DISCLAIMER:  I don't own them---the entire universe belongs to Paramount---they just let me live here (so I'm playing with their toys----shhhh)
                            RETURNING HEROS
Second place winner in Shattered Nights

      RATED  G

          The door opened and the backlight framed a small figure ---a woman, short and slim.  She stepped in and the picture changed drastically.  Soft  auburn hair framed a determined face with a stubborn chin and blazing blue eyes.  Dressed in the familiar red and black dress uniform of Starfleet Command, she stood straight and much taller than her five foot three frame, with a presence that demanded attention.  Every eye in the room was  immediately drawn to her, Starfleet's newest hero ---Captain Kathryn Janeway, of the Starship Voyager.

      "Kathryn, welcome ---come in."  Admiral Paris was the first to greet his prodigy.  He had been her advisor at the academy, her commanding officer on her first assignment, a friend of her father and her mentor, he was especially proud of her accomplishments.

"Owen---what the hell is going on?!" She hissed at him.

"Kath---don't get excited."  He tried to remain calm.  "Keep your voice down."

"I will like hell ---I want answers and I want them Now!"  She stared at him, but her voice was loud enough to draw the attention of others.

"It's just a formality  --procedure."  He didn't bother to pretend he didn't know what she was referring to."

"Owen, that's bullshit and we both know it."

"Kath.  You of all people know about protocol."  He put a hand on her shoulder.  "It will all work out."

"It's almost time."  Admiral Alynna Nechayev stepped up to them.  "We need to go over a few things---Is there a problem, Captain?"

           When she smiled at Kathryn, Owen cringed.  He knew this wasn't something they could smooth over.  Kathryn had spent seven long, hard, determined years bringing her ship and crew home, she wouldn't be brushed off now.  They were due at a press conference in thirty minutes, this did not look good.  Owen had tried to warn them, you didn't renege on Kathryn Janeway, but they wouldn't listen--or rather Admiral Nechayev wouldn't listen.  She was powerful, with a great deal of influence over the decisions made here and ---in his opinion--threatened by Kathryn's presence.  It was very strange to see this reaction from the most powerful woman in Fleet, but she was definitely intimidated by Kathryn and the funny thing was that, up till now, Kathryn was not even interested in her, her position or her power---but Alynna had just crossed the line.  Now Kathryn was going to be trouble---for herself, for him, for the Admiralty,  but mostly for Alynna.

      =====================================

           Six weeks ago Voyager literally burst through a wormhole and they found themselves in the Alpha quadrant, just a three-week journey from earth.  It had happened suddenly, they almost stumbled on the wormhole, it opened  right in front of them.  The first determination was that it ended in the alpha quadrant, the second --as closely as they could estimate-- it was  stable except for their end, which opened and closed quickly and in  different locations.  If they were to take advantage of it, it would be  now or maybe never.  Kathryn ordered Voyager in.  It wasn't the smoothest ride, they emerged a little shook, but with only light damage.

           The bridge stopped shaking, the view screen showed them crisp clear and vaguely familiar stars. The computer confirmed it---Voyager was  home--the alpha quadrant.  There was a stunned silence--not only on the bridge but throughout the ship, then as if everyone came to their senses at the same time--damage reports exploded across the comm.  The entire ship was a bevy of activity; repair crews everywhere, crewmen scurrying about ---all the time honored procedures--those that served them so well on their long journey--were automatic now and carried out with minimal supervision.  It was hours later when, with the damage and minor injuries under control--that things were 'normal' enough for the reality to begin to set in ---They were home!

          The Captain had retired to her ready room, to collect herself-- when the door chimed-- she knew it was him.  They hadn't really spoken since entering the wormhole, both had been busy. She still needed to contact Starfleet Command, but he could help her prepare for that.

"Come in, Commander."  She was looking out the view port, he came up behind her.

"Captain."  He stood back and spoke quietly, waiting for her to set the tone.

