The Solitary

By Seema

Author's note: Part of the "Lines in the Sand" series; chronologically, it comes after "A Fugue in Blue Minor, part I", though it's placed after "Interlude" in this listing. Those stories need to be read in order to completely understand this one. Thanks to Rocky for looking this over.

Disclaimer: Characters/places belong to Paramount.


The morning after the reception, Janeway wakes with a throbbing headache. It could be the lack of sleep -- she spent most of the night tossing and turning -- or it could be the alcohol she consumed, or a combination of the two. Wearily, she sits up and presses her hand to her face. She is exhausted in every sense of the word and not looking forward to another day of briefings. It's been more than a week since Voyager returned and she has yet to spend any time with her former crew, has yet had time to strongly press for answers and satisfactory resolutions to her questions and concerns.

As she strips off her nightgown and heads into the shower, she makes a mental checklist of things she needs to resolve before the briefings are over, while she still has the attention of the Admiralty. Her former Maquis crew are first and foremost on her mind; she wants to push for a full pardon for those who served on Voyager, and make arrangements for them to be repatriated. Then there's the question of promotions; Harry Kim is first on her list, but there are others too, such as Lieutenant Carey and Ensign Wildman who deserve an additional pip. Then there's the question of Seven of Nine. More than 10 years after the events of Wolf 359, news reports show that anti-Borg sentiment remains strong and Janeway wants to make sure Seven is respectfully treated.

Janeway turns her face up to the warm water raining down on her. It feels good to take a real shower instead of the sonic showers she had grown accustomed to on Voyager. Another luxury is the cup of coffee, rich and aromatic, that waits for her in the replicator when she steps back out into the bedroom. Dressed in her white robe, Janeway sits in the armchair by the window, sipping the coffee, and looking out. The temporary quarters Starfleet Housing assigned her to overlooks the main quad, so the area is alive with officers walking along the criss-crossing paths which cut gray stripes in the green lawn. The uniforms have changed, and Janeway admits that while the new design -- gray-shoulder jacket over a turtleneck colored to signify department and separate pants -- is both comfortable and attractive, it's another thing she has to get used to.

She drains her coffee mug and leaves it on the table; she'll deal with it when she returns from the briefing. When Janeway looks around the rooms she now occupies, she sees many things left for "later" -- PADDS on nearly every available flat surface, clothes half-unpacked (or is it packed? she can't quite decide), and of course, coffee mugs literally everywhere. The souvenirs she picked up in the Delta Quadrant, and some of her personal effects clutter the dresser top are still in the boxes she packed them in; while she finds the gray and utilitarian starkness of these temporary quarters dreary and knows arranging her things will make the rooms seem more like home, she leaves the items where they are. When Janeway looks at the clutter, she feels a pang of guilt, a two-fold feeling, because she never left her quarters on Voyager like this and she also knows the housekeeper will have to pick through the mess later in the day. Despite this knowledge, Janeway still can't bring herself to put things away.

In the bathroom, now that the mirror is no longer steamy from the shower, she washes her face again and makes sure her hair, now styled into a small knot at the junction of neck and head, is perfect -- not a strand dipping below her collar. She runs her fingers over the pips at her collar and then smoothes the front of the jacket down with the palms of her hands.

Even in her newly issued uniform, Janeway feels out of place. She knows when she goes into the conference room and stares across the table at the panel of admirals assigned to her debriefing, it will be a reminder she is no longer the top of a very small command chain; she is still captain, yes, but there are many others who now outrank her. She's still not sure how she feels about this loss of control. Everything that happens from here on out will be in someone else's hand. She can ask them about the Maquis' fate, about the promotions, about Seven of Nine, and the panel will give her courteous answers and tell her they will look into the situation, form a committee to make a recommendation. Janeway inhales sharply. After seven years of helming her own ship, of answering only to her own conscience and the Starfleet guidelines drilled into her, it's a rude awakening.

She slips on her boots, pausing just long enough to give the toe another swipe. Another look in the mirror and she's assured everything is as it should be and she's in compliance with the uniform code. She takes slight amusement in the fact how she dresses these days is the one thing she has control over, and in the Alpha Quadrant, letting one's hair down while on duty is strictly frowned upon. While she had generally enforced the Starfleet uniform regulations on Voyager, supply considerations had required some laxness and she had not frowned too much when a crew member showed up with a loose fitting uniform (weight loss, when food supplies were low, was not unusual) or when soles came apart from boots or torn or frayed uniforms. Circumstances were different in the Delta Quadrant, Janeway reminds herself. It's a constant -- and annoying -- refrain. Another deep breath. She needs to calm down, not think too much about these briefings or what she will say.

