Author's Note: So many years later, this show is still inspiring me in new ways. Thank you, as always, to the writers, actors and characters I continue to adore, and for all of your inspiration. Thank you to my beautiful love, who also inspires and keeps me writing. This story takes place twenty years after Voyager returns to Earth and is set in the universe of the show, following "Endgame." It is exactly what I wished would have happened given the way the show ended. I have played around with some technology/time issues, so hope hardcore science people will forgive me. Other than that, it is, I believe, very much true to our beloved show. Thanks for reading, and I look forward to your comments. Enjoy

CHAPTER ONE

Kathryn Janeway sat at her desk, gazing out over the San Francisco Bay. She had a habit of getting lost in this position for hours, intending on completing some project or starting on the next, only to find herself much more content doing nothing. Deadlines had become meaningless since she'd retired from active command six months ago. Then again, they hadn't held much urgency since returning from the Delta Quadrant. It almost felt like the two decades she'd been back on Earth were borrowed time. After fighting every moment, every day to make it home safely, she hated to rush.

She caught a glimpse of her reflection in the window, and as always, was a bit startled to see the woman staring back. The years had weathered Kathryn, partly from the hectic schedule she was forced to keep despite her attempts to disengage, but more so from the tendency to bury her feelings in a nice Irish whiskey. She continued to dye her hair a red, but it never came close to the soft auburn hue of her younger days. Part of her knew it looked ridiculous, and yet she refused to stop, mostly because she feared becoming the stubborn old woman she'd met on Voyager in the days before their return to Earth.

The Admiral, while incredibly strong and brilliant, had indeed perished in the final battle with the Borg Queen. Although Janeway had taken the title herself in the years since, she never liked it, couldn't get used to it, and actually preferred people call her Kathryn. Perhaps the red hair was meant to stave off the mortality she had faced in order to save another.

As for the woman she'd risked everything to save…well. Sometimes Kathryn figured she may as well have died too.

She cursed herself for thinking it, but distance lead to callous, and if she were willing to be totally honest, regret.

"Come in," she sighed lazily as the door to her home office chimed.

Cadet Lira Stevenson-who had been assigned to work with Janeway as part of her Starfleet coursework-entered the room and sat across from the desk. They both knew Starfleet gave Kathryn an assistant more as a formality than anything else. She'd taken herself off most committees and research teams. Occasionally, she'd do a guest lecture at the Academy, maybe attend an informal gathering here and there, but other than that, Lira's job was to help sort through the incessant invitations she continued to receive. Nevertheless, they got along well, and Kathryn didn't mind the company.

"Anything interesting?" Kathryn asked, spinning her chair around to face the young woman.

"Admiral Jones is hosting a consortium on Holodeck expansion next Thursday," Lira noted, scanning through the pad in her hand. She wasn't surprised to hear Janeway scoff, knowing that meant to hit the delete button.

"There's a forum on reptilian species at the Academy in December, if..."

"I plan on staying in Indiana from Thanksgiving till New Years," Kathryn cut her off, a little impatient, though Lira knew it wasn't personal. "Anything else?"

Lira looked at her softly before beginning again.

"Doctor Zimmerman sent another message."

"For God's sake, how many times do I have to tell the man I'm retired?"

"I know... but I think you better read this one."

Something in Lira's voice made Janeway pause.

For eighteen years, she had never failed to miss the Doctor's annual "Medical Marvels of the Delta Quadrant" conference, either serving as a guest speaker or simply attending out of loyalty and respect for her former crewmember and dear friend. She knew how important the discoveries they'd made aboard Voyager were to the medical community, what gifts they had brought back to the rest of the world, all largely thanks to the incredible and sometimes unconventional methods of the most honored and decorated EMH in Starfleet history.

However, beginning the year prior, the conference had been reduced from three days to one day, largely due to funding cuts, though from what she understood it was still standing room only. Despite the Doctor's persistent attempts to have her attend, she'd said no, but not because she couldn't make the date.

A one day conference meant having to run into the only crewmember she had purposely avoided in the twenty years they'd returned to Earth. She always asked to see the conference schedule first before agreeing on a date. If Seven's presentation was already on the agenda, she'd choose one of the other two days. If Seven was not yet listed in the program, she'd choose a date first, only to find later that the former Borg had scheduled herself the day before or the day after. Any time the Doctor asked for them to appear together, both made excuses until he eventually stopped asking. It was an unspoken yet understood arrangement, and since Seven lived in New Mexico, their paths never crossed.

