~* =/\= *~

Admiral Kathryn Janeway-Tighe

~* =/\= *~

Admiral Janeway-Tighe laid the padd to the side with a sigh of relief. That was the last one. It was almost 2300 hours and she was finally free to go home. Gathering the array of coffee mugs littering her desk, Kathryn quickly deposited them in the replicator's recycle mode and escaped the confines of her Starfleet office.

Truth be told, Kathryn detested this planet life and her job. The feeling of having completed anything was gone, and with them, the emotions of exploring uncharted space. For eight years, she had woken to every new day in a quadrant she knew virtually nothing about. The day itself was an adventure to see if they would survive and what new aliens may be presented. Here in the Alpha Quadrant, Janeway knew she would go to HQ, attend meaningless meetings, work until she was done, and return home to an empty house. More often than not, Justin was assigned to a space mission that would take him from Earth for weeks at a time. Once in a great while, Kathryn's job would required her to leave Earth. But even then, the farthest she had been was Mars twice and DS9 once.

"Computer, lights off." Janeway left her office with the intent of going home to an empty house and climbing into the large, lonely bed for a short night of sleep before returning to work the next day. It was not meant to be.

~* =/\= *~

Kathryn entered her security code into the computer and then stepped through the front door. Even in the darkness she could make out the model of Voyager which graced her coffee table. She smiled at it. If she could be anywhere in the universe, it would be on board that ship in another quadrant.

Noises from the bedroom alerted her sense. Freezing in place, she prepared to fight off any intruder.

The silhouette of a man taller than herself came into view around the corner. Without hesitating, Janeway sprung at him.

The force of her body sent them both crashing to the floor as he gave a short gasp at being caught in surprise. Quickly, he began to fight back, but those precious few seconds of confusion was all Janeway needed to gain an advantage. Before the intruder could guess her intentions, he was locked in Kathryn's iron grip.

But, she was not as strong as he was. Wrenching out of her arms, Kathryn felt her fingernails rake over his skin as she was tossed against a table. Scrambling back to him, Janeway attempted to use a Vulcan nerve pinch, but her opponent escaped and pinned her on her back to the floor. With her arms pressed down over her head and the man sitting on her stomach, she had no where to go.

"You have three seconds to get out of my house before I alert the law." Janeway spat out in a last ditch effort.

"Lights!" A woman's voice called sharply.

Janeway gasped in shock as she stared up in the 'intruder's' face.

"Justin!" Her shocked quickly turned to anger. "Get off me!"

"If you were going to have other women here, why didn't you tell me?"

Janeway twisted her head towards the voice. A dark haired woman clad in only a red satin nightgown pouted at them.

Justin's face blushed the same shade of the robe as he climbed off his wife. "Eliza, go back to the room."

Kathryn scrambled to her feet and cast a withering glare at her husband's lover. Chakotay was right, she thought to herself. After all these years, he'd been right. The younger woman cowered slightly under Janeway's penetrating glare as she slipped back to the room.

"Wait a minute!" Kathryn stepped towards the bedroom door and blocked it. "This is my house! I want you out! Now!"

"Justin?" the woman turned a pitiful glance on him.

"Maybe it would be best," he agreed. "I'll see you on the ship."

Eliza picked up her communicator lying on the table beside Voyager and called for a beam out directly to her quarters.

Justin watched her go and then turned to Kathryn. "Are you happy now?" he demanded. "You've just humiliated me in front of a crew mate!"

"Well, maybe you should have thought of that before you brought your lovers home!" Kathryn spat back.

"I have a right to this house!" Justin's eyes shot fire from them.

"Not to bring your affairs home when we're married!"

"I'll do whatever I please, Kathryn Janeway, and don't you forget it!"

"I can see that now!" She shot back. "And here I thought you were trying to make this marriage work!"

"I stopped trying after the honeymoon," Justin took a step closer. "Face it, Kathryn, you've been living in a dream world for two and a half years. And now, your dream is over. I want a divorce."

"On what grounds?!"

"On the grounds that I don't love you!" he shouted. "You know this wont' work and still try to make it. No more, Kathryn. I'm tired of the games. We're over!"

