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

                     them. Etc. Etc. Etc.

Rating:          NC 17.

Summary:     Back on Earth, Voyager’s crew faces a Board Of Inquiry and Kathryn

                     and Chakotay finally find each other as he helps her through a personal

                     crisis.  Someone is watching Kathryn though and decides that she has

                     to die so that he can keep his terrible secret.



Kathryn sat in the old, overstuffed armchair which had always been her father’s, her fingers tightly gripping the papers she held and stared off into space, her mind revisiting a past she had long ago inhabited but thought long since dead, the ghosts from that time surrounding her.

Her father’s chair had always given her comfort, made her feel secure, its well worn leather moulding itself to her body, tacitly reassuring.  In the weeks and months following his death, she had retreated here, seeking the calming and reassuring presence of the great man, allowing the chair to embrace her as he had in life.  She had revisited this haven many times during her years in this house and had always found the answers she sought within its sturdy arms.  Now however, it felt like a stranger and for the first time in her memory, the leather felt cold.

She tore her eyes away from nothingness and gazed down at the documents once more, trying to make sense of the words written within the yellowing sheaves, wanting with all that was in her not to believe what they told of.  She wondered if she had been meant to have them at all, they having been buried so deeply among her mother’s papers but then realized that Gretchen Janeway would not have kept the writings, had she not wanted their contents known at some stage.

Kathryn found herself wishing desperately for Chakotay’s presence, his strong arms around her, soothing her and telling her it was all just a bad dream, that everything would be all right and that when she woke up, the past would be back where it belonged and none of the details of it would have changed, despite the pain they had caused. She knew Chakotay would know what to do but he wasn’t here and so she faced this alone. 

As the light outside faded, Kathryn let her mind wander back over the past two months, the highs and lows, the losses and gains and an old saying of her mother’s came to mind, of how life was all swings and roundabouts.  More seemed to have happened in the last eight weeks or so than in a year in the Delta Quadrant and Kathryn lay her head back against the leather upholstery, her hand holding the documents falling to her lap and let her thoughts drift.


“Well Kathryn, you did it.  You kept your promise and got us all home.”  Chakotay’s voice was a whisper, meant for her ears only.  The rest of the bridge crew were too preoccupied to hear, staring at the viewscreen and the image of Earth it held.  Kathryn herself found it impossible to tear her own eyes away and even Chakotay kept one eye on the screen as he spoke.

For the first time ever, Kathryn let her guard down on the bridge and a lone tear slipped down her cheek but she also knew she could forgive herself this one lapse, this one tiny slip of the command mask and she leaned against her First Officer, drawing strength from his solid frame.  She nodded her head, not trusting herself to speak and she felt his hand squeeze her shoulder in understanding.

Within five hours they were docked, scanned and checked and the crew granted permission to disembark.  Kathryn, Chakotay and the rest of the senior staff spent a further three hours handing over command and passing over logs and official data before getting permission to beam down to Earth.

All Voyager’s crew, including the former Maquis had been ‘asked’ to stay within the precincts of Starfleet Headquarters until debriefing could be undertaken and were informed that their families had been notified of their sudden return and would arrive the next morning.

A small crew from Deep Space Nine now manned Voyager, checking over all systems and Kathryn and Chakotay were the last to leave what had been their home for six years.  Kathryn stood on the bridge taking a last look around, Chakotay standing back and giving her the space she required to say what she needed to her old friend.  He watched as she caressed the consoles and bulkheads, whispering quietly to them and smiled gently to himself.  He’s gone through a similar ritual not half an hour since.

They beamed down together and walked out into the sunshine of home, breathing in the scented air of Starfleet’s grounds.  Their eyes met and they smiled at each other, their look speaking volumes, each just knowing exactly what the other was feeling.

“Come on Kathryn.  There’s something I just have to do.”  She gave him a puzzled look.

“Well I know skinny dipping in the Bay of Mexico is high on your list but we’re not supposed to leave here just yet.”  She laughed and he joined with her, relishing in the feeling of freedom the sound brought him.