Janeway took a deep breath as Lira handed her the pad. She looked down and began to read.

Greetings Beloved and Distinguished Colleagues,

As many of you know, my wife and partner, Dr. Jennifer Zimmerman, has been ill for some time. After examining every medical advancement in the known universe together, our greatest challenge and the most tragic discovery we've had to face is that sometimes a breakthrough is not reached in time to save every patient. While the research we conducted on Jennifer's condition will no doubt lead to a cure in the future, she lost her battle with the illness this week.

Nevertheless, at her insistence and in lieu of a memorial, I have agreed to continue on with our annual conference as planned, though it will be my final year leading the proceedings. After the event, I plan to transfer all of my findings to Starfleet Academy in order to provide the capable students there with the opportunity to continue these endeavors. After a brief visit with our son on Chaya VII, I will then delete my program permanently. I know this may sound rash, but I have given it considerable thought and hope that those of you with biology that privileges your ability to die naturally will understand and respect my need to bring my own life to a conclusion with dignity.

I hope to see all of you (and I do mean all of you) at the conference in two weeks. I know for some, the considerations you will need to make in order to be there will be arduous, but I do hope you will make the trip so that I may thank you for the support and friendship you've so lovingly shared with me over the years, and to once more, say goodbye.

Sincerely,

Doctor Joe Zimmerman

Kathryn could not stop the tears. She hated to cry in front of Lira, but simply couldn't stop them. Jennifer was a lovely woman. She'd gotten to know her over the years, both at conferences and during the weekends she'd been invited to spend with the couple at their home. She didn't know much about the mysterious and fatal illness Jennifer had suffered, only that it had become completely debilitating in the past year, and that the Doctor had done everything in his power to try to save her.

"Are you..."

"I'm fine," Kathryn sniffed, wiping away her tears. "She will be missed."

"So...you're going then?" Lira asked a little sheepishly.

Kathryn let out a deep sigh and brought her fingers to her temples. It was too much to process at once.

"I need to think," she breathed.

"I'll have to book the transporter time soon," Lira said, a little more firmly.

"I know."

Kathryn brought her elbows onto the desk and rested her chin in her hands. She felt incredibly guilty for thinking so selfishly. She had to be there. The Doctor was very important to her, even if she hadn't seen him as much in the past few years. Part of her wondered at the dramatics of his plan, whether or not he'd actually go through with it. Overcome with grief, it was no shock he'd consider ending his life. She'd known many flesh and blood people who had been through the same. He had worked so hard at becoming as human as possible, and these were typical human emotions that needed to be processed. Surely with time and the support of his friends he would change his mind, but that meant needing his closest friends near him, which meant she had to be there.

"I'm sorry, Admiral," Lira offered.

"Thank you," Kathryn half-smiled, snapping back from her thoughts.

"Maybe it's not my place to say, but I think that if you don't decide now, you'll keep debating until it's almost too late and get yourself so worked up it will be even harder when the time comes."

Kathryn chuckled lightly. Lira knew her too well for the short time they'd been working together.

"You're right. It's not your place to say, but I like that you did anyway."

Lira smiled.

"I'll make the arrangements then. Is there anything else I can do?"

Kathryn shook her head no. Lira stood and began to leave.

"Cadet Stevenson," Kathryn stopped her.

The young woman turned and waited for further instructions.

Kathryn wasn't sure how Lira knew it would be such a difficult decision. Her friend's wife was dead. Of course she should go.

Then again, anyone who even remotely kept tabs on the Voyager saga, anyone who read her book (which she knew Lira had) would question why Janeway was never seen with the Borg she'd famously rescued during their journey. Reporters asked about Seven frequently through the years, and she always gave a similar canned response. Yes, she was an incredible asset to the entire crew. Yes, of course there were challenges. No, they did not keep in touch.

Besides the technical details, the only other response she gave to further inquiries was "no comment."

"Nothing," Kathryn replied to Lira, shaking her head.

The young woman nodded and left Kathryn alone with her thoughts. Spinning her chair back towards the window, she resumed her watch over the Bay.