Disclaimer:  Paramount owns all things Star Trek Voyager.  I don’t.  Only borrowing                 

                     them. Etc. Etc. Etc.

Rating:          NC17.

Summary:     Things fall apart for Kathryn on Voyager’s return to Earth as

                     Chakotay and the crew mistakenly believe she wants nothing to do

                     with them.  With her life empty, she falls back on Starfleet and is sent

                     on a mission that goes terribly wrong.  Infected with a fatal disease,

                     she faces a lonely and painful death.  Chakotay finally discovers the

                     truth and vows to be there for her, nursing her through her final months.




“Well?”  Kathryn Janeway sat nervously on the narrow biobed and looked at Voyager’s Doctor.  She noticed how he didn’t meet her eyes immediately and knew what his answer would be.

“The test was positive Captain…”  He studied the woman before him and saw little reaction from her.  There was silence for a moment before Kathryn spoke again.

“There’s no mistake?  I don’t mean to imply that…”  The Doctor shook his head  sadly.

“I ran the tests several times.  There is no mistake…” Kathryn just nodded slowly.

“I see.”  She dropped her head and watched as her fingers twisted the piece of tissue she held.  The Doctor gently placed a hand on her hands, stilling them.

“Is there someone you would like me to call for you?  Perhaps the Commander…?”  Kathryn’s head snapped up.

“There’s no one and please don’t even mention…”  The Doctor nodded.

“Captain, you can’t face this alone.  Look I don’t even pretend to know what has happened between you and…”  Kathryn jumped down off the bed.

“Nothing happened between us.  Just leave it alone.  He left and that was his choice.  As to anyone else, I don’t want them knowing about this.  Maybe later when I can’t hide it…”  It was all finally sinking in and her hand flew to her mouth.  “Oh God…”  She was barely aware of the Doctor leading her to a chair in his office and sitting her down.  He knew he had to speak honestly and openly with her.

“Captain, you are not going to be able to hide this for much longer.  They are going to notice soon…”  Kathryn looked up into his face, her eyes swimming in tears.

“You know the strangest thing?  I actually don’t care.  I expected this when I came here today.  I think I already knew what you’d say.  To be honest with you…without him…I don’t care…”  The Doctor looked sadly at her.

“Captain, we do have other avenues to explore with this.  I still have…well there is still time…”  Kathryn jumped up, finally letting her tears fall.

“Doctor please…”  She stopped and drew in a deep breath.  “I’m sorry…I’m just not as good with this as I thought…”  She sat and forced herself to gain some control.  “Forgive me…”  The Doctor smiled gently.

“Captain, perhaps if you talked to me…let me help if I can…”  Kathryn wiped at her face.

“I just need a few answers…I need to arrange…things…”  She drew in another deep breath and asked the one question she most wanted to avoid.  “How long?”  The Doctor met her eyes, forcing himself to do so.

“About four months, five at the most…”  Kathryn nodded slowly and bit her lip.

“Do you even have a name for this?”  He shook his head.

“In medical terms it doesn’t even exist.  They were experimenting…”  Kathryn nodded, letting anger enter the arena of her emotions now.

“Bastards…”  She clenched her hands and once more fought for control.  “John and Miriam?”  She looked up at the Medic and saw the sadness in his eyes.

“In what I believe are the last stages…  They were closer when…”  Kathryn stood again, her hands covering her mouth and nose.  She paced and shook her head slowly.

“I still can’t believe all this…  It shouldn’t have happened…it was just…”  She stood still and stared deeply at the Doctor.  “There’s nothing at all you can do for them…?”  The Doctor stood also and led her back to her chair.

“I’m making some progress but…”  Kathryn finished for him.

“It won’t be in time…”  She looked at him and saw him shake his head sadly.

“Captain, it’s possible for you…  The best people we have are working on this…”  Kathryn laughed out loud, the sound filled with sarcasm.

“Not with my luck of late.  Sorry Doctor.  We just both know that we’re fooling each other if we take that road of thought.  It’s better that I just accept…”  The Doctor sat on the edge of his desk and took her hand in his.

“Captain, talk to me please.  Tell me what happened.  I don’t just mean this…”  She looked up at him and he saw the deepest sadness in her eyes.  “You need to talk about this, let it all out…”  Kathryn nodded slowly, knowing he was right.  That anything she spoke of would be in the strictest confidence, was already understood.

