The Best of Time and Space
Summary: Kathryn Janeway has a lot to be grateful for.
Characters: Janeway, Chakotay, Kes
Disclaimer: Paramount (or whatever incarnation they currently claim) own Star Trek: Voyager and its characters. Pocket Books own the Voyager Relaunch novels.
Notes: Set post-"The Eternal Tide". This was a Christmas gift for my beta, LittleObsessions. Read her work. Now.
This day before dawn I ascended a hill and look'd at the crowded heaven,
And I said to my spirit When we become the enfolders of those orbs, and the pleasure and knowledge of every thing in them, shall we be fill'd and satisfied then?
And my spirit said No, we but level that lift to pass and continue beyond.
- Walt Whitman, A Song of Myself
Refracted light from the nebula painted the viewport ledge in splashes of blue and violet and rose. The woman standing in front of the window noted its beauty with part of her mind. The rest of it was elsewhere.
Kathryn Janeway turned to find her lover propped against his bedroom doorway, hair sticking up on one side and pyjama pants slung low on his hips. “Just thinking,” she answered, a smile involuntarily curving her lips at the sight of him.
Chakotay pushed off the doorframe and wandered towards her. “It’s 0330, Kathryn. How long have you been up?”
Shrugging, she turned back to the viewport. “Do you know what day it is today?”
He had to think about it. “Oh. Christmas.”
“If I’d delayed my return to the fleet for only a few weeks, I’d have been spending today at my mother’s house in Indiana. Do you know I’ve only spent one Christmas at home in the past fifteen years? I’ve either been unavoidably detained on missions -”
“Such as an involuntary seven-year-long trip to the Delta quadrant,” Chakotay interjected.
“- or dead,” Kathryn finished. “It’s a wonder my mother hasn’t chained me to the front porch. I’m not surprised Phoebe isn’t talking to me anymore.”
“You miss them.” Chakotay moved up behind her, wrapping his arms around her waist.
“I do.” Sighing, she leaned back against his chest. “But actually, it wasn’t them I was thinking about.”
“Oh?” He rested his chin on top of her head.
“I was thinking about Kes.”
Chakotay remained silent, waiting.
“Do you remember our first Christmas eve in the Delta quadrant?” she asked. “Neelix threw a party, of course. The crew tried to make merry, but everyone was pretty morose. I think it really hit us all that we might not find a wormhole just around the next corner, and that time was passing at home without us.”
“I remember you left even earlier than usual,” Chakotay said softly, rubbing his cheek against her hair. “I thought about coming by your quarters to check up on you, but the computer told me you were touring the ship.”
“I thought I wanted to be alone,” she murmured. “But I ended up in the airponics bay, and Kes was there. It was just after her false elogium – remember? – and she was wondering whether she’d lost her chance to have a child of her own. We ended up talking for hours.”
She stepped out of the protective circle of his arms, moving to the replicator and keying in an order for two Vulcan spiced teas. Chakotay followed her to the couch, his body twisted to face her as she wrapped both hands around the cup and sipped.
“She was struggling with the knowledge that she’d never see her family again,” Kathryn said pensively. “Being forced to decide whether she would start a family of her own had been very difficult for her.”
Kathryn’s gaze followed the tendrils of sweet-smelling steam curling from her cup as she drifted back eleven years in memory.
“I’ve tried talking to Neelix about it,” Kes said, accepting the pruning shears Kathryn held out to her. “But he’s so concerned with not making me feel any worse that it’s actually making me feel terrible.” She smiled ruefully. “Besides, I know deep down he’s relieved. He wasn’t ready to be a father.”
“How do you feel about it?” It was the logical question, but Kathryn couldn’t help wondering if it was the right one.
“I’m still figuring that out,” Kes admitted. “I know I’m not ready either. If I’d stayed on Ocampa I wouldn’t have gone through the elogium for another two or three years. But I always assumed I’d have a child someday. What if I’ve missed my only chance?”
She glanced over just in time to catch her captain’s rare, unguarded expression. It was immediately replaced with an appearance of calm neutrality.
Impulsively, Kes put down her shears and turned to face her. “Captain, may I ask you something?”
“Have you ever thought about having children?”
