MEMORY


Chakotay walked into their quarters as quietly as possible.  She'd left
the lights on for him as usual, as she had for the past few years, when
his night vision had all but disappeared.  One more thing to accept.  

He changed into a nightshirt.  Power levels were down at the moment and
B'Elanna insisted that cabins be kept at a fairly low temperature.  Only
those from hot planets were exempt.  This was nothing new.  The miracle
was that Voyager was still functioning after all these decades.  It was
almost as miraculous as the fact that crew was still a unit and that he
himself was capable of duty.  He was down to half shifts, just like the
remainder of the original crew - those who hadn't retired already.

He slipped into the bedroom, which was at 25% light.  He slid into bed
next to his wife.  She stirred, as he knew she would.  Captains sleep
lightly and she was a captain to her very bones.  He gave her a kiss and
she smiled and settled down again.  He just looked at her.  Her hair was
purest silver, her skin was a soft network of wrinkles - there was a
lifetime recorded on her face.  He could see laughter and pain and worry
and sorrow, and, above all, responsibility, there.  She was as beautiful
as she was the day she'd stopped hiding from him.

                             *    *    *

The party was over.  It had been a good idea - part celebration, part
wake.  It helped with the combination of letters from home and the news
that some of them bore.  Chakotay wanted to push that news in the back
of his mind.  He made sure the other Maquis knew.  He'd seen them cry
and rage and accept, since there was nothing else they could do.  He
thought he'd accepted it, too, just as the captain had accepted what her
fiance had done.  What her former fiance, now a married man, had done.

The focus of the party were the letters from home.  As Chakotay wandered
around the Mess Hall, he could hear scraps of conversation.

An ensign from sciences.  "There's a passage here from my daughter.  She
was just learning to read when we left.  Now...now she's playing Parisis
Squares.  She's a champion.  I wonder what she looks like..."

A crewman from engineering and his new lover.  "He's waiting for me. 
He's letting his life slip by.  Oh, sweetheart, what will we do?"

A security guard from the Maquis.  "I have a brand-new niece!  My
brother was just engaged when we left.  I was supposed to be best
man...I'll bet she's beautiful."

A security guard from Star Fleet.  "My dad got a promotion.  All my mom
can do is gripe about Star Fleet.  Nothing's changed.  Thank goodness."

A group of Maquis in the corner, with close Star Fleet friends
surrounding them.  "I can't believe it's all over.  I hated that fight,
but it meant something, and now it's gone.  I wish we never found that
damn Bajorran wormhole."

"If we weren't on _Voyager_, we'd be dead or in prison now.  Thank God
for the Caretaker and Captain Janeway."  They all nodded at that. 
Chakotay smiled.  He also thanked the spirits for her, but he had
additional reasons.

And so it went around the room.  Dear John letters, notices of divorce, 
reminders that life went on at home without them - all were represented. 
And some didn't even get that.  Not every letter got through.  Some had
the same tantalizing bits that Tom Paris did, and others not even that. 
Seven, of course, stood aloof.  Chakotay could see that some were
jealous of that.

He quietly let it be known that he'd be available for counseling during
the next few days.  After all, not everyone had the resources he did. 
He was about to leave