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Disclaimer: I've taken Paramount's kids for an outing...we'll be back soon.

Summary: Set immediately after the events of ENDGAME. Voyager has just returned to Earth...what will happen during Kathryn and Chakotay's last moment on board?

Rating: PG

 

Last Moment

There was a gentle bump as Voyager touched down, her feet planted safely on Earth. Her engines began to power down, and Kathryn fought to hold her composure, knowing that each crewmember was as overjoyed as she. Finally, she tapped her console, preparing to send out a ship-wide hail. Clearing her throat, she spoke the words she'd longed to say for seven years.

"Attention all hands: We're home!"

A large grin crept across her face as she heard the cheers emanating up from the lower decks, infecting the scant number of crewmen on the Bridge. Harry's laughter, mingled with his tears, caught her attention, and she stepped up to ops to offer him a heartfelt embrace.

Making her way around the Bridge, Kathryn went to each one, offering her congratulations, accepting their thanks, sharing some tears. One by one, they left in high spirits to greet long lost friends and family, and soon the Bridge began to quieten down. It was better this way, she realized, when she looked to see the few people staying behind with her.

Tuvok remained stoically at his position, watching his Captain carefully. Seven's feet were firmly planted at the console behind the Captain's chair. Kathryn could sense her apprehension upon leaving the ship. She offered a few words of encouragement, reassuring her that although this would be a unique experience for her, it would be one that she should never forget. It took a great amount of strength on Kathryn's part to control her emotions, knowing that this young woman would also be leaving today with the one person whom she had relied on most heavily for the past seven years. The man who was waiting for her next to the helm. Voyager's handsome tattooed First Officer.

Finally, Kathryn's eyes met Chakotay's, and in that moment, nothing else mattered to her. She cautiously approached him, wondering what was going through his mind. Well aware of the thoughts racing through hers...and still worried if what she was about to do was appropriate.

It was only a few steps before she fell into his embrace. Chakotay held her close in a soulful hug, their bodies close, heartbeats pounding together. Unspoken words of gratitude and joy passed between them in those precious moments. Kathryn could feel the jealous stare of the ex-Borg behind her, but she didn't care. This was a rare opportunity for her...and unfortunately, it was probably the only one she would ever have. Tears welled up in her eyes as she thought regretfully of what she was really losing this day.

Homecomings of this magnitude were meant to be happy occasions, but instead, this was the day on which Kathryn would lose the finest Starfleet Officer she'd ever served with, her closest and most trusted friend...and her soulmate. The truth of the situation finally sunk in, and she began to hug him more tightly, never wanting to let him go. Another thought began to tickle her mind. This was a new future now...one that was unknown even to her venerable counterpart. Unknown...as she knew the future should always be.

Feeling him start to pull away, Kathryn took the chance to do what she should have done years ago. Whispering into his ear, she spoke words that only Chakotay was meant to hear.

"I love you."

Chakotay stopped, glancing down at her in amazement. Their faces were whispers apart, and it would only have taken a small move forward for their lips to meet and bring them together for a kiss that longed to be taken. Kathryn held her breath momentarily, awaiting his reaction.

Maybe he would say that he loved her too. Maybe he would tell her that he'd been longing to hear her say those words. Maybe he would kiss her until she could no longer stand on her own two feet. Maybe...she was just being delusional, as she felt him step further away. He grasped her hands briefly, offering her only a soft, yet shy smile. Then he nodded and turned around, leaving her and walking towards his new love interest. Kathryn could feel her heart shattering as they left the Bridge together, his hand resting gently on the small of Seven's back. The excitement that was building deep inside turned to extreme disappointment.

It truly *had* been too late.

Kathryn stood in stunned silence, attempting to make some sense of everything. She knew that she really should be happy for him. Chakotay had finally found someone to love. Someone to take care of. Someone to share a life with. Tears of regret began to trickle down her face.

How she longed to be that someone.

"Captain, is everything alright?"

Kathryn was shaken from her distress. Tuvok was still there. She felt ashamed that she had forgotten about him, one of her closest friends. Quickly, she swiped away the tears, making her way over to the Vulcan security chief.

"My apologies, Tuvok...I think that it's finally hitting me. We've made it. This really is Earth that we've landed on. It's so...so..."

The mix of emotions coursing through her body was more than she could bear, and she broke down, her sobs growing stronger as she felt Tuvok uncharacteristically placing a comforting arm around her shoulders. Kathryn knew that through his logical and emotionless facade, Tuvok wanted...and needed...to see his family. She desperately wanted to be reunited with hers. And yet, they stood there together, an old friend providing comfort when it was most needed.

She collected herself, reaching down to grasp his hands.

"Tuvok, thanks for putting up with me all these years. I know it must have been difficult."

"On the contrary, Captain, I would not have had it any other way. In having to 'put up' with you, we have shared a fascinating adventure. The crew has learned a great deal, not only about life in the Delta Quadrant, but about ourselves and our capabilities. Voyager's first mission...has truly been a success."

Kathryn smiled up at him. "Yes, you're right about that." She shook his hand gratefully. "Go and contact your family. I'll be along in a few minutes."

