The Fire Burns

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\”The Fire Burns\”

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\”Cold Fire\” Continum

by emmyodd@aol.com

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Editor\’s Note : This story begins in the last few minutes
of \”Cold Fire,\” when Susperia has just been released from the
force field.

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The child stared at Janeway. \”You show me mercy, even
though I would destroy you?\”

Janeway nodded.

\”Then I will do the same,\” she said, touching the Captain\’s
shoulder. A flash of light filled the room, and Janeway blinked.
The worm-like creature that was Susperia was gone. Gasping,
Janeway dimly heard Chakotay\’s voice.

\”Captain, according to our latest scans, we\’re…\” he
gasped.

\”We\’re…?\” goaded Janeway.

\”We\’re… home. Well, less than two weeks from the
Demilitarized Zone,\” he said.

Janeway didn\’t know what to say. A wave of emotions surged
through her, not all good. She said, \”On my way,\” with an odd
undercurrent that quirked Tuvok\’s eyebrow.

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

Two weeks later, Janeway sank into her Ready Room chair
with a sigh. Her sigh was echoed by her First Officer who had
followed her inside. She turned swiftly, perplexed.

\”What\’s wrong?\” she asked. \”I thought you\’d be overjoyed
to know you\’ll soon be off this ship and out of my jurisdiction,\”
she smiled.

Chakotay didn\’t laugh at her wry comment as he would
have… before. He took a deep breath. He could say anything
now, as they inched closer and closer to his… home. That sent
a whole new thought through his head: WAS it home? Was it
anything like when he\’d left? Did he belong there anymore? He
shook that from his head, and concentrated on the captain and
what he would say as his farewell.

He could say almost anything : He could tell her how much
he resented her command, how horrible it felt to be Starfleet
again, how he hated her and everything she stood for.

But he couldn\’t – – it wasn\’t true.

But he couldn\’t say what he really felt anymore than he
could lie and utter the blasphemous untruths. He couldn\’t look
deeply into her eyes, tell her how he wished they could be lost
in the Delta Quadrant forever – – together – – grasping her
lovely face in his hands and drawing her lips to his. That was
impossible – – now more than ever. He sighed again, looking at
her with a dull ache gleaming in his eyes.

\”Captain, I won\’t be leaving.\”

\”What?\” she said.

\”You\’re granting me and the other former Maquis a pardon,
right?\”

She nodded, unable to fathom what he was driving at.

\”And with a pardon you\’ll ask for our reinstation into
Starfleet, with the field promotions?\”

Janeway nodded, realization dawning on her but emotion
still keeping her from speaking.

\”So of course we\’ll have to be commissioned somewhere?\”

Janeway\’s mouth dropped open, still mute. Tears budded in
her eyes, but she viciously blinked them away, not wanting to
show her heart-felt happiness to her First Officer.

\”You want me to request you be commissioned on Voyager?\”
she said after a breathless pause.

It was now Chakotay\’s turn to nod blankly.

Janeway tried to hide the spreading flush of joy, but was
unable to, and she found she didn\’t care anymore. Finding her
voice again, which now rang with happiness, she said, \”I can\’t
think of anyone I would rather have as my… First Officer.\”

Chakotay grinned happily. \”Yes, Captain.\”

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

After he left, Janeway felt oddly racked with an
inexplicable sense of guilt. But she didn\’t have anything to
feel guilty about: over the course of her year as Captain of
Voyager, she had behaved immpeccably, beyond reproach. It was
laughable for her to think otherwise.

But she did. With a sigh she recalled how she had put
Mark\’s picture in a file cabinet just the other day, almost ready
to say the words she\’d been forming on her lips silently for
months.

Only months? Only a year since she\’d said goodbye to Mark
– – a year she thought would only last three weeks at the time,
and only a few weeks ago she had thought would last forever?

Forever. She had thought so many things would last
forever: her parents, her dogs, her alligance to Starfleet, her
relationship with Mark.

