Contrition (Epilogue)
By Michele Masterson

**See part 1 for disclaimers.


Neelix threw a party, and it was surprisingly not annoying. With Tom’s help, they used every single holodeck and created a vast desert canyon bordered by rugged red mountains. It was dusk, and the sky was streaked with brilliant blues, pinks, oranges and yellows. Someone said it was Arizona or Utah or something. It was beautiful, really, and I had a feeling Janeway had some input as well. Above the canyon, on the rim of the surrounding mountain walls, were dozens of fire torches. Music filled the air. And even though we were spread out over several different rooms, having to pass through the hallway to get to the other rooms, for a moment I forgot that it was a holodeck. Everyone seemed invigorated, reborn almost. Like we had gotten a second chance.

In what had become the main holodeck, Chakotay and Janeway were swarmed by a throng of people shaking hands, clapping shoulders. Only a few people slyly commented on the fact that he never once let go of Janeway’s hand, they never once separated from each other. Most people thought it was right. Most people thought it was about damn time. And anybody else would have to answer to me if they had a problem. I made sure to make that known. So there won’t be any problems.

When we finally made our way to them, Janeway looked tired. But happy nonetheless, happier than she’d been in months. Her hand was still in his, but they weren’t gripping each other anymore -- just loosely touching, her other hand occasionally sneaking up and down the length of his forearm. It looked right. It looked like they’d always done this.

"How’s it going on this end of the receiving line?" Tom quipped.

Chakotay smiled and shook Tom’s hand, then taking mine and kissing it -- I wrenched my hand away with a laugh. Ham.

"If one more person pounds me on the shoulder, there’s going to be a problem," Chakotay said.

"My mouth is tired from talking so much," Janeway said, rubbing her free hand on the joint of her jaw.

"That may be a first," Chakotay said conspiratorially, and was promptly rewarded by a punch in the bicep from Janeway.

"It’s nice, though," Janeway said, with a sideways glance at him. They looked like they wanted to jump inside each other’s skin. "We haven’t had such a pleasant gathering in so long. I’ve missed them."

"We’ve missed you too," I said before thinking, before realizing that she probably meant she missed the gatherings, not the people. But Janeway just smiled at me and let go of Chakotay, placing both of her hands on my arms.

"I know. I’ve been a bit M.I.A. for a while," she said. "But I had a certain chief of engineering checking up on me." She winked and squeezed my arms. "Keeping me in line."

Chakotay watched us and gave a look of appreciation to me over Janeway’s shoulder. I was grateful for Janeway’s thanks, but part of me was getting uncomfortable with all this attention, and he saw it.

"So I’m to take it, Captain, that you were too busy doing things like, oh, cutting your hair while I was gone?" Chakotay now winked at me, and Janeway smiled wryly, ducking her head and raking her hand through her hair. Tom burst out laughing.

"I swear I’m going to have to hold a shipwide meeting next time I decide to change my appearance!" Janeway said in exasperation. She pulled at the hair absently, as if it would make it grow faster. Chakotay stilled her movements, and briefly ran his hands through her hair, causing Janeway to quickly close her eyes to the sensation.

"I like it," he said.

We chatted more, Chakotay relaying how his memories of the transport were fuzzy -- one moment he was on the planet, and then oblivion -- he had no idea where he was or what had happened. The next thing he remembered was waking up on board the alien ship, in their equivalent of sickbay. Luckily they were willing to help Chakotay, and as soon as they picked up Voyager’s energy signature, the ship followed at high pursuit. Janeway and I briefly attempted to discuss the science of how this could have happened: a small wormhole? A temporal distortion? Who knew. In the end, both of us decided it was okay to leave the event a mystery. It didn’t matter anymore.

Tom and I danced some, chatted some. But he wanted to show me a place he’d created just for us, a small alcove hidden along the perimeter of the canyon walls. I joked about his one-track mind, but I’d counted on it as well. We were feeling particularly celebratory lately, and what better way to celebrate life than...? So, needless to say we made some use of the alcove.

Funny thing is, on our way back we saw Janeway and Chakotay had found their own hiding space toward the end of the night. Tom, naturally, saw them first and elbowed me sharply. He’s such a pig. But I looked of course. It wasn’t anything lewd or inappropriate. They stood behind a giant stone pillar that jutted out from the ground near one end of the canyon, away from everyone else. His back was pressed to the red rock, she stood facing him, pinning him against the stone with her body. And they were kissing. Really kissing. His hands in her now-short hair, her arms moving over him, as if she were taking inventory, making sure he was all there. It was nice, like old holo-movies I’d seen. He moved to kiss her neck and she bit her lip with a little groan... well, anyway, we walked away quickly before she opened her eyes or it got a little too heavy. Tom and I knew all about that...

"He really loves her," Tom said as he took my hand in his.

I smiled. I was tempted to tell him about the tattoo, but I knew him a little too well. By morning it’d be all over the ship, and I’d be scrubbing recycling containers with my toothbrush. So I just nodded and we left the party.

Things are back to normal now, for the most part. Actually, more normal than they were even before Chakotay disappeared. The captain and Chakotay seem to have slipped into their relationship with ease. They’re discreet, of course, but now and again I catch him running a finger down her back, just so he can see her shudder and quietly gasp. She gets him back though. Yesterday he was pontificating about something in the mess hall, just would not shut his mouth. I don’t think anyone caught this, but I know I saw her very surreptitiously place her hand on his inner thigh and raise it up, up, up. He nearly choked on his food, and spent the rest of the meal looking like a time bomb. Serves him right. She kept her hand there, having conversations, giving orders, and no one even knew it. Except for me. As I said before, I know something about her now.

Everyone else has gone back to worrying about their own lives instead of paying attention to the lives of their commanding officers. In retrospect, it seems silly that Janeway and Chakotay waited so long. They’re both smart, they’re both highly moral, they both want the same things. If you want to be picky, I guess Tom and I waited too. But, like us, I think they just needed that last push, drastic and potentially catastrophic as it may have been. That little reminder that life is shorter than any of us believe it will be, even if we all live 100 years. And there is nothing worse than regretting what could’ve been. The choices we make now, significant or not, will affect the rest of our lives, so we should at least try to get it right as much as we can. I think we -- all of us -- have made a good start.


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