NC-17 (You must be over 18 to read this!)
Star Trek and all characters therein are owned by Paramount. nd there’s not a thing we can do about it.
This story is for my dear friends Margie, who has waited patiently (well, mostly!) and Linda, who gave me this idea for The Ultimate Love Story – and for all of us who could have made those seven years better.
This is a story in Three Parts. Also, if you recognize a few lines from other episodes or movies, it was intentional.) You might want to watch (or re-watch) two episodes prior to reading this story: "Timeless" and "Endgame." It's not necessary to do so, however. In Parts One and Two, I’ve taken the liberty of repeating bits and pieces (lines and recaps) from these two episodes, but I’ve tried to do it from other perspectives we didn’t experience during the episodes themselves. I’ve also tried not to be tiresome about it, my intent being to have you experience it “again for the first time.” And, in Part Three, I’ve taken it all a step further. (Also, yes it's true – I've done the literary "no-no" and sometimes shown things from more than one POV. So sue me. I think J/C people will certainly understand what I’m talking about.)
If you don't want to read about death where J and C are concerned, then maybe this story isn't for you. However, rest assured they do not die unnecessarily or untimely. I promise you a great journey beforehand.
Chakotay knew it was time to return to his quarters and get some rest. He'd just spent the better part of the evening with Kathryn, and was watching her now as she went back to the dinner table to fetch the remainder of the bottle of wine they'd almost finished. Dinner was nearly two hours ago, and since then they'd worked out the plan for tomorrow. In less than ten hours, they'd be trying out that new slipstream drive for real.
"Here you go," said Kathryn, pouring half of what was left in the decanter into his glass.
"Thank you," he said, trying not to be obvious as he watched her move back to the couch. Over the years he'd gotten good at watching her when she was looking the other way.
She poured the remainder of the amber-colored liquid into her own glass. "At least we aren't starting our new journey with bad luck," she said, referring to the tradition of always finishing a bottle of opened wine. She smiled, and her voice dropped an octave when she spoke. "What are you thinking, Chakotay?" She sat back on the couch and pulled her feet up under her, as she gave him her full attention.
He was thinking that she looked so happy tonight, and that her smile was the best he'd seen from her in a long time. She hadn't smiled when he first arrived at her quarters this evening, though, not until she knew he wouldn't argue with her about her plan to attempt the slipstream drive tomorrow. He hadn't agreed with her decision wholeheartedly; he did have reservations. But he'd put those aside. It was her decision to make, and he'd known she would make the one she did. He also knew he wouldn't be able to dissuade her, so he'd gone along with her instead. It was best to stand united, to work together on this. He had stayed for dinner, and then helped her make the final preparations for tomorrow.
He was also thinking how beautiful she looked this evening, how wonderful it was to sit at the table and enjoy a final dinner with her in the Delta Quadrant, and how much he wanted her to be at his dinner table every night when they got back home. But only time would tell. That is, if they got home safely, if the slipstream drive worked, and if Harry's calculations were exact. Those calculations had to be on the mark, but no one knew that better than Harry Kim. It had even been his idea to do things this way. Harry was in Engineering right now, rechecking his method for sending the new phase corrections back to Voyager. He was going over them again and again to be absolutely sure he knew what he was doing.
Chakotay was also thinking he'd never tire of those beautiful blue eyes of hers, or of watching her move so gracefully, so determined, so captain-like and elegant, whether she was walking down Voyager's corridor or going to the dinner table to retrieve a decanter of wine. And he'd never tire of that special voice, Kathryn's voice, the one that was less guarded, more natural and sexy than the captain's voice. Tonight her voice was that special one that visited him in his sleep.
"Sorry," he said, snapping back to the present. "Just thinking."
"Yes, I know," she said with a lilt in her voice and that wonderful mischievous smile he saw too seldom. "I asked what it is you're thinking about."
He grinned. Gods, she was beautiful. The room was still bathed in candlelight. Even after dinner when they'd settled on the couch to work, she'd not asked the computer for a higher lighting level, even though they’d had to strain their eyes every now and then to read something on a padd. But he'd never complain about that. Kathryn Janeway could wine and dine him any time she wanted. The important thing was that she'd continued to do so after he'd agreed with her decision. "I was just thinking about how beautiful you look tonight." There might not be a whole lot of time left for him to be honest with her, and he wouldn't lie tonight.
She blushed. Chakotay actually saw her blush! But she turned her head away and sipped from her glass.
After a moment, she turned back to him, Kathryn again. "It must be the candlelight," she said, but the tone of her voice told him she was pleased by the compliment. "But…thank you.”
He laughed. It was still difficult for her to accept a compliment of any kind. "You're welcome." He knew she was much more accustomed to being treated like a captain, even by him, than like a woman. It had been her decision, all those years ago. He'd wanted more, still did, but she'd told him it couldn't be, not until they were home again. He just hoped she still felt that way. Sometimes, like now, when he looked into her eyes, he thought she still did. He wouldn't ask, though, not tonight. She wasn't ready for him to step over that line. Instead, time would tell – and hopefully, very soon.
He and Harry would be in the Delta Flyer tomorrow morning at 08:00 hours, preceding Voyager into the slipstream, and while Chakotay drove, Harry would calculate the phase variance corrections and feed them back to Voyager. Then, if things happened the way they'd planned, both the Delta Flyer and Voyager would be home again by this time tomorrow evening.
The enormity of their undertaking was almost too much to comprehend.
Chakotay took a deep breath and looked around. He'd miss this, he and Kathryn alone in her quarters, having dinner by candlelight. And he’d miss seeing her every day on the bridge and often in the evenings at dinner, or in the holodeck, or in the mess hall. He couldn't get enough of her, never could, and never would.
It was only recently, in fact, that Chakotay realized he had more in common with Tom Paris than he'd realized, or would admit. Tom's whole life was here in the Delta Quadrant, everything he cared about – B'Elanna, and a job he liked and was good at. Chakotay's whole life was here in the Delta Quadrant, too, because Kathryn Janeway was his whole life, and had been for a very long time. In fact, he could hardly remember a day without her.
And if they got home and he discovered she had other things to do, like becoming a Starfleet admiral (something he knew in his heart would happen for her) and not having time for both her job and him, then he would more than likely wish they were back here in the Delta Quadrant. But it was time he found out for sure, one way or the other.
"Thank you for dinner, Kathryn, it's been a nice evening." He always told her that, and he always meant it. "But I should go." He sat his empty glass on the coffee table. "We both have to get up early tomorrow." He knew neither of them would sleep tonight, and truth be told, he'd rather stay right here, but he knew he wouldn’t be invited to.
"Yes, you're right," she said, putting her own empty glass beside his and unfolding her legs from the couch. She'd taken off her boots earlier, when they'd retired to the living area, and he was amazed all over again by how tiny she was, diminutive really. But he was the only one who knew that, except for maybe the Doctor, or Tuvok. Her presence was strong, so strong that whenever she entered a room, every eye trained on her. He'd seen that happen for years; it was never any other way. She was truly larger than life.
She stood and so did he. He towered over her, and nearly smiled again. But he didn't.
She escorted Chakotay as far as the door.
He turned, sensing that she wanted to say something. He knew the feeling. He wanted to say things to her, too. After all, tonight might be their last opportunity to be alone for a long time – forever, if the slipstream drive didn't work, or if Harry miscalculated the information he sent back to Voyager from the shuttlecraft.
There was only one thing about the plans they'd made tonight he would change, if she had agreed. He would put someone else in the shuttle with Harry and he would take his place in his command chair on the bridge, next to Kathryn. If they made it home, his place was beside her. And if they didn't, his place was still beside her. A part of him thought she'd intentionally put him in that shuttle so he'd have a better opportunity of surviving the flight even if she didn't, since the shuttle had a 40% greater chance of making it through the slipstream than Voyager. But she wouldn’t listen to his protests. She was adamant about it being this way.
She stopped at the door, but seemed to take a long time before looking up at him. "I want to say 'thank you,' but it seems…" she started.
"Unnecessary?" he asked, smiling down at her.
She smiled back. "Too easy," she said. "And not enough." Then she grew serious. "I don't mind telling you, I was afraid you'd disagree with my decision earlier," she said, looking away again. "And I need your support, now more than ever."
She'd said those very words to him once before, and it had meant more than he could say, more than he wanted them to mean, much more than he wanted them to mean. "You have my support, Kathryn, today and always." He'd said those words before too, but she seemed to need to hear them again. That was all right – he'd tell her a thousand times more if that was all it took to make her happy, or to shoulder some of her burden.
She tilted her head back to look at him again, and this time she didn't look away. "There are a lot of things I want to say to you," she said. "But I think you know what they are, since you know me nearly as well as I know myself."
He knew a lot of them, yes. But there was one thing he wanted to hear from her lips, said with her voice – her deep, throaty, "just for you, Chakotay" voice. But he knew she wasn't ready to take that leap, at least not tonight. He could only continue to have hope for the future on that one – a future that might be right around the corner.
Still, there was something else he couldn't put his finger on. Suddenly, uncharacteristically, she wasn't looking away, and she wasn't moving back from him.
He looked deep into her eyes, and his heart leapt. She'd let down her guard just long enough for him to see the longing there, the ache, the desperate need that years of isolation and loneliness did to a person.
And he wanted to take away that loneliness, that desperation, more than anything he'd ever wanted before.
But one moment, one fleeting look or touch – or word – couldn't take away what four years, two months and eleven days had put there.
Oh, but how he wanted to try.
"Kathryn," he whispered, his voice tight.
She placed her right hand on his chest, the second intimate gesture she'd made this evening. The first was when she'd touched his face briefly before serving dinner only a short time ago. "Not now," she whispered. "Let's leave the words for another time." She tried to make her voice strong, but he heard it break nonetheless.
Her hand felt good, felt right against his chest, and he suddenly realized she wasn't pushing him away like she usually did. She was simply resting her hand there, touching him. She was still staring into his eyes, too, and devouring his soul.
He swallowed hard.
He covered her hand with his and squeezed, but he didn't move it away from his heart. She'd owned that part of him for too many years now to pretend otherwise.
She was still there, still touching his heart in every way possible, when he leaned forward slowly, so very slowly. As he lowered his lips to hers, she tilted her head just right to meet them with her own. She kissed him back, not shyly, not passively, but fully.
Chakotay felt his heart pound and his soul soar. This was right, so right. She was his soul mate, and if he had ever doubted it, he no longer did. As he reached out to pull her closer, she stepped up to him and gave herself to the moment, to loving him the way he'd always loved her.
Her lips were warm, soft, searching, welcoming, and her hand slipped around the back of his neck. The light scent she always wore engulfed him completely, accepting him as a willing captive.
Chakotay's knees grew weak. He wanted her. He wanted to do more, be more with her, but he knew that wasn't for tonight. She was, however, letting him know there would be another time.
Some seconds, minutes or hours later, he reluctantly separated his lips from hers, knowing that he had to. He had to.
She seemed just as reluctant to end the kiss, and that made his life suddenly complete.
He now had a new reason for wanting to get home as quickly as possible. Whatever awaited them there would be all right. She wanted to be with him, and was telling him so now. That was all that mattered.
The love he saw in her eyes, and tasted on her lips, was genuine. She'd given him a part of her tonight, a promise of things to come – a promise given freely and without hesitation, or reservation.
He’d lain awake many nights wondering if she still loved him, and now he knew she did.
Kathryn Janeway had just handed him her heart for safekeeping. And he intended to keep it and treasure it, always. They hadn't just shared a kiss – they had made a commitment.
The memory of the look in her eyes that night, the warmth of her hand on his chest, and the touch of her lips to his were enough to fill Chakotay's days and nights for many years to come.
Chakotay looked out his window at the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance. He was anxious for tomorrow to arrive, more anxious than he'd ever been for anything in his life, yet he was also oddly at peace with himself.
Whatever happened tomorrow, he would accept it. Anything would be better than living the way he'd lived for the past fifteen years. Hopefully, after tomorrow he'd have the chance to live them all over again, but differently.
Tomorrow was the day he and Harry had anticipated, and planned, for fifteen years. Tomorrow they would go home – back to Voyager.
And they would turn back the clock to fifteen years ago.
He'd done everything he'd ever wanted to do, and more than he'd hoped. He'd fought battles worth fighting, and won. He'd survived four years in the Delta Quadrant and met species he never knew existed. He'd beaten the Borg and other enemies, and become a stronger ship's officer because of it. And he'd learned to work in harmony with a Starfleet captain he respected. And loved.
And then one day he and Harry had made it back to Earth, alone. The slipstream drive hadn't brought Voyager home, but he and Harry had made it just fine in the Delta Flyer. And both of them still woke in the middle of the night with nightmares of Voyager's fate, nightmares about their friends and their captain and what had happened to Voyager after they'd lost communications.
Had Kathryn discovered that the drive wasn't working soon enough to order Tom Paris to drop out of slipstream? Had Tom been able to do it before Voyager had to crash land on the surface, any surface they could find? Neither Chakotay nor Harry thought so.
After years of calculations and research, he and Harry both figured the ship had crash-landed on the first available site – in fact, based on the location where the Delta Flyer and Voyager had separated ways, they'd discovered an L-class planet near there from a map of that sector they'd bartered for in a bar on Betezed five years ago. All indications pointed to the fact that Voyager was stuck in a glacier in the Takara Sector just outside the Alpha Quadrant, where they'd nearly made it home that fateful day, after all. Further research had led them to a number of merchants who'd traveled close to that sector, and two of them had detected a huge mass of some sort buried beneath the ice not far from the trading post on that side of the galaxy. But no one was daring enough, or cared enough, to brave the freezing temperatures in that region to get closer. It was too risky, and for what? Even if the mass turned out to be a starship buried beneath the ice, it was probably so damaged it was useless anyway, even for parts.
The more they researched the location and questioned their theory, the more Chakotay and Harry were convinced that this huge, buried mass was Voyager.
Hopefully, Tom had been able to bring the ship in with as little damage as possible, but no matter, the ship was flying so fast the crash would have killed everyone aboard on impact. At least, hopefully they were all killed instantly. To think otherwise would bring forth a whole different set of nightmares, and neither Chakotay nor Harry could afford to think about that. They were barely living with the ones they already had.
But tonight would be the last night for nightmares. That thought alone brought Chakotay a small bit of peace in his soul. After tonight, he wouldn’t close his eyes and see Kathryn crushed beneath a bulkhead or buried under a collapsed console on the bridge or swallowed up by fire, ever again. Tomorrow he would find closure. One way or another, he and Harry would know what had happened to their family, and hopefully change all their destinies.
He thought of Harry again, and sighed.
After showing several top-level admirals where they'd pinpointed Voyager's location, Harry had begged for Starfleet's help in salvaging the ship, but was refused. It wasn't that Starfleet didn't care – Chakotay believed that even if Harry didn’t. There was just no sense in spending time and valuable resources trying to locate and rescue a dead crew. It was like Tom's stories about the sailing vessel that went down a long time ago, the Titanic, where it was decided to let the bodies rest in peace in their makeshift grave rather than attempt a futile salvage operation. Starfleet felt the same way about the Voyager crew.
But Harry saw it differently.
One day, Harry stopped trying to reason with Starfleet, and stopped asking for help. He turned his back on Starfleet and everything it once represented to him. If anything was to be done, if anyone was going to go back for Voyager, Harry figured he was on his own.
And since Harry had no one else on his side, Chakotay had stuck with him.
At first, even though Harry hadn't wanted to accept that their friends and family were gone, Chakotay sought to understand in his heart what had happened to Voyager, to Kathryn, and why it had happened. He visited his spirit guide often, but even she was of no help to him, on the rare occasion she showed up during a vision quest. No matter how hard he tried to make his heart and his soul accept that Kathryn was gone to him forever, he couldn't.
And then Harry started talking about going to the Takara Sector.
At first, they were just planning to find Voyager, to discover what really happened. And then Harry had come up with a better plan: They wouldn't just find their ship, they would turn back the clock, change history, and bring her home the way it should have happened in the first place. Now that they knew where to find Voyager, all they had to do was figure out how to go back in time.
And Chakotay would gladly trade the present for that future with Kathryn that had never happened.
Harry had been working on his plan to go back in time for years before telling Chakotay about it, for fear he would argue that what Harry wanted to do couldn't be done.
But Harry had been wrong. From the moment Chakotay first heard what Harry had in mind, he had listened. He'd asked questions and nodded thoughtfully, as was his way, and then he'd asked what he could do to help. Harry had beamed (the only time in the past fifteen years he'd even come close to it anyway) and they'd started to work on Harry's plan together. They would find a way to return to the Voyager, to make things right. They would save their ship, their friends, and their captain.
There had to be a way.
That was the first night since returning to Earth that Chakotay had felt alive, sitting with Harry Kim in that dingy bar in San Francisco, a place where no Starfleet person was bound to set foot and spoil their whole evening. The bar was only four kilometers from this very apartment, and he and Harry had sat there until 03:00 when the bar closed, making plans to return to the past.
Harry started to work even harder to alienate the problems with the phase corrections he'd originally sent back to Seven of Nine on that fateful day, and to correct them. Although it had somehow been important to Harry all along to come up with the right ones, even though it was way too late for anyone else to care what they might be, now it was vital.
And now, if all their calculations were correct and their dreams were destined to become reality, it would only be a matter of hours before they found themselves back on Voyager's bridge. They had to try, had to know for sure. If they didn't get back to Voyager, Chakotay wouldn't have anything to live for and, for a different reason, neither would Harry.
When they embarked on this journey tomorrow, they wouldn't have time to waste. Things would move very fast. They would have to get to Voyager quickly because they would be criminals by then. They'd be heading back in the Delta Flyer after stealing her from a Federation shipyard.
And they were going to steal a few other things, too.
Before they liberated the Flyer, they were going to take the Borg interface, Salvage Component 36698, which Starfleet had had in their possession for nearly a year. Starfleet Command had no idea what to do with a Borg interface, but Harry and Chakotay knew exactly what to do with it.
It was precisely what they'd been waiting for – their ticket back in time.
Chakotay glanced at the chronometer across the room. He and Harry were only hours away from committing acts of treason among other illegalities, after which both Starfleet and the Federation would be looking for them.
But none of that mattered; he'd been wanted by the Federation once before, as a Maquis rebel, many years and several billion memories ago.
Chakotay ordered a cup of herbal tea from the replicator and sat on the couch. His trip down memory lane was starting to make him weak with the usual regrets, but he knew he had to do this one last time. This was his last night for thinking about it forever.
Neither he nor Harry were getting any younger, but more importantly, the nightmares were becoming more than either man could take. And Harry's guilt was eating him up from the inside out. No matter how much Chakotay tried to convince him it wasn't his fault that all 150 of Voyager's crew had died, Harry became more adamant that it was. There was no arguing with him over it, and Chakotay had given up trying years ago. It was Harry's cross to bear, and no man could tell another how to carry his burden.
Chakotay sighed, and walked back up to the window. While the outline of the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance was quite extraordinary to some, returning to Voyager was the only thing that could make his heart full again. His life was empty without Kathryn Janeway. The only time he felt alive was when he closed his eyes and remembered. He would see her face, her sparkling blue eyes looking back at him, that quirky smile, that confident captain's air that was always a part of her.
And of course he remembered the kiss. Always, the kiss. He squeezed his eyes shut and she was there, in the room with him. That was all it took. He saw the look in her eyes, felt the softness of her mouth moving against his, the touch of her hand on his chest, the musty smell of her favorite shampoo, the warmth of her breath against his cheek, and recalled the taste of her. He could still close his eyes and relive every nanosecond of it. That memory was all he had left to live for.
When he opened his eyes again, his heart was beating faster, just the way it had done then. He breathed deeply, trying to bring himself back to the present. Even after all these years, he could see her so strongly in his mind's eye, could feel her next to him at the oddest times. And then, reality would crash down around him, and he would be alone again.
Kathryn Janeway would be a part of him forever, no matter where he was or what he was doing. And while Harry needed to salvage his own conscience by turning back the clock for a second chance at saving Voyager and his friends, Chakotay needed to be with Kathryn. His home was with her, arriving back on Earth with her and Voyager, or dying with her – sometimes he didn't care which, so long as he was beside her. He just knew he couldn't live like this any longer, this life that wasn't a life. He needed to be on the starship Voyager, sitting beside the captain on the bridge every day and having dinner with her once a week, maybe more.
If they made it back to Earth together the next time, then he was sure this could become home again. But it wasn't home now, not even after fifteen years, not without her. This time, if she came home, he would, too. If she didn't, well…this time he wouldn't make the mistake of surviving without her.
Home is where the heart is, he thought bitterly. Who knew that such a tired old expression could hold so much truth? His heart was on Voyager, now and always, because Kathryn Janeway was there. His captain and friend, and the love of his life, was still on Voyager's bridge, and according to all of his and Harry's calculations, buried under a sheet of ice and snow.
Who could have known then that the journey was more important than the goal?
Chakotay dumped his empty cup into the recycler and took out his medicine bundle. He'd try to speak with his spirit guide one last time. If he died tomorrow, he'd never go through this ritual again. But even that thought didn't move him, didn't bring forth emotion. The only true emotion he had left in his heart was his love for Kathryn Janeway.
He sat on the floor and pulled the contents out of the pouch. He had to clear his mind, and tonight that wasn't an easy thing to do.
There were times when his memories were nearly more than his heart could take. Sometimes he missed Kathryn so much he would actually become ill, but he couldn't tell anyone. Harry might understand, but Harry had his own cross to bear, and so he never told a soul.
No, that wasn't quite right. Several years ago he'd tried to tell Deanna Troi, the counselor he and Harry had been assigned to. They still saw her at regularly scheduled intervals. It was best not to fight Starfleet's rules – to just go along and pretend all the counseling was a big help. Harry could barely manage to go at all, and often stormed out in the middle of his sessions. Chakotay did somewhat better, but only because he was calmer by disposition. Usually. But he had made the mistake once of actually telling Deanna about how he'd become ill from the memories (he never mentioned Kathryn specifically, though he later realized that Deanna knew anyway. Any empath with only half her abilities would sense that from him.) Deanna had encouraged him to talk further about his memories, but he'd refused. He was sure Deanna thought he was just being stubborn, or was afraid to speak openly about his feelings, but it was more than that. He never spoke to anyone about Kathryn, not even Harry. Kathryn was alive in his heart, and he refused to speak about her as though she were dead.
When he became sick from remorse, he would hole himself up in his apartment and wait until it passed. His body would sometimes rack with pain, he would be bathed in sweat, shaking, and he would have to wait it out, like one would a viral infection if there weren't a hypospray around. After a day or two, he would be back to normal. Until it happened again.
Some nights he would toss and turn, hearing her voice in his head – her rich, creamy voice saying his name over and over again. Other times he would remember their last dinner together, the night before the fateful 08:00 slipstream flight. He could still see her face, framed against the candlelight, and he could hear her voice: "I know it's a risk – probably our biggest one yet – but I'm willing to take it. Are you with me?"
And he had responded: "Always."
Yes, always, Kathryn. I will always be with you. I am with you now.
And she had let out a nearly audible sigh of relief. She told him she needed him with her, now more than ever. And he had nearly told her then that she would never be alone, for he would always be by her side. But he hadn't said it, because Kathryn Janeway’s first officer would never say such things aloud. But now, of course, now he wished he’d said what was on his mind. One could never predict what morning might bring. He’d told her she looked beautiful, though. At least he’d done that much. He smiled, recalling the blush that had crept onto her cheeks before she turned away.
Chakotay left his medicine bundle open on the floor and ordered another chamomile tea from the replicator. His mind was working overtime, but he wasn't surprised. He was too keyed up, thinking about tomorrow, knowing that all the plans were in place, and that it would all be over soon. Maybe one more cup of tea would relax him enough to meditate.
He looked at the contents of his medicine bundle, strewn out on the floor. His eye went automatically to the lock of hair Kes had given him the day Kathryn had had her long hair cut, so many years ago. At first he'd been horrified when she told him she was going to cut it, but he quickly grew to love her new look as much as he had the old one. It was nice to see her hair down around her shoulders rather than up in a bun.
After it was cut, even before he'd seen it for himself, Kes had brought a lock of Kathryn's hair to him. She had smiled one of her knowing, yet innocent, smiles and handed it to him. "I thought you might like this," she'd said. The look in her eyes told him everything. She knew how much he loved the captain; he couldn’t lie to her about it. And so he had thanked her instead. That was all either of them had said about it. It was never mentioned again.
The strand of hair was tied with a green ribbon he'd taken from a decoration at one of the parties Neelix was always throwing for the crew. Kathryn's beautiful auburn hair, tied with a green ribbon. It belonged in his medicine bundle probably more than anything else that was in there. It represented all that he had become, and all that he still yearned for. It was also proof that she'd existed, for those times he awakened in the middle of the night with his heart pumping and his mind trying to tell him he'd imagined it all – the Badlands, Voyager, Kathryn Janeway. All of it.
And if he held it to his face and closed his eyes, he could still smell the shampoo she'd used every day. He could imagine her sitting to his right on the bridge, smiling at him. Always smiling at him.
Chakotay sipped at his tea, for a moment not remembering he’d ordered it from the replicator. Lately, his daydreams about Kathryn had become almost overpowering, ever since he and Harry had set an actual date for going back to Voyager. That made it all real again, somehow, and lately Kathryn hadn't been far from his mind at all.
If he and Harry failed on their mission tomorrow, if they were apprehended by the Federation and taken into custody, or if they died while trying to get back to the Delta Quadrant – or if they actually found Voyager but couldn’t reverse time, couldn't turn back the clock to fifteen years ago, that was all right, too. Neither of them would have to continue this dreadful existence any longer, or suffer the nightmares night after night. He knew Harry felt the same way. Deanna Troi called it "survivor's guilt," but it went a lot deeper than that for both of them.
Once, when he was still aboard Voyager, he'd asked himself how long he could wait for Kathryn to commit herself to him, and he'd never been able to answer that question. But now he knew. It had been fifteen years so far, and he was still waiting. He would wait for Kathryn Janeway for as long as it took, because there was no other choice. He would wait a lifetime, if necessary. He'd committed his heart to her nearly twenty years ago, and it still wouldn't give her up.
Chakotay sat beside his medicine bundle again and closed his eyes. He would venture into the spirit world now, perhaps for the last time. He took a deep breath. "Ahkootcheemoyah," he began, and his heart felt lighter than it had in a very long time.
Tomorrow he and Harry were going back to Kathryn, to Voyager, to a time of hope and fellowship, to a time fifteen years ago.
Harry carried his cup of coffee back to the couch. He took a sip of it and put the mug down by a padd on the table in front of him. Taking a deep breath, he gathered the two nearest padds and started to punch in numbers on one of them. That was his life now, numbers. It was all he'd had for fifteen years, and all he'd wanted.
The cup of coffee was his third since dinnertime. It wasn't unusual for him to drink it until well into the night. He supposed he’d picked that habit up from Captain Janeway. That thought was about the only thing that could make him smile, and he smiled now. She used to drink coffee all day and all evening, even when the Doc and Chakotay reminded her to back off it. She'd agree, and then forget her promise the moment it was out of her mouth. It was the only promise she ever made that she had no intention of keeping.
But now he understood more than ever why she'd needed her coffee. It helped a person to keep a clear head, and Captain Janeway had worked day and night for over four years to find a way to get her crew home again. It was the guilt of stranding her crew in the Delta Quadrant that had kept her so busy, so intent, and it was that same kind of guilt, and thoughts of making things right, that kept Harry going now.
Captain Janeway had made a tough decision, the kind that few people would ever be faced with in a lifetime, by stranding her crew to save an entire race of people called the Ocampa. But it didn't matter that the decision was right, she still felt guilty whenever she looked into the eyes of a crewman who had family and friends back home. She'd felt the burden of command every day, and every nanosecond, of their years in the Delta Quadrant.
Harry knew about guilt. He'd killed those same 150 people. He'd promised his captain he would calculate a correct phase variance and report it back to Voyager so that not only the Delta Flyer would make it back home in the slipstream, but so would Voyager and everyone aboard her. Instead, he'd given wrong information and Voyager had crash-landed, killing everyone aboard instantly. He knew this as well as he knew his name. Captain Janeway may have stranded them in the Delta Quadrant, but it was he, Harry Kim, who was responsible for their deaths.
He sighed and ran his hands over his face, a habit he'd picked up fifteen years ago. He never went to bed before midnight, hoping he would be so tired he'd fall fast asleep when he finally turned in. But on the rare occasion he actually did fall asleep, the nightmares would wake him up and he'd have to deal with them all over again. Most nights he rarely slept, except in wee spurts. He couldn't remember the last time he'd had a good night's sleep.
He took another sip of coffee. He drank it black, like Captain Janeway. He remembered how much she loved it, how she depended on it to get her through the lonely days and nights. Now he understood her loneliness, too. He even understood why she'd never let herself get really close to another crewmember, and why she wouldn't allow Chakotay all the way into her heart. She had to lose her guilt first, and that would only happen when she got her crew home again.
He had to get back to the Delta Quadrant to give her the right phase variance corrections this time. He wanted to return home the right way, with Captain Janeway leading them. And then maybe she and Chakotay could get on with their lives together. They both deserved happiness, and each other.
And maybe Harry Kim would get on with his life, too. Maybe he could find happiness at last. Maybe he would be able to look Chakotay in the eye again and watch his face light up when he looked at Captain Janeway. He missed that Chakotay, the man who had accepted all that life had given him, even with its limitations, and who had loved a woman who wouldn’t allow herself to love him back. Yes, Harry missed that Chakotay – the one who was long gone now, and all because of a young ensign named Harry Kim.
Thinking back over the past few years, the last time Harry had seen that particular Chakotay was when he’d unveiled his plan in that seedy little bar in San Francisco, when he told Chakotay that come hell or high water or a Borg invasion, he was going to find a way back to Voyager, back in time, back to the morning of the slipstream drive. He, Harry Kim, was going to find a way to redeem some old mistakes.
Harry thought Chakotay would laugh at him or, at the very least, take one of his long tired sighs and explain how it wouldn’t work. Instead, Chakotay had listened carefully, asked the right questions, played Devil’s advocate at times, and then he’d finally grinned. He’d grinned that old Chakotay grin that Harry hadn’t realized he’d missed until that moment.
“I have no idea how you plan to do it, Harry, but maybe together we can figure it out. I sure don’t have any other plans for the next fifty or so years,” Chakotay had said. That’s when Harry knew that Chakotay was with him for the long haul, and that no matter who came into his life or what woman tried to get her talons into him, Chakotay would always belong to Captain Janeway.
At that moment, whatever reservations Harry had had about his plan working, disappeared completely. Starfleet and the Federation be damned, Chakotay was with him. Chakotay was family, and he believed it could be done. And that’s all that mattered to Harry.
When Harry explained to Chakotay how Seven of Nine’s cranial implant could be modified and used as a transceiver, an interplexing beacon, to receive new coordinates sent back in time to Voyager, Chakotay had asked how it was possible, and what they would use as a transmitter, but he’d not questioned Harry’s theory or his sanity, even when Harry said he didn’t have it all worked out yet. Somehow, somewhere, they’d find a transmitter.
Harry shook his head and brought himself back to the present. He sipped his coffee. It was hard to concentrate tonight, and he knew he should go to bed early to rest up for tomorrow, but he wouldn't. The nightmares would come, he knew. They'd come anyway, but he wouldn't make it more convenient for them by going to bed early. If he were lucky, he’d get a bit of sleep before they appeared, before he heard the terrifying screams of his friends as the ship crashed on the planet’s surface, and they met their untimely deaths. And all because of him.
Some nights were better than others. After they died, he’d wake up shaking and sweating, then he’d somehow manage to get a bit of sleep. Other nights, he relived it over and over and over again, and sometimes he even saw Captain Janeway working her console and yelling commands at her bridge crew up until the very last minute, still trying to save them even as the ship crash-landed on the planet below.
Harry flinched. Even awake he often saw it all in his mind’s eye. Only his work, his determination about going back to save them, made him get out of bed each morning.
Harry knew Chakotay had nightmares, too, but they never spoke to each other about them. It was just too much to live with night after night, and talking about them would only make them more real than they already were.
Chakotay had stood by him for fifteen years, though, when everyone else thought he was crazy – a man made crazier by survivor's guilt. But Chakotay knew the truth. He didn't blame Harry the way Harry blamed himself, but he understood why Harry felt the way he did.
There was something about Chakotay that was like a magnet where women were concerned. So many had tried to capture him with their looks, their words, their dreams. But he had ignored most of them and the couple he had paid attention to still hadn't replaced that spark he'd lost fifteen years ago. Harry knew there was only one thing that would bring Chakotay's spark back, and that was being with Captain Janeway again. Young Harry Kim had thought he'd known what those two meant to each other once upon a time, but he truly hadn't known the half of it. Now though, Harry was wiser in more ways than one, and he knew there wasn't a day that went by that Chakotay didn't think about her, or long to be with her.
Harry scrubbed his face again. This was it. All or nothing. Later tonight he would have the nightmares again, because they never stopped. But this would be the last night he'd have them. That alone was worth the risk he was taking tomorrow.
This time tomorrow night he would either return home with the rest of Voyager's crew at a time fifteen years in the past, or he'd be dead.
Chakotay thought a third alternative might be capture by the Federation, but Harry didn’t intend to be captured. Either he'd get to Voyager and Captain Janeway and make things right, or he'd die trying. He'd even figured the odds at maybe 60-40, and that was all right with him.
He took a deep breath and another sip of his coffee. The nightmares were about to end, once and for all.
He turned back to his padd. There was still time to double-check his figures once more before morning.
Chakotay tossed and turned, turned and tossed. He'd meditated for an hour before bedtime, trying to reach his spirit guide, but failing. She was nowhere to be found tonight. He'd felt his father's presence, though, and that was good. His father knew he was doing the right thing, the thing that needed to be done before his soul could rest, and before he could join his people in the spirit world. His work here was far from done. Perhaps after he was with Kathryn again, his heart would allow him to search for his true calling.
Chakotay had told Tessa he needed to be alone tonight, the last night before the mission, and she'd said she understood. He couldn't bear to see her tonight, for her to expect him to make love with her one last time. He didn't want the responsibility of having to live up to whatever her expectation might be, or to feel the guilt he was sure he'd have about not only leaving her for Kathryn, but wanting to leave her for Kathryn. He'd leave anyone for Kathryn. Tessa knew that; he'd never lied to her. But seeing the hurt in her eyes was something he couldn't witness tonight. She would try to hide it, but it would be there nonetheless.
And he'd needed to be alone to meditate, to find as much peace in his soul as he could muster. He needed to be rested and ready for tomorrow's mission.
But now, even though he tried to sleep, his mind and his conscience were hard at work. His body ached for rest, but his empty heart and soul ached for Kathryn, as they did every night.
She was calling to him. He tossed and turned and tried to find her. Now he was running through a forest on some unknown planet, yelling out to her, telling her to keep calling for him and he would find her. But she was gone, she said no more, and the entire forest grew suddenly silent.
Now he was on board Voyager, running through the corridors, calling to her. He couldn't find her, and smoke was pouring forth from every Jeffries tube and conduit, making it nearly impossible to breathe. He had to find her, had to make her understand it wasn't necessary to go down with the ship, he wouldn't let her go down with the ship, even if he had to carry her out, with her kicking and screaming all the way.
Chakotay sat up in bed, struggling for breath, caught up in the sheet he tried to keep loose for times like these. He fought his way out of it, then sat on the side of the bed with his head in his hands, breathing heavily. He hadn't had this one for at least a month – Kathryn was lost or hurt, or stubbornly refusing to leave her ship when it was about to crash. He would call for her and she wouldn't answer. Then she'd call his name over and over, but would be gone before he could get to her.
He finally got his breathing under control and called for tea from the replicator. He stood slowly, knowing his legs would be shaky at first, as they always were after this nightmare, and moved to the replicator slowly. He was naked, having learned a long time ago that sweat-soaked bedclothes were more than a nuisance.
Moving to the window with his tea, Chakotay watched the lights twinkling in the distance. He was fifteen stories above the ground, which made it easy to look off into the night sky and think about Kathryn. Sometimes he stared so intently, he realized he was actually looking for her, and that would bring him back to the present.
Kathryn was out there, somewhere, and he was only hours away from seeing her again. He hoped. There were so many variables he and Harry couldn't account for, so many things that could go wrong. But it was too late to think about that. And it didn't matter anyway, because neither of them would back out of this even if they could.
He carried his cup back to bed and lay on top of the bedding, with his back against the wall. He closed his eyes and saw her, Captain Kathryn Janeway, standing on Voyager's bridge with her hands on her hips, ordering Tom Paris to jump to warp drive – and then she turned and looked over her shoulder, to the chair on her left, and smiled at her first officer.
It was the smile he loved most, the one she gave just before her mouth turned up at the corner. And her eyes sparkled the way they did when she was feeling good, like they sometimes did when she invited him to dinner in her quarters.
Chakotay sipped his tea, then felt a rare smile spread across his lips as he watched her, standing there on the bridge. Suddenly, his eyes opened and dropped to just below his stomach where another reaction to her smile was starting. He sighed and put his teacup on the nightstand.
Once more, he told himself, reaching for his penis and lying back on the bed. He would make love with her one more time in his mind, in his dreams.
After tonight, he would either be with her again or he would be dead. Harry hadn't fooled him when he'd agreed that they might be captured and held prisoner by the Federation. No, he knew they'd either make it back to Voyager, or die trying. And that was just fine with him. He already knew what living without her was like.
He manipulated his penis as he drew her to him in his mind. For the last time.
Minutes later, he finished his tea. He had to get some sleep. Tomorrow
was going to be a very long day.
Tessa Ormond rang the chime on Harry's door and waited until he bid her enter. She stood just inside the doorway until Harry glanced up from his place on the couch and saw her. Then he got the usual look of dread and something close to disgust on his face, and looked back at the padd he'd been punching. She walked into the room.
"I know you don't want me on this mission," she said without preamble. There was no need for pleasantries between her and Harry Kim. No need for her to pretend she liked him, since he never hid how he felt about her. She didn't actually dislike Harry, though, mostly because she could understand how he felt more than he'd ever give her credit for. She knew exactly what it felt like to pine for something so badly you could almost taste it. The only difference was that Harry's feelings had all that guilt mixed up with it. That's what added the top note of bitterness to everything he did, everything he had become.
"No, I don't," he replied instantly, not looking up.
Good. At least she didn't have to get him to admit it. Evidently this conversation was going to be honest and forthright from the start. But then, Harry Kim wasn't one to sugarcoat anything for anyone. What was it he'd told her once? He didn't dance. "I'm no threat to you, or to this mission," she stated.
"I intend to help you. You could use a third person to help you accomplish what you want to do," she said.
"Chakotay and I can do it alone," he said firmly. "We don't need you or anyone else."
"I'm not going to try to stop him," she said.
Harry sighed, a long dreadful sound. "He needs to be focused on what he and I need to do."
He and I, she noted. Still. But that was all right, she was used to it. "He will be."
Harry ignored her and continued to study his padd.
She walked further into the room, knowing she was agitating him even more, but not caring. "I don't have the power to distract him, Harry. I wish I did, but I don't."
Harry stopped working for a moment, but didn't look up. He seemed about to say something, but decided against it and started to work again.
"Chakotay and I have been together for two years, Harry." Still he said nothing. "And in all that time he's never made love to me." That got him. He looked up. "He's slept with me and we've had sex." Harry looked away again, but she didn't care. "We very nearly made love together once. I think he started out thinking about me, but I quickly realized it wasn't me he wanted to make love to, it was her. As always." She was talking more to herself now than Harry, suddenly realizing it was important to say it all aloud. It was important to her. "When he opened his eyes and saw my face beneath him, the look in his eyes told me everything I needed to know. No matter how much time we have together, Chakotay will only love one woman, ever. I know that." She swallowed the lump in her throat. One thing about it, Chakotay had never lied to her, and he'd never made her promises he wouldn't be able to keep. "That night he called her name three times in his sleep." She sighed. "Usually, it's only once."
"We don't need you." It was a statement, emotionless.
"I know that. Neither of you need me." He looked up. "I'm doing this for him. Because I love him, even if he will never love me."
"Right." He punched the padd again.
She took a deep breath. What was she doing here, anyway? It didn't matter how she and Harry felt about each other, and it shouldn't be important to tell him all this now. For some reason, though, she wanted it all out in the open. The three of them were about to embark on a mission that Harry and Chakotay had been working toward for fifteen years. She was just a third-party, someone who might come in handy. And she wouldn't see either of them again after tomorrow. "I want to help him get back to his beloved bridge."
Harry looked up once more. "He'll be there again. We'll get back." He was always so certain. It was all he had, she knew. That determination and certainty was what made Harry Kim get up each morning.
She turned to go, then looked back. "Harry."
He looked up with the beginnings of downright irritation in his eyes. He was busy, always calculating numbers, always looking for that perfect set of numbers.
She swallowed hard. Her throat burned and her heart ached, but she wouldn’t let Harry know it. "I'm no threat to this mission. The first time I heard him refer to her by her first name, I knew that." She looked away before Harry could see the tears in her eyes. "He says her name like it's a prayer,” she whispered.
Tessa walked out before Harry could respond, not knowing if he would have even bothered, and not caring. Because she knew she was doing the right thing.
If they were successful, the past fifteen years would soon be gone from the history books. They never would have happened anyway.
After she had gone, Harry put his padds down and got another cup of coffee from the replicator. One more wouldn't hurt, even if it wouldn't help. Nothing helped.
He didn't know why she'd come, but evidently she had felt the need to do it. He knew she loved Chakotay, he could see it in her eyes when she looked at him. But Harry didn't care. Chakotay didn't love Tessa; he only kept her around to convince himself he had a semblance of a normal life. Harry also believed Chakotay let her stay around as a sort of cover, so other women would leave him alone.
At least Tessa didn't crowd Chakotay, or he'd have dumped her a long time ago – that much Harry knew for sure.
Well, who knew, maybe she'd come in handy tomorrow, after all.
Harry dumped his remaining coffee and the cup into the recycler and started for his small bedroom across the way. His entire apartment was small, not much larger than his quarters on Voyager had been. He liked it this way. He owned nothing except a clarinet his parents had bought him a dozen years ago, thinking it might make him feel more like the old Harry Kim. He'd tried to play it once, when he was alone, but it had only made him cry. Now it sat in the corner of the room, out of the way. He never even glanced at it anymore. Other than his padds and his computer, a few clothes and personal items, Harry was alone.
He took off his clothes and lay down on the bed, and waited for the nightmares to begin.
At 05:00 the following morning, Chakotay rang the door chime to Harry's apartment.
"Come in," came Harry's usual impatient tone.
Chakotay entered and sat his overnight bag on the floor, dropping his light jacket on top of it. "Are you ready?" he asked. He couldn't remember the last time he'd seen Harry when he wasn't scratching on a padd.
Harry glanced up. "Almost," he said, and nearly smiled. But that would be a stretch, because Harry hadn't really smiled for fifteen years, as far as Chakotay knew. Hopefully, today would change all that.
"So 'she's' still coming with us," Harry said, still working.
Chakotay sighed. "She's still coming along," he said. "She'll meet us at the shipyard." It had been a bone of contention between he and Harry for weeks now. Tessa wanted to come with them, to help them. What he and Harry were going to attempt wasn't going to be easy, if it was possible at all, and they could use all the help they could get. Another pair of hands at the shuttle controls might even be appreciated when things got down to the wire.
But Harry didn't see it that way. He'd never liked Tessa, and more importantly, he had always considered this mission his and Chakotay's, from the inside out. He didn't want intruders or do-gooders interfering. Six months ago, he'd been upset when Chakotay admitted that he'd told Tessa about their plans to return to Voyager. No one else knew about it, and Harry had wanted to keep it between the two of them. He didn't trust anyone else.
They were going to have to steal that Borg interface unit right out from under Starfleet’s nose, and the fewer people who knew about it, the better. They would need to steal a few other things, too, like the Delta Flyer, and Harry hadn't wanted anyone else to know their business.
If the truth were to be told, though, Chakotay thought the real reason Harry didn't like Tessa or want her on their mission was because he felt Chakotay's relationship with her was a disservice to Kathryn, that maybe Chakotay was even cheating on her.
Strangely enough, Chakotay understood this. There were times he felt the same way.
Chakotay was not only the one other person alive who knew how Harry felt about going back to find Voyager, he also felt the same intensity about this mission as Harry did, even though it was for a different reason.
The only thing Chakotay had left to live for, the only reason he got up each morning, was thoughts of getting back to Kathryn Janeway.
Harry glanced up at Chakotay.
He understood Chakotay's reason for wanting to return to Voyager, too. Chakotay had never told him specifically that he was going back for Captain Janeway, but Harry still saw the haunted look in Chakotay's eyes every day, and he knew Chakotay's love for her hadn't diminished a bit, even after all these years. She was as real to him today as she’d been fifteen years ago.
Harry knew Tessa was just a diversion, but he couldn't help it if he felt she didn't belong on the mission that would result in Chakotay being reunited with Captain Janeway. But if she was going, she was going. Harry wasn't going to waste precious time or energy arguing with Chakotay about it. Evidently it didn't bother Chakotay to have Tessa with them, and that was what really mattered. As long as Chakotay could concentrate on his job, Harry could put up with Tessa one last time.
And this was definitely going to be the last time.
Harry looked back at his padd and continued to work. Captain Janeway was the only woman he'd ever met who could keep a man loving her even after being separated from him for fifteen years. And the strangest part of all was through the four and a half years they'd all been stranded together in the Delta Quadrant, there'd only been a command relationship between Chakotay and Captain Janeway, at least as far as Harry knew. Maybe that was the real secret, thought Harry. Maybe Chakotay ached so much for what might have been he just couldn't forget her.
Harry knew what that ache felt like.
And Captain Janeway was pretty damn special to him, too. She had trusted Harry with her life, and the life of her entire crew. And 150 people were dead because of him, and because his captain had believed in him.
He wouldn't let her down this time.
"It's nearly time, Harry," said Chakotay. "You're sure we're ready?"
Harry knew that Chakotay was really asking if the final calculations were all set. After fifteen years, they needed to be. There was no more time left. "We're ready," said Harry, and disappeared into the bedroom to grab his overnight bag.
When he returned, Harry looked Chakotay in the eye. "You realize that after today, the past fifteen years won't have happened at all," he said.
Even though Harry had brought this up on more than one occasion over the years, it didn’t keep him from bringing it up again. He needed that confirmation.
"And you're still okay with that?" asked Harry.
"I'm still okay with it, Harry," said Chakotay.
Harry looked into Chakotay's eyes for a moment longer, as though searching for a weakness of some sort, or a wavering of his convictions. But Harry was satisfied with what he saw there. All that mattered to both of them was getting back to Voyager.
Harry nodded and moved to the coffee table to collect his padds and stuff them into his bag.
Today they would change history.
It was simple. Stealing the Borg temporal transmitter from Starfleet hadn't been difficult at all, even with guards hovering nearby.
Since he and Harry had always been careful about their plans, no one suspected a thing. They were just disenchanted and emotionally wrought near-civilians who had once had an unpleasant experience on a mission. A very long mission. So it was easy to talk his way past the guards, and into the control room where the Borg "device" was kept under tight security at Sector 3.12.
Chakotay took his carry-all case, and used the codes Harry had given him to break through the force field surrounding the transmitter. Then he exchanged his case with the one the Borg transmitter was in, reactivated the shields, and hung around for another fifteen minutes, looking and acting like someone who had nothing better to do than spend his day at Starfleet's research laboratory.
When he left the facility, he nodded at the guards, rounded the corner and took off at a run. Reaching the coordinates Harry had given him, he beamed himself over to Starfleet Shipyard Number 8 and hid behind a gutted Runabout for ten more minutes to be sure no one was following him.
They weren't. Yet.
Chakotay ducked inside the Delta Flyer and locked the hatch. Tessa and Harry were already on board. They looked at him and he nodded.
"Let's go," Chakotay said. "No one suspects the Borg transmitter is missing, but that won't last much longer."
"I'm on it," said Harry, already working the controls at the main console. "The Flyer hasn't been taken care of properly," he said, powering up the engines. "It'll take awhile to get her up to top speed."
"Whatever it takes, just do it," said Chakotay. "When they find out the Borg component is missing, they'll know who took it. And the Flyer is the first place they'll come looking for us."
"Acknowledged," said Harry. "Don't worry, I'll get us out of here."
Tessa smiled at Chakotay, and he nodded. He knew this was the calm before the storm. Soon the Federation would be after them, and they would be catapulted to the top of the Galaxy's Most Wanted list.
But they were already one step closer to home.
Harry was true to his word. He'd already figured out how to get the maximum out of the Delta Flyer, and he handled her like a pro. He'd waited for this moment for too long, had planned for it for too many years, to be unprepared for a sluggish shuttlecraft.
Several hours later, Harry wound their way through a cloud cluster that was only a light year from the Takara Sector. "We're almost there," said Harry. He'd long ago figured out the best way to get from the shipyard to where they were sure Voyager awaited them.
"How do you plan to get through the barrier?" asked Chakotay. There was an electrical field near the Sector, one that people on this side didn't tempt the Fates to cross over. And there was no need to; the only thing on the other side was a barren planet made up of ice and glaciers. Every time he’d brought the subject up in the past, Harry simply told him he had that part all figured out.
"We'll get through," said Harry. "You and I jumped through it fifteen years ago in this same shuttle."
Chakotay took a deep breath. Everything was coming back to him, every nanosecond of that fateful trip, and remembering it was more unnerving than he'd thought it would be. It seemed like only yesterday – turning to Harry in the Delta Flyer and telling him they couldn't go back for Voyager. Voyager had jumped out of the slipstream drive and fallen back into normal space, and they had to leave her behind. Harry had sunk to his knees then, a look of disbelief on his face.
There was no turning back, he'd told Harry. Even if Voyager could survive re-entry, the Delta Flyer wouldn't. They would be ripped apart at the seams. In that moment, both their lives had changed forever.
Now Chakotay wondered if he'd done the right thing by saving he and Harry. Neither of them had truly survived after all, had they? The past fifteen years had been one nightmare after another. Literally.
Maybe they should have died, too, along with all their friends and their captain. They'd all been in it together, from the moment Voyager and his Maquis ship had entered the Badlands and were thrown into the Delta Quadrant by the Caretaker. They'd fought all the battles together, and celebrated the good times as a group. Maybe he and Harry weren't supposed to be separated from the rest of them. At least that's how it felt to Chakotay, and he knew Harry hadn't dealt with it any better over the past fifteen years, maybe even worse. At least Chakotay didn't carry the kind of the guilt with him that Harry did, the kind that ripped a person to pieces.
