Coming Home

By Seema

Disclaimer: Leapin' lizards, it's all Paramount's!


You go there
you're gone forever
I go there
I'll lose my way
if we stay here
we're not together
Anywhere is

~ Enya


Chakotay found her in the mess hall, standing slightly apart from the others.

"Something interesting?" he asked quietly as he slipped next to her. Kathryn Janeway turned slightly away from the window.

"Prettiest view I've seen in seven years," Janeway replied. She nodded at the blue-green-white marble that was Earth. "I still can't believe it."

"You did it, Kathryn, you brought us home," Chakotay said. He looked at the other crewmembers who were clustered around their respective windows. "Earth... not so much home as what it represents. For all of us."

"And in a few days, after the debriefings, we'll all go our separate ways," Janeway said softly. She put her hand lightly on Chakotay's arm. "What a strange, wonderful, weird journey it's been."

Chakotay smiled. "If I remember correctly, you once told a brand new ensign that 'weird was part of the job.'"

"So I did." Janeway turned her attention back to the window. "But some things, I never expected."

"You can say that again," Chakotay said with feelingly. Janeway eyed him curiously, but said nothing.

"Have you thought you about what you're going to do now that we're home?" Chakotay asked.

"I imagine Starfleet can find a place for me somewhere."

"Not just a 'place.' I wouldn't be surprised if they gave you a promotion." Chakotay's lips turned up a little. "'Admiral' Janeway."

"Sounds like you're talking about my father."

"No." Chakotay stared at Janeway intensely, memorizing every detail of her finely sculpted face, from the sweep of red-brown hair over her brow to the sharp line of her jaw. "The honor is entirely yours."

Janeway cleared her throat. "And you, what will you do?"

This, Chakotay knew, would be the hard part. He'd been thinking about his options for the last few days and nothing had immediately jumped out at him as the 'perfect' next step. A part of him could not imagine a life away from Voyager; in that sense, he was almost disappointed that the "strange, wonderful, weird" journey had come to an end. Another part of him was eager to start anew, to begin a life that didn't involve the Maquis or Starfleet. He only hoped that the Federation authorities would give him that chance.

"I'm still mulling possibilities," Chakotay said. He looked at Janeway directly. "Seven will be coming with me."

"I got that feeling." She turned back to the window. "So many opportunities, for the both of you."

"I'm going to miss you."

"We're going home. We'll still see each other."

"Of course." Chakotay couldn't help but wonder what would happen without the daily connection of Voyager. Over time, he imagined that their paths would diverge and priorities would change. Spirits knew, what he *wanted* had changed just in the last month. And it hadn't been lost on him Janeway had mentioned *she* would miss him. He took a deep breath. "I'll hold you to that."

She remained silent, just staring out the window. Chakotay took a step towards her. The question danced at the tip of his tongue. What will you *do*? he wanted to ask. Not in terms of action, because Chakotay knew that if nothing else, Kathryn *would* be able to find something to occupy herself. The words slipped out before he had thought it through completely. "What will you do now that you don't have anyone to take care of?" Unspoken was the rest of the sentence - who will take care of *you*?

Janeway turned from the window. "That's an interesting question, Commander."

Chakotay shrugged. "I'm just curious." He smiled, a little awkwardly.

"I haven't thought about it, to be honest," Janeway said. She ran her fingers over the shiny smooth surface of one of the tables. "Starfleet has been keeping me busy. I never realized that there was so much paperwork involved in coming home."

Chakotay nodded. He had seen the kiloquads of data Janeway had downloaded earlier. He had thought perhaps Admiral Owen Paris might have made an exception for Voyager, allowing the ship to come home without the usual red tape. The small print and legalese would drive Janeway crazy, of this Chakotay was absolutely sure. But on a positive note, all of that paperwork *would* keep her busy until she figured out what Chakotay had already come to terms with: life after Voyager would be different. Different in a good way, different in a bad way - it was too soon to tell yet, but there would be adjustment and he wondered if Kathryn, so focused on her goal of getting the crew home, had even considered that. *Her* adjustment.

Or maybe, Chakotay mused as he looked at the woman he had served faithfully for seven years, she was purposely *not* thinking of it. Avoidance was something that Janeway did beautifully. In the past, he had been there to point out the forest for the trees, and while Janeway hadn't always listened to him, at least she'd made the pretense of doing so. He wondered who would rein her in the future. Or more likely, who would have the audacity to even *try*? Despite the fact that he'd often gotten frustrated with Janeway's stubborn streak, he'd enjoyed every single argumentative moment.

