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Finally - by Marchale Hyndman (marchale@pro-ns.net)

Rating - NC-17 (If you're under 18, go away; this is adult J/C fanfic).

Disclaimer - Paramount owns the rights to the Star Trek Voyager characters portrayed here. I'm just giving them the chance to enjoy the life Paramount won't let them have.

Thanks - A special thanks to Roses for all of her hard work and fantastic editing talents; and to Diane Running Horse Smith for liking this story enough to dedicate her brilliant nightmare scenario story 'Faux Cue' to me. I hereby dedicate 'Finally' to you, Diane.

Archive - Anyone who wants it, but please leave everything intact the way it is. If it is archived, I'd appreciate knowing where so that I could thank the person responsible.

Note - While I would dearly love to get feedback on this story, please be gentle with me - this is my virgin attempt at writing fanfic.

Time - Immediately following the 'Human Error' episode.

*************************************************************************

"Captain, can I speak to you when you have a moment?"

Kathryn noted the worried tone in the voice coming over the comm signal. She was at a crucial stage of trade negotiations with the Rutarians for badly needed supplies, so now wasn't the best time for dealing with it. Still, it might be important.

"What can I help you with, Doctor?"

"I've encountered a problem in my ethical subroutines."

"Talk to Lt. Torres about it."

"I can't."

She looked across to her First Officer sitting beside her on the Bridge, giving him a look like 'why does he bother me about these things?' but he just gave her an amused smile and said nothing.

"Why can't you talk to Lt. Torres about it?"

"It's an ethical problem, not an Engineering one."

Chakotay was trying hard not to laugh at her predicament, so she thought okay, you asked for this one.

"I'll send the Commander right down there to help you, Doctor."

Before Chakotay could get out of his seat, the Doctor's voice came frantically over the comm. "No, please don't send the Commander, I need to speak with you, Captain."

"Alright, I'll be right there, Janeway out."

Chakotay smirked.

"Not one word out of you! You have the Bridge; it seems I have an ethical problem to sort out."

"Aye, Captain," he said trying hard to keep a straight face.

While she knew that Chakotay was fully capable of handling trade negotiations as well as she, and didn't mind doing everything she could to help the Doctor when it was needed; it annoyed Kathryn to no end that the EMH had a talent for knowing exactly how and when to jump on her last good nerve over what were usually just trivial matters only he would deem to be important.

**********

Kathryn walked into Sickbay and as politely as she could asked "What can I help you with, Doctor?"

"I'm sorry to have bothered you, Captain - but I can't solve this dilemma so I'm going to have to leave the decision up to you."

"Alright, what's the problem?"

"If you had to choose between respecting doctor/patient confidentiality or looking out for the best interest of the patient - which would you choose?"

"I think it would depend on the individual circumstances involved. Can you be more specific?" she asked, at least finding his problem intriguing.

"I have a patient who would greatly benefit from certain elective surgical procedures I've discussed with her, but to no avail. She refuses treatment. Yet, because of what I witnessed during a medical emergency with her yesterday, I believe she not only wants but needs these procedures to enjoy a rich, full life. No one could dispute it would be for her own good. Even she seems to think so, based on what I saw during the emergency. But she has invoked doctor/patient confidentiality, so my hands are tied. I can assure you she would be glad she had it done afterwards, but I can't explain why I know this. I've ran a diagnostic on my program and there are no malfunctions, it's just a problem I can't resolve. Tell me what to do, Captain."

"Doctor, unless your patient is incompetent, I can't authorize you to perform elective surgery on her against her will. Do you think she's incapable of making this decision herself?"

"At the moment I couldn't say. She has been acting extremely erratic and bizarre this past week, but I haven't been able to determine yet what the cause of it is."

"Well, without hearing the specifics of the case, I can't make a decision on this and I haven't got the time to do it now. Report to my Ready Room at 1400 hours and we'll discuss it."

"Thank you, Captain."

*********

"Chakotay, I'd like to see you in the Ready Room."

"Right behind you, Captain" he said, following her in. She got each of them a cup of coffee and stretched back in her chair to relax.

"How did the trade negotiations turn out?"

"Pretty good, I traded off some spare parts from Engineering, but got enough dilithium to last us a few years. Oh, and plenty of food for Neelix."

"That's fine. We can spare a few non-essentials like that, but can't get very far without dilithium."