"Chakotay."  She turned to him with tears glistening in her eyes, her expression toll him it was Kathryn who need him now, not the Captain.

"Kathryn.”  He closed the distance between them, taking her in his arms.

          There were tears in both their eyes now, tears of happiness, relief and just a little uncertainty.  She rested her head on his chest; he held her close, kissing the top of her head.  They took a few minutes just to be together --- no ship-no crew-no protocol-just two people who needed each other.  She turned to face the view port again, leaning back into his arms.

"It's strange to be watching stars we actually know."

"Yes---You did it--you brought your crew home."

"We did it..."  She turned, stretching up to kiss him.  "And now we need to contact Starfleet command."

"Ready when you are, Captain."  He brushed the last tears from her cheeks and together they walked on to the bridge.

"Ensign, Hail Starfleet Command."

      They took their places, it got very quiet on the bridge and stayed that way while they waited for their hail to be recognized by H.Q..   The Ensign went through several channels and finally turned to the Captain, exasperated.

"Captain, I have a Lieutenant Markson, He insists our clearance is no good and that we can not possibly be who we claim to be."

"On screen, Ensign."  She smiled at Chakotay, than looked very seriously at the view screen.  A very young, very smug communications officer appeared on the screen.  "Lieutenant, I AM Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Starship Voyager, I apologize if our clearance is a little dated, but we have been a little distracted for the past seven years.  I would greatly appreciate it if you would put this through to Admiral Paris or in his absence someone of equal rank."

"Yes, Ma'am--I --I know who you are."  A visibly shaken Lieutenant answered and immediately started punching his console.  "Ma'am, Admiral Paris is  not available---in fact I can't--no one---There is a very high level meeting and I am unable to put you through."

"Lieutenant, I am trying to be patient, first--I prefer to be addressed as Captain, not Ma'am..."

"Yes Ma'---Captain."

"Secondly, Interrupt that meeting and inform the Admirals that Voyager is in the alpha quadrant and I wish to speak with them, than hail me----Janeway out."   She didn't give him a chance to answer, just cut the link. She smiled at the blank screen.  "Mr. Tuvok, you have the bridge.  Commander."  She rose and Chakotay followed her into her ready room.

"Kathryn, a few hours in the alpha quadrant and already you're beating up on poor unsuspecting junior officers."  He shook his head and chuckled.  "Made him jump though."

 "I'm surprised he recognized me--so quickly."  She was laughing.

"I'm sure you’re famous around here--like Kirk and Q, somewhat of a  legend, not someone you are ever gonna meet--poor kid--it must be like seeing a ghost."

 "Could work to our advantage."  She took his hand and sat on the couch.  "I know they said we would all be welcome---but that was when they didn't think we would ever get home."

"Worried about the maquis?"

"Yes---thought I don't think of them--you- like that, I haven't for a long time.  We are all one crew --have been for many years and we come home together---equal."

"Kathryn, you may have to compromise---You are not the final word in the alpha quadrant."  He studied her face, it would be a big adjustment for her, returning to the structure of  Command.

"I realize that---and I can still follow orders--regardless of what you think."  She gave him a playful punch.  "But  there are things I won't compromise and this is one of them."

"I hope you don't have to face that---maybe it will all go smoothly."

"Yeah, --maybe."  She leaned into him, he wrapped his arms around her.

"Bridge to Captain Janeway"

"Janeway here"

"Captain-- Admiral Paris"

"Put him through to the ready room."  She took a deep breath, squeezed  Chakotay's hand and moved to her desk.  The screen lit up.  "Admiral Paris."

"Captain---.” He paused and studied her.  “Katie, my god it's so good to see you."  His formal stance gave way to a relaxed smile.

"Owen, It's good to see you too---great to be home."

"How are you?  Is everyone OK?"

"Fine Owen---I'm fine, the crew is fine and Tom is great." She nodded at Chakotay and he understood.

"Glad to hear it Katie, we have official things to deal with here and we'll talk about them later but---god I'm glad to see you."  He laughed.

