Kathryn sighed as she looked at the computer screen before her. Earth was different. It changed in her short absence, and while she knew it was unavoidable, it was depressing. She missed the familiar life she had aboard Voyager. The teasing flirtation she had with Chakotay. The playful banter she had with Tuvok. Naomi's eager desire to help her. Tom and B'Elanna. Harry. Every aspect of her ship had been familiar, from the crew to their lives in general. She knew the sound her engines made when they were in prime condition and the sound when they were struggling to make it those last few parsecs.
Here … here everything was foreign. The sound of a bird would wake her in the middle of the night. The creak of a floor board would make her jerk, hand inching towards her waist. Every Doctor and counselor she saw claimed she hadn't come back unscathed. That it would take time for her to adjust to being home. It made sense, rationally, to her but otherwise … everything felt foreign. Earth now had drills, schools had evacuation procedures they practiced almost weekly. Families had similar. Starfleet had deployment drills, sending Starfleet personnel into rapid deployment throughout the globe. And somewhere above her, Voyager was being analyzed for every piece of useful information possible.
It unnerved her. She knew it was because of the war. The war she missed. The war her crew was hated for despite the constant praising and adoration the Federation gave them. It wasn't easy, being both the hope for the future and the reminder that some escaped the war. The results were the separation of her crew, everyone disappearing to do their own thing. B'Elanna taking off to go find her mother, Tom staying with his parents before taking Miral to join her mother. Harry getting assigned to a new ship as soon as he could. Tuvok disappearing to Vulcan, she understood it was for his healing but missed her friend, they hadn't seen each other in a year. Others of her crew, like Seven and the Wildman's, had gone to find family before heading off on their own adventures.
With another sigh she clicked up the crew roster she was reviewing. Starfleet wanted her approval on Voyager's next crew. Eyes drifting to the door, she smiled at the laughter coming from the viewer her sister must be watching. Phoebe was, of course, the same. It was as if she had never left, the only difference was her sister now had three kids and a divorce behind her. Three kids that were sleeping and had school in the morning. Kathryn knew her late night working wasn't good, especially for the youngest. They needed to see the adults in their lives acting normal.
"Still working?" Phoebe asked while entering, handing her a glass of wine as she came to the desk. "You do know those reports don't change just because you keep looking at them."
"Starfleet is refusing to seek out Chakotay for the Captaincy."
"And you know why."
"Public opinion should not be a factor."
"Kath … we had a war." She flinched at the reminder, it had become habit by now. Every mention of it early on had been a reminder she wasn't there. She doesn't have a say. She was clueless to how things are now. "I don't mean it like that," Smiling at her sister she let her wrap her arms around her. "What I mean is that things aren't as easy as they had been. Voyager was … Voyager was a start. A reminder of what we once were. But Chakotay exposed Starfleet Officers shortly after your return, exposed them as instigators in plots of war and destruction."
"Which makes the public approve of him."
"Not for a mission that would put him well out of Starfleet reach." She sighed, pulling up a chair. Turning, blacking out her computer screen, Kathryn looked at her sister. "My husband … I love him. I do. But he was … he was part of the war. A security officer turned medic. He would come home and hold me so tight I'd bruise. He feared losing me so much. It only got worse as the war got worse. He … Evelynn was just a baby at the time but Rachael … she remembers. It's hard on her and she remembers you too. Her Auntie Kathy -"
"Don't." Phoebe frowned and Kathryn leaned back. "There was … someone called me that."
"Kath?" When her sister didn't respond Phoebe continued. "My point is, you were her hero growing up. She still adores you but it's hard for her to know you came home when the war was over and daddy was gone. She doesn't know why Auntie wasn't there when her sister got sent to the hospital by their father."
"What?!" Kathryn cursed her own outburst. They both glanced to the door. "Pheebs, what happened?"
"We will get into it later. This is about Chakotay, remember."
"How is this about him?"
