Title: No More Secrets
Part: 5
Author: Chuckles
Pairing: C/P
Disclaimer: Paramount's, not mine!

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. It brings with it the heady scent of the pale yellow blossom, that smothers the tall trees that stand 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, and I think again of Voyager. I think of the people on board her. I pray that they are safe. That they will one day reach the Alpha Quadrant, and 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. 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 choice.

I spoke with my old Maquis crew before I left. They didn't condemn me either. I had 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. 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. 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, Ayala became ill. He'd mistaken poisonous berries for edible ones, and 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 Ayala 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. Ayala 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 follow ing 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. I think we always will.

It's impossible to just forget about people that you've spent years working with. People that you've fought alongside. That have risked their lives for you, and that you've risked your own life for. They will forever remain in our hearts.

If only those crazy regulations had never existed. Or at least, had never been enforced. The four of us, and Davies and Lorat, could have continued to help with the voyage home.

But they *did* exist, and they *were* enforced. And as I lie here in the dark, with Tom sleeping soundly in my arms, I know that I made the right choice. I love Tom, and he loves me. We're together.

I wouldn't change a thing!