Eventually, we got back, of course. The story of that adventure has been recounted so often, I'm sick of hearing it myself. I'm certainly not going to repeat it here. The Maquis issue was more difficult to resolve than I'd anticipated, possibly because I'd grown so used to their complete devotion to duty by the time we came home that the very idea they still could be considered terrorists and traitors was unthinkable.

And Thomas Eugene Paris. You'd think he had personally hijacked Voyager to the Delta Quadrant to sneak out of prison, to hear the venom out of some of the admirals' mouths. I was appalled, becoming more maternal than ever about him. There was no way my prodigal son, who'd learned to accept responsibility for his own actions, who had proven himself a courageous and valuable officer, an asset to any crew, was going to be sent back to prison for overstaying his parole! His parents and I fought the Admiralty when they tried to keep him out of Starfleet. Thank God some of the saner heads prevailed, and Tom's entire record was looked at before a judgment was reached.

How to balance things out? Yes, he'd lied and been cashiered from Starfleet, been caught consorting with the Maquis, and had disobeyed a direct order to return to Voyager on the Monean water world. Some said his being willing to sacrifice his life during the Warp 10 experimental flight was just a grab for glory, not bravery, although I certainly begged to differ. We countered with his willingness to sacrifice his life by going undercover to catch Michael Jonas, his role in rescuing Voyager from the Kazon, and his selfless disregard for his own personal safety time and time again when rescuing members of the crew from danger. When all was said and done, Tom had been an exemplary officer with a couple of lapses. Which counted more, the lapses, or the officer he usually had been, and certainly was now?

It was a close call. Admiral Picard's was the deciding vote. Knowing the importance Picard placed upon personal integrity, I was not hopeful Tom would receive a vote of confidence from him. I was wrong. Afterwards, the admiral reminded me that when he was Locutus, he'd contributed to the loss of thousands of lives. While Starfleet accorded him dispensation from his actions because he was "under the influence" and forgave him, Picard was not so easy on himself. He said he'd always tried to make the right decisions while in command, but he could recall several that could have been disastrous. Picard had been lucky. He'd always been able to undo his major mistakes before he'd done the unthinkable.

When he saw Tom, however, he saw a man who had been unable to rectify his blunders before falling out of grace. His first mistake - the lie about Caldik Prime - Picard saw as something that could have and should have been forgiven. Tom's "lie" had been told to the Board of Inquiry within days of the accident, while he was still in shock. To Picard, Tom's actions were clearly symptoms of a man suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome. By the time Tom had realized what he'd done, the moment when he could have undone it by admitting the truth had already passed. The fact that he had, of his own accord, come forward later to tell the truth rather than go on living the lie suggested to Picard that Tom was an honorable officer. His initial "lie" should have been treated as a symptom of his shock, not a criminal act, just as Picard as Locutus had been treated as a man possessed and unable to function independently.

Tom's participation in the Maquis Picard dismissed. The remnants of the Maquis in the Alpha Quadrant had all been released by the time we returned home. Picard had spoken up for the five who had been rescued from the Equinox when their actions under Captain Ransom were scrutinized; all had been reprimanded, but all had been allowed to remain in Starfleet, if they so wished. As Picard said, how could he do less for the Maquis of Voyager, who were not guilty of crimes as serious as those committed by those on the Equinox? He passionately defended my Maquis crew. Chakotay, B'Elanna, Ayala, all of them were pardoned. Those who'd wanted it had been given rank in Starfleet. If they were exonerated, how could Tom be denied the same for his few weeks of participation in that cause?

After their pardon, Picard confided to me how troubled he eventually became by the Federation position towards the Maquis. He'd been dismayed when he found that certain admirals, Tom's own father among them, had cynically decided to use freedom fighters defending their homes as a delaying action, sacrificing Maquis lives so that Starfleet could have more time to build up their forces for the anticipated clash with Cardassia. Learning he'd sacrificed his own Lieutenant Ro Laren, simply so contractors would have more time to build weapons, didn't sit particularly well with Picard. He understood the political issues. He did his duty. He didn't like it. Defending my crew, he said, was "payback."