"Because just like I love my husband despite what he turned into, you love Chakotay. And like me that terrifies you, the man got with Seven of all people and you can't imagine he'd want to even look at you after being with her. I can't imagine David will want to be with us after everything he did. So, we shove them away and don't look at how things should be. Chakotay is a brilliant professor doing an amazing job at Starfleet Academy. Sending him off on Voyager only benefits you."
"You never change do you."
"Never will." Phoebe stood smiling at her sister. "I will always be your sister. Always."
"Thanks." Kathryn looked back to the computer only to find her sister pulling on her. "Alright, alright. I'll take a break."
"Oh, this isn't a break. This is the reason I came in here. Come on, grab the wine."
"Pheebs, this is …" Kathryn trailed off as she stumbled after her sister. Barely managing to snag her glass of wine in the process. "Pheebs can you please stop pulling on me. I'll come along, just … Chakotay."
One year. One entire year without a single word from him and here he stood before her. Her throat went dry, her eyes darting around. Something had to be wrong, it's the only reason he'd come. Phoebe looked far too pleased with herself for it to be that. Slowly everything clicked into place. You love Chakotay, Kathryn glared at her sister as the earlier lecture settled into place. How could Phoebe possibly think she could let this man back into her life when he walked away from her?
"I'd apologize but I think you'd shoot me first."
"And if I did?"
"I'd come back tomorrow patched up and try again."
"Risking my phaser again?"
"If that's what it takes."
She glared, crossing her arms. The man was frustrating. After disappearing with Seven he comes back to Earth, takes up a teaching position, and refuses to contact her. Refuses to even acknowledge her since they returned from the Delta Quadrant. She had to hear about how he was doing from various members of her former crew. Even the lowest people knew more than she did. And now, today of all days, here he was demanding she give him a moment of her time.
As the silence grew she realized he had a drink. Phoebe had settled him in before coming to her. Probably watched a few episodes of that old 1990s sitcom Friends with him in the process. Meddling little sister. The girl never knew when to stay out of things. And now, she was alone with him while her sister went to bed. Of course she waited till she'd have no possible excuse not to speak with him. When she'd have to do something because kicking him out be rude. Which meant she had to offer him a stay here and more drink and … grumbling she turned and started pacing.
"Phoebe is a lovely woman."
"Then go sleep with her."
"Kathryn … that's … I'm not here …" Her face was burning. Dropping her head she sighed.
"Sorry," Turning she looked at him. Taking in everything. He looked like he just left the lecture hall to come straight here. Uniform just barely messed, just on that line of perfection that was so highly sought by the Starfleet Academy staff. His hair showed his state more, ruffled from constantly running fingers through it. Shoes scuffed, collar loosened. How long had he sat out here with her sister running through the conversation he wanted to have? How long had she been oblivious because she was locking herself away in her own room. Sighing, she turned around again. "Sorry, it was wrong of me to make that comment. It's late. Why don't you get some sleep and then we can talk in the morning."
"I don't want to sleep."
"Well I do."
"Do you? It's barely midnight, Kathryn. You never sleep before zero one hundred hours."
"That was on Voyager."
"And according to your mother and sister a pattern that continues today." That did it. She spun and glared at him. "I know, how dare I talk to them but not you."
"You never once listened!" Her glare intensified and he lowered his voice. "Every time I tried to talk to you about how we were getting home, about being home, about anything in those last few days on Voyager you always had a reason to avoid me. Then you were busy rushing Tuvok off to Vulcan with no explanation to anyone. Helping B'Elanna get a shuttle to Klingon territory. You put everything in front of us and I had no chance to speak to you. I had a choice to make, support Seven in finding her family or continue to trail after you till you felt I deserved your attention. I helped Seven. She was my friend."
"Right, because we all sleep with our friends."
"You know, some people do but not in this case. We had both decided being home meant she needed space to adjust to the new environment and I needed to figure out what I was going to do. I used my vacation time to make sure she settled in because you wouldn't even bother to offer her help. You, who rescued her from the Borg and took her under her wing. I loved you Kathryn, she adored you, and you walked away from us. Don't make this all my fault."