“All right…”  She smiled softly.  “Got any coffee?  It’s a long story…”  He smiled in return and got her a steaming mug of her favourite beverage.  He watched as she inhaled the aroma but saw that it didn’t have its usual calming effect on her.  As he studied the woman before him, he thought how easily she had accepted his offer to talk, and knew that her pain and loneliness must be very deep for her to agree so readily.  Staying silent, he waited for her to tell him of the last six months,  six months he knew she would gladly have exchanged for another six years in the Delta Quadrant were it not for getting her crew home.  Kathryn sipped at her coffee then leaned back and let her mind take her on a journey, the memories of which she wanted to wipe out.  She started slowly.

“The day we got back here was so happy…for me…for us all…  I just wish I’d known what was to come….but then maybe not…”

As Voyager docked, Kathryn could still hear the cheers of her crew as they celebrated finally getting home.  She was aware of the heavy weight she had lived with for many years, suddenly lifting off her shoulders and she dropped her head, allowing the smile on her face to expand.  When she looked up, she saw Chakotay watching her, an equally large smile on his face too.

“Congratulations Captain, you did what you said you’d do.  You got us all home.”  Kathryn felt her smile slip a little.

“Not all of us…”  He immediately saw the change in her and reached a hand out and gripped her shoulder.

“The others are already home Kathryn…”  His voice was soft, meant for her ears only.  She smiled sadly and nodded, drawing comfort from his words.

Debriefings took over a week for the crew, not including Voyager’s Captain, and in between, Kathryn watched the many reunions with family and friends that took place all around her, as she stood back in the shadows and observed.  Kathryn herself had received word that her mother had died a few months before their return and that her sister was married now and living off world.  She knew a message had been sent to her sibling but didn’t expect to see Phoebe here.  Things had been strained between the sisters for years before Voyager had disappeared and Kathryn knew they would never have a good relationship.  On the final day of crew debriefings, she received a tense note from Phoebe, simply stating that she would be unable to make the journey to Earth but that she wished her well.  Kathryn had received warmer messages from Engineering on the warp core. 

Mark didn’t even put in an appearance, being away at a conference with his wife and had simply left a brief message for her, welcoming her home and wishing her well, the words betraying nothing of what had once been between them.  She knew she had long ago resolved her feelings about his marriage but it still hurt that there hadn’t been a trace of warmth in his words.  There wasn’t one friendly face to meet her upon her return and Kathryn felt it deeply.  She had learned that Mark now worked for Starfleet as a consultant alongside his wife and that they were the parents of two young sons.  This knowledge brought thoughts of what she lacked in her own life and only added to her sadness.  She watched quietly as families and friends were reunited and swallowed her own loneliness and sadness as she witnessed the love and joy she saw on the faces before her.  She was truly happy for them all, knowing that she had achieved what she set out to do, that this had been her goal all along.  At Kathryn’s personal request, the news of her own family matters was kept quiet.  She felt that the fact that she had nothing for herself now was unimportant and wanted nothing to mar the happiness of her crew.

Kathryn had also watched as Chakotay was reunited with some family members, cousins as far as she could remember and she forced down the lump in her throat as she studied him and realized just how much she missed having him at her side.  She had seen the hope on his face when they docked, that perhaps now she would give ‘them’ a chance and she saw him look around each time she watched him unseen, as if he were looking for her but she never revealed herself to him, determined to adhere to the strict instructions she had been issued with, to stay away from all her crew until further notice.  She knew his future and the future of all the other former Maquis depended on her obeying the orders she had been issued with.

When the crew were free of their debriefing sessions, no decision as to their future yet forthcoming, Kathryn still remained behind closed doors being grilled on every tiny detail of Voyager’s logs.  She spent long hours fighting for the Maquis, unwilling to give an inch with the board of Admirals who had set themselves up as judge and jury over her and her crew.  The rest of the time she spent defending herself and every decision she had made during their time in the Delta Quadrant, trying to get these people to understand what could never be understood by them.  Kathryn found herself fighting tooth and nail each and every day for the men and women who had come through so much with her and it was wearing her down. The board was chaired by an Admiral Brandon who had made no attempt to hide the fact that he disliked Kathryn from the word go and she vaguely remembered the man from her father’s time and the fact that there had been problems between the two men.  Kathryn spent an average of twelve to fourteen hours each day in the small room where her hearing was held, never seeing daylight.  She was usually escorted in at 0800 and kept there, meals being brought to her, until late in the evening.

