Always and forever, Paramount’s
Notes: I think all the Dance stories presently floating around must have inspired me. This is my contribution.
By Mary S.
The mess hall was filled with happy and excited crewmembers, talking, laughing, waving their arms as they described to each other just what they were going to do now that they had reached the Alpha Quadrant at last. Neelix’s bushy head could be seen darting among them, offering trays of food and drink, making sure everyone had a full glass in one hand and a tidbit in the other. In one corner, Voyager’s musical group, led by Harry Kim, was warming up their instruments. Several of the more stalwart were pushing most of the tables and chairs to one side in preparation for dancing.
The captain stood out of the way behind the counter, a fond smile on her face as she tried to memorize each of the faces before her. After tomorrow, the crew would be broken up and heading in all directions. Tonight was the last night they would all be together as a family on this ship, which had been their home for so long.
“Penny for your thoughts?” murmured a very familiar voice in her ear.
She turned to her first officer and best friend. “I’m trying to engrave each one in my memory. I don’t want to forget any of them. Ever.”
He smiled gently as he looked over the crowd. “It’s been quite a ride, hasn’t it? When you think how we started out, it’s….” his voice trailed off, as he tried to find the words and couldn’t.
She nodded her head, understanding perfectly. Unobtrusively, he let his hand rest on his favourite place in the small of her back. She leaned against him slightly, acknowledging the support. She knew, as did he, that possibly their greatest challenge would come tomorrow when they docked at Deep Space Nine. The Kazon, Vidiians, Hirogen, Devore, Species 8472, the Borg – they had conquered them all. But Starfleet Command was a different matter entirely. This time, she wasn’t at all sure whether she could succeed in protecting her crew from the threat hanging over them.
Command had been very vague about just what they might expect on their arrival. The captain had to be prepared for anything from a huge welcome home party to instant arrest and imprisonment for a quarter of her crew as well as a court martial for herself.
Unconsciously, she sighed and her face fell into lines of worry. Chakotay, watching her carefully, knew exactly what she felt. He rubbed her back slightly and eased his arm around her waist, giving her as much support as he could without making it obvious. She relaxed a bit more against his solid chest, feeling his warm body behind her as it always was, holding her up until she could find her way again. She sighed again, and muttered almost to herself.
“What am I going to do without you? How can I manage?”
“You’ll be fine, Kathryn, you always are.”
She placed her hand over his on her side, gripping it tightly. “Only because I know you’re there. But this time – Chakotay, what am I going to do if they arrest you?”
“Let’s cross that bridge when we come to it. Right now, we have to celebrate.”
She smiled up at him, lifting a hand to brush across his cheek in a familiar gesture. “You’re right.”
She turned back to face the crew as the band started to play a lively tune. “Want to dance?”
Wordlessly, he turned his hand over to grip hers and led her out to the floor. As his arm came around her, and he pulled her close to him, leading her in an easy waltz, she put aside her worries and concentrated on enjoying the final night on their ship, surrounded by their people. Somehow, tomorrow would take care of itself. As he had said, it always did.
On their arrival at Deep Space Nine, Voyager’s family was separated as each person was debriefed individually by a veritable army of bureaucrats. Starfleet wanted to ensure that there could be no possibility of collusion among the crew, and to that end, Command had insisted that everyone be isolated. Even Naomi had been kept from her mother for the first week.
Despite stringent security, word leaked out about what was going on. Rumours circulated, getting wilder by the day. It quickly became evident to Command that the general public would not stand for any stalling tactics. The Federation Council wasted no time in reminding the admiralty that Starfleet was still subject to Federation law and unless specific charges could be laid, then the crew must be freed at once. By the end of the second week, only the senior staff was still detained.
Neelix did his best to act as a central clearing house of information for the crew, families and media. His face soon became familiar throughout the Federation, and most nights his cheerful smile could be found on just about any newscast. Since officially he held ambassadorial rank as a representative of the entire Delta Quadrant, he was not obliged to submit to any Starfleet directive, a fact Command learned very quickly the first time Admiral Hayes tried to enforce an order. The media had a field day with that mistake, and thereafter the admirals left him alone.
