Title: Year After Hell: Through the Fire

Author: magical m

Rating: M

A/N: An Alternate Universe where the Year of Hell happened. This fic is J/C as always, in any universe.

Credits: Thank you, Jadie, Anne, and Q for the beta work.

Disclaimer: The characters are the property of Paramount. No infringement intended

Day 1

Kathryn's attempt to re-boot the last year failed. She tried to ram the time ship but its own internal breach put the time ship out of temporal flux. Voyager passed through a temporal explosion that could have been seen in any timeline.

In the end it was done. They had succeeded in destroying the Krenim time ship, but Voyager's crew was strewn across space and the ship, Voyager, well it was hardly a starship anymore. An engineer could look at her and see what she once was, but to the average space traveler Voyager looked like an appalling piece of space junk.

Captain Kathryn Janeway sat on the floor beneath her command chair. She watched the time ship explode on the nearly shorted out view screen. As it disappeared into nothingness so did the last of her hope. How long she sat in silence she did not know.

A familiar voice stirred her from her despair. "Commander Chakotay to Captain Janeway."

"Chakotay?" Her voice sounded listless and broken.

He spoke over the comm., "Captain, the Mawasi have offered to tow Voyager to a space dock on Mawasi prime and are requesting permission to bring an engineering repair crew aboard to lock down any unstable systems."

"Granted."

Another voice, the voice of the Mawasi captain, spoke next. "Congratulations, Captain Janeway! You've defeated the Krenim. We'll be happy to assist you with anything you need."

Kathryn silently shook her head at his enthusiasm. Her first officer knew better than to congratulate her after she had been beaten to a pulp. "Thank you, Captain. I have a feeling we'll be in need of some assistance."

Kathryn raised herself from the floor and was leaning on the arm of the command chair when Chakotay materialized on the bridge.

His heart stopped at the sight. All his thoughts were slammed between the converging waves of joy and anguish as his eyes took in the sight of her.

"Kathryn," he gasped.

Kathryn stood before him in a tank top stained by Voyager's beating. Hearing Chakotay say her name roused in her a sense of self- consciousness, the first she had felt in months. Kathryn knew she wasn't the same. Somewhere in the battle, she had become the battle. The sound of his voice stirred her to remembrance that once she, Kathryn Janeway, was more than a fight, and more than a battlefield. The reminder hurt. She glanced to the floor.

As she did, Chakotay following her gaze saw the watch hanging at her waist. "You found it," he said.

"You disobeyed a direct order," she said flatly.

"I did," he acknowledged quietly.

"Thank you… I needed it."

He approached her to embrace her, and placing one hand on each shoulder, he held her firmly and looked into her eyes. "You did it, Kathryn. You did it."

Kathryn felt the emotions welled up within her. If she let him embrace her she knew she would cry. The prospect was too big of a threat. If she cried she feared she would lose control. The anger, fear, and defeat within her would come to the top and drown her forever.

"Not much of a victory," she snapped.

Letting go of her shoulders he spoke firmly, "Perhaps, but a victory none the less." Returning to first officer mode, he began to report, "The Mawasi and Nihydron are sending out messages on all carrier waves, to watch for our escape pods. And the Nihydron will arrange passage for all our crew members in what is now Zahl space to Mawasi Prime."

"Good." Her eyes looked lifeless.

He wanted to hug her, but he could tell that his every act of tenderness was perceived as a threat.

At that moment, a member of the Mawasi engineering crew walked onto the Bridge.

"Captain, Commander, we have done a quick survey of Voyager's main systems." He let out an insensitive whistle. "If I had not seen it myself, I never would have believed a vessel could take such a pummeling and still be space worthy. You can actually bring her to space dock on your own engines. But first, Commander, may I ask you a few questions about your maneuvering thrusters?"

"I'll join you in engineering." Turning to follow the young Mawasi engineer off the Bridge, he glanced back at Kathryn, "Captain?"

She inclined her head in agreement. He should go.

Alone on her bridge, Kathryn sank into her chair. Every temptation to feel left her when Chakotay walked off the Bridge. She was satisfied with his absence because the emotions she contended with at his arrival felt more formidable than those she experienced during any battle of the past year. Completely numb she stared ahead of her until Chakotay called her from engineering and told her they were ready to get underway.

Joylessly, Kathryn took the conn and followed the other vessels to space dock. Concentrating only upon maneuvering Voyager, she didn't notice the beauty of the approaching binary system full of ringed planets. The fact that she was almost single-handedly responsible for restoring their vibrant civilization to the time-line was, at the moment, of little consequence to Captain Kathryn Janeway.