Disclaimer:  Paramount’s as always

Rating:  PG-13

Notes:   Not that it’s going to happen, but this is how I’d like to see them come home.
 




By Mary S.
 
 

           The coming-home party on the starship Voyager proved to be the biggest and longest in the entire seven years the ship had been lost.  Both holodecks were running – one with Sandrine’s tavern for old times’ sake, the other with a generic dance hall.  The crew flowed back and forth between the two as well as up and down the adjacent corridors.

           Although the senior staff appeared and disappeared along with everyone else, at least one of them was present at any given time.  The captain and commander had opened the festivities together, then circulated separately, making sure that they personally spoke with, and thanked, each and every member of their crew.

           Voyager was in the Alpha Quadrant.  In three days, they would reach Deep Space Nine, where it had all begun so long before.  They were nearly home.

           As night became day, then night again, even the most hardened party-goers began to slow, rather like an old-fashioned watch which gradually runs down if not rewound.

           The hour after midnight found Commander Chakotay sauntering through the corridors, ostensibly out for a stroll, but in fact keeping an eye peeled for any crewmember who had indulged in a little too much of Tom Paris’ well-spiked punch.  He ended up in the mess hall, checking to make sure that no one had passed out under the tables.

           As he turned back to the door, a slight sound caught his ear.  Where? – There!  In the corner.   In the dark, he had overlooked a figure huddled on the sofa nearest the viewport.

           He crossed the room again, stepping lightly, not wanting to disturb the person if he or she preferred to be left alone.  As he neared the couch, starlight reflected off a burnished head and he knew who it was.  He sighed, thinking he really should have guessed.

           Halting in front of the sofa, he gazed down at his captain.  For a few seconds, he thought she wasn’t going to acknowledge his presence, but then she turned her head to glance up at him and he saw her wet cheeks.  So that’s what he’d heard.

           Balancing on the edge of the cushion as he sat beside her, he put one hand on her shoulder and cupped her jaw with the other.  Neither found it necessary to say a word.

           As Kathryn shifted a bit to allow him more room beside her, Chakotay settled firmly onto the cushions.   Briefly, he hesitated, then gave into impulse and lifted her onto his lap, cradling her head against his shoulder, as he wrapped his arms tightly around her.

           Automatically, she began to stiffen, then apparently decided she couldn’t be bothered anymore, relaxing against him and turning her face into his neck.  Chakotay lifted her hand, gently kissing her fingers, then turned it over to brush his mouth across her palm.  Despite herself, she began to cry again silently, unable to stop her shudders and gasps even as she fought to bring her emotions under control.

           Stroking her hair, he murmured softly, then rubbed the back of her neck.  Kathryn couldn’t make out the words, but the sound of his voice helped to soothe her and ease the terrible ache in her heart.  As she quieted once more, he tilted up her face, gently kissing her eyes, cheeks and forehead, but not her mouth, before tucking her head back into his shoulder.
 

           As the minutes passed and she showed no signs of wanting to move, Chakotay relaxed against the couch and closed his eyes.  He loved her so much, yet had no idea if she even knew.  Did she love him?  At times, he had thought so, but now?  Probably not, he sighed to himself, not in the way he wanted, anyway.

           He felt Kathryn’s breathing slow and her body relax completely.  She had fallen sound asleep.  Lord knew she needed it.

           He opened his eyes, knowing he should wake her so they could leave before someone came in.   Maybe just a few more minutes, though.  He might never be able to hold her like this again.  What the hell!  They were almost home.

           Feeling reckless, he lifted her enough so that he could stretch out on the couch, then settled her in beside him, arms holding her securely so she wouldn’t roll off.   She didn’t stir.

           Closing his eyes again, he felt her breath tickle his neck, and decided to enjoy the moment while he could.  It wouldn’t last long.  Very soon after, he slept as well.

       _______________________________________________________
 

           Some hours later, Neelix entered the galley to start breakfast for the crew.  Busy with his pots and pans, he didn’t notice the pair on the couch in the corner until he went to make sure nothing had been left on the tables, as sometimes happened when a crewmember came in for a late snack.

