by Myu

Disclaimer: Star Trek: Voyager and everything associated with it is owned by CBS/Paramount.
Notes: Add-on to Endgame.  Captain Janeway reflects on the death of Admiral Janeway, Chakotay and Seven's relationship and the kind of future she is left with.
Rating: Universal


There was a burst of light, a cacophony of beeped warnings from the computer consoles and a fierce rumbling everyone had to shout to be heard over and then - and then...
There was dead silence on Voyager's Bridge.  Captain Kathryn Janeway was standing on the edge of the step with her fingers dug into the edge of the railing, elbows quivering slightly.  Her eyes darted over the viewscreen again and again and several moments passed before she released the breath she had been holding behind clenched teeth. 
"We did it," She stuttered stupidly.  It was like sprinting into a wall in the middle of a race - shock upon stopping, disbelief, frantically trying to work out what was wrong and all the time still ready to run.  The viewscreen displayed open space, peppered with ships in a mixture of familiar and unfamiliar shapes - a fleet of Federation starships.  There was a soft chirrup from one of the workstations behind her and Kathryn heard Ensign Kim report the communications signal in a voice quavering with shock and emotion.  The viewscreen displayed a few Starfleet personnel crowded around the panel, flanked by Lieutenant Barclay and the grey-haired Lieutenant Paris.  She babbled something nonsensical about not intending to have surprised them. Admiral Paris offered a few warm words of welcome and she could see he was going to ask her about how they had managed to jump several thousand lightyears in a matter of minutes...
"It'll all be in my report, Sir," She cut in carefully.
"I look forward to it."
The Admiral signed off and it was back to the silence.  Kathryn stood rooted to the spot, thinking of another silver-haired Admiral.  She murmured a quick thanks before the Doctor's voice came over the com system, calling Lieutenant Paris to Sickbay.  There were soft gurgling noises in the background which Kathryn found unexpectedly unnerving - after the whirlwind events of the past few days she couldn't deal with this sudden return to real life.  The idea that something as natural and down-to-earth as having a baby could happen just wouldn't register in her brain.  She'd given her bet for the baby pool to Commander Chakotay the previous week, yet the gentle smiles and laughter of their conversation seemed like years in the past.
"You'd better get down there, Tom," Kathryn stretched her mouth into an unnaturally wide smile which split the dry skin of her bottom lip and creased the skin around her eyes into the spidery lines that had been deeply pronounced in Admiral Janeway's face.  As she watched Tom go she wondered vaguely how many forced smiles had gouged those wrinkles into the expression of her older self.
After she gave the order to set a course towards Earth the silence settled back over the Bridge, blanketing everything like a thick layer of dust that muffled even the noise of the engines.  Kathryn sat in her old chair and stared at nothing, fussing with her hands and prodding a bruise on her wrist in an attempt to try and make everything seem more real.  She had often imagined or dreamt of their homecoming as a noisy affair - lots of cheering and perhaps a few hugs and kisses - but never ever anything like this stunned hush.  'Is this it?' she thought again and again with increasing desperation, hardly daring to believe that achieving everything she'd hoped for over the past seven years would culminate in such an anticlimax.  The silent stour was apparently wafting up into her eyes - they itched and each blink carried a tiny sting.  Maybe they were stuck in a time loop and they would journey on forever without reaching Earth.  Maybe they wouldn't even notice, and the ship would plough on regardless for decades while her skin began to rot and spiders threaded cobwebs over her eyelashes.  She sat frozen in her seat, pretended she didn't see the tentative grins some of the younger members of the Bridge staff were directing towards her as they glanced up from their stations and instead gazed at the fragments of debris scattered over the floor.  It was the last leg of their journey and for some reason it bothered her that some nameless Starfleet repair crew would probably be the ones to collect up the shattered bits of her ship and patch it back together again.
Even Chakotay turned around in his seat once or twice and smiled. Kathryn ran her tongue around the inside of her mouth, trying to get rid of the burning dryness in the pockets between her gums and cheeks.  Unlike a normal day on Voyager, she didn't feel like she could excuse herself to her ready room and get something to drink.  The rest of the staff all appeared so infuriatingly unaffected - she might simply have ordered that they resume course, for all the reaction from the crew. 