And then, it seemed only one thing was forever: Voyager and
its crew, in deep deep space, beyond the point where the light of
familiar stars could touch them. Voyager and its crew. Her
crew. First Tuvok, her old friend. Then youthful Harry and
jaded Tom. Then fiery B\’Elanna, goofy Neelix, sweet Kes, and
Chakotay. Chakotay. Yes, he was her crew now, her first
officer.

\”Only that and nothing more,\” she thought, an echoing
refrain that was first uttered by a demonic raven hundreds of
years ago, now haunted the captain of Voyager. She ran her hands
through her hair, ignoring the fact that she was ruining her bun,
the visible sign of the barriers of captaincy, deaf to the
clatter of pins on the desk.

DID she want anymore?

WAS there anymore to… anything?

She stood up, shaking her head, partially to loosen her
hair from the remaining confining pins, but more to clear her
head from the insane thoughts running through her head. There
was nothing between them – – nothing.

If only she could belive it.

Janeway sighed. Subspace communication to Earth would be
possible in a few hours. Mark would have to be contacted.

But what would she say?

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

Chakotay suffered from the same agonizing ambivilance the
captain did. His animal guide refused to come to comfort him,
and everything he saw, smelt, or even touched reminded him of her
– – maybe even more what he touched agonized him because he would
never have that right.

And he had practically begged for her to commission him on
Voyager once they got home. Why?

Because she was a good captain he\’d come to trust in a sea
of bueracracy?

Maybe.

Because he wouldn\’t feel right on any other ship, under any
other command?

Better, and yet still only an excuse.

Because he was in love with her and wanted to be close to
her forever, even if she never acknowledged him?

The naked truth in that statement, almost as much a
question as an answer, knocked him backward physically onto his
bunk. WAS he in love with Janeway? He thought hard, the
questions and answers melting together in his mind as he drifted
off to sleep, where even in his dreams, or maybe even more so
there, her face now haunted him.

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

Janeway\’s voice was the one that roused him a few hours
later. \”Commander, I just thought you\’d like to know we\’re
within subspace communication range now – – I just sent my
requests into Starfleet Headquarters.\”

Chakotay ran a hand through his head. Had he only imagined
a waver in her tone? \”Understood. Thank you, Captain.\”

Even he didn\’t quite know what he was thanking her for.

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

Janeway was telling the truth when she said she\’d sent her
request to Starfleet HQ, but the worst was yet to come. What to
say to Mark – – and what NOT to say. She cleared her throat
uneasily, and turned to face the computer\’s monitor with a false
smile on her lips.

\”Mark – – this is Kathryn. We\’re finally home. I don\’t
know how this message will reach you, but I will be – – happy – –
to see you again. We should reach Earth in a few weeks.\” She
sighed, and added as a dutiful afterthought: \”I love you.\”

As she sent the communication off, she buried her face in
her hands.

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

Chakotay had no one to send a subspace to. His mother and
father were killed in the original revolt, his sister held
hostage by the Cardassians, then shot before his eyes via a
viewscreen, where he was helpless to save her. Had someone told
him at that moment he might have a child by a Cardassian woman,
he would have laughed at them.

Chakotay turned from that chilling thought to what lay
ahead, almost equally as fearful – – at least to him. Once
Starfleet sent the go-ahead for the pardons, most of the Maquis
would be dropped off at various places as per their requests.

Chakotay didn\’t really want to go back to Dorvan V, but
Janeway had insisted he go at least for a little while before he
came to Earth to recieve his promotion. It was only to a full-
fledged Commander – – Janeway had wanted him to accept captaincy
– – but it was enough for him. That Janeway was practically
shoving him out of Voyager, supposedly for his own good, was a
slap in the face. She probably wanted him gone for good, but was
too big-hearted to deny his request.