"For what it's worth, Kathryn-" he laid stress on her name - "it's been a pleasure serving with you."

Janeway stopped. "And it's been an honor, Commander." Her voice was husky. "I have no doubt whatever you do in the future, you'll succeed at it." She cleared her throat. "And I'm sure, when things settle down, we'll be seeing a lot of each other." She sounded more confident this time. "And I promised Seven I'd show her Indiana."

"I think she'll like that." Chakotay cleared his throat. It was difficult to talk about Seven with Janeway and for that reason, Chakotay was grateful Janeway had brought up the subject. "She's frightened, Kathryn."

Janeway pulled a chair out and indicated for Chakotay to sit as well. "It's understandable. This is a new experience for her."

"For all of us."

Janeway glanced at Chakotay amusedly. "We've both been on Earth before, Chakotay."

"That's not what I meant."

"And what do you *mean*, Commander?" Janeway's voice was curiously sharp.

He was taken aback by her tone. "I meant that we've spent seven years in close quarters and we've made strong friendships. There may be an adjustment period. It goes without saying that no matter how much we've desired this homecoming, it's not going to be easy. Not to mention, Earth is only symbolically home. We have crewmembers from Vulcan, Bajor, and even B'Elanna has spoken of visiting Kessik." Janeway raised an eyebrow at this revelation. Chakotay reached across the table, his hand lightly resting next to Janeway's; she didn't move. "What I'm saying, Captain, is that it might be a little too much to expect of people to stay in one place - in San Francisco - for long. Once we're through the paperwork, once the debriefings are over, there's not a lot left in San Francisco for many people. In a word, it's going to be a new adventure for all of us."

"One I look forward to," Janeway murmured. Taking a chance, Chakotay placed his hand over Janeway's. She stared at him, her expression softening. "I imagined many endings to our journey."


"It always ended with us coming home together, staying *together*." Janeway smiled, a little sadly, but Chakotay wasn't quite sure what she was referring to here and he looked at her questioningly. "Of course that's crazy, isn't it? It's what you said just now, that we all have our own adventures to pursue now. And it was wrong of me to assume we wouldn't go our separate ways." She bit down on her lip, a pensive expression crossing her face.

Chakotay wove his fingers in with hers. Her skin was warm against his. "It didn't *have* to be this way." It was nearly impossible to keep the regret out of his voice.

Janeway straightened, pulling her hand free of his. "You make it sound so simple."

"It could have been."

Janeway rose to her feet, pushing her chair back in impatiently. It clanked against the table.

"I've always appreciated the different perspectives you've brought to the senior staff," Janeway said evenly. "You've managed to make me see things I might never have acknowledged otherwise." Though, Chakotay silently thought, some issues - such as the alliance with the Borg against Species 8472 and Janeway's ValJean-esque quest to track down Ransom - they had never come to agreement on. "We may not have see eye to eye, but I always did appreciate your thoughts on a variety of subjects." She squared her shoulders. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I think it's time to greet the newest member of the Voyager family." She smiled wryly. "I hear Miral Paris has an impressive set of lungs, but I wouldn't expect anything less from a daughter of Tom and B'Elanna."

Chakotay considered following her, but something - perhaps the cool and clinical expression on Janeway's face - stopped him. "I'll join you in a few minutes," he said finally, swallowing his disappointment. "I have a few personnel items I want to check on first." He managed a smile. "I have paperwork of my own as well to take care."

"Of course," Janeway said.

He didn't watch her leave. Instead, he walked to the window and stared down at Earth. He leaned forward, resting his forehead against the cool glass. So many times, he'd come to the mess hall in the middle of the night, fighting insomnia, and he'd find Kathryn here, often nursing a tall mug of coffee. Without doubt, he'd miss those late night chats. Hell, seven years ago he had been resentful of losing his own ship, of having to come aboard Voyager to serve with the woman who had been sent to track him down. Now, he knew he would miss every single moment of the journey in the Delta Quadrant. He inhaled deeply, took a one last look at Earth, before turning to leave the mess hall.

"Computer, turn off lights."

~ the end

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