I wish for emptiness and sudden light
Summary: “What are you, Jean-Luc? Are you ever putting on the pips again, or are you planning to wander about the galaxy digging up relics and whistling for Starfleet every time you get yourself into a jam?”
Characters: Picard, Janeway, Crusher, Seven, Laris
Codes: Picard/Janeway, Chakotay/Seven, Picard/Crusher, Janeway/Chakotay
Disclaimer: Paramount/CBS own all rights to the Star Trek universe and its characters, which I am borrowing without permission or intent to profit.
Notes: References to: TNG episodes 1x09 The Battle, 2x13 Time Squared and 3x26 The Best of Both Worlds; VOY episodes 6x10 Pathfinder, 6x26 Unimatrix Zero and 7x25 Endgame; PIC episodes up to 1x05 Stardust City Rag; Nemesis; and Children of Mars. I’ve used bits and pieces of Jeri Taylor’s Mosaic and Christopher L Bennett’s The Buried Age, but only the bits I liked. Forget about the post-series books altogether.
The title and the quotes at the beginning of each section are from Semicolons by Zubair Ahmed.
Stop: these roads
grow from me.
My journey must end
because my destinations
Cochrane Hall, Starfleet Headquarters, San Francisco – 2377
He has seen her often over the years, at balls and briefings, at functions and funerals, and each time it seems like she’s wearing yet another pip. Sometimes they greet each other as colleagues and friends; some nights, they leave as lovers. Her hair shortens and lengthens, darkens and reddens; fine lines appear at the corners of her eyes, and the interchangeable dark-haired and uniformed suitors that frequently appear on her arm are gradually replaced by a tall, silver-haired man in a professor’s outdated suit jacket.
Then comes the seven-year span when he doesn’t see her at all, and when one of the funerals he attends is held in her memory: prematurely, as it turns out.
The next time he sees her is at another event in her honour, but this time she is shockingly, vibrantly alive. He catches sight of her across the crowded room, just like a cliché; she is mid-conversation with several Starfleet brass, laughing, and as she turns her eyes lock with his and she smiles at him so tenderly that Beverly, beside him, remarks on it.
“You’ve never mentioned that you and Captain Janeway had that kind of relationship.”
Jean-Luc wants to tell her that it isn’t like that, that his connection with Kathryn is nowhere near as complex or intricate as his feelings for Beverly, but the words won’t come, because Kathryn is weaving her way through the crowd toward them and his heart is beginning to pound. And all he can see as she leans up to press painted lips to his cheek is those same lips rounded in an orgasmic ‘O’, and all he can hear as she fondly utters his name is that husky voice, urging him to blissful, sleepless, memorable depths.
Her eyes tell him she’s remembering it too.
It isn’t long before Beverly excuses herself, citing medical curiosity, and makes her way over to Voyager’s EMH – a novelty with his portable holo-emitter and his sentience and his illusory glass of champagne – who stands with two of the other exotic individuals drawing fascinated glances throughout the room. One of them is Seven of Nine. Jean-Luc has been hoping for the opportunity to speak with her, but the former Borg has been flanked protectively all evening by the Doctor and the tattooed, taciturn first officer.
Perhaps, with Beverly distracting the Doctor and Kathryn introducing them ... but when he looks back at Kathryn he changes his mind. She masks her expression quickly, but her gaze keeps straying back to the couple across the ballroom. They make a striking pair. One dark and broad, one slender and fair. Each wearing a mark on the left temple, both a badge and a brand.
He wonders which of them put that longing in her eyes, or if they both did.
Jean-Luc asks Kathryn to dance. They move together effortlessly; self-possession and muscle memory and Starfleet training combine, allowing him to focus completely on the arch of her neck, her slender waist in his hand, without missing a step. But beneath her polished exterior he senses she’s restless. She clings to him a fraction more closely than propriety dictates. Her colour is high, her breathing quickened.
Before he can open negotiations between them with diplomacy she asks bluntly, “What’s the situation with your CMO?”
“What do you mean?”
Kathryn gives him a deadpan glance.
“It’s complicated,” he concedes, then hazards, “much like whatever is between you and your first officer.”
Her expression is smooth. “We’re friends, Captain. Nothing more.”
“In that case, Captain …” he urges her closer with a hand slipping low on her back, “how much longer are you expected to work this room?”
Her reply, when it comes, is low and breathless. “It’s been a long time for me, Jean-Luc.”
“I’ll just see you to the transporter station, if you want.”
“No,” she says. “I don’t think that’s what I want at all.”
