isclaimer: All the Characters belong to Paramount. This story is mine
Residual Effects of Infatuation, Fascination and very Human Behavior
Second Place in Talent Night Baby Bounce
The Captain slipped quietly through the dark back streets of the alien town. It was an odd planet, the capital city and the government were very advanced technologically, even warp capable, but here the existence was comparatively primitive. The small city was dark and dirty, power seemed limited and she had seen no evidence of the modern conveniences offered in the Capital. Whether that was the cause or the result of the unrest she couldn’t sure.
It was too few hours ago that the captain and her security team had found themselves separated from their hosts and stranded in the middle of what amounted to a guerrilla war. Apparently, the Ekos government officials with which she had been dealing had not been completely honest with her about the unrest in the area, so when her escorts found themselves surrounded by resistance fighters they fled leaving her and her away team to fend for them selves. For the time being anyway, the fighting had stopped, but safety was in no way insured.
There were a few tense moments but luckily the resistance fighters were sympathetic to her plight. Their grievance was with the government not innocent passers by. One man, apparently a leader among them, directed the away team to his home to wait out the fighting there. When they arrived at that back street cottage, they found a woman they presumed to be his wife and a tiny baby. The woman was badly wounded. Tom did what he could but it didn’t look promising.
Having tried unsuccessfully to contact Voyager from the area surrounding the cottage, the Captain left Paris and Ayala to tend to the injured woman and slipped through the growing darkness alone. There had been an ion storm brewing in the upper atmosphere when they beamed down, it was probably the reason for the interference, but Kathryn hoped she would have more success contacting Voyager from a higher elevation. After failing to reach them from any location, the Captain decided Voyager must have had to leave orbit and returned to the city.
Returning through the unfamiliar streets in the darkness was challenging. Although the tricorder led her in the general direction, the similarities in the human and Ekoiran bio signatures and the closeness of the living quarters made distinguishing her crewmen difficult. Once she got closer, she found it was easier to follow the sounds of the wailing baby to the small shack where she hoped the away team waited for her. Finally, she located the correct passage. She could see the small house at the end of the alley, the open door spilling the faint glow of the burning candles into the alleyway. As she approached, Kathryn could make out one man in the doorway and the other in the main room.
“Captain, I was getting concerned.” Paris met her at the doorway. “Were you able to contact Voyager?”
“Still too much interference.” She glanced toward the now shrieking baby and back at Tom.
“She’s hungry I guess.” He shook his head. “Ayala rigged up a bottle for her but she won’t take it.”
“According to Seven’s scans, that storm should have passed by now, Voyager should be back in contact within a few hours. We….” The baby screamed and Kathryn took a deep breath. “… we should be safe in here for the time being, the soldiers moved south about an hour ago.” Kathryn noticed the woman’s absence; the baby wailed again. “Dear god!” Kathryn stepped past Tom and approached her helpless looking crewman and the screaming baby.” Here.” She reached out and took the baby from Mike.
Secure in the Captain’s arms, the baby immediately turned rooting toward the Captain’s breast. Her crying became more of a plea, which the Captain knew wouldn’t last as her tiny mouth searched frantically for sustenance.
“It’s all right little one.” Kathryn gently rocked the baby. “Where’s her mother?”
“Captain, her mother is…”
“Yes, I guessed that. Where did you put her body?”
“In there.” Tom pointed toward the small bedroom area.
“Lieutenant,” The captain addressed the security officer shaking him from his trance. “I need something she’s wearing, a shawl, her blouse would be better, if you can get it.”
“Just get it,” The Captain struggled to calm the squirming child. “and hurry.”
A few minutes later Mike returned with the woman’s blouse. The Captain handed the baby off to a very reluctant Tom, removed her jacket and slipped the blouse on over her turtleneck. When she took the baby back it immediately quieted and snuggled against her.
“Hand me the bottle.” It took a few tries but finally the baby latched on and accepted the bottle, hungrily sucking its contents.
“Just took a woman’s touch I guess, Captain.” Tom teased.
“Actually, all she needed was her mother.” The Captain settled herself on a wooden chair. “My guess is this baby has only been breastfed.”
“She’s taking the bottle now.”
“Yes, mostly because she’s starving, but also because she now recognizes the scent of her mother. The smell she associates with comfort and nourishment.”
“That’s why the shirt?”
“Yes, a baby will recognize her mothers face or voice but this young they will associate first with the smell.” Kathryn lifted the baby to her shoulder. “Actually she would have been just as happy with either of you, if you had her mother’s scent.”