“Cute Captain, real cute.  Seriously, this is something I want to do for you.”  He laughed again at the cheeky smile he received.

“Kathryn Janeway, you are getting daring in your old age.”  He playfully jumped back and pouted when she slapped at him. 

“Coffee woman, just coffee.”  Her eyes lit up.  “Would you do me the great honour of letting me get you your first coffee back on Earth?”  Kathryn was already pulling him along.

“When they’re offering out the posts Chakotay, I’m going to recommend you for diplomatic service.  You badly missed your calling in life.”

They spent the next hour secluded in a small alcove in one of the many coffee shops dotted around the Campus, sipping at coffee that tasted the way it was meant to.  They talked of everything and nothing and Chakotay found himself carefully avoiding the one topic he wanted to bring up most, knowing it was too soon to broche the subject.  There was the odd silence but even during these short spells, there was still communication between them.  Almost as if reading Chakotay’s thoughts, Kathryn slowly looked up into his face and he saw her slight hesitation and something akin to embarrassment.  Finally she spoke.

“Do you remember I once told you…well…that I couldn’t imagine a day without you?”  Not daring to interrupt her, he just nodded slowly.  “Well…I…still can’t…imagine that is…and now…  What of tomorrow and the next day?  You won’t be next door…  Chakotay, what’s going to happen?”  Chakotay realized he’d been holding his breath.

“Kathryn, I’m going to be straight here.  For six years, all we’ve thought about is getting home and that’s as it should have been.  The reality however, will probably be different.  Certainly it’s going to be quite unlike what we imagined.  None of us really know what the next days or even weeks will bring and I understand that leaves us in limbo to some extent but…  Kathryn I have to say this and I think you already know it.  I love you, it’s that simple.  I’ve waited, hoping, praying, that when we got back, and it was always when…”  He smiled gently at her.  “I always thought and hoped that when we got back, maybe there would be a chance for…for us, a relationship but…  It’s a case of the ball being in your court.  What I will say is this.  I want you to wait and see what happens with Starfleet, where we all stand and then when we all know our position…”  Kathryn cut across him.

“Chakotay, I know how I feel…”  He shook his head.

“Hear me out.  Six years out there and one day back home is difficult to balance.  I want you to take the time to think on all this and when hopefully, it’s all settled, then come to me and I’ll be there.  I want you to be sure on this.  You’ve known how I feel for a long time but I don’t ever want you thinking you owe me anything.  You have to want to come to me, have to want this yourself.”  He reached across the small table and took her hand.  Kathryn he saw, had tears in her eyes.

“You are the most generous and loving man I have ever known.”  She looked up at him.  As if he knew she was going to say more, he reached up with his other hand and pressed it to her lips.

“Until then love OK?  I’m your best friend always, no matter what else.  That will never change. Let’s get our crew settled and then we’ll have our time.  Just know this.  There’s no pressure and no matter what happens in this crazy world, I’ll always love you.  When you’re ready, if you’re ready, give me the nod so to speak.  You’ll always know where I am.”  They lowered their heads towards each other, foreheads touching.  Kathryn’s whisper broke the silence.

“I lo…”

Both became aware of someone standing beside them at the same time.  Kathryn looked up annoyed at the interruption, almost expecting to see Tuvok but instead found herself looking into the eyes of her old mentor, Admiral Paris.  His smile at seeing her was spread across his face, but she sensed something guarded there, knowing him as well as she did.  Chakotay was a bit suspicious but hid it well.

“Kathryn Janeway.  It’s so good to see you again, my dear.”  Kathryn stood immediately and they embraced.  “I’m sorry Kathryn.  I know you only got here and I’ve only just heard myself.  You didn’t give us much warning.”  He motioned for her to sit again and Chakotay moved aside to let the old man sit.

“We hadn’t actually planned this ourselves.  That wormhole quite literally came out of the blue.  Let’s just say it was the best surprise we’ve ever had.”  Kathryn was smiling but she still had a feeling something more was going on.  Chakotay read her well, sensing something more on the horizon just as she seemed to.  The Admiral seemed hesitant, unsure of his next words but spoke anyway.