At night she was allowed some time to herself but was constantly reminded to stay away from her crew and anyone else who approached her, in particular any reporters.  She spent what little time alone she had, when they didn’t need her for some event, closed away in the small apartment Starfleet had given her on campus and here she gave way to her tears in private, allowing herself to grieve for her mother and what could have been.  Twice they had allowed her to visit her former home but each time she had been too overcome to remain for long within the walls which had once housed such happiness and had fled back to her empty, lonely apartment.

On the few occasions she had seen Chakotay and other members of her crew, she had always been in the company of an Admiral or some Security Officer, never allowed go anywhere unaccompanied, and afraid that any action on her part would jeopardise their chance of freedom, Kathryn had simply nodded a brief greeting and carried on walking, ignoring the hurt expressions she saw.  The pain she had seen on Chakotay’s face when she had barely nodded at him, stayed in her mind and added to the reasons for her tears each night.  It was during these long, dark and lonely hours, that she came to realize just how much she loved him and missed him, how much she had depended on him and it broke her heart.  Night after night, she cried herself to sleep, her dreams filled with his face, leaving her an emotional wreck the next day and ill prepared for the interrogations, which once more would last until late evening.

During her constant debriefings, she was repeatedly reminded that she and her former crew could spend time in prison for their ‘crimes’ and they went on and on at length about the many occasions when she had broken and violated the Prime Directive.  During her sessions with them, the Admirals constantly referred to her ‘former’ crew and each time Kathryn heard the term, it chipped away a bit more of her strength.  They also never wasted an opportunity to remind her that she was no longer in charge, that she answered to Starfleet now. 

When they wanted it however, she was dragged alone to various functions, basically shown off but once more, never allowed speak with anyone outside the small group which stayed at her side constantly.  Attending these ‘outings’, Kathryn had often spotted crewmembers and had no choice but to ignore them.  Their hurt reaction wasn’t missed by her.    Despite the functions, they kept her away from all media outlets with the exception of posed and strictly monitored holoimages, so Kathryn never knew how much public opinion was behind her and Voyager’s returning heroes.  No interviews were allowed and Kathryn was denied any reading material. 

Finally the news came through that no charges would be brought against the Maquis although it was not official yet and would remain that way until an announcement was made at a gala dinner the following night when the news would be given publicly.  Kathryn sagged in her chair when Admiral Brandon informed her of Starfleet’s decision, adding that as of yet, she wasn’t off the hook and that she was still to avoid any contact with anyone, once more being reminded that the decision regarding the Maquis could yet be altered in many ways. 

At the end of the day, Kathryn was being escorted back to her quarters when she came face to face with Chakotay and the rest of her senior crew.  She was tired after the long day of endless questions and still upset over the death of her mother and her sister’s reaction to her return.  She hadn’t spoken with Chakotay since stepping off Voyager and despite her almost ignoring him before, his face lit up when he saw her, delighted with the news they had been given that day.  Kathryn’s heart jumped in her chest at seeing him and she wanted nothing more than to throw herself into his arms and stay there, surrounded by him for all time.  As he approached, leaving the others standing back a little, she noticed Admiral Brandon watching her from across the hall and read the warning in his face only too well.  Before she knew it, Chakotay was standing in front of her, his face shining like a little boy on Christmas morning.

“Kathryn, isn’t it wonderful…?”  Before he could say more, Kathryn interrupted him, her manner formal.

“Congratulations Commander.”  She saw his smile fade and then he looked at the Officer who waited beside her.

“Kathryn?  What’s wrong?  I guessed that maybe you haven’t been allowed talk to us before, because of the debriefings, but surely now it’s all right.”  Not wanting to let him suspect anything nor ruin the celebratory mood she saw in him and the others around him, she lied, a lie he saw through.

“Nothing’s wrong Commander.  I’m just tired.  I need some time alone…”  She hadn’t meant to sound so sharp but it came out that way.  He immediately got the wrong message and reverted to the professional First Officer.

“Forgive me Captain.  I just thought you might have wanted to see us all, maybe come out for something to eat or a coffee, a kind of celebration of our own before the official reception tomorrow night.  I take it you will be attending…”  Kathryn sighed deeply.

“I don’t know yet…  Commander please…I must get going…”  Once again he read her wrong. 

