Tying The Threads
Chapter Eleven: Twisting the Threads
She materialized in the transporter room, the last time she would beam aboard this ship—her ship. Voyager had never known another captain and now she never would, yes this truly belonged to her. Standing here she thought back to the first time she had come aboard, ready to take command of her brand new ship. Admiral Patterson had hit her with a pop quiz the moment she materialized, she smiled at the memory.
"You're late." Were the first words he spoke to her.
"Sorry, Sir." She stepped down from the pad
"What's the threshold of the H2 molecule?
"14.7 electron volts."
"Third brightest star in Orion?"
"Viewed from where?"
"Gamma Orionis or Bellatrix, if you prefer the original Arabic name."
"Not bad. Now give me a hug Katie, that's an order."
"I wasn't expecting a pop quiz." She stepped forward and hugged him.
"Just wanted to make sure all those pips haven't made you forget you're a scientist first."
"How could they? I still have nightmares about your fractal calculus final."
They laughed then and began her very first inspection of Voyager, neither of them could have known this was to become her home for the next seven years.
"Oh, yes Ensign." Brought back from her memories, she returned the knowing smile of the young man in front of her.
"May I take your things to your quarters?" The young man repeated his question.
"Yes, thank you." This would be the final time she‘d use ‘her' quarters. A lot of changes had taken place since the last time she was in them, reunions, trials, promotions, resignations, and even a declaration of sentience. Many things were different now, but today, if only for a few hours, they would set aside all those differences, step back in time to just one year ago; again they would become the crew she had grown to love. They would be wearing their uniforms for the dedication ceremony; the old style uniforms the ones they had worn on the day they brought Voyager home. She would forgo her new rank and wear her outdated uniform and her captain's pips proudly, the others would be doing the same and then the uniforms would also become part of history, some on display in the museum. Chakotay would once again don a Starfleet uniform and again she knew he did it for her. She wouldn't be leaving after the ceremony, instead she would use the captain's quarters to change for the reception later this evening. She handed over the things she carried, straightened her shoulders and left the transporter room for one last solitary stroll around Voyager.
As she made her way to the lift, the scurry of cadets checking, polishing and rechecking, reminded her of another young crew. The surviving members of that crew matured quickly, in the, often hostile, environment of the Delta Quadrant. The voices of that triumphant crew, as well as those less fortunate members, rang down every corridor.
"Deck fifteen." She ordered as the lift closed behind her. She would start at the bottom and work her way to the bridge; she needed to say good-bye to each and every deck along the way.
She came to the small dark workspace; she could still hear Mortimer Harren, expounding his theories, trying to intimidate her with his ‘superior intelligence', as if the encounter were yesterday. He was so sure with his five degrees in Theoretical Cosmology, that he would determine the origin of the entire universe and his discovery would be wasted here in the lower decks. She remembered how he had tried to talk his way out of the away mission and how far he had come since that anti-social time. As she made her way around the deck, she thought back to that mission. What started as nothing more than an exercise, a mission contrived to allow the Captain to bring three misfits into the fold, turned into a life altering experience for each of them. Billy Telfer, a hypochondriac with a fear of medication and Tal Celes, an inept astrometrics assistant, rounded out her crew for that mission and each had surpassed not only her expectations, but their own. They had all come a long way since then and she was as proud of them as any other members of her crew.
She worked her way past deck fourteen with its antimatter containment pods, the science labs and past the crew quarters on deck thirteen, stopping a moment on deck twelve. This deck housed the reserve warp core, storage units and at one time so much more. At one time, deck twelve was the home of Voyager's ‘ghost', an alien comprised of electrical energy, who took over control of Voyager's computer. When it discovered Voyager and her crew had accidentally distorted the nebula it called home, it forced the Captain to order her crew to abandon ship. The alien then trapped her before she was able to join the rest of the crew. Luckily in the end, she had been able to reason with the creature and with the crew back on board, locate a new nebula into which they successfully released the life form. She came close to losing her battle with that particular alien; she could almost feel the pressure building in her lungs as she remembered choking on the noxious gas, declaring she would die before surrendering to its whim. She took a deep breath to shake off the feeling; she had eleven more decks to visit.
She stood in main engineering, deck eleven held many, many memories. B'Elanna Torres, tough, driven, maquis rebel and one of the best damned Starfleet officers to ever serve on a Starship. They never would have completed their journey without her courage, determination and instinctive, sometimes miraculous, engineering skills. Oh she has her faults, a red hot Klingon temper for one, Joe Carey could attest to that. He was a good officer, Joe, and an even better man. Even after B'Elanna broke his nose in that dispute and he had been passed over for the Chief engineer's position, he was the first to congratulate B'Elanna and was always there to give her his best effort. Seska had worked down here, the thought of her brought back bad memories. She was one lost crewman they were better off without.
She circled to the shuttle bays, they spanned both deck eleven and ten in this section and were filled with memories. They had launched many important missions from here and some ill-fated ones, the delta flyer was created here and Alice was given new life. Dignitaries had been received here, and it was right here that she had sealed Voyager's fate with a kiss. Kashyk, she remembered well, the evil, intriguing, yet somehow honorable, Devore Inspector. He had been a real challenge; not an entirely unwelcome one. If she were honest with herself, she would have to admit a strong attraction to the man, as well as the game. He played well, but she played better and in the end he conceded defeat and Voyager went free.