“My dear, I know you badly need some time to yourself before the circus begins but…”  Kathryn knew whatever he wanted to say wasn’t going to be good.

“Owen, we’ve known each other long enough so just say it straight.  If we’re all going to prison…”  She smiled, hoping her joke would remain one.  Owen Paris gave a half smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes.

“Nothing like that.  Kathryn, I do need to speak with you.  Best in private though.”  He made to rise.

“Owen, I have no secrets from Chakotay.  I’ll tell you that now.”  She could feel Chakotay’s eyes on her but she kept her own on the old Admiral.

“Kathryn, I can see that.  This is something else…  Please, both of you come with me.  This is not the place…”  He stood, leaving them no choice but to follow him.

They arrived at the Admiral’s office and he indicated that Kathryn should precede him inside.  Once she had entered, he stepped in front of Chakotay and spoke softly.

“Commander, please wait here.  This is not Starfleet business.”  Chakotay immediately looked worried.

“What’s happened?  Admiral, if this is something to do with Kathryn…”  He made to push past but Owen Paris placed a hand on his chest.

“I do have some bad news for her.  I’m asking you to please wait here.  I’ll call you in a few minutes.  She’ll need you then…”  Chakotay shut his eyes and nodded, then moved aside.  He could already guess what Kathryn would hear in the next minute or two.

Kathryn had remained standing and sat now when Owen Paris indicated that she do so.  He himself sat on the corner of his desk facing her.

“I asked Commander Chakotay to wait outside…”  Kathryn was getting more anxious.

“Owen, what is this about?  I know you said it wasn’t business but if it’s to do with the Maquis, he has a right….”  She stopped speaking when Owen reached over and placed his hand on hers.

“Kathryn my dear, that’s not it.”  He drew a deep breath before continuing, as if the air around him would give him the courage to say what he had to.  “I’ll say this straight.  Best way in the end.”  Kathryn’s eyes were glued to his face and she just nodded.  “I’m afraid I have very bad news for you, my dear.”  Kathryn closed her eyes a moment then opened them slowly.

“My mother?”  She didn’t trust herself to say more.  Owen Paris nodded.

“About four months ago.  It was peaceful…in her sleep.”  He saw her struggle with her tears and lose the fight.  He remained silent, giving her some time.  Finally Kathryn found her voice again.

“Phoebe…  oh God…  She had all this on her own…”  She looked up at the man in front of her and something on his face made the blood almost freeze in her veins.  “Owen…  what?  Where’s my sister?  What is this?  Please…”  She jumped up and backed off, tears pouring down her face now.

“Last year…”  He got nothing more out and Kathryn’s hands flew to her face.

“No…no…please…”  The old man went to her and just pulled his former student into his arms, words of comfort failing him.  When Kathryn pulled back from him, a million questions were in her eyes, swimming there with her tears.  Owen just led her to the sofa against the far wall of his office.

“It was a boating accident.  Apparently she had gone sailing with some friends and there was a storm…  Kathryn all I know is that all six of them were lost.  I’m so very sorry my dear.”  He held her tightly to him while she cried, feeling guilty for thinking of his own good fortune, of now having all his own family together again, alive and well.  When he heard her quieten, he leaned back.

“I’ll get Chakotay for you.”  Kathryn just nodded her head.

Chakotay heard the door behind him open and when he turned, he searched the old Admiral’s face for clues.  He didn’t like what he saw.  The old man gestured for him to walk a little down the hall with him.  Finally he stopped and looked at Chakotay.

“I’ve just had to…the worst thing…  I’ve just had to tell Kathryn that both her mother and sister…are dead.”  Chakotay groaned and made to head to the office but the Admiral grabbed his arm.

“Her mother died four months ago in her sleep, her sister last year, sailing in a storm with friends…a drowning…all of them.  Com…Chakotay…just…  Go to her and then get her out of here.”  He handed Voyager’s First Officer a padd.  “There are details here of a small house I own, just outside the city.  Directions and key codes are all here.  No one will disturb you out there.  Call me tonight at home.  That’s on there too.  I’ve already had a neighbour call by and leave some supplies…”  Chakotay took the padd and nodded.

