Disclaimer: Star Trek: Voyager™ is the registered trademark and sole property of Paramount Pictures. This story is non-commercial and for enjoyment only. No copyright infringement is intended.

20040211

AUTHOR: JinnyR

EMAIL: jrossca@sympatico.ca

RATING: PG

SUMMARY: To everyone's shock, the day finally arrives. A VAMB Secret Valentine fic for 2004.

 

No Place Like Home

 

The morning sun rose behind them, making the autumn colours come alive on the hilltop across the valley below. The woman silently poured a hot liquid from a thermal container, and passed the cup to the man. He sipped quietly as she poured out another cup, this time for herself. In silence they drank, watching the valley waken to the brilliance of the dawn, enthralled by the sheer beauty of Earth.

Eventually the man stood and brushed off his jeans. The woman packed their kit and accepted his offered hand, allowing to be pulled to her feet. They had yet to utter a word when they turned and started walking back the way they had come.

They were home.

 

"So, tell me, Chakotay, have you thought about what you want to do now that we're back on Earth?"

The captain and first officer of the USS Voyager were sitting in the captain's ready room. Their arrival on Earth had been fast and totally unexpected, and the entire crew was still somewhat shell-shocked with their situation.

"No, not really. There's so much to do here to de-commission Voyager that I probably won't even think of it until everything and everyone is settled. How about you?"

She laughed and gestured to the pile of padds on her desk. "Being here hasn't stopped the never-ending busy work for me. Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if they threw a couple of these things into my coffin before they hammered the lid shut."

The image was vivid, and the first officer joined in with his captain's laughter. "Well, at least you'd have something to read!"

"Gee, thanks, but I think I'll have a nice long rest first if you don't mind."

"Well, Kathryn, if anyone deserves one it's certainly you."

She looked over to the viewport and saw blue sky where streaming stars had played for years. "I still can't believe it," she whispered.

"I know."

"After all this time…"

"It's real, Kathryn. The next chapter has begun."

"Yes. Well," she gave a big sigh, "I guess we'd better get to these reports. It won't be long before everyone will be anxious to get out there and figure out what they want to do. Let's start with the bridge crew."

Chakotay activated a padd and the two officers got down to their duty of putting their crew first.

 

 

Despite her extensive training and experience, Kathryn Janeway could never get over how life could spin on a dime. Or, how strange its coincidences were. By chasing a ship into the Badlands, Voyager had ended up in the Delta Quadrant. By being chased by a ship in the Delta Quadrant, Voyager had ended up orbiting Earth. She snorted quietly. If she'd known that was the secret to getting home she would have let those damned Kazon chase her from the Array all those years before.

Which was not to say that they didn't have a lot of work to do before leaving the ship. They had been in the Delta Quadrant for a long time, and the crew already knew it was impossible to pick up their lives where they'd left them. Change was the daughter of time, and much planning and counselling were in order.

She, Chakotay, and Tuvok discussed the matter one evening, a few days after Tom Paris had safely landed the ship. They solved nothing, of course, but there was a certain comfort in just sitting in the Alpha Quadrant with old comrades, chatting over brandy. They discussed their own plans and hopes for the future, although each was hesitant in voicing any commitment. To tell the truth, none of them would seriously consider any personal decision until they were the last three people on Voyager to do so.

 

 

Captain Janeway could not quite disguise her amusement. Before her stood Tom, B'Elanna, and Harry, all shiny and spic'n'span for their first full day off the ship. Samantha Wildman was taking care of Miral for the day to allow the three old friends to share their shore leave, if they chose.

"So, where have you decided to visit today?" asked the captain.

Kim spoke up softly. "San Francisco for me, Captain. It's been a long time and I need to get the feel for it again. After all, it's my home."

"And you two? Are you going to keep Harry from serious damage as he prowls around San Francisco? Things are still getting back to normal now that the war is over."

"I think we'd better, Captain, at least for the morning, " Tom grinned. "He's so excited he may need us to put up the bail money."

Harry rolled his eyes at his best friend. "Hardly."

B'Elanna smiled. "We'll keep an eye on him, Captain. We promise."

