Disclaimer: Paramount’s.  I just play.

Rating:  PG-13

Notes:  This is the sequel to “Kathryn Lost”.  For the purposes of this story, assume all the Maquis receive full pardons.



                                        KATHRYN REGAINED


By Mary S
.



           Kathryn Janeway strode through the corridors of Starfleet Headquarters, savouring the unaccustomed feeling of freedom.  They were home, she was debriefed, on leave and free to do as she pleased.  No more never-ending responsibility, no more ship, crew, Delta Quadrant.  No more being captain.  She was free to be herself.  If only she could remember just who that was.

           Her pace slowed as she realized that she really did not know how to think as Kathryn.  For so long, she had been ‘the captain’; she didn’t know anymore how to be anyone else.  She found herself outside and sat down on a convenient bench.

           Who was she?  How could she find out?  Would anyone know?  Her mother should, and her sister.  But they hadn’t seen her for seven years.  The Kathryn they had known was long gone, lost forever in the Delta Quadrant.  No use asking Mark – same answer, besides which she was a little hesitant to contact him.  She had not yet figured out how to keep her balance around him.  There would be a reserve now, between them, that had never been there before.

           Her fellow officers here, at Headquarters?  She knew the answer she would get from them – Captain Janeway.  Well, she had the captain part down pat already; she didn’t need confirmation.  No one in Starfleet had known Kathryn.  No one here would be able to help.

           So who then?  She was left with her other family, her crew on Voyager.  But again, the same problem became apparent.  They all saw her as the captain, and that was how they reacted to her.  She had not been able to let the command mask slip.  Too often, it was all that had held them together.  She remembered how, in the early years, she had occasionally joined them in their off duty activities.  But after a while, she decided that they could not properly relax around her, and she had declined all further invitations.

           Only Chakotay and, to a lesser extent, Seven had kept her company in later years when she was off duty.  And with Seven, their interaction was usually more work than play.  That left Chakotay.  She wasn’t sure she was ready to go there yet, but in a moment of honesty, acknowledged that she had no more excuses to delay thinking about him – and her – and them.

           Chakotay.  How did she feel, really feel, about him?  She had told him she didn’t love him, but was that true?  At the time, she had believed so; now she wasn’t so sure.  Friendship certainly – he was her best friend, had been since New Earth.  There was another taboo topic.  Might as well drag that one out too, to examine.

           She knew she had started to fall in love with him there.  She had been close to telling him but then Voyager had come back.  Once in command again, there was simply no question that ship and crew had to come first.  She hadn’t needed any Starfleet protocol to tell her that.  He had seemed to understand and, after some initial tension, they had settled easily into a close friendship. 

           Even their dissension over the Borg alliance had not disrupted it completely, although it had certainly been strained.  All through the ensuing years, he had kept his promise, supporting her, putting her needs first even when they disagreed on what those needs were.  He had known her so well, better than she knew herself at times. 

           When had it started to change, when had he started to back off?  The Equinox.  She still shuddered when she remembered how close she had come to cold-blooded murder.  If Chakotay hadn’t stopped her, forced her to reconsider her options, she could very well be facing charges right now.  Either that or be confined to a mental institution. 

           After that, he had been a bit more reserved around her, and less likely to join her after hours.  That was why she had been drawn to Michael Sullivan in the Fair Haven program.  She had been so lonely; Michael had seen her only as Katie – there had been no captain to upset the equation – and she had responded to him fervently.  A little too fervently, she recalled.

           Chakotay had even teased her and given his blessing when she had questioned her own judgment about having a relationship with a hologram.  He had hinted at the time that he indulged occasionally himself.  It was months later before she found out just what he meant.

           Unimatrix Zero.  Assimilation, well, part assimilation, to be precise.  Thanks to the neural suppressant, she had never actually been part of the collective.  It was after that triumph, when she was feeling particularly pleased, that she had found Chakotay on the holodeck with a hologram of herself as she had been on New Earth.  The first shock had led to fury that he would dare to take such liberties.  The second had come when he turned on her, accusing her of losing the best part of herself and admitting that he had never stopped loving her.  The third had set in when he declared he didn’t want her as she was now, and then ordered her out.

           She had left him and returned to her quarters, where she had sat in stunned silence.  Was it true?  Had she changed so much?  At the time, she hadn’t thought so, but later had begun to wonder.  And now?  Well, now, she had no idea at all.  She had come full circle, back to where she had started and no further ahead.  She had to admit – she no longer knew who she was.

           A voice penetrated her thoughts as she sat in a brown study.  She blinked and looked up.   Before her stood Tom and B’Elanna Paris, both looking quite concerned.

