This is my first Voyager fic. It started as a couple scenes in my head, and turned into a bit of a monster. I want to give a BIG thank you to Laura Dugan who graciously agreed to Beta read for me, and provided me with the title for this piece (which I readily admit I'm horrible at!). And hey, if you're a Bones fan, wander over and check out her stories.
This is for the J/C fan in me who was never quite satisfied w/ the way their relationship turned out. Which, I guess, is the beauty of fanfic. I took a few liberties - in this story, the Voyager crew is getting back on the road, so to speak, and Janeway isn't headed for admiral-hood just yet. Otherwise, I think everything's pretty true to the end of the show.
Hope you enjoy it, and I really welcome feedback, so drop a few words if you're so inclined!
Kathryn Janeway was tired. She walked out of the conference room and into one of the long halls at Starfleet Headquarters after what seemed like her hundredth debriefing. She and the Voyager crew had been home for two weeks, and to Janeway, it seemed like most of that time had been spent in meetings. So it was with relief that she had wrapped up her last one of the day, and all she could think about was getting home to her temporarily assigned quarters, soaking in the ridiculously large tub, and curling up with a book and a pot of her beloved coffee.
She was so intent on those plans, that she almost didn't hear the voice behind her.
"Were you ever going to come see me, or was that just a line you gave me at the party?"
Janeway stopped suddenly and turned, knowing in an instant to whom the voice belonged.
"Mark," she said, smiling. "I'm so sorry." Janeway's former fiancé was walking toward her, smiling as well and shaking his head.
"I knew I was going to have to track you down if I ever hoped to get your attention."
"Not true," Janeway countered as he came closer and enveloped her in a hug, "I was going to come see you very soon."
Mark stepped back and rolled his eyes at her. "When?"
"Right after all these damn debriefings are over."
Mark nodded. "And after you make sure every single one of your crew is settled, and after you see to it that Voyager is tucked into her space dock for service, and after you make sure that I got every single one of Molly's puppies into good homes…."
Janeway smiled apologetically.
"I'm not avoiding you," she insisted. Not entirely, anyway, she thought to herself.
After Voyager had somewhat miraculously returned to the Alpha Quadrant, the first thing Starfleet had done was organize a giant welcome home gala, and then had proceeded to invite anyone who was remotely associated with anyone on the Voyager crew. That meant that in addition to the overwhelming reality of actually being home, and being bombarded with friends and family, she had come face-to-face with her former fiancé and his new wife before she had even hoped to prepare herself for it. Mark, slightly grayer but even better looking for it, had hugged her, and introduced her to Suzanne, who Kathryn had to admit, was actually a charming woman. She had shaken Kathryn's hand warmly, congratulated her on Voyager's return, and told her Mark spoke highly of her. Kathryn had nodded, smiled, and thanked her, but in a secretly uncharitable moment, had wanted to launch herself at this woman who had stolen Mark away from her. She knew that was an unfair assessment and an irrational reaction, but it had bubbled to the surface nevertheless. She had actually come to terms with his moving on years ago, but being suddenly faced with it head-on had brought those feelings of anger and regret to the surface.
And now here he was, standing in front of her again. Mark tilted his head at her.
"Well, maybe I'm avoiding you a little," she conceded, off his look. "But I really was going to come see you soon."
'There's no time like the present," Mark replied. "Do you have a few minutes?"
For some reason, her gut reaction was to find a way out of this. It wasn't that she didn't want to catch up with him, it was that she wanted to mentally prepare herself for it. And so she did the only thing she could think of. She made a show of glancing at the chronometer on the wall and lied.
"Actually, I have another meeting very soon, and–"
She saw at the dubious look he was giving her, and knew she was caught. Even after seven years, he knew her well enough to tell she was trying to give him the run-around.
"I have a few minutes," she admitted.
"Good," he nodded. "How about a walk?"
"So, how are things going?" Mark asked, as they strolled around the public gardens at Headquarters. It was late afternoon, just turning into dusk, and on this random Wednesday evening, the grounds were sparsely populated. Several officers and their families were milling about, but Janeway and Mark had plenty of space to themselves.
"Fine," Janeway replied, "Except for these awful debriefings. Makes me wish I was back in the Delta Quadrant. Well, almost," she amended with a smile. "It's amazing and wonderful to be home."
"They've given you a place to stay?"
"Mmm, yes. Nice quarters overlooking the city. Though I have to start looking for something more permanent. Thank you, by the way, for all the work you did selling my house."
