Welcome Home

by Nix
(crimsonquills AT gmail DOT com)


Author's Notes: Author's Note: This is my first bit of fanfic ever, for any show. It hasn't been beta-read, so all mistakes are mine. It's a romance, and a little sappy. Also, I wrote it quite awhile ago (more than 2 years) so some of the info is out of date and there are characters present who shouldn't be and characters missing. By the way, Thoth is a pen name (of course). Thoth is the Egyptian god of writing.

TIMELINE : This is an old story, written before Janeway got her dear John letter.


Janeway leaned back in her chair and sighed, massaging her temples. The joy of Voyager's return home had quickly palled in the face of all the inquiries, trials and reports. 'I guess I ought to be grateful,' she thought, 'that only the senior staff actually had to be tried in court.

The entire crew of Voyager had been confined to the ship once it was discovered that there were members of the Maquis on board. As the reports everyone on the crew had dutifully filed for every incident rolled into Starfleet Command and were read more and more Starfleet staff had joined their Maquis friends in waiting for their cases to be settled.

Both Captain and Commander had pushed themselves past their limits as they submitted official comments, made calls, called in favours and occasionally arranged face-to-face meetings on behalf of their crew. When the behind-the-scenes inquiries were over, the public trials started. Janeway, Chakotay, B'Elanna, Tom, Tuvok, Harry, even the Doctor were all forced to go through very public trials questioning their judgment and competence. Neelix and Kes were spared only because Starfleet had no influence over or knowledge of their races. There wasn't a single crewman who hadn't testified in one of their trials. They even appeared as witnesses for each other, heatedly defending the companions that had backed them up in crisis after crisis.

Finally, it was over. They had won, every member of both original crews getting off with no more than a reprimand. The crew was even allowed to stay together and the former Maquis offered official commissions, if they wanted them. They all accepted, with the condition that they remain on Voyager.

The trials had been held on Earth and had been open to public attendance. Janeway had been told that Mark had attended them all, but she hadn't seen him. All she could think about during the trials was the look on her crew's face when they were told they were being treated as criminals. The joy, dying.

But now the crew was free to go to Earth to find family and friends. To try and pick up a life where they'd left off seven years before. They had only four weeks to catch up on seven years, but it was unusual for Starfleet to grant and entire crew even that much time off.

Blinking her eyes clear, Janeway strode out of her ready room and onto the bridge. She smiled around at the crew, trying to cover her nervousness with happiness. "Open a com link with the entire ship," she instructed Harry.

"Link open, Captain," he said.

"This is Captain Janeway," she began. "Starfleet Command will now allow us to leave the ship. We will all have four weeks to find family and friends and to spend on Earth before we are expected to return to Voyager for our next mission." She smiled a little, remembering how long their first mission had taken. "However, I feel it would be wise to establish a closer date at which we can meet, if we so wish. I think some of us may need to return before the set time." The crew knew what she meant. Without doubt there would be people whose family had died, who friends had moved on and all but forgotten them. Some people would find that the life they had left behind was gone, leaving them nothing to return to. These people would need to come back to Voyager, to the family and the life that was all they'd had for seven years. "I suggest two weeks from today, and we'll meet in shuttle bay 2. Enjoy yourselves, Janeway out."

When she finished speaking the crew began moving towards the transporter rooms. On the bridge Tom Paris and Harry Kim were the first two out the door, Tuvok following and others filing out behind him. Soon Janeway and Chakotay stood alone. "Nervous?" he asked.

'How does he do that?' Janeway thought. Aloud, she said, "A little, yes. It has been seven years" she thought of Mark, wondering if he'd be the same as when she left.

"Me too," Chakotay said, surprising her. "Come on," her put one hand on her elbow and guided her into the turbolift, "You've been looking forward to this for seven years. Just relax, you'll be fine. Transporter room 2," he told the computer.

"Right," Janeway said, smoothing her hair back and tugging on her tunic. "Where are you going? So I can contact you."

"I'm not sure. I'll wear my com badge so you can reach me if you need to."

"Thank you," she said as the doors whooshed open and they walked the short distance to the transporter room. There turned out to be a flood of crew members waiting for transport, but they let their Captain and Commander go to the head of the line. Janeway stepped on the pad and, seconds later, was set down just a little ways from the house that had been Mark's and hers. Theirs. No longer, now it was just his.

She stepped up the the door and made herself ring the bell, waiting. After only a moment the door opened and there stood Mark. A little older, but he looked just the same. "Mark?" she asked.

"Kathryn?" he said, in the same tone of voice. There was an awkward moment, then, "Kathryn." Hesitantly, they embraced, both feeling the distance that was between them. "Come on in," he said.

Janeway stepped into the house and saw immediately that her presence here had been erased. Nothing she had contributed remained, and she got the sudden feeling she was intruding. As they sat down in the den she said the first thing that came to her, "It's so different."

Mark shifted a little, uncomfortable. "It's been seven years. I kept it the same for the first four, but after Starfleet pronounced the crew officially dead it felt . . . odd to have your things here. I . . . I moved on. I had to live, Kathryn."

