Summary: Written for KJaneway115 for the Vamb 2015 Secret Summer Exchange. Her request was for A story. Angst & adventure. High stakes. High drama. A good (meaning evil and conniving!) villain. Something that ends up J/C but doesn’t have to start that way.
This is the second story I started for the exchange. It has an ample supply if angst, a middling amount of high stakes, some drama and is definitely J/C but it’s missing the evil and conniving villain (he’s in the first story I started, which is still in the works and will hopefully be finished soon.)
In this story, Kathryn is confronted with the harsh reality of her return to the Alpha quadrant – nothing is how she expected it to be – and Chakotay is missing.
A big thank you to Audabee for her read through and encouragement, and to CF for her commas and eagle beta eyes. But as usual, I have fiddled with it since, so any and all mistakes are mine.
Disclaimer: CBS/Paramount own everything. No infringement intended.
Without a word to anyone, he’d disappeared, and she had no idea where to find him.
A hazy reflection of her worried face stared back at her from the blank computer screen and a rare but predictable spike of panic thrust mid chest, making it difficult to breathe.
Where was he?!
She dragged in a deep breath and exhaled shakily from between pursed lips. This wasn’t how it was supposed to end.
They were home. They were supposed to be safe, but it had all gone so horribly awry.
After fighting like demons for seven years to get here, in the end, it had all been for naught.
It seemed too cruel in light of all they’d endured.
Nothing that had happened since their return was what she’d expected or wanted.
For so long the words had rung like carillon bells of promise and, by rights, their homecoming should have been a triumph. That’s what she’d thought, what she’d hoped for, how she’d convinced herself it would be – but in this unfamiliar yet still recognisable world, nothing was how she imagined it. Everything was off kilter and… wrong.
Her coveted daydreams, the ones she’d held so close to her heart for all those years, had been decimated upon their arrival. Her fantasy of a heroic return and open-armed welcome from Starfleet and the Federation, now a travesty of shattered hopes and dreams.
Her firm belief that the ex-Maquis would be given their freedom and her Starfleet crew granted their commissions, commendations and promotions, had been trampled into dust by a vicious faction of hardline Starfleet dilettantes. Her naive desire to see her beloved Voyager refitted and readied for space again, Chakotay by her side and their crew reinstated to continue their mission of exploration, had been relegated to the domain of deluded dreams.
What actually happened was so far removed from Kathryn’s expectations that she’d been completely unprepared for the fallout.
And what made it so much worse was that Chakotay had disappeared and she feared for him.
Voyager had barely cleared the Borg debris field when Starfleet security beamed aboard and took the ex-Maquis and Equinox crew into custody. Charged with treason in-absentia, with all outstanding warrants upheld; they’d been unceremoniously culled from their crewmates, whisked away and incarcerated to await trial.
Kathryn’s loud and vehement protests had fallen on deaf ears, and with her own arrest following soon after, she’d been summarily silenced; forced to face her own trauma of a court-martial over the next several weeks.
She’d sat through the her trial in disheartened disbelief. The court sessions had been gruelling and demoralising; the outcome, a foregone conclusion that was never destined to fall in her favour.
All those lonely years of sacrifice – the heart-wrenching inner turmoil and emotional tug-o-war she’d faced every time common-sense had come into direct conflict with Starfleet regulations; of having to hunker down and cope with the soul-gnawing despair of having to justify her resolve to follow Starfleet rules when her heart and head said otherwise – had been a complete waste of time and energy.
As harrowing as her court-martial had been, she’d not faced it alone. Like stoic sentries, her mother and sister had stood by her side throughout the hearings. Owen Paris had also been there, quietly working in the background to minimise the impact of the court’s rulings.
The situation was far from straightforward, however. The political machinations motivating Starfleet’s hardline tactics were complex and agenda-fuelled. Unbeknownst to Kathryn, she and her Maquis crew had unwittingly become the proverbial meat in the diplomatic sandwich of a tangled bureaucratic power play between Starfleet and the Cardassian Union. As a result, it took months before there was even a hint of a reprieve.
Owen Paris, bless him, their steadfast and uncompromising advocate during the marathon negotiations, finally convinced the Federation President that there was little to be gained by imprisoning the last few remaining Maquis or Voyager’s captain. The general public had lost its stomach for revenge and, with the fallout of the Dominion war and the repercussions from the destruction of Romulus still high on the agenda, there were bigger fish to fry in regard to Federation security. Two and a half months after their incarceration, the charges against the Maquis were finally dropped, and they were released on their own recognisance.
Kathryn was released two weeks after that.
Three months after her precipitous but long-awaited return to Earth from the far reaches of the Delta quadrant, Kathryn Janeway was dishonourably discharged in answer to a litany of offences – the list too long and charges too numerous to mention.
When the verdict was read, it came as no surprise but, nonetheless, she was devastated.
If she’d known that this was what awaited her at the end of that lonely, godforsaken road, she would have made very different decisions about her life aboard Voyager, and especially in regard to her relationship with Chakotay.
The only thing that kept her going was the hope that for them, it might not be too late.
If only she could find him.
The remainder of her Starfleet crew had either been demoted or dismissed; Voyager had been dismantled, its precious cache of technology removed and appropriated by Starfleet.
It was enough to break Kathryn’s heart.
She’d been sequestered for the three months of her arrest; the authorities refusing to allow any of her crew near her. Communications were forbidden and, although she’d tried to get word to Chakotay through Phoebe and her mother, it had been to no avail. By the time she’d been released, he was gone and what remained of the Maquis had scattered.
Kathryn was bereft.
Their sixteen-year reprieve had been nothing more than a gaping gateway to misery and disaster. If only her older self had seen sense to leave well enough alone.
She could have lived with what the future held and, armed with foreknowledge, she had the means to avoid the worst of the Admiral’s predictions.
