The Other Way Home

Summary:The ubiquitous Resolutions episode addition. It has been a long time coming. 🙂 The Captain and Chakotay are back on board, but their worlds have been turned upside down. This story is told in alternating points of view.

Rated PG13

 

Disclaimer: Paramount owns everything. No infringement intended.

 

 


 

 

Kathryn’s POV.

 

 

We’re cured… but I’m not better. In fact I don’t think I’ve ever felt this bad, but we’re now back aboard Voyager. I was tempted to say home, but my thoughts of home are confused now. I’d begun to think of our little shelter in the clearing as home, and it’s going to take some time to come to terms with our changed circumstances. Not that I’m not pleased to be back. I’m thrilled. Really. But everything is going to be different.

 

Who am I kidding? Everything is already different. Slotting back into my role as captain is going to take some effort. I’m amazed at how quickly I’d let all this go. I’d fought it at first. Grimly. But as the days had turned into weeks and the weeks into months my mindset readjusted and I relaxed and settled into my new life. We had our set backs. The loss of all my scientific equipment had been a terrible blow, but even that had faded and I was able to throw myself into my new activities – my garden, our exploring and my deepening relationship with Chakotay. God, I can feel my heart thud in my chest at just the thought of him and where that was leading. But all that is going to have to wait. We’re back on Voyager and I have my duty to the crew and this mission, and that will just have to be enough for now.

 

Why then do I feel like I’ve left part of me behind? And why does my duty seem more like a sacrifice?

 

Deep breaths, Kathryn, deep breaths. No tears. This was what you wanted all along. Remember? Oh God, I remember so much. The looks, the touches, all the simple things. We almost had it all. Almost.

 

I really should unpack. The cargo container is sitting here in the middle of my quarters, taunting me. It’s filled with all of my belongings from New Earth. My clothes, my shoes, my books and my mementos. Tangible reminders of that brief but beautiful interlude. The smooth red stone from the river, my woven baskets, a small sliver of wood from my bathtub, holoimages and Chakotay’s sand painting of that sunset. I close my eyes and I can still picture it vividly, I can even hear the sounds of the birds and smell the soft scent of distant rain. I feel his presence close beside me, not quite touching, but close enough that I can feel the warmth of his body and breathe the spicy scent of him.

 

A tear escapes. I’m homesick.

 

I can’t face this now. I have to get out of here. A tour of the ship is what’s in order. I’ll re-familiarise myself with the departments, the people, the bulkheads, the corridors, the sounds, the smells, everything that I thought I’d never see again. Maybe then these painful feelings of loss will fade and I can get my mind back on my duty and the journey home.

 

 

 

Chakotay’s POV.

 

 

My hands are shaking. How ridiculous is that? I should be so happy, but I’m having terrible trouble keeping my despair at bay. I feel cheated, thwarted. We’d been so close. I curse Tuvok silently. If they’d only waited a few more days, a week at the most. I know that once we had committed ourselves to one another, there would have been no turning back. Damn it all to hell.

 

The moment she donned the uniform I saw her slip away from me and my heart froze. I’m not sure I can survive with the old distance between us. We are mismatched in so many ways. She needs emotional reserve to survive and I need to have that close connection to get through each day. But I will do as I promised and stay by her side and be her support. I’ll just have to be content with that for now.

 

After our visit to sickbay, we sat on the bridge side by side and I could feel the gulf between us widening. She called me ‘Commander’ and when I said ‘Aye, Captain’, it felt as if a piece of my heart had died. I could sense her dismay as well. I’m so attuned to her now it’s as if her emotions are somehow knitted to my own. I know she’s suffering too, but she’ll never let it show. She’s too much the professional for that. The crew will never know of her hurt. They risked so much to come back for us that in a sense we owe them. But it is a bitter debt, and I resent their joy at having us back. That’s selfish of me, I know, but I can’t get past the feelings of deep sadness and regret at having lost something very precious and dear…….. Kathryn.

 

A fist of anger churns in my gut. We could have been so much to one another, and now that potential love and life has been dashed on the rocks of responsibility. And fool that I am, I love her for that too. She wouldn’t be who she is without that drive and commitment. But still, I’m bereft.