Chakotay suddenly felt anxious. Would they be able to save Voyager, or had they been lying to themselves for fifteen years by making promises they couldn't keep? Maybe it was impossible to go back and do it all again. Maybe they couldn't turn back the clock and live the last fifteen years differently, after all.
Maybe this was all wrong.
Chakotay took a deep breath and told himself to calm down. He and Harry had waited for this day too long to let anxiety overtake him now.
The next several hours would tell the tale.
Harry and Chakotay moved forward slowly. The ice wasn't easy to walk on, and their anti-gravity suits made it more difficult. This was an L-class planet, and the gravity wasn't what they were accustomed to. The region was also covered entirely by ice, and had a Celsius factor nearly off the charts.
Chakotay kneeled on the ice and brushed the top flakes of ice with his glove, holding his tricorder close to the surface. The readings were right on target. Voyager was directly below them, buried beneath nearly 20 meters of ice. And the glacial fractures were stable enough for he and Harry to beam inside the ship, after all. The ship hadn’t moved in fifteen years. When it crashed, it was embedded in the ice, and over the years more ice had frozen up around it. Voyager was a frozen tomb.
Chakotay closed his eyes briefly, trying to center himself. Fifteen years of thinking and planning still hadn’t prepared him for what he was feeling now. And he wasn’t even inside the ship yet.
After contacting Tessa to let her know they were ready, he felt the familiar tingle of a transporter beam.
Hopefully, he and Harry were not only one step closer to their past, but one step closer to their future, as well.
Harry and Chakotay materialized inside Voyager’s main corridor, near the auxiliary computer command center.
"Not exactly the way I remember it," Harry said, as they walked forward.
Though it was frozen, Chakotay was able to reset the interface with the power cell he’d brought along, but it wasn’t enough.
They’d hoped to find each crewmember’s location and the status of the entire ship through the interface, but the power cell wouldn’t prolong the link. The neural gel packs were frozen solid, and Decks 9 through 13 had collapsed on impact, becoming Deck 10.
Yes, it had been bad enough to kill everyone on board instantly.
He and Harry were going to have to do some legwork, literally walk the ship to find Seven of Nine, and he would also have to go to the bridge to access the last commands made from the bridge to determine Voyager’s exact location when she dropped out of slipstream and back into normal space.
As if he wasn't going to the bridge anyway, he reminded himself. No matter how bad it might be, he had to see her. He had to know how she'd died. He'd had fifteen years to think about her, wonder what her last minutes were like, what she'd been thinking, doing. He had to know what had happened to Kathryn when he wasn’t there to protect her, when he wasn’t there to die with her.
He and Harry split up, with Harry heading toward Engineering to see what condition the warp core was in, and to pull up the last phase corrections B’Elanna had gotten from Seven of Nine. He had to make sure they’d actually used the ones he originally sent back. He needed all the facts before he could plan for a new future.
Chakotay headed for the bridge.
His heart started to beat faster and his legs dragged with every step he took. He had to find her, but he didn’t know if he could stand seeing her if she’d been badly hurt. He should have been here for her, with her, when their ship crashed. It had been his ship, too.
Kathryn had been his best friend, his captain, and the love of his life. His biggest regret was that he hadn't been with her, even when she died, even though he was still convinced she'd planned it that way by assigning him to be on the Flyer. That knowledge had brought him a lot of anguish over the years.
The ship looked the same, yet not the same. Voyager was dead – everything about her was dead. Chakotay remembered how alive she’d been when Kathryn Janeway was alive; the ship had pulsated with energy, just like Kathryn.
He stopped outside the bridge and used every bit of physical strength he had to force the doors open. And then he stepped inside.
It was dark. Evidently Harry hadn’t accessed the emergency lighting yet, but there was no guarantee it would power up anyway, not after fifteen years.
Chakotay swept his wrist light around the bridge. Consoles had blown out, bulkheads had collapsed, and fire had erupted in the aft section, but hadn’t spread too far. He stepped over two frozen bodies on his way to Harry’s old station. At least he knew Harry wouldn’t be there, but he didn’t look too closely at the faces of the crewmen on the floor. He didn’t want to think too much about what had happened here. He didn’t have time to indulge in old nightmares anymore.
The Flyer had already dodged Federation ships a couple of times just getting here, but Chakotay knew Harry’s smart maneuvers wouldn’t put them off for long. Starfleet knew they were up to no good. They wouldn't have use for the Borg interface unless they intended to change the time line. And even though the Federation didn't quite know how to use the interface, they knew what it could be used for – and they would assume that the two misplaced ex-Voyager crewmen who’d had a great deal of experience with the Borg would know precisely how to use it.
He and Harry had to make the best of their time here, and stay moving. There was no time for thoughts about what should have been. They were here for a second chance at making things right.
He stepped over Tom Paris, lying propped against the rise to the uppermost section of the bridge. No time to think, he reminded himself. Tom looked asleep, that was all. No time to think about how he’d died.
Chakotay moved across the bridge, and there she was.
He stopped dead in his tracks. No matter how prepared he thought he was to see her again, he wasn’t. Nothing could have prepared him, he suddenly realized.
Kathryn was lying on her back, one arm thrown above her head, one leg bent to the side. Ice chips and frost covered her eyelids and the rest of her face and body. Her eyes were closed, as though she’d just lain down and given up. Her beloved ship had crashed, her crew was dead, and the captain had, of course, gone down with the ship.
But he knew she’d done everything in her power to save them all. He knew she’d tried, that she’d died trying.
He’d spent the better part of fifteen years imagining her body hurt, burned, damaged. He wasn’t prepared to see her so whole, still so beautiful, even in death.
He knelt beside her body. Tears came to his eyes, but instantly froze from the cold. He wanted to lie beside her, reach out and wrap his arms around her, and pull her cold body close to his. He suddenly wanted to give up, to stop fighting it all. He wanted to lie down beside her, right here on the bridge they’d shared for so long, and could for eternity.
He heard her voice inside his head, the night before the fatal slipstream flight. "Dinner plans?" she’d asked him after the crew celebration.
"Date with a replicator,” he’d replied.
"Cancel it – that's an order."
"Aye, aye Captain." He’d been more than happy to cancel it.
She’d walked off with that sly smile on her face and he had grinned all the way to his quarters. Did she know then that she’d kiss him later that night? He didn’t think so. No, he was sure she hadn’t planned that kiss, but had for once let her emotions lead her.
“Kim to Chakotay.”
The sound made him jump. “Chakotay here,” he said. His voice sounded calm, he thought.
There was a pause. “Are you all right?”
Chakotay took a deep breath. So, Harry knew. Was it that obvious he’d found Kathryn? “I’m fine,” he lied. “What is it?”
“I’ve found what I need in Engineering. The entire warp core shut down upon impact. I’m on my way to Sickbay to find the Doc,” he said.
Chakotay wondered how Harry could sound so unemotional. But maybe the only way he could get through it all was to put up a wall between his heart and his emotions, and just get on with what needed to be done.
Chakotay only wished he could do the same.
“I’m leaving the bridge,” he told Harry. “Seven's not here.”
“Better hurry up and find her,” said Harry. “We don’t have much time.”
They both knew that. But Chakotay also knew Harry was trying to get him to snap back to matters at hand. “I know,” he said softly.
“We’ll do this, Chakotay,” said Harry. “We’ll get her back.”
It was the first time Harry had ever spoken directly to Chakotay about the captain. This was as direct as he’d ever come, anyway. It had the desired effect. Chakotay shook his head to clear it, and stood. “I’ll meet you back in the Flyer,” said Chakotay, breaking the connection with Harry.
“I’ll be back, Kathryn,” he whispered to the woman he loved with all his soul, the one he now knew he couldn't live without, wouldn’t live without for another day. "We'll be together again. I promise." One way or another, he thought.
Though his legs had suddenly become rubber and he felt physically weak, Chakotay left the bridge and headed for Astrometrics. Seven probably never made it that far, but she’d more than likely been going that way when Voyager crashed. Hopefully, he’d find her somewhere in the corridor.
Ten minutes later, Chakotay leaned over the body of Seven of Nine. She’d gotten as far as the Jeffries Tube just down the corridor from the bridge when Voyager crashed.
Chakotay closed his eyes.
It had all happened quickly, just as they’d suspected. Still, it was difficult to see the proof of that in front of his eyes. He thought of Kathryn again and fought hard to push her out of his mind, for just a little while longer. If he could only get through this with Harry, he would be with her again.
He tapped his combadge and asked Tessa to lock onto the transporter relay and beam Seven of Nine to the lab.
He told Tessa the truth when he asked her to make it quick. It wasn’t
exactly a happy reunion.
After Tessa transported and secured Seven’s body in the frozen compartment Harry had readied for her, Chakotay headed for Sickbay where Harry had already activated the Doctor after rescuing his mobile emitter.
How good it was to hear the Doctor’s voice again! Who would have known his patronizing tone would ever be such a pleasure to hear?
But he and Harry were on a mission. There was no time for pleasantries.
As Chakotay was about to enter the room, he heard the Doctor question Harry.
"I go by Harry now,” said Harry, with no trace of emotion in his voice. Chakotay was used to it, but the Doctor seemed to be trying to adapt to the new Harry Kim. Chakotay understood.
"I demand an explanation,” said the Doctor.
"I'll give you one,” said Chakotay, as he moved into the room. “We're here to change history."
As Chakotay walked past the Doctor, the celebration the night before the slipstream flight jumped into his mind. Sometimes the past crept up on him at the worst, and most unpredictable, times.
The entire crew had gathered in Engineering and Kathryn had given them a little pep talk, captain to crewmen. There had been champagne. No one knew it except her first officer, but Kathryn had used all her remaining replicator rations to produce just enough champagne for everyone to enjoy. If they didn’t make it home the next morning, she was going to drink Neelix’s coffee the rest of the month, just so she could give her crew an evening of celebration.
Of course, she had explained to Chakotay beforehand that it was a non-issue, really. After all, with Harry’s careful calculations, they would make it home through the slipstream and the whole replicator rations system wouldn't exist anymore. She'd smiled at him, with a twinkle in her eye.
He heard her voice, always heard her voice, in his head….
"…the next generation of interstellar propulsion – the quantum slipstream drive." And Kathryn raised her glass to toast the slipstream drive and her stalwart crew.
Even now, Chakotay felt an intense pain in his heart, the pain of loss. All he could think of was Kathryn’s frozen and still body lying on the bridge. He closed his eyes and fought to bring himself back to the present.
“Where are we?” asked the Doctor, after the three of them had transported to the Delta Flyer.
“In the Takara Sector, just outside the Alpha Quadrant," said Chakotay. It seemed strange to explain to someone else what he and Harry had been involved in every single day for such a long time. They explained quickly how the Doctor and the entire crew of the Voyager had been buried inside a glacier for fifteen years.
The Doctor seemed almost touched that Chakotay and Harry had returned to Voyager, but added that Starfleet had taken their time finding them. Harry seemed to relive it all over again when he told the Doc that Starfleet had given up the search for Voyager over nine years ago, even when he had begged them to keep it alive. The anger in Harry's tone brought it all back for the two survivors now. When every Starfleet admiral stopped taking Harry's calls, he'd resigned from Starfleet.
The Doctor was grateful anyway, and Harry assured him that he and Chakotay were not here to salvage his program. They were here to stop this from happening in the first place.
And then, to the Doctor's amazement, Harry said: "We're going to send Voyager a new set of phase corrections."
Yes, that's what they were going to do, Chakotay thought. A new set that Harry had been working on for over ten years.
A new set, the right set this time.
Chakotay and Tessa beamed to Voyager's bridge, leaving Harry to begin preparations with the Doctor.
He had steeled himself to see the dead and frozen bodies of Voyager's bridge crew again, but when they beamed over, all the bodies were gone. Chakotay looked at Tessa, a question in his eyes.
"I beamed them to the Doctor's Sickbay," she said softly. "I didn't think you needed to see…them…like that again."
"Thanks," he mumbled before turning away. She'd known, too, then. Like Harry, she'd understood how difficult it had been for him to see Kathryn again, lying dead and cold on the bridge. She'd been so alive the last time he'd seen her. He shook his head. Tessa was asking him about the sluggish instrument controls, and he forced himself to answer her. Yes, Voyager was a state-of-the-art ship of her time.
When they needed a command code to access key data, he started for his command chair. He didn't think; he just went. His old command code would probably work, and he could download the information from his old terminal there.
But when he sat in the chair, his body nearly went limp inside his suit. He hadn't expected to feel this way, to feel so much at home, so tired, so emotional – all at the same time. Suddenly, it felt as though he'd never been away. The chair still molded to his body, still fit his body exactly as it had before, even through the thick suit he wore. Tom should be just ahead, and of course Kathryn should be just to his right, giving orders, making decisions, taking a stand. She was always forced to take a stand. They'd met so many alien peoples and cultures, and they never knew in advance what was in store for them. Kathryn had made many decisions in those four and a half years that had no basis in traditional Starfleet teachings. Because they were situations Starfleet had no knowledge of, there was no way to prepare their commanding officers for what lie in store for them in other quadrants, other universes, that no one from the Alpha Quadrant had visited before.
But somehow, Captain Kathryn Janeway had pulled all her internal resources together, listened to her senior staff (sometimes) and used whatever part of her Starfleet training she could to make the right decisions. And those decisions were usually the best ones, and always honest. And, of course, there were times when she went strictly on instinct, a captain’s gut instinct.
Chakotay had known her job was difficult, but his respect for her position only increased after he and Harry had made it home again and he had time to reflect over those years from a distance. She'd had no time to play or laugh, though she'd forced herself to take a break from time to time. Even she had known she had to take a step back and relax a bit; the trip home could take a very, very long time.
Chakotay had never once believed it would take 70,000 light years to get home, he realized later. He always knew they'd get home well within their lifetimes. Captain Janeway wouldn't have it any other way.
But later, back on Earth in his apartment overlooking San Francisco Bay, he realized that Kathryn Janeway had always had her doubts. While she'd spent every day encouraging her crew, making them believe they'd get home soon, giving them every reason to hope, she'd had her own questions and reservations – about their chances and about her own leadership abilities. She'd been damn good at keeping her crew alive with that hope, though; it was one of her strengths.
She'd even convinced her first officer there was a way home just around the corner – it was always just around the corner. But in retrospect, he saw the questions in her eyes. And the disappointments the crew experienced along the way were even harder lessons for their captain.
Maybe that was one reason she'd made the decision to take the slipstream flight, even with that point four phase variance that Tom and Harry had discovered in their flight simulations the night before. Even when he went to her quarters to discuss the slipstream flight, but found she'd set the table for dinner as she'd originally planned. When he told her there were too many variables, he'd looked her in the eye and saw she'd already made her decision. He saw, too, that no matter what he said there'd be no discouraging her. So, he hadn't tried. Instead they'd had a wonderful dinner, soft music, lighted candles, wine, wonderful conversation. And a kiss. Always, he came back to the kiss.
Later he had questioned himself, too. Had he wanted to deter her from that flight for his own selfish reasons? Had he been more frightened of losing her if they got home again than he was of never having her by staying on Voyager, lost in the Delta Quadrant with her?
Maybe she'd finally come to the end of the road for hopes and dreams, and it was time to do something about it. Maybe she thought it was her last chance to do something right.
This time Kathryn, he thought, you'll get your ship home.
Chakotay looked up. Tessa was there, watching him.
He reached over and touched his console. It was sluggish too, but when it blinked on, there was an active file on his display. He touched the button without thinking.
It was her voice. The file was full of static and the resolution could be made better, but he couldn't move. His entire body stopped, his heart, his breath. His mind.
"…should our luck run out…I'd like to say for the record the crew of Voyager acted with distinction and valor…"
Of course, it would be just like Kathryn Janeway to record this message with her dying breath, just to let anyone who might find them know what sort of crew her people were. No, she didn't record this with her dying breath, he suddenly realized. She'd recorded it earlier, probably the evening before. Probably after their dinner, after the kiss….
After he left her quarters, she found herself alone and the demons of the night came to her. She'd known all along what a huge gamble she was taking, that they just might not make it home in the slipstream after all. And she'd taken the time to record this message.
"…should our luck run out…"
Oh, Kathryn….luck had a lot to do with it, yes – but you were our luck, you were our leader. And you always did what you thought was best, all the way to the end, he thought.
She'd been the sort of captain Starfleet wanted all their commanding officers to be, trained them to be, and hoped they'd have the discipline, stamina and code of ethics and honor to be throughout their distinguished careers – the kind of captain who not only went down with the ship, but left a recorded message about the bravery of her crew while she was at it.
Just as his heart started to beat again, and anger was beginning to rise in his chest – anger that he created out of desperation so he wouldn't feel the sort of emotion that would tear him apart – he heard a voice.
"Are you all right?" It was Tessa.
He'd forgotten she was there. Again.
"Yes," he lied. "It's just the last time I was in this chair they were all here. Alive." It was true.
But Tessa knew what it was that had turned Chakotay's face ashen. She knew whose voice that was in the recorded message. And if she hadn't known before who it was Chakotay still pined for, she would have known now, instantly.
That female voice had been commanding, sincere, certain, and yet sexy, all at the same time. This was a woman, a captain, who’d known how to command a starship, have a wonderful man fall head-over-heels in love with her and keep him wanting her for fifteen years after he’d last seen her. This was a woman she, Tessa, could never top in any way, shape or form.
Even though she’d always known this about Kathryn Janeway, she was shaken by hearing her voice, nonetheless. But she forced her own voice to be firm now, when she turned to Chakotay. "We're here to get them back."
He nodded, and forced himself to go through the motions of setting his tricorder to scan for the information they needed from the console, then rose. He turned away, quietly taking large breaths of the cold, cold air. He had to shake this torment and focus on the fact that they were here to change history, to make sure none of this had ever happened. Finally, he got himself under control.
Tessa was standing quietly behind him. He turned to her, told her he was getting "last minute jitters" and "cold feet" but although the jitters part was right, he wouldn't turn around for anything. He knew now, without a doubt, he couldn't live another day as he had for the past fifteen years. Either he would be with Kathryn again, or he would die trying.
But Tessa wasn't to be taken in. She knew exactly what was going on in Chakotay's mind, and in his heart. She knew him well; she loved him. But he would never love her back, no matter how much time they had together and no matter how good she might be for him, or to him. Although he had her, she would never have him. She would never be Kathryn.
Tessa swallowed her hurt. She had made the right decision to be here. At least she could help make Chakotay happy by helping him to return to Voyager, and to his beloved Kathryn. "Your heart has always been here, on Voyager – that'll never change. This is where you belong," she said. And she meant every word of it. She'd known it since the day she met him, but she had seen all the proof she needed only moments ago when she saw his face and his reaction to Kathryn Janeway's words coming from that console.
And although she told Chakotay that perhaps they would meet someday in the new future that awaited both of them, she knew they wouldn’t. And even if they did meet, he would pass her by without a backward glance. After all, he would be with his Kathryn.
Chakotay was going to get a second chance to be with Kathryn Janeway, but Tessa Ormand would never get a second chance to be with Chakotay.
She tried to lighten the moment by asking him to show her his quarters, and when he declined she knew it wasn't that his quarters was a mess, as he’d said. It was because this was a part of his life she didn't belong in, a private part of his life that belonged to Kathryn Janeway, and not Tessa Ormand.
But she wasn't bothered by that, not now. She'd seen that look on his face, and she knew more than ever that she had to let him go.
Harry Kim had never been on a mission like this before. Everything he did now mattered.
Ten plus years of calculations and exactitudes didn't matter anymore. Planning didn't matter anymore. It was now or never.
Harry Kim also knew with absolute certainty they'd either make it back to that fateful day and bring Voyager home again, or die trying. No matter which way it went, he couldn't live one more day like he had the past fifteen years. That time was past. The nightmares were over, finally.
Harry shook his head, and snapped back to the present.
"When did you embark on your life of crime?" asked the Doctor, watching Harry out of the corner of his eye.
"When I heard about this little gem," said Harry. He showed the Doctor the Borg Salvage Component 36698, the interface that had been found in the Beta Quadrant by Starfleet. Harry remembered the first time he heard about it, because he immediately knew how it would fit into the plan that would bring he and Chakotay back to Voyager, back to this moment. He knew how this little piece of technology could help them change the past.
Now here they were, at the top of the Galaxy's Most Wanted list. He sighed. Well, that was all right. Very soon it wouldn’t matter anyway.
Harry had to send the right phase variance corrections this time. He knew the magic numbers. He’d worked them out a long time ago, and had spent years testing them.
Some people would question the ethics of turning back time, of affecting so many people's lives, and destroying fifteen years' worth of history. But not Harry. He knew the current time line only existed because he had made a colossal mistake fifteen years ago. He was the sole cause of the past fifteen years being what it was, he told himself over and over again. It kept him sane.
Harry Kim asked the Doctor to make a decision. Either he was with them, or he wasn't. If he didn't want to be involved in changing history, Harry would take his program off-line.
The Doctor replied, "To aid an honorable thief, or spend eternity in cybernetic oblivion. Let's tempt fate."
And Harry Kim smiled.
Harry had never known a moment more important in his life than the one coming up.
Of course, there had been one other such moment, fifteen years ago when he'd sent the wrong phase corrections back to Voyager. But he hadn't known then what that mistake would cost him, would cost all of them.
He swallowed hard. There was no room for error this time. There would be no third chance.
Harry excused himself, telling the Doctor he had something he had to do, while the Doctor was attempting to pinpoint Seven's time of death down to the millisecond, if possible. The timing had to be perfect. Harry was going to recalibrate Seven's cranial implant, and use it as a transceiver for the new set of phase corrections. He'd worked the numbers for years. It all had to take place in just under four minutes for everything to work out the right way this time.
After Harry re-routed the new numbers through Seven's cranial implant, Seven would immediately tell Captain Janeway about the new set of phase corrections and, given that there wouldn't be enough time for anyone to validate that the new set of numbers were from Harry Kim, the captain would be forced to use them. She would accept that they were more than likely from Harry since he and Chakotay no longer had a communications link with Voyager. She would assume that Harry had figured a way to communicate with them through Seven's cranial implant.
And indeed, he had. But it was fifteen years later, not the minute or so later that Captain Janeway would believe it to be.
Janeway would tell Seven to enter the new set of phase corrections because, although she didn't like accepting things at face value, she would also know her ship and her crew were in grave danger. At that point the slipstream would be near collapse, and Tom would more than likely have already lost helm control, or would soon, because of an overload in the quantum matrix.
There was no turning back, and the point-four phase variance was going to be their undoing if the captain didn't take that leap of faith and trust that those phase corrections were being received from the Delta Flyer. And that's just what Harry was counting on.
Harry Kim to the rescue.
It might be fifteen years later, but it just couldn't be too late. Harry's very soul depended on today being the day he came through for his captain and his crewmates.
Harry was speaking softly into the console across the room. "If you're watching this now, that's all changed. You owe me one," he said.
The Doctor called to him. It's time, he told Harry.
"Be right there," Harry called over his shoulder.
Harry turned back to the small viewscreen in front of him. "Gotta go." Then he reached up and pushed the button to end the recording and hold it for future transmission.
He wondered if his message would ever be delivered.
"What was that all about?" asked the Doctor, as Harry moved over to help with the final preparations before sending the new set of phase corrections back to Seven of Nine.
"Oh, nothing," said Harry absently. "Letter to a friend."
Chakotay sat at the helm of the Delta Flyer. The time was near. After all the years of getting to this point, it suddenly seemed like it hadn't been all that long ago. He'd sat at the helm of the Flyer then, too. And when he and Harry had had to complete their journey through the slipstream, leaving Voyager behind, his heart had nearly broken then and there.
And Chakotay remembered Harry’s face well. Something very real had died in Harry that day. He was never the same afterward, but had spent every waking moment trying to figure a way to get back to that time, to do it over. To fix it all.
And now, finally, that time had come.
Chakotay took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Indeed, that time had come.
Tessa was behind him, monitoring tactical and navigation. She'd wanted to be here, he told himself. He was glad she was here, yet a part of him wished she'd gotten angry instead and walked out. It was the guilt, he knew – the same old guilt he'd felt for over two years. He didn't love her. He couldn't love her. He loved only one woman.
And he was going to be reunited with her soon.
He took another deep breath, then rose from the console. "I'll be right back," he told Tessa as he moved past her and into the double-bunk compartment of the Flyer. It was a bit tight, and meant for two people in the best of times, but it had a computer console. That was all that mattered.
Chakotay engaged the console and stared into the monitor. He only had a couple of minutes to do this.
Tessa was glad to have a moment alone.
She was still glad to be here, and sure she was doing the right thing.
Going back to a time well before she met Chakotay was better than living with him now, knowing he would never care for her as much as she needed him to. She wished it could be different, but it would never be. Kathryn Janeway was everything Tessa Ormand was not, and then some.
Tessa sighed. She thought she was prepared for this, and in fact was probably as ready as she could ever be. But it hurt, just the same.
In a few minutes they would get this show on the road.
"Chakotay, it's nearly time!" Tessa's voice came from the command center of the Delta Flyer.
Chakotay told her he'd be right there, then turned back to the monitor. "I won't remember any of this, but I wanted you to know how things are." He hit the button to end the recording, then reached up and encoded the message so it would be transmitted at the appropriate time.
He wondered if his message would ever be delivered.
"What was that all about?" asked Tessa, as Chakotay moved back to the helm to help her complete the final preparations.
"Oh, nothing," said Chakotay absently. " Letter to a friend."
The time had come, and Harry was more than ready to be done with it all and get back to that slipstream flight. This time it would happen very differently.
Geordi LaForge had come after them, just as Harry and Chakotay had known he would, as they'd known many of Starfleet's best would try.
It wasn't surprising that Geordi had figured out where they were going immediately, and reached them first. He'd always studied Harry and Chakotay closely, and they knew he'd be the least surprised that they'd had something up their sleeves. He knew they couldn't forget the past, and had never told them things would get better, the way most people had.
Harry and the Doctor were nearly ready to send back the new set of phase corrections. Chakotay and Tessa were ready at their stations, waiting – waiting for Harry to do his job – when Geordi showed up. Now they were stalling Geordi, but Harry knew that wouldn't last long.
Suddenly, the Doctor extracted the numbers they were all waiting for from Seven's cranial implant, and Harry loaded them in. He told Chakotay they were ready, and finally – finally – Harry sent the new set of phase corrections back to Voyager, with less than four minutes to spare before the flight turned bad.
But nothing happened!
The Flyer's engines were down and Chakotay was declining LaForge's offer to be locked onto with tractor beams and be saved, and Harry Kim had once again sent the wrong phase corrections back to Voyager!
"We're still here! Why are we still here?" Harry yelled to the Doctor.
The Doctor didn't know what went wrong, and Harry didn't either – except that he was once again a failure.
History was repeating itself. It had taken him ten years to make those corrections. He couldn't fix it in the three minutes he had left! Voyager was going to crash-land again, and Harry Kim was going to be responsible for killing 150 people a second time!
The Doctor begged Harry to get hold of himself, but Harry was way past that point. He'd barely lived with himself for killing 150 people the first time. If he did it again, he wouldn’t survive a second time.
Suddenly the Doctor thought of a new angle, one that Harry Kim had never considered. "Is there a way to get them to abort the slipstream drive?" asked the Doctor.
"Yes!" The suggestion immediately lit up Harry's eyes – and his mind, already full of calculations, knew exactly what to do! He'd spent so long trying to figure out how to make that slipstream flight work he'd never even considered aborting it before the problems occurred.
Taking the Doctor off-line so he could use the holo-emitter to generate more power to the transmitter, Harry keyed in the last set of calculations he'd have time to send.
This was Harry Kim’s last chance to change history.
And as the calculations were accepted on the other side of the timeline in the Voyager, Harry slammed his fists against the console and screamed "Yes!" as his world disappeared with him in it.
Harry’s years of perseverance had paid off. This time he hadn't let his captain and crewmates – his family – down.
Captain Janeway stared at Seven of Nine. "Does Harry know how to access your Borg systems?"
"No," said Seven of Nine.
The captain looked away. "He must've found a way," she said more to herself than anyone else. Harry had sent the wrong phase corrections, but since all communications with the Delta Flyer had ceased, he had to have found another way to send the right ones.
And since they were nearly out of time, there was not another option but to trust they were from Harry and accept them.
After ordering Seven to enter the second set of corrections, Voyager immediately dropped out of the slipstream, and the drive itself shut down completely. There would be no more attempts to use it, not today, and maybe not ever.
The captain was not exactly happy when she explained to Ensign Kim over the newly re-established comlink that they'd entered the exact phase corrections he'd sent to Seven of Nine, and those calculations had shut down the slipstream drive. But when Harry sounded confused and said he hadn't sent any phase corrections to Seven of Nine, Janeway immediately knew that some divine intervention, some guardian angel, had been involved – either that, or some menace who didn't want them to get home again.
One thing was for certain – she'd sure as hell find out who was responsible for this if it took a light year to do it.
After thanking her crew for their hard work and dedication, Captain Janeway ordered her first officer and Harry Kim to report back to Voyager with the Flyer. They could take an hour to freshen up, then report to the bridge for their regular duty shifts. There was no reason not to continue on as usual. After all, it seemed they wouldn't be getting home any time soon.
At least everyone was safe and sound, the captain told herself, as she walked down the corridor toward Astrometrics where she and Seven were going to go over all the data from the slipstream attempt. Things could have been a lot worse. If they hadn't used the new phase corrections from their unknown friend, they might not have survived this, according to Seven’s latest theory.
Captain Janeway always had to talk herself through these disappointments. She’d gotten good at it over the past four years.
As she walked through the doors to join Seven at her console, the captain finally acknowledged the knot in her stomach that usually warned her about things she didn't want to know.
She had a feeling there was a lot more ahead of her before the day was over.
It was several hours before Captain Janeway's questions had all been answered, even if there were still some answers that weren't complete. She and Seven had gathered all the information there was about what had happened.
The bottom line was that ten years had been taken off their journey as a result of their little sojourn earlier today.
That, and one other oddity.
Kathryn Janeway strolled through the nearly empty corridors of her ship, carrying a tricorder. She'd downloaded something she wanted to share with Harry Kim, and according to the computer, Ensign Kim was alone in the mess hall.
She’d already ordered the dismantling of the slipstream drive, and B’Elanna had overseen the process before turning in for the night. Perhaps someday they’d be able to use it again, if and when they learned more about it.
It was 02:00 and everyone who wasn't on duty or in the holodecks was asleep. Kathryn knew why Harry was alone in the mess hall. She'd often worked there herself over the years. It was a good place to think. And right now Harry Kim was trying to figure out why his original set of phase corrections hadn't worked, and why that mysterious second set from some unknown being had interfered.
And she was going to explain it to him the only way she knew how – by telling him everything she knew, straight up. He deserved to know it all.
Taking a deep breath, she entered the mess hall.
Harry Kim looked up from his lone vigil at the computer console in front of him. He was tired, and Captain Janeway immediately recognized the desperation etched on his face. He looked like a little boy who was trying to figure out how to make his science project work before school started tomorrow morning. His face was also filled with fear – fear that he had nearly done something unimaginable. She knew that feeling because she had often been where he was right now.
Harry realized he had nearly killed 150 people, but what he didn't know was that he'd also saved them.
When she greeted him, he stood, an ensign greeting his captain, but she told him to relax. She was here as more than just a captain tonight. It was 02:00 and time for some truths to be told.
"I just came here to try to figure things out," he told her, after taking his seat.
Ah yes, she'd done the same thing many times.
His face was in pain and he couldn’t look at her when he told her he'd nearly killed them all. She understood.
But then she'd pulled up a chair beside him, and in a soft controlled voice explained who their Guardian Angel had turned out to be – his name was Harry Kim.
She explained to Harry how Seven had found a Starfleet Security Code embedded in a transmission that was captured from this morning's disastrous slipstream attempt. It had a temporal displacement, generated from sometime in the future – ten or twenty years from now, it was impossible to be sure when. There was a log entry encoded in the telemetry – from Harry Kim to Harry Kim.
She explained to Harry how he had at some point come through for them all. She tried to convey to him that that was what mattered. Whether he'd agree or not was his cross to bear; she couldn't be his conscience. Harry would have to make peace in his own soul for what he didn't do, and for what he did.
Harry seemed confused by it all, as she knew he would be. She had been too, but of course she'd had hours to consider this, to think about it, to make sense of it. It involved time paradoxes, something that could nearly drive her crazy. The past's the future, the future's the past….it always gave her a headache.
She smiled at Harry when he questioned everything, when he asked her if by saving them all in the future and bringing them back to the past, the future hadn't really happened at all. Or had it?
"My advice in making sense of temporal paradoxes is simple – don't even try," she said, handing him the tricorder.
Harry would have to make sense of this in his own way, and in his own time. He would have to figure out where his place truly was in this family, on Voyager.
The captain smiled at him. Harry Kim's message to Harry Kim belonged to Harry, and he could do with it as he pleased. It was his personal letter from the past. She had played it, of course, and she'd never been prouder of him than she was today. Young Ensign Harry Kim had grown up to be quite a man. He was haunted by ghosts and his own conscience, and he'd quit Starfleet over it, but he couldn't leave behind the ideals he had joined Starfleet for. They were imbedded in his soul.
And that's what Starfleet was really all about, she thought. What was in one's soul.
Captain Janeway left Harry to his own thoughts, and his message from the past. He probably wouldn't sleep tonight. She'd checked, and thankfully he had the late shift tomorrow.
The captain left the mess hall and started for her own quarters. It had been a very full day, and she was exhausted. She, unlike Harry, had the early shift tomorrow, for which she could thank her thoughtful first officer.
She thought of Chakotay and smiled.
Ah well, at least he and Harry had returned to them. She wondered briefly what had happened to Chakotay over those now-lost years, and if they had been important ones to him. Had he met someone, loved someone?
Her heart nearly stopped beating. Here she was, thinking about things she didn’t want to know about.
Even though she’d kept Chakotay at arm’s length for four years, she couldn’t imagine him with anyone else. Maybe that was the way of….things. She wanted him, truly, but she wouldn’t allow herself the luxury of a love life when she was to blame for stranding so many people so far away from their homes and loved ones. Perhaps it was self-punishment, but that was the way it was, nonetheless. She didn’t deserve Chakotay, and he certainly didn’t deserve to be in a relationship where his other half couldn’t give him all of herself.
She had a crew to get home first.
And if he was still there when they got home again, and if he still looked at her with desire in his eyes, they would talk then.
She suddenly remembered the kiss from just last night and nearly stopped in her tracks. Had it really been just last night? It seemed so long ago.
She shook her head as she continued down the empty corridor to her quarters. That kiss had been a promise of things to come. She’d intended to let him know how she felt, and that more than anything she wanted them to try life out together when they got home again. She’d told herself they would get home through the slipstream drive. Well, she’d been kidding herself again, hadn’t she?
That kiss had been worth everything to her – all the years in the Delta Quadrant, losing Mark and her years at home – it had suddenly all been worthwhile, and she'd realized it was meant to happen. She'd never believed in coincidence, had she? And she’d seen hope in Chakotay’s eyes last night, too. He still loved her, she saw it, felt it, tasted it in his kiss.
Tears stung her eyes, and she pushed them away with all the strength she had left. Well, they were back to square one now, weren’t they?
She wouldn’t lead Chakotay on, wouldn’t give him false hopes for a future she was unsure of again. She wanted him to be happy, and that meant letting him go if he found someone else to love.
She just hoped Chakotay would understand that, and try to forget about the kiss, about what she’d promised him last night. Right now, she was back to being a captain again. Being a woman would have to be put on hold once more.
The sudden pain in the pit of her stomach and the stab in her heart nearly made her miss her step. It was real. Her love for that man, her need to be with him, was as real as anything tangible.
She forced back the tears she felt gathering behind her eyelids again,
and tried to ignore the years’ worth of emptiness and loneliness she felt
Harry Kim sat alone in the mess hall long after he'd played the message from himself, from fifteen years in the future.
Perhaps the captain was right about temporal paradoxes. Trying to make sense out of them was annoying, nearly impossible, and could drive a person crazy.
Somehow, some way, he had come through for Captain Janeway and for his friends on Voyager. In the end, he hadn't let them down, after all.
It was too hard to comprehend, too complicated to understand. And it would need a lot more thought. He scrubbed his face with his hands.
Harry took the tricorder and his computer and started for his quarters. Thankfully, he had the late shift tomorrow.
Somehow he didn't think sleep would come easily tonight.
Kathryn Janeway entered her quarters and glanced at the chronometer across the room. It was 02:30 and she had to get up at 05:30. Well, 06:00 if she rushed her early morning rituals and only had one cup of coffee in her quarters.
She shook her head. Half an hour wouldn't make that much difference to her, and that extra cup of coffee would certainly make a difference to the rest of the bridge crew in the morning.
She gave a small smile in spite of her lousy mood and the feeling that she'd just lost everything that meant anything to her personally. Tom Paris always claimed he could tell how much coffee she'd had that morning by the way she walked onto the bridge.
"Computer, set alarm for 05:30," she said, as she unzipped her uniform jacket and started for her bedroom. Even a bath would have to wait.
But before she reached the doorway, her attention was caught by a blinking light on her computer console. There was no reason for that light to blink. Messages from the crew were routed directly to her command console on the bridge, not to her personal computer in her quarters. Messages from her senior staff were usually sent directly to the computer station in her ready room, but she could access them from her bridge console if need be.
Who would have sent a message directly to her quarters? It was very unusual. Over the years she’d received a couple of sensitive tactical updates from Tuvok, and a couple of private messages from Chakotay. One of those immediately came to mind – one that he’d sent her just after they’d returned to Voyager from New Earth, a day or so after their heart-to-heart talk about how things had to go back to the way they were before. She'd made it clear to Chakotay that they had to maintain a command relationship. It was a decision she still questioned, and often regretted. He hadn't been happy about it, and didn't really understand her decision, though he said he would respect it. That message was the only one she’d kept in a personal file, to hold onto when she needed it most.
She blinked the tears back yet again. This seemed to be the night for it. She sighed. She was tired and overly emotional, a trait most of her crew wouldn't attribute to her. They hadn’t made it home as she'd hoped they would; she still had the responsibility of 150 crewmen on her shoulders, and tonight she felt the weight of it even more than usual.
On top of everything, she had just made the decision to give up all thoughts of ever having a life with Chakotay.
She stood rooted to the spot for a very long moment, still staring at the message light on her console. Something tugged at the back of her mind, but she was afraid to let it come forward. That message couldn't possibly be from…no, she wouldn't even think it.
Kathryn took a deep breath and sat in the chair in front of the console. She certainly didn't need another surprise; she’d had too many of those for one day.
When she hit the play button and saw his face, her heart fluttered once and then began to beat hard in her chest. He was older here, but his eyes said it all. They looked through the screen at her with such love she felt her heart would break.
He’d sent her a message back in time, just as Harry had sent one to himself.
She sat still and watched his face, listened to his words. And loved him more than she’d ever loved him before.
“Kathryn, I don’t have much time. If you’re watching this now, then you know what happened. You know that Harry and I made it back to Earth, and Voyager didn’t.
You also know that we changed history today.”
He looked deeply into her eyes, and she could feel the intensity of his gaze slam into her heart.
“My people believe that each soul can only belong to one other. Your soul is the mate to mine, Kathryn. Believe that if you believe nothing else. And if I ever questioned it in the past, I’ve had fifteen years to be sure.”
He looked straight through her, into her heart. Kathryn blinked back tears to clear her vision. She had to see his face.
“Harry is returning to Voyager to relieve his conscience, Kathryn. I’m going back to be with you. There is no one else for me but you, so know this: I will wait forever for you to come to me. I may stumble and fall from time to time, but I ask you to pick me up when I do. Be patient with me. Love me if you can. And forgive me if I fail you, or if I walk away in frustration..”
He leaned even closer to the screen. Unknowingly, Kathryn leaned forward, too.
“I will never forget that kiss, Kathryn. It will stay inside me forever, even when you’re not with me. I know this to be true. Fifteen years has only made me love you more.
I'll make you a deal: don’t pretend we’re not meant to be together, and in return I’ll give you all the room you need. It’s all right to look at me now and then with love in your eyes. I’ll know that you mean it, and I won't ask you for more than you're willing to give.”
He swallowed hard.
“I miss you, Kathryn.”
His voice nearly broke, and Kathryn’s heart was beating so fast she could almost hear it. Then he reached out his hand and touched the screen. Kathryn automatically touched her palm to his. If she didn’t know better, she would swear she could feel the heat of his palm against hers. “Chakotay….” she whispered.
He pulled his hand slowly away, and turned to someone off screen. “I’ll be right there,” he called, then turned back to Kathryn.
“I won’t remember any of this, but I wanted you to know how things are.”
Then he severed the connection.
Kathryn sat still for a very long time. Tears ran down both cheeks, but she didn’t know it, and she didn’t notice when her blue tee shirt became wet with her tears. He loved her now, and after fifteen years, he’d continued to love her.
Finally, after what seemed hours but was only minutes, Kathryn stood. Her body was stiff and sore, and she felt as though she had been dragged through a keyhole, or worse, been engaged in battle with four Klingons simultaneously on the holodeck.
He loved her. Still. Even now, and then too.
She made her way to the bathroom and ran water in the tub. She needed a bath, after all. She had to take a few minutes to relax, and maybe have a good cry, here alone in her quarters where the captain could be a woman for just a few minutes.
But more, she had to think about Chakotay’s message.
Chakotay couldn’t sleep. He’d tried, twice. But his mind was racing and he’d had far too much caffeine. On top of that, he had the early shift with Kathryn tomorrow.
Today had been one bad day all around. First, the slipstream drive hadn’t taken them home the way it was supposed to. Then Harry had sent back the wrong phase corrections and someone or something else had sent a second set of calculations that had knocked them out of the slipstream and shut down the drive.
And Kathryn and Seven of Nine had spent all afternoon and evening in Astrometrics trying to figure out what went wrong.
All day he’d had a strange feeling that this was meant to be. He couldn’t put his finger on it; it just felt right.
That didn’t mean Kathryn Janeway would feel the same. In fact, he had seen the disappointment in her eyes when he stopped into Astrometrics earlier. He’d wanted to see her alone, to tell her again that they’d get Voyager home another way, but that for some reason it wasn’t meant to happen this time.
But Seven had been there, and he couldn’t think of a good reason to pull Kathryn aside to speak with her, since they were both so involved in their quest for information about what had happened. Maybe she needed some time alone, and some sleep, and he could talk to her about it tomorrow. He just wished he could make her understand it wasn’t her fault. None of it was her fault.
He ordered a cup of chamomile tea to calm him. He had intended to invite Kathryn to breakfast tomorrow morning before their duty shift, but she rarely wanted to meet for breakfast anymore. She usually had coffee in her quarters instead.
He’d find a way to get her alone, though, to see how she was handling the disappointment. Where there was a will, there was a way.
Chakotay sipped his tea, closed his eyes, and tried to forget about the kiss. Had it been only last night that she’d kissed him? It seemed like much longer somehow. A lot had happened since that kiss. Not only had the slipstream drive collapsed, but along with it went the hope that they would soon be home and he and Kathryn could start a life together.
That was the real reason he couldn’t sleep. He glanced at the chronometer across the room and took a deep breath. 03:30. He had to get up in two hours.
Kathryn would expect him to go back to the way things were between them before the kiss – just as she'd once before expected him to put his feelings on hold for her.
After they'd returned from New Earth she'd put the command structure back in place and thought he could just go on as though nothing had happened between them. He'd agreed with her decision, but his heart hadn't forgotten, and his soul would forever be linked to hers. He understood they were meant to be together, that their souls were linked, even if she didn't. Maybe someday she would listen to her heart.
And then last night she'd kissed him, after all this time. That kiss had changed everything for him. It had given him hope. For those few short hours between the kiss last night and the slipstream attempt this morning, his heart had been full and he had felt alive for the first time in a very long time. He’d nearly forgotten what that was like. He'd left Kathryn's quarters last night believing they would be together soon, very soon.
Now, the disappointment hurt more than he thought it would. He’d had his heart set on the future, and now he had to be content once more with the present.
Taking a mind-clearing breath of fresh air, he finished his tea and put the empty cup in the recycler.
As he tightened the cord of his robe and started back to bed, the door chime rang.
Chakotay stopped. Who would be visiting him in his quarters at 03:45? If it were an emergency, he would have been contacted through ship’s systems. But everything was quiet.
“Come,” he called.
To his utter astonishment, Kathryn Janeway walked into his quarters. He was so surprised he couldn’t speak. She even had that little smile on her face he loved, and her eyes shone as she looked at him. Her arms were held discreetly behind her back.
“I thought you might be awake,” she said in the voice she only used when they were alone and she was feeling good, the one that drove him crazy and made his nights easier to bear.
He nodded. His throat was so tight he couldn’t speak.
She slowly pulled a peace rose from behind her back and held it out to him. His heart was racing in his chest, and he tried to swallow. Finally, he managed to reach out and take the rose.
“I remember how much I appreciated a peace rose someone once gave me. It meant that I wasn’t alone,” she said. Her eyes were trained on his. “I just thought it was time I said ‘thank you’ for all you do for me, Chakotay, and for always being there." She paused only a moment before looking even deeper into his eyes, and straight through to his soul. "I do need you, you know.” There was a certain emphasis on that last part that wasn't lost on him. She looked down for a moment, and Chakotay wanted to move to her, to hold her, but of course he couldn’t. Even if she’d allow it, he was rooted to the spot.
Finally, when she looked back into his eyes he saw everything he would ever need in his lifetime reflected in them. “Someday, when the time is right, I’d like to get back to all those things we didn’t say last night, if that’s all right with you,” she said.
He could only nod, and stand there like a fool, holding the most wonderful gift he’d ever received, a gift that was much more than just a flower – just as the one he’d given her once-upon-a-time had been more than a flower. She really had understood that after all, he now knew for certain.
“All right then,” she said lightly, and turned back toward the door with a spring in her step that was too fresh and rested for nearly 04:00, especially just after their near-disastrous experience with the slipstream drive so many hours ago. He knew she had in many ways experienced a worse day than he had, and she couldn't possibly have gotten any rest, either.
“Oh, by the way,” she said, turning back, “How about joining me for breakfast this morning, 06:00 in the mess hall,” she said more than asked. But then, she knew she didn’t really have to ask.
He nodded again, then swallowed hard and managed to say, “See you there.”
She smiled. “We might not have made it home this time, Chakotay, but we will,” she said. "We will," she repeated in that voice that left no room for questions, and he knew she was promising him more than she was saying.
He nodded yet again, and Kathryn Janeway left the way she’d come.
Chakotay sat on the chair nearest him and looked at the peace rose he still held in his hand. If it weren't for this, he would believe the past few minutes had been just a dream, hadn’t really happened at all.
But they had happened. He held the proof in his hand.
Maybe he and Kathryn would have a second chance to be together one day, after all.
When he could gather himself up, Chakotay stood and carried his rose to a small vase with his tribe's sign for hope painted on the side of it. Naomi Wildman had made it for him not long ago. He poured a bit of water in it and set the rose inside, then carried it to his bedside table.
He had just over an hour to grab a few winks before getting a quick shower and meeting Kathryn for breakfast.
It was imperative he rest, too, because the captain would accept no excuse for his being tired during duty shift, even if the excuse was having breakfast with her.
And for the next hour Chakotay slept soundly, with a smile on his face
and a peace rose in a vase with a sign of hope on it sitting nearby.
It was nearly 11:00 hours and she had a staff meeting in an hour. Captain Kathryn Janeway put her head back against the arm of the couch in her ready room. Her headaches always came at the worst possible times.
She could ask the Doctor to give her something for it, of course, so she could use the rest of her time to prepare for the meeting properly, but that would mean giving the Doctor ammunition to tell her how she wasn't taking care of herself, how she drank too much coffee, how she didn't eat properly, how she hadn't shown up for her latest medical examination….no, she wouldn't call the Doctor. She'd get through this one alone.
She closed her eyes and tried to clear her mind. Somehow Chakotay always made it sound so easy, but she was never able to focus well enough to clear everything out of her mind. Instead, every possible thing ran through it, over and over again. She sighed and sat up. It was no good. And she had no more time to waste.
Tapping her combadge, she stood and moved to her desk on the lower level. "Janeway to the Doctor." She was the captain of this vessel, after all. And she certainly should be able to get relief for a headache without feeling guilty about it.
"Doctor here," came the immediate reply.
"When you report to the briefing room for the staff meeting, please bring your medkit with you," she said, a command and not a request.
"Are you hurt, Captain?" he asked, concern apparent in his voice.
"No," she said easily. "Just bring a hypospray that can rid me of this headache," she said.
"Hrumph, another headache…" said the Doctor.
"Yes. Thank you. Janeway out," she said, severing the comlink. She took a deep breath. Some things never changed, no matter how many years they were in the Delta Quadrant. She walked over to the familiar viewport, and looked at the new set of unfamiliar star systems that whipped by. She couldn't remember the last time she'd seen the same set for very long. "Seven years…" she said softly. Next week it would be seven years since she'd stranded them all in the Delta Quadrant.
Sighing, she moved away from the viewport and ordered a cup of coffee from the replicator. Some 21st Century study had shown that caffeine helps to get rid of headaches. She shook her head. No, some things never changed. She was unconsciously arming herself with information to hand the Doctor when he reprimanded her later. And he would, as usual, shoot down her theory with his superior knowledge about medicine, and tell her how archaic the medical knowledge of the 21st Century was.
Well, time to buckle down and prepare for the staff meeting, headache or no headache. She sat in her long-familiar chair and gazed at the monitor in front of her.
If that truly was a wormhole they'd detected yesterday….she took a very deep breath and tried not to get her hopes up.
Too many attempts to get home and too many failures over these past seven years made her weary. But of course if there was no hope, there was no reason to get up in the morning.
She'd promised her crew she would get them home again, and that was one promise she intended to keep, no matter how long it took. Where there was a will, there was a way. It was the one thought that motivated her, kept her going during the day and occasionally allowed her to sleep at night.
Maybe this wormhole is the one that will do it, she allowed herself
to think. Maybe, after all this time, this is the one that will take us
Captain Janeway ordered Tom Paris to bring Voyager to an all-stop. They were several hundred kilometers away from the intermittent graviton flux Seven had detected, the wormhole she tried not to put so much hope into.
The captain took a deep breath.
They still couldn't get a fix on where the wormhole led, so B'Elanna was preparing a probe to send into it. They would study the probe and make determinations, and the captain would make her decision based on the information they received.
