by Robin Lawrie

Sept, 1997

VOY, Q/J, [PG]

WARNING: This isn't my usual happy little fanfic.

This is a sequel to Keyhole. It helps to read it first, but I've included the last two paragraphs for continuity. I also consulted Jeri Taylors "Mosaic" for some location details. (Just between you and me, I've read fanfic on asc/e/m that reads and works better than Ms Taylors effort. Don't start me. I digress.)

Don't worry about the up-in-the-air ending on this one. I decided it was going to take longer than I thought to resolve things, so there'll be a third part that tidies up the loose ends, in about a month.

Summary: Janeway has a choice to make.

Comments: Whatever. Wherever.

Disclaimer: Star Trek, Star Trek Voyager, and the characters in this story are the property of Paramount.

Q watched as Voyager disappeared into the blinding crack of light. At least B'Elanna had the warp drive back on line. That should cheer her up some. She seemed so lonely. He'd only tried to help. She had to know, didn't she?

Janeway watched the stars turn into star lines. At least the warp drive was back on line. She smiled grimly. In the darkness of her unlit quarters, in the only privacy the Captain was permitted, Janeway relaxed the fist around her heart, and allowed the hurt. For a few minutes. Hell, she had a ship to run. She had to get these people...home.

{I ended Keyhole here}

Q looked down at the small object in the palm of his hand. The small, brass key seemed so ordinary, yet perhaps it could unlock more than just a doorway. Q raised his eyebrows hopefully. She's probably over her little tantrum by now. Best go check.

With a snap, a quick spark of light took off after Voyager. This time, he'd get it right.


'He's gone, Tuvok.'


'Sorry, who? Yes. Q. That's what I meant.'

Tuvok remained in the doorway, watching his Captain stand silhouetted against the window in the darkened quarters. Apparently the encounter with Q had left her troubled. Tuvok resisted the urge to shake his head, resigned to the emotional needs of humans. Still, the logical thing to do would be to offer assistance.

'Captain, can I help?' He approached cautiously, aware of the Captain's protectiveness of her personal space. Perhaps the standard 'Starfleet pat on the shoulder' was appropriate. He drew closer, reached out a hand, pausing, as he noticed the small jerking actions of the Captains chest and shoulders. Surely she wasn't...sobbing?

He continued the motion, bringing both hands up to firmly press down on tense and shaking shoulders. Tuvok squeezed gently and began the antithesis of a Vulcan neck pinch. A soothing stroking rhythm soon had Janeway relaxed and breathing easy. She rolled her head and sighed as the massage continued.

'Thanks Tuvok. I needed that.'

'Au contraire, ma capitaine! I'm back!'

Without turning, Janeways head dropped. 'Hello Q.' she mumbled.

'Aren't you going to ask me to stop? Yell at me? *Swear* at me?'

'No. Strangely enough, you're doing a great job. And I thought you saved the French for someone else.'

'French is the language of love, my dear.'

'Exactly. Q, you're stopping!'

Q flung himself dramatically onto the lounge. 'I grew tired of bruising my hands on your boney scapulae. Come. Sit. Please tell me I'm forgiven. Hmm? I have something for you.'

Janeway perched on her desk and swung her legs, studying the elegantly sprawled immortal like a mongoose eyes a cobra. 'Another present? Sorry to disappoint you but after last time? I don't think so. Now what's this about love, and just where did you learn to massage like that.'

Q flapped his hands at Janeway, shooing her words away. 'Shooosh, you. We're not talking about *that*. That was then, this is now. You humans are so *linear*. Let's talk about me instead. And my present. Look.'

Q fished about in a pocket and held up the small brass key. He flicked it into the air with his thumb and Janeway snatched it before it landed. She studied it for a moment then pulled out her Keyhole. She placed the two items next to each other on her desk and turned to Q . 'It unlocks the door, doesn't it?'


'I can get to Earth?'

'Oui aussi.'

'And the crew, too?'

'Mais non, unfortunatement.'


'D'accorde, ma Capitaine. So. Will you go? '

'Can I return to the ship afterwards?'