“Well, maybe with Mike, but babies are not my specialty.” Tom laughed and began looking around the room, “However nourishing adults is an entirely different matter.” He began assembling various vegetables on the table. “ I should be able to make this into something eatable, dinner will be ready shortly.”
Tom busied himself making dinner while the Captain finished feeding the baby. Mike just sat back and watched her.
“You look very natural with her.”
“I..” Kathryn looked up to answer hesitating at the expression on his face. “I’m not really very good at this.”
“You’re doing a lot better than I did and I have two kids.” Mike reached out and caressed the baby’s cheek, stroking the captain’s arm as he did. “What are you going to do with her?”
“Her father should be back, although his lifestyle isn’t conducive to child care. We have to find someone here willing to care for her, I suppose.”
“Her mother’s dead because her father is resistance, no one may want to take the chance.”
“There must be someone. An aunt –a grandparent…” Kathryn was very conscious of his stare as she burped the baby. “Did you find any diapers, she needs to be changed?”
“Yes there are some supplies for her stacked over there.” He nodded toward the far side of the room. “I’ll get you what you need; you can change her on the cot.”
Mike didn’t move he just sat and watched her until Kathryn turned away and began to undress the baby on the cot. Mike gathered up what she needed and deposited it on the cot next to the baby. He watched her deftly clean and redress the tiny child. He had watched her many times before at work and more rarely at play. He had seen her in any number of difficult situations, he had seen these hands work a console and hold a phaser but he had never appreciated just how delicate they were before tonight.
“Hey, you guys almost ready?” Tom called to them.
“Almost.” Kathryn turned to answer and found herself staring into Ayala’s dark eyes.
“I’ll bring her cradle over by the table.” He moved the wooded box that served as the baby’s bed closer to the table.
Chakotay had not been pleased when the storm threatened to force Voyager out of orbit leaving the away team with no back up. The Ekos government had told them of some pockets of internal strife and even with continued assurances of their safety, Chakotay had a bad feeling. Kathryn was a capable officer and she had Tom and Mike with her, he should have nothing to worry about and yet he couldn’t help it, his instincts told him there was trouble.
Hours passed and the storm only intensified. Seven’s original estimate of several hours had stretched so that she now predicted that if they were forced out, it could be days even weeks before they would be able to resume orbit.
Chakotay was even less pleased when Tuvok informed him that the Captain had missed her check in. He told himself it was only the interference that kept her from contacting the ship, but he had trouble believing it. After several hours, Chakotay contacted the Planet. At first, he was informed the Prime Minister was unavailable. Only when it became evident that Chakotay would not give up and the aide actually thought Chakotay would beam down did the Prime Minister appear.
“Commander Chakotay, why have you insisted on rousting me so late in the day?”
“I’m sorry to have disturbed you, Prime Minister, I didn’t realize it was late there.” Chakotay held his smile, he knew it was only early evening. “The Captain was supposed to check in with me several hours ago, I was concerned.”
“No need for concern. The Captain and her escort took a day trip to the outer province. Communication is sometimes difficult there even without atmospheric disturbances.”
“You have had contact with her then?”
“Well no, but…” The little man shook himself in quasi anger, indignantly drawing himself up to his full five feet. “She is traveling with my very own security detail there is nothing to worry about.”
“I would feel better if I could speak with her, perhaps you could make contact from down there.”
“I told you communication is difficult in the area she is traveling through.”
“If you are unwilling to assist me, than perhaps I should come down and see this province for myself.”
“Commander, that isn’t necessary, I assure you.” He smiled and softened his tone of voice. “It would be much to dangerous to transport with the growing disturbance, your captain will reach the summer palace soon and I’m sure she will contact you from there.” There was something odd in his behavior and he was a bit too insistent that everything was fine. When he closed the link Chakotay was more concerned than ever.
“Tuvok you have the bridge. I don’t like the sounds of this; I’m going down there.” Chakotay bounded out of his chair.
“Commander, I would advise you to reconsider.” Seven spoke up from behind him. “The storm has grown steadily during the past twelve hours, transport would be dangerous, if not impossible.”
Chakotay turned to face her, catching Harry’s nod of agreement as he did; his argument die quietly.
“Can we maintain orbit?”
“At this level only for a few more hours.”
“And a higher orbit?” Chakotay knew it was pointless but something inside wouldn’t let him stop.
“We could maintain that longer Commander, but communication with the planet would be impossible. I fail to see the relevance of putting the ship at risk.”
Chakotay returned to his chair and ordered the lieutenant at the helm to break orbit.