"I was hoping you'd see it that way."

"You know, maybe I should just have you handle all of our trade negotiations from now on. Lets face it, you're much better at dealing with people than I am."

"Another one of your so called 'lousy jobs' you'd rather not do?"

"Would you mind?"

"No, that'd be fine,"he said, adding with his dimpled smile, "whatever you desire."

 

Oh, don't tempt me like that, Chakotay, she thought to herself, you have no idea how badly I want to come over there and show you exactly what I desire. It drove her crazy when he'd say those soft spoken suggestive remarks of his. He had a sexual imagination to equal her own and after seven years of this achingly slow tease, he knew exactly which buttons to press and how to press them to send her running for the holodeck the minute she got off duty. It was strange, she thought. He didn't even need to lay a hand on her, yet his erotic hints when they were alone together like this aroused her more than she had ever been aroused in bed with any other man. Not that his sexy, sensual voice, handsome Indian looks, or haunting brown eyes didn't drive her wild as well, but it was his deliciously depraved mind and how he used it to drive her crazy with his tantalizing thoughts that she loved best about him. He was the master of this, playing cat and mouse with her head and heart better than anyone else ever could.

 

"Did you finish with the duty roster?" she asked, trying to act as if she hadn't paid any attention to the double meaning in his "whatever you desire" remark. But while she may have appeared calm and collected on the outside, inside her burned the damp fire of that desire as she stared at him longingly.... imagining him on top of her on the floor of the Ready Room.... their hearts pounding wildly.... his passionate kisses arousing her even more..... their hands struggling to free each other of their uniforms.... his thrusting himself into her in wild abandon and intensity.....

"It's there right in front of you."

"What is?" she asked with some confusion.

"The duty roster."

"Oh, I'm sorry, I guess my mind is elsewhere today."

"That's all right, sometimes mine tends to wander off too," he said with a sly smile.

She laughed. "No, that's where you're wrong, Chakotay - you're mind is always in the same place."

"If it is, it went there to keep yours company."

She picked up the duty roster and playfully threw it at him, barely missing his tattoo.

"Ooh, what put you in such a pissy mood today?" he asked, picking it up off the floor.

Pissy! she thought to herself, the cheek of him to say that! She could play this game too. "I wouldn't push my luck if I were you, next time you might get my coffee cup. And the reason why I'm a 'pissy mood' as you called it is because I have a competency evaluation at 1400 hours I'm not looking forward to."

"Yours or someone else's?"

"Funny."

"I thought so."

"You would."

"Seriously though, Kathryn, would you care to discuss it?"

"I haven't heard the details yet, but it seems the Doctor wants to operate on someone against her will in an elective surgery he feels she's too afraid to admit she wants."

"Tough call. Glad he didn't want to talk to me about this."

"Well, he signed off on it so its my neck if it ever comes before a Court Martial."

He seemed pretty unnerved to hear that. "Tell him you've changed your mind and you won't do it."

"I have to hear the case, I told him I would."

"No, if he wants to force someone into surgery against her will, make him sign the order."

"Chakotay, I can't - if Starfleet Medical hears about this someday and rules against him, his program would probably get deleted."

"His program? Kathryn, he is a program. Lets not get anthropomorphic here. He isn't real. Do you want to risk a possible prison term so some subroutines can stay intact?"

"I haven't even heard the case yet, who knows - maybe I will end up denying it."

"Well, I pray for your sake you do."

He was starting to get mad, but thought against saying anything more about it. She was usually too willing to lay her own neck on the line when she shouldn't risk it. Even when he tried to talk her out of things, she'd listen to what he had to say, but he was rarely ever able to get her to change her mind and that drove him nuts.

"I know, Chakotay, you're just looking out for me and I appreciate your concern."

"Do you have anything else you want to discuss?" he asked, somewhat mollified.

"No, I can't think of anything, you can go."

"Aye, Kathryn" he said teasingly as he got up to leave.

"You know, one of these days you're going to screw up and say that on the Bridge or in the Mess Hall or something and I hope they tease the hell out of you about it," she said.

"So what, I don't care - it seems like everyone onboard ship thinks that there is a lot more going on between us than what there is. You know, I can't even go into your quarters without someone in the corridor walking by trying very hard not to smile about it."

"I know, they do the same thing with me if I'm caught going into your quarters."

