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Hello, I've read much fan fic, but did not have the desire to write a story for many years, until the Janeway Lives challenge.  Just had to do something to help me cope with the arbitrary (IMHO) disposal in Trek lit. of the MAIN character of a series still (mostly) dear to me: ST Voyager.  Even so, did not finish anything until the last "VOY" book recently came out, then it was like being possessed-the words just kind of flowed out.  Now, sorry, no beta (don't know how to get one), but have read this "opus" a number of times, altho were a few mistakes, hope almost all corrected now.  And, as a newbie writer, hope it's ...OK.  Still, wanted to contribute something to Janeway Lives, and, as much as Capt. Kathryn J. inspired me, hope this helps bring her "back" in some small way.  Thank you!  PS, this is probably sappy, too long, and maybe not greatest prose, but at least it's done.  KJ (& J/C) forever! GS  (Also, if you do perhaps like this thing, please let me know, thanks much!)

A NEW LIFE by GS

Disclaimer: Star Trek Voyager and its characters are owned by Paramount/CBS. Some characters, etc. in this story first appeared in the novels Before Dishonor, Full Circle, and Unworthy, owned by Pocket Books. No copyright infringement intended. I have merely expanded things in the "trilogy of (well, at least my) tears" to be how I want them to be; have also changed some events and characters around a bit to suit my own amatuer purposes. BTW, this story is not meant to make me anything but happier (in spirit).
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(Please note, for this story's purposes, KJ's age at the beginning of the TV series (Caretaker) was 39, the same age as KM, actress, was. Chakotay here is about 50 yrs. old.)

Chakotay, Captain of the Federation Starship Voyager, walked the corridors of his ship almost every night sometime after dinner. Of course he couldn’t walk every hallway of every deck each evening unless he wanted to exhaust himself, but he tried to visit at least a couple or so decks every night, even indulging in such forays on his infrequent days off. He did feel that it was something of a tradition for captains to tour their ships, and even Capt. Eden had admitted to him that she at times had strolled around Voyager before she retired for the night, while she had briefly been the captain of his now and former ship at the beginning of this return odyssey to the Delta Quadrant. And he was aware that Kathryn had often walked about what had been her domain in the late hours during their previous DQ voyage, especially when she couldn’t sleep, which he knew had happened fairly often.

He unfortunately still winced a little sometimes at the thought of her name. It could, at times, pain him to remember her, even though he considered himself almost healed from her…loss. Well, “almost” was probably the operative word, he guessed, and maybe it would be for a while longer, no matter what Counselor Cambridge tried to tell him. Chakotay felt he would feasibly never completely “let go”; Kathryn Janeway had been too important to him for too long to forget his feelings for her just because she was no longer in his plane of existence. In fact, he believed in his heart that his deep regard for her would always be lodged in that place in his soul she had taken over long ago, the part that briefly had been allowed to expand into something acknowledged by both of them. And, if he still had to clamp down on those feelings in order to get on with his life, it didn’t seem that he loved her, even though she was gone, less, just well, less intensely, so he could go on without being weighed down anymore by his past grief.

So, he would walk the halls of his ship, which had once been her ship, and if once in awhile he thought he could still feel, in a way, her presence as he roamed from deck to deck for a portion of time each night, then he took it as a sign that she wasn’t totally lost to him, which was of some small comfort to his still healing heart, even as his head may try hard to forget.

Actually, tonight it had been easier. He had been held up in Engineering, conferring with Chief Engineer Vorik over a small glitch in the slip stream drive that had cropped up while he had been eating with Harry Kim and Seven in the Mess Hall. Chakotay had apologized to his companions after he received the call requesting his presence, and had proceeded to Deck 11, then spent some time hearing more about the intricacies of engineering principles than he might ever want to know. But, since there had been some work to finish up, he hadn't then prolonged his walk as he sometimes did. Therefore, he found himself sitting in his quarters at the relatively early time of 2055 hours, looking through various PADDs to find the report from astrometrics that Seven, the civilian advisor, and his friend, had insisted that he review before the staff meeting the next morning.

He chuckled a little to himself as he found the right one and started reading. Maybe the ex-Borg was now almost 100% physically human, but she still strove for mental perfection as much as she had when she was attached to the Collective, and as he scrolled through her meticulous description of the latest astrometric upgrade, he couldn’t help but wonder if Mr. Cambridge knew what he was getting into by possibly getting involved with her. They seemed to be in the circling around each other stage now, as far has he could tell, but it appeared from the way Seven talked about the man, in a surprisingly positive way, that something might well be up. She still confided in Chakotay as an ally, and he didn’t resent that her gaze might now be wandering towards someone else, even after all they’d been through together, romantically or otherwise. Chakotay knew he wasn’t the right man for her, so if Seven had perhaps found someone else to be with, he was happy for his friend. Anyway, he wasn’t exactly looking for romance again for himself, not just yet.

When he finally finished reading, and approved Seven’s report, it was almost 22:00, about bedtime, so he took a quick sonic shower, and then sat on his bed clad in his usual night time pants/tee shirt ensemble, and commenced his nightly reflective ritual. It wasn’t meant for attaining a meditative state, but the idea was for him to become relaxed enough to be able to get to sleep faster, and then hopefully deeper.

He crossed his legs, closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and considered the safe place inside him where life was calm and he could be at peace. I am alive, he thought, I am well. My ship is safe. My life is full. I am with my family. I am content. He spoke the phrases out loud several times, then lied down, closed his eyes, and rhythmically breathed deeply a number of times, willing his mind to cease any thoughts besides sleep, sleep. This usually worked and tonight was no exception; he felt his mind drifting and gratefully let the tendrils of desired somnolence overtake him. As he was floating off, though, he seemed to faintly feel a slight wisp of a sensation in the air, as if something else was suddenly in the room with him, but he was too far along for that to prevent him from falling into slumber. He didn’t dream at first, though, not until much later.

(Section Two)
The time is 0602, the time is 0602! He awoke with a start. Damn it, he might have been dreaming of Kathryn again. He lay there with his eyes closed for a minute or so after commanding the computer to cease the wake-up call. He didn’t like feeling bothered right at the beginning of the day, and dreaming of her still could do that to him, even with something as vague as this one had been. He made an effort to clamp down on the sense of longing the vision of a dark haired woman had created in him, something that happened less frequently now, but still enough that he perhaps should tell Cambridge about it. That idea, though, semi-irritated him enough that the image faded quickly enough from his mind so he could open his eyes and contemplate facing the day with some sense of composure.

And his “safe” existence quickly blew up as he looked across the room and, in the dim starlight coming from the viewport, saw her quietly sitting there on a chair by the wall.

His world stilled. At first he couldn’t move, but he didn’t think he wasn’t dreaming, so he had to act. "Computer, morning lights!” he called as he sat up. The 75% illumination that he preferred when he woke flashed on, giving him an even more accurate vision of what must be the biggest cosmic joke there ever was sitting and gazing at him solemnly.

“Who the hell are you?” he cried, reaching for his commbadge so he could call security. If he was actually going mad, though, he might need someone or something different than if this…specter was actually “real.”

“It’s me, Chakotay,” she said calmly, in that sultry voice that he had tried so hard to forget. She stood up as he continued to gape at her, so he then got up from his bed and reached for his bedside phaser instead, in case she, or it, might be some alien being prepared to attack him. “The road through life may be long, but the time we experience may be short,” she added.

Dear heavens, it can’t be.

“Chakotay?” She, or whatever she was, took a step towards him. She was clad in a simple brownish dress that went just past her knees. Her auburn-looking hair was long, past her shoulders, and looked slightly disheveled.

“Don’t come any closer!” he called out at her and then quickly commanded: “Computer, transport two from captain's quarters to sickbay!”

(Section Three)
The room dissolved quickly, with her still staring at him, then they re-formed in sickbay with them standing the same approximate few feet apart from each other. She was thankfully just within the confines of the surgical bay, so he quickly instructed the computer to erect a level ten force field in front of it. When the force field came up, she jumped back a little as it formed fairly close to her.

“Chakotay,” she cried, “it’s really me!”

“The hell you are,” he snarled, even if his mind was betraying him with tiny little pinpricks of hope. He heard footsteps behind him and turned to see the Doctor coming out of his office.

“What’s going on?” The Doctor asked irritably. “I was just about to turn myself off…oh my,” he gasped as he saw her.

“Doctor," she quickly said, turning her gaze from Chakotay to him, though apparently surprised to see the hologram, “did you know that opera is good for the soul, and it makes your spirits rise?”

“Where did, um, she come from?” the Doctor, ignoring her statement, asked Chakotay, who seemed to him to be a little in shock, besides being only dressed in night clothes.

“She was sitting in my quarters when I woke up,” the captain replied grimly.

“You can talk to me directly,” she called out to them with a touch of irritation. “I’m not a ghost.”

The Doctor looked back at her, then back to Chakotay, with a mixture of amazement and incredulity. Chakotay took a step towards the force field and granted her wish.

“You’re not her,” he stated firmly. “She’s been dead for over a year now.”

She flinched a little at the harsh but direct statement, but recovered quickly and replied just as firmly, with a trace of irony, “Yes, Admiral Janeway is dead, but I am not.” She turned back to the Doctor and continued, “Doctor, if you examine me I'm sure you will find that I am indeed Kathryn Janeway, in body a double of the said late Admiral.”

Since Chakotay didn’t look like he was about to say anything more, the Doctor turned back to her and asked pointedly, “So, where then, if I may ask, did you come from?”

“Good question," she replied with a half smile, “and I’ll give you a straight answer.” But she took a breath before continuing. “I was with the Q.”

“Damn it!” Chakotay put a hand on the Doctor’s arm to keep him back. “Q? What kind of joke is this?” He was looking at her with intense fierceness now.

'Kathryn' pursed her lips a little and looked back at him with some askance, her arms now folded across her chest in a rather familiar way. “Chakotay,“ she replied with a hint of annoyance, “I was with the Q, not I am a Q. I’m sure you know the difference.” The glare she sent towards Chakotay almost made the Doctor smile, it was so like the Kathryn Janeway they had known, but he stopped his mouth from turning upwards at the sour look Chakotay then shot at him.

“So, where did the Q get you, whatever you really are, from?” Chakotay parried back, obviously not intimidated by her or the familiar gestures.

“Doctor," she turned again to him, seemingly not wanting to keep going back and forth with the angry captain, “please inform Mr. Chakotay that as the Borg cube I was on blew up my consciousness was taken by the Q to their Continuum and I was given a new existence.”

“Captain…” the hologram obediently started to say.

“I heard her," Chakotay said, cutting the Doctor off. “And you’ve been with the Q ever since?” he directed back at her.

“Yes, Chakotay,” her tone softened a bit, “and now they’ve sent me back…to you.”

If anything, that seemed to make him madder, his hands clenching into fists at his side. “Doctor," he started, in one of those dangerously soft tones that usually signaled how angry he really was, “would you please scan…whatever this is, and see what…she’s made of?”

She turned back to him with a hurt look, her own mouth now turned a bit downwards, but then nodded her head slightly at the Doctor and said, “Of course, you should scan me,” and went to sit on the bio bed in the bay. “Please do.”

The Doctor turned back to Chakotay, who nodded back, then reached over to an equipment tray and grabbed a tricorder. He walked swiftly through the force field, reached and then stood stiffly by her, and proceeded to scan her thoroughly. She smiled at him faintly, sitting there calmly as the tricorder whirred and beeped.

“I need a blood sample." The Doctor reached for an instrument nearby and she obediently held up an arm to him, glancing briefly again at Chakotay, then lowering her eyes slightly. The Doctor took the sample, checking the tricorder as he deposited it, waited until there was a beep, then smiled briefly at her as she looked back at him gratefully. “Wait here, please,” he said not unkindly, if kind of stating the obvious. She shrugged and settled back on the bio bed.

Chakotay continued to watch both of them with a scowl as the Doctor turned and came back towards him through the force field. He stopped at the captain’s side and held the tricorder to him. Chakotay took it, looked at the results, and looked back at the Doctor, keeping his face neutral.

“What does it say, Doctor?” came the achingly familiar voice through the force field.

“Tell her,” said Chakotay, still sounding grim, handing the tricorder back to him.

The Doctor turned back towards her. “My preliminary examination shows that you are indeed a human female and the blood sample confirms it,” he announced, “although I must still also confirm, if possible, your identity. That will take a few more minutes.”

“Go ahead, Doctor,” Chakotay allowed. “Meanwhile, I’m calling Captain Eden.”

'Kathryn' looked quizzically at him. “Why?” she broke in sounding surprised. “We’re on Voyager now, right?, only I’m not sure why the Doctor’s here, nice as it is to see him, of course.”

“Tell her, Doctor,” Chakotay said, not seeming very mollified by the Doctor’s findings.

The Doctor sighed, but did as he was told. “We’re in a convoy with the ships Galen and Hawking. Capt. Eden is the fleet commander.”

'Kathryn’s' eyes widened and she slid off the bed. “Where?” she demanded in a clipped tone.

Chakotay raised his hand to stop the Doctor from continuing. “We’re in the Delta Quadrant, 35,000 light years from Earth,” he shot back, almost seeming to want to bait her with this pronouncement.

Her face momentarily blanched and she sat back on the bed. “Oh, no,” she breathed.

This did have the effect of softening Chakotay’s look a tiny bit. The real Kathryn Janeway would certainly have such a reaction, as he and the Doctor both knew.

“Oh yes,” Chakotay replied, though still sounding disgruntled. He turned to the Doctor. “See if you can confirm an identity. I’ll be right back.” Without looking back at her, he went over to the Doctor’s office, entered it, shut the door, and activated the privacy screen. With that, 'Kathryn' slumped a little on the bed, looking somewhat crestfallen. The Doctor glanced at her a bit sympathetically, but then turned toward his medical consoles, and proceeded to make his inquiry.

'Kathryn' watched him as he pressed controls on a console. She couldn’t help but interrupt him as he worked. “Do you think it’s me, Doctor?” she asked, sounding a little anxious.

Since he was quite capable of checking the data and conversing with her at the same time, he non-committedly answered her back. “Well, you look and sound like Kathryn Janeway, but this could still be an elaborate subterfuge.”

“But I gave you our personal private code, right?” she queried. “And I gave Chakotay his, as I’m sure he’ll tell you.”

“True,” he agreed, still looking at the monitor, “but perhaps the Borg discovered that sort of thing when they, um…”

“Assimilated me?” she continued for him, “But how could they have sent me here?”
“That I don’t know,” he replied, sounding a little more affable, and then paused as something on the monitor caught his attention. “I guess we’ll have to figure that all out.”

“Why is that?” Chakotay said, coming back from inside the office. The Doctor looked at him pointedly and directed his gaze back towards the monitor. Chakotay exhaled as he looked at the results. He didn’t need the Doctor to explain to him whose identification was shown on the screen: “JANEWAY, KATHRYN” was listed under the nearly exact face as the woman behind them. Chakotay made himself not look at her. “Doctor?” he inquired very softly. The Doctor thought he saw a very faint touch of hope in the captain's eyes, although his face still looked rather incredulous.

The Doctor himself couldn’t help but be cautiously encouraged by what he saw before him. “The blood sample basically matches the DNA of the late Admiral Janeway,” he whispered to the stoic captain, “and her brain-wave patterns are 99.8% identical to the woman we knew.”

“Not 100 percent?” Chakotay quizzed him.

“Well, it has been over a year,” the Doctor replied, “and if she has been, ah, 'alive' in some way then anything she may have experienced would slightly affect her brain waves. It is," he confirmed, “within an acceptable range of possible change for the time period.”

“I still can’t believe it,” Chakotay stated, although sounding a smidgen less sure.

“What did Capt. Eden say?” the Doctor asked. He was also considering the possibility that 'Kathryn' might be, however improbably, telling them the truth.

“She said to send her the results of the tests,” Chakotay couldn’t help but glance briefly at her, still sitting on the bio bed, looking at them intently, “and she’ll get back to us in a few minutes.”

The Doctor complied and sent the data to the fleet captain at the Hawking.

“Meanwhile, we are not to tell her,” he glanced back at 'Kathryn,' “the new results yet.”

“All right,” the Doctor replied softly, “But this person seemingly, at least physically and preliminarily mentally, is Kathryn Janeway.”

Chakotay shook his head, obviously still skeptical. “She’s a duplicate,” he stated. “Even she admits that. Her original body was,” he paused with regret, “absorbed by the Borg cube.”

“But her brain waves are most probably that of the Admiral’s,” the Doctor persisted.

“She’s not really Kathryn,” he hissed. “If anything she’s her clone.”

“The body might be,” the Doctor replied, “but her consciousness can’t be so easily duplicated. Did she tell you your private personal code?”

“Yes,” Chakotay grimaced, “but that could still be a trick.” He turned towards another monitor as it beeped. It was Capt. Eden responding. Chakotay turned the vid on, but dimmed the audio.

Capt. Eden’s face came on the screen. “I’m coming over,” she stated. “Keep her behind the force field.”

“Aye, Captain,” Chakotay assented and turned off the message. They both looked over at 'Kathryn.' She returned the scrutiny. If she wasn’t truly Kathryn Janeway, she seemed to be a damned close copy.

“Capt. Eden is coming over to see you,” Chakotay walked over a few steps and faced her. “She doesn’t know who or what you are, but she is willing to talk to you.” He turned away before she could say anything and went back over to the monitors. He really didn’t want to speak to her or even look at her; his insides were churning as he tried not to contemplate that this person could really be Kathryn. After going through what he did after her death and trying so hard to heal, he finally felt at least somewhat content, and now that moderate equilibrium was being threatened by the being sitting there calmly on the bio bed. She looked, talked, and acted like Kathryn, her DNA was hers, shit, her BRAINWAVES were akin to hers. But if this was some crazy plot to deceive them, then how could he bear it if he let himself believe that what he might want most in the universe could be happening, and then it wasn't really true?

Well, despite his past history with women, he wouldn’t be, couldn’t be so easily fooled now. So, just because she was so much like his former captain, hell, he admitted, his lost love, didn’t mean he could let himself come close to accepting that Kathryn could actually be back. He couldn’t afford to go backwards now, he just didn’t think he had the fortitude.

The Doctor continued checking the monitor and briefly looked back at 'Kathryn' behind the force field. He could tell by the stiff way he held himself, and the grim set of his mouth, that Capt. Chakotay was hardly closer to accepting her as a real Kathryn than he had been when they first beamed to sickbay. The Doctor could understand the man’s reluctance, as he had heard about Chakotay’s powerful reaction to her passing. He himself wasn’t sure what to think. Kathryn Janeway had been a friend of his, and although they hadn’t been as close since they had returned to the Alpha Quadrant, he had still mourned, in his best holographic way, what had happened to her, and he had known that he would miss her. When he had walked into sickbay and had seen what was behind the force field he had been astounded.

Now, though, he had to put his personal feelings aside and concentrate on the evidence, which was seemingly pointing toward a kind of miracle. But his programming allowed for skepticism, and so he wouldn’t let himself be convinced just yet. He had seen enough trickery and subterfuge in his time of existence that the current evidence wouldn’t as yet completely persuade him that Kathryn Janeway was really sitting there on the bio bed.

(Section Four)
Both men turned as a transporter beam erupted near them, and soon after Captain Eden stood before them. She looked over at the surgical bay, blinked once at what she saw there, and then deliberately turned back to the two men. “Do you have any further results, Doctor?” she said to him after nodding to Chakotay. The Doctor pointed to the console, which they all looked at.

“I’m running a cellular analysis of her blood sample now. The test has already confirmed that she is not species 8472 or a changeling.” Eden nodded at that, but Chakotay just kept looking stonily ahead. “And so far,” the Doctor continued, “the analysis continues to show that she is Kathryn Janeway, in fact the genetic markers are 99.9% exact.”

“What is the difference?” Eden inquired. She noticed that 'Kathryn' was looking at them keenly, but not making any move to speak.

“Well, her depressive-tendency gene is not fully inactivated, but that has happened in the past. I had to treat then-Captain Janeway for it a couple of times some years ago. And, this woman's genome age, is well, younger than the Admiral was at her last examination in the Alpha Quadrant, sometime before she left on her last mission to the Borg cube.”

“Younger?” Eden’s eyebrows went up a notch.

“Yes, it appears that this body is at least several years younger, present age less than forty-five, than Admrl. Janeway was right before she, uh, left us." The Doctor saw Chakotay blanch a little at that, but he still said nothing.

Capt. Eden had been looking at the results and now looked back at the Doctor. “Do her cells seem stable? Any sign of degradation?”

“No, but I should take another scan to verify that,” the Doctor replied. So far that was really the only thing that he could think of that could be wrong with her physically, that her body wasn’t made to last. That didn’t seem yet to be the case, but it couldn’t be discounted, although another scan could help belay that fear.

“Do it,” Eden ordered. Only then did she turn back to 'Kathryn' and started to walk towards her. The Doctor did the same, but Chakotay stayed back where he was. Capt. Eden briefly looked back at him curiously, but she didn’t say anything until she stood in front of the force field and the woman who would be Kathryn Janeway.

“The Doctor tells me that, so far, the tests confirm that you are physically at least an almost exact copy of the late Admiral Kathryn Janeway, and that you probably have her mental facilities. But I’m sure you, if you are her, can understand that I still need a little more evidence. Do you have anything more you can tell me?” Her tone to her was not unfriendly, but it wasn’t exactly friendly either, with a business-like quality that befitted the situation, and, of course, her rank of Fleet Captain.

'Kathryn' stood up from the bed and looked back at her with a determined gaze. “Hello, Capt. Eden,” she replied with just as a professional tone, although also with a hint of familiarity. “It’s nice to see you again; how is Persis?”

Capt. Eden gave a bit of a start at that, but she quickly recovered. “Yes, Kathryn Janeway would remember that I spoke to her about my pet when we met. Very good. Now, please tell me where you have been all this time; Capt. Chakotay has informed me of what you said, but I would like to hear it with my own ears.”

'Kathryn' took a breath and after a moment, including another look toward Chakotay, continued with her story. “My consciousness was indeed rescued by the Q, specifically Lady Q, just before the Borg cube I was on was destroyed. When we arrived at the Continuum, I was informed that I had physically died but because of the interest Q, um, Sr. had in me, I would be staying with the Q for the foreseeable future. She did not believe I could be sent back to my previous existence. I wasn't pleased about that, but I was grateful to still be alive in some way. I spent the next, well it seemed like several years to me, traveling around the cosmos with Lady Q. Sometimes their son, Q, Jr. would join us. Q, Sr., though, did not. We saw things that were hard to believe, many wonders, at least to me. A little while ago, though, Lady Q seemed to tire of my company, so she deposited me at a place inside the Continuum that looked to me like my childhood home in Indiana.”

Capt. Eden and the Doctor heard, behind them, a strangled sort of sound from Capt. Chakotay, who apparently had been listening to 'Kathryn' speaking. The Doctor looked back at him, but Chakotay waved him off. 'Kathryn' must have also heard him, as she stopped talking and looked somewhat disconcerted. Capt. Eden motioned for her to continue, so she did.

“I was able to mostly occupy myself painting and also contemplating my future, such as it was. Q, Jr. sometimes visited me. He’s been a little lonely, so he was still willing to spend time with me. He’s an interesting young man now, by the way." 'Kathryn' smiled a little and it seemed that she regarded the younger Q with some fondness.

“Suddenly,” she continued, “I was visited by all three Qs. Q, Sr. informed me that the Continuum had decided I should indeed be sent back to my human life, as they were uncomfortable having me ‘hanging around,’ as he put it, in their realm. I was rather surprised at that, because of what Lady Q had said. Q, Sr. then told me that only with the entire Continuum acting in concert was it actually possible, but I had to agree to certain stipulations, and he then told me what they were. I agreed, and then he asked me where I wanted to be sent, giving me barely thirty seconds to consider it. The first thing I thought was that I wanted to see Chakotay again.”

She again looked toward him but he only kept staring elsewhere. The Doctor’s enhanced hearing did detect a swift intake of breath from the stoic seeming captain, but that was all. 'Kathryn' still looked troubled as he continued to ignore her, but she went on.

“I asked that I be sent to him. I know that decision was a bit rash, but I'd...missed him." Her voice was almost a whisper by then but she lifted her chin and went on. “Q, Sr. seemed amused by my request, but he only said ‘Well, then, good luck.’ He snapped his fingers and the next thing I knew I was in my former bedroom on Voyager. It wasn’t,” she smiled slightly, “hard to recognize, even with the different decor. Chakotay seemed to be asleep in his bed. Not wanting to disturb him, I sat down and waited for him to wake up. He eventually did.” She paused again and her face showed a little pain at the memory. “And, well, here we are.” She shrugged a little and seemed to need to stop speaking.