 

I should unpack. The cargo container with all my belongings from New Earth is sitting in the middle of my quarters. It’s something to occupy my time and keep my mind distracted and away from thoughts of Kathryn. My problem is that I’ve become so accustomed to thinking about her – what she’s doing, where she is and how she is – that it’s going to take me some time to readjust. I let my mind drift. If we were ‘home’ it would be dinner time. She’d be judiciously avoiding the cooking by having a bath, weeding her garden or trying to coax the monkey down from the tree outside our front door. I’d call her for dinner and we’d sit together and eat and talk. It was the time of the day that we both looked forward to. Relished, in fact. It became a time of real togetherness where the barriers were coming down, slowly but surely. After our meal, we’d clean up and then sit in companionable silence as we read, or painted. It was warm and comfortable and each night as we’d say goodnight the cord would pull tighter, inexorably drawing us closer. We both knew that one night soon, there would be no goodnight and we’d tumble into bed together. The suspense was exquisite, but we’d waited too long and fate had dealt us a grievous blow, snatching that future from us.

I flip the lid on the cargo container and begin the slow and painstaking chore of stowing my clothes and belongings back in their drawers and cupboards. It’s mindless work, but it keeps my hands busy and my thoughts in check. Sort of.

 

 

Kathryn’s POV.

 

 

I wander the halls, and everything looks so familiar but there’s a strangeness to it. A surrealistic quality to the bulkheads and corridors and even the faces I meet. I’d come to terms with never seeing them again and it’s as if I’m in a dream.

 

The crew are so pleased to have us back. They smile and extend cheerful greetings. A few like Samantha Wildman and Jenny Delaney step forward and hug me briefly. I smile and return their greetings, but inside a part of me has died and I’m so lost and unhappy.

 

I’m on deck eleven, so a trip to Engineering is in order. I wander in expecting to see B’Elanna there, but Joe Carey is over by the diagnostics console. “Hello, Joe.”

 

He looks up and his face breaks into a warm welcoming smile. “Captain! Welcome back. Can I do anything for you?”

 

“No thank you, I’m just having a look around. How is everything going?”

 

“All the repairs are up to date, Captain. We had some damage to the shield emitters and the deflector dish after our encounter with the Vidians but the repairs have been completed. I’m sure Lieutenant Torres will have a report to you in the morning.”

 

“That’s fine, thank you, Joe.” I look around but I can’t see B’Elanna. “Is Lieutenant Torres here?”

 

Joe shakes his head. “No, I’m sorry, Captain. She left about an hour ago.”

 

Oh God, I can’t breathe and my vision blurs. Joe is looking very concerned. I’ve grabbed hold of the console. My mind has transported me back to New Earth. My beautiful bathtub, hot water, protein co-factors and serenity. “Chakotay, are you there?”

All I can hear is the echo of Chakotay’s relaxed voice from our cabin, his gentle rumbling laugh. “No, I left an hour ago.” I left an hour ago, I left an hour ago, I left………

 

I have to breathe. Joe is moving around the console to my side.

 

“Captain, are you alright? You don’t look very well. Should I contact Sickbay?” He’s taken hold of my arm. “Captain?”

 

With his touch, I suddenly rush back into myself and gain some measure of control. I try to smile, but I’m sure it looks more like a grimace. “No, no, it’s fine, thank you, Lieutenant. I’m fine.” He’s still frowning at me and not really sure if he should believe me, or take matters into his own hands and contact the Doctor against my wishes.

 

I’m breathing again now and my vision is starting to clear. It had been so vivid. I have to get out of here before the tears start.

 

“I’m just a bit tired, Joe. It’s been a long day. Thank you for your concern. I think I’ll go back to my quarters and have an early night.”

 

“If you’re sure, Captain. I can escort you if you like?”

 

“No, I’m fine. Really. Thank you, Joe. Goodnight.”

 

“Goodnight Captain.” I turn and head out the doors. I can feel his concerned gaze follow me as I move away from him. All these feelings are far too close to the surface. I can’t go back to my quarters yet, but I need to go somewhere quiet and try to regain my equilibrium. The airponics bay will be a good place. It’ll be deserted and the greenery will be soothing.

 

 

Chakotay’s POV.

 

 

My unpacking is done. Everything is in its place, and I’ve had the container beamed to the cargo bay. My room looks like I’ve never been away, which makes me feel even more wretched. Those glorious weeks that had seemed so tangible only hours ago, have now taken on an ethereal quality. It had been a whimsical idyll, where anything was possible.

