Home Trials-Part One
by Rose Kira

Did you ever spend years losing yourself, then spend just one moment finding a lifeline you never dreamed you could hope for?

I did. God, I did.

The holodeck was open when I reached the entrance, an omen of itself. We all knew how embarassed she could be about those holo-dramas, though there probably wasn't a single crewman among us that didn't know she ran them. 

The holodecks were already down to general access, stripped to the crux by engineers, but the Captain had clearly requisitioned the sole intact one for a final few hours. I hesistated at going in, even though the privacy safeties were off and technically, she had little right to even be there. In an unusual feat of Command ambiguity, Admiral Paris had already stripped Janeway of Voyager's command, a surefire path to an Admiralty...they wanted her, and yesterday. 

I don't think she was flattered.

Okay, furious. She had been given a day to bid farewell, not that there was much left to bid farewell to, and she made it a day to remember. There were parties, celebrations, talent shows, ship tours, just about everything Fleet didn't want. Kathryn Janeway showed the universe her forsaken home that day, and then disappeared into her holo-dramas.

I probably shouldn't have walked in, I had no reason to walk in...if she wanted to be left alone on her ship, I guess she had earned the right. But walk in I did. I was worried. Tom and B'Elanna had already departed for Earth with Miral, Tuvok was on Vulcan, Chakotay and Seven had left to go find his sister and reintroduce 'Annika' to her aunt...the Doctor was immersed in sentiency hearings and brunches with Barclay and just about anything he could find to disconnect himself from the reality of the mess Voyager was in. He was, after all, a little part of the ship. He was also a terrified child realizing he had just stepped out of his sandbox for good. 

None of them were of any help to the captain.

So in I walked. Its wasn't one of *those* programs, thankfully, but it was still private, even if she had left the door open. 

A gothic setting, again, all rustling velvet and wailing winds. Janeway wasn't in uniform, wasn't in costume either, but rather dressed in a simple combination of sweats and bare feet that seemed totally foreign to anything I remember seeing her in.

As she glanced in my direction, I saw that her face was calm...no tears, but no joy either. Leaning back on her heels in front of the artificially roaring fire, she waved a hand in brief beckoning. "Its open, Ens...Lieutenent." Her tones turned ironic. "I never remember promotions I don't give. Bad habit."

"Could we be expecting company?" I tried to circle around the remark. No recrimination from me, at least. She deserved that much after seven years.

A bittersweet smile crossed the unmasked face momentarily. "No. I've already deleted the characters. The setting is next. Last one of mine."

"You could have saved them, captain's privilege."

"They were escapes, Harry. They kept me alive, halfway sane out there. I'm home. Its time to stop falling back on empty souls for comfort."


"He was only one of them." She stood, stretching. "Weren't your parents expecting you for dinner tonight?"

"My mother actually bothered you with reminders to send me?"

"She is your *mother*, Lieutenent." There was real amusement in her gaze now, a profound, if innocuous delight in rubbing in my annoyance. "After seven years gone, you won't hear me compaining about my mother's cooking when I make it back to Indiana."

"Its not the cooking I worry about, its the mother-henning." Somehow, I dropped the stack of padds I held, settling on the thick rugs beside her, marveling at the stark contrast between the garish holocolors and her pale skin, tired eyes.

"You're young, Harry." She closed her eyes briefly, rubbing her palm across her forehead in a childish gesture of sleepiness usually left up to Naomi. "You'll appreciate it all someday."

Appreciate the mother-henning, or Voyager? I doubted she even realized the lecture she was stressing. "Let me escort you back to the station, Admiral."

"I told them I'd leave Voyager in 12 hours, not a minute before. Its been eleven." Her lips pursed. "Since you aren't planning to indulge your mother...how many holovacations can you take in an hour, Lieutenent?"

"Depends on whether you want a brief taste or a long drink, ma'am." Pushing the padds into a corner, I turned to face her, surprised at the relaxed informality I had fallen into, but unwilling to sacrifice it. "But why settle for artificial pleasure? Why not go home for the night?"

Her smile was almost devilish, eyes widening. "I am home."

"She's your ship, Admiral. Not your grave."

The smile faded. "She's an empty hull, Harry. Theres nothing here but memories, and those carry just as well in the mind. I do believe its time to go."

"Yeah." I agreed softly, gripping her hand before I lost the courage. "It is."

We went together, then, down the empty corridors, in stripped down lifts, to her quarters first, to pick up her carryall. Nothing more, all the personal touches were gone. She didn't look back as the door swished shut, and we walked onto the bridge together. She nearly sat in the chair again, but in the end settled for clenching the hand-rest with white-knuckled hands. After a brief moment, she nodded resignation, and we turned into the lift for the final time, making the journey to the docking airlock in silence. 

It was just time to go.