Kathryn was called to Admiral Paris' office one day. She often dined with the Paris' and B'Elanna and she assumed that this was another little visit to set a date and share a little gossip. It was funny how much Owen Paris had changed from the man he had been when he first contacted Voyager. While everyone at Headquarters enjoyed the change there were two people who gave thanks everyday for it. Mrs. Paris and Owen's assistant found that life was worth living again.
There was a new picture of Miral on his desk. Kathryn picked it up and smiled. "She's still a doll and I'll bet she still has her doting grampa wrapped around her little finger!"
"It doesn't take a Borg collective to figure that one out!" laughed Owen. "She's the light of my life. Ever since she started walking our lives have become much more active. I've lost five pounds!"
They both laughed and Owen led her to the couch. They compared their schedules and set a date for dinner and then Owen sat back with a much more serious look.
"Kathryn, I asked you here today to share a little news with you. I just received it myself and I called you immediately."
Kathryn's face was a study. Hope, fear, curiosity, happiness - they all flashed across her face. She didn't utter a word.
Owen continued. "One of the new Peace Delegates from Cardassia was filing a formal complaint with Starfleet. It seems that Cardassia had a 'training' facility on a planet that actually has an atmosphere that produces a natural cloaking shield around it. Unfortunately, the training facility was totally destroyed by a terrorist attack and every single person involved with the training programme was killed. Cardassia is convinced that Starfleet is involved in some way, which explains the complaint. However she could not produce any evidence that would confirm the accusation so her case is weak."
"How far away are they? When can they get here?"
"Wait Kathryn, there's more. She advised us that they found two dead humans near the debris field. She smirked when she told us, she actually smirked. For a Peace Delegate she has a long way to go, although she's probably the best Cardassia had to offer."
"There was nothing to identify them, all she could tell us was that one was male and the other female."
Seven. It was hard to grasp the thought that Seven of Nine was dead. She had come such a long way from her assimilated self. All the advances she had made, the lessons she had learned, the friendships she had formed, and now she wouldn't be able to practise and perfect them on her long forgotten home world. The pain burning in Kathryn's heart was almost that of a bereaved mother. She looked up at Owen with stinging eyes.
"The man had nothing special to identify him? She didn't mention a tattoo?"
"No, Kathryn, she didn't mention a tattoo, but you know that doesn't prove anything. She didn't mention borg implants either. Remember your Starfleet training."
"You didn't answer my question."
"I've lost track, which question?"
"How long will it take for them to get home?"
"I don't have that information. The Delegate wouldn't give us the co-ordinates of the planet and there are probably many things that have to be done before they can even start out for home. The first thing I can think of is getting out of Cardassian space alive."
"I understand. You will keep me up to date, won't you, Owen?"
"Of course, Kathryn. You must know that I understand your personal situation more than you realise. Don't forget, B'Elanna lives with us and she worries about you."
"Her worry will change to pure hatred when she finds out that I didn't tell her about this mission. If Tom comes back she'll be overjoyed to have him home but furious with me for allowing her to suffer as much as she has. And if Tom doesn't come home with the others, well, it will be like him dying all over again for her. No, Owen, I know what will happen and I can't blame her at all. She will view this as a betrayal, and she'll be right."
"Kathryn, I haven't told her either, and I'll be there to support you. You aren't alone."
That did it. Hearing that Chakotay could still be alive and coming home to her and then hearing his precious phrase made something snap inside of her. Starfleet captains were said to never cry but this one sobbed for ten minutes before she could speak a coherent word. Owen patted her back and whispered comforting words and then called Tuvok requesting his presence immediately. A cold wet cloth and a hot coffee helped her pull herself together and then Tuvok escorted her to their home, where she lived with him and T'Pel.
Was he dead or alive? Kathryn was suddenly realising just how well how she had finally managed to put this part of her life in a compartment that she rarely opened. She knew that the compartment was there, but when it came to the front of her mind she would immediately initiate a reflex that took her to another thought. It was pure survival instinct, but now the compartment was fully open and threatening to suck her in completely.
Two days before the historic passage through the wormhole, Admiral Paris had contacted her with all the last minute information that Starfleet could supply Chakotay. She recorded it in a padd and then had Tuvok beam her site-to-site to the IM team's quarters.
They were all looking pretty good considering they had been dead for several days. Tom was studying star charts of the Alpha Quadrant on the computer but Kathryn noticed a holo-image of B'Elanna and Miral on the desk. He glanced down at it every few minutes. Ayala and Jarvin were playing cards at the table and Seven was entering equations on a padd. They all greeted her cordially and Chakotay ordered coffee. He motioned Kathryn into a corner to discuss the latest information sotto voce.
Tom finally looked up and said, "Why don't you two go into a bedroom, you'll have more privacy there."