As they approached Earth she let some rational part of her brain take over and she listened to herself giving orders for docking as though someone else was speaking.  The rest of the Bridge staff began to gather in front of her in preparation for transport, and for one mad moment Kathryn gripped the armrests of her chair and didn't want to leave.  When she finally stood up a second later it felt as though she had ripped herself from the upholstery and left a shadow of herself there, sitting motionless with her mouth half-open to give an order.  The next few moments were a blurry haze of communications and a transporter shimmer and then she was being propelled through a corridor by an admiral she half-recognised who was chattering away about a ceremony.  Everything was inching away from her; the day and her sense of bearing were stretching beyond her grasp and she was losing touch with her surroundings.  She stopped paying attention, tried to nod in the right places and then was thrust into a room in front of a hastily thrown-together gathering of Starfleet Admirals and Voyager's senior staff.  A glass was shoved into her hand and she managed to croak out a few sentences thanking the crew, dimly aware that anyone who didn't know her very well wouldn't suspect anything, but that she would probably sound half-asleep to those who were close to her.  Once the speeches were over she concealed herself behind the cluster of Starfleet officials, feeling faintly embarrassed.  It was beginning to dawn on her just how false and pathetic the ceremony seemed - she doubted half the officers present had even heard of Voyager, and had just been pulled into the conference room as they were on their way somewhere else.  The sparkling wine she had been given fizzed over her tongue and scratched at the inside of her mouth uncomfortably, doing nothing to ease her thirst.  Still in a daze, she tried to set her glass down on the edge of a table, but dimly realised that she had missed when she heard a tinkling crash as the object hit the floor.  Eventually two of the officials broke away and escorted her outside.  Kathryn threw a sudden glance over her shoulder as they headed for the door, feeling like something was missing; that she'd forgotten something.  There was nothing back there to explain her uneasiness and the sensation made her shiver.  It was like some sort of loss - as though she'd left something behind in the busy entrance hall, a silhouette hovering over the shattered remains of her champagne flute.   

The two Starfleet officers spoke to her briskly and quietly and Kathryn had to force herself to remain focused on listening to them.  They explained that her mother and sister had been contacted, but that they were visiting another planet and would take a day or two to return to Earth.  She started to tune out while the officers told her she could take some leave and then return to Starfleet for debriefing, but her ears pricked up at the mention of temporary quarters and she found herself cutting one of them off mid-sentence and telling him that she'd stay and write her report.  Kathryn didn't care to acknowledge their looks of surprise or explain herself further, choosing instead to wait until they assigned her some rooms and hoping that things would start to make sense once she had a moment to sit down and gather her thoughts.

Maintaining the charade took a considerable amount of energy, and when her escort finally left her in her temporary quarters Kathryn nearly collapsed into the desk chair in relief.  A padd was at her left hand, a console sat on the desk in front of her and there was a replicator off to one side.  It was almost like her old ready room on Voyager with some deliberate mistakes.  There wasn't much of a view from the windows - the wall of the building opposite was devoid of any charm or architectural oddities and, since it was well into the early hours of the next morning, the road below was deserted.  Kathryn turned her head away from the gloom of the night outside and tried to concentrate on the blank display of the padd before her.  She hadn't even looked at the bedroom since entering the suite of rooms - she knew that she was far too wound up to sleep and, in any case, the report about their means of getting home wouldn't write itself.  She had paced through the rooms over and over, but her thoughts were so fragmented that it felt as though bits of her mind were breaking away and she was leaving echoes of herself throughout the cramped rooms, hesitating in the middle of sentences.