”Of course Captain.  What was I thinking?  Just because we’re back on Earth…  I really should know my place by now…”  Glaring at her, he stormed off and left her standing.

As things turned out, they both attended the gala the following night.  Admiral Brandon escorted Kathryn, making sure she stayed well away from everyone.  As she entered the hall, she met Mark, who simply smiled politely, informing her that his wife had been unable to attend.  He walked in with her and the Admiral, chatting casually, as if she were a stranger.  Chakotay was stunned when he saw what he assumed was Kathryn arriving with Mark as her escort, recognizing the man from the holoimage he had seen on Voyager.  Their eyes met across the room and Kathryn immediately saw the hurt on his face before anger replaced it.  As she continued looking towards him a moment longer, he dragged B’Elanna out onto the dance floor and ignored his Captain.

When the public and now official announcement was finally made, cheers erupted around the ballroom and Kathryn simply closed her eyes and let the relief wash over her.  A section of the room was filled with press people and she knew that Starfleet, once the news had now been publicly released, could not go back on their word.  Only her own fate remained uncertain but to Kathryn, the future of her crew was all that mattered.  She risked a glance around the room at the happy faces and met Chakotay’s eyes.  A pain shot through her when he looked away immediately.

It took another week before Kathryn was let go and informed that no charges would be brought against her, despite the evidence contained in Voyager’s logs.  Kathryn suspected that the media interest and the public opinion she now knew of, had had a lot to do with their decision and so she walked from the room where she had spent so many exhausting hours, and sagged against the wall, not caring who saw her.  No direct mention had been made of her future and she had been informed that she was to report in five days time to discuss the matter.  Admiral Brandon had casually hinted at a promotion to Admiral and made a snide remark about her being one of them again now, that she was home and need not have to mix with the lower ranks any more.  Kathryn had simply ignored his comments and left.  This man was capable of unnerving her like no other, and Kathryn was only too aware of his dislike for her.  She constantly felt he had a hidden agenda with her but had nothing to go on to prove her theory.  He continuously gave out the impression that she was under his control and would do well to remember that.  Trying to shut out his face from her mind, she left headquarters.  Until the time when she had to report back, she was free. 

Determined to use her time off to speak with Chakotay, she called on Tom and B’Elanna to see if he was there.  The reception she received from the young married couple was cool and they informed her that Chakotay was not there, that he had gone away for a few days.  The effect of the last weeks showed on Kathryn’s face and was not missed by her former chief engineer and pilot and finally their demeanour softened a little.  They gave her the names of a few places she might find Chakotay and Kathryn thanked them and set off to find him.

After endless and fruitless searching, Kathryn found no trace of Chakotay, despite having left message after message for him and knew now he didn’t want to be found.  As a last resort, she again called on Tom and B’Elanna.  Receiving no answer at the door, she followed the sound of voices to the back garden and finally came face to face with Chakotay.  His expression was hard when he saw her and Tom and B’Elanna quickly excused themselves.  Kathryn walked slowly to Chakotay, a watery smile on her face.


“Chakotay, I’ve been trying for days to find you.  I left messages everywhere.  Are you trying to avoid me?”  She smiled at him, hoping her words would ease the tension she felt from him.  Trying to bring any honour into the situation was the wrong thing to do and Chakotay turned on her quickly.

“Excuse me, my concept of time must be screwed up.  You’ve been looking for me for days?  I was under the impression that we’ve been back for weeks.”  Kathryn felt a fist grip her inside.

“Chakotay please…”  His face was hard.

“Oh right, sorry, let’s see now.  Where to begin…  We could start with the fact that you don’t even try and make contact with me or anyone else since our return.  Then you see us and ignore us and for a while, I made excuses for that, thinking that you were only trying to protect us until a decision came through.  When we get the all clear, you still cut me dead and can’t even be bothered to come for a simple coffee with us.  Of course you had plenty of time to attend all those lavish functions.  There’s the fact that we have all heard about you being offered the position of Admiral but you let us hear that from strangers.  Oh and then there’s you being back with Mark and him being your escort at the gala but never mind all that…”  Kathryn felt something shatter inside her at his words and the harshness with which they were spoken.

“Chakotay please…I had debriefings for longer than anyone.  They wanted far more answers from me than anyone else…  They kept me shut off…and Mark was just…”  He was in no mood to listen.

