Desperate Measures
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Summary: They’re home… but it’s not what they hoped for. Estranged by circumstance and misunderstanding and kept apart by devious design, Voyager’s former command team are drawn into a world of danger, deception and political intrigue that could end up costing their lives.

 

Characters: Janeway, Chakotay, Seven, Kim, Tuvok, Torres, Paris, Sekaya, Original Female Characters, Original Male Characters

Codes: Janeway/Chakotay, Janeway/Other, Chakotay/Seven, Kim/Seven

 

Disclaimer: Paramount/CBS own the rights to the Voyager universe and its characters, which I am borrowing without permission or intent to profit.

Warning: Non-consensual sex depicted.

Rated E

Resentment rides high,
But emotions won’t grow
And we’re changing our ways
Taking different roads.
– Joy Division, Love Will Tear Us Apart

===0===


Chapter One: Coercion
February, 2378



“You’re blackmailing me?”

If she’d spent the past seven years in the Delta quadrant serving under the auburn-haired captain with the laser-sharp eyes, Fleet Admiral Nyla Kjogo might have taken heed of the steely undertone in Kathryn Janeway’s voice. As she hadn’t – and as she considered herself impervious to intimidation, having been hailed as a several-time hero of the Dominion War – she ignored it.

“It’s not blackmail, Captain. It’s a promotion. And I suggest you accept it with a great deal more graciousness than you’ve displayed to date.”

Kathryn planted her hands on her hips, staring down at the tall, voluptuous Tandaran seated behind her equally imposing desk. “It’s not just a promotion, Admiral. You want me to sell my soul to Starfleet’s PR machine.”

“Must you reduce this to basics? We’re offering you the opportunity of a lifetime, Kathryn. Why choose to see it as some kind of underhanded deal?”

“For the past two months,” Kathryn answered slowly, her voice dangerously low, “you have kept me confined to this building, refused to allow me contact with my crew, grudgingly allowed me rare and brief visits from my family, and questioned me to the point of interrogation. And now you inform me that I’m being cleared of all possible charges and promoted to the admiralty, but only if I’ll agree to be Starfleet’s poster girl. If that isn’t underhanded, Admiral, what would you call it?”

“I’d call it a win-win situation. After all, Kathryn, in your new role you’ll have fame, freedom and the ability to influence billions of people. Including the judiciary in charge of hearings for the more … problematic members of your former crew.”

Kathryn went still. “Meaning?”

“Maquis terrorists, liberated Borg drones, an ex-convict, a hologram with delusions of sentience, and a handful of genocidal Starfleet traitors. You really brought home a passel of problem children, didn’t you, Kathryn? And while I’m sure they all became upstanding members of your crew out in the wilds of the Delta quadrant, things are a little different here. Just how well do you think the average Federation citizen in these post-war, post-Changeling times will take to those who are a little bit different?”

Kathryn folded her arms and stared at her.

“Of course,” Kjogo went on calmly, “if they had a spokesperson – a sponsor, of sorts – to look out for their best interests, I’m sure acceptance would come a lot more easily. And what better champion than their heroic former captain and the jewel in Starfleet’s public relations crown?” She watched the younger woman for a moment. “On the other hand, a maverick captain who’s spent seven years marching to the beat of her own drum and making her own, often questionable, decisions … well, she wouldn’t do them much good at all.”

“I see,” Kathryn said evenly. “Are Admirals Paris and Hayes aware of these terms?”

“Admiral Paris has expressed his desire to see his son and daughter-in-law excused from any possible criminal or military prosecution. Admiral Hayes has recently been appointed head of the Strategic Command Division and is currently engaged with the Tholian problem.” Kjogo folded her hands on the desk before her. “Your promotion – and its terms – have been sanctioned by both Commander-in-Chief Shanthi and President Zife, Captain. You would be wise to accept.”