"Maybe we should send maintenance down there to tear down the wall between our quarters. It would sure cut down on the gossip if people couldn't see us going back and forth between your place and mine," he leered.

"Thanks anyway, Chakotay," she laughed, " but I'll pass. You get too many friends dropping by your quarters unexpectedly at all hours. You're the only one I'd want to have feel free enough to drop by my place anytime you felt like it, regardless if you'd been invited there or not."

"Oh, speaking of that, what time did you want me there for dinner tonight?"

"Is 1700 hours all right with you?"

"Fine, I'll see you later, Kathryn."

"Okay, bye."

"Bye"

************

When the Doctor appeared at 1400 hours, she turned away from the monitor to devote her full attention to him. "So what's all this about, Doctor?"

"It concerns Seven."

She could tell he didn't feel comfortable about breaking doctor/patient confidentiality by discussing it, so rather than hearing the details first, she just said, "Doctor, I'm not about to have Seven declared incompetent. Permission denied, you're dismissed."

"But Captain, if you could just hear me out on this, please."

She wanted to say no, but maybe Chakotay was right about her being too much of a soft touch. She looked at the pleading in the Doctor's eyes and knew she couldn't tell him no. "All right, go ahead," she said, certain the answer would still be no anyway, but wondering if what she was about to hear might at least shed some light on why Seven had been acting so weird this past week. Lord knows, between the forty-nine hours she'd spent on Holodeck Two in the past six days, reporting late for duty, walking off in the middle of her shifts, endangering Voyager's safety in a sub-space munitions range, then deleting the gravametric array holodeck project she knew Kathryn wanted to see as soon as it was finished, well - something was definitely wrong with Seven. Confronting her proved pointless. All she would say was "I'm sorry, Captain - it won't happen again," dismissing any further discussions as to why with it being called "irrelevant."

"Captain, I'm sure I discovered a way to restore Seven's humanity back to her fully. It will require certain surgical procedures on her cortical node, perhaps even on the cortical array itself, but I'm certain I can do it. You see, the Borg instituted a safety net or fail-safe whereby Unimatrix Zero could only be accessed by the higher mind during regeneration cycles and if I could adjust the cortical node with hopefully only a few relatively simple procedures she'll be able to cope with the emotional complexities in having a normal life."

Kathryn looked confused. "Doctor, I thought you were making pretty good strides with her in your socialization lessons, why not just slowly introduce more emotionally complex situations into the programs and let her get adjusted to it slowly and gradually? I don't think surgery needs to be the answer there."

"Captain, Seven decided to jump way beyond any social skills I could try to teach her. She created this holodeck program called 'Alpha Three: Personal Quarters' where she was trying to live a normal life. It was actually quite fascinating, really. She had gotten rid of her Borg implants, had her own quarters, very tastefully decorated, I might add, and had taken a hologram of Commander Chakotay as her lover."

Kathryn choked on a mouth full of coffee when she heard that last part. "Chakotay?"

"Yes, I'm afraid so, Captain. She called in a medical emergency to the holodeck when her cortical node started to overload during an argument with him. It seems she wanted to delete the program and he didn't want her to. Anyway, she was unconscious when I got there, but afterwards swore me to doctor/patient confidentiality about what I had witnessed. I feel terrible about breaking that, but now she won't have the surgical procedures done to adjust her cortical node so she can handle emotional complexities and have a normal life; and I know she wants it, Captain - she wouldn't have created that program if she didn't. Please let me operate on her, she'll never be able to lead a normal life without it."

"Listen, Doctor - I appreciate your concern for Seven. I know she means alot to you, and to me too; but I can't sign the order for this. Its her decision to make, not ours. Maybe in time she might come around and want it, but she'll have to be the one to make that choice."

"Captain, I don't know if she'll ever be able to make that choice. She has the emotional skills and maturity of the child she was when the Borg assimilated her. How can she understand what it is she'd be missing if that lies beyond her comprehension?"

"That's where we disagree, Doctor. A blind person or a deaf person can't comprehend what sight or hearing is, but they know its still a desirable thing to have. I'm sure Seven must have some understanding along those kind of lines. She probably just got good and spooked when he started arguing with her and she didn't know how to cope with it, that's all. And I don't think she's as much of a child as you seem to think she is, not if she's thinking of the Commander that way. Who knows, maybe this is just puberty and puppy love for her; but in any case, Doctor - give her some time to adjust to things and maybe she'll come around eventually. I don't know if she ever will, but we can't force this on her, it has to be her choice."