"How dare …" she turned, ears constantly listening for the slightest change in things. Moving to the hall she smiled gently as her four year old niece, a fist rubbing at one of her eyes, moved into the living room. Scooping the child up she tucked her head into her shoulder. "Hey baby, what's wrong?"
"What dat noise?"
"I'm sorry baby, I was just talking with a colleague."
"Uh-huh. I hear noise."
"Evelynn - "
"I tell you what kiddo," Chakotay's voice made her remember he was there. "I'll make you a deal. You let your Auntie Kathy," He ignored her tensing at those words - he knew the reminder of Junior was constantly a reminder of the Q civil war and her role in it - and smiled at the child in her arms. "Tuck you back into bed and I'll make sure the outside is okay."
"Chakotay is really good at making sure things are okay," Kathryn told her niece with a gentle smile. "He kept me safe many times."
"Okay," She watched as Chakotay took the tiny hand being offered to him. "Deal dude."
"Right," Kathryn was trying not to laugh at his confused expression. "I'll just go check outside."
It didn't take her long to get Evelynn back into the bed. Replicating another sippy of milk, warmed just slightly, and making sure she didn't need a new pull-up she settled on the edge of the bed. Her sister was right about Evelynn. The girl adored her. Rachael had taken some time, the resentment early on had been clear, and while the girl treated her very differently there was always going to be those missing seven years. Eddie was the only one who didn't seem to hate or adore her. It took a few months but he neither rejected or automatically accepted her. Living with her sister, and mother, helped but she knew she would need to do more to reassure these kids.
Sighing, she rubbed at Evelynn's stomach, soothing the child as Chakotay came in. Barely did she take in his words about the outside being clear and offering to tell a story. She simply watched, awed, as this man took to the task of putting her niece to bed with ease. Her eyes watered at the offered story. The Angry Warrior was a familiar tale, though his alterations to it pained her to hear. They had a lot to work on and as Evelynn crawled into his lap she knew that the process was starting. He chuckled at the sleeping child refusing to let go of him.
"Come on, carefully," Helping him stand she lead him into her room. It be far easier, especially as Evelynn was known to hit when things weren't as she wanted them. Chakotay was knew, acceptable because her auntie was there, and thus they'd have to remain together. After helping him into the bed she went to change, impressed when she came out to find her niece now wrapped in his jacket on the bed. "How did … well … I can show you where -" She stopped as Evelynn whimpered as he went to leave the bed. "Blasted demon child."
"She always like this at night?"
"Unable to sleep entirely through the night unless she has precisely what she wants?" He chuckled and she shrugged. "No idea where she gets it from."
She grinned as she climbed into the bed. Despite the awkward situation it felt normal. Like they were always supposed to be in bed together with invading children. A foot in her ribs caused her eyes to open and she groaned, shifting slightly only to find herself blocked by multiple limbs. Blinking, eyes pulling open more she looked around herself at the group on her bed. Chakotay was curled with Evelynn laying tucked into his chest, sitting across his legs - and on hers - was Eddie. While Rachael was laying in front of her. Eddies foot was the one pressing into her ribs, carefully she shifted it. Phoebe was going to pay for not retrieving her children.
Carefully, she removed herself from the bed, gently shaking Chakotay to help extract him from the entangle of children. Though, truthfully, the image reminded her of her previous desires for children. Sighing, she pointed him to where he could freshen up, grabbed her robe, and disappeared to get a cup of coffee. Entering the kitchen she picked up her PADD, thumbed open her communiques and knew she needed to do something. Needed to make a decision. With a quick note for her mother and sister she drowned a cup of coffee. As she tore into a muffin she jotted something for Chakotay, she wouldn't be here when he got down here. Given her sister invited him, she wasn't being entirely rude for leaving him first thing in the morning.
Chakotay stared at the note with mixed feelings. He was, sadly, used to Kathryn disappearing on him and leaving him to handle whatever needed to be handled. Used to finding her hours later still tearing into whatever new idea had gathered her attention. The ship left in his capable hands. Sometimes, finding her wasn't as easy as asking the computer. At least when she disappeared on Voyager she was still doing her job, just helping solve their latest problem. When she disappeared elsewhere … anything could happen. Which always left him with fear, like right now. Then there was the anger, at her putting herself at risk … leaving him to handle her family. The pain, she couldn't even stay to say sorry in person.
