Regrets

Synopsis: This story takes place almost 10 years into Voyagers future in the Delta Quadrant. It involves the culmination of a relationship between Captain Janeway and her first officer. Sex implied, but not explicit. (Sorry, no smut.)
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Star Trek Voyager and the characters in this story belong to Paramount. The story is mine, written for my own enjoyment and those I choose to share it with. I’ve tried to remain true to the characters, but lead their future in a direction I personally hope they will take.
I do not expect any sort of financial compensation, nor do I give permission for anyone else to use it for financial gain.
You may share this story with as many people as you wish, but please don’t separate this header or my name from it. E-Mail your comments to DRonhovde@AOL.COM. I’d welcome both favorable comments and CONSTRUCTIVE criticism.
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“Regrets”

by Dottie Ronhovde
c – 1995

Captain Kathryn Janeway stepped off the turbolift only half aware of her surroundings until a high pitched shriek startled her into stopping in her tracks. Two little boys, identical in appearance, raced past her down the corridor. From the direction they had come, she heard a woman’s voice call, “Justin, James, stop this instant! How many times must I remind you that you can’t run in the corridors. That’s for when we go to the holodeck.”
When Lt. Fuller spotted the captain, she stopped momentarily and apologized. “I’m sorry Captain, they’re full of mischief this morning.” When she heard another shriek, she gave the captain a harried look and said, “I’d better go catch up with them, or Neelix will be on a rampage for a week.” She headed off in the direction the boys had gone.
The captain smiled to herself and continued on toward the mess hall. It had been almost ten years since the Caretaker had so abruptly changed all their lives. At first, everyone tried to maintain their connections with those they’d left at home, hoping that they’d be able to get back and pick up where they’d left off. But over time, the hopes that things would be the same when they returned started to fade. Gradually, people paired off and married. She’d performed two more marriages in the last year.
Most matches were between crew members, but a few had found mates on worlds they’d visited while stopping to make extensive repairs to the ship. They’d been fortunate more than once that Neelix had led them to friendly people willing to help them when they needed it badly.
The ship had changed gradually also. Living quarters were rearranged to accommodate family groups rather than single individuals. They’d had to cram cargo spaces full to the ceilings to make room for child care and school facilities.
In fact, these changes were the cause of some her most pressing problems at the moment. The increase in the ship’s population was putting an uncomfortable drain on ship’s resources. She was going to have to talk with Chakotay about setting some more restrictive limits on many of the critical supplies.
The captain entered the mess hall and walked over to the serving area. Neelix greeted her with his usual exuberance. She had long ago accepted him as an outgoing, affable little character. At first, she’d been uncomfortable with his constant gushing compliments and efforts to serve. But, he’d served her well over the years, and he was accepted as just another member of the crew now.
She picked up her coffee and eyed the selection of food available. Most of it was familiar, but one thing caught her eye. “Neelix, what are these blue and green balls?” Neelix grinned and said, “Ah, Captain, you must try these. They’re Brinteethian B’Kuls. Mr. Carey’s new wife gave me the recipe. I must say they’re a little bland for my taste, but the crew seems to enjoy them.”
She took a plate and selected one, along with some fruit, and looked around the room. Most tables were occupied, but her usual table was empty. She walked over to it and sat down. She enjoyed the happy hum of voices as she nibbled on the B’Kul. Her eyebrows shot up in surprise. Its texture was a little like a doughnut, but the flavor had a much more subtle and elusive quality than Neelix’s usual fare.
As she took a second bite, Chakotay walked over and joined her. He sat down across from her and gave her one of his gentle smiles as he said, “Good morning.” Kathryn greeted him with the same comfortable, welcoming smile. “Good morning. Have you tried these? They’re marvelous.” Chakotay nodded, “Yesterday. I was too late this morning. You must have gotten the last one.”
They sat in easy companionship, eating and chatting over breakfast. They were more comfortable with doing that in public now. At first, they’d both had been hesitant to pursue their relationship outside of the necessary command structure. But time and loneliness had a way of breaking down once strong barriers. Not all the barriers were down, but enough for them to be willing to be seen together.
After breakfast, they walked together to the bridge. In the turbolift, the Captain remarked, “I was almost run down by Lt. Fuller’s twins this morning. They were racing down the corridor, with their mother in hot pursuit.”
Chakotay chuckled. “I caught them in the Jeffries tubes on deck 7 yesterday, playing tag.”
“That’s not all they’ve been up to. Kes was complaining last week that they’d picked all of her Talaxian orchids. I think Lt. Fuller has her hands full.”
“She does at that. Speaking of Kes, I haven’t seen her for a few days. How’s she doing?”
“The doctor thinks she’ll be OK for a few more months maybe. She’s failing pretty fast though. Neelix has asked for help in caring for Bric. It’s getting to the point where he’s too much for Kes to handle now.”
“I wonder how Neelix will do with Bric when she’s gone. He always seems so… disappointed with him.”
“I know. Bric is delightful, but his problems can be overwhelming.”
“I wonder if they ever regret trying to have a child?”
“I imagine at times it’s crossed their minds. But most of the time, they remember that he’s a product of their love and they just do what needs to be done.”
The turbolift stopped and they entered the bridge together. As they headed into the briefing room, the oncoming day shift followed them in from their various stations. Having received their briefings from the outgoing shift, they were ready to brief the Captain on their status.
The Captain looked around to see that everyone was there and opened the discussion. “I’ve been going over B’Elanna’s report on our power consumption. It’s almost double of what the ship was designed to handle under normal conditions. We need to look for ways to minimize the drain on resources. Any suggestions?”
Harry Kim spoke up. “B’Elanna and I are still working on a way to convert the holodeck power supplies for use elsewhere. I know you haven’t been open to the idea of shutting off the holodecks, but we may have to if it gets any worse.”
The Captain thought of Lt. Fuller and her rambunctious boys. “I’m still not ready to do that. We all need them as relief from the cramped environment of the ship. Don’t stop your work, but we’ll hold your idea in reserve for now.”
Tom Paris, always the joker, said, “We could always put some of Neelix’s vegetable stew in the fuel cylinders. It give me enough gas. It might boost our propulsion power.”
The captain scowled at him and he had the grace to look chagrined. “Sorry Captain. I know Neelix doesn’t try to cause upsets in our intestines. I just wish he didn’t have to inflict his personal tastes on us all the time.”
They kicked around a few ideas and then left the briefing room to take their places at their stations. B’Elanna gave Harry a hug and kiss and said, “See you at lunch.” Harry, returned the kiss, but said, “I might not be able to have lunch with you today. Commander Chakotay mentioned some changes in operations he wants me to implement. I’ll let you know.”
The bridge settled into its normal routine and the Captain and Chakotay leaned toward each other to talk quietly between themselves. Kathryn looked at him mischievously and asked, “I’ve been saving my replicator rations. How about having dinner in my quarters tonight? I might even be able to call up some mushroom soup if you like.”
Chakotay glanced around to see if anyone was watching and then leaned a little closer. “Sounds interesting, what’s for dessert?”
She whispered, “It’s a surprise, but I guarantee you’ll like it.”
He grinned and nodded. “OK. What time?”
“Come about 1930. Please don’t make any other plans for later in the evening.”
“I wasn’t planning on it.”

Harry Kim was observing his long range sensor results when an interesting reading jumped out at him. He tapped his console a few times and repeated the scan with higher resolution. Smiling, he spoke, “Captain, I’m picking up indications of an M Class planet 2.1 light years away. It’s on bearing 46.3 mark 12. It’s a little off course, but it does look promising.”
“Any indications of inhabitants, Harry?”
“No Captain, but we’re still a little far away to detect prewarp technologies.”
“All right, let’s check it out. We need to restock food supplies, and I think we could all use a few whiffs of fresh air. Mr. Paris, alter course toward the planet.”
“Aye Captain.”
Kathryn leaned toward Chakotay again. “Maybe we’ll be able to make that dinner a picnic.”
“That would be nice. I hope there’s a beach.”
Tuvok, standing at his security station, observed them and pondered whether it was time to approach the Captain about her ‘relationship’ with her first officer again. He’d attempted to do so once before, when he’d first noticed their obvious affection for each other. The Captain had politely told him to “Butt out!” Since that time, he’d observed in silence. No one else seemed to mind, but he still didn’t believe it was proper for her to violate the accepted protocol all Starfleet captains accepted.
As they cruised on toward the planet, Harry continued his scans, looking for plant life and minerals they might find useful. “Captain, it looks promising. Abundant plant life, no sign of civilization. High mineral content in the desert regions. We should be able to replenish several of our critical requirements.”
“Very well, keep scanning for signs of intelligent life or any indication of cities or fabricated structures.” She turned to Chakotay. “You have the bridge. I’m going to go see Kes.”
He nodded and replied. “Give her my regards.”
The Captain walked into the turbolift and requested deck six. As it descended, her expression sobered. Kes had become a good friend and she was saddened by her imminent loss. Even though they’d all expected Kes to die long before anyone else, it was still hard to let go of the beautiful creature she’d become.
Kathryn Janeway stopped outside Neelix and Kes’s door and composed her expression before she tapped the door chime. She donned a smile as the door slid open and entered, looking around for Bric. He was sitting on the floor at Kes’s side, showing her a bright flower in his hand. When Bric turned and spotted her, he jumped up and ran toward her, arms held wide. He didn’t slow down even a little when he neared her. The Captain had known to expect this kind of approach, or she’d have been bowled over by his exuberant welcome.
Bric was almost as tall as she now, but still had the mind of a young child. He was a curious blend of Okampa and Talaxian heritage. His eyes, which were a deep blue, and his pointed ear folds were from Kes. His skin he’d inherited from his father with some softening from his mother. It was a pale gray brown with faded brown spots covering the side of his face and body. His bright, straw colored hair usually stuck out in disarray, but Kes kept it cut short. His disposition was so sunny, that everyone smiled when they met him.
When Kathryn managed to disentangle herself from him, she walked over to Kes. “How are you Kes?”
“I’m doing well today Captain. Bric is behaving himself and we’re working on teaching him to be more gentle with plants and animals. He wants a cat, but Neelix won’t allow it after what happened with Lt. Wildman’s cat.”
“Well, I think Neelix is right to insist that Bric be prepared to behave responsibly with another creature.”
“Oh, I do too. I just wish he could be a little more understanding of Bric’s point of view. Bric doesn’t understand that he hurts things. He just wants to enjoy them.”
“I know Kes. Neelix hasn’t fully accepted Bric, but he does love him. I’ve seen his patience grow so much in the last year. He came to talk to me last week about having someone come in to help you with Bric during the day. How do you feel about the idea?”
“We discussed it before he came to talk to you. In fact I was the one who suggested it to him, but I didn’t tell him all of my reasons for wanting it. Captain, I know I’m not going to live much longer. I’d like to know who will be taking care of my son when I’m no longer here to do it.”
“That sounds like a sensible plan. Oh Kes…..”. Her voice broke with emotion. “I’m sorry…..I know you hate it when I’m sad for you. It’s just that I’m going to miss you so. I depend on you for so many things.”
As a single tear managed to sneak past her defenses, Kathryn felt Kes’ gentle embrace in her mind. There were no thoughts transmitted this time, just a feeling of caring and love. As she mentally leaned into it, she felt comforted, but an even deeper sadness at the impending loss of Kes’ special friendship. Kes had become the ship’s counselor to many, and the Captain had benefited from her gifts and wise counsel more times than either of them could readily name.
She pulled herself together, determined not to burden Kes with any of her problems today.
“We’re heading for another Class M planet that looks promising. So far there are no signs of intelligent life, which will make it possible for provisioning and shore leave without any conflict or bargaining this time. I hope you and Bric will be able to leave the ship for a short time very soon.”
“That would be wonderful. We haven’t been able to use a holodeck for days, and he’s getting restless to run again.”
They talked about Bric and ships gossip for a while and then the Captain prepared to leave. “Well, I’d better be getting back to the bridge. I’ll let you know how the planet looks after we arrive and have a chance to survey it.”
They hugged and Kathryn turned to Bric. “I’m going now Bric. Your mother tells me you’ve been very good. If you keep doing that, I’ll come tomorrow to take you to the bridge. Would you like that?”
Bric transmitted his desire to go to the bridge with an enthusiastic barrage of unintelligible chatter in her mind.
Kathryn winced, but smiled back at him. “Good boy. Bric, please, not so loud.”
When he heard her gentle reprimand, he stopped communicating completely and looked as if he were going to cry.
“No Bric. I’m not going to take away the bridge visit. You were just talking a little too loud and I couldn’t think very well. Now, come give me a hug. I must go.”
He hopped up and came over to her. As he hugged her, Kathryn heard a very clear ‘Goo..Bye.’ in her mind. She looked a little startled, but said brightly, “Why Bric, you’ve been practicing. I heard you very well. I’m so proud of you!” She gave him an enthusiastic hug. She then gave Kes a last hug and rose to go.
“Bye. See you later.”