Likewise, Seven of Nine easily held her own against an even more formidable opponent. Admiral Nechayev had rashly reprimanded Seven in front of headquarters, ordering her not to speak to anyone, particularly the reporters camped out in the street. She failed to realize two things – that it was nearly impossible to intimidate a Borg, and that, very sensitive cameras picked up every word and action. They duly recorded Seven’s eyes as, filled with contempt, they swept over the admiral, and they picked up her every word as she replied that since she was not a member of Starfleet, the admiral had no jurisdiction over her actions and she would not comply.
With the combined efforts of these two, backed by a media that clamoured for every scrap of news, all but the command team were released halfway through the third week. At that point, Command dug in its heels. The captain and commander would remain in isolation until such time as Starfleet saw fit to free them. Admiral Nechayev held a press conference where she arrogantly stated that she was well within her rights to keep them confined indefinitely if she so deemed. Therefore, everyone could just back off! That was the admiral’s third and last mistake.
She had not yet left the podium when a diminutive gray-haired woman with flashing blue eyes, stepped forward, calling out that she was not ‘everyone’ and she wanted some answers – now! The crowd murmured and swirled, sensing confrontation. Nechayev looked the woman over from head to toe, trying to stare her down. It didn’t work.
“Who are you?” she finally had to ask.
“Gretchen Janeway. That is my daughter you have locked up there! My daughter whom I haven’t seen in seven years! So I want a better explanation than that for keeping her away from me!”
The uproar that followed that statement nearly drowned out the admiral’s reply. Before she could get out more than a few words, an aide grabbed her arm and hustled her out the door.
When the conference was broadcast in its entirety that evening on every news channel throughout the Federation, the results were instantaneous. Nechayev was relieved of duty at once. The Council announced that civilian experts would complete whatever debriefing was required, and that a huge welcome home ball would be held in one week’s time in the main foyer of Starfleet headquarters.
A second announcement, this time for the eyes of Command only, made it very clear that any admiral who did not agree wholeheartedly with this course of action, was welcome to take immediate retirement. The admiralty quickly fell into line.
On the appointed night, Voyager’s crew were reunited once more, probably for the last time, reflected more than one. With them were their families and friends, which expanded the gathering to nearly a thousand people, all buzzing with happiness now that the Federation could officially give them the welcome they deserved. The president himself, as well as most of the Council, were in attendance, as a reminder that, despite the location, this was not just a Starfleet function. All the peoples and races of the Federation had rejoiced at Voyager’s return.
With such a large crowd, it was some time before the crew realized that the two most important people weren’t there. Questions began to float across the room – where were the captain and commander? Were they still being held? No one knew for sure what had happened to them, although speculation abounded. More than one set of anxious eyes glanced repeatedly at the entrance, but it remained obstinately empty.
Finally, in some desperation, Naomi Wildman marched up to the president and demanded to know the whereabouts of Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay. Her treble voice, pitched higher than normal due to nerves, cut through the hubbub. Silence fell as all present waited for an answer. The president was perplexed – he didn’t know where they were, either. As the silence stretched and began to become uncomfortable, a muffled roar could be heard outside. As one, heads swivelled to the entrance.
There stood their captain and commander, side by side, faces wreathed in joyous smiles. Both were attired formally – he in a tuxedo, she in a deep blue satin gown that showed off the figure always hidden under her uniform. Her neck and ears gleamed with old gold, in nice contrast to her hair.
B’Elanna’s voice broke the silence. “Oh my god! Tom! Look at their hands!”
A collective gasp was heard throughout the room and then Naomi bolted forward to throw her arms around Kathryn. “You got married! Captain! Commander!”
Her movement roused everyone from their astonishment. In seconds, the command team was engulfed by their ecstatic crew. Chakotay scooped up Naomi before she could be trampled, perching her comfortably in his arm. She was able to watch and laugh as the mob swirled around their commanders, exclaiming and shouting with delight. Finally, she clapped her hands and called them all to order, announcing that as the Captain’s Assistant, she had the authority to make them obey. The crew fell in behind and on each side, as the president, knowing a golden moment when he saw one, stepped forward.