"Owen we are transmitting the remainder of the logs---you have most of our information from our last contact--we do have things to talk about, later--first I have someone for you to speak with."  She got up, letting Tom take her place and joined Chakotay at the view port

       She stood, in Chakotay's arms, gazing at the stars, as Tom and his father had a tearful reunion at her desk.  It was going to be a difficult adjustment for everyone and it had only just started.  Tom and Owen talked only a few minutes then he asked for Kathryn.  They set up a meeting for the next morning to discuss the details of their return.

       The celebrations started that same night and continued nightly through out the next week.  The Captain made an appearance at the first  party, but avoided the others and most of the crew, while she spent a very  difficult week negotiating with the Admiralty, the exact conditions of  their return.  They had some rough spots but after many, hours and  seemly endless days, they closed the link satisfied on both sides.

          A ship wide channel was opened and the Captain addressed the crew as a whole, for the first time since crossing into the alpha quadrant.  She explained that, Voyager would be docking at Space Dock 47, which was in orbit above earth, in just under two weeks.  All crew would be allowed two days reunion with family and friends at the space station, before transferring to H.Q., in San Francisco, for physicals and debriefing.  These were expected to last a week, at which time, most of the crew would be allowed a  three month leave, before resuming duty---if in fact they decided to remain with Starfleet.  All field commissions were to be honored and all former maquis were to receive full pardons. The senior staff might be detained a little longer for debriefing, but it wasn’t expected to be long.  Voyager would be welcomed home as one united crew--just the way they had lived and worked for these many years.  There would be parades and much publicity, they would have reporters to contend with and for a short ---at least she hoped it would be short--time they would all be somewhat famous.   The Captain congratulated her crew, thanked them for their continued service and invited everyone to the next party at Sandrine's that night.

         The Captain and her first officer joined the party at  Sandrine's---the first they had been at in a week.  It was in full swing and even Tuvok made an appearance.

"Captain, Commander, glad you could make this one."  Tom greeted them, as they worked their way through the room.

"Looks like it's going well."  Chakotay watched the swirling crowd.

"Yeah, a big relief ---that announcement--some of us were a little worried." Tom smiled at the Captain.  "But we should have known better---how could they treat us badly, when we came home with 'The Darling of the Delta Quadrant'."

"The what?!"  Kathryn stared at him.

"The Darling of the Delta quadrant---haven't you heard?  It's all over the sub space transmissions.  "Captain Kathryn Janeway --the Darling of the Delta Quadrant -brings her weary crew home."  Tom laughed and Chakotay along  with him.

"Ohmygod!  I don't like this at all."  She really didn't want to be a celebrity, she knew publicity was unavoidable---but this?.

 "Yeah--and Captain--you might want to send them an updated holoimage---they have that awful bun!"

           Even Kathryn had to laugh at that.  A lot of things had changed over the past seven years and she had changed along with them---so had the bun.     Well, she better get used to it--it was part of her deal--she would  represent Starfleet and endure this celebrity status --just one more thing she would do for her crew.

            Tom drifted off into the party and She and Chakotay found a seat at the bar.  The party was well under way when they arrived and the crew were taking this celebration very 'seriously'.  More than one tipsy crewmen screwed up the courage to ask the Captain to dance and she obliged each and every one of them.   She was stumbled over, stepped on and slobbered on, but she smiled through it all.  Finally, just when she was about to give up, Chakotay came to her rescue and cut in.

"Thank god, I couldn't stand one more."  She smiled as she stepped into his arms.

"Well there are still about fifty who haven't had the courage to ask, yet."

"Let's hope they never do."  She rested her head on him.  "Have we stayed long enough?"

"Maybe.  They just needed to let off some steam---no one is really sure what happens next"  He didn't want to let her go--didn't want to admit he was apprehensive himself about what happened next.  "What happens next?--- Have you thought about it---I mean for you--not the crew."