It seemed that after Mark had finally accepted that she was gone, he helped her family get her house in order, put her things in storage until the time came when they wanted to go through them, and got a very good deal on the property. The money he put in the bank, which he told her he suggested to her mother be made into some type of scholarship fund for worthy cadets. Thankfully for her, that hadn't quite materialized yet, so she had a bit of a nest egg to find a new property.
Mark smiled. "Of course, but I'll bet you're not thanking me so much now that you've got to go house hunting."
Janeway shrugged. "I didn't expect everything to be exactly as I left it. It comforts me to know you're the one who took care of all that."
"And your crew? Voyager?"
"Voyager is, as you suggested, tucked safely into her dock and getting major repairs and upgrades. I thought the admirals on the review board were going to have a coronary when I insisted she be fixed instead of scrapped. They agreed, though. Being lost for seven years has its perks, I'm learning. I can pull a few strings here and there. Besides, I'm pretty much certain my chief engineer would have chained herself to the warp core if anyone even tried to dismantle her engine.
"And my crew is enjoying some much needed and deserved shore leave when they're not attending their own debriefings. Once Voyager is space-worthy again, and I hope that's soon, anyone who wants one, has a position on her next mission."
"And are they taking you up on the offer?"
"For the most part. Some have chosen to stay behind or seek different assignments for various reasons. But my senior staff will remain intact."
"That's good to hear."
Janeway looked at Mark then, hearing in his voice that he wasn't quite with her. He was walking straight ahead, not looking at her, and she recognized the nervous twitch in his fingers. She stopped, and after a few steps when he realized she was no longer by his side, he stopped as well and turned.
"What's wrong?" he asked.
"Nothing. But are you going to keep engaging me in small talk, or are you going to talk to me about why you really came to see me?"
"What, I can't just come and see how you're doing?"
"Of course you can, but I get the feeling something else is on your mind."
Mark dropped his head and sighed.
"I'm sorry. I just….I came because I wanted to make sure things were okay between us. That there were no hard feelings."
"Oh, Mark," Janeway said softly to him. "Of course not."
"Are you sure?" he asked. "At the gala, you didn't seem so–"
Janeway shook her head, and quickly cut him off.
"No, I'm sorry. At the gala, things were so overwhelming, and I wasn't expecting to see you so soon, and then there you were, and…." She didn't have the heart to finish her sentence. But he knew.
"And I had Suzanne with me," he finished for her.
Janeway nodded. "Yes."
"Kathryn," he said, stepping toward her, "I never meant to hurt you. I–"
"Mark, stop," she said, putting her hand up. "Please. This was not your fault. I understand why you did what you did, and I know you had to move on. It was just hard for me to see it so real. But Suzanne seems lovely. I'm glad you found someone."
Mark looked at her for a long moment, and then nodded.
"She's wonderful. But, and when I say this, please understand that I do love my wife very much…she's not you."
Janeway shook her head, not quite believing what she just heard.
"Mark, you don't have to say that."
But Mark looked earnestly at her.
"No, it's true. Suzanne….she's amazing. And I love her and the life we have together. But there's only one Kathryn Janeway. I was prepared to spend my life with you, and I will always miss what we had."
Janeway considered his words, and then stepped forward to take his hand. She squeezed it.
"Thank you for saying that," she said sincerely. "I'll miss it too." And then she let go of his hand, and walked away a few steps. She wandered over to a little wooden bridge crossing a stream, and she leaned against the railing, looking down over the water. Mark followed her, and fitted himself by her side.
"How about you?" he asked. She turned her head and raised her eyebrows.
"How about me, what?"
"Well, is there…do you have someone special in your life? Someone from Voyager? You never said much about your personal life in the short notes you sent me."
Kathryn hesitated for the briefest of moments before shaking her head.
"No," she replied. "No one."
"Kathryn," Mark admonished, "You're a terrible liar."
She frowned at him. "First of all, I am not lying. Second of all, that's not true."
Mark had the nerve to grin at her.
"Sure it is. You think you're so good at hiding your feelings, when in reality, most of the time, you're wearing them right on your sleeve. So who is he?"
Janeway smiled indulgently at him, and shook her head. "You're wrong," she told him. "I've been gone for a long time, and you don't know me as well as you think you do. There really is no one." She turned away from him to look back into the water bubbling across the stones beneath the bridge, suddenly not wanting Mark looking into her eyes too closely. What if he saw something she didn't want him to see?
"Hmmm," Mark made a non-committal sound, and settled his elbows next to hers on the bridge, following her gaze. They stood that way for a few moments, neither speaking, and Janeway considered the topic closed when Mark said, "It's that tall guy with the tattoo, isn't it? Your first officer?"
