Voyager and its characters are the property of Paramount.

The Journey Back - part 3

Naomi climbed into bed and giggled when Neelix tickled her, then settled down as he tucked her in. He sat on the edge of her bed and was about to ask if she wanted a story when she said, "Neelix, have you visited Captain Janeway?"

Neelix looked down a moment then met her eyes again. "No, I haven't, Naomi."

"Why not "

"Well, to be quite honest, I couldn't." he answered.

"But why?" Naomi asked very seriously.

"I guess I was afraid it would make me very sad to see her like that, and I'm sure she'd much rather have happy visitors, like you."

Naomi put her small hand over his and spoke very tenderly to her friend. "Captain Janeway's going to be alright, Neelix. Commander Chakotay told me so."

"Well then, it must be true." Neelix said, tucking her in more snugly. "Goodnight Sweetie."

" 'Night Neelix." she said before a yawn. Neelix smiled and left, comforted by the powerful faith of a child.

When Chakotay entered sickbay early the next morning the doctor and Naomi were at Kathryn's bedside, blocking his view of her. It wasn't until he was at the foot of the bed that he saw Kathryn's eyes were open.

"Kathryn!" he said, breaking into a wide grin. He went around to the other side of the bed and put a hand on her forearm which rested across her waist. She seemed a little groggy but smiled.

"Commander," she said softly.

"It's good to see you finally awake." he said, barely able to contain his excitement.

"She woke up when I came to see her this morning!" Naomi said. Kathryn turned her face toward Naomi and smiled.

"The swelling is nearly gone," the doctor said, "but you'll need to remain in sickbay another 48 hours or so."

Kathryn rolled her eyes. "We'll see." she quipped then turned to look up at Chakotay who was still grinning. "How's our ship and her crew?" she asked. Chakotay was only mildly surprised that she had not said 'my' ship.

"Everything is fine." he said, "You shouldn't be worried about that. You're supposed to be getting well, remember?"

"Naomi," the doctor said, "if the Captain doesn't mind my borrowing you, you can help me organize some new slides."

Naomi looked at Kathryn who smiled then put on a serious face and said, "Dismissed."

The doctor reached out for Naomi's hand and they made their way to his office.

Kathryn looked back at Chakotay. He pulled up a chair and sat down, rested his crossed arms on the bed beside her.

"You had us all very worried." he said, now wearing a gentle smile.

"It was not my intention, believe me." she said as she rested her hand on her forehead for a moment.

"Do you remember what happened?" he asked.

"No," she said as she put her hand back by her side. "The doctor said the safety protocols malfunctioned?"


"Was anyone else hurt?"

"No. I reset them after you were transported to sickbay."

"So, you found me?"

"Yes." he answered, remembering how frightened he had been for her. "Kathryn, do you remember anything of the last two days?"

She seemed to be thinking as her eyes moved across the ceiling. "I'm...not...sure." she answered hesitantly. "Why?" she asked turning to look at him, "Did something happen while I was here?"

"No." he answered as he leaned back and clasped his hands in his lap. She was looking at him curiously. "You just get well. Then we'll talk."

"Whatever you say." she said as her eyes began to close.

"Rest." he said as he stood. "I'll be back around midday."

Kathryn nodded without opening her eyes. For a long moment he stood there looking at her then quietly turned and left.

At 1300 when Chakotay strode into sickbay he found Kathryn sitting up with her feet dangling over the side arguing with the doctor.

"Oh, hell," she said, "here come the reinforcements." The doctor turned to see Chakotay then looked back at her innocently.

"I didn't call the commander." he said.

"What's going on here?" Chakotay asked, hands on his hips.

"The doctors holding me agains my will." Kathryn said quickly before the doctor could respond.

"She has to rest, Commander. I can't seem to get through to her..."

"Doctor," Chakotay interrupted, "can't she rest in her quarters?" He saw Kathryn straighten and begin to smile. She hadn't been prepared for an ally, thinking he would surely be on the doctor's side.

The doctor clearly did not like being disagreed with over a patient. "Commander, we both know she won't..." he began.

"I'll see to it." Chakotay said as he reached to take Kathryn's arm. She was looking up at him with a broad grin as she slid off the biobed.

"Captain," the doctor said with resignation, "I'd really rather you stay in sickbay, but since the commander is breaking you out, I will release you to his care." Now her smile faded. She had not bargained for that. Chakotay led her out of sickbay as the doctor watched them leave, a definate scowl on his face.