Capt. Eden waited a moment as if to take it all in, but she quickly gathered herself, seemingly moved by what she had heard. She turned back to Chakotay. “Captain Chakotay?” He looked up, his eyes dull, and definitely not very pleased. “What do you think of this?”

He shook his head, “I don’t know, I just don’t know.”

“Understandable," Capt. Eden murmured.

The Doctor surmised that she might know something of Janeway and Chakotay’s history; perhaps Chakotay had spoken to her of it. He wondered how Chakotay was going to get through this, or even how he himself could without some real adjustment. The apparent reappearance of such an important person in their lives was definitely no small thing.

Capt. Eden stood there for another moment, her steady mien exposing how she was considering this, and then spoke, “Doctor, do you think this person is a danger to us or the ship?”

“No, she checks out as a normal human woman, with no special powers or alien presence," the Doctor replied. 'Kathryn' smiled at him again and he couldn’t help but feel warmed by that familiar countenance.

Suddenly, Chakotay stalked over to where the others were standing. “Are you sure she isn’t a Q?” he demanded, looking pointedly at the Doctor.

“Well, there’s no specific test for ‘Q-ness,'" the Doctor responded dryly, “but there doesn’t appear to be any evidence in her of a higher consciousness or more advanced levels of brain activity.”

“I’m not a Q,” 'Kathryn' laughed. “They wouldn’t let me do anything for myself; I had to ask them for everything …except coffee.” She chuckled a little at that memory. “I would say I wanted coffee and it would appear. A little promise,” she sighed, “from Lady Q.”

“All right,” Capt. Eden seemed to make a decision, “you can take down the force field. If she was a Q it wouldn’t hold her anyway.” Chakotay still looked doubtful, but he obeyed the order and then down the force field came.

“Thank you,” Kathryn said, looking relieved, “but now what?”

“That depends on you and your continued health,” Eden replied, smiling a little as the Doctor moved to scan the likely "new" Kathryn Janeway again. “What do you want to do?”

“Well,” Kathryn said softly, “that might still depend on you, Chakotay.” She looked over at him wistfully, but he only scowled back at her.

“Leave me out of this,” he growled. She paled again at his tone, but he continued, “I can't have anything to do with you.”

At that very moment, the Doctor’s new scanning came to an end, and he heard Kathryn give out a little sob.

Eden looked sharply at Chakotay and snapped at him, “Really, Chakotay, you don’t have to be so abrupt. This person is now our guest, and I intend that she treated as such.”

“I apologize,” Chakotay sighed, “but I'm not about to be a part of this.”

“Captain,” Eden said firmly, “I understand this is difficult for you, but you must get a hold of yourself. You’re the best person here to deal with her.”

“Well,” Kathryn offered, although the Doctor could see that she was struggling, “Is there any way to get me back to Earth, I mean, if Chakotay doesn’t want me here.” She bit her lip, obviously trying to keep herself in check.

“Can’t the Q, well, send you?” Eden asked.

“I got the impression that my first option was the only one,” Kathryn replied. “Q, Sr. told me that this was my ‘last chance’ and they weren’t going to do anything more for me. I’m sorry,” she looked again at Chakotay. “Perhaps I made the wrong choice.”

“Well," Eden continued, “since we can’t send you back to the Alpha Quadrant right now, I guess you’ll have to stay here for a while. You’re not the first one,” she looked pointedly at Chakotay, “to just show up here and end up staying.” Chakotay looked a bit abashed at that, but not any more conciliatory. “You must realize,” Eden turned back to Kathryn, “that we’re due to be out here for at least two more years, maybe more.”

Kathryn inhaled a little at that, but then nodded slightly, “May I ask what you’re trying to do here?”

“We’re attempting to discover if the Borg are truly gone,” Eden replied.

“Really!” Kathryn breathed. “Gone how, where? Have you found out anything?”

“That’s classified,” Eden responded, but not unkindly. She was speaking to the re-creation of a Starfleet Admiral, after all.

“Of course,” Kathryn nodded. “I’m only a civilian now.”

“You’re not going to ask for a reinstatement to Starfleet?” Eden seemed a little surprised at such a notion. “We are in constant contact with Earth and I could ask Command to consider that.”

“No,” Kathryn shook her head, “I’m not allowed to do that.”

“May I ask why?” Eden asked.

“I’m to stay out of ‘galactic affairs,’” Kathryn said ruefully. “That’s part of the stipulations Q made me agree to. Essentially, Admiral Janeway is to stay ‘dead.’ I, though, can live my life as I choose, if I ‘stay out of trouble,’ so to speak. Q said they would be watching me, so I guess,” she shrugged again, “I’d better behave, or else.”

"Or else what?" Capt. Eden didn't like the sound of that.

"Or else I could be 'sent away' again." Kathryn didn't need to explain what that meant.

“Well, we certainly hope that won't happen,” Eden smiled encouragingly at her. “But, do you still want to be referred to as Kathryn Janeway?”

Kathryn nodded at that, smiling a little.

“Well, I’m sure we can put a woman of your talents, which I trust you still have, to use here, right, Capt. Chakotay?”

Chakotay shook his head slightly, but gave no further verbal objection.

“I’m leaving you in the custody of Capt. Chakotay, for now,” Eden told her. “I also want the Doctor to keep monitoring you. Captain,” Chakotay stuck out his chin, but waited for her to continue, “you can assign someone else to supervise her, but I think it’s best that she stay on Voyager, since it’s what’s familiar to her.” Chakotay resignedly nodded. “Have her assigned quarters, and give her some duties as soon as she's more acclimated.”

Eden turned back to Kathryn. “We’re obviously going to be stuck with each other for awhile, so I hope we can make the best of it.”

“You and Capt. Chakotay will have my full cooperation. And,” she paused, gathering herself, “thank you for your…hospitality.”

“We’ll talk again,” Eden smiled. “I need to get back to my ship. You can stay with the Doctor until he releases you.”

“Thank you, Capt. Eden,” Kathryn said. “I’m sorry for any trouble.”

“Oh, it's no trouble,” Eden replied. “And, actually, if I may say, it's good to see you again.”

Kathryn nodded and turned to the Doctor. “So, am I checking out all right?”

“So far…Kathryn,” the Doctor smiled back at her, “I detect no cellular degradation and you seem to be quite healthy, even better than before.”

“Better?” Kathryn asked, sounding a bit puzzled.

“Oh, my,” Eden offered, “I guess you should tell her.”

“What?” Kathryn asked the Doctor.

“Well, Kathryn,” the Doctor chuckled, “It seems that the Q have given you the body of what you were maybe five years or so before your...last one.”

“Are you sure?” Kathryn’s eyes widened.

“Here,” the Doctor pointed to a mirror on a wall, “you’d better take a look.”

Kathryn walked over to the mirror and, after seeing the reflection there, gasped, “Oh, Lord, what did they do?”

“You were last physically in the Continuum in the third year of our voyage, right?” the Doctor asked as Kathryn kept staring at herself, mesmerized. “Perhaps that’s the template they used for your, um, new body.”

“But I think I had my last human ‘body’ when I was staying in the Continuum,” Kathryn protested. “So why would they now do this?”

“Well,” the Doctor answered somewhat jovially, “perhaps they thought they were doing you a favor.”

“Some favor,” Kathryn muttered. “Maybe it’s just their idea of a joke.”

“Well, Kathryn,” Eden added with a little smile, “I guess it could be worse. We’ll talk again. Captain?” She gestured for Chakotay to follow her and they went back by the monitors while Kathryn stayed with the Doctor.

“Chakotay,” Eden spoke softly to him, “please don’t think I don’t sympathize with you, but she’s here now and we have to deal with that. YOU have to deal with it, as best you can. Enlist Cambridge if you like. In fact,” she took one more look at Kathryn, who was back sitting on the bio bed, the Doctor scanning her again, “arrange with him to talk to her. He can give her psychological tests if you want even more confirmation of how she is.”

Chakotay looked back at Eden, his narrowed eyes attesting to his still troubled attitude. “Who do I say she is on our records, Captain?” His lips were thinned out and he was breathing somewhat heavily. “Admiral Janeway’s records are considered closed.”

Eden knew she was pushing him, but he had to take care of this, for his own sake as well as others. “Give her a new record for now. I’ll confer with Starfleet Command as to what kind of history she will be given. She seems to want to stay a civilian, so maybe the Starfleet record will remain closed. But her personal past, well, perhaps that will be given back to her. Maybe that’s the least we can do, if we don’t discover anything negative about her. Keep watch on her if you deem appropriate, but give her as much support as she needs. She might become a big asset for us.”

Chakotay still looked dubious, but nodded, “Within the constraints Q has put on her.”

“Yes, but hopefully we can still use her knowledge of the Delta Quadrant in some way.”

“Perhaps,” Chakotay shrugged. He was still struggling with this but Eden seemed to need him to gut this one out. The future of this mission might depend on how this was handled. With that Capt. Eden hit her commbadge and called her ship for transport back, then beamed out.

Chakotay stood there, feeling drained. How could he do this? But, he gathered himself and turned back to where the Doctor and Kathryn were waiting. Gritting his teeth, he walked over to them.

“How is she?” he asked the Doctor.

“She’s fine,” the Doctor replied. “Just a little dehydrated.”

“Then she needs to drink something hydrating,” Chakotay said.

“You can talk to me, Chakotay,” Kathryn interjected. “I seem to be functioning.”

“Fine,” Chakotay snapped, “drink something, non-caffeinated. Ask the Doctor if you need anything else. Doctor, please keep monitoring her for the rest of the morning. I’ll be back later with Cambridge. Meanwhile, keep this between us, and put her in the private room.” He turned and moved to leave, ignoring Kathryn’s  hurt look.

The Doctor and Kathryn watched him leave sickbay. “I’m sorry, Kathryn,” he said. “He just really went through a lot after you…were gone.”

“Then I’m very sorry for that," Kathryn sighed. “I wanted to communicate with him but the Q only let me send him a very brief psychic message.”

“What was it?” the Doctor inquired.

“Just that I missed him.” Kathryn replied.

“Of course,” the Doctor commiserated. Unlike some others, he had not been that surprised when he had heard, via Tom Paris, that Kathryn and Chakotay had apparently become involved in the Alpha Quadrant. He had observed something of their closeness while they all had been on Voyager before. And, although he had agreed with her that she could not get intimately involved with a member of her crew, he had somehow felt that Chakotay might have been her choice if she could have.

And it had saddened him to hear of Chakotay’s desperate mourning after she was gone. He was somewhat taken aback by Chakotay’s attitude now, but in a way it was not too surprising. Chakotay could still be healing and was probably afraid that he would end up back at square one again. Well, the captain was now under orders, due to Eden’s decision, to deal with Kathryn’s reappearance, and hopefully he would be able to cope. And, actually, the Doctor, being something of an optimist, did hope that Kathryn would not be going anywhere soon. If she did end up staying with them for the duration, perhaps some good might come of that. Smiling, he pointed over to the sickbay replicator. “So, Kathryn, what would you like to drink, some nice herbal tea, perhaps?” He felt some satisfaction when Kathryn nodded back yes.

(Section Five)
Chakotay reentered his quarters, feeling in something of a daze. He went to his bedroom, but paused at the doorway almost afraid to enter, wondering if something else that could tear his heart out was awaiting him there. Damn it, he chided himself, just go in. He quickly went over to the bed and sat down. Unwillingly, his eyes looked to where she had been, where she had sat looking at him, with those maddeningly calm, but also somehow somber, eyes. He had been shocked to the core to see her there. In fact, he was surprised that he had even been able to function properly. His reaction to treat her like a dangerous intruder had almost been instinctive, and he had tried not to think of her as anything but a possible threat to Voyager, instead of a threat to his heart. He had finally developed some peace in his soul, and now that hard-won equanimity threatened to be ripped apart. He wished Eden had just taken “Kathryn” to the Hawking, but he guessed she didn’t really want to deal directly with the situation, either. So, he apparently was stuck.

He lay down on the bed and covered his eyes with an arm, wondering if the spirits had suddenly decided to prolong his pain. What was he going to do, how could he face her every day, this facsimile of Kathryn. And, if her consciousness was indeed that of Kathryn Janeway she would not let him ignore her so easily. It was probably better to just try to deal with her in a professional manner; Cambridge would probably agree with that. Well, at least he could fob her off on the counselor somewhat, classifying her “comeback” as a mental health issue. He would give Tom the duty of assigning her quarters and seeing to her physical needs. But Eden had made it plain that he was overall responsible for her, as he was for any other member of his crew.

His crew, damn! What was he going to tell them; how could he tell them? He looked over at the chronometer on his bedstand and groaned. Gods, it was 0733. He was due on the bridge soon. He sat up and rubbed his neck. Well, the first thing he was going to do was call Cambridge, and he hoped that the counselor could also help the others handle the shock of hearing the astounding news.

(Section Six)
Kathryn sat in the chair in the private room the Doctor had ushered her into after getting her some tea. After deflecting her question on how he ended up back as the CMO of Voyager, [Long story, Kathryn, later.] he had advised her to lie down for awhile, but Kathryn didn’t feel tired, in fact she felt almost wired. She sipped the tea, not really tasting it, but at least she was familiar with drinking beverages, even if it had not really mattered to her "Continuum" body for so long. Her body, damn, how could she actually be younger? And she had such long hair again, but at least it could be cut. And, thankfully the doctor was now treating her with a semblance of familiarity, but unfortunately not Chakotay.

She felt heartsick at remembering the stunned, disbelieving look on his face at his first sight of her. Then he had actually shown anger toward her, as if he really didn’t want her to be back. After all they had been through together! But maybe that was the point, she realized. The Doctor had said that Chakotay apparently suffered after she had ...left, although he had declined to go into any specifics. Of course, her sudden reappearance must have been a shock, but Chakotay’s reaction had been truly unexpected to her.

Q had barely given her a chance to decide her destination after he had told her she was being sent back, and she had instinctively thought of Chakotay. Now, perhaps, that had been a mistake, but she couldn’t believe that her dearest friend would continue to be so cold to her. The Doctor had closed the door to the room, but had left it opened a crack. She heard him speaking to someone, probably his assistant. How strange it was to be back on Voyager, and in the Delta Quadrant! And she was now “just” a civilian and would have to stay that way, even if Starfleet would be willing to reinstate her. Q had been quite firm about that:

“You have to keep out of affairs that don’t concern you, Kathy, which means you’re not to rejoin that pesky ‘little group’ you call Starfleet, do you understand?” he had stated. “If it’s just a ‘little’ group,” she had pointed out, “then what would be the harm of my being part of it again?” “Kathy,” he had scowled at her, “that's how you had such a problem in the first place. You had illusions of grandeur! Messing around with the Borg, getting involved with other species, going back in time and changing the future!” “I didn’t go back in time,” she had replied, “it was my future self.” “A technicality!” Q had huffed, “Now don’t argue with us! This is your final chance. Just live a normal, little life and be content. Plant some flowers, bake a cake, have a baby.” “A baby!” she had exclaimed. “Well,” he had sputtered, “only an example, just stay out of trouble!” “Or what?” she had inquired. “Or we might just send you on to where you were headed before, which is nowhere, you got that?” She had nodded her understanding to him, since obviously she had had no choice. “All right, Q, maybe I’ll just teach physics or something.” “Fine, whatever, we’ll be watching you. If you start to cross the line," he had glared at her threateningly, “you’ll be given a warning, one warning! If you don’t stop what you’re doing that will be it, understood?” “Yes, Q, I understand,” she had said, realizing that he was quite serious. And then he had asked her where she had wanted to go, and so had sent her off to Chakotay.

And now it seemed Chakotay disappointingly barely wanted to speak to her. But how could she help him now if she wasn’t able to talk to him? Then, maybe he didn’t want her help, my god, maybe he was already involved with someone else. Maybe, oh my, he had gone back to Seven. If he had been grieving she supposed anything was possible if he needed comfort. She hadn’t known how much time had passed, of course. It had seemed to her that she had been with the Continuum for years, but she had guessed that only a few months real time had passed on Earth. A lot could happen in apparently over a year. And now she was stuck in the Delta Quadrant for perhaps two more years. She certainly hadn’t thought that would happen. Well, maybe it served her right; the Q had been correct, she, Kathryn Janeway, had been arrogant. She put her head in her hands. Well, now she was really alive again, in a younger body, no less. And on Voyager. She supposed she would just have to cope with what was left of her life. She had no choice now.

The Doctor sent his assistant off to the lab to work, and then glanced at the door of the private room that Kathryn was stashed in. It seemed almost natural now to think of her as Kathryn. He was finally convinced that she was indeed the "reincarnation" of the Admiral, although no longer a flag officer of Starfleet. She was just plain “Kathryn Janeway” now, well, maybe not so plain. She looked quite beautiful and almost fragile. The strength of will was still evident, but there was also something of a haunted air about her. That wasn’t surprising, he supposed, after all she had been through before her “death,” and then apparently afterwards. It would be natural for her to be not quite “herself” for a bit, especially since she wasn’t "the Admiral" anymore, and was situated on the ship she had once commanded, now lead by her erstwhile beloved, who didn’t seem very happy to see her.

On top of that, she was back in the quadrant that she had tried so hard to get away from. Not an enviable position, but at least she wasn’t alone. She was among friends, well, at least some, including him, he decided. He would help her as much as he could, and he had little doubt her restored natural strengths would see her through. He looked over at the console as it beeped signaling the finish of the results of the new scan. Thank goodness, her cells were still normal. It did look like she could look now forward to a normal life. Well, as normal as she could make it. All she had to do was to keep a lower profile and not upset the Q. He hoped she could do that as he would sorely hate to lose her again. He downloaded some data on a PADD for her to look at, and went into her room to give it to her.

(Section Seven)
Tom Paris, First Officer of the Federation Starship Voyager, felt like something was up. First, his captain had walked onto the Bridge almost five minutes late. He was never late. Then he had appeared to look a bit less than his usual debonair self, kind of like he had just seen a ghost. Previously, upon checking the ship’s overnight logs, Tom had discovered Capt. Eden had beamed over to Voyager‘s sickbay at 0626 hours. And, she had stayed until just before 0700. What the heck was going on? He had guessed he would have to ask Chakotay what was happening at their morning meeting just before the staff briefing at 0900, but the Captain had motioned him to follow him into his ready room soon after he had entered the Bridge.

Tom had trailed after him immediately, of course, but had glanced quickly at his friend Harry Kim at the bridge security station as he passed him. Harry had given him a “what now?” look but that’s all there had been time for before Tom had entered the captain’s room and the door slid closed behind them. Chakotay had gone to sit at his desk right away and motioned for Tom to sit down in front, which he quickly did, a PADD in hand to enter any forthcoming instructions.

“Mr. Paris," Chakotay didn’t waste any time with niceties. “We have something of a situation here.”

“Yes, Captain?” Tom replied. Something really must be up, something big. He looked at Chakotay with what he hoped was his best “first officer’s” face, and gave him his full attention.

“Tom,” Chakotay seemed to struggle to find the words, “this morning I woke up and saw in my bedroom what seemed to be, well, she looked just like…” he gazed at Tom with a kind of haunted look, and seemed to falter.

“Captain?” Tom tried to sound encouraging, but he was now getting a little creeped out.

Chakotay gathered himself and plowed on. “I beamed us to Sickbay, Tom, and the Doctor confirmed it.”

“Who?” Tom pressed him to go on, to tell him. What?

“She’s, she’s Admiral Janeway, or at least an almost exact copy of her.”

“What???” Tom could barely believe what he was hearing, but before he could think about it further, Chakotay continued.

“She said her consciousness had been rescued by the Q and she’d been in the Continuum, or traveling around creation with Lady Q. And now they’ve sent her back.”

“She’s here?” Tom proclaimed, completely flummoxed. In all of his wildest dreams he had never imagined such a scenario.

“NOT her original body, but well, a re-creation. The Doctor says her DNA is just about exactly the same as Kath…as her. And she claimed to have the Admiral's mind, and the Doctor’s tests results show an almost exact match there, too.”

“Almost a match?” Tom queried.

“Allowing for her, well, recent experiences, close enough, I guess.” Chakotay leaned towards Tom as if imparting to him a great secret. “I contacted Capt. Eden, and she came right over. After reviewing the test results, and talking to, ah, her, she decided that, that,” he didn’t seem to want to say what he had to, but went on anyway, “this person is indeed the ‘new’ Kathryn Janeway and we should treat her as such. But," he paused as Tom’s eyes grew even wider, “she is not Admiral Janeway. In fact she is forbidden to be by the Q.” He put up his hand as if he knew Tom would ask why. “I’ll explain more at the staff meeting, but suffice to say this will be something of a shock to everyone.”

“I’ll say,” Tom interjected. “How are you taking this, if I may ask?” He knew Chakotay had been working hard on accepting her death, so now how was he going to cope with her reappearance?

“Not all that well,” Chakotay admitted, “but Capt. Eden wants me to handle it.”

“Is she, uh, staying on Voyager?” That would indeed be a “situation.”

“Yes,” Chakotay said, looking not at all happy. “She’s here, for now, as a civilian. I’m assigning Cambridge to check on her psychological well-being.”

“Makes sense,” Tom agreed, but kind of knew that wasn’t all of it. His anticipation was rewarded when Chakotay looked him in the eye.

“And you’re to see to her physical needs: quarters, replicator account, holodeck privileges, the usual.”

“Of course, Captain.” It occurred to Tom that his wife B’Elanna mightn’t necessarily take this well, either. Well, he’d have to deal with her later, and he didn’t exactly look forward to that.

“She’s still in sickbay for the rest of the morning. After the staff meeting, I’ll take you and Cambridge to meet her. Then you two can help take care of her.”

“For how long?” Tom asked. He hoped he wasn’t going to be expected to baby-sit her long term.

“Until she’s up to speed with her new, ah, life,” Chakotay frowned. “I’m to figure out a job for her; Eden thinks we can use her knowledge and experience if she still has that. Cambridge is going to give her whatever tests he deems necessary. I’ll review the results and I can then figure out where she best fits in here now.”

“What does she say about that?” Tom couldn’t believe that they were actually talking about Kathryn Janeway, right here, right now.

“She’s fine with it; she says she’s willing to do what she can,” Chakotay shrugged. “I suppose she might have some ideas herself, but otherwise she doesn’t have much choice. She seems to be here for the ride like the rest of us.”

Tom observed how dispassionate Chakotay was as he described what they were going to do with ostensibly the woman he was perhaps not quite over from being in love with. He’s pretty shook up, Tom thought. I guess I would be, too.

“What’s her security clearance?” he inquired.

“Level one, for now, and then we’ll see.”

“Ok, boss, I’ll look into where to put her, a private room, right?”

“Yes, of course, but nothing too fancy, something like you gave Seven.”

“Right,” Tom affirmed. “Anything else?”

Chakotay sighed, obviously troubled. “Yes, well, Tom, what do you think of this?”

“Well,” Tom paused for a few seconds, trying to gather his thoughts. “I guess I’ll be glad to see her.”

“She’s not exactly 'her,' Tom," Chakotay cautioned. “We don’t have to deal with her like we did before.”

“Maybe not, but she’s still pretty much the person we used to know, right?”

“I guess that remains to be seen,” Chakotay breathed out. “I don’t think it will be the same for me, but how you or anyone else want to proceed is up to you.”

God, he’s not happy, Tom surmised. This all might be pretty touchy.

“Ok, well, I’ll do my best,” he offered.

“Just keep in mind that she’s been with the Q for what she perceived as years; we don’t think she has any Q powers, but she might have a different outlook on things. I’m not expecting her to be the same.”

[No, you don’t want her to be the same, so you don’t have to feel the same.]

Tom didn’t really blame Chakotay for his reticence; he just hoped that the captain wouldn’t go overboard in trying not to get hurt again. If this Kathryn Janeway was anything like the last one, she would be an interesting person to get to know. Of course, he understood maybe feeling for someone again would be different than just getting on with that person. Tom had indeed missed her, and he, now that he was somewhat getting over the shock that her “death” had seemingly been a temporary one, looked forward to meeting her, even if his stomach was kind of in knots over the thought of what was happening. He saw that Chakotay was finished talking, although still looking kind of glum. Tom took his leave of the captain, after he was reminded not to talk about this until the briefing, and went back to the Bridge, pondering on yet another twist of fate for the crew of the Starship Voyager.