Kathryn didn't move a muscle as he beamed back to his ship.

A divorce. The words didn't mean anything yet except that he was leaving her for a scrawny excuse of a woman.

Her father would be so disappointed. With a start, Kathryn realized that her father's disappointment would distress her more than Justin's leaving. Well, that's true love for you, she snorted before lying down on the couch.

~* =/\= *~

Dear Chakotay,
I've said it before in my letters and I'll say it again. I'm sorry for accusing you of attempting to ruin my relationship with Justin. Much as it has hurt me, you were right about him. I'm sure you'll hear about this through all the news mediums, but I wanted to confirm it. After knowing you as long as I have, and going through everything that we have together, it only seemed right. Yes, we are getting a divorce. I'm not saying I'll welcome a relationship with you, but I do hope you'll consider a friendship.
Admiral K. Janeway-Tighe
Stardate: 56493.25
Starfleet Headquarters: Terra Earth

"Computer, send message."

The doors to her office slid open with a gentle swish. Janeway looked up quickly; as she did, the smile slipped off her face.

"What are you doing here?"

Justin visibly flinched at her icy tone. "I came to apologize," he answered pulling a red rose from behind his back.

"There's nothing to apologize for," Kathryn glared at the rose. "You were right. I have been living in a fantasy world. The dream is over though. Now, please. Leave."

"Kathryn," Justin laid the rose on the her desk and took a seat. "I'm sorry for what I said last night. It was out of my anger at being caught." He shook his head and met her eyes. "I had a lot of time to think last night. I don't want to end our marriage and I can't tell you how sorry I am that I said I did. I want to start over. To make this work."

Kathryn gazed at the man before her. He had apologized. And even if he'd slipped once, shouldn't she forgive and see if they could put it behind them? Her father had always taught her that. Her father. If they announced a divorce, he'd be crushed. She could put up with trying to get Justin to work on tehir marrige, even if it meant suffering herself. She couldn't let her father find out. It would crush him.

"All right, Justin," she said. "Against my better judgment, I'll give it another try. On one condition."

"Which is?"

"We both work at it."

"This time we will," he promised. "Also," the teasing glint she had missed found its way back into this eyes. "Do you want to come to a convention with me on Denktar IV? I'll have to go to some meetings, but we could have a couple of days for ourselves."

Kathryn smiled. Things were defiantly looking up. A willing husband and some times in space before a vacation. "Sure."

~* =/\= *~

Kathryn felt a flutter of excitement in her stomach as she boarded the Integrity. It was a ship much smaller than Voyager, but none the less, it was a ship. Forcing the grin off her face, she rested her right hand on Justin's uniformed sleeve and briefly touched the five golden pips at her throat. If she wasn't careful, she was going to come off more excited than she had been on her first trip to Mars so many years ago. That would certainly be something for the gossip mills of the Federation ships- Admiral Janeway-Tighe bursts into giggles in the middle of a corridor. No, defiantly not what she wanted to color her career with.

Justin's fingers brushed over hers lightly as he cast a smile on her. "You look a mite bit excited." He whispered.

She cocked an eyebrow at him. "Oh?"

"Not really. I just felt like saying it."

She gave his arm a slight squeeze as they continued to their quarters for the short trip.

~* =/\= *~

"Kay, I don't need you. I don't need your friendship. I don't need your love. I don't care if you need me. Get out of my life." The dark haired man with a tattoo over his left eye turned his back on her. Kathryn felt a wave of loneliness wash over her.

"No Chakotay! Don't do this to me!" She shouted.

With a start, Kathryn's eyes popped open and she stared at the stars streaking past her window. Had it been a dream? An awful dream? She closed her eyes and burrowed deeper into her pillow. She had dreamed she'd gone back to the Alpha Quadrant and had married Justin and had fought with Chakotay. Opening her eyes again, she felt comfort at the stars streaking past. A sense of dread filled her stomach as she looked at the window. The walls seemed to be more of a cream color as opposed to the gray in her quarters. What was wrong? A movement in the bed next to her sent her flying out of it.


