted the Borg, but I don’t think it was really about that. It was about the fact that she’d practically begged him with what could have been her dying breath, and he’d reneged. The trust was broken.

For a long time after that, their conversations weren’t quite the same. She didn’t touch him as often, the flirtatious edge to their banter was lost and there was wariness in their interactions. The easy camaraderie had gone. We also had a new crew member – Seven of Nine – a human Borg drone, assimilated as a child and now freed from the Collective, but with a shuttle load of problems that had to be dealt with on a daily, and sometimes hourly, basis. She took up a good deal of the Captain’s time and because we were within Borg territory, a sinister sense of foreboding was permeating the ship. It was like the honeymoon was over and, as if things up until that point hadn’t been serious enough, they’d suddenly become intensely so.

And our Kes was gone. I don’t think anyone really understood the impact that her loss had on the Captain. She’d loved Kes like a daughter and when she was wrenched from us so unexpectedly, it left a great gaping wound that all of us shared; but for the Captain, there was no one else to help fill the void. Seven of Nine was a poor substitute for our little Ocampan friend and caused a good deal of trouble for the ship and crew. But to her credit, the Captain stood by our new crewman and over time even Seven began to change, and the Captain and Commander moved slowly back towards one another again.

Time marched on. There were highs, and there were lows and although the attraction still simmered between them, the years of struggle and the wearying burden of responsibility chipped away at their resolve. There were the moments when you could see the love still burning brightly, but there were many moments when the hurt was more than evident and it quenched the flame.

I felt for them. When B’Elanna and I fell in love, it brought home to me, even more profoundly, just how difficult it must have been for them to love one another and be forbidden to do anything about it. Just the thought of loving B’Elanna like I do and not be able to tell her or touch her was a soul destroying thought. I admired them all the more for their resilience, but I pitied them too and wished there was some way we could make it easier for them. But the mould was cast, and the years plodded on.

I would catch the Commander sometimes, watching her with such a sad expression in his eyes that it almost brought tears to mine, and at other times I would see the captain looking at him with such longing. It was enough to break a person’s heart, but time was their enemy and I saw them drifting further and further away from one another. I had all but thought that the love between them had died until we met the Borg again and the decision was made to save the drones in Unimatrix Zero.

The Commander and I were like madmen together when the Captain and B’Elanna were assimilated. Chakotay and I had always had a strange relationship. Initially, I know he disliked me, well, hated me in fact, but as I matured and the years passed, I earned his grudging respect. Although, and nobody knows this, he visited me some months into my relationship with B’Elanna and told me that if I ever did anything to hurt her he would hunt me down and kill me. I was under no illusion, should I step out of line, that he would do just that. But during the battle with the Borg and Unimatrix Zero, we bonded. We hardly slept and spent much of our time together formulating tactical scenarios and combat strategies. We wouldn’t rest until our women were out of danger. There was a chance that we would never see them again and neither of us was willing to accept that.

Against the odds, we survived. I remember watching him in sickbay, hovering by the captain’s bed after she’d been beamed back from the exploding cube. It was heart wrenching. He was so unsure of what to do. Should he take her hand and soothe her or was that overstepping the bounds? You could see him itching to hold her and comfort her, but he didn’t dare. He held back and when he left, I saw the Captain’s shoulders slump and her face crumple. She desperately needed the comfort but he was unable to give it and, even if it had been offered, she was unable to accept it. I held B’Elanna even closer and my heart ached for them.

We were then in our seventh year in the Delta Quadrant. How the years had flown. B’Elanna and I were married and expecting a baby. The Captain and Chakotay were thrilled for us. I could hear them whispering about nurseries and school rooms. All of a sudden it looked like we were going to become a generational ship. The Captain was preparing for more children to be born. Life was again going to change on Voyager. The slow evolution from crew to family that had begun all those years ago was now our existence, and we were all looking forward to a brighter future with our children around us, as our investment in tomorrow.

Then we were taken. Kidnapped. And our lives took another dramatic turn and so did the Captain and Chakotay’s relationship. The name of the planet was Quarra and the name of the man was Jaffen.

We’d hit a subspace mine and were forced to abandon Voyager. There we were, thinking we’d been so lucky to be ‘rescued’ by the Quarrans but just as had happened so many times here in the Delta Quadrant, things were not as they appeared. Their ‘treatment’ was to brainwash us and make us think that we were on their planet willingly. We had no memory of our pasts or our connection to one another. The Doctor, Harry and Chakotay saved us, but there were enormous problems to overcome – not just with the Captain and Commander but with many of the relationships on the ship. They’d been tested in ways that were unimaginable and cruel. Spouses, lovers and families had been torn apart. It took us weeks to even begin to get back to normal.