She passed over deck nine, it was the original security deck but had been closed off early in the journey to conserve energy. Tuvok had chosen to use his own quarters and his bridge station instead. Deck eight held the cargo bays, nothing special except for number two. As she entered cargo bay two, she was flooded with emotions, not the least of which a flutter of fear for having almost lost him. She examined the regeneration chamber. How many times had she watched as Seven regenerated; now she wondered had Chakotay done this too? She tried not to let Chakotay's involvement color her perception of Seven, she had come a very long way since being liberated from the collective and Kathryn owed her a lot, the whole crew did. More than once, Seven with her borg knowledge and technology had served them well, more than once she had saved the proverbial day. Fighting her fears and an alien intruder she protected the crew as they crossed a vast nebula full of deadly radiation. Again she protected them, when she and Naomi were the only crewmembers whose minds could not be psychogenicly manipulated by a bio-plasmic organism, who preyed on starships. Countless times she had been a valuable asset, and she had reclaimed her humanity, now she was even using her human name—Annika ---still Kathryn couldn't ease the unsettled gnawing in the pit of her stomach. She moved on, trying to concentrate on other things.
Naomi, now there was a truly bright spot. The first child born on Voyager, she was a ray of hope to the entire crew. The Captain's Assistant, Naomi had declared herself and no one enjoyed it more than the Captain herself. As she made her way to the holodeck, she recalled telling Naomi about her own adventures with Flotter, a holocharacter all children loved. Of course as captain, she had her own favorite holocharacters. Leonardo, the great scientist and artist, she had enjoyed her time with him. She scanned the program listing, blushing when she read the name "Fair Haven".. Michael, her holographic Irish lover, now there was a real moment of weakness. She had enjoyed his company and he was a wonderful diversion, it was all, just a little to public. No harm had come of it, the crew was mildly amused and Starfleet had overlooked it completely- all's well that ends well. Ahh, Lake George, she and Chakotay had spent some quiet time sailing there. She had the real thing now, she no longer needed the holodeck simulation, and thankfully she no longer needed to pretend she and Chakotay were only friends.
She found herself standing outside the door to sickbay, the memories here were especially difficult. They suffered so many losses over the years, each one tragic. The last, possibly the hardest, coming so close to their home coming. She wanted to acknowledge the losses but not dwell on them, instead she chose to recollect the doctor's victories. To concentrate on the great medical discoveries he made, the many lives he had saved and his contribution to the crew both professionally and personally. He had become so much more than the compilation of his programs and she was grateful for his help, his loyalty and his friendship. As she stepped through the doors, heart-wrenching visions assaulted her, good and bad. She had first met the doctor here in the aftermath of the displacement wave, he was nothing more than a computer program then, how much had changed over the years. She touched the biotables as she envisioned the room as it was on that fateful day. What had begun in the chaos, the death and destruction of that first day in the Delta Quadrant, had ended in the same sort of drama. Their return to Federation space was marked not by death but by a brand new life. It was fitting, they would all have new lives now and Voyager would soon make her final journey to a new resting place to begin her own life anew. She reminded herself that it would be starting soon, she needed to move on and complete her tour.
She passed over the next two decks, crew quarters could be visited later, the lift stopped on deck two. The mess hall and what had once been her private dinning room, now Voyagers galley, had always been a center of activity. Meals and lives were shared here, diplomatic dinners and crew celebrations, midnight raids on Neelix's hidden treasures, and solitary cups of coffee in the cold loneliness of night. Neelix, such a funny little man she had thought at first, but he had proved to be an able shipmate, a talented diplomat with a heart at least as big as Voyager herself. She missed him. Lost in thought she almost missed the voices coming from inside. She peered in to see several crewmembers already gathered there. She wasn't ready to share this with the crew yet; she backed off and headed to the bridge.
The doors swished open and she stood silently observing the flurry of activity. They were putting the finishing touches on the spit and polish for today's ceremony.
"Captain on the Bridge." An eager young voice rang out.
"As you were." Her automatic response, as she crossed to her command chair remembering a time when the bridge was far from the showpiece it was today. The times when wires sparked and consoles smoked, when she had clung to her chair as the ship rocked and jolted under some alien attack, those times played across her mind. Looking up at the blank view screen she envisioned the first time she had seen him there, the ruggedly handsome Maquis outlaw, even then part of her knew she needed him. He had restrained B'Elanna that day when she destroyed the array, held tight to her hand the day she was assimilated by the Borg and had been at her side every step in between. Standing, she ran her hand along the smooth, polished surface of the railing, smiling to herself as she exited the bridge to her ready room.
"Captain." The young Lieutenant stopped polishing the coffee table and snapped to attention.
"As you were, Lieutenant. Don't let me interrupt you." Kathryn took a seat behind her desk.
"I'm almost finished here, ma... Captain." She blushed slightly when she saw that Kathryn noticed the correction. "It works, Captain." She nodded toward the replicator. "Can I get you a coffee?"
"Thank You, Lieutenant..?" She was tempted to get it herself, but this young woman obviously wanted to do something for her.
"Perrier, Captain. Danielle Perrier." She made her way to the replicator. "Coffee black." She ordered with no hesitation.
"Thank You, Lieutenant Perrier. How did you know how I drank it?" Kathryn smiled at the increased pinkness in the woman's cheeks.
"I've made it a point, Captain, to learn all I can about you." Her face was even redder now, but she forced herself to continue. "You are an inspiration to us all. I will to be a captain someday and I hope to be as good as you."