(Section Eight)
The Doctor had informed Kathryn that the newest scan had come up normal, which basically meant her new body wasn’t deteriorating or something otherwise deleterious. That was of some comfort to her, of course, although she hadn’t expected that Q would have created a defective body for her new life. [A new body and a new life, hmm.] But here she was, practically in her old life again, although not the same, of course. She was just a small potato now on her old ship, where she used to be, figuratively, the big cheese. She smiled to herself at her use of such colloquial phrases. She had become rather unused to thinking like, well, a normal human being.

Her time with Lady Q had been mostly spent observing various awe-inspiring stellar phenomena, while listening to brief, pithy descriptions of what they were looking at. Sometimes she had just stood by while Lady Q, or Q, Jr. amused themselves at manipulating some asteroid or small moon. [“We’re not hurting anyone,” Lady Q had assured her, “It won’t affect anything.”] It had taken her awhile to get used to flitting around the universe, flashing in and out, here and there whenever Lady Q had snapped her fingers, not knowing goodness where she was being taken. Once in awhile they had ended up where Kathryn perceived as the Continuum's "home," but usually they just gadded about to where ever Lady Q felt like going.

So, she had just tried to relax and enjoy the "scenery." If, after seeing a continuous diet of spectacular sights gradually dimmed the magnitude of what she was looking at, she hadn’t let on to any of the Qs, not wanting them to tire of her company. She had known she was “alive” only because of their somewhat tenuous interest in her, so she had tried to be as good a companion as they seemed to want her to be. But as time went by, she had wearied of being dragged along at whatever “adventure” one or the other Qs decided to indulge in; her experiences had either begun to blur in her mind, or gave her the willies at their careless behavior. She had grown saddened at how the memories of her previous life started to gradually fade, so she had made herself try to think about those she had left behind, and how much she missed them: her mother, her sister Phoebe, her Starfleet colleagues, her friends, including Mark and Carla, and those from her old crew that she had kept in touch with, Tom and B’Elanna, Harry, the Doctor, Tuvok, even Seven.

The one person she hadn’t tried to think about too much had been Chakotay, as it had hurt too much to remember how she had finally been able show him she loved him, and how he was gone from her, probably forever. Her heart ached at how he must have felt if he had been waiting for her in Venice, where they were to have met. Who had told him she was dead? How had he coped with her loss? The Doctor wouldn’t tell her anything more about Chakotay’s experiences afterwards except he'd had some difficulty. And the holodoc unfortunately could tell her nothing about her mother or sister, except that Phoebe had spoke at Kathryn’s memorial service. Kathryn shuddered at the thought of that. She had begged the Qs to let her see how her family at least had been doing, but they had refused. Q, Sr. had only let her send that brief message to Chakotay as an extra special, one time favor. [Don’t ask for anything else like that, Kathy, I won’t even listen.] She had wondered if Chakotay had even heard her words; his reaction to her today might indicate if he had that it hadn’t mattered much, but then maybe it hadn’t been much of a message.

The doctor had lent her a portable computer so she could catch up on the past year’s history. “I thought you might want to reacquaint yourself with humanity’s doings,” he had said. Did she ever. The most recent time in the Continuum, when she had often been alone, had been, even though something of a relief, sort of lonely and boring. Her painting had helped, of course, but because one didn’t sleep as a guest of the Q, she had spent hours trying to keep her mind occupied. She had finally prevailed on Q, Jr. to also give her some kind of tablet and a writing instrument, and she had tried to occupy herself by writing down anything she could think of, letters to her family, notes on what she remembered seeing with Lady Q, physics equations, algebraic computations, even poetry. Unfortunately, whenever she had filled a page, the information had just disappeared, which had first frustrated her, but then she had decided to just keep doing some things over and over again, and that had helped a little to keep her mind somewhat sharp. Now, looking through the daily summaries of Federation news, she was surprised to find how eager she was to find out what had happened while she was gone. She had been afraid that she would be detached from what her fellow beings had experienced during that time, but thankfully she was interested in most of it.

Of course, the more she learned about the Borg attacks, and that they had happened at all, greatly saddened her. It looked like her anti-Borg efforts, in both the Delta and the Alpha Quadrant, had mostly been in vain. No wonder the Q had called her arrogant. How little had her actions mattered! And so now the Borg were supposedly gone? What had happened to them? There weren’t any specifics about that in the news files, only an announcement from the Federation President that the Borg were no longer a threat, which was good to know, of course, but why? From Capt. Eden’s non-explanation she wondered who really did know all the details. But perhaps some of the crew here did, if anyone would be allowed to inform her. She couldn’t ask the Doctor after he had already kindly said he couldn’t tell her anything more than what she might see on the news vids. She wondered if, when, and how much she would ever find out.

Chakotay had said he was bringing, she thought, Counselor Cambridge to see her. She didn’t exactly relish re-meeting him, from Chakotay’s opinion of the man, was it really now almost three years ago? Well, perhaps Cambridge still serving on Voyager meant that Chakotay had warmed up some more to him. But now she was supposed to subject herself to the counselor’s ministrations? She wondered if she might need some professional help acclimating herself to human life and being around people again. After all, how often did one come back from the “dead”? Since in her mind it did seem like years since she had gone away, it wasn’t surprising that this existence now seemed a bit surreal. She sighed again and rubbed her eyes. Her head was starting to ache, a distantly familiar feeling. She actually thought she might be experiencing fatigue, a not entirely unwelcome sensation, since that indicated she actually was alive as a human again. She looked over at the bed in the room and decided she may as well lie down on it, as the Doctor had gone to the staff briefing and she was finished, for now, with her news gathering. After she did, she was wondering what it would be like to sleep again when she found herself becoming drowsy. As she was falling asleep she wryly thought:  Guess staring at a computer screen still has the same effect on me; no wonder I drank so much coffee before.

She was still asleep a half hour later when Chakotay, with Cambridge, Tom and the Doctor, opened the room’s door to see her. For a split second Chakotay was afraid that she was, gods forbid, dead again, but after the Doctor rushed over and scanned her with his tricorder, he came back to them and whispered that she was only sleeping. Tom observed his captain’s shoulders sag as if he was relieved. Hmm, so maybe he’s not as unconcerned about her as he’ll admit, he thought.

Chakotay then turned to the group and shrugged, saying softly, “I guess your introduction to her will have to wait until she's awake.”

Cambridge nodded and left in that perfunctionary way of his. Tom lingered a moment longer, gazing at his former captain and friend, moved by the sight of her.

“Let me know when she wakes up.” Chakotay said to the Doctor and without a second look he left sickbay, with Tom trailing after him after glancing meaningfully at the Doctor.

The Doctor closed the door to the room almost all the way again, after another look at her resting peacefully. He wondered how she was really feeling. He knew he was still feeling pretty emotional. The staff briefing had been a contentious one, with its members, even the ones who hadn’t known Kathryn, reacting in shock when Chakotay had told them she was “back.” As he went back to his work, the Doctor guessed that many of the crew members might feel conflicted for some time about this new state of affairs.

(Section Nine)
Amost an hour later, the Doctor informed Captain Chakotay that Kathryn had awakened, so Chakotay corralled Tom and they left the Bridge, entering the lift to get to deck five. On the way, partly not to have to say anything further to Tom, he commed Cambridge to ask him to join them again, but instead got a message that the counselor was in a session, so the captain left a “request” for the fellow to go to see their new "crew member" when he was finished. Since the captain declined to use his override code, Tom guessed it was acceptable that the counselor not join them now.

They marched into sickbay and saw the door to the private room partially open, so Chakotay strode over to the door and opened it further, with Tom behind him. What he saw was a bit shocking. The doctor was hovering over Kathryn with his tricorder whirring over her. She was sitting on the bed with her knees up and her head down on top of her folded arms. The Doctor saw them standing there and motioned them in. “She’s all right, just had a little bout of claustrophobia when she woke up, but she’s getting better now,” he let them know.

Kathryn looked up at them looking a little wan. “Sorry, I guess I’m not used to such enclosed spaces anymore.”

“A small, enclosed space,” the Doctor intoned. “Not too surprising, actually. It would help if that errant gene of yours was fixed.” He looked pointedly at her.

“Yes, well soon.” Kathryn made a waving motion that reminded Chakotay so much of…her that his heart lurched. He held down on any burgeoning feelings ruthlessly, that all was NOT going to happen again. He looked back at Tom, who was staring at her with a look akin to amazement. [Crap, I hope he's not really getting caught up in this.]

Kathryn suddenly seemed to notice that Tom was standing there and gave him a wide smile. “Hello, Tom Paris,” she said with a hopeful tone. “How are you?”

Tom’s face broke into his own smile, but before he said anything he looked at Chakotay who nodded and let him get by into the room. “Hello, Kathryn Janeway,” he said warmly as he stood near the bed. “So, how are you?”

“I’m fine,” she smiled back at him, “And how and where is B’Elanna, do you know?”

“She’s here, with Miral,” he grinned. “And she hopes to see you soon.”

“They are? She does?” Kathryn asked, with some surprise, as before she had left on her last mission, the couple unfortunately separated. “I’m so glad.”

“Of course she does.” Tom thought he could almost jump for joy, he was so glad to see her again, but he stopped himself from getting too excited, being well aware of the captain’s muted attitude about this matter. And, in truth, B’Elanna apparently had been so shocked by Chakotay’s announcement that she had barely said a few words to Tom after the meeting and had rushed off, mumbling something about having to go talk with Vorik. But he had seen her face right after Chakotay spoke and she had definitely been taken aback. He guessed he would have to track her down at lunch time to talk to her; he hoped she would want to talk to Kathryn sometime soon, as he knew she would be disappointed if B’e didn’t.

Meanwhile, it was really great to be able to look upon his old captain again, well, “old” wasn’t the way to describe her now (not that she really was before, of course), since she did indeed look younger, as Chakotay had mentioned in the meeting, if just a little more fragile. He understood that she could be something of a different person now, after her horrendous experience with the Borg, and then her “adventures” with the Q, but just looking at her made him feel kind of warm inside, which was really swell.

Chakotay tugged on Tom’s sleeve, so Tom fell back and Chakotay moved closer to the bed. “If the Doctor says you can leave sickbay, we can send you to your own quarters now,” he spoke to her in a fairly even tone.

Tom saw that Kathryn noticed Chakotay’s coolness, and he felt badly for her. He then realized that his own feelings for her were resurfacing faster than he would think possible for just meeting again someone you had thought was dead. [Well, my family had thought I was dead before and they accepted me mighty fast when I got back to Earth, so maybe my reaction now isn’t all that surprising.] Of course, he hadn’t had a re-created body for others to contend with. But if her DNA was practically the same, and hopefully her mind was just about the same, then who was he to obsess about what body Kathryn now inhabited? He did know that he wanted to believe that she really was back, and for now that was good enough for him.

Meanwhile, the Doctor finished scanning her again and he closed the tricorder shut with a satisfying click. “You’re fine, Kathryn, but it would be a good idea for you to eat something soon.”

“Then please get her some soup, Doctor,” Chakotay said rather curtly. When he saw the Doctor bristle at his tone, he added, “Thank you.”

“What kind, Kathryn?” said the Doctor, still giving Chakotay the eye.

“Oh, vegetable bouillon, please,” Kathryn replied, smiling briefly at him.

After the Doctor left the room, Chakotay sat down on the chair by the desk. Tom observed that he was not quite looking at her when he started speaking. “Tom here will help you get settled, and assist you in getting what you need. A replicator account has been established for you so you can get any necessities.” Chakotay saw her look down on her drab dress, so he guessed she might welcome something new to wear. “You’ve been authorized an emergency allotment of rations now, but after that I’m afraid you’ll be limited to the standard amount.”

“So, Voyager has rations again,” Kathryn noted with some interest.

“A slightly higher amount than before, but yes, it was again deemed necessary.”

Tom noticed Chakotay didn’t smile at the little could-have-been joke, and he again felt compassion for Kathryn. [Boy, he’d better get that stick out of his ass, or he might regret it later.] Since Kathryn seemed here to stay, Tom figured it would behoove Chakotay to stop treating her like she was some suspicious alien. Of course, he realized how difficult this might be for Chakotay, but a captain of a starship had to put his personal feelings aside for the good of the ship and its crew, and Tom thought if that’s one thing Chakotay would have learned from his years as Kathryn’s first officer, it would be that. Well, he, Tom Paris, would be welcoming, even if it might be a touch eerie to be around her. After all, he’d gotten used to many strange things in the past ten plus years, so being near Kathryn Janeway again should almost be a piece of cake. You didn’t love her like he did, his psyche reminded him. Yeah, well he had cared enough that he would do what he could for her now, even if the situation was kind of awkward.

The Doctor came back with the soup and gave the cup to Kathryn, while still regarding Chakotay with a semi-sour look. The captain ignored him and motioned to Tom, who moved closer again after the Doctor moved back.

“If you have any questions Tom will be your contact,” he indicated to her.

“Of course, thank you.” Kathryn looked down at her soup, seemingly conscious of the Captain’s subtle message that she wasn’t to deal with him now. Tom was starting to really feel sorry for her when she lifted her eyes and got that determined look on her face that would cause people who had known her to understand her intentions.

“But, I still need to talk with you, Chakotay,” she said firmly. Tom had to hand it to her, she knew that by telling Chakotay what she wanted in front of two of his senior officers, it would make it harder for him to refuse her without seeming churlish. Chakotay’s face flushed slightly under Kathryn’s rather intense gaze and Tom now was feeling a little sorry for him. She was reminding him subtly that she wasn’t some passing being that they just picked up from nowhere, she was Kathryn Janeway again, his former captain, best friend, and probably…well, whatever they had been to each other, and he’d better acknowledge that, even if HE was the captain now, and she was apparently “just” the recreation of a dead Admiral.

Chakotay actually had the grace to look a little sheepish, although he stood up, probably so he could try to intimidate her a little. “Of course...Kathryn,” he seemed to pause a bit but quickly recovered. “We’ll talk after you’re more acclimated, say tomorrow, about what job we can find for you. Meanwhile, Tom will show you your quarters. Please do expect a visit from Counselor Cambridge today. You have a level one clearance if you want to walk around the ship by yourself. All right?” Tom saw that Kathryn’s demeanor did not change one iota, even as he turned to leave the room. “I’ll see you on the Bridge, Mr. Paris,” Chakotay said, and with that, he left.

Kathryn looked after him for a few seconds, then she pulled her legs over the side of her bed looking rather thunderous. Oh, man, now he’s made her mad, Tom mused. So, maybe Chakotay thought he could ignore her, well, maybe not. Even a less powerful Kathryn Janeway could conceivably still be a force to be reckoned with, and Tom hoped he wasn’t around to see any sparks fly from an encounter between the two, or have to pick up any pieces from any possible upcoming “whirlwind”.

(Section Ten)
After she finished the soup, the Doctor cleared Kathryn to leave, reminding her, though, that he would check on her again, and she and Tom beamed over to the quarters that were now assigned to her. It was a smaller room, the type an Ensign would be assigned to, on deck nine, but equivalent to what a semi-privileged civilian would be given, as Tom knew Seven had been. In fact, the two women were on the same deck now. Tom hoped that wouldn’t be a problem, but this had been the only one suitable for her. At least it had a viewport, which Seven’s quarters didn’t (she hadn’t wanted one for some reason).

After they materialized, Kathryn looked around and smiled, “Thank you, Tom, this is...nice.”

“Not quite like your previous place,” Tom said apologetically, although he guessed the current captain wouldn’t want him to.

“It’s fine,” she repeated, and she moved a little closer to him. “May I say, Tom, you’re looking well.”

“I’m OK,” he grinned. “Still a little shocked, maybe.”

“I did cause something of a commotion,” she said dryly. “But I do appreciate that you’re helping me out.”

“It’s my pleasure, really,” he assured her. “Whatever I can do for you, please let me know.”

“Well, when can I see B’Elanna and Miral?” She gave him one of her little half smiles, as if she hoped that would not be a problem.

“Soon,” he assured her. “Maybe tonight.”

“Oh, I would like that,” she beamed. “Miral must be getting so big by now.”

“She’s a wonder,” Tom replied proudly, vowing that he would get B’Elanna here if he had to use his best sweet talk ever. It was obvious that Kathryn was eager to see them, and, anyway, he thought she could use some company. Hell, he realized he would like to spend some more time with her, awkward situation or not. But, he knew Chakotay would be expecting him back on the Bridge soon, so he proceeded to show her the new replicator, which she obviously appreciated, and also her approved computer console.

“Level one,” she sighed, as he gave her a sympathetic smile, and also pointed out the bathroom, with its sonic shower. “No bathtub,” she observed and then laughed, “Not that I’ve used one in awhile.”

“Was it strange?” Tom asked her softly.

“It's seeming like kind of a dream now,” she murmured.

“Do you…really remember all of your, uh, previous life, if I may ask?” He couldn’t imagine what all that had happened had been like for her. But, he figured if anyone could really handle it, Kathryn could.

As if she was reading his mind, she turned and put her hand lightly on his arm. Her touch made him shiver a little, but he recovered quickly. She’s not a ghost, Paris, he reminded himself, just a good friend who had been lost, and who now was almost miraculously found.

“I think I remember everything,” she smiled at him fondly, “including an irreverent ex-pilot who is being very kind to me now.”

“I’m happy to.” Tom looked at her encouragingly. “Contact me if you need anything.”

Their reverie was interrupted by the door chiming. Kathryn gave Tom a wry look and called “Come in.”

(Section Eleven)
The door slid open to reveal Counselor Cambridge, who stood there in his usual off-hand manner. “May I come in? We have met, even if it was awhile ago.”

“Of course, Counselor,” Kathryn said briskly, giving off something of an Admiral-like vibe.

“I’ll see you later, Kathryn,” Tom assured her and left the room, giving Cambridge a nod as he passed him.

The counselor entered, regarding Kathryn keenly. “Well, Kathryn,” he began, “if I may call you that.” At her nod he continued, “You’re looking pretty well for someone who has figuratively risen from the grave.”

Kathryn regarded him coolly, seemingly amused at his irreverence. “Well, I’m told I don’t really have a grave, but I guess I’m looking well enough.”

Cambridge gave a bark of laughter at her parry, but wasn’t put off. “Actually, Kathryn, you look great, but I’m sure you know I’m not here to assess you on your appearance.”

“No, Counselor,” she replied. “I suppose you’re here to see if I’m mentally stable.”

He nodded at her forthrightness. “Well, we only met the once, but I’m actually looking forward to getting to know you.”

“Counselor…” she began.

“Call me Hugh, if you'd like,” he offered.

“Well, Hugh, anything I can do to assure you, and therefore your commanding officer, that I’m 'all there,' is something I’m more than willing to put up with, for now.”

He laughed again. This Kathryn Janeway was no less frank than he heard the previous one had been, and he hoped he would indeed be able to help her. So, he pulled out some PADDs from his case, handed one to her, and announced, “OK, then, let's get started.”

After Cambridge left, having assured her he would inform the captain that she seemed “fine,” Kathryn sat down on the little couch in front of the adequate (that is, bigger than a port hole) viewport and surveyed her surroundings. If she was still prone to bouts of claustrophobia, these quarters weren’t going to help much. The whole suite could fit comfortably into her old living room here on Voyager. Not that she was apparently going to see said quarters again anytime soon, she thought wryly. What in heavens was wrong with Chakotay? Even at his most obstinate he had usually been a sensitive person, unlike the decidedly ungracious one he seemed to be today, at least towards her. Was he angry at her, meaning that he didn’t even want to around her? How was she going to get through to him if she could barely get near him?

She had tried to sound out from Cambridge how she could, um, better communicate with the captain, but he had diplomatically declined to talk to her about that “for now,” telling her that she would have to consent to further use of his services for that. She had then graciously declined his kind offer “for now,” but tentatively had agreed to keep that option open. Perhaps she might end up needing some kind of therapy at some time, but didn’t want to lock herself into anything just yet. But she was fairly intrigued by the fellow, his gruffness aside, and she knew that somehow making an ally of him could be to her advantage.

Then again, why would she need a go-between to actually talk to her former first officer, the man who had been her best friend and comrade for so long? Gagh, where was her gumption? Was she so used to deferring to the Q that she couldn’t approach her erstwhile…lover? She put her head in her hands. God, she had deliberatively pushed aside the memories of that one special night so deep that she had almost, but not quite, forgotten. When she had been with the Q, she had made herself not think of such esoteric activities. But now she was back, she was really back! And she needed Chakotay to at least be her friend again. If he was, god forbid, involved with someone else now, then so be it. But he would talk to her! If he was still the man she had known, he would not refuse to treat her like the person she was again, at least in the name of humanity. She should at least have that to look forward to, and she wanted to do something to make it so.

(Section Twelve)
Chakotay sat at his desk in his ready room re-reading the report Cambridge had left him about Kathryn. The counselor had personally delivered the report instead of sending it to him, which had made Chakotay’s inner antennae tingle, peevishly wondering what the man’s agenda was this time. He obviously had had something specific to tell him, and tell him he had, in his usual blunt manner:

“She’s a pretty well sound-minded woman, Captain, who, however, is rather concerned with the captain’s behavior towards her,” ignoring said captain’s scowl as he had said that, and then went on. “I, myself, from what I've heard, am wondering what is the matter with you.”

Chakotay had known he was deliberately trying to bait him, so had figuratively bit his tongue, and hadn’t respond to the gibe. Damn it, it was none of Cambridge’s concern how he interacted, or did not, for that matter, with “Kathryn,” as he was still struggling to think of her. It didn’t affect his command activities, as long as he treated her with professional courtesy, and since she wasn’t formally an officer on his ship, it didn’t really affect any ship’s functions. To be precise, it wasn't Cambridge’s business, but since he knew the fellow wouldn’t rest until he got some kind of an answer, Chakotay had looked directly at him and in his best “I’m the Captain” voice had let him have it. “That’s a personal matter, Mr. Cambridge, and really none of your concern.”

Cambridge hadn’t give an inch, but Chakotay had not expected him to. “Captain, your mental health is, as you know, my concern, and in my professional opinion, you’re not at your best right now.”

“Opinion noted,” Chakotay had rushed out before the man could say anything more. “Thank you for the report. Do you, in your professional opinion, think that the said Ms. Janeway needs any further use of your services?”

“Well, she needs to have that gene fixed.”

“So noted, I’ll remind the Doctor about that, dismissed.” He had given Hugh the sternest look he could and the counselor had nodded and left, but now reflecting on their conversation, Chakotay felt the issue was far from being resolved. Damn him! And damn her, for that matter. Gods, why hadn’t he just stayed in the Alpha Quadrant? Well, he knew the answer to that – he had needed to help Seven. Well, she had been helped, so now what? Why couldn't the gods of fate leave him in peace now that he had Voyager back? The answer to that came to him too, however unwillingly; he did need to help this Kathryn no matter that his feelings might get bruised again, and he knew no matter what, that he should at least try to be her...friend. That was the least he could do for her, considering all that Kathryn had previously done for him. He had liked and respected the "old" Kathryn Janeway and those feelings, at least, were becoming harder to ignore.

(Section Thirteen)
Therefore, about an hour later he found himself in front of the door to her quarters ringing the chime, trying not to feel nervous, and chastising himself for even considering he was in such a state. There was nothing to be concerned about, he was just checking on a friend. He heard her call “Come in,” but when the door opened he was surprised to see Seven standing near Kathryn who was sitting at the small dining table. Kathryn then stood up upon seeing him. Seven just smiled at him in her usual cool manner, if anything looking faintly amused. “I’m sorry if I interrupted you two,” he offered.

“That’s all right, I was just leaving.” Seven turned back to Kathryn. “I will see you again later, perhaps in the mess hall?”

“Perhaps,” Kathryn responded. “Thank you for coming, Seven.” She laid her hand on Seven’s arm, and they both smiled, then Seven left nodding at Chakotay, and he thought perhaps there was a bit of a twinkle in her eye.

After the door slid closed, Chakotay turned back to Kathryn. “I hope you don’t mind me coming here.”

“Why should I mind?” Kathryn shrugged. “It’s your ship.”

“Well, I just came to see how you’re doing.” He started towards her but she backed away a step.

Then she motioned towards the table. “Would you like something to drink?”

“Tea, thank you,” he replied as he sat down on one of the chairs. He noted as she went to the replicator that she had on a new dress, something in blue. When she came back with two cups of tea, he thought the color looked good on her, certainly better than that brown thing she had first appeared in.

“Tea for two,” she quipped, then murmured, “Sorry.”

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

“I didn’t mean to joke.” She sat down and busied herself stirring her tea with her spoon.

“Kathryn, it’s all right,” he reached out automatically to her, but didn’t touch. “You can make a joke to an old friend.”

“Oh, now you’re my friend.” She pursed her lips.