Finally, a probe was ready. But just before it was deployed, Harry Kim detected neutrino emissions and heavy tritanium signatures in the area. Commander Tuvok confirmed it, and suddenly from nowhere, a Borg cube nearly ran them down! The captain reacted quickly, commanding Tom Paris to get the hell out of here – now!
But nothing happened. The cube passed them by without a backward glance.
Captain Janeway was less relieved about this than the rest of her crew. When a Borg ship ignored Voyager, it wasn't necessarily good news. It simply meant they hadn't become a threat. Yet.
She also knew the Borg definitely considered Voyager a threat, so it made no sense whatsoever.
And she didn't much like the heavy feeling in her gut that always warned her of trouble.
At the impromptu senior staff meeting an hour later, the captain was exploring an alternate route on the schematics in front of her, one that would take them well around the Borg infested nebula, when Harry Kim suggested that a few Borg cubes shouldn't stop them from checking out that wormhole. The captain disagreed. They would find another way home.
"You might be captain one day, Harry, but not today," she said. No, she wouldn't risk her crew again. There'd been too many close calls with the Borg already.
And sometimes luck had a way of running out.
The captain was enjoying her third cup of coffee of the afternoon, something she constantly tried to convince the Doctor she was monitoring closely, when her door chime rang and Chakotay entered, bringing news of B'Elanna's false labor from the previous night.
They shared a good laugh over it. If B'Elanna didn't have that baby soon, Tom was going to be a wreck. Fatherhood was already taking a toll on him, even before his daughter was born.
She and Chakotay laughed again, discussed the baby pool, and she could almost believe things were the way they used to be between them. When he showed her crewman Chell's sample menu for the mess hall, including "Red Alert Chili," she asked Chakotay to join her for lunch, something they did less and less frequently these days. He declined, saying he had plans, and they agreed on a rain check.
After Chakotay left, the captain picked up her now cold cup of coffee and walked up to the viewport. She'd spent many hours here, in front of her own little window to the stars. She'd asked questions of herself, mulled over problems and conflicts, and made plan after plan to get her crew home. She'd also spent a great deal of time thinking about a certain first officer here. In the back of her mind, she always held out hope they'd be together someday.
But now she wasn't so sure.
She'd heard the rumors. It was impossible to be locked up with 150 people on a starship for seven years without there being a well-defined rumor mill in tact. Tom Paris was usually the captain of the rumor mill, but while he'd been busy with a wife and child-on-the-way lately, there was always someone else to take over for him.
She sighed and sipped her cold coffee. She barely noticed when it grew cold anymore.
Once, there'd been rumors about her and Chakotay. In fact, the rumors had never really stopped. Oh, they'd quiet down for a bit and then start up again, and over the years she'd gotten used to it. She'd even grown to appreciate it, if the truth were known. It somehow gave her greater hope that he was still waiting for her, still in love with her, as she was with him.
But now, it seemed that things had changed in a way she'd never expected.
Rumor had it that Chakotay and Seven of Nine had just had a second date, and if her suspicions were correct, today's lunch would be the third.
Kathryn Janeway took a deep breath and tilted her chin, resolving not to allow this to affect her. It had been her choice all along, her decision to maintain a command relationship. She couldn't blame Chakotay for moving on after seven long years.
Oh, but she'd hoped he wouldn't.
Last night she'd allowed herself a rare moment to reflect, and to consider what things might have been like for them. She'd replayed the two personal messages from Chakotay she'd received in the past years – the first after they'd returned from New Earth, when he'd asked her to put away his love for her but not to lose it, for it could always be found again. The second message was from four years ago when he and Harry had made it home in the slipstream drive and Voyager had not. They had turned back the clock and returned to Voyager fifteen years later. Chakotay had sent her a message from a future that now wouldn't happen, telling her that he would always be there for her.
She carried her empty cup to the recycler and dropped it in.
Maybe the rumors about Chakotay and Seven were wrong, but she'd learned a long time ago where there was smoke there was at least a little fire.
She supposed that was why the rumors about her and Chakotay had gone on for so long. There had always been a little fire between them.
In his message from the past, Chakotay told her he would always love her. If he stumbled and fell, then he wanted her to pick him up again. But would he want that now? If he and Seven of Nine were seeing each other, then maybe he truly had moved on. Maybe he wasn't in love with her anymore, and she would finally have to let him go completely.
She wondered if and when Chakotay would tell her about his relationship with Seven.
She even wondered if they would ask her to marry them, if it came to that.
Finally, she wondered if she would be able to do it.
Admiral Kathryn Janeway listened to the broadcast on the monitor.
The footage showed Voyager’s homecoming ten years ago. She had no desire to watch it, but she glanced at the screen as she picked up her cup of tea and moved to the window. On second thought, she asked the computer to end the display. She didn’t need a broadcast to remind her of the things she lived with every day.
Voyager had made it home ten years ago today. The joy she should have felt was heartache instead. They’d made it home, all right, but at such cost. The loss of so many lives still haunted her, day and night.
All those years on Voyager, promising the Doctor she’d sleep when they got home, had come to naught. She slept worse than ever these days.
She stared out the window at her view of the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance. She didn’t notice the bridge or appreciate the view, and never would, not until her entire crew was home again – or at least as many of them as she could save.
It was almost time to go back to Voyager and set the record straight.
After ten years she was going to right some old wrongs, to correct some mistakes she’d made a long time ago in the Delta Quadrant. She was going back for a second chance at bringing Voyager home sooner, and with a lot more crew members alive.
Captain Kathryn Janeway had taken care of other peoples and societies, everyone else’s needs before she’d taken care of her crew, and they should have come first. Captain Janeway had sacrificed for the wrong reasons.
But Admiral Janeway knew better. She’d learned the lessons the captain had been too arrogant to understand back then.
It had taken her many long years to come to terms with what she’d done, the wrong decisions she’d made, but hindsight was what they said it was – 20/20. And as each year passed, she became more and more bitter about those mistakes. Too many people had suffered, and she was to blame.
She’d lost 22 crewmembers after continuing on her way the day they’d detected the swarm of Borg cubes inside that nebula – the nebula she now knew would have gotten her crew home again, and sixteen years sooner.
She’d lost a lot of sleep over that knowledge in the past ten years. Admiral Janeway knew something about that particular wormhole that Captain Janeway had not known.
But that was all going to change, and very soon.
She would save the lives of those 22 crewmen, and she would make sure Tuvok had the proper treatment for his disease by getting him home, where his family could help him. She would also protect Seven of Nine by not allowing her to go on the away mission, where she’d been so badly hurt the Doctor couldn’t save her from eventual death.
She would save Seven's life if she could, but if for some reason Fate wouldn’t let her intervene on Seven’s behalf, she most certainly wouldn’t die in Chakotay’s arms, not this time.
Her life was empty without the crew she’d left behind, and when she was being honest with herself, she knew her life was also empty without Chakotay and the life they should have had together.
The only time she felt alive was when she closed his eyes and remembered what it had been like between them then. She would see his face, his twinkling brown eyes looking back at her with love and respect. She’d taken it for granted then, perhaps thinking his love would always be there for her when she was ready to receive it. What a fool she’d been.
And of course she remembered the kiss. Always, the kiss – the one they’d shared just before that nearly-fateful (or fateful, if she counted the first time) slipstream flight. She shut her eyes and he was there, in the room with her. She felt his firm, sweet lips moving against hers, the warmth of his hand on top of the one she’d placed on his chest, his soft breath against her cheek, the taste of wine on his breath, as he kissed her. She could still relive every nanosecond of it so easily, so fully. It was never far away. At times, it was all she had left that was honest and good, almost pure.
When she opened his eyes again, her heart was beating faster, just the way it had done then. She breathed deeply, bringing herself back to the present. Even after all these years, she could see him so strongly in her mind's eye, could feel the man she used to know – the one who was meant for her – beside her at the oddest times.
She pulled her mind back to the present. and looked out over the Bay, and into the sky. Her Future’s End started out there, back in the Delta Quadrant where she’d spent 23 years, the best years of her life.
He’d been there beside her through it all. And she missed him. She’d made a lot of mistakes, a lot of errors in judgment – about a lot of things. Yes, the second time around, things were going to be very different.
Admiral Janeway took a sip of her tea and grimaced.
Admiral Janeway slipped out of the new class of cadets Reg was teaching and spoke with Miral Paris on the monitor in her private office.
Miral was young, but doing just fine. She was following her mother's footsteps in many ways, and would one day be able to take her mother’s place as liaison between the Klingon High Council and the Federation.
But Miral didn't understand what she was involved in now. And no matter what happened next, Kathryn Janeway would protect her. The first thing she would do would be to send her home to her parents.
Moments later, after her conversation with Miral Paris was concluded, Janeway sat back in her chair and drummed her fingers on the desk. According to Miral, the device did exist, after all. She’d seen it. It was ready and in the hands of the Klingon, Korath. Admiral Janeway just had to go to the House of Korath and collect it.
She’d paid a high price for it – getting Korath a seat on the High Council hadn’t been an easy matter. What Korath didn’t know was that Admiral Kathryn Janeway would have bargained her very soul to get that device, if necessary.
The time to right some old wrongs had come at last.
One of the most difficult things Kathryn Janeway ever faced was saying good-bye to Tuvok.
Somehow she got through it, kissing him on top of his head, and leaving a holoimage of Voyager’s captain and her senior staff on his dresser, hoping he might have a glimmer of recognition at some point, some day. It was an image she treasured – when they were all younger, stronger, and full of hope. And life.
She was 72 years old, strong, agile and as good at nearly everything she’d once been good at. She liked to think she was even better at many things.
But today, leaving Tuvok, she felt old, beaten. And tired – tired of all the misspent years, and her misspent life. The feeling only lasted a moment, though, because she wouldn't allow it to get its foot in the door. As she’d done many times in the past, she pushed the feeling away and straightened her back, took a deep breath, and walked the corridors like the admiral she was.
She left Tuvok alone, mumbling in that strange language that only he understood. He had been her oldest and dearest friend, a valued member of her crew, and a confidante. The debilitating disease that had robbed him of his senses was something that could have been avoided if he’d gotten back to the Alpha Quadrant in time to have it treated. Tuvok had needed a blood relative to meld with, and of course he had had none on Voyager.
To this day, she took no comfort in the fact that Tuvok and the Doctor had kept the illness from her for so long that, by the time she did find out, there was nothing that could be done.
Head held high, she left the facility where she’d visited Tuvok every week for nearly ten years. She wouldn’t return, and she wouldn’t see him like this again.
The next time she saw Tuvok he would still be healthy and vital, and her security officer aboard the U.S.S. Voyager.
It was over, and she was glad. The ten-year reunion dinner party for the Voyager crew was held last night at the Command Hall near the Presidio. Everyone who was someone in Starfleet was there, as they were every year.
Admiral Janeway sighed. The reunions were all so difficult, from the first year anniversary celebration until the ten-year one last evening. Seven was now gone several years, and Tuvok had been ill for a long time, but last night’s event was the first gathering without Chakotay.
She'd pulled the Doctor aside and asked him to stop by her apartment today. She needed him to examine her.
He showed up precisely on time, and she'd continued to pretend she'd asked him under the pretext of wanting to get her yearly physical examination out of the way. She said she was leaving on an extended mission and wouldn’t be around for her annual physical when it came due. She hadn’t been able to think of another excuse for him to visit on such short notice. He’d questioned her about her intent – she’d never volunteered for a physical examination in the 33 years he’d known her, so why would she volunteer now?
Doctor Joe, as he was now being called (mostly by those who hadn’t known him as The Doctor), was still side-tracked with thoughts of his lovely new bride, and so she was able to distract him from thinking about it too hard.
Janeway smiled. It was odd how much his wife resembled Seven of Nine. She knew the Doctor had pined for Seven for years, and Janeway also felt they would have made a perfect couple. For awhile there, it had even looked as though a spark had started between them back on Voyager. Ah well, perhaps the Doctor and Seven of Nine would get a second chance in the new future, too.
When the Doctor came by today, she’d asked him about a new drug called chromexeline, an experimental medication that protects biomatter from techyon radiation. She told him she needed some of it, and that the reason was classified – and he had, of course, not questioned her further. Admiral Janeway was not only an admiral who was often involved in top-secret projects, she was his friend and ex-captain and there was no reason for him to question her ethics or motives. He knew her too well for that.
What he didn’t know was that things were going to change real soon.
The Doctor had pronounced her physically fit, and would acquire the 2000 mg of chromexeline for her, as requested. She would have it by 09:00 tomorrow.
All the pieces of the puzzle were slowly coming together.
Admiral Janeway threw her land jeep into gear.
She had two more stops to make, and then she would spend one last evening alone in her apartment before leaving it for the last time, just before sunup.
She would go over everything in her head once more, to be sure she’d covered all the bases. Nothing was written down, and no one would find her out before she was ready for them to.
There could be no mistakes.
Drawing her wrap tightly around her, she stuffed her hands into the pockets. The wind made the day cold, but she wouldn’t be out here long. And this little trip was necessary. And very personal.
She pushed a tree branch out of the way and moved to the path that would take her to the grave beneath the tree at the top of the hill. She was nearly there.
As difficult as the dinner last night had been for her, it would have been much worse if she hadn’t already been focused on her plan. Every time she felt her throat contract or tears threaten, she would remind herself that this was the very last time she’d have to endure this, and the last time any of her Voyager family would have to attend one of these damned reunion dinners.
Celebrating Voyager's return wasn't easy for her, especially when it only served as a reminder of all the things that went wrong, the crewmembers who were lost, the relationships that should have become something different than they ultimately did.
She shook her head as she climbed the path. Things would soon change, for all of them.
She recalled the toast Reg Barclay made last night, “Let us raise our glasses To The Journey,” he’d said.
She’d raised her glass, “And to those who aren’t here to celebrate it with us.” She still felt responsible for every one of those 150 members of her crew – the lives and, of course, the deaths.
As captain, she was congratulated and promoted for getting her crew home, after spending 23 years in the Delta Quadrant. She’d accepted the accolades and her promotion to admiral.
An Admiral had much more clout in Starfleet than a captain.
And then she’d begun to make plans to return to the Delta Quadrant, to go back in time, back to the moment she’d made her biggest mistake of all. She just had to keep her ear to the ground and find a way to return to that moment. She’d have one very stubborn captain to deal with when she got there, but no one knew Captain Kathryn Janeway better than Admiral Kathryn Janeway.
She ducked under a low branch and stopped at the gravesite beneath the tree. The view was lovely from here. The mountains in the distance were crested with snow at the tops, but the valleys below were lush and green. The rock formations could capture one’s imagination for hours. The sun was high overhead and a stream flowed over the rocks below them.
It was a good place, the sort of place Chakotay would want his body to rest for eternity. She swallowed the knot in her throat, then knelt and brushed the debris from the small stone marker at her feet.
“Any final words of advice for your old captain? Wait, don't tell me: I'm being impulsive – I haven't considered all the consequences – it's too risky,” she said to her one true friend, the one who held her heart, even now. He had gone to his grave still loving her, and she would go to hers loving him. Once she had believed it was Seven of Nine he still longed for, but she’d been wrong. Near the end, he’d admitted he never stopped loving his old captain, his best friend, and the love of his life.
Her eyes suddenly filled with tears, but she blinked them back. Now was not the time for an emotional reaction. That would do no good. Instead, she was going to do something a lot more beneficial – for them all.
Yes, she’d made a lot of mistakes over the years, but the one she regretted most was not giving in to her feelings and taking Chakotay completely into her life years ago. “When I'm through, things might be better for all of us,” she said to Chakotay now, wanting to believe that he could hear her from his spirit world. “Trust me.” She swallowed the tears that were once again just beneath the surface. Chakotay had put his trust in her so many times before – she only wanted one more chance.
The second thing she regretted most was not taking Voyager through that nebula they’d found seven years into their journey in the Delta Quadrant, Borg or no Borg.
And on any given day both regrets vied for first place in her mind, and in her heart.
Admiral Kathryn Janeway stood. She took a final look around her at the mountains, the valley. Yes, Chakotay had liked it here. She could just make out the log cabin through the trees below, the one he’d told her he wanted to build when they got back to the Alpha Quadrant. All those years ago…. He’d built a small one for himself and had spent the rest of his days here alone, watching the sun come up from his bedroom window each morning.
She took a deep breath and turned to go, giving the small marker a final glance over her shoulder. “Things will be different this time, Chakotay,” she whispered to the man she loved with all her soul, the one she now knew she couldn't live without. "We'll be together again. I promise."
The next time she saw Chakotay he would be very much alive, if she had anything to do with it.
Admiral Janeway made her way back down the mountain. Just one more stop to make and then she would finish packing for her little trip.
Moving to her jeep, Janeway engaged the engine and started back toward San Francisco.
Kathryn Janeway parked on the street outside the Paris home.
B’Elanna’s small hovercraft was in the rear of the drive and Tom’s was in front of it. She smiled and shook her head. Voyager’s ex-helmsman and ex-head engineer would certainly be the first ones to try out all the new hovercraft models, and these were no exception. Small, sleek and refined, one was black and one was white. The black one belonged to B’Elanna, of course. Tom preferred white.
She headed for the front door, and had covered half the distance when the door opened wide and Tom Paris stood smiling at her. “Admiral! What a pleasant surprise,” he said.
She smiled back. Some things never changed. No matter how often she told Tom it was all right to call her Kathryn now, he just couldn’t do it.
“Hello Tom,” she said, reaching up for a quick hug.
“Come on in,” he said. “I was just having a glass of lemonade and working on a particularly difficult passage on my new book. Your timing couldn’t have been better.”
She followed him inside and glanced around as Tom poured her a glass of lemonade. “Where’s B’Elanna?” She tried to make her tone light.
He handed her the glass. “Down the street,” he said. "Our new neighbor actually wanted the recipe for that Klingon soup B'Elanna and Neelix came up with a few years ago." He shivered purposely. "Why, I'll never know. B'Elanna still makes it once a month. It's not gotten any better over the years."
Admiral Janeway smiled at the memory. "I really wanted to see you for a moment, Tom.”
“What about?” he asked casually. He’d seen the look on her face when she came to the front door. One thing he knew was Captain/Admiral Janeway's looks. He'd gotten real good at recognizing them over the years in the Delta Quadrant. He'd often been on the receiving end of the worst ones. He'd immediately known that today's visit was an official call on the pretext that it wasn’t.
“I want you to do something for me, should the need arise,” she said.
“You only have to ask,” he said. There weren’t many people he could say that to and mean it. His wife was one, and his daughter was another. Kathryn Janeway was third on that small list of three.
“I need you to deliver a message for me,” she said handing him a padd. “It’s for your father, but it’s only to be given to him in the event of my death, or if I should go missing for what you would consider an appropriate amount of time.” She looked him in the eye.
He breathed deeply and took the padd from her. “Okaaay,” he said, in a way only Tom Paris could. “What’s this about, Admiral?”
“Classified,” she said. That answer had worked with the Doctor; maybe it would work with Tom Paris.
He nodded. He didn’t buy it for one second. “Uh huh,” he said, staring at the encrypted padd as if it might tell him something. “Why didn’t you take it to my father directly?” he asked.
Her gaze didn’t waver. “Because he would want to access the information right away. He’s not a patient man.”
“Oh, no one knows that better than I do, Admiral.”
“Good,” she said, putting her glass on the table. “Then you’ll give it to him should the occasion prove necessary?”
“For you, of course, Admiral.”
She turned to leave and he followed her out onto the porch.
She turned, and he could tell she’d really wanted to escape before he could ask anything further. “Yes?”
“Do you need any help with your new mission?” he asked.
When she didn’t answer, he sighed. “I spoke with Reg earlier today, and he seemed a bit preoccupied. Said he was helping you prepare for a new mission. And then the Doctor cancelled the lunch plans we’d made for today because he’s working on a highly classified project for you he has to complete right away. So I called your office to see if you might have time for lunch since I was now free, but your young male assistant told me you had gone to visit Tuvok.” He looked into her eyes. “This isn’t your usual visiting day, is it, Admiral?”
Kathryn Janeway stood to her full height and stared up into Tom Paris’s eyes. “What are you suggesting, Tom?” Her tone was one he recognized and knew well. It was the captain’s tone of underlying threat not to question her, a tone he still occasionally heard in his nightmares.
His eyes softened. “I’m just worried about you, that’s all.”
“There’s no need for that, Tom.” She turned to go. “If you will just…”
She took a deep breath and turned back to him. She’d nearly made it all the way to her vehicle.
“Admiral, I know what you’re going to do.” When she didn’t say anything, he continued. “You’ve been planning to go back for a long time, I know that.” Still, she said nothing. “I heard a rumor about the device you seem to have a lot of interest in. And now I hear my daughter is negotiating a meeting between you and Korath. Admiral, it all adds up. You think you can go back and make a difference, change things.”
She considered her options. Tom had always been there for her and they’d always been honest with each other. She wouldn't lie to him now. “What do you plan to do with this knowledge, Tom?”
“I’ll stand by you, but I was serious when I asked if you need my help, Admiral. I know you plan to do this alone, and I don't think that's a good idea. Let me go with you. Another set of hands at the controls might come in handy.” Then he grinned that cocky smile. “I might be just a writer these days, but I’m still a helluva good pilot, Admiral.”
She smiled back at him, and swallowed the tears. “The best,” she whispered, then reached out to squeeze his shoulder, as she had many times on Voyager’s bridge. Then she collected herself. There was no time for this. “I appreciate your offer, Tom, but this is something I have to do alone. Just promise me you’ll get that message to your father if and when the time is right.”
He nodded and his eyes shone with all the admiration and affection he felt for her. “No matter what you think now, Admiral, you were the best captain ever, and you did what you thought was right. No one else could have accomplished what you did.”
She had to look away. “I made some bad decisions, Tom. But I hope to correct those.”
“Maybe Seven will live next time, and maybe she won’t," he said softly. "Maybe you can save some of the other crewmembers who were lost, but maybe not, Admiral. And maybe Tuvok will recover from his disease next time if Captain Janeway knows about it early enough to make some different decisions along the way, but Voyager might still arrive home too late, Admiral. Be prepared to accept that not everything is meant to happen differently, even with a second chance to change it all.”
She nodded. When had Tom Paris become so wise? “I understand that, Tom.”
He took a deep breath. He knew she understood it, but did she accept it? Either way, she was going to do this. He'd been afraid for years she would find a way to go back in time, and he would probably have been disappointed if she hadn't jumped at the chance. Kathryn Janeway had more guts and sheer determination than anyone he had ever known, even his father. He would, in fact, put her more in league with the legendary Captain James T. Kirk, if the stories he'd heard about Kirk were really true. “While you're at it, Admiral, when you get back to Voyager maybe you can convince the captain to give ole' Chakotay a break."
"I beg your pardon?" Her eyes went to his.
“From the beginning, he only wanted you. He loved you from the moment he saw you until the day he died, holding your hand." He knew he'd taken a chance, and swallowed hard. "No offense, Admiral."
"None taken," she said softly. But she didn't offer another word on the subject, and she didn’t ask how he knew about the latter. If Tom knew Chakotay was holding her hand when he died, then she was certain everyone knew it. And somehow it touched her that they would all still care so much. Only Fate knew whether things would be different next time, but she would do her best to make it so.
He smiled at her. “Say ‘hi’ to Voyager for me. Sometimes I still miss sitting at her helm.”
She nodded and started for her vehicle. "Thank you, Tom," she called over her shoulder, then turned back from the car door. "Give my regards to B’Elanna. And…"
"Not a word, Admiral," he said, crossing his heart in that way that children had done for generations.
She nodded. She had always trusted him, and she wouldn't doubt him now.
Suddenly, Tom gave her the Vulcan sign. "Live Long and Prosper, Admiral," he said, and his voice broke. She would never truly know how much she meant to him.
Tears came to her eyes so quickly she couldn’t stop them. She returned the sign in honor of their old friend, Tuvok. "You too," she whispered, then jumped into her jeep and took off, wishing for warp drive, but having to settle for a mere 235 kilometers per hour.
Admiral Kathryn Janeway finished packing in under an hour.
She replicated one of her favorite meals, ate a few bites of it, and paced the floor with her favorite mug in her hands. The fact that it contained tea instead of coffee was something she still tried to ignore. She took another sip and made a face. It was what she always did, although she didn't realize it.
Tonight she had a lot on her mind. It had taken years to set the plan in motion, but tomorrow it would all come together.
She moved to her view of the Golden Gate Bridge, but stared out over it at the stars in the sky. What was out there was much more important to her than what any bridge on Earth could ever mean to her. The bridge she yearned for was on a certain starship, and she was going back to find it.
She turned away and looked across the room at her computer. She would do this one more time, for the last time.
Kathryn Janeway accessed her personal file, Delta02110, and listened to the two messages she'd saved years ago – messages that Chakotay had sent her. After returning to Voyager from New Earth, he told her he would always stand by her. He would try to understand that she had to be a captain first and foremost, and that she wouldn't enter into a personal relationship she couldn't devote her heart to. He said that he would always love her.
He'd sent the second message after he and Harry had made it home in the Delta Flyer through the slipstream drive, but Voyager hadn't. Again, he'd told her he loved her – always had and always would.
Chakotay had worked for fifteen years to find a way back to Voyager, back in time, back to her. And now it was her turn to find a way back to him. If Harry and Chakotay could turn back the clock, then so could she.
So would she.
Captain Janeway may have been a fool, but Admiral Janeway was not. This time, Chakotay wouldn't have to turn to another woman for company.
But tonight she would allow the memories to pervade one last time. Soon many of those memories would be gone, not to have existed in the first place. That was all right; it was her goal, in fact. She’d much rather have Chakotay beside her now instead of memories of what she might have had with him.
If only she hadn’t been so self-serving, so righteous, so…stubborn. She sighed. No matter how she saw her former self now, she knew that Captain Janeway had nonetheless done what she thought was right at the time. She’d followed Starfleet protocol, and captained Voyager as she’d been trained to do. She’d done her job well, she now supposed. It just hadn't been good enough. She'd been young and idealistic, and her crew had suffered the consequences.
But time had changed her perspective about a lot of things. Looking back, she blamed herself for putting everyone else above her crew and their safety and well-being – all those other Delta Quadrant species who weren’t family. She’d held herself back from Chakotay out of some misplaced sense of duty, too, and now she couldn’t figure out for the life of her why she’d been so insensitive, and why she thought she’d done the right thing. Why couldn't she and Chakotay have loved each other? She would have had plenty of time left over to wallow in the guilt she'd felt every day of her life since Voyager had become stranded in the Delta Quadrant.
At first, there were the years of guilt over her decision to destroy the Array, their ticket home, to save the Ocampa. Then, after they finally did reach home again, her guilt had become something else – guilt over the mistakes she'd made, the chances she'd taken but shouldn't have, the chances she'd not taken but should have.
And during the past ten years they'd been home, she'd pinpointed her biggest command failure. Seven years after becoming stranded in the Delta Quadrant, Voyager had detected a nebula, one that was crawling with Borg. Captain Janeway had made the decision to continue their journey home another way and bypass the Borg and the nebula completely. It had been fortuitous that the Borg had left them alone, but they'd had so many close encounters with their dire enemy by that time, she'd counted their escape as a blessing.
Now she knew better. She’d done her research, and she knew why the Borg Queen had let them go. And she knew why that nebula was swarming with Borg cubes. This time she would convince Captain Janeway to go inside it. It was the way to return home after seven years, not twenty-two. She wouldn't allow herself to make the same mistake twice.
Captain Janeway still had her eccentricities after spending only seven years in the Delta Quadrant, so changing her mind wouldn't be easy. Of course, Captain Janeway was a lot less cynical than Admiral Janeway had become. Time had a way of leveling, she supposed.
Sighing, she played Chakotay's messages a second time. She missed him so much. When he raised his hand to the screen, she raised hers as well – just as she'd done every other time she'd played the message. And the tears fell, too, just as they'd fallen every time before.
There were things that needed to happen, lives that needed to be saved. And yes, while she was at it, she would do her best to convince a very stubborn captain to do things differently where she and Chakotay were concerned.
Whatever it took, she wouldn't lose Chakotay this time. He’d held her hand as he died, only moments after they’d professed their never-ending love for each other. He told her they would be together in the spirit world one day, and she’d agreed.
But first, she planned for them to be together in this one.
This really was her last chance to do something right.
The following morning, Admiral Kathryn Janeway took one packed travel bag and left her apartment for the last time, without a backward glance. She had no regrets and no sentimental feelings about what she was leaving behind. She was going to something much more important.
Half an hour later, Admiral Janeway was in Reg Barclay’s office, accepting the thermos of tea he had made for her. Although he'd gotten her shuttlecraft ready and hidden it at the shipyard, she knew he didn’t realize how vital this mission truly was.
Or maybe he did. He was just better at hiding it than most people.
But then, he thought of himself as a part of the voyager crew, and in many ways he was. He'd become a part of them the moment he first established contact with Voyager in the Delta Quadrant. Then he'd kept their hopes alive and made sure they knew that everything was being done to help them make it home again.
They'd all adopted Reg, and he'd happily become a part of the family.
So maybe that was why he was so ready to help her, willing to accept that the past ten years would happen very differently the next time. He wanted his friends on Voyager to survive, all of them. He was ready to live the past ten years over again if it meant they would all return home alive and well.
She patted Reg's shoulder and thanked him for everything – for arranging to have her ship ready, for the thermos of tea, for his understanding and his friendship over the past ten plus years.
And mostly, for offering to come with her, as Tom Paris had done, even if it wasn't possible. This was her mission. And it might very well be her last stand.
She left the building and took her land jeep to the ship Reg Barclay had waiting for her, and in under half an hour she’d performed a complete system’s check and gone through Starfleet security clearance without a hitch. Being an admiral definitely had its advantages.
She exited the shipyard and headed for the House of Korath, where she would meet Miral Paris and collect the device she’d gone to a great deal of trouble to obtain. But it would be well worth it.
She couldn’t do what she was setting out to do without it.
Trying to reason with Tuvok was impossible since his disease had rendered him insane. The Doctor knew it, but it was also impossible not to try.
Tuvok was extremely agitated. It had been a very long time since he’d exhibited this type of unrest. For the most part, he was a gentle and introspective man and that was reflected in the way his illness affected him. He spent hours on end writing his “manuscript” and doing little else, so when he began to pace nervously about his room and saying things his attending physician had not heard from him before, the Doctor was called to the scene.
"7153 5331. Her disappearance remains a mystery. She's never coming back!" said Tuvok, continuing to pace the room. He even looked directly at the Doctor when he said the last part.
The Doctor (even though he was officially "Joe" now, he still didn't feel quite at home with the name) asked Tuvok what he was talking about, but Tuvok didn’t respond. He just kept repeating the same mantra. Finally, the Doctor concluded that Tuvok was talking about Admiral Janeway. The numbers formed a stardate, and that stardate had been a particularly trying time for the Voyager crew in the Delta Quadrant. Their captain had been taken hostage and Tuvok and his security team had rescued her.
The Doctor was told that Admiral Janeway had visited Tuvok earlier that morning. It wasn’t her usual visiting day. She must have done or said something that initiated this reaction in Tuvok, he decided. His brow furled as he thought about what that could be. Tuvok had always been quick to know when Janeway was in danger, and he obviously sensed danger now. Perhaps if the Admiral could be contacted and asked to visit or even speak via comlink to Tuvok, he would rest assured that she was all right.
Or, if she couldn’t spare the time because of this new mission she was on, perhaps she could enlighten them all about what she’d spoken to Tuvok about this morning.
The Doctor assured the attending physician he would do whatever he could to find Admiral Janeway. In fact, he decided to visit Reg Barclay. Reg would certainly know the whereabouts of the Admiral.
The Doctor was greatly concerned. He’d just visited Reg Barclay and things were not better; they were worse, in fact.
He’d caught Reg lying – in a roundabout way. Reg had even stuttered for the first time in years.
According to Reg, Admiral Janeway was out of the country – which was probably true. However, at first he refused to tell the Doctor what was going on and instead tried to reassure him that the Admiral was one of the most decorated officers in Starfleet’s history, and that she could take care of herself.
Yes, the Doctor knew all about Admiral Janeway’s credentials and skills. He also knew about her determination and stubbornness, and he knew there were certain things she hadn’t been able to put behind her, even after all these years since Voyager's return home.
Finally, after half an hour of trying, the Doctor convinced Reg to tell him the truth, the whole truth.
As Reg dumped the entire story (which also seemed to relieve his conscience), the Doctor felt a gnawing feeling in the pit of his holographic stomach, which he knew full well was similar to the sense of dread and fear that had been the undoing of many human lifeforms. Sometimes he was concerned that his program had evolved too much, but now was not the time to explore that train of thought.
Just now he had to find Admiral Janeway before she did something she might regret. Actually, she probably wouldn’t regret it, but a lot of other people would certainly have something to say about it.
The Doctor left the medical facility quickly. He knew just who could help him.
Harry Kim jumped up from behind his desk. “Hey, Doc!” He shook the Doctor’s hand enthusiastically. “Good to see you! We didn’t get much time together at the reunion.”
“No we didn’t, Captain Kim,” said the Doctor.
“Please, Doc, call me Harry.”
“Harry,” said the Doctor, “A…family problem has arisen, and I need your help.”
“Oh? What kind of problem?” asked Harry. He didn’t have to ask the Doctor which family he meant. The Voyager crew had remained a family of sorts ever since they arrived back on Earth ten years ago. In fact, it was only after they’d returned that Harry had realized how much of a family they’d all been to each other on Voyager. It was often true that the trees sometimes obscured the view of the forest, or whatever that old Earth saying was.
“It’s Admiral Janeway,” said the Doctor. He knew her name would get Harry’s undivided attention immediately, and he wasn’t disappointed.
“Oh?” Harry turned to the Doctor, and the smile disappeared from his face. “What is it, Doc?” His admiration for her hadn’t diminished over the years. If anything, it had only grown. He knew he wouldn’t be a Starfleet captain today if it weren’t for her, no matter how much she tried to convince him otherwise.
“It seems she’s finally decided to do it.”
Harry sighed. “You’re kidding.” He looked pointedly at the Doctor. “You’re not kidding. But how? I always thought it was something we wouldn’t really have to deal with. I mean, how is it possible for her to go back there, to the past?”
Harry, the Doctor and Tom Paris had discussed the possibility of Janeway attempting to turn back the clock on more than one occasion. Due to various things she said or did over the past few years, they feared it was her new goal in life to change a good deal of the past, and they knew from experience what that meant for Kathryn Janeway. She wouldn’t stop until it happened.
There’d been no proof of this, though, so they never mentioned it to anyone else – not even to Janeway. She would have denied it even if they had, just to throw them off her trail, and they all knew how convincing she was when she wanted to be.
The Doctor also didn’t remind Harry that he and Chakotay had once figured out how to go back to the past when they’d made it home on the Delta Flyer and Voyager had crashed on a strange planet’s icy surface. After fifteen years of trying, and fifteen years of a bad case of survivor’s guilt, Harry and Chakotay had gone back in time to rescue Voyager and her crew. Of course, Harry had the added guilt from knowing that he’d been responsible for sending the incorrect phase corrections that caused Voyager to crash.
And Chakotay had gone back to be with Kathryn Janeway.
The Doctor knew it, felt it in an odd holographic way, but he had no real way of knowing it for certain since he and Chakotay never discussed it. Still, the real proof had been in Chakotay’s eyes until the day he died. He’d loved her from the beginning, and until the very end of his life, where rumor had it he was holding her hand when he traded this world for a final, spiritual one.
The rumor was probably correct, he’d concluded. Admiral Kathryn Janeway had holed herself up inside her apartment for over a week after Chakotay's death, refusing to see anyone. And when she finally walked out of there, she was different – she seemed at peace, but there was also a resolve in her eyes that the Doctor knew meant she was on a mission.
And when Kathryn Janeway was on a mission, it was best not to interfere.
But this time it would be different.
“She intends to use a device currently belonging to the Klingons, Harry. She’s bartered for it and is on her way to pick it up at the House of Korath, according to Reg,” said the Doctor.
Harry sighed and ran his hands over his face. Somewhere along the way, he’d picked up this habit and couldn’t seem to shake it. “If anyone could find a way, she could, Doc. One thing about Admiral Janeway, she has the will, so she’ll find a way.” He turned to look at the Doctor. “She always did, you know.”
The Doctor nodded. “We need to find her, Harry. Before she accomplishes what she’s setting out to do.”
“Yeah, I know,” said Harry. “What about Tom? Should we contact him?”
“Let’s leave it between the two of us for now,” said the Doctor. “We can bring him into it later if we need to.”
Harry nodded. “Tom would probably offer to go back with her anyway,” he said, and ran his hands over his face again. “You know, Doc, I’ve always wondered about something.”
“What’s that, Harry?”
“That time Chakotay and I went back to Voyager from fifteen years in the future…” he said.
The Doctor nodded. They were both thinking along the same lines evidently.
“I’ve always wondered if Chakotay sent a log entry back to the captain, you know. Like I sent one to myself through that embedded transmission. I don’t know for sure that he did, but I sure noticed a difference in both of them for a long time after that. And then things sort of got back to the way they were before.” He sighed again, the weight of the situation nearly overcoming him. “I guess I just always hoped he had.” His voice had grown soft, the way it sometimes did when he talked about his former captain. “I know I always wished they could be together. If anyone could have made the captain happy, it was Chakotay.” He was talking more to himself now, but he suddenly looked up at the Doctor. “Maybe this time she’s going back for him.”
“Captain Kim, I understand and I wish things could have been different for them, too. But that doesn’t change what we need to do now,” said the Doctor.
Harry took a deep breath. “You’re right. The admiral’s taking a big risk, and we have to protect her.” He grabbed one of his ever-present padds from the desk. “Let’s go, Doc,” he said, and led the way down the hallway and toward the transport which would take them to his ship, the Rhode Island.
The Doctor left Harry Kim on the Rhode Island. Oddly enough, it was in the same shipyard as the shuttle Reg Barclay had gotten ready for Admiral Janeway earlier. He just hoped Harry would reach her before she had enough time to do what they were all afraid she was planning to do.
The Doctor walked back to his minicraft, thinking hard about all that was happening, yet still able to appreciate his sense of freedom. Nowadays he was able to move about like everyone else, thanks to a micro-emitter that he had invented. It was implanted just beneath his visible holo-structure. He smiled and nodded at a passing sentry who was stationed just outside the shipyard.
The minicraft hovered only a couple of meters from the ground. The Doctor turned it smartly to the right and started back to the hospital to see if there was any change in Tuvok. He could have contacted the attending physician, but he preferred to see Tuvok for himself. Perhaps he could find a way to communicate with him and let him know they were doing all they could to find Admiral Janeway.
The Doctor began to think about things long in the past. He recalled the first few days of his activation in Voyager’s sickbay. He was attempting to learn the routines, where the medical equipment was kept, and the names and medical conditions of the Voyager crew, his new patients.
And in the midst of it all, he was confused each time the captain and commander were together in Sickbay. Both their blood pressures would elevate, and their pulse rates would soar. Without their being the wiser, he would scan them and research the data in his infinite medical database.
They were both humanoid, and extremely healthy. Yet for some unknown reason they had this strange reaction whenever they were in his presence together. He had been afraid his program was incomplete in some way, or defective, which is why he had decided to figure out what was wrong before telling the captain about his discovery. He even ran four diagnostics on his program.
After determining there was nothing wrong with his program, it finally dawned on him that their reactions were to each other. It had nothing at all to do with his program being defective or his medical knowledge. Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay were so attracted to each other, their physical conditions would change whenever they were in the same room together. They were very good at camouflaging their reactions, but medical tricorder readings didn’t lie.
And over the years, the Doctor had gotten his share of amusement from watching them together, seeing them pretend there was no attraction there, just the usual command structure on a starship.
In fact it was obvious they were in love with each other, and not just from observing their physical conditions. Over the years, as his program evolved, he’d become a good judge of people and how they behaved in different situations. The captain and commander were in love with each other and that had never changed over the years. If anything, their bond had become even stronger.
He knew the captain had set parameters for her and Chakotay early on (it was a rumor he’d heard at any rate), but no matter what direction each of them took, they always returned to each other. He quickly found himself to be among the many crewmembers who were silently in favor of them becoming a couple – a public couple, he corrected himself. They were already a couple in most people’s minds, and had been from the beginning. They were simply the only ones who didn’t realize it.
Chakotay had finally turned to Seven of Nine for the warmth and love he needed, but the Doctor knew he hadn’t found what he was looking for there. His own feelings for Seven aside, he immediately saw the lack of intimacy and respect for each other in that relationship that had always been apparent in Chakotay’s relationship with Kathryn Janeway.
Arriving at the hospital, the Doctor parked his minicraft and tried to put the past aside for the time being.
If it weren’t for Kathryn Janeway, he would still be nothing more than an Emergency Medical Hologram. He would never have evolved, and never have written his book – the first book in holographic history to document the plight of the hologram.
He owed his former captain everything, and he knew it. Deep inside his programming, he wondered if he was even doing the right thing by trying to stop her from changing the past – a past that could prove to be better for her, and perhaps for them all.
Admiral Janeway materialized in the cockpit of her shuttle, and the Klingon device materialized behind her.
She was tired of Korath and finished playing his games. After he’d refused to make good on their deal she had left without the device, but returned almost immediately and pretended to negotiate further for what was rightfully hers. In the end, she’d just taken it. There was no time left for niceties.
"Deploy armor," Admiral Kathryn Janeway commanded her shuttle's computer, as she moved to her piloting chair. There was work to be done. She laid in a course for the Delta Quadrant.
Korath managed to find her and establish contact with her, but she had no more time for him. His usefulness was done and she had what she wanted from him, what was rightfully hers. She had to get to the Delta Quadrant quickly. If she didn't dawdle, she could make it to the nebula and intercept Voyager right on schedule, precisely at the time in history she'd chosen and prepared for.
She shut Korath off mid-sentence and commanded the shuttle to engage at Warp 6. That ought to do it.
Suddenly, another incoming transmission appeared on her monitor, and it wasn't Korath this time. Admiral Janeway sighed. This time she would need to use diplomacy.
She accepted the transmission from the Rhode Island and Harry Kim's face appeared on her monitor. "Harry! And people are always saying space is so big!"
Harry took a deep breath and ignored her comment. "Lower your shields, Admiral. And stand by for transport. I'm taking you into custody."
Janeway knew she had to play this one just right. There was no way in hell Harry Kim was taking her into custody, but she'd rather talk her way out of this one than punch her way through. This was Harry, after all.
After he admitted to her that Reg had told the Doctor everything, and the Doctor had told Harry, she asked Harry to listen to her explanation about why she was doing this. She had a few minutes to spare for Harry. And if she could convince anyone that she was doing the right thing, it would be him.
Harry tried to talk her out of her mission, as she'd expected, but Kathryn Janeway couldn't – wouldn't – lose this argument. She was far too experienced in dealing with Harry Kim. More importantly, she had an intrepid class starship to get back to – one she hadn't seen in far too long.
Harry and the Doctor had agreed to keep Janeway's mission in the family. And so Admiral Janeway played off that aspect in dealing with Harry. "You said you and the Doctor wanted to 'keep things in the family.' But our family's not complete anymore, is it?"
She saw the look on his face. So many of their family was gone now, and she knew it pained Harry as much as it did her. In some ways, they had become his family even more than hers. He'd played games with them on the holodeck, eaten his meals with them, and generally been a part of their lives she, as their captain, could never have been.
"I'm asking you to trust my judgment, Harry. One last time." She had him, and they both knew it. He would do anything for her, and they both knew that, too.
All Harry's resolve, all his bravado, disappeared. Whatever she wanted him to do, he would do it and wish her well. More, he did understand why she wanted to go back. She'd always felt she could have done more, should have done more, to save every crewman they'd lost in the Delta Quadrant.
She also blamed herself for Seven's death, and for Tuvok's descent into insanity. And he knew she blamed herself for Chakotay's death, and for all the wasted years between them.
He'd tried to tell her once that no one blamed her for anything. In fact, they were all proud of her, and proud to have served under her. No one could have accomplished what she had; she'd even gotten her crew home again, as she'd promised she would.
But Captain Kathryn Janeway had lived for no one's approval except her own. And she had failed herself every time.
Admiral Kathryn Janeway was even more driven than the captain, if that were possible.
Harry sighed. How could he argue with her anyway?
Even though he couldn't actually recall making it home with Chakotay and being responsible for Voyager's falling out of the slipstream drive and crash landing that time so long ago, Harry knew he'd killed all 150 people on board by sending back the wrong phase corrections. He'd made it right in the end, but he'd since spent a lot of time trying to imagine what that guilt must have been like. It was probably a good thing he had no memory of it at all. He had only his message to himself from the future to know it had happened in the first place.
Harry knew Admiral Janeway had her own guilt to deal with. She'd carried around some sort of guilt all the years he'd known her. If he had struggled to go back in time for fifteen years, what had ever made him think he could talk her out of going back after ten?
What had ever made him think he had a chance of winning this one?
Captain Kathryn Janeway called her senior staff to the bridge. They had detected some sort of temporal rift. So far, they'd been unsuccessful in determining how it was being generated.
But the captain knew they'd figure it out.
Where there was a will, there was a way….
Admiral Janeway sat silently in her pilot's chair as Captain Harry Kim completed his check on the Klingon temporal deflector that had now been affixed to the top of the shuttle.
Harry checked the monitor again. If she was going back to Voyager, he wanted to be sure she got there all right. The thought of Admiral Janeway making a trip to the past still made him a little queasy, but he reminded himself that he'd done it once too. It should have made him feel better, but it didn't.
He understood her dilemma, and if it meant sacrificing these past few years so that more people from Voyager could survive next time, he would gladly do it. He knew that if anyone could make things work out better next time, Admiral Janeway could. So could Captain Janeway. And if he were meant to be captain of his own vessel next time around, that would happen too.
"If Starfleet Command finds out I had anything to do with this, they'll demote me back to Ensign," he said, just to be saying something. Admiral Janeway was too quiet, watching him complete the systems' check.
"You worry too much, Harry. It's turning you gray," said Admiral Janeway. Oh how proud she was of Harry! No matter what happened, she knew she'd influenced him and given him the chance to prove himself.
Harry glanced at her and smiled. She'd gotten him on that one.
Harry checked the propulsion and plasma flow. The Klingon device was producing too much tachyo-kinetic energy. He told the admiral it would surely burn itself out by the time she got to where she was going. "You wouldn't be able to get back," he said.
"I always assumed it was a one-way trip." She looked him in the eye, and he realized that from the moment she decided to do this, she'd been fully prepared to make this her last mission, whether it was successful or not.
Harry ran his hands over his face. He turned back to the controls for one final check. He'd already done it all, but he needed a moment to collect himself. This was it then. What concerned him more than losing all the years they'd been home was that he'd lose his former captain if she were unsuccessful in her mission. And he just couldn't imagine what life would be like without her.
"I wish you well, Admiral," he said with his back still to her. "Just promise me one thing." He forced back the lump he suddenly felt in his throat.
"What's that, Harry?" she asked. She couldn't allow herself to become caught up in the moment, but it wasn't easy.
"No matter how many of our crew you save, don't let Chakotay make the biggest mistake of his life."
She swallowed hard. "I don't understand, Harry." But she did.
"I think you do, Admiral," he said. "Tell him how you feel about him. Just give him something to hold onto and he'll wait for you."
He turned to her. "You two should have been together. You know that. It was pretty common knowledge how you felt about each other. And that never changed for either of you, Admiral – it never changed," he said, trying not to run his sentences together, and knowing he sounded like the young green ensign he'd been when she gave him his first Starfleet assignment all those years ago. But now he'd said it all. His heart was beating fast and he took a deep breath. It was time to get on with it. He changed the subject. "You're sure I can't talk you out of this?" he asked. But he saw the look on her face. "Right. Stupid question."
And as she stood to hug him good-bye, Harry felt the tears sting his eyes.
After Harry Kim left her shuttle, Kathryn Janeway took a moment to collect herself. Time was of the essence, but if she didn't have her mind on what she was doing, it would all be for naught.
So Harry Kim had given her a little speech about her and Chakotay. The Doctor had done the same in his own way, and so had Tom Paris. Over the years, so many of her crew and all of her senior staff had found some way to tell her they'd all wanted Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay to be a couple, even while they'd served together on Voyager. Even B'Elanna had been blunt about it on more than one occasion.
These days, in retrospect, she couldn't figure out why it had been so important to her – to the captain she was before – not to enter into a relationship with her first officer. Oh yes, she recalled all her reasons, had reread all her personal logs, tried to put herself back into the place her old self was when all those decisions and parameters were put into place.
But the things that were so important to her then seemed so inconsequential to her now. What would it have really mattered anyway? Would the command relationship really have been compromised? Would it have jeopardized her crew? Hardly. When it came down to it, both she and Chakotay had always had the crew's best interests at heart above everything else. No, she couldn't see how it would have hurt the command relationship if she and her first officer had entered into a personal relationship.
In some ways she now felt that not doing so might have hindered their progress more. Hadn't she spent enough time loving Chakotay from afar and missing what might have been? Wouldn't that wasted time and energy have been put to better use trying to figure new ways to get her crew home again?
What concerned her most now about Captain Janeway's actions was that she'd too often put other peoples, other societies, other needs above those of her own crew. She'd been just a bit too egotistical and high-minded for the admiral's use. Captain Janeway should have taken care of her crew first. The lines should have been drawn a lot closer to home.
But times were changing.
Admiral Kathryn Janeway had had too many years filled with regret – regret about the wasted time between her and Chakotay, regret about too many things. Perhaps she really had become too cynical over the past few years.
But ten years ago, she had also begun to make her plans to return to the Delta Quadrant, ever since she and her remaining crew had made it home.
It hadn't felt right from the beginning. They'd made it back to Earth, but it wasn't the homecoming she'd wanted. Too many of her crew were missing, and too many things hadn't happened the way they should have.
Tuvok's illness had progressed almost daily on Voyager. She had witnessed his slow descent into madness and was unable to do a thing to prevent it. She'd never felt so helpless in her life.
And as Captain Janeway she'd also had to shut down her heart for one full day and marry Chakotay and Seven of Nine.
It had been the worst day in Kathryn Janeway's life. It was the day she'd given up all hope for personal happiness. She'd never realized until then how desperately she'd needed to keep that flame alive inside her.
The light had gone out that day, though, the light that had kept the woman inside the captain alive. She'd married them, all the while swallowing back the tears in her throat. It was a surreal event for her, a day that she'd somehow managed to get through. She'd performed her duty well. She was captain of the ship and had been for a long time, so she knew very well how to maintain her command façade and show the crew what she wanted them to see, not what she truly felt.