She nearly fainted as her memories rushed back at her full force. It hadn't been an awful nightmare. She was married to Justin, and Chakotay hated her.

"I'm fine." Cautiously, she climbed back into bed and slid below the covers.

"I know you are." His hot breath whispered teasingly against her ear. Drawing her into his embrace, Justin settled her head against his shoulder and drifted back off to sleep.

But, Kathryn couldn't sleep. She felt guilty lying in Justin's arms while her thoughts were straying towards Chakotay, but she couldn't help the trail of her thoughts. Where was he? Was he safe? Was he in the middle of another war? Had he fallen in love again? Married even? What about children? He had seemed the type of man who'd want them, did he finally have them? A soft sob rose in Kathryn's throat. Twisting around, she freed herself of her husband's grasp and rolled over to her side of the bed. Burying her face in her pillow, she softly allowed the tears to flow for her friends who had become her family. Where were they all now? Had everyone gone on with their lives, or were they finding it as difficult as she was?

She didn't know when she'd drifted off to sleep, but the next thing Kathryn knew, Justin was gently shaking her.

"Wake up, sleepy head." He teased.

"No. It' too early." She protested into her pillow.

"And to think you were up at 0600 every morning for over eight years!" Justin laughed pulling her pillow from beneath her head.

Janeway groaned as her head thumped on the bed, then, knowing what was next, she pulled the blankets tightly around her.

But, not tight enough, she found out as Justin unmercifully ripped them off the bed to leave her body assaulted by the freezing air.

"Ohh!" she curled into a fetal position on the bed and whimpered at him. "You're an awful man, Captain."

"Why, thank you, Admiral." He bent down and bestowed a kiss on her forehead. "I'll meet you in the mess hall in twenty minutes. Be there or you can clean the warp coils."

She knew she should send back a retort, but couldn't summon up the strength. Too tired....too tired............

"Janeway, come in please. Janeway? Admiral?"

Kathryn fought through the fog in her head and wondered why someone was calling her using that old jargon. "Janeway here." She answered slapping the comm badge on her night table.

"Get out of bed, Kathryn."

Of course, so she wouldn't know instantly that it was Justin. "Take a long walk off a short pier, Captain." Closing the comm link, she rolled over and pulled herself from the bed. It wasn't as comfortable as it had been a few hours earlier.

After a quick shower and pulling on her uniform, Kathryn sat down at the computer console. There was still one last piece of unfinished business she had to do. Calling up a new form for a letter, she prepared to inform Captain Chakotay of her latest bit of news-- Justin and her were going to work things out.

~* =/\= *~

Alien sunlight streamed through their bedroom windows and played out an intricate design on the thickly carpeted floor. A light breeze ruffled Kathryn's hair as she opened the window to admit the fresh morning air of the planet into their room. Despite the beauty surrounding her, Kathryn was frowning.

"You have a meeting today?"

"Yep." Justin pretended not ght otice the disappointed look crossing the visage of his wife. "I'll be in conferences until about three o'clock."

"This is the fourth day in a row." Kathryn complained at him and briefly wondered why she was not required to attend them. 'Captain's only.' Justin had told her when she'd asked. 'Stuff about flying a ship and that aspect of diplomatics.' She'd probably already attended them and would be bored. In all honesty, Janeway was getting sick of lying around the pool and working on her tan. There were only so many gothic novels she could stand to read over and over again and she was already burnt by the sun.

"I know. But, I'll see you later, hon." Justin dropped a kiss on her cheek and headed for the door.


He turned.

"What about meeting you on those bluffs overlooking the ocean at three thirty?" Janeway offered. "I'll bring us a late lunch and we can eat it up there."

"Perfect." He smiled back at her and left.

Janeway dropped down on a chair with a sigh. What was she to do until then? Pressing hesitantly on her red skin, she decided that another day at the pool was out. And, that included using any of the out door tennis courts also.

Suddenly, she knew exactly what she wanted to do. She hadn't done any hiking since New Earth, and she found herself desperately missing being outside. After all, hiking in a holodeck and on an alien planet were two very different things. And, this way she could be outside hiking in the forests while avoiding the direct sunlight. Why, she could even explore the bluffs before Justin reached them.