"I'll hold you to that promise, Be. And, since I know Commander Chakotay has advised you of the standing order and that you've been to sickbay, I guess all there is to say now is, 'Dismissed'!" She smiled gently. "Come and see me when you get back. I'd really like to know how it went for you."

A chorus of 'ayes' and then the three friends headed for the transporter room to be beamed off the ship.

 

 

Tom and B'Elanna sat in a restaurant that afforded a gorgeous view of the Pacific Ocean. Harry had absolutely refused to eat with them, knowing that they needed some private time together. He had started to wander in the direction of Starfleet Headquarters, but then abruptly turned away. That walk could wait for another day. For now he just wanted to breathe the fresh air and feel the sun on his face.

"I think Harry really feels the difference in the city," Tom said.

"Well, I can understand that, Tom. It's hard enough to adjust just being here without those orders. I don't understand why they don't want any of us going to old neighbourhoods, or making contact with any relatives. For Harry that's a cruel blow."

"Which is why we should either have picked a different place to check out or have stayed with him."

"Oh, let's cut him some slack. He's not a kid anymore – not after all these years. And, I've never known him to disobey a direct order, unlike someone I know." Tom's eyebrow peaked upwards, and his wife amended her statement. "Well, okay, but not without being under the control of some alien courtship bond."

"It was a sex bond, Be. Believe me."

"Oh, I do, Tom," she grinned. "I really do. But we have to talk about Miral anyway, so can we quit worrying about Harry for a moment?"

"Well, that's another thing to worry about. The Doc says that it's a minor procedure, and that she'll hardly even notice anything, but …

"Yeah, 'but'. I know it should be done—"

B'Elanna stopped as Tom corrected, "Has to be done."

"Okay, has to be done. But it's our decision, Tom. We can still say no if we want to."

They both thought of their baby and tried to guess what the other really wanted. Finally, Tom signalled the waiter and ordered two more espressos. They still had almost an hour before they had to report back to the ship.

"Nice raktajino," murmured Be.

 

 

Commander Tuvok slowly emerged from his meditation. Pinching out the flames of the mediation candles, he rose to stare out of his viewport.

Beauty was a concept that Tuvok could recognise and acknowledge, but he had never cultivated an appreciation for it. His brain could register the beauty on the other side of the transparent aluminium, but his heart could not. Until today.

T'Pel. His wife T'Pel was beautiful. And, the children she had given him had a beauty that he couldn't even put his finger on. Most illogical.

This blue planet was beautiful. In most places it lacked the red heat his body craved, but even with that fault he could not deny its unique beauty.

Tuvok had known and worked with Humans for more years that he had ever thought possible. While he could never emulate them, the Vulcan had come to understand and like them more deeply than they ever guessed. The diversity of Voyager's bridge crew was mirrored on a larger scale in the entire population of Voyager. As time went by in the DQ, he had begun to formulate a Human equation. The different species on board were the random factors that made his formula work. And, in their own way, these Humans were actually … logical.

Beautiful.

He would accept this long stay on Earth in the manner befitting a Vulcan and a Starfleet Commander. Tuvok went to his closet and pulled out a tunic. It was his turn to command Beta shift.

 

 

It took a full two months for all the crewmembers to have their turn off ship. The doctor was kept busy ensuring the safety of all who ventured out, but he never complained. This alone was enough to worry Janeway and Chakotay, and they kept their eyes and ears open. It was eerie not listening to his continual caustic comments, so they felt actual relief when Neelix approached them with a complaint against the EMH.

The little Talaxian was orange with rage. "Captain! Is it required that I leave the ship at this time?"

Kathryn quickly exchanged a look with Chakotay and took a deep breath. "No, Neelix, I don't see why you should be forced to take a leave right now. But, why don't you want to? You're finally in the Alpha Quadrant and on Earth."

"I'm just not ready right now, and neither is Mr Chell. He has approached me about helping in the messhall and I'm finding him to be a very apt student. As a matter of fact, it was his food that we served for lunch today."

Another quick exchange of looks, followed by immediate glances down. No wonder they had enjoyed their lunch.