Finally, while Picard thought Tom's methods were deplorable in the matter of the water world, he had a personal reason for offering forgiveness. While we were lost in the Delta Quadrant, Picard himself had disobeyed a direct order from Admiral Dougherty in defending the Ba'ku. That situation had turned out well for Picard and the crew of the Enterprise.

Picard could identify with Tom's defense of the native inhabitants of a world from the incursion of those who would exploit them, much as he had the Ba'ku. Those Tom had chosen to defend were not the Moneans themselves (although by saving the water world he could do so, even against their own will), but the rest of the inhabitants, those water creatures who were the true natives of that strange, artificially created planet. I thought their reputed lack of sentience precluded considering them; but it was true, as Picard reminded me, we'd never even tried to find out if any of them were sentient. We'd simply taken the word of the Moneans they were not. The Moneans admitted they'd never explored far down into the center of the water world. How could they be sure?

So, while Picard agreed that Tom's being disciplined because of his actions was necessary, he was not willing to see him barred from serving in Starfleet. "Let's give Mr. Paris one last chance, in view of his subsequent record on Voyager, to prove he has learned his lesson about putting causes - and orders - in their proper place."

And, without ever telling me directly, Admiral Picard hinted that he thought I might have chosen the wrong side on the water world, just as Admiral Dougherty had when he'd chosen the Son'a.

At his hearing, Tom was allowed to retain his field commission by one vote. I was properly chastened but relieved. My goal to redeem Tom's career had been achieved, despite Tom, and perhaps, despite me.

The crew of Voyager was allowed to remain an entity for almost three years after returning to the Alpha Quadrant. I wanted to keep my family together longer, but given the technical problems plaguing Voyager after all that the ship had been through, we were lucky to stay together that long. When Starfleet scheduled Voyager for an extended refit, the crew finally scattered in every direction.

It's been seven years since Voyager arrived at spacedock for that refit, seven years since I stood before my crew for the last time. "Mother" Janeway, as I'd come to be called, bid her children farewell as they left the nest to go their own way. I knew there were many I'd never see again. Life is uncertain, particularly when life takes place in Starfleet. Others I knew I'd see again, but it could never be the same.

Today, I saw many of them again at the reunion. Ten years after Voyager's return to the Alpha Quadrant, there was a grand party at Starfleet Headquarters, hosted by Admiral Kathryn Janeway. There are those who couldn't attend because they were far away, a few who could not because they are no longer alive. We remembered them, as well as those we lost on our journey home. So many of those whose faces have haunted my dreams were remembered by us today.

It wasn't the same as it was on Voyager for any of us, of course. Sometimes I felt like we were all in the middle of a play, with rehearsed lines to say. We were so predictable, I knew what most of us would say before we said it.

Tuvok and T'Pel came from Vulcan, where he has been on leave while awaiting assignment as first officer on a new vessel.

The Doctor - our original EMH program - was there also, pontificating as usual about his work as assistant chief of Starfleet Medical. Two of his clones were also there, since the Enterprise and the Reliant were both in orbit. Now that the secrets of the mobile emitter have been uncovered, any ship can have their own, independently operating EMH. Both the Mark 1 and Mark 2 models are available. I must confess I prefer our own version, but I enjoyed the Mark 2 from the Prometheus, who dropped by during the party to visit his "old friend, Dr. Mark 1." Our EMH gritted his teeth when he heard that, but later I saw the two of them happily reminiscing about their victory over the Romulans.

Lieutenant Commander Harry Kim was there, back from the first extended mission to the Delta Quadrant since our Trek homeward. For its five-year mission, the Glenn had utilized the new Federation transwarp drive perfected through the efforts of Annika Hansen and her research staff. Annika had not returned to the Delta Quadrant on the Glenn, although she had been invited. She felt that her presence was unnecessary and an inefficient use of her time. Some things never change.