“Thank you Admiral.”  The old man just smiled sadly.

“It’s nothing.  I just wish…”

“Yeh, me too.”

When Chakotay entered the office, he found Kathryn looking out the window, her back to him.  Her shoulders were hunched and he saw them shake.  He was at her side immediately and just pulled her to him.  He caught a brief glimpse of her face and the haunted look there tore at him.  For the next ten minutes or so, he just held her as she cried her heart out.

A slight cough behind him got Chakotay’s attention.  Admiral Paris stood there.  “I’ve managed to arrange a site to site from here.  If you’re ready…”  Chakotay just nodded then took the small container that the other man handed him.  “Just take good care of her.  I see already that I can trust you…”  Chakotay saw the pain on the Admiral’s face.  He faintly smiled his assurance just as he felt the familiar tingle of the transporter beam take them. 

Kathryn was unaware of anything outside of her grief and still clung to Chakotay when they re-materialized in strange surroundings.  When Chakotay got his bearings, he led her to a large couch and sat her down, lowering her into a lying position and lifting her legs up, before pulling a blanket over her, which had hung on the back of the couch.  Kathryn continued to sob and Chakotay stroked her back, using his other hand to examine the container Admiral Paris had handed to him.  Discovering it was several hyposprays of sedative, he quickly grabbed one and administered it to Kathryn’s neck and just sat and watched as it took effect and her tears subsided and then silenced themselves.

When Kathryn woke up some hours later, she found herself lying on the sofa, a warm blanket covering her.  There was soft lighting in the room and a fire burned in the hearth.  She noticed the curtains drawn and realized that it was night.  For several minutes she lay still and tried to organize her thoughts, trying desperately to understand where she was.  Just as she was growing alarmed, her memories returned full force and the horror of earlier crowded in on her again. 

Kathryn sat up with a cry and Chakotay was at her side in seconds, pulling her into his arms, stroking her back and hair and murmuring soothing sounds to her.  She pulled back suddenly from him.

“Oh God, it was real, wasn’t it?  It wasn’t a nightmare.  They’re really gone…”  She broke down again and Chakotay did all he could and just held her.

Later as Kathryn again slept with the aid of a further sedative, Chakotay called Owen Paris and reported to him.  The Admiral just nodded slowly in understanding as he listened.

“Chakotay…  I’m sorry, may I call you that?”  Voyager’s First Officer nodded.  “I’ve explained to the Starfleet Board about…all this.  Debriefings were scheduled for tomorrow but under the circumstances, they agreed to leave them off.  They’ll start with the most junior crew and work up.  I know it sounds cruel but I can only buy you a day or two.  They do understand but I’m afraid these things… well you know.  They want this all settled as quickly as possible.  I hope you can understand…”  Chakotay didn’t but kept quiet.  He knew the Admiral would have tried his best to put things off as long as he could.  It wasn’t his fault.

“It’s all right.  I’ll take the time anyway.”  Hearing Kathryn stir, he cut the transmission short and returned to her side.  When Kathryn woke this time, she was quieter as if she had no more tears to shed.  She was silent for a time and Chakotay just sat beside her, holding her hand.  Finally he suggested she should try and eat something and she silently nodded agreement. 

Once Chakotay was satisfied that Kathryn had eaten at least something, he returned to his place beside her on the large sofa and just pulled her to him, wrapping the blanket around them both.  Within minutes, Kathryn opened up to him and they spent the rest of the night in each others arms, Kathryn talking about the mother and sister she had lost and Chakotay just listening.  Throughout the stories she told him, laughter and tears journeyed together within her words and by morning Chakotay saw that Kathryn had gained an acceptance of their deaths.  He knew her pain would stay with her a long time but at least the grieving process could now begin.  It was a journey he knew only too well and he saw that his understanding and personal experience actually helped the woman beside him.

Over the next two days, Chakotay was a rock for Kathryn in her grief.  He listened when she needed to talk, spoke when she needed to hear, shared her silences when her mind took her places he had no knowledge of and throughout it all, constantly held her to him, whether in sleep or wakefulness.  He soaked up her tears and gave the comfort and understanding she so badly needed.