"All right, Captain, I disagree with you, but I'll abide by your decision."

"Thank you, Doctor, you're dismissed."

"Aye, Captain," he said, tapping his mobile emitter and vanishing.

**********

"Chakotay, I'd like to see you in the Ready Room if you're not busy."

"On my way."

He picked up the PADD off the floor from where she had thrown it against the wall. "Looks like this one will have to go to Engineering for repairs," he said with a smile. "I take it your little meeting with the Doctor didn't go very well?"

"Not really, I denied his request for surgery, but a part of me wanted to tell him to go right ahead and do it. I'll probably be wondering for years if I made the right decision."

He took her hand from across the desk and started gently playing with her fingers. "Yeah, I've made a few of those decisions myself. It really hurts when they come back to haunt you later."

She started playing with his hand now too, surprised by how arousing something that innocent could be. "Chakotay, let me ask you this. If we knew Seven wouldn't be able to 'grow up' as it were and adapt to human life again any better than what she can cope with now, did we do the right thing rescuing her from the collective?"

"I thought this might be about Seven when he was in here this long. You two scientists do love playing with your little Borg experiment, don't you?"

"Chakotay, I'm serious, are we being cruel to her if it turns out she's just getting teased by what she can't have?"

He thought about making a smart ass remark about how if anyone would be an expert on the subject of teasing it would be her, but since she seemed depressed, he just let it slide and asked "what makes you think she won't eventually have a normal life like everyone else?"

"She needs to have these operations or her cortical node overloads from complex emotional situations she can't cope with."

"I thought the Doctor was giving her lessons on how to deal with things like that."

"Well, he was, but Seven took things into her own hands and started playing on the holodeck with a holo-lover. That didn't work out, she panicked and to make a long story short, the doctor found out that she can't grow beyond this point without surgery and she's too afraid by what happened to her to let him operate. So she's stuck where she's at now. It's a real mess, Chakotay - please don't say a word about this to anyone else; but I needed your opinion on this."

"Well, I don't know what to say, Kathryn - I don't think we should pack her up and send her back to the Borg just because she might have a less than fully human life with us. It may be limited in a lot of ways, but I think she's happy with what whatever humanity she does have. If she decides she wants more out of life than what she has, she can have the surgery. If she doesn't, then it couldn't have mattered that much to her - so I wouldn't worry about it either way."

"So you don't think we're being cruel to her then?"

"No, I don't - if she wants a normal life, she can ask the Doctor to let her have one."

"Do you think I made the right decision not letting him operate without her permission?"

"Yes, I do. She should have the right to decide for herself what she wants. Honestly, Kathryn - you and the Doctor are like a couple of old mother hens with her. Should we do this with her, should we do that? God, I don't know which of you is worse."

"Well, I just hope I'm doing the right thing here."

"Kathryn, I'm sure you are. Look, why don't we just change the subject here? You worry about her way too much. It might do you some good to think about something else before you give yourself an ulcer."

"What's the matter, getting bored by the conversation?" she asked sarcastically.

"Actually, yes. I told you before that what you and the Doctor choose to do with your little Borg experiment is your business, but leave me out of it. I don't want anything to do with her upbringing. She's your baby, not mine. As far as I'm concerned, she's about two steps above an android and I don't think the way you two experiment with her is fair to her at all."

In spite of her better judgment, she nervously pursued the subject, hoping Chakotay wouldn't catch on to what it is that she was really trying to find out from him. "An android, huh? I don't think most men on this ship would look at her that way."

"Oh come on, Kathryn - she might have great tits, but what else has she got going for her?"

"I take it you don't find her that appealing then?"

"No, somehow all that Borg circuitry in her tends to leave me cold."