Kathryn studied her. Fleet Admiral Nyla Kjogo was an unknown quantity, but as the chief of the Office of Starfleet Communications, and now that debriefings had finally finished, the Tandaran woman was firmly in charge of the public reintroduction of Voyager‘s crew to Federation society. Kathryn could understand why the admiral wanted to put the most positive spin possible on Voyager’s return.

What she couldn’t understand was why that meant serving her up to the media on a platter; something that was apparently important enough not only to Admiral Kjogo, but to Starfleet’s Commander-in-Chief and the Federation President, that they had seen fit to resort to blackmail. And despite Kjogo’s demurrals, blackmail was exactly what this was.

But Kathryn had some terms of her own.

“If the Starfleet Judiciary sees fit to prosecute the former Maquis on my crew for actions they took prior to our being stranded halfway across the galaxy, rest assured that I will employ every tactic at my disposal – including garnering pubic support – to ensure they never serve a day in prison. Lieutenant Paris has also more than served his original sentence and should be immediately pardoned, reinstated and promoted.”

Kjogo raised an eyebrow.

“Seven of Nine cannot possibly be held responsible for acts she effected while part of the Borg Collective. Since her emancipation she has repeatedly proven herself invaluable to my crew and has saved the ship and all our lives on numerous occasions. As for Icheb, he was freed from assimilation shortly after emerging from a maturation chamber. He is a fine, intelligent young man whom I’ve sponsored for entry to Starfleet Academy.”

Kjogo leaned back in her chair.

“The Doctor,” Kathryn continued, “has evolved over his seven years of active service, and I consider him not only the finest physician I’ve ever known, but a close friend. Should he be required to prove his sentient status in a Federation court, I would be the first to offer testimony on his behalf.”

Kjogo tapped her fingers on her armrest.

“As for the Equinox crew,” Kathryn took in a breath, knowing this was the most difficult case to sell, “you cannot have any idea what it was like to be stranded so far from home with very little hope of ever getting back. Those five crewmen were led by a captain who had abandoned his principles. I don’t condone what they did – as you’d be aware from my logs, they were stripped of their ranks when they joined Voyager – but they’ve been punished enough. They should be allowed to continue serving in Starfleet with the opportunity to rejoin the officers’ ranks.”

At that, Kjogo leaned forward. “Are you quite finished, Captain?”

“For now.”

“Then let me explain what will happen next. Your Maquis, including Tom Paris, will be pardoned and allowed to retain their commissions, and those you recommend for promotion will receive it. The female Borg will be engaged as a civilian consultant to whichever branch of the Sciences Division she prefers. The male Borg will enrol in Starfleet Academy. The Emergency Medical Hologram will be granted sentient status and allowed to keep his portable holoemitter on the proviso that he remain in Starfleet service and allow our scientists to study the emitter. The Equinox crew will be honourably discharged.” She held up a hand as Kathryn started to protest. “That’s the best I can do, Kathryn. As for you, I’ll expect you at Cochrane Hall at 1800 hours for your promotion ceremony, wearing a dress uniform and a smile.”

“Admiral –”

“You have your orders, Captain. Don’t make me rescind them. You won’t like the results.”

Deciding on a change of tactic, Kathryn eased into the seat opposite Kjogo’s desk and softened her voice. “Admiral, I’m fully prepared to offer Starfleet-approved statements to the media about Voyager’s journey, and to pose for the occasional PR photo. But we’ve been away from home for seven years, and I assure you that those seven years were no picnic. Surely you can understand that my crew and I would like to spend some time with friends and family before returning to active service?”

“Of course. Which is why I’ve arranged for three days’ rest and recuperation before your first public appearance. I suggest you use some of that time to update your hairstyle and wardrobe.”

It was rare for Kathryn Janeway to find herself speechless.

Kjogo handed her a padd. “This details your schedule for the next two weeks. I’ve taken the liberty of arranging a small staff for you, including stylist, masseuse, make-up artist, personal security and executive aide.” She looked Kathryn over with a critical eye and took the padd back. “And I’m adding a personal trainer.  You’ll need to shed a couple of kilograms – the camera is unforgiving, you know. Now,” Kjogo stood, holding out the padd, “do we have an agreement?”