“I hope so,” he offered. At her semi-dubious look he went on, “Look, Kathryn, I came to apologize.”

“Oh?” She gave him a more studied gaze.

When she said nothing else, Chakotay continued, “I was rather unfriendly to you this morning and I’m sorry.”

“That’s all right,” Kathryn sighed. “I understand.”

“You do?” Chakotay wondered why she was being so accepting.

“Look, Chakotay, I heard what happened to you, or at least part of it, I think.”

“Who told you, and what?” he asked with some trepidation.

“Just that you were very hurt when I …left; I haven’t been told all the details.”

“I was something of a mess,” Chakotay confirmed, relieved that she hadn’t been told everything. He would have to caution his friends not to tell her too much, because, frankly, he didn’t think he wanted her to know much more. “But now I’m better.”

“I’m glad,” she said softly, but still looked a little somber.

“I’m all right,” he assured her. “I left Voyager for a time, but now I’m back with my friends.”

“Whatever happened certainly was not what I wanted for you,” Kathryn allowed, “but I’m glad you’re doing well now.”

“Thank you. And I’m glad you’re…doing better.”

“I’m alive,” she shrugged. “What can I say?”

“Kathryn...” He couldn’t help but feel compassion for what she had been through. He himself didn’t know all the details of her Borg ordeal, and as for her time with the Q, well it didn’t sound like that much of a great adventure, no matter how many amazing sights she might have seen. “I admit your ‘reappearance’ shocked the hell out of me.”

“I’m sorry for that,” she interrupted, but then let him go on.

“But I think I’m getting over that also.”

“Good,” she smiled wanly. “I don’t want you to be upset.”

“I’m not, not really,” he tried to reassure her, and maybe himself. “And, well, I hope we can be friends again.”

“Friends,” she said blankly.

“Yes, friends, if you’d like.” Chakotay knew he was leaving something out, but he couldn’t bring himself to go any further.

Kathryn, though it seemed, had no such hesitation. “Excuse me for being blunt, but do you think I've forgotten?” she regarded him intently. “Or, have you?”

He didn’t try to pretend not to understand what she was referring to.

“No, Kathryn, I haven’t forgotten, but things are…different now.”

“Oh, really?” It appeared that his words were discomforting her, so he tried to take her hand, but she moved it quickly away.

“Well, we’re different people now.” He guessed he was treading on thin ice, but he wasn’t sure what else he could say.

Her eyes flashed and her hand fisted, as though she was trying to hold herself together. “You mean I’m different, right? I’m not the 'real' Kathryn Janeway, so you don’t have to have feelings for me.”

“Kathryn, please try to understand, I’m not trying to hurt you, but I had to let go, so I could get better.” He knew he wasn’t explaining himself very well, but he had to try to make her understand. She didn’t look like she was having any of it, however, and he guessed he was hurting her anyway.

“I’m sorry you were hurt, Chakotay, but I thought, I thought that you loved me.” She was looking close to tears now.

“I did,” he said softly, regretting what he might be doing. “But I was more than just hurt, I was devastated. I thought my life was over, too.”

“But it wasn’t, actually,” she pointed out. “And here we are now.”

“I was told you were dead.” He raised his voice, starting not to care how she reacted. “I almost wanted to die, too. And now you just show up and expect me to feel the same way again?”

“Maybe not exactly the same,” her eyes were definitely brightening with tears now. “But after everything I went through, I know that I still love you! I didn’t forget. My god, after all we went through together you’re going to just give up? I’m sorry I died, and how inconvenient of me to get assimilated by a Borg Cube. How rude of me to think if I came back to you, you might actually be happy to see me, alive!” One tear trickled down her cheek, but she quickly turned away.

“Kathryn,” he started to speak but she waved him off.

“Please leave. I don’t think this is getting us anywhere.”

“I’m so sorry,” was all he could think to say. He really didn’t want to leave it like this. He hadn't want to upset her, but perhaps it had been shallow of him to think this subject wouldn’t come up.

“Just go.” She looked completely bereft now.

“I don’t want to just leave you like this,” he protested, truly concerned.

“I’ll be all right,” she whispered.

“Do you want me to ask someone else to come?” He felt like his heart was breaking again, but he was unable do anything to stop it.

Then the door chime rang. “Oh, god, that’s probably Tom,” she moaned softly.

“Do you want me to tell him to leave?”

“No, I want you to leave, didn’t you hear me?”

“I’m sorry,” he said again.

“You’re repeating yourself, Captain,” she ground out. The door chimed again. “Come in,” she shouted.

(Section Fourteen)
The door slid open and in walked not only Tom Paris, but his wife B’Elanna Torres, holding each others’ hands, obviously a little apprehensive at what they would find here. They stopped when they saw Chakotay, but Kathryn waved them in. “The captain was just leaving,” she bit out.

He got up and tried one more time. “We’ll talk again, OK?” She didn’t reply, so he thought he’d better give it a rest for now. “I’ll see you again.” She still said nothing so he moved to leave, passing Tom and B’Elanna with a slight smile, while they both looked at him with puzzled expressions. Chakotay paused at the door and looked back, seeing B’Elanna starting to embrace Kathryn with Tom looking on. He decided Kathryn was in good hands and let the door shut behind him.

Tom and B’Elanna ended up staying with Kathryn for almost an hour. She downplayed the scene they had witnessed between her and Chakotay, but she could tell they weren’t quite convinced. But B’Elanna turned out to be so happy to see Kathryn that she didn’t immediately press her for any details; it was enough just to be able to speak with her again. They talked some about Kathryn's latest experiences, and then about how B’Elanna had fled Earth with their child to get away from the Klingon cult group that was after Miral, and how they had come to be on Voyager again, over which Kathryn shook her head in some exaspertion. But she delighted over the holo-images they showed her of Miral, and they invited her to see their daughter soon.

Kathryn then started feeling a little more fatigue. “I’ve got this new body,” she mused, “but I guess I have to get used to living with it; I’ve already had one nap today, but now I’m feeling sleepy again.”

“Are you allowed to drink coffee, maybe some caffeine will help,” Tom suggested.

“Actually, I don’t really have a taste for it yet,” Kathryn chuckled. “I had coffee practically coming out of my ears in the Continuum, so maybe I actually got tired of it.”

“Well, I can’t imagine Kathryn Janeway without coffee,” Tom replied, only partly in jest. “So we’ll give it a little time, huh?”

“Speaking of coffee, would anyone like some? I have a replicator that actually works now,” she managed to joke.

They talked over drinks for a bit longer, with Tom telling her a little bit more about their new mission in the Delta Quadrant, and then he left promising to check on her later. B’Elanna stayed behind, not wanting to leave her just yet.

“Kathryn,” she said softly, “how are you really feeling?"

“I’m not sure,” she replied. “It’s almost as if I’m afraid to believe I’m really back.”

“Do you think the Q are really going to leave you be?” B’Elanna looked concerned. She knew with the Q, nothing was predictable.

“I don’t know,” Kathryn shrugged. “They just said they’d be watching me.”

“Gads, I wonder what they think you could possibly do?” B’Elanna exclaimed.

“Oh, I don’t know,” Kathryn laughed wryly. “Maybe just get assimilated by a Borg cube and being made their Queen?”

“Well, you didn’t intend for that to happen; we’ve all had things happen to us that we had no control over.”

“But, I did have control over that –- I didn’t have to go there!”

“But you know that was part of your job, Kathryn, to investigate potential threats to the Federation. We're aware there are risks involved in what we do in Starfleet, and bad things can unfortunately happen.”

Kathryn just shook her head, her familiar crooked smile on her face.

“Anyway,” B’Elanna continued, “what’s important is that you’re back now and you can live your life.”

“Yes, what there is of it,” Kathryn continued with her half smile.

“You’ve got a new beginning, Kathryn, I’m sure you’ll make something of it.”

“Thanks, B’Elanna, I appreciate your support.”

B’Elanna took one of Kathryn’s hands in hers. “Anything I can do for you just ask; I owe you that for all you did for me.”

“B’Elanna,” Kathryn said sincerely, “you don’t owe me anything; what you’ve done with your life is payment enough for me. I’m just glad I can think of you as a friend.”

“Always, Kathryn,” B’Elanna smiled at her. “Now, do you think you’d want to tell me what’s up with you and Chakotay?” she asked. “By the way, I’m pretty sure he’s not with anyone right now.”

(Section Fifteen)
Chakotay sat in his quarters, wondering how his talk with Kathryn had gone so wrong. Gods, she had looked so hurt, but he didn’t know what else he could have said to her. This was just such a difficult situation. Here he thought he had finally put the loss of his dearest friend behind him, and now he had to deal with it all again. He was sorry now that he had reacted so negatively to at first seeing her, but the suddenness of it all had shocked him to the core. And, now she was younger looking to boot! He realized that she was looking quite beautiful, of course, with her initial bedraggled appearance now in the process of being smoothed over.

At that thought, he wanted to return to her now. [Damn it, she’s drawing me in and I can’t do it!] He was a little surprised at his weak will on this matter. Where was his strength of mind right now? He just didn’t think he could get involved with her once more. Then again, he’d thought before that he would give anything if he could see her again. It must be true that you should be careful for what you’d wish for. So, perhaps, the spirits were testing him and so far, he imagined that he was being found pretty lacking.

Before he could think of what to do next, the console at his desk beeped. It was Capt. Eden, calling for her usual daily update. Chakotay pulled himself up and opened up the channel. “Capt. Chakotay," she greeted him. “How are things with your new arrival?” As her custom, she started their conversation in a more formal manner.

“She’s settling in, Capt. Eden,” he replied. “She’s in her quarters now and has met with a few of her old staff.”

“Good,” Eden said briskly. “I’ve read the Doctor’s and Cambridge’s reports on her and it seems most everything about her checks out normal.

Chakotay nodded, but she wasn’t quite finished. “And so you've met with her again?”

“Yes well, the one time with Tom, as I informed you, and once alone.”

“Really,” Eden’s eyebrows rose a bit. “I haven’t received a report from you about the second meeting.”

“That was a private meeting, Captain. I needed to speak with her personally.” Chakotay wished he had not divulged to her about that meeting, which really should be just between him and Kathryn.

Eden’s eyes then narrowed somewhat. “So, Chakotay, are you going to be able to handle this?”

“Yes, Captain,” he replied. “I’m committed to making this situation work.”

“Well, I’m not going to intrude on your privacy, of course, but you're not still…overwhelmed by what happened?”

“I think I’m dealing with it better now,” Chakotay said. “I admit I over-reacted at first, but I’m coming to terms with things.”

“All right, but I also think I need to speak with her again.”

“If you wish,” Chakotay agreed, although not sure to what end. “I’m sure she would appreciate that.”

“Well, of course I would like to talk to Kathryn Janeway again.” She paused to consider her thoughts. “You do agree now that she is Kathryn Janeway?”

“Yes, more or less.”

“Chakotay, either she is or she isn’t.” Eden looked a little impatient.

“Captain, I’m not sure how to explain it. After talking more to her, I do now feel that the 'spirit' of Kathryn Janeway is back, but seeing her in a new body, even if it is the same DNA as her previous one, just makes me pause a little before I can completely accept that.”

“Chakotay, I thought your people give more importance to the spirit than the physical body.”

“Yes, they do,” Chakotay admitted. “But, then, I’ve always been a little contrary.”

“Well, I’m sure you’ll work it out,” Eden nodded. “I just would like you to make use of her knowledge and talents.”

“I'd like to do that, Captain,” Chakotay replied. “That is, if she does stay here for the rest of the voyage.”

“Well, another transport to the Alpha Quadrant probably won’t be for a few months, so let’s take advantage of her presence now, all right, Chakotay?”

“Yes, of course, although, remember, her actions might be limited by the Q.”

“Even so, her expertise could be valuable, so, again, try to make it work.”

“Yes, Captain, I’ll do my best,” Chakotay assured her, hoping he was as sure as he sounded. With that Eden signed off, leaving Chakotay to ponder her interest in Kathryn. He knew she had been eager to speak to her back in the Alpha Quadrant, and Kathryn had sidestepped their meetings for awhile, but they had met the one time. Perhaps Eden had more questions for her. Well, that was between the two of them. He had his own affairs to deal with.

(Section Sixteen)
Just then, his door chime rang. Now what? He asked the computer who it was. He sighed then and said “Enter.”

In walked Counselor Cambridge, looking coy. “So, Captain," he immediately asked, "are you feeling any better?”

“Counselor?” Chakotay frowned, not really feeling like answering more questions. “Why don’t you just say what you really want to know?”

“Well, what I really want to know, you told me was none of my business.”

“Right, so why are you here?”

“I just wanted to see how you were, as a friend.”

“Well, my friend,” Chakotay hoped he could cut this short. “I guess I’m doing better. Anything else?”

“Actually, I'm wondering, professionally speaking, how you think Kathryn is adjusting.”

“Isn’t that your job?”

“Sure, but your opinion is important, too.”

Chakotay knew he was just fishing, but he decided to give him answer enough that hopefully would satisfy him. “Then I’d say she’s doing all right, considering she’s come back from the dead.”

“But, only her body was dead, apparently not her consciousness.”

“Your point.” Chakotay tried not to show his growing irritation.

“So, it’s almost as if she wasn’t really dead.”

Chakotay did not really feel like having this discussion, so he decided to end it. “If you want a philosophical discourse, then come to my ready room when I’m on the Bridge, otherwise I’m not in the mood right now.”

“Really, Chakotay, I thought you were always up for a good discussion.”

The man was really getting to him now, but Chakotay wasn’t about to let him know it. “Counselor, you said you just wanted to know how I’m doing; I told you. Now, excuse me, I do have things to do.”

“Of course, Captain,” Cambridge smirked. “I’ll talk to you later when you’re in a better mood.”

“Goodbye, Hugh,” Chakotay ground out.

“Goodbye.” Cambridge waved as he sauntered out, leaving Chakotay to wonder why he let this guy get under his skin at all. Well, Cambridge had a talent for getting to the heart of things, but right now Chakotay thought he was just being nosy. Sometimes he had wished there was a counselor on board Voyager when they had been trying to get home before, but then at times he thought maybe it was just as well they had not. After all, Cambridge had been the one to previously tell Chakotay that he had to let Kathryn go. So, now he should maybe lay the hell off if he was just going to give out confusing advice. But then again, the situation was different than before, and maybe Hugh was telling him something that he now needed to hear, that with Kathryn indeed being back, he could have the chance to experience again what he had previously thought had been lost, if he wished.
Now, there's the million credit question, so what did he want? That was something he guessed he would indeed have to ponder.

(Section Seventeen)
Tom had commed Kathryn to offer to escort her to the mess hall to make her first “public appearance,” so to speak. Kathryn had not been sure if she wanted to do that so soon, but Tom had insisted: “There’s no time like the present, Kathryn.”

Kathryn had countered that the Doctor had advised her to rest a little more. At that Paris had replied that maybe a little activity would help her stay awake now so she would sleep tonight; anyway, she needed to get out of her quarters for awhile. “Couldn’t I just beam over to the holodeck?” she had asked.

“Kathryn, people would like to see you.”

“Maybe that’s the problem, Tom,” she had replied. “I’m not sure I’m ready to face everyone.”

Tom had given her a sympathetic look over the screen. “Kathryn, it’s not going to be a party, you’ll just be going to eat in the mess hall like everyone else.”

“Like Voyager’s ex-captain who used to be dead?” she had sardonically pointed out.

“So, well, it turns out you technically weren’t actually dead,” Tom had offered back.

“Tom,” she couldn’t help but smile. “My body was destroyed; that’s pretty official--they even built a memorial for me.”

“Yeah, well, you were proclaimed lost once before and you came back, so now you’re back again.”

“Tom,” she had sighed.

“Kathryn,” he had peered at her. “B’Elanna and I will help you. And Seven said she’ll be there, too, so just smile and it will be fine, OK?”

“Well, I did replicate a new dress,” she had agreed.

But when the door chime rang she wished she had another room to go into and then lock the door. But she didn’t want to give up and hide, so she bid Tom to come in. She took a deep breath when she saw who he had brought with him.

“Harry,” she breathed out, holding out her hands.

“Admir…I mean, Kathryn,” Harry Kim beamed, coming towards her. “It’s, it’s wonderful to see you.” And he went straight into her arms and gave her a hug. Kathryn hugged him back, thinking that this was almost as good as it could get.

He moved from her a little but still stood close. “You look wonderful, Kathryn. How are you feeling?”

“I’m fine,” she held on to his hands. “And I’m hearing good things about you.”

“Oh, not from Tom, I hope,” Harry sort of flushed.

“She said ‘good things,’ Harry,” Tom grinned.

Harry couldn’t take his eyes off of her; Tom wasn’t kidding that she looked younger. But there was a sadness in her eyes that made him want to hug her again. But, she was the embodiment of his ex-captain, so he refrained. But he still couldn’t stop smiling.

“Well, I know you two have lots to talk about, but I’m starving, so let’s get going.” Tom extended his arm to Kathryn, who took it gratefully and they left her quarters, with Harry at their side. They stopped by Seven’s quarters down the hall, and she joined the group.

“Actually,” Tom said to Harry, “Why don’t you and Seven go to the mess hall and get us a table. I need to take Kathryn to my quarters for a minute.”

Harry looked at Tom with a smile. Seven only raised one eyebrow, but nodded.

“No problem, Tom.” Harry then smiled at Kathryn who was looking a little pensive as they all got into the lift. “It’ll be fine, Kathryn, you’re among friends.”

“I know, Harry,” Kathryn said softly. “It’s just going to take a little time.”

(Section Eighteen)
Tom and Kathryn got out of the deck for his quarters while Harry and Seven went on to deck two. As Kathryn and Tom approached his quarters, Kathryn stopped him. “I know she won’t remember me, but did she hear that Admrl. Janeway was gone?”

“She might have,” Tom said, “But I don’t think she realizes the connection.”

“Oh well, I just don’t want her to be frightened.”

“Oh, she’s a tough little kid,” Tom assured her. “Don’t worry about it, she’ll love you.”

Kathryn smiled bravely and followed him to his door. Tom pressed his thumbprint and after the door slid open they went in. Tom called out to B’Elanna, “B’e, we’re here.”

“Almost ready," came B’Elanna’s voice from another room, “just a minute.”

Tom motioned for Kathryn to sit down on the couch, so she did, still looking apprehensive. “It will be OK,” Tom whispered to her, then B’Elanna emerged through the door carrying her and Tom’s young daughter.

Kathryn let out a breath and tried to smile as B’Elanna drew near. Miral looked at Kathryn curiously, but didn’t smile. B’Elanna stopped in front of Kathryn and looked encouragingly at the little girl. “Miral, this is Auntie Kathryn, the lady I told you about.”

“Hello, Miral,” Kathryn said, looking in awe at the child.

Miral still didn’t say anything, so B’Elanna continued. “You last saw her awhile ago, but she remembers you; your second name comes from her.”

“Katrin?” Miral asked her mother.

“Yes, honey,” B’Elanna smiled. “Why don’t you say hello to her.”

“’Lo,” said Miral, a bit shyly.

“She’s a little sleepy from her nap,” B’Elanna said to Kathryn, “but she’ll come around.”

Kathryn nodded, looking close to tears.

“So, why don’t we get going?” Tom suggested.

“Of course.” Kathryn stood up and then the most wonderful thing happened. Miral held her arms out to Kathryn, who quickly looked at B’Elanna, who nodded, smiling. So, Kathryn held her arms to Miral, who reached over and let Kathryn take her. Kathryn then held the little girl close.

Miral looked up at Kathryn and grinned, “Hi, Aunt Katrin!” Kathryn blinked hard to hold back her tears, and B’Elanna held her hands up to her face.

“Well, ladies,” Tom smiled, “let’s go see who’s at dinner.”

(Section Nineteen)
By the time they got to the Mess Hall, Miral had decided she wanted her father to carry her, so they trooped in with him in the lead, with B’Elanna and Kathryn trailing after him. They spotted Harry and Seven sitting at a table with Hugh Cambridge. Tom paused a touch at that, but B’Elanna encouragingly smiled at Kathryn while they walked over to the table.

There were quite a few people sitting in the mess hall, but they didn’t seem to notice the new person, or at least they looked like they were trying not to notice. Kathryn just smiled and took it all in. There wasn’t a kitchen anymore, just a big new row of replicators. Kathryn wondered if the captain had a private dining room now; Chakotay still hadn’t had one before.

Thinking of her old dining room made her think of Neelix; B’Elanna had told Kathryn that she had recently seen him at his colony, and Kathryn hoped that she would be able to talk to him sometime. They sat down, with Kathryn, B’Elanna, and Tom on one side of the table, and Cambridge, Harry, and Seven on the other. Tom put Miral in a high chair, and he went to get her something to eat. Miral eyed Seven, who was sitting next to her on the other side.

“Hello, Miral Paris,” Seven smiled at the girl.

Miral grinned and said, “Hi, S’ven of Nine!”

B’Elanna worked to put a bib on Miral, then Tom came back with her food, and she enthusiastically started to feed herself, to the relief of her beaming parents.

Across from Kathryn, Cambridge observed her as she was watching Miral with obvious delight. He leaned over to her and murmured, “How long has it been since you’ve seen Miral, Kathryn?”

“It’s been well over a year in your time frame, Counselor,” Kathryn whispered back.

“Oh, please call me Hugh,” Cambridge reminded her, smiling.

“Hugh,” Kathryn determinely smiled back, and although sitting across from him made her a little uneasy, she reminded herself of the advantage of getting along with him. She just didn’t care to be scrutinized by him right now, so she was glad when Harry leaned over to her and asked if he could get her something to eat.

“Oh no, Harry, I can do that myself,” Kathryn dissented.

“Well, would you like to go with me to the replicators?” Harry asked.

“Yes, thank you,” Kathryn agreed, and they got up and walked toward them. Other crew members still paid them no mind, although a couple of them nodded at Harry.

“Well, I guess my recognition factor is not as great as I thought,” Kathryn’s eyes twinkled as they reached the machines.

“Oh no, Kathryn,” Harry said as they waited for their food to appear. “The captain just sent a message to everyone that they were not to stare at you if they saw you in public.”

“Well,” Kathryn chuckled as she carried back the tray with soup and tea back to their table, “maybe people just have better things to do.”

“Oh, most people are pretty, ah, amazed to hear you were back, but they don’t want to invade your privacy.”

“So many new faces,” she murmured.

“Yes, there aren’t a whole lot of people left from our old crew. Most of them didn’t care to come back to the Delta Quadrant.”

She wanted to ask Harry why he had decided to go back, but they reached their table so she didn’t want Cambridge to overhear her say it. When she sat down, Hugh looked at her and frowned. “Is that all you’re eating, Kathryn?” he observed.

“Yes, Hugh,” she said primly. What was he now, her dietary consultant?

“You need to eat more than that,” he insisted.

Tom, now sitting next to Kathryn, heard this and thankfully came to her rescue, announcing, “She’s saving some room for dessert, right?”

Kathryn smiled gratefully at him and added, “Yes, coffee ice cream, can’t wait.”

“Oh, a little protein, good.” The counselor seemed satisfied by this but still added, “Well, before you go to bed, perhaps you should have a glass of milk, too. Your body needs to continue learning to function properly.”

“Thank you, Hugh,” Kathryn said sweetly. “I'll need to check in with the Doctor, so I’ll ask him about that then.”

“Good,” he nodded and thankfully went back to his own food.

Tom rolled his eyes at her and she gave him a little grin. They all then concentrated on their eating, while chatting a bit about their day. Miral was busy with her own dessert by then and Kathryn couldn’t help but smile thinking about her. Had it really been almost four years since they had returned to the Alpha Quadrant? And now they were back near where they had been just before they ended their first journey. Tom had told her that with the new slip stream drive they could get back to the Alpha Quadrant in practically no time, mentioning that once in awhile a ship would be sent back to Earth, the inference being that she could go back there sometime if she wanted. Kathryn wondered if it wouldn’t be better if she did just that, but it might be a few months before that happened, so she guessed she wouldn’t worry about that for now. Besides, it was rather nice to be back on her old ship, among some people she still knew, even if one of them wasn’t so happy to see her.

Kathryn let out a little sigh, but stopped when Hugh looked up at her. Honestly, was he going to be checking up on her constantly now? Chakotay had said that Tom would be her contact, and anyway, the counselor had already cleared her psyche-wise, although he had also noted that she needed to get that gene adjusted. Otherwise, unless she had some psychological trouble, he didn't actually have to be so concerned about her, besides in a friendly sort of way. She still had the Doctor on her case, and that was quite enough for now, thank you.

