Disclaimer: Paramount owns Voyager. I own my imagination.
Back story: It was a routine away mission. Captain Kathryn Janeway had pulled rank to join the team. She didn't return. Commanders Chakotay and Tuvok spent a month investigating her disappearance. No sign was ever found. No uniform, comm badge, rank pips, remains. After a month, the decision was made to continue the mission, without Kathryn Janeway.
A memorial service was held. Any member of the crew could tell you that the most moving eulogies came from B'Elanna Torres and Commander Chakotay.
When it was over, he went to her empty quarters for a private goodbye. After he left, the only two people who would have access to these quarters would be himself and Tuvok. One last look at her bedroom and he left. Beside the sword she kept on her bureau, now lay a rank pin.
He didn't look back.
Time: Four months later.
Captains Personal Log, Stardate: 53134.6:
It's been four months to the day that Kathryn disappeared into thin air. Try as I might, I can not believe that she is dead and gone. There has been no sense of closure with her vanishing.
The crew has responded well. As well as can be expected. I'm not used to this position. I only wish I could give it back to it's rightful owner.
Captain Chakotay fidgeted with the four round pips on the collar of his turtleneck. He sat in his usual spot. The chair to the left of the command chair. He couldn't bring himself to sit in her chair.
Chakotay glanced to his right and he could almost see her; sitting there with her legs crossed, hands loosely laying on the armrests of her chair, head tilted back, contemplating something quietly. He envisioned her turning her head to look at him, smiling her crooked smile and closing her eyes in tired response.
"Captain, I'm detecting a ship, closing on our position," Harry Kim reported from his station at Ops.
"On screen," Chakotay said and stood. Again, he could see Kathryn, standing just in front of him, hands on her hips, waiting to see who would be on the other side of the communications.
"They're hailing us," Tuvok said.
"All right," Chakotay said. The screen came alive with a humanoid looking man. He looked to be about fifty-five years old with a red beard.
"I'm Captain Chakotay of the Federation Starship Voyager," Chakotay said by way of a greeting.
"First officer Lar'mela. Of the Crusier Wajneya. We have heard of your journey," Lar'mela said matter-of-factly.
Not another one Chakotay thought to himself. Chakotay cleared his throat. "Well, Lar'mela. Let me assure you that our reputation is not what most say. Our voyage is one of peace and exploration. We're just trying to get home," Almost Kathryn's exact words.
"We know. We learned of your journey from a most reliable source." Lar'mela looked over to his right. "Captain, I'd like to present our commanding officer." The sound on the bridge was dead silent as a familiar figure stepped into the frame. "Captain Chakotay, may I present Captain Ryn."
"Kathryn?" Chakotay said.
"Hello, 'Captain'," she smiled. She looked good. In a black form fitting coverall, hair pulled back and fastened with some sort of elaborate clip.
"If you would be so kind to allow me to beam over to the ship, I'll tell you the whole story." She smiled. Lar'mela looked pleased with himself.
"Of course. Harry, inform the transporter room that we will be beaming the captain aboard." Kathryn stepped back and the screen went dark.
"I'll be in the transporter room."
Kathryn said good-bye to her crew. They were some of the finest men she'd ever had the pleasure of working with.
She came up to Lar'mela. Standing on tiptoe, she kissed his cheek lightly. "I think I'll miss you the most."
"Thank you, Ryn. You've helped us in ways we can never thank you for." The old man had tears in his eyes.
"I should be the one doing the thanking. You saved my life and my memories," Kathryn said, taking his callused hands within her own. She gave them a confident squeeze.
"You go back to your home, Ryn. Remember what I told you."
"People may come and go, but friendship and love are forever," Kathryn recited. "I'll always love you, Lar'mela."
"And I you, my child." He hugged her closely and released her. "Now go back to the one you call t'hy'la. The one that makes you smile when you dream of him at night and speak of fondly by day."
Kathryn stepped onto the platform and awaited the familiar tingle of the transporter.
"Good bye, Father," she said as the beam engulfed her.
Chakotay stepped into the room as Kathryn materialized on the platform. She couldn't wipe the smile from her face as she stepped down.
"Welcome back, Captain," Chakotay said. She looked up at him, then noticed the pips in his collar.