Kathryn sat and stared down at the surface of the desk for a long time, wondering how she could begin to chronicle the events that had taken so much out of her.  Her usual stock of bland Starfleet phrases seemed hopelessly inadequate for the report she was supposed to be constructing.  There were so many tiny fractured details that kept cropping up in her mind, neon signposts for the train of thought chugging its way along through her brain sluggishly.  In truth, there was only one thing common to each aspect of the whole affair: Admiral Janeway.  She was arguably responsible for every twist and turn in the track; she was the beginning, middle...and the end.  The person who was so like Kathryn and yet so completely removed, the one who had masterminded, guided and completed the project had fallen at the finishing post while the Voyager crew thundered merrily on to enjoy all the honour Starfleet could bestow upon them.  The person who deserved the most praise, the highest credit and the warmest gratitude of every crewmember's loved ones had died in the cold metal interior of a Borg ship, half-assimilated and blown to pieces before she could savour her last breath.
Captain Janeway was alive, yet Admiral Janeway was dead.  They were technically the same person, and still...they had been separated forever.  The silence was suddenly overwhelming and the emptiness closed in around her.  The shadows of memory moving throughout the quarters came together and the echoey tones of her regrets collided, creating a deafening discord that rang in her ears.
She's dead.  You're dead.
"- I'm dead," Kathryn muttered to herself and lay her head on the desk in despair.

Whether her observations had begun as part of a dream or not, Kathryn raised her head a few hours later with her head full of Admiral Janeway.  They had butted heads from the moment they laid eyes on one another, from the instant the older woman had glared out from the viewscreen and barked an order at her younger counterpart.  The sourness of that impossibly brief first encounter would have been enough to set a cloud over the rest of their journey on its own, even without the numerous other clashes that arose.  If nothing else, Kathryn had been embarrassed to have the Admiral on board, as she was everything that the Captain tried not to be - Admiral Janeway was rude, impatient, selfish and a liar.  Kathryn had had difficulty controlling her urge to hate everything about the woman, and only the reservations impressed by her mother about disrespecting one's elders kept her from expressing her animosity.  The lines of hardship and bitterness carved across her older self's permanent scowl were almost as intimidating as her haughty cynicism and tetchy answers, and Kathryn had immediately resolved to take better care of her skin and keep some rations in reserve to replicate a decent hair dye.

The trouble was, she simply couldn't disassociate herself with Admiral Janeway.  One of the very first sentences that Admiral had uttered was a sneered remark about how Kathryn was someone she 'used' to be.  What did it take, Kathryn wondered, for a person to alter her character so drastically?  Admiral Janeway seemed to have renounced nigh-on every value she had ever held and had abandoned everything life had offered her following their return to the Alpha Quadrant.  Kathryn had on occasion ignored her conscience or buried parts of herself - for instance, after Mark had informed her of his marriage she was aware that whatever feelings she had reserved for him had already dissolved and faded, and she wasn't sure she could have still loved him even if he hadn't moved on - but it had would never been enough to change her beyond all recognition.  It was then that Kathryn realized with some horror that the Admiral had been an utterly broken human being.  The loneliness and tragedy plaguing her life had been enough to smash her spirit, drive her to find a way to turn the clock back and end her miserable life in the process.
Initially Admiral Janeway had kept the particulars of her timeline completely secret and had restricted herself to dropping minor titbits of information now and then.  At the time Kathryn had found these nonsensical snippets of trivia superfluous and a waste of time - did she really care to know that her favourite cup would sustain a few dents over time? - but now it struck her that the Admiral had perhaps been trying to impart some details of her life to the only people who could remember her.  It was a natural instinct among humans to want to leave some sort of mark: how many billions of people throughout Earth's history had kept diaries, journals, letters and scrapbooks chronicling the events of their lives?  While she was aware that Admiral Janeway's sacrifice should never be forgotten, Captain Janeway was left with nothing more than a few sketchy facts about her life to work with and wished that she had paid more attention to the older woman's throwaway remarks.  There was at least one blank she could fill in, though - if Admiral Janeway had travelled back in time, she must have been completely alone in the world.  As changed as her older counterpart was, Kathryn knew instinctively that she wouldn't have made the trip had she had a spouse and family of her own.