When it was time to report back to Headquarters, he accepted it when she explained that work and seeing to their crew would probably be a form of therapy for her, would help occupy her thoughts.  He reluctantly agreed also when she informed him that she thought it best if this was kept from the others for the time being, at least until they all knew what they were dealing with.

During the following two weeks, Kathryn lost herself in the debriefings and business of Starfleet, allowing it all to smother her feelings.  She could never keep the appearance up for long though and it was at night when she was with Chakotay, that the barriers came down and the dam would break, her grief crashing over her and consuming her.  Chakotay was the only one who witnessed her nightly breakdown and he would hold her through the long dark hours, trying his best to absorb the fallout and give whatever support and comfort he could.  Next day the entire process would begin again but with each passing night, it got just a little easier.  Chakotay listened to stories of childhood and shared treasured memories which pained her yet gave her a sense of peace and it was Chakotay who reminded Kathryn that as long she kept these things in her heart, she would always carry her mother and sister with her, that no one ever died as long as someone remembered them.

It was during this time that they grew closer than they had ever been with each other.  During the day, their professional appearance changed little from what it had been on board Voyager and both were careful in the other’s presence when anyone else was around, especially anyone from Headquarters.  While the crew quietly speculated as to whether a relationship would now develop between their Commanding Officers now that they were all home, only B’Elanna had to courage to actually ask outright.

“So Chakotay, spill the beans.”  They were sharing a quick lunch in the grounds outside the building where all debriefings were taking place.  They sat on a bench beside a small fountain, enjoying the sunshine which no crewmember could seem to get enough of.

“What beans would they be?”  Chakotay decided to tease his old friend.

“Cut the crap old man.  You know damn well what I’m talking about.”  All she got in reply was a slight smile.  “You and the Captain, what else?  Come on, we’re home now.  No more protocol, no more Delta Quadrant…besides, you think no one noticed how the two of you sneaked off for those couple of days, or that you seem to disappear at the same time each evening? ”  She suddenly grew more serious and placed her hand on his.

“Chakotay, this is me you’re talking to.  I’ve known you too well for a long time and I’ve also known how much you love her and have loved her for years.  There’s nothing holding either of you back now.”  Chakotay searched her face for signs of anything other than the genuine friendship he saw there but there was nothing else in play.

“B’Elanna…”  She smiled softly at him.

“This is between us.  Chakotay you can talk to me and it won’t go any further, I promise.  Not even helm boy will hear a word from me.”  Chakotay nodded.

“I know that.  It’s just…well…there are other things…and the crew…”  B’Elanna broke in.

“We can take care of ourselves you know.  Those are just excuses and you know it.  You love her and I truly believe she feels the same way so just go for it.”  Her face was serious, mixed with concern as she tried to read him.

“Look B’El, between us…we have spoken, well I talked and she listened.  She knows I’m there when all this is sorted.  I won’t say much but there are other issues involved here too.  When this is over and…  Look, Kathryn knows I’m there for her if and when she’s ready and I told her that.  She has to come to me of her own accord and she has to be ready for this and want it.  We had a good talk about it…”  B’Elanna cut in again.

“I don’t believe I’m hearing this right.  Chakotay, are you telling me you gave her an out in all this?”  She watched him trace patterns with his finger along the back of the bench where they sat.  “You know there’s an old saying, something about faint heart never winning fair lady, or in this case red haired lady.”  Chakotay met her soft smile.

“It’s not like that.  She knows how I feel about her and you’re right, I believe she feels the same.  We have the most wonderful friendship in the world and basically I care too much about her to push her on all this, especially now.  This crew means as much to me as it does to her.  Getting back to the Alpha Quadrant wasn’t the end of it. When our job is finished and we get you all home and that means settled, then we have our time.  Getting home isn’t just about location, it’s a state of mind and heart also.  When that’s done and when Kathryn is ready and has gotten over…  when she’s ready, then we’ll see.”  B’Elanna gave him a small smile of understanding.