Perhaps it was just as well. The Glenn's mission had included seeking out representatives of several races we'd encountered to build upon our First Contact efforts. They'd been successful in finding the "renegade" branch of the Varro, and Harry became reacquainted with an old friend. Derran Tal and several of her shipmates had asked to return to the Alpha Quadrant on the Glenn. Permission had been granted. The connection between Harry and Tal that had so disturbed me on our journey out of the Delta Quadrant was reestablished, but this time with a more satisfactory conclusion, I devoutly hope. Derran Tal is now the wife of Harry Kim.

Neelix could not be there, of course, but he sent his greetings in a message from his home in the Delta Quadrant. His wife Dexa, son Brax, and daughter Alixia are all doing well. With the success of the Glenn's mission, we may be able to see them in person very soon. There is talk that the Federation's Ambassador to the Delta Quadrant may be "recalled" for a visit and the presentation of formal credentials. It would be so good to see Neelix again, even if the visit was a short one.

Samantha Wildman and her husband, whose name I can never quite recall - Greskrendick, or something like that - came with their two sons. Naomi was already in town, in her second year at the Academy. I still have trouble reconciling the tall, intense young cadet with the infant from Voyager, until she smiles that impish smile. Then I see again the child I once knew. Her parents and her Uncle Neelix are so proud of her, as am I. Naomi is on the fast track to be a captain in her own right someday. Thanks to a childhood spent on a starship exploring the Delta Quadrant, not to mention spending two years during early adolescence as a student research assistant in Annika Hansen's propulsion lab, Naomi already has credentials most cadets would kill for.

Icheb has already achieved a full lieutenancy. He can still be so grave, yet when he does smile, his face lights up. His second rescue from the clutches of the Borg - no thanks to his parents - is one of the things I look upon with great satisfaction. While Seven doesn't smile much more than Icheb does, her pride in her "son" is clear to everyone.

It was good to see Tom and B'Elanna with their children. She's pregnant with their third - and she swears their last - child. Of course, she said that after young Harry's birth, too. Tom may still have a streak of boyish mischief in him that will never go away, but that doesn't make him a bad father. Quite the contrary, his being in touch with his own childhood may make him a better one. He's surely one of the most loving fathers - and husbands - I've ever seen. The degree of equilibrium his half-Klingon wife has been able to achieve bespeaks that more clearly than anything else.

They still have the capacity to convey more with a glance than most couples can by chattering for an hour. I saw it happen at the party, when they stepped aside for a few moments to speak privately with one another, soul to soul, as if they were the only ones in the room. The protective masks they wear around everyone else, presenting them to the world in their roles of Starfleet officers, friends, and comrades, are imperceptible when they address each other, yet when the outside world intrudes, their masks snap back up over their faces. It's fascinating to watch.

The Rikers were there, too, as my guests. Will told me that since he can't have Geordie La Forge as his chief engineer any more (and he knows he can't, now that Geordie has his own command), the only chief engineer that's acceptable to him is Commander B'Elanna Torres. To keep her on his ship, Riker told me, he'll even put up with that irritatingly heroic pilot husband of hers, the one that will never make captain, despite having all the goods to be a great one. Whenever it seems Tom might actually have a shot at commanding his own vessel some day, he does something to keep himself from being promoted. I had to laugh. From the twinkle in his eye, I think Captain Riker is happy Tom would prefer to be a good pilot on the Enterprise than an unhappy first officer or captain anywhere else. Will knows something about staying put when you know it's the right place to be.

Besides, the only thing Riker and I have a harder time seeing than "Captain Thomas E. Paris" is "Admiral Thomas E. Paris." It may be that Tom has so much abhorrence for fulfilling that old ambition of his father's, he's found the sure way not to become an admiral. Never get promoted to captain.