"Yes, I've made some commitments to Starfleet and I guess I'll have to endure being the 'Darling of the Delta Quadrant."  She raised up her head and looked at him with that crooked smile.  "But there was one thing I wanted to do for me ---before I do anything else."

"And is it a secret or are you gonna tell me?"  He grinned at her.

"I thought what I would do first is---marry my first officer---will you marry me, Chakotay?"  She watched his face and all the emotions that  passed across it until he returned to the dimpled grin.  "Well?"

        Suddenly he let out a whoop--which caused everyone in the room to stop and stare.  He picked her up and swung her around--almost knocking  over several crewmen--they were both laughing when he set her down---the  now silent crew, staring in disbelief.

 "Yes."  He was staring down at her, then picked her up off her feet and kissed her.  The crew cheered although they weren't sure exactly why, as he broke the kiss he set her back down on her feet.  "I think we have stayed long enough."  They laughed.

       They worked their way through the crowd, just before they reached the door they ran into B'Elanna and Tom.

"Hey, glad to see you finally into the celebration."  B'Elanna eyed Chakotay.  "What brought that on?"

"Not much---she just asked me to marry her."  He put his arm around Kathryn and they both smiled as they watched the news sink in.

"About time."  B'Elanna finally found her voice "Congrat.."

"Hey get your hands off our "Darling."  Tom pushed up next to them.

"That's 'Captain Darling' to you."  Kathryn countered.

"Mrs. Captain Darling.”  B'Elanna added.

"Mrs? "  He looked them over.  "Wow--- this is a day to celebrate.  Congratulations--'bout time."

"Speaking of about time---."  B'Elanna gave Tom a look.

"B'Elanna---sometimes you just gotta take charge."  Kathryn winked at her.

"Oh flyboy---come here."  B'Elanna grabbed Tom and winked back at Kathryn. "Good night guys and excuse us---we gotta talk."  She dragged Tom off, allowing the command team to sneak out.

           They spent the next two weeks getting themselves and the ship ready for their new lives.  The ship was in good shape the crew was in great shape and the Command team had never been happier.  Everyone had contacted  family and friends and all were anxious to see them once they docked at Space station 47.   They were all a little nervous as they approached the station.   Tom hailed the station and requested docking coordinates.

"Starship Voyager, docking coordinates are being transmitted now.  Once the ship is secured, you will be officially welcomed by Captain Tracey and  Admiral Paris.  Followed by a reception, at which your guests will be present and than the crew is free to rejoin family for the next two days."   Commander Hewlett of the spacestation gave them direction.  "Captain Janeway--crew of Voyager, let me be the first to say--welcome home."

"Thank you, Commander.  It's good to be here."  The Captain smiled at Commander Hewlett then turned to Tom.  "Take us in"

"Aye Captain."  Tom replied with a huge smile.

      There was a thud, as Voyager came into contact with the station, then  several more as it was secured.  It took only a few minutes and then  ---they were home.  After the initial welcome, the crew rushed off to the  reception and to greet family and friends they hadn't seen in over seven years.  The Captain remained on the bridge.

       She looked around, the bridge was deserted—the whole ship was empty.  This had been home--their whole world for over seven years and now---now it was over.  She was glad to be home, anxious to see her mother and sister and very, very sad to be witnessing the break up of this family.  They were so much more than a crew, living and working so closely the past seven years, they had become family and it was hard to leave that behind.  She heard the lift door open, he joined her on the bridge.  He would come to meet her family--he had none, they would be his now too.

"You OK?"  He stood next to her.

"Yeah--sad, but OK."  She smiled up at him.  "I can't believe it's over."

"I know."  He took her hand.  "But it's also just beginning."

"Yes.  Let's go meet them." She smiled and he nodded.  They took the lift to the exit ramp.
 

        Outside was a massive crowd, someone was trying to usher them into the reception.  People were laughing and crying, hugging and kissing, climbing over one another in excitement.  They walked a short way and then she was mobbed by two women.