He paced, raging silently about this for a few minutes,
until an almost timid beep jarred him from his furious
speculations. \”Come.\”

Janeway stepped through the doorway only halfway – – and
stepped back into the hallway a quarter-step at the sight of his
face. \”I\’m sorry…\” she stammered, her wary blue eyes wide and
her half-illuminated form catching the light and darkness in a
gorgeous symmetry of both.

His face softened, his dark thoughts vanishing. The scowl
lifted, replaced by an uneasy grin. \”Think nothing of it. It\’s
just a mood.\”

Janeway stepped further inside, the light from the hallway
briefly enveloping her in a golden effulgence before the door
swished shut on the dim room. She edged towards him, eyes soft
and bright as she surveyed him. \”Why? I thought you\’d be happy
to get home.\”

\”I thought you would too,\” he pointed out, making her blush
in the faint light. \”You\’ve been so anxious to get home to that
Mark-person.\”

Janeway didn\’t blush… instead, she paled to near ice-
white in the starlight. \”I suppose so… I guess it\’s just
rather anticlimactic, I guess. I guess I was finally about to
accept that we wouldn\’t get home…\”

She let the tantalizing phrase hanging between them like a
curtain – – replacing the solid barricade of before. It still
shrouded her feelings, but every so often it would flutter a bit
from a sigh or a gentle gust of breath, and reveal a piece of her
he\’d never seen before. As it filled him with a new sense of
hope, it smothered it quickly. She was Mark\’s, or rather, Mark
was hers. It wasn\’t his place to assume…

Or hope.

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

A few days later, Starfleet sent a lengthy subspace back to
Voyager, granting full pardons to the Maquis crew for their
service and promoting Commander Chakotay, as well as B\’Elanna
Torres to Lieutenant so they, as well as any Maquis who wished
so, could be commissioned to Voyager.
There was no word from Mark.

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

Chakotay sighed as he finished reading the Starfleet
subspace. He was back in Starfleet, full pardon. No going back
now… but back to what?

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

More than a year after their original departure, Voyager
finally arrived on Earth. Janeway sighed. She hadn\’t been the
same since they\’d left Dorvan V. Tuvok hadn\’t suspected the
cause of the captain\’s melancoly, and had anyone suggested it was
because of who they\’d beamed down there, he\’d have dismissed it
as illogical – – his captain would never react to any officer\’s
departure so negatively – – she never had before.

Nevertheless, Janeway had been a changed person since the
Maquis, except B\’Elanna, who wanted to return to Earth with
Janeway, had left Voyager one by one, the one left on Dorvan V
unwittingly carrying her heart as a souvenir. It hadn\’t in the
least showed in her captaincy of the ship, nor in the set of her
face as she was greeted by Admiral Necheyev a few minutes ago.

But as she saw Earth, her home, she viewed it with new
eyes. It was where she had been born, where she learned and grew
up – – where she fell in love with Mark.

But now it seemed like a fetter, a huge planetary cage that
had a stronghold on her that was confining and irrevocable. The
change, so long repressed, sprung to her eyes as saltwater tears
which flowed freely down her face as she hung her head.

Tom Paris, who was a bit teary himself, didn\’t think
anything of Janeway\’s outburst. He got up after he put the ship
in space dock, hugging her. Janeway was comforted by the
gesture, as she was with the hugs and tears shared by the entire
Bridge crew, even Tuvok. It was as she had dreamed so many times
as they sped towards home.

Except Chakotay wasn\’t there. His seat was empty, as
Janeway hadn\’t bothered with promoting Tuvok for the short
duration of their journey. She now regretted that decision – –
the empty chair upset her more than Tuvok\’s stoic form in it ever
could.

And it was by her own folly it was so: Chakotay wasn\’t
exactly enthusiastic about staying on Dorvan V, even for a few
weeks. It wasn\’t necessary, he told her, as he practically
begged her to let him stay. But Janeway had been adamant, no
reason for her stubborness except to put distance between them so
she could think – – about everything…

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

Even after convincing him to stay on Dorvan V for a few
weeks, Janeway had practically had to drag Chakotay onto the
platform when they arrived in orbit around his home planet.