'Now, you see? This is the tricky part. If you go and *stay* what you do there will affect the time flow and change the future, yadda, yadda, yadda ... However, if you choose to return, anything you get up to on Earth will never have happened and you're back on your dinky little, squid shaped ship making your pathetically slow way back to the alpha quadrant. Simple. Stay, and play with Mark and the dogs, and forget about all your pals here; don't worry. I'll look after them. Or come back, having achieved, well, nothing really.' Q smiled a happy little smile, as if he was bestowing the greatest of all gifts.

'Can I think about this?'

'No.' Q raised his fingers as if to snap them.

'Fine. Then I'm going.' Janeway grabbed the gifts from her desk, inserted the key and turned it. Q watched, still smiling, as Kathryn Janeway vanished in a Q-like flash.

'Hmm. Not bad for a beginner.' He settled back, and crossed his legs, snapping up the sealed section of Cosmo and a cappuccino. 'She'll be back.'

The air in the Botanical Park was still and crisp, with the scent of lilacs. The pre dawn light made the sky glow orange, giving an alien feel to the landscape that Janeway found disconcerting. Has it been so long? Have I forgotten so much? Then she recognised where Q's magic had dumped her. Damn. If I turn around the bench will be there. *The Bench*. Where Hobbes had become Mark, and her life had become just a little more complex. She turned. The bench was still there. Damn.

A humming noise overhead startled her from her reminiscing. A runabout was making a detour over the Park on its way to Starfleet Headquarters. Suddenly the enormity of her position hit home. Earth! She was home! First things first, Janeway tapped her communicator.

'Captain Kathryn Janeway to Starfleet Headquarters. Reporting for duty.'

Admiral Paris couldn't stop shaking his head. And grinning.

'So he's made himself useful, has he? Captain, you're the best news I've had all day, all year, dammit.' Janeway had finished an exhaustive debriefing session. The two old friends had moved on to socialising, and catching up over some good hot coffee. Janeway sipped blissfully.

'Tom's been a real asset. Not an angel by any stretch of the imagination, but we'd've been in a lot of trouble without him. Thanks for confirming his promotion. I know what it'll mean to him.'

'All we have to do now is get him home. How's the science team progressing?' In the week since her return, Janeway was the stick in the Starfleet ant nest, pulling in all favours and kicking off new directions in wormhole research, long range communications, and subspacial anomalies. The explanation of her return was accepted without too much comment; Q having a known track record for interference in Starfleet matters. However, a solution wouldn't be found overnight, and Janeway felt a little disappointed. Admiral Paris tried a different approach.

'So, seen Mark yet?'

'I've, ah, been a bit busy.' All week, the rationalisations had continued, with the urgency of getting her ship back being the excuse. But now the research was progressing under its own momentum. There were no more excuses. She realised the Admiral was watching her closely.

'Take a break, Captain. We can carry on for a few days without you. I'll keep the whip cracking.'

Janeway smiled as the decision was made for her. 'OK, Admiral. And thanks.'

The quarters assigned to her had the sameness of all Starfleet rooms. It was comforting, in a way. She hadn't returned to the apartment she and Mark shared when they were both in San Francisco. Just in case.

Janeway wrapped her gown tighter, and fussed with her hair. She made more coffee, and decided her nails could use some attention. Grabbing her bath bag and a trashy magazine she settled on the lounge and began buffing, clipping, sipping, flicking through, and generally putting off doing what she really should be doing. Calling Mark. Her coffee gone, her nails trimmed, and the magazine tossed, Janeway sighed and gave up. No more excuses. She sat behind the console and accessed Marks number in South America. With a determined poke, she completed the connection.

The screen on the console cleared.

'Hello Mark.'

'Kath! Where are you?'

'Here. Earth. San Francisco. Can I...?'

'Wait right there! I'll catch the first runabout back. God it's great to see you. You look great, wonderful, just, great.' His hand reached out to stroke the screen. 'Welcome home Kath.'

Q looked up from his perusal of an article on the removal of facial hair, and sighed sadly.

'Oh dear, Kathy. What *have* you done? There'll be tears before bedtime, I'm afraid.'

He tut tutted and returned to his reading. Ah! Here we go. "What Women Really Want In Bed". This could be useful research.