Chakotay cleared his throat. "Neelix, it's entirely your choice. And, don't forget that, if you prefer, you can get used to Earth with small steps, one at a time. There is absolutely no need for you to start your explorations in a huge metropolitan centre on your first leave. Just let me know when you'd like me to schedule a leave for you and I'll put it on the duty roster. I can even give you a hand in selecting more remote regions, if you'd prefer."

It looked like the weight of the world had rolled off the little cook's shoulders. "Thank you, Commander." He turned to leave but, after a few steps, he stopped dead and swung back around. "Oh, and please tell that miserable medical spot of light to stop looking at Mr Chell and I as if we were specimens in his fraxen lab! We'll get our physicals when we want to. I swear, if he actually had to eat, I'd poison him."

This time he managed to march through the doors. The two senior officers looked at each other and tried not to laugh.

"Well," said Chakotay, "that would only be fair. He's been poisoning the rest of us for years."

"Oh, if only Kes was here! Remember how she programmed the doctor's bout of flu? I'd pay her to give him hunger."

The crewmembers on the bridge heard the peals of laughter, even through the ready room doors.

 

 

The dawn rose again over the valley, but now it was the pines and spruces parading their glory. The deciduous trees were bare now, leaving Kathryn and Chakotay to watch as the winter sun cast its weaker light over the mountain behind them.

An unspoken change had crept over the command team since arriving on Earth. It was subtle enough that the two principles hadn't really noticed it, but the crew watched it develop and crossed their fingers for good luck.

The captain and commander relaxed on a waterproof ground cover, bundled up in their parkas, flannel-lined jeans, and heavy boots. Chakotay leaned against a tree trunk with his legs spread wide and Kathryn nestled between them, her head on his shoulder and his arm around her, keeping her that way.

"You're shivering," he whispered. "Let me get you more coffee."

She didn't respond, except for sitting up straight to allow him to reach for the thermos. He poured them both a cup and they savoured the aroma. One thing about being back on Earth, it sure was good to drink real coffee. Kathryn figured about 96% of the crew had returned from their first shore leave with a container of decent coffee in their hands.

"Sweeter than honey," she smiled.

"And, better than money."

They both laughed and then the happy sound faded away. The first officer pulled his captain down against his chest again. He sighed.

"Kathryn, I have something to tell you."

She stiffened slightly, but not enough to hide it from him. He felt it down to his very bones.

It had now been almost three months since their arrival and it was time for everyone to make their plans official. After his first few shore leaves, Kathryn had begun to feel that Chakotay was not going to retire quietly on Earth like most of the crew. And, for some reason, that scared her very much.

"What is it, Chakotay?"

"I've decided not to settle down in North America, or anywhere else for that matter. I don't fit in anymore, and I'm not going to spend the rest of my life trying. I'm staying with Voyager."

"I thought you'd say that," she answered softly.

"I know your roots are here, Kathryn, and I respect that. I just wish …" His voice trailed away.

'You just wish what, Chakotay?"

"I wish …" There was a silence, one that Kathryn would not interrupt. She turned her head up to look at him and started. Nothing had prepared her for the pain that showed clearly on his face as he stared straight ahead.

"I wish I could ask you to come with me. The idea of you settling down for the rest of your life in some Terran town … without me …" Again his voice petered out, and he was silent for a few moments. Then, she heard him swallow. "It's killing me."

"Why is it killing you? Tell me, Chakotay."

He finally turned his face down to look into hers. "You know why, Kathryn. I love you, and I've loved you for a long time. When we served together I played it straight, but we're back in the Alpha Quadrant now and the rules and regulations are different. Well, the regs are different but the rules seem to be the same. What could I offer you now?"

Kathryn brought her hand up to his face, and gently trailed her fingers over his cheek, his tattoo, and through his hair. "Your love. The love I've been waiting years to share. Chakotay, do you have any idea how many times there were in these past years when I thought your current shore leave woman would be the one who made you want to stay behind?"

"Kathryn!"

"'Kathryn' nothing. I'm not stupid, nor am I blind or deaf. I know how you spent a lot of your shore leaves but, no matter how much it hurt, I had no right to tell you to stop." She pulled her hand away and looked into his eyes. "And, I really wanted to tell you to stop."

