Disclaimer: Star Trek Voyager and all of its characters are the property of Paramount. No copyright infringement is intended.

Note: Part of the "Glory Days" Universe, taking place a few months after the events of the story with that name. The complete list of stories to date (in chronological order) can be found at my site.

Acknowledgments: many thanks to Seema for the beta and for her help in shaping this series.
Dialogue from "The Disease" courtesy of Jim Wright's Delta Blue Reviews.

by Rocky

Harry Kim stopped outside the VIP quarters and pressed the door chime before he realized it was past twenty three hundred hours. Beta shift had just ended--which explained why he was still up, roaming the Livingston's corridors--but it was conceivable the Admiral had already retired for the night. He took a step back, mentally kicking himself for his eagerness, when he heard a familiar voice call from the other side of the door.

"Come in."

He lost no time in doing just that; the grin of anticipation that had begun at the sound of her husky tones blossomed into a full-fledged smile when he caught sight of her. "Admiral Janeway!"

She rose from her seat immediately and crossed the room in a few quick strides, her hands outstretched. "Harry, it's so good to see you!" She caught his upper arms, gave them a good squeeze, and then stepped back. "Or should I say, 'Lieutenant Commander Kim.'" She nodded at the pips on his collar. "Impressive. But not at all unexpected."

He gave a self-deprecating wave of his hand, though inwardly he was pleased. After all these years, he didn't need her approval, but he found it very gratifying all the same. "I'm sorry I wasn't able to greet you in the transporter room when you arrived earlier."

"Captain Johnson was an adequate substitute," Janeway said, her eyes twinkling. "But it would have been nice if you'd been there as well. Still, I'm hardly one to complain--I know duty always comes first."

"Business before pleasure. Who do you think I learned that from?" he said, laughing. Was it his imagination, or did her smile waver for a second?

"It's official business that's responsible for my presence on the Livingston , after all," Janeway said. She gestured toward the replicator. "Can I get you something to drink?"

"I'll have some agas juice, thanks." Moments later, he accepted the gently steaming cup from her and watched while she picked up her own mug. He caught the aroma of fresh-brewed coffee. He smiled again to himself. It was good to know that some things would never change.

Harry took a seat on the sofa and glanced approvingly around the room, noting the furnishings and works of art were somewhat above Starfleet's usual standards. "I see they're treating you all right."

"Deluxe accommodations," she agreed. "Almost too much so." She took a sip of coffee and closed her eyes briefly. He wondered if she was thinking of the more spartan cabins aboard Voyager.

"No more than you deserve," he said.

"Perhaps they're trying to make up for the somewhat arduous demands of this mission," Janeway said wryly. She picked up a data padd next to her and frowned. "From the preliminary reports, it appears it's only a matter of time until we have a full-blown crisis on our hands."

Harry agreed wholeheartedly. The situation with the Ponzi was becoming critical. Their continued raids along both sides of the Romulan Neutral Zone--and the subsequent reprisals--were endangering a very fragile peace between the two superpowers, not to mention wreaking havoc in the lives of the Federation colonists in the vicinity. The Livingston's captain had already tried--and failed abysmally, in Harry's opinion--to contain the situation on his own. "That's why Starfleet sent their best diplomat to handle it."

"Not their best," Janeway swiftly corrected him.

"No need to be so modest, Admiral," Harry protested. "No one else currently in Starfleet has been involved in as many First Contacts as you, nor conducted  negotiations with even a fraction of the species you have. And we both know that you've dealt with groups just like the Ponzi raiders in the past."

The corners of her mouth went down. "No two diplomatic situations are exactly the same, Harry. There are always enough differences to 'keep it interesting,' shall we say. And I'm still not entirely sure we've got the full picture of what's really going on."

"With all due respect, Admiral, the Livingston has been on patrol in this sector for the past six months, and I think we've got a pretty good idea of the situation," Harry felt compelled to remind her. "We've seen the results of the raids, talked to the survivors. We've made formal protests to the Ponzi government. Captain Johnson even tried to get together with a few of the faction leaders who are involved in carrying out the raids and appeal to their better natures." His lip curled in disgust. "I admit, that one was a complete fiasco."  He knew that Janeway would never have made such a mistake.

To his surprise, she didn't directly comment on the failure of the previous initiative. "All the more reason to suspect that there are aspects of which we are unaware."

"Such as...." his voice trailed off questioningly, though he really didn't expect her to disclose sensitive details to a junior officer.

The Admiral was silent for a long moment. "Up to now, the focus has been on the raids themselves, based upon the assumption that the Ponzi aren't aware of the broader ramifications of their actions. But what if that's their real goal?"

"Deliberately trying to disrupt the treaty?" he said in disbelief. "What would they have to gain from an outbreak of hostilities between the Federation and the Romulan Empire?"