 

I have now landed, with a thud, back in this reality and all bets are off. My room seems cold and unwelcoming and I long for that small beige box that was our home. I’m cold on the inside and nothing I do seems to warm me. The walls are closing in. I have to get out of here.

 

I wander the corridors and hallways nodding to crewmen and women. They shake my hand and slap my back. They’re all so pleased to see me but all I want to do is scream at them, and make them understand what they’ve done. That they’ve destroyed my dearest dream and stolen my longed for future. My life will never be the same.

I hide my anguish well. I’ve had a good teacher. This is something at which Kathryn is a master. She’s able to bury her deepest feelings and regrets beneath a façade of steely concern and ironic humour. I find it difficult. Emotional reticence doesn’t come naturally to me.

I enter the mess hall and greet a gaggle of crew having their evening meal. I’m welcomed warmly but I think my eyes give away my inner turmoil. Some of my old crew are looking at me with narrow, knowing stares. I avert my gaze and try and cover my unhappiness with cynicism and gentle sarcasm. Most are fooled but I can see B’Elanna watching me closely. She sidles close and whispers. “Are you alright, Old Man?”

 

I lie. “Yes, B’E, I’m fine. Just a bit tired. It’s been a big day.” I can tell she’s not convinced.

 

“If you ever need to talk, Chakotay. You know….?” She gives my arm a squeeze.

 

I nod and smile. “Thanks, B’Elanna, but I’m fine. Really.”

 

She nods at me but I can tell she’s still unconvinced. Suddenly Neelix is upon us and hustling us towards a seat. “Commander, it’s so good to have you back. You look well. The outdoor life must have suited you. I have a special dish I want you both to taste. Sit, sit and I’ll bring it to you.”

 

Before I have a chance to decline I’m seated with B’Elanna, and Neelix is placing two steaming bowls of broth in front of us. He’s hovering, waiting for us to taste his latest concoction. I sip tentatively. It’s not too bad, relatively speaking. B’Elanna follows my lead and takes a wary mouthful.

 

“Well?” He’s waiting. “What do you think? B’Elanna, you always tell me what you think.”

 

B’Elanna tries to hide her distaste. “Yes, I always have an opinion, don’t I?”

 

I drop my spoon into the broth and look at both of them in dismay. Suddenly I’m back there. I’m sitting on the grass beside her outside our shelter as she tends to her Talaxian tomatoes. She’s happy and carefree. At last I can see her accepting our new life and circumstances. She’s laughing about quantum mechanics and how she hated gardening as a child. Now she loves it.

 

Her hair is falling in wisps about her face and I have to stop myself from reaching over and tucking them behind her ear. The aroma of coffee wafts through the air as she lifts her mug to her lips. Her hands are covered in dirt and her dress is dotted with grass stains. She looks so beautiful. I ask her to come and have a look at the plans for the boat I’m going to build. “You’ve come to the right person. I always have an opinion.” She jostles playfully against me as we walk together into our shelter. It was only minutes before our world was shattered by Tuvok’s comm call. The pain is sharp and intense. The wound is torn open.

 

My breath is coming in pants and B’Elanna has risen from her seat and is about to come around to my side of the table when I feel a hand on my shoulder. It’s Neelix. His touch jolts me out of my daydream.

 

“Commander, are you alright?”

 

“Chakotay!?” B’Elanna slaps her comm badge. “Torres to sick bay.”

 

No! I don’t want to go to sickbay. I want to go home. Home to New Earth. Home to Kathryn. “No, B’Elanna. I’m alright. I’m just very tired and…. had a moment….. I’ll be fine. I really don’t want to go back to sickbay. I’m OK.”

 

“The Doctor here. How can I help you, Lieutenant?”

 

B’Elanna is watching me closely. “Are you sure, Chakotay? You don’t look too good.”

 

I can just imagine. I must look like shit. I feel like it. “No. I’m fine. Really. I’m just going to head back to my quarters. I’ll see you later.” I get up quickly and leave the room before anyone can ask me anything more. I can hear B’Elanna explaining to the Doctor that it was a false alarm and I feel a dozen eyes follow me as I make my exit.