"You'd better watch what you say," he whispered. "You don't know what you're getting into."

"I do."

"Kathryn … believe me. You don't."

"Do you think so little of me, Chakotay? After all these years, do you think I don't know what I want? I didn't sign up with Starfleet to have an easy life; no one does. My first order on Voyager was to head to the Badlands and capture you. Instead, you captured my heart, only I couldn't let you know."

"I knew."

"Not from me, you didn't."

"Definitely from you. Why do you think I went on those shore leaves? For me, every woman in the DQ had one name, and it was 'Kathryn'. Those women all knew the score. If I called them Kathryn when I … well, whenever, they understood. But, at least when I was off Voyager I…I had you. Maybe I had to shut my eyes and imagine, but I had you."

"You have me now, too. Only, from now on you can keep your eyes open."

"My eyes are open. It's yours that are shut against the obvious, now that we're here."

Kathryn slowly stood up, flexing her cold muscles. "Come on."

Chakotay looked up at her. "What? Where?"

"Chakotay, I've been captain of that ship for more years than I even want to remember now. And frankly, I think I'm due for a shore leave. Don't you agree?"

"Kathryn…"

"There's that name again. Now, do you want to use it with your eyes open, or not?"

He did. Very much so.

Later, as they held each other in the captain's bed, they spoke of their future and that of their children. In spite of the doubts he had, Chakotay knew he couldn't live without this woman in his arms. They would find their strength in each other, just as they had for the last seven years.

 

 

Sandrine's was running on Holodeck Two, but the lack of the usual laughter and din of conversations made the program seem odd. No matter how perfectly right it was, it was still totally wrong. Neelix leaned on the bar from the serving side, humming to the doctor's quiet piano playing and waiting for any beverage order from the others present.

Chell was sitting quietly with Golwat, enjoying her chatter about their Bolian homeworld; so near now and yet still so far away. Their conversation turned to plumbing.

The few Betazoids were gathered around one table and, for once, they were communicating silently. This gross breach of etiquette was tolerated by the others—everyone was on edge—but their silence added to the eerieness of the room. Ensign Jurot suddenly gestured with her hands and the excited but silent responses from the others captivated Neelix's attention. For some reason, his thoughts turned to Kes. He wished her well, wherever she was.

Most of the Bajorans were actually seated at the bar, but Neelix would never get rich on their tips. He had quit asking if any of them were ready for a drink 15 minutes before, and not one of them had uttered a sound since that last offer.

Vorik stood silent and alone before the dartboard, systematically tossing the darts—thud—thud—thud—around the bullseye. If his activity was logical, he was keeping the proof to himself.

Seven and Icheb were sitting near the piano, listening to the music and softly speaking from time to time. Seven showed no particular emotion, but the young man was visibly on edge.

Even Tom and B'Elanna sat in a corner, alternately sipping their drinks and cuddling Miral. They were sure they had made up their minds for their cherished daughter, but hearing the options just one more time wouldn't hurt. Samantha Wildman and Naomi joined them, Naomi holding Flotter close to her chest.

The door opened and Janeway, Chakotay, and Tuvok entered the bar. The piano music faded away and the Bajorans turned their heads as one. A dart fell to the floor.

"Is everyone here?" asked Commander Tuvok.

"Yes, Mr Tuvok. We're all here." Neelix held his morale officer banner high.

"Good, then let's get started. First, Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay thought I was the logical person to address you, since I personally share your concerns. However, they are both here in the event that you prefer to have them answer a particular question. Having said that, does anyone have any questions? Requests for clarification? Anything at all?"

His audience looked around at the others, and slowly arms rose. Tuvok watched their faces and quietly spoke. "Why don't we pull chairs into a circle and talk about this?"

The conversation flowed a little more smoothly once they all gathered together. Naomi went first.

"Commander Tuvok, Mummy said the doctor was going to remove my forehead bumps."

"Only if you and your mother wish to have it done, Naomi. You definitely have the right to choose."

"Will it hurt?"