If a meteor had at that moment shot down from the sky and landed next to her, carrying that guy, Elvis, Tom Paris liked so much, singing "Ain't Nothin' but a Hound Dog," Kathryn Janeway could not have been more shocked. Her head snapped to the right, her eyes widened, and she felt a distinct tremor run through her body.
Mark, for his part, looked utterly unrepentant as he calmly gazed back at her.
Reigning in her surprise, and clamping her shaking hands to the railing of the bridge, she straightened up and asked, "What on Earth would make you say such a thing?"
"I'm right aren't, I? It's him."
Kathryn vehemently shook her head, letting go of the railing, and crossing her arms in an unconsciously defensive gesture while she concentrated of keeping her voice level.
"No, of course not. Something between the Commander and me? I can't begin to imagine what gave you that idea."
"Really. It seems to me the lady doth protest too much."
"I'm not protesting," she snapped, and then caught herself as Mark raised an eyebrow at her. "I'm not protesting," she repeated, more calmly. "I would just like to know what gave you that impression."
"At the gala, when Admiral Paris was giving the toast, and congratulating you on getting home, I saw the way he looked at you. And the way you looked back at him. Like the two of you were sharing a secret only you knew."
Kathryn tried to brush it off.
"I don't look at Chakotay any differently than I look at any of my other officers, Mark. This is all in your head."
"I don't think so," he replied quietly, looking directly at her. "I know that look. It's how you used to look at me. I don't know how to describe it, really. It's this soft look you have. You used to use it on me if you really wanted something, and you knew I couldn't say no to it."
Janeway stared at him. Damn him, she thought, and then tried the straight forward approach.
"Look, I don't know what you thought you saw, but there's really nothing between us. If you want to know the truth, I haven't had much time for relationships in the past seven years, it just wasn't a possibility for me."
Mark looked confused. "Why not?"
Janeway made a frustrated sound.
"Mark, stop pretending like you don't you understand. I was, I am, Voyager's captain! I had to concentrate all my time, all my energy, on getting my crew home! There was no time for a relationship, there was no time for falling in love."
"Except that you did anyway, didn't you? And you didn't allow yourself to do a damn thing about it."
"Oh, Mark, leave it alone! Why are you pushing this?"
"Because I want you to be happy."
"I am happy," she insisted, and found herself stopping short of the insane urge to stomp her foot. God, he was infuriating. She could stare down the Borg with complete calm, but somehow her former lover made her feel like acting like a petulant child.
Janeway was taken aback. Unlike her own somewhat colorful vocabulary, Mark hardly ever swore. How had what seemed like a pleasant reunion end up being an interrogation about how she'd conducted her personal life over the last seven years?
"Excuse me?" She narrowed her eyes at him, a look that had stopped lesser men in their tracks, but Mark simply ignored her.
"Despite your long absence, even if you don't want to admit it, I know you, Kathryn. I know how you used to try to keep your relationship with your crew at arm's length. Except that being stranded on a ship with them for seven years didn't allow you that luxury anymore. You had to interact with them, and you developed relationships with them. I saw the other night how that crew worshiped you. I'm sure if you told them to fly straight into a super nova, they would. And I'm so proud of you for that, it's amazing, and the kind of loyalty some captains never find. Getting home aside, that is your biggest accomplishment. That crew is bonded, forever a family. But I think you got more than you expected, I think you found someone you really cared about, and who cared about you in return. And it scared the hell out of you, so you pushed it aside and ignored it."
By now, Janeway was glaring at Mark.
"What the hell gives you the right to stand there and tell me about my relationships?"
"Maybe nothing. But, Kathryn, just ignoring it won't do you any good."
Kathryn threw up her hands.
"I give up. What do you want from me? To admit that there is, was, something between Chakotay and me? Fine, there is. Was," she corrected herself. "Are you happy? And nothing happened, for the record. I was that crew's captain, including his, seventy years from home. I couldn't afford to indulge in a romance!"
She continued to glare at Mark, letting the anger she felt toward him at the moment run freely through her. How dare he? How dare he question her decisions from the comfortable confines of his life on Earth?
She expected him to back off after that, particularly after an elderly admiral walked by at that exact moment, giving them a stern stare for the small commotion they were causing. Janeway cleared her throat and nodded at him.
"Admiral," she acknowledged crisply, and waited until he passed before making a face at Mark. But it seemed nothing could deter Mark from his line of questioning.
"What about now?"
"What?" she said, bringing her voice down several notches from her last outburst.
"You're home. You're not stranded seventy years away anymore. What's holding you back?"
Janeway stared at him in disbelief.
"God, you're persistent."
Mark shrugged, but let the question stand.
