Summary: Soon after Voyager gets home, Janeway considers the opportunities she passed up and wonders if it was worth it.
Characters: Janeway, Chakotay
Disclaimer: Paramount/CBS own all rights to the Voyager universe and its characters, which I am borrowing without permission or intent to profit.
Note: Inspired by, and written for, @writtenndust because of her comment in a discord chat: “I love how at the end of Resolutions, they both make a fist when they’re on the bridge and they don’t look at each other, but it’s the hands they held on New Earth”. I noticed that it’s the same hands they hold in Unimatrix Zero, too. And I thought about how grounding such a small contact would have been out there and how adrift they might feel without it, and then this story happened.
When I look at you now, it’s with a sharp sense of loss: of what I thought we’d been to each other, certainly, but mostly of my own illusions. Because what I remember – what my memory tricks me into recalling – is that every smile, every too-long glance, every touch was entirely mutual.
Too late, I understand that this was just wishful thinking.
I can count on the fingers of my left hand the number of times we touched. Not the comradely clasp of a shoulder or the bolstering touch of my palm on your chest. I mean really touched, the deliberate connection of flesh, your skin warm against mine, the emotion behind the joining as important as the act itself. And it was never enough, never what I longed for. Never the way that the crew suspected we were touching each other behind closed doors.
So many opportunities passed over, so many chances left untaken. So many nights we could have been together, lips brushing softly over shoulder blades, bodies locked like puzzle pieces, fingers entwined. So many hopes, so many wishes. So many years wasted.
Or so I always believed. I denied us both the chance of a life together out there and comforted myself with the knowledge that it could have been. In my loneliest moments, I would flex the fingers on my left hand as though I was fitting it into your palm, and I would imagine a day when holding your hand would be as natural, as unremarkable as breathing.
I ought to have known even then that nothing should be taken for granted – not even my next breath. And certainly not you.
Because all this time, it seems, I was offering myself false comfort.
There will never come a time when you reach to fit my hand into yours, when your fingers curl around a glittering diamond placed there by you. There will never be days when our hands brush and we think nothing of it, or nights of lazy kisses and slow caresses. Our time, if ever we had one, is long past.
Place your left hand on the Federation Charter and repeat after me: I, Kathryn Janeway …
I, Kathryn Janeway, solemnly swear to tell the truth.
The monstrous irony of it is that I did, in fact, do all the things they accuse me of, but the only one they care about is the one that only happened in my imagination.
Captain, did you engage in an inappropriate relationship with any of your subordinate officers while commanding the USS Voyager?
My assigned counsel, of course, objects: define inappropriate! And I let the lawyers fight over semantics as my mind drifts to pool tournaments and holodecks and Prixin and tomato plants, and to the clasp of warm fingers around mine.
Because of course it was inappropriate. All of it, all of them, the way I felt about every last one, but especially you.
I’ll rephrase. The prosecutor is a lieutenant commander, sleek brown hair, impeccable uniform, mid-thirties. The same age as I was seven years ago. Captain Janeway, were you at any time involved in a relationship with your first officer that went beyond the bounds of professionalism?
Your eyes are steady and warm, a focal point I can’t help my gaze continually drifting to. Still, always, I take comfort in your support. Even if it doesn’t mean what I once believed it meant.
Please answer the question, Captain.
“Out there, all we had was each other,” I reply, careful to hold my chin high as our eyes lock. “It was only natural that we grew … close.”
Specifically, how close did you get?
I want to confess so badly, to declare here and now the depth of my feelings for you. To shake off the restraint I’ve chafed under all these years. But your lashes lower ever so slightly, and the words that want to trip off my tongue stall in my caught breath.
Confession may be good for my soul, but perhaps it’s the last thing you want. And so I hold back.
“We were friends.”
The twenty-third day of my informal hearing draws to a close. My counsel presses her hand on top of mine, whispers a few empty, encouraging words, and hurries from the conference room. Motionless, I stare unfocused at the table’s surface until the room empties and I’m left alone with my thoughts.
My left hand forms a loose fist in my lap and I stare at it, remembering my fingers twining into yours, my vision blurred with tears as you bared your heart to me. The trembling clutch of your hand in mine as you helped me to my feet on the rocky ground of a nameless planet. The steadying warmth of your grasp, imbuing me with strength before I left on the most terrifying mission of my life. All the times you were there for me, holding my hand, even when your touch was only figurative.
I was wrong before, when I told myself our devotion wasn’t mutual after all. You always met me halfway. But I suppose there’s only so long a person can be expected to hold onto a feeling that can never be fully returned, and I don’t blame you for pulling away. For your own sake, you had to let go.
It’s just that now, of all times, it’s cruellest to be so alone.
Sighing, I push up from my chair and turn for the door, only to realise my path is blocked. You’re there, standing silent and patient, a half-smile curling your lips as my eyes widen in surprise.
“How long have you been standing there?”
Instead of answering, you extend your right hand toward me, palm up. “Feel like getting out of here?”
I contemplate your proffered hand, remembering the other, all too few times I’ve taken it in mine and wondering what this means. Your smile broadens at my hesitation.
“It can mean as much or as little as you want it to, Kathryn,” you tell me. “But friends is a good place to start.”
Maybe it’s the warmth in your eyes that emboldens me. As I place my hand in yours and step toward you, I continue moving past the carefully-drawn boundaries of propriety. Enjoying the way your lips part, I move into your arms and smile up into your suddenly sparking eyes. You bring our joined hands up between us and let your fingertips brush my jaw.
My last coherent thought, as our lips meet at long, anticipated last, is that it’s never too late to make up for lost time.
Had I known we were going to be this good together, it would have been even more difficult to resist you all those years.
Yes, I had an inkling from the way my skin always shivered at the lightest brush of your breath, the way we always seemed to stand so close as though gravity itself held stronger between us. But such thoughts were dangerous, so I worked hard to repress them.
There’s no need for that any longer.
“Kathryn,” my name is half-muffled as I crush your lips beneath my own, revelling in the slide of your hands into my hair. You hold me above you, eyes locked on mine. My hands are braced on your chest, my thighs wrapped around your hips as we ease together, our bodies meshing, heat and want creating perfect friction between us. Breath becomes ragged, movements urgent, hands rasp over skin, and the tide swells and crashes over us.
Collapsing onto you, I gasp for breath, unsure whether to laugh or cry at the intensity of this emotion. Your heart beats steadily under my cheek as your fingers drift over my spine. I can feel the joy radiating from your every cell and muscle, the sated smile you press into my hair.
I’ve never known completion like this. And when you take my hand and link your fingers into mine, I revel in the knowledge that this time, I don’t have to let you go.