She really didn’t mind people being interested about her, in fact, she welcomed any friendliness, but she’d had enough of being dependent for her very life, and now she had to try to assert herself as much as possible. Under the circumstances she had no choice but to accept help for a while, but only from certain appropriate people, and not from an overly intrusive counselor. Thankfully, he didn’t say anything more as she ate, only nodding with approval when Tom brought her the ice cream. He did start to watch her as she put the spoon to her lips, but she gave him a bit of a look, so he lowered his eyes, though she thought there was a hint of a smile on his own lips.

Unfortunately, she had to force herself to eat the ice cream because she still wasn’t really hungry; the soup had actually been more than enough to fill her. She guessed it would take a while before her new body was fully functional in all aspects. She couldn’t smell like she used to, her taste buds were still rather primitive, and she absolutely was not craving coffee. Well, maybe that wasn’t such a bad thing, but she hoped things would improve sooner rather than later. She also hoped she would be able to sleep normally tonight, and she wondered if she would dream; she hadn’t done so during her little nap, and the blackness during that time was somewhat disturbing to her. She didn’t want to experience any more darkness; she wanted to get the colors of her life back, and dreaming would hopefully soon be a part of that.

(Section Twenty)
“Kathryn!”  She jumped little from her daydreaming at the sound of her name and was somewhat startled to see Chakotay, of all people, standing over her. “Yes?” she frowned, wondering where he suddenly had come from.

“Kathryn,” he continued, looking slightly annoyed. Oh, go away, she couldn’t help thinking, but before she could cogitate any further he motioned to the woman behind him and Kathryn saw Capt. Eden come into view.

“Hello, Kathryn,” the fleet captain smiled at her. “I was wondering if you’d like to take a little walk with me on the holodeck, if you’re finished with your dinner, of course.”

Kathryn looked around at the others. Tom nodded at her and said, “Go ahead, I’ll call you later.”

Kathryn didn’t know how she could refuse, so she nodded and rose. Tom offered to take her tray to be recycled, so Kathryn thanked him and moved to leave with Eden, although not before she said good-night to everyone, especially Miral, who waved brightly at her and cheerfully said “Bye, Bye,” which made Kathryn warm inside. B’Elanna also whispered, “I’ll see you tomorrow.” And then the two women left the mess hall, but not before Kathryn snuck a look back at Chakotay, who had set down in her previous seat. He also turned at that moment towards her and their eyes locked for a few seconds, but he only gave her a faint smile and then turned back. She inhaled a bit and went with Capt. Eden out into the hall.

“I would ask you how you’re feeling, but I suppose most everyone’s done that already,” Eden said conversationally.

“Oh, it’s all right,” Kathryn assured her. “It’s fine that people are concerned about me.”

“It’s probably gratifying to be with some of your old friends now," Eden observed.

“Yes, it is,” Kathryn agreed. They were at the lift by then, and their conversation stopped until after they entered and then got off at deck five. Kathryn did have a bit of a chance to observe the other former captain of her old ship (something else that B’Elanna had told her), and thought her serene countenance probably served her well, especially now in her current position. Kathryn knew the other woman was slightly older than she was officially, but she looked younger than her years.

Maybe it’s just as well, Kathryn thought, that I now look a little younger, too, although she wasn't sure exactly why that should matter. Well, every little advantage helps, she supposed.

When they reached the holodeck, Capt. Eden looked over at Kathryn and asked, “Is there any specific holodeck program you would like to bring up?"

Kathryn thought for a minute, and then stated, “Computer, run program Indiana cornfield scenery.” She was gratified when the computer light went on indicating the program was now running. It occurred to her that perhaps this program might not be readily available, but she had guessed correctly that it would be. The doors slid open and they both walked in. The first thing they saw ahead was a verdant corn field, with the stalks as high as the top of their heads, and laden with golden ears of corn. The sun was shining in the blue sky, with a few puffy clouds floating by for good measure. They were on top of a low hill, and in the rear distance down the hill was a farm house and a barn. In the farther distance was a small grove of trees and beyond that a small river flowed. It was quite a bucolic scene, with a slight breeze blowing, and the weather was warm, but not too hot.

“Indiana, hmm?” said Eden as they walked in.

“Yes,” Kathryn laughed. “As you may know, my old stomping grounds.”

“Well, part of my previous research on you was your background,” Eden acknowledged.

“Yes, of course,” Kathryn replied, then said, “this way.” She turned to the left and went down the hill the other way to another small copse of trees below. They walked in silence for a few minutes, then Kathryn indicated they could sit on a stone outcroping shaped like a bench in front of a sturdy birch tree. “I would come here before,” Kathryn explained, “when I wanted to be reminded of where I was from, even though,” she laughed again, “I haven’t been around a farm since I was younger, but I did, of course, visit my mother in her home near Bloomington.” They sat there for a few minutes, and then Capt. Eden broke the silence.

“Well, it really is pleasant here; I can see why you like it,” Eden smiled, then continued, “I managed to reach Starfleet Command today.”

“Yes, I heard about the communications grid,” Kathryn noted. “Things have certainly progressed since I was last out here.”

“Well, it still takes a few hours to get a message through to Earth,” Eden said. “But better than once a month, I guess.”

Kathryn chuckled at the idea that Starfleet Command could be so figuratively near; they had thought before that once a month communications was like a miracle.

“Anyway,” Eden continued, “I informed them of your, um, appearance and they decided to ask the Federation authorities about reopening your identity file.”

“What?” Kathryn was surprised. “I thought Admrl. Janeway was going to stay dead.”

“Well,” Eden observed, “they didn’t find a body, of course, or even a trace of one, so you were just assumed dead.”

“Well, I was,” Kathryn snorted. “Believe me.”

“Is that what Q told you?” Eden looked at her intently.

“Yes,” Kathryn insisted, “because it was humanly true, besides my last body really was that of the Borg Queen.”

“Even so, the body you have now is practically the same as the Admiral’s original one,” Eden pointed out.

“Practically is not exactly the same, and you know that my body now is like a copy.” Kathryn did not like the way this conversation was headed.

“Yes, but if you walked into any Federation medical facility now, if not for the fact that she is listed as deceased, you would be identified as Admiral Janeway,” Eden insisted.

“Admiral Janeway is indeed dead," Kathryn said firmly. “There is nothing left of her except a memorial column."

“Kathryn,” Eden put a hand lightly on her arm. “I understand what Q said to you, but if the authorities want to give you your life back, perhaps it would be prudent to take it.”

“Why?” Kathryn inquired. “I don’t have anything to go back to, except I hope my family.”

“You have a history,” Eden continued. “You deserve to claim that again.”

“Maybe I don’t want to,” Kathryn kept on. “Maybe that old life is what got me killed in the first place.”

“But, your memories consist of those experiences.” Eden was troubled that Kathryn was so negative about her previous existence, which Eden considered an honorable one, full of achievements, but she couldn’t, of course, force her to take it back if she didn’t want to. But, how could she start a new life without building on the old one; she had to have some sort of official identity. “What if,” Eden offered, “Admrl. Janeway’s status was changed to retired. At least you’d get the benefits due you for your service time.”

“Hopefully I’ll be able to support myself, using my intellect and memories,” Kathryn insisted.

“But you deserve to claim what you worked so hard for.” Eden knew she was being stubborn, but she felt like someone had to fight for Admrl. Janeway, even if the "new" Kathryn wasn’t so inclined to do so.

Kathryn, though, shook her head. “Let Admrl. Janeway rest. I want to build something new.”

“Well, it’s up to you, I suppose,” Eden was saddened by Kathryn’s stance, but she decided not to press the issue for now, although she knew the ball had perhaps begun rolling, and maybe couldn't really be stopped. “Well, when I hear from Command again, I’ll contact you and you can then talk to them yourself.”

“Thank you,” Kathryn smiled. “I appreciate your help. One thing,” she asked, “are they going to tell my family that I’m, well, back?”

“Not until you tell Command it's all right,” Eden assured her. “But Admrl. Montgomery was quite moved when I told him how you re-appeared. He was of the opinion that you should be completely reinstated.”

“Well, I’ll just have to tell him otherwise,” Kathryn informed her.

You might not have a choice, Eden thought, but she knew the legal aspect was something Kathryn would have to deal with. Now, having Kathryn, with whatever identity, ensconced with her fleet was Eden’s concern. “Well, it’s been a long day, so I’ll be getting back to the Hawking.” Eden rose and extended her hand. “But I’m glad we were able to talk.”

“Thank you, Captain.” Kathryn took her hand and shook it, and then took another look at the scenery, wondering exactly when she would see the real thing again, although not especially needing to go there right now. She thought perhaps she did need some time to restart her new life, and if she could do so on Voyager, she would then have a new history when she did get back to Earth. Of course, that depended on the current captain of Voyager, but since Capt. Eden wanted to make use of her talents, then Chakotay would have to comply. Kathryn was glad he had acquiesced that she would stay on her old ship; she wouldn't be very happy if she had been sent away, even if was only to the next ship over.

“Well,” Capt. Eden added as she left the holodeck with Kathryn, “I am expecting that Captain Chakotay will speak to you soon on what job he could assign to you.”

[Somewhere in the bowels of the ship, maybe. I wonder if Mortimer Harren’s old position is open.] “Yes, of course,” Kathryn replied. “I’ll want to help however I can.”

“Kathryn,” Eden stopped before they called for the lift. “I’m speaking off the record, of course, but I hope you and Chakotay can, well, re-connect with your personal lives again.” She noticed Kathryn’s discomfort at the subject, but she pressed on. “I know you were very important to him before, and despite his behavior this morning, perhaps he might like you in his life again. He's told me how much he admired you.”

“Maybe so,” Kathryn admitted. “But that’s not exactly what I was thinking when I asked the Q to send me to him.”

“Of course.” Eden didn’t need a star chart to understand Kathryn's meaning. “Well, that’s between the two of you, but please know that I hope things work out for both of you.”

“Thank you, Capt. Eden.” Kathryn hoped, though, that she wouldn’t hear much more about this subject from this woman, as sympathetic as she was being. It was, indeed, between her and Chakotay, and she didn’t think anyone else should be involved. It was enough that she, herself, had to deal with the man. “I do appreciate your help.” The two women then got into the lift, although Kathryn went down first, then she assumed Capt. Eden would go up. The story of my life now, Kathryn mused. Oh wonders, maybe there really was nowhere now to go but up.

(Section Twenty-one)
After dinner, Chakotay had gone back to his quarters, not feeling like walking about the ship just yet. He had tolerated the assessing gaze of Mr. Cambridge while he was eating, although thankfully the man didn’t say anything more about Kathryn. The others kept their counsel, too, although Chakotay had caught B’Elanna eyeballing him a bit. But his crew, even those he considered friends, didn't bother their captain too much about his personal life, well at least most of the time. But he had still felt a little uncomfortable, so after speaking to Tom, quickly left after he had eaten, and was now alone contemplating his next move regarding his feelings. Unfortunately, he had just settled back into his favorite chair when his door chime rang. “What now?” he sighed, but still called “come in.” He rose from his chair when Capt. Eden walked in. “Captain,” he greeted her. He thought she was going back to the Hawking when she was finished with seeing Kathryn, but no such luck, he guessed.

“I’m sorry to disturb you, Captain.” She looked a little apologetic, but obviously not enough to not visit him right now. “But I'm concerned about Kathryn now that I’ve talked to her again.” Eden explained to him about how Starfleet was willing to re-open Kathryn’s status, and how she was insisting that Admrl. Janeway stay dead. “I’m uneasy, Chakotay, that she is deliberately limiting her options when she doesn’t have to.”

“Well, isn’t that her choice?” Chakotay replied. He knew Kathryn could be, no WAS stubborn and he didn’t really feel he could get her to change her mind, not at the current state of their, well, non-relationship.

“Well, actually she may not have a choice if Starfleet decides she really is Admrl. Janeway.”

“Why?” Chakotay couldn’t help but become concerned by Eden’s words.

“I guess it’s a legal matter. Admrl. Montgomery will have to talk to her about it. But,” she said firmly, “I really feel she needs your support so she can make the best decision for her.”

“Capt. Eden,” he didn’t want to divulge the problems he and Kathryn were having, but he guessed he had to somewhat clarify the situation. “Kathryn is, well, upset with me, and while I probably don’t blame her, I don’t think I will have much influence on her personally right now.”

“Well, you might have to impose on her,” Eden looked a bit grim. “But if you want to couch it to her in regards to her legal status, feel free to do so.”

“What do you mean by her ‘status?’” Chakotay was becoming apprehensive now.

“She might need to be the ‘official’ Kathryn Janeway for her to re-start her life as best she can. She doesn’t want to believe that, but it may be true, especially if she doesn't want to stay here longer than a few months.”

“Maybe she won’t want to leave,” Chakotay stated, although he was surprised, or maybe not, that the thought of her leaving actually did not really please him.

“Well,” Eden smiled, “that’s to be seen. But even now, if we are to use her talents, she may need to have a higher security clearance, and for that she might have to be at least the retired Admrl. Janeway.”

“But she said Q doesn’t want her to do that.”

Eden sighed impatiently. “I believe she said Q doesn’t want her to be Admrl. Janeway, but perhaps not a former Admiral.”

“That’s splitting hairs, Captain.” Chakotay was getting impatient, too. He truly didn’t want Kathryn to be forced into a position by Starfleet that could perhaps endanger her. He had been angry in the first place about how Starfleet had let her get herself into such danger when she had ended up dead, now he would be damned if that was to happen again.

“Perhaps,” acknowledged Eden. “But her legal status will affect her future and someone needs to convince her to accept that. That person seems to be you. Can you at least try to talk to her as a friend?”

“I did try already; she wasn’t very happy with that.”

“Oh,” Eden seemed to comprehend what he was saying. “Well, try again, Chakotay, her new life might depend on it.”

Chakotay shook his head, although he thought she might be right. As of now Kathryn was legally practically a non-person and someone needed to get her to realize that she had to act in her best interests, and that someone was probably him.

Right after Eden left, Chakotay tried to go back to his musings, but he found that he was too restless to do so. So he decided to get his nightly exercise and went out again to do some walking. He avoided going to deck nine, and instead swung by Astrometrics and a good thing, too, since he caught Seven working when she should have been off-duty. He shooed her out, even though that obviously annoyed her, then he went down to Engineering to double-check things. He saw that the drives were running fine, so at least that gave him something to be satisfied about. He then went back to the mess hall and chatted with a few crew members that were there.

Finally, he decided he was tired enough to wind down for the night. When he got to his quarters, he still felt a little uneasy. Going into his bedroom reminded him how he had suddenly seen Kathryn this morning, gods, had it just been today? It almost seemed like weeks ago--so much had happened! Even so, he made himself stand in his bedroom, and look about, telling himself there were no ghosts here. He happened to gaze upon the chair he had first seen her sitting in, and suddenly imagined how it was going to be seeing her again tomorrow. That idea actually didn't displease him, in spite of the earlier tensions, so he decided he could safely go bed in anticipation of the next day, and so he got ready for bed, then made himself do his ritual, and then a few minutes later thankfully fell asleep. He again didn’t dream, though, not right away.

(Section Twenty-two)
Kathryn, back in her quarters, was also trying to figure out how to get to sleep. She was actually feeling tired, but not really sleepy. She wished she could go for a walk around the ship like she would do when she had been in charge. Being the captain now seemed like a lifetime ago; well, ironically it was. Now she was something of a legal non-entity on her old ship, back in a part of space she never thought she’d be again, with the man she still loved who might not love her anymore, and faced with trying to rebuild her life without taking advantage of the old one. Her head actually hurt with all those thoughts, a novel but also slightly familiar feeling, so she replicated the glass of milk that the Doctor had agreed that she should try to drink, although hopefully he wouldn’t tell Cambridge that, and took a sip. It tasted rather watery to her, but at least it didn’t almost make her gag like the ice cream had.

She took another sip and sighed. Tom had called her to check on her for the night, and to inform her she had a meeting with the captain the next morning at 0900. Great, she thought, what a way to start the next day. Then he had invited her to lunch later, which was at least something to look forward to. She had accepted both “invitations” and had wished him and his family goodnight. His concern had touched her, but she had assured him that she was fine, even if she didn’t quite feel that way. But she must have seemed sincere enough that he had thankfully signed off before asking her any more questions. Drinking a little more milk, she remembered that she had nothing to sleep in, so she replicated a standard Starfleet nightgown. Then she needed a hairbrush, so she acquired one. Brushing out her now shorter, but not too short (having seen Seven in the hall after coming back from the holodeck, she had the idea to ask her to cut it, which Seven had obligingly done in a most efficient manner) hair, she took a hard look at herself in the mirror. God, she did look younger, heavens, what had Q been thinking? And as if just thinking of that letter made the Q think of her, a flash of light behind her startled her enough that she jumped slightly.

“Oh dear, Aunt Kathy, I didn’t mean to scare you,” came a familiar voice. Kathryn chuckled and turned around to see Q the Younger, as he preferred to be called, standing there grinning at her.

“You didn’t scare me, Q,” she laughed. “I was just startled.”

The younger Q, who now had the visage of a young man instead of a teenager, held out a rose to her. “Here, Aunt Kathy, I brought you a flower.” He peered around the room as she took it, thanking him. “My, my, Aunt, what a little box they’ve put you in. I thought,” he inquired a little snidely, “that you'd have a bigger place befitting your status.”

“This placed does befit my status, Q,” she shrugged, “which is barely none now, hence the ‘little box.’ It’s actually better than the virtual closet they first put me in sickbay, so I'm happy this is as good as it is.”

“But it’s a dungeon, Aunt Kathy, and actually,” he smirked a little, “I thought you’d be staying with your boyfriend. Doesn’t Mr. Chuckles run this little boat now? I thought he would take you in.”

“His name isn’t Chuckles, Q,” she chided him, but he just shrugged, too, “and he’s not my boyfriend.”

“But Aunt K,” Q’s eyes went wide, “I thought he was the love of your life, your sweetheart, your…”

“Please, Q,” she stopped him, wishing she had not somewhat confided in him while she was residing in the Continuum. “Things change. It’s been over a year in Earth’s time since I…left and, well, he’s apparently over me.” She tried to be matter of fact about that, but Q wasn’t buying it.

“Did he break your heart, Auntie?” he fumed. “Well, I’ll go now and make him change his mind, don’t worry.”

“No, Q,” she protested, that's all she did NOT need.

“Why not?” he asked. “I know! Do you want me to turn him into an Antarian bed bug, or maybe,” he looked pleased at the thought, “a Norvan scale-fish, you could keep him as a pet!”

“No, Q, please!” she pleaded. “Just leave him alone; that’s how mortal life is sometimes, he had to move on so he could continue to live his life.”

“But I thought ‘true love’ never dies!” Q observed. “How unchivalrous of him just to forget you.”

“He didn’t forget me, Q, but he was in pain and he had to do something to save himself.”

“Oh, how tragic, poor Chuck, I mean, what’s-his-name.” Q didn’t look any too sympathetic, though. “With a broken heart, but now he’s broken yours.”

“He hasn’t broken it, Q,” she sort of lied. “He’s still willing to help me, so I should be thankful for that.”

“He should be thankful you’re back, what's the matter with him?”

She had to calm him down, so she went to him and put her hands on his shoulders. “He’s human, Q,” she said softly, but firmly, “and he’s doing the best he can.” She wasn’t sure she really entirely believed that herself, but she had to convince Q of it. He didn’t seem very mollified, but at least he looked less hostile.

“All, right, for you, Aunt K, I won’t turn him into a Boscilian sea-snake, but he’d better treat you nicer, or I can’t promise I won’t change my mind.”

“Thank you, Q,” she said sincerely, “and thanks again for the rose.”

“Well,” Q looked like he had another idea, unfortunately, “at least someone is giving you flowers.” And before she knew it he snapped his fingers and the room was suddenly filled with vases and vases of roses, filling the room with their beautiful but surprisingly over-powering scents.

“Q!” she cried, “that’s too many, I can’t breathe!”

“Oh, sorry,” he grinned, and snapped his fingers again, leaving just one vase of at least a dozen beautiful roses on her dining table.

“Thank you, Q,” she said again sincerely. “They’re lovely.”

“Good,” he beamed, “you deserve them. After all,“ he leaned towards her conspiratorially, “you spent all that time with my mother, you should get flowers.”

“Q,” she shook her head. “I’m grateful to your mother, she saved me.”

“She didn’t save you, we all did,” he pouted.

“Yes, Q, and I do thank you,” she put a hand back on his shoulder. “Now, anything else?”

“Well, yes, just a message from my father,” he intoned, “about not becoming an Admiral again. Just a reminder.”

“I don’t intend to, Q,” she informed him. “I’ve told Capt. Eden that.”

“Oh, yes, Capt. Eden, she's Chuckie’s boss, right?” He looked delighted at the thought.

“Yes, she is,” Kathryn affirmed.

“Good, at least someone’s around to keep him in line.”

Kathryn rolled her eyes and declined to argue the point. “Well, Q,” she was getting more tired now, so she hoped she could get him to leave, “I have to get to sleep now, but it’s been nice to see you.”

“Oh, poor Auntie K, back to being a frail human,” Q shook his head. “Well, au revoir, my dear, and,” he added somewhat sternly, “Don’t forget, we’ll be watching you.” And with that he flashed out, leaving Kathryn standing there shaking her head. Nothing ends the day better than receiving a visit from a Q, she mused. Maybe they’ll get tired of checking on her, not that she wasn’t going to heed his warnings. As “little” as her life might be now, it was better than being dead.

She went over to the table, and smelled the flowers, grateful that her senses were developing enough to do so. Yes, all things considered, she was happy to be alive, even if this life wasn’t yet completely happy. She could still do some good, just in a more limited way. “Computer, dim lights,” she commanded, “and set wake up call for 0722." Well, the end of the first day of her new life, such as it is, was upon her. She went and pulled down the cover and then crawled into bed.

The stars on the viewport streaked by; they looked heavenly. She now knew another reason why she was glad she was back on Voyager; she had missed looking at the cosmos a little at a time. If that made her a “little person,” then that’s how it was. At least she could hopefully get better control over her life again. If only, damn, she shouldn’t think of him, but how could she not, if only Chakotay would unbend. [Maybe he really can’t love you now.] She didn’t want to believe that, but if it were true, she would just have to deal with it as best she could. She felt herself falling asleep, and comforted her soul with thoughts of seeing Indiana again someday. Soon, she indeed was in dreamland, envisioning an image of a tall, dark haired man who she feared she would never stop loving.

(Section Twenty-three)
Capt. Chakotay got to the bridge at 0759 the next morning. He had woken up a little apprehensively, but none too worse for wear, although he'd had a very vivid dream just before he opened his eyes. During his morning shower the dream suddenly filled his thoughts. He had had this dream before, but this time there was a difference. Previously he had seen a woman standing near a cliff, and although he had quickly run over to try to catch her, she had always fallen away from him, usually causing him to wake up somewhat despairing. The only thing that had made those dreams not unbearable was that he didn't exactly discern the woman’s features in the mist. This time, though, he had felt right away who she was, and when he had run to her she had held out her hands so he could grab hers, and drew her away from the edge of the cliff. The last thing before he woke he had remembered was the vision of Kathryn’s face, and that image stayed with him until he reached the mess hall for breakfast, where greeting members of his crew had managed to distract him away from his unruly thoughts.

Sitting now at his desk in his ready room, though, the likeness, though fainter now, came back to him as he anticipated seeing her very soon, the very real again Kathryn Janeway. He was now realizing that his life was truly changing once more, and that, like those fateful times before, she was the reason things were again different. It was a sobering thought, but now he had to see if he could live with that reason, and if it would be better or worse than trying to live without it. She apparently still was that important to him, but then that idea shouldn't really be a surprise. She had been the most important person in his life for a long time, and he had wondered how he would live without her. So, then, now that she was back, what was he now going to do about it all, hmmm?

(Section Twenty-four)
Kathryn slept peacefully enough through the night, waking up just once, and then thankfully rolling over and going back to sleep. She woke up suddenly at the computer call, but quickly realized her location, closing her eyes again for a few moments to get her bearings. Her thoughts slowly coalesced to assess her situation and she considered what she wanted to accomplish that day. She hoped meeting with Chakotay would leave her in a place where she could start experiencing her life again, not just anticipating it. One thing she realized, that meeting the captain in his ready room meant that their conversation was supposed to be professional, instead of personal. Well, she might be a little rusty in the “acting Starfleet” department, but she figured she could still muster up enough objectivity to satisfy the constraints of this morning’s proceedings. Heck, she had once been the master of dispassionism with fellow officers, even with now said captain, so it hopefully shouldn’t be all that difficult.