As she entered the bridge again, she paused to take a careful look at the people working there. The scene was so typical of their days, but she saw it in clear detail this time. All of these people had become family to her. Each one contributed in so many ways and they’d become an efficient, smooth team. She was sad to see how time was beginning to tell on them though.
Harry Kim was no longer the fresh young ensign. She’d promoted him twice and he was now a seasoned lieutenant. Tom Paris had also changed a lot. He’d finally lost his self doubt and matured into a fine officer. He was beginning to thicken around the middle a little and the new mustache made him look much more serious. Tuvok was beginning to look more and more like the wise scholars of Vulcan’s religious order. He was still the dedicated Vulcan and Starfleet officer, but had relaxed somewhat in manner and mind set.
Chakotay……. She looked at him fondly. His hair was as much gray as black now, but he was still as fit and handsome as always. She had come to know him best of all and he was as important to her personally as he was to the crew in general. They were so different, yet so suited to each other. They balanced each other’s traits so well.
She walked to her command chair and sat down. Chakotay left Harry’s station and came to sit beside her in his. “We’ll arrive in about 6 hours. Still no sign of civilization. Harry’s been taking frequent scans, cataloging resources we’ll be able to use.” He leaned closer and murmured, “There are signs of two large oceans. How does moonlight on the beach sound?”
She turned toward him, scanned his face, pausing on his mouth, and gave him an intimate smile, but didn’t respond. He knew her well enough to read her enthusiasm for the idea. He answered her smile with one of his own and turned toward the view screen.
Moments like that kept his hopes alive. Sometimes the frustration of dancing around her devotion to Starfleet rules and protocol made him want to give up trying to sway her. They’d been like two dancers, coming together and moving apart, for years now. Just when he felt she was ready to accept his proposal for a permanent commitment, she’d shy and move away from him again. Then he’d spend months working his way back.
Last time it had been his proposal that he give up his quarters to make space for expanding families. The thought of their openly living together had triggered her damned scruples again and he’d quickly withdrawn the idea. They were now back to the point where he was considering making the proposal again.

Hours later, they approached the planet. “Assume a polar orbit, Tom. I want to take detailed scans of the entire planet before we beam any teams down.”
“Aye, Captain.”
“Harry, I want detailed maps of the planet on my desk first thing in the morning.”
“Aye, Captain. Do you want me to remain on duty to complete the scans?”
“No, I don’t think that’s necessary. Beta shift is quite capable of doing that.”
She turned to Chakotay and said, “I’m going to my quarters. Let me know if anything interesting comes up during the scans.”
He nodded and watched her leave the bridge. As he watched the smooth swing of her lithe body, he warmed in anticipation. The turbolift doors cut off his view and he blinked to clear his thoughts. A short time later, the Beta shift briefings had been completed and he also left the bridge.

In his quarters, he changed out of his uniform and checked the time. 1845. He had time for a little meditation before his ‘appointment’. He settled himself in a cross-legged pose on the floor and closed his eyes, slowed his breathing and let his mind open to the spirits in this place. As always the familiar spirits spoke to him immediately. But soon, others began to intrude. A strange turbulence pushed its way into his consciousness.
He concentrated on sorting out what he was sensing. Soon a feel of the planet’s spirits began to emerge; some welcoming, some curious and some hostile. The hostility began to grow and overwhelm the others. As he reached out to try to communicate their peaceful intent in being here, he was interrupted by a soft bleep from the computer. With a promise to return to speak again, he breathed deeply and opened his eyes.
He got to his feet and paused before going to the door. He was still a little uneasy about leaving that particular conversation unfinished. Still, he didn’t want to postpone the coming pleasures either. He left his quarters and headed for the Captain’s, just down the corridor.
When the doors opened, he stepped through and let them close behind him before he moved further into the room. His eyes found her immediately and his slow smile spread in appreciation. He still marveled at her different personalities and looks.
On duty, she was crisp and commanding. Her uniform, carefully arranged hair and carriage communicated control and strength. She seemed, somehow, larger than life. When she relaxed in the mess hall or with crew and their families, she was open, friendly and caring; the matriarch of the ship.
Only in private, did he see her as the beautiful woman he loves so much. Only at times like this did she allowed herself to fully relax and be a woman. Her clothing was feminine, allowing her alluring curves to stand out. Her hair hung loose and free, brushing her face and neck in places he loved to kiss.
He moved to stand in front of her, breathing in her scent, but keeping his hands at his side. “Mmmm. You must have soaked in the tub. You smell good.” His eyes searched hers, looking for the invitation he knew would be there. He wasn’t disappointed. Only then did he bring his hand up to encircle her neck and chin. His head came down and she turned hers up to meet him.
After receiving her welcome, he reluctantly lifted his head. His thumb played across the angle of her chin and his fingers combed up through her hair from underneath. As he slowly drew his hands out and away from her head, he murmured, “So tempting, but I’m hungry, and I think I’m going to need all my strength later.”
Kathryn used her hands at his waist to push herself away from his body to stand on her own again. Her hands slid up his chest to his face as she said, “All right, I’ll feed you. But I’d rather begin with dessert.”
He turned his head and kissed her palm. “It will be all the sweeter for the anticipation.”
They turned together and walked toward the table. Kathryn ordered her menu up and moved dishes to the table as they appeared. They sat down across from each other and ate with their eyes as much and their mouths.