“You two should get some rest, I’ll clean up here and take the first watch.” Mike stood and cleared the dishes off the table.
“Sounds good to me, I’m beat.” Tom stretched as he stood. “There are some blankets in the other room, I’ll get them.”
“Captain, you take the cot. I’ll keep the baby over here.” He smiled when she looked doubtfully at the baby. “I’ll take good care of her, you need to get some sleep.”
Tom came back in with the blankets and Kathryn just nodded. Removing the blouse, she hung it on the back of the chair and moved to the cot. Tom had wasted no time, he had already kicked off his boots, rolled up his jacket for a pillow and made himself comfortable on the floor.
Kathryn took off her boots and covered herself with the blanket. She watched Ayala move around the kitchen area in the candlelight. She didn’t really know him well, he was of course a good friend of Chakotay, but she never spent much time with him. He was quiet, efficient and good at his job as second in command of security. She knew he had two boys at home but no one ever mentioned a wife. There weren’t any womanizing rumors about him- that was Tom’s forte. In fact she couldn’t ever remember him dating anyone although he had several good friends who happened to be women. As she watched him she realized she hadn’t thought about him much at all, probably wouldn’t be now if he hadn’t acted so strangely tonight. Well, maybe it wasn’t strange behavior for him, after all, she reminded herself, she didn’t really know him. Whatever it was made her uncomfortable. Kathryn rolled over and forced herself to sleep.
Kathryn woke to a strange sound. In her dream fogged mind she thought she heard a baby crying. She rolled over and surveyed her surrounding. As sleep slowly drifted away, her mind cleared and she remembered where she was. Across the room she saw Mike juggling the baby as he draped the blouse over himself. It took him a few tries but he coaxed the baby into taking the bottle. She closed her eyes and tried to sleep. A few minutes later she gave up and joined Mike at the table.
“Sorry if we woke you.” He glanced up as she came over.
“I don’t usually sleep much.”
“I know.” He laughed at the shocked look on her face. “It’s not exactly a secret that the captain is an insomniac.”
“I guess not.” She relaxed a little, telling herself he was only making conversation.
“There’s coffee over there.” He nodded toward the tiny stove.
“Thanks, I think I will.”
Kathryn fixed herself a cup of coffee. There were few secrets on Voyager, the fact that the captain is an insomniac and addicted to coffee was well known. They all thought they knew that she was in love with her first officer too; it just wasn’t talked about. As her gaze drifted back to the table, Kathryn told herself that Mike was a good friend of Chakotay’s and she was just reading too much into a few attempts to make conversation. She put her coffee on the table and reached for the baby.
“You should get some rest. I won’t sleep anymore now; I can do this.”
Mike silently handed her the blouse and she quickly slipped it on. Taking the baby from him, she settled back in the chair. He watched her for a few minutes then retrieved the blanket from the cot and tucked it around her and the baby.
“You should keep this.” She protested.
“It’s chilly over here.” He backed away slightly. “Keep it for the baby.” He smiled his eyes boring into hers. “I’ve always been hot blooded anyway.” He held the look a few seconds too long before turning toward the cot. “Good night.”
Mike toed off his boots and stretched out on the cot with his back to her. He kept his jacket on, using hers as a pillow instead.
Kathryn finished feeding the baby, changed her and settled her down to sleep. She could hear the quiet snoring of the two men on the other side of the room. She tiptoed over and covered Mike with the blanket. Kathryn made another pot of coffee and blew out the candles, preferring to finish her watch in the semi twilight of the full moon. She looked out the window at the clear night sky. It was strangely peaceful, hard to imagine that above that velvet blanket a storm raged so severe that it forced Voyager out of orbit. Kathryn hoped they would get back soon.
The sun was coming up when baby next stirred. Kathryn quieted her quickly but it wasn’t long before both men were awake. Tom went out to check the surrounding area and try to contact Voyager; Mike made a fresh pot of coffee.
“You were supposed to keep the blanket.” He freshened up her coffee cup and took a seat.
“I wasn’t cold and the baby has her own blankets.” She sipped her coffee. “You needed it more than us.”
‘You’re good at that—taking care of others.” He watched her gaze at the baby sleeping in her arms. “Do you ever let anyone take care of you?”
“I can take care of myself.”
“I wasn’t questioning that.”
“I don’t need anyone to take care of me.”
“Maybe someone else needs to take care of you.”
Kathryn looked up and studied his expression; it wasn’t completely clear. Did he mean Chakotay or was he talking about himself?
“Or maybe he just wants to.” He stood up but never took his eyes off hers. “I’m going to see what we have for breakfast.”