Of course, the situation was now reversed between them, but it would probably benefit her to at least somewhat don her old ‘fleet demeanor when dealing with Mr. Chakotay this time. The thought of that moniker made her smile. She sat up, almost feeling positive about the upcoming event instead of the slight feeling of dread that had been with her at first anticipating seeing him this morning. Maybe she couldn’t be an Admiral anymore but she could recall acting like one, and she resolved to use at least some of that attitude to her advantage. Yesterday she had felt out of place, and had not really acted like the Kathryn Janeway she remembered being. From now on, she resolved to embody the mannerisms of a confident, intelligent woman, not the somewhat timid-like waif she had unfortunately been like yesterday.

So she applied some make-up, fussed a little with her hair, and donned her new blue dress, which she noted was a nice cross between attractive and business like. She decided she also needed some new shoes, so she replicated a nice pair of Italian pumps, with two-and-a-half inch heels, no less. Chuckling at how such myriad details were coming back to her, she looked at herself in the bathroom mirror. Not bad, she thought, not too shabby. She looked the part, at least, of a competent woman, hopefully able to slay whatever dragons came her way. She decided to stop by sickbay before she went to the Bridge, and she sent a message for Tom to meet her there, as he was supposed to escort her to the captain. She’d practice her best new “Janeway” mannerisms on the Doctor first. He had usually been a good foil for her in the game of getting what you want, even if he could threaten her with medical mayhem. Well, at least he was pretty close to the Doctor she remembered, so it would be more of a predictable exercise when dealing with him.

Now, Chakotay, she ruminated, was something of a puzzle. He had, unfortunately changed since she had last seen him in person, my goodness, over two (in this existence) years ago. She dearly wanted to reestablish the close bonds they had had for so long, or getting on with her new life could be more of a chore than a pleasure. Damn, who was she kidding? She needed to be with him, and her dreams last night had certainly shown what she of course wished for: to feel again the love he had once shown her, a love that had helped sustain her through most, and what really was essential now for her optimal survival. What would happen between the two of them might well make the difference if she could really fully live her life or not. It was not a comforting thought.

(Section Twenty-five)
Tom arrived in sickbay at 0842 to pick up Kathryn to escort her to the Bridge. He had been uncomfortable at first thinking about her being alone for the night, but she had assured him when he had commed her last evening that she was doing fine, so he had left her to her own devices. But now he was a little regretful that she had been all by herself. Even if she was Kathryn Janeway, body now intact and confirmed as possessing her mental facilities, she was still someone who had been, well, deceased, for quite a while per anyone’s perspective. And she had asked to be sent back to the man she assumed would be happy to see her, which wasn't yet the the case. So he was glad he could meet her before her meeting with the captain, and check on her current condition.

B’Elanna and he had briefly discussed last night if there was anything they could do to help repair their captain’s and former captain’s relationship, and had reluctantly agreed that there wasn’t much they could do for them except be supportive, although he had thought that B’Elanna might show her fondness for them by engaging Kathryn in a little “girl talk” about B’e’s other good friend. Well, he couldn’t help it if his wife and Kathryn were friends, could he? He just hoped Chakotay didn’t get wind of his good friend's, his first officer’s wife, chumminess with the Captain’s ex, well, whatever, and that B’Elanna would be discrete about her dealings with those friends and not let her husband, namely him, get caught up in any drama due to any actions his captain might not like. Well, one could hope, right? After the captain met with Kathryn again, he would see what the lay of the land was, and hope there weren’t any more fireworks in the offing. And if that wasn't so, he could always hide out in the holodeck sometimes with Harry, or maybe even Miral. It was about time to introduce her to the Flotter programs, wasn’t it? He grinned to himself as he entered sickbay; it was like old times to be thinking about the personal affairs of the former inner duo of the starship Voyager. Yes, things might get a little dicey, but who knows, they could also get quite interesting.

When he entered sickbay, Kathryn was sitting with the Doctor in his office, chatting amiably, so the latest examination must have gone well. It was a welcome sight to see Kathryn there, looking quite lovely, almost like her old self, if not better. The fact that she was sitting there nice as you please, alive and well, could be a testament to the greatness of her spirit, and he hoped it would be a very long time before he was in the position of not being able see her again. He greeted the two and they talked a bit about what was going on about the ship today. Tom let Kathryn know that it was time to go, so she took leave of the Doctor, although not before he asked her to come back later that day. He didn’t say exactly why, but Kathryn suspected it was again about her food intake.

Kathryn confided to Tom on the way to the lift that if she ate as much as the Doctor wanted her to, she might end up less healthy than not. “He was always trying to push more food on me before, Tom, and now it’s no different.”

Tom laughed at how the more things change the more they stay the same. “He’s always advising B’Elanna on how to feed Miral, so you’re not the only one.”

“Well,” Kathryn mused, “I guess it’s kind of a comfort to have the Doctor fussing over me again, sort of gives me a sense of security.”

Tom couldn’t disagree with that. Meanwhile, they got on the lift, and on the way to the Bridge, he confided to her that the captain seemed in a pretty good mood today. “Must have slept better last night,” he let on.

“Well, I must admit my first night’s sleep as a new human went pretty well, too,” Kathryn smiled. “A good night’s rest can do wonders, right?, especially when there aren’t any dead people appearing to maybe haunt you.”

Tom laughed again and realized that Kathryn seemed to be on her way to becoming her “old” self, and that idea pleased him to no end, although he felt he should still try to watch out for her, even if it was becoming clearer that she soon would be able to look after herself just fine, and that was a pretty darn good thing, too.

(Section Twenty-six)
The lift door slid open on deck one and looking outward they gazed upon the Bridge, the epicenter of Voyager’s functions. Tom saw Kathryn inhale and he knew then that this was an important moment for her, so he gave her a supportive smile, motioning her forward. She half-smiled back and then entered the place she had spent much of her time as Captain for those seven years. Lifting her chin, she stepped forward almost like she had never left, then looked around, as if surveying her former domain. The Bridge, like the rest of Voyager, had been recently refurbished, but it was essentially the same as it had been when she was in charge.

Since Kathryn wasn’t officially now part of Starfleet, Tom did not take her around to greet the crew members, but she did stop near Harry’s station before the door of the Captain’s Ready Room, and asked him how he was doing. Harry smiled, addressing her warmly. Then Kathryn drew herself up as if she was going into battle, and after giving her an encouraging look, Tom rang the buzzer and the door opened. Tom motioned for her to go in before him and they both entered the “lion’s den.”

Chakotay politely rose when Kathryn walked in with Tom. He was struck by how composed she looked and noted that her appearance was more refined than it had been yesterday. Well, that wasn’t too surprising, of course she would strive to look her best for this meeting. Her hair was somewhat shorter now, and she had pinned it partly up. It looks lovely, came an unbidden thought. She also looked a little taller, oh, must be new shoes with higher heels, seems like she remembered previously using that little trick. She also had a look on her face that was pure Kathryn Janeway, determined but also positive, and oh-so familiar.

She stood in front of his desk and gazed at him appraisingly, and he was struck by how of course she was like his old friend, his captain, well, truth be told, the love of his life. He felt a rush of emotion at the realization that damn it, he did indeed love her, really, and the feelings that he'd had for the “previous” Kathryn were truly resurfacing from the depths where he had thought he had banished them. He wanted to touch her. But, as he gave her a polite smile, and made himself not move, he reminded himself that this was still a business meeting, and that he shouldn’t let himself get too sentimental right now. He still had the job of protecting this ship, and even the reappearance of his lost love could not keep him from his duty; he knew that she would know that, too. So, after he dismissed the first officer, he indicated she should sit down in the chair in front of his desk. She nodded her thanks to Tom, and then sat down regally. He willed himself to keep calm and started to speak.

“Kathryn,” he began, “how are you this morning?”

She chuckled softly and replied, “I’m quite well, Captain, how are you?”

He couldn’t help but chuckle himself. “I’m well, and I’m glad you’re well, so why don’t we drop shields and just try to be the old friends that we know we've been?”

She felt one of her eyebrows rise at that, but she replied cordially, “I’m willing if you are, Chakotay.”

At the sound of his name, Chakotay couldn’t help but shiver ever so slightly. He had always loved the way she had said his name, especially in their most…intimate moments, and specifically during that one special night he couldn't help but recall now. He shook his head slightly. It's not the time to go there, he admonished himself.

“Are you all right?” she asked him sweetly.

“I’m just fine,” he replied smoothly. “In fact I couldn’t be better.” He decided to send a little gibe her way, just to see what would happen. “You might not have heard this, but I met up, so to speak, with an old friend a couple weeks ago.”

“Oh, really who?” she smiled coolly.

“Valerie Archer,” he smiled back. He saw her eyes widen ever so slightly, but she quickly regained her composure.

“How nice,” she replied with a small lilt in her voice that inadvertedly indicated just a touch of annoyance.

A ha, gotcha, he grinned to himself.

“What was species 8472 doing in these parts?” She did seem concerned at that revelation, but he wasn’t supposed to tell her much about that so he quickly answered, “Long story, and unfortunately it’s …”

“Classified,” she finished for him. “Well, hopefully everything turned out all right?”

He moved quickly to assure her without divulging any secrets. “Yes, things worked out pretty well.”

“Good,” she nodded, apparently relieved, and not sounding especially eager to talk about "Valerie," which Chakotay found rather endearing.

His previous reticence to be around her was quickly evaporating. This person might not be the original Kathryn Janeway in body, but it was pretty obvious that she was Kathryn Janeway in most every way that counted. The intelligence and passion in her eyes, the determined tilt of her chin, the fullness of her voice, it was all there, he realized. He became aware again of how undone he had behaved before, especially when they had argued yesterday in her quarters. Even after her identity had been essentially confirmed, he had still overreacted in his treatment of her. No wonder Capt. Eden had kind of had to take him in hand; he must have seemed somewhat like a petulant boy.

But, he had been truly shocked upon seeing Kathryn in his bedroom yesterday, so he wasn’t going to beat him self up too much for something of an understandable reaction to an extraordinary occurrence. But, because of the professional nature of this meeting, he did feel like he needed another opportunity to make amends to her after how he had acted yesterday, so he did what any self-respecting male tried when he needed to apologize to a woman, he attempted to catch her off guard.

“Listen, Kathryn,” he said. This was the moment of truth. “Would you like to have dinner with me tonight?”

She looked quite surprised at the invitation, her eyes widening.

Oh, that wasn’t expected, good, he thought, no harm in getting her a little off-balance.

“Oh,” she responded, “how…kind of you.”

“I’m not being kind,” he chuckled. “I just want us to have a nice evening together.”

“Why?” She recovered quickly and was on full yellow alert mode.

He decided that honesty and sincerity right now was probably the best policy. “Because, Kathryn, I feel I was unfair to you yesterday and I’d like for us to get back on track.”

“Us?” She crossed her arms in a defensive posture; it appeared that he indeed had some damage to repair.

“Our friendship, our closeness, our…” he began.

“Stop,” she said in a no-nonsense tone. “Yesterday you acted like I was practically the devil incarnate, but you now want to be…close?”

“Kathryn,” he exhaled; he didn’t want their interaction to degenerate again into a shouting match. “I apologize for how I treated you when we spoke yesterday afternoon and I would like us to try again.”

“To do what?” she sighed.

“I don’t know exactly,” he admitted, still unsure of himself, even if he was surer of his feelings.

Well, that was the wrong thing to say. Her eyes flamed cold fire and she looked ready to bolt, and he found he certainly didn’t want that, so he abruptly just did the only thing that came to him, damned the occasion: he jumped up, ran around his desk, gently pulled her out of her chair, and took her in his arms like he never wanted to let her go again. She resisted at first, but gradually relaxed in his embrace, and she drew her arms around his waist. Her head was buried in his shoulder, so he couldn’t see her face, but he soon heared her sniffling, and there was a definite wet feeling permeating his uniform top.

“Kathryn,” he whispered, trying not to cry himself. “I’m so sorry.”

She moved a little away from him, lifted her head, and gave him a slight little smile. Her eyes were bright, but hopeful. “I’m sorry, too; I know you must have been terribly hurt before.”

“I was waiting in Venice for you,” he admitted, with a catch in his voice.

“Oh, god.” One of her hands reached up to touch his face. “What happened?”

“Mark Johnson came to find me.” He loved it that she was touching him, but he tried to get control of himself, or else he might really lose it.

“Oh, no.” A lone tear trickled down her face.

“Well, it’s all right now, you’re really back, right?”

“You bet, Mister.” She moved her hand off his face, and put it around his neck.

He felt his head lowering without any effort on his part, and sensed her lips on his before he really knew what was happening. Their kiss was soft and full of promise, and from the familiar taste of her he knew he was right to have changed his mind, but as if they knew this conversation should really take place elsewhere, they soon separated and just looked at each other with gratitude.

“Can we continue this at dinner?” he asked softly, taking her hands in his.

“Of course, Captain.” She withdrew one of her hands to wipe her eyes. “You do have a ship to run right now.”

“Yes, yes I do,” he had to agree. “And I have a new crew member that I have to assign duties to.”

“Of course,” she tossed her head, “and I am at your service.”

(Section Twenty-seven)
They sat down in what he knew was her former favorite place, the couch by the viewport, after he replicated a couple cups of tea for them.

“Still not in the mood for coffee?” he observed.

“Just don’t have a taste for it yet,” she admitted. “The Doctor says it might take a little time for my 'buds to get fully working again.”

“Well,” he quipped. “I guess a little coffee ‘break’ won’t hurt you too much, since you must have drunk, oh, how many gallons a week during the last 10 years?”

“Ha, ha,” she smirked. “Maybe it really is the cosmos telling me to lay off the caffeine, who knows?”

“Well, maybe there are other beverages you can enjoy,” he teased. Gods, it felt so good to talk to her like this again. He felt almost free at this moment, and it was even better than the contentment he had been experiencing lately. He had thought that the heartaches of the past were behind him, but while he had felt like he was living again, he now was thinking he was ready to love again. Maybe the spirits were telling him that it would be a mistake to not take advantage of the gift they were returning to him, a gift that he would be hard pressed not to accept, even with the risk that she could possibly leave him again. Well, hell, he pondered, I could be taken away from her just as fast. He gazed at her sitting there sipping her tea like a lady of the manor, his Kathryn, restored to him again, and it wasn’t a dream. They had a lot to catch up on, and still some healing to do together, but he now knew he wanted to take the chance to be with her, as long as she was willing to do the same with him.

“Yes, well,” she wrinkled her nose, “it won’t really feel right until I can enjoy my coffee again, but I guess tea will have to do for now.”

“Tea for two, huh?” he dimpled at her.

“Always,” she agreed.

Once they finished their tea, they were down from their high enough to talk business.

“We need to put you to work, Kathryn,” he smiled at her. “That is, if you’re feeling up to it.”

“Well, I think I’m ‘up to’ being of use to you and Voyager,” she agreed, “as long as you can put up with me.”

“No problem,” he laughed. “Now,” he continued, becoming more serious, “the Doctor says the tests he and Cambridge have given you indicate that your knowledge and memories should be intact.”

“Well,” she chuckled, “I guess you could try quizzing me.”

“OK,” he countered. “Name the first ten digits of Pi.”

“Oh well,” she sniffed. “You mean 3.1415926535? I thought you were going to ask me something difficult.”

“Well, I didn’t want to overwhelm you,” he smirked.

“Hmmm,” she countered back, “why don’t you just tell me what work you have in mind for me?”

“All right,” he nodded. “I could use a science advisor.”

“Don’t you have a science officer?” she uttered.

“I have two, plus two assistants, PLUS an astrometrics advisor. They’re inundating me with reports on the fascinating new discoveries they’re making in the Delta Quadrant.” He looked as harried as he sometimes felt.

“Oh, and we know how much you love reading loads of science reports,” she grinned.

“I don’t mind reading reports,” he protested. “It’s epics I have a harder time with.”

“Too many over-enthusiastic science-track Academy graduates?” she snickered.

“Exactly,” he sighed, “who are so delighted to be transversing new territory with so many exciting new sights that they’re producing enough over-detailed, highly technical missives that it almost makes my head spin.”

“Why don’t you just tell them to limit their reports to a certain number of words?" She was not an starship ex-captain for nothing.

“And limit their enthusiasm?” Chakotay said in mock horror. “What kind of captain would I be to want my officers to be less precise and productive? No, that’s where you can come in.” He appreciated that Kathryn actually started to look interested, so went back over to his desk, picked up a pile of PADDs and brought them back. “I would like you to read through these excellent fonts of knowledge, and distill each report, which will be duly recorded into our database, of course, into, say, 1000 words, or less.” He gave her a cheeky grin as she rolled her eyes wryly.

She picked up one PADD and started to read it. [Enthusiastic Academy graduates, indeed!] She wondered, after just reading a few paragraphs, if maybe they were secretly working on getting started on their graduate theses.

But, she did figure she could summarize these missives into something an overburdened captain could work with easier. She remembered actually enjoying reading most of the science reports that had been submitted to her as captain, unless they also arrived in multitudes every so often. So, this assignment was definitely up her alley, and it pleased her that she could contribute this way, although there was one other question she had of him before taking on the tasks. “Chakotay?” she inquired sincerely, “why don’t you tell them to attach a summary of each report for you?”

“Now, Kathryn,” he looked slightly wounded, “I also don’t want my officers to think I’m not able to read through and appreciate their hard work.”

“So, what are you going to tell them I’m going to do?” She wasn’t exactly sure she should be part of a "conspiracy," although she could sympathize with his plight.

“Well, you’ll be reviewing them, of course,” he deadpanned. “It might even be an incentive for them to have Kathryn Janeway checking their reports.”

“So, I’d be kind of like their science professor,” she looked amused.

“A prominent science professor,” he assured her, “with four brilliant and conscientious students.”

“Just four, hmm?” One of her eyebrows rose. “And don’t they have a supervisor?” she frowned.

“Well, the astrometrics advisor would probably get wind of our little ‘arrangement’ rather quickly.” She nodded in agreement at his assumption. “And they do report to the Operations Officer, who’s rather overburdened herself, and who will be, I’m sure, glad to have your assistance, as long as I tell her you’re not judging anyone.”

“Oh, I would never do that, of course,” she pursed her lips to keep from grinning. “And I’m sure you'll still enjoy reading the astrometrics advisor’s reports.”

“Oh, absolutely,” he winked at her, “and I’ll be glad to pass them on to you for your own enjoyment.” He then gratefully handed the pile of PADDS over to her, planning to tell Tom to arrange for her to meet the science team that afternoon. “Now, of course, Ms. Janeway, I would hope to get my summaries in a timely manner.”

“Aye, aye, Captain.” She saluted him, marveling at the pile of PADDs now in her lap. “I’ll give these all my full attention.”

“All right,” he grinned, but then turned more serious. “The Doctor has advised me, though, that for the time being he doesn’t want you overextending yourself, so you shouldn't work more than six hours a day.”

“Oh, well,” she rolled her eyes again. “I’m sure he’s just looking out for me, so I promise not to over do it.”

“Well, I know you’ve got this new, younger body and all…” he started, but was interrupted by her tapping him with a PADD, so he stopped himself before he got into any trouble.  “No, Kathryn, the Doctor still wants to keep monitoring you, so try not to overstress yourself. You’re really doing me a favor.”

“Well, you know,” she countered, “the Q might be a little insulted if they heard you thought they gave me a frail body.”

“Well, I won’t tell them if you don’t,” he promised, smiling. The heat between them was starting to grow again, so the captain called an end to the meeting, but they agreed to see each other again at 1900 hours. “My quarters, and I’ll cook, of course,” he affirmed happily.

“I’ll be there.” She squeezed one of his hands and left with the PADDs, feeling almost that she was floating.

He watched her go and felt like he was almost flying.

(Section Twenty-eight)

By the time 1900 hours rolled around and Kathryn nervously presented herself at the door of Chakotay’s (and her former) quarters, she'd had such a full day that she was having a hard time taking it all in. After leaving their meeting, she had gone to back to sickbay where the Doctor clucked over her and muttered something about “elevated phermones,” but had pronounced her fit as long as she strived to eat more. “Yogurt for breakfast is adequate, but you need some carbohydrates, too, so add a piece of toast tomorrow,” he had instructed.

She had just smiled sweetly and promised to have a bread roll at lunch. Then he had asked her if she’d like to go to the holodeck with him sometime to see the latest holonovel he was working on, which she had bemusedly agreed to, although she sincerely hoped it was not about Voyager again.

She then had gone back to her quarters and quickly reviewed some more of the PADDs. “Boy, Chakotay wasn’t kidding,” she had muttered to herself. “These ‘kids’ are real eager beavers.” Then she had had lunch with Tom and Harry and hadn’t even minded much when Hugh Cambridge stopped by to chat for a bit.

When he left, Tom had laughed, “Still checking up on you, Kathryn?”

“Maybe he just wants to write a paper on counseling former dead people, I wonder,” Kathryn had sniffed.

“He’s actually a pretty interesting fellow,” Tom had proffered. “I'm sure he'll grow on you after awhile.”

“I’m suppose,” Kathryn had replied. “I just don’t want him examining me every time I’m around him. I have enough problems with the Doctor.”

“He’s got you over a barrel, huh?” Tom had grinned.

“He loves it,” Kathryn had rolled her eyes, “that I can’t give him orders now.”

Harry had chuckled at that although he had stopped when he realized that he was laughing at his former captain, but Kathryn had just winked at him good-naturedly.

Later, she indeed had met with the four science officers. Chakotay had stopped in briefly to explain her new function, but then left them to sort out the details of their new collaboration. They, even the Lieutenant with some experience, had seemed fairly in awe of her (of course they could be just in awe that I’m actually breathing, she had thought wryly) so they were willing to send her their reports as well as to the captain. She had then assured them she wanted to learn from their work as well as being a reviewer. They had seemed pleased that their efforts would get more attention, so the meeting had ended with the young officers leaving energized, and Kathryn feeling gratified that she could assist the captain and help Voyager.  At least it was a start.

Then, after B’Elanna had given her a tour of the remodeled Engine Room, and Kathryn had happily reunited with Lt. Vorik, she had then gone with B’Elanna back to her friend’s quarters to say hello to Miral, who was again just getting up from her nap, but had seemed accepting enough of Kathryn that she had sat with her on the couch while Kathryn read her a story, which B’e had appreciated having some reports herself to review. Kathryn had told B’e about her new duties, and they had chatted some about B'e’s new job as Fleet Engineering Advisor. Kathryn had been tempted to tell B’e about her dinner tonight with Chakotay, but she had resisted, not wanting her friend to make a big deal about it. But, since she would not be allowed to overwork, she did volunteer to babysit Miral sometimes. Besides, spending time with Miral, although B’e had warned her that the little girl was not always so good-natured, would be a pleasure.

After leaving B’Elanna, Kathryn had returned to her quarters, after stopping by Seven’s place to arrange for a tour of Astrometrics soon. They had visited a bit, and Seven had confided to her that she was meeting Hugh Cambridge, with a couple of others, for dinner. Kathryn was amused at the difference between Seven now, practically a social butterfly, and the Seven who had previously been on Voyager. Of course, she was no longer part Borg, but while experienced more in human life, she was still flowering personally. Kathryn wasn’t sure if Cambridge was the right man for her former protégé, but she thought maybe it was a possibility. That Seven and Chakotay had not worked out was not something Kathryn was too sorry about, if she wasn’t averse to admitting a bit of selfishness. Of course, if she hadn’t come back, then Chakotay would have had to look for someone else.

That thought had rather disturbed her so she was grateful she had done so, even if her life was somewhat constrained now by the Q. Well, maybe it was time for her to spend a little more time on the people she loved than on the work she had given her last life for. If her light would shine now a little less brightly, then so be it. She was hoping to find some happiness now with the man she loved; she had known that from the moment she had again laid eyes on him, just yesterday.

Well, speaking of that man, she had stopped ruminating and started getting ready for the evening. She had considered replicating a new dress but she decided just to put her blue one in the refresher and get it back with a slightly different color, maybe, um, blue-green. That should go well with my eyes, she had thought, enjoying the novelty of deciding on a dress color. The other day she had been wondering if Lady Q was going to come and wisk her away somewhere again, and now she was contemplating evening wear, how amusing. She also had replicated some new, well, underclothing (just in case, of course), since the Starfleet standard issue might be a little …um underwhelming.

