Memories of New Earth
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A beautiful red glow had illuminated much of the sky of the alien planet on which Captain Kathryn Janeway now sat. The setting sun cast a fading light on the small river that stretched out before her, meandering slowly along on its way to the ocean. The river sparkled, as though small diamonds had been scattered throughout, and the only sound it made was the gentle lapping of water over the stones of its banks. These banks were surrounded by a grass like plant, very similar to that of Earth's, and the flowers which blossomed by day were now beginning to close in anticipation of the coming night.
Kathryn sat on a small rise overlooking the river, marvelling at the beauty of the night sky, and waiting for the stars to make their first appearance. This was her favourite time of the day when she was planetside. The beauty, the serenity. She could almost be the only person who existed on the surface of this alien world.
And she almost was. Voyager had discovered this haven only one week ago, and being uninhabited, apart from some wildlife, the crew had been able to take on much needed food supplies as well as material for engineering, without having to worry about negotiating with more Delta Quadrant residents.
As she sat mesmerised by the sight, she began to recall events from the past week. She had taken the opportunity to work on the engineering detail with B'Elanna, allowing Chakotay to take on her duties as Captain for a short time. He had also arranged for at least one days' shore leave for the crew, and attempted to include the Captain in those plans. But she had continuously denied that she needed a break. She had enjoyed the change of pace working planetside had afforded her, and she tried to assure him that she felt more than refreshed.
As she recalled that conversation, and the look on his face, she wasn't quite sure he entirely believed her. But he had let the subject drop, satisfied for the moment that the change of pace had done her good.
As she came back to the present, she noted only the furthermost tip of the sun could now be seen, the light growing dimmer, casting shadows over the surface of the planet. Stars were peppered across the night sky, and Kathryn lay back, searching for shapes and patterns among them.
Soon however, her thoughts once more drifted back to the past week. Drifted back to thoughts she had tried not to think, as it was during this time that she had realised something.
Since the moment she had seen the planet from the viewscreen, she had had a strong feeling of deja-vu. But for the life of her she couldn't place it. When she, B'Elanna and the engineering team had beamed down to one of the Northern continents, that feeling had only grown stronger.
And it had kept growing stronger until she was almost uncomfortable. Kept growing until the third day there, when she began to explore some more of this world. And it was here, at this spot where she now sat, that the sense of deja-vu had disappeared and was replaced with a multitude of emotions.
This planet, this beautiful and peaceful planet, was extraordinarily similar to one thousands of light years away. It was the river, the river that lay stretched before her, that had brought buried memories to the surface. Memories she had attempted to forget, ignore and repress, and had on occasion almost succeeded in doing. But as soon as she realised the reason for the strongest feelings of deja-vu she had ever experienced, she also realised that the attempts to bury those memories would never succeed. They were too strong, too important to her and ultimately, some of the most cherished memories she possessed.
Kathryn sighed as these memories were brought with great force to the foremost of her thoughts.
New Earth. This planet was almost identical to New Earth. And sitting by this river as the sun set reminded her of the nights she and Chakotay would sit quietly, talking about the day, about themselves, enjoying each other's company, and the calm that settled over their home.
She remembered the time spent on the planet. How she had been scared at first, not wanting to contemplate spending the rest of her life on this one planet, never being able to explore space again, see her family, or succeed in her mission to get her crew safely back to the Alpha Quadrant. That had terrified her....as had her feelings for Chakotay. She was the Captain, she couldn't have feelings for a member of her crew.
But on New Earth he wasn't a member of her crew anymore. She wasn't the Captain anymore. And those thoughts had kept her buried in her research for the first few months of their stay there.
Sighing again deeply, she followed the events through in her mind. The plasma storm, him protecting her, having to give up on her research and face the reality of their situation. How they had worked together, perfectly at ease with one another, as if it were the most natural thing in the world.
As a wild animal sounded in the distance, it brought Kathryn once more back to the present. The sun had completely disappeared from the sky, and the only light remaining came from the stars and the crescent moon overhead. She listened as a reply came for that animal, and knowing she was safe, it lulled her into a relaxed state. Her mind then roamed back to her previous thoughts.
She thought of his neck rub, oh how good that had felt, thought of his angry warrior speech and the relief she had felt once she realised his feelings also ran deep. And ever since that night, one that was engrained in her memory forever, they had slowly began to grow closer, closer to a point where she was ready to admit how she felt.
But it wasn't to be. Voyager had returned, and the Captain and First Officer had re-appeared and taken their places on the ship.
Kathryn suddenly sat up, straining to see the course of the river before her, wishing as she had done so many times before that she and Chakotay had been able to explore that river on New Earth.
"We could have gone on a camping trip," she said out loud, though little more than a whisper.
"I don't think the bath-tub would have fitted in the boat."
Kathryn jumped, startled at the words that seemed to come from the darkness. But if she hadn't understood what the words meant, she would certainly have recognised the voice that spoke them.
"I'm sorry I startled you," Chakotay said as he walked closer, hesitating as he came within a metre of her, unsure of what to do next.
As she looked up at him, a startled expression still evident on her face, he sat down next to her. But still she did not speak.
"I'm sorry for intruding, but you've been gone for a few hours," Chakotay continued, carefully watching her.
Finally speaking, though without taking her eyes off him, she said, "You could have hailed me." Not angry or accusing, but more of a question.
"I felt like some fresh air......and I.....I wanted to see the river again." His eyes remained fixed on hers, looking for any clue that she understood what he meant. And with relief and pleasure he noted that she did.
She hesitated, but finally spoke. "As soon as I saw this planet I had the strongest feeling of deja-vu I have ever experienced. And it kept growing stronger the longer I stayed on the surface. When I found this river...." her voice trailed off, knowing he understood what she was thinking.