Until he could no longer see Voyager after it left orbit,
Chakotay held the hope that she would change her mind and beam
him back aboard, to the point that he\’d imagined her eyes filling
with those eloquent, silent tears as she turned to beam him back
aboard, rushing to hug him when he rematerialized on the
platform, saying she was a fool to try to shove him out of her
life, whispering that she loved him.
And he imagined himself kissing her hair, dispite the
ensign behind the console a few meters away, whispering that it
didn\’t matter anymore… nothing did, as long as they were
together.

Maybe that hope shone in his eyes as Janeway said a brief,
meaningless goodbye… or maybe it shone in her own. Maybe it
was a shared vision that neither could fufill… yet.

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

Either way, he was gone now. And now, without him, she
felt still more confused than ever.

She tried to think logically, trying to convince herself
that she was worrying about nothing but effimate touches and
meaningless gazes, that there was nothing to assume or wish for,
but her heart clubbed her brain senseless, dazing both.

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

Chakotay, sitting on a cliff on a planet millions of miles
away from her now, sighed. He\’d been welcomed back with open
arms by his father\’s tribe, who were more than happy to include
even the prodigal son of their long-deceased leader.

But when they learned he was Maquis no longer, now back in
Starfleet, going against his father\’s wishes for him again, the
smiles grew wooden, the impulsive hugs and kisses of welcome all
but gone.

In fact, the only one who even spoke to him of their own
accord was Kat, his third or fourth cousin by some long-forgotten
marriage. She was a visitor to Dorvan V as well, only she was
welcome here. She had always been a favorite with her much-older
cousin, dispite the fact that she was one of dozens and the blood
kinship was extremely diluted.

When he\’d originally left Dorvan V, she wasn\’t even born –
– he didn\’t know of her existence until years later, when she was
eight. Her parents had been killed alongside his father, and she
was raised by aunts and uncles most of her life.

He had come back then for a reason similar to the one he
had come back for now: to find what little of his family and
tribe had survived. Only then he was an honored Maquis Captain
in the eyes of his tribe, not a turn-coat Starfleet Officer.

He would have gone eight more years unknowing he had a
living cousin, had she not gone looking for him. More than
anything, she was the possesor of a curious spirit, so the first
moment she heard she had an adventurous cousin who was a Captain
of a starship, she had to see him.

She weedled his whereabouts in the mountains from not-so-
closemouthed relations, packed a small pack, matter-of-factly
informed her aunt that she was going to find her cousin, and
left, just like that.

It didn\’t take very long, either. She took less than a
day, without any way of pinpointing him save her own senses.
When she did find him, it was on a cliff very much like the one
he sat on now, overlooking a wide plain of forestland. He\’d
nearly shot her when he detected her presence, but luckily she
was very agile (Or, if you asked Kat, she\’d modestly point out
that he was a really bad shot in the first place).

From that first encounter, they were fast, close friends,
dispite the initial phaser fire. The other cousins were a large
blur, and he could bearly keep their names straight, but right
off the bat he was her \”Cousin \’Kotay,\” and she was little
\”Katie,\” though he always thought of her as an adult, and held a
profound respect for her opinions on everything.

For the all too few years (But it felt like forever) they
knew each other, she was the only reason he returned to his home
planet. She was uncannily bright, with asperations for Starfleet
someday. Chakotay encouraged her studies, and he was deeply
saddened that he missed the last five years of her life.

As he thought of this, a pair of brown hands on his
shoulders shook him from his reverie. He looked up, finding a
grinning face, his own features in a merrier, younger, feminine
form, standing over him. He grinned in reply, and she flopped
down childishly beside him, her elbows on her knees and one hand
on her cheek and the other resting on the ground.