Sliding into her bathing suit and then an outfit suitable for hiking, she grabbed a small pack and filled it with a few provisions. Slowing her stride down to a brisk walk, she headed for the door and left the large Starfleet accommodations building.

The temperature seemed to drop almost instantly as she stepped into the woods. A few birds chirped in the trees at her as she followed a winding path throipt>the dense vegetation. The vines were weighed down with blossoms of purple and white. A sweet, unrecognizable scent hung in the air from the flowers. Avoiding a large stone in the path, Janeway continued to walk for a few hours. The path went from straight and level terrain to a nearly upright climb. Pushing both arms through the straps of the pack, she dropped to her knees to make the mount easier.

There! She could see the sky breaking through the trees. She must be nearly to the top of the cliffs over looking the ocean now. If it wasn't too far, she'd like to dive into the water. Not knowing the terrain caused her to use extreme caution though. With a least breathless huff, Janeway pulled herself over the edge of the bluff and found herself starring at the most shocking site she could imagine.

She had expected to find a clearing, about four meters by seven meters. A few bushes scattered around. Soft green grass and sand making up the floor of the bluff. All of that was there. But, in the middle, she found Justin and a blond haired woman curled up together.

"Justin!!" Her voice cracked through the stillness with a shout of anger.

His head snapped up quickly. "Kathryn!?" He stared at her in shock and then pulled back from the blond and advanced towards his wife. "What are you doing here?" He demanded, his Starfleet jacket flapping in the wind that had sprung up.

"What am I doing here?!" She took a step back as though she'd been slapped. "I should be asking you the same question!"

"What does it look like?" The wind ruffled his dark curls that Kathryn had once found so endearing.

"It looks like you've found someone else." Kathryn spat at him, her eyes flashing an angry cobalt color.

"Very good, Kathryn." He turned away for a moment. Both were silent. What was there left to be said? "I can't do this anymore. I can't keep trying to pretend to love you when I don't."

Janeway felt her stomach sink. This was it then. The divorce would continue. "Tell me this, Justin. Why? Why would you keep pretending?"

"Why!?" he glared at her beneath ice blue eyes. "Because. I owed it to your father. While we were in that prison, he kept talking about you and me and how much he wanted us to be together. I didn't have the heart to tell him that I'd fallen out of love with you. When we came back, I was relieved that you'd been lost." He laughed coldly at her. "Imagine that, Kath, I was happy you were gone. Yet, I was forcing myself to act sad."

She finally met his eyes. The look her crew had nicknamed "Ice Queen Janeway" was written across her face. "Fine. You married me because of my father. Good. Now, get out of my life."

"No, wait." Justin felt a shiver run through him at her glare despite the warm sun overhead. "You want to know the rest of it?" He took a step back and offered a hand to the woman still kneeling on the ground. "I've been involved with other women ever since we got to that prison. Your father was just too blind to see it. And then, when we got home, it was even easier to hide with my being in space so much."

"Don't ever say that again." Janeway was doing her best to keep her temper under control, but failing miserably. "My father means the world to me, don't ever say that he's easily duped or gullible."

"Ok, I won't. But, he is." Justin grinned easily. "So are you. Though, marrying you wasn't the worst that could happen. After all, it did look good for me to be married to an admiral."

Smack!! Janeway's hand connected soundly with the side of Justin's face.

"What'd you do that for!?" He roared.

"I think you know." She answered in a low voice. "And if you don't, you can ask my father."

"You'll pay for that, woman!" He snapped at her. "Somehow or another, you'll pay."

"I don't care." She angrily brushed a strand of brownish-red hair from her face where it kept playing in her eyes. "There's nothing you can do to me now. Take my house, whatever you want, it doesn't matter to me. Nothing in this quadrant means anything to me!"

"That's it." A light suddenly went on in Justin's eyes. "That man who was there when your father and I first met you. You're in love with the big oaf."

"Chakotay is more of a gentleman than you'll ever be." Janeway took a menacing step towards him as he took a step back, dangerously close to the edge of the bluff and the crashing waves beneath. Suddenly, raw fear surged through her body. "Justin, be careful. Don't take a step back."