"Kathryn!"  Her mother and sister shouted together, both grabbing her, hugging, kissing, crying.

        He stood back and watched these three very different looking women.  It was so strange to see this part of her ---a part he had never witnessed, the daughter, the sister--he never thought of her in those roles.   It was a long time before they stopped long enough to take a breath and for Kathryn to get a chance to include him.

“Mom, Phoebe." She reached back and took his hand, bringing him forward.  "I would like you to meet Chakotay.  My First Officer, my life line, best friend and as soon as we can arrange it ---my husband."

"Oh my god!"  They hugged her again and then him and everyone cried again.

"Nice to meet you ladies."  Chakotay struggled to speak under the weight of the three women, who all hugged him at once.

"Nice.---so you didn't waste all that time in the delta quadrant."  Phoebe quipped, stepping back to take a good look.

"Too much of it I'm afraid--but that's a story for later."  Kathryn winked at her sister.

"Well, they did sent you out to catch him---didn't they."  Gretchen Janeway commented, as she looked him over carefully.

 “Come on let's get some where a little more private."  She took his hand and put an arm around her mother and led them back to the ship.

 Her quarters were already packed as was everyone else's, so she brought them to her ready room.    They were very interested in everything, but mostly in Chakotay.  If he was uncomfortable under their scrutiny, he never let on.  He good naturally endured all the questions, sly looks and various attempts by Phoebe to embarrass both of them.  Gretchen wanted a big wedding, at home.  Phoebe wanted an even bigger wedding in San Francisco, Kathryn wanted something small and quick and Chakotay just  wanted Kathryn and so the day went.  They did manage to make the reception for a short time and spent all their time introducing or being introduced.  Finally, they managed to locate their accommodations and say good night to Gretchen and Phoebe some where around 0200, they were exhausted.  They had  been assigned rooms at opposite ends of the station, but they choose hers.

"Think they did it on purpose?  I don't think your room could get any farther away."  She flopped down on the bed.

"Probably --- protocol you know!"  He sat beside her. "Maybe I should stay there."

 "If you do --I'm going with you."

 "Well, then let's stay here--the bed's bigger."

 "You were very good with my mother and sister, thank you---I know they aren't easy."

"As family goes--they're not so bad.  We've been gone a long time  --naturally they're curious."

"Down right nosy you mean! And  more than a bit pushy."

"Well, I sort of expected that."  He just grinned at her when she swatted him.  "So who wins?  Do we get married big-small-Indiana, San Francisco-Spacestation--what?"

"I don't know-- I hate to disappoint mom--but I don't want anything big and Phoebe is just crazy."  She sat up with a devilish look. "I wonder what Captain Tracey is doing?"

"Kathryn you wouldn't---it's 0230."

"Janeway to Tracey."  She hit her comm badge.

"Kathryn--we can't."

"Getting cold feet?"

"No--but what about..."

"Tracey here."

"Captain, sorry to disturb you at this hour, but I need to speak with you, John.  Privately, if I may."

"No problem, Kath---I'm not far from your rooms.  Shall I stop by."

"Yes, I would appreciate it."

"About two minutes---Tracey out."

"Are you nuts?"

"Don't you want to marry me?  Better say so now."

"Of course I want to marry you, but this could cause a big stir with fleet, not to mention you mother and sister."

"John is an old friend he will keep it quite and if not--I don't care.----do you?"

"Kathryn, I love you --but you're just plain nuts sometimes."  The chime interrupted their kiss.

"Come in."  She ordered the door open.  "John, thanks for coming."

"It sounded important, Kath. Hello, Commander."  He looked at Kathryn than Chakotay and nodded his head.  "OK what's this about?"

"I want you to marry us."

"Now?---here?-- Just like this?"

"Yes----will you do it?"

"Unusual –but---.”  He laughed and shook his head at her.  “I've never know you to do anything stupid, Kath---so if this is what you want---Sure, I'll do it."