Later, she wondered how many of them she'd truly fooled.
She'd observed the entire crew from the sidelines after the ceremony that day. No one seemed to feel the same about this wedding as they had the others on the ship. They offered their well wishes to the couple, but it lacked the sincerity, and the levity and laughter that had been present when Tom and B'Elanna had gotten married, or when she'd married other couples over the years. This was a more somber occasion. In the back of her mind she knew the crew had held out hope that she and Chakotay would eventually come together, but she'd destroyed all possibility of that happening years before, hadn't she? It was her doing – her undoing, she now understood.
She still remembered the look on Chakotay's face that day. After the ceremony, Seven had been talking with B'Elanna and the Doctor and Chakotay had pulled away. His eyes searched for Kathryn from across the room. She watched him. When he found her, his eyes lit up and his smile reached his eyes – just as it always had. She managed to smile back, and her eyes followed him as he made his way across the holodeck to her. The party was in full swing, finally, and she'd thought she could hide in the corner and be alone for just a few minutes. But he'd found her.
Chakotay picked up two glasses of champagne on his way to her corner, and handed her one when he arrived.
She swallowed the lump in her throat again, along with her pride, and wished him well. They touched glasses, and damn it, she had felt that electricity run between them that had always been there. Today, on his and Seven's wedding day, wasn't that supposed to have changed? Shouldn't it have gone away?
She looked into his eyes, and her heart stopped cold. All the things he'd ever felt for her were still there, written on his face. His love for her was evident. She couldn't speak, and neither could he. Later, she wondered if he could read her face as well as she had his. It was the most difficult moment of her life, standing there frozen, with her heart burning and her legs turning to rubber, using all the willpower she could find within her to prevent the tears from spilling out of her eyes and running down her face.
Chakotay had been quiet, too. She'd seen him swallow back his own tears a couple of times, and she knew without his having to say it that he'd given up on her only because she'd given him no reason to hang on for far too long. She had destroyed both their hope. He'd stumbled and this time she hadn't picked him up.
It was her fault he'd gone to Seven and stayed there. It was her fault she'd had to marry them to each other.
She had spoiled it all. She'd made the biggest personal mistake of her life, and one of her constant regrets.
This time she was going to change all that.
A signal sounded on Admiral Janeway's console, bringing her back to the present.
Korath had found her again. The time was over for dredging up memories of the past.
Admiral Janeway called Harry back and asked him to fight off Korath for her. She had to be on her way if she was going to meet that temporal rift at the appointed time. And she wasn't about to miss it. Second chances didn’t come about often, and she knew she wouldn’t get a third.
As Harry distracted Korath and his fleet, Admiral Janeway activated the tachyon pulse and directed it to the predetermined spatial and temporal coordinates.
The pulse immediately began to tear at the space fabric ahead of her.
A rift began to appear – the rift that would take her back in time, and back to her beloved Voyager.
Captain Janeway rested both hands on the arm of her command chair. She appeared calm, but inside, her heart was pumping and her adrenaline was working overtime. This could be it – their ticket back home. How many times had she had that same thought over the past seven years anyway? Too many to count.
Suddenly, Tuvok spoke up. "I'm detecting nadion discharges on the other side of the rift."
Captain Janeway thought quickly. Nadion discharges….
"The signature appears to be Klingon," Tuvok said.
Janeway didn't have to be told twice. "Red Alert!" Where the hell had Klingons come from?
"There's a vessel coming through," said Tuvok in his ever-calm voice.
At that moment, a Federation shuttlecraft burst through the rift directly in front of them.
Captain Janeway stood.
Admiral Janeway's shuttle made it through the rift with no trouble. It wouldn't be necessary for the admiral to punch her way through, after all.
As the turbulence subsided, she brought visual on screen.
Although she'd believed she was prepared to see Voyager, and was more than ready to go back to the past, actually being this near her precious ship brought tears to her eyes. Her heart was full – the sight of her beloved Voyager still brought her pride.
What a lovely ship Voyager had been! Here, she was only seven years into the journey, so there was much less damage to her hull than when her captain had finally gotten her home fifteen years later.
Admiral Kathryn Janeway took a deep breath. This was no time for sentimentality. She had work to do. And knowing the captain of this vessel as well as she did, her work would be cut out for her.
She pressed the communications signal and hailed Voyager.
It was time to speak with Voyager's captain face-to-face.
"We're being hailed," said Harry Kim from his console.
Janeway remained visibly calm. "On screen," she said. What the hell was this?
But her breath caught in her throat. The woman who appeared on the viewscreen was an older version of herself.
Every bridge officer seemed to be holding his or her breath, and Captain Janeway was no exception. Of course, it was up to her to handle the situation. She was suddenly thankful she'd had many long years of experience with difficult situations.
"Recalibrate your deflector to emit an anti-tachyon pulse. You have to seal that rift!" commanded the woman with the admiral's pips in the shuttlecraft.
Captain Janeway was instinctively wary of the situation. Long experience had taught her not to accept things at face value. "It's usually considered polite to introduce yourself before you start giving orders," she said. She didn't give a damn who it was in that shuttlecraft, she wasn't closing any rift until she was good and sure it was the right thing to do.
"Captain, a Klingon vessel is coming through," said Tuvok in his usual stoic voice.
"In case you didn't notice, I outrank you, Captain. Now do it!" said the all too familiar face on the viewscreen.
Captain Janeway ordered the rift closed. The imminent threat of a Klingon attack was more than enough to convince her it was the right thing to do.
Tuvok immediately closed the rift, preventing the Klingon Bird of Prey from coming through.
Captain Janeway took a deep breath. This was her ship, her bridge, and she was going to get some answers. "I did what you asked. Now tell me what the hell is going on," demanded Captain Janeway.
"I've come to bring Voyager home," said the admiral.
Whether that woman was her future self or not, Captain Janeway had a feeling this was going to be one very long, bad day.
Admiral Kathryn Janeway materialized on the familiar platform in Voyager’s transporter room.
Subconsciously, the first thing she noted was the slightly warped bulkhead in the right overhead corner, Section 84D. She knew it was from the weapon’s fire from first contact with a species known as the Moran. They’d beamed over to Voyager with plans of taking over the ship. They were much less prepared to do battle with Voyager’s security team than they’d expected, and were soon subdued and thrown off her ship.
B’Elanna hadn’t gotten around to having that bulkhead repaired for nearly two months. Other things demanded her attention first.
That battle had happened only three weeks before in Captain Janeway’s time line. It had been a whole lot longer in hers.
The first thing she consciously noted was her former first officer. Chakotay stood side-by-side and shoulder-to-shoulder with his captain as he always had, supporting her through thick and thin. Her knees nearly buckled at the sight of him, so darkly handsome and real. She was instantly reminded of how much she missed him, and her heart ached when his eyes met hers, and held.
Surprisingly, she was also instantly aware of how very close the captain and her first officer were, not only physically, but they exuded a feeling of…uniformity, unity. They stood their ground together. No wonder the entire crew had considered them a ‘couple’ even when they had not. But then, Chakotay had always been there, hadn’t he? Janeway had been the one to turn him away.
But that was then. The admiral was going to do her best to see that things changed this time around.
“Welcome aboard,” said Captain Janeway.
The admiral’s eyes finally landed on her younger self. “It’s good to be back,” she said.
And it was. It certainly was.
The admiral and the captain entered the captain's ready room.
The admiral walked to the viewport and looked out at the vast expanse of space that had been a part of her life for so very long – longer than the captain could appreciate now. If the admiral had anything to say about it, when this was over she would be able to look back at this part of her life as a seven year mission – no longer. To her, now, that would seem like a luxury.
The two Janeways discussed coffee vs. tea, and then the conversation got down to the basics. The admiral told Captain Janeway she was more than happy to have the Doctor confirm her identity, proving she was who she said she was, the captain's older self.
As they talked, Admiral Janeway watched the captain. This was who she used to be. The admiral decided she’d given the captain less credit over the years than she deserved. She might be arrogant and sure of her ship and crew, but she was certainly competent. And she cared about her people deeply.
She was also deeply in love with her first officer, but Admiral Janeway decided to think about that later.
Right now, she had to be quick on her feet. She knew herself well enough to know that no matter what, she could never underestimate the captain she had been. Too many people had done just that over the years, and they'd lost their battles because of it. It was a strength that had brought her victory many times when she needed it most. She couldn’t forget that now.
"Voyager's in a museum?" the captain was asking.
"Voyager is a museum. On the grounds of the Presidio," replied the admiral. It couldn't hurt to tell her. In fact, it might help to give her some hope. "On a clear morning, you can see Alcatraz from here."
But it seemed to have the opposite effect. She saw hope on the captain's face, all right. But it was hope that she would be able to do it herself, alone, without whatever help it was that the admiral had brought back with her. It was time to turn the tables.
"You made it back to Earth…" said the captain.
The admiral took the upper hand, but without the captain being the wiser. She hoped. "Unfortunately, our favorite cup didn't get home in one piece," she said moving to the cup she still drank from daily. It had suffered over the years, but it had survived. Just as she had. "It was chipped during a battle with the Fen Domar. You'll run into them in a few years." Her admission brought about the desired effect.
Captain Janeway held up her hand to ward off further conversation in that direction. "You know what? I don't think I should be listening to details about the future…"
The admiral smiled. "The almighty Temporal Prime Directive," she said.
"Take my advice; it's less of a headache if you just ignore it." That was
She thought about how she'd once told Harry, "My advice in making sense of temporal paradoxes is simple – don't even try." She'd told him that when he and Chakotay had returned to Voyager after being home for fifteen years. Now, she’d had plenty of first-hand experience at ignoring old-fashioned temporal paradoxes, without even looking back.
"You've obviously decided to or you wouldn't be here," said the high-and-mighty captain.
"A lot's happened to me since I was you," said the admiral. That was an understatement, too.
"Three days ago," continued the admiral, "you detected elevated neutrino emissions in a nebula in grid nine-eight-six." It was time to be frank. The captain would appreciate that if nothing else. "You thought it might be a way home." She took a deep breath. "You were right." The captain said nothing. "I've come to tell you to take Voyager back to that nebula."
"It was crawling with Borg," said the captain. Her tone said there was no way she was taking her ship and her crew back there.
Ah yes, thought the admiral. I remember. "I've brought technology that'll get us past them."
And for the next thirty minutes the admiral worked hard to convince Captain Janeway to take Voyager back to that Borg-infested nebula. She even mentioned the "casualties" that would happen along the way if they didn't go back, temporal paradoxes be damned. She also told the captain it would take her another sixteen years to get Voyager home otherwise.
The captain began to listen.
That was a positive step in the right direction, thought the admiral.
Her new future's end depended on the captain now.
After convincing Captain Janeway to take her to Sickbay, Admiral Janeway walked side-by-side with the captain down the corridor toward the turbolift. The few crewmen they encountered along the way did everything they could to contain their surprise; their captain had trained them well.
Admiral Janeway glanced sideways at the captain. Yes, she'd trained them well. And she’d gained their respect in return.
It would be best to remember that.
The Doctor verified that Admiral Janeway was indeed Captain Janeway twenty-six years from now.
She even had an implant embedded in her cerebral cortex, and a Starfleet signature was on the microcircuitry. The Doctor had invented it twelve years in the admiral's past. It was a synaptic transceiver that allowed her to pilot a vessel equipped with a neural interface.
The admiral saw no reason to explain why she'd had it implanted.
There would be plenty of time for that later.
Just after the Doctor confirmed the admiral's identity, Seven of Nine entered Sickbay to report to her captain.
The admiral saw Seven of Nine for the first time since arriving aboard Voyager. Her vision blurred but she forced back the tears. Seven was still alive, still lovely, and she seemed uncomfortable in the admiral’s presence.
The captain asked about the technology on the admiral’s shuttle and Seven affirmed it could be adapted to Voyager. The captain told her to do it. Though she hadn’t agreed to the admiral’s plan – yet – the admiral knew the captain was thinking it wouldn’t hurt to be prepared.
So far, so good.
While the captain was busy overseeing the ship’s upgrades, the admiral joined her former first officer for dinner in the mess hall.
Chakotay had been mostly quiet on the several occasions she’d seen him today, but he never broke eye contact when she looked at him. In many ways, he didn’t seem as uncomfortable with her presence as most of the other crewmembers were.
She didn’t know if that was good or bad.
Taking her overly-full tray from Crewman Chell, the admiral made her way to the table Chakotay had taken for them in the corner. He stood when she appeared and helped her to settle in with her food and drink. He smiled when he saw her plate.
“I know, I know,” she said, holding up her hand in that way only Kathryn Janeway could do. “But I didn’t have the heart to tell him ‘no,’ she said.
“Before you ask, I wouldn’t touch that green mass if I were you.” He pointed to a mound of something dark green on the side of her plate, as he sat back down. “Crewman Chell is just getting up to speed in the kitchen. He thinks that’s a spinach substitute.” He glanced up. “It’s not.”
She smiled. It was so good to hear about the ongoing cooking dilemmas. “So what do you think of my plan, Chakotay?” she asked without preamble.
But he was used to her jumping straight to the heart of the matter. It was her way when it concerned business. “I’m not sure,” he said. “I’m trying to take in all this new information and new technology you’ve brought us.”
“But you have questions, even concerns,” she said. Of course he would. Chakotay had always steadied her, questioned her when she was too impulsive.
He took a deep breath and looked her in the eye. “Yes. But what concerns me more than the new technology is why you brought it here in the first place. What made you come back after all this time, after being home for so many years, Kathryn?”
He’d said her name the way he always had, and it sent chills up her spine. No one else had ever said her name like that; no one could. She hadn’t realized how very much she’d missed it.
“I’ve discussed all that with the captain,” she said, taking a sip of her tea and making a face. Chakotay pretended not to notice.
“You told her there would be casualties, and that Voyager is now a museum,” he said.
She shrugged. Of course, the captain would share their private conversation
with Chakotay. After all, he was her first officer. She would have done
the same thing in …well, in her place. “I would have told her more, but
she didn’t want to hear it,” she said.
“You gave her just enough information to make her listen to you,” he said.
The admiral smiled. “You always did know me well.” Even she heard the break in her voice.
His eyes met hers and she had to look away. Not now, she thought. Don’t give in to emotion, she told herself. There is still so much to do.
She pushed her food around on the plate to distract herself. Truth be told, she’d never enjoyed Chell’s cooking, but she also realized she hadn’t really given him a chance. She had missed Neelix so much after he left Voyager, it nearly broke her heart every time she’d come into the mess hall afterward.
Chakotay watched her. “I’m sure it isn’t any better the second time around,” he said, “but you really should eat something. It’s been a long day.”
She smiled. “Ah, you and the Doctor, always trying to get me to eat.”
“And not very successfully,” he said.
“I had other things on my mind back then.”
“Evidently you still do,” he said.
“You’re right, I do.” She leaned forward. “Chakotay, the captain’s not agreed with my decision to return to the nebula yet. I might need your help to convince her.”
Chakotay took a deep breath and looked at his plate. Finally, when he had his thoughts together, he looked the admiral in the eye. “I can’t help you there, Admiral,” he said. “If Captain Janeway makes the decision to return, whether it’s based on your argument or not, then I’ll support her. I’ll be there beside her. But I won’t try to talk her into it based on new information you’ve brought us, or the fact that you’ve asked me to back her into a corner over this.” He glanced away. He’d hoped he wouldn’t find himself in this position, although knowing Kathryn the way he did, he also knew she would use whatever she could to get her way. Evidently she hadn’t changed much. The thought almost made him smile. “If the future is meant to be changed, then it will be, and not because of my interference, Admiral.” He took another deep breath. He didn’t want to disappoint Kathryn Janeway, whether she was a captain or an admiral. “The future you speak of concerns Captain Janeway’s decisions, and those decisions will be based on her clear thinking and whether she agrees with you. I’ll leave that up to her.”
The admiral sat back in her chair. Chakotay had just told her “no” in a way that only Chakotay could. She smiled. “Fair enough,” she said softly. Damn it, she missed him so much. She was reminded again how much he had always supported her. And no matter what, he wouldn’t go against his captain. She appreciated him more today than ever. And loved him more, too.
But another thing was clear to her from her experiences today. Not only was Captain Janeway obviously in love with her first officer, but he was still in love with her. His eyes shone when he looked at her, and his smile was genuine. That love was even reflected in his eyes now, when he looked at the admiral his captain would become. How could she have been so blind all those years? Perhaps because she had been so close to the situation, to him. Perhaps because she just didn’t know what to do with all that love.
That thought surprised her now – it was something to think about another time, perhaps.
She knew that Chakotay and Seven of Nine had had two dates thus far, but she’d tried not to think about that earlier today. Now she gave her thoughts free rein. She’d reentered all their lives at just the right time to change a lot of things.
“Tell me, Chakotay,” she said, “are you and Seven of Nine still seeing each other?”
Chakotay’s head lifted in surprise, but he quickly realized that of course the admiral knew about Seven and him. At this point, she knew a whole lot more than he did, about the distant future and about the present. “We’ve dated a couple of times.” He wouldn’t look at her when he said it.
Yes, she thought, you’ve dated a couple of times, and soon you’ll break up for nearly five months, but then your loneliness and frustrations with the captain will drive you back to Seven.
And Seven, because of her own loneliness and the Doctor’s procrastination at bringing her closer to him, will return to you. Eventually you’ll ask me to marry the two of you, and you’ll spend a short while together until Seven of Nine is wounded on an away mission, and dies in your arms.
You’ll never completely recover, but it’s from guilt and not love, as so many people thought at first. You were supposed to be on that away mission instead of Seven, but she convinced you to let her go instead. She said she needed some time away from the ship, and you agreed to let her take your place.
Your guilt nearly overwhelms you as mine has nearly overwhelmed me.
She shook her head. There was no time, and no need, to think about what had happened in her past, and in this Chakotay’s future. She was going to change all that. But she couldn’t do it without the captain’s assistance.
“Seven and I were supposed to have dinner this evening,” said Chakotay. “But things have been a little tense with us lately, and we thought a break might help.”
She nodded and tried to appear supportive and non-committal. She truly didn’t want to let him know the truth. Now wasn’t the time. Chakotay and Seven of Nine – and Captain Janeway for that matter – had to make the changes, if they were to happen differently this time.
“The truth is,” he continued, not wanting to lie to her, “we’ve decided it might be best to stop seeing each other indefinitely.”
The admiral said nothing. But her heart began to beat faster. So they’d decided it already.
"Seven and I aren't exactly soul-mates," he said softly. Again, he wouldn’t look at the admiral when he said it.
Oh, but we are, Chakotay, she thought.
"Chakotay, I'm not very hungry," she said, suddenly putting down her fork. "I think I'll turn in for the evening. Captain Janeway showed me my new quarters earlier today, and I think I'll head in that direction." She was tired, and being here with Chakotay was nearly more than she could bear.
Chakotay stood with her. "I'll walk with you," he said. "My appetite's seen better days, too."
As they left the mess hall, the admiral made it a point to stop and tell Chell what a wonderful job he'd done in the kitchen today. He beamed. The fact that this was Admiral Janeway seemed to make no difference to Chell. He felt he was lucky enough to know both the captain and the admiral.
And as much as Admiral Janeway had always liked Crewman Chell, her heart ached to see Neelix in the kitchen again. He’d cared for her in ways she never realized until he was gone. Too little, too late, she thought. Hopefully not from here on out.
Chakotay walked the admiral straight to her quarters and accompanied her inside them. He seemed preoccupied, but the admiral knew he'd speak his mind when it was time.
"What is it, Chakotay?" He seemed ready to talk.
"The captain…" He sighed, seeming to decide whether he wanted to continue or not. He finally did. "Does she care about me? Outside of our command relationship and our friendship, do I mean anything more to her?"
She could see it wasn't easy for him to ask the question. Admiral Janeway started to give him an evasive answer, but stopped. She wouldn't lie and she wouldn't mince words – not this time. "She's very much in love with you, Chakotay."
His eyes were suddenly moist. He tried to speak, but couldn’t. Finally, he swallowed hard and looked her in the eye. “Thank you,” he said, and turned to go.
“Chakotay?” Her own throat ached from the tears lurking beneath the surface – ones she refused to acknowledge.
“She will come to you. I know you’ve nearly given up hope, but if you could just give her a little more time…” Her eyes pleaded with his.
“I’ll try, Admiral,” he said. Neither of them needed to mention how much time he'd already given her.
Admiral Janeway moved close to Chakotay and held his eyes with hers. “She doesn’t want to lose you, but she’s too proud to let you know it.”
“And I don’t want her to change. I don’t want anything from her she isn't ready to give me,” he said.
“I know that, and you know that, but she has trouble accepting it. She can’t believe that you would accept what little she has to offer you right now, and be happy with that.”
“How can you know it would be enough for me, and yet she doesn’t?” he asked.
“I’ve had a lot more time to think about it,” she said, and he could hear the result of the years of wisdom she’d gained in her voice.
He looked deeply into her eyes and seemed to understand. He nodded.
“She knows in her heart that you love her,” said the admiral softly.
“I will always love you,” he said.
And then something else happened. The spark, the attraction they’d always felt for each other flared up between them.
It didn’t surprise Chakotay; he was used to it on an almost daily basis, and Kathryn Janeway was still Kathryn Janeway at any age, or with any title. But Kathryn was so surprised by its intensity she barely had time to put up the wall she had always thrown into place in the past. She’d been caught off-guard, which was not something that happened to her often. She had forgotten how very strong that jolt was, and how it often came from nowhere.
Chakotay saw the glimmer of attraction on her face. He felt the pulse beat between them. He leaned in toward her, his lips just inches from hers. “Kathryn…”
“No,” she whispered, placing her hand on his chest to stop him.
He pulled back, but the desire was still in both their eyes.
“I’m not the one you want, Chakotay,” she whispered, emotion evident in her voice.
“I’m not so sure about that,” he said, his voice thick.
“I am,” she said, trying to sound stronger than she felt. Now was not the time for complications. Besides, she wasn’t sure if she could love Chakotay behind …well, behind her own back. Somehow no matter how much she thought she understood what was happening, the strangeness of being in the same place, and at the same time, as her younger self still caught her off-guard. “She’ll come to you. I promise.”
He nodded, took a deep breath, and pulled himself away.
Chakotay started for the door, but then turned back. He managed a smile. “I’ve missed you, Kathryn,” he said softly, then left the admiral’s quarters for his own.
Admiral Kathryn Janeway stood rooted to the spot for a long time, remembering his messages from the past that she’d replayed many times over the years, their candlelit dinners and long talks. She remembered how Chakotay would look at her and smile so that it was reflected in his eyes, and how he would look at her as though his entire world was wrapped up in her. She thought about the attraction that had always been between them and evidently always would be, and the shared looks and flirtations. She remembered it clearly, so clearly.
And she would be damned if Captain Janeway would ruin it for all of them this time.
Captain Janeway got very little sleep that night.
She kept thinking about the admiral she would become and wondering what had happened that was so wrong and so bad she’d come back from the future to make things right.
Was whatever happened her fault, Captain Janeway’s fault?
Finally, she asked the computer to bring the lights up to full. She walked into her living quarters and started to order coffee from the replicator, but then hesitated. Maybe she should order tea. If she didn’t have too much caffeine she might be able to get back to sleep.
To hell with it, she thought. The admiral might have turned to tea, but she’d be damned if she would. “Computer – coffee, black,” she said in her best command voice.
When it materialized, she cupped it in her hand, closed her eyes and inhaled the fresh aroma. There was nothing else like it. She might not have much on cold, dark, lonely nights – but she had this. She sighed. Now that was a sad thought.
Janeway took a sip of her coffee and looked out the viewport into the dark star-streaked expanse outside her window. They were traveling at Warp Four; she knew that, based on seven years of experience.
What were the admiral's experiences like? Had she stared out this same viewport twenty-six years ago and thought about getting home again, too? Had she thought about that damned nebula and whether it was a good idea to go back to it, even though it was swarming with Borg? Had she spent years since regretting her decision not to go back? Evidently.
But why? What had happened? And why was this particular time a turning point? They’d been in contact with the Borg before – why was this time so different? The admiral would tell her if she asked. In fact, the admiral had no problem with the temporal time line; she'd said as much.
But Captain Janeway did. She wasn't supposed to know what was going to happen. And if she let go of her ideals, her values, her Starfleet training, where would she be then? No, she was going to stick by her decision to adhere to the Temporal Time Directive.
Captain Janeway took a deep breath. She didn't want to know about things she wasn't supposed to know about. And that was that.
And hour later, she ordered another cup of coffee from the replicator.
She wondered what Chakotay was doing, and if he were sleeping. She wished she could go to him, lie next to him and feel his arms around her.
And if she had a light year for every time she'd wished that over the past seven years, she'd have Voyager home by now.
All she wanted was to feel his arms around her. No sex, just that warm close feeling.
Unknowingly, she smiled. Well, if she were going to be truthful, the sex might be worth trying, too.
That was something she had no doubt about.
The next morning, Seven of Nine told both Janeways, and the Doctor, about her visit from the Borg Queen last night.
The Borg Queen had told Seven in no uncertain terms to stop Voyager from entering her nebula. If Voyager stayed away, then the Queen would allow them to continue their journey without harm coming to them.
From the Borg Queen herself, this was a lot.
The captain was concerned, but the admiral had expected it. In fact, the admiral seemed more surprised it had taken the Borg Queen so long to show up.
What was the admiral aware of that she hadn't told the captain about?
The captain couldn’t shake the notion that there was something else she should know. She couldn't see herself doing anything so drastic as going back in time after she'd finally gotten her crew home unless there was a reason, or reasons, so huge she couldn't live with herself otherwise.
The Borg were inside that nebula, and the admiral wanted to turn Voyager around and head straight for them. But why?
"From my perspective," said the admiral, "they are 30 years behind the times. If I hadn't developed technology that could defeat them, I wouldn't be standing here today."
The captain decided to maintain course for the nebula, which pleased the admiral.
The captain had some thinking to do.
Finally, the time had come.
Captain Janeway had been able to think of no reason not to return to the Borg nebula.
The admiral had convinced her that the new technology she'd brought had advanced past the point of current Borg development. If that nebula held the key to getting Voyager back home, then she was willing to take the risk. She’d done it before and won. With this new technology, they could be home by tomorrow morning. That was still an odd thought.
All hands were at their posts and the bridge and engineering crews were ready.
Captain Janeway sat in her command chair, and her first officer sat in his. The admiral stood below Tuvok’s station, but out of the way. She constantly reminded herself this was not her bridge.
“Bridge to Engineering. Deploy armor,” said the captain.
The armor extended over Voyager’s hull, piece by piece, using the same technology B’Elanna had learned by studying the admiral’s ship.
Voyager advanced closer to the Borg nebula, and Borg cubes came at them from all directions, firing, trying to destroy Voyager. It was time for battle.
“They’re trying to adapt,” said the admiral, matter-of-factly.
Something still isn’t quite right, thought the captain. She knew herself well enough to know she’d withhold information from an enemy if it got her what she wanted. But Admiral Janeway wouldn’t withhold information from her younger self, would she? After all, they were supposed to be on the same side.
“Attack pattern Alpha One – target the lead cube and fire transphasic torpedoes,” said the captain. The admiral watched approvingly as the cube was destroyed.
“Target the second cube,” said the captain.
As Voyager slowly made her way through the nebula, firing on Borg cubes at will, the captain couldn’t remember ever seeing so many cubes, or even detecting so many, at one place and at one time. They had to be here for a reason. The Borg always had a strategy. Was this a base, a sort of space station, for Borg ships? She glanced at the admiral, but was more or less ignored by her.
Suddenly, there was an odd shape ahead of them. Borg cubes obscured the captain’s view of it at first, but then she saw it. It was massive – a structure composed of interconnecting conduits which formed a pinwheel with a glowing transwarp aperture at each end. It was unlike anything she’d ever seen. This was no wormhole back to the Alpha Quadrant.
“What the hell is it?” she asked the admiral. She immediately knew this was what the admiral had been keeping to herself, whatever this thing was.
But the admiral was nonplussed. “The road home,” she said.
The captain had no time for this. She glanced at Seven of Nine over her shoulder. Seven explained that this was a transwarp hub.
There were only six of those in the galaxy, Seven had once told her captain. No wonder the Borg were so protective of this place. It was their very own space travel machine. They could take themselves to anywhere in the galaxy in only moments, perhaps seconds.
“Take us out,” said the captain firmly, with a glance at Tom Paris.
The admiral reacted quickly, telling Tom to proceed into the aperture, but Captain Janeway marched down to where the admiral stood. She told the admiral it was still her bridge and she would have the admiral removed if necessary.
Admiral Janeway suddenly realized she’d made a big mistake. She should have told the captain about the hub and then spent her time and energy convincing her to enter it. That way, even though it might have taken them longer to get to this point, at least the captain wouldn’t have had a surprise awaiting her when she got this far.
The admiral had forgotten how much Captain Janeway hated surprises.
As Tom obeyed his captain and quickly took Voyager out of the nebula, Admiral Janeway sighed. Because of her mistake, her error in judgment, she had a lot more work ahead of her now. She’d managed to change the captain’s frame of mind from cautious to angry, and she knew this was not good. The captain was nothing if not stubborn, a quality that unfortunately hadn’t changed much over the years.
Now she had to rethink her strategy and hope she hadn’t taken too much for granted in her dealings with Captain Janeway.
Sometimes she lost sight of the fact this was her old self she was dealing with, the young captain who had ambition, gumption, foresight and a strong sense of who she was and what her goal was.
Once again, she reminded herself it would be best to remember who she was dealing with.
The senior staff gathered together in the Astrometrics Lab.
The captain began to explore ways to destroy the transwarp hub, and her senior staff made several suggestions. By destroying that hub, they could deal a crippling blow to the Borg.
The admiral had been standing in the background listening, waiting for the conversation to play itself out, but suddenly she could take no more of this self-absorbed discussion.
Not this time captain, thought the admiral. This time I will not allow you to consider others ahead of the needs of your own crew. "While you're all standing around dreaming up fantasy tactical scenarios, the Queen is studying her scans of our armor and weapons. And she's probably got the entire Collective working on a way to counter them." She looked straight at Captain Janeway. "Take the ship back into the nebula and go home before it's too late."
But the captain held the admiral's eyes. "Find a way to destroy that hub," she said over her shoulder to her senior staff. She had had about all she was going to take from Admiral Janeway. “Let’s take a walk,” she told her in a voice the rest of the senior staff was glad wasn’t intended for them.
The captain was frustrated and angry, and the admiral wasn't faring much better.
Together they walked down the corridor toward the bridge, and the ready room. Neither mentioned where they were going, they just headed there as one. Both were accustomed to seeking refuge there, to working out answers to problems in that private sanctuary.
"I want to know why you didn't tell me about this," said the captain.
"Because I remember how stubborn and self-righteous I used to be. I figured you might try to do something stupid." The admiral didn't mince words. The time was gone for that. "I didn't spend the last ten years looking for a way to get this crew home earlier so you could throw it all away on some intergalactic 'good-will mission'."
"I refuse to believe I'll ever become as cynical as you," said the captain.
The admiral stopped walking. Perhaps the captain had a point. But it was also easy to be cavalier and judgmental when she didn't know the whole story about what had happened to the family between now and the time Voyager finally made it home again – a long, long way down the road from today.
"Seven years ago, you had a chance to use the Caretaker's Array to get Voyager home. But instead, you destroyed it. You chose to put the lives of strangers ahead of the lives of your crew. You can't make the same mistake again," said the admiral.
But the captain didn’t see it that way. "You got Voyager home. Which means I will too. If it takes a few more years, then that's…"
The admiral didn't have more time to waste. They had to get back to that nebula, and soon. "Seven of Nine is going to die," she said, interrupting the captain.
"What?" gasped Captain Janeway.
The admiral didn't like having to do this, but the only way to change the captain's mind about going back to that nebula was to tell her things she didn't want to know, the Temporal Prime Directive be damned. "Three years from now. She'll be injured on an away mission. She'll make it back to Voyager…and die in the arms of her husband."
"Husband?" The captain’s voice was barely more than a whisper.
"Chakotay," said the admiral. It still hurt to say it, but it got the desired effect. Captain Janeway was motionless and suddenly speechless. But more importantly, the admiral saw the shock and the fear – and the hurt – behind the façade. Ah yes, she remembered well the day she found out the rumors were true. She'd been hoping so hard that either they weren’t true, or that Seven and Chakotay would suddenly discover they had no life together. She'd refused to believe in her heart he would go to someone else, especially Seven of Nine.
The admiral had to drive her point home. "He'll never be the same after Seven's death. And neither will you."
The captain forced herself to think about the situation at hand. "If I know what's going to happen, I can avoid it…" she said.
"Seven's not the only one. Between this day and the day I got Voyager home, I lost twenty-two crewmembers." She watched the captain's reaction. "And then of course there's Tuvok…"
"What about him?" asked the captain quickly. No, not Tuvok. Please don't let anything happen to Tuvok. She wouldn't be able to take it….
"You're forgetting the Temporal Time Directive, Captain," said the admiral. One more chance to stand your ground, captain.
"The hell with it," said the captain. It had gone too far now.
"Fine," said the admiral. Now they would be on equal footing. "Tuvok has a degenerative neurological condition that he hasn't told you about. There's a cure in the Alpha Quadrant, but if he doesn't get it in time…" she let the sentence go unfinished. There was no need to fill in the blank. In her mind's eye, she saw her old friend as she'd left him in the Alpha Quadrant less than 24 hours, and a million light years, ago. She swallowed the lump in her throat and focused on the captain. She couldn't lose her now.
The admiral took a step closer to the captain. She knew exactly what she was thinking, and there was no time to waste going in that direction. "Even if you alter Voyager's route, limit your contact with alien species, you're going to lose people. But I'm offering you a chance to get all of them home safe and sound…today. Are you really going to walk away from that?"
The captain's eyes met the admiral's.
This time they were both thinking the same thing.
The captain and the admiral reached the captain's ready room in short order.
The captain ordered tea for the admiral and coffee for herself. She saw the admiral's reaction to the smell of fresh coffee. The admiral might pretend she'd switched to drinking tea as a matter of course, but she still missed it, thought the captain. Somehow that made her feel better.
The captain was still in shock from hearing the things the admiral had told her in the corridor not fifteen minutes ago, though her mind was beginning to work overtime. She and the admiral had taken the turbolift and arrived here without speaking most of the way after those things had been said.
"Tell me about…Chakotay and Seven," said the captain. "It's true then, that they are seeing each other now, privately?" she asked, with her back to the admiral. She remembered again how Chakotay had been too busy for lunch yesterday.
"Yes, the rumors are true," said the admiral. She knew why Captain Janeway wouldn't look at her. She didn't want the admiral to see the fear and the hurt in her eyes again – the vulnerability they both knew was just beneath the surface. "They dated twice, but now they've broken it off."
The captain turned. "Then how…"
"Five months from now they will turn to each other again, mostly from loneliness. The Doctor is in love with Seven, but he is afraid to take the risk of rejection by telling her his intentions. And you…well, we know all about your fears, don't we?"
The captain was taken aback. No one spoke to her that way; she was never even this honest with herself. She sighed. But then, it seemed she had changed a lot over the years. "I don't know what you mean," she said, turning away.
The admiral tried to be patient. After all, back when she was the captain she wouldn't have been able to deal with the outright truth, either. "You're in love with Chakotay and he's in love with you. It's written all over both your faces, which is something I didn't realize or wouldn't think about, back when I was you. It's no wonder the crew thinks of you as a couple. You're smitten with each other, to say the least. And the electricity between the two of you is felt by everyone."
The captain moved to the viewport to watch the stars go by. "I don't think we need to have this conversation," she said firmly.
"Oh but we do," said the admiral. "For someone who speaks her mind about most things and is fearless about others, you suddenly forget everything when it comes to Chakotay. You're afraid to look too closely into your own heart, and you try to ignore how he feels about you. What do you think made him go to Seven in the first place? It was your indifference, Kathryn. He would have waited for you forever, but you forgot to let him know you still love him, and you didn’t pick him up when he stumbled this time.” The captain said nothing, but the admiral knew she’d hit her mark. “You still thought you had a future ahead of you to be with him, and you didn't pay attention to what was happening around you." She took a deep breath and lowered her tone. "How often do you play those messages from the past he left you?" she asked, and saw the captain straighten her back at the viewport. The admiral nearly smiled. Bulls-eye again. "He's still in love with you, too. But you have to let him know you’re still interested. You listen to those old messages over and over, and yet you forget to do what he asked – let him know you want him.”
"You may be me twenty-six years from now, Admiral, but you're not me today," said the captain, turning from the viewport. She needed to stop this before it got way out of hand. "And I don't need your advice."
"Oh but you do. If you didn't, Chakotay never would have considered dating Seven of Nine in the first place. They don't belong together, never did. He still loves you."
"And just how do you know that?" asked the captain.
"He told me."
The captain barely managed to keep her mouth from falling open. "What?" she whispered.
"You mean ‘when,’ I think. Yesterday. He told me," said the admiral. "And then he wanted to know how you feel about him."
The captain turned away again. Her heart was beating so fast. "What did you tell him?"
"The truth," said Admiral Janeway.
The captain stiffened.
The admiral continued with her story. "But it doesn't matter that I told him. He needs to hear it from you. Otherwise, you'll have to go through what I did." She took a deep breath. "Two years from now, Chakotay and Seven of Nine will ask you to marry them.” She swallowed the tears she felt suddenly rising to the surface. And she thought she was past all that. “They will have had a stormy relationship, but neither of them have any place to go, except back to each other. You'll have to perform the ceremony that forever takes him away from you. Do you think you can do that, Kathryn? I did it." She took another deep breath to still her heartbeat. This was even harder to do than she'd thought. "Unless you go back to that nebula…"
The captain turned quickly. "That's why you're here, isn't it? You came back for personal reasons – to stop Chakotay from marrying Seven of Nine. It's not about…"
"Listen to yourself, Captain," said Admiral Janeway. "Once again, you're not hearing the truth. I came back here for all the reasons I've already told you. Keeping Chakotay's love is the icing on the cake, if you want to think of it that way. You have a chance to make a life for yourself, and for him. Don't make the same mistake I did and give that up this time. Chakotay deserves better than that. Even you deserve better than that."
"You told me earlier that Chakotay is never the same after Seven dies," said the captain.
"He's not, but it's because of guilt – something which you know a great deal about." The admiral reminded herself to stick to the subject.
"Chakotay was scheduled to go on that away mission, but Seven convinced him to let her go instead. He always believed he should have been the one wounded, not Seven. He blamed himself for her death, always believing he should have died instead of her."
The captain turned back to her viewport. That sounded like the Chakotay she knew. He would never forgive himself if he thought he was to blame for an innocent death. "And now…what has become of Chakotay?" asked the captain. Her heart was beating fast, and she wasn't sure she really wanted to hear the answer, but knew she had to.
Ah, finally, the question. "I attended his funeral nearly four months ago," said the admiral.
The captain shut her eyes. Even knowing Chakotay had died in a future she’d not experienced was painful.
The admiral continued. "He spent the last several years alone, in a cabin he built in the woods. He didn't see many people, and didn't have any interests anymore." She turned away. "When we saw each other, which was rare, it was strained at best. I knew Chakotay blamed himself for Seven's death, and he knew I never stopped feeling I should have been able to prevent it. It put a wedge between Chakotay and me, one we could never move past." She took a sip of her tea and grimaced. "You called me cynical. Well, maybe I am. I had the chance to do things right, and I failed. I failed myself, Seven, Tuvok, Chakotay…and so many others. So many people I cared about."
"You couldn't have known," whispered the captain from behind her.
"I didn't listen to my heart, Kathryn. Sometimes you don't listen very well.” The admiral took a moment to remind herself why she was here. “We got home, finally, and I was made admiral. Over the past ten years I've done everything possible to find a way back here, to correct all those mistakes."
"That's how you've spent the past ten years?"
The admiral thought for a moment. "I've had a few relationships, if that's what you want to know – slept with men who couldn't satisfy me, no matter how hard they tried. I saw Chakotay's face every time I made love with someone else." She paused. "You know what that's like, Captain," she said softly.
The captain said nothing.
"Of course you do," continued the admiral. "No one, not even Admiral John Hennessey could take my mind off Chakotay."
"Hennessey? He became an admiral?" And then the captain’s eyes grew wide. "I can't believe you…you…." she whispered.
"Slept with him?" The admiral looked her in the eye.
The captain's eyes only grew wider. "He's so young!"
"He’s older now. And very good in bed," said the admiral. "You and I have always enjoyed good sex."
"I can't believe we're having this conversation…." said the captain, turning away as though that would stop it.
"He asked me to marry him four years ago."
"Don't tell me any more. I don't want to hear it," said the captain, shaking her head.
"Instead of marrying him, I stopped seeing him." The admiral squared her shoulders. "I liked him a great deal but I wasn't in love with him, and I wanted him to go on with his life." Her voice became firm. "I've only loved one man, Kathryn. You can remember Mark, and even Justin and the others in-between, but you know that what you felt for any of those men was nothing compared to the love you feel for Chakotay."
"Don't," said the captain, throwing up her hands to ward off further information.
The admiral considered. "All right. Fine. We were talking about what happened to Chakotay."
"Yes." The captain decided if she was going to hear this much, she had to know the rest of the story.
"Just before Chakotay died, the Doctor told me he wanted to see me." She swallowed, knowing the hard part was coming, the part she’d never shared with anyone else. "I went to his cabin and sat with him for two days. The Doctor stopped in from time to time, but no one else came. Chakotay wanted it that way. He was holding my hand when he died."
Both Janeways had tears in their eyes, for all the things that had happened, had not happened, and those that might have been prevented.
The admiral pushed back her tears. This wasn't what she was here for. And dammit, she was going to make sure it didn’t really happen this way again. "He died holding my hand, only minutes after telling me he'd never stopped loving me." Her voice broke, but the captain had the decency not to turn from her viewport. "I told him that I'd loved him from nearly the day I met him, and it had never changed." She took a deep breath and dumped her cup of tea into the recycler. She'd always hated tea, and it was high time she accepted the fact she always would. "I visited his grave two days ago, Kathryn, before making this trip back to Voyager. I promised him things would be different this time."
The captain remained at the viewport, the cup of coffee in her hand becoming cold.
The admiral looked at the captain's back. "Don't let me down, Kathryn. Don't let Chakotay down."
Late that evening, Captain Janeway took a long bath and went to bed. She was exhausted. She tossed and turned and finally fell into a restless sleep.
She saw Chakotay's face in her mind, in her dreams. He came to her and kissed her. She felt his warm hands touch her face, caress her shoulders, unzip her jacket and remove the clothing from her body.
He kissed her lips, her throat, and trailed kisses down her body. He moved his tongue onto her nipple and engulfed it….
Kathryn bolted upright in her bed. She was gasping for breath. Throwing the covers off, she jumped out of bed and moved quickly into the other room. She ordered a glass of water from the replicator and drank it down. Her hands were shaking.
Not now, she told herself. I don't have time for this.
After a few minutes, she took deep breaths to calm herself and finally went back into the other room, and to bed. She lay there for several moments, thinking about how she shouldn't think about things she shouldn't think about.
But she closed her eyes and still saw his face.
Finally, she moved her nightgown aside and slipped her hand down, inside her panties to the most private parts of her.
She closed her eyes and saw him again. She pretended he was beside her, caressing her, kissing her. It wasn't the best way to handle things, perhaps, but it was all she had.
Sometimes, no matter how poor a substitute it was for what she couldn’t have, she had to take matters into her own hands.
Admiral Janeway took a sip of chamomile tea. She'd replicated a mug moments ago, thinking it would help her to sleep better, but she still hated tea, no matter the flavor. And no matter what everyone told her, it made nothing better. It only made her crave coffee all the more.
She had a pretty good idea of how the captain was feeling tonight, and what she might be doing, alone in her quarters. She had once been Captain Janeway, and no secrets were really sacred between the two of them.
She sighed. Her intent hadn't been to put the captain in a melancholy mood, and make her miss Chakotay even more, but she'd had to talk about those things.
More, she recalled how she'd felt, and how she, too, had often had to take matters in her own hands, relieving the sexual tension she felt – and seeing Chakotay’s face in her mind.
No one could know how lonely the power of command really was unless they’d experienced it.
Admiral Janeway sat back in her recliner and closed her eyes. She couldn't sleep, either. She saw Chakotay in her mind's eye. He came to her, kissed her lips, her throat. He removed her clothing piece by piece, and touched her body.
She sucked in her breath, and felt her heartbeat increase. He nuzzled her breast and took her taunt nipple into his mouth.
She felt the warm heat sear throughout her body and the wetness spread between her legs.
Even now, he had that power over her.
She stood, dumped the tea in the recycler and headed for bed.
Some things were meant to be taken care of in the bedroom.
Captain Janeway entered Sickbay and found the Doctor seated behind his desk, working at his computer console. She knew he was fascinated with the admiral's stories about his medical accomplishments after returning to Earth. He was more than likely working on some of that research now.
When she walked into his office, the Doctor stood. "Captain, come in," he said. "What can I do for you?"
She closed the door and motioned for him to be seated. "I'm here on an unofficial visit," she said, sitting in a chair in front of the Doctor's desk."
"I know the admiral has told you about some of the things you'll accomplish after returning to Earth," she said.
"Yes, but of course that may all change, Captain, if the timeline changes," he said.
"Perhaps." A lot of things would change, but many things didn't necessarily have to. "Still, I was wondering if you've given some thought to other things in your life."
"Such as?" asked the Doctor.
"A personal relationship," she said.
If a hologram could blush, the captain was certain the Doctor would have at that moment. She'd caught him completely off-guard.
"If you mean have I given thought to taking a wife, Captain," he said, "I'm sure I have plenty of time to make that decision. After all, I am a hologram. I will always be my charming self, twenty years from now, or a hundred and twenty." He smiled his most charming smile.
"True," she said, nodding slowly, considering. "But if you were interested in choosing a human mate, for example, keep in mind how short our life spans are in comparison to yours, particularly if there is someone you're …already interested in."
The Doctor frowned. "You make a good point," he said. "But if I'm needed to make all sorts of new discoveries in the fields of both science and medicine, I'll need to devote so much of my time to that."
"But perhaps not all of your time, Doctor," she said evenly. "And a truly devoted wife would be understanding about the amount of time you would need to spend on your research."
"Yes, of course," he said. "She's always been…" He stopped, and looked at the captain. Understanding dawned on him. "You're encouraging me to approach Seven of Nine," he said.
"Only if you feel the time is right," said Captain Janeway, diplomatically.
"Do you think she…I mean, I'm not sure…what I mean is, she might be seeing…someone else," he said, glancing at the captain to see if she'd heard the rumors, too.
But the captain gave away nothing. She stood, and the Doctor stood with her. "Doctor, I wouldn't worry about that." She touched his shoulder briefly. "You do what you think is best."
And with that, the captain left the Doctor, and Sickbay.
The Doctor stood behind his desk for several more minutes, confused by the captain's visit.
He recalled a time, not so long ago, when he’d professed his love for Seven openly, in front of the entire crew, in fact. It was an embarrassment, even for a hologram, but thankfully everyone had chalked it up to the spontaneous moment, and it was never mentioned again.
Now, the Doctor wasn’t sure if Seven would give him a second chance to woo her.
The only thing he could be sure of was that he couldn't think of one good reason not to tell Seven how he felt about her. Of course, he would be setting himself up for rejection, but perhaps it was best to know one way or another.
Perhaps he would invite her to dinner – tomorrow. Well, perhaps tonight. Of course, she might be busy.
The Doctor touched his com badge. "Doctor to Seven of Nine," he said.
"Seven of Nine here," came the voice over his com badge.
The Doctor took a deep breath. There was no turning back now. "Seven I was wondering…"
He should have known she would want to make the most efficient use of her time. "I was wondering if you would have dinner with me this evening." She didn't answer. "On Holodeck Two," he said, making it up as he went along. He'd reserved the holodeck already, planning to work on his favorite aria with the newest soprano diva he'd programmed. But the diva could wait. "At 19:00 hours." She still didn't answer. "All right, then…" Perhaps he’d taken too much for granted.
"I'll be there. Is there anything else, Doctor?"
'"What? Oh, no. No." His program was beginning to sound faulty. He would have to run a self-diagnostic.
"Then I will see you at 19:00 hours, Doctor." She severed the connection.
The Doctor took another deep breath and let it out slowly. She'd said yes.
She'd said yes!
Captain Janeway took a deep breath, then rang the door chime.
What was good for the goose was good for the gander. What the hell did that mean anyway, she thought absently.
"Come," said the voice from inside.
Chakotay looked at her in surprise.
She had a moment of déjà vu. It always seemed to happen this way. "Hello there," she said. "I realize it's late…"
"It's all right," he said quickly. "I wasn't asleep."
She could see he hadn't been to bed at all. He still wore his uniform from earlier; it was crumpled – but so was hers. It had been a long day. She hadn't been to bed, either. And here it was 03:00. She'd known he was awake because she'd asked the computer. "I want to ask you something…" she said.
"What is it, Captain?" He looked at her with concern.
"It's Kathryn. I left the captain back somewhere with the admiral."
He grinned, and she fell in love with him all over again as she watched his eyes light up. “I hope they’re getting along all right,” he said.
She smiled back. “They have their moments.”
He didn’t understand why Kathryn was here, but he was glad. He missed her.
"Chakotay?" Her voice was barely more than a whisper.
He recognized that voice. He swallowed hard. "What is it, Kathryn?"
She took a step toward him. "When all of this is over, I'd like for you and I to have a talk."
He took a deep breath and managed another nod. "All right."
"I want to talk about us," she said. "And whether there even is an 'us'."
He held her gaze. "There is if you want there to be, Kathryn. It's always been up to you."
This time she nodded. "I think I've always known that." She paused. "You realize we may be home soon."
"I am home, Kathryn. My home's right here on Voyager, with you."
She had to push back the tears. She hadn't expected this much from him, not tonight. But she’d opened the door. “I promised I’d get our crew home, back to Earth, Chakotay.”
He nodded. “And that’s what you’ll do, Kathryn, whether it’s tomorrow or next week or next year.”
Or sixteen more years, she thought. “Just because the admiral got our crew home, that doesn’t mean I will.”
“You will,” he said.
“You sound so sure,” she whispered.
“I’ve always been sure of that, Kathryn.”