"Why should I listen to you?! You certainly don't care what happens to me!" Justin threw his hands up with a laugh and took a step back.

Janeway and the blond woman watched in horror as Justin's foot missed the edge and he plummeted over the side of the cliff. It seemed to go on in slow motion. Both rushed to the edge and Kathryn knelt down so she too wouldn't fall over. Justin was tumbling and turning head over heels as he fell to the crashing waves below. She turned away just as his limp body hit the rocks, but could still hear the sickening thud indicating that there was no chance of his survival.

Kathryn backed away in shock as she and the woman stared at one another.

"I can't believe he did that." The woman whispered, tucking a strand of pale blond hair behind her ear and holding back a choked sob.

"I can't either." Janeway felt her heart sink at the unnecessary death-- even if he had been planning on divorcing her, she still didn't wish his death.

~* =/\= *~

Kathryn laid the tiny rose bud on the ground before the stone and then placed both hands on her knees. "Hello, Justin. It's only been a year, but I felt that I should come back today." She hesitated, feeling funny talking to a grave stone, then continued. "I've gone on, as you obviously wanted me to. Starfleet looked on your death as accidental since both Laurel and I made the same statements and stuck by the same claims. I'm sure that wherever you are, you're as stubborn and ruthless as you were the day you died."

Kathryn looked down at her hands and felt silly. She was talking to the grave of her late husband, but he'd declared he'd wanted a divorce only minutes before he'd died. "This is silly of me." She finally said. "I don't know why I'm here except that I felt it was my responsibility to come. After all, the divorce was never final and to everyone's knowledge, we got along just fine. Everyone except your lovers, of course."

The bitterness she thought she'd left behind began to creep into her voice. "Why'd you have to do that, Justin? If you hadn't, you may still be alive today and we could have had a nice life."

She leaned back on her heels and allowed the memories of the funeral to wash over her. Everyone had been so sympathetic. It'd been a marked occasion within the upper Starfleet circles. After all, he was an admiral's husband-- even if he was just a captain. A few of her old friends had been there- Tuvok, Neelix, Tom and B'Elanna. The majority were too far away to be called on at such short notice. And the main person she wanted there, Chakotay, had been on a deep space mission for the past two years. He'd never read her letters, that she knew of. She had checked daily after they'd fought, then weekly, then a few times a month. Now, it'd been over two months since she'd looked to see if he'd written or even looked at it. He hadn't.

A bit of loneliness edged into her heart as she brushed a blade of grass from the smooth headstone. Justin had been buried on Earth, at Admiral Edward Janeway's wish. This way, his daughter could at least keep up the appearance of being a mourning widow. Starfleet was so much about appearances, she'd found out. Never being one to pretend, Kathryn had found herself thrust into the role of an actress-- and unwilling actress.

A twig snapped behind her. She felt the wind rustle her hair as it carried the slight scent of spice and pine on it. She breathed in deeply, awed. She had thought that smell was lost to her forever. Another twig snapped. She knew who was behind her even though he was supposed to be light years away.

"You never did make a good Indian scout." She finally whispered. "You couldn't even start a campfire."

Silence. Slowly, she turned around and found his gaze on her. The hair was still as black as ever, yet gray was beginning to show at his temples. His large hands were hidden where he'd clasped them behind his back. His uniform, crisp and neat, sported four shiny gold pips at the collar-- all of them Starfleet. Brown eyes held hers easily as her own blue eyes flitted up to take in the tattoo over his left eye.

"You didn't come back." She whispered turning back- hurt, confused.

"I just found out." Chakotay answered softly as he came forward. "I'm sorry, Kathryn."

She shrugged as though it didn't matter. "I don't know how long you were standing there, you probably know all of it."

He lowered his eyes. "I do. Because you sent those letters."

"You finally read them?"

A smile played on his lips. "Finally. A....friend.....from a long time ago showed up. She tried to convince me to read them just after I left you again. But, I wouldn't listen. Before she left my ship, she nearly threatened to hunt me down if I didin't read your letters. I would choose to do it while I'm trapped on a deep space mission though. I couldn't get back for over a month. We only docked an hour ago."