The doctor interjected. "No, Naomi. If you decide to have them removed, I promise you it won't hurt. I'm sure you and your mother could talk to Lieutenant Torres. She doesn't always bite." Naomi giggled into her hand while her mother hid her own smile. B'Elanna glared at the EMH.

Tuvok continued. "If you want to live in Terran society, it is imperative that any physical anomalies are surgically corrected. Otherwise, you will live on Voyager for the rest of your life."

"That's easy for you to say, Commander! All you have to do is have your ears bobbed. Look at Golwat and I! What about our skin colour? This is not the most liberated planet now, you know!"

"I do know, Mr Chell. I regret to say that the doctor has not been able to devise a permanent remedy for the colour of your skin."

"What?!" The Bolians turned towards the EMH.

"I'm sorry, but Commander Tuvok is correct. So far the best I can do is make your skin a rather unnatural greeny-yellow. Or a yellowy-green. Either way, any physician who saw you would have you in a hospital after the first glance."

Golwat spoke up softly. "In other words, we'll live on Voyager for the rest of our lives."

Tuvok nodded in acknowledgement. "As it stands now, Lieutenant, yes."

A Bajoran spoke up. "And the other "essential" surgery, Tuvok? There's no leeway in this requirement for non-Humans?"

He shook his head. "I'm sorry but there is not. Without exception, all non-Humans will be sterilised. Whether or not you have cosmetic surgery is your choice. Procreation is not."

"How about us, Commander? We're almost physically identical to Humans. Why do we have to be sterilised?"

It was a tough question but there was no room for compromise. "I'm sorry Miss Jurot, but the physical makeup of the Human race cannot be polluted – not even by Betazoid DNA, which is so close to their own. I cannot stress this point enough."

"'Polluted'. Nice."

"I'm sorry if I offend you, but it is a simple fact. We have no idea what any dilution of the Human species over time could result in, physically or socially. The point of these hard decisions is to enable our own timeline to exist. Again, I stress that most of us have a choice in having cosmetic surgery or not, but none of us have a choice in whether we procreate. The only physical legacy we will leave on this planet will be made of 100% Human DNA."

Neelix frowned. "We understand, Mr Vulcan, but it would be nice if you just let things sink in a bit. Like Mr Chell said, all you have to have done is a few snips at your ears. Furthermore, even if they are light years away, you have four children. You've performed your biological imperative. It would be nice if you granted those of us who will never have our own children the time to grieve their loss."

"Mr Neelix, you are as illogical as always. You cannot grieve the loss of a child who has never been conceived."

"That's where you're wrong, Mr Tuvok. Look at the faces in this room."

Commander Tuvok did just that, slowly and with care. He did indeed see real grief, and fear. It appeared that the non-Humans weren't quite the random factors he figured after all. He'd have to take a second look at his equation.

"I beg all your pardons. You are correct. I have, indeed, fathered four children and I know they will live long and prosper. But do not think that all I have to do is have my ears reshaped before I leave here. I have decided that I am staying on Voyager. It is where I belong."

A Bajoran finally spoke up with a derisive voice. "For seven years I would have paid two bars of latinum to anyone who could truthfully say that being back on Earth would be my worst nightmare. And yet, here we are back on Earth – and it is."

Vorik nodded at Lieutenant Gerron. "I believe I understand your feeling of irony. However, I prefer to think of how we could now be on Cardassia, Romulus, or many other unfavourable planets, and I have to state that I, for one, am glad we're on the planet Earth. We have gained more than we have lost.

Seven of Nine finally spoke. "I concur, Mr Vorik. But it is unfortunate that we arrived in 1947."

 

Epilogue

 

"So, she fell in love with the Maquis rebel she was sent to capture."

"Sounds like it."

Mrs Janeway smiled. "Sounds like my Kathryn, you mean. You know, while we were listening to the debriefing I started to remember something from a long time ago. Something my grandmother told me once."

"What's that?"

My great-great-great … well, way way back, after the Second World War was over, my then-young ancestors were newly married. They built the house I live in and the bride kept a journal. Someone found it in the attic generations later, very dilapidated and mouldy, but still good enough to get most of it onto a computer."