"Well that's very flattering, but I've made my share of mistakes, as I'm sure you will. My best advise Lieutenant is not to try to be me, but to be the best you, you can be and learn by those mistakes."
"Yes, Captain I'll try."
The chime interrupted their conversation.
"Come." Kathryn called and the door swished open to reveal, as she knew it would, her first officer. "Come in, Commander."
"Captain." He nodded smiling in her direction, then at the Lieutenant. "Lieutenant"
"Sir." She looked from one to the other. "Captain, Commander, If you will excuse me. I'm finished here."
"Certainly. Dismissed." Kathryn stepped around the desk next to Chakotay. "Lieutenant?"
"Yes, Captain?" She turned and faced the smiling command team.
"Keep doing your homework, You'll make a good captain someday."
"Thank you Captain, I'll do my best."
With the swish of the doors, they were alone once more in her ready room, perhaps for the last time. She stepped closer and wrapped her arms around him, he responded by pulling her tightly to him.
"Come, look at the stars." She move back, took his hand and led him to the viewport. "This will be the last time any one will see the stars from this port—in about a hour you'll see Alcatraz." She leaned back against his chest, pulling his arms around her.
"She's had a good life, Kathryn. She deserves a rest."
"Yes, she does, we all do, but it's just a little sad to be moving on."
Together they watched the stars, silently thanking whatever powers there may be, and one admiral from the future, that they would be moving on together. It hadn't been an easy journey, but it was a good one and the future promised to be even better.
"Tuvok to Janeway." The familiar Vulcan voice alerted them.
"It is almost time, Captain."
"Thank you, Tuvok. On our way. Janeway out." She turned in his arms. "Ready Commander?"
"I'm with you, Captain." He bent and brushed his lips softly across hers. "Always."
Stepping back she straightened her shoulders, took a deep breath and walked onto the bridge. Tuvok was at tactical, Harry at opps, B'Elanna stood by the engineering station, Seven, no Annika, manned the science console, and Tom had the helm. The only thing out of place was the transmitter that would broadcast live to everyplace capable of receiving a subspace transmission, the final flight of the Starship Voyager, direct from the bridge. Everything they did or said from now on would instantly be transmitted to millions.
"Captain on the bridge." Tuvok announced and they all stood and saluted her.
She returned their salute and took her command chair. Fighting back tears, she took his hand and nodded to Harry to open a ship wide channel.
"All hands, this is the Captain. Before we go into our final descent, I would like to thank you all for the honor of being your captain. I thank you for your faith, your loyalty and for the courage you have all shown throughout this difficult journey. It is only through your determination and hard work that we were able to complete our mission and return Voyager safely to the Alpha Quadrant. I am proud to have served with each and every one of you. And I'm sure I speak for all of you, when I say, thank you Voyager for the comfort and shelter you steadfastly provided for us on this long and arduous journey." She paused to collect herself, feeling him squeeze her hand she met his moist eyes with tear-filled eyes of her own. "All hands, secure your stations, blue alert. Lieutenant Torres, take the warp drive off line."
"Warp drive off line, Captain. Venting plasma."
"Let's do it. Mr. Paris, take us down."
A sizeable crowd, which included dignitaries from many worlds, family and friends, the Federation council, all of Starfleet's top brass, as well as thousands of ordinary citizens, silently watched the large screen at the landing site. The scene before them offered more drama than any holonovel, it was heart wrenchingly powerful, more so than Voyager's sudden return exactly a year ago.
"Plotting descent course." Tom's fingers flew over his console
"Atmospheric thrusters on line." B'Elanna calmly informed them.
"Atmospheric controls on standby, landing mechanisms on line, inertia dampers at maximum." Tom ran down each step in the landing sequence.
"All decks report condition blue, Captain." Tuvok reported
"Put her down Mr. Paris." She settled back in her chair. "Status"
"On the glide trajectory, altitude 100 kilometers, speed 1000 KPH" Tom smiled up at the view screen, as the picture cleared and earth came into view. "20 kilometers to landing site, should be getting a visual now."
"Extend landing struts; prepare to recalibrate inertial dampers to match earth's gravity."
"Landing struts down and locked.' Tom's response was confident.
"Standing by environmental controls." Harry watched the landing sight and enormous crowd come into view.
The scene from the bridge mesmerized the crowd, many of them had never experienced space travel and most of those that had, had never seen it from the bridge. The awed silence was broken by shouts and cheers as Voyager came into view, the excitement building as the crowd was torn between the broadcast from the bridge and the diamond bright lights growing larger on the horizon. And then there she was,
Voyager's lights spectacular against the darkening skies, as she swooped above the Golden Gate Bridge. It was widely known that in relation to other ships, the intrepid class was a small craft, but as she hovered above the landing sight, she was the biggest, proudest, most dignified starship anyone could ever remember seeing. She swept across the skies, looping up and taking a ‘victory lap' from the bridge, across the academy campus and back to the site, in a flamboyant style that could only belong to Tom Paris, finally coming to rest with feather light precision on the landing pad.
"Disengaging engines, securing thruster exhaust." Tom gave a relieved sigh as he put the final touches on their landing "We're down. Captain, we are home."
"Good job, Tom. All hands, we have touch down." Kathryn stood in front of her command chair, reaching for Chakotay's hand and bringing him to stand beside her. "Stand down blue alert and Welcome home."
