I wish for emptiness and sudden light
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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.

 

Rated M

(4)

I leave you: haloes and clothes.

I leave you violently.

Like the wail of an exile.

 

Château Picard, La Barre, France – 2385

Kathryn Janeway materialises in the golden stone courtyard. Her face is lined with exhaustion and the July sunshine glints on new silver streaks in her hair. Jean-Luc walks out onto the front steps and looks at her in astonishment.

“You’re supposed to be in the Echia sector.”

“I was,” she grates. “But then I received a subspace packet telling me you’d handed in your resignation because Starfleet won’t divert resources to the Romulan evacuation effort.”

“If you’re here to recruit me back to the ranks, you're wasting your time.”

“That’s not why I’m here.” Kathryn’s expression is tightly closed.

Laris hurries up from the cellar just then, scolding Jean-Luc for his lack of manners and guiding Kathryn inside. She brings tea and pours it out, her glance flickering between them, and then exits, leaving the drawing room door ajar behind her.

“Are you all right, Kathryn?” Jean-Luc asks when the silence stretches into dust.

She looks at him, seething. “Are you out of your fucking mind.”

“Kathryn …”

“You quit,” Kathryn accuses him. “You threw a tantrum and Bordson called your bluff, and now you’re hiding away in your precious vineyard, pretending millions of people aren’t about to die.”

Jean-Luc rests his cup on his saucer. It’s not that he resents her for reacting this way, but he admits privately that it’s probably the reason he didn’t tell her himself.

“It’s not like that,” he protests.

“Oh, really? Tell me what it’s like, then.”

“I played my last card,” he says. He rubs a hand across his eyes, suddenly weary. “I lost. There’s nothing more I can do, despite what Raffi seems to –”

“Raffi is the one who contacted me,” Kathryn interrupts. “She doesn’t seem to agree with you.”

“Raffi is young and idealistic.”

“For the record, I don’t agree with you either, and I’m neither young nor idealistic.” She softens her tone, pressing, “Have you really given up, Jean-Luc? Surely Laris and Zhaban have contacts –”

“No,” he cuts in. “There’s nothing they, or I, can do. Starfleet has made up its mind and I want no part of it.”

Kathryn sits back. “I hope your moral superiority lets you sleep at night, Jean-Luc.”

“What would you have me do, Kathryn?” he asks her, stung. “What are you doing?”

“I’ve ordered the Beta Fleet to the Hobus sector,” she says. “Granted, a few Intrepid-class and Luna-class ships can’t evacuate many civilians, but I’m petitioning HQ to divert more resources to the rescue armada. If I can get Clancy on board –”

“They won’t listen,” Jean-Luc says harshly. “I played every hand, pulled in every favour. It was no use. Ever since the Mars attack they’ve been too frightened to –”

“Admiral.” Laris is standing in the open doorway, her face grave.

“What is it?” Jean-Luc asks her.

“Admiral Janeway,” Laris amends. “There’s an urgent transmission for you from Starfleet Command.”

 

*


She swallows the bourbon without flinching, but her fingers tremble on the glass and her face is the colour of milk.

“Tell me,” Jean-Luc invites.

Kathryn hunches over her drawn-up knees and he reflects that her uniform seems suddenly too big for her, as though she’s withered inside it. He knows the feeling.

“The reports are unclear,” she says. “All I know is that the Beta Fleet was attacked by an unknown force. Three out of five ships have been destroyed and one is missing with all hands.” She draws a shaky breath. “That would be Voyager.”

“Kathryn, I’m sorry.” He hesitates. “Chakotay?”

She shakes her head. “No word.”

“Will you be leaving immediately?”

“I’ve been ordered to stand down. They want me for questioning at HQ.”

“Maybe it’s an opportunity to force their hand on the evacuation fleet,” he says, trying to cheer her.

She just looks at him.

“Surely they can’t blame you for this.”

“Oh, can’t they? I’m the one who ordered the fleet deeper into Romulan territory.” She sets her glass on a low table and stands to pace. “I’m starting to believe you, Jean-Luc. I’ve known Kirsten Clancy since the academy and she just summoned me as if I were a wayward cadet. My head’s on the block, and perhaps rightly so.”

“You don’t really believe that.” A thought occurs to him. “It wasn’t Bordson who accepted my resignation, Kathryn, it was Clancy. If she’s making a play for the C in C job and thought I was in the way, perhaps she sees you as an obstacle too.”

“I don’t want the job,” she rasps. “I want to know who attacked my people. I want to evacuate the civilians in the supernova blast radius. I want –” her breath catches, “I want to find my people and bring them home.”

“How can I help?” he asks.

Kathryn starts to say something then stops, catching her lower lip between her teeth. She looks up at him.

“Get Laris in here,” she orders him. “There’s someone I need to visit without attracting Starfleet’s attention, and I suspect Laris can get me there.”

“Get you where?” asks Jean-Luc.

“An astrophysics research outpost located in the Qiris sector, where civilian scientists from the Federation and the Romulan Empire are studying the Hobus proto-supernova,” Kathryn replies. “I have a friend there who’ll do everything she can to help me find Ch- to find Voyager.”

 

*


It’s been made quite clear that he shouldn’t ask how Kathryn is getting to the Qiris sector, or whom she’ll be seeing when she gets there, or how she intends to search for Voyager. She declines his invitation to stay the night, and when he tries to take her in his arms she slips away.

“What would Beverly think?” she asks him, softening the rejection with a half-smile.

“Beverly and I aren’t together anymore,” he is forced to admit. “There’s no reason we can’t –”

“There is,” she stops him.

Realisation dawns. “Chakotay?”

“Yes.”

“I thought he married Seven of Nine.”

“Annika,” she corrects. “Marriages break down. Fortunately their friendship survived.”

“I’m happy for you, Kathryn.”

“Thank you,” she says, just as Laris appears in the doorway.

“Time to go, Admiral.”

Kathryn hugs him. “Be happy, Jean-Luc,” she says, and follows Laris out into the courtyard, into the soft velvet night.

He wonders if it will be the last time he ever sees her.

 

*


Two weeks later he is enjoying the slanted fingers of early sunset in the courtyard when Laris sets a tray on the low table beside him. On it are two thick-cut glasses and the bottle of bourbon he’d opened for Kathryn.

“What’s this for?”

Laris pours a generous amount into each glass. “She was successful.”

“Oh?” Jean-Luc waits with raised eyebrows while Laris swallows her liquor.

“I’m told that your admiral friend tracked down her missing ship. Unfortunately it was unsalvageable, but all hands are safely on their way back to Earth. Only the captain was injured. I hear that he’ll be reassigned after a short period of medical leave.”

“That’s good news,” Jean-Luc says. “What about Kathryn?”

“Your maverick friend has been declared absent without official leave.” Laris smiles into her glass. “She’s burnt her bridges, that one. I doubt we’ll see her again.”

“Hardly something to smile about.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” says Laris, standing. “I think we’ll all be better off with her right where she is now, doing what she does best.”

“What do you mean? Where is she?”

She laughs and leans over to kiss him on the cheek. “Best not to ask, Admiral. Just be grateful that there are people in the universe like Kathryn Janeway.”

“I’ve always been grateful for that,” he grumbles into his untouched bourbon as Laris walks away.