"Don't tell me…"

She smiled. "I don't know for sure, but yes, I believe Kathryn and Chakotay were mentioned."

"For crying out loud."

"My ancestors were just starting out in farming. Money was a little tight so they took in boarders, a 'mixed' couple with both a young 'half-breed' toddler and baby. My ancestor bride was just a young woman and she marvelled at two old people having such young children."

General Paris guffawed. "Oh, how times have changed! 'Half-breed'!"

Gretchen laughed along with him. "Don't forget the 'old' part."

"Thank goodness 'old' is relative. I knew him, you know."

"You did? Oh please, Owen, tell me about my son-in-law."

"He was in a tactical class I taught at the Academy. I liked him; there was just something about him that gave him a little more depth than the other students. At the time I thought it was due to his community's strong belief structure; I didn't know then that he had turned his back on that."

"Handsome?"

"Oh for gawds' sake, Gretchen, what a question to ask a man about another man. I have no idea if he was handsome or not to a woman."

"Well, my Kathryn must have thought so. Therefore, I declare him handsome."

"There's one way to decide for yourself, you know."

"What's that?."

"You must still be in shock. I have access to files, remember? His children might have been born in the late 1940s or early '50s, but he was only born forty-five to fifty years ago. I'll send you a copy of any pictures I can dig up."

She suddenly stopped, and he had to spin around to keep from leaving her behind. The tears she had suppressed all day were now sliding down her cheeks.

He asked softly, "Why are you crying, dear?"

"I don't know."

Owen stretched out his arms and she willingly came into his embrace. "It's just that … to not only outlive your child, but your grandchildren and great grandchildren and … and … "

He patted his dear friend on her back. "You just cry, Gretchen. Then I'm taking you home with me so we can tell Margaret what's happened."

"OH!" Gretchen stepped back with a look of horror. "Margaret!"

"Yes, Margaret. She'll make tea and sandwiches, and …"

Gretchen didn't let him finish. "No, Owen. Margaret! Tom and B'Elanna. Miral."

The penny dropped. "Oh," he said softly. "No one after Miral. Tom's line ended with her death."

"Yes. Poor Margaret."

"Gretchen, she'll be able to handle this; Tom wasn’t our only child. At least she'll know he not only got home safely but that he also found love and had a family."

She wiped her eyes with her cuff and they began walking towards the lift again. Mrs Janeway was the first to speak. "I can't help but think that there are some pretty interesting people on this planet who don't know how lucky they are."

"What do you mean?"

"Imagine. Having the blood of a Starfleet captain and a Maquis cell leader in their veins. They must be made of dilithium."

Owen smiled. "Space freaks."

"Admirals."

"World leaders."

"Federation leaders!"

"Old women in old farmhouses."

"Watch it with that "old" crap, buster."

"'Old' is relative, remember?"

The lift door opened and they entered.

 

 

The melodic sound of Puccini's La Boheme sounded throughout Sickbay. The doctor hummed along with the opera, but his mind was no longer in the Latin quarter of Paris. As he took inventory of the tools of his trade, he remembered the day's long-awaited debriefing held at Starfleet headquarters.

He recalled the look of wonder on everyone's face as they listened, and then the stunned expressions as reality set in. Trying to explain Braxton's sheer vindictiveness towards Janeway was not easy. No one, not even Starfleet officials, knew the 29th century timeship captain who had blasted Voyager and her crew into the past, nor did they understand the temporal psychosis that drove him to it. It didn't take long before someone was standing, reasoning that knowing that temporal psychosis would exist was a step towards being more prepared for it. Therefore, if Starfleet could find a cure for it

In the end, everyone had a temporal headache that even Captain Janeway would have been proud of.

At least the small courtesy of Braxton's first officer giving the stranded crew the schematics for a shield with 29th century sophistication had been easier for the audience to understand. It had kept Voyager and her outdoor gardens and other areas shielded safely for over four hundred years. However, no one would ever understand Braxton's total destruction of Voyager's warp core. To maroon 150 people in a time for which they weren't born – and for some an alien planet at that – was beyond anyone's comprehension. It would be a mystery forever unsolved.