 

Damn! I feel the hot prickle of tears. That moment had been so real. I felt like I was back there with her. Abject joy giving way to total despair. I have to snap out of this, but I’m finding it very difficult. I don’t want to go back to my room. It’s too quiet and the memories crowd me.

 

 

Kathryn’s POV

 

 

The airponics bay is quiet and still, and smells of wet earth and green. It reminds me a little of ‘home’. My gut clenches. Perhaps this wasn’t such a good idea after all, but I can’t think of anywhere else to go at the moment.

I round one of the troughs and there is Kes, quietly tending her vegetables.

 

She hears my approach and moves quickly towards me. “Captain, it’s so good to see you.” She hugs me, and I hug her back, clinging to her almost desperately. She pulls back and frowns at me.

 

“Captain?” I realise she can read me all too well, so I pull away and pretend to be interested in the vegetables. “These are growing well, Kes.”

 

“Yes, they are. The Doctor helped me formulate a new fertiliser and the yield has increased twofold. I’m very happy with them.”

 

“That’s wonderful. I’m sure Neelix is pleased.” I look behind her. In the alcove next to the viewport is what looks like the makings of an arbour. There’s a garden seat and a small table with a riot of plants all around. A half assembled arch is sitting to one side. “What are you doing there, Kes?”

 

She follows my gaze. “Oh, I’m building a small quiet area for the crew to come and sit amongst the greenery. I love being here so much and I often find the crew wandering through. It’s lovely to be amongst the plants and things that are growing.” I nod. I understand that so well.

 

She has moved over to the alcove. “The arch will go here and I thought I could drape some cloth from the bulkheads and turn it into a small sanctuary. I’d use some restful colours……. Perhaps something in blues and greens.”

 

I stagger and gasp. Kes looks up at me, she’s frightened. “Captain?”

 

It’s happened again. I gulp for breaths as my mind takes me back to a happier time. His smiling face. ‘A tasteful pinstripe, something in blues and greens.’We’re surrounded by cargo containers and Chakotay is unpacking the component walls for the shelter. We’re laughing and joking about whether to have the grey or beige on the inside. I suggest polka dots and we laugh. It had seemed so innocent. Almost like a pleasurable camping trip. I’m reliving all those precious moments and its torture. Sweet, but painful. I told him about my love of baths and that was when he must have decided to build me one. Dear man. It was also when I asked him to call me Kathryn. He’d hesitated, unsure.

 

My heart is pounding as I remember when he did first use my name. He was handing me a spanner as I bolted two pieces of wall together. ‘Here, Kathryn.’ Our hands were both holding the spanner and we stared at each other for a long moment and then smiled. My name had rolled off his tongue like a caress. My hand had shaken and it had taken all my concentration to steady it and fasten the bolt. I want to feel like that again….full of hope and expectation.

 

“Captain?” Kes’s gentle hand wipes at my tears that I haven’t realised are trailing down my cheeks. I jolt back from her, swiping at my face to remove the last traces of moisture. I’m embarrassed.

 

“I’m sorry Kes. I don’t know what’s come over me. I umm…. I have to go.” I race out of the bay leaving a bewildered Kes staring at my retreating back.

 

 

Chakotay’s POV.

 

 

I’m still wandering aimlessly around the ship. People still greet me, but their enthusiasm has waned somewhat. Word must be getting around that I’m not quite myself.

 

I stand at one of the large windows on deck six and look out at the passing stars. We’re moving further and further away from what was our new home and closer and closer to our old one, but there’s nothing for me there. All that I want is back on New Earth, but that’s lost.

 

I wonder how Kathryn is fairing. Is she happy to be back or is she as miserable as I am? Here I am torn again. I want her to be happy. I wouldn’t wish this feeling on my worst enemy, but another part of me hopes she’s feeling some small pangs of distress. I don’t want to think that I imagined what we had there. It would be too cruel to be suffering this loss and not have her reciprocate at least in some small measure. I try to tamp down my despair and turning away from the windows abruptly, I continue my stroll down the corridor.

 

I finish up standing outside the holodeck. I check the logs. Both holodecks are in use. One has the privacy lock engaged, the other is running a program under Paris’s name and the doors are unlocked. I need a diversion and Paris is usually good for that. I hit the opening mechanism and step through the doors. I’m confronted with what look like the Cassini Lava Cliffs of Mars. I look around to see if I can find him and then hear a yell from above. I shade my eyes and stare up the cliff and there he is about half way up. Free climbing. The man is incorrigible.