She stood up to her full height- and found herself staring at his chin. "I've missed you." She said simply, pulling her eyes up to meet his.

Chakotay took the invitation, though Janeway wasn't sure she had issued it, and enveloped her in a hug. "I've missed you too." He whispered into her hair.

~* =/\= *~

"You did what?!" Kathryn grabbed the arms of her chair in an effort to stay put. She succeeded, but tears were streaming down her cheeks as she laughed out loud.

"I told him quite simply he'd taken his classes in the wrong quadrant, and to kindly step aside." Chakotay rolled his eyes at his former captain. "I don't get these admiral types. They know everything and think they have rank over me on my ship!"

Kathryn gulped in a large breath. Thinking she was calming down, she took one look at Chakotay and burst out laughing again. The very image of Owen Paris facing a dozen hostile alien ships while on the bridge of an experienced explorer brought laughter bubbling through her very being.

Chakotay smiled softly at her. "I love to hear you laugh." He finally said.

Her eyes flew to meet his. Guarded. Yet, curious. Chakotay finally looked away. "Well, Admiral, I think I'd better get going. I have a mission that begins tomorrow and I've got to get at least one good night's sleep."

Janeway's startled eyes found the chronometer on her desk. 0130. "Oh my!" She jumped up. "I need to get out of here too. I've got to be back at 0700 in order to get some reports read." She poked him playfully in the ribs. "See what happens when you distract admirals?"

"Same thing that happens when I distracted the captain, if memory serves me right." Chakotay laughed at her. "We did spend some long nights up talking. It's a wonder we made it back on our feet instead of asleep in our chairs."

"It's a wonder we made it back at all!"

"No. We had a great team." We were a great team. The words were unsaid, but both felt them.

Kathryn smiled at him warmly. "Well now, Captain. It would seem that you should have about three padds on your desk-- and another dozen on the floor. A couple messages from HQ on your console and maybe one or two diagnostic readings also. Of course, Starfleet will expect all of your work done before you leave. You've got a long time before you get a good night's sleep."

"Aye, aye, Admiral." He bent and kissed her cheek briefly before turning to leave her office. At the door, he suddenly sp. Kathryn's voice echoed throughout the fourth floor of HQ as the laughter of her former XO resounded. "SCOUNDREL!"

~* =/\= *~

"Admiral? Admiral?" The gentle hand shaking her shoulder forced Kathryn to wake up.

"Wha'?" she blinked rapidly, her voice slurred with sleep.

"You fell asleep."

"I what?" Kathryn sat up straight and stared at her only friend of the past few years-- her secretary. "I'm sorry, is there someone who needs to see me?"

"No." Natalia pulled up a chair and sat before her 'boss.' "Kathryn, if I may say so, you look awful."

Kathryn allowed a rueful smile to cross her features. "Thanks."

"I'm serious." Natalia leaned forward and peered at her friend. "I've known you for only three years, but you've never lost this much weight, been this pale, or this sullen. What happened? It's not Justin's death, I know, because you were fine after that. No, it was about a year after all that occurred."

Kathryn shook her head and glanced to the pictures on her desk. She had left one picture of Justin there, because it was expected, but the other half dozen were pictures of her friends from Voyager. Almost everyone featured herself and Chakotay.

"Is it him?" Natalia turned the picture of Kathryn and Chakotay on New Earth over in her hands. "Quite a handsome man, really. What's his name?"

"Chakotay. My first officer."

A small smile played over Natilia's lips. "You fell in love with him, didn't you?"

Kathryn looked out of the window for a moment. When she turned back, Natalia was smiling widely at her.

"Your silence is enough. Why don't you go to him? Or write him?"

"I never knew I was in love with him." Kathryn admitted softly. "And now, he's half way to the other side of the galaxy. Month long mission."

"Fine. When he comes back, you marry him."

Kathryn's head snapped up. "I can't just marry him like that, Natalia. We served as captain and first officer together. Captains do not fall in love with senior officers. Much less first officers!"

"Like Captain Picard and Dr. Crusher?"