The Captain and Commander spoke very little during that time. Chakotay looked bitter and the Captain looked resigned, and they avoided being together on the bridge or during their off duty time. The spectre of the alien, Jaffen, stood between them. The Captain had fallen in love with him on the planet, moving in with the man within a week of meeting him. Chakotay was shattered, although he hid it well.

I wanted to talk to him, to explain that the captain would have had no idea what was happening and that she’d probably been deliberately manipulated into being attracted to Jaffen, but Chakotay didn’t look like a man in the mood to discuss anything – his non-relationship with the captain, least of all.

Their problems, however, took a back seat, as they always did, until the rest of the crew had come to terms with the trauma of their abductions. I worried, though. Would they take the time to repair their relationship or would they just settle? They were both exhausted and the Captain, especially, seemed to lack the enthusiasm and drive for which she’d been renowned. Time and circumstances were eroding her fervour and battering at her conviction and it wasn’t only me who was uneasy. I heard things. The crew were aware of the breach in the command team’s relationship and the stability that they relied on was being seriously undermined.

The pressure was unrelenting and I became concerned for her. It seemed that unlike the many times before when they’d mended their differences, this time the chasm was too wide and the hurt too deep. The crew talked worriedly amongst themselves. Then came a series of incidents that chipped away even further at her resolve. Fighting for the Doctor’s sentience against a rigid and unrelenting Starfleet was a rude awakening for all of us. We’d been on our own for so long and rulers of our own destinies for nearly seven years. Having to contend with the small minded and petty bureaucratic nonsense that was Starfleet wore us all down, but the captain in particular.

Then came the senseless death of Joe Carey – a loss that resonated throughout the entire crew, but left the Captain and Chakotay gutted. The Captain, because she’d ordered Joe on that away mission and in her mind, sent him to his death, and Chakotay, because he’d led the away mission, and the engineer had been lost on his watch. The shared guilt, instead of bringing them closer, only seemed to push them further apart.

Last, but by no means least, she had to say goodbye to Neelix as he began his new life with Dexa and Brax on the Talaxian asteroid. His absence left another great void in the Captain’s life. We would all miss him but it was a particularly poignant goodbye for the captain. After Kes’s departure, Neelix had stepped into the role of confidant, and although the captain moaned about his ‘better than coffee substitutes’ and his parties for every obscure celebration he could find, she loved the funny little man; he would leave a hole as big as Talax in our lives. After his departure, she seemed to become even more distant and aloof.

Just when we thought things couldn’t get any more complicated, a visitor from the future landed on our doorstep. Admiral Janeway, no less. She’d travelled back in time to take us home. Appearing out of nowhere through a temporal rift, she ordered the Captain to fire an anti-tachyon pulse at the anomaly. The Captain grudgingly complied but the moment was ‘unusual’ and rather tense, to say the least.

When the Admiral’s face appeared on the viewscreen, the Captain was, of course, behind me, and I was so startled to see the larger than life, older version of her on the screen, that I didn’t think to turn around. But I would have loved to have seen the look on her face. She kept her cool though, and after an exchange of a few brusque words, so began the latest and, by far, most bizarre experience of our journey.

We were going home.

Home.

It was a word that conjured up a myriad of thoughts and feelings for this crew. But I, like so many, had come to think of Voyager as home. It was the place where we’d been happiest and to be honest, many of us were torn. I had told Harry a few days before that I was already home, on Voyager, but he didn’t understand and it was for the people like Harry that I was willing to take the risk.

The plan devised by the Captain and Admiral Janeway was an audacious and potentially lethal one, but I had faith in them, and as I’d heard someone say, the Borg wouldn’t stand a chance against two Kathryn Janeway’s.

The Captain was wary of the idea at first, but we travelled into the nebula, on the Admiral’s orders, only to be confronted by a hive of Borg, buzzing with thousands of vessels. Seven informed us that it was a transwarp hub, one of only six in the galaxy. The Captain and Admiral almost had a stand up brawl in the middle of the bridge. The Captain wanted to retreat but the Admiral was insisting that we use one of the conduits and find our way home. The Captain won and we high-tailed it out of the there to review our options.

They must have come to some sort of compromise because within twenty-four hours, we were heading back into the nebula with plans to destroy the hub from the inside. I wasn’t overwhelmed with confidence at our chances. One small ship against the might of the entire collective, but the Captain was hell bent. I was a little concerned. She seemed almost ferocious in her determination. Later, I found out why.

I was in sickbay with B’Elanna. She was in labour, and the Doctor, in his usual loose lipped manner, mentioned that the Captain had asked him to prepare a hypospray of Icheb’s Anti-Borg pathogen. The plan somehow involved the Admiral finding and infecting the Borg Queen. I knew then that the Admiral wouldn’t be coming back. She was going to buy us time by sacrificing herself… it seemed that in twenty six years, Kathryn Janeway hadn’t changed.