"Last chance, Chakotay---back out now if you're gonna --or you're stuck with me forever."

"Forever it is, Kathryn ----only  --you tell your mother and sister."

      They were married in a three minute ceremony, celebrated with replicated champagne, were alone before 0300 and sound asleep by 0310.   They spent the next day with her mother and Phoebe and the following morning they were whisked off to the debriefings.   They spent three weeks at H.Q. being poked and prodded, physically and mentally.  The press was chomping at the bit trying to get a piece of Starfleet's 'Darling', but they were kept at bay, as was everyone else she knew.  She hadn't seen Chakotay in over a week, but he would be here tonight, they finally declared her fit and set her free.  She was given a three month leave before her next assignment and all she had left to do was the press conference tomorrow afternoon and they could head home.

           They were having breakfast, when the chime rang.  Neither was expecting anyone.  Kathryn went to the door and opened it.  Four security guards stood outside.

"Can I do something for you?"  She looked up at them and two stepped around her.  "Wait, where are you going?"

"Sorry Ma'am, but we have orders to bring in Commander Chakotay."  The one who stood closest to her spoke.  The other three, surrounded him at the table.

"There must be some mistake."

"No mistake, Captain."  He handed her the orders from starfleet command--signed by Admiral Nechayev.

"Kathryn, stay calm."  Chakotay stood and tried to approach her, the guards stopped him.

"Chakotay, I'll get to the bottom of this."  She pushed past the guards to reach him.  "Where are you taking him?"

 "Our orders are to take him to H.Q., Ma'am"

 "I'll be there shortly."  She kissed him and they led him out.

 "Captain?"  The last guard stopped and looked at her.  "I'm sorry."  She  nodded and he left.

 ====================================

"Captain Janeway, I asked if there was a problem."  Admiral Nechayev asked again.

"I suppose Admiral, it depends on your point of view.   At the moment, I need you to tell me what the problem is."

"I have no problem, Captain---only a need to go over what you will say at the press conference."

"The only need any of us has-- at this time is-- for you to explain why you lied."

"That is a strong accusation, Captain."  The admiral had lost her smile as they had gained an audience.  "I would be careful about such things if I were you."

"First you lie and then you threaten me." Kathryn wasn't going to back down.  "Perhaps you should be more careful."

"Captain, Admiral Paris told you it's only a formality, please calm down and we can prepare for the press conference."  Nechayev tried to switch tactics.

"Stop playing with me, Admiral---members of my crew were arrested this morning and I want answers."

"Sorry Captain, I have nothing to say to you on that subject. Now if you would like to discuss the press conference.."

"I don't think you want to do that--right now I am prepared to have a very candid chat with the press."

"Captain, I happen to know where this Chakotay was, when security detained him."  She looked around as if to suggest that Kathryn might not want anyone to know.

"Admiral when he was arrested- by your orders, my husband was have breakfast with me.   Is there something wrong with that?" She ignored the shocked looks all around her and concentrated on Nechayev.

"I wasn't aware of ..."

“Admiral, it really is of no concern to you.  Whom I marry is my own business and I am under no obligation to inform you.  Now-- about the release of my crew."

"Well under the circumstances.."  She didn't like the way the press would play with this one.  "I think, with a little cooperation from you and a  few recommendation from some of us---I think the Commander could be free, with just a reprimand, in a few hours."

"Admiral--you misunderstand.  This is not just about Chakotay--his freedom--or B'Elanna --or Ayala or any individual. You have dishonored everything I believe in, everything I have worked for, everything I taught these people to put their trust in...."

"Captain, before you go farther you had better consider everything you have worked for---you could be putting your career on the line here."

"My Career!?"  Kathryn's voice grew louder.  "You truly have no idea---we spent seven years in the Delta Quadrant--alone --just my crew- no Starfleet-no federation --no Admirals--no one to depend on but ourselves.  I have-- and I would again-- put my life on the line for any member of my crew and they would do the same for me---Don't speak to me about careers.  My career is insignificant."

