Disclaimer:   No copyright infringement intended.  The Star Trek universe is not owned by me; I just like to play in it.  Many thanks to Quantumsilver for once again doing her outstanding beta job on the story.

This was written for Delta in the VAMB Secret Santa Exchange 2010.  Her request was for a Story, preferably J/C. How about an alternate ending to one of those episodes that almost became J/C, as "The 37s", "Resolutions" (of course!), "Hunters", "Year of Hell", "Shattered", etc.  


Decision Points by Cheshire

“Seven of Nine is going to die.”

What?  “What?”

“Three years from now she’ll be injured on an away mission.”

No. No, no, no, no.

“She’ll make it back to Voyager and die in the arms of her husband.”

Wait…did she just say–  “Husband?”


“He’ll never be the same after Seven’s death.”

Never…be the…

“And neither will you.”

..same?  No…I’ll be like you.  “If I know what’s going to happen, I can avoid it.”

“Seven isn’t the only one.”

She thinks I’m still talking about Seven.  I should be.  She’s the one that dies. I should want to save her life.  I will…I’ve done it before, but that’s not – did she just say Tuvok?  “What about him?”

“You’re forgetting the Temporal Prime Directive, Captain.”

Like you haven’t already done the same, you self-serving, cold-hearted…  “The hell with it.”



I knew the minute she agreed so easily with me.  Her lips didn’t so much as twitch, her eyes didn’t gleam in triumph, but I knew.  I do know myself well enough to know when I feel victorious even if I don’t show it.  And with those simple, coldly calculated words she had just won. She had wrapped me around her little finger, played me like a piano, and was now leading me where I was more than willing to follow. 

Chakotay and Seven together?  No.  Oh, I know about their date in the cargo bay.  I even know about her program on the holodeck.  But I never thought any of that would lead to a marriage.  It was just…play.  Experimentation on her part and ego stroking on his. 

I asked myself…my older self how it had gotten so far between those two without her saying anything.  And again to a stranger, or even a loved one that doesn’t quite understand the sacrifices one must make in the line of duty, the expression on my - her face would have revealed nothing.  She was simply stating a fact.

“There were choices made.  Decision points along the way that led to the outcome I’ve told you about,” she’d said.

Well, I felt a surge of confidence at that.  She simply made the wrong choices. I wouldn’t. Now that I was aware of the potential for a more serious relationship, I could just nip it in the bud.  It would have to be done delicately, of course.  At the right time and under the right circumstances.  Probably not in the next few days as this Borg wormhole would have to take precedence. And then assuming we made it home Starfleet would have to be dealt with before–

She snorted.  “You think you’re so damn smart don’t you, Captain?”

Thoughts of having to deal with Starfleet bureaucracy once again slide to a halt at her snarl.  What was she on about now?

“Don’t you get it yet?  We’re the same person.  We think the same way.”

She paused and regarded me shrewdly in a way that made me feel distinctly uncomfortable.  And wary.

“How long did it take you just now to push thoughts of him to the side?”

Him. At least I didn’t have to ask who “him” was. Besides, it’s not that I wasn’t thinking of him…and well what the hell did she expect anyway?  I was still the captain after all.  In case she’d forgotten, she’d dropped more than one bombshell on me in the last forty-eight hours. Chakotay and Seven. Tuvok.  A wormhole that would drop me practically at my Indiana doorstep except for the fact that the Borg Queen was standing in front of it and not exactly wanting to allow me – us passage.  Although Seven and B’Elanna had both vouched for the improvements the Admiral’s technology had made to Voyager.  Which presented another problem really because if – when we reach the Alpha Quadrant, does she really think Starfleet isn’t going to want to know–

“As long as you’re out here, Captain, there will always be something taking precedence.”

Precedence?  Precedence over what?

“There always has been and there always will be until that moment that you walk into sickbay three years from now and you see him–”


“He’ll be broken.  Crying as he cradles her in his arms.”

I don’t want to hear this.