And he had. It suddenly hit her that he’d never questioned that. Through all the years she’d questioned herself, wondered if she had the moxy to do what it took to get her crew home again, he’d never doubted her, or the fact that she was his commanding officer.
He’d always been there for her, and she’d taken advantage of his support more times than she could remember.
“I won’t let this crew down,” she said.
“I know you won’t.”
She looked away. He understood.
She could feel the heat between them, that damnable surge of electricity that was always there just beneath the surface – and sometimes not so beneath the surface.
He took a step back. He felt it, too.
Her heart was pounding, but she met his eyes. "We'll talk. As soon as I feel the time’s right," she said.
“That’s all I need to know,” he said. He swallowed hard, and she realized this was as big a moment for him as it was for her.
“Chakotay…if you ever need to move on, I want you to know I’ll understand,” she said. Her throat burned when she said the words, but she wouldn’t hold him back for her own selfish reasons.
“I’ll keep that in mind,” he said, but his voice sounded full, satisfied. He sounded happy, she thought. And his eyes were bright, warm, holding hers.
She nodded once and started for the door. She had to. The attraction was burning strong between them and she had to back away from it, for now. She’d said all she’d come to say anyway. Before the door opened, she turned back. "And Chakotay? If we don't get home in the next day or so, how about dinner? Friday night? Just the two of us."
He grinned. "No admiral?”
“She can fend for herself – she seems awfully good at it.” She smiled back at him.
“Sounds good to me,” he said. “Are you cooking?"
Her mouth turned up at the corner and her eyes sparkled in that way she had that made his heart beat faster. "I was hoping you would. We could use my place. I'll light the candles and pour the wine, and watch you cook." And enjoy every moment of it, she thought.
"That's good enough for me," he said. "I'll be there." And I'll enjoy watching you watch me cook, he thought.
"And if we do make it home in the meantime …" she said.
"I'll be there, too."
They smiled at each other some more, and she left his quarters. Why could a simple conversation make her feel so good? She took a deep breath to clear her head as she walked the corridor, heading for her own quarters. The answer to that question wasn’t difficult after all, she decided. That simple conversation hadn't been simple. It had been a promise of things to come, a second chance for a different future this time around.
Her step was light and she greeted passing crewmembers warmly as she made her way to her quarters.
Then she took a long soak in a hot tub, the one thing she enjoyed most and too rarely took the time to do.
She slept well that night, and the events of the past couple of days were put into a remote corner of her mind as she thought instead about her first officer, his smile, and the way he made her feel inside.
After she left his quarters, Chakotay walked into his bedroom and looked at the wall over his dresser, where a small rosewood frame held a dried peace rose Kathryn Janeway had once given him.
From time to time he needed to look at it, for it held the only visible proof he had of Kathryn's words to him from so long ago.
Once again, he felt a surge of hope. His love for Kathryn only grew as time passed.
Maybe they would be together yet.
The following day, Captain Janeway called her senior staff together. She told them that while she alone had made the decision to strand them all in the Delta Quadrant, this time she was asking their opinions. They were going to make this decision together.
Admiral Janeway stood in the background. So, this is what the captain had decided to do. It was a mistake. It was up to her to make the decision, and go back to that nebula. No matter what, they had to go back to that nebula. She hadn’t spent the last ten years looking for a way to come back here, just to lose this battle with herself.
Harry Kim made his captain, and the admiral, proud when he said no one on this crew has been more obsessed with getting home than he has, but maybe it’s not the destination that matters – maybe it’s the journey. If it takes a bit longer to get home because they’re doing something they all believe in, what does it matter? He said he couldn’t think of any place he’d rather be, or anyone he’d rather be with, than his friends on Voyager.
“To the journey!” said Tom Paris, and the others raised their glasses and joined in the toast.
Admiral Janeway felt a lump rise in her throat as she watched from the sidelines. How proud she was of all of them – even the captain. Yes, she’d underestimated herself. All these years, she’d thought back and regretted so many decisions she’d made, and so many things she had done and not done. But the passing of the years had marred the surface. It had distorted her memory. She hadn’t given herself the credit she deserved for keeping her crew together, unified yet diverse, hard-working yet able to relax and enjoy being with the rest of the family on Voyager. At that moment, she was prouder than ever to have been a part of this crew, to have been their leader.
Yes, she’d forgotten so much, too much.
As the senior staff raised their glasses, Admiral Janeway’s eyes met the captain’s. She was suddenly so proud to have once been her.
And she realized one other thing – this was truly her home; it was where she’d left her heart so very long ago.
Admiral Janeway and Captain Janeway were finally alone in the mess hall. It had been a long afternoon.
The admiral might have developed a new pride and understanding from the earlier meeting with the senior staff, but the bottom line was still the same. Captain Janeway had to order this ship back to that nebula. They had to get home now – not sixteen years from now.
Admiral Janeway ordered coffee from the replicator, and the captain smiled.
“I’m reviving some old habits,” said the admiral. And she certainly was. She took a whiff of her cup and let out a long breath. “I don’t know why I ever gave this up.” She’d returned to her past to change the captain’s mind about some things, as well as the captain’s direction. But it seemed the captain was having more influence on the admiral than she’d have believed possible.
And it was time to level the playing field. She’d taken too much for granted, and underestimated her old self badly. Somehow that was comforting to know. “I’d forgotten how much they loved being together, and how devoted they were to you,” she told the captain. The lump was back in her throat. She was becoming sentimental in her older age, and she didn’t have time for it.
Captain Janeway said nothing.
The admiral sat down in front of the captain with her mug of coffee. She'd lied to the captain and tried to convince her to go into that nebula without having all the facts. And it had backfired on her. Yes, she had certainly underestimated the captain she used to be. “Maybe together we can increase the odds,” she said. She was going to talk the captain into going back to that nebula if it was the last thing she did, but she was going to do it the right way. She was going to be upfront about it all and tell her everything first.
“Maybe we can do more than that,” said the captain. “There has to be a way to destroy that hub and get home, too.”
But the admiral told her it wasn’t possible; they couldn’t have their cake and eat it, too.
The captain was not one to be deterred by those kinds of thoughts, however – she never had been, wouldn’t be now, and refused to believe she would ever be. “Are you absolutely sure about that?” she asked the admiral. The challenge in her voice was unmistakable.
The admiral smiled. She understood. “There might be a way,” she said. “I considered it once, but it seemed too risky.” A challenge could work both ways. The admiral knew the word “risky” would capture the captain’s attention, and she wasn’t wrong.
The captain smiled.
Two hours and two cups of coffee later, both women were satisfied that their plan would work. Probably. Either way, they were determined to try it. Things had come to a point of no return, even for the captain.
The admiral dumped the remainder of her coffee in the recycler then turned to the captain. “Now that our business is concluded,” she said, “the rumor mill has it that the Doctor and Seven of Nine are having dinner together this evening.”
The captain looked at Admiral Janeway in amazement. “How is it that you know everything that is going on aboard Voyager? No one confides in me.”
“You’re the captain,” said the admiral. “I’m just a…guest.” She shrugged.
Captain Janeway shook her head.
“Tell me, did you speak with Chakotay?” asked the admiral.
“That’s not your concern,” said the captain.
“Oh, but you’re wrong, Captain. Everything you do affects me – directly. Which makes it my concern.”
“Any conversation I might have had with Chakotay is personal.”
“Yes, I know,” said the admiral. “It is to me, too.” The captain looked away, and the admiral spoke softly. “I love him too, you know.”
The captain shook her head again. “This is not easy for me – talking to you…about this.”
“It has never been easy for you to deal with your feelings at all. That’s why you run away from them every chance you get,” said the admiral.
The captain turned around and looked the admiral in the eye. “Since when did you become so philosophical?”
“I’ve thought about regrets for the past ten years. For some reason, the time passed slowly.” She sat and crossed her legs. “Now tell me, what did you and Chakotay talk about?”
Captain Janeway took a deep breath. “I told him we need to talk about "us" – when the time is right.”
“That sounds like you,” said the admiral. “And he said what?”
“He said all right.” When the admiral looked at her pointedly, she sighed. “He said he’d like that, too.”
“Good. And then you made plans to have dinner.”
‘How do you know that?” asked the captain. “Surely…”
“Because it’s what you and he do. You make dinner plans and laugh and flirt and sip wine by candlelight. You share everything but your bodies,” said the admiral, with a gleam in her eye.
“I can’t believe you’re…”
“So honest about it now?” She stood. “Perhaps you will be one day too,” she continued. “But mostly, I hope you and he have that talk soon. Do it, Kathryn. Talk to him, hold him and kiss him, and give yourself to him. He’s the only one for you, and you’re the only one for him. Don’t ignore it and let it all go away. And don't continue to push him away. A man can only wait for so long, no matter what he says. And Chakotay has waited much longer than most. You know that.”
The captain nodded. “Yes, but he’s free to go if…”
The admiral shook her head. “No. He gave his heart to you long ago. It will always be with you. And if you don’t take the first step to bring the two of you together, you will both suffer for it for the rest of your lives. And that’s something you can never change.”
“Unless I decide to go back in time to do it,” said Captain Janeway softly, and then she smiled. The admiral smiled back. “I understand your point, Admiral. I’ll think about it. Now, why don’t you and I go have dinner in the mess hall. I hear Crewman Chell is trying out a new recipe tonight.”
The admiral raised an eyebrow. “Please tell me it’s not Red Alert Chili.”
“No, but I hear it’s along the same lines,” said the captain. “And we need to be supportive of his new endeavors. So, let’s go.”
The admiral walked beside the captain to the mess hall.
For the first time, they were walking the same road together.
Admiral Janeway rang the door chime.
"Come in," said the voice from inside.
Taking a deep breath and squaring her admiral's shoulders, she entered.
He was standing there, in the middle of the room. "I wondered if you'd come to say 'good-bye'," he said.
"I thought about not coming to say 'good-bye,' but I decided it was time to tell you some of the things I didn't tell you the first time around," she said.
"Telling you how much you mean to me," she said.
He turned away, and the admiral could see his shoulders rise and fall.
"And how I never forgot the dinners we shared, the times we had together." She thought about what she really needed to say. "The way you always supported me, was there for me when I needed you most – and even when I didn’t think I needed you, but did, you were still there. I also want you to know that I never stopped loving you." Her voice broke, but she was helpless to prevent it, and loathe to care. Now that she'd said it, the years of holding it inside lifted a burden from her shoulders she never realized was there. The tears rushed to the surface and it took everything inside her to force them back down.
She still had a mission to accomplish, and the hardest part of it was ahead of her. But it wouldn't be long now until it was over.
"Kathryn…" He still couldn't look at her.
"I have to go now, Chakotay." She moved to him and he finally turned to her. She could see the moisture in his eyes. "Don't give up on the captain. She may surprise you yet."
Kathryn Janeway reached up and touched his cheek. "You are the best thing that ever happened to me, and you have been from the moment I met you." She smiled, and her eyes filled with unshed tears. Maybe it was better late than never, after all. And it was time to talk in first person tense. "Don't give up on me, Chakotay. I might have told you once that I'd understand if you moved away from me, if you want to be free. And that's true – I will understand because I've given you no reason to stay. But I want you to know that when you left me – before – I was never the same afterward."
He took her hand, raised it slowly to his lips and kissed it.
"She'll come to you, Chakotay. This time, she'll come through. But she has to do a few things first, before she can give herself to you."
He nodded. "She has to get her crew home."
She smiled. "You always understood that."
"More than you knew."
"Yes." She took a deep breath. It was time to leave. "But you know how stubborn I can be."
“Better than anyone.”
She pulled her hand away and started for the door.
"Kathryn. Thank you – for everything."
She took one final look at the man who had given her his shoulder to lean on all those years in the Delta Quadrant, the man who challenged her, and had somehow loved her through it all. This was the man who had steadied her, and helped to make her a good captain.
And for the very first time, she realized that perhaps she was meant to strand them all in the Delta Quadrant so long ago. She had simply taken the first step toward this entire crew's destiny, toward the painful growing process that all lives were made of. Oh, she'd made mistakes, true. And now she was going to correct as much hindsight as she could. Thankfully, she'd been given a second chance to do it. Not everyone was so lucky.
This marvelous man had become a part of her life for a reason, because everything happened for a reason. She hoped the captain would do right by him this time.
She smiled at Chakotay. "Take care of yourself," she whispered, and left his quarters.
Admiral Janeway stood tall, walked down the corridor and entered the turbolift where she was finally alone. For a moment, she allowed the tears to gather beneath her lids, but blinked them back again as the doors opened in front of her.
She took a deep breath and stepped out. She had to trust in the captain, to believe she would be with Chakotay again someday, but in the way they should have been the first time.
For now, she had the most difficult mission of her life to complete.
Admiral Janeway sat in the pilot's chair in the shuttlecraft. She began her preparation for launch.
After a moment, the captain arrived with a hypospray.
"It's about time. I'm not getting any younger, you know," said the admiral. And she didn't exactly need more time to think about what was ahead of her.
"You're sure you want to do this?" asked the captain.
"No. But Voyager isn't big enough for the both of us."
The captain injected the hypospray into the admiral's neck, and then smiled at her. So this was who she might turn out to be. It wasn't so bad, after all. She suddenly had so many questions she wanted to ask the admiral, but the time for that was over. They had accomplished all they could together and now it was time for one of them to take Voyager home, alone.
"Good luck, Admiral," said the captain.
"You too." As the captain turned to leave, Admiral Janeway called after her. "Captain."
Captain Janeway turned.
"I'm glad I got to know you again." And she was. It would make leaving Voyager easier, knowing she had done all she could do to get her crew home again – for the second time. She was leaving Voyager in very capable hands.
The captain smiled. Maybe things would turn out differently this time, but she would always be able to hold her head high, and hope she would become half the woman she'd turned out to be the first time she got her crew home.
This time, though, she was going do things right, all the way around.
The captain left the shuttlecraft and started for the bridge, where her first officer awaited her. There was a spring in her step and her mood was light.
She was going to get her crew home.
The admiral had been right – about everything. She certainly had known the Borg Queen well enough not to underestimate her.
She piloted her shuttle directly into the Borg Queen's territory, and with the help of her synaptic transceiver, she used her neural interface to hold the Queen at bay just long enough to convince her she was acting alone in asking that the Borg send a Cube to tractor Voyager and drag them back to the Alpha Quadrant.
In exchange, the admiral would hand over information about how to adapt to the transphasic torpedoes – technology that even the Borg wouldn't develop for some time. She even agreed to hand over her shuttlecraft.
But the Borg Queen had underestimated her old nemesis, Kathryn Janeway. After she triangulated the admiral’s signal and brought her into her lair, she attempted to assimilate the admiral. In doing so, however, she became infected with the virus the captain had injected into the admiral just prior to her departure.
The Borg wouldn’t disappear completely, and they might eventually overcome all they’d lost today, but it would take time. The captain and the admiral together had dealt a crippling blow to the Collective, and to the Queen.
Admiral Janeway sacrificed herself to the Borg so that she could get Voyager home sixteen years earlier than she had the first time. But she’d been prepared to do this all along. Somehow it seemed right.
Besides, there could never be two Kathryn Janeways.
As the admiral felt herself dying, with the Borg apertures running throughout her body, she thought of the captain she’d been, and still was. She thought about Chakotay, and how they should have been together, and how she’d done her best to keep the promise she’d made to him as he lay dying while holding her hand. Perhaps now she would be with that Chakotay.
Now it was up to the captain to do her part to make things right for herself and Chakotay today, and for their family on Voyager.
The admiral died with a smile of victory on her face.
As they entered Federation space, Captain Janeway silently thanked Admiral Janeway for everything she’d done.
Today, Captain Kathryn Janeway was being given a second chance to get her crew home, hopefully much sooner this time, before precious crewmembers were lost – and before she lost Chakotay for good.
She spoke to Admiral Paris on the viewscreen, then began the last part of the journey to get her crew home. She sent Tom Paris off to Sickbay to be with his wife and new daughter, and she sent her first officer to take over the helm.
Captain Janeway took a last long look around her bridge, knowing the looks of awe and happiness on the faces of her crew would be etched in her mind forever. She knew how they felt; she felt the same way.
She walked down to the helm where Chakotay sat at the controls, taking Voyager closer to Earth, with eighteen Starfleet vessels beside them. She put her hand on his shoulder, and he glanced at her and smiled. “Keep your mind on your job, Commander,” she whispered.
“Yes, Ma’am,” Chakotay said, still smiling.
And together they moved Voyager into the Alpha Quadrant and toward Earth, and the lives on board toward a new destiny.
That day, Captain Kathryn Janeway got her crew home.
Voyager and her crew had been home from their seven-year mission for nearly twelve weeks. They were welcomed with open arms, and the former Maquis were pardoned.
Tom Paris, too, was given a formal release from completing his sentence at the New Zealand Penal Colony, noted as “time served.”
And Captain Janeway was made admiral – with the understanding that she would have the right to command a vessel until she decided she would rather push paper around at Starfleet Headquarters instead. She contended that if James T. Kirk could do it, so could she.
Reluctantly, Starfleet Command agreed. At least, for the time being.
Admiral Janeway wasn’t quite sure if all this agreeableness was because Starfleet welcomed good public relations and a kind press for their long-missing ship and her captain and crew, or whether it was genuine, but either way it didn’t make much difference to her. What mattered was that she had gotten her crew home again, and she hadn’t lost an additional twenty-two crewmembers in the process.
She wasn’t sure if she’d lost Chakotay through it all, though, but she might have.
A lot of things had changed in the past twelve weeks. The crew was going through changes, trying to acclimate to life in a world that had continued to move ahead without them. Families were reunited, some happily and some questionably.
Kathryn herself had taken a quick trip home to visit her family in Indiana, with a promise she’d be back soon. But for now she had to get back to Starfleet Headquarters. She had to wrap up Delta Quadrant business, and then get to know her new ship, Voyager II. Admiral Janeway had a new mission that would begin in two weeks, and she had to be ready for it. Her mother and sister naturally understood; she came from a Starfleet family, after all. It was in the blood.
Kathryn Janeway leaned back on the couch with her second cup of coffee in the last hour. She smiled at the thought that the Doctor had berated her only yesterday about her coffee intake. Some things never changed, no matter what quadrant she was in.
And sometimes thinking about her immediate past, those seven years on Voyager, was what made her happiest. There, she had been with Chakotay every day, and since the crew had gotten home and been debriefed and allowed to go their separate ways, she’d seen him only once – at the official Welcome Home Gala, four weeks ago.
He had been quiet. He congratulated her on being made admiral, and kissed her on the cheek, awkwardly. She still didn’t quite know what to make of that.
And then he’d disappeared.
She heard that he’d been busy building a log cabin in the woods somewhere close by, yet not so close by. No one really knew where he was, but she knew he was still only a communicator’s signal away. She knew how to reach him; she just wasn’t sure if he wanted to be reached, or what they would say to each other.
Incredibly, after all they'd been through together, she had no idea what to say to Chakotay. There had always been a silent agreement between them that, if they were both free from other personal relationships when they finally reached home, they would take stock of where they were and see how they felt about getting to know each other in a new and different way – in a romantic sort of way. But that hadn’t happened.
Janeway sighed. Chakotay had told her once of his dream of building a log cabin in the woods where he could be one with his spirit guide, and she was afraid that was exactly what he was doing. He was continuing his life without her.
But she was going to contact him today. She had to know how things stood. Knowing Chakotay, it was entirely possible he’d wanted to give her room, and time, to come to him. Or, maybe he truly had moved on with his life. She didn’t know. But she’d been busy since returning from the Delta Quadrant, and evidently he had, too.
She just didn’t know what it all meant.
Once again, Kathryn Janeway had a mission to accomplish. She had a vessel, a plan, and the crew of her choosing. Admiral Kathryn Janeway could have any crew she wanted, and she had chosen many up and coming young Starfleet recruits, along with some who had a little more wear on them. Tom and B’Elanna wouldn’t be on this mission. They were still adjusting to life with a new infant. And Tuvok had returned to Vulcan to be with his family. But she did have Lieutenant Harry Kim at the con. She smiled. Harry had been thrilled when she put him in for a promotion, and tears had streamed down his face as she pinned the extra pip on his new uniform. She couldn’t remember when she’d felt prouder.
The Doctor was joining the mission, and so was Seven of Nine. Seven had donned a uniform and was studying at Starfleet Academy. She was still a cadet, but of course she would be an ensign soon enough. She and the Doctor were getting along famously, and had even asked Admiral Janeway to perform their marriage ceremony in a couple of months. She told them she would be more than happy to do it.
Now, she had an entire crew – everyone except a first officer. And she
was soon going to find out if she could have the one she wanted above all
Kathryn Janeway rose from the couch and moved to her view of the Golden Gate Bridge. It was lovely, but her eyes drifted all too often to the sky above the bridge. She was an explorer at heart, and an adventurer. She loved the stars and being out there in space with them.
She’d loved being Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Federation starship Voyager.
And she still loved a certain ex-Maquis and former first officer of the starship Voyager who she wanted to share it all with.
Sometimes she truly missed the Delta Quadrant, and if she thought about it too often and too long, her eyes would fill with tears. But then sometimes she wondered if it was the Delta Quadrant and her ship she missed, or if it was just that she missed Chakotay so much she couldn’t separate the two.
She had to know if there was any hope of her and Chakotay being together. She missed him.
She would contact Chakotay later today and ask to see him. And if he agreed, she’d ask him to serve as first officer on her next mission, on Voyager II. That was all.
A voice inside her, one she eventually realized was the first Admiral Janeway's voice, kept reminding her that she needed to take the first step; she needed to be the one to go to Chakotay.
But another part of her, the more conservative part, said this visit would be about asking him to serve under her again, nothing more.
Her only fear was that he would turn her down.
Chakotay stood beside the woodpile he'd chopped earlier and watched Kathryn wend her way through the mountains and valleys toward him. He'd given her directions to his cabin only yesterday, and now she was on her way to visit him, driving a ground jeep through the trees at a pace only Tom Paris could appreciate. He smiled – if the Borg couldn't intimidate Kathryn Janeway, a few potholes and poor road conditions certainly wouldn't. He knew it would take her several more minutes to reach him, though, since there were many dips and turns ahead of her before she arrived at his cabin. He smiled. He'd wanted her to drive in to visit him this way rather than bring a hover vehicle the first time. By driving a ground jeep, she wouldn't be so apt to miss the scenery. She could see for herself where he'd decided to live the rest of his life.
Before she left him later this afternoon, he wanted her to understand exactly where he was and why he was here. And why he had no intentions of leaving.
And he might even tell her that he still loved her.
He’d have to see how the day went first, and how she took it when he refused her offer to go on her new four-week mission, back into space on Voyager II.
Voyager had returned home several weeks ago. The entire crew was debriefed, and the former Maquis and Tom Paris released. He recalled how everyone had almost forgotten that Kathryn Janeway had rescued Tom Paris from the New Zealand Penal Colony all those years ago - well, everyone except Tom Paris and Kathryn Janeway.
Kathryn hadn't forgotten, though, not about any of it. She'd come prepared with speeches written and commendations ready, then went in to Starfleet Headquarters ready for a fight that didn't happen. She'd been prepared to do battle for each and every member of her crew the moment they got home, no matter when that might be.
But Starfleet Command had embraced her instead, and made her an admiral.
And rumor had it that now the Doctor and Seven of Nine were planning to be married. Rumor also had it that Admiral Kathryn Janeway had been asked to perform the ceremony.
Chakotay sighed. He was happy for everyone who was adjusting to this new life so well. But he missed his captain and Voyager, and the life he'd made there.
He'd thought he and Kathryn might have a chance at a life together after they returned home. He'd always dreamed it would happen. He couldn't blame her for being caught up in the whirlwind that was Starfleet, though. After all, that was what her life was about – it was the essence of Kathryn Janeway, and something he'd accepted about her from the beginning.
And now he had lost her again – to all those things that had to be done, places that had to be explored. She'd gotten a new ship and he had come here and worked sixteen-hour days, designing and building his log cabin, alone. It was nearly finished.
He knew why Kathryn had contacted him yesterday and asked if she could visit; he’d heard those rumors, too. She wanted him to be her first officer again.
He would not go with her on this mission, no matter how compelling she would be, no matter how much he loved her and wanted to be with her. No, if they were going to spend time together now, it would be under very different circumstances. It would be because they wanted to, not because they were on the same starship every day, somewhere out in space, and had to.
The line had to be drawn here; this far, no farther.
Carrying an armload of wood from the pile, he turned and went inside. Later, when it was cooler, he would build a fire. Kathryn loved to sit in front of real wood fires, and maybe she would enjoy one later today. He’d made sure to build a proper stone hearth in his little cabin – just in case she decided to spend a lot of time here with him.
Chakotay took a deep breath. He'd promised himself he wouldn't speculate about what the day would bring, but it wasn't an easy promise to keep. One way or another, his life was going to be different by nightfall.
At the end of today, either Kathryn would belong to him, or she wouldn't. He'd waited over seven years to find out. He wouldn't push her or try to persuade her one way or the other, but he would let her know how things stood with him. He couldn't live in the big city, and he wouldn't go back to Starfleet. But he wanted her to be a part of his life, here. Kathryn had a decision to make today, though she didn't know that now, driving her jeep through the woods to visit him. She thought he was the one who had a decision to make.
He stacked the wood next to the hearth and went back outside.
The moment he saw her jeep grind to a screeching halt amidst flying rock and sand, and watched her jump out of it, he knew he had lied to himself just as surely as he'd lied to himself for the seven years they'd sat beside each other on Voyager's bridge in the Delta Quadrant.
He knew he would do anything in his power to convince her to marry him.
Chakotay loved her more today than any day so far. No matter how much he tried to tell himself he could live without her, the moment she walked through a door or jumped out of a jeep, he was right back to the truth of the matter. And the unfortunate truth was that he still needed her.
Kathryn shaded her eyes with her hand. When her gaze fell on Chakotay, she grinned. Slamming the door of the vehicle, she moved toward him.
He stood where he was, just so he could watch her come toward him. How he missed seeing her move with that confident stroll! He missed seeing that quirky smile on her face, too, and the way her eyes sparkled when she looked at him like he was her world – the way she was doing now. He nearly gulped. His heart was beating a hundred kilometers a minute. What else was new? He missed the way his heart would slam against his chest when he saw her walk down Voyager's corridors or enter a room. It was happening now, just as it always had. Some things never changed.
His smile started at the corner of his mouth and crept upward so that by the time Kathryn was in front of him it had reached his eyes.
She smiled back. "Since I'm not wearing my pips today, would you mind a hug from an old friend?"
He reached for her first, drawing her into his arms. How good it felt to hold her! Oh, how he'd missed her. She even smelled the same. Yes, Kathryn and the captain were interchangeable in many ways, and he was sure this new Admiral Janeway was equally as engaging. He'd not spent time with her since she'd become an admiral, but he wanted to. Oh, how he wanted to! He wanted to spend the rest of his life with her.
Letting go before he changed his mind, he took a step backward to put some distance between them. He just didn't trust himself to be this near her. Still.
She looked terrific – but then, he was never a competent judge about Kathryn Janeway's appearance. She'd gone without sleep once for thirty-six hours when they were defending themselves against the Borg the first time, and even though she'd had deep circles under her eyes and her face had turned pale with exhaustion, he still thought she was the most beautiful woman he had ever laid eyes on.
When they'd finally left the Borg behind, she had actually fallen asleep in her ready room, on the couch with her head against his shoulder. He'd sat there for forty minutes, nearly afraid to breathe for fear he'd wake her and spoil the most beautiful moment of his life.
In fact, to date it remained the most beautiful moment of his life, he suddenly realized. When she'd awakened to find him with his arm around her, she'd literally blushed and apologized for falling asleep, then quickly ordered coffee from the replicator for them both. He’d smiled for a week about that, and for several days every time he looked over at her sitting next to him on the bridge, she had quickly turned away, and he knew what she was thinking about. He’d loved it.
Yes, it was one of his fondest memories from their seven years in the Delta Quadrant.
Now, she wore black slacks with a white V-necked tee shirt tucked into the waist, and a fitted black vest and boots. Chakotay knew she had no idea how form-fitting her clothes were or how sexy she looked wearing them. Or maybe it just seemed that way to him. He'd been used to seeing her in a nondescript jumpsuit uniform every day for years, and yet she had worn it well. If a woman could look sexy in a Starfleet uniform, Kathryn Janeway could show other women how it was done.
She’d also let her hair grow longer, he noticed immediately. Although he’d grown to love her shorter hair on Voyager, he’d often missed her long hair. Right now, it was somewhere in between.
Kathryn looked about. "So, this is where you've been hiding yourself," she said.
"This is my home," he replied, pulling his eyes away from her. He wanted to tell her it could be hers, as well. All in good time, he reminded himself.
“Your home…a log home,” she said softly. “You told me once you would build one when we got home again. It’s lovely.”
"Come on," he said. "Let's go inside and I'll show you around."
Kathryn followed him inside to take the guided tour.
He showed her the living room, the two completed bedrooms, the one yet to be finished, and the big, sunny kitchen with a large roomy table at the far end of it. It served as either a dining room or an eat-in kitchen, whichever one wanted to call it. It was the central gathering room in the home, even though there was currently no one to gather there, except himself.
“This place is much larger than it looks from the outside,” said Kathryn, walking into the living room again. “And what’s that up there? A library?” She saw a ladder leaning against the tallest wall, with a wide ledge extending out over it. Several books were shelved on hand-hewn planks fitted into the wall.
“Yes, although it’s not easy to get to." He smiled.
“It’s charming, Chakotay,” she said so softly he could barely hear her.
He wondered what she was thinking. “I wanted something large enough to feel comfortable spending a lot of time in, yet not so large it was more than I could take care of.”
She nodded, but turned away. “I love your home, Chakotay, but this is my favorite room of all. I adore this fireplace.”
He smiled. He’d built it for her, just for her.
Chakotay prepared lunch – a fresh spinach salad and homemade bread he’d made only that morning. Kathryn ate the entire salad, plus two large slices of the bread, with butter. It was the most Chakotay had ever seen her eat at one sitting. Perhaps getting her crew home really had made a difference in her life.
He wondered if that meant she was open to other ideas, too.
Kathryn gratefully accepted the fresh cup of coffee Chakotay had just made. He’d even brewed it the old-fashioned way, with a coffee pot sitting beneath a drip spout. It was a wonderful cup of coffee, she had to admit.
She’d watched him all morning. He was comfortable here, satisfied. As each hour passed, she was less and less sure she would be able to pull him away to serve on a starship with her again. Life in space among the stars seemed nearly surreal compared to this comfortable and rural existence.
But she had to do what she could to convince him to come with her. She couldn’t imagine being without him. These past few weeks had been wonderful for her career, but devastating too. She'd missed him so much.
Everyone told her he was happy, busy, working on his log cabin. And so she had left him alone and concentrated on gathering together a crew for her new ship – until she’d done all that needed to be done, and could stall no longer. She was lonely, and her heart was breaking, and so she'd contacted him and asked if she could see him. She had her crew ready to go – all except for a first officer. And she was determined to bring this one along with her.
No one knew her as Chakotay did; no one could be her first officer but him.
Looking at Chakotay now, she thought about how a week ago she had finally relented and gone out on one date with an admiral who was enthralled with her. But she'd had a lousy time that evening. She didn't feel like working on a relationship with a man – with any man but this one. And this was one relationship that already existed. She and Chakotay had given it several years' worth of work already, and she'd come here today, determined not to lose him. He knew her better than anyone, yet he’d still wanted her, still loved her. Once.
What had happened between them, anyway? She kept feeling that something had moved them away from each other, but she'd missed when it happened. She'd stayed at Starfleet, taken an apartment overlooking the San Francisco Bay, and Chakotay had come here. And it had all happened in three months’ time.
She shook her head to clear her mind. “This coffee is wonderful,” she said.
He grinned. “Glad you like it.”
“I hope it’s all right if I stop by occasionally for a cup.”
He looked her in the eye. “As often as you like,” he said.
She felt a tingle run up her spine, and looked away. It was an old habit. She had no idea if he knew what he did to her, if he’d intended to affect her this way, or if he was oblivious to it completely.
She took a deep breath and decided to concentrate on business, where she was always more comfortable. Today she was here for a first officer, nothing more. Perhaps they could talk about the future during some downtime on this mission.
Kathryn stood and carried her cup of coffee to the large window facing what was, she guessed, the back yard. There was so much land here – trees, fields, mountains in the distance, the river she’d seen on her way in. She sighed. It was glorious and beautiful. It was even in some ways remindful of the planet she and Chakotay had spent so much time alone on, New Earth. But that was a long time ago. A very long time ago. She was sure he barely remembered it, though she still thought about it more often than she would ever admit.
Chakotay moved up behind her and she felt his presence. She could always feel when he was near. As she was so accustomed to doing, she moved away from him. She ran her hand over the stones he'd used to build the fireplace. Strange how she loved being with him, loved having him near her, but moved away when he got too close. Maybe that would never change. But she'd like for it to.
“This is all so much like you, Chakotay,” she said. “And it’s taken you such a short time to find this place, this land, and build a home on it. You know exactly what you want. I’ve always envied that about you.”
“You always seem to know what you want, too, Kathryn. Maybe we’re more alike in that respect than you think.”
“No, not at all. I only know that I wanted a career with Starfleet, still want that career. But everything else is fuzzy.” She turned away from him. “You have such clarity about everything, not just a portion of your life.”
That much was true, he thought. He knew exactly what he wanted. “Seven years in the Delta Quadrant gave me plenty of time to think about it.”
She turned to him, her eyes bright. “I didn’t think about anything past getting Voyager home again.”
“I know,” he said softly. “You had enough on your plate, running a ship and getting us all from one day to the next. But you did it, Kathryn, you got Voyager home, and brought back new technology and information about the Delta Quadrant that Starfleet wouldn’t have had for many years to come.” He didn't mention the first Admiral Janeway. According to this time line, she'd never existed anyway, but he could tell Kathryn was thinking about her, too. “Now it’s time to move forward,” he said.
She nodded and swallowed hard. “It’s not been as easy as I’d hoped.”
He knew that for her it hadn’t been. For him, some things had come easier, but he still missed her. His heart ached for her every morning, and again at night.
“You know why I’m here, don’t you?” she asked softly.
“You want me to accept the position of first officer on the new Voyager, and accompany you on the four week mission in the Litharia Sector you’re commanding.
She turned to him. “You’re tucked back here, between the mountains and the valleys, and yet you don’t miss anything,” she said.
“Not much,” he said, grinning. Truth was, several people on Voyager's old crew made it their business to keep him up-to-date on Kathryn Janeway's every move.
“And you’re going to turn me down, aren’t you?” Her voice was nearly a whisper.
He detected the hurt in her voice, and saw it in her eyes, even as she tried desperately to hide it. And he very nearly told her no, that he wasn’t going to turn her down. He would do anything for her, want her and love her for the rest of his life. And he would never be the cause of her pain.
But he had to make her understand that times had changed, and their circumstances had changed just as much. He had to take a stand, and it had to be now. No matter how much it hurt either of them, they couldn’t go back to the way things were.
It was time for their relationship to either move ahead, or stop where it was and for them to accept that they would always be just friends – but he had to know, one way or another. Because if there was no future for them, he had some decisions to make. He had to learn to be stronger than he truly was, because just the thought of being without her nearly broke him.
He took a deep breath and swallowed, hoping the burning sensation in his throat would go away. He reached his hand out to her. “Come with me, Kathryn,” he said. “I want to show you something.”
She put her cup down and took his hand. It was warm, solid, safe – just the way he’d always been for her.
He led her out the door and she laughed. “Where are you taking me? I’ve already seen what the back yard looks like.”
“No you haven’t, not really,” he said. He led her around back, through the brush and trees, the place he'd cleared to build the cabin.
Finally, as they climbed to the uppermost edge of the ridge, Kathryn’s breath caught in her throat. She’d never seen a view like this one in her life. Neither the years she’d lived in the Midwest watching the changing of the seasons, nor the seven and a half years spent in the Delta Quadrant, with all its lovely new worlds to behold, had prepared her for what she was seeing now.
“I’ve never seen anything more beautiful,” she whispered. Even her view of the Golden Gate Bridge couldn’t begin to compare to this.
“Agreed,” he said, looking only at her.
The mountains in the distance were crested with snow at the tops, but the valleys below were lush and green. The rock formations could capture one’s imagination for hours. The sun was high overhead and a stream flowed over the rocks below them.
So this is where Chakotay has built his home, she thought. This lovely place, with this lovely view, where peace and tranquility abound, where one can be happy and experience the joys of being close to nature and all that it offers.
Her heart was full, but tears came unbidden to her eyes. He wouldn’t come with her on her next mission, but he’d brought her out here to show her why. He would never leave here.
Kathryn forced the tears from her eyes. She stood straight and tall and swallowed the lump in her throat. She would be all right; she would go on as she always had. She would thank him for lunch, and then leave. He had a new life now, and she would have to find one for herself, without him. Her heart was breaking, but she was a survivor. She’d proved that, hadn’t she?
Sometimes life dealt hard lessons. She should be used to it by now. But she felt no will to go on, and it was only through sheer perseverance and dogged determination and experience that she was able to turn to him as though nothing were out of the ordinary, as though she wasn't at the greatest turning point of her life, and it wasn’t going well.
But the look in his eyes made her forget every excuse she’d decided to make so she could leave.
Her heart began to pound in her chest as he took a step toward her. This was where she usually backed off, where the feeling in the pit of her stomach made her afraid. But now she knew it was time to stand up and let those feelings come forward. No matter that there would be no turning back from this moment; the time had come to face what she knew to be true. And maybe the first Admiral Janeway was right, after all – she had to be the one to truly take the first step. Chakotay was opening the door for her right now, inviting her to finally step up. She loved this man, and the time for fear was long gone; the line was going to be drawn here, finally, today. And no matter how things came out, at least the truth would be known and faced.
“I awaken to this view every morning,” he said in the same voice he'd once used to tell her a story about an angry warrior. “My bedroom window faces this ridge, and I watch the sun rise over the mountains each day. I see the colors change in the sky, and I wonder what today will bring.” He took a deep breath. He had to say this just right. “And it’s very nearly perfect.”
“Nearly?” Her voice was so strained she barely recognized it.
“It would be perfect in every way if you were here to share it with me,” he said, watching her face.
Kathryn registered his words, but not their meaning. She was rooted to the spot, and could do nothing but stare at him.
He continued. “Every day I think about how it would be if you were here with me.”
She took a deep breath. “Chakotay….”
“No. Hear me out,” he said. “Your aspirations are different from mine, Kathryn. You need to go out there, to be a part of a cause, to belong to an institution that has meaning for you. It’s different for me. I want to be here, to make a home for you, for us.” He felt his hands begin to shake, so he reached out and took hers. “I want you to put on that uniform, Kathryn. Go out there and do what you want to do, what you must do, because it’s in your nature to go and be a part of all that’s out there, in space. But when you’re finished, when you have the time, come home. Here. Come to our home.”
“Chakotay….” The tears in her eyes blurred her vision, but she couldn’t move, couldn’t pull her eyes from his.
He had to finish it. “I’ve seen all of space that I will ever need to see, Kathryn. If you can give up your view of the Golden Gate Bridge and accept this one instead, I’ll be here for you. Always. Just as I have been since the day we met.”
She blinked the tears away, but they reappeared just as quickly. Perhaps he knew how difficult it was for her to step forward – of course he knew – and he was taking the first step to bring them together. “Why?” she whispered.
He smiled. “Because I’ve loved you from the moment I saw you. And even though I've tried to forget you and move on, you’re still the only woman I can’t live without. My soul aches for yours, Kathryn. We belong together.”
She smiled back, finally, and a tear broke free and rolled down her face, just as it had done once before, a very long time ago – when this same man had told her a story about his love for her.
Kathryn couldn’t believe he still loved her, still wanted her.
All those days and nights and years when she’d tried to convince herself she didn’t need anyone shattered before her now. He was the only man who could make her heart beat the way it was doing now, who could make her feel like a woman. He was the only man who could put up with her stubborn ways, who could steady her, and who loved her unconditionally.
He could make her heart ache and drive her to distraction. He was frustrating and infuriating at times, but he drove her. And he settled her. When she bounced off the walls, he gently brought her back down again.
He didn't want to go on a new mission with her, but he wanted to be here waiting for her when she returned home from it.
She looked into his eyes and saw her future, her destiny. It had always been there, waiting for her. He had been waiting for her. It had been her choice all along, and now she’d be a fool to turn him away again.
And although Kathryn Janeway was many things, she was no fool.
Suddenly, for the first time in many, many years, her spirits lifted up and her heart felt full. She was in love, had been in love with this very man for a long time, and she couldn't imagine a life that didn't include him. Now he was telling her she didn't have to consider that anymore. And she didn’t have to be alone anymore.
And while Kathryn thought about all those things, Chakotay became afraid – afraid he’d gone too far, and said too much. Maybe all those things he’d seen in her eyes all these years weren’t true; maybe he’d convinced himself she loved him, and that was it.
Chakotay took a deep breath. He couldn't go back now, couldn't pretend he hadn't said all the things he'd just said. “Live with me, Kathryn. Marry me. Come home, to our home, at the end of the day, the end of the mission, when you want a safe harbor. Let me be that harbor.”
She slowly raised her hand and placed it on his chest. He covered her hand with his and squeezed, but he didn't move it away from his heart. She'd owned that part of him for too many years now to pretend otherwise.
Another tear ran down her cheek, but she didn’t notice. All she saw was the man in front of her, the one who’d waited for her when all others would have been long gone. The man she loved even more than she’d ever admitted, even to herself. Especially to herself.
“You’ve always been that harbor, Chakotay. You were the one I came home to for over seven years; the only difference was our home was on Voyager,” she whispered.
His heart nearly leapt out of his chest. “I want it to be here now, Kathryn. But it has to be different this time. I want you completely, all of you. I want your love and your promises, and your devotion.”
“Understood,” she said, looking into his soul. “Is there anything else?”
He took a long moment to think. "No," he said. "Nothing else. That's all I'll ever want from you."
"Good." She moved the last small step toward him, until their bodies were nearly touching. "Now, I have something for you to consider," she said in a voice that drove him to distraction, the same voice he'd heard in his dreams for years.
"What is it?" he choked out, and closed his eyes. She was an inch away from him, only an inch. He could feel her breath on his neck.
"Since we've never made love with each other, how do you know we're…compatible?"
He opened his eyes. Had he heard her correctly?
Her eyes were clouded by passion, but he also recognized that mischievous grin that pulled at the corner of her mouth. "How do you know we will be able to… satisfy each other?" she asked.
Her voice was low and sexy, and he couldn’t stand being this near her without doing something about it. Those days were long gone.
He took her face in his hands. "If you recall, you kissed me once, a long time ago," he said. "That's all it took for me to know we’re 'compatible.' Of course, you may have forgotten that kiss by now."
She remembered it well, even though it was nearly four years ago. It was the night before they’d attempted the slipstream drive.
She still kept the message Chakotay had sent her from the future. She’d never shared it with anyone. He didn't remember it, of course, since that time line was erased from history. She thought about that message now, the one she’d played many times over the years when she was alone, and smiled. In that brief message, he’d told her he loved her, and always would. Evidently he had been right.
Perhaps someday she would tell him about that message.
Then again, maybe not.
She smiled. "I do recall that kiss, in fact. It was four years, two months and eleven days after we first met."
"And I was sure you'd forgotten," he said, as he lowered his lips to hers. He felt her tremble, only slightly, but it was enough. He kissed her the way he dreamed about, the way he'd kissed her that night, so long ago. And she kissed him with relish, the way she had done that night, too. But this time it was even better. This time they were offering each other more than a future of hope and promise. This time the future was now.
He tasted her lips, caressed them. When she wrapped her arms around his neck to draw him closer, he teased her lips open and she gasped, then greedily sought his tongue.
He held her body close and wrapped his arms around her, slipping his hand into her silky hair – just the way he'd dreamed about doing forever.
The day was becoming chilly, but neither of them noticed.
All sense of time stopped for both of them, but neither cared if it stood still forever. Their lives were bound. All that they had been, or would be, was wrapped up in this moment, this acknowledgement that they belonged together, that each was incomplete without the other.
Life is precious; they’d both learned that in the Delta Quadrant. No one knew how long they had to live, unless they were a Q, or some other entity, but that was another story, another reality, and what seemed now to have been a very long time ago, and certainly very far away.
They were both human, with a limited lifespan. Not one day could be
spared or wasted. They had already spent too much time apart.
Chakotay had gone back for Kathryn Janeway after being separated from her for fifteen long years, and the first Admiral Janeway, who was from yet a different time line, had returned for Chakotay after Voyager had been home for ten years – ten years that hadn't happened the way they were supposed to. She had sacrificed herself to the Borg, just so her younger self could right some old wrongs and tell Chakotay she loved him. It had taken longer than she'd wanted, but even the most stubborn people came around eventually.
All of those years and both of those time lines were gone now. They had both risked everything for this moment, and it had been worth it to get here.
Sometimes there were second chances, after all.
Chakotay pulled away. "Kathryn?"
"Hmmm?" she murmured.
"Let's go inside." He took her hand even though it was a bit unsteady, and led her back into the cabin before they froze to death. They were quiet for a moment, trying to get their bearings and their breath. Neither questioned what had happened, nor tried to deny it. They knew it was time to take the next step.
The firewood was standing ready in the fireplace and he lighted it with a shaking hand, needing to take the time to steady himself. But when he stood and looked into her eyes, he kissed her again. He knew he would never get enough of her. "I want to make love with you," he whispered.
"I think we're way overdue," she said, running her fingers lightly over
his face, his lips – those lips that had been a part of her dreams for
"But I want more than that, Kathryn,” he said. “I want to spend the rest of my life with you – just the two of us, here. I’ve spent most of my life doing what others have wanted, Kathryn, being what others thought I should be. But now I just want to be myself, and spend my time loving the woman I fell in love with the day I saw her.”
Kathryn felt tears sting her eyelids. “That sounds good to me,” she whispered.
“Will you marry me?" he asked.
She looked him in the eye. "Absolutely,” she said. “I think we’re overdue for that, too.”
His heart stopped for an instant. She’d told him she would marry him! "You're sure you won't miss your view of the Golden Gate Bridge?" he asked. He had to hear her say it again.
"What bridge?" she whispered in the sexiest voice he'd ever heard – and he thought he knew everything about her. Chances were, he was about to learn a whole lot more.
Kathryn lifted her mouth to his and pulled him to her.
Another reaction took place immediately, one in another region of his body.
Picking her up, he started for the bedroom, and she began to spread kisses over his face and neck while he carried her. When she started to nibble on his ear, Chakotay thought his knees were going to buckle. Finally, though, he made it to the bedroom, and the old-fashioned four-poster bed, where he put her down as gently as he could, and fell beside her. She found his mouth and his senses were reeling from what she was doing to him.
She pushed his vest off and her hands were busy with the buttons on his shirt as he started to undress her. Seven and a half years of intense desire was making them both overly anxious. But they had a lot to make up for.
Kathryn touched his zipper, but he jolted and stopped her with his hand. Just that light touch of her hand to his lower regions nearly made him lose all control. "Kathryn…" he whispered. "Not this time. Let me."
She pulled back and looked at him, and smiled. She knew why. "I know how you feel, Chakotay. I feel the same way. And I can't wait much longer, either," she whispered. And with that, she continued what she’d set out to do.
His hands fumbled to push her vest off and slip the tee shirt over her head. Her bra was white, simple, and much lower cut than he would have imagined. That lump was back in his throat, but for a very different reason.
Kathryn helped him push her tight-fitting pants down her legs and onto the floor. Her legs were perfect, he thought, as perfect as he’d remembered, on those handful of occasions he’d actually seen them. And her feet were incredibly sexy. He’d never found feet particularly enticing before, but he did hers. And those skimpy panties made his breath catch in his throat.
Chakotay kissed her neck, her lips, her chin, and every other place he could find a bare patch of skin, which was becoming more and more often, as each item of her clothing found its place on the floor below them. He reached behind her and undid the clasp on her bra, wanting to see her breasts. In his dreams, he'd felt them against his chest, or the nipples between his lips, since almost the day he'd met her.
When he slipped the bra from her, he knew she was watching his face when he smiled. He knew she also heard his intake of breath at her beauty, at the sight of those incredible breasts that had made so many of his nights sleepless ones. But if he'd truly known what he was missing, he now knew those nights would have been worse, much worse. He'd never seen such perfect breasts –round and large and firm, with deep rose-colored nipples that were straining toward him.
"Oh, Kathryn…" he whispered, as he bent to take one in his mouth.
Her breathing became more labored as he sucked first one nipple, and then the other. The groans of pleasure coming from her made his heart beat faster.
His heartbeat became even more unsteady, and the throbbing in his penis made things more and more unbearable. Her moans and quick breaths stimulated him even more. When Kathryn finished removing his clothing completely, his penis sprang forward, eliciting a gasp of pleasure from her.
She reached to take him in her hand, but he pulled back to trail kisses down her body. She fell back and moaned, and he glanced up to see that her nipples were even more pebbled than before. As his tongue worked on her body, he reached up to rub his palms lightly over their tips.
She writhed beneath him and spread her legs when he reached her luscious and soft pubic hair. She was ready for him, and giving herself to him freely. He moved his hands down and placed them beneath her hips, and she spread her legs even further apart. He heard her gasp as he gently placed his tongue on her firm, hard labia and took it into his mouth.
Her breathing became more labored and he continued to suck her gently, even as he slowly thrust one, then two, then three fingers inside her. She was completely wet inside, and he could see the moisture on his fingers as he worked them back and forth inside her.
Within a minute, she raised her hips, pushing herself deeper into his mouth, then shouted his name as she reached climax. He felt her muscles pulsing inside her and pulled his fingers out, replacing them with his tongue. He stayed with her as she pulsed and gasped, taking her fluids into his mouth, tasting her.
As she calmed, he moved to her thigh and began to kiss his way up her body. She sighed, then began to gasp again, and he was amazed at how quickly she rebounded from lovemaking.
He made his way up, up, sucking gently, kissing her, stroking her, making her sigh, gasp, call his name as she had in his dreams for as long as he could remember – until finally he reached her breasts again. When he took a nipple into his mouth and another between his thumb and forefinger and began to rub it, she reached behind him and squeezed his hips.
He shifted and she wrapped her legs around him, pulling him to her. His penis slid inside her as though it knew the way, and he felt his world spin. His heart beat more wildly, his blood pumped loudly inside his ears, and he pushed himself back and forth, in and out of her velvet lining. She worked with him, pushing against him, rocking against him, until both their worlds split apart and then crashed down on top of them. She climaxed again, calling his name, and he whispered hers against her neck as he released himself inside her.