Cheers erupted both in the waiting audience and throughout the ship, the lift opened and a jubilant Celes rushed out, handing Miral to her mother as she crossed to Harry at Opps. Tom had joined B'Elanna at Engineering, embracing both his girls at once; Celes was excitedly hugging Harry, and even Tuvok almost smiled.
The Command team stood watching and listening to the celebrations, smiling as they looked around, fingers still tightly intertwined. It happened so fast, yet it seemed to move in slow motion. She turned to look at Harry; he was saying something she couldn't hear above the noise. Then blue eyes met brown, locking together and suddenly nothing else existed. She tilted her head and smiled the crooked smile she reserved for him; those dimples were melting her knees. Reaching up, one finger lightly traced the blue lines and her heart started to pound, her fingers slipped through his hair gently tugging him toward her. Her lips met his with soft insistence, her tongue slipping out to trace and gently part his lips. Wrapping her in a tight embrace, his shocked resistance melted as her tongue tangled with his. The crew went on cheering, the transmitter continued to send images, and dimly in the background she heard some one call her name, but she was lost in the sensation. She was home.
"Errr--- S—So- orry Sir, Captain Janeway seems to be—er –well, unavailable at the moment." Harry stammered in answer to the admiral's hail.
"Yes, Ensign I can see that." The admiral chuckled. "The entire Federation can see that."
The ceremony itself was long and for the most part boring, it seemed every admiral in Starfleet wanted to take credit in some way for Voyager. G'ratriska Pelinkt, federation president wanted her share and went to great length to let the universe know she had never given up on finding the lost ship.
Kathryn looked out over the sea of faces, she had done her part, brought Voyager home with the help of her crew, and she was happy to note they had all responded to her invitation and returned to finish the job. Kessa was standing off to one side; she spotted Sarah and the boys in the front row and smiled when Hunter waved to her. She was glad things were working out for them. Joey gently cradled Joe's tiny reproduction of Voyager, the bottle was newly replicated, but the boys had worked hard to repair the damaged ship, by hand.
Some admiral droned on in the background as she continued to surf the crowd. Her mother and sister were seated next to Anne Paris; Adam and the twins sat behind them. She could see Greskrendtregk admiring his new family, as proud of his new ‘son' as he was his daughter, another happy ending. They had been fortunate most had happy endings. Sveta was seated toward the back, she hadn't thought she would like her— meeting Sveta had been a pleasant surprise. Mark and Cathy were here and she could pick out John and Mary Kim, Harry's parents and John Torres, B'Elanna's father. Many of them she didn't recognize by sight although she was sure she knew their names and would recognize their association with her crew. Others in the crowd stood out, those relatives of deceased crewman she had visited over the past year. Kurt Bendera's sister, Pete Durst's wife, Marie Kaplan's parents, Marissa Cavit and Hartlen Stadi and so many –too many –more. These were the unhappy endings; they had come, she supposed, to honor their loved ones and to try to get some closure.
Chakotay touched her hand bringing her back to the ceremony, which was about to conclude. His smile told her he understood where she had been; his eyes told her he loved her. With a squeeze of his hand as they stood, she returned the sentiment. They moved toward the entrance ramp, where the ribbon would be cut, making the dedication official. At first it was assumed she would do the honors, but in the end the privilege went to the most deserving person. The honor of opening Voyager to the public went to her first natural born citizen and the crowd showed overwhelming support, as Naomi Wildman stepped forward and took the scissors from President Pelinkt. Cutting the ribbon, she proudly led the delegation up the gangplank. Voyager now belonged to the people.
Most of the crew had already spent some time on board; they were given the opportunity to say their farewell and were familiar with the changes that had been made. The invited guests were offered tours, which allowed the crew time to change from their uniforms. In spite of the heavy Starfleet presence, this was a social function; a celebration and ranks were to be left at the door.
Kathryn and Chakotay were about to slip away to her quarters, when Naomi, Kathryn's niece and nephew, the Carey boys and Ayala's children in tow, caught up with them.
"Captain." Naomi called to her.
"Naomi, yes?" She turned and saw the small crowd behind her. "Well, what have we here?"
"I'm taking them all on a tour of the ship, Captain." Naomi proudly announced.
"Well, you couldn't have a better tour guide than the Captain's Assistant." She smiled at the knowing nods. "What can I help you with?"
"Hunter and Joey have Lieutenant Carey's ship—is there a safe place to put it, we wouldn't want to damage it again." She rolled her eyes toward the boys.
"Yes, as a matter of fact, I know just the place." She motioned them to follow her, leading them to the holosuite where most of the reception would be held. Scattered throughout the room were small display cases with various artifacts collected in the delta quadrant. Kathryn opened one that housed some of her own possessions and cleared the center shelf. "Put it right here, I'll be right back." She returned to them shortly placing a small, replicated plaque next to the ship. "There, that should take care of it until you are ready to go home."
"Replica of the Star Ship Voyager, hand crafted by Lieutenant Joseph Carey and completed by his sons Hunter and Joseph Carey, from whom this treasure is on loan." Naomi read out loud. "Yep, I think that will do it. Thank you, Captain."
"You're welcome." She watched and the children each examined and approved the plaque, then turned to follow Naomi out. "I think we can go now." She took his hand and they made their escape to the lift.
"Come on Ren. You worked and lived with these people for seven years. They're still your friends, no one said anything earlier did they?" Noah Lessing tried to coax his friend into the reception.
"This is different. They had to talk to me on the ship –that was like work and this is social." She peeked around the corner. "They must all hate me."