 “And you will stand there. Alone.”

I really don’t want to hear this.

“Bearing silent witness to the tableau in front of you.”

Stop talking…if she would just stop–

“And when the Doctor quietly informs you that there’s nothing more he can do, you will understand –finally – all the things you could have done.”   

Could have done?  Like what?  And to what end?  I notice then even in my anger that her eyes are incredibly bright, and I realize it’s from unshed tears.  My anger immediately dissipates.  She – I’m on the verge of crying.

“There were all those times over the years when a touch could have become something so much more. A brush of the hand here.  A wink there.  Things could have been so much different.”

She gives me a watery smile.

“And for you…they still can be.  You don’t have to keep making the same mistakes.  You don’t have to turn out…like me.”

Her chin comes up in that defiant way that I know all too well.

“Think about all those missed opportunities.  Think about how you could have…changed them.” She smiles faintly. “And then maybe you’ll consider the opportunities that are still lying in front of you.”

She turns to head back down the corridor but not before she throws over her shoulder, “Think about them, Captain.  That’s an order.”


I don’t want to think about them.  I have a million other things that I need to be thinking about. 

But then…that’s kind of her point, isn’t it? 

And besides, it’s not like my mind hasn’t been wandering ever since she brought it up. 


Decision points.

I knew what she was talking about.  It had started the moment he set foot on the bridge.  Well, maybe not that exact moment.  I’d already seen his file photo and known he was handsome in a dark, roguish way, but files don’t really give you the sense of a person’s magnetism.  Their energy.  Their…pull.

I didn’t actually touch him in that first meeting…came damn close.  Close enough that we were breathing the same air, but not touching.  I had been bold enough in the moment that I had reexamined my actions and motivations afterwards, an academic exercise that I quickly threw out the airlock after our first few months in the Delta Quadrant. 

Second guessing did not become me.

So why was I considering doing it now? 

For the same reason any student sees the results from a test and goes back over the questions they got wrong that’s why.  I’ve seen my results and they’re not exactly exceeding expectations.  Hell, they’re not even palatable really.  If I expect anything to change, I have to learn from my mistakes. Don’t I?

But where do I start?  That first day?  What should I have done differently?  Ask him into the ready room, clear off the desk, and offer myself up to him?


Not that I haven’t considered how that scenario would have played out, but it only occurred in my subconscious.  A few restless nights resulting in sweat-dampened sheets in the morning are not exactly the sort of soul searching excursions I think the Admiral has in mind.

I think more that I should examine the quieter moments.  Those times I simply chose not to pursue him even though I knew I could have.  When did those start?  Certainly not in those first few months.  Sure, there was flirting and a good deal of attraction, but could a relationship have been built out of those moments?

No, I don’t think so. 

Those instances would’ve been more about finding physical release. Grabbing a small bit of comfort however we could.  So when did I truly screw up?  When was the first time I pulled away when I shouldn’t have?

Oh.  Right.  That damn planet.


“I just sense an intelligence in him, and I could swear he came to warn me about the plasma storm.  Come here, fellow. Come on.”

“I doubt that he can be domesticated, at least, not very easily.”

“Well, we have plenty of time.  The rest of our lives.”

We’d cleaned up the main room of our little cabin before we’d ventured outside to begin work, but I hadn’t yet cleaned up my personal space.  Several things had fallen off my makeshift shelves, and instead of properly going through them, I’d just thrown them on the bed so I wouldn’t step on them.  The slim, black marble box that I had so casually tossed out of my way this morning had landed badly and emptied its contents onto the covers. It steals my breath away when, taking a break from outside, I realize what, in my haste to check my traps this morning, I had treated so irreverently. 

A comm. badge gleams at me from atop the blanket.  It isn’t mine; it was my father’s.  My hand trembles slightly as I reach for it and gingerly bring it to my lips, placing a kiss on it as I’ve always done since his death. I right the box and notice that the small necklace Caylem had mistakenly placed around my neck, thinking I was his daughter, is the only item that had remained inside.