Outmanoeuvred and out of options, Kathryn placed her thumbprint on the padd.

 

===0===


“What are we all doing in here?” Harry Kim asked apprehensively as Voyager’s crew were ushered into the large auditorium.

“No idea,” muttered Tom Paris, holding his tiny, grumbling daughter close, “but they’d better make it snappy. Miral’s due for a feed in the next few minutes, and nobody gets between a Klingon and her dinner.”

“Hand her over.” B’Elanna Torres slipped into the next seat and held out her arms for Tom to place their daughter carefully into them. She fumbled awkwardly with the fastenings of her jacket. “Anybody know why we were told to wear these damn dress uniforms? They’re not made for breastfeeding mothers, I can tell you that much.”

Harry pointed to the doors. “Looks like we’re about to find out what’s going on.”

A pair of security officers entered the room, followed by a tall, olive-skinned Tandaran woman wearing fleet admiral insignia. She strode to the low dais at the front of the room and held up her hands for silence. The murmur of conversation died down.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I am Fleet Admiral Nyla Kjogo of the Office of Communications. I’m sure you’re all wondering why you’re here, so let me enlighten you. As of this moment, you are all free to leave this facility.”

The murmurs started up again, and Kjogo raised her hand.

“I’m sure you have many questions, and my aides and I will endeavour to answer them, but please hold them until I’ve finished. You’ve been held here these past weeks partly as a quarantine measure and partly to ensure Starfleet Command had a complete understanding of the details of your mission in the Delta quadrant, particularly any contentious matters, prior to releasing information to the general public. I thank you all for your patience and apologise that your contact with your friends and families has been limited, but it was a necessary security measure.”

The Voyager crew remained silent, waiting.

“With regard to your status,” the admiral continued, “those of you whom Captain Janeway granted field commissions will retain them, and Starfleet welcomes you into its ranks. I’m also authorised to offer positions within Starfleet to your civilian crewmembers, but these will be discussed in private with the individuals concerned.”

Tom Paris had been glancing around the auditorium, and at Kjogo’s words he nudged Harry. “Where are Gilmore and Lessing and the others?”

Harry frowned. “I don’t see them.”

“Finally,” Admiral Kjogo concluded smoothly, “allow me to extend our official welcome home. If there are no questions, I’d like to invite you to attend a ceremony in Cochrane Hall in thirty minutes.”

She stepped back and began moving toward the door.

“Excuse me, Admiral.”

A flash of irritation crossed Kjogo’s patrician face as she turned back to Tom, who’d risen from his seat. “Yes?”

“Lieutenant Tom Paris, sir. We seem to be missing five of our number. May I enquire as to their whereabouts?”

“I assume you’re referring to the crewmen your captain retrieved from the USS Equinox. They have been excused from service and escorted to their places of residence. Now, if there’s nothing else?” She barely paused. “Good. Then I’ll expect to see you all in half an hour.”

The door clicked shut behind Kjogo and her lieutenants.

“What the hell?” B’Elanna demanded as she stood, holding Miral close. “They interrogate us for two months with no explanation, barely let us contact anyone from the outside world, refuse to let us see the captain, and now we’re just … free to go?”

“Not exactly the homecoming any of us expected.” Harry was scowling. “I wonder if Tuvok knows anything. He’s the only one who’s been allowed to leave until now.”

“They shipped him straight off to Vulcan, and nobody’s heard from him since,” Tom pointed out. “I’m more worried about the captain. Even Chakotay hasn’t been allowed to see her.”

B’Elanna snorted. “Maybe she just didn’t want to see him.”

“B’Elanna,” sighed Tom. They’d been through this.

“Speak of the petaQ,” B’Elanna growled, turning away as the first officer made his way through the milling crew toward them. “And his chaj,” she added, spotting Seven of Nine’s perfect blonde chignon in Chakotay’s wake.