“Cut the crap Kathryn.  You’re back with Starfleet now and we don’t matter.  You have your life back.  Even after we knew we wouldn’t be charged, even after the gala, you still kept your distance and stayed with your Admiral friends.  They kept you shut off?  Funny, I seem to remember seeing you out and about quite a bit.  Well, we got the message.  You hurt us all badly but at least now we know where we stand.”  His anger shocked her.

“Chakotay please listen…I can explain…I couldn’t…”  He ignored the tears he saw in her eyes.

“Kathryn, just forget it.  I don’t want to hear your sorry excuses.  You’re probably only here now because you need something from me.  Well I can tell you, I’ve left Starfleet, resigned for good.  I’m leaving Earth in two hours time so you can save your words for someone who wants to hear them.  I stood by your side for a lot of years.  I really thought I deserved better from you.”  He turned his back on her.  Kathryn let her tears fall down her face.

“Chakotay, if you will just listen to me…”  He turned back and glared at her.

“I don’t want to hear any more CAPTAIN.  Oh excuse me ADMIRAL.  Have a nice life.”  He stormed past her, knocking against her and almost causing her to lose her balance.  When she turned around, he had gone into the house.

Kathryn stood crying for several minutes, trying to compose herself.  She gripped the back of the wooden bench before her and wiped at her tears but each time she thought she had them under control, they started again.

Chakotay slammed into the house and his eyes dared his two friends to get in his way.  He reached for the bag he had already packed and picked it up.

“I’d better go.  I have a transport to make.  I want your word though, that neither of you will ever tell her where I’ve gone, although for the moment, even I don’t know where that will be.”  B’Elanna stood slowly.

“Chakotay, don’t end it like this…please…look at her…”  She glanced out the window at the broken women in her garden, her shoulders shaking.  Chakotay didn’t look.

“You can’t talk me out of this.  I’ve made up my mind.  She’s made her bed and now she can lie in it for the rest of her life.  For all I care, she can go to hell…”  Tom stared deeply at his friend.

“Chakotay, you don’t mean that…”  Chakotay’s anger was not abating.

“Oh I mean it all right.  She’s hurt me and she’s hurt every member of our crew.  I wanted to believe there was a good reason for that and I gave her the benefit of the doubt for long enough but once those pardons were handed out, she still stayed away.  She’s made her position very clear to us and that position is now Admiral with Starfleet, just where she always belonged, with the ‘right kind’ of man in her life, one who is socially acceptable for her position.  I was a fool to ever think I’d be good enough…  Oh to hell with it.”  He hugged them both briefly and left, leaving them standing in the now silent kitchen.

B’Elanna was the first to move and Tom nodded to her as she made her way into the garden, to try and console the still sobbing women she had served for so many years.  Kathryn jumped when she felt a hand on her shoulder and brushed at her tears.

“Captain…”  Kathryn hung her head, trying to hide her face.

“B’Elanna…I’m sorry…I’ll go…”  Tom’s voice cut her off.

“You can stay here as long as you like…”  He looked to his wife and saw her nod.  Kathryn managed to regain a little control and she looked at them both tearfully.

“Chakotay…?”  They exchanged a sad look and B’Elanna answered the plaintiff question.

“He’s gone…I’m sorry…”  Kathryn sniffed and wiped her face with both hands.

“I understand…I’d better go…   Again…I’m sorry for this…”  Tom laid a hand on her arm.

“Captain don’t go like this please…”  Kathryn just shook her head.

“Tom, I’m sorry…I’m in no state at the moment…I’ll come back…I promise…”  Wiping at her face once more, she turned and walked away, trying her best to find some semblance of the Captain she used to be but failing miserably.

Kathryn requested and was granted an additional three days leave, which she spent at her mother’s house.  Phoebe had signed away all her rights to the place, leaving it all to her sister.  During her stay there, Kathryn ate and drank little and spent most of her time just sitting and staring off into nothingness.  She took a good, hard look at her life or the lack of one and cried more tears than she could ever imagine she was capable of.  By the end of the third day, something had died inside her, leaving behind a ghost of the woman who had been.  She dragged herself into the shower, forced something into her stomach and reported back to headquarters, not caring now what life held in store for her.  She knew the only reason she had come back to Starfleet was because there was nothing else for her and she had nowhere else to go.