 "We need to calm down here, Captain.   We have a press conference to do, than we can handle this---just remember you are not in the Delta Quadrant now--here you have superiors."

"Admiral, you happen to out rank me, but be assured you are not my superior."  Kathryn regarded her with disgust. "As I once told an enemy in the Delta Quadrant ---I don't like threats--I don't like bullies and I don't like you.  I'm going to that press conference and I expect to see my entire crew there--free."

"That can't be done."

"You signed the order--rescind it."  She checked the time. "You only have fifteen minutes before it starts and maybe another twenty before I speak---I expect not only to see them, but I expect you to speak before me and outline the terms we agreed to.   You will publicly announce their pardons and that all field commissions will be honored.  I'd get moving if I were you--time is wasting."

"You are in no position to make demands---especially of the Admiralty."

"I have faced and defeated the Kazon, the Hirogen, the Vidiians and the Borg---The Admiralty does not frighten me.  As for my position---In approximately thirty minutes---if you refuse to comply and honor your commitments--The 'Darling of the Delta Quadrant' will very publicly and very explicitly resign her commission."  She turned toward the door and then faced Nechayev again. "Admiral, perhaps you should consider your career.  I'll be on the dais."  Kathryn walked out, holding her breath--if  this didn't work---it had to work.

           She took her place and in about ten minutes the press conference began.  She half listened to the speakers drone on about her life and her career, she concentrated on the audience and looked for Chakotay.  She scanned the room for her crew and any sign that the Admiral would speak before her--so far nothing.  Another speaker was talking about her--she was a Starfleet legacy, her father the Admiral....* Tom is a starfleet legacy too--look what they are doing to him.*  Then she saw him, it was Ayala first, than B'Elanna and the others and last Chakotay.  She studied him, tried to catch his eye, if she could, she would know if this was a trick.  He took a seat on the end, he looked up and smiled when she saw him---a real smile --it reached his eyes and she released the breath she hadn't even realized she was holding.

           She hadn't even notice when Admiral Paris had switched places with Admiral Nechayev--but there she was, smiling almost like she meant it.  Then it was Kathryn's turn to speak, but the Admiral stood instead and took the podium.  Kathryn held her breath again.  Admiral Nechayev began to speak about the fine crew of the Starship Voyager and their harrowing journey, about the blending of two crews and the fine job done by Both Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay.  Then she listed all the things Kathryn had spoken about, proclaiming to the entire universe that all was forgiven and all former maquis were pardoned and all field commissions  would be honored and even hinted that promotions were in order for most.  After the thunderous applause, she introduced Kathryn and shook her hand as she took the podium.

          Kathryn spoke--- all the right words came out, the audience was impressed and the applause was deafening---it seemed to continued forever.  The 'Darling of the Delta Quadrant' was the smash hit Starfleet desperately needed  and the Admiralty was spared the embarrassment of facing their own faults.  Kathryn shook hands and smiled, talked to all the reporters and took holoimages with all who wanted them--she remembered none of it.  All Kathryn remembered was the dimpled smile of her husband as he sat in the audience watching and later when he stood by her side throughout the reception.  Finally it was over---time to go home.

           She really wanted to slip away quietly, sneak out the back door if  she had to --- but that wasn't to be ---she would hold up her side of the bargain.  She smiled and posed and now she made her rounds and said her goodbyes. Owen had had trouble looking at her --he should-- how would he ever look at Tom?  Admiral Nechayev however, seemed to feel no remorse -possess no shame-she brazenly walked up to Kathryn and Chakotay before they left.

"Captain, Commander leaving so soon?"  Her stage smile was on her face.

"Couldn't be soon enough for me."  Kathryn wasted no words on her.

"Sorry to hear that--- you did a wonderful job today. I look forward to working with you in the future."