“Be nice, honey,” Tom muttered under his breath.

“Commander,” Harry called as Chakotay and Seven approached. “Any idea what’s going on, sir?”

“Not yet, but I intend to find out.” Chakotay rested a hand on his shoulder. “Tom, B’Elanna.”

B’Elanna ignored him.

“I guess we’re not the only ones thinking our sudden freedom seems too good to be true,” Tom remarked hastily to divert attention from his wife’s lack of response. “And what’s this ceremony that admiral mentioned? Our welcome-home party?”

“Doubtful,” Seven interjected. “According to my studies of the Federation database, Cochrane Hall has traditionally been reserved for military ceremonies. It is unlikely to be the site of such an informal occasion.”

“Well, the last military ceremony I attended as a guest of honour was a court-martial,” Tom quipped. “So let’s hope that’s not what we’re in for.”

“If anyone could manage to go from a full pardon to a court-martial in less than an hour, it’d be you,” Chakotay smirked.

“Have you seen the captain yet, sir?” Harry asked anxiously.

All trace of good humour washed from Chakotay’s face. “Not since we disembarked.” Before then, actually, he amended silently. And it hadn’t exactly been the conversation such a joyous occasion should have warranted.

He found himself resting his palm on Seven’s waist. B’Elanna growled under her breath and stalked away.

“Don’t mind her,” Tom said, deliberately averting his gaze. “She’s just … concerned for the captain.”

“As are we,” Seven interjected.

Tom and Harry exchanged an unreadable glance that made Seven’s eyebrow rise and Chakotay’s back stiffen. “Do you two have something to say to us?” he asked pointedly.

“No, sir,” Tom answered smartly. “We have nothing to say to you. Sir.”

“You disapprove of our romantic relationship,” Seven deduced. “Clearly, so does Lieutenant Torres.”

Harry scratched nervously at the back of his neck. “It’s none of our business, Seven.”

“You’re right, Harry.” The first officer’s voice was low and dangerous. “It is none of your business. But if anyone thinks they should have an opinion on the matter, they should feel free to bring it to me first.”

“Understood, sir,” Tom drawled. “Excuse me. I need to go find my wife.”

Harry flicked a sheepish glance over his shoulder as he trailed after his friend.

 

===0===


“Captain! Over here! Captain Janeway!”

Kathryn turned obligingly in the direction of the voice, smile fixed on her face. Lights flashed, blinding her.

An audio-recorder was thrust under her nose. “Captain, how does it feel to be home after so many years?”

“Wonderful,” she answered. “I’m thrilled to –”

“And your crew – how are they settling in?” another reporter called.

“They’re doing fine.” She’d kill to actually know that for sure. “They’re an exemplary cr–”

“What’s going to happen to Voyager now that you’re home?”

“I’ve been told she’s undergoing a refit. I’m sure Starfleet will find an appropriate mission –”

“What are you going to do next?” asked an excited young Trill, shoving her recorder in Kathryn’s face.

“All right, people, that’s enough for today.” Lieutenant Tora Jens, the young, dark-haired aide who’d been assigned to Kathryn barely three hours earlier, stepped politely in front of the still-flashing cameras. “You wouldn’t want Captain Janeway to be late for her own promotion ceremony, would you?”

The reporters laughed good-naturedly as Jens took Kathryn’s elbow and steered her up the steps and into Cochrane Hall.

“Thanks,” Kathryn murmured. “I wasn’t expecting any press tonight. How did they know where I’d be?”

Jens smiled. “Admiral Kjogo knows how to make the most of a PR opportunity. You’d better get used to it, Captain – or should I say, Admiral? You’re big news.”

“Are they always so eager? I couldn’t finish a sentence out there.”

“You’re a good-news story, ma’am,” Jens replied. “You make a nice change from reporting on post-war devastation in the Demilitarised Zone or the rise of piracy in the Borderlands.”

