"Welcome Home, Commander"

by MarMar1
a Star Trek: Voyager story
April 2003
rating G

Disclaimer: of course, we all know I do not own any of Trek (other than a few books, action figures and a full set of 'mini mates') and could not make a profit from this if I had to. Thanks for letting me play. You will see, I take better care of your toys than you did.

Author's Note: this is my first story, though certainly not my first or only idea for one. It is the type of story that has been done, I am sorry to say, but the characters just would not leave me alone 'til I wrote this down. I am not a writer, just a fixated fan. Enjoy as you can.

Time: just after 'Endgame' which will be obvious.

"Come." Captain Janeway's voice, huskier than usual from emotion, commanded entry for the person who waited outside the Ready Room doors.

With her back to the door, she continued to stare out through the viewport. Having been in her ready room for hours, she knew who it would be.

She had stood at the viewport for some time, attempting to gain control over herself. They were home; they had done it, and dealt a crippling blow to the Borg in the process. She should be happy; they would all expect her to be overjoyed, and she was. Yet she stood looking past the stars into the black oblivion and felt an emptiness and crushing despair overwhelm her. To gain so much, yet lose so much all at the same time. It was the feeling of standing in the ocean surf: the initial firm footing gave way to shifting sand and surging waves. Just as she reached a point of calm, the emotions would roll over her like the pounding waves and threaten to knock her from her feet. She felt the undertow pull at her.

The doors opened and admitted her visitor. It was Chakotay, as she had known it would be, come one last time to pull her from her sanctuary to be a part of the festivities. She was relieved that he was alone.

Commander Chakotay entered the Ready Room and found Captain Janeway was not at her desk, but standing in a familiar pose by the viewport. He approached, but did not climb the few steps to the upper level. He waited for her to turn, to acknowledge him, but she did not.

They had not spoken privately since the dramatic exit from and demolition of the Borg sphere; not since entering the Alpha Quadrant. There had been messages and quick briefings, orders and information, but not conversation.

The captain had been in her Ready Room at length, in conference with Starfleet Command. Few details had been shared, but neither had the captain expressed reasons for concern. It seemed they all had reason to celebrate. Judging from the length of time she had been sequestered and her position at the viewport, Chakotay determined that her duties were at a lull; it was an appropriate time to approach her about the crew.

"Is B'Elanna still resting well?" the captain's voice startled him before he could initiate his campaign.

"Actually," Chakotay chuckled, "when last I saw her, she was torn between wanting Tom to stay with her and sending him out to join the celebrations. They're all three back in their quarters and doing just fine."

Kathryn inclined her head, turning it almost in profile to him, "And the rest of the crew?" she asked.

It was the first he had seen of her face since he had entered the ready room. The captain stayed with her back to him, her arms crossed in front of her, and turned her eyes back to the viewport, waiting for his answer.

Chakotay wondered if there had been bad news, if this was, after all, not a good time to approach her about joining the crew in celebration. He was having an unusually difficult time discerning her mood. However, he did know the mood of the ship, and he knew this was the time to have the captain make her presence known. With a slight feeling of trepidation, Chakotay pushed on.

"The crew is in fine form, Captain. With Tom and B'Elanna both out of commission for the time being, I assigned Seven to the issue of removing the rationing status from the replicator system per your earlier orders and had Harry initiate appropriate programs on both holodecks. Chell is in his element with all the activity in the mess hall but, if he weren't Bolian, I'd say he was turning blue in the face from the effort to keep up. The barest of skeleton crews is on duty and everyone else is kicking it up as we speak."

The commander had not noticed the captain's reaction to his words. He had not seen her hands grip tighter where they held onto her upper arms, nor had he heard the sharp exhale of breath, as if she had taken a fist to the solar plexus. Her head was slightly lowered, so he could not see her face as she squeezed her eyes shut, as if to block out awareness of his speech.

"I am concerned, though," Chakotay continued, appealing to the captain's protectiveness of her crew, her sense of duty, "that things could soon get out of hand. I thought it would be a good idea for the captain to make her rounds of the revelry. If the crew sees you, it would set a calming tone to the celebrations, help contain the more exuberant participants just a bit. Tuvok is keeping a close eye, but I would hate for anything to happen, now, that we might all regret."

Kathryn had turned from the viewport and fully faced Chakotay, her arms still crossed in front, her expression unreadable. She took a step or two toward him and stopped.

"We all have regrets, Chakotay."

So many regrets, seven years of regrets: lost homes, lost lives, lost chances, lost love, lost hope. Kathryn looked at this man who touched her soul and she felt every one of those regrets and more. Regrets for what could not have been then and for what now would never be. To never tell him the burden of emotion she carried, never lose herself in his embrace, to never kiss those lips that implored her to caress and taste them with her own.

Yet, he was unaware that she had reason to know that chance was gone. Then, as quick as thought, as was her way, Kathryn Janeway made her decision. She decided to live with one less regret. She would have this, if nothing else.

Chakotay watched his captain, his friend, with some mounting concern. He was not sure he was following her, or she him, in this out of balance conversation. He was more unsure than ever where it was leading. He knew the crew needed to see the captain, but was unsure if he had convinced her of this. He had a sense that he should offer to help her, but with what he did not know. So he waited, his gaze tinged with concern.

Having made her decision, Kathryn acted. She moved toward the steps that led to the desk level of the room, but she did not descend all the way.
Seeing her step forward, Chakotay had moved a step to the side allowing her to pass. Taking one step down, Captain Janeway stopped directly in front of Commander Chakotay. Inches from him, at eye level, she stopped. The determination, and something more, in her blue eyes met with the questioning in his eyes, darkest brown.

Time seemed to still, to pause.

Breaking from his gaze, her eyes followed her hand as her fingertips lightly caressed over his tribal tattoo, down the line of his cheek, to stop gently under his chin. Her eyes briefly considered his mouth; her tongue slipped out to moisten her own lips before they met his with a firm tenderness.
Her left hand rose to grip his right shoulder. Through slightly parted lips, her tongue slipped out to tease across his lips before she leaned back, breaking all contact with him. Once again, her eyes caught his and she was unable to mask entirely the desire, the sadness within.

"Welcome home, Commander." she said, her voice heavy.

Then, stepping around him and down the steps, Kathryn moved toward the doors.

Startled did not begin to cover it. Totally unprepared, Chakotay had only just begun to respond to the enticing assault, when she had ended it. Bereft of the physical contact, he was also unprepared for the depth of emotion in her gaze. Though he did not move, he felt himself, his being, stagger. He saw her move toward the doors.

"Kathryn...?" was all he could force past his paralysis.

The few strides had taken all the time needed for the Command Mask, the Captain's Presence, to be solidly in place. Almost to the doors, she turned back to him.

"Don't worry, Chakotay. The captain knows her duty."

Then the captain turned and was gone, acknowledging with her smile and a word, those working on the bridge before stepping into the turbolift, heading for the celebrations, leaving a stunned First Officer in her otherwise empty ready room.