The Epiphany

By Elorie Alton

PG

Disclaimer: All Voyager characters are the property of Paramount. No copyright infringement is intended.

Never in his wildest dreams had Chakotay imagined Voyager’s return to Earth would be inside a Borg sphere. At the beginning of their journey, he thought that there was a pretty good chance that Tuvok would be escorting him to the brig as soon as they crossed over into the Alpha Quadrant.

Even now everything seemed shrouded in a veneer of strange surrealism. No fantasy could have prepared him for this, because here he sat at Voyager helm instead of Tom Paris. Who would have thought that Commander Chakotay, former Starfleet officer and Maquis rebel would be the one to guide her home?

Earth filled Voyager’s forward view screen, less than half an hour away, and he had never seen a more beautiful sight.

Well, there was no time like the present to start making plans, after all he and Seven had a whole new future ahead of them and now they could also be home. He wanted to take her to Arizona, to see the sun gleaming on the mesas and plateaus of Monument Valley. It was winter now in the northern hemisphere and if they were lucky the reds and oranges of the valley would be complemented by a thin layer of snow.  

He remembered telling Kathryn about Arizona; he only hoped that Seven wouldn’t get that funny look in her eyes and tell him that snow in Arizona was irrelevant, because he longed to watch the sunrise there. He wanted to see soft pink and gold streaks and the sky fade into grey and then blue.

Once he remembered, during one of their dinners, he and Kathryn had made a list of all the places they wanted to visit again when they returned to Earth.

Of course he really needed to take Seven shopping for some new apparel. He wanted her out of those jumpsuits that she wore and into something a little less form fitting and a lot more feminine. Maybe something like the blue dress Kathryn wore on New Earth, the one that he never saw again once Voyager came back for them.

Maybe there would be time now to introduce Seven to her spirit guide, just like he had Kathryn at the beginning of their journey. He caught himself, realizing that every thought he entertained since he sat down at Helm control had ended with Kathryn. He’d buried his dream of Kathryn a long time ago, Seven was his woman now, and Kathryn still intruded in his thoughts.

He punched the controls with an angry jab of his middle finger, irritated with himself. Kathryn hadn’t wanted him, Seven did and he needed to remember that. But he couldn’t seem to shake off the image of Kathryn and her older doppelganger, Admiral Janeway in the shuttle bay just a few hours earlier.

He wanted to talk to the older woman, she hadn’t talked to him like she had to Kathryn and to Seven. He wanted to know what she had said to Seven that upset her so much. Thoughts of the older Kathryn caused him pain and he needed to know where that had come from too and now it was too late.

He briefly left the bridge, meaning to speak to Admiral Janeway, only to find Kathryn with her. He slipped into the control room and silently watched the two women. They spoke briefly and then they moved into the Admiral’s shuttle, after a few minutes his captain exited and hurried away to the bridge. But, before he could enter the bay the Admiral left Voyager. Now they were home and the Admiral was nowhere to be seen and he feared that they had left her behind to die.

He couldn’t shake the feeling that something was seriously wrong, but he couldn’t for the life of him think what it was. He did know that everything surrounding the older Admiral was off balance and somehow he had kept thinking that parts were missing.

One thought continued to circle around in his mind; Kathryn Janeway had come back for them all and had probably sacrificed her very life in order to get them home. Obviously Admiral Janeway was Kathryn right down to the soles of her feet.

Now here he sat at Voyager’s helm, his hands touching her controls, guiding her home. And even though triumph colored their return, his hands felt empty and bereft. He missed Kathryn’s small hand resting in his own. He stopped again, this time even more angry with himself. Seven, he missed Seven’s hand in his, not Kathryn’s.

He gently touched the controls in front of him, his fingers making the small adjustments to Voyager’s course so she progressed through the honor guard of other Federation starships lining the path to the huge space dock of Star Base One that orbited Earth.

The silent telemetry from the station scrolled across the small inset screen advising him of the correct approach to the great space doors waiting to open and welcome Voyage home. And even though they were still some minutes away from actually entering the star base, he was already receiving directions to a berth inside.   

He double checked the coordinates before he let himself believe that Voyager was being guided to a place of honor, to the berth on the port side of Enterprise A.  Kirk’s last ship, the one saved from being dismantled by the combined efforts of millions of school children and held in honor as the last surviving Constitution class Star Ship.

A multitude of stories about the exploits of James T. Kirk circulated through the Federation. They had inspired countless young people to step away from Earth and into space. It had never been decommissioned even though other ships had carried the Enterprise name; it gave birth to a legacy of starships that even today sailed between the stars representing Starfleet’s best.

Even with all the fame, this ship only represented the first one, the earlier one, the one that Kirk had stolen and then sacrificed to save a friend. The story was whispered among the cadets at the academy and condemned by the instructors.

Captains were not supposed to risk so much for one life and yet Admiral Kirk did exactly that and now that he thought about it, it is possible that Admiral Janeway had come from the future to do the same thing for Voyager’s crew, for Seven, and for him.

The Enterprise sacrificed by a captain for his first officer, for his friend. Chakotay didn’t have to wonder what Kathryn would sacrifice for her crew.  He knew that she, like James Kirk would never willingly left anyone behind.  She hadn’t had to sacrifice her beloved Voyager this time, but she had thought to sacrifice herself for them on more than one occasion, and it occurred to him that maybe she had sacrificed her own joys, her own dreams, and all for them.   

Now Chakotay knew Kathryn would even cross time for them, she would give her life and do it for him.  She too would risk everything, not for glory or renown but for the love she held for her people.  And he wondered what he had risked, not his heart, the one he always assumed she wouldn’t accept never thinking that just maybe she couldn’t? 