She beckoned to the stylist hovering anxiously a couple of metres away, and the young man scurried up in relief, immediately pulling out a comb and attacking Kathryn’s slightly-mussed bob.

Kathryn tried not to flinch at either the comb or the ma’am. “Piracy?” she asked Jens.

“Well, with Starfleet ranks so thinned out from the war, we haven’t had the manpower to keep the Orion Syndicate or the Ferengi traders contained to their usual routes, and some of the unallied trade worlds have also taken the opportunity to expand their influence. But I’m sure you’ll be fully briefed on all that and more in the coming weeks.” The young woman waved the stylist away. “We’d better go or you really will be late.”

The imposing double doors of the reception hall swung slowly open, and as Kathryn stepped inside a sea of Starfleet dress uniforms swivelled in her direction, conversations breaking off into applause. She paused briefly to paste the expected smile on her face as she climbed the short flight of stairs to the stage. Three admirals – Kjogo, Starfleet’s Commander-in-Chief, Taela Shanti, and a Coridanite man Kathryn recognised as Ube Mekas, the Starfleet liaison to the Office of the President – stood waiting for her, clapping and smiling.

I’m home, she told herself. The crew is safe. I’m about to become an admiral. This is everything I’ve ever wanted.

So why did she feel like turning tail and heading straight back to the Delta quadrant?

 

===0===


“It’s the captain,” Harry exclaimed, elbowing Tom in the side.

“Ow. Where?” Tom raised himself on his toes, peering over the sea of mostly-grizzled heads toward the doors.

Harry pointed to the stage. “I guess she’s the guest of honour.”

Admiral Shanthi waited patiently for an ensign to finish adjusting the microphone, then stepped forward, holding up her hands for silence. The applause died down instantly.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” she began. “As you all know, eight weeks ago a miraculous event occurred: the return of the USS Voyager from the Delta quadrant. Many of us here tonight believed this would never happen in our lifetimes, with the obvious exception of our Vulcan members, of course.” Shanthi paused for the expected gentle hum of laughter. “And yet, this intrepid ship and her crew were led home in one tenth of the time it should have taken them, thanks to their valiant captain, Kathryn Janeway.”

She stepped back a pace and held out her arm, indicating Kathryn should move forward.

“Is it my imagination, or is the captain not particularly happy about this?” Harry muttered to Tom.

Tom studied her rigid posture, her stony-grey eyes, the captain’s mask he knew so well. “It’s not your imagination, Harry.”

“– bravery, and your exemplary service to Starfleet,” Shanthi was saying, “I’m honoured to promote you to the rank of Rear Admiral. Congratulations, Admiral Janeway.”

The room erupted in applause as Shanthi pinned the rank bar to Kathryn’s collar. The fleet admiral stepped back, clapping, and nodded to the microphone.

Reluctantly, Kathryn stepped forward.

“Thank you,” she began stiltedly as the applause filtered away. “Thank you, Admiral. I’ll do my best to live up to the responsibility you’ve seen fit to give me. I’m delighted to be home –”

“If she’s delighted,” Tom muttered to Harry, “I’m an Orion slave girl.”

“Shh,” B’Elanna hissed on his other side.

“– never have made it without the most exemplary crew any captain could hope to serve with, and if any honours should be bestowed tonight, they should be the ones to receive them.”

Harry watched as the newly-minted admiral’s eyes searched the room. He saw the moment Janeway caught sight of him and the bright, unfettered smile that spread across her face.

“In fact,” she went on, her voice lightening, “I see that my crew is in attendance tonight. Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in showing your appreciation for the fine men and women who brought Voyager home.” She began clapping with enthusiasm, stepping back from the microphone as others around the room applauded more hesitantly.

Kjogo glided past her, appropriating the room’s attention. “Yes, congratulations to Admiral Janeway and of course the crew of Voyager. Ladies and gentlemen, canapés will be served shortly, so please feel free to stay for a while. Admiral Janeway will also be making the rounds of the room for those of you looking forward to hearing her tales of life in the Delta quadrant.”