She turned to look at her cousin again, who was looking out
at the beautiful vista before them. But he wasn\’t happy like he
always was here – – he looked miserable. She nudged him gently,
asking quietly, \”What\’s wrong, \’Kotay?\”

He grinned at the old nickname, but sobered again when he
saw her worried face. The years hadn\’t taken the childishness
from her dark features completely, but had tempered them with a
bit of solemness, which made them inspire total candor even more.

He sighed. \”No one likes me here anymore, Kat.\”

\”I like you, Chakotay. The others are just disappointed.\”

\”But why? I\’ve done the best I could!\”

\”They want you to be a Maquis and honor your father again.\”

\”If I could I would, Kat – – and as for my father, I\’ve
honored him as best I could! What does THIS\” he gestured to his
forehead, \”stand for, if not for honoring my father!?\” He
continued, explaining his encounter with the \”sky spirits\” in
deep space, which led to his explaination of why he had become a
Starfleet Commander.

Kat nodded understandingly as he told her the stories, and
after he finished she shook her head. \”There\’s something you
haven\’t told me – – there\’s got to be a better reason why you\’re
not a Maquis anymore – – you felt so strongly about it. What is
it?\”

\”I\’ve become disallusioned with the Maquis,\” Chakotay
growled bitterly, then seeing Kat\’s face, poured out the whole
story, from Tuvok and Janeway to Seska\’s betrayal and beyond.

Kat\’s mouth formed an \”O\” and she said, \”Something tells me
you were very hurt about that – – at the time. But you\’ve long
since gotten over those hurts. There\’s something else – –
someone, but not this Seska person, is keeping you in Starfleet.\”

Chakotay smiled wryly. \”You always get to the heart of the
matter, even before I do. I guess it is Kathryn.\”

\”Kathryn?\”

Chakotay blushed, \”I mean Captain Janeway.\”

Detecting the fire in his eyes as well as the fire in his
cheeks, Kat shook her head. \”No, Chakotay, you meant Kathryn – –
because you\’re in love with her – – Am I right?\”

Chakotay nodded.

\”Is she in love with you?\”

Chakotay didn\’t move. \”I don\’t know – – her eyes say yes –
– but then I wonder why she shoved me off the ship.\”

Kat patted her cousin\’s arm. \”I\’d bet anything she needs
time – – she\’s been brought home when she thought she\’d never see
home again – – she has alot of thinking to do, Chakotay. You
need patience to see this through, a virtue I know you have tons
of.\”

\”But I have to decide now whether to go back on Voyager or
not – – they need my acceptance in a few days.\”

\”You must go back, Chakotay – – they need you, and you
don\’t belong here.\” Chakotay looked at her, stunned, until she
grinned sheepishly, saying, \”I\’ll need a Commander\’s letter of
recommendation if I expect to get into the Academy.\” Chakotay
smiled, and Kat hugged him warmly, saying, \”You didn\’t think I\’d
be left out of the adventure, did you?\”

After she left him on the cliff, Chakotay pulled out a PADD
Janeway had given him, silently reading an intercepted subspace
in the fading light of the sun. He looked up with a inner light
radiating from his features. \”I\’ll do it.\”
************************************************************

Admiral Necheyev greeted Janeway, in a blue dress and Mark,
in civilian black and white, as they arrived at the celebration.
No matter how technologically advanced Starfleet became, it
always cherished large, festive parties in ballrooms. \”You look
lovely, dear,\” she said, smiling.

