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.
There’s just one thing that I’ve been dreaming of
The way we did before
Holding hands and the like
Who’d say that this was the end?
The Jezabels, The End
Chapter Twenty-One: In the End
Harry Kim was no stranger to being shot. Or dead, for that matter, although this time he’d apparently managed to escape that fate.
Usually, though, when he came around after a near-fatal injury, he woke on a bio-bed to the beeping of medical instruments and the acerbic tones of Voyager’s EMH. This time he woke alone, on a cold, dirty floor, to the sounds of desperation.
“Kathryn, can you hear me?” It was Chakotay’s voice, cracked and urgent, with an edge of barely-repressed fear. Then, clearly addressing somebody else: “What are you doing?”
“I’m trying to help her,” answered a woman whose voice Harry vaguely recognised; she sounded strained. “Please, Captain, I need to concentrate …”
With effort, Harry propped himself on one elbow to see what was going on, and groaned aloud at the bright agony the movement produced in his shoulder.
A moment later, Seven was crouched at his side. “Harry,” she breathed, then eased him gently to a sitting position. She quirked a smile at him. “I’m glad you’re not dead.”
“Me, too.” Harry squeezed her hand, winced, and tried to straighten up. “Is that Admiral Janeway’s aide?”
“Yes. She is attempting to stabilise the admiral’s condition.”
Harry frowned; it looked to him like the young lieutenant had simply placed her hands on Janeway’s head. “Want to fill me in?”
Seven’s smile faded. “Admiral Janeway has been shot. Captain Tuvok and Mr Miles are on their way to our position, but I believe they have encountered a number of enemy combatants en route.”
“And her?” Harry gestured at the lieutenant. “How did she get here, and how exactly is she stabilising the admiral’s condition? I don’t see a medkit.”
“Lieutenant Jens was on Voyager. I believe Mr Miles transported her to the Alpha Flyer without our knowledge, and then to the biosphere at the same time we did.” Seven paused. “As to your other question, the lieutenant is part Deltan. She has the ability to reduce pain and ease minor ailments through touch telepathy.”
“It is a long story.” Seven quirked a smile at him as she helped him to his feet.
He was still dizzy and weak from the disruptor blast, leaning heavily on Seven as they stumbled slowly toward the trio on the floor. A few metres away from them lay the body of Ryan Austin. Harry didn’t need to ask if he was dead; the man was on his back, his eyes staring vacantly upward, the tell-tale signs of a full strength phaser blast blackening the middle of his chest.
Chakotay was on his knees, Janeway cradled carefully in his arms and clearly unconscious; there was a hole singed in the bodice of her dress and Harry could see burnt and bloody skin through the tear. Tora Jens knelt beside them, her hands gentle on Janeway’s skull. She was pale and trembling.
“I can’t help her,” she whispered, eyes rising to meet Chakotay’s. “There’s too much damage to her neural pathways.”
Harry felt for his combadge. “Kim to Alpha Flyer,” he said. “We need an emergency beam-out.”
The reply came encased in the crackle of interference. ~I’m taking fire from some kind of automated weapons platform,~ Tom shouted. ~Can’t drop shields. Voyager should be in transport range in five minutes. Can you hold out until then?~
“I guess we don’t have a choice. Kim out.”
As he spoke, Janeway’s body arched sharply, then began to convulse.
“She’s going into shock,” Tora Jens exclaimed.
There were tears in Chakotay’s eyes, Harry saw, as the captain tried to hold Janeway’s seizing form steady. “We need to get her out of here,” Chakotay said hoarsely.
Hearing footsteps, Harry swung away from Seven, drawing his phaser, then slumped in relief as he recognised Tuvok and Jonah Miles. The man in black’s eyes scanned the room as he crouched beside Ryan Austin’s body, checked the councillor’s vital signs, and gave a brief nod of satisfaction at finding none.
Tuvok moved immediately to the group on the floor.
“Report, Lieutenant,” he said sharply, seeing that Chakotay was in no state to provide him with information.
“She received a partial impact from Austin’s disruptor,” Jens told him. “But that’s not the problem. He’s been screwing with her head for too long. I can’t reverse the damage.”
“Move aside,” Tuvok ordered. “I will attempt to invoke a healing trance. That should stabilise her until she can receive proper medical attention. Captain Chakotay, please support her head.”
Chakotay tightened his arms around Janeway as Tuvok spread his fingers onto her temple, cheekbone and jaw.
“My mind to your mind…”
As he intoned the Vulcan chant, Janeway’s convulsions eased and her body gradually grew still, and then Harry felt the tingle of dematerialisation as Voyager’s transporter took hold, pulling them all to safety.