Harry saw his former captain stiffen slightly and shoot Kjogo a smile laced with venom. “Guess nobody thought to clear that little plan with the captain,” he murmured to Tom.

“Kjogo’s a brave woman,” Tom snickered back. “I’m not sure if we should be rescuing her or Janeway.”

 

===0===


She felt like she was wading through molasses.

Every time Kathryn spotted a member of her crew and tried to extricate herself from whatever polite, repetitive conversation she’d been dragged into, Lieutenant Jens appeared at her side towing yet another admiral, politician or self-important person she was obliged to make nice with. The hall was stuffy and sour with the smell of too many portly bodies, and her throat was dust-dry from far too much talking to people she didn’t know and couldn’t care less about. After close to an hour of it, Kathryn was ready to scream.

“Excuse me,” she said abruptly to the silver-haired, pontificating admiral she was currently corralled with. Handing Jens her warm, half-full glass of champagne, Kathryn pushed her way through the crowd, seeking friendly faces or solitude, whichever came first.

“Captain Janeway!” she heard. Flinching, she ducked away, then realised the voice had been a familiar one. She turned.

“Ensign Kim,” she said, relieved.

“Cap- uh, Admiral,” he stammered. “Congratulations on your promotion, ma’am. It’s so good to see you. We’ve all been worried. Are you all right?”

“I’m fine, Harry.” She squeezed his shoulder. “How is everyone?”

“Fine, we’re all fine.” He leaned in closer. “Admiral, we haven’t seen you in almost two months. What’s going on? Why were they keeping you away from us?”

“Not here,” she murmured.

Harry nodded. “Tom and B’Elanna are out on the balcony. Miral was getting a little fussy.”

Kathryn’s face lit up. “Then it’s time I saw my goddaughter, don’t you think?”

“Most of the rest of the crew have already left,” Harry told her quietly as they weaved through the crowd. “Everyone’s eager to see their families, of course, but they’d have stayed if they could. It’s been made pretty clear that we’re not really welcome here.”

“Is that so?” she asked grimly, pushing open the balcony door.

“Captain.” Tom Paris rushed over to her, taking her hands. “Thank God. We’ve all been so worried about you.”

Kathryn squeezed his hands. “As you can see, I’m fine, Mr Paris. Now where is that beautiful daughter of yours?”

B’Elanna moved over, cradling the sleeping bundle in her arms. “She finally dropped off. Here, would you like to hold her, Captain? I mean, Admiral.”

Kathryn shrugged off the unease that rippled through her every time someone addressed her by her brand-new rank. “I’d love to. How are you faring, Lieutenant?”

“Not so bad. A little confused, though.” B’Elanna gently deposited Miral in Kathryn’s arms and smiled as her erstwhile captain’s face softened. “Why were they keeping you separate from us, Admiral?”

“I’m told it was necessary to ensure a contained debriefing.”

B’Elanna raised an eyebrow. “Funny that they didn’t segregate the rest of us from each other.”

“Have you seen Chakotay?” Kathryn asked abruptly.

B’Elanna’s smile faded. “Yeah, he’s around here somewhere.”

Kathryn placed Miral carefully back in her mother’s arms. “I need to find him. Excuse me, all of you. And let’s catch up soon, shall we?” She headed for the balcony doors. “Maybe at your promotion ceremonies,” she added over her shoulder with a grin.

Without waiting for their reactions, she pushed through the doors and scanned the room. Over by the far wall, near the main exit, she spotted Chakotay’s dark head. Kathryn started pushing her way through the crowd, politely excusing herself whenever someone tried to draw her into conversation. Still, it took her a good five minutes to reach the spot where she’d seen Chakotay.

By the time she got there he was gone.

Frantic, she ran through the exit doors and down the main steps.

He was walking away, deep in conversation with Seven. He had his palm resting on her lower back and their heads were close together. As she watched, Chakotay smiled at Seven and drew her closer against his side.