Seven years of near-celibacy have left Kathryn ravenous and raw and grasping. She takes him with ferocity, her fingers wrapped around his wrists, agony and lust warring in the twist of her hips. Her breath rasps in her throat. When she comes it’s not silently but with a pained, sobbing wail followed by a wracking squall of tears. He holds her against his chest, stroking her hair.
The storm passes quickly; she heaves a sigh, wipes her palms beneath her eyes, and sits up to smile at him.
“I’m starving,” she says. “Want something?”
Jean-Luc shakes his head. He feels wrung out, a hollow wreck on crumpled sheets, as though Kathryn has absorbed all of his energy, like a succubus. He wonders if she’d allowed herself to let go like that even once, out there in the Delta quadrant, and if anyone was there to hold her through it.
He watches her moving naked around the kitchen of her small, Starfleet-issued studio. She is messy and alive, leaning against the counter with her head tipped back, a drop of water escaping the rim of her glass to mingle with the perspiration on her neck.
She orders a platter of fruit and returns to the bed with it. Her white teeth pierce the flesh of a strawberry.
“You have no idea how much I missed these while I was out there,” she remarks, contemplating the fruit. “Sometimes I dreamed about them. Silly, the things that used to make me long for home.”
“And now you’re here. What will you do?”
“I assume you’ll have some say in that,” she says. “You’ll be on the board at my debriefing, won’t you?”
She’s not supposed to know that, but then, he’s not surprised at her deduction.
“I don’t know what I want to do,” she admits softly. “Thinking about it, while we were out there … it was too much, and when I allowed myself to hope ...”
“What did you hope for?” he asks, because he genuinely wants to know.
“It doesn’t matter anymore,” she says, her tone deliberately light as she leans in to kiss him.
“I hated her, you know.”
They sit at the kitchen table in the early hours of morning, Kathryn wrapped in a satin robe and sipping black coffee, Jean-Luc in a freshly replicated uniform.
“Yes, I imagine it was uncomfortable, coming face to face with –”
“My own mortality?” Kathryn gives him a wry smile. “Not that, so much. I hated what I’ll become. What I could become.” She slashes an impatient hand through the air. “Temporal mechanics.”
“I met a temporally displaced version of myself once,” Jean-Luc tells her. “He was out of phase … uncommunicative. His Enterprise was on a path to destruction and he couldn’t change the course of its fate, and therefore ours.”
“What did you do?” she asks.
“I shot him to break the temporal loop.”
Her eyebrows rise. “That makes me feel better about sending my own double to her death.”
“Death is better than –” he stops himself.
“You can say it,” Kathryn says flatly. “Assimilation. I sent her off to be assimilated.”
Jean-Luc knows, because he’s been reading her mission logs since Project Pathfinder made it possible, that she and two of her crewmen were voluntarily assimilated so they could aid a Borg resistance cell. He cannot imagine walking into the belly of the beast and giving himself over to it the way she did.
He thinks about that older, harder Kathryn Janeway, and wonders what her life was like that she volunteered for that non-death twice.
“I still hear them sometimes,” Kathryn says softly.
He thinks about the queen’s voice in his mind – alien, seductive, narcotic – and the queen’s will blanketing his own, velvety and dark, like drowning. Like letting go.
Her hand covers his on the table, and when he looks at her he thinks, she knows. She understands.
And, knowing, understanding, she would still willingly give herself up to the queen’s embrace. His gut clenches in visceral fear, and no small part of it is fear of this woman whose hand is so warm and so human in his own.
Perhaps that fear is what compels him to question her so censoriously at her debriefing that it’s almost an interrogation. Her old mentor, Owen Paris, scowls in his direction – “this isn’t a court martial, Picard,” – and even Alynna Nechayev raises an eyebrow at him. Kathryn, however, remains composed, her responses equable and perfectly professional, and in the end he has no choice but to clear her for duty.
She shakes his hand politely and even smiles and thanks him, and, chastened, he invites her somewhat clumsily to spend some of her leave at La Barre.
“No thank you, Captain,” she reproves. “After seven years in exile, I think I need to be around the people I’ve missed.”
He accepts the rebuke, ducking his chin. “May you find everything you hope for, Captain.”
“Too late for that,” she says without self-pity.
He watches her walking away. Part of him is envious of her – there’s a certain freedom to losing everything several times over – but mostly he’s thankful that he doesn’t have to start all over again, like Kathryn does.
Jean-Luc turns in the direction of the transporter room. The Enterprise is leaving orbit shortly on a milk run mission, and Beverly will be waiting for their dinner date.
He hopes he isn’t too late.