DISCLAIMER: All things Start Trek, people, places, aliens, that have been used in the shows and movies are copyright to Star Trek, its creators and Paramount. Some of the characters and information was taken from the show and some from book Mosaic by Jeri Taylor. I have mentioned parts from different episodes, some minor some major (Year of Hell), and have taken several lines from the show and incorporated them into the story. A special thank you to Kate Mulgrew and Jeri Ryan for bringing Captain Janeway and Seven of Nine to life.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I have differed from parts of the seventh season…Neelix's return to Earth with Voyager is just one of the differences. Also please note that Chakotay is somewhat of a dubious character towards the end of Voyager's journey, I'm not a fan of Chuckles so if you are, don't say I didn't warn you.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

The Odyssey
By Joan


Part One

Chapter One

As Captain Kathryn Janeway sat in her command chair on the bridge of the Federation Starship Voyager, her back was straight, her right leg crossed over her left, her arms rested comfortably on the armrests of her chair, her blue-grey eyes staring at the large viewscreen in front. In short, she seemed not to have a care in the world or possibly better stated, in the universe.

This was far from being a true statement; her mind was anything but cool or collected. She remembered an instructor at Starfleet Academy once telling her that captains, at least starship captains were not made, they were born. He went on to explain there would be plenty of people that will make the rank of captain, but only a select few of these that will stand on the bridge of a ship and command. And not only command the ship, but the respect of her crew. At the time, she had been on a science track at the Academy and hadn't thought too much about his statement. But the past seven years had taught her first hand what the instructor had meant.

She eventually decided to change and pursue a command track, to follow in her father's footsteps, though mostly what he commanded had been a desk until the Cardassian War when he did take on a more active role. Still, she had spent more time in the past seven years on the bridge than he had his entire 40 plus year career.

At first glance Kathryn Janeway didn't look like your typical starship captain, standing only 5' 6" and looking almost frail. Her appearance hid a steely personality and an underlying strength of both mind and body. Most people tended to underestimate her when they first met her, whether in battle or over a trade table. There had also been many an ensign that had learned the hard way that her red hair was a good match for her fiery demeanor. Those that had served with her however, agreed that the woman that wore the four pips and commanded her starship and crew stood at least ten feet tall.

And right now she needed every inch of those ten feet. It was a bold plan she and her future self had come up with. They would either all be killed or all make it, except for the admiral of course. But there again, that timeline wouldn't exist if they made it back. God, how she hated anything to do with time travel and temporal flux. Either way their journey was about to end.

Seven long years, though it was just a drop in the bucket compared to what they had originally thought. They had been the first Federation vessel, the first Federation crew that had explored the Delta Quadrant and returned. The part of her that was the captain and the part of her that was a compassionate human being, regretted what she had to do that placed them in that position. The part of her that was pure scientist jumped up and cheered at the chance to literally 'go where no one had gone before'.

Destroying the Caretaker's array that could've sent them home wasn't an easy decision to make, though she knew it was the only one she could live with. Helping to protect the Ocampa from a bunch of overgrown bullies, which was how she thought of the Kazon, was the right thing, the only thing she could do. And how many times had she gone over that in her mind? How many times had she lost sleep wondering if there had been another way? Should she have stayed behind and tried to send her ship and crew home? That was the question she had asked herself over and over in the void. That was the thought that had driven her to shut herself away in her cabin.

And now the bridge crew and a few others that didn't need to be on the bridge at this time, though she couldn't blame them, were waiting for what they hoped was their first glimpse of Earth. So why was she unsettled? She knew that Starfleet would question every order, every decision, every move she made; she was prepared for that and whatever happened, but she had brought her ship and crew home. Most of her crew that is. She knew Starfleet would call the losses negligible even if she didn't. It would have been the same if it had been her that hadn't come back. And just how many times had she almost had her name added to that list? Good lord, was she turning into a 'cowboy' like another well known captain had been? Most away missions that weren't diplomatic were handled by the first officer. She had certainly done her share of them when she served in that capacity. Had it been boredom that made her risk more away missions? Or maybe it was just, once again, the scientific side that had refused to be denied. Or could it be the part of her that explored the underwater caves on Mars and climbed the rock faces of Omusa Prime and Sitsi IV?

Though she might have lost a few crew members, she had brought a few back that she hadn't started out with. At least she knew the Maquis would not be prosecuted. They would have to prove themselves to Starfleet and in some cases finish at the Academy, but they had been pardoned. Naomi Wildman, born in the Delta Quadrant would finally meet her father and Miral, the infant that was about to be born to B'Elanna and Tom would have proud grandparents waiting to meet her. And she was bringing Starfleet the little matter of a sentient hologram in the guise of their Doctor. It would take them months to get through the red tape on that one. And Neelix, the Delta Quadrant native, was excited to see the Alpha Quadrant; she just hoped he could adjust to being the only one of his kind here.

That brought her thoughts to Seven. Seven of Nine, ex-Borg drone. Kathryn knew she would have a fight on her hands. A fight to make them see her not as Borg or even ex-Borg drone, but as Annika Hansen, a human being that was taken by the Borg when she was six years old. And fight she would, no matter what they did to her; she swore she would see Seven free and safe.

"Captain, a Borg sphere is gaining on our position," Harry reported, "and trying to get a tractor beam lock on us." His voice rose considerably.

"Shields are down to thirty percent and hull integrity is dropping." Tuvok stated in his normal calm voice.

Even with the upgraded armor the admiral had given them, the Borg conduit was taking its toll on the hull.

"How much longer until we emerge from the conduit?" Janeway asked.

"Ninety seconds." Paris informed her.

'Damn, I will not have us get this close just to fail,' the captain thought.

"They have a lock on us and are trying to draw us into the sphere." Harry almost yelled his report.

"Torpedoes loaded and ready, Captain." Tuvok looked up from his station, waiting for her order.

"Hold your fire, Tuvok. Let them tractor us inside," she ordered.

"What?" Chakotay yelled from his standing position at the rail behind the command chairs. "You've lost your mind." He turned toward the security chief, "Tuvok, fire torpedoes."

"Belay that." The captain stood and looked back to her old friend, relieved to see that he had made no move to carry out the first officer's order.

Chakotay charged down to the command level to confront Janeway. "You're going to get us killed and the rest of you are just blindly going to follow her," he accused.

The problems that the captain and commander had been having over the past several weeks seemed to be coming to a head as they stood toe to toe.

"No, Commander." Seven spoke up from her station. "The Captain is doing the only thing that will save us. You, on the other hand, are once again not thinking the situation through. Even with the armor plating, the ship will be damaged; the sphere will protect us until we exit the conduit." She remarked as the ship was enclosed inside the sphere and almost as a snub to the commander, the stress on the shields and hull ceased.

"Time to exit?" Janeway asked without taking her eyes off the fuming man standing in front of her.

