By: Jennica Williams
DISCLAIMER: I am not using Star Trek for profit. Paramount owns the characters, the ships, the uniforms, the biogel packs, even Neelix's food, I'm just here playing around with the ideas running through my head. No copyright infringement is intended.
Disclaimor #2: Pathways is owned by Jeri Taylor. not me. I just used it as a reference guide on the earlier lives of our favorite characters.
She thought they now only existed in the minds of those who had known and loved them, but it was not to be. Seven years ago, something drastic had happened. Something that would change her and her crews' lives forever-- they got home and were reunited with their families.
Captain Kathryn Janeway reached a hand to her face and tucked a stray lock of auburn hair behind her ear. She had done it. The impossible task had been accomplished. Voyager was home. Twenty minutes ago, her home of the past eight years had docked with the Deep Space 9 station and Starfleet had been informed that the legendary crew had returned home.
She would be forced to endure endless questions and interviews in the near future, for now though, the crew was alone. After speaking with Benjamin Sisko via subspace channels, Janeway had opted to leave the ship at recycling mode, due to the strain the slip stream technology put on the now outdated Intrepid class ship, in order to restore enough power.
The technology had been an exhausting search in itself. After Seven of Nine and the captain had been kidnapped by the impostor Starfleet vessel, Seven had dedicated much of her time to discovering how to adapt slip stream warp fields to Voyager's engines on a more permanent basis. Ensign Harry Kim and Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres had learned of her obsession and joined in the search. With Voyager's three greatest technicians on the project, the slip stream warp drive was on-line before their sixth year in the Delta Quadrant. The two and a half year journey home was begun immediately.
Kathryn shook herself out of her day dream. Darn. It had already been three hours since they'd shocked the Alpha Quadrant by docking at DS9 and, after speaking to HQ, she had intended to finish up some last minute business. No such luck. A stack of unread data padds still sat on the corner of her desk.
The doors hissed open to reveal her XO, Chakotay, who wore an emotion in his eyes she had never seen before. It unnerved Janeway that she couldn't tell what the man was feeling by just glancing at him.
"What is it, Chakotay?" Standing, she came around the corner of her desk and faced him. "Are you going to try again to persuade me to elope with a dashing, handsome Maquis captain?"
The corners of his mouth turned up at their running joke. "Would you accept?"
"You're a scoundrel, Chak!" She punched his arm lightly. Tom Paris was smiling at them from his spot at helm control. The bridge officers had grown accustomed to their bantering on and off of the bridge-- had come to expect it even. And, while the junior officer continued to speculate they were more involved, the bridge and other senior staff members knew the two only shared a close friendship which allowed for them to tease each other-- on a never ending basis. "What's on your mind, Commander?" Then she leaned in and whispered to him loud enough for the entire bridge crew to benefit, "You know, we have to start calling each other by titles again. Starfleet probably doesn't want us running around on a first name basis with simple helm officers."
Tom snorted from his console. "Whatever, Captain!"
Chakotay and Kathryn exchanged wide grins before he laid a hand on her arm. "Actually, Kay, there are two officers here to see you."
She rolled her eyes. "Already? I thought I had a few days before the interrogations began." Fluffing her hair, she questioned him. "How do I look? Ready to take on the Federation?"
"Beautiful and of course." He leaned a bit closer. "You took on the Kazon, Borg, Hirogen, and Orllegrans. A few officers should be nothing for you."
She wrinkled her nose at him. "Are they already in the conference room?"
"No. They insisted on coming straight to the bridge."
Her eyes widened. Had these two officers heard everything they had been talking and laughing about??
"We heard everything."
Captain Janeway's mouth opened in shock as the two men, hidden by the entrance of the ready room, stepped into her visual line.
Both sported Starfleet uniforms, but the admiral was a good deal older than the commander. His brownish-red hair was streaked with gray and his face was quite a bit more wrinkled than Kathryn remembered, but his eyes were the same twinkling gray-blue like her own.
The young commander's dark hair still fell over his forehead in that way Kathryn had found endearing nearly fifteen years ago. He was nearly as muscular as she remembered, although his eyes, deep blue orbs that had both challenged and confronted her on their first meeting, were a dark flash of cerulean with unspoken jealousy.
Kathryn's hands came to her mouth in astonishment as she stood rooted to the floor. "Daddy....Justin...."
Admiral Janeway was the first to move forward and wrap his daughter in a tight embrace. "Kathryn." He whispered, not bothering to hide the tears which were quickly gathering in his eyes. "I've missed you so much, Goldenbird."