"No body hates you—you didn't do anything wrong." He tried to usher her forward into the room.
"I don't know...."
"Hey Noah, Ren, what's keeping you out here?" Megan Delaney spoke as she came up behind them, Pablo, Jenny and Freddy right behind her. "The party is on the other side of the doors."
"Hi, we're just a little nervous." He kept Renlay from retreating by holding her arm.
"About what—brass? They are just a bunch of stuffed shirts with pips!" Jenny shrugged. "Hell, you guys aren't even ‘fleet anymore—come-on let's party." She grabbed Sharr and dragged her into the reception.
The room was nearly full, all of the guests had finished their tours and a large portion of the crew was already there. Naomi was busy showing off her father and the Carey boys were standing guard over the display case housing their replica of Voyager. Sam and Sarah were in a corner making an effort to include Annika in their conversation. Little groups had formed in other sections of the room, the Starfleet brass was easy to pick out, Federation big wigs all stood together, and the few senior staff members that had arrived formed a semi circle, in the center of the room. Only the ‘lowerdecks' personnel seemed to be mingling and even they had their divisions. Marla Gilmore, James Morrow, Brian Sofin, and Angelo Tassoni, four of the ‘Equinox five' stood off to the side, more than a little unsure of their welcome.
Billy Telfer and Mortimer Harren sat at a small table, they made a strange pair to most eyes, but the friendship seemed unshakable.
"Want a drink?" He ordered her a wine without waiting for an answer. She was lost in thought as she wandered ‘her' quarters for the last time. "Here, you look like you could use this." He handed her the glass
"Thanks." She smiled thoughtfully then laughed out loud.
"What?" He could not resist chuckling, when she laughed like this she was up to something.
"Oh – I was just thinking." The sparkle in her eyes gave her away.
"We have spent so much time in these quarters—hours and hours over the years." She stepped in closer to him.
"Yes we have, so what's your point?" He recognized the look; he was thinking he was gonna like this conversation.
"Well there is one thing we have never done here." She put one arm around his neck and rested her wineglass on his shoulder.
"Oh I see – and were you thinking we should correct that oversight?"
"This would be our last chance and ..." She tilted her head and smiled.
"And you would hate to pass up such an opportunity." He took her glass and placed it on the table.
"It's an old habit by now, you know –‘waste not, want not' as they say."
"What about the reception?" He ran his hands down her back, as she pressed closer to him.
"They'll wait." She slid one hand into his hair and drew his mouth down to hers.
It was a little awkward at first but after a time the crewmembers began to introduce their loved ones to one another, as they slipped easily into the old camaraderie of their Delta Quadrant days. Friendships were renewed, as they recounted the past year and reminisced about the seven before that.
"Icheb." Annika turned startled to hear her designation used rather than her name.
"I'm sorry, its Annika now isn't it?"
"Yes.." She smiled at the young man before her; he seemed so grown now. "But you may call me Seven, if it makes you more comfortable."
"No, Annika --- it's a very pretty name."
"Thank you." She shifted a bit uncomfortably. "Icheb, I'm sorry. I know things ended abruptly and I..."
"I know. It was difficult, but Sam and Naomi helped me and now Greskrendtregk. We are a family."
"I'm glad." She reached out to him. "How are you?"
"I'm well, and how have you adapted? You have family?"
"Yes, my aunt is here. You will have to meet her and I want to meet your new father too..." She watched his expression. "If that is alright, and Icheb I hope we can be friends."
"I would like that."
Annika and Icheb spent some time together, updating one another, each coming away a little happier, their relationship just a little less strained. Two hours later, the party was in full swing, even the brass had loosened up and seemed to be enjoying themselves. The Voyager crew, however, was still missing its two most senior officers and speculation as to their whereabouts was growing.
"Tom, enough." B'Elanna slapped his arm. "Leave them alone. They went to the Captain's quarters to change – obviously something has detained them." She tried to be serious and keep the smirk off her face.
"Oh yea of course, like some urgent ship's business." Tom laughed. "We are on the ground B'E! Oh maybe its ‘crew evaluation' time—again!"
"It's not like the Captain to be late." Harry put up a weak defense and Celes giggled.
"After that show today, yes I'd say it was just like Katie to be – detained." Owen Paris laughed. "Obviously you know a different Kathryn Janeway than I do."
"Come on, Dad. We lived with her for seven years. I think we know her pretty well."
"You know Captain Kathryn Janeway—not Katie." He laughed. "They aren't so different, really. Since you've been home she has had to lay low, as they say, to make sure you were all treated fairly – but generally she fights for what she wants and when she gets it, she is proud of it."
"So you're saying that wasn't just congratulations today on the bridge?" Tom looked innocent.
"God if that was just..." B'Elanna punched Tom's arm, harder this time. "Kah'les, she almost swallowed the man!" They all laughed.
"Just what have we missed?" The familiar husky voice broke up their laughter.
"I think we are the ones who missed something." Harry blurted out, then blushed furiously.
"Oh?" She raised an eyebrow and surveyed the group.
"Katie, you look lovely." Owen stepped up and kissed her cheek, fingering her necklace. "This is especially lovely."
"Thank you, Owen." She smiled. "It was a gift from a very dear man and I finally have an occasion special enough to wear it.
"So Captain.." Tom started but she interrupted him.
"Tom please, Kathryn --no rank, remember?"
"Okay – So Kathryn, where have you been for the last two hours?" He looked from one to the other; they both just smiled at him.