Much later, Kathryn stirred and kissed him lightly. “I think it’s time you go.”
“Mmmff. I’m too comfortable.” He pulled her back to his chest and tried to go back to sleep.
She lifted her head again and prodded, both with words and hands. “Come on. Up! I need my sleep.”
Grumbling, he sat up. “I don’t know why you insist on kicking me out every night. It’s not as if the entire crew doesn’t know about us.”
“Chakotay…..” She stopped, looking away from him, not knowing what to say in response. She honestly didn’t know herself anymore why she maintained the last remaining barrier between them. It was still there, for her at least, and she wasn’t ready to remove it… yet. When she looked back at him, he watched her, waiting for more. At her pleading look, he relented.
“OK. I’m going.” He reached for his clothes and dressed. He could feel her eyes on him the entire time, but he didn’t turn until he was completely dressed. Leaning over her, he planted his hands on either side of her shoulders. “Go to sleep. I’ll see you at breakfast.” He kissed her thoroughly, hoping it would make her regret making him leave.
The next morning, they met as usual for breakfast in the mess hall. On the surface, nothing was different, but he could see fatigue in her eyes. Secretly, he smiled to himself. He hoped it was from lack of sleep due to frustration after he’d left her. He’d taken a while to get to sleep himself. And he’d had the relief of a short walk down the corridor and undressing again.
On the bridge later, the Captain reviewed the reports and maps assembled from the nights scan of the planet. It was very encouraging. It looked as if they’d be able to replenish food stocks, raw materials for clothing and necessities, as well as some fairly good raw dilithium. On the whole, it should be a good day.
During the daily duty call, she organized the day’s survey activities. Neelix was assigned to lead one team to locate and collect food stuffs. Chakotay was going to take another team, including B’Elanna and Harry, to another location to determine requirements for extracting the mineral ores they needed. Lt. Wildman was detailed to lead another team to collect suitable plant species needed for fabricating clothing, bedding, etc.
As each team leader prepared to leave the briefing room, she spoke to them, with last minute detailed instructions. She knew it was basically unnecessary, as each of them had done missions like this many times before, but she still felt the need to give her input.
Chakotay accepted it calmly, but grinned at her when she started to repeat herself. Looking around to see that everyone else had left, he pecked her on the mouth and said, “Quit being a mother hen. We know what we’re doing. The chicks are all grown up you know.”
She looked at him, exasperated. “I know that. But I am still the Captain. I have a right to give instructions.”
“Sure you do, but I don’t think you need to give the most obvious ones.”
Sighing ruefully, she acknowledged, “I was doing that, wasn’t I. I’m sorry. Be careful. I want you back.” At his grin she added, “I meant the whole team.”
Aye, Captain.” He left the room and headed for the turbolift.
She remained on the bridge for the entire morning. Receiving reports from the various teams as they scouted out the planet’s varied terrain. By mid day it was apparent that they’d be remaining here for several days to collect supplies. None of the away teams had found anything that implied danger. It was with deep relief that she instructed Tuvok to set up a shore leave schedule.
When the last of the teams had beamed back up to the ship, she met with all senior staff again. B’Elanna was enthusiastic. “Captain. We’ll be able to collect enough ore and dilithium to supply us for a year, barring any unforeseen damage.”
Neelix was equally enthusiastic. “There is abundant edible plant life. And the flowers. Magnificent! We’ll be eating like kings again.”
She turned to Chakotay. “Do you foresee any problem with shore leave?”
He shook his head. “There are a few large animals but we didn’t find any indication of dangerous predators. The planet is beautiful, a great place for shore leave. I’ve picked out a spot already to take mine.”
“All right. We’ll start tomorrow. Tuvok, announce the shore leave schedule. Assign security to each area selected.”
As the others left the room, the Captain watched each one leave. When Neelix stood, she suddenly remembered a promise she’d made yesterday. She rose quickly and strode out onto the bridge. Most of the Alpha shift was now briefing their replacements. Neelix had already left the bridge. She spoke briefly to the duty officer and left herself.
When she got to Neelix and Kes’ quarters, she stopped momentarily to prepare for meeting Bric. With a deep breath she tapped the door chime. When the door slid open, she stepped in and braced herself, but didn’t receive the greeting she expected. Bric was huddled against Kes, looking totally dejected.
Meeting Kes’ eyes over his head, she approached and reached out to him. “Bric, what’s wrong?”
He looked up at her, his eyes shiny with tears. She felt his disappointment in her mind and she heard one word clearly, ‘Forgot’. Touching his face, she said, “No Bric, I didn’t forget. I wouldn’t break my promise to you. Did you keep your promise?” When he nodded, she looked at Kes.
Kes chuckled. “He was especially good today. With Neelix on the planet this morning, we prepared lunch. He was a big help cutting up vegetables.”
“Well then, I think we should go complete my promise.” She stood and Bric hopped up. “Will you come too Kes?”
Kes smiled her sweet smile and said, “I’d love to.” She shifted her legs off the lounge and stiffly stood. Her movements were slow, but steady. She reached out her hand and took Bric’s. “Come darling. I haven’t been to the bridge in a long time.”
They made their way slowly down the corridor and onto the turbolift. As they rode the short distance, the Captain studied Kes. She could see that even this little bit of activity was an effort for her. It saddened her to see Kes so weakened. She would love to be able to turn the clock back a couple of years to lengthen her hold on Kes.
When the doors opened, they stepped out and stopped to let Bric look around. He’d been here once before, but like many things, the memory was foggy at best. His eyes shown as he studied the planet displayed on the view screen, then the various display panels around the back wall. Kes also looked around, as if to memorize the scene.
Bric grew a little more brave and stepped toward the aft stations. The crew members on those positions watched him, smiling. His awe and joy were infectious. They drew him in to tell him about the diagrams and lights. Kes smiled at them in appreciation of their kindness.
While Bric was occupied, the Captain told Kes about the planet. “All reports are very favorable. We’ll be collecting many critical supplies and I’ve told Tuvok to set up a shore leave schedule.”
Kes nodded in reply. “I know. Neelix was very enthusiastic when he returned. He wants to take us to the area he was in this morning. He says there are some beautiful flowers for me to collect there.” Kes looked toward Bric. “He’s even willing to take Bric.” They turned and watched Bric interact with the bridge crew again.
Finally, she called him back to her. “Did you enjoy the visit?” At his nod she asked, “Can you say thank you?” He looked at her seriously for a moment and then turned around. Each person in the room stood or sat looking at him. Bric closed his eyes, concentrating. ‘Thank …. You.’ Each person ‘heard’ it at the same time, and all smiled in pleasure. They chorused their good-byes as the three left the bridge.
Kes stood with her hand holding Bric’s. “Thank you Captain. We both enjoyed it.”
“You know you’re always welcome on the bridge Kes.”
“I know that, but I can’t visit often anymore. I miss it.”

The Captain ate her dinner in the mess hall and then went to her quarters. She changed into something comfortable and then called up some background music. She was hoping Chakotay would decide to come without her invitation. She was very disappointed when he still hadn’t come by the time she went to bed.
The next morning, Chakotay greeted her in the mess hall. She eyed him over her cup of coffee. “Good morning. I was hoping you’d come by last night. What did you find to do instead that was more interesting?”
As he settled in his chair, he secretly smiled to himself. ‘Jealously. This is a good sign.’ he thought. In response he said, “Nothing that was more interesting. I played a few games of pool with Tom and then went to bed. I needed to catch up on what I missed the night before.”
He watched anger and disappointment flash briefly over her expression before she snapped her controls over it. Before she jumped to the wrong conclusions, he said, “Do you remember that spot I mentioned I’d picked out for shore leave? It’s in a beautiful, secluded lagoon. It’s got just enough sand for some sunbathing and water so clear you can see fish 20 meters below. Want to go swimming this afternoon?”
The prospect of a swim in real water and fresh air was too tempting to pass up to stay miffed. “I’d love to. When should we go?”
“Well, Tuvok has me on the schedule for 1400 to 1800 today. He hasn’t scheduled you at all, so I assume you can go whenever you want to.”
“Sounds perfect. I’ll check to see if the replicator can manage a bathing suit.”
“Don’t bother on my account. I said the beach is secluded.”
She gave him one of those ‘you lecher’ looks and got up to leave. “Since you’ll be mining all morning, you’ll probably need a wash by then. I’ll bring you some soap.” She rested her hand on his shoulder.
“Great, since the beach is a short walk from the first mining location, I’ll give the transporter room the coordinates and you can meet me there this afternoon.”
“OK. See you this afternoon.”
Her hand brushed his ear when she lifted it from his shoulder. Since her fingernails had carefully raked his neck on the way up, he knew it hadn’t been accidental. He still had a self satisfied smile on his face when B’Elanna joined him a short time later.
“You look like the cat who just found the bird cage door unlatched.”
He just grinned at her, but didn’t respond to the dig. They left a short time later to begin the morning’s work.

Kathryn Janeway looked forward to the afternoon with the anticipation of a teenager waiting for a date. She missed the California ocean terribly. The prospect of a swim was oh too inviting. The naughtiness of possibly doing it skinny dipping was even more exciting. She returned to her quarters in time to pack up some food, wine, bathing suits and towels. She consulted the Holo doctor about requirements for sun screen and insect repellent.
When she felt she was prepared, she walked down to the transporter room and entered just as a group of laughing couples disappeared in the beam. Judging from the gear they carried, they were going swimming too.
The transporter technician, seeing the Captain said, “Commander Chakotay just called up, asking that I beam you down to his location Captain.”
“Very good. Well, I’m ready. Shall we?”
“Yes ma’am.”
“Energize.”
The familiar tingle and blurring of her vision took hold and a moment later she was standing on the beach of a beautiful little bay, surrounded by trees and moderate rock walls. A natural sloping path led down from the top of the wall directly behind the center of the beach. Chakotay was just jumping down from the ledge and came to greet her.
“What do you think? This bay faces west, so we can watch the sunset over the water.”
“It’s beautiful…….. and perfect. I brought lunch, have you eaten?”
“Nope, I was hoping you’d think of that. Come on, there’s a perfect shady spot over here.” He led her to a sheltered spot of sand that was well screened from anyone who might wander by on the wall above. He took the basket from her hands and spread out the blanket. Then he set the basket down and immediately opened it to see what was inside.
Kathryn laughed and chided him, “Here I go to great effort to look nice and what appreciation do I get?”
“You’ll get plenty after I’ve eaten. I’m starving.”
They dove into lunch and then lounged back, feeling sated and mellow. Kathryn packed up the basket and then snuggled into Chakotay’s shoulder to doze. They sat like this for a comfortable hour, just enjoying the feel of each other’s closeness. When he’d napped off his big lunch, he started to respond to her closeness in more demanding ways.
Kathryn woke to a hand sliding up her side. As it inched upward, a nose nudged her forehead. She turned her face upward to receive a heated kiss. They shifted positions, facing each other on their knees. Hands flew, peeling clothing, and heads bumped trying to maintain the contact while bodies twisted.
A wild twenty minutes later, they fell back breathing hard. Chakotay turned on his side and drew her into his embrace. “I wish we could be that free all the time. I love you Kathryn and I think you love me, although you’ve never said it. I want to be the man in your life. Will you marry me?”
She momentarily froze. She hadn’t expected this. The relationship they had was comfortable. She had someone who cared about her, and she equally cared about him. He made her feel things most women only dreamed about. But did she love him? Thinking about it, she admitted that she did.
She tightened her arms around his trunk and buried her face in his neck. Planting a kiss at the tender spot where his pulse still thumped, she said “I do love you. I don’t want you to doubt that for a minute. And you ARE the only man in my life.”
His arms tightened possessively. His heart swelled at her admission that she loved him, but he still felt the barrier in place. “But you still won’t make it permanent. Why? Is it because, if we do get home, you don’t want to be married to a criminal?” She clearly heard the hurt in his voice.
She moved back from him far enough to be able to look him directly in the eye. She laid her hand flat on his chest to maintain contact with him. “No! That’s not why. I do not think of you as a criminal. Please try to understand. I spent nearly half of my life reaching the goal I’d set for myself; to be the captain of a starship. Then when I finally made it, I realized that my biggest sacrifice for that goal was my personal life. Ship captains usually don’t have room for the dedication it takes to have a successful family life. All of that dedication has to go to the bigger family… the ship and its crew.”
He did understand that part of it. He’d been a captain too, in a small way. “Now that you have a captain’s life, was it worth it?”
She looked doubtful. “Yes…….. and no. Mark was willing to take me on a part time basis, at least for a while. I always knew that when it wasn’t enough anymore, he’d leave me to find someone else. I thought I could handle that.”
“What about now? Is this all you want? Us on a part time basis?”
Taking in a deep breath, she said, “At first, it was. That’s what I was used to. But, I don’t know anymore. I spent last night alone, being mad at you for not coming and not letting me know what you were doing. But I don’t have the right to demand any more of you.”
“I want you to have that right. You’re the one who’s refusing to take it.”
Groaning, she said, “I knowwww. I’m so confused!”
This was at least progress. He knew when to back off and let her think about it. “Come on. Let’s go swimming. You don’t have to change your whole outlook on life this afternoon.”
She let him pull her away from the difficult dilemma. They ignored the bathing suits lying on the corner of the blanket and dashed into the surf. The water was refreshing and they soon forgot the seriousness of their earlier conversation. They splashed, dove and chased like otters. Finally, tired, they emerged from the water panting and flopped down on the blanket again. Once dried, they dressed and climbed the path Chakotay had come down on to explore.