Kathryn drifted over to a bench beneath an arbor, patting the seat to indicate Kes should sit beside her. “I’ve thought about it. You knew I was engaged to be married” – she waited for Kes’ acknowledging nod before continuing – “and Mark and I had talked about it, of course. But we were both so busy and away from home so often. We always assumed we’d have plenty of time. And I guess in the end, it wasn’t something we both desperately wanted.”
“Now…” Kathryn sighed. “I understand what you’re going through, Kes. Now that the choice has been taken from me, possibly forever, I find I’m more preoccupied with it than I ever was before.” She tried to smile. “Not that I could have a child in my current circumstances, anyway. But it’s a hard dream to let go.”
Kes said nothing, simply reached out for the captain’s hand. Kathryn tipped her head back, breathing in the sweet scent of the wisteria-like vine Kes had trained over the arbor.
“My mother would like you,” Kathryn mused. “She has a greenhouse – a traditional version of an airponics bay, I suppose – where she grows roses and orchids and flowers from alien worlds. She always grows a crop of peonies at this time of year.”
“In the days before Earth unification, the peony was the state flower of Indiana. We always have bowls of freshly-cut peonies on the table at Christmas.”
“That’s a lovely tradition.”
Kathryn smiled. “My family are great believers in tradition.”
“Do you think,” Kes asked in her soft voice, “that travelling the stars, seeing things no human has ever seen before, makes up for knowing you might never see your family again?”
“What was your answer?”
“I told her then what I’d tell her now,” Kathryn answered, smiling at him over the rim of her teacup. “That while we could never replace the people we’d lost, we’d made our own family on Voyager, and I wouldn’t trade that for the universe.”
Chakotay hesitated to ask his next question. “What about … what about her other question? About children. Have you let go of that dream?”
Kathryn put down her cup and stood, moving to the viewport again. Chakotay turned to watch the shifting expressions on her face, lit alternately by the blues and purples of the nebula gases.
“I don’t know,” she admitted finally, her voice low. “After everything I’ve been through these past years… And my responsibilities to the fleet are so all-consuming…”
He unfolded himself from the couch and went over to rest a hip against the ledge beside her.
“I’m afraid,” she went on. “What if something happened to our child? I’ve lost so much. I’m not sure I could bear to lose something so precious.”
“Our child?” he repeated, taking her hand.
She blushed. “I just assumed – I mean,” she straightened, “there’s nobody else I’d want to have a child with.”
“I love you.” He pulled her into his arms, kissing her gently.
She was smiling when they drew apart. “Let’s table that discussion for another day.”
Kathryn shifted to lean her back against his chest, pulling his arms around her. “Losing Kes was like losing a child,” she said softly. “There was something so special about her. Do you know, after that night in the airponics bay, she grew peonies for me every Christmas? She’d leave a bowl of them on my ready room desk in the morning, and when I went to bed I’d find one lying on my pillow. It was one of the many things I missed after she left us.”
“I miss her, too,” Chakotay answered. “I wish I could thank her.”
“For giving you back to me.”
She turned, reaching up to kiss him, more fervently this time. When they pulled apart she rested her forehead on his chest to catch her breath, her eyes closed.
“I wonder what her existence is like out there,” she murmured. “If she ever thinks about us.”
A streak of crimson illuminated the roiling grey of a gas cloud. Kathryn shivered, and Chakotay tipped her chin up.
“You’re cold. Come back to bed,” he invited.
“Okay.” Smiling, she took his hand and let him lead her into his bedroom. Catching sight of an object lying on the pillow, she whispered, “Oh, Chakotay.”
“What is it?”
Kathryn picked up the peony and turned it carefully in her fingers. “You didn’t leave this here?”
He shook his head.
She paused, a rippling sense of joy bringing a wide smile to her face. “Oh.”
Chakotay’s smile matched her own. “I guess that answers your question.”
“I feel like she’s given us her blessing,” Kathryn said softly. “She has all of time and space at her fingertips, yet she’s never forgotten us.”
“Lucky us.” Chakotay touched a gentle finger to the peony’s petals, then to his lover’s smiling lips. “Happy Christmas, Kathryn.”
“It certainly is,” she replied. “And I love you, too.”