"I know. I know. I expected you to. I hoped you would. I didn't want you waiting 70 years - which is what we though we had ahead of us then." She looked down at her hands, then up again. "Are you married? Or anything?"

He shook his head, "No. But your nephew is."

"Really? John?" Janeway sighed with relief as they dropped into gossip and chit chat, catching up on a long seven years. Eventually Mark offered her the guest room to sleep in, since she didn't have a place of her own. Her immediate thought was, 'I do have a place of my own. Voyager,' but she accepted the offer.

***

Mark sat across from Kathryn in the den on the afternoon of her twelfth day with him. Everything about her, about them, was different. Seven years ago they'd been able to tell what the other was thinking with a glance. Whole conversations passed between their eyes. Nothing had been awkward, nothing misunderstood. Now they were lucky if the other knew where one was coming from.

He noticed that she hid laughs at little things he didn't understand and he saw the stiffening in her spine when he did something that offended her. She'd never really depended on him, but now she didn't even trust him. She covered it well with that 'Captain' facade of hers, but even that was wrong. She'd never used it with him, had never needed to. Mark also noticed another part of her he didn't recognise. Part of her strict belief in science had softened. She was more open to the idea of faith, to belief in the metaphysical. Once he'd found her sitting on her bed cross legged in some kind of trance. When she came out of it and he asked her what she was doing she said she was speaking to her spirit guide. He had no idea where that had come from.

Of course, Mark didn't lay all the blame for the change in their relationahip on her. He knew that he laughed at inside jokes too. He knew that he misunderstood her words and body language as often as she had his. They'd both changed, it was just that she'd changed so much.

An awkward silence had fallen between them now. They sat, just staring at each other for a moment. Suddenly, Janeway said, "I'd like you to meet someone."

"Who?" he asked, curious.

"My first officer, Commander Chakotay." At that, Mark understood, even if she didn't see it herself. She was trying to bridge the gap between them. She was bringing part of her new, different life to meet part of her old life. Janeway might not see it herself, but Mark could tell this was a last ditch effort.

"Sure," he said, "when?" He knew that she had to try, had to do enough to be able to tell herself that she had done everything she could have. He could tell, also, that there was some sort of deadline approaching. She hadn't said anything, but no matter how little he understood her now he could see this clearly.

"How about tonight?" she asked, withdrawing a com badge from her pocket.

"Fine by me."

"Janeway to Chakotay," she said, pressing the badge.

"Chakotay here, Captain."

"Commander, would you like to come to dinner," Kathryn's eyes twinkled. Mark realised that he's thought of her as Kathryn for the first time in days, and knew why. Before, she'd set 'Kathryn' aside and been 'Captain Janeway'. Now she was definitely Kathryn, her voice softer and a little teasing.

"Captain?" The commander's voice sounded a little startled.

"I'd like you to meet Mark." Now her voice was more serious and Mark wondered what the real significance of this dinner was. There was more to it than he was seeing, certainly. "Are you free tonight?"

"Absolutely. 18:30 all right for you?" the voice replied.

Kathryn glanced at Mark. He nodded and she replied that yes, 18:30 was fine.

***

At exactly 18:30 that night the door chimed and Mark went to get it. On his doorstep stood a native American man, dressed in civvies but exuding authority. "Commander Chakotay," he said, extending his hand. Mark shook it saying, "I'm Mark. come on in. Dinner's ready." As the commander stepped into his house Mark couldn't help thinking, 'This man's 'Commander' is the equivalent of Kathryn's 'Captain'.'

"Captain?" The commander called.

"In the dining room, and for god's sake call me Kathryn!" she called back. "We're casual tonight." Chakotay and Mark entered the dining room then, just as Janeway finished setting the table. Mark watched the interplay between them with interest. The Commander had become Chakotay just as the Captain had become Kathryn. Now they traded compliments and easy banter.

At one point Chakotay turned to Mark and said, "Please tell me she didn't cook," with a grin.

Swatting at him playfully Kathryn responded with, "Well, I'm better than some of Neelix's concoctions."

"I don't know . . ." Chakotay said, which prompted a heated 'Oh?' and then laughing. When they'd calmed down Mark assured Chakotay that he'd done the cooking and that, from what he'd heard of Neelix, it was pretty good.

And so went the entire evening. The two of them shared inside jokes and recounted anecdotes from their journey. Mark realised that their dinner was quickly becoming a table of two, but only sat back and watched. He saw that the closeness and understanding that he and Janeway had lost was present, in strength, between Kathryn and Chakotay.

When Kathryn mentioned that she'd been having nightmares Chakotay asked her, seriously, if she'd been keeping in contact with her spirit guide. Then Mark understood who had been responsible for a lot of the change in Kathryn. As dinner drew to a close Kathryn hinted that Chakotay didn't have anywhere to stay that night, so he offered the other guest room. The offer was accepted.

That night the unexpected sound of sobbing woke Mark. He padded silently down the hall towards the sound. Eventually he looked, unseen, into Kathryn's bedroom. She sat up in bed, gasping and sobbing from the broken nightmare. The figure who had entered the room just before Mark reached it sat down on the edge of the bed. Chakotay held out his arms to Kathryn and she leaned into his chest. Shivering, she recounted the nightmare and he listened, eventually murmuring words to her that seemed to comfort her.