"Isn't it obvious, Harry?" she asked with just a hint of impatience. "While both powers are otherwise occupied, the Ponzi would be able to expand their illicit yet highly profitable trade in the region, without fear of intervention."

"Risk a major war, just to cover up their activities?"

"Why not?" Janeway shrugged. "There's ample precedent. Just look at the increased scope of the Orion Syndicate affairs during the Dominion War."

He sat back in his chair and considered her words. As had so often been the case when he served under her, he was amazed at the way she somehow always managed to see a side to an issue that had been consistently overlooked by everyone else. "If that's the case, what can you hope to accomplish? Other than engage in a little 'saber rattling' of our own?"

"That remains to be seen," she said somewhat cryptically, and laid her padd aside. "But enough about business. How have you been, Harry?"

"All right, I suppose." He took another sip of his drink. "And you?"

"Starfleet Command certainly keeps me hopping. Would you believe this is my third mission in as many months?" Janeway shook her head in bemusement. "I recently bought a place in Monterey, but I'm beginning to wonder if I'm ever going to have the leisure to enjoy it. Or even be around long enough to finally finish unpacking."

He tried and failed to envision her content with staying in one place for very long, much less settling down permanently. Privately, he suspected she much preferred being on the go to sitting behind a desk. "Well, even Admirals have to take leave sometime, right?" He hesitated before adding in a teasing tone, "Or is it you just can't resist the lure of space?"

"I do miss the sound of the warp engines, the feel of a faintly vibrating deck beneath my feet," she admitted. She gave a somewhat forced-sounding laugh. "Then again, most admirals hate to travel, so I get to indulge my penchant for being in space. It works out pretty well, all in all."

"It would be even easier if you were still had your own starship," he couldn't help but say.

Janeway's voice was even, but somehow devoid of the warmth that had colored it earlier. "That was never a consideration."

His next question died on his lips at the look on her face. Maybe Tom had been right, he thought, remembering their conversation on Starbase Four a few months earlier. Maybe Janeway hadn't had a choice in the matter of her promotion. With an effort, he switched to safer subjects. "So, have you heard from any of the others lately?"

She gave a quick shake of her head. "Aside from a brief talk with the Doctor at the end of my last physical, no, I haven't been in touch with many people. I want Tom and B'Elanna to bring the kids for a weekend, but that will have to wait till my schedule permits." She sighed. "I would also like to get out to Vulcan one of these days."

He couldn't help but notice the omissions in the 'family circle', but decided not to react. "I just saw Tom recently, at a science conference. It was while the Livingston was undergoing some major repairs."

She smiled. "That's nice. I'm sure the two of you had a good time together." Her voice took on a teasing note. "Tell me, did you manage to make it to any of the sessions?"

Harry laughed, recalling how Tom had dragged him off to a holonovel workshop in memory of their 'Captain Proton' days. "You know us too well. But seriously, I managed to attend most of my scheduled sessions."

"That's a relief."

Silence fell. He looked at her again, noticing this time the increased amount of gray in her hair, the fine lines that had appeared around her eyes. With a start, he realized it had been more than four years since the last time he'd seen her--the first anniversary of Voyager's return. There had been too many people, and too much noise, to have a chance for more than superficial conversation in the banquet hall. He and Libby had slipped out early, along with Tom and B'Elanna, Chakotay and Seven, and finished off the evening in more congenial surroundings.

Her thoughts must have gone along the same track, because she suddenly asked, "How is Libby?"

He shrugged. "Fine, I guess. I haven't spoken with her for a few years."

A puzzled look swept across her face, then abruptly vanished as understanding dawned. "I'm sorry. I thought the two of you--"

Harry nodded. "We did get back together again, about a year after Voyager was home. But it didn't last very long." He paused for a moment and then continued, "It only took a few months for us to realize that we'd each changed a lot in the years apart, become different people than the ones who had fallen in love before."

She exhaled sharply, and he remembered that she, too, had left behind a fiancé when Voyager left for the Badlands. But unlike Libby, there had never been any pretense of waiting. Janeway had received word of her lover's marriage during the fourth year of the journey. Harry remembered how odd he'd thought it at the time--the first communication from the Alpha Quadrant, and all her fiancé could think to say to her was that he'd moved on? But perhaps Janeway had preferred it that way; she had never been one to shy away from unpleasant realities, seemed to prefer confronting her problems head-on rather than shy away from them.

"You certainly have come up in the world since those days, Harry," she said, lifting her coffee mug to him in salute. "I always knew you had it in you."

"Did you?" He was surprised by the accusatory way in which the words came out.

"Of course."

"Then why didn't you ever tell me?"

"What do you mean?" Janeway seemed genuinely puzzled, and then her glance rested on his collar. "If you're talking about promotions, I very well couldn't keep to a regular promotion schedule as if we were still in the Alpha Quadrant."