A thrill of panic shoots through me, and I immediately run my hands over and under the folds of the sheets, almost immediately finding another piece of jewelry. 

It’s a simple silver band made from a heavy metal that was mined on Klatus Prime.  The planet Justin had grown up on.  Even holding the ring tightly in my fist, I know the metal won’t warm.  It never had.  Phoebe had not been impressed with my engagement band, but it had suited me perfectly.  It was functional.  Tough.  And as Justin had explained, the metal could only be forged under the most adverse conditions.  Phoebe had rolled her eyes, but then I had never told her what event had finally moved Justin and I into a relationship. She probably wouldn’t have approved of that either. 

Setting the ring safely inside the box, I begin meticulously searching the folds of the covers.  I find the antique cameo from my Aunt Martha, the earrings my mother had given me for my eighteenth birthday, the string of pearls I had inherited from my grandmother, but there’s still one thing missing.  I swear I’ve searched every crevice of the small bed and bedding and haven’t found it, but as soon as I yank the covers off, I hear the small ping as a projectile hits the wall of my room.  I know exactly what it is, and after another five minutes of searching the floor, I finally hold it in my hand. 

My engagement ring from Mark.

A platinum band with a marquise cut diamond flanked by two emeralds.  Mark had joked that rubies would have been a better match for my temper, but he’d decided to go more traditionally with my birthstone.  As I stare at the stones in the dim light, I realize…I’ll never see him again. 

I had, of course, considered the possibility before.  In my darker moments of despair that we’d never reach home, but now…being stuck on this planet…it’s a more certain fact than I’ve ever really allowed myself to believe.  Mark is now another fiancé lost to me just as completely as Justin had been.  Not quite as tragically perhaps but still…lost.

“Kathryn? Are you in here?”

I start at Chakotay’s voice in the front doorway of the shelter and wrap my fingers around the ring, hiding it, for a reason I’d rather not examine too closely at the moment, down by my side. “In here.”

Chakotay appears in the open doorway near the foot of my bed.   He doesn’t cross into the room, but I can see his eyes take in the rumpled state of my bed and probably me as well with a single glance.  “Everything okay?”

I nod, a bit too quickly.  “Yes, just…straightening up.”

His eyes hold mine for only a moment before he gestures outside.  “If you’ve got a second, there’s a large fallen limb I’m going to need your help moving.”

“I’ll be right out.”

He hesitates briefly and I can tell he’s on the verge of asking me again if I’m all right.  He must read something in my eyes, though, because he doesn’t.  He simply dips his chin and graciously retreats. I wonder how he can read me so easily.  Knowing when to back off and when to push with me. 

Mark had never pushed. 

And that thought makes me remember the ring I still hold in my hand.  I’m clenching it so tightly the stones are beginning to dig painfully into the palm of my hand.  Taking a breath, I loosen my grip and carefully place the ring back into the box.  Glancing at the shelf the box had been sitting on, I decide against replacing it on the same spot. 

Instead, I open the bottom drawer of a set of five, push aside a heavy sweater and place the box in the corner of the drawer.  It will be safer there.

Reaching for my work gloves, I head outside to help Chakotay. 

Mark will have to be one more thing I let go of today. 


My head dropped back against the seat back of my chair.  If I had given up Mark then, like I probably should have considering the situation, there would never have been any need to “establish parameters”. 

God, how I hate that phrase and wish I’d never uttered it.  What kind of woman…well, there’s no point in going down that road.  What’s done is done.

But I have to admit…our relationship on that planet would have changed.  It’s not like we were expecting Voyager to show back up.  There would have been no reason to hold back…

The chime for my door sounds, and I jump at the noise.  “Come in.”

Tuvok enters and looks at me expectantly.  “You wished to see me, Captain.”

