In twelve hours, maybe less, they would emerge from the wormhole and be in the Alpha Quadrant. In the dark silence of his quarters he wondered what sort of reception they'd get. They hadn't been able to determine exactly where the wormhole would deposit them, for all they knew they could emerge from it in the middle of Cardassian space. He shuddered at the thought, he'd do anything to prevent this crew falling into the hands of the Cardassians.
Of course, even if they ended up in Federation territory things might not be any better - for him. The majority of the Maquis might have been killed by the Dominion and the Cardassians, but that didn't mean he was feeling secure about his future. The Federation could imprision him, could even extradite him to Cardassia - he was prepared for that, had always been prepared for that, but he wanted to make sure that his former crew would be saved and he needed to ensure that his captain didn't throw away her career when they returned, by fighting to protect them.
Chakotay glanced around his quarters, in twenty four hours they could all be dead, or he could be sleeping in a brig, a wanted criminal once again. It was disconcerting, to be worrying about the future after so many years of not thinking about it, of living only in the present.
He wasn't alone. He'd been in the mess hall earlier, where excitement was understated, weighed down by the sombreness of uncertainty. 'None of us know what we are getting into,' he thought to himself.
He knew he ought to try to sleep, but somehow he couldn't bring himself to lose a single moment of these last, precious hours. Voyager had been his home for six years, the longest time he had lived anywhere since he was a child. He was happy here, at peace. Things change.
His doorbell chimed and he called out, 'Come in,' quietly, not surprised that he had a visitor, only curious as to who it was. 'Captain.' He didn't know why he was surprised to see her, if he'd been thinking straight he would have expected her to come and see how he was faring, discharging her duties as captain to the last.
She stood before him, wearing the darkness like a cloak. He didn't need to see her to know that she was anxious as well, he'd been watching her for the last two days, since they'd entered the wormhole - as far as he could tell she'd only snatched a few hours sleep. Tonight it seemed would not be any different.
'I don't know what I'm doing here.' In the darkness he saw a faint movement, decided she must have shaken her head, 'I was talking to Seven and, when I left her my footsteps carried me here.'
'How is she?' It must be frightening for her, a former Borg drone, the prospect of the Alpha Quadrant, a place which had been ravaged by the Collective.
'I think she feels what many of us feel; ambivalence, anxiety. However we look at it, it's the end of an era, it could be the end of everything.' Belatedly he realised that she was still standing, that he hadn't even attempted to make her comfortable.
'Can I offer you a cup of coffee? Some food?'
'No, thank you. I'll sit down though, if I may?'
'Of course.' She perched beside him on the couch, the silence stretching between them until she shattered it by saying,
'I don't know what to feel. I want to go home, I want to keep my promise to the crew - but I don't know what's going to happen.'
'Neither do I,' he said, relieved that she was admitting to doubts and fears he understood, shared even.
'Chakotay, I promise,' she began passionately before he stopped her.
'Don't.. please. Don't make promises you won't be able to keep.'
'I'll do everything in my power to make sure you're pardoned - all of you.'
'I know you will, but it won't be up to you.'
'I don't want to lose you,' she whispered.
'You won't.' For all these years they had danced around command relationships, protocol, friendship and something more; both of them aware of the attraction that crackled between them - as aware of it as they were of all the reasons they could not act upon what they felt. And they had not ... until now.
She moved smoothly into his arms - as though she had held and been held by him for every night of the last six years. Her lips brushed his cheek before they found his mouth, the most natural thing in the universe, this claiming of each other, this brief, intense encounter. Afterwards they lay together in silence, bodies wrapped around each other, warm, soft, drowsy. Her hand lazily stroking his chest, one leg draped over his.
'I don't want to go to sleep tonight,' she murmured.
'You should have had a cup of coffee when I suggested it.' She smiled and wriggled a little more, pressing her naked body closer to his.
'That you didn't have a cup of coffee?'
'That I held you at arm's length for so long.'
'It's all right, I understand.' His fingers wound their way into her hair, lightly rubbing at her scalp, 'you're here now.'
'Are you afraid Chakotay? Of what will happen tomorrow?'
'I was, I'm still worried about the others, but I have you, don't I?'
'As far as I'm concerned you have me for as long as you want.'
'Even if I end up in custody, a convicted criminal?' She lifted her head from his chest and said with a quiet intensity which made him shiver.
'There isn't a force of nature that could keep me away from you now.'
'Kathryn.' He would have spoken then, told her, spoken the words, but she put her finger over his lips and said,
'Tonight just hold me. When we sleep in my bed, in my mother's house on Earth, then you can tell me that you love me.' For the rest of the night, they lay entwined on his couch, watching Voyager race through the wormhole, towards the future.