"Computer, time?" Janeway roams the rooms restlessly.

"The time is now 0900 hours."

Another hour before the debriefing. Janeway isn't particularly hungry, though past experience tells her that these debriefings go on for hours, with breaks no longer than about five minutes -- not quite long enough to grab something to eat. In the previous day's session, her stomach actually growled loudly and she flushed with embarrassment, but hoped a break would soon be forthcoming; she was disappointed when another few hours passed before the meeting was disbanded, and only then because of the homecoming reception scheduled for that evening. She meanders to the replicator, orders up another cup of coffee and toast. After one bite, she loses interest in the toast, but keeps the coffee mug firmly in hand. In her new surroundings, coffee is her one true indulgence.

"Computer, begin log." Janeway twists her hands together as she paces back and forth over the gray carpet. "It's been over a week since Voyager returned home and it looks like everyone is adjusting. The reception yesterday gave a chance for families to reunite, though I admit, I wish our families had been allowed to see us the day we returned. The reception itself was--" Janeway pauses, looking for the right word because 'fun' didn't quite fit "-- formal and elegant. I was pleased to see how some of my crew's accomplishments were acknowledged." She takes a deep breath. "But it felt incomplete without the former Maquis." Janeway walks to the window and presses her hand against the glass. "I'm not sure how much luck I'll have with convincing the Admirals the Maquis are no longer a threat to Starfleet, that they have bigger problems to deal with now that the Dominion War has ended and the largest relief operation in decades has begun." During the reception the night before, Admiral Hayes had mentioned Starfleet was providing ongoing aid, not only to decimated parts of Earth, but also to Cardassia, Betazoid, some areas of Bajor, and a host of other worlds which had suffered greatly during the Dominion War.

"The Federation always comes together when there's an enemy to combat," Hayes had said, as he casually sipped his champagne. He had kept his hand firmly on Janeway's elbow as he had steered her through the crowd of dignitaries and well-wishers to an empty table in the corner of the ballroom. "The Klingons, the Cardassians, the Maquis, the Dominion--" Hayes glanced at Janeway. "I'm sure you know what I'm talking about. You faced plenty of enemies of your own, and from what I've read in your logs, some of them quite intriguing in their own way."

"'Intriguing' is one way to describe the Hirogen, Kazon and Species 8472," Janeway had answered as she took the chair Hayes had pulled out for her. "I prefer the term 'brutal'."

"As you wish. You were there." Janeway found the casualness of Hayes' remark and tone unnerving.

"And I disagree with your characterization of the Maquis as the enemy. They were only doing what they needed to do to survive, to keep what was theirs," Janeway had said. She leaned forward, keeping her palms flat against the linen-covered table. "There are more important things at hand right now, more important issues to resolve. Why not concentrate on those things, rather than an insurgency based on self-preservation which lasted only for a brief time period? It surprises me Starfleet is quick to forgive the Cardassians and the Dominion for the role they played in the War, but not so much for a rag-tag group of people, who were basically decimated in their struggle to preserve their rights."

Hayes' jaw had tightened. "Kathryn, I understand your concern for some of your crew and it does you justice, but the classification of 'terrorists' remains."

"I didn't realize Starfleet had such a long memory," Janeway had answered bitterly, "or the inability to forgive."

Hayes had drained the rest of his champagne with alarming alacrity. "And you forget yourself, Kathryn," Hayes had said evenly. "I would strongly suggest, Captain, that you concentrate on yourself. We will deal with the subject of your crew at a later time." And with that, Hayes had stood up, tipped his head briefly at her, and left her sitting alone, stunned.