I’d almost forgotten I’d called him. When I remember, though, my thoughts of New Earth fade completely. At least the story the Admiral told me about Tuovk’s medical condition I can try and confirm.  I stand and indicate the couch.   “There’s something I’d like to discuss with you, Tuvok.  Please, sit down.”


That damn Vulcan quoted Spock at me.  Of all things.  How in the hell am I supposed to argue against that?  It’s not even his life that he’s offering to give up for thousands of others. No. That would, in some respects, be easier. It’s his beautiful, logical mind that will fade because of his willing sacrifice, and as daunting a prospect as it is for him, how much harder would it be for those of us left behind?  It wouldn’t be a clean break like a memorial service.  He’d still be with us.  His presence still very much among us.  But our friend would be gone. 

My friend. 

To lose him, Seven, and Chakotay all to some degree…I don’t think that’s a future I can handle.  Well, obviously if my future self’s presence is any indication I do manage to handle it, but she at least didn’t know it was coming.  I would.  I think that’d make it worse.  Knowing I could have changed things but chose not to.  Knowing I could have acted differently…

Like that night on Lake George.

That’s got to be one of the “missed opportunities” my older self was referring to.  Not that I needed her to point it out to me.  Hell, I’d realized it as soon as I’d left the holodeck that night.  So much more could have happened between Chakotay and I, but I’d decided against it.  I’d pulled away, thanked him for a lovely evening, and made my escape.  A cold shower in my quarters had doused most of my misgivings about leaving him that night.

But now…now I wonder.


Champagne has never affected me like this before, but between it, the moonlight, and the gentle rocking of the boat, I can barely keep my eyes open.  The events of the day could also be playing a small part in my sudden onset of fatigue, I suppose.  It’s not every day that a person gets themselves killed repeatedly only to face off with a macabre version of their long-deceased father.  Except that, of course, it hadn’t been my father at all; it had just been a twisted game that alien had decided to use against me.

The headache that could result from thinking about this too much would rival any I’ve ever had concerning time travel. It may have all been happening in my head, but I have to admit, I’m exhausted from the ordeal.  Thankfully, Chakotay hasn’t felt it necessary to point out (again) that the Doctor did instruct me to take it easy.

It’s only in thinking about Chakotay that I realize I must have actually nodded off at some point.  The last thing I remember was leaning my head back and looking up at the stars.  It may only be a holographic representation of Indiana’s night sky, but I’ve found myself willing to pretend for a few hours.  I must’ve closed my eyes…but that doesn’t really explain the current position I find myself in. 

Granted, I’m not complaining.

Huddled into Chakotay’s side with his arm draped over me is not the worst position I’ve ever woken up in.  In fact, it’s probably one of the better.  Top five at least.  The steady thrumming of his heart, the heady scent of him flooding my senses, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that he’s so…warm.  A contented sigh escapes me before I can stop it, and I feel him shift beneath me.  Probably looking at me to try and determine if I’m awake. 

“Kathryn?” he asks quietly, confirming my suspicion.

Keeping my eyes closed, I consider not answering him and just drifting back to sleep. But that wouldn’t be very polite…“Hmmm?”

He keeps his voice low.  “Are you…warm enough?”

What an odd question in a controlled environment like the holodeck.  I blink my eyes open and attempt to process what he’s really asking.

“You were shivering,” he offers.

Without moving away from his side, I crane my head upwards to look at him.  “I was?”

He nods and brushes some errant strands of hair away from my face.  The gentle caress across my cheek has my eyes fluttering closed again.  “Just thinking about the day’s events,” I admit. “But I’m…fine.”

“I’m glad.”

I feel him softly kiss the crown of my head, and I’m almost surprised by it.  He isn’t usually so demonstrative, or at least, I usually don’t allow him to be.  But then I saw today just how much I mean to him.  The naked grief that had been etched in his face when he’d clutched my limp body in his arms had been palpable. 

Or had that just been part of the illusion? Admittedly, it’s difficult to determine where the delusion ends and reality begins.