Kathryn accepted whatever Admiral Brandon proposed to her with one exception.  She refused the position of Admiral, insisting that she remain Captain.  Her duties were handed out to her and she took them without question.  She ignored the scornful looks he gave her and spoke only when an answer was needed.  She could see from his expression that he felt he had broken her and was revelling in the knowledge.  Kathryn knew she was broken all right, but the man in front of her was only partly the reason.

For the next two months, Kathryn sat behind her desk and went through the motions of her work, speaking to few people.  As far as her superiors were concerned, she was a model of quiet efficiency.  She arrived early each morning and stayed on long into the night, going through reports and sorting problems.  At night, she dragged herself back to her small apartment on campus, having never given it up.  She boarded up her mother’s house and stayed away, not having been back since her three-day exile there.

The only people she had any kind of relationship with were the two men assigned to assist her.  David Jones was a young blond man, biding his time until he received a deep space assignment and who rushed off each evening for a date with a different girl each time, and Nathan Mullins, a dark haired, kindly man, married with two teenage girls, who had been injured during his time in space, and now was only allowed clerical work.  He walked with a slight limp but his work was top class and Kathryn found herself depending on him as the only source of solace in her life.  Nathan and his wife occasionally invited her for dinner but she constantly refused, knowing what bad company she would be.

Kathryn grew very used to the routine of the excuse for a life she lived.  Admiral Paris called by to see her occasionally and to drag her out for lunch but he rarely succeeded in prying her from her desk.  He constantly urged her to call by and see his son and daughter in law and Kathryn usually made her empty promises, both of them seeing through her words.

At the end of Kathryn’s third month back with Starfleet and four months since their return, Admiral Brandon called Kathryn to his office one day.  As she sat facing the stone faced man, he casually informed her that she had been assigned to a space mission which would leave at the end of the week.  He offered her no choice to turn it down and Kathryn numbly accepted. 

“You will Captain a ship named the Travis, with a Commander John Hawkins and a Lieutenant Miriam Stowe.  Your assignment is to take care of a rogue group of Cardassians and Humans, opposed to the Peace Treaty, who are hiding out at a certain location which will be disclosed to you once you are underway.  Your mission is to take the Travis in after them and arrest them.  What they do and why you are being sent after them is of no concern to you or your crew.  This group is only comprised of about twenty members so I can’t foresee any problems.  You will have the crew you need to take care of this efficiently and possibly another ship will join you.  If that is the case, you will take your orders from them.  You will be briefed in more detail before your departure.  Any questions?”  He was already clearing his desk, not expecting her to dare ask anything.  Kathryn simply nodded her understanding.  Something troubled her deeply about all this but her ‘not caring’ attitude of late won over and she quickly pushed it to the back of her mind. 

At the end of the week, Kathryn again sat in Admiral Brandon’s office, reading through the brief she had been given.  Commander Hawkins and Lieutenant Stowe sat with her, the Admiral not having bothered to formally introduce them to each other.

“I believe everything has been made clear to you all.  You are all free this evening and will report in at 0800 hours in the morning.”  Admiral Brandon stood and nodded at them then left the room.

“A man of few words.”  Commander Hawkins smiled and shook his head.  He looked over at his new Captain and met with her blank face.  “Sorry Captain, no offence meant.”  Kathryn simply nodded.

“None taken Commander…”  The title caught in her throat, a million memories of using it before assaulting her and she swallowed quickly and lowered her eyes to the padd in her hand.  There was silence for a few minutes and finally Kathryn pulled herself together.

“Sorry, my mind is elsewhere.  Commander Hawkins, Lieutenant Stowe, good to meet you both.”  The three shook hands and Kathryn managed a small smile.  “I guess we had better go over all this and acquaint ourselves with the information before the morning.”  They both nodded at her.

For the next two hours, the three worked through the available data and by the end of their meeting, a relationship of sorts had formed between them.  Kathryn learned that neither were married and recognized ‘career officer’ material in them both.  A part of her wanted to scream at them, that they were making the biggest mistake of their lives, that they would end up as sad and lonely people like her, if they went on as they were.  In the end of course, she stuck to the business at hand and kept a respectable distance from them, determined never to get close to anyone ever again.

