SUMMARY: [J/C] When Chakotay lies in a coma at Starfleet medical, only one word tears from his lips like a lost, beloved memory.

DISCLAIMER: Paramount owns Janeway, Chakotay and other Voyager characters.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: Mary Stark, for the excellent betareading.

A/N: Written for the VAMB Secret Santa 2015, for PiOneOneZero, who requested a J/C fluff story.


They squared off in the lounge of their apartment not far from Starfleet Headquarters. This confrontation had been coming for days.

Seven of Nine had spoken then blanched as his expression changed. She had not foreseen such a reaction and her head snapped back as if Chakotay had dealt her a physical blow. Fury erupted in his face, swelling into his entire body. She could not recall a single instant since Voyager had arrived in the Alpha Quadrant in which his rage had been directed at her. At others like Ayala, Torres, even the captain, yes. Never at her.

His hands shook and his fingers trembled. She had a sudden vision of those fingers curling around her neck, squeezing the life out of her. Even if she wanted to back away from him, a low coffee-table would have prevented her.

She stood up to her man, in a manner of speaking; it was not in her nature to back down from a confrontation. This time, she knew she had gone too far. But he had to know the truth. What there had been between them seemed to have dissolved, at least on her part. It had left a bitter taste in her mouth, the old victory that she'd thought she had won was no more. She wondered if she'd ever had it.

She couldn't fight legacies, histories, the what-had-beens of his life on Voyager, of a captain who walked away, refusing to intrude on the territory of a new relationship, one that would culminate in marriage.

Now, six months home in the Alpha Quadrant, living with Chakotay, she found it impossible to determine his deepest emotions, answer to his deepest needs. She possessed him, yes, and in those first heady months the cracks that had begun to show were plastered over by the only thing that worked between them – lust. Now there was nothing. Her victory was a hollow one.

She stared fearlessly at him.

"W-what - what did you say?" he demanded incredulously.

"I no longer love you, Chakotay. It was good for a time. But now It is pointless to continue our marriage so I've started proceedings for a formal separation."

As if in a blur she saw his hand snake out. She thought he would strike her but at the last moment he stalled that motion. She jumped back as if he had dealt her a blow across the face. Her backward movement caused her to stumble over the coffee table. As she landed she knocked her mouth against the table leg. He pulled her up and shook her. Suddenly he pushed her backwards again. This time she managed to keep her balance as she wiped her bloodied lips.

"I married you, for God's sake," he hissed, his voice laced with uncontained fury, "because I loved you!"

"No, Chakotay, you don't love me. You never have. You made yourself believe that. Janeway didn't want you, remember?"

She shrank back, wondering if he'd try to strike her again.

She didn't tell him about how she had deceived Janeway, saying she had slept with Chakotay and was pregnant with his child. Janeway… Always doing what was right. It was right that her best friend marry Seven of Nine. It was the honourable thing to do. Janeway never mentioned the coming child as if she found that prospect too hard to swallow. So she told Chakotay she'd be his best friend always, that she wanted to see him happy with Annika, the woman he loved.

Now Chakotay seemed unstoppable in his anger as he reached for her, grabbing her shoulders again, digging his fingers so hard into her that she gave a cry of alarm.

"God damn, you Annika! Who's the man? The one you invited into our bed, hmmm? Who?"

"There is no one! But I now know what love is – "

"You bitch! Do you have any idea at all what I gave up for you? Just so you could tell me it's over? That it was all a sham?"

"Yes, a sham if you must know!"

She broke from his grasp and jumped back, away from his swinging arm.

"Get out of my house, Seven. Never show your face around here again!"

She'd already removed most of her things. He'd been too head-over-heels in love to notice that she'd already moved out. She would lick her wounds in Oslo.

"Goodbye, Chakotay. I'm sorry you are so hurt but I'm not sorry for our marriage. For a while, we did have something special. It just didn't last.

She left the house swiftly, relieved that she had brought an end to her union with him. She had loved their dinner dates, the attention he gave her, loved basking in his care and devotion, her first kiss, losing her virginity and the beauty of it. He had been such a beautiful lover. But it was over.

She had him, yet she could never reach him.

The moment Annika left, Chakotay sank down on the couch, burying his face in his hands. So many things became clear. He could never understand why Kathryn had taken a long term assignment in deep space. He'd always assumed she'd want to be based at Headquarters.

Seven had deceived him. He was certain that she had deceived Kathryn too. How had he missed those signs? How? Had he been too deeply enmeshed in Seven's allure that he never noticed that her love for him was built on a lie?

So many pieces of the puzzle that had him scratching his head now fell into place. Whenever he questioned Annika, she deftly avoided any issues pertaining to a baby or Kathryn or anything deeper than the lust they shared by stripping in front of him. Then he'd be back in lust for days.

He had been blinded by the illusion of love.

"Do not worry about Admiral Janeway, darling," she'd tell him. "You know how she is too honourable to intrude on our happiness."

Seven had wanted him when Kathryn turned him away. Now he realised how those dinner dates with Seven had been engineered with callous disregard, how that first kiss had been initiated by her, how he actually responded to her charm. He had been dazed by Kathryn's rejection of his declarations of love and commitment. Seven saw the opportunity and used it. He began to love Seven, to feel special again, sickly pleased that she noticed him and wanted to experience those things he thought he could have with Kathryn.

He slept with Seven and threw himself wholeheartedly into the relationship.

Now she had told him it was all a sham, just so he couldn't have Kathryn.

Chakotay hardly realised he'd bitten into his palms until he saw them bleed. Seven was gone. Kathryn had left him because Seven lied to them both. When he had wanted to seek reconciliation with Kathryn, he could never quite understand why she turned away from him.

Now he knew.

He sat up, threw back his head, closed his eyes and silently cursed at the way he had been deceived.