Tuvok, in command of the bridge for the afternoon, monitored the ship’s population as they came and went from the ship. At 1800, everyone was supposed to be aboard. His monitor kept a current display of each person on the surface. That list steadily dwindled as the time approached 1800. Although his shift was to have ended an hour ago, he was still standing behind his security console. He was the first to notice that there were two names still on the away team list at the end of the day.
He waited a few more minutes, hoping that they were just distracted and lost track of time. Finally, he made the necessary inquiry. “Voyager to Captain.” When there was no response, he tried the other name. “Voyager to Commander Chakotay.” Others on the bridge, looked at him, waiting to see what he would do next.
“Computer, locate Captain Janeway.”
The computer immediately responded, “Captain Janeway is not aboard the ship.”
“Locate Commander Chakotay.”
“Commander Chakotay is not aboard the ship.”
“Computer, using the beam down coordinates of Captain Janeway, locate the Captain on the planet.”
“Captain Janeway is not within sensor range.”
“Computer, are there any human life signs on the planet at this time?”
“There are no human life signs within sensor range.”
The entire bridge crew was now looking at Commander Tuvok, waiting for his next actions and instructions.

Chakotay regained consciousness slowly, aware first that he was lying on cold, hard stone. He could smell the dust and feel the grit under his face. He rolled to his back and opened his eyes. Even with eyes open, all he could see was blackness. A sudden stab of fear shot through him, which he quickly clamped down on. At the sound of a faint moan near him, he remembered the captain. Feeling along the floor with his hands, he moved toward the sound. “Kathryn?”
She roused at the sound of her name. A hand brushed her arm and felt up toward her face. Opening her eyes to total blackness sent her into a sudden panic, but like Chakotay, she quickly tamped it down. “Chakotay?”
“Yes.”
“Whe…..where are we?”
“I don’t know. Can you see anything?”
“No.”
“Neither can I.”
“It sounds like we’re in a cave. Sounds echo down a passage or hallway for a long way.”
Chakotay automatically reached to his chest for his communicator. ‘Damn. My communicator’s gone. Do you have yours?
He felt her movement as she reached for hers. “No, mine’s gone too. That’s too much of a coincidence to be an accident.”
“Now what?”
“Well, we seem to have two choices. We can sit here and wait to see what happens, or we can try to find our way out of here.”
“Neither seems very inviting, but I don’t think it would be wise to go wandering around when we can’t see the nose on our own face. We could walk right into a vertical shaft without knowing it was there.”
“OK, for now we wait. I hope it’s not too long.”
Chakotay shifted his position, so that he could lean back against a wall. He pulled Kathryn back between his legs and she settled back against his chest with his arms around her. With eyes disabled, they both became more aware of sounds and touch…..and each other. Before long, they were so closely attuned to each other that they even breathed in unison.
Amazingly, they spoke little. There wasn’t much to say. They just took comfort from the fact that their bodies fit so nicely together. Eventually, both dozed off. While they slept, they were unaware that they were not alone in the dark cavern. Even if they had been awake, they probably wouldn’t have recognized the being watching them as sentient. ‘Spirits’, after all, left no trace of themselves in the corporeal world.

Tuvok sent two security teams back to the surface to search for the Captain and First Officer. At the beach, they found the basket, blanket and bathing suits, laying on the beach. They followed footprints up to the top of the rock wall, but lost them in the underbrush. The second team transported to the location where Commander Chakotay had been working that morning. As suspected, there was no sign of either of them there.
Tricorders picked up their trail from the top of the rock wall for about a half of a kilometer, but at a small clearing, they just disappeared. Searchers fanned out, looking for traces of the path they’d used to leave the clearing, but none was found. With darkness falling, the search teams were called back to the ship.
Harry Kim and B’Elanna Torres worked side by side, adjusting scanner settings, running scans and evaluating returns. Every adjustment provided no more information than the initial scan. They’d just simply disappeared. No one was willing to give up so easily, but the tension on the ship was almost visible.

Kes felt the worry and tension building around her. Although she wasn’t in the information loop of the bridge, she knew something was very wrong. When Neelix returned to their quarters, he confirmed it. “The Captain is missing with Commander Chakotay. I can’t believe we might lose them both at the same time.”
Kes tried to comfort him. “We haven’t lost them. I would feel that.”
Neelix had grown accustomed to her extra senses. He was ashamed that he hadn’t come to her sooner this time. More than once, she’d been able to help recover missing crew members. “Can you feel them?”
“No, but I know they’re not dead.”
Bric, sensing the tension too, slipped in between them, seeking comfort from his mother. Kes hugged him and crooned, “It’s all right darling. I miss her too, but she will come back.”
She looked at Neelix. “He know the Captain isn’t on the ship and he feels the tension associated with her name.”
“He can feel those thing like you can?”
“Well, he’s able to sense them, but he doesn’t always understand them. When he hears someone else’s thoughts or emotions and doesn’t understand, it frightens him. He’s always heard me speak to him telepathically, but he just beginning to learn speak telepathically.”
Neelix looked at his son with new sympathy. Although he found it hard to communicate with Bric, he tried to tell him it would be OK. He touched his shoulder and when Bric turned to look at him he said, “I miss her too. I promise you I’ll do anything I can to bring her back.”
He folded both Kes and Bric within his arms as best he could, resting his forehead against Kes’. At that moment, the cracks in his armor against Bric opened a bit wider. Kes felt it and rejoiced. Maybe Neelix would find a way to accept Bric and she would be able to leave them without fear or worry.

