Title: Phoenix Fire
Pairing: C/P, others
Summary: Voyager returns to the Alpha Quadrant. Escorted by the warship Defiant, they make a stopover at DS9.
Quick, into the mist,
You are free!
A haiku by Oemaru
Kathryn Janeway stood rigid on the Bridge as her ship Voyager accompanied Feng Huang in their silent journey home. She could see only the white streaks on the viewscreen. She could feel the palpable silence surrounding her; her crew was quiet. But she knew that everyone was tense with excitement.
Commander Chakotay rose up from his command chair and came to stand beside her in a quiet gesture of moral support. She warmed to that, glancing over to him and smiled her gratitude. The Native American was a bulwark of strength and everyone, even her, drew courage from his calm composure.
What kind of fate will you face, my friend? Kathryn thought as Harry Kim began the verbal countdown. I will speak for you and the rest of the Maquis. She tilted her chin upwards defiantly.
Her gaze came to rest on the back of her helmsman, Tom Paris. A tendril of worry curled around her heart, making it constrict painfully.
Suddenly, wild hope surged in her. The medical staff on DS9 would help Tom regain back the use of his legs. He would walk again.
"Three, two " Harry was saying, his eyes glowing with excitement. "One."
The white streaks flaring about Voyager's hull flashed once, twice, and was replaced by the inky darkness of normal space. Kathryn had to blink. Stars twinkled. Feng Huang glimmered as the starship emerged from the wormhole.
They were back in space. Alpha Quadrant space. Then someone cheered, breaking the stunned silence and the Bridge erupted with a burst of cheering and whooping. They were back home. After four, almost five, years in the Delta Quadrant, they were finally back.
"Welcome back, crew, to the Alpha Quadrant," Kathryn said softly, her voice choking with suppressed emotion. Chakotay had turned away; she suspected he was weeping silently. Tom was uncharacteristically quiet but Kathryn could see his shoulders hunched forward as if he was trying very hard to hide his tears.
"Captain," Harry's voice said. "The Feng Huang is hailing us."
Mariko Sato's face was the same: inscrutable. For a paranoid moment, Kathryn imagined seeing Species 8472 who once masqueraded as Starfleet officers. Aliens who aped humanity and its institutions for the sake of experimentation. She would rather not repeat that episode again, even though they had come to a compromise.
"Welcome back to the Alpha Quadrant," the petite Asian woman said courteously.
"Thank you," Kathryn nodded back.
"Captain!" Harry was practically jumping up and down. "The Defiant just came out of warp."
The face of a bald brown-skinned man soon appeared on Voyager's viewscreen. He was smiling warmly, his expression genial, welcoming. He too wore the lavender-purplish uniform and Kathryn frowned. It was either Starfleet had decided to change the design of the uniforms or there was something more ominous brewing in the background.
War, a voice whispered in Kathryn's mind and she quelled the irrational flood of anxiety.
"Captain Kathryn Janeway," Benjamin Sisko said in his low authoritative voice. Voyager's captain took a look at her longtime friend. There were worry lines creasing his forehead. Beyond him, Kathryn could see the familiar figure of Worf, the Klingon officer. She felt Chakotay tense up. The big man was breathing slowly, as if he was trying to calm himself down.
He too sensed something.
Tom turned his head, his blue eyes shining. Chakotay relaxed visibly.
Kathryn Janeway found herself envying their special intimacy.
The Defiant brought up the rear of the miniature convoy. The Feng Huang and Voyager dwarfed the warship with their size. To Tom, he was reminded of the imagery of two silver sharks followed by a stingray.
He didn't find the mental picture reassuring for some reason.
"Tom," Chakotay's soft voice interrupted his reverie. A strong hand came to rest on his shoulder, gripped it once, twice. It was Chakotay's way of telling him that "It's alright."
"Chakotay," Tom whispered back. They were still on the Bridge and technically speaking, they were still Commander and Lieutenant respectively.
"How are you feeling?"
Tom blinked. "I guess I am okay." He glanced up. "How do you feel?"
"Not that good," Chakotay shook his head. "I am getting more and more nervous."
"Maybe that's the Maquis in you speaking," Tom teased but Chakotay wasn't amused. "I am sorry "
"It's okay, tiger." The use of the personal endearment on the Bridge startled Tom but he felt touched as well. "It's just seeing the Defiant that worries me. You do know that Starfleet doesn't take too kindly to the Maquis right?"
"I do " Tom answered, unnerved by Chakotay's grave tone. "We were terrorists, not freedom fighters "
Chakotay sighed and gripped Tom's shoulder again. "We are going to be together, whatever it takes "
Tom lifted his hand, brushed his lover's face lightly, fleetingly. "I hope so I hope so "
They were silent for a while, two men lost in their own thoughts. Then, Tom spoke up. "There she goes. DS9."
The silverish speck in Voyager's viewscreen grew bigger and bigger until it assumed the form of an oddly shaped space station with huge alien arches. It looked both beautiful and gothic. It was originally Cardassian, formerly called Terok Nor by its alien occupants. It was now a Federation space station, a meeting place of various cultures. But its Cardassian roots spoke too clearly in the architecture, in the large fang-like curves and its proximity to Bajor.
Many of the Maquis crewmembers became still and grim as they remembered the not-too-distant past where they fought against the reptilian oppressors. They still remembered their fight. Their anger was still dormant in their blood, only silenced by time and the Delta Quadrant.
Cardassians. Starfleet. The Demilitarized Zone. Their homeworlds.
Reality was back with a vengeance.
Captain Benjamin Sisko leaned back against his command chair, sipping raktajino. His eyes never left the shape of the Intrepid-class vessel. She was lovely to look at, of course. She was designed for war with her speed and her streamlined shape.
He took the liberty to scan through the crew manifest of the ship. Half of them were Maquis.
Ben Sisko pursed his lips. Voyager was swept into the Delta Quadrant together with her prey, the Maquis ship.
"Approaching DS9, sir." Lt-Commander Jadzia Dax said, turning around to face her colleague and friend. The Trill's beautiful face had a slight frown. "What's wrong, Benjamin?" She lifted an eyebrow.
"Nothing," the man shook his head.
He found himself thinking inevitably of freedom and the fight for it. He rubbed his face and finished his beverage. Maquis. Chakotay, ex-Starfleet officer, one of the major leaders.
God, one of the key Maquis figures.
Ben's temples throbbed. He had enough problems with Eddington. Now this
His back prickled and he closed his eyes.