Blinking, trying to ignore the catch in her throat, Kathryn turned and made her way back up the steps.

 

===0===


Chakotay glanced over his shoulder and stopped short, causing Seven to slow her stride. She looked back.

“Was that Admiral Janeway?”

Chakotay shrugged, keeping his voice neutral. “It might have been. I’m not sure.”

“We should congratulate her,” Seven suggested.

“No,” he said quickly, then more evenly, “no. I’m sure she’s been overwhelmed by well-wishers tonight. We’ll see her some other time.”

“As you wish.” Seven took his arm, and Chakotay turned his back on the woman whose side he’d stood by for the past seven years.

Not that she’d care to speak with him anyway, he mused, judging by the way their last conversation had gone.

He’d had such hopes that day. He’d wanted to tell her that everything was different now that they were home, that they weren’t bound by command isolation anymore, that maybe now they could explore whatever had been between them for seven years. He’d had every intention of breaking it off gently with Seven that evening, so he and Kathryn could start fresh.

The best laid plans, he thought.

He was committed to being with Seven now, at least for the foreseeable future. She would never admit it, but the prospect of life on Earth frightened her, particularly given the cold reception they’d been subjected to over the past two months. And since the Doctor had ill-advisedly removed her emotional failsafe only hours before their untimely return home, she’d clung to Chakotay as her safe harbour. He couldn’t abandon her now.

And, honestly, he didn’t want to. He’d come to know Seven quite well over the past few months, and she’d greatly surprised him. He found her charming and easy to talk to, and her sense of humour was deliciously wicked. He could probably fall in love with her quite easily, he thought. If it weren’t for Kathryn.

But Kathryn was gone.

 

===0===


Kathryn headed straight for the ladies’ room, head down, praying nobody would spot her. At that moment she wasn’t sure she’d be capable of following even the inane and repetitive kind of conversation she’d been enduring all evening.

The bathroom was empty, thank God. She bent over the sink, splashing water onto her face with trembling hands. Dabbing the dampness away with a towel, Kathryn met her own eyes in the mirror.

There was tension in the lines of her shoulders, tightness around her eyes and the corners of her mouth. She looked pale and exhausted and sad. She shook her head slightly. Anyone would think she was still back in the Delta quadrant, bowed with the responsibility of a journey that seemed to have no respite and no end.

This was not the joyous homecoming she’d dreamed of all those long and lonely years.

As she stared at her own reflection, her eyes filled with tears and a sob broke from her throat. She wanted to run back to her ship. She wanted to sit in her briefing room and look around at the dear, familiar faces of her crew. She wanted her mother, damn it.

She wanted what she couldn’t have. What she’d lost. What she’d pushed away.

Don’t be a stranger. It was the last thing Chakotay had said to her, in a tone laced with sarcasm, and it had taken every ounce of control for her to pretend it didn’t rip her guts out.

What the hell do you want from me? she’d wanted to scream at him. What am I supposed to do now?

He’d just started a relationship with Seven, for God’s sake. Seven, who was almost entirely inexperienced in romance, who was just beginning to explore the breadths of human emotions, who’d just had her entire universe turned on its head by their return to the Alpha quadrant. Kathryn was responsible for the way Seven’s life had turned out. She was hardly going to abandon the young woman to her own devices on Earth, and then compound the injury by making a play for her new boyfriend.

Even if it cost Kathryn everything she’d hoped for.

It was clear that she and Chakotay couldn’t be to each other what she’d once hoped they could be. And that last day, it had become clear that they couldn’t even be friends anymore.

Starfleet captains were consummate actors; they had to be, and none more so than a captain who had to get up and fight every day for seven years, even when she didn’t think she could take another step. But that day in her ready room, she’d put on the performance of her career.

Straightening up, Kathryn let her features settle into those of the clear-eyed, composed Starfleet officer everyone was expecting her to be, and walked back into her new life.

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