           “Captain, are you all right?”  asked Tom.  “You looked a million miles away,”  added B’Elanna.

           “Oh!  I’m sorry.  I was somewhere else – not quite that far, though,” she answered with a smile.  “How are you?  And what are you doing here?  I thought Owen said you were on leave.”

           “We are,” replied Tom.  “We came in today to have lunch with Dad.  He wants to get to know us better, or so he says.”

           “Tom, that’s wonderful!  I’m so glad – for both of you.”

           “Yeah, I think it’s all going to be fine, Captain.  And B’Elanna and I have been assigned to a new research division that’s still being set up.  We’ll be in on the ground floor.”

           “Really!  I hadn’t heard about this! What will you be doing?”

           B’Elanna spoke up.  “Engine and ship design.  Starfleet is really interested in the slipstream drive as well as transwarp coils and even Sikarian technology.  I’ll be more on the engine side of things, Tom will work on ship schematics, and  Harry and Seven will do both.”

           “Harry – and Seven?!  Goodness!  Are you sure about this, B’Elanna?”

           “Seven and I do fine together, Captain, as long as she remembers who’s boss.  And when she forgets,” she grinned, showing all her teeth, “I remind her.”

           Janeway shook her head.  “I wonder if Starfleet knows what they’re getting into.”   They all laughed.  “And Harry will be with you.  I am glad.  It’s not easy for any of us, separated like we are after being together for so long.  I’m happy, and relieved, to know you will still have each other.”

           “Yeah, us too,” answered Tom.  “But what about you, Captain?  What are you going to do?”

           “You know, I’ve been sitting here thinking about that very thing.  I don’t know.  I really don’t know.”

           Tom and B’Elanna glanced at each other.  “Uh, have you talked to Chakotay?”

           “No, I haven’t seen him since the night after we got back.  It’s been so busy,” she waved her hands about vaguely, “with debriefings and meetings and everyone wanting to know what it was like – out there.  I haven’t had any time at all – until today – to talk to anyone.”  She became aware of their unsure expressions.  “Why?”

           B’Elanna spoke up.  “Then you don’t know.”

           “Know what?”  asked Janeway, somewhat exasperated.

           B’Elanna took a deep breath.  “Chakotay’s gone, Captain.  He resigned his commission – for the second and last time, he said – and went back to Dorvan.”

           Janeway sat there in shock.  Gone!  How could he have just gone, with no word to her!  She tried to speak, but no words would come out.  They sat down, one on each side of her.

           “Captain,” said Tom worriedly, “you’re white as a sheet!”  He chafed her hands.  “Come on, Captain, talk to me.”

           She tried again after she remembered to breathe.  “Gone?” she croaked.  “Why?!”

           B’Elanna answered.  “He said he hadn’t been able to reach you.”  Janeway thought guiltily of the messages piled up in her voice mail.  She had assumed they were all just more congratulatory notes and had been too tired at the end of each day to look at them.  “He thought you didn’t want to see him, so, to avoid ‘inflicting himself on you any longer’ (she was obviously quoting him), he resigned and went home.”

           Janeway buried her face in her hands, horrified at her own thoughtlessness.  He must have thought she had abandoned him!  Oh, how awful!  On the heels of this came the next thought – how would she manage without him?  He was always there, at her shoulder, advising, supporting, cajoling.  She felt quite helpless all of a sudden.

           Her confusion and dismay were not lost on either of her companions.  Tom decided to take the bull by the horns.

           “Captain, how do you feel about him?”

           “I…I….I think I love him.  Oh god, what have I done!”  She covered her face again.

           Tom put his arms around her, ignoring the astonished stares from two cadets passing by.  Lieutenants did not normally hug their captains in public.  B’Elanna patted her arm.  “You know, Captain, you could go and find him, tell him how you feel,” she suggested.

           Kathryn raised her head.  “Do you think he’d listen?”  She looked doubtful.  “Maybe I’m too late.”

           “You’ll never know if you don’t ask, will you.”

           She nodded her head, then got to her feet.  She grasped their hands tightly, smiling now.  “You’re right, B’Elanna.  It’s good advice – the best I’ve had since we came home.”

           “So when will you go?” asked Tom.

           “Now,” answered Kathryn decisively, sounding much more like herself.  “I’ll go now.  Thank you both.  You’ll never know how much you’ve helped.”

           “Captain?” called B’Elanna.  “Let us know, won’t you.  Please.”

           “Promise,” added Tom.

           “I promise.  Now, I better go.  If I hurry, I might just catch….”  and she trotted off, turning once to wave just before she disappeared through the doors of Headquarters.