"Forty seconds, Captain." Tom smirked and turned his attention from the confrontation to his station. He thanked whoever would listen that Captain Janeway was still in command. He, along with the crew, knew that if they had to count on Chakotay getting them home, they wouldn't have made it. There were too many times that the man had made bad decisions, whether out of ignorance or just because he had been left in charge and was unsure of the position, Tom wasn't sure.

"Tuvok, ready torpedoes," the captain ordered as she eased back into her command chair. "I'm sure Starfleet is aware of the conduit and the Borg ship by now and are waiting for it to emerge."

"Standing by, Captain."

"Tom?" she questioned.

"Ten seconds, Captain." The helmsman reported with a lump in his throat.

"Tuvok, full spread on my mark." Janeway calmly crossed her legs; glad the lump in her throat went unnoticed.

"Aye, Captain." The Vulcan answered with a slight waver to his voice that only his old friend heard.

A slight turning of her head and an arched eyebrow was the only indication she gave that she had heard the inflection in his voice. She counted down the seconds, added a couple to make sure they had cleared the conduit and gripped the arms of her chair. "Do it, Mr. Tuvok."

The ship shuttered, but the upgraded armor held as the sphere disintegrated around them and Voyager emerged from the fiery ball of flame. "Disengage armor plating and engines, all stop." She almost smiled; imagining the expressions on the faces of the crews that occupied the starships that appeared on the viewscreen as the armor retracted and the ships came into view, ready to confront the Borg, only to have the long lost ship and her crew appear.

"Captain," the helmsman interrupted her thoughts, "we made it." He stated with wonder in his voice.

Clouds swirled around the blue waters dominating the orb that had been their sole focus for the past seven years.

"Stand by, Mr. Kim, and prepare to transmit the image ship wide. Let's let everyone in on this moment."

"Aye, Captain."

Janeway stood up and moved a few feet out from her command chair, swallowing the awe she felt at the sight; she placed her hands on her hips. "Computer open ship wide channel. All hands, this is the Captain. As I'm sure everyone has noticed, we've emerged from the conduit and have picked up a few escorts. We seem to be quite the oddity, though I have no idea why." She paused and smiled at the chuckles from the people on the bridge. It seemed more and more ships of all sizes and shapes were appearing now that the threat had ended. Starfleet, commercial and private; anything that would fly was joining the party that was beginning to look more like an armada of an invading force. It didn't take long for the word to spread and they all wanted to see the ship that had done the impossible. "The image that is about to appear throughout the ship is one that I'm sure everyone has been waiting for these past seven years. I also would like to take the opportunity to let everyone know that I'm proud to have served with each and everyone of you. Welcome home everyone. Janeway out," she took a deep breath. "Mr. Kim, if you would be so kind."

Cheers from every deck throughout the ship and in every department, rose up as Earth appeared before them. Their goal, the one thing they had strived for, for the past seven years was now in sight. All but one department that is.

Seven of Nine made her way back to astrometrics and stood at her post though not sure why. She appeared as she had for the past four years, blonde hair in her elaborate twist, her 5' 10" height made taller by the boots she wore and her biosuit that had changed only in color though the years. There were no more uncharted star systems to map; no more unknown planets or civilizations to worry about. Yet here she stood. It was her safe haven, where she felt the most comfortable, she supposed.

The past six weeks had been… uncomfortable to say the least. First her 'encounter' with the captain, then her dating Chakotay, which she broke off after a couple of weeks, then the animosity between him and the captain that she felt was her fault. Then the fact that the commander had been 'after her' as B'Elanna put it, to reconcile even when she had explicitly explained that she did not find him a suitable mate; all combined to make things most unpleasant.

And now they were 'home'. What would happen? Would Starfleet lock her away; treat her like a Borg drone, a dangerous species? And what of Captain Janeway, would she be the hero come back or would she be a 'scape goat' as she had heard some of the bridge crew talking about. Seven had become angry at them until Tuvok had reminded her again that was how the chain of command worked, that Janeway wasn't going to be at the top of the 'pecking order' after they returned. The captain was the one that shouldered the responsibilities not only for her decisions but also for the actions of each and every crew member.

Seven's acquiescence to the chain of command had been a hard fought battle for the captain. She still had a hard time going to Janeway with 'suggestions' or 'recommendations' instead of just carrying them out; especially when she knew she would be 'ordered' to implement them in the end. It was the lack of efficiency she had trouble with, though she had gotten better about it.

The most troubling question she had; the one that made her the most uncomfortable; was whether she would ever see Kathryn Janeway again. The crew was excitedly talking about their families and going to their individual homes. Most on Earth, some on Vulcan, some on Mars, and some scattered on worlds throughout the Alpha Quadrant. She wondered if she would ever see any of them again.

'Maybe that is why I am hiding in here,' Seven thought. She had heard about the painful ritual of saying goodbye to close friends and people that had become a family over the years they had been together and she did not understand. If it was so painful, did it not make more sense to stay together?

She had asked that very question to B'Elanna Torres, Voyager's chief engineer and Seven's friend a few weeks ago.

"Well, Seven, people have to move on with their lives. That and the fact that Starfleet would never have left a crew together this long if we had been in the Alpha Quadrant."

"Explain 'move on'." Seven's bluntness was now ignored by the very pregnant and very uncomfortable half Klingon half Human that sat across from her in the mess hall. The two women had their troubles when Seven first joined Voyager's crew. The engineer thought Janeway had lost her mind when she announced the Borg was going to be part of their 'family', but somewhere along the way, a grudging respect was born that eventually turned into a friendship.

B'Elanna moved around in her chair, trying to find the elusive position that would ease the pain in her lower back. "Okay, well, when I was little, I had a best friend from school. We'd do everything together; study, play, argue; we were closer than sisters. But as we grew older, she started making other friends, developed other interests and we stopped doing everything together; we grew apart from each other."

Seven thought about what her friend had said. "Everyone on Voyager is an adult, with the exception of Naomi Wildman. Adults have progressed beyond their growth periods, so your example is flawed."

B'Elanna took a swallow of the Terran goat's milk that the Doctor had insisted she drink. "Kahless, this is disgusting." It was hard for her to concentrate but knew this was really bothering her friend. "Physically yes, but adult mental and emotional growth continues, if we're lucky, all throughout adulthood. We continue to mature; a lot of the time our likes and dislikes change many times throughout our lives."

"So you might 'grow' to like that milk?"

"Um, no, I don't think that's a possibility," she grinned. "Take Tom for example, you know how much he loved his Captain Proton holodeck program?" Seven nodded. "Well, since we got married and learned about the baby, he has ignored it; hasn't run the program once. His priorities changed, he matured."

"Something else became more important to him." Seven reasoned. "Someone else," she amended.

"Yes." B'Elanna agreed. "Don't get me wrong, he'll always be a big kid at heart, and that's one of the things I love about him. Don't tell him that though." She laughed.


Chapter Two

"Captain, we're being hailed." The Enterprise was the first ship to recover from the surprise.