Chakotay woke and shifted his position. His arms had gone to sleep, and his back was sore from a sharp stone prodding him in the spine. Kathryn woke too when he moved.
Chakotay whispered in her ear, “Sorry I woke you. I need to move though.”
“It’s OK. I’m a little stiff too.”
They tentatively moved apart, exercising arms and legs to get circulation moving again.
Chakotay wetted his lips and said, “We need to find water. I’m really drying out.”
“So am I……..Listen. Do you hear dripping?”
“Yeah. It’s coming from our left. I’ll go over and check it out. You stay here.”
“NO! Sorry….No. If we separate, we might lose each other completely. We stick together.”
“OK. You’re right. Let’s check around here to make sure there isn’t something we should take with us before we move away though.”
They felt around the area in ever increasing circles. Kathryn heard a satisfied grunt and called softly, “What is it?”
“My phaser. The charge light says it’s low, but enough for two or three shots on stun.”
“Curious that they’d be so careful to remove our communications badges, but leave a phaser with us.”
“I agree, but I’m not going to look a gift horse in the mouth. We may need it.”
“Keep talking. I need to find you.”
“I’m over here, about 4 meters to your left.”
She started crawling toward the sound of his voice, feeling along the floor with her hands. “How do you know that? I can’t see a thing is this blackness, but you’re telling me direction and distance?”
“I’m part Vampire bat. Didn’t you know? I echo-locate.”
She could hear the smile in his voice. “So that’s where those little nips on the neck come from.” She got a chuckle in reply.
“Keep coming straight ahead. Can you feel my warmth now?”
“No……..Yes.” Just then she bumped into him.
“Well hello there. Going my way?”
“Well, I sure hope so. I’d really hate to be left alone in this place.”
“I think it’s safer to continue to crawl. We’re not as likely to crack our head on something, and we can feel any drop off before we fall into it.”
“Right. You lead. You seem to have the advantage here.”
Chakotay moved away from her, and Kathryn fell in close behind. She could hear him tap with a stone each time one of his hands met the floor. After a few minutes, she began to believe he could echo-locate. She was even beginning to hear the contours of the space they were in herself. Every couple of minutes, he would stop and listen, making sure he was still headed in the direction of the dripping sound.
After what seemed like an hour of crawling, he stopped.
“What’s the matter?”
“The direction’s changed. I don’t believe we could have turned almost 90 degrees off our original heading. It has to have moved.”
“Could we have been following an echo?”
“That’s possible. Well, all this activity is increasing my need for water. We have no choice but to follow it. How are you holding up?”
“I’ll manage. Keep going.”
What she didn’t tell him was that her knees were getting extremely sore. The abrasion of the stone under them had worn through her trouser legs and she was now crawling on bare skin.
As they advanced, the sounds closed in around them. Chakotay’s stone echoed back from very close. “We must be in a narrow passage.”
Finally, they could tell that the sound of dripping liquid was getting closer. Chakotay called back over his shoulder, “Almost there. I hear it very plainly now.”
“Good. None too soon.”
A few more minutes of crawling brought them to another cavern. As they emerged, the sound seemed very close by, but echoes bounced all around them. It was difficult to tell where the sound originated. Chakotay stopped and sat. Kathryn coming up along side him sat too, leaning against him. “Well, this is an interesting problem. ‘Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink.’ “, he quoted.
“What now?” Her voice was beginning to go hoarse.
“Sh. Just listen.”
As the echoes of their voices died away, they concentrated on the dripping sound. Chakotay turned his head slowly back and forth. Finally he said, “There, right 45 degrees about 10 meters away.”
Kathryn numbly nodded and said, “OK, lead away.” Gamely, she followed where he led.
Five more minutes of careful crawling over a rough floor brought them to the source of the dripping sound. Chakotay felt his way up what was the base of a large stalagmite. At chin height, he found a small depression, filled with liquid. He brought his hand to his nose to smell it. It smelled strongly of minerals. It tasted somewhat soapy, but he was pretty sure it was water. He took a sip and swished it in his mouth. When he got no reaction, he swallowed. Cool, life saving liquid trickled down his throat.
“It’s here and I think it’s safe. Give me you hand.”
Kathryn stood, feeling her way up his back. As she got to her feet, he took her hand and guided it up to the basin. For her, it was at the level of the top of her head.
“I can feel it, but I need a lift to be able to get a drink.”
He backed up a step and guided her in front of him. Holding onto her waist, he squatted down and said, “Sit on my shoulder and keep your hand there to keep your balance.” He stood, lifting her up within reach of the water.
He braced himself when he felt her lean forward to reach the water. When she’d quenched her thirst, she placed a cold, wet hand on his left ear and said, “Thanks, you can put me down now.”
He gently lifted her and turned her, so that she slid down his chest. When her face reached the level of his, he stopped her there. Still blind, he let the sound and feel of her breath guide him to her mouth. She wrapped her arms around his neck and her legs around his waist, anchoring herself to his body. His arms then wrapped around her back, completing the link between them.
Ending the kiss, he continued to embrace her for several minutes more, giving and taking comfort through the emotional connection they had. Then he gently removed her, saying, “Now, it’s my turn.” He made sure she was steady on her feet and turned away to quench his physical thirst.
When he finished, he heard the sound of tearing cloth. “What are you doing?”
“My knees are pretty chewed up. I need to clean them.”
He growled to the ceiling, “May the gods give me strength. Why didn’t you say something?”
She snapped right back at him, “Would it have done any good? We had to get here.”
“Yes, it might have done some good. I could have rigged some sort of padding for your knees.”
She closed her eyes, seeing her mistake. She’d let her pride get in the way of common sense. “I’m sorry. You’re right. It was stupid.”
“Well, it’s too late to fight about it. Can you manage?”
“I’ll manage. I just need to rest.”
“Well, I don’t see any point in moving from here right now. Let’s find some place dry and try to rest.”
He wrapped her arm around his waist and led her back the way they’d come, feeling his way forward with his feet this time. He didn’t want to make her crawl again. Although they stumbled a couple of times, they made it to a nearby wall, without major difficulty.
He felt around for stones, selecting the hardest ones by feel. Piling them up he reached for his phaser. “I’m going to heat these stones with the phaser. Shield your eyes.”
“Is that necessary? We may need the phaser before this all over.”
“Maybe not strictly necessary, but it will serve two purposes. It will give us warmth for a few hours and I’d like to see how bad your knees are.”
“OK, but save the charge as much as possible.”
“Right. Are you ready”
“Ready.”
He felt for the pile, lined his arm up with it and squinted his eyes. The bright glare of the phaser fire still effectively blinded him for a good minute. When his eyes readjusted to the limited light put out by the stones, he looked around in awe. Everywhere the light touched, it glinted back in beautiful sparkling reflections.
Kathryn also stared around her, her pain momentarily forgotten.
Chakotay whistled softly. “Beautiful, isn’t it.”
“I’m glad we can see it at least once. But I’d still like to get out of here.”
“Well, first things first. Let’s see the knees.”
He squatted down in front of her and lifted aside the ragged edges of her trousers. Wincing at the raw flesh he saw underneath, he looked up at her face. “I should put you on report for knowingly inflicting this kind of damage on yourself. It could jeopardize our escape.” Although the words weren’t respectful, the tone was. He was letting her know that, even though he recognized the error in judgment, he admired the courage it took to bear the agony she must have felt.
He took the torn sleeve from her hand and walked over to the water bowl again. This time, with light, it seemed so close. Returning, he gently sponged as much of the grit as he could from the wounds. When they were as clean as he could make them without causing extreme pain, he ripped his own sleeves off and wrapped them around both knees.
“They need to be treated better than that, but it’s the best we can do without a med. kit.”
“Thanks. They’ll feel better after some rest.”
Chakotay studied her. Something about this situation nagged at him. He couldn’t put his finger on it at the moment, but he’d figure it out sooner or later. Putting the unanswered question aside, he said, “Come here. Let’s make use of the heat while we have it.” He drew her down, close to the pile of glowing stones and gathered her in his arms.
She came willingly, soaking up the comfort of heat from his body as well as the stones. They sat like this for quite some, and Kathryn dozed, her head falling back against his shoulder. Chakotay used the time to study their situation. What he could see of the chamber they were in didn’t offer much hope. Yes, they had water, but eventually, they’d be back in total darkness and couldn’t travel very far, thanks to Kathryn’s knees. He decided that they’d have to depend on Voyager to find them.
The decision taken out of his hands, he decided to consult his animal guide. She would help him emotionally prepare for what was ahead. He adjusted his position as much as possible without disturbing Kathryn, and closed his eyes. His breath came slow and steady. His mind opened and she was there.
A beautiful golden cougar sat facing him. Her fur gleamed in the sunlight. He smiled at her image. The first day he’d come to Voyager, the cat had acquired a name. Its personality, mannerisms and words were now all mixed up in his mind with those of the woman he held in his arms. Kathryn. That was why he’d so easily fallen into the role of her first officer. He was accustomed to listening to her counsel and following her.
Today, the cat was relaxed. She stretched her body out along a rocky ledge and groomed herself. They communed for several minutes, giving and taking in an animated conversation, as always. Then, suddenly, the cat jumped up, alert. She bristled and fled the ledge. Chakotay froze in shock.
This was the first time anything like this had happened. New spirits floated in. These were the same ones he’d felt just two days ago. Those from the planet they were now on. He waited, expecting them to come and touch him. When they hovered, out of reach, he reached out to them. Most withdrew, avoiding his touch.
One, however, held its place. Although Chakotay couldn’t know it, this one had been observing him for quite some time. It was intrigued by what it had seen. These beings were a curious species. Obviously they cared about others like themselves, but they didn’t respect other life. Or at least that was what they, the life spirits, believed. These beings had come, prepared to plunder and remove large pieces of this world. And these two were the leaders of all the others. They controlled the others’ actions.
As Chakotay approached the spirit with his mind, it shimmered and danced, as if nervous, but it didn’t retreat. He went slowly, allowing it to decide whether to allow contact or not. Chakotay stopped, very close, and waited. The spirit also stilled and they regarded each other for a time. When Chakotay spoke to it, it shimmered again. “Who are you?”
The spirit hovered close to Chakotay, but did not try to communicate with him. It was testing him to see how his knowledge of things he didn’t understand would affect his behavior. It was interested in the fact that this one, out of all those above, was aware of them. The other beings like him seemed oblivious to their presence.
When the spirit did not answer him, Chakotay slowly reached out again. He felt curiosity and mistrust but no threat or anger from this one. Again it shimmered and danced. He slowed his approach further and concentrated on communicating only his own curiosity. The spirit allowed his approach just until he was about to actually touch it, and then disappeared.
When it disappeared, Chakotay pulled back his own thoughts and called forth his inner peace. When he felt it settle over him, he breathed deeply and opened his eyes. The glow of the stones was fading, but they put out enough light yet to be able to make out Kathryn’s face. She was awake and watching his face. When his eyes opened, she stirred and sat up.
“What happened? I felt something, or someone here for a moment, but then it was gone.”
“Yes, so did I. There are spirits here, but they won’t communicate with me.”
“Spirits?”
“Well, that’s how I can best describe them. Noncorporeal beings that live on this planet.”
“Did they bring us here?”
“I can’t say for sure, but probably. One in particular was more curious, but I felt mistrust from it too.”
“Do you think they’re a threat to us?”
“I don’t think so, at least not at the moment. Who know what they might be capable of though.”

Harry Kim, standing at his Ops console, had been running scans and watching monitors for hours. He was tired, but refused to leave his station until they knew where the Captain and Chakotay were. One of the energy monitors blipped, just for a few seconds. He acknowledged it and discounted it, thinking that it was one of the energy fluctuations associated with solar energy.
As he continued to work, the reading kept nagging at him. When the thought wouldn’t go away, he eventually replayed that portion of the sensor log again. Something about it didn’t seem right, but he couldn’t put his finger on it. Playing it again, he stood, deep in thought. He blinked and jerked his head when Commander Tuvok asked him a question.
“Lt. Kim, I would appreciate it if you would maintain your concentration on the tasks at hand. Do you have any new information that might help us locate the Captain?”
Harry looked toward Tuvok and responded, “No, nothing definitive, but I’ve got a puzzle here.”
“A puzzle? Explain.”
“About an hour ago, we recorded an energy surge from the planet’s core. It spiked suddenly and then dropped off suddenly. I thought it was associated with the solar fluctuations, but the direction it came from is wrong.”
Tuvok walked over to his console. “Please display the scan data for me.”
Harry tapped a few commands into his console and turned to a display behind him on the wall. “See…sudden spike, a steady level for a few seconds and then a sudden drop again. But this reading came from 5 kilometers below the planet surface, not the sun.”
Tuvok studied the graph and then turned to Harry. “If this were on the surface, I would say that it came from a phaser discharge. The signature is identical to our type 2 phaser, set on stun.”
“But, being that far below the surface, you don’t think it’s a phaser.”
“I would estimate the likelihood to be very small, however, I do not wish to overlook any possibility. Run a scan for life signs at or near that location.”
Harry tapped commands into the console again and then replied, ‘No, no life signs found. Let me try it again with enhanced scans.” A few more taps and he shook his head. “No, still nothing. But our scanners won’t work well at that depth. There would have to be a large mass of life to pick it up.”
“Continue to monitor this area for any other energy surges.”