"Chakotay, it's a pleasure to see you in person. I'm sure the kids didn't interrupt your sleep too much."
"No, no. They are wonderful."
"It's not unusual for them to gravitate to Kathryn these days." Gretchen Janeway offered him an apologetic smile as she looked at the note her daughter left her. "Work … that girl."
"It's why I love her." Chakotay whispered, missing the beaming smile on the face across form him. Gretchen Janeway had only ever wanted one thing in her life: for her girls to find love. And they both did, admittedly neither in an easy way but they found it. As Phoebe rushed into the kitchen she almost laughed. Her two daughters couldn't be more different sometimes. One never slept, waking early and staying up late into the night. Constantly thriving on coffee and Starfleet regulations. Protocols and proper decorum. The other, sleeping late and never managing to maintain a proper sleep schedule. Wanting nothing more than to live a life of routine and spontaneity, the child who was as contrary as the man before her.
"The kids," Phoebe pressed a few buttons on the replicator. Causing havoc to unfold as breakfast and lunch formed in a horrible combination. Her cursing caused Chakotay to chuckle, the familiarity of the replicator struggles refreshing to see.
"Phoebe dear, Kathryn already called the school and let them know the kids would be late. Apparently, she accidentally shut off all the alarms last night during one of her … moments."
"Kathryn never …" Phoebe sighed, looking at her mother. "I owe her for this one don't I?"
"If you would like a day to yourself I can take them to school." Chakotay's offer surprised them all. "You can sleep some more, have a proper breakfast, even go shopping if you want."
"Evelynn only has tutoring lessons. She's not in full day yet."
"I'll take her to all of those."
"She has speech, therapy, her -"
"Phoebe, I will handle it."
"And I'll help him," Gretchen smiled at her daughter. "You and Katie need a day without that girl in this house. I'm sure she'll be back by lunch and appreciate the silence."
"Well… I guess."
"Are you sure about this?" Admiral Paris asked her and she nodded.
"It was offered to me months ago and I know it's still on the table. It would solve many things, really."
"Present to me the idea and we will see if it's worth a meeting of the admiralty."
Kathryn launched into the idea that had settled into her mind earlier this morning. It was perfect, truly. And the Federation, not to mention Starfleet, was well aware of this particular practice. Given the current political climate, it worked perfectly. She just had to convince Starfleet. After that, that would be the real challenge. It didn't take long for Admiral Paris to help her flesh out some of the ideas, get it in a proper submission format, schedule a meeting, and finish up the rest of the paperwork she'd need for it. Everything had to be prepared, she knew that if she didn't have every piece in place they'd never take her up on the offer. Since her return, the public may adore her but Starfleet was suspicious - which she couldn't blame them.
"With this, we are going to need a bigger presentation."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, the amount of people that would be involved … Kathryn, you are going to have to talk to all the brass, Captains and up."
"All the Captains?"
"All currently here." She shifted and he chuckled. "Kathryn, you know how it works. All active personnel of the rank required will be present. No one on leave, medical or otherwise, or retired will be required to show up. Relax, you know how to handle these proposals."
"I haven't done one in over eight years."
"The last one I did resulted in one of my officers going missing and my entire ship ending up in the Delta Quadrant."
"This idea is different."
"Is it?" She frowned down at all the work they just did. Sighing, she nodded, indicating she was ready. Heading to lunch she waited the hour it would take for everyone to gather in the Academy auditorium. It was the largest place for something like this. This morning, she had thought she needed to speak to one or two people. Then, as they dug into the idea more, she realized it would require massive cooperation within Starfleet and a much larger base of communication. Meaning everyone with any power at all to derail the idea would have to be present.