The captain had also told the Doctor that the Admiral had taken her aside and given her a list of reasons why it was imperative that they return to the Alpha Quadrant now. In between B’Elanna’s contractions, he filled us in. There would be twenty two more crewmen lost between now and when Voyager got home, Tuvok would become insane from a degenerative neurological disorder, but the clincher was that Seven would die, three years from now, in the arms of her husband… Chakotay. The shock of that revelation almost stopped B’Elanna’s labour mid contraction. To say we were surprised was something of an understatement.

Chakotay and Seven!? What I couldn’t understand was why. Why would Chakotay, after all these years of loving the Captain, turn to someone like Seven? It made no sense. They had nothing in common. Their personalities couldn’t be more different if they tried.

The Doc was heart broken, of course; he’d been in love with Seven for years and B’Elanna was livid. This did have a positive spin though. Seven and Chakotay were now the focus of B’Elanna’s wrath instead of me. A labouring Klingon is not the most reasonable creature in the universe.

However, I then understood the Captain’s change of heart and demeanour. She was determined to get Tuvok home to Vulcan to be cured and she was going to ensure that those twenty-two crew members survived. Lastly, and most importantly, she was going to save Seven for Chakotay’s sake. This was a sacrifice of a different kind, but a sacrifice nonetheless.

All three of us were shocked and dismayed, but thoughts of this took a back seat when I was called to the bridge and we made our way through the nebula to the heart of Borg territory. The Admiral had already gone and, on the captain’s order, we entered the aperture and put our daring plan into action.

**************

We did it.

Against the odds, we made it home and, in true Voyager style, struck a crippling blow to the Borg in the process.

After we burst through the fiery fragments of the exploded Borg Sphere and sailed into the midst of the armada of Starfleet vessels, the thing that struck me was the silence. It was eerily quiet until I heard the captain mutter, “We did it” as if she couldn’t believe it either. My father appeared on the view screen. He was delighted but stunned. We all were. I almost laughed when I heard the Captain all but brush him off. I think it was almost too much to comprehend.

I glanced at Harry and then heard the Captain whisper under her breath. “Thanks for your help, Admiral Janeway.” And I began to wonder. Was she going to wear the responsibility for that death, too? I hoped not. Then the sound of my baby from sickbay wiped all other thoughts from my mind. The Captain shooed me off the bridge to be with my new family. Her eyes shimmered with unshed tears as she beamed at me. I was so tempted to hug her in thanks but I didn’t. As I said, there was a distance there.

As I raced to the lift, I noticed something that surprised me. Chakotay wasn’t at the Captain’s side. He was with Seven of Nine on the upper deck. I met his eyes briefly then glanced towards the captain. His eyes followed mine and the shock must have registered because I could swear I saw a flash of anguish pass over his face. The lift doors closed just as I saw the Captain stand tall and look towards the upper deck.

Harry filled me in later about what happened. I can’t believe I missed it. After all these years of being their monitor and observer, I missed the big finale, but hearing the story from the various members of the crew who were present, almost made up for it.

The Captain ordered Chakotay to the helm and told him to set a course for home.

I know exactly how she looked. She would have walked sedately to her captain’s chair and taken her seat, then crossed her legs, gripping the arms of her chair loosely and sliding her hands along the armrests. It was always that way. The more stressful or tension-filled the situation, the calmer her actions. She would have been as taut as a violin string, but as controlled as ever. I can see it so well.

According to Harry, after she took her seat, another eerie silence descended on the bridge as Voyager made her way the last few million kilometres towards Earth. No one knew quite what to do or say. I’d always imagined that there would be jubilation, with people jumping around and hugging one another, but things are rarely as you imagine. The initial shock of actually having succeeded in this outrageous attempt took several minutes to subside, but the years of training held the crew together, and everyone stayed at their posts, diligently going about their duties. There was an occasional hiccough or an indrawn breath but for the most part, there was just an expectant silence and an overwhelming sense of relief. Earth filled the viewscreen and Harry said no one could take their eyes off that beautiful blue orb.

What happened next though, would become the stuff of Voyager folklore, and for those privileged few who were witnesses, it became the highlight of the journey. We’d all waited years to see it, and if you could believe Ensign Brooks, it was the most romantic moment… ever. Every time she talked about it, she cried. Mind you, she wasn’t the only one.

Apparently, as we dropped into synchronous orbit, the Captain rose from her seat, and without taking her eyes from the viewscreen, wandered down to the helm. The entire bridge crew watched the clouds over Western Europe swirl and drift across the Atlantic, until finally North America came into view. Starfleet headquarters was down there, San Francisco and home. Our final destination.