CORRUPTION CHARGES: PRESIDENT UNDER FIRE AS MORE CONSPIRATORS EXPOSED
Federation News Service – Breaking News – PARIS, Stardate 56787.3
President Min Zife has stepped down from the Federation Council pending further investigation into his involvement with the recently exposed Entera Coalition. Several top-ranking Starfleet flag officers, including the newly appointed Commander-in-Chief, Admiral Nyla Kjogo, are facing indictment for conspiracy, collusion with a hostile race, inciting a conflict resulting in death and endangerment of Starfleet personnel, and perverting justice for personal gain, among other charges.
As more details come to light, it remains to be determined how significant a role Admiral Kathryn Janeway played in these events. With her husband, Entera conspirator and Federation Councillor for Trade, Ryan Austin, having died recently under mysterious circumstances, and a silence order placed on all Starfleet personnel involved in these events until the charges can be heard and a judgement ruled, the former captain of Voyager is the only one who can answer these questions. But, as Janeway remains comatose and in serious condition at Starfleet Medical, those answers may be some time in coming.
In related news, Federation Councillor Nanietta Bacco has released a statement –
Switching off the padd, Chakotay pinched the bridge of his nose between forefinger and thumb. Two weeks after the rescue mission to the Vana’diel Nebula and ten days since the news of the conspiracy broke, the media frenzy was showing no signs of dying down.
He supposed it was to be expected: it wasn’t every day that the public learned of a merchant consortium with tentacles that extended into the political reaches of every superpower across two quadrants; or of the machinations of the Federation president and several admirals in the highest echelons of Starfleet; or of the scandalous involvement of the woman previously hailed as a hero for safely returning her crew from the other end of the galaxy.
The very idea that the media and the public believed Kathryn Janeway was an instrumental part of Entera’s wrongdoings made him want to smash something. In fact, on more than one occasion he’d done exactly that; he was lucky that B’Elanna was keeping a close eye on him, and that Tom had, so far, held his tongue when Chakotay turned up with unexplained broken bones for the former medic to heal.
Thanks to the gag order Admiral Taela Shanthi had placed on them immediately after her reinstatement as Starfleet Commander-in-Chief, he couldn’t even defend Kathryn’s reputation.
He couldn’t tell everyone that, although Tal’aura’s plot to assassinate the Romulan senators had succeeded, it was thanks to Kathryn that Section 31 had forewarned the Tal Shiar, enabling them to capture Tal’aura, Shinzon and their co-conspirators before they could take control of the Empire.
He couldn’t tell everyone that the plot to murder Chancellor Martok had been subverted thanks to Kathryn’s intelligence, or that Entera’s collaborators within the Starfleet ranks had been identified and almost as quickly arrested before further damage could be done.
He couldn’t even tell everyone that Kathryn had suffered horribly at the hands of her husband, that she had turned herself from victim to hero in order to save the Federation from another devastating war, and that she had done so while believing that she was utterly alone.
All he could do was sit by her bedside in the maximum security ward at Starfleet Medical, holding her hand and praying that she would once again beat the odds.
Kathryn had been put in stasis as soon as they’d been beamed onto Voyager, which, as the EMH informed Chakotay later, had saved her life. The disruptor blast she’d taken had luckily caused mostly surface injury, but it was the damage Ryan Austin had done to her neural pathways – the months of telepathic manipulation, the constant exposure to his pheromones – that presented the real danger. And only time would tell if it was permanent.
Chakotay pushed up from the plush chair beside Kathryn’s bed – by now, he figured, it probably bore a permanent imprint of his ass – and stretched his back, listening to the crackle and pop of his spine. His stomach rumbled. It was past 1900 hours and he hadn't eaten since breakfast; between Starfleet’s debriefings, his continuing investigations for both Intelligence and Section 31, and spending his every spare moment staring at Kathryn’s pale, tranquil face and silently pleading with her to wake up, regular meals and exercise had become luxuries in his life.
“How is she?”
Startled, Chakotay turned to find Owen Paris standing just inside the room. “Admiral,” he acknowledged him, “I didn’t hear you come in.”
Paris was looking down at Kathryn’s still form, his expression troubled. “Her story isn’t supposed to end like this,” he mumbled.
“It won’t,” Chakotay told him flatly.
Paris glanced up at him and smiled, though it didn’t reach his eyes. “What’s her prognosis?”
Chakotay shrugged. “The Doctor says she might never wake up, and even if she does there’s a strong chance she’ll never be the same. He says she could end up institutionalised for the rest of her life.”
Owen Paris looked dismayed. “Like Austin’s first wife.”
