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"Your stories tonight are so full of hope and life, Chakotay," she said quietly, not exactly smiling at me. We walk the corridors back to our quarters.

"Not always Kathryn."

"The ones you tell me are."

"Do you want me to tell you a different kind?"

We stopped walking, talking in low whispers in the corridor outside our quarters.

"Aren't you ever afraid that we won't make it back to the Alpha Quadrant?" She says suddenly.

I leaned away from her slightly, studying her expression, wondering if this was the root of the problems of the past few days. I speak slowly. "I'm convinced we will make it back. You gave this crew your word that you would guide them home. I half believed you the night after you destroyed the Array. Now we're made more than half the journey in five years. I have no doubt we'll return to the Alpha Quadrant, Kathryn."

She smiles at me, and runs a hand over my cheek. "Now tell me the honest answer."

"What I'm afraid of is what will happen if we do."


Keeping Faith
by E.M. Bonner


The senior staff sat watching the briefing room viewscreen in disbelief. Admiral Neycheyev turned away from Admiral Brannon, inclined her head briefly toward Admiral Paris, then stood solemnly.

"Ro Laren, this tribunal finds you guilty on all counts. You are sentenced to life in prison. You will be incarcerated at the maximum security facility at Guerin VI."

"Screen off," Janeway said, more sharply than she had intended. The room was silent. The Federation newsvids that Voyager had picked up in the two days since her abrupt return to the Alpha Quadrant had done more than just douse the jubilation of making it through the wormhole with a proverbial bucket of cold water. Her crew was terribly off-balance. She was...in denial. There was no other way to put it.

She looked around the table. Torres was the only person whose face bore no trace of disbelief. When her eyes came to rest on Chakotay, sitting at her side, unbearably grim, denial ended. "Spell it out, Commander," she ordered.

"Ro Laren was the last Maquis Captain, in the Alpha Quadrant, to be alive and free. She and her cell went very deep underground before the Dominion war began. Everyone thought they'd been killed. Six months ago, they came back to life. They attacked Cardassian and Dominion installations. They even destroyed a transport carrying Ketracel White. They've acted as the Federation's ally. Six weeks ago, the Federation starship Challenger was attacked by Jem Hadar fighters. Through some combination of malfunctions, as far as I can tell from what Tuvok has decoded from the reports, the Challenger lost phasers and photon torpedo capability. Captain Ro heard their distress call and swooped in like the cavalry, destroying all five Dominion fighters. But her ship was damaged in the battle and, when the Excelsior arrived, in response to the distress call, they got a tractor beam on Ro's ship."

"I suppose Ro told her crew to go quietly. How angry could Starfleet be at the people who had just saved a Galaxy-class starship? But apparently the powers that be at Starfleet care more about old charges than about the lives of their own crews." Chakotay's bitterness was evident. He had wanted the fears that had been building ever since he got Sveta's message through the Hirogen relay to be wrong. But they weren't. The Federation didn't care that the Maquis had been right all along. They didn't understand ‘the enemy of my enemy'. But try as he might, he couldn't bring himself to say the fateful words. He looked at Torres. Five years ago, the words would have been out of her mouth before he stopped speaking. Before she could voice the only reasonable conclusion, Janeway spoke.

"If Captain Ro and her crew are being sent to prison, then there is little doubt in my mind that the former Maquis among this crew would be as well." Torres started to interject, but Janeway raised a hand to silence her. "I will not deliver members of my crew, who have served Voyager and Starfleet honorably, into the hands of people who care nothing for justice. I promised them that I would be their advocate when we returned, and that I would not allow them to be incarcerated. I believed that, under the circumstances, Starfleet would listen to me. I was wrong. If this... kangaroo court... wouldn't listen to Captain T'Ruda's defense of Captain Ro and her crew, then nothing I say will have any effect."

"The only way that I can keep my word, and see that justice is done, is to discharge the former Maquis members of this crew from Starfleet service now, before we enter Federation space." She looked at Tuvok. If there was going to be an objection, it would come from him. He was silent. "Captain, Voyager has to go through the combat zone to get back to Earth." Chakotay was still Voyager's First Officer; her welfare his first concern.

"We'll manage without you, Chakotay," she said, not unkindly. "It's only a couple of days from the Badlands to Starbase 218. The way the war's going, Commodore Mugat, who's a hell of a lot more practical than the ....Powers ... at HQ, may just assign Voyager some additional crew and send us straight to the front." She smiled sadly at Torres. "I'm sure Voyager's in much better shape than most Federation ships right now."

Chakotay had known for two days that Voyager, and Kathryn, were going to war against the Dominion. Until now, he had held on to the hope that he would be at her side. A part of him believed that Kathryn Janeway could make anything happen. But he knew she was right. He and his old Maquis crew would be no use to anyone in prison. She was giving them a chance -- not just at freedom but to make a difference in this war. Janeway steeled herself and turned again to Chakotay.