 

“Ho, Chakotay. Grab some gear and come on up. The view is fantastic.”

 

“OK, Tom, I’m on my way. Computer, free climbing kit in Commander Chakotay’s size.” A sleeveless tee, some light weight pants, a pair of soft soled shoes and a bag of climbing chalk materialise. I slip off my uniform and pull on the garments, clipping the chalk bag around my hips. I stand back and survey the rock face. I take note of footholds and hand holds and after a few deep breaths I chalk up my hands and begin. It’s strenuous and demanding both physically and mentally and it’s a relief to not have to think about anything for a while, just the next handhold and foot placement. I reach Tom’s position in about twenty minutes and as I draw alongside, I’m huffing and puffing and sweating profusely. My arms are like lead, but I feel invigorated.

 

“Hi there, Chief. Where’s the fire? There must be some gorgeous babe on top of this mountain that I don’t know about, or there’s something chasing you. Care to let me in on the secret?”

 

I’m so tempted to smack that supercilious face of his, but he’s not the problem. It’s me. “Shut it, Paris. Let’s climb.”

 

Shrugging, he starts up the cliff again. He’s good. He has the agility and bravado of youth, but I have the surefootedness and patience of experience. I reach the top first and clamber over the rim. Lying on my belly I lean over the edge to see how he’s fairing. He’s not far from the top and swinging just shy of a handhold that’s just out of his reach. I watch as he grits his teeth and takes one last lunge. He grabs and holds on, gathering his strength for the next move. Reaching up with his right hand, his fingers slip into a crevice. Right foot up, left hand and then the left foot. He’s almost there. Then I see the rock giving way. His right handhold is precarious. “Tom, move your right hand, it’s going to give…….” Just as he shifts his left foot again, the right handhold crumbles to dust. I lunge over and grab his wrist. He lets out a yell and is dangling by his wrist from my hand, and trying desperately to find purchase on the rock face. I’m starting to slide towards the edge. He yells at me desperately. “Let me go, Chakotay. It’ll drag you over as well.”

 

“I’ve got yoooooo……..” The edge gives way and we both tumble over the precipice. Yelling all the way to the ground, I throw my arms up to protect my head, but as we near the canyon floor the safeties kick in and we slow, and are gently deposited on the red dust.

 

Tom is laughing. I’m still in shock. My head is still on New Earth and not on the holodeck controls. He rolls over and slaps my shoulder. “That’s one way of letting go.”

 

I freeze. My mind sucks me back into a vortex to several weeks ago. I’m crawling out from under the table in the shelter and helping Kathryn to her feet. We’re stiff and sore from being curled up under there for hours as the world around us was battered and thrashed by a terrifying plasma storm. We look around in dismay at the devastation. I suggest we go outside and check the insect traps. Everything is in pieces. We sift through the rubble and I watch her as she drops her head in dismay and huffs out a breath. “None of this is salvageable either. There’s no way I can continue with my research.” There’s nothing I can do to ease her pain, and I know it’s not my fault, but I tell her I’m sorry. She stands wearily and turns towards me. Her look of defeat tears at my heart. She gives me a bleak look and her eyes shimmer with unshed tears. “Well, that’s one way of letting go.” My instincts almost overcome me. I want to sweep her into my arms and tell her that everything will be alright. I want to take the hurt away, but I don’t. I just stand there feeling inadequate and ineffectual.

 

My heart bleeds again as I think of this extraordinary woman and how she rallied almost immediately, putting her disappointment behind her and moving on. She took my breath away. We spent the rest of the day cleaning up and repairing the shelter. It was that night that I told her the story. My tale of the angry warrior and how he’d found peace with his brave and beautiful warrior woman. That was the night that I gave her my heart.

I see her tear stained face, her loving smile and I feel the warmth of her fingers as they entwined with mine.

 

“Hey Chakotay!” A slap to my shoulder jolts me back to reality. “Hey big guy, where are you? Are you hurt?” Paris is sitting opposite me looking concerned. “What’s up? I lost you there for a while.”

 

I shake my head and then realise I have tears on my face. I swipe at them harshly. “Nothing, Paris. Nothing.”