Janeway's head fell to the desk. "Yes, like them." She moaned.

"Think about it. Then, follow your heart." Natalia stood up. "On the other hand, what have you got to lose? Your career? Even if you did, I have a feeling that this career of yours is simply an act. You hate it."

The doors swished shut behind Natalia as she left for her own desk and work. "Yes, I do hate it." Kathryn whispered, an idea forming in her mind.

~* =/\= *~

Those four weeks felt like some of the longest in Kathryn's life. She went to HQ every morning at promptly 0730 and sat at her desk until her work was completed. Finding a way to avoid coming home before 2300 seemed to take priority over everything in her life. Kathryn managed to submerge herself so deeply in her work that her family was quietly edged out of the picture.

Other admirals and vice-admirals raved about Janeway-Tighe's ambition. Captains complimented her politely at her ability to get anything and everything done. Her father was proud that she was honoring the Janeway Starfleet tradition. And Natalia did her best to encourage her to eat and come out of her office once in a while.

This particular evening was a Sunday. She didn't have any work to be caught up on, and, dreading the silence of her home, she had wandered to the park. Now, Kathryn sat on a bench off to the side as she watched people stroll by. Mostly couples, she noted with a sadness. Laughing couples. Old couples walking slowly with the aid of their canes or each other's arms. Young married couples with a baby in their arms or tiny tots scampering around their ankles. Teenage couples with arms wrapped around the other as they stared dreamily into each other's eyes. Janeway felt her heart cg burict in an ache she didn't' realize was still there after so many years. She needed someone to love her and someone to love.

"Kathryn?! Kathryn Janeway!?" a man's call brought her out of her dream state and back to the 24th century.

"Can I help you?" She asked, confused as to who the man was. He looked familiar, dark black hair and blue eyes the color of the sky, but she couldn't place him.

"It's me. Cheb Packer."

Her gaze turned slightly icy at the mention of her old boyfriend. They had not parted on the best of terms and Janeway was not prepared to allow him back in her life as anything. Not even a friend. "Can I help you?"

"Kathryn," Cheb sat down beside her. "It's me. You know me." He looked down at his hands. "Look, I'm sorry for everything that happened between us before." He looked up at her and met those beautiful blue eyes he'd fallen in love with thirty years ago. "I just wanted you to know."

Kathryn's gaze softened. "Thanks, Cheb." She didn't offer any excuse or apology-- she had not been in the wrong.

"I heard about your little adventure."

"My little....? Well, I suppose you would call it that."

"What do you call it?"

"The best years of my life." The words were blurted out before she could take them back.


The sat in silence for a while, each content with his or her own thoughts and slightly uncomfortable in the other's presence.

"I need to be going," Kathryn stood quickly. "Nice seeing you again, Cheb. Bye." Not giving him a chance to speak, she quickly left him.

~* =/\= *~

"You need a break!"

"I've got to finish this."

Natalia tried to pull the console away. "Kathryn, you've been working on that for the past six hours. Starfleet will allow you to take a break and eat something."



"You heard the woman." A deep baritone voice interrupted Natalia from the door. "And I'll be the first one to concur that you can't force Captain Janeway to do anything against her will."

Kathryn gasped as her head snapped up. Chakotay leaned against the door frame, arms folded across his chest.

"Chakotay!" With a small cry she jumped out of the chair and came to stand before him. "How have you been? How as the trip?" She asked softly without stepping into his arms.

"I'm tired and lonely and the trip was productive." He closed the distance between them and enveloped her in his arms. "I missed you too." He admitted softly. She was so thin, was his first thought as he held her close to himself. Gaunt was a better description.

"I missed your company too." She smiled against his shoulder.

Chakotay simply laughed softly at her and tangled his fingers in her hair. "How have you been?"

"She's working herself to death!" Natalia burst in. "It's a good thing you got here or else I was going to have to call you myself. Maybe you can force this woman to eat something and take proper care of herself."

Chakotay snorted in laughter. "I doubt it. I tried for eight years."

With some regret, Kathryn pulled herself from Chakotay's arms and nodded toward the door for Natalia.