"Actually, Tom.." She slid closer and put one arm around Chakotay's waist. "On my honeymoon." She smiled at the open mouths and looked up at her husband. "Shall we get something to drink?"
"Yes." They turned and walked toward the bar, leaving a stunned staff behind them.
The only source of tension in the room was a small knot of virtually unnoticed people, talking in hushed whispers in the far corner of the room. At the center of the group was Renlay Sharr.
"Ren, stop it." Marla was trying to calm her down.
"Easy for you Marla, you didn't make a complaint." She looked up to see the command team enter the room. "Shit, she's here."
"Just take it easy." Noah handed her a fresh drink. "It's a party, she isn't going to say anything."
"She's coming over here." She nodded her head in their direction.
"Just getting a drink—calm down."
Kathryn and Chakotay took their drinks and began to circulate around the room.
"Some things never change. Here we are, making rounds being the perfect command team, just as we always have."
"Not exactly." He tightened his hold on her waist. "This might be a little different."
"Kathryn, Chakotay." Sarah called them over
"Hi, nice to see you. Enjoying the party?"
"Yes, its very nice and thank you for the display, the boys are thrilled."
"Happy to help."
"Speaking of help, thank you again."
"Don't mention it Sarah, You deserve it." Kathryn leaned closer. "How is the job going?"
"Brilliant, thank you, just wonderful."
"I knew you would be perfect for it."
"Excuse me." B'Elanna took hold of Chakotay's arm and move him away from Kathryn. "May I steal him a moment?"
Kathryn just looked up and laughed.
"Thanks." B'Elanna tugged him away.
"Okay Mister, what in the name of Sto-Vo-Kor was that?"
"B'Ella ..." He couldn't keep from laughing. "What are you talking about?"
"Kah'les!" She rolled her eyes. "Honeymoon?!! You can't just say that and walk away."
"Yes, we were married this morning before the dedication."
"Oh, ‘we were married'?! Just like that!" She punched him. "P'takh! and you didn't think you would tell me?!"
"We just did." His laughter was drawing attention now.
"Old man, If I didn't love you..." She stopped and hugged him. "Congratulations"
When Chakotay got back to Kathryn, she was chatting with Aunt Irene and a very embarrassed Annika Hansen. He had never seen Seven, and he could still only think of her as Seven, blush before, it was actually almost cute. Irene was busy sharing her memories of the young Annika with everyone within earshot.
"Oh Irene, this is my husband, Chakotay." Kathryn saw Annika smile and wondered if, subconsciously she had introduced him that way on purpose. "Chakotay, this is Irene Hansen, Annika's aunt.
"Nice to meet you Irene." He shook her hand. "Se—Annika it's good to see you." Of course he had seen her on the bridge but he hadn't spoken to her then.
"You also, how have you been, Chakotay?" She leaned in and kissed his cheek. "I hear congratulations are in order. I am happy for you, both of you."
"Thank you. Chakotay, Irene was just telling us about when Annika was small." Kathryn put her arm around his waist.
"Yes, but first let me say how happy I am to meet you, Chakotay. Annie has told me about you."
"I believe we have taken up enough of your time." Annika took her Aunt's arm. "Aunt Irene we should be going."
"Annie, I haven't finished telling your friends about the time you ran naked through that important meeting Magnus was having just before your last trip...."
"I believe..." Seven stood up straight, she was much taller than her aunt, but Irene was not fazed.
"Nonsense honey, it will only take a minute of their time." She brushed off Seven and returned to her captive audience. "It was just before they went off hunting Borg; Magnus was meeting with several large backers. His research was very expensive you see, so this meeting was important. Any way about half way through, Annie here, comes bursting into the room—"TA DA" she yells running around the room totally naked." Irene was laughing and Seven couldn't have been any redder. "Erin was mortified but Magnus just laughed. The girl could do no wrong in her daddy's eyes."
"I'm glad you have such happy memories to share with Annika." Kathryn really was happy, for both of them; they would be good for each other.
"Aunt Irene." Seven said a bit sternly. "We have taken enough of their time and they have others to speak with." She softened a bit. "Besides I want you to meet the Doctor. Kathryn, Chakotay, congratulations again, I'm sure we will see each other soon." Seven walked away with a smile.
"Kathryn, I know I embarrassed her but it is good for her—she needs the practice." Irene winked and laughed. "Seriously though, I want to thank both of you for giving her back to me. I will treasure your gift."
"You are welcome. I won't say it wasn't a struggle, but she's worth it." Kathryn accepted a hug from Irene, before she slipped off to rejoin Seven.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The word was spreading quietly but quickly, there was a buzz in the air and those who knew already, quietly smiled and confirmed the rumor. Billy Telfer and Mortimer Harren, since joined by Bill Chapman and Kashi Nozawa were enjoying a quiet discussion when Celes excitedly jumped in Billy's lap.
"Did you hear?"
"Hello, Celes." Billy leaned her back to look at her face.
"Billy, did you hear?" She shook his shoulders.
"No, I guess not." He looked at the others; they just shook their heads.
"I'd guess we're about to, though." Chapman sniped.
"They got married." Celes was as excited as if she were talking about herself and chose to ignore their lack of enthusiasm.
"Who?" Harren asked, not really interested.
"Come-on Marty, not even you are that isolated." Billy shook his head.
"The Ca---Kathryn and Chakotay."