When I first woke up on the planet’s surface, they told me that I had been severely injured and that Tuvok and the Doctor had arrived to treat me when the alien presence moved in.  And now, thinking back, I can’t discern which was the true memory and which was simply my own creation.  Had I actually died?  Had I been unresponsive to his attempts to resuscitate me?

I have to see his eyes.  I’ll know…I move to sit up so I can face him, and although he pulls his arm back easily enough, I see the shadow of doubt cross his expression.  He thinks I’m upset at the small liberty he took.  I lean forward to clasp his hand between mine, hopefully demonstrating that I’m not at all upset with him. 

But I have to ask.  “Chakotay, down on the planet…when I was injured…how bad was it? I mean–”

“I thought I’d lost you, Kathryn.”

His reply is abrupt, cutting me off with its quiet urgency.  I guess I have my answer.

“You weren’t breathing.  I was trying…I didn’t know if it was the head injury or…” His voice breaks.  “When I finally heard Tuvok’s voice over the comm. line…he and the Doctor were almost there. But you were already…”

“I know.”

He looks up sharply at my admission.  “You know? What do you mean…?”

I look down at our joined hands.  “I…saw you…with me.”

His face mirrors the confusion I had felt in that moment.  “Kathryn, you weren’t…conscious.”

“I know,” I admit, albeit self-consciously. I don’t know why I hesitate in telling him what I’d seen; he’d probably be more willing to believe the situation than I was.  “I was…there...sort of.”

Understanding lights his eyes and a soft exhalation leaves his mouth.

The floodgates are now apparently open for me, and I get to my feet, unable to sit anymore.  “I could see you…I tried to let you know I was there, but you couldn’t…didn’t hear me.  My hand passed right through you, and I was so…frustrated.”

We’re both silent for a moment.  The weight of the situation impacting us.  Then, to my surprise, I see a grin start to tug at the corner of his mouth.  My arms cross tightly across my chest and I narrow my eyes at him. “What?”

He quickly swallows the grin, but even in the moonlight I can still see the mirth in his dark eyes. “I told you not to die on me.”  He shrugs.  “I’m glad you listened to me for once.”

My mouth actually drops open slightly at that, to which he immediately starts laughing.  Try as I might, I can’t even pretend to be mad at him.  I’m simply too happy. 

He extends a hand to me.  “Come on, Kathryn.  Sit back down. Let’s finish our cruise around the lake.”

I glance towards the shore line.  It’s getting late, and I should probably call it a night.  Clearly, we’re both emotional tonight. 

He sees my hesitation and tries to make it easier for me.  “Or we could just save the program and finish it another night.  I’m sure you’re tired.”

“No.” I shake my head and stop him from getting to his feet.  “I am tired, but I was sleeping just fine earlier.”

For a second, he looks confused until he sees me grab the afghan blanket that’s behind him and wrap it around my shoulders. I sit down beside him and lift his arm out of my way so I can get situated against his chest.  He waits for me to still before dropping his arm onto my shoulder and settling it against my side. 

I’m immediately warmer and the emotional adrenalin I’ve been feeling is ebbing quickly.  My body is sinking into the heavy muted state of sleep faster than I would have imagined. There’s so much more I should say to him about how I feel, but my eyelids feel like they’re weighted down and I can’t keep them open any longer.


Even if all I’d done was fall asleep with his arm around me that night, it would have been different.  Better, I think.  Better than lying alone in my bed staring up at the stars, thinking cold analytical thoughts about my father, my friends, and my past.  It had taken weeks before I’d been comfortable entering sickbay alone after that incident.

Maybe if I’d stayed with Chakotay that night…maybe I would have rested, maybe we would have talked over everything that I’d experienced. 

Or maybe I would’ve simply woken up with a crick in my neck when someone wanted their holodeck time in the morning. 

Regardless, I think whenever I had woken up…waking up with him would have made me feel…safe.


Luckily my feet know the path I want to take.  I refuse to think about the fact that many captains over many years have toured their ships in the dark of night in the hours before they expect to fight in some major battle.