"It's one of the things you used to love about me."
"I'm beginning to question my judgment back then," she told him dryly.
Janeway turned away, and wandered to sit down on a bench beneath a blooming lilac bush. Mark followed her through the gathering darkness, taking a seat next to her. She looked at him briefly, and then leaned her elbows on her knees, clasping her hands.
"You're right," she said finally, choosing her words carefully. "There was, has always been, some sort of…attraction between us. But I'm not lying when I say we never did anything about it. We couldn't, it wouldn't have been appropriate."
Mark reached out and covered her hands with his own, causing her to look up at him.
"Not everything in life is about Starfleet protocol, Kathryn. Sometimes you have to take a chance."
Janeway actually laughed at that.
"If you only knew how many times I threw the Starfleet playbook out the proverbial window over the last seven years," she said. She meant the comment to lighten the moment, but it only caused Mark to lean closer.
"Then why not about this? Why didn't you pursue something with this…Chakotay, is it?"
"I don't know," she admitted at last. How could she even begin to explain to Mark her relationship with her first officer? It was a deep and abiding friendship, of course, built on absolute trust, and yes, a love of sorts. But there was so much more, and it was fraught with landmines of things left unsaid and unexplored between them. And now, well….
As if Mark was following her inner train of thought, he said, "It's not too late to change things, you know. You're here. He's here."
Kathryn exhaled shortly.
"Actually, it is too late. He's involved with someone else." And until she said those words out loud, she didn't realize how much they hurt. A hard knot took up residence in the pit of her stomach, and she clenched her hands together.
Mark pulled his hand back from hers and sat back.
"Is it serious?"
Janeway nodded, still looking down at her hands.
"I think so."
"That gorgeous, leggy blonde, right?"
For the second time that evening, Janeway looked at Mark in utter surprise.
"Have you ever considered volunteering for pre-First Contact missions? You'd make an excellent Observer."
Mark smiled at the comment, but wouldn't allow her to distract him.
"He was dancing with her at the gala. I'm right, yes?"
"Yes. Seven of Nine. She's the former Borg drone we rescued."
Mark whistled softly.
"I had no idea Borg came in that model."
At that, Kathryn actually chuckled before swatting him lightly on the arm, and leaning against the back of the bench.
"You're married," she reminded him.
"Yeah, well, I'm still a man."
Kathryn snorted and was about to reply when a movement caught her eye, and it took her a minute to figure out what she was seeing. Once she did, she tried hard not to stare. The couple she spotted across the garden would have been better off finding quarters for the evening rather than the magnolia tree they were currently wrapped up under. She hoped for their sake that their commanding officer didn't happen by, or they'd have some explaining to do. And then she idly wondered what it was like to engage in a relationship with that type of abandon. Even with Mark, she had been cautious, guarded. She took her eyes off the entwined couple, and said,
"Even if I wanted to pursue something with him, I wouldn't do that to Seven. It wouldn't be right. She made her move, fair and square."
Mark considered that.
"Look, I don't know anything about this Seven of Nine, beyond the fact that she's got legs that go from here to eternity, but I do know what I saw. And after Suzanne and I walked away from you, I saw Chakotay leave her side to come over to you to make sure you were okay. And the look he gave you wasn't the look of a man in love with another woman."
"Okay, Mark, stop." Janeway shook her head. "I don't even know why I'm entertaining this discussion. Chakotay and I are friends. Good friends. He was my first officer and frequent confidant during our journey, but nothing more. There may have been potential for more at some point, but that opportunity has long since passed. We're both happy with the way things are."
Mark stared at her for a long moment before pressing his lips together and looking away.
"What?" Janeway demanded.
"No, say it. You've been less than shy with your opinion so far, why stop now?"
"Fine. I was just thinking that I was wrong before. You're a fantastic liar, if you've not only convinced Chakotay of this line of B.S., but yourself as well."
Janeway gaped at him, but found she had nothing to respond with. Mark saw her stricken expression, and softened his own.
"Look, I'm sorry, Kathryn. You're right, this is none of my business. Maybe I'm pushing because of my own guilt about moving on with my life while you were still out there somewhere, I recognize that. But no matter what, I still care about you, and I want you to be happy."
Janeway smiled at him, and squeezed his hand once more.
"I appreciate that, I really do. I know you only want what's best for me. But I promise you, I really am happy."
Mark sighed and leaned forward to kiss her on the cheek before standing up.
"Like I said before, Kathryn, you're a terrible liar. I'll see you later. Come by the house soon, Molly's waiting."
And then he turned and walked away, leaving Janeway on the bench, watching his retreating figure until he disappeared into the darkness.