Kes was worn to a frazzle. Bric was agitated and kept pulling and worrying at her all day. She knew he was worried about Captain Janeway, but nothing she said or did calmed him for long. He would settle down as long as she was actively soothing him, but as soon as she stopped, he began to respond again to the tension on the ship.
She felt the tension too, but there was nothing she could do to help at this point. If she tried to sit calmly to meditate, Bric would interrupt and she would have to attend to him. By the time Neelix came to their quarters, she had become nearly as agitated as Bric.
“Kes, my darling, you look positively worn out. Has Bric been so very bad today?”
“He has been a trial, but not bad. He’s upset by what’s happened to the Captain. He’s been trying to tell me something I think, but I haven’t been able to make out what it is. I need some peace for just a little while. Could you take him, please? I know you aren’t comfortable handling him, but if I don’t get just a little rest, I’ll be too tired to deal with getting him to bed later.”
Neelix looked doubtful about taking Bric all on his own. But when he looked at how tired Kes was, he said, “Of course I’ll take him. You must take a nap and rest. I’ll just take him with me to the kitchen. Maybe he’ll be distracted if I give him something to do there.”
“Perfect idea Neelix. Bric was a big help yesterday. He cut up vegetables and washed salad greens for me.”
“All right, that’s what we’ll do. You just rest.”
Neelix walked over to Bric and took his hand. “Come on Bric. You’re going to help me in the kitchen. Would you like that?”
Bric looked at his father doubtfully. He didn’t understand everything he’d said, but the kitchen was one place he enjoyed going. He turned to Kes and beckoned to her. She was already lying down with her eyes closed.
Neelix understood Bric’s reluctance to go without Kes. He rarely left her. He turned Bric’s face to his and tried to reassure him. “Mother is resting.” He mimed sleep with his hands and face. “Will you come and help me?” Again he mimed cutting and washing motions.
Bric stared soberly at him, but didn’t resist when Neelix led him out of their quarters. They walked together down the corridor and Neelix felt a new sentiment for his son. He’d been so disappointed when the doctor had told them that Bric was not normal. He’d had so many plans for what he was going to do with a son and none of them were possible with Bric.
Bric had grown quickly, like an Ocampa, but other development was much different. His mental capacities were developing slowly, but if he’d followed Ocampa development, he should already be working on an adult level. Instead, Bric was almost five and he still acted like a small child. His verbal ability had never developed. Instead, Kes talked to him telepathically as well as orally. He seemed to understand some oral communication, but not nearly enough to live comfortably among the humans on this ship.
When they arrived at the mess hall, all was quiet. It was still early and the crew hadn’t started arriving for the evening meal. Neelix led Bric into the kitchen and set out the pots and vegetables he was planning to use to prepare the evening meal. Then he led Bric over to the sink. He helped him wash his hands and then set a pan of roots next to the sink. He motioned for Bric to watch him and he showed him how he wanted him to break off the tops and wash both the roots and the tops in water.
Soon Bric was happily splashing away with the vegetables and Neelix stood back and watched. He even smiled proudly when Bric followed his instructions perfectly. Soon they were both hard at work preparing dinner. Things were going along quite well until Bric decided that he’d had enough of washing vegetables. He wanted to cut too. Neelix was reluctant to allow Bric to use his sharpest knife. They were well into a contest of wills when Kes came into the kitchen.
“What’s the problem here?”
“Ahhh, Kes! Well……..we were just….Kes, could you please tell Bric that this knife is my own favorite one. I really don’t think it’s safe for him to use it. It’s very sharp.”
“Neelix, he’s quite capable of using a knife. I think you should let him. Just show him how you want the vegetables cut. He can do it.”
“Are…. are you sure it’s all right?”
“Yes! Now let him try.”
“Well……All right, if you say so.”
They turned to Bric and Neelix led him over to his cutting counter. He took the knife and cut two of the roots, carefully demonstrating safe use of the knife and how he wanted it done. Bric watched soberly and then reached for the knife. Neelix reluctantly let him have it and stepped back just a little to see how he would do. Bric was well into the third root before Neelix would believe that he wouldn’t cut off a finger.
“See, he’s fine. Now what can I do?”, Kes asked.
“Are you sure you’re up to this? I can do fine with Bric’s help.”
“Neelix, stop treating me like an invalid! I’m fine. If I get tired, I’ll quit.”
“Well, fine. You can make the Kortelin Soup.”
They worked as a team for half an hour, Neelix happily humming to himself. He felt like the clock had turned back to their first couple of years together. But when he stopped and looked at Kes, he knew it was just an illusion. She was going to leave him soon and he lost the happy mood that had been there just a little while ago.

Chakotay and Kathryn were now sitting in darkness again. As the light had gradually faded, they huddled closer and closer together. The cold of the stone around them was seeping into their bones and both were shivering.
Kathryn shifted her position to warm a different part of her back against his chest and said, “I think this cavern is colder than the other one. I’m freezing.”
Chakotay wrapped his arms tighter around her and said, “I think so to. We’ll have to risk using the phaser to warm the stones again sooner or later. We could die of hypothermia if we don’t stay warm.”
“I know. I’ve been trying to think of some way to signal Voyager. The only thing we have that the ship’s sensors will pick up is that phaser. If we could use it to tell them where we are, we might have a chance to get out of here.”
“What if we fired it in short evenly spaced bursts? A single burst would probably be too similar to a natural energy discharge, but if we did it several times, close together, they might see it as an artificial source.”
“That might work, but I’d like to make it readily apparent that it’s not natural. We need some sort of code that they’d recognize……..Wait, remember when we found the 37’s. Tom turned on a device in the truck and we heard radio signals. All of it was was a single tone, sent in short and long bursts. He said it was a code that had a name. I don’t remember what it was, but that’s not important. We knew immediately that the tones weren’t naturally occurring.”
“Right. I remember. We could do the same thing. Even if they didn’t know what we were saying, they’d know it was artificial. Should we do it now?”
“I suppose the sooner the better for the first try. We won’t be able to do it many times before the phaser’s charge is used up. We’ll have to space them out as much as we can to make sure someone actually sees them. We need to make the pattern the same every time too. If they pick up on the repeats, it will help.”
“OK. Something simple. How about, Short. Short. Long. Short. Long.”
“I don’t know what we’ll be saying, but it sounds good to me.”
“OK. Let’s try it.” Chakotay got up and felt around in front of him until he located the stone pile. “I’m ready. Shield your eyes.”
This time he knew he’d be blinded, so he closed his eyes and fired. The phaser’s bright burst flashed in the pattern they’d decided on and then Chakotay stopped. When he stopped seeing the bright echoes, he looked at Kathryn. “Well, we have light and heat for a little while. This won’t last more than an hour.”
“How much charge is left in the phaser?”
Chakotay looked and then made a rueful face. “Only enough for two more tries. I hope they’re looking.”

Kes was back in their quarters again with Bric. They’d stayed in the kitchen long enough to get the meal well underway. But when Neelix started getting impatient with Bric, Kes decided it was enough for one day. She was beginning to feel tired again, but with no one to watch over Bric, she was forced to deal with him herself.
Bric settled into his room for a while, but was soon back at her side, pulling on her for comfort. Kes was beginning to worry. Bric was very upset, but she couldn’t make out what was bothering him. All he was able to tell her was that it had something to do with the Captain. She soothed him again and kept him with her.

Harry Kim had left the bridge for a while, but couldn’t stay away. With so much riding on the ship’s sensors being able to locate the Captain and Chakotay, he felt better when he was the one monitoring the scan results. As he looked around the bridge, he realized that there were more people here than normal. Both the Alpha and Beta shifts were still on the bridge.
When B’Elanna stepped off the turbolift and came over to his station, he momentarily relaxed into a smile. As she approached him, he admired her energy and compact build. They were a team, both on and off duty. Harry had waited a long time to approach her. They’d dated for four years before he had the nerve to ask her to marry him. He was totally surprised when she’d accepted his proposal. He was glad she was here now.
“How’s it going?”, she asked as she stepped in close to his side.
Harry slipped his arm around her waist and replied, “Better now that you’re here. We still haven’t picked up anything that can tell us where to look for them. It’s as if they’ve been whisked completely out of sensor range.”
“What kind of scans are you running?”
“Everything I can think of. I picked up on an unusual energy burst a few hours ago, but it hasn’t been repeated. Tuvok said it matched a phaser blast, but it was 5 kilometers below the surface. I’ve been monitoring EM readings to see if it happens again.”
While they stood talking, Harry had taken his eyes off the panels for a few moments. He was startled when the computer flashed a warning signal. He whipped around to his control panel and tapped out a request to repeat the flagged scan.
“Commander Tuvok, I think I have something. That energy burst just came up again, but it’s different. It’s several short bursts instead of a single longer one.”
“Is it in the same location?”
“Yes, it’s in the same area as the original one.”
“Scan for life signs.”
Harry tapped his panel to run the scan, but sagged dejectedly when it was negative. “Nothing.”
“Continue to monitor for the energy bursts. They may be something important yet.”

The light had faded and they were in total darkness again. Maintaining contact with each other through touch, they waited, hoping that something would happen to break the tension of holding back the panic. As the chill began to sink into her body again, Kathryn gravitated toward the warmth of Chakotay’s body. He instinctively pulled her in, giving her all the protection he could.
“We’ll wait a while longer and try it again.”, she said. “I hope this works.”
“Me too. I’ve been thinking about the spirits. I felt a lot of anger from some of them before they disappeared. We did come here to take things from this planet. They may be trying to protect this world. Of all the people that were on the surface, why us? I think it might be because they recognized that we’re the leaders.”
“Have you felt them any more since then?”
“No, but I haven’t tried to contact them either.”
“Do you think you could communicate with them?”
“I don’t know. I tried, but I got nothing back.”
“Maybe you should try again.”
“I agree. Will you go with me?”
She took his hand. “I don’t know if I can. You’ve always been so much closer to your animal guide and the spirits.”
“Try.”
“OK.”