Settling into the café just off Starfleet grounds she reviewed her own PADD of information. Everything was perfect, she knew it was, but she wasn't sure about one thing. The idea of her leading it all. She thought advisor, sure, but Admiral Paris insisted she'd be best for the leadership. For running the entire program. In a way it made sense, she was the one who proposed it and knew the stakes behind the program. Her past made her doubt that though. She could almost hear her crew laughing at that, telling her the things they usually do when she hit a low. Finishing up her coffee and another muffin, she left the café and headed for Academy grounds.
The Auditorium wasn't filled but there was a decent about of brass present. Nearly every active Admiral had made it, the entire Academy staff, and multiple Captains from various postings on and off planet. Some faces she recognized. The room was tense, chatter filling the large room with an endless drone of noise. A young officer, fourth year Cadet if she was correct in placing the face, stepped out onto stage. She smiled at the nervous individual, remember doing similar when she was in school.
"May I have your attention, attention. Attention please," As the noise died down the cadet found everyone watching them. "Admiral Paris is ready to begin."
"Well, Owen, what did you bring us this time."
"It's not me," The man smiled as he stepped on stage. "The sheer size of this meeting is unusual but, I felt it necessary. We have gone to long without acknowledging a simple fact. A fact that, only today, did I realize we were failing to notice. Over the last eight years, we admirals have been coming together on a near weekly basis. Trying to find out how to combat space and not realizing we were going about it wrong. We came up with Pathfinder, only to redirect that mission to bringing home a ship. War made us think up things we never dreamed of, only to see the flaws take shape and push us even further along a path we were desperate to avoid. Admirals and Captains alike can all agree … Starfleet is struggling."
Kathryn watched everyone nod. She knew she'd be called up soon and looked at her PADD. It was a brilliant idea. She knew that, but she feared it wouldn't be enough. Wouldn't be right. As Admiral Paris continued she motioned for the Cadet to approach, asked them to go get a minimum of twenty other cadets and bring them. She insisted they had to be from the most elite classes and thus already provided more security clearance than the average cadet. It wasn't clearance that concerned her though, she wanted the most recently trained individuals. She needed to prove a point to make this work.
I will remember you
Will you remember me
Kathryn entered the Janeway home surprised that music was playing. Glancing around she found her sister far more alive than she had been in weeks. Cleaning and dancing around the house. Smiling she looked at her. Leaning against the door she enjoyed the sight. Years ago, her sisters need to reorganize her things and blasting music in the process would have irritated her. Today, today it was a reminder she was home. Grinning, she moved to join in. Singing along and changing her sisters path from cleaning to just dancing. This is what Gretchen and Chakotay walked in on, only the laughing of Evelynn bringing the two woman to stop, turn, and laugh as well. Before anyone could say anything, Kathryn jumped into realization and looked at them all.
"I'm getting promoted!"
"What?!" Gretchen gasped out dropping Evelynn onto the couch and rushing to her daughter. "How? Why? Where are you going? When did this happen? Did Owen -"
"Owen helped. Staying on Earth. Just today. Because they need someone to lead up a new program within Starfleet Intelligence and I was the best candidate, though I'm still not sure about that."
"Starfleet Intelligence?" Phoebe looked concerned by that.
"Pheebs, it's a good thing. Besides, I was always associated with the SFI."
"Day one really," Kathryn looked at Chakotay's stunned face. "It's classified, can't discuss it."
"You're an Admiral…. After a year of virtually inactive service … they promoted you."
"The promotion would have happened when we first returned but I denied it. It's happening now because I found a way to make my consultations on Project Voyager far more useful to the Federation."
"Didn't bother discussing it with anyone did you?"
"I thought you of all people would be happy."
"Why? Why would I be happy? We haven't even gotten to discuss what I came here for. You didn't even bother to ask what I wanted to talk about."
"Chakotay, it's not like I ran off to the Badlands. I went to Starfleet Headquarters." He flinched at that. "Besides, if you let me finish you might just let me ask YOU for YOUR help."
"What can you possibly need my help with?"
"Getting this new department started."