Kathryn hesitated and Chakotay finally said softly, "Thanks, Tom, but I don't think so. It just wouldn't be right considering the rest of you."
Tom shook his head gently. "We made our own minds up to be here, Chakotay, and it has nothing to do with fairness. As far as we're all concerned you have business to discuss - and I would think that will take quite a bit of time."
Chakotay looked at Kathryn and then put his hand on the small of her back to guide her into a bedroom. The door slid shut and suddenly Kathryn found herself propelled against a bulkhead with Chakotay's mouth on hers, his body pressing against her, and his hands on the fasteners of her uniform. Her reaction was immediate and frantic; she wrapped her arms around his neck, a leg around one of his, and felt her body wildly responding to his insistent grinding against her.
It was the most abandoned lovemaking Kathryn had ever made. She held nothing back from this man, whom she had secretly loved for years and who might now be lost to her forever. She cast aside her normal captainly decorum together with her personal discretion and modesty -- at that moment she simply did not care who knew that she loved this man with all her being.
At some point Chakotay managed to get them over to the bed and while he continued to drive her to the edge he carefully positioned a pillow under her bottom. When their passion was spent he did not leave her body but sprawled over her, slick with sweat and breathing heavily into her neck, one hand making sure that she remained elevated. She petted him and whispered sweet nothings but when he still didn't move she finally asked quietly, "Is something wrong, Chakotay?"
He was slow to answer but finally replied in a soft, husky voice, "I'm just enjoying a little dream, Kathryn, one I know will never come true. I know it's foolish but I've seen the faces of all our children and I'm pretending that I've just given you our first. Please don't hate me."
Hate him? She pulled his face to hers and gazed into his eyes, smiling her crooked smile. "Tell me all their names, Chakotay."
It was the last time she saw him. The next day Tuvok beamed the IM team to the junked Delta Flyer to give them a day to get organized. The following day he surreptitiously monitored their passage through the wormhole riding on Voyager's coattails. Once in the Alpha Quadrant he projected a shield that didn't register on any monitors and the Flyer was gone. That was thirteen months ago.
Kathryn remained very edgy after her meeting with Admiral Paris but as the following days and weeks turned into months she gradually resumed her normal routine and continued with her work.
Voyager had taken a prize for another first - she was the most beat up ship that had ever returned from a mission that did not include active warfare. Everything in the gallant vessel was either completely used up or obsolete and there was great debate on whether to put her in the flagship museum or refit her for service. The debate was settled when Captain Kathryn Janeway and 100% of her surviving Voyager crew appeared before Starfleet and demanded that she fly again. Further, the crew demanded that Captain Janeway continue to serve as her captain. It was a tactical success and the crewmembers that had travelled from other planets or taken personal time off from their current postings in space were given extra mention in the Admiral's speech announcing the decision.
Kathryn and Tuvok became heavily involved with the labourious job of Voyager's refit. It took several months of working closely with the planning and engineering committees just to agree on a blueprint and then they became involved with the actual reconstruction of their ship. The decision to add an 'A' to her nomenclature was made when it was accepted that the new ship's original equipment might be narrowed down to a fork in the messhall.
Kathryn had taken the bottle of champagne from her Ready Room and displayed it prominently in her small apartment within Tuvok's home. It seemed strange at first that he and T'Pel had insisted that she live with them but it was working out fine. She found that she actually appreciated the unspoken but steady support that they extended to her.
And then, after more than a year, Voyager NCC-74656-A was ready for some trial runs. Those runs unveiled the usual minor glitches and they were taken care of in a few months. Finally, Voyager was finally ready for an official mission. Kathryn and Tuvok had interviewed for the positions on board and she was delighted when many of their former crew applied. They were accepted immediately.
So came the day that crewmembers could begin to put their own quarters together as they wished. Kathryn had chosen a few personal items of her own and added some that she had gathered from Chakotay's old cabin. Having his chair, medicine wheel, and dreamcatcher in her quarters gave her a sense of peace. He had taken his medicine bundle on the mission and she fervently hoped it had, no -- was serving him well.
"Captain, Admiral Paris is hailing you from the surface. Would you like me to direct it to your Ready Room?"
"Yes, thank you Harry. Janeway out."
The admiral's smiling face appeared on her view screen. "Hello, Captain, how's it feel to be back in the big chair?"
She smiled. "It feels good, Admiral. What are you up to these days?"
"Nothing much. But I have your orders for your first mission and I'd like to come aboard and discuss them with both you and Tuvok."
"How about in an hour, Admiral? It's a little wild around here just now and I'd like you to have a good first impression when you board Voyager."
He laughed. "As if I would have ever have a bad impression! I'd prefer now if it's all the same to you, Captain. Request permission to come aboard."