"Oh." Mortimer sipped his drink
"Oh?! Isn't that great?"
"Yeah Celes, it is great. About time they had a chance." Billy gave Nozawa a push. "Kashi?" He jerked his head in Tal's direction.
"Hey great news, yeah about time." Kashi smiled and kicked Chapman under the table.
"Ouch, oh yeah thanks for letting us know—great news Celes."
"Damn! You guys don't have a romantic bone in your bodies!" She jumped off Billy's lap. "Going back where I'm appreciated."
"Ahhh yes, Harry now there's a romantic guy for you." Chapman teased.
"Stuff it, Chapman." She whirled around, leaving them to chuckle behind her.
Kathryn and Chakotay circulated for a while, making appropriate noises to the brass and chatting with several of the crew. They talked for a while with Tuvok and T'Pel, who had been the only witnesses at this morning's ceremony. They had moved on and were talking to her mother and sister when she saw Renlay Sharr watching her from behind Noah Lessing.
"Excuse me." She touched Chakotay's arm and nodded toward Sharr and Lessing. "There is something I need to take care of." Chakotay just nodded in response.
"Of course Kath, I'll just hold on to this handsome husband of yours for you." Gretchen continued her conversation with Chakotay, leaving Kathryn on her own.
"She—oh my—she's coming over here." Renlay urgently whispered, tugging Noah between herself and the advancing captain.
"Stop Ren, You're really getting paranoid."
"No, really she...."
"Hello, enjoying the reception?"
"Uh Captain, Yes." Marla struggled to answer. "It's ---nice...."
"I'm glad you could make it and please, no rank. I'm not your Captain anymore, call me Kathryn, please."
"Why?" Renlay was shocked to hear the word actually come out of her mouth; she hadn't meant to say it out loud.
"What?" An equally shocked Kathryn looked back at her.
"I—I—asked why. Why would you want us here?" She had opened her mouth; she figured she might as well go the whole way.
"Voyager was your ship too, every member of her crew worked hard to bring her home." Kathryn tried to regain her own composure; she hadn't expected hostility from Sharr. "You deserve to be here."
"Not everyone would agree."
"I can't speak for everyone, only myself and I believe you all deserve equal credit." Kathryn studied the younger woman. She knew about the complaints, she hadn't taken Sharr's personally, which is what Renlay must think. Lessing's on the other hand was more legitimate than she cared to admit. "How's the new job working out Renlay—Galactic Village—isn't it?"
"Fine, it's working out pretty well actually." Renlay was becoming less defensive; small talk was not what she had expected from the Captain.
"I'm glad, it's important to do work you enjoy." She smiled turning back to Marla. "You're still working in engineering aren't you Marla?"
"Yea, a Rakhari freighter, the Nordhoff. It's not ‘fleet, but they need me and I enjoy the work."
"Good, I'm sure you'll do well. You're a fine engineer." Noah had been silently watching her. "Noah, can I speak to you? Would you excuse us, please?"
"Sure." Both women nodded and backed away, leaving Noah alone with Kathryn.
"Captain, I won't make excuses. I'm not ashamed of my complaint."
"Kathryn, please and I don't expect you to." She put her hand on his folded arms, so Kathryn a gesture, yet it startled him. "Noah, I'm the one who should apologize. At the time I thought what I was doing was justified, hindsight is a wonderful thing. I realize I went too far and my mistake could have had terrible consequences. Fortunately, for both of us Chakotay was thinking more clearly." She paused and looked up at him; he said nothing, just stared. "I should have spoken to you about this a long time ago and so I owe you an apology for that also. I hope you can forgive me." Again he gave no response. "Well, enjoy the rest of the party and good luck, Noah." She turned and walked back toward Chakotay.
"What did she say?" Marla asked as the two rushed back to him.
"She..." He turned toward Kathryn's retreating back. "CA—thryn?" She turned back. "Good luck to you too." He smiled and she returned it with a nod before continuing on her way. "She said - she's only human, guess I never saw her like that."
"Guess none of us did."
The trio watched Kathryn rejoin Chakotay, he was speaking with a distinguished older gentleman they all knew by reputation, though few had dealt with him personally, Benatar Muir. He was obviously not a stranger to Kathryn; she greeted him warmly.
"Ben, how have you been?" She smiled at older man.
"Busy Kathryn, busy." He laughed. "That's a lot of information you brought back with you."
"That is why we go out there isn't, Admiral?"
"Now Kathryn, I've grown accustomed to you ignoring my orders, but now you're breaking your own rules—no rank. And speaking of rules, you must tell me something." He looked around the room and leaned in close to her, "What was that stunt you pulled on the bridge earlier? Are you trying to undo all my hard work?"
"Someone has to keep you on your toes." She laughed.
"Kathryn." He shook his head. "Even the infamous Kirk didn't broadcast his indiscretions subspace."
"Only Kathryn Janeway would dare that..." Reginald Barclay joined the conversation. " and expect to get away with it!"
"Now Reg, you know there are no regulations against a captain kissing her own husband."
"So the rumor is true—congratulations." He leaned in and kissed her cheek and shook Chakotay's hand.
"Now I have a little surprise for you." He motioned them to follow. "If you will come over here." He led them to a large view screen set up at the other end of the room and tapped his comm. badge. "Okay, Ensign, if you would."
"Aye Sir." The unseen ensign replied and the view screen came to life.
"Congratulations and greetings from the Delta Quadrant." The screen was filled with rolling lines and static but the voice was clear and unmistakable.