"Captain Chakotay, your crew has five years of back pay coming. Since Federation credits won't be of much use to them where they're going, I don't see why Starfleet shouldn't pay them in kind, if they so choose."

Torres now knew exactly what Janeway about to suggest, and beat her to the punch. "Our construction teams could build a ship," Torres said, with something like eagerness. "It would be cramped, but it could carry all the Maquis. If Voyager is going directly to a starbase afterwards, and if we cannibalize the shuttles and the Delta Flyer, we'd have enough parts for warp engines, shields, phasers...even a torpedo system.

"You can take anything you need from my little ship," offered Neelix. "That is, if you don't think I need to flee from the Federation, Captain," he added, glancing at Janeway apprehensively.

Janeway almost laughed, then thought better of it. "I don't think you need to be concerned, Neelix. The Federation has no quarrel with Talaxia. I'm sure you'll be welcomed as an honored guest." "Almost sure," she added under her breath.

"Construction would take at least three weeks, Captain," interjected Torres. Chakotay started to speak -- his first reaction since Torres had suggested a new ship -- but Janeway beat him to it.

"I don't think the war is going anywhere in three weeks, Lieutenant. We'll continue to hold position here. Nicoletti and I will work with you to determine what Voyager can spare under the circumstances.

"Thanks." Torres nodded a little curtly. Despite her enthusiasm for building a new ship, she was somehow uncomfortable taking from Voyager.

"Assemble your crew, Captain," Janeway said, looking to Chakotay but not quite meeting his eyes. ‘Captain' was a title she was happy to give him. ‘Your crew' wrenched at her gut. "They deserve to hear this from me."

"Mess Hall. Twenty minutes," he replied briefly, then left the briefing room before he gave voice to the regrets they couldn't afford.

* * *

"You can't come with me, Tom. You gave the Captain your parole..." Torres' attempt to keep her voice low was failing. She didn't notice that Janeway and Chakotay had entered the busy construction bay. Janeway moved to stand in front of them.

"Lt. Paris," Janeway interrupted, her tone formal, brooking no argument, "you are hereby detached from duty on Voyager. You will accompany Captain Chakotay and assist him in whatever manner he deems necessary until I relieve you of this assignment."

Paris came to attention. His eyes watered as he looked his captain in the eye solemnly. "Yes, Ma'am. Thank you, Captain." He was on the verge of adding something when Chakotay joined them.

"I'm not sure that's such a good idea, Captain," Chakotay began, touching Janeway lightly on the arm as he had begun to do so frequently in the past few days. "It's not that I don't want you with us, Tom. But you're not a fugitive and you do have a family on Earth, and a chance of a Starfleet career."

"I disagree, Chakotay. He may not get sent back to New Zealand, but I don't think there's any chance Starfleet will honor his commission. And I have reason to believe that Owen Paris won't welcome him home, either." The look that passed between Janeway and Torres spoke volumes. Fortunately, Paris was too distracted to ask the questions that would have yielded the contents of Admiral Paris' "lost" message.

"Sorry, Chakotay. You're stuck with me again. I'll look after him for you, I promise, Captain."

"See that you do, Mr. Paris." Janeway turned and left before the tears could start forming.

* * *

By 1900, the last evening, the Promise was ready for launch. Janeway and Chakotay retired to her quarters. The door had barely closed behind them when she drew his head down to hers and kissed him with all the hunger of the previous nights. He responded, then pulled back, holding her chin in his fingertips.

"I can't, Kathryn. Not knowing that it's the last time." His voice was more strained than if they were already separated.

She sighed roughly. "No. You're right. But..." Her fists clenched handfuls of the fabric of his uniform.

"Hold me," he asked.

"Yes."

Their arms closed around each other. Some time later, they moved together to the bedroom. He stripped her, then dressed her again, sliding her legs into her softest exercise pants and pulling an old flannel shirt of his -- that she had taken to wearing -- around her shivering torso. His hands never left her until she began to remove his Starfleet uniform for the last time.

She unpinned his rank bar and commbadge and set them carefully on the bedside table. He stood still, neither helping nor hindering. She seamed open his uniform jacket and pushed it off his shoulders, letting it fall to the floor. Now she couldn't meet his eyes. She knelt and removed his boots. He renewed their contact, balancing with one hand on her shoulder as he lifted each foot in turn. She still couldn't look up at him. She stood and unfastened his trousers. He stepped back out of them. Then she lifted his turtleneck off over his head. As her fingertips brushed up his sides, then his arms, the corner of his mouth and another part of his anatomy turned up slightly. Even now, he couldn't keep himself from reacting to her. As she dropped the turtleneck, he stooped and picked up all the pieces of the uniform he would never wear again. He carried them over to the seldom-used recycle chute and dropped them in. When he returned to her, she handed him a pair of sweatpants.

"Tell me a story?" she asked, finally looking at him again. He nodded and pulled the goosedown comforter off their bed. By common consent, they moved back to the sitting room and settled on the floor, backs braced against a heavy chair, where they could look up through the viewport at the stars. He tucked the comforter around them and leaned back, his head on her chest, sheltering in her arms.