Thinking of fancier underwear had made Kathryn think of her sister Phoebe, which made her think of her mother. She needed to touch base with Capt. Eden again about how and when her family would be notified she was back, but she guessed that would probably happen when Eden got back to her about her legal status. The thought about what her family had experienced because of her second presumed death of course truly saddened her. She hoped that she would be able to speak with them soon, that they would be accepting of her new physical appearance, and that she could give them some comfort after all they had gone through. She knew her mother was still a strong woman even as she had aged, but, still she had had too many difficult times throughout her life, and Kathryn hoped she could somehow, in some way, make it up to her now.

But then, here she was, with her blue-green dress on, and her Italian pumps, and her hair down like she knew Chakotay liked, a little extra make-up on, and a lot of hope at what was perhaps to happen beyond that door. This was a place that that once been her domain, but now could become a venue for the reclamation of her sweetest dreams. She wasn’t sure what exactly going to happen tonight but she certainly wished upon the stars that the evening would be worth the wait.

(Section Twenty-nine)
The door chime sounded even though she didn’t remember touching it, but then it wasn’t surprising that she was wool-gathering again. The door slid open, and then she entered what appeared to be something of a wonderland. There were small twinkling lights attached to the edge of the room’s ceiling, and several smaller vases of peace roses strategically scattered around the room. In the middle, the dining table was set about as sumptuously as could be, with a small candelabra sitting in the middle sporting three tapered gold and white lit candles, and a small fluted vase with one beauteous rose inside it in front.

As she walked in, she thought it was one of the more charming sights she had ever seen, even over two lives. Of course, nothing was more charming than the lovely man standing next to the table beaming at her. He was dressed in a light brown suit with an opened-necked tan buttoned shirt, and she could perfectly see the delight on his smiling face even with the main lights dimmed. He came towards her with his arms stretched out in welcome. She managed to take but a step or two before he was upon her, and, taking her hands in his, he drew her closer.

“Hello, Kathryn,” he greeted her, his eyes reflecting the lights on the walls.

“Hello, Chakotay,” she said, basking in the glow of his warmth. “Quite a place you’ve got here.”

“Yes, well, are you impressed?” he laughed, seeming quite carefree.

“Very,” she assured him.

“Good,” he replied. “I wanted to sweep you off your feet.”

“Consider me swept.” She found it a little hard to breathe, her heart was beating so pleasantly fast.

“Well, then, my lady,” he turned to lead her to the table, “shall we dine?”

She of course said yes, so he ushered her to her chair, seating her with a bit of a flourish. He poured her a glass of sparkly looking wine and announced he would get dinner. She took a sip of the wine and was pleased that it didn’t taste too much like vinegar. The ol’ taste buds might be starting to wake up, she thought as Chakotay came back with two plates of something actually smelling delicious and …familiar.

“How’s your appetite tonight?” he inquired as he laid the plate in front of her.

“Oh, it’s …there,” she answered, as he sat down in his chair cornered next to her.

“Great,” he replied. “If you’re good and eat what’s on your plate, you might get a reward.”

“Dessert?” she laughed.

“Oh, that, too.” He gave her a saucy look, causing her to feel a little fluttery. She did hope that her reward might be something more …exciting than perhaps a piece of cheesecake, but she thought she could anticipate both if she was actually hungry enough, in more ways than one. She realized that she was staring at him, which he probably was noticing, so she lowered her eyes with a smile and took a bite of the food. It definitely tasted familiar, although she couldn’t quite place it, her food sense being still rather nebulous.

“It’s a dish you served me once, about six or so years ago,” he offered, noticing her puzzlement.

“Well, it’s quite nice,” she noted, “but maybe you should just tell me what it is.”

“It’s your grandmother’s recipe; you made it the night…” he started, observing her keenly.

“The night before we took our almost ill-fated slipstream drive trip.” Her eyes grew misty at his memory and thoughtfulness.

“Right,” he looked as moved as she felt. “When you wined me and dined me.”

“To help persuade you to support me.” She was a little embarrassed to admit that, but he didn’t seem too bothered to hear her say it.

“Oh,” he did give her a bit of a pout, “here I had been thinking that you might be trying to seduce me.”

She gulped so hard she had to quickly take a drink of water so she wouldn’t choke. The rogue! He knew darn well that she hadn’t really meant to do that, although maybe she had intended to romance him a bit. She did remember entertaining the thought that night that if they did get home, by the next evening she might have the chance to truly start courting him, or let him court her, but of course they hadn’t quite made it back home the next day, and not for almost three more years.

“Really, Chakotay,” she looked askance at him while trying not to laugh, “if I had wanted to seduce you I don’t know if I would have had to wine AND dine you.”

“Oh, just one or the other, huh?” he chuckled. “Well, at least you thought you had to put in some effort into, um, getting me closer.”

She sighed a little at the lost opportunities in the years gone by. The worst part was that even after they had got back before to the AQ, she had wasted well over a year before she actually thought to suggest something remotely romantic to him. That he had actually responded to her tentative overture had been more a credit to his generous nature than to her feminine charms. Looking back, she opined that it was almost a miracle that they had actually spent that one night together, just about the best one of her life, their signals had been so crossed. And now they were here, and he was wining and dining her, so what were the signals now? Well, she hoped she could respond to them, since she of all people knew how one should take advantage of what may be offered, or else there might not be a next time.

“A credit for your thoughts,” he said softly.

“Just mulling over the past,” she shrugged.

“Maybe tonight isn’t the time to think about the past,” he ventured. “Why don’t we try to just concentrate on the present?”

“A fortuitous thought,” she presented. “You always were the more positive one.”

“Not always,” he pointed out. “It was your determination that got us home the last time.”

“And then got me killed,” she blurted out, but put her hand to her mouth in sorrow. “I’m so sorry,” she stammered.

“Don’t be.” He reached over and took her hand in his. “We have to face the past so we can deal with it.”

“But you already have faced the past,” she pointed out.

“More or less,” he nodded. “But then again, it doesn’t hurt to be reminded.”

“Why?” She marveled that he was sanguine enough to dredge it all up.

“Because then we’ll appreciate more what we have now,” he now asserted. “And acknowledging the past can only help us to better deal with the future.”

“Well, perhaps then,” she said softly, “we can truly starting putting the past behind us.”

“Well, I admit I wouldn’t mind that.” He squeezed her hand in response.

She squeezed his back, trying to show him how much she wanted that, too. She only hoped she could get to that place where guilt could be banished and only positive notions would be at the forefront. She was afraid even her revived nature was still such that she would always be weighed down by too many regrets.

But she had decided that, starting tonight, she would embrace the new life that she had been given, and she would accept whatever he might offer, as best as she was able. And she wanted to be able, with all her heart. “I’m here for you, Chakotay,” she managed to get out.

“No, you’re here for us,” he responded, “and I’m here for you. We’re in this together once again.”

“Of course,” she smiled.

With some coaxing from Chakotay, she managed to finish most of her dinner, although she still only sipped the wine. She ended up eating only a very small piece of the anticipated cheesecake, although she did somewhat appreciate the taste. She still just wasn’t all that hungry, although maybe some of that was due to being alone with him. Good grief, she wasn’t still nervous, was she? Well, yes, she was, she had to admit. The only time she had “been” with the man, was technically years ago in her mind, although in some ways it did feel almost like yesterday. The time she had spent with Lady Q was dimming a bit in her consciousness, almost like an illusion, so the memories she carried of her previous life were now growing a bit sharper. This evening, though, might later seem a little misty, with the dreamy quality of the atmosphere, and her penchant for drifting off every once in awhile. A couple times Chakotay gently reminded her that he was speaking, but at least he just seemed a little bemused at her inattention.

“Are you bored, Kathryn?” he teased.

“I’m sorry,” she apologized, mentally shaking herself to get it together, “just reminiscing.”

“Anything in particular?” he leaned over and idly put one of his hands back on hers.

“No, just this and that,” she fibbed.

“Well,” he smiled, “maybe a little…coffee would help you keep awake?”

“Coffee, huh?” she inhaled slightly. “I guess there’s no harm in trying.” She wasn’t exactly longing for a cup, but the thought didn’t exactly disgust her, so she let Chakotay take her hand and lead her over to the couch by the big viewport. The display of the stars streaking by filled her with nostalgia.

“More of a familiar sight, now?” he inquired softly as they stood there holding hands.

She sat down and waited for him to bring the coffee, wondering if maybe things were moving a little too fast. Yesterday he hadn’t cared to be around her, and now he was evidently wooing her. Not that she minded, but she hoped he wasn’t swinging too far on the other side of the pendulum. They hadn’t spoken of anything else too significant over dinner, just about some of the personalities of his new crew, and a little on how strange it had been to transverse so many light years back from Earth in a few hours. Apparently there had been a few problems, but he and the crew were hopeful things were fixed now. They even had reminisced some about their previous time in the Delta Quadrant, and of the alien species they had encountered, and perhaps would meet again soon.

“Hopefully the more friendly ones,” Chakotay had joked, but Kathryn well remembered the dangers they had faced, and she knew he had to be realistic about the chances of avoiding more trouble.

When Chakotay brought the coffee and the additives, he sat down next to her on the couch, and then poured her a small cup and watched mindfully as she took a sip. It tasted extremely bitter to her, even though Chakotay said it was the richest blend he could find. Even so, she relished her first “human” taste of her favorite beverage, no, previously practically her lifeblood, in quite a while.

“How is it?” he asked a trifle anxiously.

“Not bad,” she gave him a half smile. “At least my taste buds seem to be recognizing what I’m drinking.”

“Well, you have mentioned before that drinking black coffee was an acquired taste,” he noted as he poured himself a cup and splashed in a little cream and, thankfully, only one sugar. “I should really be watching my weight,” he joshed as Kathryn laughed with him, although it occurred to her that he actually seemed thinner than she remembered. She sipped a bit more of her coffee and decided that she needed to know more about what happened to him after she had “died,” and now was a good time for her to press him to divulge a little more, painful as it might be for him to share some of his previous anguish. But if they were indeed to move forward with their relationship, they would have to communicate with each other the bad as well as the good. Just acknowledging that they still loved each other would not be enough; they would have to re-establish that they each truly trusted the other again as well.

(Section Thirty)
Chakotay noticed that she was looking rather thoughtful and he guessed that perhaps it was time for them to get a little more serious, well, as in serious talk, instead of, for now, the meaningful physical touching he was looking forward to. Well, he surmised, life might be getting better, but that didn’t mean it would be any less complicated. So, he hemmed in the fear that threatened his new-found hope of happiness, and when Kathryn put her coffee cup down, and looked at him with loving concern, he prepared himself to field whatever she might throw at him.

She picked up one of his hands with hers and stroked it gently. “What happened to you after I died, Chakotay?” she asked, hoping it wouldn’t hurt him too much to tell her. “I know perhaps some things are classified, but can you please tell me some of it?” She scooted over a bit so she was sitting flush next to him, which she hoped would inspire him to some greater well, emotional intimacies.

He squeezed her hand back and briefly hesitated. “Kathryn, it wasn’t pretty. In fact, some of it was pretty wretched.”

“You can tell me, Chakotay.” She looked him in the eye as sympathetically as she could. “I mean, I told you about dying, what could be worse?”

“Sometimes trying to live again can be almost worse than dying.” He looked straight back at her without flinching, trying to convey to her how serious his secrets were. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to share them with her, but in thinking he had put most of that behind him, it was difficult to dig it all up again, even for her. That he had gone through some of that hell because of her was almost irrelevant, because he loved her he didn’t want to burden her; that she loved him and wanted to share his pain was maybe a better reason, but he didn’t know it was enough of one. Still, she had told him something of what she had experienced while he had thought she was dead, so he guessed he could tell her about what he had done while he was alive. He knew that he wanted them to be together, so, for better or for worse, he would do this for her, for them.

“Is it all right that I just give you a summary now? Otherwise, it could take all evening, and well, I admit I had some other more pleasant activities in mind.” He gave her his most charming, dimpled smile, which thankfully had the desired effect on her; she gave him her familiar crooked smile, and then nodded.

“Well,” he started, “After the...memorial service, I started drinking, while wanting revenge on the Borg, then there was an incident where an Orion vessel was destroyed. Then, after going on leave, I decamped to this island, and sat there in the cold and rain, practically starving myself because I was so angry, so damned angry, that Starfleet had sent you somewhere that got you killed. And, when Starfleet recalled me, and made me go into counseling, I discovered that I was also angry at...you for going into such a dangerous situation. I thought my soul had sunk into a black hole. When Starfleet decided not to give Voyager back to me, I resigned. But when Seven needed my help we took the Alpha Flyer and reached Voyager before it started back to the Delta Quadrant. They did want Seven to come with them, so I was allowed to stay, too. I can’t tell you exactly what happened next, but as you can see I’m Captain of Voyager again. And, well, then you showed up. And here we are.”

He had clenched Kathryn’s hand so hard while he was speaking that he hoped he hadn’t broken one of her bones, but she hadn't flinched. And despite tears that were streaming down her face, she managed to give him a tremulous smile, then wiped her face with her other hand, and then leaned over and kissed him softly on his cheek, next to his lips, but not quite on them. He trembled slightly, partly from the effort to have gone deep and impart those terrible things, but also partly from feeling this close to her again.

“Thank you for telling me. I’m so sorry for what happened,” she whispered. “All I can do is tell you that I love you.”

“And I love you, too.” He moved his lips slightly over and gave her a real kiss.

She ended up not spending the night, but they did indulge in some serious and delightful touching, unbuttoning some buttons, feeling and tasting a little flesh, but as wonderful as it was to be literally feeling each other again, they decided to stop at a certain point, as they agreed that they were both rather tired, and besides, they didn’t want to overdo things on their first “official” date.

“Besides,” Kathryn observed wryly, blissfully sitting wrapped in his strong, but gentle arms, “I’m out of practice at this stuff.”

“Me, too, actually,” he replied.

“You haven’t been with another woman since we…?”

“Nope,” he shook his head. “Well, first I didn't want to, of course, and then wasn’t in the mood, well not yet.”

“Oh well, then,” she laughed, “I guess I came back just in time."

“Maybe so,” he smirked noncommittally. “And I don’t want to rush you, but for whatever you’re up for, I sure won’t refuse you.”

“Oh, well,” she could have blushed except that she was already looking rather rosy from his kisses, “since my goal is now to embrace life, I’ll try to be as accommodating as possible to assuage your, ah, needs.”

“Our needs,” he reminded her. “Remember, we’re in this together now.”

“Who am I to disagree?” she replied, sighing happily.

He walked her back to her quarters, saw her inside, and after a soulful kiss goodnight, left her with a promise to meet her for lunch tomorrow and see how she was doing on her first day “back to work.” He delighted her with the information that her security clearance was now level two. “Captain’s orders,” he confided, grinning.

“That’s one of the best presents you could give me,” she admitted, giving him one last touch for the night.

“Oh, you’re easy to please,” he quipped. “I’ll remember that when I give you your next present.”

“But, it’s really my turn to give you a present,” she pointed out. “It’s only fair.”

“You’ve already given me a gift,” he replied before taking his leave, “your asking to be sent to me. I can’t imagine a better expression of showing someone’s trust.” He then left her reluctantly, but with the promise of a better tomorrow. The best part was that this time they wouldn’t have to brave waiting almost a year for that tomorrow to come. They both slept well that night, dreaming of what brightness the next morning might bring.

(Section Thirty-one)
Kathryn found herself, on her third day of her new life, feeling like she was definitely getting into the swing of things on the good ship Voyager. She did breakfast with B’Elanna, Miral, and Seven, then she went to the Science Department where she had a little cubby hole of an office, which didn’t do much for her lurking claustrophobia, but thankfully she could do much of her work in her quarters, where at least there was a viewport to look out from. Before she was to meet Chakotay for lunch (who had sweetly commed her earlier to wish her a good morning), she went again to sickbay to confer with the Doctor, who gave her her daily scan, pronounced her fit, advised her AGAIN to try to keep eating more, and then agreed to adjust her errant gene the day after next.

She then met Chakotay at the Holodeck, where they spent an lovely hour in a re-creation of New Earth (sans monkey) that Chakotay surprised her with. They had a picnic by the river, and because she now had the higher security rating, he was able to tell her a bit more about Voyager’s new mission. Kathryn then invited him to dinner in her quarters that evening, and promised him decent fare since she now had such a nice new replicator. Chakotay, though, offered to still bring the wine, from another private stash, brought with him from the Alpha Quadrant. They were both trying not to be too giddy about their new-found good fortune, not wanting to fool themselves into believing sustaining their re-established relationship would be simple. Chakotay would momentarily brood that he was really dreaming, and Kathryn was afraid she was living in a fantasy.

“Well, if it’s a fantasy, Kathryn,” Chakotay pointed out, “then we should take advantage of the opportunity to experience it!”

“Well, I prefer to hope this truly is reality,” Kathryn responded. “Besides, if it really was a fantasy, you’d think I would like coffee more again.”

Kathryn then returned to her quarters and was working on distilling some of the science reports when Tom Paris commed her from his office. “Hi, Kathryn,” he responded after she greeted him. “I want you to know that Miral can’t stop talking about her ‘Aunt Katrin.’ I think you’ve made fan for life, or at least for the duration,” he grinned.

“Well, I’ve fallen in love with her all over again,” Kathryn related.

“She’s going to be spoiled silly by all her new aunts and uncles,” he joked. “But even besides helping babysit, you will definitely still be her chief auntie.”

“As well I should be, Tom,” Kathryn laughed. “Remember, she’s my namesake.”

“B’Elanna and I wouldn’t have it any other way, and by the way are you free at about 1600 hours?”

(Section Thirty-two)
She was sitting there reflecting that life couldn’t get more wonderful when unexpectantly came a call from none other than Hugh Cambridge. What now? she thought with a touch of irritation.

“Kathryn,” he greeted her with some enthusiasm, “how are things going for you today?”

“Uh, fine, Hugh.” He seemed a little too cheerful for him, depending on what he was up to, of course.

“Well, Capt. Eden asked me to accompany you to a meeting with her on the Hawking.”

“What meeting?” Kathryn asked, confused.

“The meeting that she just called me about,” he rolled his eyes at little at her not catching his drift immediately.

“I’m not a mind-reader, Hugh,” she chided him, directing a semi-glare to the console’s viewscreen. "What is the meeting's purpose?”

“Well,” he revealed a bit smugly, “she thought you’d like to speak to Admiral Montgomery today at 1500 hours.”

“Oh, really.” Kathryn tried not to sound too excited. Admrl. Montgomery had been her superior officer, even when she had been an Admiral herself, so it was no small thing that he was communicating all the way to the Delta Quadrant to speak to her.

“Does Captain Chakotay know about this meeting?” Kathryn wondered if Cambridge had any inkling that she and Chakotay had reconciled, but the captain still was now her superior officer, too.
.
“He’s been informed, but he’s in a meeting in Engineering, so he won’t be able to go with us to the Hawking. But, don’t worry, Kathryn, I’ll be there to support you if you need it.”

Kathryn shook her head after he signed off, thankful that he worked as Chakotay’s ship counselor instead of for her. [Chakotay hadn’t liked him in the first place, and I’m still not sure I do now.] She felt rebellious at being so contrary but guess it couldn't be helped. She looked at the chronometer, heck, it was 1432. She just had enough time to pull herself together a little more professionally to meet with Capt. Eden and the Admiral.

She managed to be ready when Cambridge came to collect her fourteen minutes later. After he had called, she had left a message for Chakotay about the meeting just to make double sure that he knew about it, and then re-fixed her hair. When she walked with Hugh, who thankfully said little to her besides she looked well, toward the lift on the way to the transporter, she felt a little breathless, but still calm enough that she thought she could get through the next time-period with some kind of ease.

(Section Thirty-three)
When Kathryn and Cambridge beamed over to the Hawking, they were directed straight to Capt. Eden’s ready room. Kathryn looked around the room with some interest; it was a little smaller than Voyager’s, but designed quite efficiently, and fitted with all the latest technological devices. She was most interested in the largish viewscreen placed on the wall by the Captain’s desk, which could be viewed by the captain and two other people sitting in front by just turning their chairs toward it. I could have used such a device when I was captain, Kathryn mused, it would have saved me the trouble of shifting my computer around when I wanted to show someone something.

Capt. Eden greeted them graciously and asked Kathryn how she was doing. Kathryn assured her she was well, although not revealing how happy she was, or why, of course.

“We should be getting the call from Admrl. Montgomery any minute now,” Capt. Eden advised. “Meanwhile, Lt. Cambridge, would you please get from the replicator the standard refreshment package?”

Cambridge moved, with no protest, Kathryn noted, to the replicator and came back with a tray with beverages and such, which he placed on Eden’s desk. Well, Kathryn thought, now sitting down, Eden sure has her officers well-trained. Cambridge sat down after getting his own coffee, the captain got her own, and motioned for Kathryn to take what she liked. She poured herself some tea, still not really craving coffee, at least not while she was waiting for such an important call from the Admiral. Then, as if on cue, Eden’s console beeped, and the voice from the Ops. Officer was heard, declaring that Admrl. Montgomery was on tap. Eden smiled encouragingly to Kathryn, then opened the channel.

Kathryn heard Kenneth Montgomery’s voice greeting the captain, then Eden told him that Kathryn was there waiting to speak to him. At Montgomery’s assent, Eden entered a command on the console and then the Admiral’s craggy visage appeared on the viewscreen. Kathryn, sitting nearest to the viewscreen, put her cup down and turned her chair to the right to face her old friend. Admrl. Montgomery's eyes squinted at first upon seeing Kathryn sitting there as plain as day, but he quickly recovered, greeting her, “Kathryn, it’s truly a pleasure for me to be able to speak to you again, how are you faring?”

“I’m fine, thank you, sir,” Kathryn smiled. “How are things on Earth?” She knew, from what she had recently learned, that conditions in Federation territory weren’t the best, but she hoped that, with the end of the Borg War, life there would be getting better.

“Well, I’m sure you’ve heard we’ve had some difficulties,” he replied gravely, “but we’re trying to improve conditions for everyone.”

“I’m so regretful about what’s happened, Ken.” Kathryn hoped he didn’t mind her familiarity, but she had been on “first name” basis with him since before she first was in the Delta Quadrant and by his lack of objection, he didn’t seem to. “You know I had hoped by destroying the Borg hub near here the threat would be greatly diminished.”

“I guess, Kathryn,” he offered with a trace of irony, “we all have learned that against an enemy like the Borg our best efforts might not be enough to stop them, but now we can only go forward to rebuild our worlds. But,” he leaned forward, eyeing Kathryn intently, “we don’t need to speak of that now; the main subject of this meeting is, of course, you.” He smiled at her avuncularly and she tried to feel encouraged by his seemingly positive manner.

“Thank you,” she replied, hoping she projected a positive face back to him. “I’ve been gratified by my welcome here from Voyager’s crew and Capt. Eden.” She diplomatically left out Chakotay’s initial reaction, since she hoped that was now a moot point. “That they have accepted who I am makes me feel I can indeed make a life for myself again.”

“Well,” he went on, “that life, your life, is something we need to discuss now. I understand you’re not in the position to become Admrl. Janeway again, that the Q forbid it.”

“Yes,” Kathryn replied matter–a-factly, “I have to continue as plain ‘Kathryn Janeway,’ which I’m more than willing to do.” Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Capt. Eden looking a little solemn and then she began to feel a sense of uneasiness when the Admiral’s demeanor also became more serious.

“Unfortunately, Kathryn, it won’t be that easy to give you a new identity if you aren't Admrl. Janeway again. Because of the refugee situation in the Federation, there are much stricter rules on whom is allowed to settle in our worlds. If you don’t become the previous Janeway again, which we are willing to allow, the Federation will only be able to classify you as a stateless refugee, and you will have to apply for permanent residencey on Earth.“

At Kathryn’s shocked look he held up his hand to forestall her as he continued. "Of course, since Capt. Eden is letting you stay on Voyager to continue on this mission, you’ll be fine while you are in the Delta Quadrant, but if you want to come back to the Alpha Quadrant, you might be placed in a refugee facility until your legal status is decided. Unfortunately, due to the massive influx of displaced peoples, the wait for the officials to clear people can take months. This is why I feel you need to agree to become Admrl. Janeway again. We would immediately classify you as retired, of course, and would even subclassify you as disabled, so there’s no chance of you ever having to serve in Starfleet again.

"Kathryn,” he went on most seriously, “I implore you to accept Starfleet's help for your own sake; I feel we owe it to you, but we can’t fully assist you unless you do this.”

Kathryn sat there dumfounded at his statements, but managed to repeat what she had previously told Capt. Eden. “I’m sorry, Ken, but Q told me Admrl. Janeway has to stay dead, and he didn’t give me any flexibility in the matter.” She looked over at Eden who gave her a sympathetic but regretful glance, but said nothing, so Kathryn continued. “I had hoped that the Federation would still allow me to legally become Kathryn Janeway as a civilian, so I would have a history.”