"Took'em long enough." Her eyes twinkled with amusement, after she recovered from the shock of actually seeing earth. "Put it on screen, just on the bridge, Mr. Kim."

"Captain Janeway," Picard's face appeared, along with a view of the bridge that held several dumbfounded expressions, "welcome home."

"Thank you, Captain Picard. I can't tell you how good it is to hear those words." She shifted her eyes to the man standing beside him. "Commander Riker." They had been in the academy at the same time and she had had one brief coffee date with him when her roommate had dragged her out of the dorm room one night. Riker of course not remembering the time Q had brought him to Voyager.

Their conversation was cut short by Ensign Kim, "Captain, we're being hailed by Starfleet."

The Enterprise cut the communications channel so Voyager could answer the other hail. Admiral Paris and Lt. Barclay appeared on screen. "Well, Captain, you certainly know how to make an entrance." The admiral's eyes lowered to see his son's and smiled just as the EMH broke in.

"Mr. Paris, I believe you have someone in sickbay that wishes to meet you." A baby's crying could be heard in the background.

"I'm… I'm ah… I'm a dad." He looked rather pale.

Janeway laughed. "Don't faint, Tom, at least not until you get to meet your daughter." She nodded at him. "You better hurry." It took him a second before he took off for sickbay.

She had Harry patch the admiral through to her ready room. She leaned back in her chair as she opened the channel. They were home… it was over, well for most of the crew. For her, it was just beginning she knew. "Sorry about the entrance, Admiral, but we needed to hitch a ride there at the end."

He snorted and shook his head. "Something tells me this is going to be one helluva report, Captain. The news agencies are already broadcasting it all over the quadrant. And the crew's relatives are converging on the city as we speak."

"I'm not surprised; it's been a long hard road, Owen." She drained her mug. "How long do I have before…" she didn't need to finish the question.

"You'll have time to be with your family, Kathryn, before the review board convenes. I'm sure you realize that it's divided… I will say that more are for you than against you."

She smirked. "Owen, at this point I don't think I care what the board thinks. I got my ship and most of my crew home and in a way, I completed my original mission, despite the fact that it took a little longer than the two weeks we thought it would. After what we've been through, the review board is a minor annoyance."

"I can understand that, Katie, but don't let the rest of them know that, some might turn on you just because they can." He looked down at a PADD he was handed. "Now, to more pleasant things, Gretchen and Phoebe are on their way."

"Good." She leaned towards the screen. "I want you to know that I made a few… arrangements as far as Seven of Nine is concerned."

He looked rather surprised. "You could trust us, Captain."

"I'm sorry, but this… she is too important to leave her freedom and her life to chance. She's going to be staying with me."

"Alright, you made your point and Seven of Nine can stay with you as long as you guarantee you will supervise her at all times. And you'll be held responsible if anything happens."

"I understand, Admiral. I promise she won't assimilate anyone, unless Phoebe annoys me too much." She grinned.

He laughed. "See you in a little while, Kathryn. Paris out."

After Voyager had docked at the Utopia Planitia Fleet Yards, the crew was being shuttled back to Earth where they were greeted by relatives that were patiently waiting to meet their long lost family members. Or in some cases not so patiently.

"Mom, how come she's not here yet?" Phoebe Janeway asked as she watched yet another shuttle land and empty without her sister appearing. "She's the captain, shouldn't that mean something?"

Phoebe was an artist in vocation and attitude, which is why those that knew her found it strange that she had married a career Starfleet lieutenant. She had been in San Francisco and had arrived at Starfleet headquarters before her mother who had to come from Indiana.

"You just answered your own question, honey. She's the captain; she won't set one foot off that ship until all her crew has."

"God, I'll never understand any of this." She turned to her mother. "I can't believe I married into it either… daddy must be up there laughing his head off." Her father had died 20 years earlier in while on a test flight of an experimental ship that had almost taken her sister too.

"Dr. Janeway," a man dressed in Starfleet red and black addressed Gretchen, "Captain Janeway is on the last shuttle; it will be here at 1615 hours."

"Thank you, Commander." For seven years she had waited, but the next 15 minutes would seem like an eternity. Gretchen Janeway was sixty-five years old. A couple of inches shorter than her eldest with the same blue-grey eyes, her hair darker than Kathryn's and with just a few strands of grey peeking through, which she blamed on her daughter for scaring her half to death these past few years.

Phoebe in contrast to her older by four years sister, had deep red long curly hair, green eyes to match her father's and just slightly shorter than her sister's 5' 6" height. Their personalities were at different ends of the spectrum. Kathryn loved science and space; Phoebe hated it. And while Kathryn painted as a hobby with passable talent; Phoebe had the skill and the eye for art that let her work be shown all over the quadrant with glowing reviews.

"There." Phoebe pointed to a spot in the air that was slowly coming closer.

Seven sat across from Janeway in the shuttle. They, along with Neelix and the Doctor, were the last ones off Voyager. "Captain, I wanted to thank you for staying with me during my first contact with Starfleet."

Janeway wanted so badly to sit beside her and be able to offer comfort to the apprehensive young woman, the way she did to a newly severed Borg drone that had begged, pleaded and threatened her four years ago. But she refrained from any physical contact that would surely be misunderstood and unwanted. "You're welcome, Seven. I promised you I wouldn't let anything happen to you and I intend to keep that promise."

"Captain Janeway," the pilot called, "we'll be on the ground in five minutes, ma'am."

"Thank you, Lieutenant."

When the shuttle door opened, Neelix and the Doctor walked off first, neither of them having anyone waiting for them other than the two Starfleet ensigns assigned to escort them to their quarters in the complex.

The captain and Seven then exited together. Seven had only one living relative on Earth since she was born on the Tendara Colony, and her aunt couldn't be there because of her failing health, so Janeway had, in no uncertain terms, made it clear that she would be keeping the young woman with her for the foreseeable future and not turning her over to a Starfleet representative.

Gretchen and Phoebe held each other's hand for moral support as the shuttle door opened. When her daughter appeared so did the tears she had held at bay all day long. She quickly moved towards her and was enveloped in arms that held her as she cried. "Kathryn."

"Hey, Mom," she released her with one arm and pulled her sister into the hug.

"'Bout time you got here, sis." Phoebe said. "Leave it to you to go exploring and forget what year it is." She hid her face on her sister's shoulder to hide her tears.

Kathryn smirked. "I can't believe I actually missed you, Phoebe. What was I thinking?" She released the two women and motioned for Seven to move closer. "Mom, Phoebe, I'd like to introduce you to Seven of Nine. She's heard a lot about both of you, so don't try to pull the wool over her eyes, Phoebe."

"So, you're the Borg?" Phoebe asked. Gretchen rolled her eyes at her daughter's bluntness; the captain just shook her head.

Seven stood with her hands clasped behind her back and her head slightly tilted to one side. "That is correct. Or partially correct; I was human before I was assimilated so that would make me part Borg, part Human." She turned towards Kathryn. "Captain, I assume this is the sister you explained to me that I would want to assimilate not long after meeting, but I should refrain from doing so."