 

“Are you sure you didn’t hit your head? You don’t seem quite with it. Just stay there. I’ll grab a med kit.”

 

“Paris, I’m fine. Just leave it, OK.”

 

He’s looking at me sideways. “If you say so.” We both get up slowly and I retrieve my clothes. Peeling off the climbing gear I dress in my uniform and make my way to the door. I don’t escape unscathed. “Hey, Chakotay.” I turn slowly, expecting to see a cocky grin followed by a pithy comment, but Paris is serious and I see real sympathy in his eyes. Of all people to understand my predicament, the last person I would have considered is Tom Paris. He moves towards me, but allows me to maintain my space and my dignity. “If you ever need to talk or anything…”

 

I nod, acknowledging his offer. “Thanks, Tom, but it’s just going to take time.” I turn to go, but then turn back. “Thanks for the climb.”

 

“Anytime, Chakotay. Anytime.”

 

The harsh lights of the corridor greet me and I squint a little as I make my way towards the turbo lift. I decide to head back to my quarters. My attempts to preoccupy myself have been a total failure and I’m now more distraught than ever. I lean against the walls of the lift and close my eyes briefly, but her face is there, so I open them again. I really don’t know how I’m going to get through this.

 

 

Kathryn’s POV.

 

 

I’m lost. On my own ship, I’m lost, and at a loss as to what to do. I won’t be able to function if I continue like this. Now I understand why Starfleet warn against relationships between fellow officers. How could one possibly maintain proper command standards when in this sort of state? I need to speak to someone, but whom. These are issues I would have discussed with Chakotay before…. Before what? Before we became close? Before we cared? Before we fell in love? Oh God. Just saying it, even to myself, makes my heart swell in my chest. I feel a thrill of joy and a shudder of fear. Both war with each other and I’m left in pieces.

 

I find myself outside Tuvok’s quarters. He has been my friend for many years and has a wealth of wisdom to impart. If I can look at this situation logically, perhaps with his help I can put it behind me and move on. I take a deep breath and ring the chime. The door slides open and I step into his darkened quarters. The smell of incense is heavy in the air and I can also detect the subtle aroma of Vulcan spiced tea. He is sitting on his couch reading. He stands serenely. “Captain. How may I help you?”

 

I move further into the room. “I hope you don’t mind this intrusion, Tuvok, but I have something of a personal nature I wish to discuss with you.”

 

“Certainly, Captain. May I get you something?”

 

“Thank you. I would love a glass of your spiced tea, if I may?”

 

He inclines his head and moves over to the replicator and requests my drink. He hands it to me, offering me a seat at the same time. I sit in one of his chairs and hold my drink in both hands. It’s the only way I can keep them steady. I’m uncomfortable and ill at ease. Whoever heard of asking a Vulcan for advice on emotional matters? But I can’t think of anyone else and I know I can trust him. He is my anchor and I’m sure he’ll know what to do.

“What is it you wish to discuss with me, Captain?”

 

That’s a Vulcan for you. No preamble, just straight to the guts of the matter. Well, here goes. “First of all, Tuvok, let me just say that I’m very pleased to be back. However, I have a problem. It is … emotional in nature and regards Commander Chakotay.”

 

He nods sagely and I wonder if he really does understand. I soon find that he does indeed. “You have developed feelings for the Commander, as he has for you. Is this correct?”

 

Like I said, straight to the guts. I nod and then avert my eyes, staring out his viewport at the passing stars.

 

“Captain… Kathryn.” I swing back and look at him. “You see a problem with this?”

 

“Yes, I do. It goes against every regulation, protocol and standard that I’ve ever upheld. Yes, I see a problem with it. Don’t you?”

 

“It is not my wellbeing in question here, but yours. My opinion is of little or no importance. What problems do you foresee…. regulations and protocols aside?”

 

I shrug my shoulders. “Countless problems. Just look at me now, for goodness sake.”

 

He raises his eyebrows in question. “You appear disconcerted, but not disabled. May I ask, if you pursue this relationship with the Commander, will it render you incapable of captaining the ship and making cognisant decisions?” He lifts one eyebrow and steeples his fingers in front of him, holding my gaze. “Do you anticipate losing your ability to reason and analyse logically? Are you likely to neglect or abrogate your responsibility to the ship and crew? And would the commander expect you to do these things?”