Tuvok turned to leave, and Kathryn settled down into her Captain's chair for the last time. When the turbolift doors closed, her tears manifested once again as she faced the darkened Bridge alone. Alone...as she knew now she was destined to be.

"Kathryn?"

She turned quickly, unaware that anyone else was in the room with her.

"Chakotay! I thought..." she stammered, brushing away the senseless tears.

He interrupted. "Kathryn, we need to talk."

Kathryn sighed heavily. "I...want to apologize for what I said. It was out of line and I never should have brought it up."

Chakotay merely stared at her. "I have finally found happiness, Kathryn. I am happier now than I have ever been in my entire life. And I owe it all to one woman."

She choked back another sob. "And I'm happy for you. I truly mean that."

He smiled. "I know. I...just wanted to tell you that." He started to leave, then faced her once again. "And I thought I should tell you that...we're getting married. Today. To celebrate our love with the entire crew and their families."

A ton of bricks crashed down on Kathryn's heart. How could he possibly do this to her now? With great difficulty and a slight tremble in her voice, she forced herself to speak. "That's...wonderful, Chakotay. Congratulations."

He nodded again, then stepped onto the turbolift. Kathryn watched him, wishing for this day to end...and desperately wishing for the doors to close so she could drown herself in misery. But the doors remained open, and Chakotay never took his eyes away from her.

After staring silently at her for a few moments, he finally asked, "Aren't you coming?"

Her day was going from bad to worse. "Chakotay, I *really* don't think..."

"Kathryn," he interrupted once again. "I *can't* get married without you." Chakotay reached out his hand to her.

She gazed at him with mild curiosity. Taking a deep breath, she left the Bridge and stepped into the lift, mystified by his persistence...and wondering as to how she would ever get through the rest of this day.





25 years later...

Streamers and balloons surrounded the room, which was filled with slightly aged, but nevertheless joyous Starfleet officers. Tom and B'Elanna Paris meandered through the crowd, seeking out some old familiar faces.

"Doc!" Tom yelped, spotting Voyager's former EMH across the room.

"Mr. Paris! How are you?"

"Couldn't be better. Could use a little more hair...but then, I think you can sympathize," he joked, ribbing the Doctor in his side.

"Ahh...nice to see that some things never change. How *do* you manage to live with him?" he questioned, shaking his head.

B'Elanna grinned. "It's been tough, but some days, you can't help but feel sorry for him. Honestly, he would never be able to survive by himself!"

The three broke into laughter. Amidst their humor, a beautiful woman with golden hair approached the trio.

"Do you mind if I join you?"

"Seven! Of course not," Tom responded, extending his hand to her. "It's great to see you here."

"Please, call me Annika."

The Doctor smiled, reflecting on days gone by. "I'd always hoped you would use your given name. It's quite lovely."

"It was actually my husband's idea. He said it would help me to *blend in* better with society...and it also helps me to forget about my experiences with the Borg."

"Speaking of him, where *is* your husband?" Tom asked, scanning the room.

Annika motioned behind him. "He is there, speaking with your daughter."

The Doctor raised his eyebrows in shock. "Is that Miral?!? Why the last time I saw her...she was just a child! That couldn't have been more than 5 years ago!"

B'Elanna sighed. "Yes, they grow up entirely too fast."

Catching his eyes for just a moment, Annika raised her champagne glass to the tattooed man across the room. Chakotay smiled, raising his glass as well, before delving back into the conversation with the young lieutenant.

"When do you go back out, Miral?" he asked, still amazed at how much the young woman favored her mother.

"The Atrius leaves space dock next week. Plenty of time for me to go hiking in the mountains before we depart."

"Oh, the mountains are great this time of year. My father and I used to go there quite often when I was a child," Harry Kim reminisced, his four captain's pips shining brilliantly. "It was one of those trips that led me to Starfleet..."

Their conversation was interrupted by the clinking sound of metal against glass. All eyes turned towards the silvery-haired Commander at the front of the room. Reg Barclay smiled as the noise level grew low.

"Good evening everyone! It's wonderful to see so many happy and familiar faces. We are here to celebrate a monumental event. Voyager's triumphant return to the Alpha Quadrant 25 years ago today!"

Cheers went up around the room. Chakotay excused himself from his company and soon was standing next to his wife. She smiled up at him, linking her arm through his as Reg continued.

"Yes, today is a silver anniversary for the crew of Voyager...and looking around the room, it looks like we're *all* a little silver."

The Doctor nudged Tom as laughter filled the air, whispering, "Did you help him write his jokes?"

Tom shushed him, still smirking.

"As we celebrate Voyager's return, we are also celebrating another very special anniversary. For on this very date exactly 25 years ago, two lives were joined together, continuing their adventures in love. So now, we toast the happy couple. May you have 25 more years of wedded bliss!"

"Here, here," they all shouted, focusing their attention on the blushing couple.

Chakotay clinked his glass with hers, grinning helplessly. "Happy Anniversary, my love."

Kathryn returned his grin, her eyes shining brightly. "Happy Anniversary, Chakotay, my angry warrior."

The End

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