Usually a battle they aren’t expected to survive. 

That’s not what I’m doing at all. I’m simply touring my ship because I can’t sleep.  A common enough occurrence.  One that the regular night crew could easily attest to.  But tonight there’s a lot more crewmen up and working.  B’Elanna has her engineers running double shifts to secure every nook and cranny they possibly can before tomorrow.  They aren’t used to seeing me at this hour of the night.  On this particular eve, my presence is not comforting. 

Knowing the mess hall is shut down for the evening, I make my way there instead. With coffee in hand, I sink down onto one of the plush chairs and gaze out at the starry field beyond.  It’s a view that never gets old, no matter how many times I look at it. 

I’ve stared out these windows many times over the years. 

And more than once, he’s found me standing here. 


“So how many cups does that make now?” he asks teasingly.

“This is punch, Commander.” I take a second look at the orange and purple swirls in my mug.  “Or at least, Neelix’s version of such.”

He notices, of course, that I haven’t actually drunk much of it.  “Is it better than his better-than-coffee substitute?”

I don’t bother to answer that.  Instead I swirl the contents of my glass, watching as the two different colored liquids refuse to mix with each other.  “I wonder what goes through his mind when he chooses which recipes to follow and which he deems in need of his…flair?”

Chakotay turns so that his back is to the stars and he can see our Talaxian host in his element. A chef’s hat cocked haphazardly to one side as he happily serves punch to dubious-looking crewmembers.  “Maybe he just decides by what colors he thinks look good together.”

“That would explain a lot,” I admit, thinking of some of the chef’s usually garish outfits.  Turning, I see that he’s changed clothes into one of his more brightly-colored orange ensembles.  I watch as Ensign Golwat happily accepts a glass of punch from him.  “Did I hear correctly that she received a letter today?”

Chakotay knows exactly who I mean.  He nods.  “Her mother took on a co-husband and she now has two new brothers.”

“Tuvok found out his oldest son, Sek, had a child,” I inform him, not to be outdone on ship’s gossip. “He’s a grandfather now.”

“Life goes on.”

I notice that while his smile for Tuvok was genuine, it faded rather quickly.  Coupling that with his odd choice of reply has me concerned.  “Chakotay?”


He cocks his head towards me in response, but his gaze is still moving around the room, pausing when he sees certain crew members.  Yosa. Jarvin.  Ayala.  All of whom look rather dour, considering this is supposed to be a party.  Although, I certainly can’t begrudge them anything.  Standing here, staring out the viewport at the stars wasn’t exactly festive behavior on my part.   But I just can’t help thinking about that damn letter – then it hits me. 

How many other people got bad news today?

I scan the room again and notice that only about half the room’s occupants really look like they’re celebrating.  As for the other half, I can only guess that, like Tom, they either didn’t get a letter at all or the letter they got they probably could have done without.  As if this ship didn’t already need a counselor. Chakotay, in his de facto role, would really have his work cut out for him now.

I turn to ask him about it and notice his dark eyes are focused on a table that has Dalby, Jor, Henley, and Tabor all seated around it.  We both watch as a toast is made and glasses are held up in salute, but despite the cheer, it’s obvious that Henley’s been crying. 

“Chakotay, do you know what news they received?” I ask quietly, still watching the table as Dalby slings a companionable arm over Henley’s shoulders, giving her a squeeze.  It’s only when he doesn’t answer that I look up and see the pain in his expression.  It hits me belatedly that all the crewmembers he’s been watching so closely are former Maquis.

It’s been quite some time since I distinguished between the two groups among Voyager’s crew, but it does appear that the more solemn party attendees are a majority of Chakotay’s former crew.  And if the news is something upsetting to them…

I set my glass down on the nearest table and then cross my arms, looking up at him expectantly.  He’s never not noticed when my attention is fully focused on him and he doesn’t disappoint now.  Almost immediately, he pulls his attention away from the table and notices me.  A confused frown crosses his face.  “I’m sorry, Captain.  Did you say something?”