 

I’m shaking my head and almost laugh at the ludicrous picture he’s painting. Of course I won’t do those things. I love the man. He’s stolen my heart, not my brain. But Tuvok has missed the point. I’m a Starfleet Captain. This is not supposed to happen. I’m not supposed to fall in love with my first officer. I’m above this sort of thing. I try to explain to him. “It’s just that I feel like I’ve surrendered somehow; let my standards slip and I’ve lost something in the process.”

 

He looks at me as if I’m an errant and misguided child. “Ah, but think what you might gain. Why do you have to see it as defeat? Perhaps it is simply accepting what life has dealt you.” My breath catches and my eyes widen in shock. Those words echo over the light years of space all the way from that small grey box that was our home.

 

I finish his thought. “I have to try and find the good in it…..” I look up to see Tuvok watching me with gentle eyes, and I can see a smile hovering behind that sombre visage. It all seems so simple now. How could Tuvok have known that those words would resonate through my whole being? Chakotay tried to tell me. What is so eerie is that he used almost those exact words. There must be some sort of cosmic relevance in that.

 

It was time to accept what had happened to us and leave behind the unhappiness and the bitterness and grasp the joy and goodness with both hands.

 

I mumble my thoughts and Chakotay’s words. “Even the eagle must know when to sleep.”

 

Tuvok raises an eyebrow and nods. “A fitting analogy. Will you be more content to avoid this relationship or to embrace it? In the end, having a contented and fulfilled Captain would have to be more beneficial to the mission than a bitter and empty one.”

 

I opened my mouth for one last hoorah. “But reg……”

 

But Tuvok is quick. “Regulations do not necessarily apply to our situation. The Starfleet protocols for deep space missions are entirely different for those of shorter in-system missions. Married and bonded couples are welcomed and encouraged to travel together. I think you perceive a problem where there is none.”

 

“What about the crew?”

 

He quirked that eyebrow again. “What about the crew?”

 

Damnable man. “Will they accept this……. relationship?”

 

“I see no reason why they would not. They have accepted and at times embraced the unforseen changes that our circumstances have imposed over the course of our journey. This will just be another step forward, and in essence a true symbol of the melding of the crews. You have nothing to fear, Kathryn.”

 

I sip my drink, quietly mulling over all that has been said, and as I sit in Tuvok’s reassuring presence, I feel a great weight lift from my shoulders. A wonderful lightness and brightness in my soul warms me from inside. Logically it is the right thing to do. Even Tuvok agrees. Bless that Vulcan and his logic. I feel like laughing, but looking at Tuvok, I quash the urge, sip my tea and try to hide my smile.

 

 

Chakotay’s POV

 

 

I’m back in my quarters now, and just standing here in the centre of the room. I’m not sure what I should do. I see myself reflected in the viewport. Commander Chakotay, Starfleet Officer. I hate the uniform and what it represents. It has torn me away from her and from the life that we could have had. In revenge I tear at it, ripping it from my body and tossing it across the room. I’m breathing heavily and I can feel the warm wetness of tears of frustration as they course down my cheeks. I take a couple of deep cleansing breaths and scrub at my face. I look at my reflection now. I see the Angry Warrior. The peace I knew is shattered but I’ll have to try to regain it if I’m going to be of any use at all. I close my eyes and attempt a simple meditation to find a calm centre within the storm of my turbulent emotions. Opening my eyes I blink once more at the sad man before me and then move into the bathroom. The shower is scalding, but I stand under it and let it sear my skin. This external pain is more welcome than the one in my heart. Eventually I climb out and dry and dress.

 

I sit in the dark and remember. I’ve decided that I’ll visit all the precious memories once more and then put them aside. I have to for my own sanity’s sake. I retrieve a chip with holoimages and sit on the couch with the console in front of me. I begin my reminiscences.

 

I smile at the first image. She’s standing beside her newly tilled garden leaning against her hoe. She’s flushed and hot from the hard work but she looks so pleased with herself. I chuckle as I remember her undisguised pride.

 

The next one is of me trying to coax the monkey closer. I’m making a monkey face and Kathryn had been laughing so much as she held the holocamera, that the image is slightly askew.