The statement was delivered so deadpan that it was all Janeway could do not to laugh. "That's correct, Seven; Starfleet and the Federation would frown upon any Earth inhabitants being assimilated even if it is my sister," stated with her command mask firmly in place.

Phoebe took a step back feeling a little uneasy until she saw the corner of the Borg's mouth start to curl up into a smile. "Oh, very funny you two. Just a barrel of laughs."

After the laughter died down, Kathryn asked, "Do we have accommodations or do we need to find some?"

"We kept your place in the city, honey." Gretchen explained. "I informed Admiral Paris that they could contact you there."

"You kept it?" the captain asked surprised.

"Of course we did. We've been using it when either one of both of us are in town." Her sister told her. "Come on, oh humorous one." She looked back at the woman dragging behind.

"Captain?" Seven questioned.

"Seven, I took the liberty of telling Starfleet Command that you would be staying with me for the time being so you wouldn't be alone. If you would rather not stay with me and stay here… I understand. It's entirely up to you."

"No, Captain, I… appreciate your concern for me. I would be pleased to stay with you and your family unit."

"I can see we've got to work on your phrasing." Phoebe commented as they made their way to a hovercraft that would take them to Kathryn's old condo. "Can you really assimilate people still? You look different from the pictures of the Borg that we've been shown."

"Yes, I still have my assimilation tubes and my nanoprobes. Though most of my Borg implants have been removed, I still have my cortical node and a few other implants that control various functions in my body. I can now eat solid food, drink liquids and sleep, which I find both stimulating and highly inefficient." She explained to the younger sister of her captain. "I now have no need to regenerate in my alcove except once a week or in extreme circumstances, which is a good thing since it is too unwieldy to be easily moved."

Six Months Later

Admiral Owen Paris sat on the corner of his desk, looking at Captain Kathryn Janeway's back. She was standing at the window, arms crossed, staring at the plush grounds that surrounded Starfleet HQ. "So, now that you're officially cleared, what are you planning on doing?" He asked. "I know Gretchen would love for you to spend time at the farm and you've definitely got enough vacation time built up to do whatever you want."

Turning around, Janeway leaned back against the sun warmed glass. "I'm planning on spending some time with mom, and Phoebe is going to stay for awhile also." She smiled, "I can't believe she married a Starfleet officer. I thought she was joking in the message she sent me."

"And a pilot no less," the admiral grinned. "You know, Katie, you not only gave me my son back, but a daughter-in-law and my first grandchild. I can't begin to tell you what that means to me."

"All I did was give him a chance; he did the rest on his own."

He shook his head and grinned at her refusal to take the credit. "Starfleet wants to make you an admiral." He changed the subject.

She glanced at him, then turned back to the window. It would be hard enough to say what she had to without looking him in the eye. "Owen, there's something that didn't come out during the review board that I need to tell you. I…" she paused trying to gather her thoughts, "six weeks before we arrived, I made… advances, sexual advances towards a crew member. And after… well, let's just say that the next morning they made it clear that they thought it should not have happened."

She remembered Seven's face as she stood in the captain's living quarters the next morning. "This should not have happened, Captain. It was wrong for the two of us to copulate. I let the fact that I had a glass of wine dull my judgment. I did not want this to happen between us."

"Good god, Kathryn, do you know what your saying?" He moved over to stand beside her. "I can understand wanting… companionship, after all seven years is a long time and it's not like you had a lot of choices, but surely there was… I mean you are a beautiful woman, Katie. Why this person?" He had another thought, "And are you certain that they're not trying to… sabotage your standing with Starfleet?" The only person on that entire ship that spoke out against her was Commander Chakotay, even Lessing, the crew member that she almost sacrificed in order to get information, had said he understood and didn't hold what had happened against her, especially after what the crew of the Equinox had done.

She turned her head towards the admiral and with a pained and resigned look; she stated simply, "I fell in love. And no, this person could care less about Starfleet."

He sighed. "You do realize what could happen to you if this is made official? A court-martial would be the least of your problems."

"I know."

"Who is he and why didn't it come out during the review? We talked to everyone. And they all sang your praises and most threatened to resign if you weren't cleared. Except for Commander Chakotay, and please don't tell me it's him, I do not like that man." He added in exasperation.

She actually chuckled at that. "I don't know why it didn't come out; I kept waiting to be hit with it." She hung her head and pinched the bridge of her nose. "No, it's not the Commander; we've had a rather unstable relationship these last seven years, sometimes good, sometimes volatile. I believe he wanted something more at one time, but I couldn't give it to him. It's Seven."

"Seven what? Oh." He sat down in his desk chair and turned towards the woman that had served under him on her first posting, the woman that had been captured by the Cardissians with him, the woman that had saved his son, the woman that he thought of as a daughter. "You fell in love with Seven of Nine, the Borg?" He held up his hands to stop the anger he saw building when she glared at him. "Wait… I didn't mean anything bad by that. I actually like her especially when she testified. Anybody that can drive Admiral Alynna Necheyev crazy gets points in my book."

Janeway grinned despite the seriousness of the conversation. "Did she?"

"Oh yes. The Admiral was out 'logiced' on every single point she tried to make. Drove her bananas. Even Alynna came to respect her in the end." He chuckled, then sobered. "I'm going to talk to Ms Hansen before I do anything."

"No, I don't want to put her through that."

"Kathryn, I can talk to her here, in my office where it's just the two of us or she can be questioned by the board."

"Damn, Owen, I don't want to make this any harder on her than it's already been." Janeway glowered at the stubborn man.

"Then you should've kept your mouth shut, Captain, like she did." He leaned back and rubbed his forehead. "Go home, see your family, we've kept you jumping through hoops long enough. I'll let you know what happens."


Chapter Three

Captain Janeway exited the shuttle at the main hub in Indianapolis, she would have to catch a smaller shuttle to Bloomington and then on to her mother's farm. If she noticed the looks and whispers as she passed by the other travelers, she gave no outward indication. She was however very aware of people nudging their companions and pointing towards her with the mumbled 'that's her' or her personal favorite 'I thought she'd be taller' comment. Every day her face had been plastered on every news agency broadcast for the first few months of their return, along with speculation on what had happened during the years Voyager had been missing. Now it wasn't the top news story, but they still rehashed it once a week or so.

Finally she stood at the end of the path that led to the house. It had been over ten years since she had been here and for some reason she was suddenly nervous. She hadn't been when she brought her ship into Utopia Planitia Fleet Yards or when she saw her mother and sister waiting for her or when they spent time in San Francisco with her these past six months. "Maybe that's because there I could still be Captain Janeway and now that I'm here I'm just Kathryn and god knows just about every time I try to be Kathryn Janeway it's turned into a complete and utter cluster-fuck."

She sighed, picked up her duffle that contained clothes and a few books that she hadn't wanted to ship to her place in San Francisco, and headed for the house that lay at the end of the path.

