Title: Who You Love

Author: Abbey, TNG/VOY

Codes: Janeway/Nechayev

Archive: Just ask.

Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: I don't own either of these two.

Summary: Set in the Endgame universe. After Janeway returns to Earth, she and Admiral Nechayev form a relationship.

AN: I've got to acknowledge Kelly's brilliant Janeway/Nechayev "Exchange" here. If I hadn't read that, I probably wouldn't be attempting the pairing, and would have missed out on the fun of writing this thing. Thanks to Kaite for giving her thoughts on Janeway and snarking with me, Jessie and Anna for reading early drafts, and especially to Djinn for the beta.

Kathryn Janeway came back to the Alpha Quadrant mean. Or that was what everyone said. The twenty-three years she'd spent lost in space with Voyager made her crazy, the story went. She had become a tyrant, a raging egoist. But I wanted to see that for myself. I've been called those things. I've been called worse.

So, by the time I got to see Janeway myself, I was pretty curious. She had come back to Headquarters, and it wasn't long before I saw her in the hallway. "Admiral Nechayev," she greeted me, with a perfunctory nod, as she passed by.

She didn't seem particularly crazy. And that intrigued me. I'd just finished reading her logs. I wasn't sure how she could manage to stare me down evenly, just as she had thirty years ago.

Maybe that's what rank does. It stays and holds us in our place when everything else goes out the airlock.

I sat on the board that promoted Janeway to rear admiral. There was debate, among the others, about the legality of some of her decisions, about the way she'd fought some alien races, especially in the last five years of her journey. But, they couldn't dispute that she was brilliant. That she was one of the best captains in history. That she was the best captain we had. And that we needed her knowledge on the Borg, on other threats. And so she was promoted.

I spent the next couple of months quietly negotiating with the Cardassian government for their human intelligence assets. I've always liked that about being head of intelligence—leaving on a stealth shuttle with one or two assistants, disappearing for weeks at a time, no hard times to be back by, nobody to question what I'm doing.

The next time I saw Janeway was at a formal dinner back on Earth. Celebrating the Federation, or something. I wasn't really aware of whatever the propaganda side of the house was putting out. I just threw on a dress uniform and went.

There are some rules about how officers, particularly women officers, dress for Starfleet functions, whether they are required to wear a uniform or not. Some of these rules are written, some not. You should look pretty. It should be obvious that you care about your appearance. To most, it then follows that you care about other things, and can be counted on. You should dress modestly. Don't look threatening. Don't show yourself off. You're too mature for that. Too trustworthy.

Janeway didn't wear a uniform. She wore a v-cut black dress that showed every bone in her back and shoulders. Her long, gray hair was pinned up tightly. She looked severe. She was fierce, and she didn't care if that was completely obvious to everyone in the room.

"Admiral Nechayev," she said, when she saw me, "would you be so generous as to fill me in on how politics have changed during my absence?" Staring me down again. Taunting me with the popular perception that I was a talker, that I did nothing but make deals and break them. That I had no tactical experience.

"Internal or external?"

"Both." She smiled, a little.

"In that case, we'll have to continue our conversation outside."

We ducked out of the ballroom and stood under a giant replica of the galaxy that had been emplaced during Kirk's time.

I looked her up and down, slowly. I tried to gauge her mindset.

"I was never afraid of you," she said, voice quiet, eyes fixed on me.

"I know. I never expected less from Edward's daughter. He never gave me any of the respect I was due." I took a breath, remembering. "He was a real son of a bitch."

"So I finally gathered. You lumping me in the same category?" she asked, cocking her head.

"You bend rules and twist arms for the betterment of those under you. You'd never catch Edward giving a fuck about the livelihoods of his subordinates."

She laughed, almost. "I like a few of the organizational changes I've seen here. I didn't know you did anything but follow the Fleet Admiral's agenda to the letter, but I've heard otherwise. It's good to know."

"If I can be made to care enough, I'll do what I can. Are you asking for something?"

"I might, in time. Right now I'd just like to leave this party."

And so I took her home. We walked a kilometer and a half talking about space bases and assignments and who had left and who had stayed. It was chilly, and she shivered occasionally. I lent her the regulation cape that went with my dress uniform. It swished against the top of her ankles as we walked, her words coming quickly, in an unbroken stream. She seemed grateful for the chance to talk. At home, I fed her curried fish with couscous. She was hungry. By the time we had finished eating, calling her Kathryn was easy, and touching her was even easier.

I kissed Kathryn as we sat together on my couch. We were unwilling to turn on the news or have another productive conversation. It was quiet. The only sounds were the rustle of our clothes and the tumble of our breaths. She wasn't in any hurry. I wasn't either. I liked that.

Kathryn spent the night for the next week. Some nights I'd pretend to sleep and watch her sitting up, staring out at nothing. Just staring. Sometimes she'd sob when I touched her. She wouldn't tear; her breath would just rise up until she couldn't control it. I liked that she leaned on me. She liked that I didn't press her for answers to questions I hadn't asked.