When Kathryn returned to her lonely apartment that evening, she stopped and looked around her for a few moments, the emptiness of the place almost mocking her.  Following an instinct she couldn’t pin down, mostly that there was more to this mission than they had been told, she changed out of her uniform and left, having packed a small bag for the following morning.  Before she could talk herself out of it, she made her way to the house where Tom and B’Elanna lived, something urging her to speak with them before her departure.  Without having called ahead, she knocked softly on their door, feeling more nervous than she could remember being in a long time. 

Tom’s smile when he opened the door, put her at her ease instantly and he welcomed her in.

“Tom, I’m sorry I didn’t call ahead.  I apologize if you’re busy or going out…”  Tom smiled and shook his head.

“It’s good to see you.  We thought you’d forgotten your promise.”  Kathryn smiled sadly and shook her head.

Tom led her into the living room, a cosily furnished space and Kathryn looked around her at the colourful décor and the warmth it created.  This was a home, exuding a feeling of love and restfulness, so in contract to the sparsely furnished rooms where Kathryn spent her life now.  B’Elanna eased herself up from the sofa, the pregnancy Kathryn had had no idea about now showing.

“Captain, this is a surprise but a wonderful one.  You’re more than welcome.”  A big smile lit up her face and Kathryn felt tears come to her eyes as she looked at the happy couple before her, with so much to look forward to.  Without warning and to her deep embarrassment, she burst into tears.

Kathryn was vaguely aware of being led to the sofa and gently eased down and then there were strong feminine arms around her and kind words filling her ears.  Mortified at her actions, Kathryn eventually managed to control her sobs and looked at her two former officers, apologizing profusely for her lack of control.  B’Elanna gripped her hand tightly.

“Captain, if I’m right, I think you’ve needed that for a long time.  I don’t mean the cry because I believe you’ve done a lot of that since we got home, but I think you needed the hug.”  Kathryn tearfully looked into the eyes of the young Klingon and started all over again.

Some time later, she sat in the warmth of the room, a strong cup of tea in her hands and spoke of her pain for the first time since their return, amazed at how open she was being.

“I’m so sorry.  I don’t know what you all must have thought…well I do know…I know what…what Chakotay thought...”  Tom looked over at his former Commanding Officer.

“Captain, what happened?  I think we have a pretty good idea though.  Dad has been very worried about you for a long time now and he filled us in on what he knew but…well he told us you were under a really hard minded Admiral and apparently his reputation is…”  Kathryn managed a small smile.

“He’s a tough one, all right.  Sorry.”  She took a deep swallow of her tea and settled her thoughts.  Finally she opened up as much as she could and told them about her mother and sister, about Mark and meeting him for the first time at the gala and his coolness to her.  She told them about the endless interrogations she had endured and how she had been kept away from everyone, the threat of their all serving time hanging over her.  She spoke of how they had insisted she attend any function they told her to and how much pain it had caused her to walk past them and how afraid she had been for them all.  She related for them the day she had had to cut Chakotay off, feigning coldness because that same Admiral was watching her.  And she told them about how she had still had her own fate hanging over her head the night of the gala and the fear that Starfleet would change their minds before the official announcement had been made.  She spoke of the three days she had spent at her mother’s house and how she had refused the position of Admiral and just taken whatever assignment they gave her, needing anything to fill her days.  She opened up about how lonely she had been and how much she had missed them all but that she had been too afraid to approach any of them, for fear they wouldn’t want to know her now, feeling she had hurt them all too much.  And finally she said the words no one else had heard, how she loved Chakotay and missed him, how he had hurt her too but how she understood and deserved it.  The more she spoke, the more came out and before she knew it, she had told them everything, leaving herself in a state of shock. 

“He really hates me now…”  It wasn’t a question and she sniffed loudly.  B’Elanna gripped the hand of the older woman and debated lying then decided to just sugar coat the truth.

“Captain, he just didn’t understand.  If he had just known all this…”  Kathryn shook her head sadly.

“I tried telling him but he didn’t want to know…”  Tom leaned forward.

“Captain…”  Kathryn smiled gently at him.

“Both of you please…I really think it’s time you called me Kathryn.  After the display you’ve seen from me tonight…”  Tom laughed softly.

“You should try living with a pregnant Klingon…”  He ducked the cushion that came his way and delighted in the first laugh they had had from Kathryn all night.  “OK Kathryn…you have to understand…look, he was angry and pig headed…he was being Chakotay…”  Kathryn shook her head.