"They are becoming, Chakotay," she said, raising her fingers to smooth metal. Her fingers didn't stop there. They continued up his neck, up his cheek, into his hair. "You've gotten gray."
"It comes with the territory," Chakotay said, watching the expressions on her face. "What happened?"
"Let me go to sickbay then meet me in my quarters in a couple of hours." She removed her hand from him. "I still have quarters, don't I?"
"Just as you left them, Kathryn."
They walked in companionable silence, parting when they got to the junction that would take her to sickbay and him to the deck her quarters were on.
She sat on her couch. The doctor's examination hadn't taken long. In her hand Kathryn held something small. Something she almost missed in the inspection of her quarters.
"Come in, Chakotay." She'd hailed him before she left sickbay and told him to meet her a little sooner.
"Kathryn," he said, stepping in enough to let the doors close behind him.
"Please, sit down." She scooted over to allow him room.
"What happened to you? We searched and searched for you," Chakotay said.
"I don't remember exactly what happened. I was on the ridge overlooking that valley when the ground gave way. I slid, well, more like tumbled head over heels down that mountain. I remember coming to a couple of times on the edge of a precipice and not being able to feel anything, except a dull pain in my hands and my head."
"The next thing I knew, I was waking up to the face Lar'mela. He had found me and had taken me to a ship."
"No, not him. Another ship picked me up. I don't remember anything about that. Lar'mela tended to me. I had paralyzed myself partially and I couldn't remember but a few things. I knew I was from the stars. All I could remember of my name was "Ryn". He taught me to talk again. Within a month, he had me up and walking, talking and beginning to remember. All I could remember about Voyager was you." Chakotay smiled as she revealed that.
"Lar'mela's gentle urging got me to remember. He would listen to my dreams and write down what I'd say and force me to remember. Soon, he took me back to the homeworld where the doctors restored the memories. I don't know how, but they did. In return for saving my life, I agreed to captain them, show them maneuvers and how to become more efficient in their flying. Lar'mela picked up Voyager a few days ago and asked me if wanted to come home."
"And you did," Chakotay said.
"At first, I didn't want too. I wanted to stay there, where my duties were the furthest thing from my mind. I had time to do what I wanted." Kathryn looked down at her hands. "But Lar'mela convinced me that this is where they needed me."
"We've missed you, Kathryn. I've missed you."
"How long until you began wearing the pips?"
"Three months ago. The first month I couldn't put them on."
"You must have looked pretty funny, being the only one without a rank insignia," Kathryn said.
"How?" Chakotay began.
"You left this by my sword. You left part of you here, where my memory was."
Chakotay looked at the rank pin she held out to him in the palm of her hand. He couldn't bring himself to take it from her. "I guess I did. I didn't want to let go."
"I'm glad you didn't," Kathryn said. She stood up and stretched.
"What was the crew like?" Chakotay said.
"Boys. Lar'mela was the oldest. He's an enigma, the age of 49. Men of his race don't usually reach his age. I taught a group of boys that were from the age of eleven to nineteen."
"Boys." Chakotay rose too. "You liked Lar'mela, didn't you?"
"I loved him," she said quietly, looking closely at Chakotay and monitoring his reaction.
"I see," he said, starting for the door of her quarters. "It must have been hard to leave someone you love."
"It is, Chakotay," Kathryn reached him before he could activate the door and leave. "It's always hard to leave a parent."
"I don't understand."
"He re-educated me, Chakotay. Taught me to talk and walk, eat and live. Like a parent. He never had any daughters, so I was special to him. Those boys became my brothers."
"It still must have been hard to leave him," Chakotay said.
"It would have been harder leaving you. It's always hard to leave someone you love."
Chakotay did a double take. She'd reversed his words. As she did with Lar'mela, Kathryn stood on tiptoe and placed her lips against Chakotay's in a gentle kiss. She sat back down and looked up at him, surprise on his face.
"You'd be surprised what you reveal when you're asleep." It was all she said. Chakotay pulled her against him.
"Thank you, Lar'mela," he whispered.
"Thank the boys. They made it possible for me to find you."
"Boys," was all Chakotay said as he sank to floor, taking Kathryn with him.