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.
Resurrection: I am dead
from it—the attempt to live
USS Enterprise-E, orbiting Earth – 2379
There’s a certain irony, though no surprise, in Kathryn Janeway sitting on his review panel.
She is far kinder to him than he was to her two years ago, but Jean-Luc is too shell-shocked to appreciate it. He can still barely utter Data’s name. Maybe his loss is fresher, cuts deeper.
Or maybe Kathryn just hid her pervading, visceral pain back then, better than he ever has.
The inquiry lasts barely two days, and at the end of it she rises and says “It is the finding of this review board that Captain Jean-Luc Picard consistently acted in the interests of the Federation while in Romulan space, and that he should be cleared from any suspicion of complicity or misconduct in the death of Lieutenant Commander Data,” and he stands, rigid and numb, feeling the weight of compassion in her gaze as the other admirals file out of the room.
Then she’s standing in front of him, close enough to feel the warmth of her skin and smell her hair. Her hand is on his chest.
“I’m so sorry,” she whispers.
She stretches up to press her lips to his cheek, and his arms go around her waist and he finds that he can’t let her go.
“Will you stay with me tonight?” he asks her, forcing the words out through the ache in his throat.
“Of course I will.” She cups his face in her hands. “Your place or mine?”
He doesn’t know where she’s living at the moment, but it doesn’t matter: cosy country estate, impeccably styled townhouse or sterile Starfleet apartment, none of it will feel like home, and he needs the comfort of the familiar right now.
“Mine, if that’s all right with you.”
He releases her before he taps his combadge, and moments later they materialise on the Enterprise.
It’s been two years since they went to bed together and before that it was close to a decade, but it’s effortless between them; it always has been. They find their rhythm easily and she responds keenly to his touch, her cry sharp as a knife when she climaxes. She leaves marks in his shoulders from her fingernails, and she squeezes him inside her, urging him breathlessly, fuck me, yes please fuck me yes. She makes him feel vigorous and young.
She curls into his chest afterwards with a contented sigh, and despite everything, Jean-Luc finds himself smiling.
“Why haven’t we ever tried to make a go of it?” he asks her.
He’s already half-regretting his impulse, but Kathryn sits up and looks at him, pushing her hair impatiently out of her eyes.
“You mean, of us? You and me?” she asks. “What’s brought this on?”
Jean-Luc shrugs. “Thinking about the impermanence of life and love, I suppose, and wondering … we’ve known each other for twenty years, Kathryn. We’ve been friends for most of it, lovers off and on. Haven’t you thought about the possibility, even once or twice?”
“Well, of course,” she admits. “But our timing was always terrible, even if one of us had been willing to give up Starfleet.”
He raises his eyebrows. “I gave up Starfleet once. For the right reason I could be convinced to give it up again.”
Kathryn stares at him. “Are you really … You’re serious about this? But what about Dr Crusher?”
“She’s in my direct chain of command.”
A shadow crosses her face. “Yes, I can see how that could be a problem. But surely, if you want it badly enough –”
“Did you want it that badly, you and Captain Chakotay?” He should shut his mouth, but he wants to know her answer. “Or did you decide not to try?”
She’s quiet for a while, her lips pressed together.
“For eight years, we tried not to want it at all.” Her voice dips harshly. “Six months ago we met by chance on Proxima Station, had one too many whiskeys and almost ruined everything. He married Seven of Nine, you know, a few weeks later.”
“I’m sorry,” he says, and he is.
“At least they didn’t ask me to officiate the wedding,” she smiles without humour. “They’d have had no choice in the Delta quadrant.”
“Come here,” Jean-Luc says softly, and Kathryn lies back down with her head on his chest.
He’s enjoying her efforts at returning him to full hardness, but his recovery isn’t what it used to be.
“Your mind is not on the job,” Kathryn murmurs, resting her chin on his thigh and gazing up the length of his torso.