"I used to worry so much when I was an ensign," she said one morning as we passed a nervous young buck carrying so many boxes he couldn't salute us. "I used to worry about my future. I used to worry about seeing action. I used to worry that I'd worry so much that I couldn't operate in a battle. I wish someone had told me that during battle, everything but the necessary task falls away. That another, stronger person inside you takes over. Someone surer and better. And that in time, you become that person."

"I think you have to grow up for yourself. You can't make someone understand that."

"God knows I've tried," she said, laughing. She began to talk about her crew then. She talked for a good hour as we scared more junior officers by wandering the grounds.

Over the nearly ten years we were together, there were times when Kathryn needed to talk. She talked about all the people whose deaths she felt responsible for. Who they had been to her, to the others around her. The smallest thing would set her off: an accidental shuttle explosion, the anniversary of a treaty, the news of somebody's promotion. Hell, I'd done the same thing after I returned home from captaining a warship against Cardassia. I just hadn't had a word for it at the time.

That afternoon in the garden, I wanted to say that part of becoming that surer, better person under pressure meant that you lost who you'd been before. But she already knew that.

I had to leave for a conference after that first week. When I returned, Kathryn met me for coffee at a spot run by a low-key Bolian couple.

"Alynna, I enjoy being with you," she said. "I'd like to stay with you. Unless, of course, you think that would cause too much ire over at Headquarters."

I told her a story. About how I loved a crewman when I was a lieutenant commander. She was smart as a whip, saw right through me. We carried on for the duration of a six month mission, without anyone noticing.

"How the hell did you make admiral?" she asked, her voice leaking outrage over this blatant case of fraternization.

I explained that intelligence isn't the finding of one highly-guarded silver bullet, one magical piece of information that causes everything to make sense. It's the piecing together of lots of little bits of information into a coherent, complete picture.

This is something that most people don't realize. That they aren't good at. And besides, I said, if anyone at Headquarters figured out our relationship and decided to make a fuss over it, there were plenty of things I'd pieced together about them.

Kathryn became the resident Borg expert. Over the next year, she wrote a few training manuals and case studies. She lectured and sat on panels. She liked being busy.

"Tell me what you know about time travel," she said one evening as she sat on what had become our bed, taking off her boots and stretching.

"Possible and mostly illegal, you know."

"I mean advancements. Time travel for spacecraft, not just an individual moving from one point to back in the past. And that individual's internal organs not being irrevocably and fatally confused about their age."

"Those are all on the drawing board. It takes time. You got any plans?"

"You know I do, or you're not as smart as I gave you credit for."

"Wait," I said. "Kathryn, five years from now you'll be able to go as far back in the past as you want. Not that I'd recommend it. It would change everything—you don't know how much of it could be for the worse. And I like having you here."

Kathryn rolled her eyes and took down her hair. "I'll let you know before I try it."

She did that, at least. She was smart enough to know that if she dug through my files, I would know. And that I wouldn't be happy. It was easier to ask me than to try and piece something together herself.

When Janeway was presumed lost, public affairs talked about what a loss it was—a smart young captain, cut down just before she could have the kind of missions she'd always worked for. She was their poster girl: a good captain—honest and direct, kind and firm. A humane arbiter with other races. Tougher than most of the men she worked with, and still graceful and charming at any public function.

But I'll be honest. Some people were relieved when she was lost. They were scared by how relentlessly good she seemed to be. I had never seen a captain marry personal ambition with gruelingly hard work for the mission and those under her and still not come across as an opportunist. She was smart. She was unusually honest. And she had no qualms about being in it for the long haul. And why should she have pretended to want something less? Her daddy was an admiral, and she meant to earn those stripes, too. I admired that about her. That she wasn't shy about what she wanted. I was never the shy type.

If the ruling class at Headquarters was relieved when Janeway was lost, it was even more relieved when Janeway came back bloodied. When it was known that she had killed, and tortured, made deals with the Borg, compromised her ideals, and fought dirty. That she'd been depressed and irrational, that she'd been alone, that she'd suffered. That she was human. Never mind that she was still more noble than most of them had ever been.

Sometimes Kathryn went on my trips. Sometimes I went on hers. I loved waiting. Staying awake in a hotel room on an alien planet. Waiting for her to break in. I would give her hints about the access codes. A digit here and there. She was the mathematician—she could figure out the rest. And she always did, though I never asked her exactly how. She'd slip in, and I'd pretend I was asleep, and she'd pretend she believed me, and she would come to me, and we'd move together for the rest of the early morning. I enjoyed the secrecy, the charade. How we could pretend to make a romance of it all.

I wanted to know all of her. Wanted to have all of her. It sounds oppressive and calculating, but I mean that I wanted to know all her stories. These were among the things I loved the most. The memories that stay with me are times of when she told me about Voyager. In those moments, when she loved me enough to share with me, I could almost imagine a future for us. I could imagine that we were made for this peculiar love.