Even though most Starfleet vessels no longer routinely have families with children on board, Tom and B'Elanna have an exemption for theirs to live on the Enterprise, just as Deanna and Will have for their son. It's a generally accepted perk for senior staff members on most large Federation vessels, especially when the captain feels an officer is essential for the optimal operations of the ship. It's a risk for children to be on board during battle, yet most officers agree that the alternative - long postings away from families, or no families at all - are worse. I quite agree. When the family exemption rule came up for review, right after I was named to the admiralty, I was one of those who fought most vociferously to maintain it.

The Ayalas came, too, but Culhane could not. He sent his regards from his posting on the Lexington. The Delaney sisters were unable to attend, either. Megan left Starfleet and is living with her husband Gerron on Deep Space Nine. She couldn't come because she's close to her due date for her second child. Jenny is on Deep Space Nine as well, but she's scheduled to go on a deep space mission as Chief of Astrometrics as soon as her new ship docks to pick her up. Otherwise, she assured me, she would have been here.

Chakotay is no longer in Starfleet. He sent greetings from his home on New Dorvan. I've met his wife. A lovely woman, tall and slender, with auburn hair and a very strong jaw which gives her quite an exotic look. V'alaan is a psychologist and counselor, specializing in the way people deal with extreme stress. That's how they met. She came to study Chakotay, and something clicked between them. I miss him desperately, but I'm happy for him. He's one of the dearest friends I've ever had in my life, and I'll always wish him well.\

Seeing so many of my crew today has made me rather contemplative tonight. When I review my life, I can't help but reconsider some of my decisions in light of what I now know of the "whole picture" - something that none of us can know while we are in the midst of living our lives. I can see I was harder on myself, and maybe even harder on others, than I needed to be back in the Delta Quadrant. That unexpected posting made Kathryn Janeway's career, even as it ruined her life as a woman.

Oh, it's not like I'm dissatisfied with my life, far from it. My work has been fulfilling, especially since I've been in the Admiralty. I've made a difference in so many ways since bringing Voyager back home. I have good friends from before, during, and after my days on Voyager. I have my niece and nephew, Phoebe's children. I don't really miss having a family.

Well, actually, that isn't accurate. I do have a family, I guess. I haven't seen them for years and they may not look much like their father and me, but they are our children, just as much as the children Tom conceived with B'Elanna belong to the two of them. I would like to think that that bizarre interlude created some good in the universe - that those descendants of Tom and myself are even now populating a lonely Delta Quadrant world. They're the only babies I ever had. I wish them and theirs all long and happy lives, as any mother does, even if I was snatched away from them before I could give them anything more than life.

I don't know if I miss never having had a husband. I came close twice - and perhaps three times, if I count Chakotay. Since coming home I've known some very good men. I've taken lovers when I've wanted them, although I can say without question that none of them has ever satisfied me the way Chakotay did on New Earth. I must have been insane not to have at least tried to continue our relationship on board Voyager, considering the way we were condemned about our time on New Earth after our return to the Alpha Quadrant.

That's one thing that still amazes me. We thought we had reached the end of our journey. Why should we have followed Starfleet protocols there? It never made sense. If that is "disregarding protocols," I may as well have gone the rest of the way and had a private life on Voyager after all. How much more could they have harassed us?

I think that was the final wedge that came between us. Chakotay met V'alaan during the Board of Review hearings. She came to write a paper on our reactions to the hearings and left as Chakotay's wife. When her research protocols demanded that she drop the paper or Chakotay, she never hesitated. There were other people she could study, she said. She couldn't count on meeting another Chakotay in her life. I understood perfectly.

I do regret taking on the role of the "Ice Queen of Voyager." Many of the crew started to call me that about five years into our journey home. The nickname was not unjustified. I regret that, too. The lonelier and more isolated I grew on the journey, the stiffer my back and my upper lip became. The role of captain, which I was so very comfortable wearing in the Alpha Quadrant, became an unbelievably heavy burden when we were cast adrift in the Delta Quadrant and. I was prepared to be a captain. I wasn't prepared to be captain, counselor, admiral, and Federation diplomat, all wrapped up in one neat package, with only the crew who needed her to be all of those things to support her, and for seven lonely years. I know that now.

