Disclaimer:  All Paramount’s, not mine

Rating:  PG

Notes: This is the first of two stories, to be followed by “The First Day

                                                     THE LAST NIGHT

By Mary S.

           Kathryn Janeway stood at her viewport, a slightly giddy smile on her face.  She could see her reflection, even see how silly she looked and tried to straighten her expression.  And then, didn’t.  What the hell!  Tonight, of all nights, I deserve to be giddy, dammit!  We’re nearly there!   My god, after seven years, we’re almost home!

           She turned back towards her desk, the smile now a full-fledged grin.  This time, it was going to work.  This time, they had had help in the form of General Kurok, sometime Borg drone, now Klingon again, and his crew, all former Borg.  This time, it had been almost ridiculously easy to fit the transwarp coil into their modified engines.

           Helped when you knew what you were doing, she reflected.  And they even had a spare, two in fact.  Talk about overkill.  Bet Starfleet would be pleased as punch to get their hands on this prize.

           She glanced once more at the stars.  This time tomorrow, she would finally see the Big Dipper, Orion, Polaris, all her old friends whose names she had learned long ago as a very small child.  This time tomorrow – they would be home.

           While the captain contemplated her future, the commander paged B’Elanna in an attempt to deal with his, their, past.

           “B’Elanna, listen up.  I want you to gather all our old crew in cargo bay one.  Just us, understand?  I have to talk to them.”

           “Chakotay, what are you thinking?”

           “It’s time, B’Ela.  We have to make plans.  I need to talk to all of them at once.”

           “Okay.  When?”

           “Say half an hour?  I want to do this as soon as possible.”

           “Half an hour.  Cargo bay one.  See you then.  Torres out.”

           Chakotay rose, looked around his office, for probably the last time, he thought, and headed out to the bridge.  He had to speak to Janeway immediately.

           The ready room door chirped.  “Come in.  Oh, Commander.  What can I do for you?”

           “I need to talk to you, Captain, about the Maquis.”

           Her smile faded.  “The Maquis!”  She hesitated, obviously trying to figure out where he was going with this line of thought.  “What about them?”

           “I came to tell you that all the Maquis will be meeting in half an hour in cargo bay one – at my request, I might add.  We need to go over our options, try and plan ahead for whatever Starfleet throws at us.  I don’t want to be caught offguard, Captain.  We need to be prepared.”  He paused.

           She had begun to pace, one hand on her hip.  “There’s been no indication, Chakotay, one way or another, what they’re going to do.  Hmmm.  What are you thinking exactly?”

           “I want my crew to be fully aware of all possibilities, or as many as I can think of, anyway.”  His crew.  She hadn’t heard that in a long time; hadn’t thought of them that way, either.  They were hers, all of them.  Every single body on this ship was hers.  He was still speaking.

           “….know you’re not going to like it, but I think it’s for the best.”

           “Sorry, I missed that.”  He looked a little surprised.  “Tell me again.”

           “I said I’m going to try and make a deal with Command to prosecute only me, not them.  That is, if they don’t grant us pardons. I’m assuming the worst.”

           “You’re right.  I don’t like, it, not one bit.  But I do understand.”  She patted his arm.

           “Thank you, Kathryn.  I hoped you would.”

           She paced a bit more before coming back to stand in front of him.  “I’d like to come to your meeting, too.  May I?”

           He was silent for a moment, weighing the pros and cons.  “All right.  But wait until I call you.  There are things that need to be said, and I think they will talk more freely without you there.  Is that okay?”

           She understood.  “Fine.  I’ll wait for your page.”

           “Thanks.”  He seemed about to say more, but didn’t, instead turning and striding out the door.  Her eyes remained fixed on it for some minutes after it had closed.  She sighed.  She had hoped they would at least be able to get back to the Alpha Quadrant before having to face this quandary, but he was probably right.  Best to be prepared.

           Half an hour later, all the Maquis had gathered in the cargo bay.  As Chakotay joined them, he heard the muttering and saw the worried expressions.  Well, hopefully, he could ease some of their concerns.

           “Gather round, everyone.  Thank you for coming.  You all know we’ll be home tomorrow….”

           “Sure about that?”  came a voice to his left.

           “Yes, Dalby, this time we’re sure,” answered B’Elanna in a decided tone.

           Chakotay nodded.  “What you don’t know is that while Starfleet have been making inquiries about us – our status on the ship, our record, our conduct, they have not said just what they plan to do about us.  The captain has tried to find out, but they just keep telling her that all questions will be answered when we get there.  Not before.”

           Ayala spoke up.   “Do you think they’re afraid we’ll jump ship if we think we’re going to be arrested?”

           “I think it’s a good possibility.  But it also may be because they themselves have not decided.  I imagine they’re in a bit of a predicament right now.  I’m sure a lot of admirals want to throw the book at us.  But it may be, that in light of our service to the Federation, the Council isn’t prepared to do that.