"Neelix, thank you. I'm so happy you could join us." The transmission cleared and Kathryn could see Dexa, and Brax standing beside Neelix. "And congratulations to you three as well."
"Thank you, Captain." Dexa, smiled. "I wish you all, the happiness Neelix has brought to us."
"NEELIX- NEELIX!" Naomi shouted as she made her way past the crowd to the screen. "Oh sorry, Captain."
"Go ahead, honey." Kathryn laughed and stepped back out of the way.
"Neelix." Naomi stared up at the screen.
"Naomi, so good to see you. I miss you."
"Me too." She looked around her. "I want you to meet my father." She didn't see him nearby. "Oh, I don't know where he is, but it is so nice. It is so good to have a father, I..." She stopped and studied Neelix's face, then rushed on. "It's not like having you—I still love you. I miss you—it's just...."
"I know honey, I have a wonderful new family too. But it doesn't mean I love you less."
"I'm glad you're happy, Neelix. I wish I could come and see you and Dexa, and Brax."
"They are working on it Naomi, maybe some day soon we will be able to visit"
"I hope so. Mr. Vulcan, is here—talk to him while I look for my father—Okay?" She ran off without waiting for his answer.
Neelix talked to Tuvok, and just about everyone else on the crew, before ending the transmission almost an hour later. Naomi had located her father and proudly introduced him to her godfather. The party wound down after that, those with young children leaving first, followed quickly by most of the Admiralty and Federation officials. The elder Parises took Miral home, allowing Tom and B'Elanna to stay on a little longer. They walked down the gangplank together, the six remaining members of the senior staff accompanied by T'Pel and Celes. The last of the crew to disembarked, they stood for a long moment just looking up at her.
"We've only seen her from this angle a few times." Leaning into Chakotay's embrace, Kathryn spoke softly, mostly to herself.
"Yeah, the scariest one was when she took off and left us behind." Harry reminded them of when Seska and the Kazon had captured Voyager, leaving the crew on a primitive planet.
"She came back for us."
"Ahhh hemm." Tom exaggerated the sound
"Yeah, Yeah, Yeah. We know flyboy." B'Elanna gave him a shove. "When you saved the day."
They laughed and began to wander toward the public transport site, a bit reluctant to part company. Once there, they said little, but didn't move to enter it, instead choosing to lean against walls, star gaze, anything but say good-bye.
"This is silly you guys." B'Elanna spoke first. "It's been a busy day and we all have places to be."
"She's right." Tom sat on the bench outside the station.
"Of course I'm right." She sat beside him. "So how come we're sitting here?" She laughed as she looked at the others, they all moved to get more comfortable.
"'Cause it's hard not to be together." Harry slumped down on the sidewalk.
"I know Starfleet, I know." B'Elanna rested against Tom's shoulder.
"He's right." Kathryn reached over and patted Harry's head. "I do miss seeing all of you every day."
"We will still see each other." Chakotay pulled Kathryn back against his chest, wrapping his arms around her. "Harry you'll be working with Kathryn. Tuvok and I will both be at the Academy."
"And there will be occasions like..." Celes looked at Harry.
"Yeah." He smiled and took her hand. "Like our wedding, I know you will all be there."
"Of course you P'takh." B'Elanna jumped up as the words registered. "Wedding—Starfleet?" She hugged him knocking both of them flat on the pavement.
"Easy B'Elanna, don't break him." Celes reached to help them up.
"Kathryn, our baby is all grown up." Chakotay hugged her closer and leaned in to whisper. "Now stop crying." This earned him a poke with her elbow and a laugh when she wiped her eyes.
"Congratulations, both of you." She broke away from Chakotay to hug Celes, then Harry.
"May your bond be strong and lasting." Tuvok touched both of their shoulders in a rare tactile moment.
"Welcome aboard, Harry." Tom hugged his friend. "What the hell is the universe coming to?" He gestured to Chakotay. "This guy – now you?"
"Please, Paris if you can do it –anyone can."
"I hate to break this up, but Tom and I really have to get back to Miral." B'Elanna kissed Celes and Harry. "We will get together soon--- I want all the details."
"We have to go too." Kathryn began her own round of hugs.
"Yeah they have a honeymoon to get back to." Tom slapped Chakotay on the back.
"Yes we do." Kathryn laughed. "Now don't forget we'll all get together soon—our house. I'll be in touch."
They all murmured agreement and reassurances, they would get together soon, but it would never be the same. Their most comfort came from an unexpected source, Tuvok
"The bond we share is greater than the challenges we face; it will not be broken"
"Of course it is." Kathryn hugged Tuvok and T'Pel. "We are family. Families grow and change all the time, but the bond is never broken. We're really no different than other families."
"Except that we have one hell of a gene pool!" Tom could always ease the tension with a joke.
"Okay go on." Kathryn ushered them into the station.
Each gave the operator their coordinates and in turn each couple shimmered and disappeared. Kathryn and Chakotay were the last to leave. She wandered to the window for one last look at Voyager shimmering in a bath of light.
"You will see her again, any time you want."
"I know, but she won't be mine anymore."
"You're wrong Kathryn." He took her in his arms. "That's one thing Voyager and I have in common. We will always be yours." He bent and kissed his bride, then scooped her up and carried her to the transport pad.
"What are you doing?"
"An old Terran tradition, carrying my bride over the threshold." He winked and nodded at the attendant and they kissed as they shimmered away.
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