           Tom held B’Elanna’s hand, a somewhat bemused smile on his face.  “You know, B’Ela, I think we’ve done a good thing today.”  He looked down, then hugged her.  “I know we have, Tom,” she replied.


           _____________________________________________________________



           Two weeks later, Chakotay rose to answer a knock at his door.  He opened it to find his former captain on his doorstep, bag at her feet, wearing a rather apprehensive expression.

           “Captain!  Kathryn?”  he amended, realizing she was out of uniform.  “What…what are you doing here?!”

           “I came to find you, Chakotay.  You left before I could talk to you and I have several things to say, as well as a question.”

           “Then you better come in.”  He reached for her bag, and led her into the kitchen.  “Sit down.  I was just about to have lunch.  Let me get you a plate.”

           “Thank you.  I didn’t realize what time it was, or I would have waited ‘til later.”

           “It’s not a problem, Kathryn.  There’s lots.”  He filled two bowls from a soup pot, placing one before her.  “I can make you some coffee, if you like.”

           Her face lit up.  “That would be wonderful, if it’s not too much trouble.”

           He chuckled.  “Kathryn, it’s me.  You’re acting like you’re walking on eggshells.”  He organized the coffee maker.  She remained silent, not quite sure how to answer.  In truth, he had hit the nail on the head.  She felt unsure, a strange feeling to have about him.  He sat down and began to eat.

           “Eat first.  You’ll feel better when you’ve had some food.”  His comment nearly made her cry – he was still putting her needs first.  She swallowed and picked up her spoon.  I don’t deserve you, she thought.  Whatever happens, I have to tell you how much you mean to me.  I owe you that much.

           Their meal finished, coffee cup in hand, she sat back and really looked at him.  His hair was longer now – she liked that, it suited him – with a touch of grey at the left temple.  Had that been there on the ship?  She honestly didn’t remember.  His face was much the same but what struck her most was a sense of contentment about him that she had not seen before.  He was home, in his own place, and free to do whatever he wished.

           He allowed her gaze before speaking.  “All right, Kathryn.  What do you have to say?”  His tone was even, giving no indication of his feelings one way or the other.

           She took a deep breath.  “First, I want to apologize for not answering your messages.  I have no excuse, except that I was very tired at the end of each day and simply didn’t bother to look at any of them.  It didn’t occur to me that you would try to reach me.  I’m sorry.  I took you for granted again and it was wrong.   I was thoughtless – and that is inexcusable.”  He nodded his head, accepting her apology, but made no comment.  She continued.

           “Second, I don’t ever want you to think that I would not want to see you.  Never, ever, have you inflicted yourself on me.”  He jerked at that; obviously she had been talking to B’Elanna.  “You are my best friend, Chakotay.  I was horrified when I heard that.”  He nodded again, this time apologizing to her.  She went on.

           “Third, I was devastated to find you had resigned your commission and left without saying anything, not even goodbye.  I couldn’t believe it at first.  I feel dreadful that you thought that was all you could do.

           “Fourth, and most important, I don’t know what the future holds for us, but I had to come and tell you how very much you mean to me.  These last two weeks have been awful.  I’ve felt so lost.”

           He was staring intently at her now.  She finished.

           “That leads me to my question.  You told me nearly a year ago that you wanted me, but the me who was on New Earth.  I…I’m trying to find that person, but I’ve been having trouble.  I think she’s still there, but I can’t seem to locate her myself.  Do you know where she is, Chakotay?  Will you help me find her?”  Her voice quavered a bit.  This was it – it was all up to him.

           He didn’t hesitate, standing up and reaching for her.  “Kathryn!”  he half cried as he pulled her into his arms.  “Oh, my love!” he whispered into her hair.  She clung to him, arms wrapped tightly around his waist, as tears of joy poured down her face.

           “I love you, Chakotay.  I’m sorry it took so long for me to say it.  I’ve been such a fool.  All this time I loved you and didn’t even know it!”

           He lifted his head and looked deep into her eyes.  Very gently, he wiped away her tears with his thumbs.  “I’ve always loved you,” he said, and bent his head to kiss her, long and deep and very, very satisfying.

           “Will you stay with me, love?” he asked when they came up for air.

           “Always, forever,” she replied.

           “Here?”

           “Wherever you are, wherever you go.  I don’t care.  I’ve wasted too much time.”

           “Starfleet?”

           “I’m letting the captain go.  She’s had her day.  It’s time for Kathryn.”

      
        _____________________________________________________________



           Kathryn Janeway never did leave Dorvan, content to live out her life with Chakotay, helping him rebuild his home and restore his culture.  The captain was never seen again.

The End

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