“I don’t know if that will be possible.” Montgomery looked pained but resolute. “I personally spoke to the Federation Asst. Director of Immigration, but that’s what he came up with. Now, you can apply immediately for asylum, and perhaps when you come back the process will be farther along, but you have to essentially start over again as a person. I’m exasperated about it, too, but that’s the situation now. I’m sorry, I wish that we could do more. Now, you're welcome to stay on Voyager for the duration, as long as it is mutually agreeable between you and Capt. Eden; we won’t abandon you, Kathryn, but we can’t go against Federation law.”

Kathryn sat there silently, not knowing what else to say. She knew of the difficulties in the Federation, but she hadn’t thought she would end up as a woman without any status. Well, she mulled over, you can come back from the dead, I guess, but that doesn’t mean you can come back to your life. She did rouse herself enough to inquire about her family. Admrl. Montgomery replied that her mother would be notified of her “return” and that Kathryn could probably talk to her family as soon as the next day; Kathryn agreed to this, saying she hoped her mother would not be too shocked when informed, and the Admiral said that he would speak to Mrs. Janeway himself, breaking the news to her with as much sensitivity as he could. He also said that Kathryn could change her mind at any time; she just had to tell Capt. Eden.

“Meanwhile,” he intoned, “I and the rest of Starfleet Command are very pleased that you are back, and we do wish you the best for your future.” With that, he also said his goodbyes to Capt. Eden and Cambridge, and ended the communication. Capt. Eden turned back toward Kathryn as she sat there, feeling deflated.

“Kathryn, I’m sorry,” Eden said softly. “I was hoping his message would be more positive.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Kathryn replied, turning her own chair back. She had to keep it together, but at least she could look forward to hopefully speaking with her mother tomorrow.

“Kathryn,” Cambridge touched her shoulder softly. “If you would like to talk about this further, you know I am at your disposal.”

“What is there to say?” she whispered.

Cambridge started to reply when the door chime rang. Capt. Eden looked at her console and announced, “It’s Capt. Chakotay, he must have just beamed over,” then she called “Come in,” and Chakotay strode into the room, looking concerned. He went over to stand by Kathryn and from the stricken look on her face he could tell that something was wrong.

Cambridge was the first to speak. “I’m afraid Kathryn has been given some bad news, Captain.”

Chakotay put his hand on Kathryn’s shoulder, causing Eden and Cambridge to look at them curiously, but he ignored them. “Kathryn, what happened?”

“I can’t, I can’t talk about it now.” Kathryn looked up at him with enough pain in her eyes that it made Chakotay’s stomach pitch, but he made himself find his calm center; if Kathryn needed him, he had to keep in control.

“Capt. Eden,” he said to her, “does Kathryn need to stay here any longer?”

“No, Chakotay, she’s free to go.” Eden waved him off, so Chakotay took Kathryn’s arm and helped her up. She lifted her chin a little at his action, which gave him hope that she would recover her spirit soon. He nodded at Eden and Cambridge, who didn’t make any move to leave himself, but Chakotay didn’t concern himself with that; he only wanted to get Kathryn back to Voyager. Hitting his commbadge, he commanded, “Voyager, two to beam over to Kathryn Janeway’s quarters.” And a moment later they were gone, leaving Cambridge and Eden sitting there a little perplexed, but not necessarily greatly surprised.

“Well, I figured he’d come around soon enough.” Cambridge said dryly.

Eden only smiled and finished drinking her coffee.

(Section Thirty-four)
They materialized as ordered back in Kathryn’s quarters. Chakotay immediately drew Kathryn over to her little couch and they managed to both fit themselves in, and if they were a trifle snug, neither seemed to mind. Chakotay put one arm around Kathryn’s shoulders and with the other he lifted her chin so she would look up at him. “What happened, Kathryn?” Chakotay asked softly. “Whatever it is we’ll face it together.”

She looked back at him rather bleakly and then told him what had transpired.

After she finished, Chakotay was disturbed enough that he got up and started to pace around, although the small confines of the room limited his mobility. “Federation bureaucracy strikes again,” he groused. “I can’t believe they can’t, or won’t, do more for you.”

“Chakotay,” Kathryn cautioned, still feeling kind of drained, “I’m only one of many; they can only do so much, I guess.”

“But you gave your life for the Federation, you’d think they could bend some of their precious rules a little.”

“I guess the situation is so difficult on Earth they can only do what they think is possible.”

“Well, I think that’s idiotic,” he fumed. “There must be something more we can do; I don’t remember that Seven had such a problem getting her status verified at the time we got back.”

“Well, I guess things were a little different then,” Kathryn shrugged.

“They still had a refugee problem from the Dominion War,” he pointed out. “Maybe not as extensive as now but still she wasn’t threatened with being placed in a refugee camp!”

“Well, maybe that’s because I sponsored her,” Kathryn shrugged again.

“What?” Chakotay hadn’t heard her exactly in his ruminating.

“I officially sponsored her,” Kathryn repeated. “I was informed by Starfleet a few months before we came back that's what would be necessary, since she was a minor when she was last in Federation space, so I talked it over with Seven and we agreed to proceed that way, which turned out to be a good idea. When we got back to Earth she was considered an official Federation citizen by then."

Chakotay marveled at the casual way Kathryn imparted the extra effort she had gone through to ensure Seven’s legal safety. “That was quite a gift you gave her, Kathryn,” he noted.

“It really wasn’t any trouble,” she smiled her little half-grin. “I was glad to do it.”

“Well,” Chakotay had a revelation, “why don’t I sponsor you? Maybe that will help grease the bureaucratic wheel.”

Kathryn widened her eyes at his suggestion, but decided not to say anything yet, not wanting to dampen his spirits. Chakotay walked over to the computer console and asked for the Federation refugee application. Kathryn came over to look at it with him. They found the section on an applicant being sponsored by a Federation citizen, but after reading it Chakotay’s face fell. “Damn it,” he exclaimed, “the rules have been changed!” Apparently, because of the additional problems of the Borg war, now only immediate family could act as refugee sponsors.

“It’s all right, Chakotay,” Kathryn gave him a grateful smile. “It was wonderful of you to offer, though.”

“Wait,” he kept reading, “the list of immediate family members, does it include, yes!”

“What?” Kathryn looked around his shoulder wondering why he was so excited.

“Kathryn,” he turned around and clasped her shoulders, “the list includes spouses.”

“What?” She didn’t at first get his meaning, but then it slowly dawned on her. “Oh no, Chakotay, that’s not necessary.”

“It IS necessary, Kathryn,” he grinned. “That way you’ll be protected and I’ll be able to sponsor you.”

“But that’s no reason to get married!” she protested.

“Well, maybe not the best reason,” he continued sincerely, “but it wouldn’t be the only one.” He moved closer to her, and took her hands in his as she looked at him with amazement.

“Kathryn,” he asked solemnly, “I love you and I would be honored to be your husband. Will you marry me?”

She gazed at him lovingly, but his heart sank as she slowly shook her head. “Oh, Chakotay, that’s so sweet, but I don’t think anyone should get married just for expediency’s sake.”

“Kathryn,” he wouldn’t give up without a fight. “We’d be getting married because we love each other, right? Right?”

She smiled in affirmation, but still was not deterred. “But we wouldn’t be considering marriage now if there wasn’t this legal issue, right?”

He gave her an encouraging grin. “Well, I can’t say it hasn’t crossed my mind.”

She truly wanted to believe him, but it just seemed that things were moving too fast. It was just yesterday, for goodness sake, that they had even gotten back together and now they were contemplating nuptials? Kathryn wasn’t ready to decide on such an important matter, but she didn’t want to discourage him. “Well, do I have to decide right away?” she pleaded. “It’s not that I’m not…interested. I do love you, but I don’t want to rush you into anything. I mean, maybe my mother can just sponsor me, or my sister, so you wouldn’t feel obligated.”

Chakotay touched her face with his hand and looked at her intently. “Really, Kathryn, we’re hardly rushing into anything; I know I’d...wondered about this for years. And as far as your mother goes, I’m sure she’d be fine with me taking care of this, I mean, she’s not getting any younger, true? And besides, your family is on Earth, and I’m here.”

In the end, he wasn’t able to quite sway her, but he did manage to extract from her that she would consider his offer seriously. “I’m not saying no, Chakotay,” she assured him. “I’m just not saying yes right now.”

“All right,” he pouted a little, “but, remember, although I’m a patient man, I do believe that for us there really is no time like the present.”

Kathryn put her arms around his neck and just stood there holding him close. She knew she was being stubborn, but she somehow felt that it wasn’t the best idea to start a marriage under such conditions. Chakotay only shook his head and informed her that they would talk more about it over dinner, which they decided should again be in his quarters.

“I’m not giving up,” he promised her, then gave her a kiss that left her breathless, as if to remind her that his intentions were absolutely sincere. She saw him off wondering if she wasn’t just being her usual sacrificing, ridiculous self, but then, she reminded herself that sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind.

(Section Thirty-five)
Her console then beeped and, dragging herself out of her tumultuous train of thought, she drew herself up and tapped receive, then the viewscreen showed her the slightly annoyed face of B’Elanna Torres.

“Hi Kathryn,” she sounded concerned. “Are you all right?”

Kathryn suddenly remembered her date to be with Miral. “B’Elanna, I’m so sorry, something came up and I…” she tried not to sound distressed, but apparently wasn’t too successful because B’Elanna exclaimed, “What’s wrong?”

“It’s hard to explain.” Kathryn didn’t want to burden her friend, but she must have looked as conflicted as she felt because B’Elanna pursed her lips and then proclaimed, “I’ll be right over,” and cut the transmission before Kathryn could stop her.

Five minutes later, she was stomping into Kathryn’s quarters. “So, what’s the matter, Kathryn?” she pressed, after telling her that Miral was fine with her holographic nanny.

Kathryn, still reluctant about telling B’Elanna her troubles, gave her a condensed version of her dilemma. B’Elanna shook her head at Federation intransigence, muttering “those P’taqs” more than once, making Kathryn a little nervous about upsetting her.

But when Kathryn got to the end of her story of her experience in Eden’s ready room, at Chakotay’s arrival, B’Elanna brought up what she thought was an obvious question. “So, what does Chakotay think?”

Kathryn paused, not sure how much she should tell her, but B’Elanna wasn’t putting up with that. “What did he say, Kathryn? I can’t imagine he wouldn’t have an opinion.”

Kathryn decided she did need a little advice from the younger woman, from her friend. This was the kind of thing you would confide to a sister, and since Phoebe wasn’t exactly available, B’Elanna was the closest she had to one now, so she decided to confess. “He thinks we should get married, 'Lanna, then he could sponsor me.”

B’Elanna’s face went from concerned to delighted in a flash. “He did?!” she couldn't help but squeal. “Oh, Kathryn, I’m so happy for you! So, when’s the wedding?”

“B’Elanna, I, I didn’t say yes, well, not yet.”

“What?!” B’Elanna exclaimed. “That's crazy!” She couldn’t help herself; this was too much, even for Kathryn Janeway.

Kathryn’s mouth twisted into a self-conscious grimace. “Well, I didn’t exactly say no, just that we shouldn’t rush into things. Maybe we can eventually get …engaged, but…”

“Are you kidding?!” B’Elanna wanted to shake the woman. “You two could have gotten married years ago, and now you have another chance, and you’re not sure??”

“B’Elanna,” Kathryn protested weakly, “I don’t want Chakotay to marry me out of a sense of obligation.”

“Kathryn, has he said he loves you?” B’Elanna had heard from Tom that Chakotay had been quite cheerful this morning and she had hoped that something great had happened between the two, and she was now thrilled that things had come so far so fast. So, she was darned if she was going to let her former captain, her friend, make the biggest mistake of her new life. Kahless, for a woman as smart as Kathryn was, even in her second chance at living, she seemed to be, well, a little dense in some matters. “Has he?” she prompted.

“Yes, he has,” Kathryn admitted.

“Do you love him?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Well, then what are you waiting for?” B’Elanna gawked at her in disbelief. “A sign from on high? Marry the poor man, please, Kathryn, before something else might happen that rips you two apart. Then you’ll regret not acting, you know you will. And,” she fiercely added for good measure, “I frankly won’t care to see that happen, my friend.”

(Section Thirty-six)
After B’Elanna left, Kathryn still felt conflicted. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to marry Chakotay, in fact she couldn’t think of a happier prospect. But she still thought events were moving too fast for the circumstances. She just returned from being “dead” for goodness sake. Sure, she had wanted to come back to Chakotay, but that was to be with him, not to rush into something they might not be ready for. But, she suddenly remembered something Chakotay had said to her in one of their sub-space conversations while they had been apart before they were to meet in Venice.

“Remember, Kathryn,” he had teased, “I’m expecting great things for us when we meet each other again. In fact,” he had grinned in that special way of his, “I have visions of jewelry in our future, real jewelry. And I don’t mean a watch.”

She had deflected him a little, although not in a discouraging way, and had even anticipated parrying with him some more about it the next time they spoke. But their next, and it turned out last, conversation before she had gone on her fateful mission to the Borg cube, had been a little rushed, and the subject hadn’t come up again. But now she felt like she was at the edge of another precipice, although jumping off this cliff might now land her on a soft, fluffy cloud instead of a stony bottom, as if angelics now were watching over her, and Chakotay, too. So, who was she to tempt fate again? She might better move forward towards the light this time, or she could end up stuck again in another dark abyss. And she knew that was the last thing she wanted now, or ever. Besides, since she was apparently “younger,” she may as well take advantage of her better fortunes.

(Section Thirty-seven)
Chakotay decided not to attempt the hard sell with Kathryn tonight; he had given her enough of a surprise when he had impulsively proposed marriage to her this afternoon. He actually hadn’t been too put off by her “refusal,” in fact he had some hope that she might be wavering. And, then, when he had stopped in engineering a while ago to double-check something with Vorik, he had found B’Elanna there, too, and after business had been taken care of she had accompanied him to the lift on their way to their respective quarters.

“You really need to come see Miral,” B’Elanna had chided him a little, as they got in. “She misses her ‘Uncle Cha'tay.’”

“I know, B’Elanna,” he had apologized. “It’s just been pretty hectic around here lately.”

“Of course it's been,” she had nodded sympathetically, “but, do you have a minute now? I think a certain little miss has a little free time, too.”

Chakotay had obligingly agreed and so they stopped on B’Elanna’s deck. Chakotay then had spent a “fun” fifteen minutes playing “horsie” with the rambunctious toddler, but actually the time expended had been invigorating, leaving him breathless with laughter as Miral had charmed him as usual with her giggles. He had been relieved, though, that Tom Paris hadn’t returned from a holodeck excursion with Harry Kim until after they were done playing; it might had been a touch undignified for the first officer to find his captain sprawled on his living room floor with his daughter.

After greeting her husband, B’Elanna had surprised Chakotay again by telling Tom was she was going to see Chakotay back to his quarters. “I do know the way,” Chakotay had wrly reminded her, but she had just merrily taken his arm and led him out the door with Paris standing there holding Miral and trying not to laugh at his captain’s expense.

“What’s up, B’e?” Chakotay had asked his friend; he knew her too well to believe she was just needing a bit of exercise.

“Oh, I just thought you might like to get a little womanly advice,” she had archly replied.

“And I would need that, why?” His inner “B’Elanna detector” had turned on quickly at her sly tone.

“Let’s wait until we get to your quarters, fearless leader.” She had practically dragged him to his door, and had impatiently waited while he activated it open.

“B’Elanna,” he had grumbled, “what happened to treating your captain with some modicum of decorum?”

“Chakotay, listen.” She kept her arms looped around his other arm.

“What?” he had barked when they entered his living room.

“I just wanted you to know I put in a good word for you,” she had smirked.

“With whom?” He had kind of known who she was going to say, but had also been afraid of what she was so eager to tell him.

“Just with a mutual friend of ours who needed a little push down the right path.”

“B’e, tell me you didn’t.” Chakotay had panicked a little. If she was talking about Kathryn he was afraid B’e might have caused that lady to run the other way instead.

“OK, I won’t say anything more, just that I’m hoping for the best. Just keep laying on the charm and I’m sure our friend will see the light in no time.”

“B’Elanna,” he had sighed, although hoping she was right, of course.

“Don’t worry,” she had leaned over and kissed his cheek. “I’m rooting for you. And, by the way, dear friend, it’s about time.”

(Section Thirty-eight)

With that, she had sauntered out the door, leaving him to wonder why he hadn’t thought to ask her advice in the first place. Then again, he had enough trouble keeping his private life private as it was without letting his first officer’s wife get involved in his affairs. Well, he did know she had his best interests in heart, so maybe it was a good sign that she had a positive feeling about him and Kathryn.

Gods, Kathryn, what was he going to do with her? She was like a nervous filly that he had to try to fondly tame. Then again, her reluctance to take him up on his offer could have something to do with him behaving kind of like an ass two days ago. But she seemed to have forgiven him for that, so maybe now she was just truly hesitant to jump into wedlock so soon after coming back. Well, as far as Chakotay was concerned it was indeed about time; they had wasted enough history already over the last TEN plus years not acting on what had been obvious a long time ago, and he was damned if they were going to spend any more time dilly-dallying. And, after what they had both been through in the last couple years, it was past time, he felt, for them to make that giant leap of faith that would finally give them some happiness. That he could legally help Kathryn now was just a technical excuse for doing what he wanted to anyway.

Meanwhile, he had to think about how he wanted to set the stage for tonight in his "lair," although in a little more subtle way than he had last night. Sometimes less was more, but he wanted to make sure that “more” was indeed the end result.

Chakotay was pleasantly surprised when the door chime rang at 1859 hours; he had been afraid he would have to go back to Kathryn’s quarters and drag her, nicely, of course, here. But, after the door opened, the woman in question was just where he wanted her to be, in fact she actually didn't look like she was about to enter a den of inquisition, to his relief. And, he noticed that she, her dress more royal blue this time, upon solemnly entering, was carrying something rather surprising. “You brought a…plant,” he observed with a touch of amusement.

“A housewarming gift,” she cheerfully explained. “I understand you had just moved back in here a couple weeks ago.”

“Well, yes,” he reached to take the plant from her, “I did.”

“Well, that’s nice.” She looked around placidly after he motioned her to go forward into the room, where in the dining area the table was tastefully set up for dinner. Other than a nice, but not ostentatious, vase of spring flowers, there were no other obvious decorations meant to impress a lady. Just the lights at fifty percent illumination gave any indication that the tone of the night was more than just a friendly dinner. He was deciding where to put the plant when Kathryn stopped in the middle of the room and looked around some more. “I think maybe you will need to do a little more decorating around here.”

He agreed, but wasn’t exactly sure why she was saying that.

“Hence the plant.” She smiled a trifle secretly.

“Yes, well, thank you, I appreciate this.” He turned towards his desk to put the plant there temporarily, but was waylaid by a hand placed lightly on his arm, so he turned back towards her.

“I like plants.” She gave him a meaningful look. “I like having them around, a lot.”

Awareness of her inference slowly washed over him, and he was afraid he was going to drop the plant, her hopeful intent hit him so forcefully. So amazingly wonderfully. He placed the plant on a nearby chair and made himself speak, in almost a whisper, “Kathryn?” He looked in her eyes and saw in them all the hope he would ever need.

“Yes,” she whispered back, but because he wanted to make sure he heard her correctly, he queried back to her, “Yes, what?”

She moved closer to him and took his hands in hers. “Yes, Chakotay, I will become your wife.”

He thought he could die happy in that very spot; it was just about the best moment of his life, but he instead just moved a step closer to her, so they were practically flush. “When?” Well, maybe that wasn’t too romantic, but it was to the point.

She cocked her head a little, and gave him a smile full of all the promises of the future. “Your call, dear.”

He didn’t answer immediately, as his mind felt like it was pleasantly fogged, but he finally roused himself enough to move his arms around her and hold her tight. She didn’t seem to mind that she was almost being squashed, in fact she just laid her head on his shoulder. They stood here a minute while he gathered his thoughts. Then he whispered in her ear what he knew was the only answer; she listened to his words and laughed, “Of course.”

They then decided to postpone dinner until a little later. Kathryn indeed stayed the night and they both slept quite well, and both even dreamed.

(Section Thirty-nine)

Kathryn and Chakotay were married the next day, just after noon, during lunch hour, of course, in the holodeck running the recreation of New Earth, although only the wedding couple knew exactly where they were, with Capt. Eden officiating. The bride wore an off-white, slightly flowing gown, the groom a beige suit with an open necked shirt. Their friends, their family, were in attendance: Tom Paris, B’Elanna Torres, with Miral Paris, clutching a mostly empty basket of the rose petals she had scattered about as the flower girl, Harry Kim, The Doctor, Seven, Vorik, Hugh Cambridge, and a few others. The guests were casually, but cheerfully dressed, including the officiant in a green ensemble, per the theme of the occasion – Spring. The ceremony was short, but still quite official, and after the groom thoroughly kissed his bride, and she obviously kissed him back, to the applause of the attendees, they partook of a simple, but elegant picnic lunch, washed down with synthaholic sparkling wine, as everyone, except the newlyweds, had to get back to work that afternoon. After some good-natured ribbing of the happy couple, notably by the first officer, who was grateful that the groom would have the rest of the day off to hopefully forget anything remotely ribald, all in good fun of course, in his happy mood due to the now real, and fervently hoped permanent state of wedded bliss with his lovely and remarkable bride, the Doctor took a few holopics of the memorable occasion.

After the festivities were over, and after Kathryn tossed her bouquet over her shoulder (as she and her groom were leaving, having been showered with the remaining rose petals), which was accidentally caught by one nonplussed Seven of Nine, every one but the now married couple went back to their duties that afternoon. They then confirmed to others the message that had been sent to all that indeed Captain Chakotay and Ms. Kathryn Janeway had just been duly joined in marriage, and that a reception for the whole crew would be held in the mess hall the next evening, informal, but festive dress, please.

Meanwhile, the happy twosome returned to the captain’s quarters for the afternoon, where they planned to, um, rest, and then make a call to Earth intending to get in contact with the bride’s family, and also send a notification to the captain’s sister via her homeworld, and ALSO impart a message to one Commander Tuvok in care of the far away Federation starship Titan.

That evening, there was unfortunately a small crisis in, of course, Engineering, that the captain, newlywed or not, had to leave his quarters for, but that gave Kathryn an opportunity, with the help of B’Elanna for company, to move the few things from her, as it turned out, temporary quarters to her new, well actually, old quarters, where she would now be residing with her new, and in hopes last, husband. B’Elanna noted a potted plant was sitting rather inelegantly on a dining room chair and helped Kathryn find a place for it, near a shelf where a new holoimage of the entire wedding party was now displayed, a present of the CMO of Voyager, of course. Kathryn told B’Elanna that her astonished, but tearfully happy mother was sending her a vid of a picture Mrs. Janeway had discovered in the boxes of Kathryn’s personal items that had been sent to her after her daugher had been unfortunately reported dead for the second time. B’Elanna remembered seeing the picture at Kathryn’s former San Francisco apartment and she thought that it, of the previous senior staff of Voyager, would be a fine addition to the commanding officer and his new wife’s quarters.

Kathryn also confided to B’Elanna (and therefore to Tom Paris) that the status of one Admiral K. Janeway would now be changed to Missing, Presumed Dead, but that the memorial column would stay up for propriety’s sake. They both agreed, as had the captain, that it was probably better that a tribute, if now inaccurate, to fallen heroes stayed intact.

(Section Forty)
Later that night, Captain Chakotay of the Starship Voyager, as was his custom (even apparently on his wedding night), walked down a corridor of his ship, although it would be just one deck that night, as he didn’t want to leave his waiting bride alone for too long. Capt. Eden had insisted, as long as there weren’t any new problems, of course, that he take the next day off, too, so he thought he would stop in at Holodeck Two and check out the program the ship had of a famous city in Italy. He wasn’t sure if the one he had used a few too many years ago was still available, but it turned out it was, and after reserving two hours for the next afternoon, he started back to his quarters, more than ready to forge ahead with the next, hopefully felicitous, if previously improbable, phase of his life.

As he left the lift on deck three, eager to rejoin his cherished Kathryn in their now marital bed, he thought he heard someone or something whisper in his ear a peculiar, but ultimately understandable message: Not bad, Chuckles.

(Not quite The End, but perhaps a beginning.)  And thank you, Pathfinder, for this site.

Chapter End Notes:
(If someone does make it to this end, again, thank you!)


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