Then there was the business of Seven and Chakotay.  Kathryn's reaction to the news that they would become a couple was akin to a physical blow, and the veneer of strain in the Admiral's voice as she explained the particulars of the timeline was noticed by Kathryn only because she was so deeply affected herself, a hypersensitivity to emotion overcoming her at the sound of his name.  The force of her reaction was unexpected and she had felt light-headed afterwards, spending a full ten minutes hovering over the sink in her bathroom trying to keep her lunch down.  Chakotay was a free agent, but...she had often wondered what would happen if their relationship were to progress beyond friendship and had had an inkling that he was similarly interested.  No mind, she had told herself quickly, it was obviously just a jab to her selfish nature that she didn't come first in his heart. 
In the corner of her eye she could see a comfortable three-seater sofa, much like the one in her quarters on Voyager but in a slightly different colour.  How many times had she and Chakotay sat in her living area and talked?  At first it had been strictly business and they had sat stiffly at her desk, then they had moved to the more comfortable seats...she could see it all unfolding before her eyes like a string of coupled paper dolls - they sat in office chairs, then she was perched on the desk while he lounged in her usual chair, at some point they moved to the seating area and sat at opposite ends of the coffee table and then for a long while he had occupied the armchair next to the corner of the sofa where she usually sat.  For the past few months, however, he had chosen to sit at the other end of the sofa and on occasion took the place right next to her if they were looking over some reports.  Somehow Kathryn had taken this to mean there were no more barriers between them, nothing separating them from each other except an unspoken agreement and she suddenly realised with some shame that she had unconsciously pinned some hope on - what?  Something that turned out to be nothing more than a game of musical chairs.  Without acknowledging it she had believed that, with all their talk of home, he had become an irreplaceable part of her life. She could lead Voyager, but when they returned to Earth he would have been the one to take her home and she couldn't bear the thought of him doing that for anyone else.  At that moment a life without him appeared incomplete - especially when her own identity seemed so uncertain and patched-together Ė and, even though she considered both Seven and Chakotay friends of hers, she suddenly hated both of them as much as she loved them.
What if they had continued on Voyager's journey for a few more years?  Would the place-switching have continued until she ended up in his lap?, she wondered sourly, not troubling to brood over the connotations that particular thought held.  Did he have such close friendships with everyone on the ship?  It hardly seemed to matter now, Kathryn, thought sullenly - he'd be spending his evenings with Seven now.
The elbow she had propped on the surface of the desk suddenly didn't feel like it could support her any more and it was like cracks were spiralling over her skin as she sat, urgently trying to hold herself together. 

Kathryn didn't know how much time passed as she sat there, but she was distantly aware of a stiffness in her joints when she jumped at the sound of the doorchime.  She sat completely still.  The annoying chirrup sounded three times and when she decided it was safe to move again there was a loud hammering on the doors.
"Kathryn?  It's me - answer the door!" Chakotay's muffled voice carried through the room, "I know you're in there!"
"I asked not to be disturbed," She mumbled huffily as she let him in a few seconds later.
"I won't stay long, then," He shot back, albeit wearily, "How are things with you?"
"Not bad," Kathryn lied, a suspicious note in her voice as she noticed the slight greyish tint to his skin and the puffiness around his eyes, "How about you?"
"Oh, not bad either," He said unconvincingly.  She sighed.
"But obviously not that good.  Sit down.  I could do with a break, anyway."
"A break from what?"
"...work," Kathryn offered vaguely as she slid the padd on her desk over to one side.  It was still blank, save for the subject heading and date.
"Would you like something to drink?" She asked after a short pause.  Chakotay looked at her thoughtfully.
"...that'd be a good idea," He agreed, making his way over to the replicator before she could stop him.  "Two glasses of brandy."
Kathryn's eyes narrowed momentarily as the drinks appeared.
"Chakotay, it's six in the morning," She said, although the shock in her tone was purely perfunctory.
"I haven't been to bed yet." He murmured, a bitter note in his voice.
"Me neither," She admitted, gesturing towards the glasses, "Pass me one of those."
"To Admiral Janeway," Chakotay said solemnly, raising his glass and holding Kathryn's gaze steadily, "May her sacrifice never be forgotten."
"Admiral Janeway," Kathryn echoed quietly, letting out a breath that had caught in her throat at the mention of the name.  She took a sip of the brandy and felt it dribble down her throat like a drop of molten amber, carrying a dull sting along with the warmth. 

