Star Trek Voyager and its characters belong to CBS/Paramount, dang it!


Kathryn had known it would be difficult to say goodbye to Voyager, but she was not prepared for the level of sadness that engulfed her as she stood at the viewport in her ready room for the last time. She knew, of course, that it went beyond saying farewell to her ship and crew which had been home and family for seven years. There was a gaping void within her that could never be filled, for the only person with the power to fill it was lost to her.

As she gazed down at Earth, she straightened her shoulders and drew a deep breath. She reminded herself of the many reasons she had to be happy. Voyager was home, decades earlier than the journey should have taken. Her mother and sister were alive and well. Weeks of debriefings and hearings were finally over. The Maquis were free, their commissions honored and back pay approved. While she was truly thankful for those things and more, her deep loss overshadowed any joy they offered.

With a heavy sigh she turned and sank onto the sofa, watched her hand stroke the cushion next to her almost lovingly, and tried to concentrate on finding the closure she had come for. Her eyes came up and traveled around the room as memory after memory tumbled through her mind. Every degree of almost every human emotion had been experienced in this room, and the thought of never seeing it again nearly made her ill.

The team of counselors assigned to work with Voyager's crew had been very insightful to make time aboard the ship available. Though Voyager was heavily guarded because of the alien technology integrated into her systems, any of the former crew were free to come aboard and spend whatever time they needed to say goodbye, to the ship as well as their crewmates. Without hesitation, Kathryn had been in the first group.

This ship had been home and haven, sanctuary, and many times, salvation for Kathryn and the crew. Voyager had always gone above and beyond what was asked of her, proven herself time and again during the journey and finally, proudly, brought her precious cargo home. She had been a state of the art ship upon her departure for the Badlands seven years earlier. Now she would most likely be taken apart piece by piece, dissected and studied. A fate far more cruel than being forever grounded and turned into a museum as had happened in the Admiral's timeline. Kathryn tilted her head back and gazed up at the ceiling. "Sorry, old girl," she whispered.

The door chime surprised her. She had not expected anyone to look for her here and had hoped to spend the time alone. With a sigh she granted entrance to her visitor and was a bit surprised to see Chakotay enter. He paused just inside the door, a small smile playing at the corners of his mouth.

"Would you rather be alone?" he asked.

Kathryn smiled and waved him in. Chakotay went up to join her as he had done countless times before and sat an arm's length from her. "Saying goodbye?" he asked with a smile. Kathryn sensed an uneasiness about him despite the dimples.

"I'd no idea how hard it would be," she answered as she looked around the room again.

"Neither did I," he admitted, and joined her in surveying the room where they had spent so much time together. "I feel like we're abandoning an old friend."

"She has been a friend, hasn't she?" Kathryn said. From the corner of her vision she saw him watching her as she went on. "We put her through so much, but she always came through for us." She met his eyes and added sadly. "I'm afraid there won't be much of anything left when Starfleet is finished with her."

"It's a shame," he said and settled back, fingers interlaced in his lap. "There's a lot of life left in Voyager."

Kathryn smiled sadly and again let her eyes travel the room as she remembered. "Did Seven come with you?" she asked and looked back at him. There was a brief flash of surprise in his eyes before he tugged an earlobe and smirked.

"Hardly," he answered, interlacing his fingers again. He tilted his head back and squinted at the ceiling as if recalling Seven's exact words. "She does not understand the human need to attach sentimental value to an inanimate object. Therefore, saying goodbye is illogical and an inefficient use of time." There was sarcasm in his voice.

Kathryn smiled sympathetically. "Be patient with her, Chakotay."

He gave her an odd look. "How long have you known?"

She chuckled and nodded. "You know there are no secrets on a ship this size. Well, almost none." She crossed her arms and kept her eyes forward. "Imagine my surprise when I heard it from someone other than my best friend."

Chakotay lowered his head. "I wasn't keeping a secret, Kathryn. I was going to tell you. There just never seemd to be a good time to bring it up." He drew a deep breath and turned to her. "Besides, it doesn't matter now."