“OK I’ll drop it.  Just tell me one thing though…”  Her laugh bubbled to the surface and Chakotay rolled his eyes at her.  She slapped him playfully then leaned in close.  “When are you going to meet the in-laws or was that what those couple of days were about?”  Chakotay’s face froze and B’Elanna saw it at once.

“What…what did I say?  Chakotay?”  He had dropped his head quickly, his expression hidden from her but B’Elanna never let anything drop.  “What?  Chakotay, you’re scaring me.”  He just looked out over the grounds and she could see his mind working, trying to decide how best to deal with her questions.  Finally he looked around as if checking for anyone near by who might overhear their conversation.

“This stays…B’Elanna, I swear to you, if anyone else hears of this…”

“You have to ask that?”  She saw him shake his head, apology written on his face.

“No I don’t.  It’s just…  Kathryn would prefer to keep this from…  She doesn’t want your happiness touched and she has enough to cope with…”  Chakotay rubbed his hands over his face and began talking.  He told B’Elanna how Tom’s father had arrived and taken them to his office and how Kathryn had been informed about the deaths in her family.  He explained about their days away and how he had just tried his best to be there for her.  When he finished, he saw that the tough Klingon had tears pouring down her face.

“Oh Chakotay…”  She lowered her head a moment then looked back at him.

“I’m so sorry, so very sorry.  After all we went through, all she went through out there and to come home to this…”  She rubbed at her face and Chakotay saw a flash of anger there.  “When will she ever learn though…”  Chakotay’s faced creased into a frown.

“Chakotay, all this crew, all any of us ever want is to be there for her the way she always is for us. Oh I know she thinks that she’s protecting us in some way but in the end it…well it hurts that she won’t let us be there for her too.  We would want nothing more than to be able to help her through this…”  Chakotay looked up when B’Elanna suddenly stopped speaking and saw that she was looking over his shoulder.  When he looked around, he saw Admiral Paris standing there and a feeling of Déjà vu filled him.

“I’m sorry to interrupt but the Board Of Inquiry has finished deliberating.  Captain Janeway has just finished her final testimony.”  He looked pointedly at Chakotay and then at his new daughter in law.  “Can I take it that what you’ve been speaking of involves…”  Chakotay nodded.

“I trust B’Elanna completely.  I know Kathryn preferred that no one know but…”  Owen Paris finished for him.

“You need a shoulder yourself son.  You’ve carried a lot these past weeks.  I can’t say I agree with Kathryn in not telling her crew.  From what I’ve seen of them, all fine people, they would be a great source of comfort to her at this time.”  B’Elanna nodded and smiled at the man she had come to love dearly since their return home.  Seeing Tom and his father build a close relationship after years of strife, was a constant source of joy for her.  Admiral Paris broke the silence that followed.

“We’d better get back inside.  Kathryn’s been in there all morning and wasn’t allowed to speak with anyone.  They finished with her an hour or so ago but she was kept behind closed doors while they made their decision.”  Chakotay stood slowly, B’Elanna joining him.

“I didn’t say anything but I’ve been getting a bad feeling…something on their faces.  I know Kathryn sensed it too but she said nothing.  They’ve grilled her for the past week almost non stop, left the rest of us alone for the most part…”  Chakotay’s worry sounded in his voice and the old man just nodded.

“I’m afraid I was too close to the situation for their liking so I wasn’t permitted to be any part of it all, wasn’t privy to any information.  We’d best go in.”  Slowly they made their way back inside the coolness of the building and walked towards the hall where the hearings had been taking place.

When they entered, Chakotay noticed that most crewmembers were already seated near the back of the hall and that the rest of the Senior Staff with the exception of Kathryn, was seated about ten rows from the front.  A small section of media personnel was clustered around a large table off to their right and Chakotay searched the hall for Kathryn.  Finally he spotted her small frame in a chair right at the front and felt a stab of fear go through him.  She seemed hunched over in her chair, her fatigue evident even from a distance and he saw that her head was down.  He desperately wished he could make eye contact with her but if she felt his eyes on her, she gave no indication.