 

Kathryn took a deep sigh of relief after hearing that and thought to herself, one battle down, one to go yet. At least she didn't need to worry about Chakotay being interested in Seven if she did work up her nerve to try going after more than just his hologram. But hearing about Seven's sexcapades on the holodeck sounded a wake-up call in her like a red alert. She started having all kinds of fears wondering how many other women onboard ship might be looking at him and wondering what he looks like underneath that uniform. And while he had always stayed by her side despite her keeping him somewhat at bay over rules and regs regarding fraternization; how long would it be before he gave up trying to win her over and decided to look for someone who wouldn't give him an argument? Things had definitely started to heat up between them, but it wasn't to the point yet that she felt she had any right to tell another woman "back off, he's mine," or to tell Chakotay he'd be dead meat if he looked at someone else. But she'd die inside if he did. She loved him and wanted him so badly that she cried herself to sleep over him most nights. After the Doctor had pulled the rug out from under her little world today, Kathryn thought to herself, 'the hell with Starfleet policies!', she had to get that guy in bed and make him hers before someone else did. The thought of him with another woman frightened her more than the thought of going up against an armada of enemy ships. He just had to be hers and hers alone, otherwise she was certain she literally would die of a broken heart.

 

"Well, I'm sure there are alot of men onboard ship who'd be more than willing to overlook her implants. I just feel bad that if she chose not to ever have the surgery, she'd be missing out on so many things."

"Kathryn, stop it. If she didn't have the surgery, she'd never be able to appreciate what it was she was missing out on. Those fears you have are nothing more than your maternal instincts talking and its ridiculous. If you want a baby that bad, I'll be more than happy to give you one. But please stop trying to play mommy to Seven around me, all right? You know how I feel about this. God, its obscene to even think about and if you don't shut up about this, I am going to start getting mad."

 

Kathryn quit while she was ahead. At least he hadn't seemed to catch on that I was trying to find out how he felt about Seven, she thought to herself. But what's this about him being more than happy to give me a baby? As hard as she tried, Kathryn couldn't get that thought and the thousands of ramifications it involved out of her mind. Dirty diapers and screaming babies never appealed to Kathryn in the least, but it had never even crossed her mind that Chakotay might want to have kids someday. Did he want kids? Oh God, she thought, did I fall in love with a man who wanted kids? Please say that isn't so, Chakotay. What did he mean by that anyway? Did he think I wanted a baby? God, I hope not! What was he getting at by saying that - was he talking about marriage, or stud service, or what? Oh, Chakotay - don't say something like that to me without explaining what you mean. Lost in her thoughts, the rest of her duty shift had disappeared without her even being aware that it had.

*********

"Just give me a minute to change clothes and I'll be right over," he said, both of them coldly staring down the young Ensign who passed by, then laughing about it afterwards.

"Think he'll gossip about this?" she asked.

"Yes, and I'd hate to see how exaggerated the story gets by the time I hear about it."

She took her hand away from his and said, "I'll leave the door unlocked, just walk in when you get there."

***********

Kathryn was busy at the replicator and didn't notice him come in. He waited until her hands were free, then turned her towards him so they could share a couple of light, affectionate kisses.

"I've been dying to do that all day."

"Well, I'm glad you don't try that in the Ready Room, or I'd never get any work done."

He just laughed and thought to himself, don't tempt me. "What's for dinner?" he asked, grabbing the plates, knives and forks and putting them on the table for her before sitting down to eat.

"Eggplant parmigian, Ceasar salad, no eggs and pasta."

"It smells delicious. I'm starved."

"I have the rest of it here, but can you get the eggplant?"

"Sure," he said.

"Oh, and get whatever you want to drink, I'll have coffee." As if she'd ever have anything else to drink he thought to himself.

Except for a little small talk, they ate pretty much in silence till finally Kathryn's curiosity couldn't stand it any longer. "Chakotay, what did you mean when you said you'd be more than happy to give me a baby?"

Good thing he didn't have his mouth full of food when she asked or he would've choked on it for sure. He was a little curious why she brought the subject up.

"All I meant was the way you mother Seven so much, I thought maybe you wanted a baby of your own."

"Oh, I was just wondering."

"Why, do you want a baby, Kathryn?"

"No, do you?"

"No."

Well, at least that's settled, she thought, much to her relief - though it still didn't answer any questions in her mind about anything else that would've entailed.

The rest of their dinner was totally silent from that point on, each lost in the thought of what the other had on their mind and not really sure what to do or say or think about it. For as brave as each could be in the heat of battle, they were acting like scared, insecure teenagers with each other tonight.

"Here, let me help you with that," he said, taking half the things she was attempting to carry over to the recycler. After she put the leftover food and plates into the recycler and watched them vanish, she joined him on the couch.