Kathryn put the baby down and retrieved her jacket. She was definitely feeling the need to reassert her command façade. She closed herself into the tiny bathroom. Well, It wasn’t a ‘bathroom’ exactly, there was a semi functional toilet and a tiny sink with cold water, but it would have to do. She washed her face and ran her fingers through her hair. She could hear voices in the other room; Tom must be back.
“No, Captain, not with Voyager.” Tom walked toward her. “I was just telling Mike here that I spoke to a few locals. Some of the men will come by and give the mother a proper burial.”
“What about her husband, has anyone contacted him?”
“Apparently, Captain, he was killed in the fighting last night.”
“I see.” The Captain grimaced as she looked down on the sleeping baby. “And the baby? Will someone take the baby?”
“I don’t think so. It seems burying the dead—even rebel dead- is acceptable but the baby is considered rebel too and anyone taking care of her could be considered an enemy of the state and suffer the same fate as her mother.”
“So they will just leave her here to die?”
“I think that’s exactly what would have happed if we didn’t show up. They’re scared.”
About an hour later three men appeared at the door. Ayala was out looking for food and the Captain was feeding the baby; Tom spoke to them briefly then pointed them toward the back room. The leader nodded and signaled the other two who entered the bedroom and returned moments later carrying the sheet wrapped body. Tom spoke to the leader again and he came forward toward where Kathryn was feeding the baby. He watched for a few minutes but when Kathryn offered him the baby he shook his head and left the cottage.
“Sorry, Captain.” Tom sat beside her and stroked the baby’s cheek. “I asked, but he said he wasn’t able to find anyone to take the baby.”
“There must be someone?”
“He’s said he would try, but he doesn’t hold much hope.”
“Well thanks, Tom.” She put the baby back in the cradle. “I think it’s my turn to try contacting the ship.”
“Hey, I’ll go.”
“That’s not necessary, Tom. I can go, besides I could use some fresh air.”
“But Captain..” Tom looked at her helplessly.
“It’s OK, Tom.” Kathryn laughed. “She’ll sleep for a while now, one of us will be back before she wakes up.”
Kathryn took much long than she anticipated. It was cold and damp and growing dark by the time she returned to the cabin. She could see the flickering light of the small fireplace and smell the warm smoke as she approached. Until she stepped through the door she hadn’t realized how cold she was.
Ayala was lying on the cot, baby across his chest and Tom was no where to be seen. Something that smelled like vegetable soup simmered on the tiny stove beside what she hoped was fresh coffee. Kathryn fixed a cup of coffee and tiptoed over leaning down to peek at the baby.
“You were gone a long time, I was worried about you.” Mike spoke without opening his eyes.
“Hardly necessary; may I remind that I'm your Captain.” Kathryn straightened up and glared as she watched a smile slip across his face.
“Yes ma’am, I am completely and painfully aware of that.” He opened his eyes and his smile broadened; Kathryn couldn’t help smiling back. “That’s better, see it isn’t so hard just to accept that some one cares.” Mike sat up, ignoring the awkward silence his comments induced; he shifted the baby to his lap. “She’s fed and changed.” He ran a finger across a soft cheek of the sleeping infant. “She’ll sleep for a while.”
Kathryn sat beside him on the cot; it wasn’t right exactly but it seemed natural. She watched him; he was so gentle. She knew his record, the violence he was capable of when necessary, he was Maquis---maybe that was it. This was the child of freedom fighters, alone, orphaned by her parent’s beliefs, unable to care for herself…. Just like the boys he left behind.
“What if no one takes her? Will you leave her here to ….” He looked at her with moist eyes; she had no answer.
“We can’t interfere...” She couldn’t look at him and recite the Starfleet directives that would condemn this child.
“Kathryn?” He raised her chin forcing her to meet his eyes. “Let’s bring her home. We can raise her.” He held her gaze as he inched closer. “We would make a good team.”
Kathryn had already fallen under the baby’s spell she didn’t know how she could leave her behind. What he was asking wasn’t unreasonable –or was it? She watched him inch closer; she couldn’t move away, so drawn, held fast by the dark molten eyes. She couldn’t just let the baby die, she couldn’t keep her—a team he said—voyager was a team- a family they could …they who? Voyager? the crew? She and Mike? Jumbled crazy thoughts raced through her mind. He was close, very, very close, she could feel his breath against her face; her heart was racing; she needed to move away. He stopped, his warm breath mingling with hers, their lips only millimeters apart.