"I wish I could say the same."  Kathryn could feel his eyes on her, she hadn't had a chance to speak with him and he wasn't sure what had happened earlier.  She knew her attitude toward the Admiral confused him.

"Kathryn, -- we will be working together -- we may as well get along."

"Alynna.”  Kathryn saw her bristle at the use of her name.  "I told you earlier --I don't like you, I will work with you because I have given my word and---I keep my word.  One year---that's what I promised and that's all you'll get out of me."

"Commander, perhaps you can talk to her ---she has a remarkable record and a bright future with Starfleet---if only she learns to compromise-a little."  She smiled at Chakotay and Kathryn wondered how this woman could look in the mirror.

"Admiral --as I'm sure you know-- one of the things that makes Kathryn a great Captain is her refusal to compromise her principles -- I for one would never ask her to."  He smiled back, giving her the full benefit of the dimples.  "Now, if you'll excuse us?  I have had very little time with my wife these past few weeks."  He took Kathryn's arm  "Good night."

           They were detained a few more times, by different officers who had witnessed her earlier confrontation with Admiral Nechaev.  Most encouraged Kathryn to remain in fleet and help to bring about changes and a few were open enough to say she should keep Nechayev in line.  She only promised to  give careful consideration to her future with Starfleet.

           On the way back to her quarters, she explained her confrontation with Nechayev to Chakotay.  He listened to the entire story without comment.  Now that she explained it, their sudden release and reinstatement began to make sense.  This made their future even more uncertain than before.

           He made them tea, while she changed her clothes.  She came out and joined him in the sitting area, tucking her bare feet under her on the couch.

"Strange isn't it? All this time I fight to uphold their almighty high principles and come home to this."

"Power has a tendency to corrupt -- in the best of organizations."  He wanted to be careful, to leave her room to retreat, if she chose to. --- Starfleet was in her blood.

"I know --one bad apple and all that--but -- this hit a little too close to home."  She reached up and touched his face, then laughed.  "You should have seen her face."

"When?"  He couldn't help but laugh with her.

"She made a crack about knowing where you were when they picked you up."  She couldn't stop laughing. "And--- and--she looked around --like I would care what they thought."

"Well, Captain---consorting with known criminals---tsk tsk."

"When I told her I was having breakfast with my husband ---ohgodd--I wish I had a holoimager."

"So-- that explains it-- you married me just to piss off Nechayev."  He raised an eyebrow.

"Yeah, sure--that must be the reason."  She reached up and brought his lips down to hers.  "Or maybe that could be it.  What do you think?"

"Worth investigating."  He kissed her again. "This presents some interesting possibilities."

"I know."  She drew back and looked at him getting serious again.  "I told her today my career was insignificant and I just realized  how true that is... "  She looked to be far away for a minute, as he watched her---then she smiled.  "We each have seven years back pay----let's buy a farm ---small and self-sufficient ---away from everyone."

"Sounds like heaven to me."  He watched the devil come alive in her eyes.  "Are you serious --- would you give it up and live on a farm with me?"  He couldn't believe he was hearing this, but he'd play it out.

"I have a year-- I promised them ---then ---yeah--I'd like to stay on earth though ----OK?"  The devil was still in her look, but she was also serious.

"Any special location?"  It sounded very good to him -- he wasn't sure she would be happy.

"Where ever you want  ---time for me to follow you for a while."

"What will you do on this farm?"

"Plant tomatoes -- Talaxian tomatoes!"  They both smiled at the memory of her tomatoes.  "And we could raise ---monkeys."  She chuckled.  "And babies."  She watched him and he smiled at her.

"Well, then maybe we better get started --- I hear you usually need to plant them on at a time, a whole crop could take a while."  He took her in his arms.  "I think you might make one hell of a farmer."

         They didn't know if she would really ever leave Starfleet --- if they would ever buy a farm --and they were pretty sure they would never raise monkeys.  The babies ---that they would work on --but whatever it was that they would do with their future  ---they were sure they would do it together.
 

The End
 

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