"I don't need a babysitter." she said when the sickbay doors closed behind them.

"Well you've got one." he answered, not smiling.

Kathryn stopped in the middle of the corridor and waited for him to look at her. "Really, it's not necessary." she insisted.

"It's either that," he said leaning a little toward her, "or we march right back to sickbay." She knew he was serious and exhaled with a frown. "What's it going to be?" he asked.

"Fine." she said and turned to resume walking as he took her arm again.

"You're cute when you pout." he said, trying not to smile. From the corner of his eye, he saw her shoot him a glare.

In Kathryn's quarters she flatly refused to get into bed, instead settling on the sofa. Chakotay tapped his combadge and contacted Tuvok.

"Yes, Commander." Tuvok answered.

"I won't be returning to the bridge this afternoon, but you may contact me if you need me."

"Acknowledged." came Tuvok's curt reply.

"Chakotay out." he said and took a seat in the chair at the end of the sofa as Kathryn watched him. She narrowed her eyes a bit trying to wear him down.

"It won't work." he said.

Kathryn rested her head on the sofa back and mumbled something under her breath.

"How;s that?" he asked, no longer able to keep from smiling.

"I should've stayed in sick bay." she said louder as she raised up and looked at him. He saw the twinkle in her eyes and was relieved that she was not really angry, just trying to maintain her place. "So, are we just going to sit here and look at each other?"

"If you could be trusted to follow doctor's orders this wouldn't be necessary." he told her with a smile although he was quite serious. "But, since I'm here to stay, can I get you anything?"

She shook her head slowly as she appeared to be lost in thought. "Why did you ask me if I remembered anything from the days I was unconcious?" she asked not looking up. Chakotay had not expected this subject to come up so quickly and was unprepared. Hoping he would find the right words he said,

"You had quite a few visitors. We all talked to you, hoping you would hear us."

Slowly she looked over at him with a strange look on her face. Chakotay pulled himself to the edge of his chair and waited for her to respond.

"It's very fuzzy," she said dreamily, "but I...there's something there, but I can't quite...get to it." She put her fingertips to her forehead for a moment and closed her eyes.

"Don't push yourself." Chakotay said. Kathryn looked up at him and he was certain he saw realization in her eyes. "What is it?"

"You said.." she began but paused, maintaining eye contact, "we had to talk."

"That's right." he nodded.

"B'Elanna was there too..." she said very softly as she slowly recovered the memories. The words B'Elanna spoke drifted like whispers into her mind and her expression changed before his eyes. Not knowing what B'Elanna had said, he remained still as she gathered the memories. Chakotay moved to sit beside her, resting an arm on the back of the sofa behind her.

"You should rest now."

"I've been sleeping for two days, remember?" she said, then looked at him. "What is it we need to talk about?"

"I'd rather wait until the doctor releases you. I did promise him you'd get your rest."

"Chakotay, other than a very slight headache, I'm fine." she said. Picking up the belt of her robe she twirled it playfully and said, "I may be out of uniform, but I can still order you to talk." They both laughed and Kathryn patted his knee. "Now, whatever this is, it's obviously important so I suggest you get it off your chest."

"You make it sound so simple." he said softly as his smile faded. Looking into her eyes, he added, "I wish that it were."

Now there was concern in her eyes for she sensed his difficulty in saying what was on his mind. As she waited patiently not wanting to push, Chakotay took a deep breath and began.

"So many times I've rehearsed this in my mind. Now I can't seem to find the words." he said, obviously unsettled. "I always thought I'd have more time."

"Chakotay," Kathryn said softly, "whatever it is, you can tell me. You should know that by now."

He looked at her. "You really don't have any idea what I'm trying to say?" Kathryn held his gaze for a long time then very slowly her expression changed. As a slight smile came to her she said;

"You're not going to turn this around on me. If you have something to say, Commander, I suggest you say it."

He was more than a little taken aback by her response, as well as her use of his title. It took a moment to realize she was teasing him and he broke into a grin.

"You're not going to make this easy for me, are you?"

"Why should I? It sure as hell took you long enough."

"Oh, really?" he said as he moved closer and pulled her into his arms. "I believe you had a little to do with that."

"Me!" she said, feigning surprise. She laughed and leaned against him, shaking her head. Chakotay held her against his chest, rested his head atop hers and closed his eyes. There would be time for kisses later, for everything, later. For now it was enough to hold her and know she finally, finally knew how he felt, even though he never did quite manage to put it into words. And she hadn't pushed him away...