Mark watched, silently, as Chakotay soothed away the nightmare Kathryn hadn't even mentioned to him. He nodded, understanding something that had been bothering him, and left the two alone. * * * The next morning at breakfast Kathryn asked Chakotay if he'd be staying with them that night. "No, Kathryn," he said. "I'm going back to Voyager today." "But . . . it's early," she protested.

"No, its too late. You were right, Kathryn," he shook his head regretfully and Mark wished he could understand all the nuances of this conversation that were slipping by him. "A lot of people are going to feel displaced, and I'm one of them. I'm going up to Voyager to welcome our crew home."

"When are you leaving?" she asked.

"Now, I suppose. I have to go Kathryn." He stood and went to the door. Kathryn stood and followed him. She reached out to take his hand, but the gesture faltered and died. "Goodbye, Kathryn."

"Goodbye, Chakotay," she replied, her voice a little rough. Mark could see that this goodbye was more permanent than anyone knew. It was Kathryn and Chakotay taking their farewells, not the captain and commander. Those two would meet again, but some point had been reached that changed everything.

The commander opened the door and left. As it hissed shut Janeway, all captain once again, came and sat down at the table. She was visibly deflated. Mark said nothing of the exchange, not wanting to add to her growing depression. They passed a quiet day together, but the distance between them had grown, not been bridged.

The next morning Janeway was in the same state and finally Mark sighed and forced himself to force her to see what had become so obvious to him. "Go," he said.

"What?" Janeway asked, the hurt showing in her eyes even if her face was still.

"I said go. Go home."

"I am home," she protested.

"No you're not. You're not home anymore than you are in love with me."

"Mark . . ." she began.

"No, listen to me. You're not the same person who left me seven years ago. The Kathryn Janeway that loved me is gone, changed forever. I don't know you anymore, Kathryn, and you don't know me either. We've both been very awkward since you got here. I don't know you, but I can see that the only home you've had for seven years is where you belong, with the only family you've had for seven years. You're staying here out of some sense of duty, but you've no duty to me. You're duty is to your crew. We don't love each other anymore."

"Don't," she faltered, "don't I deserve to be loved?"

"Of course you do. And you are loved, very much." She looked askance at him. "Not by me, Kathryn," he said gently. When she looked blank he said, with a sigh, "You love him too, you just refuse to admit it." Still she was silent. "Ever since you got here you've been 'Captain Janeway'. When did you relax and become Kathryn, truly? Who is it that understood you when you spoke? Who soothed your fears away after a nightmare?"

He could see in her eyes that she acknowledged it, now. She wet dry lips with her tongue and said, "But we can't. He's . . . he's -" Mark cut her off.

"Don't give me any of that crap about a captain and their first officer. For seven years you've worked at separating 'Captain' and 'Kathryn' and he's done the same. Don't tell me you personal lives will interfere, because for seven years you've perfected the art of separating Starfleet and life. Don't try to tell me how it will impact the crew, because you've been with these people for seven years. This can only bring you closer together - they will be happy for you." Mark took a breath and looked her in the eye. "Go home. Go!"

Suddenly Janeway was moving. At a run she disappeared up the stairs to her room. Minutes later she was down again, in her Starfleet red and black, bag in her hand. She stopped for a moment in front of him. "Thank you," she said, her voice sincere. Then she was gone.

***

Janeway stopped nervously at the shuttle bay doors, wondering how many of her crew were displaced in their home. She found herself thinking, not that they were displaced, but that they grown close enough to find their way home. Stiffening her spine and tilting her chin up, she stepped in through the door.

As the doors opened to admit her, Janeway gaped. From what she could see, the entire crew was present. They had been chatting, but now fell silent. Janway stepped in the crowd, smiling and knowing that the had come home. As the smile broke out on her face the crew cheered. She could see in their faces that they'd thought themselves . . . abandoned, for lack of a better word. But Janeway scanned the crowd, looking for one figure.

She finally found him, almost across the room. She met his eyes and could feel her heart beat faster; she silently blessed Mark for having changed enough to set her free, but also for knowing her well enough make her see what she wanted. As surrounding crew members felt the tension between her and Chakotay they moved away even the the captin and her XO moved together.

They stood, just looking at each other for a moment. Finally, Janeway managed, "It seems our goodbyes were premature." Then next moment, without either knowing who had started the movement or how it happened, they were in each other's arms. Their lips met in a kiss that was first gentle, then tender, then passionate. When they finally ended the kiss to look into each other's eyes they realised that the crew was cheering once again.

Tom Paris appeared out of nowhere, grinning, and said, "Well, you two just lost me a lot of replicator rations."

"What?" Kathryn and Chakotay asked, laughing.

"B'Elanna bet me you two wouldn't get together until we got home." He made as if to move away then, but Janeway called out to him.

"What did you bet?"

"That you were already together!" he called back cheerfully.

Kathryn wrapped her arms around Chakotay's waist and they laughed. Looking up into his eyes she said quietly, "It feels good to be home."

--End--