Janeway forced a smile as she clutched the sides of her
skirt, saying, \”Thank you, Admiral. You remember Mark?\”

Mark grinned, and as the Admiral nodded approvingly,
Janeway, instead of a surge of love for him boiling up inside
her, could only think how his smile was rather pale and insipid
compared to…

Janeway shook the thought from her head as she looked
around. \”Where are the Maquis crewmen? Have they not arrived?\”

The Admiral looked slightly flustered. \”Umm… we were
unable to reach them…\”

Janeway spun around. \”I gave Starfleet specific locations
to find every crewman we dropped off on our way home, so they
could be reached when they were needed on Voyager. You COULD
contact them… you just chose not to. Why?\”

Admiral Necheyev lifted her head loftily, saying, \”They ARE
former convicts, Kathryn.\”

\”They are my crew, and they are loyal men and women whom I
value greatly,\” Janeway said, eyes flashing. \”They should be
invited to their own \’Welcome Home\’ party.\”

\”Well…\”

Janeway swept off before the Admiral could finish her
sentence, leaving Mark to smooth things over with the indignant
Necheyev.

He caught up with her a few minutes later, sweeping her
into his arms and whirling her around the dance floor. Janeway
was stiff, noticing how she no longer felt any electricity in his
embrace. As they spun around, Mark said, \”I need to tell you
something, Kathryn.\”

Janeway shuddered inside, but looked up and asked lovingly,
\”Yes?\”

\”Well, there\’s… someone else.\”

Janeway stopped in her tracks. \”What?\”

\”You\’d love her, Kathryn… she loves dogs, and she\’s a
perfect angel,\” he smiled.

\”And what about me?\” she said, secretly relieved deep
inside her shock.

\”I… don\’t know… I\’m sorry, Kathryn.\”

Janeway wrenched herself from him. In a cold voice that
had an eerie ring of jubilance in it, she said, \”I don\’t think
you should call me \”Kathryn\” anymore, Mark. Goodbye.\”

The crowds parted like the mythical Red Sea as Janeway beat
her stormy exit. Her eyes stung in anger and embarassment. She
had no one left now… no one. Conquering herself, she lifted
her head proudly so that no one would think her cowed. As she
looked up, she stopped dead in her tracks as her eyes focused on
a distant figure in dress uniform. Disbelief filled her mind – –
this was too much like the ancient movies – – but her eyes and
her heart told her differently.

No… it couldn\’t be…

But the cropped head and familiar tattoo could belong to no
other.

\”Chakotay,\” she whispered.

The faint whisper was heard by no one, not even those
closest to her in the room, and yet somehow it reached the ears
of a tall man across the room, echoing in his brain like a shout
never could. Maybe it was louder than she intended, maybe it was
the size of the room and the echo. Or maybe it was because he
had been listening for it ever since he stepped off the ship from
Dorvan V.

He lifted his head, amazed at what he saw staring back at
him, so familiar dispite the alien dress she now wore. It was
impossible – – too much as he had dreamed it for months now – –

No… it couldn\’t be…

But the deep blue eyes and shining auburn hair could belong
to no other.

It was a small miracle within that stupifying miracle that
neither crashed into anyone as they walked towards each other,
eyes unseeing, ears unhearing, hearts unheeding. Or maybe it was
merely that the crewmen and civilians milling around them saw the
looks in their commanding officer\’s eyes, which compelled them to
edge away from them.

When they reached each other, words wouldn\’t come.
Finally, in a strange, thick voice she said, \”I thought she
didn\’t tell you about this.\”

\”Admiral Necheyev didn\’t tell me about alot of things…
but that doesn\’t mean I don\’t find out eventually,\” he smiled,
breaking from his trance.

Janeway smiled back, her own haze clearing. But her smile
faded as she saw another man coming up behind Chakotay.

Chakotay turned to see what had paled her, and stiffened as
he, not knowing quite how he did, recognized his adversary.

Janeway broke the stillness with a terse, \”Hello, Mark.\”

Mark reached out to touch her hands, but Janeway edged from
his touch like he\’d been stricken with the plauge. His face
fell, but he continued anyway. \”I just wanted to say I\’m sorry
for hurting you.\”

Janeway smiled, dispite the fact that she was flaming
inside that their moment was broken, to say nothing of his gall,
fueled only by guilt, assuming she was heart-broken. So she
decided to be as painfully frank as he was. \”Mark, I want to
thank you for setting me free.\”

\”What?\” echoed Mark and Chakotay in unison, the latter
exultant and the former bewildered.

