Chapter 1

The corridors of Voyager were eerily quiet. Janeway hadn't realized how many people populated the ship, especially since duty shifts ran continuously. Was it her imagination or did her footsteps seem to echo in the nearly deserted halls? The comforting background hum of the warp engines was conspicuously absent. She hadn't realized that it had become such an integral part of her. The absence set her on edge.

Two weeks ago, they'd landed Voyager near the recently established T'lojan colony. Then they'd started the slow transition to starting life on a new planet in concert with an alien species. Between the Voyager crew complement of over one hundred fifty people and the newly arrived T'lojans, there simply wasn't sufficient housing. Workers from both parties were scrambling to rectify the situation. They'd agreed to allow some crew members to sleep on the ship until housing became available in the colony.

Many crew members were assigned to bunk in larger public areas that served as communal dorms by night. Janeway did her part, contributing pre-fabricated materials that were available from the ship's stores. Most of the hastily assembled housing was crude yet functional.

Janeway, Chakotay, Paris and B'Elanna had been working closely with the T'lojan leadership to manage this transition. While Janeway initially insisted upon keeping Voyager completely online, others convinced her that would drain precious energy resources that they could ill afford. Reluctantly she'd agreed to set the ship to lower energy sleep mode once the crew had fully evacuated with the caveat that all systems be periodically monitored and updated.

Crew morale was mixed. Most were thrilled to be out of the dangerous war zone. The planet was lush with vegetation and wildlife. The climate was temperate with mild seasonal changes. The slightly lavender hued sky and twin moons gave it an exotic flavor. The T'lojans had chosen this world for its rich soil and wealth of other natural resources, unaware that a galactic war would soon be erupting and subsequently isolating the colonists from their home world.

The second wave of T'lojan colonists that Voyager had encountered had been bringing much needed supplies from their planet of origin.

Due to lack of essential components, replicator use was strictly rationed – emergency items only such as irreplaceable electronics or life-saving medicine. Otherwise, they were to do everything the old-fashioned way until new resources were discovered.

That would be an adjustment.

The door to her quarters hissed as she entered. Janeway was one of the last holdouts on the ship. It seemed only fitting.

Even though she recognized that landing Voyager had been the best decision, she still struggled with it. Even though she had seen a glimpse of a promising future with these aliens in her vision. Even though the entire senior staff had unanimously agreed with her decision. Even though the other options would've most likely resulted in certain death, it had still been a difficult pill for her to swallow.

She was ashamed that after that fateful decision, she'd cried herself to sleep some nights. She hated that she felt that she'd failed her crew by not bringing them back to Earth. Back to their former lives and loved ones. Fortunately, everyone had been so busy with the transition that her red rimmed eyes managed to fly under the radar.

Well, with most people.

Looking about her quarters, she sighed. This was her last night here after nearly seven years. Funny how the stark furnishings didn't contain the memories. Those had been provided by the people. Bickering with Q. Late night talks with Tuvok or Seven. Candle lit dinners and long discussions with Chakotay.

Thinking of her first officer brought a brief smile to her lips. The uncomfortable friction between them had started melting once they'd spoken to each other that day in the cave after their search for enlightenment. Over the past weeks, they'd gradually re-established the trust that had been eroding between them. Since then, Chakotay had been friendly towards her, yet he'd respected her space. She was pleased that they'd gotten back into the habit of their weekly dinners and conversations.

She'd missed him.

Although she knew he was anxious to move forward with their relationship, he wasn't pushing her, which she appreciated. With so much going on right now, she couldn't add anything else to the mix.

When the door chimes rang, she wasn't surprised to discover that he was standing in the doorway.

Stepping inside, Chakotay asked, "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine," she said turning away from him.

She swallowed hard, trying to conceal the fact that she'd already started to blink back tears. She'd been maintaining a brave face for days, trying to boost crew morale. She'd made a conscious effort to encourage them to experience everything the planet had to offer, telling them what a wonderful opportunity this was.

Eventually she would feel this way. She hoped.

It was exhausting work, especially since her heart wasn't fully invested.

"Tell me again why we're giving up our home." Her voice cracked. "Seven years of memories."

"Given the condition of the ship, we would've been highly vulnerable if we continued. We weighed the odds and chose the best way to survive," Chakotay reminded her.

Standing in front of Chakotay, she couldn't lie anymore. Moments later she found herself fighting sobs, enfolded in his arms with her head against his chest.

"It's okay. We're going to be okay." He softly murmured, holding her tightly, patting her back.

This was so humiliating. What other Starfleet officer had to abandon ship like this?

Then again, as Chakotay kept reminding her, these were far from ordinary circumstances.

Being in his embrace felt wonderfully comforting. Chakotay was getting bolder, he kissed her forehead then her temples.

If she tilted her chin towards him, their lips would most certainly meet. And she wanted that to happen. Sometime. As tempting as the thought was, as much as it appealed to her, she held back.

Although she knew she cared deeply about him, she wasn't ready to take the next step.