For the next hour or so, they held hands, laughed and shared a few tender kisses as they discussed the day's events and some interesting gossip they heard about different members of the crew. But it didn't go further than Chakotay putting his arm around her or Kathryn laying her head on his shoulder. It certainly wasn't the mad, passionate affair most of the crew were convinced they were having. Not that they didn't want that, they did. Each of them had plenty of erotic fantasies involving the other which they took at least some comfort and relief in for all of the fruitless dates their grandmothers could've witnessed.

But Kathryn couldn't stand the thought of strictly fantasizing about Chakotay any longer. Not after the alarming news she got from the Doctor regarding Seven's holodeck research on 'Intimate Relations'; and certainly not after Chakotay telling her he'd be more than happy to give her a baby if she wanted one. This tip-toeing around the edges of sex was as maddening to her as the thought of traveling into uncharted waters in their relationship.

The only thing holding them back was the messy can of worms they'd be opening up afterwards when they had to deal with the consequences of their actions. Even though they loved each other deeply, neither one was certain how the other felt, nor did they have any idea how the other would react once Pandora's Box was opened. It was as scary a prospect as the thought of jumping off a cliff in a leap of blind faith, praying there was a safety net below, but having a lot of doubts that maybe there wasn't.

When he kissed her again, she decided that she just couldn't stand how tame it was. She returned his kiss with passion. This was followed by an even more passionate kiss from him, then another, and another. Before long, hands started roaming and it was becoming increasingly intoxicating and harder to resist.

She took a deep breath and jumped off the cliff.

"Make love to me, Chakotay, please?"

After seven long and lonely years, D-Day had finally arrived.

He sighed, not sure if he could believe what he had waited so long to hear. "Are you sure you want it to go that far?" he asked, wanting to be perfectly sure there wouldn't be any misunderstanding between them on what he prayed he had heard correctly.

"Yes, I don't want you to stop."

He got up and after helping her to her feet, took her in his arms and wordlessly walked her backwards to the edge of her bed, stopping along the way to stare at her in a most incredible way.

As he started removing the low cut white angora sweater she wore to try to drive him crazy, Chakotay noticed a tear streaming down her face. He couldn't understand that. This was turning into one of the happiest nights of his life, why wasn't she feeling the same way? "What's wrong, Kathryn?"

"We should've done this back on New Earth and in the thousands of nights since then. I feel so bad we didn't, I...."

"Forget it," he said, interrupting her. "I don't want any tears spoiling tonight, let's just think of this as better late than never." That got another tear from her. "Oh, come on, Kathryn, let's not turn this into one of your silly holo-novels. Where's that tough, hard Captain of mine?" he asked, trying to get her to smile.

She wasn't buying it. "Chakotay, can you ever forgive me for all of these years we've spent apart?"

He sighed and thought to himself 'women!' "Yes, I forgive you, Kathryn. Now will you dry those tears and start making me feel like you want me too, or am I going to have to undress myself?"

She smiled. Now that's more like it, he thought.

"You want me to undress you?" she asked, laying down beside him, feeling her desire increase as she started unbuttoning his shirt.

"Yeah, I'll even let you order me around in bed if you like," he said jokingly with a wide smile, dropping her sweater to the floor before caressing her breasts through her bra.

She started laughing at the thought of that, trying very hard to keep a straight face as she said "no, I think we can dispense with protocol tonight, Commander."

They both laughed at the ridiculousness of that for a moment; but by the time she had removed his shirt and ran her hands across the gorgeous bronze shoulders and sexy chest she had wanted to touch so many times, he had unhooked her bra and it was time to get down to the seriousness of mending the broken hearts that had waited far too long for this night to happen.

They shared a few more intense, intoxicating kisses before Chakotay turned her on her back and began licking and flicking his tongue across one nipple while his fingertips worked their magic on the other one. Soon after sliding his free hand down her body to explore the warm, damp softness inside her panties, Kathryn pulled his hand away, saying "my turn." She gently rolled him over on his back, freeing his erection from his shorts, then took him into her mouth so that she could give him as much pleasure as what he had given her.

While things might have progressed rapidly from that point on - considering how badly they wanted each other and what this agonizing tease had done to them through the years, they deliberately chose to take it slowly, savoring each moment fully for the blessed relief and joy it brought to them. They really couldn't have made love any other way, no matter how deliciously tormenting it was to hold back when that was the last thing they wanted to do. If the past seven years leading up to this point had taught them anything, it was that getting there was half the fun.