“To tell you the truth, I don’t know if I can keep doing it,” he admits.
She snorts. “You’re not that old, Jean-Luc.”
“Not that,” he grins back. “I meant the Enterprise. My other job.”
Kathryn crawls up to straddle him, hands flat on his chest and head cocked to the side as she contemplates him. “You’d really give it up, then? Exploring, boldly going?”
“I’m not sure I have the stomach for it anymore,” he sighs.
“You could retire.”
“And then what?”
“I don’t know,” she smirks, “join the diplomatic corps? Go back to archaeology, or write your memoirs, maybe?”
He taps her ass lightly in retaliation. “Actually, I’ve been thinking it might be time to join the admiralty.”
“You?” she laughs, but it fades when he doesn’t laugh too. “You’re serious,” she marvels. “I never thought I’d see the day.”
“One more mission,” he decides, “a three-month tour to the Kevratas system in the Beta quadrant. A medical errand of mercy. Then I’ll request a meeting with Admiral Nechayev to discuss my options.”
He’d expected her encouragement, but when she remains silent he looks at her and sees that her smile is sad.
“Some days, I wish I’d had the option to remain in command of Voyager when we came home from the Delta,” she says softly. “Think carefully on it, Jean-Luc, because once you’ve given up that chair, nothing will ever be the same again.”
Kathryn sits at the breakfast table in a borrowed robe with the cuffs turned over twice, her face scrubbed and hair damp from a water shower. She has both hands curled around a mug of coffee. Her bare legs are crossed, and beneath the table Jean-Luc can see that her toenails are painted burgundy, like wine.
The door chimes, and Beverly walks in without waiting for permission. It’s their twice-weekly breakfast date. He has forgotten.
“Oh,” says Beverly, stopping. “Admiral, I’m sorry – Jean-Luc didn’t mention –”
Consternation flickers briefly across Kathryn’s face, chased away by her professional smile. “Good morning, Doctor,” she says. “I understand you and Captain Picard often breakfast together. I hope I’m not intruding.”
Both women raise eyebrows at him and Jean-Luc clears his throat uncomfortably. “Doctor, perhaps we could reschedule for tomorrow?”
“Of course,” Beverly says smoothly. “Excuse me, Admiral.”
Jean-Luc catches the slightest glint in her eye as Beverly turns to leave. When he looks back at Kathryn, she’s watching him with that curling half-smile.
“You could have invited her to stay.”
He doesn’t bother to respond to that.
“Well, I have a full day ahead, Admiral,” he says, standing and tugging at his uniform jacket.
The smile wavers from her face. “All right,” she says, lowering her cup to the table and rising slowly to her feet, “I suppose I’ll see you next time the Enterprise is in the neighbourhood, Captain. Or maybe,” she pauses, “when you move into your office at HQ.”
She disappears into his bedroom. When she comes out ten minutes later she is uniformed and made-up, her burnished hair coiled at the nape of her neck.
“I’ll escort you to the transporter room.”
Kathryn nods, and they walk at arm’s length from each other through the corridors of his ship.
“I appreciate you making time for such an early meeting, Captain,” she says when they reach the transporter room, and even if the ensign at the control station isn’t fooled in the least, Jean-Luc appreciates her effort. He excuses the ensign, and when they’re alone he takes Kathryn’s hand.
“I’m sorry,” he tells her, hoping she knows he means he’s sorry for more than just being abrupt with her.
“So am I,” she says gently.
He rests his forehead on hers and she tilts her head to kiss his cheek.
“You could try with Beverly,” she says, straightening and laying a hand on his chest. “Who knows? Maybe she’s just been waiting for you to want it enough.”
She steps up onto the transporter pad and Jean-Luc moves behind the controls.
“Goodbye, Kathryn,” he says as she shimmers into air.
Before he leaves the transporter room, he coms Beverly and asks her to meet him in Ten-Forward for a cup of coffee.