As he looked around, he spotted another man watching Kathryn.  He saw by the uniform that this man was an Admiral but Chakotay didn’t know his name.  As he watched the unknown Admiral watching Kathryn, something stirred in his mind and he suddenly remembered seeing him before, quite a few times now, but only when he had been with Kathryn, never on his own.  He made a mental note to ask Tom’s father about the identity of the man and then put it out of his mind. 

Chakotay took his seat with B’Elanna beside him, just as the Board re-entered the hall and took their places at the large wooden table at the head of the crowd.  Chakotay felt his worry grow and as he looked at the faces of the others around him, saw that worry reflected there also.

The Head of the Board rapped on the table for attention and silence fell over the hall.  He started speaking firstly about how Voyager had been lost and about the amazing journey to return home.  He peppered his speech with praise for the crew of the starship, even mentioning ‘those picked up during the journey’.

He then asked for a minute’s silence in remembrance of those who wouldn’t return home, those lost along the way.  Everyone stood and bowed their heads, each lost in their own memories of friends and colleagues who would never be forgotten.  Chakotay lifted his head slightly and watched Kathryn, her head well down and knew the torture her own memories were bringing her.

The Chairman cleared his throat and moved on.  He spoke at length of the many different species which had been encountered and the invaluable knowledge gained on the travels of Voyager and her crew.  Mention was even made of the Doctor and his wonderful work.

Finally he slowed in his speech and then stopped.  He looked around the hall at the many faces before him and almost seemed to relish the feeling of power he held, as they each waited desperately for his next words.  He moved on now to the ‘situation’ with the Maquis crewmembers and for the first time, Chakotay saw a reaction from Kathryn as her head came up.  He was still unable to see her face and it took everything he had in him to stay in his seat and not go to her.

The Chairman spoke now of how the past belonged in the past and of the bravery of the Maquis and their contribution to the Starfleet crew and how they were to be praised for their integration into that said crew in what had been very difficult circumstances.  Chakotay heard his own name mentioned and sat stunned as praise was lavished on him on behalf of Starfleet.  He briefly looked to his right and saw B’Elanna’s shocked expression, the Engineer seeming at a loss for words for probably the first time in her life.

Finally, the words they had waited for and the Chairman announced for the entire audience before him and in particular for the waiting media, that no charges would be brought against the former Maquis, that all previous convictions would now be quashed and that full back pay would be forthcoming within the next week or so.  He informed them all that many commendations were to be handed out to these people for their bravery and dedication to duty and that commissions were waiting for those who wished to take them up.  This also applied to the Starfleet crew regarding back pay, medals and commissions.  These were all to be announced at a later date.

Chakotay felt himself let out the breath he had been holding and his eyes snapped in Kathryn’s direction.  He saw her drop her head again and knew by the way she held herself that relief was flooding through her.  At this stage the entire hall had erupted in shouts and cheers, people standing and shaking hands, hugging and slapping backs.  Only Chakotay and Kathryn, outside of the Board, remained in their seats.  Chakotay felt several hands slap his back and then B’Elanna’s face was in front of him, her smile giving way to concern.

“Chakotay?  What’s wrong?  It’s everything we could have wished for…”  Chakotay just shook his head.

“They’re not finished yet B’Elanna.  I just know it.  Look at her.  Oh God I just know she’s made some deal or other, another bloody sacrifice for us…”  His eyes were glued to Kathryn’s back and B’Elanna followed his look.  Within minutes the room had quietened and every crewmember seemed to have picked up on Chakotay’s thoughts.  The media’s interest was back on the Admirals seated at the long table and the entire audience sat again.  The Chairman waited a moment and gazed around at the faces all staring back at him and cleared his throat.

“Finally, the last matter of concern.”  Chakotay felt B’Elanna grip his hand and he squeezed back.  He almost felt his heart stop in his chest.

“We come finally to the matter of the Captain of Voyager, one Captain Kathryn Janeway.”  Chakotay looked to her and saw her sit a little straighter in her chair.  The Head of the Board addressed his remarks to Kathryn herself now and nodded to her to stand.