The first thing Admiral Paris saw when he walked into the Ready Room was the bottle of champagne. Kathryn had brought it from home and placed it on the shelf where she could see it while sitting at her desk. It had become a talisman to her, a promise that someday, somehow she would drink it in happiness. They all got a hot drink and then the Admiral pulled out a padd and handed it to Kathryn.
"This is it, Captain, your first mission on Voyager-A. I asked for Tuvok to join us since he's in the know about the history of the general situation that it involves."
Kathryn caught her breath while Tuvok's eyebrow raised to his hairline.
The Admiral continued. "We've had a communication from some of our IM team. It gave us co-ordinates and full instructions for an emergency rescue and we don't have much time. We should be leaving within two hours, can your crew do it?"
The captain didn't respond directly to him. She merely ordered a ship-wide band and announced, "All hands, prepare for departure. All department heads, status reports to Commander Tuvok within 15 minutes. Helm; prepare to receive course instructions. Sorry for the short notice people but welcome to the Federation Starship Voyager-A where we think on our feet. Janeway out."
"Impressive, Captain. Tell me, what is your crew complement and how many are from the original Voyager?"
"We're currently running five personnel short for a total of 145, Admiral. Out of this total 89% are from Voyager's original crew."
"That's more than impressive, Captain, it's phenomenal. I've never heard of anything like this before in my life, and I've been with Starfleet for almost 50 years! But why are you running five short?"
"I was hoping to fill those positions at a later date, Admiral."
He nodded with understanding. "I hope you find the people you want for those positions as soon as possible, Captain. Now, I have a special request to make -- I want to join you on this mission."
She hesitated and looked at Tuvok, then turned to meet the admiral's eyes. "I don't have time to beat around the bush here, Admiral. Are you advising me that you are in command of Voyager and her first mission?"
"No, Kathryn! Not at all, I'm just Owen on this trip. I..I have a personal reason for wanting to be here. I've arranged leave and brought nothing but civvies in my duffel. I left it in the transporter room in hopes that you would say 'yes'."
In that case I say 'yes'." She patted her combadge, "Mr Neelix. Please report to my Ready Room. We have a guest on this trip and I want you to make him comfortable in our guest quarters. Now, Owen, if you'll excuse us, Tuvok and I have some work to do."
The planetoid was dismal. It was Type L, which was acceptable, but it wasn't too far from the Cardassian border and the living was rough. As ordered, Harry ran scans to determine human lifesigns and was astonished when he found them. Kathryn looked over his shoulder and turned to Tuvok.
"Get down to the Transporter Room, Mr Tuvok. I'll be in my Ready Room."
Coward, she thought, hiding in your Ready Room. But it's better than pacing in front of the entire bridge crew. Three lifesigns - whose were they? She got a coffee and stood looking out the viewport at the brown planetoid until Tuvok's voice was heard.
"Captain, there is a communication from the team." She ran to her desk and looked at the battered face of Tom Paris.
"Tom, Tom, it's so good to see you. Why aren't you beaming up?"
Tom smiled. "It's good to see you, too, Captain. I'm waiting for a slimy character to give me some information and then I'll be ready to get the hell out of here. Tuvok's already beamed up Ayala and Jarvin directly to Sickbay and I'm hoping..oh, I hear someone! Lock onto me, Tuvok. Paris out."
Well, there it was; she had her answer. So, it was Chakotay and Seven who lay dead on a Cardassian planet protected by a shield that hid it completely from sensors. Even if Starfleet had the co-ordinates she would never be able to retrieve their bodies. She signaled Tuvok and advised him that she was on the way to Sickbay.
"Captain!" Both Ayala and Jarvin shouted it at the same time. They had huge grins and were coming towards her with their arms out to hug her. She couldn't help but smile through her misty eyes as the three of them hugged tightly. The doctor was outraged.
"Gentlemen! Please stay away from our Captain until I have determined that you are not contagious in any way!"
The men jumped away with chagrined faces as Kathryn burst into laughter. "You're back in the big leagues again, gentlemen. Beware the new Chief Medical Officer!"
The doctor harrumphed. "Captain, contain yourself. I will release these men as soon as I can."
"Fine, Doctor. I'll advise Neelix that we need three more quarters to be made up when you're finished."
"Yes, Doctor, cross your fingers. Three."
Tom was successfully transported to Voyager and got the express route to Sickbay. This time it was Tuvok who followed him and upset the doctor.
"Mr Tuvok, why is it that the two highest ranking officers on board this ship don't know simple away mission protocol?"
"We know it, Doctor, we just aren't finding it relevent at the moment. Continue your scans if you must, but Mr Paris and I will be discussing some urgent matters. And, if you are looking for gossip, I will be pleased to re-programme you."
"Threats," sniffed the doctor, and then he cocked his head. "Where have I heard that before?" he enquired with a puzzled look.