They lay together and Chakotay pulled her against him. Today, his dreams had come true. He'd spent the past seven and a half years getting to this moment and he suddenly realized it had all been worth it. He was lying beside Kathryn Janeway, the woman he couldn’t live without. His heart had known it all along. He pulled her closer, loving her, not wanting to ever let her go.
“Ummmm,” she said, and he grinned, nuzzling her neck and cradling one breast in his hand. If this was real life, then he’d been missing a lot.
“Chakotay?” she whispered, not moving.
“Hmmmm?” He kissed her earlobe.
“You don’t have to marry me, you know. If you want this to be a one-night stand, I’ll understand.” Her voice was low, and he knew she certainly wouldn’t understand. Not at all. And he loved her for it.
“That’s all right.” He faked a heavy sigh. “I’ll marry you. I’ve nothing else to do.” She laughed and he ran his tongue beneath her ear, and felt her turn her head to give him better access. He loved her even more.
Kathryn turned over to face him. He gazed again at her incredibly gorgeous breasts, and as they spread themselves before him he took one in his mouth, making her breath catch in her throat and her back arch up to meet him. One thing he was learning about Kathryn Janeway – she didn’t pretend to play coy. She loved the sex as much as he did. Somehow he'd always known she would.
They lay side by side for a long time, and kissed and hugged like young lovers.
Kathryn loved the feel of his hands on her body, and even after years of dreaming about it, the real thing was better than the mere thought of it. She felt his hands on her side, her stomach, his tongue moving back and forth between her erect nipples, and she moved one leg to the other side of him so he was between her legs again. His new erection rubbed against her pubic hair as he continued to nuzzle her breasts and pull on her nipples gently with his teeth. She’d never been loved so fully.
Slowly, he began to trace his way down her body with his tongue – drifting from her breasts to her navel, where he ran his tongue in circles around and inside it, bringing gasps and sighs from her. He moved slowly, excruciatingly slowly, toward her swollen nub.
She spread her legs farther and farther apart, giving him full access to all of her. But he was so slow about getting there. She was by no means a patient person, which he of all people should know. She tried to encourage him to move faster, to take her now, but he pushed her hands away and smiled at her impatience. This time he was at the helm and there was no captain to tell him how to maneuver the ship. This time, she could wait until he was ready to go to warp.
Kathryn writhed on the bed, feeling his warm, soft tongue tease her relentlessly. He was gentle, tender, and so very accommodating.
She nudged his head and he turned to kiss her hand instead of moving down farther, faster. She groaned and moved her legs even farther apart, as though that would make him arrive at her moist center more quickly. But it didn’t. He took his sweet time, and when he finally arrived there, she was moaning and so highly excited she could almost climax before actually feeling his tongue touch her. Finally, finally, she felt his warm tongue wrap itself around her nub, push it gently, circle it, until a strong white heat enveloped her. As she pushed herself into him, she exploded again and again, barely aware of his tongue pushing inside her.
When he made his way up her body again, she slowly opened her eyes and looked at him. “I can’t believe how you make me feel,” she whispered.
He grinned, and his mouth was wet. He reached over and kissed her fully, and she accepted his mouth, and his tongue. She swallowed the tart sweetness he gave her.
“That’s from both of us,” he whispered in her ear as he tickled it with his tongue.
She smiled and lay back. Whatever he wanted to do to her was just fine. She loved it, loved him, loved being here with him, and being loved by him fully. Finally.
Minutes later, when he entered her again, she was ready. She pushed herself up so that he was deep inside of her, that huge penis she had only dreamed about before today. They thrust against each other again and again, and when they climaxed together, they were both wet with sweat and other, sweet rich fluids.
They lay in each other’s arms for a long time, not wanting the day to end, but as the shadows started to gather outside the window they knew it had to.
Kathryn rose and walked to the window. “We don’t even have to pull the shades here,” she said softly, looking out the extra large window Chakotay had made for his bedroom.
Chakotay walked up behind her and put his arms around her waist. “There’s no one here but us.” He nibbled her ear and her neck, and felt her nipples harden at his touch. He would never tire of her, of this.
She turned her head to give him better access and moaned deep in her throat. “I’m absolutely sure I can’t take any more of this,” she said in her sexy voice. “I’m not twenty-one years old anymore, you know.”
“Yes, and I’m glad of that,” he said.
“Oh, you said the magic words,” she whispered, turning to him and kissing him as she backed him toward the bed.
“I’m the one who can’t take any more of this, Kathryn,” he said.
She pushed him back on the bed and began to prove him wrong. His penis sprang up as she kissed his legs, thighs, stomach, and slowly, very slowly, made her way to his organ. He moaned and tried to coax her head closer, but she pushed him away. “Oh no,” she whispered, “Don’t even think about it.” He lay back and tried to wait patiently, but by the time her tongue was circling the head of his penis, he was barely holding himself back.
She brought herself up and straddled him, pushing his penis deep inside her. He gasped, and she rode him. He reached up to take her bouncing breasts in his hands and again they crested the wave together, stronger than before. She collapsed on top of him, both of them breathing heavily.
Chakotay’s heart began to calm. Kathryn was still on top of him, her heartbeat calming, too. He pushed his hands inside Kathryn’s hair, and basked in his feelings for her. He closed his eyes and smelled the familiar soft scent of her.
And he’d never known love like this before.
As the sun began to set, Kathryn and Chakotay walked outside the cabin. The sky was beautiful, but they were both quiet.
“I feel as though my life is just starting, Chakotay. I don’t want to leave here tonight, and I don’t want to leave you. Not now.”
He grinned. "Even though I refused the honor of becoming your first officer again?"
She made a face. "Oh. I forgot about that."
He took her face in his hands and smiled. “You have to leave,” he said. “Our new relationship has to be added to the fabric of our lives; we can’t change our lives for it.”
She smiled. “Otherwise…”
“Otherwise we’ll wind up with regrets.”
She touched his face. “I could never regret loving you.”
“I never want to take that chance,” he said, kissing her palm. “I won’t hold you back from anything you want to do, Kathryn.”
“I know that,” she whispered. “But I want to stay right here tonight and wake up in your arms tomorrow morning.”
He felt his legs grow weak. Just hearing Kathryn Janeway say those words to him made his heart beat faster. “We have to save something for next time,” he said, and she laughed.
“All right, it’s a deal,” she said, turning to look skyward. “I guess I’d better head out then. I have work to do yet tonight, and a long day tomorrow.”
“Getting your new crew ready for the mission?” he asked.
She turned to glare at him. “Hardly. I still need to find a first officer.”
He grinned. “Good luck.”
“I’ll need it. I have to come up with someone I can live with,” she said.
“I’m more concerned about you finding someone who can live with you,” he said. The smile wouldn’t quite go away, and his eyes danced as he looked at her. "No offense, Admiral."
She gave him the lopsided grin he loved so much. “Hmmm….well, I seem to have done a good job of it when I asked a certain renegade Maquis to be my first officer,” she said, and his smile only grew wider. “Besides, I have three weeks to find the right person.” She moved to him. “I’ll miss you tonight,” she said softly.
“I’ll talk to you in the morning, before you leave for headquarters,” he said, wanting to beg her to stay, but knowing he couldn't.
“Good.” She kissed him. “I’ll think about those lips tonight, and all the wonderful things they can do,” she whispered, barely an inch away from him.
They kissed again, and it was all he could do to let her step away from him. After more than seven years, she belonged to him as much as Kathryn Janeway would ever belong to anyone, and Chakotay was smart enough to know how to keep it that way. He had to let her go, even encourage her to go, in order to keep her.
She started for the jeep, then turned back halfway there. "Are you sure about all of this, Chakotay?" she asked. "As you know, I'm not the easiest person to get along with."
He smiled. "Better than anyone," he said.
She smiled back. "As long as you haven't forgotten that part."
He laughed. "Not likely."
"We could make love a few more times first – to see if I'm enough for you," she said, putting one hand on her hip. “After all, we’ve only made love today,” she finished in the richest, silkiest, sexiest voice he'd ever heard.
He covered the distance between them quickly. The smile in his eyes reflected the smile on his lips, and his dimples appeared at the corners of his mouth. He took her by the shoulders and stared into those gorgeous blue, blue eyes. "Wrong. We’ve made love every day for more than seven years," he said in his soft, sensuous voice. "Today, our bodies touched, and our souls were made whole, but we’ve made love many times before now."
Tears came unbidden to her eyes and she blinked them away. She'd never been happier. "That's a beautiful way to look at it," she said.
"It's true," he said.
She nodded and looked away. "Even when I pushed you away, you never left my side."
"Kathryn, you always gave me room to decide whether to go or stay. I tried to leave you more than once, but I never could. I was empty without you. Our souls, our destinies, were meant to be one, Kathryn – we were meant to be together. It was decided long before we laid eyes on each other. When will you finally understand that?"
She looked deeply into his eyes. "Today, Chakotay," she said. "I've come to believe that today."
They smiled at each other some more, and Kathryn left him that day with the energy and grace that was so much a part of her.
As she threw her jeep into gear, and the tires slung rock and debris aside as she tore off into the dusk, Chakotay waved, watching as she disappeared around the tree line. The smile was still on his face.
He’d told Kathryn Janeway he loved her, and they had made love all afternoon. And she’d promised to marry him. Life didn’t get better than that.
Those first few years had been foreplay, and now they had the rest of their lives to write the rest of the story. And today he wouldn’t change a thing about any of it.
He knew Kathryn was happy to have her crew home again, glad to be made admiral, and ready to continue with her career at Starfleet Headquarters. And she was also ready to commit herself to him.
Once, he and Kathryn might have had a child, if they’d gotten together when they were a bit younger perhaps, but now he was sure she wanted no part of starting a young family. He didn’t know if they were both even able to have children, but it didn’t matter in the least. He was just happy to have her be a part of his life, finally. He would put away that picture in his mind of a little baby daughter with golden-auburn hair, intense blue eyes and a quirky grin, a little girl with the mind of a mathematician, as well as (he was certain) the stubbornness of her mother. Ah, but how she would have been loved!
Chakotay wouldn't change today for a yesterday that wasn't meant to happen, however. If Fate had intended for he and Kathryn to have children together, they would have had. But that was not the direction their lives had taken, and he would never take a moment with her for granted. He’d waited for her for a very long time, and he would cherish her, and every moment he had with her, for the rest of his life – and even after that.
But for now, he would call her in the morning. And the following morning, and the one wish her a good morning.
He watched her jeep continue to kick up dust a kilometer down the road, and smiled. From now on she’d come by hovercraft. It would be faster.
As he headed back into the cabin, he decided this would be a good night to speak with his spirit guide.
Admiral Kathryn Janeway parked her hovercraft and hurried toward her office at Starfleet Headquarters. She had a lot of work to plough through today, and when all of that was done she could get back to searching for a new first officer. The only thing making it bearable was that her previous first officer had now become her lover. She suppressed a smile, and there was an extra spring in her step.
She nodded at a passing ensign and walked into the building. Chakotay had contacted her every morning since they were together last weekend, and this morning it had been so early she’d barely finished her first cup of coffee. The first morning he'd been a bit tentative at first, as though he needed affirmation that what had happened between them the day before had been real. But as each day passed, they were both incredibly happy and delighted that everything seemed fresh and new, yet normal and commonplace at the same time. As Chakotay pointed out, they had been friends for years, and always lovers at heart.
Still, sometimes they both needed to reaffirm that their lovemaking had been real, finally real.
It had been real, all right, she thought now. It was the most real thing that had ever happened to her. And she was looking forward to some more reality over the weekend.
Opening her office door, she suddenly felt dizzy, as though she hadn’t eaten that morning. Come to think about it, she hadn’t. Shaking her head, she ordered dry toast and a cup of coffee from the replicator, then went to check her computer for the data extractions she’d ordered last night. They were there.
As she'd been doing every morning this week, the admiral compared data and examined background information on possible new crewmembers, people she might choose for her next mission based on their expertise, experience, and dedication to their chosen field. Mostly, she looked for that spark – that extra special glint in their history that told her he or she was someone the ship’s captain could depend on if things got tough. It was the quality she’d first noted in Harry Kim's record so very long ago. She smiled at the memory. Harry hadn’t let her down, and had become a source of her pride and joy. Harry was on his way up the Starfleet ladder, and she would help him get to the top.
But first, she was going to have to devote some time to finding that new first officer.
Suddenly, she ran for the bathroom and threw up the toast, thankful that she was alone. It wouldn’t do for the newly made Admiral Kathryn Janeway to have this happen in front of anyone else. As she ran cool water over her face, she realized her stomach was indeed queasy. If she had the time to rest, she certainly would, but that was out of the question today.
Moving back to her desk, she sat the coffee cup aside. Maybe she’d had too much already and it was beginning to affect her. She’d never tell the Doctor about this. He was already starting to irritate her with his constant remarks about switching to tea instead.
By noon, she was beginning to feel better. Unfortunately, she’d gotten little accomplished the entire morning and had ended up lying on her couch for a bit. If she didn’t know better she would think she had a case of old-fashioned influenza, but no one came down with that anymore. It had been many years since the last known case had surfaced.
She drank some water, determined to get back to work. There was so much left to do, and she had no more time to waste.
That evening, Kathryn Janeway returned to her apartment overlooking San Francisco Bay. She had put in a long day and was tired. Not feeling well this morning hadn’t helped matters, either. Thankfully, whatever had ailed her seemed to have gone away. She had another long day ahead of her tomorrow, too, especially since she had to make up the time lost today.
After changing out of her uniform and into loose-fitting slacks and a tunic, she ordered a cup of coffee from the replicator and contacted Chakotay from her computer’s communications system. He answered her call, smiling. She knew she had a big smile plastered on her face, as well.
“How are you?” he asked.
“Great,” she said. “But I feel silly.”
“Why’s that?” He couldn’t get over how sexy her voice was when it wasn’t in command mode.
“I’m sitting here like a child, with a silly grin on my face, and feeling all warm and fuzzy inside just because you and I slept together,” she said.
“Oh, I think it’s much more than that,” he replied.
”What then?” Oh, how she loved to hear him talk!
“You told me you’re in love with me. After having that information stored up inside you for over seven years with no one to share it with, you must have felt awfully lonely,” he said, with a glimmer in his eye.
She shook her head. “Not at all. I ignored it completely. But I did enjoy those wonderful candlelight dinners we had together…”
“So did I. And I have a lot more of them planned.” He grinned, and his eyes danced. “Of course, the evenings might end a little differently now than they used to.”
“I expect them to,” she said, feeling a little shiver run up her spine. “We’ll be staying in the same quarters from now on.”
They talked awhile longer, like lovers. The captain and commander had moved to the next stage of their relationship, to the next part of the circle called Life, and neither had been happier, more content, or more ready to face their future, together. Life was good.
They discussed their plans to see each other over the weekend. Tomorrow was Friday, and it was sure to be a long one.
Kathryn Janeway barely made it to her office before rushing inside to throw up in her adjoining restroom. She’d made sure to have cereal before leaving her apartment this morning, determined to start the day on a sure foot. Her plan had failed.
Sitting at her desk with a cup of chamomile tea in her hands (how could anyone actually like drinking this?) she put her head back and sighed. She had to call the Doctor; there was no way around it. Whatever type of viral infection she had, it wasn’t going to go away on its own. She’d tried to ignore it for days now, and it wasn’t getting better. It wasn’t getting worse, either, but something had to be done. She had work to do, yet every day this week she’d spent much of the morning throwing up in the bathroom. She’d never had a bug quite like this one, and she didn’t know what to do to be rid of it. And she really needed it to go away; there was no more time to be ill.
She contacted the Doctor and asked if she could stop by his office later this afternoon. He said he would be delighted to see her.
Admiral Janeway made a mental note to have lunch before visiting the Doctor. That way, when he asked if she was eating properly, she could say “yes” without feeling guilty.
Admiral Janeway nodded at a group of passing Starfleet cadets as she made her way to the medical facility where the Doctor’s office was located. Everyone knew her. Returning to Earth amidst a grandiose gala celebration after seven years in the Delta Quadrant had elevated her and every member of her crew to a celebrity status that was still a bit unnerving. She was happy (and just a bit thrilled) to go down in the Starfleet history books with her holoimage next to that of Captain Kirk’s, but just now she felt there was a constant spotlight on her, one she often couldn’t get away from.
It was a beautiful spring day. No matter how many hours she had to work next week to make up for lost time, she was spending the entire weekend with the man she loved more than life itself. She was going to hug him, hold him, and kiss him all weekend. And she certainly could use a weekend of love-making.
She shook her head to put such thoughts out of her mind, for now. She was, after all, on the grounds of Starfleet Headquarters, and she ought to be thinking about important Starfleet issues. She smiled without realizing it. She’d put in plenty of overtime thinking about Starfleet issues over the past few years, and if she wanted to think about her ex-first officer on company time, she would.
But she couldn’t right now. It was much too distracting, and she had to see the Doctor so he could give her a hypospray with something in it to make her feel better. Then she could go back to her office and get some work done before throwing a few things into an overnight bag and getting into bed early so she could head for Chakotay’s log cabin in the woods first thing tomorrow morning.
“Come in,” called the Doctor, and Admiral Janeway walked into his gorgeous new laboratory.
The Doctor turned to her and beamed. It was the first time she’d seen his new facility. If he had things to invent, and other things to discover, he wasn’t going to waste much time before doing so. The other Admiral Janeway (the one who would now never exist) had filled his head with all sorts of information about what he would one day be known for. And on top of that, he and Seven of Nine were getting along splendidly. Life couldn’t be better for a mere hologram of humble beginnings, even one with such vast intelligence and knowledge. He was more than ready to share all he knew with the rest of the known universe.
“Good afternoon, Admiral,” said the Doctor, admiring her. She looked rested and quite beautiful. In fact, she seemed to be actually glowing in that way humans had when they were very happy…or delirious.
“Hello, Doctor,” said the admiral, looking about. “My, what a fine-looking laboratory you have here.”
“Yes,” said the Doctor, smiling. He noticed that her hair had grown a bit longer again, and she was wearing it up in a French twist – not the severe bun she used to have, but a much more flattering version of it. In fact, he’d heard that only last week Admiral Kathryn Janeway had given official Starfleet orders to Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Enterprise. She was being touted around Headquarters as a force to be reckoned with, something no one from the Voyager crew had to be reminded of. “So far, whatever I need, I’ve gotten,” he told her. “I’m currently working on two new books and three different experiments that…”
“That’s wonderful, Doctor,” said Admiral Janeway. “And I’d love to hear all about them, but I’m afraid I’m on a tight schedule just now. Perhaps we can have lunch one day next week and you can update me about everything.”
The Doctor beamed again. “Yes, I’d like that, Admiral,” he said. Then he turned to business. “Now, what can I do for you? I’m not accustomed to your seeking me out for a mere physical examination, so I assume you’re here for something specific.”
The admiral ignored the implications and explained her symptoms to the Doctor. “And the odd thing is that it resurfaces in the morning and then I feel better in the afternoon.” She took a deep breath. The Doctor was already scanning her. “Doctor, although I realize that a case of influenza hasn’t been discovered in the Alpha Quadrant in years, my symptoms are very much like influenza, even though they are most apparent only in the mornings. Do you think I picked up some sort of similar alien virus from the Delta Quadrant that has been lying dormant?” It was a fear she’d had in the back of her mind all along, she suddenly realized.
The Doctor continued with his scans. “I don’t believe so, Admiral, although that is certainly a possibility.”
At that moment, the Admiral was contacted via combadge and asked to attend an impromptu meeting with Admiral Hayes at the Headquarters building across the courtyard.
The Doctor told her he would process the information from his scans and she could stop back for the results after her meeting.
The Admiral left, and the Doctor breathed a sigh of relief. He knew exactly what was wrong with Kathryn Janeway, but he needed time to figure out why and how – and mostly, how to break the news to a woman who was “a force to be reckoned with.”
Admiral Janeway realized she was holding her breath. She had a lot riding on this next mission, and she didn’t want anything to interfere with it. Also, selfishly, she didn’t want anything to interfere with her upcoming weekend with Chakotay. So she walked into the Doctor’s office, ready to be quickly done with whatever was wrong with her and be on her way. That pile of padds on her desk wasn’t getting any smaller. And her new aide, Milan, was out of the office for another couple of days, as well. He was a great deal of help, and she was quickly getting spoiled by his attention to detail.
“What is it, Doctor? Is it serious?” she asked. She'd immediately noticed the carefully blank look on the Doctor’s face, which caused a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. She had an uncanny feeling of déjà vu.
The Doctor turned from his computer. “Relax, Admiral,” he said, with unusual kindness. “You’re fine. You are not ill.” Not in the least, he thought. He took a hypospray from the instrument table beside him and injected it into her neck. “There. You will no longer suffer from morning sickness.”
“Thank you, Doctor.” Then her heart skipped a beat. “Morning sickness?”
She continued to stare at the Doctor. “I beg your pardon?” She had to have heard him wrong.
“You’re going to have a baby,” he said, and smiled brightly. “Congratulations, Admiral.”
The admiral stood stock still, trying to grasp the words, attempting to internalize them, and trying not to feel foolish because the symptoms were now laughingly obvious.
But feeling foolish was the least of her worries. She couldn’t be having a baby. How could she be pregnant? She and Chakotay had made love only once (well, several times that one day, true) but they were both inoculated against parenting a child through their boosters. How could she have gotten pregnant – even if it were still possible for her to conceive a child?
The Doctor continued. “This is such wonderful news, Admiral! I will attend to every detail, of course, and we will be absolutely certain this pregnancy progresses the way it is supposed to. I’ll need to see you every week initially, to check all vital systems. And since you do not eat properly, I’ll need to administer weekly vitamin boosters, as well. Then, perhaps, if you decide to eat more nutritionally, we can later dispense with those.…”
Admiral Janeway shook her head. “Wait a minute, Doctor.” She held her hands in front of her to ward off further information, then began to move around the room. “This is impossible. First of all, my boosters are up-to-date, and these particular boosters are, as you know, Doctor, one hundred percent effective. Second, even if they weren’t one hundred percent effective, my age is…well…” She stopped pacing and looked at the Doctor. “Please tell me you could be wrong about this.” Her heart was beating quickly and she suddenly felt as though she couldn’t breathe.
The Doctor quickly put his hand beneath her elbow and helped her to sit. “Take a deep breath, Admiral,” he said, as he injected a second hypospray against her neck. “It isn’t like you to hyperventilate.”
“Admiral, I understand what you’re saying. It is highly improbable for you to be pregnant; however, it is obviously not impossible. Once again, you’ve beaten the odds.”
She took another deep breath, not only to stop the room from spinning, but to control her misdirected anger toward the Doctor. He certainly wasn’t the reason she was pregnant!
That thought stopped her in her tracks. “Chakotay…” she whispered.
“Yes,” said the Doctor.
“What?” She raised her head.
“I said ‘yes,’” said the Doctor. “The child is definitely Chakotay’s.”
“I know that, Doctor,” she said, working hard to remain calm. This simply couldn’t be happening….
“Oh. Well, yes. Of course,” said the Doctor. He wasn’t sure yet how she was handling this news.
Finally, she stood and began to pace again. “How could this happen?” she asked herself softly.
“Well, Admiral, I’m sure you already know how, but if you would like me to explain…”
“Doctor,” said the Admiral, turning, “My boosters are up-to-date and Chakotay’s boosters are up-to-date, which is something I know with no uncertainty because you made absolutely sure they were kept that way all those years we were aboard Voyager. Am I correct?”
“Yes,” said the Doctor. “Both your boosters are current.” This was the Kathryn Janeway he knew. She had to work her way through it all in a methodical way so that it would make sense to her.
He just wasn’t sure that this would ever make sense to her.
“Then it is simply not possible for me to be pregnant,” she said, with a trace of relief in her voice.
“Well, you’ve been known to accomplish the impossible before,” said the Doctor. He couldn’t help the bit of cavalier attitude that escaped him. He was thrilled about this new baby and way ahead of the Admiral in making plans for this new addition to the Voyager family. But then, a part of him also understood her reticence in accepting this pregnancy at face value. After all, not only did Admiral Janeway (and the captain she’d been) not accept things unquestioningly, but she’d kept Chakotay at arms’ length for many years, and when they had finally come together (and just last weekend, he’d determined), she became pregnant.
Some things were just meant to be, and there was no way around it.
“Admiral,” said the Doctor gently, “trust me, you are pregnant.”
“How?” she asked. “Explain to me how this happened.” As the Doctor opened his mouth to speak, she held up her hand. “I don’t need a rundown on the procedure for making babies, Doctor. I just want to know how this happened when both parties involved are not supposed to be able to make one.”
She sounded more like her old self, noted the Doctor. Anyone other than himself, and perhaps Chakotay, would never notice the slight shake of her hand and the nearly imperceptible flush on her neck behind her right ear. “I’ve already researched that, Admiral. If you recall, both you and Chakotay were infected with an alien virus several years ago – less than two years into our journey in the Delta Quadrant, in fact – and the two of you spent nearly three months on an alien planet because I was unable to develop a cure for the virus.”
“Yes,” she said. She certainly did remember New Earth. “Something in the planet’s ecosystem kept us from becoming ill, and so we had to stay there. Dr. D’Nara Pell eventually gave you the anecdote to cure us of the virus, and that’s why Chakotay and I were eventually able to return to Voyager.” Her voice had been building gradually without her realizing it. But all of this was old news, and she wasn’t here to reminisce about the past. It was the future she was concerned about now. “What of it, Doctor?”
“The anecdote didn’t exactly cure you and Chakotay of the virus, as I’d originally thought,” he said. “It merely made the virus…ineffective. The virus was put into stasis, if you will. You won’t ever become ill from an active form of the virus, but the residual effects of the virus have made both your boosters ineffective.” He smiled, glad to have been able to explain something that had, at first, seemed inexplicable. “Evidently what cured the Vidiians of the virus merely made it inactive in human physiology.”
The Admiral was quiet, but she didn’t take her eyes off the Doctor.
He began to squirm under her direct gaze. “I had no way of knowing it would affect you both this way, or make your boosters ineffective, of course. I had no past example to look to for reference, as you know.” He cleared his throat.
“Then I’m really going to have a baby,” she whispered, the reality of her predicament finally dawning on her.
Kathryn Janeway turned away from the Doctor and walked to the far window. Her legs seemed to move through quicksand, but she had been in a command position long enough to automatically project a casual motion.
The usual activity was going on outside the window below – cadets and professors were walking toward their classes, grounds people were working on the flower beds and rose bushes. There, just ahead, was the place where Boothby had handed her a fresh rose while she was on the way to her own classes, as a Starfleet cadet. She’d been so proud, so fresh and young, so ready to take on the universe. She’d wanted it all then – but did she now?
Now, she had Chakotay – finally. Her life was just beginning to feel full – and right – for the very first time. She had brought Voyager home again and had started to appreciate the adventures they’d had from a comfortable hindsight point of view. She was made admiral, a position which she had earned, but which demanded even more of her attention than ever. And she was back at Starfleet Headquarters again, where the rules of the road weren’t hers to uphold alone, where she didn’t have the final vote, where a committee of people made the decisions. She had to be on her toes every minute, but in a very different way than her years in the Delta Quadrant demanded of her.
A few days ago she’d been privileged to give Captain Jean-Luc Picard his official orders, but she’d worked hard to earn that privilege. And more hard work lay ahead.
Now that she and her crew were home, and she was just beginning this new phase of her career, just as she and Chakotay had made plans to be together, to live together and love and come home to each other, where did a baby fit into all this? Did a baby fit into it at all? What if Chakotay didn’t want a child? She thought he had once, but they had always been careful not to talk about personal wants and desires during their private conversations while in the Delta Quadrant. Neither of them had ever mentioned wanting a family to the other. Suddenly, she was unsure if he’d ever wanted one. Once, when he thought Seska was carrying his child, he had been more than willing to step up and be that child’s father, but Chakotay always accepted his responsibilities without question.
But had he really wanted a child? And, more importantly, did he now?
Chakotay was at a comfortable place in his life now, too. What if that’s all he wanted – a quiet, restful log cabin in the woods where he could talk with his spirit guide and reflect and be at peace? He’d invited her to be a part of his life there, but what if a small crying baby wasn’t someone he wanted to share it with? A wife with a busy schedule and a baby with constant needs were surely not what Chakotay had in mind.
Suddenly, without warning, Kathryn Janeway stood to her full height, and a weight fell off her shoulders.
She’d done without a man for a long time now, and if Chakotay didn’t want a child – their child – then that was that. The truth was that she wanted this baby. She wanted a little girl or a little boy that was a part of her and Chakotay. She’d wanted that for a very long time, she realized, and if she had to sacrifice whatever life she and Chakotay might have had together to give birth to this special little child that was growing inside her, then so be it.
Kathryn Janeway suddenly felt a peace wash over her that she’d never known before. It enveloped her, and she knew she would do whatever it took to bring this baby into the world.
Tears welled up in her eyes. Yes, she wanted Chakotay’s child; she’d always wanted his child. If someone had told her even a few days ago that she would be in this predicament today, she would have laughed. But things had a way of happening, didn’t they? She loved Chakotay with all her heart, but her responsibility was for this small being now, and she was going to embrace that responsibility, whether Chakotay wanted to be a part of it or not.
She took a deep breath and forced the tears away. Yes, life was indeed good, even though it was often bittersweet. She turned from the window and caught the fleeting look of concern reflected in the Doctor’s eyes. He had waited patiently for her to come to grips with the situation. She suddenly realized how very well he knew her.
“Doctor,” she said in a gentle voice, “I’m afraid I don’t know very much about children, especially babies. Your experience with them is far superior to mine and I would appreciate your help over these next months, and years.”
The Doctor nodded. If it were possible for a hologram to be overcome with emotion, it was happening to him now. He filed these feelings away to reflect on them later. Perhaps his programming was still expanding, still evolving. That was an interesting thought. But right now Admiral Janeway needed him. And he would never let her down. “Of course, Admiral,” he said.
She nodded once. “Thank you, Doctor.” She took a deep breath and tilted her chin up in that way she did when she’d made a very important decision. It was something Captain Janeway had done quite often in the Delta Quadrant, a gesture the Doctor was very familiar with. “I need a few days,” she said. “I’ll contact you next week and we can make whatever arrangements we need to for future medical appointments.” The Doctor nodded and Admiral Janeway walked to the door. “Thank you, Doctor,” she said softly, and left.
The Doctor had never been more proud to have served under her.
Later that evening, Admiral Janeway drank a silent toast to her baby and their new life together with a glass of champagne, while looking beyond San Francisco Bay from the balcony of her apartment.
She had contacted the Doctor only a short while ago to ask if she could drink a glass of champagne (something she felt foolish doing) but he had assured her that the old wives’ tales of coffee and alcohol affecting the baby were “baloney” – a term he’d picked up from Tom Paris – in this modern age. As long as an expectant mother didn’t overdo it, an occasional drink was fine. He’d stressed the “occasional cup of coffee” part, too, and she could already see what the next nine months had in store for her. She sighed.
She thought again about her baby, the life inside her, and unconsciously put a hand on her stomach. This was Chakotay’s child, and no matter what he thought about it, she would raise this baby to the very best of her ability. She smiled. Even if she never had but that one wonderful love-making day with her soul-mate, he was still her one true love, her friend, and the father of her child. If he wanted nothing more to do with her and the baby, that would be fine. She would still have a part of him with her, always. And she would never think poorly of him for walking away. After all, she had made the decision to keep this baby without consulting him, something he would claim was her usual way of doing things. She smiled again – she couldn’t help it. For some odd reason, the thought of having this baby was sinking into her consciousness more and more as each hour passed. And she liked it – quite a lot, in fact.
She could only hope Chakotay would want this baby, too.
Sighing, the admiral went back inside. She was going to get some rest and then meet the love of her life at his cabin in the woods tomorrow morning. She would tell him about their child before he even touched her. She owed him that much. Before they continued with this new relationship, she would let him decide first if he wanted to be a part of the future – hers and the baby’s. Whatever he decided was understandable. She would accept it. But this baby would be born and loved, whether he or she had one parent or two.
Kathryn Janeway put aside her desire for a fresh cup of coffee, took a hot bath, and prepared for bed. Naked, she turned to look at herself in the mirror. Her stomach looked the same, and her breasts were still rather full and firm. Of course, she was only a few days’ pregnant. She was silently proud of her figure for her age, and hoped like hell it wouldn’t change much.
She pulled the clip from her hair and let it fall to her shoulders. When had she decided to let it grow again? It didn't matter; it was simply easier to pull it back with a clip than to spend time styling it each morning.
She dressed in her nightclothes quickly, thinking of Chakotay and wanting so much to make love with him.
As she eased toward sleep, she remembered how his warm hands felt on her breasts and how his body felt against hers.
She fell asleep with a smile on her face. Some things were meant to be savored.
The Doctor looked up from his computer console as Admiral Janeway entered his private office and closed the door.
“Admiral,” he said, rising. “I didn’t see you come in.” He gestured to the chair in front of his desk. “I expected to hear from you in a few days.” He hoped she wasn’t having second thoughts about having this baby, but the look in her eyes said she wasn’t.
“Doctor,” she said, sitting, “It occurred to me last night that, although human women are often having children at my age nowadays, it is…unusual…for them to have a first child at my age.” She looked into his eyes. “Is my age a danger for this child?”
He smiled. “It could be for some women, Admiral, but it you will be fine. Trust me.”
“I do, Doctor. But how can you be sure of this?”
“Admiral, understand that there is a risk factor in any pregnancy, but you are extremely healthy and vital. And, as your attending physician, I know everything about your physical health. We’re starting out in fine form. Don’t be overly concerned about your age. I fully intend to be with you every step of the way to make absolutely certain everything is fine.”
She nodded thoughtfully, then took a deep breath. “Good enough, Doctor,” she said, rising. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.” And she realized how true that statement was. “Thank you for your usual diligence.” She started for the door, then turned back, and her mouth turned up at the corner when she smiled. “It’s time to find out how this baby’s father feels about all this.”
The Doctor watched as Admiral Janeway made her way through his laboratory to the outer door. It was good that she was off to see Chakotay this weekend.
While Admiral Janeway might be feeling a bit uncertain about Chakotay’s reaction to her news, the Doctor couldn’t be more sure that Chakotay would be thrilled about it. Although seven years in the Delta Quadrant was a busy and often trying time for everyone aboard Voyager, and even though Captain Janeway had had her hands full more often than not, her first officer still managed to convey to everyone other than the captain that he’d personally move the moons and stars for her if it were within his power to do so.
Yes, Chakotay would certainly be happy about a new baby.
The Doctor sighed. Before long, he had to tell Admiral Janeway the rest of the news, and it would be good to have Chakotay with her when he did.
The following morning, Kathryn Janeway pulled her hovercraft to a standstill several meters from Chakotay’s log cabin. He was standing in front of it, waiting for her, with a huge grin on his face. Her heart was beating rapidly and that all-familiar feeling of attraction for him was making itself known in the pit of her stomach. Ah yes, she’d lived with that feeling for a long time and remembered it all too well. But making love with Chakotay last weekend had been worth the wait.
She jumped out of the hovercraft and couldn’t help but smile back. He looked so relaxed, so happy to see her.
Chakotay couldn’t wait a moment longer. He ran to Kathryn, picked her up in his arms, and spun her around while she gasped with delight and surprise.
“Chakotay…” she began, as he put her back on the ground. She had to talk to him now, had to tell him about this baby now. It couldn’t wait. No matter how much she loved him and (oh gods!) wanted him, it was only fair to tell him now.
He pulled her into his arms and kissed her. A week was too long to be without her. She felt so good, so warm and sexy. He reveled in the smell of her, that indescribable Kathryn Janeway smell of both sex appeal and salty earth – a faint, soft smell he’d breathed in for seven years, and had missed like hell for the past week.
“Chakotay…” she tried again.
“I love you, Kathryn,” he whispered, as he kissed her hair, her neck, anyplace he could get to. “I’ve missed you.”
She sighed and tilted her head back so he could kiss every part of her. She had goose bumps all over her body, her heart was pounding in her chest and she could no longer remember why it was so important to talk first. All she wanted was to make love with this man who meant more to her than…Wait!
“Chakotay,” she said, managing to get her hands between them to hold
him at bay while she took a step back. Both of them had mussed hair and
were breathing hard, but all of that had to wait. She had to tell him about
“What is it, Kathryn?” he asked. His eyes were questioning, and he was getting a sinking feeling in his heart. Maybe Kathryn had changed her mind about marrying him, perhaps about continuing a relationship with him at all. He couldn’t take it if she did. Not after all this. He loved her and couldn’t live without her now, after making love with her all last weekend, and missing her so much this past week he thought his heart would break. He couldn’t lose her – not after all this time, all they’d been through, not now.
“We have to talk,” she said, taking another step back to put extra distance between them.
He swallowed hard. Maybe it had just been too good to be true. “Then let’s go inside,” he said quietly, and walked ahead of her and through the door.
Chakotay went into the wide-open kitchen and began making a pot of coffee, remembering how Kathryn had loved the fresh coffee he’d made with an old-fashioned coffee pot last weekend.
Kathryn followed him inside and watched him make coffee. She’d seen the disappointment on his face and knew he needed to make himself busy now. “Chakotay, something’s happened …that I don’t quite know how to tell you about.” He said nothing, but continued to make the coffee. He wouldn’t look at her. She took a deep breath. “I saw the Doctor yesterday morning.” Still, he said nothing.
“I wasn’t feeling well…” Kathryn stopped herself and turned away. She’d never felt so helpless in her life. There was no way to say this delicately, or easily. Her entire life was wrapped up in this moment; her future was going to change right now, one way or another, and all she could do was follow it into whichever direction it was headed. Helplessness was an understatement, she decided.
“Chakotay,” she said, turning to him again. “I’m going to have a baby.”
He stopped pouring water into the canister and looked at her.
“I…wanted to tell you before…well, before we make any more plans for the future,” she said. Her throat was suddenly very dry, and she had to cross her arms to keep her hands from shaking – something Kathryn Janeway never did.
“A baby?” His voice was so soft she hardly heard him.
She nodded. “Evidently, according to the Doctor, the anecdote we were given so we could leave New Earth all those years ago also knocked the effectiveness out of our boosters.”
His eyes were glassy and he could barely breathe. “New Earth?”
She knew this was shocking news, but he was behaving as though he had no idea what she was saying. “Chakotay, do you understand what I’m telling you?” She took a step toward him. “When you and I made love last weekend, I became pregnant.” She swallowed the tears that arose in her throat. She didn’t know why she felt like crying, because Kathryn Janeway rarely felt like crying. Then again, she didn’t often have such emotional moments in her life.
When Chakotay didn’t say anything else, she continued. “I understand if you don’t want a baby, Chakotay. I…”
But he was moving out from behind the counter and taking both her shoulders between his hands before she could react. He pulled her to him and kissed her fully on the mouth, then pulled her against him. “Oh Kathryn,” he whispered, kissing her hair. “Kathryn, Kathryn…” he murmured.
She heard the emotion in his voice, and felt his heart beating strong and fast as he held her against his chest. Slowly, she moved her arms around him and felt her own tears rush forward. She hugged him, thankful – so thankful – that he hadn’t pushed her away.
“Kathryn,” he whispered yet again, as he buried his face in her hair. He pulled back and took her face in his hands. “I love you,” he said, and the tears ran down his face.
She smiled as her own tears flowed. “I love you, too,” she whispered.
He kissed her again, then held onto her as though his life depended on it. “All my dreams are coming true,” he whispered finally, his voice thick with emotion.
She pulled back to look at him. “Really? Tell me,” she whispered.
Her smile was that sexy one that had haunted his dreams for years, the one that was meant only for him, that said he was a big part of her dreams, too. It was that smile and the look on her face now that made life worth living, that had made him return for her after fifteen years (even though he didn’t remember that now), and the only thing that had kept him going many days when he’d just wanted to give up. Tears welled up in his eyes again. “Every time I tell myself you are all I’ve ever wanted, now or ever, there’s a tiny voice in the background telling me that our child would be special. I want our child, Kathryn. I always have.”
She ran her finger over his lips, those devil lips that had haunted her nights all those years on Voyager. “I love you,” she whispered, knowing she would never get tired of telling him that. She had a lot of years to make up for.
He kissed her, picked her up and carried her inside to the bedroom.
“Shhh,” he said, pulling off her sweater, and her bra.
She gasped, still not used to being a woman with a man who wanted to make love to her.
Chakotay grazed her nipple with his teeth, making a ripple of desire course throughout her body. She reached for him, and together they tossed extra clothing aside, pulling and tugging until finally they lay together, skin on skin.
He nipped at her breasts and she gasped, holding onto his penis and manipulating it in her hand. In only a few minutes he was inside her, and they were moving back and forth against each other, until the waves crashed up on both of them.
He moved to lie beside her. They were both breathing heavily, but she smiled up at him. “Well, this was a pleasant surprise,” she said in a voice as rich as honey.
He grinned. “Everything about today has been a pleasant surprise so far,” he said.
“You’re really sure about this baby?” she asked, knowing his answer.
“Kathryn, nothing could make me happier – except maybe having two children, or three, or four….”
“That’s enough, Mister. One is plenty.” She smiled at him. “I love you,”
she whispered, as she drew him to her again.
Kathryn Janeway and Chakotay were seated in front of the Doctor's desk.
"And so, Admiral, if you will simply follow this regiment," he said, handing her a padd, "and this diet," he handed her a second padd, "and come here for a check-up on these dates and times," he said, handing her a third padd, "we will be…."
Janeway held up her hand. "Excuse me, Doctor, but it's not possible for me to commit to this program."
"Admiral, I realize if you're called out of town or have other meetings or functions you cannot postpone, we will certainly have to reschedule some of the appointments…"
"Doctor," she said firmly, "I have no intention of allowing a program to run my life." She glanced up quickly. "No offense, Doctor."
"None taken," he said. The Doctor sat back in his chair. "There's just one other thing you both should know."
Chakotay reached over and took the padds from Kathryn, and slipped them into his vest pocket. He turned to the Doctor, with a sudden look of concern on his face. "Is something wrong, Doctor? Are Kathryn and the baby all right?"
"They're fine, Chakotay. All of them."
"All?" asked Kathryn. Surely, the Doctor had chosen the wrong word.
The Doctor nodded. "You are going to have twins, Admiral."
Chakotay smiled slowly. "Two?"
"Yes, and I can even tell you the sex of both, if you'd like." He watched the admiral carefully. She hadn't said a word, but he had certainly thrown her a curve, as Tom Paris would have said.
Chakotay jumped up and shook the Doctor's hand. "Thank you, Doctor," he said, grinning.
"You're welcome – although I had nothing to do with it, of course," said the Doctor, beaming as though he had. And as he'd suspected, Chakotay was delighted with this news, while Admiral Janeway was still taking it all in.
Kathryn shook her head to clear it. "Chakotay…" she said, standing.
Chakotay took her by the shoulders and kissed her fully on the mouth. He couldn't have been happier. Two children and the woman he loved – a complete family.
Kathryn didn't move, and didn't complain; she was still trying to understand this new predicament and what it might mean in the grand scheme of things.
The Doctor sat on the edge of his desk and watched Chakotay kiss her. There was a time not so long ago he thought he'd never see this. It was a good thing Chakotay was here today, he mused. Chakotay leveled Kathryn Janeway, and brought a steadiness to her that she sometimes ignored when left to her own devices. As the old Voyager crew knew better than anyone, sometimes when Commander Chakotay suggested using diplomatic methods, Captain Janeway still insisted on punching her way through.
"Kathryn," whispered Chakotay, moving back from her. "Thank you."
She opened her mouth to speak, but closed it again. There was nothing to say. She certainly hadn't intentionally become pregnant at all, let alone with twins. But somehow the look in his eyes made it all worthwhile. Just seeing him this happy made everything else all right. She smiled slowly. "Two?" she whispered back. Chakotay nodded, the smile never leaving his face. She took a deep breath. "Two."
The Doctor cleared his throat. "Chakotay, I hope you realize just what you have in store. Those padds I gave the admiral contain very specific guidelines toward a healthy pregnancy resulting in the delivery of healthy babies."
Chakotay took the padds out of his vest pocket and punched a button on one of them. He nodded. "I'll be sure to study these, Doctor," he said.
"Good. We both know Kathryn Janeway, and I'm sure you realize as well as I that she will need constant reminders…"
Admiral Kathryn Janeway sat down slowly and put her head in her hands.
Something told her this was going to be a very long nine months.
Several weeks later, after Admiral Janeway returned from her new mission with a new first officer who did all right for the first time out, but just couldn't read her every thought the way her previous first officer could, she and Chakotay began to plan their wedding. A week’s worth of preparation was all the time she was giving it. After all, the wedding itself wasn't the important thing – it was what happened afterward that counted.
Chakotay saw it a little differently. What was said at the wedding was indeed important.
Kathryn Janeway agreed with the sentiment, but refused to give the planning of the event a great deal of time. They would invite those close to them, and ask Admiral Paris to officiate. And that was that.
Chakotay smiled. That was all right with him. He would personally send out the invitations and take charge of collecting the RSVPs and arranging for the banquet after the ceremony, while his wife-to-be continued with her duties at Starfleet Headquarters.
The invitations were sent to the handful of people they were close to – family and close friends they'd left behind during the seven years they were away. Then, because it was only fair, right and just, they sent invitations to each and every Voyager crewmember. After all, they were a part of another, very real, family – the Voyager family.
Kathryn's eyes opened wide when Chakotay showed her the RSVP list a week prior to the wedding. He'd been adding names to the list until the very last moment. There would be nearly 245 people attending the ceremony, including every crewmember from Voyager, and many of the spouses or girlfriends/boyfriends they'd either left behind or managed to find since returning home.
"Chakotay," Kathryn whispered. "I've changed my mind. I want to elope."
He grinned. "Too late."
"I, Chakotay, take you Kathryn, to be my wife and my love. You have been my soul mate for longer than I can remember, and the moment I met you face-to-face I knew I would love no other." He placed a small gold band on the third finger of her left hand. "Here is a token of my love for you. It is only a token, for my love has no depth, and it is all-encompassing. But to wear this ring, you will know that I love you more than life itself, more than my own soul, and I will be there for you, and with you, always."
"I, Kathryn, take you Chakotay, to be my husband and my love. You have been with me all my life, in one way or another, and my heart and my soul have waited for yours to join mine. And though I often tried to ignore that you were there for me," she said, smiling and looking deeply into his eyes, "I knew nonetheless. Your heart is with my heart, you are my love, my everlasting life. You are my soul mate, in this world and in all others." She slipped a plain gold band on the third finger of his left hand. "We are joined together, now and for all time."
Admiral Paris looked from one to the other. "You are hereby joined, the two of you becoming one. May you love each other and hold each other dearest over everything and everyone else. May you enjoy your life together in this world, and again in the next. You were friend, then lover, and are now husband and wife. Chakotay and Kathryn, you may seal your commitment to each other."
Chakotay leaned down to meet Kathryn's waiting lips. "I love you," he whispered.
"I love you," she whispered back. “Now get me out of here.”
He grinned. “Sorry, Admiral, this is one diplomatic mission you’ll have to take.”
Many of the people in the large crowd who helped their former captain and commander celebrate their marriage went home that day with smiles on their faces. It felt right, like coming full circle. Most of all, they saw what they'd waited to see for over seven years – their commanding officers coming together at last and committing themselves to each other.
Many thought back on how many replicator rations they'd lost to Tom
Paris over the course of seven years, based on idle gossip about the command
relationship aboard Voyager. After a moment's consideration, though, most
of them decided not to do the math, after all.
Everyone left the wedding and the banquet happy, especially the two people who were now married. Somehow, they didn’t feel a whole lot different, though, because they had given themselves to each other long before today.
Chakotay carried his new wife over the threshold of the log cabin, the way Tom Paris told him he should do. It was some old terran tradition that actually sounded pretty romantic, so Chakotay decided to give it a try.
Kathryn laughed. "You won't be able to do that for long, I'm afraid," she said.
"I'll always be able to carry you," he said, setting her down and kissing her.
She threw the bouquet of wild flowers over her shoulder onto the couch, and pulled him to her. She wrapped her arms around his neck. "Let's make love," she whispered, and felt his sudden erection poking into her stomach. "My, my, I'll take that as a "yes."
He kissed her and picked her up again, and carried her to the bedroom. He dumped her onto the bed as she laughed.
Suddenly, Kathryn sat up. "Oh, Chakotay!" she whispered, seeing the bucket of champagne beside the bed. As she stood, she noticed the bowl of fresh strawberries and chocolate sauce, as well.
He took a strawberry from the bowl and held it to her mouth. She looked at him with more love than he'd ever seen before, and bit into it. He leaned in to kiss her and she shared the bite of strawberry with him.
Suddenly, they were fumbling with each other's clothing, pulling and pushing, and unbuttoning and unzipping. Chakotay kissed her passionately, pushing her back onto the bed and taking one taunt nipple into his mouth, while moving his hand between her legs to feel the warmth there.
She moaned, her heart beating wildly in her chest, and pushed herself onto his hand. Within seconds, his lips had replaced his hand and he held her clitoris in his mouth when she climaxed against him. His tongue reached inside her, and his hard, ready organ soon followed.
She placed her hands on his hips and pulled him even closer, forcing him deeper within her body. As his release came, she kissed him, feeling the new warmth spread inside her.
Chakotay’s breathing began to return to normal, and he moved to her side. She turned so he could stay inside her for as long as possible. "That was wonderful," she whispered.
He reached over his shoulder for a strawberry and held it to her mouth. She nibbled it in a way that sped his heart rate, and he was amazed he could feel the beginnings of desire stir within him already. It would be some time before he could do anything about it, though. He felt himself slip out of her, and he raised himself to pull another strawberry out of the basket.
Dipping it in the chocolate sauce, he brought the strawberry over Kathryn's breast and dabbed the chocolate on first one nipple, then the other.
She moaned and rolled over onto her back, giving him full access and complete control. He felt that stir in his groin even more strongly. He dipped the strawberry into the chocolate again, and dribbled it over both breasts and down onto her stomach. His tongue followed, teasing both nipples, licking the chocolate off her. His tongue dipped into her navel, and she gasped and writhed on the bed, wanting more.
Chakotay couldn't believe how sexy Kathryn was, how much he'd missed all those years in the Delta Quadrant, and how much they had to make up for now. Somehow, he didn't see that as a problem.
Chakotay took another strawberry and dipped it deeply into the chocolate. He held it over her pubic hair and she spread her legs. Her pubic hair and labia were still moist from their earlier lovemaking, and when he looked into her face, her eyes were dark with desire.