The way Harry tells it, it sounds to me like the captain wasn’t really aware of what she was doing as she moved down the stairs, her eyes still glued to the viewscreen. Standing by the helm, she placed her hand on Chakotay’s shoulder. It was something that she did quite often to me and I’m sure it was just out of habit, but when she laid her hand on him, Chakotay all but collapsed under her touch.

The entire bridge crew shifted their gazes from the viewscreen to watch what was happening at the helm.

Chakotay turned towards her and his hand slowly rose to clasp hers where it rested on his shoulder. Their eyes met and they stared at one another for the longest time. Harry said that the air was so thick that no one dared move for fear of shattering the moment.

Finally Chakotay murmured “Kathryn?” It sounded half like a question and half like a prayer, according to Ayala, the old romantic, and everyone held their breath. The Captain’s face crumpled slightly and she whispered. “Chakotay, we’re home.” And without another word, he stood up and hauled her into his arms, lifting her off the ground and hugging her tight. She threw her arms around him and they stood wrapped in each other’s embrace for what seemed like hours until a beep from an incoming message broke the spell. They pulled away from one another, and the Captain’s feet touched the ground. They laughed self-consciously and wiped their eyes.

Harry said you could hear the whole bridge crew exhale. The Captain and Commander both smiled and she laid her hand on Chakotay’s cheek. He took her hand and kissed her palm. At this point Bobby Grimes slid into the helm seat and took over from Chakotay. The Captain smiled at Bobby, and he swears he’s never seen her happier or more radiant than she was at that moment.

Chakotay took her hand and tucked it under his arm and they walked back to their command chairs together.

Harry said he had a quick peek at Seven to see what she was doing, but apparently she looked fine. Although, sometimes it’s hard to tell what she’s thinking. Her eyebrow was raised, but there were no tears and Harry swore that he saw a ghost of a smile. Maybe her relationship with Chakotay wasn’t as serious as we’d all thought.

Anyway, the message was from Starfleet with our landing instructions. The Captain took the orders and then she and Chakotay retired to her ready room.

There has been much speculation about what went on in the ready room in that next half an hour, but strangely I don’t care. I think, knowing the Captain and Chakotay, they probably sat on her couch with a cup of coffee and talked. They certainly had plenty to discuss.

As soon as they’d left the bridge, everyone hit the comm. system to inform the rest of the crew about what had happened. Harry was almost bursting when he contacted sick bay to tell us the news. The Doctor was delighted and B’Elanna cried. She blamed the hormones, but I truly believe she was just relieved for Chakotay and happy for the Captain. She’s not as tough as she pretends to be, and I must admit that I had a lump in my throat too.

**************

I’m outside the Captain’s quarters now. It’s late and I think they’re both inside, but I have a visitor for them and I also want to wish them well. I considered telling them about how I’ve listened to them over the years and how much I’d wished this for them, but I’m not sure whether I will. In a way, it was my secret and precious to me because of that.

The door swishes open and the Captain, with a beaming smile, beckons me into her quarters. Chakotay stands up from the dining table where the remnants of a candle lit meal remain. The Captain scoops Miral from my arms and kisses my daughter’s downy head. The expression in her eyes as she looks up at Chakotay is something to behold. I don’t think I’ve ever seen either of them as content as they are in this moment. I can’t help but feel that Voyager itself is heaving a sigh of relief.

The Captain is cooing at Miral and wandering around her quarters completely engrossed with her newest crewmember and while she is occupied, I turn to Chakotay and meet his eyes. Like our time during Unimatrix Zero, we experience a moment of complete understanding and I extend my hand towards him. He takes it, but then pulls me into an embrace, slapping my back and congratulating me and B’Elanna. I return the congratulations and he nods his acceptance. I turn to find the Captain over by the viewport; she is watching us with a warm smile.

I move over to her and as I slide Miral from her arms, I kiss her cheek and whisper my congratulations. She cups my face and thanks me… for everything. And in that moment I wonder if she did know that for all those years I was the keeper of their secrets and in a way, custodian of their dreams. I leave her quarters with a wonderful sense of the world being put to rights.

As I carry my daughter through the corridors of Voyager, greeting my friends, I know that no matter what happens in my life from this moment on, the seven years that we’ve spent together, laughing, crying, living and dying, will be the yardstick against which I’ll measure all my life’s achievements. I left Earth seven years ago, a bitter, cynical and callow young man and have returned, thanks to B’Elanna, my captain and my Voyager family, a better man, and a proud and fulfilled husband and father.

Tomorrow we will say goodbye to one another and to Voyager, but although we’ll go our separate ways, and leave the comforting and secure surrounds of our ship to begin new adventures and pursue our dreams, we will forever be Voyagers.

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