Now that I have his attention, I relax my stance so he doesn’t worry.  “Yes, I did.” I see him about to make an apology and I wave him off.  “Chakotay…did you receive a letter today?”

His expression closes off, and I want to kick myself for not having the common courtesy to have asked him earlier.  He nods.  “Yes…I got a letter from…Sveta.”

The name sounds familiar, but it takes a minute to place it.  “She was in the Maquis with you, wasn’t she?”

“Recruited me, actually,” he admits before uncharacteristically looking away again.

Reaching out, I run my hand down his arm, immediately regaining his attention, but I don’t say anything.  I don’t need to. He knows I’m asking. 

“I don’t…” he pauses, glancing around.  “I don’t really want to talk about it.”

“Here?” I clarify.  “You don’t want to talk about it here.”

He hesitates briefly.  “Would you care to join me for a drink in my quarters, Captain?”

I loop my arm through his, much as I had done when we’d left the ready room.  “Lead the way, Commander.”

We’re almost to the doors leading out of the mess hall when they open and allow Seven entrance.  I pause.  “Seven, I thought the Doctor recommended that you regenerate?”

“I will.” She stops in front of us, draping her hands behind her back.  “I’ve gone over Lieutenant Torres’ reports concerning the encrypted text from Starfleet Command.  I believe I can devise an algorithm that will more quickly decrypt the message.  However, it will run as a counter program to Lieutenant Torres’ solution.”

“Meaning it will disrupt her attempts,” I clarify, knowing B’Elanna will take that as a direct affront to her abilities. 

“Yes,” Seven states simply.

I feel Chakotay shift uncomfortably beside me.  He’d be the one that would probably have to deal with B’Elanna’s temper if I allow this, but can I pass up an opportunity to find a faster way to figure out what Starfleet sent us?

“If you will accompany me to Astrometrics, I can demonstrate my more efficient model,” Seven informs me.    


Seven’s eyebrow raises and for possibly the first time since she’s entered the room, she acknowledges Neelix’s party and the fact that I was on my way towards the door.  “You were in the process of leaving.”

I glance at Chakotay.  “Well…yes, but–”

“Then now would be the most expedient time.”

Chakotay gives me a faint, understanding smile and drops the arm that I was holding onto.  “It’s okay, Captain.  We can discuss it another time.”  He indicates Seven with his chin.  “You should see what Starfleet has to say.”

Seven gives him a brisk nod and turns, heading back for the door, supremely confident that the matter has been decided.  And with a step, I almost follow her even though I know we won’t break the encryption tonight even with whatever new method she’s come up with. I saw the message.  It will take time to decode, and even after we do that, we’ll still have to reorganize it into its proper order. 

I stop.  “Seven, wait.”

She pauses in the open door and looks at me expectantly. 

“The message isn’t going anywhere,” I decide. “I already have plans for this evening, and you should be regenerating.  Tomorrow will be soon enough for you, me, and B’Elanna to sit down and analyze the best way to move forward.”

For a moment I really think she’s going to argue with me right there in front of everyone, and I brace myself for it.  But in the end, she simply gives me a curt nod. 

“Very well.  I will comply with the Doctor’s orders and begin my regeneration cycle early.”

I breathe a sigh of relief.  “Have a good night, Seven.”

She leaves without another word spoken.  I shake my head in amusement at her abruptness and realize I hadn’t expected any different really.  Returning my attention to Chakotay, I ask, “Shall we?”

He rewards me with a genuine smile as he once again offers me his arm. 


Of course, that’s not exactly how it had happened.  I’d gone with Seven, promising Chakotay I’d meet him at his quarters within the hour.  I hadn’t.  Five hours and several variations of her algorithm later, I’d ordered her to go regenerate.  The message was still encrypted, still in pieces and I’d been exhausted. 

Three days passed before I’d found out about the devastation of the Maquis.


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