Still holding hands, they both placed themselves in that meditative state that moved their consciousness to another level. As his mind opened, Chakotay began to feel the spirits all around him. He spread his mind, reaching out.
Kathryn, following him, was dimly aware of the outside spirits. Her concentration centered on him. She read his emotions as if they were her own. He’d taught her to meet him on this level, but she’d never become as skillful as he was.
Chakotay concentrated on communicating their peaceful intentions. He felt the anger and aggression, and was doing everything he could to calm their fears. He tentatively reached out, seeking to open a discussion. As he moved forward, they again retreated. He turned, seeking the one who’d stayed before. As he searched, he recognized a familiar personality….there, to the side.
He advanced, tentatively reaching out to it. The spirit held its position, but shimmered with mistrust. Chakotay stopped close. ‘I am Chakotay. Did you bring me here?’. The spirit changed its shape, becoming larger and more threatening. Chakotay felt it’s anger, but also recognized it’s restraint. He knew that if it chose to it could really harm him.
‘We do not wish to harm you. We are peaceful people.’
‘NO! Peaceful you are not!’
‘Why do you believe that? Have we harmed you?’
‘You destroy.’
‘How have we destroyed?’
‘You take our food. You threaten our children.’
‘We did not know this. How do we threaten your children?’
The spirit tried to communicate, but Chakotay didn’t understand. When he failed to get the message, the spirit became angry.
Chakotay felt himself being lifted. He dimly felt Kathryn’s pull on him, but it was too weak to hold him. As he rose, his vision cleared and he could see through the darkness. There, far below him, Kathryn still sat with him. Panic set in as his view of the two forms in the cavern receded. He was being pulled through solid rock.
During Chakotay’s conversation, Kathryn had become aware of the spirit’s presence, but could not hear the exchange between them. When she tried to extend her connection with Chakotay’s, he was so far ahead of her mentally it was impossible. So she waited.
Suddenly, she felt his consciousness change. He became agitated and she was now vividly aware of the aggression of the outside spirit. Her fear for him escalated when her connection with him rapidly weakened. She frantically tried to extend herself to keep him grounded to her, but the link was suddenly severed. She had been in intimate contact with him one moment, the next he was gone.
She froze with the shock of it. Frantically, she reached out, searching for him. There was nothing there. She felt more alone and isolated than she had ever felt in her life. Both mind and body were in a totally black void. Fighting a panic that threatened to overwhelm her, she left her meditation and returned to her body. Even here, the blackness was overwhelming.
She could feel that Chakotay’s body was still here, but she felt nothing of him in it. The panic was growing, pushing at her controls with a power so strong, she felt she would break into screams at any moment. “No! I will not give in!” Speaking the conviction, bolstered her strength. She fumbled around for the phaser. “I must contact the ship!”
Again she fought to calm herself. She stopped a moment to remember the pattern they’d agreed upon and fired the phaser at the stones again. Short. Short. Long. Short. Long. “Please.” was all she could say.
When her eyes adjusted after the assault of the phaser, she turned to Chakotay’s body. It had slumped over from the position he’d been sitting in. She tenderly adjusted him to a more natural position and searched for signs that he was alive. Finding none, she slumped over his chest. Tears soaked the cloth of his shirt.

Kes, dozing with Bric in her arms, suddenly awoke. The feeling that something terrible had happened slammed into her mind again. As she struggled to comprehend it, Bric also became agitated. “Yes Bric. I feel it. Shhh. Let me listen.” Someone had died, she could feel the grief of loved ones.
Bric sobbed. Kes heard him call for the Captain over and over. Trying to console and comfort him she said, “No Bric, she’s not the one who died. I know that.”
Bric communicated, ‘Captain….cry.’
Kes looked surprised. “Bric, do you feel her?”
“Captain…….cry. Commander gone.”
Kes finally understood why Bric had been so agitated. He had been sensing the Captain. What did he mean the Commander was gone? If the Captain was crying, it must mean he was the one who had died. ‘No, not him. She needs him.’ she prayed.

On the bridge, the Ops console flashed its warning signal again. Harry, now so tired he was running on determination alone, received a surge of energy. There it was again. As he studied it, he scrunched his eyebrows together. This was odd. It looked strangely familiar. Tapping his panel, he called up the graph of the last reading they’d gotten. Comparing the two, he grew excited.
“Commander Tuvok, look at this. I just got another energy burst. This is the one we just received. This one is the one we got two hours ago. Look at the pattern. They’re the same. That can’t be a coincidence.”
Tuvok asked, “Are there life signs in that area?”
Harry tapped his console again. “No, but I can’t believe that this is a natural phenomenon.” He got a sudden burst of inspiration and tapped frantically on his console. “Look at this. I’m reading caverns in that area. Maybe they’re underground in a cave or cavern.”
Tuvok was interested but still doubtful. “Are there entrances to these caverns from the surface?”
Harry studied the display. “No, I don’t see any, but I still think it’s worth a look. If we use the ship’s phasers to drill through the crust to just above the depth of these readings, we could beam an away team into the cavern.”
Tuvok was doubtful that the effort would prove fruitful, but approved it. “All right. We will have three people in environmental suits beam into the cavern. I will prepare instructions for the phasers to execute the drilling.”
“Tuvok to security team 3. Report to transporter room 1.”

Ten minutes later, three Voyager security people appeared in the dark cavern. They switched on lights and began to scan the area. The Captain, still slumped over Chakotay’s body was unaware that they had arrived. When a hand beacon swept over her form, it stopped, holding her in the beam. The Captain looked up, squinting into the light.
“Away team to Voyager. We’ve found them Commander.”
All bridge crew let out a huge sigh of relief.
The team walked over to the Captain and Lt. Baxter knelt next to the Captain.
“Captain, are you all right?”
Although she didn’t look all right, she responded, “Yes Lieutenant, I’m fine.”
The Lt. scanned Chakotay’s body. “Captain, what happened?”
Her grief was heavy in her voice, “I don’t know. …….. He just left. He’s gone.”
The Lt. felt her pain, but was more interested in getting her back to the ship. “Lt. Baxter to Voyager. The Captain is all right, but Commander Chakotay is dead. We are ready to beam up.”
That report caused a sudden termination in the celebration. Everyone looked stunned by the news. Tuvok, the one most in control of his emotions, ordered “Mr. Kim. Beam them to sickbay.” Harry, working automatically, executed the commands to beam the team back to the ship. At the same moment, Tuvok left the bridge to go to the sickbay.
When he arrived, the security team was removing their environmental suits. Captain Janeway, bedraggled and dirty, still sat on the floor, slumped over the body of Commander Chakotay. The doctor hovered over her, trying to get her to release him so that he could examine him.
Tuvok knelt next to her. Touching her shoulder he said, “Captain, you must let him go. The doctor can’t revive him if you don’t. Please. Come with me.”
She nodded, and struggled to her feet. Dragging herself away from him was extremely difficult. As she let Tuvok lead her to a biobed, she turned her head to keep sight of him. A security team member assisted the doctor in lifting him onto the diagnostic bed.
The doctor immediately began establishing life support and scanning for damage. His efforts became more and more urgent as time wore on. Finally, he lay aside his tricorder and walked over to the Captain.
“I’m sorry Captain. There is nothing I can do for him. I could maintain his body on life support, but it would be hopeless. His systems have broken down too much to restore him to full function.
Numbly, she nodded. She was hardly aware of the doctor’s treatment of her own wounds. When he was satisfied that she was well, he said, “Captain, I suggest that you get some rest.” Turning to Mr. Tuvok, he said, “I have given her a mild sedative. The best thing for her is rest.”
Tuvok nodded and waited for the doctor to leave before he turned to her. “Captain? Please let me take you to your quarters. You will feel better after you have rested.”
Her eyes met his, filled with pain so intense, he recoiled uncomfortably. With effort, she pushed herself off the bed. Tuvok, supporting her sagging posture, led her out of sickbay. Her head turned to maintain her view of him as long as possible. When the doors closed off her view, she felt a part of her die. She would never see him again and there were so many things she regretted now.
Hours later, she sat in her quarters, a cup of coffee cooling in her hands, unnoticed. She was deep in thought, trying to understand how Chakotay could have been so vital one moment, and just… gone, the next. An injury or accident was understandable. That kind of loss was possible, if not easy to accept. This was just too sudden and unexplained.
At the chirp of her door signal, she roused. She truly didn’t want to see anyone right now, but knew that she had to resume. Decisions had to be made. Calling, “Come in.” she set her cup on the table next to her and turned toward the door. If anyone was welcome, the person who walked in was the most so. Kes advanced into the room, Bric holding tight to her hand.
“I’m sorry to disturb you Captain. I know you probably don’t want to see anyone, but Bric would not leave me alone until he’d seen you. He’s been so upset since you disappeared.”
Kathryn smiled sadly and said, “It’s all right Kes. I need to be with someone, and I can’t think of anyone I want more than you right now.” Her expression crumpled. “Well, there is someone else, but….” Tears welled up and she covered her face with her hands.
Kes dropped to her knees in front of her and wrapped her arms around her. “Captain, I’m so sorry.” Bric, feeling the emotions filling the room, came over to her too. He reached out and touched the Captain. She looked up at him in surprise when she felt his love and comfort flowing into her mind. The three of them stayed this way for several minutes.

After a night of restless sleep, the Captain rose and dressed in her uniform. Looking at herself in the mirror, she studied her reflection. As her fingertips brushed the Captain’s pips on her collar, she recalled Chakotay’s question, ‘Was the sacrifice worth it?’ She had serious doubts at this particular moment.
In the briefing room later, the atmosphere was decidedly subdued. The senior officers felt the absence of the First Officer very strongly. The Captain asked for an update on the status of supplies. The bridge crew tried to sound normal as they gave her their reports.
Tuvok summarized, “With what we collected the day you disappeared, we have enough supplies of the most critical raw materials to last us for months. If you choose, we could depart now with the reasonable expectation of finding another supply point before they run out again.”
The Captain sat in thought for a moment and then looked up. “Fine, we’ll leave then. There is one more thing that must be done before we depart.” She turned to B’Elanna. “B’Elanna, you’ve been Commander Chakotay’s friend longer than anyone else. Do you know what the funeral customs of his people are? I don’t……….” She swallowed heavily, looking down at her hands. When her head came up again, her distress was evident. “Well, it’s something we never discussed.”
B’Elanna would have done anything to have spared the Captain this pain. “I’ll take care of it Captain. When would you like to have the funeral?”
“Tomorrow. Whenever you think is appropriate.”
“Yes Captain. I’ll let you know when the arrangements are made.”
As she had no more business to discuss, they left the briefing room, leaving her there to grieve in private. Unable to function in a command capacity at the moment, she left the bridge, turning command over to Tuvok.
As she walked toward her quarters, several of the ship’s crew expressed their sympathy and regret at her loss. She was surprised to discover how many of them recognized Chakotay’s death as a tragic personal loss for her. Their genuine sentiments gave her more reasons to regret some of her past actions.
Back in her quarters, she reflected on the crew’s reaction to past and recent events. She’d so stubbornly held onto the belief that a Captain had to maintain a certain distance from her staff. Against his desires, and even her own, she’d kept Chakotay outside of her most intimate realm. The crew, on the other hand, had know about, and silently approved, their obvious attraction for each other.
Now that the barriers she’s placed between them were no longer needed, they seemed so petty. Painfully, she recalled their last afternoon on that beach. Their freedom in expressing their love, the deep connection she’d felt with him; and, most of all his hurt at her reluctance to accept him fully into her life. She’d hurt him many times the same way, and now that it was too late to atone for it, she regretted it so deeply.
The day passed so slowly, spent in waves of grief interspersed with short intervals of exhausted sleep. That evening, her door signal chirped. At her reluctant invitation B’Elanna and Harry came in together. “Captain, we came to let you know about the funeral. It will be in holodeck one tomorrow morning at 0700. The crew has been very shook up by this. Many have expressed their desire to attend. With your permission, I’d like to invite the whole crew.”
Decisions again. She was so tired of making decisions. “Of course, Lieutenant, if you think it will help them, they must all be invited.”
Harry and B’Elanna looked at each other. They were more worried now than they’d been that morning. She seemed so lifeless. It was disconcerting to see the woman they’d all relied on for strength reduced to such grief. Harry knelt and tentatively touched her hand. “Captain, are you all right? Can I call someone for you. Maybe you’d like Kes to come stay with you tonight.”
“No, Harry, don’t bother Kes. I’ll be all right soon. I just need some time. Thank you for your concern.”
They were doubtful about her reassurance, but she was the Captain, and they wouldn’t nay say her. “If you need anything Captain, please call us.”
“I will, thank you. Good night.”
They left reluctantly and she sank back into herself again. Nothing eased the pain. She sluggishly rose and stumbled in to fall onto her bed. Sleep was the only escape, and even then dreams plagued her.
The next morning, she rose with effort. She was going to have to say good bye to him today. Dressing in her uniform like so many mornings before, she again fingered her Captain’s pips. “You were right, it isn’t worth it. Why couldn’t I see that before it was too late.”

