AUTHOR: Sally

AUTHOR: Sally

SUMMARY: the end of a relationship means a change in another

RATING: PG-13, strong… language, innuendo

DISCLAIMER: the characters are not mine, but the story is. Okay?

The blinds were still down, the sun attempting to creep in through the cracks. He sat on the couch in front of the window, head in his hands, hair unkempt, the beginnings of stubble appearing on his face.

She approached him cautiously. "Chakotay?"

He looked up at her, at first unseeing. Then, focused, he attempted to smile. "Hello, Kathryn," he said wearily.

"Chakotay, what's wrong?" she asked, firmly. As if making a decision to be forceful she moved around the coffee table to the couch, righting an upset mug and picking up a discarded magazine as she did so.

He sighed and shook his head. "Have you ever just come to the realisation that you have made the biggest mistake of your life and you can't do a damn thing about it?" She opened her mouth to reply but he cut her off bitterly. "No, of course not, the great Captain Janeway doesn't make mistakes."

She chose not to accept the comment as an insult. Instead she sat down beside him. "The Captain might not make mistakes," she began. "But Kathryn does. And has." She placed a hand gently on his arm. "What happened, Chakotay?"

"She left me."

"Who? Seven?"

"No, some other woman I was in a relationship with," he snapped, shrugging her hand off. "Of course, Seven. Who else?"

She shrank back from him at the harshness of his voice. "Chakotay, I…" she began.

"Oh spare me, Kathryn," he replied. "Don't say you're sorry, because you're not."

She stood up and walked away. Turning back, she said, "How would you know how I feel, Chakotay? You have never known how I feel, ever."

He laughed, hollowly. "But you always knew how I felt."

"Are you blaming me for Seven leaving you? Because it certainly sounds like it, mister."

He leaned back and stared at her. "Seven does," he said flatly. "It's all in her note." He waved a hand in the direction of the dining room. "The note's on the table. You can read it if you want. I know how concerned you always are for your crew."

"You're not my crew anymore, Chakotay. You haven't been for the past six months."

"And don't you regret it," he sneered.

She chose to ignore that comment as well. "You are not a member of my crew and I will not read Seven's letter to you. That is between you and Seven."

"And the Captain."

She sighed. "Why did I even bother to come here?" she asked herself.

She must have said it out loud. "Yeah, why did you?" he asked.

She leaned against a desk and looked at him. "You are a member of the research team we're both on. Your presence was sorely missed. I wanted to make sure you were okay." She slowly began to walk back to him. "You're still my friend, you know, and I can still care about my friends, can't I?"

He smiled at her gentle tone. "I guess."

Encouraged, she came and sat before him on the low table, grasping his hands in her own. "Chakotay, you're not the first person to have lost someone, you know. I know what you must be feeling. I do. But life will go on, it has to."

"Oh really? Just like it did for you when Justin died and you decided to retreat inside that shell of yours?"

Crack! His face flared red where her hand had made contact with it.

"Don't you dare use Justin like that," she said sharply. "I told you that in confidence. That was an awful tragedy." She stepped away from him again and began pacing the floor. Suddenly she stopped and looked at him again. "I've lost others you know. People with whom I thought I could spend the rest of my life with." She took a deep breath. "I lost the last one just six months ago when the Admiral told me about you and Seven."

His eyes widened. Yet still he said nothing.

She began pacing again. "But you know what hurt the most, Chakotay? What really killed me inside? It was the fact that I had to hear it from the Admiral. You couldn't tell me yourself. Why was that, Chakotay?"

"I don't know," he said. "It wasn't just you. We simply decided to keep it quiet I guess."

"You guess? You couldn't even tell your best friend? You decide to keep it quiet? You know it had been less than a week before that that I heard about the latest wagers in the betting pool, the comments that floated around Sandrines and the messhall. You could have stopped all that if people had known you were in a relationship with someone else." She leaned in. "But you didn't say a word. And instead, the comments went on and your best friend was kept in the dark. And how the hell do you think Seven must have felt, hearing those comments?"

Silence.

She went in for the kill. "So why didn't you say anything, Chakotay, huh?" She narrowed her eyes. "You enjoyed it, didn't you? You enjoyed having your name linked with mine, the same way I did. You once told me that we were best friends, something I kept close to my heart, but you always wanted more, didn't you. And I always made my position clear. The crew had to come first." He opened his mouth but one glare silenced whatever he might have been about to say. "Don't give me that shit about sacrificing the present for a future that might never happen, hypocrite. If you'd thought that you'd have wanted to publicise your relationship with Seven. But you didn't." She stood back and placed her hands on her hips. "Its no wonder she left you, Chakotay. I would have done the same if I'd noticed that your heart was somewhere else. But I never got that chance, did I?" She laughed. "I just hope you never called my name out when you were in bed with her."

He stood up. "Get out," he muttered. "Get the hell out of my apartment and get the hell out of my life." He began to advance toward her. "Now, before I do something I really, really regret. Do it, Kathryn. This is the last time I ever want to hear your sanctimonious crap."

The last thing he heard was the door closing.