Listen to me ramble. It's almost dawn, and now that I've looked back at what I've just written, I don't know why I'm writing this at all. Some would say it's a sign of weakness, or perhaps, senility. I probably shouldn't even keep it. Starfleet admirals aren't supposed to have such doubts or regrets about their lives, or so I've been told.

Of course, that's undoubtedly a myth. Picard confessed to having doubts about some of his decisions. If he could have them, the least I can do is reserve the right to be honest enough about my life to have doubts of my own.

I will say this: I always did what I thought best, throughout our journey. Perhaps I was wrong some of the time, but I tried to think things through. I tried to be consistent and true to the ideals of the Federation and of Starfleet, whether it was making First Contact with a new species - a common occurrence out there - or dealing with my crew and officers, Starfleet, Maquis, and eventually, the refugees from the Equinox.

I followed Starfleet protocols as closely as I could, giving up one good man because of regulations and refusing to touch all the others because they were members of my crew. It simply couldn't be done. A captain doesn't take lovers from her crew.

One thing haunts me, however, even more than my regrets over Chakotay and myself. I regret the loss of the love that never was. Potentially, it may have been even greater than the one I'd felt with Chakotay, though fate had decreed from the beginning we were never to be.

The starship captain and the con. The admiral's daughter who excelled, and the admiral's son who constantly screwed up. Such an odd couple could never make sense. Even on Voyager, the ship of odd companions, surely that was beyond imagining.

Had Tom and I ever gotten together, he and B'Elanna would not have been. Might Chakotay and B'Elanna have found each other in that case? Probably not. They'd already had the opportunity to be more to each other in the Maquis if they'd wished, but they never did anything about it. It seems selfish of me to even consider it now. Ludicrous.

Sometimes it seems to me that Tom and B'Elanna were always two halves of the same soul, needing only to see past their self-imposed barriers before they fused into one. I'm still envious of that closeness, that ability to let go and love another person wholeheartedly, no matter how volatile the relationship. That sort of love was always beyond my ability to sustain.

Yet sometimes I lie in bed and consider how different our lives on Voyager might have been had I decided not to offer Tom Paris a place on my senior staff. By encompassing him within the chain of command back in the beginning, returning him to full Starfleet officer status, I made Tom as untouchable as the rest of the crew. If I hadn't offered him that place, Tom would have remained the observer, outside the purview of Starfleet protocols.

In that case Tom would have remained isolated from the crew for a longer time than he was, possibly throughout our trip. That would have been hard on him. Tom has always been such a social being. But if Tom had been isolated from the rest of the crew, perhaps I would not have been forced to remain isolated for our entire journey. At least then, there would have been that one man on Voyager it would have been legal for me to touch, and to touch me. Being with the "observer" would not have broken those regulations I followed to the letter, making me abandon a love that would have been all anyone could ever wish for - simply because it wouldn't do for a captain to have a relationship with her first officer.

Late at night, I think of things like this.

Would it have been better to have left Tom hanging for a while, taking him as my husband or lover early in the journey, simply because I could have him, even if I could have no one else?

Would it have been better to break regulations and be with my first officer? We were a good match. We worked well together. Would we have worked together equally well if we continued to be lovers, not just comrades, after leaving New Earth?

Or was it better the way I did it? To be Captain Kathryn Janeway, who upheld the regulations and led a life of solitary confinement, emotionally speaking, while standing on the bridge of Voyager?

The sad thing is, even though I lived out the last scenario because of my sense of duty, I don't really know which would have been best for Kathryn Janeway, the woman.

And that, I will always wonder about.


The End


March, 1999

Revised August, 2013

Disclaimer: Yes, Paramount/Viacom. You own them all. I'm telling a story, borrowing the characters and some of the stories, just to see where certain possibilities might lead. What Paramount doesn't care to claim, I do.