“No, he was being right.  He reacted exactly as he should have to what he saw before him.  I’ve never given him any reason to believe…”  She wiped angrily at her face.  “God…I’m sorry…I shouldn’t have done all this to you…unloaded on you both like this…”  B’Elanna slipped an arm around her shoulders.

“Kathryn, I’m just so glad that we can be here for you, that you felt you could come to us and speak with us.  We missed you so much.  We all needed this.  Look, we don’t know where he is and I’m sorry for that.  He called us once to say he was all right but he didn’t say where he was or where he was going.  I’m sure though, that he’ll call again and then maybe…  Look, let us talk to him, tell him what really happened…”  Kathryn shook her head sadly.

“It’s all right B’Elanna.  I don’t want to intrude on his life.  I’m sure he’s happier where he is now…met someone…settled…”  The thought made her start crying again. 

Tom and B’Elanna spent a long time comforting the woman before them and by the end of the evening, Kathryn had gained a peace she hadn’t experienced in a long time.  It was a small step and went nowhere near lessening the pain she still felt inside but it eased her mind slightly. 

“Oh God, I’m sorry for all this.  Please…I shouldn’t have said most of what I have tonight.  I know I don’t need to ask you both to keep it to yourselves…”  She looked up into their kind faces and knew nothing spoken of in this room would ever be repeated.  Finally she stood to leave, telling them she had an early start in the morning.  B’Elanna hugged her tightly.

“Kathryn look, we’re having a picnic on Sunday with some of the old crowd, a nice day in the countryside.  Why don’t you join us?”  Kathryn shook her head.

“I’m sorry, I can’t…”  Tom tutted.

“Oh come on now Kathryn, they’d love to see you.  They’ll understand and they miss you too.  Besides, we’ve just found you.  We’re not letting you go that easily…”  Kathryn shook her head and smiled softly at him.

“No it’s not that…  I’d love to see them but I have a mission…I’m leaving in the morning…  I can’t say any more…”  She saw the worried looks on the faces of the young couple.  “It’s…  look…would you do something for me?”  They nodded slowly.  “Let them all know how sorry I am…for the hurt I caused…that I’m thinking of them…and if you do hear from Chakotay…”  She looked down and swallowed then met their eyes.  “Tell him…tell him…I’m sorry…that I…well you know…”  Tom frowned deeply but B’Elanna spoke her mind.

“Kathryn, why do I get the feeling you came here tonight to say ‘goodbye’ in case…”  Kathryn put on her best smile.

“B’Elanna, it’s just a simple mission.  Those hormones are getting to you.  I’m just…”  Tom cut her off.

“Kathryn, you forget, we know you.  Just how dangerous is this?”  Kathryn shook her head and laughed.

“It’s nothing like that.  I just…it’s just that…I met the people who’ll be working with me tonight and…I saw myself in them…and it made me think…I just… Look I’ll be back in a week and we’ll get together then…”  She saw husband and wife exchange a look she couldn’t read but they let it pass quickly.  B’Elanna hugged her.

“All right Kathryn.  You have a date there.  Just promise me you’ll be careful OK?”  Kathryn hugged her back, absorbing the embrace like a balm.

“I promise and I’ll see you the moment I get back.”  She turned and hugged Tom just as strongly.  She wiped at the new tears which came to her eyes and saw that they had company.  As she left their home that night, she looked at them standing in the light of the doorway and prayed her words would prove to be the truth.

As they closed the door, Tom looked at his wife.  “Did you buy that last bit?”  B’Elanna shook her head.

“That was her saying her ‘goodbyes’ all right.  She’s more worried about this mission than she’s saying.  I just hope…”  Tom slipped his arms around her.

“She’ll be fine.  She came through the Delta Quadrant.  She’ll come through anything.”  B’Elanna looked down at the floor and frowned.

“She had something at the end of that, something to live and work for.  You saw her, the way she is…  I just think that this time, she feels she has nothing to come back home for…”  She reached up and hugged her husband to her.

“B’El, she’ll be fine…she’s a fighter…”  B’Elanna pulled back and looked into his eyes.

“Tom, I hope you’re right.  That was one deeply hurting woman here tonight.  I tell you one thing though, she loves Chakotay with her life.  I want to look for him.  I think this has gone on long enough.”  Tom smiled down at her.

“OK matchmaker.  First thing in the morning we search the known galaxy for a big guy with a tattoo…”  They smiled then kissed and made their way towards their bedroom, both of them knowing just how lucky they were.