She felt the whisper of her name across her lips and suddenly her whole being was consumed with need, a need she hadn’t allowed herself to acknowledge in years. Kathryn closed the tiny gap between them lightly pressing her lips against his moist softness of his. Mike’s lips brushed gently over hers, his free hand pulled her closer. The tip of his tongue traced her upper lip and Kathryn moaned as sharp pangs of desire surged through her. Her fingers laced through his hair holding him as her tongue hungrily invaded his mouth. He responded, his kiss hot and demanding as their tongues tangling in a sensuous dance. Kathryn was drowning, losing herself in the sensation, overcome with the realization that she wanted this man and she wanted him now. The slamming of the door shook the cabin and shattered the dream.
Tom stood there staring. He couldn’t believe what was right before his eyes. He let the door slip out of his hand; the sound of it slamming behind him startled them apart. They jumped in reaction to the noise, both looking wide eyed at Tom then glancing back at each other. For a moment they held each other’s eyes then Kathryn shook her head and gave Mike a weak smile. She straightened up and left, walking silently past the dumb struck Tom and out the door.
“Man, have you lost your mind?” It took Tom several minutes to find his voice. “What the hell was that?” Tom stared down at his friend, in total disbelief.
“It was exactly what it looked like.” Mike stood up and smiled. “only better.”
“Are you crazy- kissing the captain?”
“That wasn’t the captain, that was Kathryn I was kissing and in case you didn’t notice she wasn’t objecting.” Mike placed the baby in her bed.
“I’m objecting. You just can’t go around….”
“Why is it all you guys react the same? Every damn man on that ship, you have no problem letting her lead the way with phaser in hand. Or letting her go hand to hand with some alien twice her size and hell bent on killing her, but every time she gets within ten feet of a man--- everyone gets over protective?”
“I’m not being over protective. I just can’t stand here and watch you take advantage of…”
“Take advantage? Please Tom, she’s a grown woman. When have you ever seen her allow anyone to make her decisions for her?” Mike pushed past Tom. “Watch the baby will ya?”
“Where are you going?”
“I’m going to find, Kathryn.” Mike paused halfway out the door. “And when we get back, I expect you to behave like a man and not some little boy who thinks I’m trying to steal his mommy.”
It was a good hour before they came back. Tom saw them walk down the narrow street, Mike’s arm around her shoulder. This wasn’t any of his business; he moved away from the window and waited for them to come inside.
“No luck yet.” The Captain entered first, talking causally to Tom as if nothing unusual had happen. “Voyager is still out of contact. The streets are quiet at least.”
“That’s good news, anyway.” Tom found his voice. “And the baby’s still asleep that’s very good new.” Tom laughed and the other laughed with him.
The rest of the evening passed quietly, just like the others. Although no one had bothered them here, they still slept in shifts keeping watch on the outside world and the baby. The sun was almost up when Tom woke. He saw Mike on the other side of the room rocking the baby.
“Hey.” Tom joined Ayala at the table.
“What has you up and about?” Mike shifted the baby to his other arm. “Wait, let me guess. You want to lecture me on Kathryn again.”
“I don’t want to lecture you. I know you're right, she’s capable of making her own choices, but..” Tom shook his head. “Is she really OK here… I mean I always thought she…”
“That she’s in love with Chakotay?”
“Yeah, hell, he sure is in love with her.”
“I know he is.” Mike put the baby in the cradle. “I don’t know about Kathryn. She’s trying to sort this out herself. I only know how I feel about her… how I have felt about her for a long time. The opportunity presented its self and –I took it.”
“I’m sorry, I never knew.”
“Yeah, well, you weren’t supposed to know. I didn’t want to know myself. Hell, she’s the captain and my best friend is in love with her. Guess that makes me quite a shit.”
The creaking of the cot on the other side of the room ended the conversation. Mike got up, bringing back fresh coffee just as Kathryn joined them.
“Looks like I’m not the only one who doesn’t sleep much these days.”
“Good morning, Captain.” Tom noticed them exchange glances; he wasn’t sure what it meant, or that he even wanted to.
“You’ll spoil me with all this service.” Kathryn laughed and gratefully accepted the steaming cup.
“Just protecting my fellow crewman, Voyager’s captain without coffee can be a lethal thing.”
“I see, Just doing your duty?”
Kathryn raised an eyebrow and Mike laughed. Tom noted the banter flowed easily between them; he found it very uncomfortable.
“I’ll take a hike out of town and see if I can contact Voyager yet.” Tom hastily downed his coffee and excused himself.