"It didn't seem right at the ceremony today - yesterday," He corrected himself, eyeing the grey sky outside, "- that we were all being congratulated for something that we didn't really deserve."
Kathryn stood quite still, concentrating on the glass in her hand.  The bowl was frosted, and looked as though it was comprised of thousands of tiny shards glued together.  As lined and cracked as the surface seemed to be, the glass was still whole and didn't spill its contents.  There was something that suggested strength in its otherwise fragile appearance.
"Mm..." She grunted finally, her voice at a slightly higher pitch than usual.
"I had a feeling you might understand," He pressed.  Her grip turned to iron and she took another sip with some difficulty.  The glass shook a little and her mouth didn't seem to be working.
"I'm supposed to write a report about how we got home," Kathryn began, drumming her index finger against the stem of the glass in agitation as if she were trying to tap out something in Morse code, "I don't know where to begin."
"Start with her."
"Same problem," Kathryn answered bitterly.
Chakotay surveyed her over the rim of his glass with a face that was determinedly blank.  She looked away - Admiral Janeway appeared to have been fond of the same expression.
"It should be easy, I suppose.  'The starship Voyager encountered a rude, impatient old Admiral with a chip in her shoulder the size of the Fleet.  Much chaos ensued'."
"Kathryn..." Chakotay sounded somewhere between shock and warning.
"What?  I'm allowed to say how I feel.  It's hardly unacceptable to speak badly of oneself."
"It's not the same."
"Why not?  It's a common enough double standard - you wouldn't insult my cooking, but last week you threw away the dinner you'd prepared and said you were the worst thing to happen to a replicator since that marcovirus."
"She wasn't you," He said in a low voice.
"Really?  'Could've fooled me," Kathryn pressed on savagely, goaded by the bitterness in her heart and the lateness of the hour, "She looked like me, sounded like me, walked like me...she fooled the Doctor, too, in that case - he reported that we were identical down to the last strand of
DNA.  I don't think you can get much more similar than that, Chakotay."
"You're wrong.  You and she were...you were two sides of the same coin.  All the basics were there, but I couldn't imagine anyone further removed from you."
"Hm," Kathryn sneered.
"I mean it.  Every time you two were together you ended up arguing about something, remember?  If you really had been so alike then you'd have got on like a house on fire." Chakotay looked and sounded like he was trying to convey more feeling than his exhausted, agitated countenance would allow.
"Maybe we weren't alike, but that's what I'll turn into in thirty years," She closed her eyes briefly and raised her free hand to her face.  The bitterness was becoming a source of strength, but at the same time she felt so vulnerable that she feared she might crack at any minute.
"Not necessarily," Chakotay argued, looking strained, "She was made that way by her experiences."
Kathryn looked at him over the tips of her fingers.
"When did she tell you about her experiences?"
"She didn't," He said heavily, "I could see for myself."
"She was torn apart by them," Kathryn said quietly, looking out of the window, "She told me...some things..."
"What happened to her?"
She looked back at him.
"I'm not supposed to tell you."
Chakotay looked as though he was refraining from rolling his eyes with some difficulty.
"But you're going to."
"As far as I could tell, nothing happened to her.  Voyager was going to be lost for another seventeen years.  Tuvok was going to suffer from a neural illness.  Seven...Seven was going to die."
Chakotay turned away, but Kathryn clutched at his arm and pulled him back.
"Those were only the things she told me about, Chakotay.  She came back to us knowing that she was going to die instead and it didn't bother her.  She came back to help us and I - I was horrible to her..." She looked at him desperately, and saw past everything up until she reached a point in his eyes that was closed to her by a thin barrier.  She dropped his arm and continued speaking, her voice oddly flat.
"Now Starfleet is trying to bestow all the honour on me and I've done nothing...it was all her."
"You've done more than could have been expected of a Captain." Chakotay's voice echoed the hollowness in her own. 
"Captain Janeway's done some things.  What has Kathryn done - what have I done?  The crew are all going home to their spouses, to their children...I left my future behind me seven years ago.  I've come back to less than I had when I left - someone else lives in my quarters, so all I've got now is a dog who probably won't recognise me." The laugh she choked out was cold and shrill and it made the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end.  "Where's my home, Chakotay?  There's nothing here; I'm still as alone as I was on Voyager and I always will be."
"How do you know you'll end up alone?"
"She did, didn't she?!" Kathryn shot back, her heckles raised, "We were the same crabby, pathetic old -"
"Stop it!  That was one timeline!" Chakotay exclaimed, exasperated, "There are a hundred and one possibilities regarding every action - in some parallel universe I'm probably leading the Kazon and you're running the ship with Neelix.  You can't base everything on the one possible outcome she explained to you!"
"You can't be sure of anything!  How do you know that the timeline won't end up like that?"
"Because I've already changed it - I broke up with Seven!" Chakotay shouted furiously, "Are you happy now?  I'm just as bad as you!"
Kathryn made to turn away, but Chakotay grabbed her arm to stop her - much in the same way she had forced him to look at her before - and the glass fell from her other hand, smashing next to her foot.  She caught a fleeting glimpse of the shattered receptacle and felt some of her composure soak into the carpet along with the spilled brandy as the object she had regarded as a symbol of quiet strength moments previously now lay in pieces on the floor.
There was a strained silence broken only by short huffs of breath.
"Congratulations," Kathryn spat with all the venom she could muster, "Now get out." 
She turned her back to him and, as she heard his footsteps retreat, she gripped the edge of the desk until her hands shook and veins bulged through her skin.  No matter how hard she clenched her fists and jaw, she couldn't stop tears leaking from the corners of her eyes.  There was no sense of relief in the emotional release - the tears came slowly and they hurt, stinging like someone had traced the point of a knife over her cheek and chest.  Kathryn sank to the floor as she wept and the spilled drink and fallen shards of glass made the carpet feel damp and gritty underneath her knees. 
A shadow fell over her, she heard a slight crunch and then she was gently pulled upwards into an embrace that seemed as brittle and hesitant as it was strong and comforting.  Her arms felt weak, but she wrapped them around him as tightly as she could and she wasn't quite sure who was the carer and who was being cared for in this hold between two battered and broken people.
"Let's go home," Chakotay murmured into her ear.  Kathryn nodded her assent and let him lead her, safe in the knowledge that he would guide her to a place where she could repair what had been broken and look forward to a future as whole, undamaged person with him at her side.