 

The next is a grinning image of Kathryn, with purple lips and stained teeth. It was the day we found the ‘wine’ berries. We’d gorged ourselves on the sweet fruits only to realise later that they had an inebriating effect. We’d staggered home, laughing and giggling all the way.

 

I laugh out loud now at the memory. It was the night Kathryn had tried to teach me to dance. We both had two or more left feet and finished up in a heap on the floor. I should have made love to her then. She was there, and I know she wanted to, but I’d decided to wait until the perfect time. Not when we were drunk, not when we were sad or hurt. I wanted it to be perfect. Now it would simply never be.

 

I flip through the images. Each one tugs at my heart and succours my soul. We had this wonderful adventure together. An idyllic interlude, but now we have to return to our real lives. I should just be grateful that I had this treasured time to get to know this remarkable woman.

 

It’s time for me to follow my own advice and to accept what life has dealt me and to find the good in it. My heart is heavy, but it’s full, and I know what I have to do. I have to say goodbye to Kathryn and reassure her that I’ll be the best first officer I can be, that my promise to her is sacrosanct. I shall share her burdens and stay by her side no matter what.

With that decision made, I place the console gently on the table, leave my quarters and walk to her door. I ring the chime.

 

 

Kathryn’s POV

 

 

I leave Tuvok’s quarters with my heart full and my worries relegated to the ‘of no consequence’ basket. I can’t help a smile from creeping across my face. I’m going to see Chakotay immediately. I can’t wait a moment longer. This day has been torture and I know he has been victim to this terrible anguish as well. We need to be together to heal and love and finish what we started on our New Earth. I’m filled with resolve and the absolute rightness of what I’m about to embark upon. I approach his door and stand for a moment gathering my wits. I ring the chime. There’s no answer. My shoulders drop, and I ring it again in hope. Still nothing. He’s not here. Where could he be? I’ll go back to my quarters and then find him. I start up the corridor to my door and as I round the bend I see a very familiar and much loved individual standing outside my room. He slowly turns…..

 

 

Chakotay’s POV

 

 

I’ve rung the chime twice and she’s not answering. She’s not in her quarters and my resolve is weakening even as I stand here. I want to make this easy for both of us, but mostly for her. I don’t want to add to her burdens. I hang my head and take a deep breath. I’ll go back to my quarters and try and track her down from there.

 

I feel her presence even before I see her and turn my head slowly. My heart wants to leap out of my chest. Gone is the sad and tentative Captain, gone is the rigid and remorseful Kathryn and there before my eyes is the brave and beautiful warrior woman that I love beyond life itself. I move towards her.

 

 

Kathryn’s POV.

 

 

We are moving towards one another. The pull is irresistible and I let it take me. I don’t want to resist. I want to fall into him, to crawl inside him, to be enveloped by him. I need him all around me. I think I’m crying, but I don’t care.

 

He’s crying. His chest is heaving and I feel this terrible ache knowing that he’s suffered this torment. No one should have to suffer like this. Tuvok was right. We would both have become bitter and empty. It would be a mortal battle to try and resist this attraction and the casualties would have been Kathryn and Chakotay. The captain and commander would have survived, but not the better parts of ourselves.

 

We’re standing in front of one another now, both of us grinning like idiots. There must be crewmen passing by, but we don’t care. This is too important and too wonderful. He whispers my name. “Kathryn.” It’s everything. A question, an incantation, an acknowledgement, a caress, a devotion, a coming home.

 

 

Chakotay’s POV.

 

 

She throws herself into my arms and whispers my name over and over again. I feel her tears warm on my neck and her breath hot on my skin. My tears slip into her hair leaving dark streaks in amongst the auburn. I can’t believe she’s here like this. It’s almost too much to comprehend. I wonder fleetingly what changed her mind, and tell myself not to worry about the whys and wherefores, just to be thankful and revel in the joy of having her here with me at last. She pulls back a little and cups the side of my face, wiping my tears with her thumb. “Hello.”

 

I laugh and clutch her close to me again and whisper into her ear. “I missed you.”

 

She looks up at me and nods. “You too.”

 

I lift my hand and tuck a stray strand of hair behind her ear. Then reaching down I pick up her hand, and weave her fingers through mine, squeezing gently. Bringing it to my mouth I kiss it, and look into those clear blue eyes.

My heart is filled to overflowing. “Let’s go home.”

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