He didn't mention Tuvok's promotion to lieutenant commander, or her reinstatement of Tom's rank to lieutenant after he'd served his penance, though on each occasion Harry had wondered why he wasn't included as well. Hadn't he served well and hard? Proved his worthiness? Aloud, he said, "That's not what I meant. You never expressed much confidence in me."

"That's not true," she objected immediately. "As an ensign, you headed up Ops. Not very common for someone fresh out of the Academy." She paused. "I know that when we returned, one of the areas the Admiralty expressed concern over was the assignment of certain personnel beyond their level of ability, particularly some of the Maquis. You would not believe the number of times I had to justify making B'Elanna my chief engineer over Joe Carey." Her mouth twisted slightly at the mention of the man who had died just a few scant months before they'd made it home. "But that was never an issue where you were concerned, Harry."

And if there had been a Maquis more qualified than he? Harry couldn't bring himself to ask the question.

Janeway continued, "I expressed my confidence in you a number of times. For example, you were in charge of the bridge for an entire shift on a fairly regular basis."

"Gamma  shift--in the middle of the night. Not much trouble I could get into then," he said with just a trace of sarcasm.

"I don't suppose our enemies were aware that it was night time," she reminded him tartly, "and they should refrain from attacks except during Alpha Shift."

He switched gears rapidly. "And what about commanding away missions?"

"You had your share of those, too."

Harry flushed as he remembered the first time he'd been in charge of a mission. He had been so proud of himself--until he'd overheard Chakotay make a disparaging remark to Janeway about his ability to handle the responsibility without calling in for confirmation every two minutes. Harry had just been following standard away team mission protocols, checking with a superior officer when the mission parameters had suddenly expanded. All very proper and according to the book. But apparently Chakotay--and the captain--had taken this to mean a lack of initiative on his part.

From the expression on her face now, it was clear that she was remembering that time as well and that his feelings of hurt and betrayal had telegraphed themselves to her.

She leaned forward and took both his hands firmly in hers. "Harry, I never doubted your initiative. You proved yourself, time and time again. When the Hirogen took over the ship, forcing us to play out their sick scenarios of the hunt in a variety of settings, you were the one who enabled us to break free, you were the one who saved us."

"Yeah, I got to play the hero for a change." He tried and failed to keep the bitterness from his voice.

Janeway shook her head. "Harry, how can you doubt how I felt about your abilities, how much I valued you as an officer?"

"Because you never told me," he said, his voice shaking despite his best efforts. He pulled away from her. "Because by your actions it was clear you didn't expect much of me, other than to be the good little obedient boy, the green ensign I was when I first came aboard. You made it very plain what you thought of me the time you ranked me out over disobeying your orders over the Varro."

"The Varro," she said, with more than a hint of steel in her voice, "were a highly xenophobic race. We helped repair the warp engines on their generational ship--I might point out it took some doing to get them to accept any assistance from us in the first place--and you blatantly disregarded their cultural taboos by becoming romantically involved with one of their crew. What was her name--Tal? Yes, that was it. Even when I ordered you to stay away from Tal, you didn't listen." She took a deep breath and tried to smile. "I was more than halfway convinced at the time you were under suffering from an alien possession, because it just wasn't like you."

"Captain, I am not sick! I didn't disobey your orders because I'm under some alien influence. I disobeyed your orders because Tal and I are in love, and it's not right for you to keep us apart!"

"Listen to yourself! You don't sound anything like the Harry Kim I know."

"I have served on this ship for five years and said, 'yes, ma'am'  to every one of your orders! But not this time!"

 "You're willing to risk your rank--your career--over this?"

It took him a few seconds to find the words. "Have you ever been in love, Captain?"

"Your point?" she said coldly.

"Did your skin ever flush when you were near another person? Did your stomach ever feel like someone--hollowed it out with a knife when you were apart? Did your throat ever swell when you realized it was over?" He forced himself to go on. "Seven of Nine told me love's like a disease. Well, maybe it is--pheromones, endorphins, chemicals in our blood, changing our responses physical discomfort--but any way you look at it, it's still love!"

The stern captain's mask relaxed fractionally. "For the sake of argument, let's say you're right. Your feelings for Tal are no different than mine for--what? The man I was engaged to marry? Well, I lost him--and you're going to lose Tal. You know that. What the Doctor is offering you is a way to ease the pain!"

Harry met her implacable gaze without flinching. "That man you were going to marry--if you could have just taken a hypospray to make yourself stop loving him--so that it didn't hurt so much when you were away from him. Would you have done that?"

From the look on Janeway's face, Harry knew she was remembering as well. "I know I was out of line with my comments, but when you told me that you expected Tom Paris to act this way, but not me, well, I guess I just..." His voice trailed off when he realized she wasn't listening.