"Daddy....where?....I mean...how?....It's...this isn't possible!" Kathryn stumbled over the words much to the amusement of her senior bridge officers. They had never heard her utter a single syllable she wasn't sure of.
He released her and brushed the tears from her cheeks. Kathryn hadn't even realized she'd been crying. "You're forgetting someone, Kathryn."
She gasped sharply, and then flew into Justin's arms as a different sort of sob shook her body. Justin clutched the distraught woman close to him and gently offered her his support. "I've missed you, Kathryn." He said simply.
She pulled back and looked at him for a moment unable to believe he was really there. Then, keeping her hands on Justin's strong shoulders, she glanced back at her smiling father. "How?"
Justin stepped out of her embrace and guided her into the ready room. "We'll be able to explain it better in private." He smiled as the door hissed shut leaving everyone on the bridge- especially Chakotay- wondering what was going to be said.
"How?" She asked again with each man flanking her sides on the couch.
Edward Janeway took a deep breath. "What I say now, is going to be the hardest thing I've ever told you, Kathryn." He gazed out of the view window for a moment before beginning. "It was planned, from the start, that the mission in the Tau Ceti system would fail."
"The Cardassians had been getting wind of more and more of our technology. Starfleet wanted to discourage them from trying any of it, and the Terra Nova shuttlecraft seemed perfect. If we couldn't construct a shuttle which would fly safely, then they would question the superiority of our other technology. Justin and I were elected to go on the mission, which would consist of an actual flight-test, followed by numerous failures, a crash landing in an ocean, and our being rescued by a Klingon freighter which would be conveniently posted nearby. When we decided to allow you to come with us, I made sure with absolute certainty that you would be thrown clear of the debris and picked up by a Federation vessel within a few minutes."
"We didn't count on a small well-armed Cardassian armada of trading vessels being in the same proximity. The Klingon freighter was no match for them. Justin and I were quickly taken prisoner and left to only wonder about your predicament. For over twenty years, we were held in a Cardassian prisoner camp. They knew winning the war would be a hopeless cause and hoped that by having an admiral and lieutenant as bargaining chips would assist them when it did come time to talk of peace, so we were kept alive. Barely. Those first nine years we prayed daily for death to take us. Yet, at the same time, we knew we had to live for you and our family. The Cardassians extracted everything of any valuable about the Federation and then tossed us aside. It wasn't until nearly ten years after we were taken prisoners that they saw our value. By forcing us to work on and create new technology for them, we were given an inside view of their operation."
"After awhile, Justin and I created a small shuttle out of various materials and managed to convince our warden that it was a necessary component of a new test shuttle. Within eight years, we were ready to launch it. Biding our time, we waited until Kulwak. The Cardassians aren't animals, you know. They do have some holidays and this one is reserved for everyone to be home with their families. Everyone of Cardassian blood. No exceptions. Including our guards. Justin and I bypassed security measures and practically walked into where our test 'shuttle component' was being stored. We had a nineteen hour head start before anyone realized what had happened. Within that time, we met up with an old friend of yours, Owen Paris and his ship, the Icarus, and got out of there."
"After informing Starfleet of our escape and giving them the information we had obtained by working with their new ships and shuttles and weapons, we opted to hide in a small Klingon colony on T'Reciak Four. The Cardassians were hunting for us and would stop at nothing. We didn't want to endanger our family, so we stayed in hiding for a year-- until the peace treaty was signed. Then, we were allowed to return home. But, you were gone, Goldenbird. Your mother told me of the grieving you had gone through after Tau Ceti and of her and Phoebe's own grief when your ship disappeared. They told me of how joyful they were upon receiving the transmission through the message relays and discovering that you were still alive, even if you were over sixty years from home. I was heartbroken that you weren't there too. I know that afternoon in the Tau Ceti system would be a horrible one for you, and I wanted to be there to help you." Edward smiled slightly. "I think Justin did too. And, Kathryn, now that we're back, we're ready for our lives to go on. As one family."
Captain Janeway wasn't fully aware of Justin's arms supporting her as she leaned against him. She wasn't even focusing on her father's face. Just the words. The story. They had been prisoners of the Cardassians for over twenty years and lived to tell about it. That, in itself, was a miracle. Pulling herself back to reality, she looked over at Justin. "I thought I had lost you." She whispered.