“But that’s not going to happen. This is Kathryn Janeway we’re talking about.” Chakotay folded his arms and glared at the admiral. “This is the woman who singlehandedly stared down the Borg Queen, stopped a civil war in the Q Continuum and led her crew home in a tenth of the time it should have taken. She’s not going to end up in a psychiatric hospital, or lying on a bed being fed through a tube, because that’s not her fate. I believe that – I believe in her. And so should you.”
By the time he’d finished speaking, Paris’ smile was genuine.
“You’re right, Captain,” he answered, clasping Chakotay’s shoulder. “I have faith she’ll make a full –”
He broke off at a faint sound from the bio-bed.
Chakotay swivelled around so quickly he almost knocked the admiral backward. “Kathryn?” he said urgently, hurrying to her bedside. His eyes searched her face. “Kathryn, can you hear me?”
Her fingers twitched, and he grasped them gently.
“I’m here,” he whispered. “You can wake up now.”
She drew in a sharp, shaky breath, blinked slowly and focused on him. “Cha-” her voice cracked and she swallowed visibly.
Then she smiled at him and squeezed his hand.
“Chakotay,” she said in a voice dusty from disuse. “You’re here.”
“Of course I’m here,” he said, laughing through tears. “You can’t get rid of me that easily.”
“I’ll go get the Doctor,” Owen Paris mumbled, backing out of the room and wiping at his eyes surreptitiously.
“Water?” Kathryn croaked pleadingly.
Chakotay supported her head as she sipped through a straw, then, energy depleted, laid her head back on the pillow.
“Thanks,” she whispered. “For being here.”
“I told you,” he murmured, eyes drinking her in, cataloguing her clear blue eyes and the colour returning to her skin. “I’m not leaving you again.”
“In that case,” she bit her lower lip, “there’s something I need to tell you.”
He felt his heart double-thump in his throat and locked his eyes with hers. “What is it?” he asked, lifting her hand to press lightly against his mouth.
“Our timing has always been so terrible,” she stalled, “and I don’t want to risk losing another chance …”
“We won’t,” he stated. “This is our time. And I won’t lose you again.”
A smile broke over Kathryn’s wan, tired face and lit it from within. “I love you,” she told him. “I’ve always loved you.”
Chakotay could feel that he was beaming, though he could hardly see her through the tears in his eyes.
“I love you, too,” he whispered, bending to brush her lips lightly with his. “I never stopped.”
Then the Doctor bustled into the room and began barking at Chakotay to stand back and let him work, and hummed and hawed as he scanned his patient and checked her readings and finally pronounced her recovery well on the way to miraculous. And throughout, Chakotay and Kathryn, smiling and silent, never stopped looking at each other.
December, 2379 - Two months later
“Another cup?” Gretchen Janeway asked, smirking knowingly at her daughter as she raised the coffeepot.
“Do you even have to ask? For six weeks, that tyrant refused to allow me even one tiny espresso.” Kathryn held out her empty cup for her mother to refill. “I was on the verge of threatening to decompile his program.”
“I’m sure the Doctor was just as pleased to discharge you as you were to be out of that hospital,” Gretchen chuckled. “What was it he said to me? Oh, that’s right … ‘I never imagined I’d treat a more difficult patient than Captain Janeway, but Admiral Janeway leaves her for dust’.”
Kathryn rolled her eyes, but couldn’t hide her smile. She’d been doing quite a bit of that lately – smiling. It felt good.
Perhaps it had to do with knowing she was free. Free of her Starfleet duty until further notice; she’d been placed first on medical leave and then on the extended service leave Kjogo had denied her after Voyager’s arrival back in the Alpha quadrant. Her only official responsibility for now was mandatory counselling, and given the trauma she’d experienced over the previous two years, not to mention the seven before that, it was an obligation Kathryn was happy to fulfil.
She was free of the public’s shocked and eager condemnation of her, too; the truth, albeit a sanitised version of it, had come out over the course of the judicial hearings, the deposing of the president and the revelation that Kathryn’s part in the debacle had placed her firmly on the side of the angels. Still, she was in no hurry to see her face splashed across the news channels again, especially as not everyone was so quick to accept her as a hero once more.
More importantly, she was free of Nyla Kjogo’s iron-fisted control over her career, her social circle, her appearance, her life, and free of the blackmail she had used to wield it.
And free, most of all, of Ryan’s cruel manipulation of her, so insidious and overwhelming that she hadn't even realised how completely his influence had changed the way she saw her world, or herself.
Probably, she admitted to herself, her reasons for smiling had something to do with Chakotay, too.