Phoebe stood in the kitchen leaning back against the counter, sipping her tea. "I don't understand why she has to go through a review board at all much less why it's taking so long."

"I know, but she has to go through and explain seven years' worth of command decisions. She's the Captain and is accountable." Gretchen explained yet again to her youngest daughter. She had been getting bits and pieces from Owen every night after the board had adjourned, though she knew he had been skimming over the more perilous adventures her daughter had gone through. "She knew better than anybody what she would face when she returned."

"Yes she did, but she's damn glad it's over."

"Kathryn," her mother hugged her eldest offspring, "why didn't you tell us you were coming?"

'Yeah, Katie, why didn't you?' Kathryn thought. 'Cause you weren't sure if you'd be in a holding cell about now, that's why.' But she ignored the cynical voice inside her head. "I had to speak to Owen and I wasn't sure when we'd be done."

"Still the consummate Starfleet Officer." Phoebe said as she took a turn at a hug. "I thought maybe you might've loosened up a little in the last seven years." She held her sister at arms length and smiled to let her know she was joking, mostly.

After Gretchen started a fresh pot of coffee, the three women sat down around the kitchen table, a place that had always been where they shared their hardships, triumphs, their good news and their bad.

"So, when am I going to meet the other Starfleet Officer in your life?" Kathryn asked her sister. "I still can't believe you fell in love with someone in Starfleet much less a pilot," she laughed.

"I know." Phoebe joined in. "Remember when you used to tease me, telling me I had to marry into it 'cause that's the only way I'd be able to get into the 'fleet? Then I'd be horrified at the thought of having anything to do with all those people in the stuffy uniforms."

"Wait, if I recall correctly, I did give you another option, I told you I'd get you a job painting the starships since you liked to paint so much."

"You know, if you hadn't been so far away when I met Richard, I would have sworn you had something to do with it just so you could say I told you so."

Gretchen stood up to retrieve the coffee. She smiled at her two daughters giving each other a hard time; just like old times. The only thing that would make this day better was if her husband were here. She had no doubt that he would be so proud of both his girls. She also had no doubt that if Edward had still been alive when Voyager and her crew was listed as missing and then presumed dead he would've been devastated, not that she wasn't, but he had always taken up more time with Katie, maybe because she was the oldest or maybe because she was determined to follow in his footsteps. But losing his 'goldenbird' would have dealt him a tremendous blow. She was never able to convince him that Phoebe's talent for art was just as much a part of him, that his ship designs were half scientific, half artistic just like his daughters.

"And speaking of Richard, I don't suppose you could rush along his request for leave? I mean if the 'hero of the year' put in a good word…" she trailed off and assumed a puppy dog expression.

Gretchen noticed the distressed look in her daughter's eyes at the mention of 'hero', but let it go and handed over the mug of coffee. "Phoebe, you know better than to ask that, Richard will be here soon enough." After the horrible things during the Dominion War, the press had grabbed on to the ships return, touting them as heroes.

"Okay, okay, no special favors. So, Katie, we've heard all the speculative stories about what happen out there, tell us what really went on and no leaving out the juicy details."

'Let's see, what's safe to tell them… God, mom looks so scared. Ah, I know…' "We were going through a relatively uninhabited area of space and everyone had been lulled into a sense of peacefulness when bam…" she paused and they leaned closer, willing her to continue. "The environmental controls went to hell. We had a blizzard erupt in engineering and within an hour they had a foot of snow on the deck."

"You're kidding, right?" Gretchen asked while Phoebe laughed.

"No, unfortunately not. That wasn't all either. Neelix, our Delta Quadrant native and cook, had a flood in the mess hall that was leaking out into the corridor on deck two, a heat wave encompassed deck eight, we had a tornado running wild in biometrics and a storm complete with thunder, lightning and a downpour on the bridge."

By now Phoebe and Gretchen were alternating between holding their sides that were aching from laughing and wiping away tears that were running down their cheeks. "What did you do?" Her sister forced out between gales of laughter.

"You mean other than sit there looking like a drowned rat? I did what every good seasoned captain would do in times of extreme stress, I asked for a report." That caused her mother to double over, laughing harder.

Kathryn chuckled at the pair. "Seven fortunately was not distressed by the lightening that was causing several of the crew to dive under the nearest cover, and calmly reported that the main computer's subprocessors, located in the areas affected, were malfunctioning. She said, and I quote, 'Captain, it will take Lt. Torres 1.5 hours to repair the malfunction, if I assist, it will lower the repair time to .32 hours. Should I facilitate?'"

"What did you say?" Phoebe managed to ask.

"I turned around to face her and with as much dignity as I could muster with rain dripping off my nose replied, 'Yes, Seven, that would be most appreciated.' It took us a couple weeks to clean up from that little fiasco."

"Oh my, that's priceless." Gretchen said as she wiped her eyes.

"Then there was the time we were studying some strange energy readings from a nearby nebula and the holodeck went a little screwy. A few of the characters from various programs literally walk out into reality."

"Now you've got to be making that one up." Phoebe stated as she got up and brought over the coffee pot.

"Honest to God truth." Kathryn held up her right hand. "I'm not joking. A couple of the characters from Mr. Paris' Captain Proton, a comic book type hero and his arch enemies of evil ne'er do wells, Leonardo da Vince from one of my programs, a Klingon Warrior from Lt. Torres' program and believe it or not a naked but fortunately covered with a sheet, Seven of Nine from a program the Doctor made, along with a few others, invaded the ship."

"Why did the Doctor have an almost naked member of the crew in a holoprogram? He wasn't… you know?" Phoebe managed to ask after she and her mother stared at each other for a minute or two.

"No he wasn't, fortunately for him. He was painting her, believe me I ran the program to make sure right before I deleted it. If he had been, I would've yanked him up by his holographic ear and thrown him in the brig."

They had listened to stories until it was time to start dinner, all of which had been on the amusing side. Gretchen had known that her daughter had kept them that way on purpose, trying to shield them from the horrible things that had no doubt happen to her and her crew during those seven long years.

The discussion was kept light as Gretchen cooked dinner and the three women ate. Their mother filling Kathryn in on the goings on of the small community and about what had been happening to people her daughter remembered. Phoebe supplied info about her art shows and about how she met her husband and on the wedding.

"I wish I could've been here for that." Kathryn said as they took their respective beverages out to the front porch after dinner.

"Don't worry." Phoebe told her. "I have a holovid of the entire event."

They sat in compatible silence until Gretchen turned towards her daughter and asked, "Are the stories true… the ones the press are broadcasting?"

Kathryn sat in contemplation for a few minutes before falling back on her more firmly in control, captain's persona, though in truth she had never entirely left it. Even when telling her family the stories that afternoon she had held part of herself back. "There are some things you probably don't want to know, mom."

Gretchen sighed. 'A truer statement had probably never been made.' "You're probably right, but honey, I think I need to know what happened to you out there. I don't think my imagination could be any worse than the truth." She reached over and put her hand on her daughter's arm, while she mentally crossed her fingers.