**********

After they had made love, she didn't want to deal with the real world of Court Martials or resignations or wondering what was going to happen between her and Chakotay now that they had crossed the line Starfleet had forbidden her to do. She found Heaven in his arms and didn't care what happened to her because of that. Still, as much as she wanted to avoid reality, it had to be dealt with sooner or later, so she bit the bullet and asked him what happens now.

"What do mean, Kathryn? Nothing happens now."

She couldn't believe what she was hearing, was he kidding? "Oh come on, Chakotay, don't joke around about this, its not funny."

He looked at her with the saddest look that she had ever seen. "I'm not joking, Kathryn, nothing is going to happen between us because nothing can happen."

"How can you say that to me? I love you," she said, trying to fight back the tears.

"I love you too, but what does that have to do with anything?"

"I can't believe you're saying that, Chakotay. You know, if Starfleet tries to bust me down to Ensign someday because a Captain dared commit the unforgivable sin of sleeping with her First Officer, I'm gonna tell them they can take their fraternization policy and shove it, right before I turn in my resignation!"

He looked at her in utter shock. He loved that 'fighting Irish' temperment of hers, but couldn't believe for a minute that she thought this had anything to do with fraternization.

"Are you out of your mind, Kathryn? Do you honestly believe that Starfleet would look at us in bed together and call this fraternization? God, maybe I should call the JAG Officer in here to explain a few things to you about military law."

"Chakotay, what are you talking about?"

"I'm talking about the fact that even though you chose to dress me up in Starfleet issue and call me your First Officer, this is just your little fantasy land, Kathryn. You might think of me this way, but I can assure you Starfleet wouldn't. I'm a Maquis Captain, the enemy, being held as a prisoner of war onboard Starfleet's little prison barge here. God, half the crew are prisoners of war, and if we ever do make it back to the Alpha Quadrant someday, Starfleet's going to haul us off in chains and stick us behind bars in a penal colony."

"Chakotay, I can try to explain to Starfleet about ..."

He interrupted her. "Like they're going to listen to anything you have to say. Oh, that's a good one, Kathryn. A Captain who's sleeping with the enemy; what's that called in Starfleet law? Sedition? Treason? An Act Of War perhaps? If they don't just shoot you at sunrise, you'll end up spending the rest of your life behind bars along with me and my half of this crew."

"Chakotay, I..."

"No, I want you to hear me out on this. I love you, Kathryn and nothing would give me more happiness than to marry you and live happily ever after, but that can't happen. Honey, I can't make love to you from a prison cell. And the saddest part is, it's not just you and me who can't have a future together either. You know, it's been seven years, Kathryn - by now practically my whole crew either has a husband or wife or lover who's in Starfleet. Getting back to the Alpha Quadrant and being carried off in chains by Starfleet isn't just going to destroy the lives of the Maquis, it'll also destroy the lives of their Starfleet loved ones. You can keep your dream of wanting to return home. I look at about a hundred and forty lives you'll be destroying in the process and I can't see it. Now if you want to just stay friends and have sex till your precious Starfleet hauls me off to prison, fine - I love you too much than to say no to that. But damnit, Kathryn - don't you dare ask me for anything more than that. I can't give you a future together, I don't have a future."

 

Chakotay was getting so choked up he couldn't have talked to her anymore if he wanted to. He knew he had to leave, so he picked his clothes up off the floor and threw them on the bed in a combination of anger, hurt, frustration and maybe a dozen other emotions as well. He was so upset by her long, silent, non response after he poured his heart out to her that he was almost shaking by the time he got his pants on. Oh, this is maddening, he thought to himself. She knows there isn't anything we can do about our situation, that's just the way things are, we don't have any choice. Why couldn't she just accept my offer of keeping it as friendship and sex and let it go at that? She didn't even say she'd love to marry me too if she only could, he thought, not caring any more if she did see the tears in his eyes as he buttoned his shirt. No, she says she loves me, but she doesn't! If she did, she'd never let me walk out of here like this. But she didn't try to stop him or even say a word. Kathryn just sat there thinking about what he had said and staring at him, too stunned to speak. What he misunderstood to be a heart of stone silence was tearing him apart inside as he turned to look at her one last time before heading back to his own quarters.