           “I don’t know, obviously.  But I want us all to be prepared for whatever may come.  And that leads to my idea.”  He paused, shifting his weight.  They weren’t going to like this part.

           “I am going to try to make a deal with Starfleet.  In return for a plea of guilty from me to any and all charges, I am hoping they will agree not only to drop charges against you, but grant you all full pardons, as well.

           There was an immediate outcry of protest from every side.  B’Elanna shouted over everyone else.

           “No!  That’s not the Maquis way!  We all joined knowing the consequences if we were caught.  It’s not right that you take the blame for all of us.”

           Murmurs of agreement were heard from everyone.  He waited until they quieted.

           “I know it’s not the Maquis way, but it is the Starfleet way – and we’re a Starfleet crew.  The captain takes full responsibility for his crew.  That’s what I’m doing.  Look, maybe, they’ll let us all go.  And if that happens, fine.  But if not, I want to be prepared and ready for whatever comes.”

           Ayala spoke again.  “Your mind is made up, isn’t it.”

           Chakotay nodded.  “Yes.”  He looked around.  “Now, Captain Janeway has asked to speak to all of us.  I assume no one has a problem with that?”  There was silence.

           Abruptly B’Elanna stared hard at him.  “Does she know about this, what you’re planning?”

           “Yes, B’Ela, she does.  She doesn’t like it any more than you, but she understands why.”  He glanced about again.  No one else said anything.

           “Chakotay to Janeway.”

           “Yes, Commander.  Are you ready now?”

           “Come on in, Captain.”

           The doors opened to reveal Captain Janeway – and behind her, the entire crew.  They followed as she stepped through, pouring into the cargo bay, standing among and around their shipmates until every Maquis was surrounded by at least three members of Starfleet.  Chakotay had Janeway on one side, Tuvok on the other and Neelix behind.  B’Elanna had Tom, of course, and Harry, and Vorik.  And so it went, on and on.  It was a show of solidarity that filled every heart with pride.

           The captain climbed up on a convenient crate.  All eyes jumped to her.  She turned around slowly, looking them over, and as she did, her smile grew bigger and bigger.  Then she spoke.

           “I have only one thing to say.  We are one crew, Voyager’s crew.  We stand together as one, and no one, NO ONE, will separate us!”  A cheer erupted from every throat, echoing off the bulkheads.  She raised her arms, calling for quiet.

           “I want you to know that this show of support is completely spontaneous.  While you,” nodding at Chakotay, “were in here, I got a call from Neelix.  A rumour was circulating through the mess hall that you might be separated from us.  By the time I got there, every non-Maquis member of this crew had agreed that we would not accept any division, by Starfleet or anyone else.  I was faced with a fait accompli, so I did the only thing I could.  Invited them all to join me here.”

           She looked around again, making eye contact with each individual Maquis.  “Whether you want us or not, we are here, and we will stay here.”  This time, the cheers were absolutely deafening.  She waved her arms.

           “One more thing,” she shouted when she could make herself heard again.  “I have never, ever, been more proud of all of you than I am at this moment.  No captain has, or could ever have, a better crew than you!”

           She jumped down then as Neelix yelled out, calling for a celebration.  Still more cheers greeted this pronouncement and the crew began to move out the doors, laughing and talking.  The sense of joy was palpable.

           Chakotay stood unmoving, too stunned to speak.  The  words simply would not come.  Janeway grinned up at him and patted him on the arm, before taking his hand firmly in hers.  Her touch startled him.  He turned to look at her.

           “Kathryn?  What….what just happened?  I don’t understand.”  He sounded almost plaintive.

           “It’s very simple, really.  You see, Commander, we’re all in this together.”  She looked at him pointedly.  “You’re not alone.”

           He bowed his head then, trying to hold on to his composure, before looking at Tuvok.

           “And you?  Do you….support this….whatever?”

           “A show of faith, Commander.  And yes, I do.  As the captain stated so eloquently, we are one crew.  I will be at your side.”

           Chakotay shook his head in disbelief.  “I don’t know what to say, except thank you, thank you both, from the bottom of my heart.”

           Tuvok turned to Janeway.  “Captain, I believe it would be prudent for someone to be on the bridge.  I will go.”

           Chakotay looked up, startled.  “You mean, it’s empty?!  No one’s there?!”

           “Nope,” answered the captain cheerfully.  “We were all here.”

           “Good lord!”  He seemed incapable of anything else.

           Janeway nodded to Tuvok.  “It would probably be a good idea to get up there, get at least a few people to man the stations.  Thanks, Tuvok.”

           He nodded and walked out of the bay.  She turned to her silent companion.

           “Well, Chakotay, I believe there’s a party.   Ready for a celebration?”

           “You bet, Captain.”  He chuckled.  “You know, Starfleet doesn’t stand a chance.”

           “Damn straight, Commander!”