Kathryn dipped her head in acknowledgment. "Alright, but you might want something stiffer to drink, I know I do."

A whiskey for the captain and a bottle of wine for the other two Janeway women, were procured before settling back on the porch.

"I obviously can't tell the entire seven years tonight, but if you'll let me know some of what the press is spreading around, I'll at least tell you the truth behind them."

"Fair enough." Gretchen stated and thought about all the rumors going around about her daughter. Truth was, she had tried to avoid hearing the stories but there was no way she could avoid them all. "Tell us about Seven of Nine. One of the rumors is you took her from the Borg, another is you found her after the Borg, I believe the phrase they used was, cut her loose."

"The Borg don't 'cut drones loose', so yes, I severed her from the Collective." She answered and drifted off into her memories.

"Well?" Phoebe asked after only a few seconds of silence. "Would you be so kind as to expand on that, oh sister of few words?"

Kathryn grinned at her mother. "She still has no patience."

"Like you do?" Phoebe snorted. "How did you meet Seven?"

"I have learned some over the years, sister dear. But alright, I'll explain." She took a drink from her glass and stared into its depth. "We had found what we thought might be safe passage through Borg space when Kes, another of the Delta Quadrant natives on the ship, started getting visions. She was telepathic." She explained. "The visions were horrific, the Borg and Voyager destroyed. According to Kes, an enemy bent on destruction of the weak. That was what occupied what we thought was our safe area of space, the alien vessels. Then we came upon 15 Borg cubes all destroyed in a matter of minutes… if this alien could do that to the Borg… considered the Borg weak, what chance did the rest of the quadrant have and what if they didn't stop there?" Kathryn went on to explain about the away team, Harry Kim's injury, the Doctor's proposed cure and her decision to try an alliance with the Borg. "One minute I was standing on my bridge, the next I was transported to the cube and then Species 8472 was attacking. Voyager, in all the confusion, was trying to beam me back to the ship until I ordered them not to."

Gretchen who had just taken a sip of wine started coughing. "Excuse me?" 'Good lord, I'm going to kill Owen Paris next time I see him. Gretchen, he says, get Katie to talk about her experiences, she's holding it all in and it's not good for her, he says. She only tells the counselor what he wants to hear, he says. She'll talk to you, he says.'

"Are you okay, Mom?" Kathryn started to get up.

"I'm alright." She coughed a few more times. "They just snatched you off your ship? How could they do that, Kathryn, and why would you try to stop your crew from getting you back?"

"I'd made a deal with the devil," her statement was matter-of-fact, "and part of that deal was for me to remain on the cube." The rest of the story was told, of how the cube was sacrificed to save Voyager, of how Commander Chakotay reneged on the agreement, during her surgery, of how she then agreed to use the weapon and Species 8472 retreated and of how they severed Seven from the collective.

"So, how did the Commander survive the Janeway wrath?" Phoebe asked.

Kathryn shook her head. "If I had been anywhere other than sickbay when I confronted him I don't think he would have. I wanted to fire him out one of the torpedo tubes I was so angry with him. He had made it no secret to me that he opposed the plan from the beginning and part of me wondered if he had been waiting on an opportunity to screw it up."

"You had no way of knowing if the Borg would've kept their word." Her mother pointed out. "And it sounds like they did renege in the end."

"No, but we'll never know what would've happened. They had done so up until that point, Chakotay was the one to refuse to give in to a Borg demand after the Borg had consented to several of mine; he was the first to go back on the deal. I did find it disconcerting that the unemotional and uncaring Borg kept their word, at least up until that point, and the righteous, humane human was the one to go back on it."

"That is an interesting observation. And one that could drive you crazy, if you let it." Gretchen replied.

"How so?" Phoebe asked.

"Well," Gretchen thought, "did the Borg intend to honor the agreement or would they turn on the crew after their enemy had been defeated. Did the Commander really think that he could outrun the Borg and this Species 8472 or was he just running scared and not thinking at all? Or," Gretchen looked at her daughter, "maybe he was trying to show a stubborn, exceptionally talented, strong willed Captain that his way was the better of the two."

Kathryn looked at her mother with a curious expression on her face, but before she could question her, Phoebe interrupted, "Was Seven thankful you rescued her?"

Kathryn laughed and shook her head. "Well let's see, that would be a no, at least not at first. I believe one of the first ways she expressed her feeling was to say, 'I'll kill you'." She put her hand up to stop her sister's question. "It's late, I'm tired and that's a story for another time." She said as she stood and stretched.


Chapter Four

"Admiral Paris, you wished to speak with me?" Seven stood ramrod straight with her hands clasped behind her back.

"Yes, thank you for coming on such short notice, Ms… Dr. Hansen. Please take a seat." He motioned to the chairs in front of his desk. The young woman might not be wearing the skin tight suits anymore, but she still commanded attention even in the civilian clothes she chose to don.

"I would prefer to stand, Admiral."

He stifled a grin and remained standing also. "Of course." 'I can see why Katie fell for her, she's not only beautiful, she's strong willed and stubborn and that is something our dear Captain needs in a partner.'

"Admiral, if this is about the slipstream drive, my team sent the most recent test results three days ago, there is nothing else to report until after the shuttle test flight." Seven had accepted a job working on trying to get the drive operational and compatible with the starships.

"No, Dr. Hansen. Unfortunately this is about Captain Janeway." He could see the instant concern that flooded her face.

"Kath… Captain Janeway? But it is my understanding that the Captain was cleared of any and all wrong doing by that supercilious review board Starfleet conducted."

If the occasion hadn't been so serious, he would've laughed at the frustrated expression on her face. "You're correct, she was cleared. But… it was brought to my attention that she used her rank to… influence a member of her crew into participating in something against their will."

"They are lying. Captain Janeway would never do something so insidious." She paused, processing through her memories. "Is this about the first encounter with the Borg or about severing me from the Collective?"

"No, Dr. Hansen." Paris interrupted her. "There is no easy way to say this, so I'll just explain it the way it was told to me." He looked her in the eye. "The Captain supposedly made sexual advances to a crew member and it seems that the person felt they had to comply because of her rank. Is that what happened, Dr. Hansen?"

Seven uncharacteristically collapsed; fortunately there was a chair almost directly behind her. "Who would know? How would they know?" asked more to herself than the admiral.

He sat down in his chair and leaned his forearms on his desk. "Dr. Hansen, please, tell me what happened."

"I would rather not say, Admiral." A blush and regret showing on her face that he could see even though she refused to look at him.

He stood up and moved around to sit next to the shocked woman. "So, with what you're not saying I can only assume the story is true and proceed accordingly." 'Oh, dirty trick, Owen, but its Katie that's at stake here.'

"No, Admiral, I was a willing party." She looked down at her hands, which were clasped tightly together and resting in her lap.