He lowered the strawberry to her clitoris and dabbled chocolate sauce there, until it rolled down, down to her vagina. He leaned forward and licked her clit, sucked it, and then trailed his tongue after the chocolate sauce. He dipped his tongue inside her, licking, sucking, and as he pushed his tongue as deeply inside her as he could, he worked her clitoris with his thumb.
Kathryn writhed beneath him, called his name softly from above him, and when he brought her to climax, she thrust forward and pulled him to her.
He rose above her and slipped inside her moist, warm folds as she cried his name. Her muscles contracted around him and he jumped off the cliff with her. “I love you, Kathryn,” he whispered into her ear, still grateful that he owned her heart.
"Good morning," said a soft voice in her ear.
Kathryn smiled. It was definitely the voice of her new husband. "Good morning," she whispered, with her eyes still closed. It felt so good to know he was there, would be there all the time from now on.
Suddenly, Kathryn opened her eyes. "What is that I smell?" she asked.
"Fresh coffee," came the voice she loved.
"In that case," she said, turning over to see the smiling face of her husband, "I'm all yours."
"I thought yesterday's ceremony settled that question for good."
"Oh yes, I forgot about that," she said in an innocent voice.
"I doubt it," he said. "I know from experience that Kathryn Janeway has a very long memory."
She laughed. "Only for her enemies." She reached up and wrapped her arms around Chakotay's neck. "How is my husband today?"
Chakotay smiled. "I love to hear you say that." He leaned in to nibble her ear, loving the fact that he could.
"Mmmmm…that's nice," she whispered in that sexy voice he loved. "But I need coffee." She pulled away, sat up and reached for the mug on the bedside table.
Chakotay sat back and watched the woman he loved sip her morning coffee.
"What are you smiling about?" she asked, when she opened her eyes.
"All these years, I've watched you drink coffee like that and thought you must get the same look on your face when you achieve orgasm. And now I know it's true."
"Very funny," she said.
"No, it's true," he said.
Putting the coffee cup aside, she pulled him to her. "Let's see if you're telling the truth," she whispered.
After taking a few days off to honeymoon with her husband in their log cabin in the woods, Admiral Kathryn Janeway went back to work, and Chakotay worked hard to finish building the last room of the log cabin. If they were having twins, that third bedroom would be important to have soon enough.
Admiral Janeway continued to battle aliens and fight for the rights of holograms and the mere citizens of the Federation. She went on several short missions and a couple of longer ones, but for the most part, she was at home in the evenings with her husband.
And as each week passed, the Doctor pronounced her fit and healthy, if not a bit more stubborn and opinionated than usual.
As each week passed, she also felt her body change, and her stomach seemed larger every day.
Chakotay assured her it was all in her mind; her body wasn't changing that rapidly. He still loved her, and he loved their unborn babies.
They both told the Doctor they didn’t want to know the sexes of their unborn children.
They already knew.
“Ummmm…” she said.
Chakotay smiled. Kathryn said that a lot lately, whether they were making love or she was enjoying his home cooking.
“I think it needs more garlic,” he said.
“Maybe, but it’s wonderful without it,” she said, taking another sip of the vegetable soup he’d had simmering on the old-fashioned stove most of the day.
“Careful, or you’ll gain a pound,” he whispered in her ear as he walked by her to throw in another bay leaf.
“I will not!” She put a hand on her stomach! “One more pound and I will pop.” She frowned. “Which, frankly, might not be a bad idea. That’s one way to get those babies out of there!”
He laughed. “Kathryn, you’ve gained 24 pounds. The Doctor said if anything you are underweight, even for your size. You are carrying two babies, after all.” He plopped a strawberry into her mouth and she chewed it thoughtfully.
“Uh oh – sounds serious,” he said.
She smiled. “My delivery date is still five weeks away and I’m doing well.”
“Yes,” he said. “And if you’re going to tell me you’re going on a mission next week, I’ll have to say…”
She cut him off. “It’s only a little one, a week at most.” She looked him in the eye and his heart melted, as it always had. Her voice was sexy, sensual, and it had a slight pleading tone in it that he seldom heard – unless she wanted something.
“I already know about it,” he said. He kissed her, then plopped another strawberry into her mouth.
She chewed it quickly so she could reply. “You already know? How? Who told you?”
“That doesn’t matter,” he said.
“It was the Doctor, wasn’t it?”
“No, and it doesn’t matter how I found out.” He turned to her. “Kathryn, I understand.”
“I’ve already told you, I understand your need to be out there among the stars. It’s in your nature. You go and be safe, and take care of those babies. After they’re born, they’ll be with me when you’re away from home, so enjoy them while you can.”
Tears distorted her vision, and she blinked them away. “I’m glad you understand.”
“Just promise me something,” he said.
He smiled. “This is the last mission until after the babies are born.”
“Agreed,” she said, loving this man right now more than she’d ever loved him in the past.
He kissed her, long and tenderly, and she wrapped her arms around him, knowing she would be glad when this huge stomach wasn’t between them. The familiar stirrings of desire swept through both of them.
“You know,” she said in her sexiest voice, “we could continue this in the bedroom.”
“What about my soup?” he asked, feigning concern.
“Turn it off,” she whispered, gently tugging on his lower lip with her teeth, and running her hand lightly over his already-bulging slacks.
Chakotay didn’t have to be told twice.
The day was warm and sunny and Admiral Janeway was in a particularly good mood. She finished up her workday as quickly as possible so she could get home to her husband.
She was very pregnant, but managing to keep her weight down the best she could. She worked hard not to be as moody as she could very easily allow herself to be, and constantly reminded herself this would all be over soon, very soon.
Today, she just wanted to be held and kissed and loved. Chakotay had been out of town for two days, and she was getting anxious for her babies to be born, but just now she couldn't wait to get home.
Kathryn parked her vehicle outside, went into the kitchen and put her bag on the counter. She looked through the kitchen window and saw Chakotay in the garden. She smiled.
When she walked outside, Chakotay rose and grinned at her. She was beautiful and pregnant with his children. He'd missed her for the two days he was gone, and now she'd come home early.
Chakotay put down the basket of vegetables he'd begun to collect, and peeled off his gloves. He pulled his wife into his arms and kissed her fully.
Kathryn kissed him back, glad to be home, and glad Chakotay was home. Life was lonely without him.
"Hello handsome," she whispered.
"You really did miss me, didn't you?" he asked, his eyes shining with love for her. Kathryn Janeway fed his soul in a way no one, or nothing else, had the power to do.
"Terribly," she said, wrapping her arms around his neck, which was no small feat these days.
"I love you," he said.
"I love you, too," she said, leaning her forehead against his chin. She loved the smell of him.
Chakotay put his arm around her shoulders. "I want to show you something," he said. He walked her up the side of the gentle slope to the crest where they often came to watch the sunrise or see and hear the sounds of nature going on around them. Kathryn had just begun to truly appreciate nature, and this spot often reminded her of when they'd been secluded on New Earth so long ago.
"What do you want to show me?" she asked, looking around. Everything looked the same to her.
Chakotay pulled a basket from under a shrub. "Look what I found," he said, feigning surprise. She smiled.
He pulled out a blanket and spread it on the ground. She laughed, knowing what was coming next.
He dragged out a bottle of champagne with its cooling device attached, and a small bowl of strawberries, their tips covered in dark chocolate.
"Well, I think that just about covers everything," she whispered, in Kathryn Janeway's sexiest voice, as her husband stood to kiss her.
Chakotay expertly uncorked the bottle of champagne, then handed Kathryn a glass. "A toast," he said, "to the two children who will make our family, and our lives, complete."
Kathryn smiled and blinked back unexpected tears, then took a sip of the bubbly wine. She wasn't drinking much alcohol these days, even though the Doctor said a bit in moderation was still just fine.
Chakotay put their glasses aside and began to undress her slowly, both of them unaccustomed to the bulk of Starfleet's maternity uniform. Surprisingly, she wasn't embarrassed by her large stomach, and Chakotay was glad of it. It held his children, who would be born soon.
When she stood naked in front of him, he knelt before her and kissed her stomach. Her head fell back when he stood and took a breast in each hand and licked and teased them both, one at a time.
Kathryn felt the familiar tingle up her spine, and the wetness being released between her legs. This man had power over her completely – her thoughts, her heart, her body. He was her husband, her lover, her best friend.
Chakotay helped her to lie on her back on the soft blanket. He lay beside her and looked at her. She had never been more beautiful. He kissed her mouth, her chin and neck, then reached her breasts again. He teased the nipples until they were firm, hard pebbles, and his wife was breathing hard and whispering his name.
She reached over and started to push Chakotay's vest from his shoulders, and he quickly undressed himself, knowing Kathryn loved for him to be naked beside her, even now when they couldn't use penetration in their lovemaking, per the Doctor's orders, until after the babies were born.
As he continued to run his tongue over her body and kiss her, she reached to take his penis in her hand. He gasped at the warmth of her hand, and at the thrill she always brought him when she touched him.
He kissed her, nipped at her, circled her navel with his tongue, then made his way back to her breasts, as she expertly manipulated his penis.
Suddenly, Chakotay cried her name and buried his face in her neck. She held his penis against her as he released himself into her hand, and against her body. She whispered "I love you," as his body spasmed against hers.
When his heartbeat returned to nearly normal, he kissed her, running his tongue inside her mouth and brushing his tongue against hers. She moaned and pulled him closer to her.
"I love you, Kathryn," he whispered into her ear, when he was once more kissing her neck, then her ear lobe and then down to her breasts again.
Chakotay moved slowly down her body, as she writhed beneath him. She was calling his name, and urging him to move faster down, down.
He loved this part – giving to his wife, and having her love it and be so brazen about it.
She pushed his head, urging him downward. He ignored her hand, and continued slowly, slowly toward the same destination.
When he reached her pubic hair, she spread her legs wide, giving him
full access. She was ready, her red nub swollen with anticipation, her
center warm and wet, her breathing labored.
Chakotay licked her nub, pushed against it with his tongue, and began to move it in a circular motion, as Kathryn pushed against him.
He reached for his nearly empty glass of champagne and spilled the rest of it over her clitoris.
She gasped, as the cool bubbles mixed with the moisture already there.
Chakotay licked it off, drank it, and Kathryn climaxed around him. He slipped his tongue inside her and felt her spasms, as she cried his name and bucked up to meet him.
Moments later, Chakotay lay beside her and pulled the other end of the blanket up over them. He kissed her gently and looked into the most beautiful vivid blue eyes he'd ever seen. Still.
Admiral Janeway smiled into the viewscreen at the face of her lover and husband. “What do you intend to do for an entire week without me?” she asked, with a hint of seduction in her voice. She couldn’t help it that the more she was with Chakotay, the more she wanted to be with him.
His grin widened. “Think about you.”
“Ah…you always know the right thing to say,” she replied.
“Not true,” he said. “I tried for seven long years on Voyager to say the right thing to you, but I never got you into bed with me.”
She laughed. “You have a point there. Perhaps I was a bit too stubborn back then.”
“Back then?” he asked, feigning shock at her statement.
“Now, now...” she said, wagging her finger at him. She leaned forward with a serious look on her face. “I’ll miss you,” she whispered. A week was going to be the longest time away from Chakotay since they were married.
“I’ll miss you, too,” he said. “Take care of my kids.”
She smiled sadly. “I will.” She knew he’d intended her to understand he meant to take care and not take unnecessary chances. “Don’t worry.”
"I learned a long time ago you're better at taking care of yourself than anyone," he said.
She watched him closely. "Oh no…I know you too well, Chakotay. What is it you're not telling me?"
"I don't know what you mean," he said.
"I'm five weeks away from delivering these babies, and I'm leaving for five days for the Beta Quadrant, and you aren't telling me to eat a lot and be careful. There has to be a reason," she said, watching him closely.
"I don't have to be concerned about you, Kathryn. You have an excellent crew looking out for you, and you'll be home in five days. Now, I don't want to cut our conversation short, but I'm leaving in less than three hours for that spiritual conference in Bajor, and I haven't packed a thing."
She smiled. "Don't worry. You'll be sitting in a circle for two days, meditating. There won't be much need for an extensive wardrobe."
He laughed. "Kathryn, no one can ever accuse you of giving up your love of science for a more spiritual direction."
"Not on your life," she said. "All right, Mister, I'll let you go now." She touched her hand to the screen and he did likewise. "Take care of yourself on Bajor," she whispered.
"I'll meet you back here in a few days, Kathryn," he said. "I love you."
"I love you, my darling," she said.
As they broke the connection, Kathryn thought she saw a gleam in her husband's eye as he signed off. She shook her head. It was just her imagination.
Her door chime sounded. "Come," she said, as she brought up the ship manifest on her computer screen. Two of the crew, including the assigned ship's physician, hadn't checked in yet.
Kathryn Janeway looked up to see the Doctor.
"Ship's physician checking in, Admiral," he said, standing with his hands behind his back.
"Oh no…" she muttered, seeing the superior look on the Doctor's face and thinking of a similar look on her husband's face a few moment's before. So that's why Chakotay wasn't worried about her and the babies. He'd arranged for the Doctor to replace the physician who couldn't make the trip…because his wife was in labor, she quickly noted on the manifest.
Kathryn stood and stared at the Doctor. "I assume you have good reason for being on this mission, Doctor," she said half-heartedly. Of course he did.
"Doctor Sandowsky's wife is in labor at the moment, Admiral, and I offered to take his place on this mission. You needed a substitute physician quickly, and I am available," said the Doctor.
"And this has nothing to do with the fact that I am so close to my delivery date," she said.
"None whatsoever, Admiral,” he said.
She looked at him pointedly.
“Of course, both Chakotay and I thought it would be an excellent idea for me to volunteer for this mission, particularly since you need a replacement physician so quickly, and since I, of course, know you and your medical history better than anyone.” Seeing the look on her face, he forced the cavalier attitude out of his voice. “Just in case you were to need me, which I’m sure you won’t. I am also up-to-date on every crewmember aboard this ship, thanks to my ability as a quick study."
She attempted to cross her arms in front of her, but the new larger stomach she still wasn't used to made that difficult. "All right, Doctor," she said. "But this is to be a normal mission. I want no special treatment. Do you understand me?"
"Of course, Admiral. Will there be anything else?" he asked.
She sighed. "No. Report to Sickbay."
The Doctor nodded once and left quickly for the safety of Sickbay, his newest tiny holoemitter pinned to his sleeve.
Admiral Janeway took a deep breath, and couldn't help the smile that tugged at her mouth.
Chakotay would pay for this, one way or another.
Kathryn Janeway took another deep breath. The contraction in her stomach was stronger this time than a few moments ago.
She stood from her desk in her ready room and contacted her first officer, who was getting better and better at reading her mind – something she wasn't sure was as important today as it was in the Delta Quadrant so long ago. "Commander Jamison, I'm on my way to visit the Doctor."
"Is anything wrong, Admiral?"
She smiled. "No, but you have the bridge for awhile."
She severed the connection and shook her head. He would be checking on her within the hour – something another ex-first officer would have done.
She took a deep breath and started for Sickbay. She wasn't going to alert the Doctor she was on the way, because he would make an issue out of it, and it was not one. She was just going to stop in so he could tell her that what she was experiencing was not unusual.
Kathryn Janeway lie on the biobed while the Doctor ran his scans.
"Is everything all right, Doctor?" For the very first time, she felt oddly alone. What if she went into labor four weeks early and Chakotay was an entire quadrant away?
The Doctor snapped his medical tricorder shut. "You are fine, Admiral. And your babies are fine." He helped her to sit up. "You are less than four weeks from your delivery date, Admiral. It's not unusual for human women to experience premature labor pains."
"That's what it is, then?" she asked.
"Probably a bit of indigestion," he said. "I see you are finally eating better."
She sighed. "Better? Doctor, I am eating everything in sight."
"I'm sure it feels that way to you, Admiral," he said. "But in usual human pregnancies, a woman carrying twins would weigh much more than you do now."
Suddenly, the fact that she'd been so concerned with gaining so much weight seemed ridiculous. "But my babies are all right, Doctor?"
He heard the urgency in her voice. "Admiral, you are fine, and your babies are fine." He placed a hand on her shoulder. "We'll get through this together, and everything will continue to be fine," he said calmly, and Admiral Janeway realized that this hologram had come a long way in making his bedside manner more pleasant. He hardly seemed to be the same Emergency Medical Hologram they'd initiated aboard Voyager over eight years ago.
She stood from the bed. "Thank you, Doctor. I'm just feeling a bit…anxious, I suppose."
She took a deep breath. "We'll be home the day after tomorrow."
"Yes," he said.
"I'm going to request desk duty until after the babies are born, Doctor," she said. "I want my husband to be present when they come into the world, and that won't happen if I'm in the Beta Quadrant and he's in the Alpha Quadrant." The Doctor waited. "I want to stay close to home for awhile," she said in a soft voice.
The Doctor nodded. "I think that's a fine idea, Admiral," he said, admiration for her evident in his voice. He knew how difficult it was for her to ask for any special considerations.
She nodded, her decision made. "I'm going to finish my shift on the bridge and then take a warm bath and turn in for the night." She squeezed the Doctor's shoulder as she moved past him. "Thank you, Doctor. I appreciate your…" She turned to him. "I just appreciate your being here."
As the admiral left Sickbay, the Doctor turned back to his work. He'd never felt so proud, or so honored.
"How was your conference?" asked Kathryn. She was happy to be home. As much as she loved her job and traveling in different worlds, right now she just wanted to be here with her husband.
"Successful," said Chakotay. "We meditated for peace and then the two heads of state followed that up with a calm discussion about what was best for both peoples."
"And now you have to get together again to figure out the rest of the story," she said, shaking her head. "That’s the problem with those diplomatic peace missions. Nothing is ever solved with only one meeting."
He grinned. "Not everyone punches their way through a situation, Admiral," he said, drawing her into his arms.
"No," she whispered, "But I've found it to be very effective from time to time.”
The pain was worse than she’d ever imagined. Actually, she hadn’t given it much thought before today, but now wished she had.
Chakotay held her hand and spoke soft, encouraging words to her throughout the entire ordeal, but she barely heard him. She wanted these babies out of her – now!
Kathryn felt another flash of intense, searing pain.
“Push, Admiral,” said the Doctor pleasantly.
“You push!” she screamed back at him.
“Tsk tsk,” he replied. “You know, B’Elanna Torres said the same thing to me when she gave birth to Miral on Voyager.” He looked at her pointedly. “It did no good for B’Elanna to become rude, and it isn’t becoming of you now, Admiral.”
“It’s been a lot of years since I felt like shutting down your program, Doctor….”
“Kathryn,” said Chakotay, recognizing the tone in Kathryn’s voice immediately. “Can we concentrate on helping my beautiful children come into the world?”
Kathryn lay back on the biobed. Her hair was splayed about her face and sweat glistened on her upper lip. Chakotay thought she’d never looked more beautiful.
She smiled up at her husband. “What makes you think they will be beautiful?” she asked.
“Because I know their mother, and she is the most beautiful creature I’ve ever seen,” he said, smiling at her and raising her hand to his lips.
Kathryn smiled, Chakotay smiled, and the Doctor looked to the heavens.
Nine hours and sixteen minutes after Kathryn Janeway began labor (something her doctor said couldn’t be rushed), her daughter and son were born. Her daughter was the eldest by two and a half minutes. Her husband said that was because the child was already exhibiting signs of her mother’s impatience with diplomacy, and decided to finally punch her way through.
Kathryn was exhausted, but held each child for a few minutes before taking a long nap.
Chakotay watched the Doctor with bright eyes as each child was examined and cleaned, and put into a warm bassinette. He couldn’t leave them.
The Doctor was patient and thorough with each child, and Chakotay was amazed at how tiny they both were.
After a few moments in the warm bed, both babies fell asleep.
The Doctor pronounced both of them fit and perfect, and beamed with pride as he left the room so Chakotay could get some rest on the biobed he’d moved near the bassinette.
The Doctor looked back into the room with satisfaction. Who on Voyager would have ever guessed this would happen within a year after returning to Earth?
He was glad both Kathryn Janeway and Chakotay were getting some sleep now, because it would be a long time before either of them would get a normal night’s rest again.
Chakotay awakened to the sound of Kathryn whispering across the room. He lifted his head and smiled.
He couldn’t believe it, and wouldn’t have if he hadn’t known it was true. Kathryn was sitting up in bed, a soft beige shawl wrapped around her shoulders, with her small daughter in her arms. Kaila was sucking her mother’s breast and looking up intently into her eyes.
“Life lesson number one: Don’t break every heart, my dear. Remember, men are just men – and be very careful out there. Not everything is as it seems.”
“Hey,” said Chakotay, moving toward the two females in his life. “Watch what you tell her. She’s at a very impressionable age.”
Kathryn smiled. Her eyes shown with wonder at the newborn she held in her arms. “I can’t believe she’s ours, Chakotay,” she whispered.
His own smile radiated. “She is,” he said, bending over to kiss her. “And so is her brother. Where is he, by the way?”
“The Doctor is helping out this new and inexperienced mother. He’s bottle-feeding Solomon in his office. Chakotay, she’s so small,” she said, looking back at the small baby in her arms. Her voice was filled with wonder.
Chakotay pushed the shawl back from Kathryn’s shoulder so he could watch his new daughter suckle at Kathryn’s nipple. Her breasts had grown larger from the milk, but he knew the children would be weaned soon. Kathryn would be leaving the babies at home with him when she went back to work. “You are both so beautiful, Kathryn,” whispered Chakotay.
“Well, here’s one more beauty for you,” said the Doctor, coming in with Solomon in his arms and a burping blanket over his shoulder. Kathryn smiled at the sight.
Chakotay took his sleeping son from the Doctor and held him as he watched his daughter drink her mother’s milk.
“When your daughter is finished with her meal, you should get some rest, Admiral,” said the Doctor.
“Of course, Doctor,” said Kathryn Janeway, smiling, and turned back to watch her daughter.
Ah, the wonderful thing about happy new parents was their equanimity, thought the Doctor. They just couldn’t work any harder to please others.
He sighed. Unfortunately, things got back to normal very quickly.
Kathryn stood in the doorway and watched the calm, beautiful faces of her babies as they slept. After giving birth, she had taken three weeks off from Starfleet to be with her new family before returning to work.
In a moment of pure ego, she'd donned one of her new Starfleet uniforms two days after she had the twins and stared in horror at how she looked in it. Earlier today, she'd done the same while Chakotay was gathering vegetables from the garden. In the past couple of weeks she'd made a lot of progress, but not enough. She sighed. One more week to go.
Chakotay was amused by her desire to look as she had before, but he wasn't the one who had to put that uniform back on and wear it in public.
Sipping her fresh cup of coffee – the first one she'd gotten to drink hot in days – she turned to go back into the kitchen. Chakotay would be home soon.
A bright flash of light caught her attention in the babies' room.
"Hello, Kathy," said Q. "Have you missed me?"
She smiled. "Shhhh, you'll wake them," she whispered. "And, trust me, that's not something you want to do."
Q walked over to the two cribs. "Please, Kathy. Give me some credit. I've erected a sound field so our voices won't disturb them."
"Nice," she said, walking into the room. "I need one of those."
"I must admit, Kathy, you did a fine job with these two."
"That one is especially attractive," he said, pointing to Kaila. "She looks like her mother. Perhaps the boy will become more attractive as he gets older."
Kathryn smiled. Solomon looked so much like Chakotay that even Q recognized it.
"Perhaps," she said. "What brings you to the Alpha Quadrant?"
"Alpha, Delta, Gamma…Beta, Omega…. It's all my playground."
"I decided to stop by to see the fruits of your labor…"
"…and to bring a gift for them," he said.
"Oh, well then, would you like a cup of coffee?" she asked pleasantly.
"Ugh," said Q, feigning a shudder. "No, thank you."
"So, what did you bring for the children?" She smiled and sipped her coffee.
"The gift of happiness," he said.
Q raised his hand and a huge bouquet of what looked to be wildflowers appeared in it. He ignored Kathryn completely and turned to the children. Holding the bouquet over their heads, a soft rustling sound started, and he whispered in a melodious fairy tale telling voice: "From the depths of the Q Continuum there is a mysterious well. It is filled with intelligence and logic. It also holds happiness. A Q is responsible for choosing his own happiness from that well, and for taking care of others in need. In honor of Kathy finally having a baby, and not one but two – " he glanced at Kathryn and winked, "I've chosen some happiness for both of you. May you be blessed with joy in your hearts so that you may have honor in your lives." He stood and the rustling sound stopped. He put the bouquet down on the dresser and turned to Kathryn. "There. You may hang that on the wall," he said, pointing to the bouquet. "Of course, it's only a symbol of the true gift."
Kathryn was touched. "Of course. Thank you, Q," she said softly.
Q shrugged. "It was nothing. Now, I'd better be off. Chuckles will be home soon, and I'd rather be gone when he gets here. I do love to antagonize him, but I'm afraid I just don't have the time today."
Kathryn smiled, glad for that. "I understand," she said quickly.
Q pointed at the bouquet. "You can tell him they're wildflowers you found in the woods. They're all out there, and he'll believe you."
Kathryn had no intention of telling Chakotay about Q's visit. "I will. Thank you again, Q."
He took Kathryn by the shoulders and looked into her eyes. "You were always my favorite, Kathy, even above Jean-Luc," he said, and kissed her quickly on the lips. "Although why you married that big oaf, I'll never know." And with that, Q disappeared in a burst of light.
Kathryn Janeway grabbed her overnight bag and jumped from her hovermobile as soon as she disengaged the engine. Four days away from her husband and babies was beginning to wear on her.
She threw her bag on the couch and walked into the kitchen. Her beautiful twins were sitting side-by-side in their interlocking chairs, squishing crackers in their small hands, stuffing some into their mouths, and occasionally knocking a couple onto the floor. "Hello, my sweethearts," she whispered, kissing each of them on the top of their heads. Leave it to Chakotay to let them work on their eye-hand coordination already.
Kathryn looked across the room and smiled. "Hello, Handsome," she said in her sexiest voice. She walked over to her husband, wrapped her arms around him and kissed him.
"Hello yourself, Gorgeous," said Chakotay, kissing her back and loving her more every day. He grinned and handed her a fresh mug of coffee.
"Mmmm," she said, taking a sip and leaning against Chakotay's chest. He hugged her to him. "You always know exactly what I need."
"Welcome home, Kathryn." He nuzzled her neck, savoring the smell of her.
She looked up, kissed him on the mouth, put the mug on the counter, and turned toward him for more.
"Careful, the children are impressionable at this age," he said, smiling at his beautiful wife. He reached behind her and took the clasp from her hair, allowing it to fall past her shoulders.
"At least they'll see parents who love each other," she said, kissing his ear lobe.
"Yes, they will, Kathryn," he said, seriously. "I love you more every day."
She so enjoyed hearing Chakotay say the words to her. "Me too," she whispered. Picking her mug of coffee back up, she leaned against him and watched as her daughter threw a cracker at her brother.
"She's got her mother's stubborn streak already," Chakotay whispered into Kathryn's ear.
Kathryn laughed. "Hardly. She's just establishing her territory, that's all – taking a stand."
He laughed. “Well, she’s certainly got her mother’s knack for that.” Suddenly, he noticed the look on Kathryn’s face as she sipped her coffee and watched her children.
“Kathryn,” he said, turning her to him. “What is it?”
“I’ve been thinking,” she said, putting her mug down.
He knew exactly what was coming.
“Maybe I will agree to a desk job at Starfleet, after all. I miss you and the children when I’m away, and...”
“And you feel guilty,” he finished for her. He sighed. “Kathryn, feeling guilty is a natural thing, but it’s unnecessary.”
“Chakotay, what if I’m on Mars when they take their first steps? What if they say ‘daddy’ before they say ‘mommy’? I couldn’t stand that – you know how competitive I am.”
He grinned, knowing she was trying to make light of the situation. “Prepare yourself for that one. They’re already trying to say ‘daddy’.” He took her chin in his hand and grew serious. “Kathryn, there are a lot of ‘firsts’ we will both miss. I could be in the garden when Solomon says his first word, and miss it. Or away at a conference. It’s a part of life, Kathryn. We can’t be with them every minute of every day. That’s not fair to any of us. You have a life, and I have a life. Our children will benefit more from our following our hearts and doing the things we need to do, want to do, than remaining with them just because we think we should, or because we have feelings of guilt.” He took a deep breath, seeing the tears in her eyes. “Kathryn, you need to be out there. It’s a part of who you are. It’s a part of what I love about you, and something I knew about you from the day we met. You would never be happy staying at home and puttering in the garden out back.”
She smiled through her tears. “Oh, I don’t know. I learned how to grow Talaxian tomatoes once.”
He smiled back and thumbed away a stray tear that escaped her eye. “I love you, Kathryn Janeway.” He kissed her deeply, tasting a salty tear that ran down her cheek.
She blinked back the rest of her tears and leaned against him again, turning her head so she could watch her babies play with their food. “You always know the right thing to say,” she whispered.
Kathryn Janeway lay beside her husband, facing him, skin to skin. The babies were finally asleep, and she had lost nearly all the weight she’d gained from the pregnancy.
More, she was getting her insatiable sexual appetite back. Of course, her husband claimed he wasn’t aware it had gone anywhere.
She couldn’t get enough of Chakotay. Kissing his chin, his shoulder, his ear, and rubbing her leg against his, she felt herself react and grow wet inside. He always affected her this way, always had had this effect on her, and always would. He steered her, steadied her, loved her unconditionally.
As she felt his erection grow harder and harder against her stomach, she smiled. “Ummm…I think I feel something coming between us.”
“Not yet,” he said, pulling her closer and kissing her.
He rose above her and took one taunt nipple into his mouth. She moaned and pulled his head tighter into her breast. He grazed her nipple with his teeth and she gasped. He continued to suck and nip and then he moved to the second nipple.
Kathryn was crazy with desire and he was taking his almighty time! She pushed him further down and he laughed.
“Not so fast,” he whispered. “Some things are meant to be savored.” He kissed her beautiful stomach and made his way down to the hard red nub between her labia. As usual, she was quickly aroused, and he was slow to get to the point. But by the time he took her clitoris into his mouth and moved his fingers into her, she reached climax quickly. He thrust his tongue inside her and drank, and savored the feel of her muscles pulsating against him.
“Kathryn,” he whispered, moving up and inside her. “I love you,” he whispered into her ear. “I love you so much.”
She reached for him and kissed him, as both their worlds exploded around them.
Kathryn awoke to silence.
She was in bed, but her husband was not. The children were visiting the Paris’s and wouldn’t be home until later in the day. It was Saturday, and she knew Chakotay had planned for this so they could have private time together. Tom, B’Elanna and Miral were wonderful about taking the twins on an occasional Saturday, giving Kathryn and Chakotay some downtime together.
She smiled, and pulled the covers up around her. She began to close her eyes, enjoying the warmth of the bed and the quiet of the early morning.
Opening her eyes quickly, she thrust back the covers and grabbed Chakotay’s oversized shirt from the foot of the bed. She would be damned if she missed spending an entire morning alone with her husband!
Walking into the kitchen, she smelled the wonderful aroma of fresh coffee. Forgetting all else, she poured a mug and lifted it to her lips. She sighed.
Warm, strong arms surrounded her waist. She didn’t jump. After all these years, she could still feel when he was there, in the room with her.
“This is wonderful,” she murmured, taking another sip.
“Um hum,” he said, turning her to him and opening the top three buttons of the shirt, exposing her breasts. He began to nibble, and she gasped and quickly put the coffee on the counter.
“Chakotay….” She whispered, but she was already aroused, already needing him.
He placed his hands beneath her hips and lifted her onto the counter. She moved her legs apart and he immediately found her warm, wet center, newly wet as well as still moist from their night’s lovemaking. He kissed her, licked her and sucked her as he knew she liked. She moaned and whispered his name over and over again.
She lay back onto the counter, and wrapped her legs around Chakotay’s neck, bringing him even deeper into her.
Just before she climaxed, he moved back and nipped at her thighs, her labia. She gasped, and tried to coax his head back to where it was.
“Not so fast,” he said. He opened her labia and slowly began to pour warm honey onto her folds. She flinched from the luxurious warmth of it, and the expectation it brought. Then slowly, excruciatingly slowly, he began to lick the honey and lather it over her swollen nub, just before he took it all into his mouth. She gasped again, and spread her legs farther apart. His tongue and the warm honey was all-encompassing. She felt him inside her, filling her with his mouth, his tongue, the warm honey. He pushed his tongue deep inside her, tasting her, tasting the honey. He drank and teased until she thrust upward into his mouth and screamed his name, as the world around her exploded.
An hour later, Kathryn Janeway leaned against Chakotay’s warm, wet chest. “I’ve always loved a bath,” she said in her sexiest voice.
“I know. It’s your favorite way to relax,” he said from behind her.
She smiled. “Well, I would have to say it’s in the number two spot now.”
He grinned and reached around to take her breasts in his hands. He never tired of seeing them, holding them, taking them into his mouth. He began to circle the nipples with his thumbs and immediately felt them harden.
“Hmmm…Careful there,” she said. “You might start something, and the children will be home soon.”
He couldn’t believe how easily aroused she was, even now, after all these years. He loved it.
Pulling her up farther against him, he moved his hand between her legs and encouraged them open. She put her legs up onto the tub, spreading herself open. He pulled the drain so the water was below them, then licked his index finger and rubbed it over her swollen clitoris. She sighed, then pushed against his finger, wanting more.
He couldn’t get enough of her.
When he felt her breathing grow heavier with desire and her heartbeat increase, he thrust three fingers inside her and continued to rub her clitoris with his thumb, watching her face in amazement as she jumped over the edge of the cliff, then reached up to bring him with her. She kissed him passionately, pulling him down farther to her.
He was hot with desire, watching her climax before him. She pushed herself up and straddled his huge, pulsing organ, then lowered herself onto him. He pushed up into her, feeling the warmth, the heat, and her muscles pulse against him from her own orgasm only a moment before.
She moved up and down onto him, and kissed him, running her tongue inside his mouth, flicking it against his tongue, deepening the kiss.
Chakotay quickly erupted inside her and she moaned into his mouth.
They stayed that way for a bit, and she leaned against him. Their heart beats began to subside and their breathing became more normal.
“I think we should run more water back into this tub,” she whispered, finally.
“Maybe we should just take a sonic shower instead,” he managed to say.
“No, that wouldn’t work,” she said, turning around to activate the water switch again. “I’m too tired to navigate that shower wall right now. And you know we’d have to make love against it, the way we usually do.”
He leaned back and closed his eyes, smiling. Trust him to have a wife with a healthier sexual appetite than he had.
Chakotay felt the warm water close over his lower body, and a soft, gentle hand with a cloth and soap wrap itself around his genitals.
Life didn’t get better than this.
Admiral Kathryn Janeway leaned back in her chair. Her aide, Milan, had just left. After all these years, she was still appreciative of his hard work and attention to detail.
Chakotay was at home with the children, and she was trying to finish up her day so she could join them for dinner.
Kaila and Solomon were twelve years old now, and she couldn’t remember where the years had gone. It seemed as though they were only born a short while ago, and then suddenly they were walking and then talking, and then off to school.
Chakotay was always there for them, helping them, teaching them. Kathryn did what she could when she had the time, and often she felt guilty for her absences. Chakotay always reprimanded her for feeling that way whenever he was aware of it. Someone had to take care of the children, and someone had to fight the aliens, he’d said more than once. They both had their roles, and he was happy with his. He knew she was happy with her choice, too, although sometimes she regretted not seeing those first steps, hearing those first words. She loved her children deeply, but she’d never been the type to stay at home. Thankfully, there was no place Chakotay would rather be than at home with the children.
She sighed and took a sip of the cold coffee in the mug in front of her. It was the very same mug she’d brought home from the Delta Quadrant, her most favorite mug from her ready room. It had held up well over the years, and was a constant reminder to her of all she’d accomplished, and also all she wished she’d accomplished. She had so many bittersweet memories, and this mug was a reminder of them all.
She closed her eyes, relishing in the few moments of peace and quiet she so rarely had these days. But then, when had she ever had peace and quiet?
Her communicator bleeped and she sat forward and touched a button on her console. The face of her loving husband appeared in front of her.
“Hello darling,” she said, smiling.
“I don’t mean to intrude, Kathryn, but I was wondering when you might be coming home.” He smiled back at her. His hair was beginning to gray at the temples and a sexy gray streak brushed across the front of his hair, and if anything, Kathryn found her husband even more attractive as he grew older, as they both grew older.
She felt a warm rush of longing for Chakotay, and that familiar feeling of attraction for him still shot into her belly from nowhere. “I’m finishing up here and should transport home in about half an hour,” she said. They’d long since installed a transporter pad at their log home.
He nodded. “The children are spending the night at the Paris’s. Miral picked them up a little while ago, and I thought maybe you and I could spend some quiet time together this evening.”
“You mean, just you and me?” asked Kathryn, leaning in closer to the monitor. “Alone?” she whispered.
He held up a huge bowl of fresh strawberries, with a grin on his face and a gleam in his eye. “I thought these might come in handy,” he said. “After dinner, of course, for dessert.”
“To hell with dinner,” she said, rising. “I’m on my way.” Just before she severed the connection between them, she leaned over and whispered, “Don’t forget the chocolate sauce, my darling.”
The mountains in the distance were stunning. Kathryn never tired of looking at them from her kitchen window.
Today, a slight fog rose from the valley and the weather was cooler. She pulled her robe tighter around her and took another sip of coffee.
Strong arms wrapped themselves around her waist from behind and she smiled. Warm breath hit her neck and she moved her head to the side to give her husband better access to her neck. He kissed her there and she immediately felt a stirring in her lower abdomen. “Mmmmm,” she said. “Careful – the children will be checking in soon and it wouldn’t do for them to find us in bed.”
Chakotay kissed her ear lobe, then separated the top of her robe to expose her breasts. He took one in each hand and gently rubbed the nipples with his thumbs. “If they don’t call soon, we’ll call them. I want to make love with my wife.”
Those words still had the power to thrill her, let alone the other things he was doing to her. She set her cup down and turned to him. “I love it when you talk that way,” she whispered, her eyes full of desire, and her breasts still exposed to him. He reached down and took a nipple into his mouth. Kathryn gasped.
Just then, the communications system from the other room alerted them to an incoming transmission. “It’s the children,” Kathryn said, pulling her robe closed. “Don’t forget where we were,” she said, kissing him quickly, then picking up her cup of coffee and carrying it with her to the family room. Chakotay followed, smiling.
“Good morning,” said Kathryn to the two faces on the monitor. She sat back on the couch and pulled her feet up under her.
“Mother,” began Kaila immediately, “why do I have to go to that old awful shipyard? I want to go with Miral to her class at Starfleet Academy. She has Quantum Theory today and that’s much more interesting than seeing broken down old starships.” She pouted. At twelve years of age, Kaila was a beauty. She had her mother’s vivid blue eyes, long shiny hair, and her stubborn streak. She was already on a science track, studying hard so she would be accepted at Starfleet Academy herself one day.
“It’s wonderful to see you, too, my dear,” said Kathryn, unfathomed. “Did you sleep well?”
Kaila rolled her eyes. “Yes, Mother. And you?”
“Very well, thank you. Now, have you asked Miral if you may go to class with her?”
“Not yet, but I know she’ll say it’s all right.”
“And have you voiced your preference to Tom and B’Elanna about not wanting to go to the museum at the shipyard?” asked Kathryn conversationally.
“I was going to, but it was suddenly time to call you.”
“I’d suggest you discuss this with all parties involved, and if – and that’s a big ‘if’ – everyone is in agreement, you may go to class with Miral instead. And ‘if’ any one of the three would prefer you stick to the original plan, then you may not go. Understood?” Kathryn punctuated the question with her hand.
“Yes, Mother,” sighed Kaila. Then she looked at her mother with shining eyes and leaned toward the screen. “I know you’d rather study quantum mechanics than go to some old smelly shipyard, too,” she whispered.
“My preferences have nothing to do with today’s discussion,” said Kathryn, with a hint of amusement in her voice.
Kaila laughed. “All right, I’m off. Hi, Daddy!” she called, as she ran from view.
Her brother, who had silently waited until his sister was gone, turned back to the screen. “I hope she gets to go to that old class. Tom and I will have more fun without her anyway.”
Kathryn looked into the eyes of her handsome son, reminded yet again how much he looked like his father. She knew Solomon loved his sister and admired her, and at times Kaila hurt his feelings unwittingly. He recovered quickly, though.
Solomon also admired Tom Paris, and shared Tom’s love for starships. Whereas Kaila was on a fast track for a science post at the Academy, Solomon wanted to go to school to be a pilot. Kathryn and Chakotay were glad both of their children had such well-developed interests they were passionate about.
Chakotay sat beside Kathryn. “I for one can’t imagine sitting in a classroom rather than going to a starship museum,” he said.
Kathryn laughed. “I can. I loved anything to do with quantum mechanics.”
“You still do, Mom,” said Solomon, shaking his head. “Hey, Dad, Tom said later today he’d take me to see the newest prototype he’s getting next month to test out.” His eyes gleamed with excitement.
“You can tell me all about it tonight,” said Chakotay.
“And Mom, Tom was telling me stories again about when you were captain of Voyager.” He grinned and the dimples appeared in his cheeks, just like his father’s.
“I wouldn’t believe everything you hear from Tom about that,” said Kathryn. “That was a long time ago.”
“You were some great captain, Mom! Tom said you were the very best. Oh, and next year at school we’re going to study about when you were all lost in the Delta Quadrant and how you brought all sorts of information back from there, and how it helped out the Federation.”
Kathryn felt a lump in her throat. Even today, when she thought about her crew on Voyager, and how they’d worked side-by-side with her to get their ship home again, she could become emotional about it. Strange how, at the time, it was much more unemotional for her than it was now. Then, it was a matter of survival. “Well, that should be interesting,” she managed to say.
“Okay, well I’ll go see when we’re leaving now. B’Elanna said she’d bring us home in time for dinner.” He leaned forward. “She’s driving a little runabout this week that leaves everything else kilometers behind her!”
Kathryn leaned forward. “Have fun, my dear, and tell Tom and B’Elanna ‘hello’ from your dad and me. We’ll see you this evening.”
“Okay, ‘bye Mom, ‘bye Dad!” He reached over and terminated the communications, and Kathryn did the same.
Taking a deep breath, Kathryn put her empty coffee cup on the table beside her, and stood to face her husband.
“Now,” she said sexily, as she put her arms around his neck. “Where were we?”
Admiral Janeway dumped her cup of cold coffee into the recycler. Commander Ed Jamison was due to see her at any moment, having requested a brief meeting with her, and she still had a lot of work to do. She stared out her sixth floor office window and watched the cadets run for their afternoon classes across the courtyard. How had it suddenly been so long since she’d done the same thing? Where had the time gone?
Shaking her head, she turned from the window. Her doorbell chimed.
“Come,” said Admiral Janeway, and Commander Jamison walked into her office. He stood at attention, which he rarely did in her presence unless it was a formal occasion. She decided to continue the conversation as admiral to commander, then, since he’d set the tone for the meeting. “You asked to see me, Commander,” she said. She wanted to ask him to sit and have coffee with her, but evidently that wasn’t on the agenda for today. Fine then. “What’s on your mind?”
He didn’t look her in the eye when he spoke. “Admiral, I have agreed to accept a post under Captain Neumatti on the USS Algerian. I wanted to inform you myself rather than have you hear it from him.” He stood even straighter, if that were possible, and Janeway heard a catch in his voice.
Kathryn Janeway thought she had seen and heard it all over the years, but this truly surprised her. She couldn’t help but have that surprise make itself known when she spoke. “I don’t understand, Edward,” she said. “I thought you were happy in your current duties.”
He nodded sharply. “Yes, Ma’am.”
She didn’t correct him. “Is there something else I should know then?” She couldn’t imagine what had happened, evidently when she wasn’t looking. When had Edward become dissatisfied under her command? And then another thought occurred to her. “Edward, if you thought I wouldn’t help you further your Starfleet career, you’re wrong about that. I would have done everything in my power to…”
“Yes, I am aware of that, Admiral.” He swallowed hard. “And I appreciate that.”
“Then I don’t understand,” she said. Although he obviously didn’t want to talk about his reasons for leaving, she had to know what had happened when she was looking the other way. “Please tell me why you requested a change. I need to know,” she said in a tone that, she hoped, conveyed her feelings of friendship for him.
“Permission to speak freely,” she said, interrupting him. He might want to keep this conversation on a professional level, but she needed more than that from him just now.
He inhaled deeply. He should have known this would be even more difficult than he’d imagined. He’d hoped beyond hope that she would allow him to keep this professional, but he should have known better. Admiral Kathryn Janeway wasn’t always the most orthodox commanding officer, but in his opinion she was the best he’d ever seen.
“Admiral, I…I simply feel the need for a change.” There. Maybe that would satisfy her, at least for now.
“That’s not good enough,” she said.
He took another deep breath. Of course it wasn’t, not for her. She wasn’t going to let him off the hook. And he wouldn’t lie to her, he couldn’t do that. “I…”
“Out with it,” she said, sitting on the edge of her desk. Now that she was past the initial shock of his words, she wouldn’t let him out of her office without a full explanation. She’d thought everything was fine, but if he was so dissatisfied that he was leaving, then he must have been unhappy for a long time. She saw a resigned look cross his face, and knew he was trying to form his thoughts. She waited.
He decided to try one more distraction. “I have enjoyed serving under you, Admiral, but…”
She shook her head and waved his excuse away with her hand. “Not good enough. I want the truth. All of it.”
He sighed and relaxed his stance just a bit. This was it then. She wouldn’t let him go until he told her. “I’m falling in love with you, Admiral.” He knew that would be enough.
The truth hit her as quickly as a shuttlecraft jumping to warp speed. The look on her face showed the dawning of a truth that had been in front of her for several years, one that she had overlooked, probably intentionally. All the late nights of working together, dinners eaten together at the office when there was still work to be done, the usual closeness that came when two people who enjoyed each other’s company worked on a project for an extended period of time. Now, too, she remembered the look in his eyes on more than one occasion as he said good-night or left for the day. She should have recognized that look – it was the same one she’d seen on Chakotay’s face so often, during those years in the Delta Quadrant.
Kathryn rose and walked to the window. She sighed. Yes, she should have seen it. She’d worked closely with Chakotay on Voyager for seven years and had felt an enormous attraction for him every time they were together. That fire had burned between them, only becoming stronger over the years. She knew the kind of strength it took to ignore it. And although Edward Jamison was a very handsome man, she felt no physical attraction for him, and had therefore ignored any hint of his attraction for her. She was so used to being a captain or an admiral that she never thought of herself as a woman when it came to her duties to Starfleet Command. Over the years, only Chakotay had had the power to make her feel like a woman. Only Chakotay had that power today.
She pulled herself back to the present, realizing that Edward was still standing at attention behind her. She turned to him. She saw his face and knew he was extremely miserable. “I understand,” she said softly. “Thank you for telling me.”
He nodded slightly. “Permission to leave, Admiral.”
Yes, he was miserable, all right. All he wanted was to escape. “Granted.”
Commander Jamison turned to go.
“Edward,” she called, before he could leave.
He turned back with effort. “Admiral?”
“For what it’s worth, I’m flattered,” she said softly.
He took a deep breath. “Thank you, Admiral,” he said, relief and respect apparent in his voice.
There was nothing else to say for either of them. Janeway nodded and Edward Jamison left her office.
Kathryn was glad she had put a commendation in Jamison’s file just last week. He was a fine first officer and would do well under Captain Neumatti’s command. She was also pleased that he’d behaved in an ethical way by putting distance between her and him. She sighed heavily. “Computer, coffee. Black,” she said.
Unfortunately, she also now had a vacancy to fill. She would undoubtedly have an abundance of fresh young faces wanting to work under her, and she would have to take the time to sort through them all and get to know the final candidates. She shook her head and headed for the replicator.
Raising the mug to her lips, she took a quick sip and breathed in the fresh aroma she never grew tired of. Ah…there was nothing like a fresh cup of coffee. Somehow it made even the most difficult tasks a little easier.
Moving back to her desk, she thought about her husband, at home with their growing children – the family she had to leave behind every day. It occurred to her that if she told Chakotay what had happened just now with Commander Jamison, he wouldn’t be surprised in the least. But things like this always caught her off-guard.
Perhaps if she concentrated on finding a female first officer next time….but no. The sex or race of her first officer wouldn’t necessarily matter. She’d seen the development of every sort of relationship possible – from a hologram and ex-Borg to a human and half-human/half-Klingon. She smiled. Yes, one could say she’d seen plenty in her lifetime so far. Hopefully, there was a lot more ahead of her.
It was time to get back to work.
Admiral Janeway leaned back in her chair in her office at Starfleet Command. All these years later, she still went on an occasional mission and loved it, but for the most, part things were interesting enough right here in San Francisco. Besides, she loved being within transporter range of home.
She watched her daughter on the small communications screen on her desk, as she tried to explain to her mother why it would all right for her to go off on a weekend trip with her friends to Neptune.
“Tremen and Nalantria are both excellent hikers and swimmers, Mother…” said Kaila.
“I’m sure they are, but you know you are not allowed to go so far away on an unsupervised trek across foreign territory.”
“You did, when you were my age,” Kaila said, her jaw jutting out in defiance.
“Ah, so I did. But you are much more intelligent than I ever was,” said Kathryn, smiling at her daughter. She’d been expecting this bit of argument from her.
Kaila sighed dramatically. “Please, Mother, I’m eighteen years old.”
“I am perfectly aware of your age, my dear. The answer is ‘no’ – as you knew it would be when you contacted me.”
Kaila sighed. “Well, I tried.” Then she brightened. “If you’re going to be home this weekend, Mother, would you help me with my paper on compact halo objects? Miral said you know everything there is to know about them, and that you actually went on a mission with Admiral Paris, Tom’s dad, a long time ago, and studied them.”
Kathryn sighed at her daughter's reminder of how quickly time passed them all by. Yes, it was a long time ago indeed. She still couldn’t figure out where the years had gone. Soon, the remaining Voyager crew would celebrate their 20th anniversary since reaching home again. It was still bittersweet for Kathryn. People congratulated her each year at the annual celebratory dinner, but too often she was reminded more of the disappointments and the losses along the way than she was proud of her accomplishments as their captain.
“Of course I’ll help you, dear,” said Kathryn, shaking her head to bring herself back to the present. “But I think you’ll find you need much less of my help than you think. By the way, how is your junior thesis paper coming?” Kathryn often thought her daughter heaped too much on her plate at one time, but then, so had her mother.