           He stared down at them, speechless with surprise.  They were stretched out together, Chakotay holding the captain protectively as she lay draped half over him, head on his shoulder.  As he collected his wits, Neelix’ first instinct was to rouse them, but…they just looked so adorable lying there!  He couldn’t do it.

           Glancing around, his mind awhirl with possibilities, he went to the mess hall doors, and propped them open.   Fortunately, he hadn’t called for lights yet – now he ordered them at one-half only and kept that corner dark.  Then he replicated several signs saying ‘QUIET PLEASE’ and hurried into the adjacent corridors to place them at intervals on the walls.

           As he was putting up the last one, Tom and B’Elanna appeared, somewhat bleary-eyed, but ready for early shift.  They brightened up in a hurry when Neelix told them who was asleep in the mess hall.

           “Are they still there?” asked Tom.

           “They were a few minutes ago.”

           “Okay.”  Tom paused, thinking, then grinned and hailed the ops station on the bridge.  “Ensign, I want you to route the captain’s and commander’s combadge signals through your station so they don’t hear them.  Can you do that?”

           “Mr. Paris!” He heard the measured Vulcan tones behind him.  “Explain yourself.”

           B’Elanna was faster on the uptake.  “Tuvok, follow me.  And be very quiet.”

           They tiptoed into the mess hall and over to the corner.  Sure enough – neither one had moved.

           Tuvok gazed at them impassively but B’Elanna could see his mouth twitch slightly – very slightly.  He looked at her and nodded.  Smiling back gratefully, she hurried out to tell Tom to go ahead.  Tuvok followed her, suggesting that they close the comm channel to the mess hall as well.

           Over the next hour, the crew filtered in for breakfast.  As each person entered, he or she was cautioned not to make any more noise than necessary, and to eat as quietly as possible.  Word spread quickly and soon the room was crowded with every seat taken.  Those who had finished moved to the sides so that others could take their places, but no one left.  They all knew that sooner or later, their commanding officers would wake up, and they all wanted to be there when they did.  In order for everyone to be able to see better, Neelix ordered the lights to gradually increase to full.

           Kathryn was the first to return to consciousness. As she came to, she  could feel something warm against her side and under her head.  Didn’t feel like her pillow, but – wait a minute!  She couldn’t remember going to bed.   She must have!  Where else could she be?

           Realization dawned slowly.  She’d been alone in the mess hall, utterly miserable, and Chakotay had come in.  And – it was coming back to her now – he had comforted her.   He’d felt so warm and secure that, unable to resist temptation, she’d let him.  Oh!  She must have fallen asleep in his arms, where apparently she still was.

           She smiled contentedly.  He did feel nice.  Perhaps she wouldn’t move right away; it wasn’t as if she’d likely ever get another chance.  Must be careful, though.  Wouldn't do for any of the crew to see them.  Just one more minute.

           She sighed, the smile playing around her mouth, and opened her eyes.  The lights were on.  She could hear – what?  She turned her head – to see nearly a hundred people in the room, some eating, some whispering to one another, and all watching her!

           Oh!  My!  God!

           Her eyes widened in horror and her face went white with shock.  She tried to speak, but her voice was frozen and all that came out was a panic-stricken squeak.  However, it was enough to rouse Chakotay.

           He opened his eyes, feeling Kathryn rigid beside him.  Lifting his head, he looked around, closed his eyes, then opened them again.  Yup!  Their crew was still there.   “Oh, shit!” he exclaimed, in heartfelt tones.

           The entire mess hall burst into roars of laughter.

           Kathryn stood up, blushing furiously but determined to face her crew.  She felt Chakotay rise to stand beside her, just as he always did, and glanced up at him.  He grinned at her and shrugged his shoulders.  They had been well and truly caught.

           Neelix pushed through the uproarious crowd, balancing two mugs in one hand and a plate of pastries in the other.   “Here, Captain, Commander.  I think you need this.”

           They took the offering silently, trying unsuccessfully to hide their embarrassment, as Neelix’ words provoked more howls from the onlookers. The coffee was strong and hot, and they drank it gratefully as they looked around at their crew, still laughing as everyone began to head out the doors.

           Tom, B’Elanna and Tuvok came to stand before them, Neelix hovering uncertainly behind.

           “Captain,” intoned the security officer.  “I wish to apologize for any embarrassment this incident may have caused you and the commander.”

