"Dear Diary,

"Well I did it. Today I resigned my commission from Starfleet. The Admiralty howled in rage, but it was my decision and there was nothing they could do about it. The thing is I think this is the best decision I've ever made. If Chakotay's invitation to a moonlight dinner at the Arboretum on the Academy grounds means what I think it does, then I have a chance to right a terrible wrong that I committed just over five years ago on a small planet where he and I spent several months alone together on.

"Why did I resign you ask? I guess I could answer that in a number of official ways that sound practical and full of personal integrity, such as- I have been away from a command structure for too long to serve under someone again- and while true, amongst other explanations, it's not the real reason. No, I resigned because I found out from my 'so-called' superiors that I screwed up in viewing protocol and command distance as rigid, completely binding rules that don't allow for exception.

"Can you believe that!? I listened and took to heart all that sanctimonious crap that they taught us in command school and regaled us with once we got that fourth pip, and then they tell me that in reality it's common sense that needs to be applied instead. Common sense would have dictated that I form a serious relationship with the man I fell in love with out there instead of rebuffing him at every opportunity. Common sense would have told me to become close friends with my crew on such a journey as we were facing. Common sense would have kept me from becoming a power monger who cut out her command staff from developing ideas to deal with serious issues.

"To add insult to injury, those stuffed shirts had the gall to recommend that I seek out some counseling to deal with the fallout of my seven years of self-imposed isolation, which I now know was completely unnecessary. Even Owen Paris, my friend and mentor, had seemed surprised at how I had viewed the idea of a relationship on Voyager. I felt like belting him across the jaw I was so furious! He was the one from whom I learned all that from in the first place!

"I couldn't believe it when after they tore my command style to shreds, though applauding most of my decisions, with a few exceptions which earned me serious reprimands, that they actually handed me the pips of a Vice-Admiral and congratulated me! I don't think I've ever been so angry. Instead of being gracious, I handed back the pips and told the Admiral in charge of the debriefing that I was resigning and that they could all go to hell. That should send shivers of fear running down their spines. I have it on good authority that the President of the Federation Council was preparing to pin those pips on me at the gala tomorrow. Won't they be surprised when I don't show up? I've learned that most of the crew are disgusted at the way in which the debriefings have been handled and are not going to show up at the gala either. They want to hold their own private party a month or so down the road, and I, for one, am going to attend. Why should we attend a function that only allows the Brass to pat themselves on the back?

"All that brings me back to Chakotay. What can I possibly say to him to make up for how horribly I have treated him these past years? It was like a knife had been plunged into my heart when the Admiral told me about him and Seven, and their future. My arrogance and stupidity almost cost me the most important thing in my life. Fortunately their relationship ended within an hour or so of Voyager reaching the Alpha Quadrant. But what must the crew think? Some had the courage to tell me bluntly when we debarked, though they were kind in saying they still loved me. I believe them, but I also know that I must have seemed to be nothing more than a cold hearted bitch at times considering how I treated Chakotay. And that whole situation with Michael Sullivan? What was I thinking!? Now, in hindsight, I can clearly see how it must have looked in reprogramming him to be very similar in almost all ways to Chakotay. Thank God I didn't have sex with the hologram. At least sex is one thing I don't have to apologize for to Chakotay. I can forgive him his occasional dalliance since I was the one who turned him away, but I was never able to have a fling of my own. It would have been too cruel and on some level I knew that it would have destroyed not only my friendship with Chakotay, but, eventually, our professional relationship. Jaffen doesn't count, and in physical terms, as well, since his species is asexual. It's a shame really, since he was a fine looking man, but for my purposes I am thankful for that difference, mind alteration or not.

"I'm so angry at myself and ashamed. I was looking at a picture of Daddy this morning and all I could think about was what he would say to me. He'd always been one to ignore the rules when common sense flew in the face of them, and that was what he taught me. What happened to all of that? I've always idolized him and his teachings, and then I go and become the kind of commanding officer I used to hear him rail about at home in anger and frustration. I guess his little Goldenbird lost some of her luster over the years after his death.

"I'm also somewhat afraid. What if Chakotay only wants to be friends? How will I deal with the actual loss of the one thing I've dreamed of and fantasized about for the last seven years? Did I mention that it's been a lonely seven years? That has to be a record for me. Celibacy is not fun in my opinion, and while self-pleasure can be stimulating and satisfying in a pinch, it certainly loses it's appeal after seven years of nothing else but that. I imagine I would get over the loss of him, but that is what became of my future self and she scared me with what had become of her. I saw in her what I had steadily been becoming over the last five years since New Earth, and I could not stand the sight of such a cold and bitter woman. I actually saw a tear in her eye when she first saw Chakotay.

"My pride is no longer going to stand in my way. I will tell him the truth of my feelings and also tell him I'm sorry for the horrible mistakes I made out there, personal as well as professional. The Borg alliance, the Equinox, Tom Paris' brig time and demotion, Michael Sullivan and Fair Haven, and, most importantly, New Earth. That last one may surprise you, Diary, but I made the worst kind of mistake there. I had the chance to admit my feelings and take him as a lover and I didn't. I could have also said how I felt and then allowed a relationship once we got back to Voyager, but I didn't. Instead I hid my feelings and then when Voyager contacted us, I told him it couldn't be. Regardless of how tonight turns out, I think I will regret that mistake for the rest of my life.

"How do I feel now, you ask? Even after spilling my guts, as Tom Paris would say, I still feel angry and ashamed. The edge of my anger and shame is duller, though. Chakotay once told me he feared his anger because of what it caused him to become. I think I saw a glimpse of what my anger could make me become when I met my future self and I fear that. I think I might seek out a counselor and let someone I don't know listen to my anger, shame, and frustration. Perhaps they can point me in the right direction. What I do know is, is that I am going to do it on my own and not to the beat of Starfleet's drum. It's only been a few hours, but it feels good to be free of that yoke.

"I also want to say goodbye, Diary. I know it's been almost 25 years since I last wrote to you, and I know I will again, but not in this book. I pulled you down from the bookcase because I realized that today is a new beginning in my life, and you are a part of the past. One more entry to say goodbye and to let go of the feelings of old. As the new chapter opens, a new book will be started. Thanks for being there for me,

Kathryn."

Kathryn closed the old diary and smiled. She had debated whether or not to do this, but now that she had, she was glad. Looking around she was amazed to see her old room decorated as it had been when she was a teenager just before she had left for the Academy. Her Mother had really done a wonderful job doing it up like this.

"Kathyrn?" a voice came up the stairs.

Kathryn left the room, with the diary back in its place on the bookshelf, and walked to the top of the stairs.

"Hi Mom," she said as she made her way down.

"I just walked in the door and Owen contacted me. He said you resigned," Gretchen Janeway said with a questioning look in her eye. "Care to explain?"

Kathryn went to the closet and pulled out her sweater and sandals. Putting them on, she smiled at her Mother. "I gave myself something I was foolish enough to deny myself needlessly for seven long years," she replied.

Gretchen cocked her head to the side and frowned. "And that was?" she asked.

"Freedom," Kathryn replied. Opening the door, she turned back slightly. "I won't be back until tomorrow, and hopefully I'll have added another piece of that freedom and will bring him home to meet you. See you tomorrow, Mom."

Gretchen just stood there in thought after Kathryn left and then she recalled some of the stories that Voyager's crew had relayed about a certain First Officer her daughter had fallen in love with and denied. "It's about damn time," she chuckled as she made her way to the kitchen. She would be calling Tom Paris and B'Elanna first thing to report on this new development. Now she could feel secure that her Kathryn had come home.