She wrapped her hands around her coffee cup and inhaled the scented steam, eyes closing in pleasure. Idling away the morning at her mother’s kitchen table was a simple joy she’d almost given up longing for, and right now, she was making a point of enjoying life’s simple pleasures.
Her mother, though, had other things on her mind.
“The coffeepot is empty, Katie,” Gretchen declared, pushing up to her feet. “And besides, don’t you think it’s time you got dressed? They won’t wait for you forever.”
Kathryn pretended to glare at her. “Of course they’ll wait. It’s not as if there’s going to be a wedding without me,” but at Gretchen’s snort, she sighed theatrically and pushed back her chair. “All right. Here’s hoping my new dress uniform still fits after all the home cooking you’ve been forcing on me.”
Thirty minutes later, dress uniform impeccable, makeup flawless and hair twisted neatly atop her head, Kathryn firmly quelled the flutter of nerves in the pit of her stomach as she gazed up at the imposing dome of Cochrane Hall. No reason for nerves, she counselled herself. It’s just a wedding.
She skirted the building and headed for the rose garden behind it, the ornate double-height gate swinging open at her approach. A temporary forcefield, arching over the garden where the ceremony would be held, kept out the San Francisco chill. The long wooden benches either side of the aisle were decorated with hothouse flowers, and most of them were filled with people, some in formal clothing, some in Starfleet dress uniform.
At the other end of the path by the flower-strewn lectern, broad-shouldered in his white uniform jacket, Chakotay turned from talking to the best man and caught sight of Kathryn, the words dying on his lips.
His smile widened as she walked toward him.
“Hi,” she said, grinning back at him, all nerves abated.
“You look beautiful,” he told her. “And your timing is impeccable.”
“Oh?” She looked up into his eyes. “How so?”
Chakotay dipped his head to hers. “Because I’ve never married anyone before,” he whispered in her ear, “and if you hadn't shown up, I’d have had to perform the ceremony. Besides, the groom was getting anxious.”
Smirking, he handed her a padd.
“Harry asked me to remind you that he and Seven have opted for the civil marriage script, rather than the Starfleet form.”
Kathryn rolled her eyes. “Does Commander Kim think I haven’t been paying attention?”
“No, ma’am!” Harry Kim cut in, overhearing. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to –”
“Relax, Harry.” Tom Paris clapped the groom on the back. “The admiral has done this before, you know.”
“Once,” conceded Kathryn, smiling at him.
“Well, I’d better go and let the bride know we’re ready to begin,” Chakotay said, turning to shake Harry’s hand. “And congratulations, Harry. I’m very happy for you both.”
He clasped Tom’s hand too, leaned in to press his lips lightly to Kathryn’s cheek, and moved to one side of the pews to discreetly speak into his combadge.
Moments later, Seven of Nine appeared at the far end of the aisle, elegant in white silk, flanked by her Aunt Irene and her newfound cousin, Tora Jens. Kathryn watched Harry Kim straighten his shoulders and break into a beaming smile as they drew near.
“Ready, Commander?” she murmured to him.
“Yes, ma’am,” he answered fervently as Seven arrived at his side.
“In that case,” Kathryn grinned, and raised her voice a little, “as your former captain, it’s my honour and my pleasure to join two of the finest people I’ve ever known in marriage …”
Chakotay would have been content just to watch her for hours, just to stand at her left shoulder and drink her in as she talked and smiled and laughed. Seeing Kathryn so happy, so carefree, surrounded by people who loved her, was everything he’d wanted for her since those early days in the Delta quadrant when he first realised he was falling for her, and it had been far too long in coming.
But having the freedom to take her in his arms, to dance with her, to hold her close in a cluster of their friends and family … That was a dream he’d almost given up on years before, and now it was within reach.
And Chakotay had no intention of screwing it up this time.
Throughout her recovery and since she’d been discharged from Starfleet Medical he had stayed at Kathryn’s side, but he’d been scrupulously careful not to pressure her in any way. He was well aware that she’d been advised by her counsellor not to rush into any intimate relationships; that she needed to work on healing from the ordeal Ryan Austin had put her through.
She’d had to learn to trust again after suffering constant betrayals, not only from her husband but by Starfleet. She could hardly bear to be in the same room as Admiral Shanthi, who had known the secret of Ryan’s genetic heritage all along. The fact that Shanthi had been the one to assign Tora Jens to protect her did little to negate the fact that the Commander-in-Chief had been willing to sacrifice Kathryn’s sanity – even her life – for the sake of bringing down Entera. And knowing that Shanthi was one of the key players in Section 31 didn’t improve Kathryn’s opinion of her, either.