"Let me tell you an ancient legend..."

"Chakotay..."

"It's a different one, Kathryn. I promise." And so he told her.

Through the night, they told each other pieces of their lives that they had never gotten around to sharing before. The tricks that Chakotay's sisters had played on him as a child. Janeway's cave-diving on Mars. The funnier parts of wilderness training exercises at the Academy. The one shore leave that each of them had taken on Risa. They talked incessantly, moving only slightly in their embrace, almost as if the stories could keep morning at bay.

As the hours crept on, Janeway began to tell stories of Stadi, and T'Prena, and other crewmembers Chakotay had never known. He responded with tales of the Maquis who had been left behind.

At 0530, they fell silent. Janeway rose and led him back to the bedroom. He pulled sturdy civilian garments out of the closet where his clothes had long since come to reside. She took them from him and dressed him, then he, too, repeated his movements of the night before in reverse. When he had pinned the last pip to her collar, she turned hastily and strode out the door.

* * *

At ship's dawn, every member of the two crews straggled through the corridors to the shuttlebay. The Maquis looked out of place in civilian clothes. Friends and loved ones talked quietly, perhaps making plans that Janeway didn't want to know about. She and Chakotay walked hand-in-hand openly. After the long night of talking, they were silent.

In the shuttlebay, the crews split, the ‘fleeters hanging back while the Maquis clustered around their ship. Last handshakes, or hugs, were over now. Janeway and Chakotay stood between them, unwilling to separate.

Chakotay searched desperately for some way not just to get them through this moment, but to honor his Captain for keeping her word, for protecting them, for getting them back to the Alpha Quadrant. A memory flashed back to him — 20th century France. When the holodecks were repaired after Voyager's capture by the Hirogen, they had gone back to the St. Claire program. Tom first, intrigued as usual by the 20th century, then Kathryn, seeking to understand a little of what it was like to be one of the original Maquis. He had followed her, as always.

His jaw tightened at the image of Katrine lying next to him in the hidden cellar of the Coeur de Lion, passing the time in almost-silence as the Germans searched over their heads. He put the dangerous thought aside. Near the end of the program, General Patton had visited the units holding that part of the front. Chakotay remembered how the troops had greeted him.

Chakotay glanced around, looking for Paris and, finding him, motioned him over. His whispered intentions, too soft for Janeway to hear, were quickly understood. Paris and Torres circulated among the Maquis as the last of the provisions were loaded on their ship. The Maquis formed up in two lines behind Chakotay, stretching across the width of the shuttlebay. The Starfleet crew, standing in clumps behind Janeway, saw what the Maquis were doing and formed themselves into ranks as neatly as they had on the Academy parade ground. When Chakotay sensed that movement had stopped, he stepped back, drew himself to attention and, in his last act as the First Officer of Voyager, or perhaps his first as Captain of the Promise, rendered the long-disused hand salute to Voyager's captain.

For a moment, Janeway was stunned, unable to move. She looked past Chakotay to her twenty-seven surviving Maquis crewmembers, all standing at attention and saluting, her eyes resting on each, one at a time. Henley, who was showing such promise at Ops. Gerron, whose artist's soul had created a beautiful sculpture for Voyager's Mess Hall. Ayala, whose calm presence on away teams she had come to rely on. Seven, standing among them, but with her hands at her side. *Saluting must be irrelevant,* she thought. Tom, who would have been happy to spend his life in the Delta Quadrant at the helm of Voyager. B'Elanna, whose astonishingly quick mind sparked with her own to produce technological miracles. She almost couldn't bear to see B'Elanna go. Summoning the last of her control, Kathryn Janeway straightened her shoulders, met Chakotay's eyes, and slowly, deliberately, returned the salute.

Then the Maquis broke ranks and boarded the Promise quickly. As Chakotay finally turned to follow, Janeway whispered four words to him, just loud enough for him to hear. He didn't respond. He couldn't. He climbed into the Promise and Torres sealed the airlock behind him.

Now Janeway turned to her remaining crew, moved once more by their gesture of respect for her and for their departing comrades. Her voice was gruff but steady. "All right, people. Clear the shuttlebay.." Ensign Gutierrez moved aside as Janeway stepped behind the control panel. When the crew had mostly filed out, she raised the forcefield that secured the control area from the rest of the bay, depressurized the deck, and opened the bay doors. The Promise fired its thrusters, and was gone.

* * *


I fall silent. I am sitting on the couch; she sits on the coffee table opposite me.

"We've never talked about this, have we?" she asks me.

"No. We don't have to tonight."

"Maybe we do."

"Kath, it doesn't have to end that way."

"No, but it might."

"The war might be over by the time we get back," I remind her.

"Ah." She stands and replicates us a drink.



"Let me tell you a story," she says suddenly.

"Kath, you don't-"

"-you're the only one who gets to have people hanging off of you're every word?" She teases.

"You don't have to," I say simply.

"I know. But I want to."


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