Now Janeway stares at an officer walking quickly across the quad to a building on the opposite side. She puts her empty coffee mug down on the table, and heads for the replicator. She still feels sluggish and a third cup of coffee just might do the trick. The partially eaten toast, though, she ignores. "Coffee, black." The mug materializes and she inhales the pungent aroma gratefully. "It seems getting the Maquis issue resolved is going to be an uphill climb, as evidenced by my conversation with Admiral Hayes last night. I'd like the Maquis who were on my crew to be recognized for their contributions. We wouldn't have made it without them. I will continue to press as hard as I can, but I admit, I don't hold out much hope. Hayes seems implacable on the subject and I have yet to find a friend on the committee." She takes a deep breath and returns to her spot by the window. "The reception was the first time in a week I've seen many of my crew members. I can't help but think the separation is intentional, that for some reason, the Admiralty want to isolate me, keep me away from the crew. I have no explanation of why." Janeway bit her lip, remembering a brief exchange she'd had with Chakotay years ago, when she'd chosen to ally Voyager with the Borg against Species 8472. When Chakotay had disagreed with her decision, Janeway had said sadly, "Then I guess I'm really alone."

Janeway cups the mug with both hands as she wanders through the quarters. There is only one painting on the wall, a rather generic watercolor of a dilapidated farmhouse in a field overgrown with wildflowers.

The third cup of coffee is finally doing the trick, and Janeway feels a surge of energy rush through her. "I keep replaying parts of the debriefing over in my head. I'm trying to keep my answers to the facts and not editorialize or give the admirals more information than absolutely necessary." Janeway's lips turn up at the corners. "I have done things I'm not necessarily proud of, things that were of absolute necessity given the circumstances, such as the alliance with the Borg, my pursuit of Captain Ransom, giving the holodeck technology to the Hirogen. I had promised the crew I'd get them home, but along the way, we had to make allowances for actions that normally would not be considered ethical. As the cliché says, desperate times call for desperate measures."

Janeway sits in the armchair once again and takes a sip of water. "One thing that weighs heavily on my mind is what happened at Starbase 87, what we learned about Owen Paris." Janeway considers her next words carefully. "He's not the man we thought he was and it's disappointing, not only to me, but also to his son. It's no secret I always admired Owen Paris, I always thought him -- like my father -- the epitome of what a Starfleet officer should be. His dealings with the Maquis are, in a word, underhanded. The extent of his cover-up, surprising." Janeway takes a deep breath. "It occurs to me perhaps it's no coincidence, knowing what I know now, that I was chosen to capture Maquis. Perhaps Admiral Paris was counting on my well-known trait of loyalty to protect him. Either way, it's hard to say what I'll do." Janeway rises from her seat. "The man is dead. I have no desire to harm his reputation. I do have concern for his son though and I will act accordingly." A beat passes. "Computer, time?"

"The time is now 0935 hours."

It will take about six to ten minutes to cross the quad and arrive at her debriefing; the Admirals are punctual and Janeway doesn't want to keep them waiting. Let's not give them another reason to be upset with me, she thinks with a slight smirk. She picks up a couple of empty coffee mugs with the intent to put them in the recycler and then stops in mid-thought. "I'm not sure what game Starfleet is playing," Janeway says. "The only thing I know for certain, this isn't the same Starfleet I left behind six years ago." She also realizes the irony in having lost her mentor, Admiral Paris. There is no one now to protect her from what comes next. Janeway would like to think she's strong enough, confident enough, to deal with whatever cards are handed to her. If she has to go it alone, as it seems Starfleet wants her to, so be it. "We'll see what happens. Computer, end log." She stands in the middle of the room, temporarily paralyzed by indecision. And then she speaks again. "Computer, delete last log." She knows it's possible for Starfleet to retrieve logs from the main server, but it will take time and energy, two things Starfleet doesn't have much of these days.

"Log deleted."

Janway's halfway out the door, when her message console beeps, signifying an incoming message. She pauses. "Computer, play message."

A second later, the sound of Harry Kim's voice fills the room. "Captain, please contact me as soon as you get this. I'll tell you more in person. Can you meet for lunch?"

Janeway thinks about the Admirals, about their lack of breaks, or food or coffee. Oh Harry, she thinks, if only you had contacted me an hour earlier. She ponders her next move, and not for the first time, wonders if her quarters are bugged, if her messages –- both incoming and outgoing –- are being monitored. Still, Janeway can hear the strain underlying Harry's voice, understands something has happened and that Harry needs her. She's cutting it close for time, she knows, but she decides to respond anyway.

"I'm due for a debriefing now, Harry, but I will call you later."

She feels more confident now as she steps out into the morning sunshine. There's a slight hint of breeze ruffling her hair. Her stride is strong as she walks down the paths. She's already decided to do whatever she needs to do to protect her crew, as well as the memory of a dead man. If it means lying, so be it, she thinks as she nears her destination.

~ the end

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