"Take care of her." Natalia whispered to Chakotay as she left the room.

Kathryn took a seat in front of her desk and motioned for Chakotay to do the same. "Tell me all about your trip."

"I have a better idea. Tell me why you've been overworking yourself." Chakotay stretched his long body over the chair and yawned. "Excuse me, I've been up for three days straight trying to get back."

"Three days?" Janeway touched his arm in concern. "You need to get some sleep, Chakotay. We can have this conversation anytime."

"Kay, what was the longest you went without any sleep?" When she refused to meet his eyes he nodded. "Exactly. Let me have my say here. Do you have any coffee?"

"Coffee?" Janeway's brow furrowed at the sudden shift in conversation.

"Yeah, coffee. You know, that tiny little bean yonsoe responsible for hooking me on."

Kathryn laughed as she dialed up two coffees in the replicator. "Here you go. Nice and hot, with two sugars."

"Thanks." Chakotay took a long sip and closed his eyes to savor the taste.

"Your say?"


"You were saying that you wanted to have your say."

"Yeah." Chakotay fumbled with the coffee mug. He'd prepared for this, but wasn't sure he wanted to broach the subject with her. Not now. Not in this condition. Both of them were over worked, under nourished, over tired, and under pressure. Well, no time like the present.

"While I was out there, I was reminded of just how lonely it was for you to be at the top." Chakotay began. "I remember how you had no one of equal rank to talk to or rely on. I've found myself experiencing that too." He rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "I know my proposal goes against everything Starfleet stands for, but please hear me out. I wanted to ask you if you'd take a demotion to 'captain' and serve as another captain on my ship." At Janeway's raised eyebrows he hurried on, "Kay, we work best as a team. If nothing else, we've see what being apart does to us. Look at us now." He gave a short laugh. "Now that I've seen you and know you're safe, I could sleep for a week."

"Don't tempt me." Janeway took another sip of her own coffee. "I have a good mind to activate the doctor and a hypospray and have him give you a good sedative."

Chakotay laughed at her. At least she wasn't turning his idea down completely...yet. "As far as I can see," he continued. "The positives outweigh the negatives in the case of having two captains on board one ship."

Janeway didn't say anything for a long moment. Unclasping her hands from around her silver mug, she rubbed one over the smooth metal of her standard Starfleet chair. "I agree." She finally said.

Chakotay's head snapped up in surprise. "You do?"

"Yes," she paused for a moment. "In our case. I don't think it would be wise to put two captains together who have never served with one another."

"True. True."

"Of course," her eyes twinkled as she moved to sit behind her desk. "This could all be a devious plot to win me over to your side."

"Could be." Chakotay's dimples began to show as he tried his best to hide a smile. "Or, I could just be lonely for the best friend I've ever had."

Janeway was silent for a moment as her long fingers danced lightly over her console. "I know just the ship too." Swinging the console around to face Chakotay, he was supplied with an image of a star ship.

Confusion settled in his eyes for a moment, then understanding dawned on him. "Perfect." Standing, he backed towards the door. "I'll get some final papers ready for myself and some other crew members. You take care of the reports and data files up here."

"Agreed." Janeway turned her console back to her and began entering information into a new file.

"Hey, Kay?"

She looked up to where Chakotay had paused in the door.

"For old time's sake, want to elope with a Maquis officer? There's still plenty of time before our ship leaves."

Kathryn took a long sip of coffee as Chakotay bestowed his dimples on her and started to turn around. "Yes."

Chakotay froze in the door way. "What did you say?"

"I said 'yes.' Provided you'll still have me, I'll marry you."

Chakotay turned around and forced his mouth to close. "Provided I'll still.....? Kathryn? Of course I do!"

Janeway stood from her seat at the desk and quickly went to stand before him. "One condition."

Chakotay stepped forward and wrapped his arms tightly around her, refusing to believe this was a dream.

"We do elope. I don't want a fancy wedding with all of the Starfleet glitter. I'm sick of it. And, if we're about to become outlaws, I'd rather not have all the fancy people at our wedding."

"Wish granted." Chakotay whispered brushing his lips over hers.


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