Nothing was set in stone. With the Admiral’s arrival on Voyager, the future was irrevocably altered, but the choice had been expertly prized from her grasp. She’d allowed herself to be manipulated by a master – her own self, no less – but who better to know the weaknesses and foibles of a person than a bitter and driven version of herself? She hated knowing that she’d been so easily manoeuvred. She should have reasoned the consequences through much more carefully but the thought of Tuvok and his illness, the loss of those twenty-two crewmen and, of course, Chakotay’s and Seven’s marriage, followed by Seven’s death, had struck to the very heart of Kathryn’s existence. In light of this, acquiescing to the admiral’s scheme had become a fait accompli.
Admiral Janeway’s plan was supposed to save them but, in the end, she’d almost destroyed them. She’d become the architect of her own failure – the irony wasn’t lost on Kathryn – and she just hoped that something could be salvaged from the remains.
It was up to her to mend what had been broken. And she would – if only she could find him.
It all seemed so hopeless but she refused to give up. The same stubborn streak that had gotten them into this mess was going to get them out of it as well.
She’d be damned if she’d lose him like this.
The days became an endless search. She tracked down as many of the crew as she could find, in part to glean news of Chakotay, but to also ensure that they were safe and well. With few exceptions, her crew had taken this final blow with the grace of those who had seen and survived worse. They were a resilient group and old hands at dealing with disappointment and the cruel hand of fate. Undaunted in the face of this calamity, she couldn’t have been prouder of them.
Promises were made to keep in touch and, as she travelled around, reconnecting with her crew, they began to join in her search, taking it upon themselves to follow up on leads, trace suspected sightings, and help in whatever way they could. They rallied as they always had. The missing Maquis began to emerge from hiding and, with the support of their fellow Voyagers, they began to create a community. At first, they crowded into accommodations in San Francisco but, eventually, they moved to an area of land on the outskirts of Kathryn’s home town.
It became something of a Voyager mecca and Kathryn was delighted to have her crew back together again. The only person missing was Chakotay.
It took her another hellish month to find him, but her determination finally paid off.
He was still in San Francisco. He’d stayed close but in hiding, worried that his disgrace might taint her. It was laughable, really, and she’d hated him a little for thinking that she’d care, but it was typical of him and his unswerving sense of honour.
When word had come from Dalby that he’d been seen by the Bay, she’d taken to patrolling the area after dark.
Night after night, she walked the streets looking for him and when she finally set eyes on him, he was barely recognisable. His hair was long, he was unshaven and he’d lost weight, but he was beautiful to her.
She found him standing still as a statue looking out across the water – an island of sadness swathed in darkness.
She wanted to run into his arms, wrap herself around him, hold him tight and make all the anger and sadness dissolve in her tears of relief – but she didn’t. She simply stood beside him and waited.
Waited until he knew it was her.
It took a moment, but at last the light of recognition dawned in his eyes and his gaze slid from the choppy waters of the Bay to lock onto hers. “It’s really you?”
She gave him a sad smile and swallowed past the burning lump in her throat. In a voice that husked low and tight, she said, “Yes, it’s me… and, I don’t know about you, but I could use a coffee.”
There was a flicker of something in his eyes. She saw it and it nudged hope closer to her heart.
Her hand skimmed down his forearm and her fingers wove through his. His hand was icy and she felt as much as saw him take a deep shuddering breath as the sharp edge of tension left his body and anticipation bloomed.
She knew what he was thinking – she was convinced that she’d always known.
Her hand tightened around his. “We’re going to be all right.”
His voice was rusty from non-use. “Thank you.”
She frowned a little, not sure why he was thanking her but squeezed his hand for reassurance – for both of them. “You’re cold.”
His eyes drilled into hers. “And a little lost.”
His admission ripped a sob from a place deep in her chest, somewhere close to her heart, and she feared for a moment that she would crumble. Just as the brittle parts of her began cracking apart, he tugged her close, tunnelling his fingers into her hair and holding her head hard against his chest.
They held the pieces of each other together.
It was a strangely awkward embrace – one arm caught between them, fingers entwined, his other hand cupped the back of her head, and hers gripped – white-knuckled – a handful of his shirt.
She could hear his heart thudding under her ear, feel the reassuring warmth of his body, and the steady rise and fall of each breath he took. He was alive and he was with her.
They were together and they would endure.
He was what she needed. The disillusionment and disappointment they’d experienced was of little consequence; her blissful imaginings of their return were nothing more than fantasies, and she could live with that.
This was what was real and true. She’d managed to salvage from this mess, the one thing intrinsic to her survival.
And they had each other.
His lips brushed across the top of her head. She could feel his hot breath on her scalp, and wondered if it was a whispered prayer. She breathed her own entreaty into the warmth of his chest, directly over his heart. She imagined the words seeping through his skin, and spreading outward, infusing his blood, finding their way into every cell in his body, and filling them with the warmth of her love.
Her hand drifted upwards. It skimmed across his whisker-roughened cheek and stroked through his unruly hair. She glimpsed his tattoo and her heart tightened in her chest.
Leaning up, she brushed her lips across his.
He shuddered and hauled her closer as words rumbled deep in his chest. “You found me.”
“I couldn’t leave you.”
The beginnings of a genuine smile teased at the corners of her mouth as hardy tendrils of joy wended their way from her heart to his. “We’re a pair, aren’t we?”
His eyes brightened ever so slightly. “Yes, we are.”
He pressed his lips lightly over hers and sipped at her breath before closing his eyes in reverent relief. Standing taller, he took a small step away, draped his arm around her shoulder and kissed the top of her head once more.
This time his voice was stronger and edged with resolve.
None of this was what they’d expected but, perhaps in time, it would be more than they could ever have imagined.