The opera ended with Mimi's last gasp, and the doctor continued his work. Diagnostics for machines that had been dormant for centuries were still performed on a regular schedule. The EMH liked order and a smile spread over his face as he remembered another orderly and proper sequence of events. At last, the captain and first officer had been able to express their love for one another.

The command team had announced that they were staying with the crewmembers remaining on Voyager. Tuvok finally convinced them that they had dedicated enough of their lives to the ship and crew, and that they'd probably be in the way anyway. At their protestations he calmly assured them that the people remaining with the ship were quite grown up, with the possible exception of Mr Neelix, and able to function without two out-of-work space phenoms hanging around. It took a couple of weeks, but finally Kathryn and Chakotay saw the truth in his words, and the captain transferred command of her only ship to Tuvok. Then, for his first command performance, the new captain joined the former captain and first officer in matrimony. The crew threw pips at them as they retired to the holodeck for a few days.

The exodus of the Human and surgically altered crewmembers was difficult. It wasn't easy just simply appearing somewhere on the planet, ready to settle into a society that, for them, was more than 400 years behind the times. It was no problem creating their identities or documenting their fictional pasts, but it was hard to leave behind the only family they'd all had for years. Ahead of them lay the very practical problems of daily life, from learning how to pilot the ground vehicles called automobiles, to learning how to navigate around an archaic kitchen and bring an edible meal to the table. The mere idea of leaving the food replicators behind on the ship almost drove Kathryn back, but Chakotay held firm.

The ties to Voyager's family were strong; too strong for them to forget or ignore. As the years went by, a tradition of sorts evolved, and one that no crewmember ever willingly missed. As people settled into their new lives, they still felt the pull of their past, and summertime became nature's call to return to their roots. For the first few years it was haphazard, but then everyone snapped back into Starfleet mode and got things organised. From then on the Annual Voyager Reunion was observed faithfully. Everyone who had merged into the 20th century had friends who merely assumed they belonged to a group of world travellers. And, since they were more correct than they could ever imagine, no crewmember ever had to lie outright.

The doctor called for the lights in sickbay to slowly dim until they were extinguished, and entered his office. Those reunions had been the highlight of each and every year they were held. After a consultation between Captain Tuvok, Kathryn, Chakotay, himself, and a few others, an unprecedented decision was approved. Those crewmembers who had found a human partner of the time, and those crewmembers who started families, were not excluded from the get-togethers. He himself had assured everyone that it was almost ridiculously easy and safe to administer a memory suppressant to the non-crewmembers. One of the favourite events was the dinner dance held the first evening of the reunions. To watch the faces of lovers and children as they "first" saw Voyager again and watched holoimages of themselves giving themselves a welcome back message from each year, was a treat to behold. By the end of the week they'd be in front of the holoimager again, laughingly going through the steps, knowing that within hours they wouldn't remember a thing.

Well, almost. As the doctor opened his computer he allowed himself the luxury of wondering if that was totally true. As the children grew older a pattern seemed to emerge. While many had an artistic side, they all had an uncanny knack in scientific fields. Without exception they became prominent in computer development, engineering, space exploration, and the like. The little acorns never fell far from the oaks, even if they were ignorant of the fact.

The doctor watched as pictures flashed past on the monitor at lightning speed. He smiled, laughed, and sighed, as the pictures of Voyager's only crew at work and at play conjured up dear memories. Towards the end it was only Naomi and Miral looking back at him, gray haired and frail. None of the crewmembers had broken the pact; they had all faithfully kept the Voyager secret. The rip in the fabric of time had mended.

He had done what he could. Starfleet now had all the crew logs and his own programs and files for the researchers. Centuries before he had been ordered to contact Starfleet when he felt the time was right to tell the lost history of Voyager and her crew. He'd had centuries to calculate the optimum day, but in the end he'd gone with what Lieutenant Paris would have called "his gut". Now, with his duty done, he had nothing left to offer.

He spoke softly, with his eyes steady on the last group shot showing the entire crew.

"Computer, delete Voyager's Emergency Medical Hologram. Authorisation Janeway, NCC-74656."

 

The End

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