For eight more days they waited, sleeping in shifts, eating what they could scrounge up or trade for, and hoping for Voyager’s return; at least the fighting remained outside the city. Kathryn and Mike continued to share the childcare and had taken to calling the baby Lily. Tom watched silently from the sidelines. He hadn’t seen any overly intimate moments since the first time he had walked in on them kissing but there was definitely something between them that hadn’t been there when they beamed down.
They had settled into a routine. Early every morning, one of them would trade something or perform some service for food; the native people were usually generous. A second one would hike out of town and attempt to contact Voyager while the third, either Kathryn or Mike, would care for the baby.
It was the Captain’s turn to try to make contact with the ship so Tom went to work in the local market for the day’s food. Mike had just put Lily down for her afternoon nap when the door opened.
“You’re back early.” Mike turned toward the door unsuccessfully trying to hide his disappointment when he saw Tom standing there instead of Kathryn.
“It’s only me--- sorry.” Tom looked around. “She’s not here?”
“She said she might be late. She was planning on going to a higher elevation today.”
“Oh.” Tom sighed shifting his weight uncomfortably. “I didn’t want to do this without her here…..”
“Do what?” Mike didn’t like the way Tom avoided looking at him. “Do what?!”
“Remember Malki, the man who came when they took the mother away?”
“Yes, what about him?”
“He found someone to care for the baby but …”
“But what? Damn it Tom, just spit it out.”
“He’s on his way here. He has to take her over the mountain away from the fighting, so she will be safe and he has to do it now.”
“Take her? Take Lily—now?” Mike look toward the sleeping baby then back at Tom. “You can’t just give her away.”
“Mike she is better off here with her own people.” Tom hadn’t been sure what plans the Mike had made but he knew the regulations and he knew his Captain or at least he thought he did.
“Kathryn won’t like that. You can’t just…”
“Mike, the Captain said we needed to find someone to care for her.”
“I know but that was…” His words were cut off when the big man opened the door.
“Malki.” Tom greeted the man who just nodded in return and handed Tom a knapsack. “Mike get the baby ready to go. I’ll pack her things.” Tom shoved Mike toward the other side of the room.
“You don’t know this man, you don’t know what he’ll do with her.” Mike hissed under his breath.
“Mike, he’s in charge here now and he is taking the baby to family across the mountain. We should be grateful. Now get her ready.”
“We can’t just do this without Kathryn.” Mike continued to protest as he changed the baby and bundled her in warm blankets.
“The Captain, knows the regulations as well as we do and she would not be happy if we miss what may be our only opportunity to find the baby a family.”
“Lily damn it! Her name is Lily.”
Tom handed the knapsack to Malki, and reached for the baby; Mike just glared. Tom passed he baby to Malki who turn and left without another word. Tom watched them out the door, until they disappeared around the corner then he turned back toward the room. Mike was sitting on the cot shoulders slumped, his back to Tom.
“Her name is not Lily and no matter what fantasy you have been living, she does not belong with us.” Tom spoke softly as he approached the cot.
“Fuck you!” Mike raised he eyes to Tom’s. “I know, you’re right to send her away and I should be thanking you ---but I can’t.” He dropped his face to his hands. “Please just leave me alone.”
Tom busied himself in the small kitchen area preparing food he doubted either of his crewmates would bother to eat. He knew they had both grow attached to the baby but he felt certain this was the best solution the only real course of action open to them. He hadn’t expected it to be pleasant but he never expected Mike to take it this hard. As he watched the silent dejected man slumped on the cot, Tom began to fear the Captain’s reaction.
Several hours passed before Tom saw the Captain approach, the knot tightened in his stomach. Mike had not spoken or moved off the cot since the baby left, he feared the Captain’s reaction would be similar.
“Good news!” Kathryn pushed open the door. “I’ve finally made contact. It was broken and static filled but they seem to think we will have clearer communication tomorrow morning and possibly a beam out by evening.” Kathryn stopped and studied Tom’s face. “What’s wrong?” She glanced around the room. Mike hadn’t moved he still sat on the cot with his back to them. “Tom?” Kathryn gestured toward Mike.”
“Captain.” Tom cleared his throat. “They took the baby away.”
“What?!” Kathryn shook her head as if she hadn’t heard him. “Took her? Who? Where?”
“Malki, the man who came to bury her mother. Remember I told you he was trying to find a home for her?”
“Yes.” She nodded “But you said they didn’t want her – she was rebel….” Kathryn glanced toward the cot then turned pleading eyes to Tom.