And I was jealous. I was jealous that I hadn't been there with her. That I hadn't been part of the great, horrific adventure that defined her. That even though she loved me, I would always be some kind of an outsider. That the love she had for the lowliest crewman on Voyager was stronger than anything she felt for me.

I knew that love would take her from me.

I would tell myself that this was in her blood, that it wasn't me. Sometimes that helped.

My parents weren't upset when I joined Starfleet. They were upset when I made a career of it. It wasn't a twenty, thirty year job for most people when they were growing up, like it's become. You traveled. You saw the galaxy. And you came back, and you helped your planet grow and manage itself. "Don't you want to be more than someone who fights for a living?" they asked. "Don't you want to give something to your home?"

I was trained as a fighter and a scientist. I was trained to operate ships that kill and defend, and I was trained to recognize amazing natural phenomena. The intent of my Prime Directive is to limit my contact with the governments of alien species, and yet I have made and broken countless alliances and regularly toy with the governments of other planets for my own planet's benefit.

Why professional mercenaries like me running the world? Because everyone else on Earth, whether they'd had a stint in Starfleet or not, came out of one too many wars too tired to rebuild a Terran government strong enough to make any decisions about how they'd relate to any other planet. So, on every frontier, Starfleet was left to decide what best served the Federation. What constituted a threat, what didn't. When to attack, when not. Starfleet tried to train my generation in this. By the time Kathryn's year group came along, it was much better at pretending that being fighter, leader, scientist, cultural interpreter, politician, and diplomat all in one wasn't completely bewildering.

There are abuses, but then, there are abuses in any system. Some of my colleagues cavort with demigods. Some of them seem to think they are demigods. But I didn't ask for this power. When faced with a strange people, a strange ship, that may or may not seek your destruction, it's much easier when someone else tells you to arm the torpedo.

"Tell me why you need to go. What was wrong in the choice you made?" I asked Kathryn as she pressed for more information about time travel. She had been back from the Delta Quadrant for six years. She was open about her desire to go back to that time, seven years in the journey, when she had the chance to cripple the Borg or go home.

"It was wrong that many members of my crew died. That I broke many promises to get people home. That I let those around me suffer. That I failed."

I tried to imagine those years. I tried to imagine what could make Kathryn Janeway choose the lives of some of her crew over those of millions of people. I found I could not.

Sometimes she told me. There were ugly killings by alien races indigenous to certain segments of the Delta Quadrant. The way she described them, they seemed more like monsters than anything else. There was Seven of Nine's death, caused by a misunderstanding with aliens on an away mission, and only more painful for being so pointless. There was watching Tuvok go crazy, and fighting the Borg Queen, who had come back for Kathryn with a vengeance after the destruction of the hub.

I was good at listening, and I could talk to her about it better than most people. Maybe I hoped that if she talked, she would see that she hadn't failed. That she had done everything possible, that she had done right, and that she had succeeded in coming home with those she did. And that every human failed, in the end.

But I could not convince her. I thought about making her stay. I could have made her stay—or at least made it harder for her to leave. I wondered if pulling some strings to get her command of an experimental ship would have tempted her. But I knew she was determined to go back. And that no matter what I did, she would find a way. It was easier not to fight each other.

I told her when the time travel drug was released within certain classified channels for experimentation. I told her my operatives had learned that the time travel device had been sold to the Klingons. She would have learned through other means, in time.

When she knew both these things, she prepared to leave.

The last time we made love, I held her under me and memorized her face. "What should I do, now that you're leaving?"

"Fight," she said. "Fight the way you always have, Alynna."

"Fight for what?"

"For the ability to do right, to be just, to gain some sanity in this galaxy. If that makes any sense, coming from me." She smiled, laughed wildly. Doing right. Being just. Saving the universe, one briefing at a time. All that.

She ran her arms down my side. Her mouth was open; she was trying to say something—something that would make it right. In the end, she just kissed me hard.

I don't believe in fate or any of that bullshit. I don't believe there's any one way the universe turns out. I can accept the idea that there are multiple universes, multiple strands where time and accident get mixed in different ways.

I wonder what Kathryn did when she went back. I know she succeeded in bringing Voyager home; she was willing to go beyond death to ensure that the plan was carried out. I wonder about that universe. I wonder what young Janeway saw in Kathryn's face. Did she see only her hurt and failings? Could she read the lines of her future's face, some of which I'd put there? Some with my jokes, some with my arguments.

I wonder if this Janeway, given another chance, changed her life radically. Did she get out? Did she tell one of those people she would have lost that she loved them, that she wanted to be with them for good?

Did she rise to become a well-respected admiral, unfallen, still an unstoppable force?

Did this Janeway stare me down after her return, make a few cracks at the bureaucracy, and have me undressed and screaming by the end of the night?

The risks you take are determined by who you love, and what you will do for them. I have known the kind of love that bound Kathryn. I have never tried to break it, even though I sometimes wished I could. And though it no longer has a hold on the choices I make, it is still with me. As Kathryn and the love we had is still with me. And though I watched her shuttle rise and soar out of the atmosphere beyond my sight, I know exactly where she went.