           ‘He doesn’t mean it,’ thought Kathryn, astounded.  ‘He’s saying the words but he doesn’t mean them at all!  How can a Vulcan actually sound insincere without changing the tone of his voice?  He’s enjoying this!’

           She leaned into him, glaring.  “Traitor!”  she hissed.  He looked rather taken aback but didn’t deny it.  ‘Ye gods!’ she thought.  ‘Now he’s laughing at me!’

           At the sound of a chuckle, she glanced to her side where Tom was desperately trying not to explode in mirth.  At her stare, he gave up the struggle and burst into roars.

           “I’m sorry, Captain,” he gasped, “but….”

           “You!  Mr. Paris!  You did this, didn’t you?”  she accused.

           A small voice made itself heard.  “Actually, Captain, it was me,” confessed Neelix, hesitantly.  “I was the one who found you, and well, you see, it was, well, uh, you just looked so peaceful, you and the commander.  I just didn’t have the heart to wake you – you see?”

           The captain had never been proof against Talaxian puppy dog eyes.  Her stance relaxed and she patted his shoulder.

           “Well, I guess there’s no harm done after all.”

           Neelix was all happiness again, relieved to be forgiven so readily.  “I mean, if you think about it, Captain, it was a wonderful bonding moment for the crew, wasn’t it?”

           “In more ways than one,” remarked Paris, sotto voce.  B’Elanna elbowed him, then grabbed his hand and led him out of the mess hall before he really put his foot in it.

           Tuvok stepped back.  “I will go to the bridge, Captain, and ‘hold the fort’ until you and the commander are ready for duty.”  Which was a polite way of saying they both needed showers and fresh uniforms.

           “Thank you, Tuvok, we’ll be there shortly.”  Shaking her head ruefully, she turned to her first officer.  “You know, I expected to come home in a blaze of triumph, not get caught practically in flagrante delicto by our entire crew!”

           “Oh, come now, Kathryn, it wasn’t that bad!”

           “Wasn’t it?  It sure felt like it!  I have never, ever, been so embarrassed in my life!”

           “Try to look on the funny side of it.”

           “I suppose,” she sighed.  “And it certainly boosted the crew’s morale, didn’t it?”  She started to laugh.  “Not that it needed any boosting to start with.”

           Taking her hand, he lifted it to his lips, gently kissing her fingers.  “You’re an amazing woman, Kathryn Janeway, you know that?”  He laced his fingers through hers and started toward the door.  “Back to work?”

           “Yes sir!”  she replied smartly.

           As they made their way to the turbolift, the feel of his hand, warm around hers, made her remember how good his arms had felt.  Maybe, finally, she could start to think about herself, her needs, and what she wanted.  And the more she thought about it, the more she knew she wanted him, needed him and would be a damn fool to let him out of her life.  She would just have to figure out a way for them to stay together.

           Nodding her head decisively, she gave his fingers a squeeze as they stepped into the turbolift.  He glanced at her inquiringly.

           “Kathryn?”

           “Chakotay,” she began a little hesitantly.  “Have you given any thought to what you want to do once we’re finished with Starfleet?”

           “Some.  A lot depends on when Starfleet is finished with me. Could be a while.”

           “True.  But, assuming you’re pardoned and I’m not court martialed, what would you think about sticking around?”

           “Computer, halt lift.”  He turned to face her.  “Just what are you trying to say?”

           “Well, I was sort of thinking that maybe, we, that is you and I, could stay together?” Her eyes, full of uncertainty, went to his. “What do you think?”

           He stared at her intently, trying to be sure she was saying what he thought she was saying.  “I want to be quite clear on this, Kathryn.  Do you mean you want to be with me?”

           “Yes.”

           “For how long?”

           “For good?” she replied in a small, hopeful voice.

           “Are you sure?  Because I won’t go back, and I won’t let you go back either.”

           She nodded.  “Last night, I was so unhappy.  It hit me then how much I was going to miss you.  It hurt so much, like cutting my soul in half.  You’ve become part of me, Chakotay.  I don’t think I can live without you.  Exist – yes, but live – not at all.  I’m hoping you feel the same way.”

           He gave her that gorgeous smile, the one that never failed to turn her to mush.  “Come here.”