“He found a place for her. Over the mountain, some distant cousins were willing to take her.” Tom never thought he would see the day his Captain would break but she stood before him now trembling--as close to broken as he had ever seen her. “Captain?” He reached for her but she brushed him off.
“You’re sure? She’ll be safe there?”
“As sure as I can be.” He watched fingers turn white where they gripped the back of the chair. “I’m sorry. He said he couldn’t wait ….”
“I see..” She took a deep breath and straightened her shoulders. “You did the right thing, Tom. She belongs here.” Kathryn touched his arm and forced a smile.
“Yeah.” He watched her eyes drift back and focus on Mike. “I’m going to take a walk.”
“OK.” Kathryn mumbled without really hearing.
Kathryn moved to sit beside Mike: He didn’t acknowledge her presence, just continued to silently stare at the back wall.
“Mike, you know as well as I do, she belongs here.” She spoke softly, sharing his pain as she watched the tears form in his eyes. “We have to think about what’s best for her.”
“Is it best for her to be a rebel orphan on a hostile planet?” He glared at her through his tears. “She should have stayed with us! We could have given her a better life.”
“You know that isn’t true. We have nothing to offer her. Here she will have a home, a family…” Kathryn’s word were cut off by the pain and fury on his face, when he turned and grabbed her shoulders
“We could have given her family!” He was hurt and angry and his fingers dug painfully into her shoulders.
Kathryn just shook her head. There weren’t any words to make it better; she wasn’t sure her mouth could have formed them if there were. He broke down and she held him rocking him like a child cradled against her, his tears dampening her jacket her own falling silently to his hair.
Tom didn’t want to go back, he walked for hours before he finally turned around and when he did the cabin was dark and silent. He saw them together on cot, the Captain cradling Mike to her breast as they slept. He draped a blanket over them and wandered into the other room. Sleep was a long time coming, his mind too active wondering what the morning would bring. Voyager was back, the baby was gone, somehow he wished this was all a bad dream and he would wake up and life would be normal but he doubted it would ever be normal again.
The early morning passed wordlessly. The easy rapport of yesterday was replaced by an awkward silence. The Captain didn’t look at either of them when she finally announced she was off to contact the ship. Less then two hours later they stood on the side of the mountain awaiting transport.
Mike glanced in Kathryn’s direction just before they were caught in the transporter beam. She smiled, straightened her shoulders and looked away quickly. He was still watching her when they rematerialized in transporter room one only the woman standing next to him was very definitely the Captain once again.
“Welcome back.” Chakotay smiled nodding at each of the team members; Mike noticed her stiffen.
“Thank you, Commander.” The voice was not the soft gentle one the others had grow accustom to over the past weeks. “Gentlemen.” The captain faced the away team. As soon as the doctor clears you, you may return to your quarters. Take a few days R&R, I will expect your reports on my desk in 72 hours, dismissed.”
The Captain didn’t wait for a response she turned and exited leaving her startled away team standing silently on the transporter pad; Chakotay hurried after her.
Suddenly, Kathryn couldn’t get away fast enough; she hurried down the corridor. She hadn’t expected Chakotay to meet them in the transporter room, although exactly why she hadn’t escaped her at the moment. She certainly hadn’t anticipated being this unnerved by his presence.
“Captain, won’t you be reporting to sickbay?” Chakotay’s longer strides placed him beside her with little effort.
“I’m fine, Commander. There is no…..”
“Sickbay to Captain Janeway.” The doctor’s voice blared across the corridor.
“Janeway here.” The Captain smiled at her first officer’s smirk and rolled her eyes.
“Captain, I’m sure the away team will be reporting to sickbay within minutes—as required.”
“Lieutenants Paris and Ayala are on their way, Doctor”
“Excellent Captain. I should be through with them within the hour. I will expect for you by 1600 hours. Doctor out.”
The doctor cut the link leaving the Captain standing with her mouth open. The chuckle to her left drew her attention.
“Something amusing, Commander?” She tried to look at him sternly but his inability to hold back his amusement made her smile. “Never mind. I’m going to clean up.” She wrinkled her nose as she looked over the uniform she had worn most of the last two weeks. “We can debrief after …”
“After you see the doctor?”
“OK, I give up! After I see the doctor.”
“I’ll bring dinner?” He watched her frozen in front of him. “Kathryn, is something wrong?”
“No, dinner will be fine.” She stepped back and smiled. “1800 hours?”
“Good see you then.”