“Gentlebeings, I give you – the crew of the starship Voyager!!”
The cheers were nearly overwhelming, the sound reverberating around the ceiling and echoing down the corridors. On and on it went, as all those present were finally able to give them a proper welcome. Tears flowed down more than a few faces including Kathryn’s. At this instant, it was hard to remember all the misery, the deaths, the sorrows, the neverending burdens. All she could see now was joy and happiness in the faces around her. She reached for Chakotay’s hand, clutching it tightly, as the noise finally began to abate. She glanced at him, then took a deep breath.
“Thank you, Mr. President, and everyone here for such a wonderful welcome. We have been waiting for this day for a long time.” She glanced behind her and then to each side, before continuing. “These people are very special. As our crew, they have performed far beyond what anyone could have asked. It is because of them that we are here now. As our friends, they have supported us through good times and bad. We are more than friends – we are a family, Voyager’s family.”
She turned to face them then, Chakotay with her. “Thank you, all of you, from the bottom of my heart. I will treasure my memories of you for the rest of my life. And remember, wherever you go and whatever you do, we are, and always will be, a family. Our door is always open to each and every one of you – although, preferably not all at once!”
There was a burst of laughter which quieted as the president stepped up to them, and they all turned back to him. “Captain Janeway, Commander Chakotay, I think it’s time to let the party begin!”
He waved his arm and the band struck up a sprightly tune. The crew separated to find their own families, and soon were crowding the dance floor. Gretchen Janeway walked up to her daughter, grinning from ear to ear.
“Glad to know you finally got here. I was beginning to think we wouldn’t see you at all!”
Tom and B’Elanna stared at her. “You mean, you knew where they were? And didn’t tell us?!”
Chakotay interceded, seeing the hurt in B’Elanna’s eyes. “We didn’t dare let it be known we were in Indiana, or we would have been mobbed. We didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings by telling some people and not others. It seemed better to do it this way.” He put his arm around her. “Forgive me?”
She swallowed hard, trying not to let him see the pain, but he did and his arm tightened. He put Naomi down, glanced at Kathryn, nodding towards Tom who looked just as hurt, and led B’Elanna to a quiet corner. After a moment, she followed with Tom.
“I’m sorry, B’Elanna,” he began. “I….we didn’t ….I wish we could have done this better, but you see…..we didn’t actually plan to get married. It just sort of…..happened.”
“It’s my fault,” interjected Kathryn. “I was the one who insisted we tell no one. The only reason my mother knows is that it’s her house! Believe me, no one else does! Please understand, after all we’d gone through with Starfleet, we just wanted some quiet time….to ourselves.” Her eyes were worried as she looked at the two solemn faces. This was going much worse than she had thought it would. She held out her hands.
“You both are so dear to me, to both of us. Please – we didn’t mean to hurt you.”
Tom relaxed a bit and he looked at his wife. “Remember, when we found out about the baby? We didn’t want anyone to know at first?”
She nodded, and her rigid posture eased. Chakotay and Kathryn breathed identical sighs of relief. She waved a finger at them. “All right, you’re forgiven. But, if you ever…..”
“I know,” sighed Chakotay, “you’ll break our necks.”
“You got it! Now, let me kiss you properly.” Which she did, followed by Tom.
Hours later, when the dignitaries had all gone home and the party was winding down, Kathryn found herself dancing to a romantic ballad with her husband. She could not remember ever feeling as content as she did this night. It wouldn’t last, she knew, but for now, it was wonderful. She slid her arms around his neck and looked up to his face. He smiled gently down at her, his eyes mirroring hers. All was right with their world.
“Do you remember that last night on the ship?” she asked. “When we danced?”
“Very well. You were so nervous and worried.”
“With good reason, as it turned out.”
“True, but remember what I said. Enjoy each moment. Tomorrow will come soon enough.”
He leaned forward just enough to brush a kiss on her nose. She laughed at him then and he pulled her tight against him as he swung her around. Life was good.
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