No More Secrets
Part Five

Chakotay's POV

The lake is calm, the water reflecting the soft light of this planet's moon. A warm, gentle breeze is blowing across our campsite, and it brings with it the heady scent of the pale yellow blossom that smothers the tall trees standing in a group nearby. The night is balmy, and almost silent; just the occasional sound of a hidden insect breaks the stillness. The conditions are perfect for contemplation.

I gaze up at the twinkling stars above me, thinking again of Voyager and the people on board her. I pray that they are safe and that they will one day reach the Alpha Quadrant, where they will be welcomed back into the waiting arms of their families.

I would have liked to have seen my family again. They would have greeted my homecoming with noisy feasts and rituals. And love. Lots of love. But it will never be. This is where I will remain until the end of my days. *Willingly*. Here. With Tom.

My family will understand. They will know that I could have made no other choice, that I didn't *want* to make any other choice. They will understand that my love for Tom outweighed any other consideration, that I needed *him* more than I needed them. They won't condemn me for my decision.

I spoke with my old Maquis crew before I left. They didn't condemn me, either. I had been worried that they wouldn't understand, that they would think I was being selfish by leaving them; abandoning them. They didn't see it that way at all, though. They weren't happy that I was leaving, but they supported my decision. They knew the situation wouldn't allow me to stay; that I couldn't have stayed if it meant being without Tom.

They promised me that they would not cause trouble on my behalf, and that they would continue to work as part of the team, giving Voyager as much chance as possible of returning home. I know they are still doing that, and I am very proud of them.

I'm very proud of Tom, as well. He's worked so hard since we've been here. On top of all his chores and responsibilities, he's still found time to contribute more. He used to gripe about his shifts in sickbay, but he learnt more there than even *he* had realised, and he's been imparting his knowledge to the rest of us. He began by tutoring Geron. Our young friend picked up the basics very quickly, and is keen to learn. It's as well he *is* a quick study.

Last month, we all took a break from house building. While Tom and I were off exploring the mountains, Greg became ill. He'd mistaken poisonous berries for edible ones, and after ingesting them, lost consciousness. Geron handled the situation expertly. He was able to counteract the toxin, and in doing so saved his partner's life. Ultimately, though, it was Tom's concern that we should all learn basic medicine that prevented Ayala's death.

Tom and I returned two days after the event, and after Greg had completely recovered, we all resumed our construction work. We finished the second cabin a few days ago; it stands alongside Tom's and mine. We'd originally thought to build them further apart, but it's easier to maintain a power supply to both homes this way. Greg and Geron were so happy to finally move out of the shelter, that we all celebrated well into the night. Our supply of potent home-made wine was severely depleted by the following morning.

We would never have been able to construct these cabins as easily, or as quickly, if not for our friends on Voyager. Harry and B'Elanna replicated a lot of useful tools for us. They had obtained the rations from a large proportion of the crew. B'Elanna told me it would have been more, but they ran out of time. We'll always be very grateful for their efforts, and their kindness. The buildings are a permanent reminder of their concern for us, and we think of them each time we step inside. Even after nine months, we still miss them. We always will. It's impossible to just forget about people who you've spent years working with - people you've fought alongside, who have risked their lives for you, and for whom you've risked your own life. They will forever remain in our hearts.

As it has done on the odd occasion, a nagging thought invades my mind: what if those crazy regulations had never existed, or at least, had never been enforced? None of this would ever have happened and the four of us, along with Davies and Lorat, would be continuing to help with the voyage to the Alpha Quadrant.

I remind myself again that it's a futile thought, however, because the rules *did* exist, and they *were* enforced, and as I lie here in the dark with Tom sleeping soundly in my arms, I know for *certain* that I made the right choice in leaving Voyager; I don't have a single doubt in my mind that we did was right.

I love Tom, and he loves me. And here, in our new home, we will *never* be parted.

Nothing else really matters.

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