The admiral rubbed his forehead. "Dr. Hansen, first you say the person is lying, then it seems something did happen but you're unwilling to admit it, then you say you're a willing participant. Which is it?" He paused and waited, greeted by silence. "Please … a lot is at stake here."

That got her attention. "Explain please."

"I'll make a deal with you," he leaned forward looking into the blue eyes regarding him with a glint of… danger? 'No, more like a tenacity.' "You tell me what happened and I'll explain my statement."

Seven regarded him for several long silent seconds. "I will comply. Exactly six weeks before our arrival Captain Janeway invited me to share a nutritional supplement in her quarters; this was not an unusual occurrence. There have been many times we have partaken in the ingesting of substance followed by a philosophical discussion on the different aspects of humanity. I arrived at the pre-appointed time of 1900 hours; Captain Janeway was dressed casually in light cream colored slacks and a silk sapphire colored top. I was dressed in what I was told is called a sundress, rose in color. I had been experimenting with wearing clothes other than my biometric suits the Doctor had designed and replicated for me." Seven paused, giving the admiral time to pose a question as she had found humans were apt to do, and was pleased he seemed content to let her continue uninterrupted.

"We 'sat down to dinner', fettuccini in a creamy white sauce with garlic bread and wine to drink. I only had one glass of alcohol as it interferes with my cortical implant. The captain had two glasses. The meal was actually very good; she had been steadily improving with her replicated meals. We then moved to the living room area of her quarters where our discussions took place. I sat on the couch and she sat down next to me, facing me with one leg bent under her and her elbow on the back of the couch, her head supported by her hand. She asked me about the program I had been running on the holodeck for the past 12.6 days, I was surprised she knew about it as I had protected it with Borg encryption codes, and said so. But realized that a statement she had previously made about not much happening on a ship that the captain was not privy to, was true, at least in respect to this particular captain." She noticed the admiral smile, possibly in agreement and continued.

"The program I was running was a dating simulation with the First Officer. She asked me if I had a romantic interest in the Commander, I explained that I chose him because I had overheard from other females in the crew that he was a 'fine human specimen of the male variety' though I wasn't sure why they said this and wanted to see if I could develop feelings for him as some of the other females had. I further explained that I had not developed these feelings and wondered if there was reason I could not. She then leaned slowly towards me and kissed me." Seven stared out the window at the sun just beginning to set over the Golden Gate Bridge.

She continued. "I felt so many… emotions at that one moment in time. I felt warmth throughout my body, but at the same time, goose bumps broke out over my arms like I had a chill. I felt light headed and short of breath. My heart rate increased by 10.2 percent and I could not stop myself from kissing her again. But it was wrong."

Here the admiral did interrupt. "Why, Dr. Hansen? What was so wrong about it?"

Seven was still a bit confused about the stigma of same sex relationships even though she had begun to question it. "At the time, I had been told when I was being instructed by the Doctor in dating, that I had to choose a partner from the male crew complement. He constantly talked about love between a man and a woman. Before the… night with the Captain, I researched the history of homosexuality because I knew I felt something for Kathryn, it was her that I wanted to be with, not the Commander, but I learned about how they had been treated, I realized that I could not let that happen to the Captain. After I did start dating the Commander, I casually ask him about women being together, he said he didn't understand it… that a woman was meant to be with a man. I tried to conform to the male/female normality, but I could not and 'broke it off' with him."

"Good lord." Owen Paris sighed. "First of all, Dr. Hansen, Captain Janeway herself is the one who told me, she's under the impression she forced you into… what happened between the two of you that night." He held up his hand to forestall her. "I realize that isn't the case. As to what was at stake… if an officer uses their rank and position in that manner, they're court-martialed and depending upon the circumstances, they could be imprisoned and the possibility of an execution isn't completely out of the question though that rarely happens anymore. Sexual assault in this day and age is taken very seriously, not like in the past."

Seven looked horrified. "Oh, Kathryn."

"Captain Janeway expected this to come out at the review, I think that's why the first month of Voyager's return, she fought so hard for the Doctor's continued existence, for the non-original crew members to be pardoned and reinstated in Starfleet, but especially for you, Dr. Hansen. Kathryn called in every favor ever owed her and believe me, there were many; to assure you would be treated with respect and given your freedom. Not regarded as a living science experiment, to be locked up and used as a tool in the effort to fight our enemies. And just to clear the air about any misconceptions about homosexuality, it is an accepted way of life now, at least by 95% of the population. There are still a few bigots and fanatics that try to hang onto the old 'religious right' way of thinking. But they don't get much attention now and are barely tolerated."

"I did not understand... the material I read was from the 20th century and some of it was so… disgusting I stopped my research. Though I have recently begun to question my perceptions on the topic just from things that I have observed here on Earth and on Mars."

"I'm not sure why the Doctor was so adamant about male/female relationships, maybe it was his programming, but the Commander would know differently." The admiral stated. "I'm beginning to wonder about the Commander. He was the only dissenter against the Captain during the review."

"I believe you have good reason to… wonder. He told me he was the one that fought to secure my freedom and he said his testimony was the main reason Captain Janeway was cleared, I never really believed him, I thought he was just exaggerating his importance. But he is telling many untruths it seems." Seven processed months of memories in the blink of an eye. "Admiral, I am aware that in the first few years of Voyager's time in the Delta Quadrant, the Commander was romantically interested in the Captain, but she did not return his feeling. Could that be the reason for his interest in me? Could it be that he was aware of her feelings for me and therefore became jealous of that? I have observed that one emotion can make people behave as they normally would not have. The Captain once told me it was a common, and unfortunately could be a very debilitating emotion."

He thought for a few minutes. "You mean he was okay as long as Kathryn had no interest in anyone, but as soon as she did, he what… went after the person she developed an attraction for?" He shook his head. "I don't know, Dr. Hansen, jealousy can be a horrible emotion that's true, but that still seems awfully cold and calculating."

"I believe I am correct in my assumption. When we were considered to be dating, he would always make sure his arm was around me when the Captain was near. Also he made a point of mentioning our dating to her; he also kept trying to kiss me when she would appear. I should have questioned this more at the time." She stood and moved to the window, hands clasped behind her back, watching the red ball sink beneath the darkening water. "I do not know how he found out about the Captain and me though." She said more to herself.

"I have to contact Kathryn with the outcome of this meeting, should I tell her to be expecting you to get in touch with her?"

Seven closed her eyes and lowered her head. "I do not think I could face her right now. I… I have hurt her, which is something I never wanted to do."

"Dr. Hansen, you owe her an explanation." No response from the woman at the window. "I made a promise to her father many years ago, that if anything happened to him I would look after his family, especially Katie, because he knew she had picked a potentially dangerous way of life. Well, I haven't done a very good job so far. And I hope my meddling now is the right thing to do." He walked over and stood beside her at the window, also gazing out. "I asked Kathryn why she hadn't picked a willing member of her crew to… scratch her itch with," he saw her confusion reflected in the window pane, "pursue sexually," he explained, "because I knew there had to be more than a few that would be willing partners. Do you know what she told me?" He turned to face her and waited until she looked him in the eye. "She said, 'I fell in love'."