"You weren't out of line," she whispered, more to herself than to him. She stopped. "Well, you were bordering on insubordination with some of those statements, but you were definitely on to something." She rose and walked to the viewport, then suddenly swung around to face him. "Harry, I tried to tell you then that  I expected more of you. Because you were the 'golden boy' who had never put a foot wrong before. You were the perfect officer in every way, and I just didn't understand why you were suddenly so willing to throw it all away, everything you'd worked so hard to achieve."

"The truth is, Harry...I think about you differently than the rest of the crew--which isn't to suggest that I don't care deeply about each of them, but--you came to me fresh out of the Academy, wide-eyed with excitement about your first deep space assignment. From that first day, I've always felt more protective of you than the others."

But Harry hadn't wanted her coddling--or her protection. All he'd wanted was for her to view him with respect for his accomplishments, to acknowledge that he had grown up some and changed since the early days of Voyager's journey. By the time of the encounter with the Varro, he'd already seen too much to ever be that inexperienced young officer ever again. With a pang, he wondered if that was still how she thought of him now.

"Why me, Admiral?" He realized she wouldn't understand what he meant. "Why didn't you treat anyone else that way?"

"Like Tom Paris?" Janeway shook her head. "Harry, you and Tom were coming from entirely different circumstances." She didn't elaborate further, but he knew what she was thinking: the raw, untried ensign was worlds removed from the jaded ex-convict. But there was one way in which she had treated them the same--she had given both of them her trust, a chance to prove themselves.

"I always envied Tom," he confessed, looking down at his hands clenched tightly in his lap. "He was everything I wished I could be. Experienced, confident, handsome...and expected to be a little bad, a little dangerous. Not like plain strait-laced Harry. And Tom had it all, by the end--his lieutenant's pip and his glamorous piloting job, and a wife and a baby."

Janeway moved closer to him and laid her hand on his shoulder. "Tom paid a terrible price for his successes, Harry," she said softly. "No matter what you might think, it was never easy for him. And more than once he came too close to losing everything he'd gained."

"Well, he gave it up voluntarily in the end, didn't he?" Harry retorted. He added hastily, "Not B'Elanna or their children--his Starfleet career. He was a hotshot pilot, and after our return home, after Starfleet cleared him and the Maquis, he could have had anything he wanted, any spot in the 'Fleet. But instead he gave it all up."

Janeway smiled sadly. "He made certain sacrifices for his family, Harry. And he doesn't regret those choices."

"Call it what you will, it just proves that nice guys finish last." Harry refused to be comforted.

"Tom is where he wants to be, Harry," she said with a sigh. "That's a rare gift. Even if he 'settled' for something less than you or someone else might have thought he could have had. He's happy. Leave it at that."

"Are you happy?" The question hung in the air between them, and for a moment Harry was afraid he'd gone too far. She quickly averted her gaze, perhaps afraid of giving away too much.

"What you were saying before, Harry, about love..." her voice trailed off. Then, squaring her shoulders, she looked him straight in the eye. "You were right, you know, about it being worth the pain." She gave him a somewhat contrite look. "I wanted to apologize to you after we left the Varro, especially when I saw how much you were suffering."

"It was my choice," Harry said, and sighed deeply. "I could have gone to the Doctor for treatment if I'd wanted. You strongly urged me to do so, in fact."

"But you chose to bear the pain instead." She pulled back from him a little, gave him a searching glance.

He rose to his feet and straightened his jacket, looking away from her as he did so. "There's a touch of the martyr complex in all of us, I suppose," he said.

"I suppose so," she said with just a hint of irony. "But the point is, you chose to carry your pain around with you as a reminder. That some things--even if we know we're going to lose them, even if they hurt like hell when we've lost them--still they're worth it, for the good while it lasted. You were right, Harry--some things are worth it."

Something made him look up just then and he caught sight of the most extraordinary expression on her face. He had never seen her so vulnerable. No, Kathryn Janeway had always been a tower of strength to those around her, able to surmount every difficulty. Even if it killed her. But now--the loneliness in her voice, an echo of the crushing burdens she'd once carried--Did she wish she had them still in place of the emptiness she had now?

"Oh, Admiral," he said helplessly, and took a step toward her, wishing there was something he could do, something he could say.

"It's all right, Harry," she said tiredly. "It doesn't really matter anymore."

They were silent for a long moment. When he looked at her again, he saw her face was in repose once more. Once again, he saw before him the image of a woman who had clearly come to terms with herself, and her life.

The sharp chirrup of a communicator interrupted. "Commander Kim, please report to the bridge." It was followed a second later by another. "Admiral Janeway, please report to the bridge." Just then the red alert klaxon began to sound.

Janeway reflexively straightened her uniform and headed toward the door. "Come on, Harry," she said in a steady voice. "It's showtime."


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