\”Mark, I said goodbye to you in my heart months ago. I
don\’t blame you for going on with your life… if we hadn\’t found
the wormhole, I would have as well. I was very happy with you
before, and I am very happy now without you, Mark, and I have you
to thank for both.\”

Mark was confused until he saw Chakotay\’s shadow looming
over Janeway\’s shoulder protectively. His eyes widened, and he
nodded in understanding. Janeway intercepted the look, and
hugged him one last time. She forgave him his arrogance. \”Go
and be happy,\” she whispered in his ear, finding the
understanding in her heart to bless him. He nodded, and
disappeared into the ebb and flow of the crowd one way as Janeway
did so in the opposite direction.

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

Chakotay turned to follow her outside and down a flight of
stairs, through a small garden that surrounded the perimeter of
the building to a small cliff overlooking San Fransisco Bay.
After a long moment of staring at the water and the stars, she
turned to face him.

The look in her eyes was unmistakable, and yet he found
himself forced to ask: \”Did you mean that?\”

Janeway was silent for another long moment, then looked at
him, smiling, \”Have you ever known me not to tell the entire
truth about anything?\”

Chakotay shook his head grinning as his hand found hers,
but he looked up again, still perplexed. \”But why did you send
me to Dorvan V if you loved me?\”

Janeway looked down, slipping her hand from his to rub her
arms to ward off the chill. \”I felt… obligated to him… I
never turn my back on what I\’m obligated to do.\”

Chakotay wrapped an arm around her, uttering a silent
thanks to Kat as he turned her to him again. \”Admiral Necheyev
offered me a commission back on Voyager, and I of course
accepted, but she\’s still wary of me.\”

Janeway smiled whimsically, wrapping her arms around his
waist happily. \”She\’s one woman… she can do nothing to you.\”

Chakotay smiled, stroking her chin with his free hand.
Smiling at her exquisite face he briefly cursed himself for ever
doubting… His voice rang with elation and triumph as he said,
\”But one woman can do so much, Kathryn… you got us home,
granted us pardon… and made me fall in love with you.\”

The moon was full, but the glow on her face was her own.
The stars glittered on the surface of the water, but the sparkle
in her eyes came from an inner well-spring of emotion. The wind
blew softly, but it was not the air that stirred over her face
gently before it was covered with his.

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

B\’Elanna, Tom, and Harry greeted Janeway and Chakotay as
they boarded Voyager a few months later. Janeway smiled at the
gold circlet on B\’Elanna\’s hand. It would appear that she and
Chakotay were not the only pair that Voyager\’s long journey home
had coupled.

She smiled, gesturing at Torres\’s hand. \”Am I to assume
that is from Harry?\” she said wryly, arching her eyebrow at Harry
Kim, who grinned sheepishly.

Tom butted in, grinning, \”Yes, Captain, you\’re looking at
the future Mrs. Harry Kim!\”

B\’Elanna scowled at Tom, but only briefly. \”I intend to
keep my own name, of course.\”

Janeway nodded. \”As do I, Miss Torres.\”

Harry, B\’Elanna and Tom stared blankly for a second, until
they saw the spreading grin on the Captain and Commander\’s faces.
Tom sprung up, seizing the oppertunity to heckle a new couple,
yelping, \”Chakotay, you old dog!\”

Janeway sighed, her hand moving instinctively to her
temple. Even after five years, she still wasn\’t used to Tom\’s
ravings. She looked to her fiancee, who shrugged eloquently.
They retreated down the hall to the turbolift as quickly as is
humanly possible, with Paris close behind them nevertheless.

Shaking their heads, B\’Elanna and Harry picked up their
duffels and strode down the corridor, the adventure beginning
once again.

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

FIN

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