Seven left the admiral's office in a daze, a very unusual feeling for the ex-Borg drone. After their arrival on earth, she had spent the first few weeks with Kathryn and her family. After that initial period, Seven's time was spent divided; she testified several times before the board, was examined and questioned about her time with the Borg and about her knowledge of them and other species by Starfleet scientists, engineers and medical personnel. But during all of it, she was treated as an individual, a human being not as an enemy as she had feared. And it had all been because of her captain, the woman she had unwillingly hurt with her rejection.

She now wondered if the captain had had more than a passing influence in her procuring the position she now held with the Theoretical Propulsion Group. She had been given an honorary doctorate by the Daystrom Institute of Technology and was working with Dr. Leah Brahms on the slipstream drive in conjunction with Starfleet.

When Seven had first met Captain Janeway as an acting liaison between Voyager and the Borg, she had been impressed with the captain's knowledge. And when she ended up as part of her crew, she continued to be awed by the captain's ingenuity and comprehension of things with which the captain had no prior knowledge. This woman had befriended her at a time when Seven didn't even know what that entailed, had shown her compassion, understanding and patience, tough love and then passionate love. Seven wondered if she could ever face her and explain or if the captain was better off without her.

"What did Owen want?" Gretchen asked her daughter as she filled Kathryn's and then her own plate with blueberry pancakes. Phoebe was still asleep; she wasn't an early riser like the rest of the family, so it was just the two of them for breakfast.

The admiral had told her that everything was alright, but that they should probably discuss it face to face and that he wanted to talk to her about a couple of other things also. "Just a loose end or two that has to be cleared up. I'm going to meet with him this afternoon and I'll probably be back tomorrow around lunch time."

"Is everything alright, honey? I can't imagine the things you've been through and I know it's been seven years since we've been able to spend time together, but I'm still your mother and I still know you. And right now, I know your putting up a good front for me and Phoebe."

'I should've known she would pick up on my restlessness. She could always tell when there was something not quite right with me.' "Thanks, Mom, but I think I'm still trying to adjust to… all this. To the journey being over."

"Alright, but I'm here if you need to talk about it. I know no matter how many people were on that ship, you as the captain were still alone to a certain degree." She smiled at her daughter's expression. "Yes, I do know a little bit about the life of a Starfleet Officer. And no matter how much I might cringe at some of the dangers you went through and the decisions you were forced to make, I'll still be here if you need or want to talk about them. I'm sure Phoebe would listen also, though she probably wouldn't understand why the captain had to do anything but sit back and give orders." They both laughed.

"I'm sure you're right. She always did believe in delegating. Do you remember the time when dad's cousins brought their families to learn about the 'traditional' way of living? It took her about an hour to have the kids doing her chores while she sat back and 'supervised' as she called it."

"Hey," Phoebe said as she entered the kitchen, hands on hips, "I wasn't responsible for their parents wanting them to learn. I just figured what better way than actually doing it themselves." She grabbed coffee and sat at the table. "I just got a message from Richard; he apologizes for not being able to be here, but that he has shore leave in two weeks and that he can't wait to meet you. And why are you in your uniform? Haven't you gotten tired of those things in the last seven years?"

Kathryn ignored the implied sarcasm. "I've got to meet with Admiral Paris this afternoon," she explained. She was also glad that the black with the grey shoulder uniforms that the Doctor had told them about after his trip through the data stream, had gone by the wayside.

The newest ones had obscure grey for the pants and boots, though they looked black to her, the turtleneck shirt was pale grey and still held the rank insignia and the jacket was a tunic that came down to mid-hip and was gathered at the waist by three centimeters of elastic within the material and zipped up the front. The main color was, for command, a medium faded red, not as bright as the old red, light faded yellow for ops and teal for the sciences, the shoulders of each uniform now matched the plants. These were the uniforms worn by all Starfleet personnel, even the admirals. She liked them, though they really didn't do anything for the male members, they tended to flow better on the female form.

"What? I thought we were going to spend the day in town, shopping or eating or both." She glared at her sister. "They've had you for the past six months, when are they going to give it a rest?"

"This is no big deal." 'I hope,' she thought. "I'll be back tomorrow; we can meet for lunch and do whatever you want then. I'm sorry, Phebs, but I've got to go. Can we postpone our day together until then?"

Phoebe sat with her elbow on the table and her chin propped in her hand. "Well, okay, but it's gonna cost you."

Kathryn saw the gleam in her sister's eyes. "I hate it when you get that look. What'd you have in mind?"

"Mm… I don't know yet, but believe me, it'll be good."

"Oh boy." Kathryn wondered if she could stretch the meeting out until her sister's husband was back to keep her occupied.

"I know that look." Phoebe said. "Don't even think about it."

"Okay, okay, I give in." She told her sister. "Mom, I hate to eat and run, but Owen is sending a shuttle for me and it'll be here in a few minutes." She carried her dishes to the sink where her mother still washed them by hand.

Gretchen stopped her daughter from leaving the room by putting her hands on her shoulders. Looking her in the eye she said, "Remember what I said earlier." Kathryn nodded her head once. "And don't let Owen keep you there any longer; you need some time to yourself and to be yourself."

Kathryn walked out of the house wondering how her mother had guessed the problem she was having being herself or being Kathryn as she thought of it, or if she had known all along.

"Dr. Hansen, I'm glad you're back." Leah Brahms entered Seven's office. "What did Starfleet want this time?" she said sarcastically. It was no secret about the way she disliked the organization.

"Nothing to do regarding the project." Seven didn't look up from the PADD she was reviewing. While she regarded the woman as a brilliant scientist, Seven wasn't really comfortable around the brash woman. And people thought I was uncouth, she thought. "Is there something I can do for you?"

"I was just about to ask you that same question." The older dark-haired scientist said.

"Not at this time. I was ahead of schedule when Admiral Paris requested my presence on Earth, so the two days I was away has not adversely affected my timetable."

"Good, Starfleet can be a little too… interested in our work sometimes. It would be in their best interest if they would quit sticking their nose into things they will never understand and let us get on with our work."

Seven's implant above her left eye rose a considerable distance up her forehead, "I have found many intellectually superior individuals within Starfleet. Captain Janeway for one. It was actually her suggestions that led me to reconcile the problem we were having with the navigational deflector array for the drive."

"You've been in touch with her then?"

"No… not recently. Her suggestions had been made while we were still in the Delta Quadrant. We were not able to test the theory since we did not have the proper facilities even with the holodeck."

'Mm, she's touchy when it comes to Janeway; I'll need to remember that.' "Alright, I stand corrected." She appeased. 'I'll be damned if I'm going to lose her back to those uniformed cretins. With the two of us working together, there's nothing we can't accomplish. And I intend to keep her on my team, anyway I can.'

Part 2

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