**********

 So that's what it must feel like to get hit by that famous right cross of his she thought as she contemplated the things he said. Was he right? If they could get back to the Alpha Quadrant, could she get Starfleet to accept her half Maquis crew? Or was he right about how they would look at Voyager as a prison barge full of captured enemy POW's they'd just haul off to prison despite her pleas for them? Did she have the right to destroy the lives of nearly everyone onboard ship, Maquis as well as their Starfleet loved ones, in case if he was right about that?

While she didn't know how likely his nightmarish scenario about Starfleet Command was, the thought of seeing Chakotay and his half of the crew being hauled off in chains to life imprisonment terrified her as the tears began to flow uncontrollably now. With him being a Maquis Captain, would he even get a life sentence as his crew no doubt would, she wondered, or would they execute him along with her for being the leader of his band of criminals? If there is even a one percent chance he's right, could she take it? She held the lives of one hundred and fifty-eight people in her hands, could she risk ruining the lives of practically all of them if he was right?

She barely made it to the toilet before vomiting from the nightmarish thoughts that had sickened her so. A few minutes ago she was prepared to tell Starfleet where they could stick it over fraternization; but the thought of a Captain caught sleeping with the enemy, Chakotay was right about that. It was a crime punishable by death and she knew it, even though she wasn't sure either whether they'd term it as sedition, treason or an act of war under wartime conditions. She threw up again, then started laughing as the tears streamed down her face. It doesn't matter, she thought - I'd kill myself anyway if he was right about it destroying nearly everyone's lives. I couldn't live with that on my conscience knowing I condemned all of those people to a life of hell.

Then it hit her, it wasn't all of those people. There were slightly over a dozen people on board who didn't have a personal stake in the Maquis/Starfleet issue. How could she possibly tell the innocent bystanders like Tuvok, Harry, Ensign Wildman and others that if she decided to protect the Maquis from Starfleet Command that they'd never see their loved ones again? She thought of maybe never seeing Phoebe and her mother too. Practically everyone has loved ones back in the Alpha Quadrant they'd deeply miss if they never seen them again. Which would be the lesser of two evils in this case? she wondered.

No, better make that three evils. She shuddered as she contemplated the third nightmare. While everyone politely shoved that horrible thought under the rug and tried their best to pretend it didn't exist, there was the third frightening possibility that had to be considered as well in making this decision. It took The Caretaker to strand them in the Delta Quadrant in the first place. It would take nothing less than a wormhole, Q's intervention, being able to circumnavigate Warp 10 without turning into a ship full of lizards, finding some new as yet undiscovered technology, or a miracle to even travel the 70,000 light years back to the Alpha Quadrant within their life spans. There was never any certainty that they could even get back home in the first place.

That thought put the fear of God into her now as she tried to reason it through to its ugly conclusion. They had just spent the past seven years out here in the Delta Quadrant living a kind of half life in limbo, waiting for the day they hopefully would get the chance to start having a normal life again. As Chakotay said, it's been seven years - by now practically all of his crew either has a husband, wife or lover in Starfleet. That makes for roughly seventy couples putting their lives pretty much on hold waiting for the day they could start living a 'real life' again one day. What if they never could? What if Voyager roamed the Delta Quadrant decade after decade and never did make it back? Didn't everyone deserve the chance for being able to put down roots and start raising families and having a normal life again someday? Were children like Naomi Wildman and Tom and B'Elanna's as yet unborn daughter condemned to live their lives in a hostile part of space never knowing when the next enemy attack might come? While the military people knew the risks when they came onboard, was it right to subject children to that in the event they didn't make it home? And what about the future as far as the adults were concerned? Would they live the rest of their lives in space, battling hostile forces when they were senior citizens? What if there weren't enough children born in the next generation to carry on the journey back to the Alpha Quadrant? While some couples might have children, plenty of others thought the idea of raising kids onboard ship wasn't something they'd care to subject their own to. Was it fair to deprive them of the chance of having a home and family of their own someday? Was it fair to deprive everyone of having a normal life again in the event they couldn't make it back? Even if they could make it back, could she take the chance that Chakotay might be right about how it would destroy nearly everyone's life?

 

As Kathryn weighed every heartbreaking possibility over as carefully and thoroughly as she could, the only possible way out of the potential tragedy for at least most, if not all of the crew - depending on which nightmarish possibility she considered, was to finally put a stop to Voyager's journey. She would have to find them a real home here in the Delta Quadrant, as far away from Starfleet Command and the Alpha Quadrant as she could get.

To Be Continued.......

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