Tom handed a padd to the first officer. "It's all there, Tuvok, and I hope it helps." He turned to the EMH, "I'm sorry, Doc, but no gossip this time. Your synapses are safe today." The doctor snorted.
Tuvok looked at the padd in his hand. "Thank you, Mr Paris, I will go study it immediately. And, welcome home, it is good to see you." He held out his hand.
Tom took it with wide eyes. "Wow, Tuvok, you've learned a lot in the past months. Thank you, it's good to be home."
Kathryn was in her quarters, dressed for bed. She had finally been able to visit the three heroes and found them all relieved and happy to be home. However, the doctor had given them a sedative to help them calm down so a full debriefing would not be held until tomorrow. Owen Paris had tiptoed into Sickbay to see his sleeping son and had stayed there holding his hand for several hours. B'Elanna and Miral would find out about Tom after the debriefing; Kathryn had already scheduled her off for a week. She was not looking forward to B'Elanna's reaction when she learned all the facts but, as Kathryn was beginning to realise, pain was relative.
She finished her coffee and climbed into bed. It was a bitter end of the day for her despite the wonder of getting the three amigos back alive. Despite all the proof to the contrary, she had still held out hope for Chakotay's return. Now she knew the truth and learning to adapt to it would take a long time. She turned the lights off and rolled over, the tears trickling down her cheeks even as she desperately tried to find oblivion. Finally sleep pulled her into its embrace.
Her door swooshed open and a tall figure slowly walked into the starlit room. He hesitated as he became accustomed to the darkness and then walked towards the bedroom. She was lying on her back and the dried tears were crusted on her cheeks. He went right to her side and tried to wipe them away with a finger.
She stirred and looked up through half closed eyes. "Dream. Want to dream, not wake up."
He leaned down and kissed her lips. "It's not a dream, Kathryn, I'm real. Wake up, love."
"Nooooo, want to dream."
He started to shake her gently and whispered, "Kathryn, I'm really home. Wake up."
Suddenly, he felt her tense. Her eyes opened wide and she whispered, "Chakotay? It can't be! Oh god, I'm losing my mind!"
He pulled her to a sitting position and wrapped his arm around her shoulder. The other hand cupped her face tenderly. "No you're not, Kathryn. I'm here. Tuvok beamed Seven and I up an hour ago and the doctor has examined and released us."
"But how did you get in here?"
"Your old code. I didn't think you would change it, and you didn't." He kissed her forehead. "I love you, Kathryn."
"Oh, Chakotay, I love you, too!" She sobbed. "But we were told that Cardassia had found two dead humans after the attack, one woman and one man. And then there were only three lifesigns and Ayala, Jarvin, and Tom beamed up!"
Chakotay held her tightly. "I'm so sorry you had to suffer like that, Kathryn. It wasn't hard to find willing recruits to sabotage a Cardassian stronghold. We lost two of them during the attack - it was their bodies we had to leave behind."
But we only found three lifesigns!"
He smiled. "Well, I wasn't going to leave that damned Cardassian planet without some information on its natural cloaking shield. I took enough readings and we were eventually able to duplicate it in a much smaller way. Then the team got separated and Seven and I used the shield to cloak our lifesigns - it saved our lives. Tom brought the specs for it up to Tuvok and that helped him to locate us and bring us home."
She flung her arms around his neck and started to sob. "Chakotay.."
"Shhhh, love, it's okay. I'm home. And it was a good mission, Kathryn, it was worth it in the long run. Tom got some more information from another source at the last minute and that, together with the specs, might finally give Starfleet a real advantage for a long time to come." His lips found her quivering ones and he lowered her back down on the bed. His fingers gently ran up her arm until they looped around the strap of her nightgown and began to pull.
Suddenly a small whimper came from further in the room. Chakotay looked up startled, instantly at attention, his reflexes honed by the last sixteen months. Another small noise and he started to move catlike towards an opaque room divider. He slowly peered around it and stared at the baby in amazement. He turned and looked at Kathryn.
She smiled a wonderful smile. "Your dream, Chakotay, it came true. And now, finally, mine has, too."
"Kathryn? Our child?"
"Well, Neelix thinks she belongs to him, but yes, Chakotay. Her name is Taya; B'Elanna told me you once said it was the feminine form of Chakotay and..it was on your list."
He was still stunned, but happiness glowed on his face as he bent down and picked up his baby daughter from her crib. She was beautiful, just like her mother. "Thank you, Kathryn," he whispered. "Now all my dreams really have come true."
"Not quite yet, Chakotay. Wait until tomorrow -- I've been waiting a long time to live another dream with you."
He turned to her, cheek to cheek with his daughter, and smiled. "What could be better than this, Kathryn?"
She looked up at him with tears of love and gratitude shining in her eyes. "We have a little champagne to drink, Chakotay. And it's going to be the best drink I'll ever have in my life."
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