Disclaimer:I do not own or pretend to own any of these characters, places, or events; they are purely Paramount's. But I certainly do love them.

Author's Note: Set during season 4's "Year of Hell, 1 & 2."


Return to Me
by Dax's10thHost

Day 125, B'Elanna

She stood at the viewport, arms wrapped tightly about her. The stars glittered back at her, still and silent against the velvet backdrop of space. She stared at them, letting a million pinpricks of light sting her eyes. The silence wound about her, heavy, aching, despairing. Her vision flickered and blurred with tears.

"Tom…"

His name escaped her lips in a whisper, rippled across the silence like wind sweeping against the skin. Her heart throbbed within her so strongly that it stole her breath away. Her eyes blinked shut; a single tear dropped to her cheek. She made no move to brush it away, to conceal her grief.

"Tom…where are you?"

She pictured his features, drawing upon her love and memory to bring his visage before her. That lock of sandy hair curling against his forehead…that sparkle dancing in his laughing blue eyes…the perpetual smile tugging at his lips…

It all came back to her, clearer than the stars illuminating her face, realer than the acrid stench of scorched carpet and fried circuits permeating the air around her. She opened her eyes, savoring the memories.

The way his eyes warmed as he caught sight of her, his lips curving into the tiniest, most intimate of smiles. The warmth of his arms about her waist as he hugged her, the feel of his lips against hers. The stricken expression upon his face as she staggered into the mess hall, beating back tears from the pain of her injury. The tenderness in his hands as he'd caught her, lifted her onto the stretcher. The quiet strength of his hand wrapped around hers, the gentleness with which he'd tended her. The pure, unshakeable love spilling from his eyes as he'd pressed her fingers to his lips and promised his return.

Sorrow struck her, a powerful breaker that slapped into her and sent tears trickling down her cheeks. That had been the last time she'd had the chance to be with him, to savor the bond between them, without having to worry about Voyager falling apart beneath their feet. That had been the only chance she'd had to say goodbye, to look deep into his heart and pledge her love for him. And that had been nearly three months ago.

She struggled against the pain, but could barely breathe. More tears bathed her cheeks, and a sob escaped her throat.

Why have you left me alone?

And she was alone. More alone than she'd been in years, long before she came to live on Voyager.

A new face filled her mind, and her sorrow doubled. "Chakotay," she whispered, her fingers reaching to touch the cold glass of the viewport.

Not only had they taken Tom—they'd taken Chakotay. In an instant, she'd had her closest companions ripped from her, torn from her like a limb from a tree. Tom, her love, and Chakotay, her friend. No, he was more than that. He was her brother, her mentor, the father-figure in her fatherless life. He was so much to her. And now…he was gone.

"Chakotay, where are you?" she asked the stars, her eyes searching their gleaming faces. "Where have they taken you?" Maybe…maybe if she looked long enough, searched hard enough, she'd find the answer.

"They've taken you when I need you most…when everything is torn and falling apart beneath my feet. I can't fix it. I just can't. And I need you so much…we need you.

"The Captain needs you, Chakotay. She's so exhausted and desperate that she'll do anything to get us out of this mess. She needs your quiet wisdom, your gentle hand to stay her, to keep her from—rushing into something foolish. She needs to look at your chair and see you, see your steady black eyes gazing back at her, telling her that everything…everything's going to be all right. She needs you, Chakotay. She needs you."

I need you.

"And Tom…where are you? Where is your smile, your easy laugh, your comforting hand? Where are you? I need you. I miss you. It's…not the same without you. I never realized how much life you brought to Voyager until you left. Until you were taken. And now…" she paused, struggling against her tears. "Now we all feel ready to die, like we've no reason to live. We need you, need your energy and spirit and smile. Please…please come back."

She fell silent, gazing out at the stars once more. Somewhere, she had to believe, Tom and Chakotay were out there, alive and trying to find a way back. A way to Voyager, to their Delta Quadrant family. A way home.

She stood there, hugging herself, and watched the stars. Somewhere, she told herself. They're out there somewhere.

A single tear slid down her cheek.

Return to me.