"You've got to be kidding me. I come all the way here, take two weeks off to try to repair our relationship. To tell you that I still love you and you want me to go right back into your loyal first officer position."
"You …" Kathryn froze at that. She swallowed, redirecting her thoughts from emotions to work with ease. Everyone watched as she went from the Kathryn they knew into the Captain Janeway they came to grow tired of seeing. "The position you will be offered will not be as my, as you say, first officer. My executive officer will actually be, upon his acceptance, Captain Tuvok - also receiving a promotion in a few days. You will still be a Professor at Starfleet Academy. The aspects you'd be taking on, if you agree, are classified. I'd be your superior but only ONE of them."
"I love Auntie." Evelynn looked at Chakotay. "You no love Auntie."
"Evelynn Kathryn," Phoebe moved to her daughter but Chakotay simply bent before her.
"Is that so?"
"What if I did love her?" The girl tilted her head, shrugged, and played with the stuffed cat she had brought in with her.
Kathryn fidgeted in her spot. Chakotay had confessed. She ignored it. While her niece was trying to determine if it was even allowed. How could the day have gone so well until now. Getting Chakotay's attention she motioned for him to follow her. Once they were locked in her room, she made sure Phoebe wasn't trying to listen in before taking a seat at her desk, she sighed. He confessed, basically been doing so since last night, and she just lectured about her proposal.
"I … I love you too."
"Then why do you want me working for you again."
"Because I've already cleared it with Admiral Paris, who will be my direct supervisor, that I can pursue a relationship with whomever I want if the situation were to ever arise. The only condition is they must be within one rank of me … well more Captain or above."
"So you promoted Tuvok to Captain?" He smirked at her glare. "You two do have a lot of dinners, Kathryn."
"Hush. Chakotay," turning she activated her computer and input the access codes to get into Starfleet's database. It didn't take her long to open up the new department information. It was, more than anything else, just the proposal she put in place. "Starfleet is struggling. We can barely hold ourselves together. New threats are constantly arising and we've grown comfortable in peace."
"That's not a bad thing."
"It is when the Borg, Cardassians, and Dominion all target it. The Romulans are soon to follow and that's just here. That's just recent history. The Devour. The Kazan. The caretaker species. Species 8472. The Continuum. These are just some of the people we know would have no problem coming after us. Chakotay, we have to prepare Starfleet."
"That's why we have the Academy."
"You teach the Advance tactics course right?"
"And a few others."
"I just had 20 of your cadets thoroughly humiliated before a room of Admirals and Captains." He looked furious at that. "I showed how talented they were in what you taught them … but then I also showed how limited what you are PERMITTED to teach them is. We are given limits, protocols and guidelines. I placed them in a holodeck and ran a simulation where they were stranded on a planet by enemies. Do you know what they did?"
"Attempted to utilize their comm badges to bring about communication with Starfleet." He sighed. "You had the signal result in a bounce back didn't you?"
"What else do you think I did?"
"Pick an early development planet with active volcanoes and inhabitants that were nowhere near ready for first contact."
"They failed. Miserably. The chosen leader refused to acknowledge certain warning signs or listen to their crew and ended up getting everyone killed."
"They are Cadets."
"I put twenty Captains into the same program, unable to watch the Cadets, and the results were near identical. Chakotay, despite war Starfleet still expects help to be right around the corner."
"Are you proposing the re-enactment of the Kobayashi Maru program?"
"No, though we will use it. Chakotay, I'm proposing that Starfleet uses the intelligence it has on societies to prepare Captains for prolonged isolation. I'm proposing a Starfleet Intelligence branch that enhances every current training program in existence and moving us beyond the limitations we already have set. We've grown into a society that drills for threats but doesn't try to prevent them. Into a society that looks only for new tech that helps in war, not in preventing war and scientific discoveries. I merely reminded Starfleet of who we are meant to be. And I want you to run the tactical and cultural understanding sections. I want you to take your elite selected students to not only learn Advance Tactics but learn how to make the hard decisions, the ones we had to face. The ones Starfleet faced during this last war. Join me?"