Series: Star Trek: Voyager
Janeway sets a new course.
When Gene Roddenberry comes to me and complains, I'll stop.
"It wasn't supposed to be like this," she said.
She'd been in Sandrine's for quite some time. He didn't know what she'd been drinking, or why her usual fly-by had turned into a crash-landing at the bar.
"How was it supposed to be?" He wasn't up for another non-discussion of their non-relationship, but since when did that matter?
"There were supposed to be supernovae and First Contacts and scientific discoveries."
"There were - don't you remember?"
She gave him her are-you-contradicting-me-mister look, but it was only set to stun. "I remember. But it was supposed to be exploration, not desperation. The Enterprise never had replicator rationing."
"We've seen things no one on the Enterprise has dreamt of. And our Captain is cuter."
He expected her to brush off his last remark the way she'd brushed him off so many times before. Instead she smiled, really smiled - not a pardon-me-while-I-laugh-at-you smile like he'd been flashing around for four years, but that blame-it-on-the-monkey smile he hadn't seen in just as long.
"Picard never would have gotten stuck out here," she said.
More confused than ever, he asked, "Is there something you wish you had done differently?"
"I shouldn't have let Tuvok go after you. I should have left it to Special Ops, or better yet, to Picard. He made the mess; he should have cleaned it up. Instead, half my crew ended up dead over you and the other half stranded in deep space. And you've been a sorry excuse for an enemy of the Federation, Mister - not quite the vicious criminal worth throwing away all those lives to capture."
"This was supposed to be a three-week mission," she continued, staring into her glass. "What will Starfleet Command think I've been doing with you for the past six years, or the next sixty?"
He could have flown a shuttle through that opening without totalling it. Instead, he was silent.
"So you see, it wasn't supposed to be this way. Mine was a scientific vessel, it should have been out on a scientific mission instead of chasing a handsome renegade through the Badlands." She paused.
"We are explorers," he quoted her.
"We are lost," she retorted.
"We have a precise fix on San Francisco," he joked.
"I don't," she said. "What does Starfleet think of my new crewmembers - the finest terrorists of the Alpha Quadrant?"
"I didn't think you cared what they thought of your Maquis crew." He wasn't offended by her language, only surprised that she would let her guard down far enough to use it.
"That's part of the problem. I don't care. I ought to care. I am a Starfleet captain. I have a duty, an all-consuming duty."
"I don't understand."
"It wasn't supposed to be like this," she said again. "My duty, my job, should have been enough. Back in the Alpha Quadrant, it was always enough. I didn't really need Mark, though we were happy together. Starfleet was enough of a life for me. Being a captain is a lifestyle all its own, one that I chose."
"Do you regret that choice?" he asked.
"No, never. I couldn't imagine any other life."
He could imagine her other life; he could still see her, Eve in a towel, on another Earth.
She interrupted his vision of paradise with yet another change of topic. "I know I must sound burned out, tired of captaining a ship so far from safe harbor, tired of battle and hostile aliens and sending my crewmen to their deaths. I'm not."
"It's a heavy load."
"Someone shares it," she answered shortly. "I'm not tired of seeing new suns, finding new cultures, making new technological breakthroughs. It still moves me like it always has. It's just that what until now has always been enough is not enough anymore. This vast, unending quadrant has changed me. I lost the battle, I never even saw the enemy - it was too big, a quarter of a galaxy across. I am very, very small, and my ship is very small, and my duty is small, and my pips are small, in comparison to the vast blackness out there, a blackness Starfleet in its hubris lives to challenge. I will still do my duty, but..." her voice trailed off.
"But?" he injected into the long pause.
"But it will never be enough again. And what ship will bear me back now, across so wide a sea?"
This was a moment for his traditional wisdom. As usual, he made some up. "You can never go back again."
"Then why are we trying so hard?" she asked.
"We have nothing better to do with ourselves. You're not the only one to gain some perspective out here. The Maquis have no great cause anymore, nothing to fuel our anger or occupy our idle hours."
"You have no home to return to," she said sadly.
"It's made it easier for me to adjust. I haven't had the illusion that I can pick up my life again when we get back. Nothing stays the same in life, nothing."
"Are you saying you don't love me anymore?" she asked her drink.
He started. "Almost nothing," he answered hoarsely.
"I never dreamed, when I chased you into the Badlands, that I would reach a place from which the Federation would seem so small and insignificant, that my duty would become an offhand thing, that I'd think 'Starfleet won't like it, but that's their problem.' Do you know how it feels to look up one day and find your whole life has changed around you and you didn't even notice?"
"Now I do."
In as much as a grown woman can look like a child who's just woken up from a dream, Janeway looked that way at that moment. Chakotay was equally dazed. Six years was a long time to dream - he waited quietly for someone to say 'Computer, end program,' making this unexpected new Kathryn dissolve along with Sandrine's, or for the alarm to go off, waking him for his next duty shift beside the old Janeway.
Instead, she leaned across the polite, unwritten-regulation distance between them and whispered, "Let's do something Starfleet won't like."
Tom nudged B'Elanna. "Look," he whispered.
She looked. "What am I looking at?"
"What about them?" She saw the Captain leaning into the First Officer's personal space, but that was nothing new. Time was that Tom would have parleyed this moment into a killing in the 'average distance' pools. He used to use the internal sensors to calculate the average distance between the Captain and First Officer's comm badges over the course of a shift, a day, or a week. Tuvok had broken that particular game up.
"Computer," Tom commanded as quietly as possible, "strike up a band."
Holograms got up to dance to Tom's favorite music. Then the couple in question started to dance as well. B'Elanna was not one to speculate about her captains' (present and former) personal lives, but at this moment it seemed speculation was superfluous.
"First public kiss," Tom read quietly to her off of The PADD, the famous repository of all betting pool information. "Ten crewmembers tie for location - Holodeck. Of those, only two win on milieu - Sandrine's. Stardate: closest stardate is two months ago. Circumstance: none in particular - the house wins on that one. Half the crew bet on a near death, a third on return to the Alpha Quadrant, ten on dissimilation from the Borg Collective, seven on 'Chakotay totals another shuttlecraft', three on the classic 'alien spores' excuse, another three on warp core meltdown--"
B'Elanna, offended by the postulated death of her engines, interrupted, "Why bet on something when you can't collect?"
"I was planning to take The PADD with me to the next emanation."