"It was the hardest thing I've done, Kathryn." He admitted. "I wanted so much to come back right away, but I physically couldn't. I just hope I'm not too late...."
Edward took that as his sign to leave. Standing, he held out a hand to his daughter and Justin. "I'll be on your bridge, Goldenbird. I've still got to take the grand tour of this ship of yours. Perhaps you can show me around later?"
"Of course, Dad." She felt Justin's arm tighten around her. "Later."
As the doors whooshed shut behind her father, Janeway eased herself out of Justin's arms so she could look at him fully. She didn't really know what to say to him. Once upon a time, they had been engaged. She wasn't sure the engagement was still on or not, more than twenty years apart was quite a bit. But, she wasn't sure she wanted to call it off either.
"Kathryn..." Justin hesitated, but picked up her hand. "I know you've probably got a lot of questions. I'll answer anything I can, but,....." He took a deep breath and moved his gaze from her hand to her blue eyes. "I hope we can try to recover the future that was taken from us."
Memories whirled through her mind. Her and Justin's first meeting. His rescuing her from the Cardassian moon. Their working together in the science labs. Their first kiss, which resulted in an explosion in astrometrics- literally. Dinners at her house. Long walks in the cornfields. Their engagement. She grasped his hand firmly. "Yes, Justin. We must rekindle our friendship." She glanced down at their twined hands. "Maybe more."
It had been an exhausting week of whirlwind activities-- mostly her and other senior officers being questioned to great length of the different occurrences the merged crews had faced together. Their crew, once divided, then joined by a common goal, now felt as though they were being torn apart. Starfleet was adamant about promoting each individual who had been officially enlisted, but they were hesitant to even consider allowing those officers who had not attended the Academy to return as normal citizens without a criminal record.
Captain Janeway didn't look up as the doors to her ready room hissed open to reveal the man who would serve as her first officer for the last few hours of Voyager's journey.
She finally looked up and found Chakotay's dark brown gaze resting on her through his own pain-- a pain that deepened with every second she spent with Justin.
"Commander...is there something I can do for you?" She was the first to break the lock their eyes held with one another. It caused her distress to know she was hurting him, but he was unable or unwilling to see what had been handed back to her. Justin had not been a short term love! Even after Mark, Kathryn had still thought and dreamed of the man who had pushed his greatest fears aside so he could save her life-- Lt. Justin Tighe.
"Yes, Kathryn." Chakotay paced the small room and finally stopped in front of the windows where the stars zipped past at warp three. Each star, a blazing dot of light in the lonely blackness of space. Yet, together, the single stars joined hands to create this glorious feast for his eyes.
"What is it?"
Her hand on his shoulder caused him to turn. Blue eyes peered questioning at him.
"Are you going to marry him?" Chakotay instantly regretted blurting out the words on his heart, but had to know the answer.
Janeway removed her hand from her first officer's shoulder and drew in a shuddering breath. "I don't' know yet.. I want to, Chakotay. I know it's not what you want to hear, but I feel it's best to be honest with you."
He gave a short nod and turned away. "Tell me this, Captain. After New Earth, did you love me?"
She hesitated too long to use a well thought out lie. He'd know instantly. So, she told him the truth. "Yes, I did. Very much so. But there were too many obstacles while we were out there."
"He'd taken a few steps closer and cupped her face in both of his large hands. "They aren't here now, Kath."
"But Justin is." She reminded him.
His hands dropped from her face as though she had burned him. "Justin Tighe was a fool to leave you." He began. "I can see in him something I never wanted for you-- a jealous man." Chakotay took her hands in his, but was caught off balance when she jerked away.
"Commander, you have no right to call Justin jealous or anything of that sort when you barely know him!" She glared at him; cobalt flames shooting from her eyes. "I thought you were my friend. Someone I could trust to give me an honest opinion without his own hormones getting in the way. Apparently, you're not. I would appreciate it if you'd leave now."
Chakotay stood, rooted to the spot as thought he'd been stung. When had this turned so ugly?! Well, he would have the last word before leaving. "Kathryn, he's not who he was. I know you wouldn't' have fallen in love with an over-bearing, jealous man, but that's exactly what he has become." He raked a hand through his sable colored hair and then continued. "He's going to break your heart one day," He predicted. "I'll be here when you need someone to pick up the pieces."
With those last words, Chakotay turned and walked out of her ready room. Two hours later, they entered Earth's orbit and he transported to the surface knowing he wouldn't ever see Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Federation Starship Voyager again.