           She stepped close to him, letting his arms envelop her, wrapping hers about his waist.  Yes, this was right.

           “Tuvok to Janeway.”

           She could feel him start to chuckle.  “I don’t believe it!”

           “Yes, Commander?”  She moved back as she spoke.

           “You seem to be delayed, Captain.  Is there a problem?”

           “No, Tuvok. We’re just organizing the rest of our lives.  We’ll be there shortly.”

           “Then, by all means, take your time, Captain.  I wouldn’t want to rush you.”

           She could hear exclamations in the background.  Damn!  She had forgotten the bridge crew!  Now it would be all over the ship!  Cutting communications, she looked helplessly at her first officer.

           Chakotay was leaning against the wall, doubled over in silent laughter.  She glared at him, hands on hips, but it had no effect.  He did manage to gasp out that she might want to restart the lift before they gave the crew any more grist for the gossip mills.

           “Computer, resume lift!” she snapped.  A moment later, the doors opened on deck three.  Miraculously, no one was there and they were able to dodge into their respective quarters without being seen.

           Twenty minutes later, captain and commander strode onto the bridge, command masks firmly in place.  The façade lasted exactly two minutes until Neelix paged the captain to respectfully inquire if she and the commander would prefer a three or four-layer wedding cake, and could they tell him as soon as possible how many guests there would be.

           There was dead silence on the bridge as every head swivelled around to stare.

           “Oh shit?” suggested Tom helpfully.

           “Doesn’t even start to cover it, Mr. Paris,” snapped the captain.

           “Uh, Captain?  Are you there?”  Neelix’ voice inquired.

           “Yes, Neelix.  Just…..wait.  We’ll get back to you.”

           “Yes, Captain.  Waiting.”

           She sighed.  What a way to come home!  Chakotay leaned across their console.  “You know, Kathryn, there’s an old saying….”

           She interrupted.  “Don’t tell me.  Another bit of tribal wisdom?”

           “Actually, this one is from your culture.  It says – when given lemons, make lemonade.”

           “What are you getting at?”

           “Tell Neelix four layers and there’ll be one hundred and fifty guests.”

           “Chakotay?!”

           He stood, then pulled her up to face him.  “Marry me?”

           Gasps resounded across the bridge.  She stared at him in shock, but as her brain cleared, she reasoned – why not?  She had wanted to find a way for them to stay together – he was giving her one.   Her mouth quirked slightly as she nodded.  “All right.”

           He looked slightly stunned at her quick acquiescence, but made a fast recovery.  “Permission to kiss the captain?”

           “Just this once, Commander.”

           Harry opened a ship-wide channel so that the entire crew could hear the bridge staff shouting and cheering.

           Very quickly, orders began to fly in all directions.  Voyager was placed in orbit around a convenient planet with long-range sensors set to maximum to warn of any approaching ship.  Command was turned over to Tuvok.  Neelix gathered helpers to organize the food and drink, while Tom undertook to oversee decorating the mess hall.

           Three hours later, the doors opened to admit a blushing captain on the arm of a very proud hologram.  The ceremony was standard Starfleet, short and to the point.  The celebrations lasted somewhat longer, but, mindful of their scheduled arrival the next day at Deep Space Nine, Acting Captain Tuvok declared that the ship must break orbit at midnight.

           In a hail of rice and confetti, the senior staff escorted the newlyweds to the door of the captain’s quarters.  Turning, they thanked one and all before disappearing inside for a brief honeymoon of one night.

         _____________________________________________________
 
 

           Kathryn sank onto her couch, too bemused to do more than remark that, all in all, it had been quite a day.  Chakotay, replicating champagne, agreed.  She went on.

           “You remember this morning – was it only this morning? – when I told you I had planned on coming home in a certain style?”

           “Yes.”

           “Well – this wasn’t quite what I had in mind.”

           “You’ll still arrive in a blaze of glory, love,” he replied, handing her a glass, “you’ll just be wearing a bit more jewellery than when you left.”

           She looked at her left hand, where the band engraved with his tattoo sat on her third finger.  “I suppose I will.”

           He raised his glass.  “Here’s to us, our ship and our family.”

           “And a long and happy life.”
 
 
 

THE END

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