The Captain was the last to arrive at the holodeck. With the exception of a few required to monitor ship’s operation, the entire Voyager crew was there, 197 men, women and children. They stood on a desert butte, a river at its foot and mountains rising in the distance. The sun was just cresting the horizon.
Chakotay’s body, dressed in a crisp, clean Starfleet uniform, was stretched out on a low platform. As the Captain approached, the crowd parted to allow her to walk forward to stand at his head. She looked around at those closest to her. Tuvok, ramrod stiff, stood at her right side. Although he didn’t display any emotion, she knew he felt the loss. B’Elanna, with Harry close at her side, stood on her left. Tears shimmered in their eyes. Tom Paris, his expression displaying none of the natural humor he usually glowed, with was nearby also. Kes, Neelix and Bric, tightly bunched, stood close too.
Taking a deep breath to relax her throat, she started to speak. “Loss of a friend and crew member is always painful. A loss such as this one, where death strikes without reason or purpose is even harder to accept. Commander Chakotay was dear to me, my partner in command and in many ways, personally. I can not easily accept his loss, but I must. We all must. He wouldn’t want us to lose sight of our goals. We will continue to make our way home. That was his wish, to get home. He may be there even now. I hope that is true.”
Her voice cracked on the last words and she stopped, unable to say more. B’Elanna had expressed her desire to speak, and stepped up to ease the Captain’s burden. “Chakotay and I were close friends. We shared many dangerous experiences. He once spoke to me about how his people looked at death. He didn’t see it as an end. He believed that his spirit would live on after his body died. That belief guided him and comforted him.
I think he’ll always be with us, his spirit watching over us and protecting us as much as he can. I will miss him, but I will not miss his counsel, because I know he’ll be here when I need him most.
His people believe that everything is connected. Our bodies, our spirits are part of the bigger universe. His body will become part of this planet, but his spirit will be free to travel. He’ll go with us.”
She reached out and touched him. Her voice heavy, she said, “Good-bye Chakotay. Be at peace.” She looked up at Harry, who was standing at a control panel imbedded in the platform on which Chakotay rested. At a flick of his fingers, a transporter beam took the body and he was gone.
People filed out, offering condolences to the bridge crew and the Captain as they left. When the small group of senior officers were the only ones remaining, Kes left Neelix’s side and put her arms around the Captain. Leading her away, she said, “Memories, Captain, they’re important. Remember the happy ones.”

Later that day, the ship broke orbit and slowly cruised away from the beautiful world that had cost them so much. The Captain looked over at Chakotay’s chair wistfully. No, she must stop thinking of it as Chakotay’s chair. It was Tuvok’s now. He sat there now, stiff and sober. The bridge looked the same, but the atmosphere was subdued. Throughout the day, one after the other looked at the First Officer’s chair. Tuvok, aware of the looks, shifted his position frequently, but his face remained stoic. Finally, he walked back to his old station, to look over the shoulder of the new security officer.
At the end of the Alpha shift, the bridge officers left the bridge to resume life aboard Voyager. The Captain aimlessly wandered toward her quarters. Passing Chakotay’s, she stopped. On impulse, she entered. Looking around, she tried to find him in this room. As always, it was neat and orderly. Wandering, touching small things, she went from place to place. In the corner, on a low table, she found his medicine bundle. Lifting it carefully, she hugged it to her chest.
No, he wasn’t in it either, but it gave her comfort and she carried it to her own quarters. Lowering herself to the floor, she carefully opened it and one by one studied each thing it contained.
She remembered when he’d first shown it to her. Each article held meaning, but she’d forgotten what he’d told her about them. Lost in thought, she was startled when she got a page from the bridge.
“Bridge to Captain.”
“Yes, Lieutenant, what is it.” Her voice was low and painfully raw.
“Captain, we’re receiving a communication signal. I think you should come up here.”
“Can’t Commander Tuvok handle it?”
“Captain, I think you’ll want to hear it yourself.”
“All right, lieutenant, I’m on my way.”
She wrapped up the medicine bundle and carefully placed it on her bed. She would store it later. As she walked to the bridge, she wondered what was so important about this particular communication.
Entering the bridge, she ordered “Report, Lieutenant.”
“Captain, we’re picking up a faint audio signal. It’s repeated every 5 minutes for the last fifteen minutes. Captain…..I think it’s Commander Chakotay.”
She nearly sank to the floor on that revelation. “Let me hear it Lieutenant.” she croaked.
Embedded in a burst of static and noise, she heard a very familiar voice. “Chakotay to Voyager. Can you read me.”
“Have you answered this?”
“No Captain, I don’t understand how it could be him. I wanted you to hear it first.”
“Open a channel.” When the lieutenant nodded, she asked in a sharp challenge, “This is Voyager. Who are you?!”
“Captain, it’s Chakotay. I’ve been trying to raise you for over an hour. This signal is breaking up. Can you hear me?”
“Chakotay? But you’re….. How……?” Her disbelief didn’t override her next command. “Helm, reverse course. Take us back!”
A few hours later they were back in orbit over the planet. The news that Commander Chakotay had communicated with the ship had spread like a wildfire. Everyone was huddled in corners, questioning the possibility. On the way back to the planet, B’Elanna and Harry met with Tuvok and the Captain to discuss what they should do.
Tuvok, always the conservative and skeptic, stated, “Captain, I believe we should consider the possibility that some alien influence had commandeered the Commander’s body.”
She stared at him for a moment, but grudgingly admitted, “It’s possible, but I’m going to find out one way or the other. Harry, what do the scanners tell us?”
“I’ve scanned the location where the signal originates. There is one human present. The life signs are identical to Commander Chakotay’s.”
“What about voice prints?”
“Also identical.”

Now it was time to find out if the communications were actually from Commander Chakotay. “Helm, assume stationary orbit over the site of the communications. Mr. Tuvok, you have the bridge. I’m going down to meet this person claiming to be Commander Chakotay.”
“Captain, is that wise? I believe we should send security to apprehend him first. You may question him after he is secured.”
“No Tuvok. I’m going down. Alone.”
“As you wish Captain. I will maintain an open channel to monitor you.”

The transporter deposited her in a forest glade. She looked around and immediately saw a man in a Starfleet uniform sitting on a large rock in the center of the glade. He turned to her as she appeared and rose immediately to come toward her. “I didn’t know why, but I thought you’d left me behind. What happened? Why did you leave?”
Mistrust evident, she demanded, “Who are you?”
He stopped in his tracks, shock registering on his face. “What do you mean, who am I? You know who I am. I’m Chakotay, your first officer.”…. *’and lover.’*
“No! Chakotay is dead. You died three days ago. I say your body. It was cold and lifeless. We…….we had a funeral.” Her pain spilled over into her words.
He closed his eyes, letting his head hang for a moment. When he looked up at her again, he let everything he felt for her show in his eyes. “I’m sorry for that. I know it caused you great pain.
The spirits took me. To be able to understand them, I had to join them. When I’d convinced them we meant them no harm, they let me go back, but you……we, weren’t there anymore. The cavern was empty. When I went looking for the ship, it was gone too.
I couldn’t believe you’d left me here. I must have wandered for hours, maybe days. I couldn’t bear the idea that you’d left me. Then I found my body. It was dead and I thought I’d just join it in death. I went back into it. I woke up lying here a few hours ago. I couldn’t give up hope that you’d come back, even when you didn’t answer my calls.”
Standing there, looking at him, she wanted to believe that this was really him. “If you’re really Chakotay, tell me what’s in your medicine bundle.”
He smiled that smile that had always warmed her insides. “It’s wrapped in a deer skin. Inside there is a blackbird’s wing, a stone from the river …… and a lock of your hair.”
She believed. This had to be him. She stepped toward him, closing the distance. As his arms went around her, she asked him for one final confirmation. He gave it, a kiss so unique that it could only be his. No one else had ever been able to awaken her this way.
A breathless moment later, she stood back from him. Smiling at him, she tapped her communications badge. Janeway to Voyager. Two to beam up.

Hours later, after the crew had converged to welcome him back and he’d told his story repeatedly, they finally made it to the privacy of her quarters. She locked the door and dimmed the lights.
She turned and nestled against his chest. “I can’t believe you’re really here. I was devastated when I thought I’d lost you. I regretted so many things. Most of all, not letting you fully into my life.”
“I thought I’d go crazy when I couldn’t find you or the ship. I can’t think of anything that hurt more than thinking you’d abandoned me.”
“Oh Chakotay. We’ve wasted so much time. I love you.”
“And I love you.”
Her hand started to do wonderful things to him.

Hours later, Chakotay turned on his side and propped his head on his hand to watch her sleeping beside him. He was tempted to reach out and wake her, but stopped and studied her face closely instead. He could see the toll the last few days had taken on her. Reluctantly he got up and began to dress.
Kathryn woke when his weight left the bed. Sleepily she rasped, “Where are you going?”
“It’s late. I should leave.”
“No, you should stay.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, very sure. Part time is not enough anymore.”
He climbed back into bed and folded her in his arms. “I’m glad. It was never enough for me.”
“I wonder if a Starship captain has ever performed their own marriage ceremony before.”
Their laughter ended abruptly when he soundly kissed her again.



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