Kathryn looked at him, unsure of his meaning.

"It was a few dates," he said, "Nothing serious. It's over."

"I'm sorry," Kathryn began, but he shook his head and went on.

"Everything changed when we got back to the Alpha Quadrant."

"What do you mean?"

Chakotay looked into her eyes for a long moment. "I need to talk to you...if you can spare the time," he said softly.

Kathryn reached over to pat his forearm, her expression one of concern. "I always have time for you, Chakotay," she said as if he should know that. She smiled at him and waited.

Again he peered into her eyes, then the words came out in a rush. "What happened to us those last months out there?"

Her smile vanished and she lowered her eyes to her hands clasped in her lap. She had often wondered if he would ask, but the question still came as a surprise. With a small shrug she answered quietly. "We... grew apart."

"You make it sound like a joint effort," he said with a touch of sarcasm. "I don't recall having a say in it."

Kathryn nodded but was unable to look at him. "You're right. It was me who pulled away. I had to...let go."

"Let go? I don't understand."

With an exhale of breath she looked at him and forced herself to give him the honest answer. "You deserved more than I could give. I wanted you to be happy, Chakotay." Her eyes pleaded with him to understand. "I had to remove myself."

There was a long silence as he considered her words. He seemed to stiffen and his brow creased. "Let me be clear," he said with forced calm. "You pulled I would turn to someone else?"

"It was the only way. Don't you see that?" Kathryn said almost in a whisper. "At least that way, one of us could be happy."

Chakotay stared at her in disbelief through eyes flickering with anger. "Why does every sacrifice have to be yours, Kathryn?" he managed stiffly. "But I pay the price."

"Excuse me?"

"Tell me something," he went on, grinding out the words. "What gave you the right to take away my best friend with no explanation?" He leaned closer to her. "What made you think what we had wasn't enough?"

Kathryn leaned toward him. "Because it wasn't enough for me!" she blurted and immediately drew back in shock at her own words. They stared wide-eyed at each other for a moment before Kathryn bolted and walked a few steps away, hands clenched tightly at her sides.

There was a long silence before Chakotay spoke. "So you made this decision without a word to me. Left me completely in the dark."

Kathryn spun around and glared at him. "Just how should I have explained?" She planted one hand on her hip and waved the other as she paced. "As long as we're Captain and First Officer, we can't be together, but rather than both of us being miserable, go find someone and have a life." She stopped and looked down at him. "How's that?"

Chakotay stood up quickly and leaned toward her, his eyes fierce. "It would've been better than nothing!" he yelled. Immediately he regretted the loss of control and tilted his head back, closed his eyes for a moment then looked at her again. "I didn't understand," he said softly. "All I could come up with was...that you didn't care anymore."

Kathryn was horrified. "You were wrong," she breathed. "It was because I did care."

"How the hell was I supposed to know?" he yelled, the anger resurfacing instantly. "It was like being gutted! The peace I'd known beside you was slipping through my fingers and I didn't know how to stop it!" Again he took a moment to calm down. He focused his eyes on the wall past her. "When Seven approached me, it was like a lifeline to a drowning man. Not because I'd ever thought about her in that way. Not because I was attracted to her, but because I had to hold myself together." His eyes slid to hers and he saw skepticism. "It's the truth whether you choose to believe it or not," he said sadly then lowered his head and added. "I was no good to anyone in the state I was in."

Kathryn bit her lip and joined him in looking down at the floor. Though her plan had been an unselfish one, to grant him the freedom to find happiness, she'd only succeeded in hurting him. For that she was sorry, but could not dismiss the part that bothered her. It bothered her a hell of a lot, and now was as good a time as any to address it. "Why Seven?" she asked as she looked up.

Chakotay looked at her. "I just told you. She approached me."

"But Seven?"

"What does it matter who it was?" he snapped. "I was pretty damned sure by that point you didn't want me." Perhaps for the very first time, he didn't care that his words hurt her.