She had found it difficult to come to terms with the existence of the covert agency, with the fact that her aide had been working for them, with Chakotay’s double-agent status and even with the fact that her mentor, Owen Paris, had known of 31’s existence all along. With so many Starfleet officers entrenched in the workings of Section 31 and so many others revealed to be corrupt, Kathryn had been left with very few illusions about the organisation she’d dedicated her life to serving.
It was a large factor in her decision to take an extended leave of absence from Starfleet; she had even mentioned to Chakotay that she was considering resigning from the service. She had been offered a fellowship with the Daystrom Institute – twelve months studying an interphasic dark matter nebula located in the Gamma quadrant – and she was thinking about accepting it as a civilian scientist instead of a Starfleet researcher.
He wondered what a year’s separation might mean for the two of them, if Kathryn decided to accept the fellowship.
Then again, he hadn’t expected the mission Admiral Shanthi had offered him yesterday. He hadn’t accepted it yet, either, but depending on Kathryn’s decision, they might not be spending the next year apart after all.
But, as with the current slow progression of their relationship, he had no intention of pushing her into a decision.
They left the wedding reception in the early afternoon and transported back to Indiana, where they found a note from Gretchen telling them she’d been invited to New York for the weekend. Changing into jeans and thick sweaters, they set out on one of the aimless, rambling tours of the farm that Kathryn insisted on daily. Snow was thick on the ground and the sky was leaden. Kathryn looped her hand into the crook of Chakotay’s elbow and pressed close to his body for warmth. Eventually, circling back toward the farmhouse, they slowed to a stop.
“You’re quiet today,” she remarked, quirking an eyebrow at him. “Something on your mind?”
“Only good things,” he assured her.
“I’m pleased to hear that,” Kathryn murmured, turning to face him. She lowered her eyelashes. “I’ve been thinking about good things, too.”
“Oh?” Chakotay spread his fingers on her lower back, easing her closer, and noted with interest the way her breath caught and her lips parted. “Something you want to share with me?”
“Why don’t you take me home and find out?”
Chakotay clenched his jaw to quell his instant reaction at the sultry undertone in her voice. Kathryn was a flirt; it was a truth he’d long since known and loved about her, but it did test his self-control at times. Especially as, since their night on Ajilon Prime, he had to contend with memories, not just fantasies.
Kathryn had been looking up at him from under her lashes, but at his continued silence she dropped her gaze and eased herself out of his arms.
“I’m sorry,” she said so quietly he hardly heard her. “I thought …”
She was silent for a long moment, then squared her shoulders and lifted her chin.
“I think I’ve been reading more into our friendship than you want from it.” She gave him a rueful smile. “And I should know better than that, Chakotay. I spent years refusing to talk to you about –” she gestured vaguely – “what was between us, or could have been, and it’s why we grew so far apart during that last year in the Delta quadrant. So I’m going to be honest with you now.”
“Kathryn,” he interrupted, but she held up a hand.
“Please let me say this,” she begged. “You’re my best friend, and you’ve proved that a hundred times over these past few weeks, and it’s not your fault I’ve been … hoping … you might feel something more for me. I know you love me, but I …” she bit down on her lip and he saw tears on her lashes, “I don’t think you mean it in the same way I love you. And that’s okay. I can live with it, as long as you’re in my life.”
She was staring at the ground now, her words tumbling faster as though her courage was failing her.
“That night on Ajilon,” she mumbled, “I know it didn’t mean … what I hoped it meant … but I’ll never forget it. And I hope that won’t make things awkward between us, because I don’t want to lose your friendsh-”
“Kathryn,” he couldn’t bear it a moment longer, “please stop talking,” and he took her face in his hands and kissed her.
Kissed her until she was clinging to him, gasping, her breath gusting between parted lips; until he could feel the thundering of her heart in time with his own. Kissed her until he couldn’t remember anything but her taste and the way she felt in his arms, until the soft, low sounds he was pulling from her throat drove him to distraction.
Kissed her until he was dizzy from lack of air, at which point she let her head tip back and looked at him through glazed, half-open eyes, her lips red and swollen and her body pliant in his hold.
He had to swallow twice before he could speak.
“When I said I love you, Kathryn,” he said roughly, “I didn’t mean only as a friend. And I can assure you that you’re not reading anything into my feelings that isn’t there.”
Her teeth dented her lower lip. “I’m starting to understand that,” she admitted, voice husky, and then she smiled that slow, curling, brilliant smile that made his knees weak.
“So,” he grinned back at her, “about taking you home…”
She slipped her hand into his and started walking backward, tugging him along with her. “What are you waiting for?”
His only answer was a growl, provoking her shriek of laughter as he lunged for her and swept her up in his arms.