No More Lies
Part Three

Chakotay's POV

I love the river. It exudes calm. I often find my mind just drifting away with the current as we travel along, my thoughts usually centred on the incredible beauty of this place. Even though, in effect, this world is just an exotic prison as we have no way of leaving it, I find a wonderful sense of freedom here. Something that I never had while I was on Voyager. And I know it's changed me, because Tom often tells me so. He says I'm more relaxed; more inclined to 'live for the moment' as he puts it, rather than analyse a situation to death, the way he says I sometimes did before.

I suppose he's right. I do try to enjoy every moment we have now, mainly because there's no way of telling when it will end. I've tried to put my greatest fear to the back of my mind, the worry that one of us will become ill with no way to treat the condition, because in the end, what will be will be whether I worry about it or not. There's no point dwelling on the inevitable.

I sigh softly and take a quick peek at Tom. He's watching me again. I'm not sure when he started it, but just lately it seems to be a recurrent pastime of his. I smile inwardly, amused at the thoughtful expression on his face, and go to speak, intending to ask what wonderful idea he has in his head *this* time. Tom suddenly frowns though, and he's staring at a spot somewhere behind me. I've just rowed us into the straight stretch of water that leads to our home, so it must be something close to our cabin that's worrying him.

I turn around and try to see what it is that's making him rub at his eyes, and what has put a look of total disbelief on his beautiful face; I'm stunned by what greets me. I reach out to Tom who's staring, transfixed, at the group of people waiting for us at the water's edge, and I pull him to me as our boat drifts slowly along with the current. It takes us closer and closer towards the unbelievable. How did they get here? And *why* are they here?

As I search in vain for answers, I gently rub Tom's back; the action is as comforting to me as it seems to be to him, and we slowly regain our composure, ready for whatever it is that brings Kathryn Janeway and Harry Kim to our tiny part of the Delta Quadrant. Wordlessly, Tom takes one of the oars, and together we take the boat to the shore, dragging it out of the water and onto the bank before we head for the silent group standing further along the river's edge.

It's a tense moment as we approach them, hand in hand, and I notice Kathryn's gaze flicker towards our intertwined fingers. I don't release my grip though, and I feel Tom's grasp tighten. There is no reason now to care what Voyager's Captain thinks of us, and we ignore the disapproving look that she sends our way. This is our home and we live by *our* rules now, not hers or Starfleet's; she cannot intimidate us here.

I stand quietly, Tom close to my side, and wait for Kathryn to speak, but it's Gerron who breaks the silence as he suggests we all make our way to the cabins. I nod, catching Greg Ayala's eye, and I know he's received my unspoken instruction when he steps to one side of Janeway, watching her closely as we head towards our homes. I have no idea what she wants, and until I do I won't be taking any chances. I no longer regard her as the friend I once thought her to be, and I have no reason to trust her.

Harry Kim is a different matter. I trust *him* implicitly. He was always a very good friend to Tom, and it was because of him and B'Elanna that our lives here were not as hard at first as they otherwise would have been. The supplies they provided without Kathryn's knowledge made a very big difference. I've often wondered if their actions were ever discovered. I hope their generosity, and that of the other crew members who helped us, was not a source of trouble for them. Maybe I'll get the chance to speak to Harry on his own and find out how they fared. If the look on his face is anything to go by, I think he'd like to talk to us, alone, too. Something's definitely worrying him, and I have a feeling it's not just whatever it is that's brought them back to our world. From the way he's acting, I would say he doesn't want to share his concerns with the Captain. We'll have to bide our time, and hope one of us can talk to him privately.

I cease my musing as we near our cabins, nodding first to Greg and Gerron, and then towards the home that I share with Tom. Together, the four of us escort our visitors inside, and I wonder again just what it is that's brought our former colleagues here.

Our home is small, but cosy, The living area is warmed by the sunshine streaming in through a large window above the beautiful dark wood table, which Tom and I spent hours making; there's a fireplace on the opposite wall, where roaring log fires heat the room when the temperature drops, but at this time of year it's not often needed.

Tom releases my hand and guides Kathryn and Harry to two chairs that stand next to the table. They sit, their eyes flickering around the room as they take in their surroundings; they look surprised by what they see. I don't think either of them expected us to be living as well as we are; the room boasts a few more items than just the bare essentials.

I notice Kathryn gazing at one of my paintings. There are many of them, in various sizes, depicting the different areas of our world that we've explored; the pictures are dotted, in no particular order, around the walls. Tom prefers them to be displayed that way. He says that each one is a glimpse into our lives here; they're experiences and memories captured on home-made canvas for us to enjoy in the years ahead. As our thoughts about the past are usually quite random, he believes the positioning of the paintings should reflect that, and they shouldn't be hung 'uniformly'. I agree with Tom's thoughts, but, I admit, usually leave all the 'arranging' to him.

Kathryn clears her throat.

I put a stop to my mind's wanderings, and instead, give her my undivided attention as she starts to speak. Unfortunately, my resolve to maintain a cool and calm facade falters after just her first few sentences, and I look in amazement at Tom. Judging by his expression, I don't think I'm the only one who can't quite believe what he's heard.

Without even a single enquiry as to our health or welfare, our former commanding officer launched into a statement of her requirements.

Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Federation Starship, Voyager, wants permission to send food and mineral gathering teams to our world. In return, she'll 'graciously' allow us unlimited access to our friends.

That is, until Voyager is repaired and restocked.

Then, with enough supplies to last until they reach the next unclaimed M-class planet, which is marked on a star chart she's somehow obtained, they'll leave orbit and recommence their journey to the Alpha Quadrant.

From the way she phrased her statement, it seems clear that her ideas about us haven't changed and we won't be invited to go with them. And although none of us would actually *want* to rejoin Voyager while those ridiculous regulations are still in place, to be taunted with what we can never have is more than just a little cruel.

So, because of Janeway's inability to accept us for who we are, and our own decisions to stay with the people we love, as our friends head, hopefully, towards their families, Gerron, Greg, Tom and I will once again be marooned on this planet.

Trapped in this exotic prison, which shall forever be our home.

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