Chakotay heard the bridge doors slide open as he turned slightly and saw his captain reflected in the shiny surface of the helm control panel.  He discovered he could see them both, the woman he had loved so long and then discarded when he thought that flame had died, and his new woman, young and beautiful. 

He could see the expressions on their faces: Seven’s face glowed with exultation, easily read, and it matched the expressions of almost everyone else on the bridge.  But Kathryn’s expression was different, haunting, and tinted with regret, sorrow, and despair.  She wasn’t looking at the view screen, she wasn’t looking at anything outside her own mind, but her fingers trailed over the command control station between the captain’s and first officer’s seats, as if reaching for a hand that wasn’t there. 

The sight spiked through his chest, and feelings he had tried to bury as dead boiled up in a fierce all-consuming fire that raced through his veins.  It was as if his sight had been selectively filtered these last few months, a filter that was negated in the reflection that held him now.

Now he knew what was missing, Admiral Janeway had come back to save them all. His beautiful woman warrior had come back but she had come back alone, he was missing and he wondered how he could ever have let Kathryn do such a thing. How many times had he promised her that he would never leave her alone and now it was obvious he had done just that? He had forsaken his love for Kathryn turning to Seven of Nine, and somewhere in some future that would never be, he had allowed his Kathryn to cross time and die alone. 

Chakotay watched the reflection so closely that he didn’t hear Tom’s return to the bridge until Paris touched his shoulder and requested permission to take over the helm. He stood, relinquishing the helm control to Tom and was suddenly aware of the sound of joy that surrounded them. Then he turned to see his captain, her mouth tailored into a counterfeit smile that didn’t reach her eyes. 

Kathryn Janeway sat alone, her eyes shimmering with unshed tears, oblivious to the celebration around her as Harry Kim pulled Seven of Nine into a reluctant hug. Ensign Wildman hugged Lieutenant Ayala then all changed partners, and he could hear the same celebration carried over Voyager’s comm system from all over the ship. Only Tuvok maintained his stoic demeanor as he moved across the bridge to the command seats and stopped, gently rested his left hand on Kathryn’s shoulder, but his eyes were on Chakotay, radiating disapproval.

When had he forgotten all his dreams and plans, how had his life come to this moment, how could he have turned his back on Kathryn?

Until recently whenever Chakotay imagined Voyager’s homecoming, he would see himself setting next to Kathryn, watching Earth growing larger in the view screen, he would imagine taking her hand in his and this time she would allow the caress to linger, maybe intertwining her fingers with his. She would look straight into his eyes and he would know now would be their time, now Kathryn and Chakotay could reach for a life that went farther than that of a captain and a first officer. Finally they could release that burning emotion they silently shared.

But like all hot flames, the fuel had to be replenished, to be fed and neither Kathryn nor himself had nurtured those flames and finally when they no longer burned hot in his chest and loins he had turned to someone else to kindle a new flame, and even the dream of getting home had died.

Chakotay never remembered just when he made his decision; he didn’t even know there was a decision to make until he found himself standing in front of Kathryn Janeway. He could hear the sounds of happiness all around him but now gazing deeply into her eyes he could see the shimmering sadness that she tried to conceal. There in her solemn blue eyes he could see the still living embers of denied love and he knew now was the time to fan them into warming flames.

On some level he knew that everyone else on the bridge was watching him now and out of the corner of his eye he could see Seven making her way toward him only to be stopped when Samantha Wildman drew her away, whispering something inaudible. Chakotay moved directly in front of Kathryn taking her hand in his. She jerked slightly as if startled, questions already forming on her lips. He gently urged her up pulling her into his arms and then gazing into her startled eyes, he dipped his head catching her mouth with his.

He didn’t know if she would allow the touch or not, but there would be no backing down on his part, he would never be able to move forward unless he did something, something that would either plow through the barriers they never crossed, or those barricades would stay just as impenetrable as always. One way or another his life wouldn’t have direction until he knew for sure where Kathryn’s place would be.

She was stiff in his arms, her lips hard and unyielding but he teased with his mouth and tongue, all the time praying that she wouldn’t move away. Once he had vowed to never leave her side and he silently renewed that vow deep in his heart and at that same moment her lips softened under his as if her lonely heart had heard that promise.

Elation coursed through his body and he felt her tongue connect with his teasing and dancing at his mouth. Her small frame loosened as her curves fit to his body. Her arms slipped upward around his neck and small fingers combed through the hair at the back of his neck.

His last conscious moment was hearing Tom Paris’ words, "Thank God, it’s about damn time."

Time seemed to stop and the world dimmed down to just the two of them for long minutes as lips caressed and tongues tangled, their bodies reveling in the closeness of the other.

When the world returned, he could hear Harry Kim in the back ground, "Captain, captain - Star Fleet command is hailing us. Captain Janeway!"

They separated slowly, eyes locked together then he wove her fingers in his and they turned to face the World, his palm basking in the warmth of hers.

"On screen, Mr. Kim."

A sense of calm joyful perfection settled around him as he heard Kathryn accepting the final orders and he glanced around him, seeing beaming, happy faces. Only Seven seemed confused, as she stood quietly talking to Samantha and Ensign Brooks near the science station, and he knew he had some explaining to do.

"Take us home, Mr. Paris." Captain Kathryn Janeway ordered.

"Yes, Ma’am"

And Voyager glided inside Star Base One, and to her resting place beside Enterprise A, finally home, as were her captain and first officer.

=^=

Author note: A lot of people wonder where ideas come from, this story started with a single picture.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/56/USS_Constitution_Sail200d.jpg/800px-USS_Constitution_Sail200d.jpg

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