Kathryn barely managed to hide a reaction to his biting remark. She told herself he couldn't possibly know how very wrong he was. She had wanted him. She'd wanted him more than she'd ever wanted any man, which was why she'd been forced to let him go. Rather than watch him throw away years of his life waiting on something that could never be, she had retreated, loving him enough to let him go. But still, dammit, why did it have to be Seven?

"Think about it, Chakotay. Seven? You didn't even want her on board."

Chakotay blew out a breath in frustration. "She was as good as anyone. A distraction, someone to occupy my mind."

"And your dick?" Kathryn spat. Immediately her eyes went wide, and a hand covered her mouth.

"Kathryn!" Chakotay exclaimed in shock although there was a flicker of amusement in his eyes. He watched her stricken face crumple in shame as she turned her back to him. He scrubbed a grin from his face as he went to stand just behind her, allowed her a few moments to steep in her embarrassment. As silly as it seemed, even to him, he felt the need to let her know he had not been unfaithful. "It never went that far." Kathryn lowered her head, moved the hand from her mouth to her hip. Chakotay stepped a little closer. "You do love me, don't you?"

Without turning around she lifted her head then nodded slowly.

Chakotay felt her flinch under his touch when he turned her to face him. She kept her eyes trained on the front of his uniform. "You could've just told me." he said with a hint of a smile.

Finally, slowly, she looked up at him, her eyes filled with sadness. "No, I couldn't. I couldn't admit my feelings in one breath and in the next tell you I couldn't give you what you needed."

"What is it you think I so desperately needed, Kathryn?"

She gave him a 'you-know-damn-well' look. Chakotay rolled his eyes then grasped her upper arms and pulled her a little closer. "I won't lie," he said, becoming very serious. "I wanted you, but as far as gave me what I needed every day, Kathryn." Clearly she didn't understand so he explained. "I needed to be near you, see your smile, look into your eyes, talk and laugh with you. I needed to know you depended on me, that I helped lighten your load. I needed you to need me."

"That's precious little to settle for." Kathryn said and blinked back tears. He pulled her even closer and she brought her hands up to rest on his chest.

"I want you to listen very carefully," he said, and brought up a hand to cup her cheek. "I didn't settle. While we were out there, we had to focus on our responsibilities of keeping Voyager going and getting the crew home. I knew that just as well as you did, Kathryn. I also knew that until we accomplished that, you weren't about to let anything...or anyone, get in the way. I accepted that." He leaned down until his forhead almost touched hers. A smile threatened. "Everything was just fine until you got it into your head that I couldn't live without sex." Kathryn couldn't hold back a small smile. "There are ways to handle those situations, if you know what I mean." he quipped with a wink then chuckled when she blushed and dropped her forehead to his chest.

"You're terrible!" she said, her voice muffled against his uniform. Chakotay grasped her shoulders and turned her around. When she looked questioningly at him over her shoulder, he turned her face back to the viewport. He slid one hand around her waist and let it rest flat against her stomach, pointed at Earth with the other, then spoke very softly close to her ear. "I won't be so easily satisfied here." The pointing hand came to join the other and pulled her against him. Kathryn gasped softly at the feel of him pressed to her buttox. She closed her eyes and let her head rest against his shoulder. Chakotay nudged her hair aside and ran the tip of his tongue around the outer edge of her ear, bringing a moan from her, then whispered, "Understood?"

Kathryn licked her lips and swallowed. She twisted in his arms keeping herself pressed against him then slowly rose on her toes to bring her face close to his. He groaned at the friction and held her even tighter. She gazed at his lips. When she reached up to trace them with a forefinger he parted them slightly and she could feel his breath on her face. Once she had satisfied her need to touch, she moved in to taste them, and moaned at their softness. Chakotay allowed her to explore for only seconds before his mouth became agressive, possessive. They melted into one another and held on for dear life as the kiss took them to places they'd only dreamed of. Finally, when they were forced to come up for air, they rested their foreheads together, unwilling to lose the closeness finally within their grasp. Chakotay recovered first and grinned. "I'll take that as a yes."