"I was the same. I beamed down to the surface a few days ago to do a little exploring. When I came across this river I realised why the planet was so familiar." Chakotay continued to watch Kathryn; he hadn't been able to take his eyes off her for one moment. But she looked absolutely beautiful. The star and moonlight had cast a pale light over her features, and small wisps of hair had struggled free, gently surrounding her face. But he also noted a peaceful aura that seemed to surround her, a calmness that had settled within her, one he hadn't seen for a long time.
"You're surprised." Kathryn said.
The words seemed to bring him out of his reverie and he replied, "What?"
A smile appeared on her lips before she replied. "You're surprised I'm talking about New Earth, about how this planet reminds me of it." Again, not an accusation, but rather, a simple statement.
"Yes, a little. We've never spoken of New Earth since we beamed back to the ship.....sometimes.....it feels as though it were all a dream." He spoke gently, the last part almost beyond her hearing, but she heard it.
"I'm sorry Chakotay. It wasn't a dream," then paused before whispering, "It was one of the most special times of my life." It was spoken with such passion that Chakotay couldn't help but continue to stare. He knew she was probably aware of this, but he couldn't help it.
Kathryn realised that if ever there was a right time, then this was it. So she carried on speaking.
"I've tried so hard to forget those months we spent together on New Earth, or at least to hide from them. It hurt to think about what we had left behind, about how things may have turned out....between us. I realise this must have hurt you, and I'm sorry. That wasn't my intention."
She closed her eyes, momentarily feeling as though she were once again sitting with him by the river on New Earth, close to the shelter she had begun to call home.
But she opened them and looked around, trying to reign in some of her emotions, building the courage she needed to carry on.
"It hurt because...because I was giving up a life that I thought I could never have out here in the Delta Quadrant. A life I wanted, but couldn't have till I got this crew safely home."
Chakotay stopped her before she could continue. "Why couldn't you have that life Kathryn?"
She turned to look straight into his eyes again, the intense emotion clearly displayed for him to see. He was about to speak again but Kathryn placed a finger on his lips and asked him to let her continue. He nodded, and at the same time, took her hand and enclosed it in his own.
"I've lost a lot of people whom I cared for and loved very much. Part of me is scared to become involved again in case I loose someone else. And I've always believed that this ship will get home sooner rather than later, and so...." But she paused, unable to continue.
"And so you thought it would be safer to wait until we got home, that there would be less chance of you loosing the person you cared about," Chakotay continued for her, now aware of what had held her back. Not regulations, not protocols as he had thought, but fear of the unknown.
Kathryn nodded, drawing in a deep breath, trying to steady herself. She hoped Chakotay still wanted to hear what she was about to say.
"Being here, on this planet, I couldn't help but think of New Earth, no matter how hard I've tried to hide from it before. And it finally dawned on me. As someone I love very much once told me, 'You can't sacrifice the present waiting for a future that may never happen.' Oh, I still believe Voyager will get home, but I can't continue to put my life on hold during this journey."
She watched as what she had said sunk in, saw from his expression that he recalled the words he had once said to her. And saw when he realised the exact words she had used.
"You love me?" A touch of surprise, surprise that she had actually said it, of wonder and amazement. His hand tightened its hold on hers, while the other slowly moved upwards to caress her left cheek. She leaned into his touch, watching as a beautiful smile lit up his face.
"Yes, I love you. I did long before New Earth, but it confused and scared me. And I wasn't sure how you felt until you told me the story about the angry warrior."
Chakotay's face softened as he recalled that night, but then surprised Kathryn by chuckling softly.
"What's so funny?"
"I'm sorry. But I don't think anyone else on this ship could believe that Kathryn Janeway could be scared of anything."
She chuckled herself.
Their surroundings now forgotten, both sat facing the other, focussed only on the person in front of them. Kathryn suddenly realised that Chakotay had hardly spoken. She felt her heart beat quicken, and felt frightened of what his reply would be. But her fears were soon put to rest.
"I love you Kathryn, I have almost since the first time I saw you, and I always will. Our time on New Earth is something I will never forget, and is a time I will cherish for the rest of my life. I know we can make this work, because I know how strong you are, how much you fight for something you want.......and how there's nothing I want more in this Universe than to love you, be loved by you, and to share my life with you."
As he finished this speech, with a passion she had never witnessed before, he wrapped his arms around her, pulling her as close to him as he could, whispering 'I love you' into her hair.
Neither wanted to let go, but Kathryn finally drew back, not out of his warm embrace, but just enough so she could see his face.
As they looked at one another, Kathryn shivered as Chakotay ran one hand through her hair and kept the other firmly around her back.
"Are you sure this is what you want Kathryn? That you won't change your mind once we leave the allure of this planet. I don't think I could survive that." There was a look on his face and in his eyes she had never seen before, but she soon reassured him.
"I'm sure Chakotay. I know we can make this work, and I also know we can do it while commanding Voyager together. I've realised many things during our stay here, including the fact that if you want something badly enough, you reach out for it. And there's nothing I want more than to love you, to be loved by you, and to share my life with you."
As she spoke these last words, she slowly reached her right hand up to his face, and gently traced the tattoo on his left temple. As he pulled her closer, she wrapped her arm around his neck, and continued to close the gap between them. Finally their lips met in a tender kiss, a kiss that both had dreamed of for a long time.
When their lips parted, Kathryn rested her forehead on Chakotay's, enjoying the sensation of his touch, and the pleasure of being able to touch in return.
"I love you Kathryn."
"And I love you Chakotay. Always remember that."
From the distance, all that could be seen was the outline of two beings. Two beings tenderly wrapped in the embrace of the other. And as the stars continued to shine in the night sky, they sat there, recalling memories of New Earth and creating new memories for the start of their life together.
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