“It’s going fine, Mother – I have to run now. I have old Reg Barclay’s class in a few minutes and he gets terribly upset if we’re late,” said Kaila, reaching down for her book bag as she finished her conversation with her mother.
“I don’t blame him,” said Admiral Janeway, smiling.
“Oh, Mother, he’s such a curmudgeon.”
Janeway laughed. Her daughter had a love for words everyone else had nearly forgotten existed. “I’ll see you at home this weekend, my dear. Tell old Reg your mother sends her regards.” She blew a kiss at her daughter’s face on the screen, and Kaila did the same. “’Bye Mom!” She terminated the transmission and was gone.
Kathryn leaned back in her chair and picked up her cup of coffee.
Time had a way of slipping by, whether one was ready for it or not.
She glanced at the chronometer across the room. Chakotay would be back home from his spiritual conference any time now. Since the children were older, he volunteered his services more often than he used to, and she hadn’t seen him for nearly a week. The log cabin was so lonely without him.
She reached for the nearest padd and began to plough through the work still on her desk. By 18:00 hours she was transporting home to see her husband, come hell or high water.
Thoughts of her husband’s hands and lips on her body made a shiver run up her spine.
Perhaps if she worked diligently she could get home sooner.
The meeting had ended sooner than she’d expected, and Kathryn Janeway was looking forward to transporting home and slipping on something comfortable, then spending the entire weekend with her husband, building fires in the fireplace, eating strawberries and making love.
The day was bleak and cool, and both Solomon and Kaila had plans with their own families this weekend.
Kathryn smiled, thinking about the wonderful young man who had married her daughter. He was calm and patient, and when he looked at Kaila the world was at his feet. He was madly in love with her, and she him. He steadied her, and brought her daughter a dose of reality whenever she needed it. She, on the other hand, kept his life interesting.
Kaila was a scientist, and a part of a team headed up by Reg Barclay, of all people. Kaila had complained about him the most when he was her instructor at the Academy, and yet she was pleased and honored when he’d invited her to join his team of specialists who were working on a way to thaw out a section of the Takara Sector near the Delta Quadrant borders. A large part of that sector was frozen with ice and yet the land so far beneath it was rich in minerals that could be used by many societies. This special team of scientists was hard at work, trying to overcome the many problems involved in thawing so much ice it could flood a good part of the quadrant for years to come.
Kathryn Janeway shook her head. Her daughter was brilliant and energetic, and thirty-two years old now.
Her son was equally brilliant, but quiet natured like his father. Both children had learned much about tradition and Chakotay’s family, and Solomon had chosen to wear the same tattoo as his father. Tears still came to her eyes when she recalled the day he’d returned home from a spiritual retreat, twenty two years old, and wearing his father’s tribal tattoo on his forehead.
Both she and Chakotay had cried with joy, embarrassing Solomon, but he was happy, too, that his parents were proud of his decision, and his commitment.
Kathryn remembered most how much he’d looked like his father that day.
Solomon’s wife was a young dark-haired beauty with big dark eyes. She loved Solomon, and appreciated him, as he did her.
Kathryn could ask for no better mate for either of her children. Whether they gave her and Chakotay grandchildren or not was entirely up to them. Women were bearing children later and later in life these days, so they had plenty of time to decide.
Kathryn Janeway would be 80 years old in May, and time flew harder and faster with each passing year. When she complained to the Doctor about growing older, he would remind her how lucky she was to live in a time when it wasn’t unusual to live to the ripe old age of 150. And she, at nearly 80, was healthy and strong, and looked to be what terran women in their early 50’s looked like back in the 21st Century.
He thought this bit of trivia would make her feel better, but then of course he would never age and couldn’t understand what it was like.
Kathryn ordered another cup of coffee from the replicator. The Doctor had also brought up the coffee thing again when she went for her annual physical just last week. She’d smiled and said she was certain that it was the coffee that was keeping her so young-looking and fit. For once, he had said nothing in response.
It was getting close to the end of the year Earth holidays and Starfleet Command was shutting down early. The colorful twinkling lights glowed from the building across the way. To hell with it, she thought, dumping the remainder of her coffee in the recycler. She was going home early, too.
Just as she was getting ready to tell the computer to dim the lights in her office, her communications system signaled a call. She touched the keypad, and B’Elanna Torres Paris’s face appeared. She was older, too, but regal and strong. She was still a part-time advisor and negotiator between Starfleet and the Klingon home world, and the amount of patience she’d garnered over the years never ceased to amaze Admiral Janeway, who recalled the hot-tempered half/human, half/Klingon Maquis woman she’d first come to know.
B’Elanna had developed patience, yes, but so had they all. Time truly leveled.
Perhaps a part of that patience was a result of having a daughter with Klingon blood running through her veins, too. Thankfully, Tom Paris had weathered that household well, and still loved his wife and daughter without compromise.
Admiral Janeway immediately had a sinking feeling in the part of her stomach when she saw the look in B’Elanna’s eyes. The last time she’d seen that look was forty years ago, when her head engineer on Voyager told her they would have to eject the warp core. “What is it, B’Elanna?” she asked. She’d never been one to exchange unnecessary pleasantries.
“It’s Seven, Admiral,” said “B’Elanna. She, like her husband, always had trouble calling her old captain by her given name, and after a time no one thought anything about it anymore.
“Seven?” Her voice was a whisper, but her heart rate increased.
Seven of Nine and the Doctor had remained happily married, but then nearly four years ago Seven had developed an incurable disease caused by a pathogen the Doctor found in her bloodstream. It apparently originated from one of the many species the Borg had assimilated while Seven was still part of the Collective. The disease had remained dormant until it suddenly became active, for no apparent reason.
For the past four years, the Doctor had spent most of his time researching a way to cure his wife from the disease that would undoubtedly kill her. To date, he'd been unsuccessful in even determining what it was he was dealing with.
“She’s gone,” said B’Elanna. “I just spoke with the Doctor.” B’Elanna and the Doctor had remained close throughout the years, a bond that had begun in earnest when B’Elanna first asked him to be Miral’s godfather all those years ago on Voyager.
Kathryn Janeway sat down slowly in her chair. Another of her crew gone, this time Seven. She felt the shock, even though Seven had been ill for a long time. One never got used to losing family members. “How is the Doctor?” she asked.
“He’s trying to put on a brave face,” said B’Elanna. “But I know he’s hurting badly.”
Kathryn nodded. “I was just on my way out; I’ll stop by and see him on the way home.”
“Admiral,” said B’Elanna hesitantly, “the Doctor will ask you to officiate at the service. I just want to give you fair warning, in case it’s something you hadn’t considered.”
Janeway sat back. No, she hadn’t considered it, and now she realized she’d never even allowed herself to think about Seven’s eventual death at all. She took a deep breath. “Thank you for letting me know, B’Elanna.”
B’Elanna nodded. “I’ll see you soon, Admiral.” She severed the connection, and Janeway sighed.
The family was leaving this world slowly, one by one.
She wondered, not for the first time, if they would all gather together again someday in the spirit world. Chakotay was, of course, convinced of it, and though she tried to have his faith and share his convictions, she was still a scientist at heart. And scientists needed facts to set the record straight.
She stood and started for the door. “Computer, dim lights.”
She started out, head held high, ready to assist the Doctor in any way she could. She would contact Chakotay on the way.
The funeral service was short and simple, which was how Seven had wanted it to be.
The only people present were the Doctor and the senior staff from Voyager, as well as a few of the other crewmembers who had been close to Seven – as close as it was possible to be to Seven.
Everyone was well aware that there were no new friends from the past years among them. Seven had loved and married the Doctor, and had thrown herself into her work at Starfleet. Even though she'd left her Borg years behind, a part of her was always mindful of who she'd been. She'd never made friends easily after Voyager returned from the Delta Quadrant, and had remained reserved and cautious.
And there were those, of course, who'd never allowed her to forget she was once Borg.
Admiral Janeway spoke about the old days on Voyager – something everyone present would remember – and the young Borg woman who had become a human woman, a friend, a great help to Starfleet over the years, and the Doctor’s loving wife.
The Doctor’s program had expanded and evolved so much that it was difficult to even remember that he was a hologram. There was no visible holo-emitter these days, either. A new device had long been implanted beneath his holographic endoskeleton, giving him the freedom to come and go as he pleased.
Today, the Doctor cried for his wife, for his love, and for the eternity that he would be alone without her.
Mortality was fleeting. If anyone had doubted it before, they no longer
Admiral Kathryn Janeway stood at the kitchen window and looked at the lovely mountains in the distance. They never changed, and were as lovely as they’d always been.
Unfortunately, as time slid by, other things did change. And there was nothing she could do about it.
Chakotay had been ill a long time now, and there was nothing more frustrating for Kathryn Janeway than to not be able to make him better, to help him in some way.
He told her all he needed was for her to be there so he could look at her beautiful face, and to hold her hand.
Tears sprang to her eyes, but they did that a lot these days. No one knew it, of course – even her children thought she was still strong, still a fighter. She refused to show anyone just how weak and devastated she truly was.
The Doctor came from the bedroom, closing the door behind him. Kathryn turned.
“How is he, Doctor?” It was the same question; only the answers changed for the worse.
The Doctor shook his head. “I’m afraid I have no good news, Admiral.”
She nodded and turned back to the window with her mug of Vulcan tea. “How long?”
“I’m not sure – a few days, maybe less.”
She nodded again, knowing he would see her acknowledgement. She just couldn’t speak right now.
“Admiral,” said the Doctor softly, “He’s had a good life. I know that’s not very comforting right now, but he is one hundred and four years old.”
Yes, she knew that. And until four months ago, he was still strong, still working in the garden, still making love with his wife, and still traveling to spiritual conferences whenever he wanted to attend. And then suddenly he’d become ill….
She was over one hundred years old herself. The Doctor constantly reminded her that she was healthy, but she should slow down a bit. Starfleet Command could do without her once-in-a-while.
Well, now they were doing without her while she tended to her husband. And somehow she didn't miss it, didn't want to go back to work or back out into space. The thrill, and that insatiable quest for answers to life's unanswered questions just didn't seem as important anymore.
Her husband was dying, and nothing else mattered.
“Thank you for your diligence, Doctor,” she said, putting on her long-standing command façade.
“It goes without saying, but call me at any time, Admiral,” said the Doctor, wishing he could do more for her, and of course for Chakotay, but Chakotay’s time was near. No one knew it better than Chakotay.
The Doctor also knew that Chakotay’s imminent death was much more difficult for Kathryn Janeway to accept than for Chakotay himself. While Chakotay was emotionally ready for his spiritual journey, his final journey, his wife – ever the scientist and doubter – was having a much more difficult time of it all. And the Doctor knew Chakotay was concerned about leaving his wife behind even though he knew he would have to do it soon.
“I’ll return tomorrow, Admiral," said the Doctor.
She put her cup down and walked the Doctor to the door, where his hovermobile waited just outside. “Thank you, Doctor,” she said.
“You’re welcome." The Doctor glanced at her. She was exhausted and heart sick. And there wasn’t a thing he could do for her. His vast medical database had its limitations, even in this day and age. He couldn't doctor the woman who had had more influence in his life than anyone else, who had given him life, in a sense. When everyone else had treated him as though he were nothing more than a program, this woman, as captain, had given him the right, the privilege, of being able to activate and deactivate his own program on Voyager.
And that had been only the beginning.
He touched the admiral’s arm. “Call me if you need anything, Admiral.”
She nodded, and he left.
Kathryn shut the door behind him and leaned against it. She needed a moment to compose herself before going in to see Chakotay. She wouldn’t break down, wouldn’t let him know how poorly she was faring through all of this. He was dying, and they both knew it.
But she would be fine.
Admiral Kathryn Janeway of Starfleet Command and the United Federation of Planets would be just fine.
Kathryn rested her head against the chair. Chakotay was asleep, finally, and she was sitting here to be near him. He had fallen asleep holding her hand. She glanced at the dried peace rose that rested between glass and inside a simple rosewood frame on the nightstand. Chakotay had kept the peace rose she'd given him years ago back on Voyager. She smiled at the memory.
She'd kept the one he gave her long before that, too. It still lie between the covers of her favorite book of poetry, "La Vita Nuova."
She immediately leaned forward. "What is it, my darling?" she whispered.
He squeezed her hand. Chakotay was pale, and weak, but he had his wits about him, and he smiled a tired smile at his wife. "How long have we been married now?" he whispered.
"A long, long time, my dear husband," she said, kissing his hand and fighting back the tears. "But I think I've known you forever."
"You finally understand then."
She smiled. "About the spirit world, and how we'll be together in another place someday?"
"Soon, Kathryn. I'll be there soon, and I'll wait for you."
The tears fell down her cheeks; she couldn't hold them back any longer. "Oh my darling…"
He reached up to wipe her tears away. "Don't cry, Kathryn. It's time for me to go, for me to continue the next part of my journey alone. But then you will join me. It will happen the same as our time in this life, where we begin alone, and then find each other. But the next life will last forever."
"I'm trying to believe that, Chakotay. I desperately need to believe it now."
"Open your mind, Kathryn. Your heart is open, as is your soul. Now open your mind and you will believe it."
She shut her eyes and nodded.
"I've always loved you, Kathryn. It was always you, even before we met."
"So you've always said," she whispered.
"It's true." He lifted her chin so she would meet his eyes. "I'll see you again soon, my love."
And with that, Chakotay closed his eyes for the last time.
Kathryn laid her head against his chest and cried. She cried for all they'd had, all they would never have again, and for the possibility of a new life with him in some other world, some other time. She had to believe it would happen, for the very thought that she would never be with Chakotay again was too much to bear.
When she could move again, function again, she dried her tears and summoned the Doctor.
He arrived quickly.
Kathryn Janeway spoke to both children briefly after their father died, then requested she be left alone until the funeral.
For two days she secluded herself in the log cabin Chakotay had built, and where they had lived together and raised their children.
There had never been anyone else for Kathryn Janeway but Chakotay, and though she'd been alone for those seven years on Voyager, so long ago, she'd never been truly alone since the moment she met Chakotay.
The one thing she truly believed was that he was indeed her soul mate. If a scientist by nature could believe that much, she could also believe she would be with him again.
He'd always been there for her. He'd steadied her, and picked her up when she stumbled. He was her touchstone.
And now, for the first time since knowing him, she was without him.
Chakotay was cremated, and the memorial service was short. As with Seven's funeral, only a handful of invited people were in attendance. It had been Chakotay's final request.
Tuvok was there, having made his first trip from Vulcan in many years. He was quite old, but well in mind and spirit. Janeway thanked him for attending.
"It is my honor to attend Chakotay's passing from this world into the next, Admiral," he said.
She nodded. She could tell this trip was taking a toll on her old friend's physical endurance. He, too, would be gone soon. The tears pushed at her eyelids as they'd done all day, but she forced them back as she'd learned to do long ago, in her early life and career with Starfleet.
"Thank you again, Old Friend, for everything," she whispered to Tuvok, just before his youngest son helped him back to the shuttlecraft that would take them to the transporter, and home.
She knew she would never see Tuvok again.
Seeing Tuvok go now for the last time, and knowing she wouldn't have her husband to go home to, was the loneliest moment of Kathryn Janeway's entire life. Her roots were gone, the very ground she had stood on for most of her life, was washed away forever.
Kathryn got through the rest of the day the only way she knew how – with a brave front, and kind words of appreciation to her friends and family. Her children offered to return to the log cabin with her, to keep her company, to stay the night perhaps. She declined their offer, telling them to go to their own families. She would be fine.
Right now, she just wanted to be alone.
After Chakotay's funeral, Kathryn Janeway returned to their home.
She stopped her shuttlecraft just outside the log cabin Chakotay had built with his own hands so many years before. It had always been a beacon in her life, the one place she could come home to, where peace and love always awaited her.
This is where her heart had lived, with Chakotay. They’d raised their children here, the two grown children who had stood beside her at their father’s funeral today, and who made her proud. They had turned out well, two stubborn, strong individuals who were bound together by blood, and that other indescribable connection that twins always seem to have.
Solomon was so much like his father that, today, it had wrenched her heart at the same time it had warmed her. And even Kathryn had recognized her own firm, strong chin in Kaila as she’d said her own good-bye to her father.
They were both dealing with Chakotay’s death the best way they knew how.
She walked slowly toward the front door, but turned to visit her Talaxian garden on the far side of the house first, where the sun warmed her tomatoes each morning. She had no desire to go inside yet, to walk into the house without her husband.
Kneeling, she pushed back the deep green leaves that were a part of the Talaxian tomato vine, and smiled when she saw the three new deep red tomatoes at the base of the plant. She pulled one and rubbed the dirt off with her hands.
Moving around to the front of the house again, she sat on the front step, and took a bite of the oval-shaped tomato. How sweet it is, she thought, this wonderful vegetable that she’d first learned to grow so long ago on New Earth. She smiled through the tears that came to her eyes. It was sweet then, too, her life there with her then-first officer. He’d been kind and attentive, and had made her a bathtub. That above everything else, had told her how he felt about her at the time. But that was a very long time ago.
She stood, and took a deep breath. The trees were perfect, and the sun was beginning to retreat for the day. Chakotay’s service had been lovely, she thought. B’Elanna had done a wonderful job of eulogizing him. Bold and brave half-Klingon that she was, she had nearly broken down before she finished. No one would have thought less of her; she and Chakotay had been friends well before the Caretaker had thrown them all into the Delta Quadrant so far back that it seemed surreal to her now.
She took a last bite of the tomato and threw the remains into the trees. Some other small being would finish it there – probably the ground squirrel she’d seen in that vicinity earlier today. She recalled how Neelix had been so proud all those years ago, when she told him via the newly-established communications system to the Delta Quadrant that she was teaching her young children the fine art of growing Talaxian tomatoes here on Earth.
Back when audio-visual contact had finally grown to include the Delta Quadrant, she and Neelix had engaged in bi-monthly updates, until he and his family were killed in an uprising on his planet fourteen years ago. She still mourned him. During their last conversation, when she told him she was sending some up-to-date medical supplies to him, his last words to her had been: “You’ll never know how much you mean to me, Admiral.” It was as though instinct had told him he would never speak with her again.
Although Neelix had loved his family dearly, she also knew that a part of him never forgot Kes. They would speak of her often, and in that way, kept her alive in their hearts. He had loved her; they had all loved her.
Life took its toll; with age came the loss of those near and dear. It was inevitable, but never, never easy. Kathryn Janeway had lost her father, her mother, her sister. She’d lost Kes and Neelix, Admiral Paris, Jean-Luc Picard. She’d been friend or family to them all. Seven of Nine had been special to her, as well, and the Doctor was still devastated by her death, all these years later.
The Voyager family was dwindling, one by one. After they’d arrived home from the Delta Quadrant, her feeling of responsibility toward that crew had never quite dissipated. Over the years, she’d attended every funeral that came up, and visited many of the new children born from the people who had made up that crew. Each and every one of them still lived in her heart; she knew she had gotten Voyager home again because of the concentrated efforts of everyone aboard Voyager, and not alone. A starship captain couldn’t do it alone, no matter who he or she was. And every time she’d felt like the captain on a voyage to nowhere, all she had to do was remind herself of her crew's needs, and a new determination would set in.
Shaking her head, she brought her attention back to the present. All of that was far behind her now.
Today had been her most difficult day. Funerals seemed to invite everyone to try to put a life into perspective, and it was just impossible to do. Today, she’d looked into the sad faces of some who had served aboard Voyager, and felt that sense of family again. They would always have a bond no one else could appreciate or tear apart.
She knew a lot of Voyager's old crew wanted to attend Chakotay's services, but he'd told her they could remember him as he used to be – healthy and strong. She told him she wanted the same kind of service upon her death, but Chakotay shook his head. "No, Kathryn," he'd said. "You are living history, a part of Starfleet history, and the captain who brought her ship home. That will never change. Your funeral will be what you have always been – larger than life." She had only smiled. As the years passed, all of that meant less and less to her.
She’d expected to see most of her senior staff today, but knowing how ill Tuvok had been lately, she was initially surprised to see him there. Of course, no matter how much pain he was in, no one knew it. He hadn’t been outside his home on Vulcan in over twelve years, but had stood throughout the ceremony today as any Vulcan would – calm, serene, unmoving. He had come to show his respects for Chakotay. His presence had brought her a bit of peace, even as she'd known she would never see Tuvok again.
Had it all been worth it, she wondered for the umpteenth time – the sweet, the bittersweet, the glory, the lessons learned along the way? Then she smiled. Of course it had. The friendships, the family that had come together on Voyager, the journey – yes, it had all been worthwhile.
It was about the journey after all, and never the destination.
Just being with Chakotay and sharing a life with him had made it all worthwhile.
She took a deep breath and walked back to her new, sleek hovermobile, and lifted out the urn that held Chakotay’s ashes. The tears clouded her vision, but there was one more thing she had to do today, and then she could rest.
Carrying the urn with her, she walked around the log cabin and up the familiar knoll she and Chakotay had climbed so many times before. Standing before the view they had loved for so long, she recalled their first sweet kiss in this very spot. Chakotay had brought her here to show her why he would never leave, and she’d understood immediately. She’d known this was the place where his soul was content.
Taking a deep breath and swallowing the burning lump in her throat, Kathryn Janeway opened the urn she’d carried with her, then took a step closer to the edge of the cliff and released Chakotay’s ashes over the side of the mountain. Her very soul seemed to leave her body to join his, as the wind gently grabbed Chakotay's ashes and moved them along to their final resting place. Her ever-venturesome spirit, that life-long insatiable desire to boldly go, to seek out things she'd not known before, suddenly became peaceful inside her. That very part of her was gone, along with Chakotay. Without him, nothing else had meaning. Her heart was with him, and always would be, no matter where he was.
As she watched his ashes catch in the wind and move away from her, she thought about their life together, and how Chakotay had always been convinced they were each other’s Destiny. She smiled through her tears. She agreed, especially now. Their life together had been good, and she wouldn’t change a day of it, even if she went back in time – again.
They had been thrown together in a galaxy far away, over 50 years ago. They’d experienced seven years together as friends and commanding officers prior to returning to Earth and starting a new life together in a different way – as lovers, life partners and parents. They’d explored previously unexplored territories in the Delta Quadrant, and equally unexplored territories in their own lives right here on Earth.
Admiral Kathryn Janeway was in all the history books, and Voyager was a museum on the grounds of the Presidio. She’d had a wonderful husband and two children who meant more to her than she had ever imagined possible. Her life had meaning, and history was secure. What more could she have wanted, after all? What more could there have been?
Twenty minutes later, she was still standing regally near the edge of the cliff, watching the sun begin its descent on the distant mountain. How she and Chakotay had loved the view from here! It was in this very spot that they’d shared their first incredible kiss after returning from the Delta Quadrant so long ago, and where they’d returned to talk or be close, or even make love, over the years since. They were both drawn here, to this place where their souls felt at peace.
Chakotay once told her he wouldn't trade today for a tomorrow that might never come. But right now she would trade all of her tomorrows for just one day of the past – one day that she’d shared with him.
One tear worked its way loose and ran down her left cheek, the way it had done that day so long ago, on that special planet where her beloved first expressed his love for her in the only way he knew how at the time. She still recalled the story of the beautiful woman warrior as well today as when he first told it to her.
Suddenly, she was very tired. She turned from the view and looked back at the cabin where she'd spent the most wonderful days of her life, with her loving husband and children. Even though she’d known this day was coming, it had been terribly emotional all the same.
It was becoming cool, she realized, and the sun was beginning to set in the evening sky. She had been reminiscing about a love who had gone on ahead of her to a new place of peace, but Chakotay’s ashes were long gone now. They had danced in the wind, and fallen to rest over the peaceful valley below.
Standing to her full height, she looked out over the valley once more. "Good-bye, my darling," she whispered. "We won't be apart for long," and then she smiled at a distant memory of the young darkly handsome rogue Maquis she’d first met and fallen in love with so very long ago.
Kathryn turned and walked back to the cabin. She went automatically to the kitchen, where she had gathered with her husband and children over the years to tell stories and just be together.
After putting water on to boil, she picked up a photo of Captain Janeway and her first officer, Chakotay, from a small shelf on the wall, and smiled. The Doctor had taken it three years after Voyager had become lost in the Delta Quadrant, during one of the celebrations Neelix had thrown on Voyager.
The holo-imager had caught the captain and commander gazing into each other's eyes in one of those rare moments aboard ship, when for a split second the captain had let her guard down.
The Doctor had taken several images that evening. Later, when he realized just what he'd captured in this one, he put the image away, knowing full well what someone like Tom Paris would do with it. Years later, he had given it to Kathryn Janeway and Chakotay as a wedding gift. It was one of her most prized possessions.
She turned off the tea kettle. Chakotay had been right – the best coffee came from an old-fashioned coffee maker and the best tea came from boiling water on an old-fashioned stove, and not from a replicator. She took out a mug and a can of fresh Vulcan tea leaves, then stopped. A small smile tugged at her face. She didn't turn, but withdrew a second mug from the cupboard. “Tea, Q?"
Q stepped forward and sighed dramatically. "Oh, fine. But I was hoping for something a little stronger, Kathy." He moved into the room. "Ever since you gave me that Tennessee whisky all those years ago, I've developed quite an affection for it."
She finished making the tea, then took a bottle out of the cabinet above her and poured a shot into each mug. She turned and handed one to Q. "Thank you for coming," she said softly.
"I don’t understand how you’ve come to know when I’m in the same room with you, Kathy. Somehow I’ve lost my ability to amaze and astound you with my sudden appearances,” he said. “You’ve taken all the fun out of it, you know.” Even though he scoffed, his voice still held the respect and affection for her that he’d always felt. No one could top her in his book.
"I've come to feel your presence, Q," she said.
"Oh, I feel so fortunate! You can 'feel' my presence the way you could always 'feel' when Chuckles was around."
She didn't miss a beat. "Well, it's not quite the same thing."
Q looked to the heavens in exasperation, then followed her into the living room. Kathryn sat in her favorite spot on the couch, and Q took a seat on the chair near it. He noticed the bouquet of wildflowers he'd once given to her children, the symbol of his gift of happiness to them, over the mantle of the fireplace.
"Were you at the funeral earlier?" she asked. She sounded tired and Q knew how very much it took to tire her, even today – all these years after he first got to know her. Of course, the years seemed like so much more to her, he knew. To him it was a mere blink of an eye in a very long timeline.
"Of course I was there. I had to see Chuckles off," he said. "Although it did occur to me that it was strange for me to do so when I didn't even attend Jean Luc's funeral."
"Oh really? Why didn’t you?" she asked, glad for Q's comfortable companionship at a time when everyone else wanted to dote on her. She had turned down Tom and B'Elanna's offer to come home with her, as well as her children's, thinking she'd only wanted to be alone. She just didn't have the strength to put on a brave front right now. But with Q, it was different. He expected nothing from her that she wasn't able to give.
She looked pale, Q thought, but today had taken a toll, after all. "Everyone from the Enterprise was so distraught, Kathy, it was embarrassing to be around them. I mean, Riker cried like a baby for a solid week! Can you imagine!"
Janeway nodded. "I understand. A death in the family is difficult for everyone." She looked into Q's eyes. "Thank you for coming to Chakotay's funeral, Q."
Q nodded, because suddenly he couldn't talk. When he saw in her face that it truly meant a lot to her, he felt a strange sort of tightness in his throat. Even after all this time, he was still discovering odd things about this human form. "I regret the day I became so fond of humans anyway," Q continued after he figured out how to speak again, and trying to change the direction this conversation seemed to be taking. "They just aren't around long enough to truly enjoy."
"True. But some of life’s most precious moments are just that – moments." She smiled sadly, and they were both quiet for a time. "I'll go soon, Q," she said in a soft, yet somehow strong, voice. "Will you be at my funeral, as well?"
"This conversation is becoming a real laugh-a-minute, Kathy. I came here to cheer you up."
"You did not – you came here to check up on me, to see how I'm holding up," she said, in that challenging voice he'd grown fond of over the years.
"Humph. Well, you wouldn't let anyone else come back here with you, so I decided to do so without asking." He glanced at her, still not liking the fact that she wasn't herself today. Of course he knew why, but he just didn't like seeing her this way – without spunk, without….spirit.
"No, I didn't want anyone to come home with me," she said, shaking her head and looking down at the mug of tea in her hands. "No matter what happens, everyone still expects me to be 'captain' or 'admiral' in the face of adversity, even today. Even my children expect me to be strong. And I just wanted to be alone, and to come home to the one place where I don't have to be.” She looked at Q. “But I'm glad you're here, Q. With you, I don't have to be someone I'm not."
"But you are strong in the face of adversity, Kathy, even this one. It's not something you choose to be or not to be – to quote an author Jean-Luc and I always appreciated – it's not something you simply turn on or off. It's who you are, what you are."
She never expected this from Q. "Thank you," she whispered.
"You're welcome. Now let's talk about something else." He really couldn't stand to see her so sad. "How do you think your children will feel about your throwing their daddy to the wind without their being here?"
She shrugged. "It doesn't really matter how they feel about it, Q. Some things were private between Chakotay and me. The children often felt left out, I think. But all in all, I think they'll understand. At the very least, they'll not be surprised."
"Well, I never understood it, Kathy. Chuckles was a mere mortal, a human. And no matter what you were offered, you chose him above all else."
Kathryn grinned at him. It was the same old story. After all these years, Q still bristled at the fact that she'd turned down his offer of mating with him way back in the Delta Quadrant. All those years ago… "I may have rejected your advances, Q, but I appreciated your asking nonetheless."
"Harrumph. You had a strange way of showing it, Kathy."
She leaned over the arm of the couch toward him. "I wish you could experience love the way humans do, Q. Then you would know how I feel today."
"I doubt that, Kathy. Most of the humans I've observed never experience love or establish the sort of bond you and Chuckles did," he said in a truly candid moment for a Q.
She smiled. She already knew that. And somehow it was nice that Q knew it, too.
He took a sip of his tea. "And tea yet. I still can't believe you gave up coffee."
"Neither can I. In fact, I don't know why I ever gave it up," she said, taking a sip from her own mug. The addition of the Tennessee Whiskey was all that kept her from grimacing.
"Probably because you finally started listening to that pitiful doctor of yours."
"Oh I doubt that," she said. "It was never something I did well."
"Can it be that you've decided to try to live forever?" he asked, watching her closely out of the corner of his eye.
She sighed. "I don't think so, Q."
"Kathy," said Q, putting down his mug and turning to her suddenly. "Why don't we do it all again?"
"Do what again, Q?" she asked.
"All of it. I can take us back to the Delta Quadrant, back to when you and I first met, in fact. Back to when Q committed suicide. I will even give you a second chance to mate with me…."
"Why, Q?" She knew what he was trying to do.
Her voice sounded even more tired, and that actually had the power to frighten Q. "Because… because things were different then. You were idealistic…"
"I was young, Q. You can say it." She closed her eyes, and when she spoke again her voice was so low that even Q had trouble hearing her. "It was all so long ago."
"It doesn't have to be, Kathy. Just say the word and we'll go back …I'll ask you to mate with me again, and you can agree this time…" When she opened her eyes and gave him the old look that warned him of trouble, he changed his strategy. "Or, maybe not. But you can have Voyager back, and your crew. Everyone will still be alive…and you and Chuckles can flirt with each other all over again. It will be fun, you'll see!"
"No, Q," she said.
"Why not, Kathy?"
"What would be the point?" she asked.
"The point? Why does there always have to be a point, Kathy?"
"And then what, Q? When we got to today again, would we do it all a third time? And a fourth, a fifth? Why? No, Q, once was enough. It was a good life, but I have no desire to live it again."
Q didn't remind her that this was actually the third time, not the first. When the Delta Flyer made it home through the slipstream drive, Chakotay went back fifteen years in time to be with her again, and later, the first Admiral Janeway had gone back in time ten years for him. Perhaps she'd forgotten about all that, but he hadn't. He'd been there, as well.
She held out her hand in a gesture of friendship. "I thank you for the offer, though."
He sat back and took her hand. "I even offer to bring Chuckles back and you refuse me," he said, pouting.
"You can't bring him back to me, Q," she said, striving to keep her voice even. "Chakotay's time came, and he's moved beyond me. For the time being.”
"Well then, why can't you come back to the Continuum with me for just a little while, Kathy? We won’t turn the clock back, we’ll just continue with the future. The two of us together, exploring new worlds, new galaxies, the way it should have been before," he said, half-heartedly, knowing what her answer would be. But he just couldn't bear to let her go.
"No, Q. I can't go with you. I've explored all I'm going to explore. I've loved the life I've had, but my time is coming too, you know." She looked over at him, wanting him to understand, and wanting to know he would be fine.
"I don’t want to have this conversation, Kathy," he said.
"We need to, Q," she said.
"No. I refuse."
"Q, I want you to promise me something," she said.
"I want you to promise you'll make sure my children release my ashes into the valley where I released Chakotay's today."
"How am I supposed to do that, Kathy? Just appear in front of your children and demand they carry out your wishes – do they know about this already, by the way?"
"Yes. But my children are head-strong…" she said.
"Gee, I wonder where they got that?" he asked.
Janeway ignored him. "If they decide to do something else, I want you to remind them that this is what I want. I want to be with their father."
"This is all so morbid, Kathy." He stood and began to pace. "Why me, for goodness sake? And don't tell me it's my trusting face. Surely you can ask B'Elanna or…"
"I want you to promise me, Q."
He stopped pacing and turned to her. "Why me, Kathy?"
"Because if you promise me, I'll know that you will follow through with it and I won't have to worry that my last request won't be granted." She looked at him steadily. "You've never lied to me, and you've never handed me a false promise."
"True," he said. "I can't believe we're having this conversation…" He began to pace again. "All right, Kathy, I'll do it. I don't like it, and I don't see the point in it, but I'll make sure it's done if I have to do it myself. There! Are you happy now?"
She smiled. "Yes. Very."
He sighed dramatically. "Fine. Now can we move on to a more interesting topic of conversation?"
"Of course." She held her hand out to him again.
He walked over and took it, touched it to his mouth and kissed it. "You know how special you are to me." His voice was so filled with emotion that even he had a problem recognizing it as his own.
"Yes, I do," she said softly.
That irritating lump was back in his throat, and he didn't like it. He tried to ignore it. "I don't want to lose you, Kathy."
It was the first time Kathryn ever heard a sense of urgency in Q's voice. He did realize what was happening then. "I have to be with him, Q."
"But can't you wait awhile? I mean, a month? What's a month in mere mortal terms anyway?" He began to pace the room again. He had to turn away from her. He didn’t want her to see him appear so…so weak.
"Everything happens for a reason, Q. I am meant to be with him, wherever he is. Time marches on, and this is the way of things. My purpose on Earth is served." She sat back and snuggled against the couch, pulling the blanket higher over her legs.
He turned to her. "But what about me?" he asked. "Don't you think I will miss you terribly?"
She pursed her lips. "Yes, you will, but you'll adjust. You will find another…human…to spend time with."
"No I won't, never again. I've had it with humans, Kathy. You all leave me - first Jean-Luc and now you will too," he pouted. “Your life spans are ridiculously short.”
"You won’t be alone, Q – you have your son," she reminded him.
"Ha! A son who should have been ours, Kathy, yours and mine – or have you forgotten?"
"No," she said. "Nor will you allow me to." She smiled.
Finally, Q sighed resignedly, and sat back down in the chair. With a flick of his right hand, he started a fire in the fireplace across the room. The small white flames danced against the darkness that had suddenly enveloped them. Q flicked his hand again and the lights came up to a soft glow in the background.
Both were quiet for a time, drinking their whiskey-spiked tea and thinking their own thoughts. Q felt his pulse calm and his heartbeat begin to slow to a normal pattern. Maybe this was what acceptance felt like in human terms, he thought – just an emotional letting go, like what his dear friend, Kathryn Janeway, was attempting to do regarding her husband.
Kathryn put her empty mug on the table between them, then reached her hand out slowly toward Q, and he took it inside his own, larger hand, as he’d done earlier. "Thank you, for everything, Q," she whispered.
Kathryn Janeway leaned her head against the couch and closed her eyes slowly. Q held her hand until he felt her pulse become slower, and slower still, then finally stop altogether.
The strange lump was back in his throat, and tears ran down his human face for the first time since he'd begun experimenting with the human form a good many years ago.
He realized he’d just been given the privilege of sitting with his best friend as she left this human world for the one beyond, where her husband and soul-mate awaited her – a place where even the Q had never been.
This Q would never be the same again.
The funeral was the most difficult one the remaining Voyager family would ever experience. It was also the most well-attended funeral the Starfleet brass had ever seen.
Kathryn Janeway and Chakotay’s two children stood front and center, heads held proud and straight, their families flanking them. Most people who saw the twins thought about how much the son looked like his father and the daughter looked like her mother.
Tuvok left his home one final time to honor his old friend and captain, then returned to Vulcan where he died less than two months later.
The Doctor gave the eulogy, and told so many tales about the captain she'd been and the admiral she'd become that those who attended the funeral without ever having met the late, great Admiral Janeway felt they'd known her personally, and those who had known her, reported to her, loved her, were reminded of all the reasons they feared, respected and adored her.
Reg Barclay was there, although the Doctor had warned him to think carefully about attending. Reg's health wasn't good and it was a dreary cool day, the perfect kind of day to catch one's death before even the best physician could counteract the effects. But Reg said he wouldn't dream of not attending Admiral Janeway's funeral. She had become everything to him – mentor, friend, confident. And throughout the service he cried like a baby, the way Captain Riker had cried at Jean-Luc Picard’s funeral a few years back. No one could ever take her place, and her leaving took a huge chunk out of the Voyager family he’d grown to love.
Tom Paris, B'ElannaTorres-Paris and Harry Kim stood huddled together throughout the ceremony, still dazed to lose both their ex-commanding officers so close together, yet somehow not surprised, either. They were filled with memories of Voyager and their days in the Delta Quadrant, when they were all much younger, more idealistic, and full of life and energy. They remembered their beloved commander and his soft-spoken and quiet way, and his love for their captain. They remembered, too, how their captain worked so hard to get them all home again, and how she never gave up hope, but had instilled hope in her crew instead. And how she’d loved her first officer, even though she wouldn’t admit it to herself.
Miral Paris stood beside her father, crying for the woman who had married her father and mother, and who'd believed in them when no one else dared to. Admiral Janeway had also taken Miral under her wing and taught her much more than what a Starfleet manual held between its covers. She taught Miral about honor – not just Starfleet honor, or Klingon honor, but about the true honor that was inside a person's heart.
Samantha Wildman stood with her daughter, Naomi. They both cried, and Sam hugged her daughter to her more than once. Captain Janeway had been mentor to Naomi while she was growing up on Voyager, and had even allowed her the privilege of being the “captain’s assistant” – something that Naomi still remembered fondly, and spoke of from time to time. It was because of Janeway that Naomi had pursued her own career in Starfleet, and was a brilliant first officer to Captain William T. Riker II, the son of Wil Riker and Deanna Troi.
Vorik, B’Elanna Torres’s engineering assistant aboard Voyager for seven years, and top Starfleet engineer today, stood in the background. The stoic expression on his face belied the fact that uncomfortable and sad feelings were arising inside his Vulcan heart, and he was trying to force them into complacency. The years on Voyager had remained in his memory as a great learning experience, and where he had first met some of the most important people in his life, friends he remained in contact with today, even after marrying and raising four children.
There were a total of 62 crewmembers still alive from Voyager’s seven-year stint in the Delta Quadrant, and every single one of them was at Admiral Kathryn Janeway’s funeral. Many had come a long way to pay their respects, and many had brought their families with them. Starfleet Command had even closed its offices for the day, and a new Federation holiday was born.
Not everyone present had loved Admiral Janeway, but everyone had revered her, and no one could deny her place in Starfleet history. Although they all had different recollections and feelings about this incredible woman who had only gotten more fearsome over the years, no one would ever forget her. And everyone who gathered to celebrate her life had at least one story to tell when a friend or family member asked them about the brave captain who had brought her lost crew home from the Delta Quadrant so long ago.
The history books also had stories to tell. Admiral Kathryn Janeway’s
picture was next to Admiral James T. Kirk’s in most of them. Kirk was a
true pioneer of the Alpha Quadrant, and
Janeway had already gone down in history as the pioneer of the Delta Quadrant.
For the crew, though, some of the best stories had to do with a stubborn captain who wouldn’t become romantically involved with her first officer until she got her crew home. Her seven years of guilt at having stranded them all in the Delta Quadrant never left her, even though the crew waited to see if she would ever let her guard down when it came to Chakotay. There were times she seemed tempted, but it never happened – not until they reached Earth again. Tom Paris had won many a replicator ration over this.
The day was cool and slightly overcast, but not too cold, or too unpleasant. The ceremony went as well as could be expected under the circumstances, and the Doctor did an equally brilliant job of eulogizing Admiral Kathryn Janeway as he had her husband. After all, she was a woman and a legend who had truly been larger than life.
The Doctor even managed to keep his speech under half an hour. Well, almost.
And after the service and the private gathering afterward, everyone went their separate ways.
Admiral Kathryn Janeway had indeed done her part for Starfleet, and for the Federation, and had furthered the quest toward a truly unified United Federation of Planets. She’d been proud of her contribution, and rightfully so.
She’d also been fortunate enough to marry a man who loved her dearly – one who had respected her devotion to duty, and had waited for her for years, never giving up hope that she would one day declare her love for him, which she finally did. They raised a family together and loved each other fully, until death moved them from this world and into the one that awaited them.
The evening sun was setting. It had been a very long day for many people, but Kathryn Janeway's funeral had been especially difficult for Voyager’s dwindling family.
After the day’s events were over, a handful of invited people accompanied Kathryn Janeway and Chakotay’s two children to the top of the cliff near their home, where they released her ashes in the same place their mother had released their father’s only three days earlier. Solomon put one arm around his sister, as a single tear ran down her left cheek.
The sun never came out that day, and a fine drizzle had come and gone.
Solomon recalled the day he'd returned home after having his father's tribal mark tattooed onto his forehead. His mother had whispered “thank you” into his ear. Later, he’d realized that although the gesture was more important to his father, the happiness it brought his father was the most important thing to his mother. And Solomon's mother had been the strongest, most wonderful woman in his life.
Tomorrow, Solomon would pilot a new starship to the Delta Quadrant on a new mission, as his mother had done so many years before, though the circumstances were very different. At least he'd been home to see both his parents off on their spiritual journey. He knew without a doubt they would find each other again in the next world. Nothing, and no one, not even death, would keep his parents apart. That much was certain.
Kathryn Janeway had been stubborn, and determined enough to get her crew home from the Delta Quadrant back when it was still undiscovered territory, and if anything, had only became more stubborn as she aged.
Her husband, Chakotay, had had a more settled and steady nature, but nothing came in the way of his dedication to his wife, and to his family. He had been the touchstone that brought them all back home together throughout the years.
Kaila took a deep breath. Tears stung her eyes as well, but she stood straight and tall, a younger version of her mother.
Shortly after releasing Admiral Janeway's ashes, the small group split up and wandered off, heading for the warmth of their homes and families, and to reflect on this day that would be a turning point in many lives.
Everyone knew that he or she was changed in some distinct way from having known Kathryn Janeway.
They knew, too, that a Starfleet hero was gone, and so was another era.
The Doctor took Reg Barclay home and B’Elanna took Miral home with her.
Both Tom and B’Elanna had been a bit surprised, yet not surprised, at how Kathryn Janeway’s death had affected their daughter. But then, Miral had known the admiral her entire life, had been babysat by her, visited her when she was a teenager, and learned a great deal from her – first at Starfleet Academy, then later on in various assignments Admiral Janeway had given her over the years as her commanding officer.
B’Elanna and Tom Paris owed the admiral everything, of course. They owed their careers to her, but that was only the tip of the ice burg. Today their hearts were heavy, and their own mortality lie just a little bit closer.
Harry Kim and Tom Paris remained behind the group, and stood silently at the top of the cliff where Chakotay and Kathryn Janeway’s children had released their Mother’s ashes only a short while ago.
Harry was still choked up and couldn’t bring himself to leave yet, so Tom told B’Elanna to take Miral and go on home; he’d stay with Harry awhile.
Captain Harry Kim knew his life would have taken a very different turn if it weren’t for the woman who’d meant more to him than anyone else in his life, save his Mother. And even though he loved his Mother dearly, Kathryn Janeway had been his mentor, his savior, and his friend. He would miss her every day for the rest of his life. Today he could barely speak, and he’d never felt more confused, or more alone. He’d always had her to turn to for advice, for comfort, and always for direction. Kathryn Janeway always had an opinion about everything, and (to the consternation of many), she was usually right.
Tom looked out over the valley and watched the sun color the late afternoon sky. His heart ached, and he’d had a burning in his throat all day that just wouldn’t go away. He swallowed hard and slapped Harry on the back, trying to lighten the situation. “Well, Harry, old pal, we’d better get back to the house. B’Elanna and Miral will have our porridge ready to eat pretty soon. And we don’t want to be late.”
Harry grimaced. “They’re making that Klingon soup again?”
“Hey, what’s wrong with it?” asked Tom. His usual slick drawl was more strained today, but he was trying. “Are you saying my wife and daughter are not good cooks?”
“Tom, you might be my best friend, but it’s time you know that even Klingons can’t stand B’Elanna’s cooking. I don’t know why she doesn’t use a replicator anyway. It was good enough on Voyager.”
“Well, Harry, I try to look at the positive side of it. Because B’Elanna developed this fascination with preparing traditional Klingon foods years ago, I weigh the same today as when B’Elanna and I got married.”
Harry shook his head. “No good. You have a replicator in your office.”
“True,” said Tom. “Oh well. She and Miral may not be good cooks, but I’ll keep them just the same.”
Harry managed a smile he didn’t feel. Even good-natured bickering with Tom wasn’t cheering him up today. “I don’t blame you. Besides, it might be a little tough to shake off B’Elanna after all these years.”
“I’m just lucky she isn’t sick of me yet.” Tom kicked at a small rock and sighed. “Hey, Harry – I’ve always wondered…”
“You know that time you and Chakotay got home in the Flyer and the rest of us crashed on that planet?” asked Tom.
“You mean when we tried that slipstream drive?”
“Yeah,” said Tom.
“Gee, thanks for reminding me. I’d managed not to think about it for almost a week this time,” said Harry. But he knew exactly what Tom was going to ask. It had been on his mind a lot in the past couple of days, too, for some reason.
“I was just wondering if you thought maybe Chakotay had sent the captain a message back in time, the way you sent one to yourself?”
“I don’t know, Tom. I like to think so,” said Harry, swallowing a lump in his throat and blinking back the tears for the umpteenth time today.
“Yeah, me too.” Tom kicked at the rock again, then took a deep breath and looked around for the last time. “They loved it here.”
“I know.” Harry’s voice was so soft Tom barely heard him. “I’ve never served under anyone else like her, not in all these years.”
Tom sighed again. “Yeah, I know. But then, there is no one else like her.” He tried to put things into perspective for both of them. “You know, in her own way, she really was a rebel, like James T. Kirk.”
Harry grinned. “She sure was.”
“She told me once that Chakotay was the calm before her storm. But I think he was the calm after her storm, too,” said Tom.
Harry nodded. “I think we all knew that.” Harry suddenly felt a flow of tears he couldn’t stop. Tom discreetly turned away to give his friend some space. “”I loved her, Tom.”
“I know, Harry, so did I. We all did.” Tom choked back his own tears.
Harry nodded. “She taught me so much. She had a way of believing in people even when they didn’t have faith in themselves.”
Tom sighed, and when he spoke his voice was hoarse. “You don’t have to remind me of that, Harry.”
Each man was quiet with his own thoughts. “Admiral Janeway and Chakotay were meant to be together, you know,” Harry said. “I think all of us getting stuck in the Delta Quadrant and those two finding each other, and all the things that happened, were just part of the Big Plan.”
Tom grinned. “Are you getting spiritual on me all of a sudden, Harry?”
Harry looked out over the valley, and thought about how he could nearly feel the spirits of the two people he’d cared so much about. Maybe their souls were joined right here, in this spot they'd called home when Voyager had ceased to be home to them all.
“They were meant to be together, that’s all. They were incomplete without each other – we all saw that. Even back when they didn’t acknowledge it, we all did,” said Harry.
What Harry said was true. Tom Paris had won a lot of replicator rations based on the friendly looks the captain and commander gave each other on the bridge. “That was a long time ago, Harry,” said Tom softly.
“And they died only hours apart.” Harry blinked back more tears. “I’ll miss them.”
“So will I,” Tom said, clasping Harry on the back again. “Come on, Harry, let’s go. The Doc’ll be at the house by now, and you know it’s not safe to leave him alone with B’Elanna and Miral for too long.”
Harry nodded. The family, at least most of what was left of them, was gathering at the Paris's to make a last toast to their former commanding officers. The thought only made him sadder, and put another, bigger, lump in his throat.
Harry and Tom turned away from the cliff and made their way down to the small sleek black and silver shuttlecraft that was parked in front of the now-dark log cabin where Chakotay and Kathryn Janeway had lived and raised their children.
It was nearly dusk now, and colder, too. “It was good of B’Elanna to leave us her new prototype hovercraft,” said Harry distractedly.
“I told her it might cheer you up,” said Tom.
“Blaming me again, eh?”
“Of course. You don’t think she’d let me drive it otherwise, do you?”
The banter still wasn’t working, but they were both trying.
“You know, Tom, I’ve been thinking about something else…” said Harry.
“Maybe Chakotay was right about the spirit world, or at least about there being some other place we go to when we leave here,” said Harry. “He used to tell me stories about his people and their beliefs. He said we’d meet again in another world, a spiritual world, if the will was in our hearts and in our minds.” He sighed. “I think I’d like to believe that, Tom – maybe the family will be together again someday.”
“That sounds like a good thought, Harry,” said Tom. Who knew, maybe his friend had something there. “We’ll just have to wait and see, won’t we?”
“And Janeway and Chakotay can flirt and argue and make up all over again,” said Harry, smiling.
Tom smiled, too. “I wonder if we’ll need replicator rations there?”
Both men laughed more easily, and the camaraderie was more like old times.
Maybe it was The Journey that mattered, after all, and maybe that journey would continue in a different time, and in a different place. No one would ever know for sure, but it was a good thought.
And as Tom Paris and Harry Kim pointed B’Elanna’s hovercraft toward the Paris home, two bright flashes of light split the sky above them, and joined together as one.
Perhaps the entire crew would be together again someday, after all.