- End -

Additional notes: This is the tenth Voyager fic I've completed and was sent in for VAMB's Secret Santa 2008 fic exchange.  It had been sitting on my computer unfinished for over a year and I feel like there are some loose ends that I didn't quite tie up...anyway, do send any comments to miss_myu [at] hotmail [dotcom] if you're so inclined.  Thank you for reading!

This fanfic ends as I originally wanted it to.  I usually donít try to think beyond what I feel is the natural end of the fanfic, but in this case I had a very clear idea of how the story would end, even though I didnít want to include it in the body of the text.  I realised that some readers probably wouldnít feel like there was much closure in the original ending, so Iíve written a short epilogue which you can read here:

Epilogue: Restoration

Autumn arrived late the following year, and Kathryn's boots shuffled through layers of the shrivelled skeletons of fallen leaves as she ascended the hill.  She stopped upon reaching the plateau at the top of the steep slope and made her way over to an area sheltered by a tree.
"Here?" Chakotay's voice came from behind her.
"Here," She agreed and they set to work, clearing some of the leaves aside and digging a hole in the earth.  Kathryn lay a small box containing the Admiral's favourite coffee cup in the shallow incline and she and Chakotay took their time filling the hole back in by hand, patting the earth into a small mound.  When they were finished Chakotay placed a smooth white stone and a bouquet of light pink roses on the earth and they both stood up silently, brushing off their hands. 
"Maybe we should have marked the stone," Kathryn observed quietly, wrapping her coat more tightly around herself against the chilly air.
"We know what it means.  I'm just glad you saved it," Chakotay assured her.  The stone had come from New Earth and, as Kathryn had felt it was one of her favourite artefacts from the Delta Quadrant, they had decided that it was fitting to use it to mark a makeshift grave for Admiral Janeway.
"She loved this place," Kathryn mused, looking around sadly,  "Because I love it," She added by means of explanation, and shivered.
Chakotay slipped an arm about her waist and nudged her body in towards his gently, enveloping her in his coat.
"Admiral Janeway," He murmured softly, "I have her to thank for the happiness I've felt since we returned."
"Without her..." Kathryn began and found she couldn't continue.
Chakotay kissed the top of her head lightly as she twisted her wedding ring around her finger.
"Thank you.  Both of you," She whispered finally and buried her face in Chakotay's chest, the image of the white stone still shimmering behind her closed eyelids as she snuggled in closer, secured in his arms and heart.