Tom sat waiting for the doc to finish up with Mike. They hadn’t said more than five words to each other since Malki took the baby away. Tom knew how upset Mike had been and the Captain’s reaction really shook him but they both seemed better this morning. That was until the Captain had dismissed them. She just turned and dismissed them, her command shielding firmly in place. Tom wasn’t sure what Mike expected but he was sure he hadn’t been prepared for that. Tom wandered back toward the bio table Mike rested on.
“Mr. Paris, I thought I made it clear you were free to go half an hour ago.”
“Yeah, Doc, thanks. I just thought I hang around and wait for Mike.”
“It’s nice to see the crew bonding but I assure he is as well as you are. All either of you needs is a hot shower and a good nights rest.”
“Thanks Doc, but…”
“No need to babysit me, Paris. I’m fine.”
“I was only…”
“You are indeed Mr. Ayala. And I would appreciate it if you two gentlemen took this elsewhere, I am expecting the Captain and you know how difficult she can be.”
“What was that, Doctor?”
“Ahh, Captain.” All three men turned to face her. “Nice of you to join us. I was just telling these gentlemen they were free to go.”
“Well, that is good news. Now, if you could clear me as quickly--- I have work to do.”
“You’re not taking R&R, Captain?” The stress Mike placed on the last work even made the doctor flinch.
“I have a ship to run, Mr. Ayala.” She tried to temper her harsh words with a smile, but it was clearly forced.
“Yes, Ma’am, you have made your point abundantly clear.” The silence was deafening as they stared at one another. “If I may leave now, Captain?”
“I believe you have been dismissed.”
“Yes, Ma’am, I believe you’re right.”
Mike left sickbay at just under a trot; Tom on his heals. The doctor was dying of curiosity but the look on Captain’s face silenced even him.
“Hey.” Tom trotted beside Ayala.
“It’s OK Tom, don’t worry.”
“Listen it’s none of my business but ..”
“No, it isn’t.”
“Well, at least I have an idea what’s happening so if you want to talk or something I…”
“I appreciate it Tom, but there isn’t anything to say. I took a chance. I should have known better—it was stupid.” Mike stopped and put his hand on Tom’s shoulder. “Hey, its not like I haven’t been dumped before.”
“I’ve seen it before- I mean the way she acted.” Tom continued to walk beside Mike. “B’E says she hides behind that uniform.”
“Yeah,” Mike stopped and keyed in his entrance code. “So I’ve noticed. Look, I’m OK, really, thanks.” He stepped inside and let the door close between them.
Chakotay watched the Captain play with her dinner, again; she seemed to be eating even less than usual. He thought she had lost weight but the uniform didn’t reveal much. It had been three weeks since her failed away mission, she should have been past it by now. It wasn’t as if it were the only mission that had ever gone bad and they had secured supplies on the next planet, still something about that mission still lingered. That first night she had acted strangely but he assumed she was tired and there was always the concern for the promised supplies they hadn’t gotten. Later that same night, Kathryn had told him, for the first time, about child they had cared for there and how Tom had managed to find her a home just before they returned. It certainly hadn’t been the last time she spoke of the baby she called Lily. Chakotay didn’t really mind. Talking about Lily made her smile at least for a short time, but he was concerned about whatever it was about the mission that still haunted her.
“Kathryn, you’re not eating.” He reached across the table and stilled her twirling fork.
“Guess I’m not very hungry.” She smiled and put down her fork. “Coffee?”
“No, and I wish you wouldn’t either.”
“No Coffee?” She laughed.
“No coffee—please.” He held her eyes.
“What is it, Chakotay?”
“I wish I knew. You aren’t eating and I know you haven’t been sleeping.”
“Oh, Chakotay, is that all. You know I never sleep much.”
“I know but this has been a little worse, hasn’t it?”
“Yes, I have had a bit of trouble, but its nothing—I’ll be fine.”
“If you want to talk about it….”
“I know.” She came around the table and kissed his cheek. “Thank you. Vulcan spice tea?”
“OK, you get the tea, I’ll clear these dishes.”
They took their tea on the couch, the conversation returning to neutral ground. Finally, Kathryn told him she was tired. She said that perhaps she could actually sleep for a while, so he said good night and left her to rest. It wasn’t a lie exactly, maybe just wishful thinking.
Kathryn’s sleepiness lasted only until she was snuggled into her bed and then it deserted her. She stared at the stars reflected on the ceiling, counted sheep and even tried some Vulcan relaxation meditations but sleep had eluded her again. Finally, Kathryn got dressed and went for walk.
As her late night tours often did, this one brought her to the deserted mess hall. She replicated a coffee—she couldn’t sleep anyway—and took a seat in a dark corner.
He stayed quiet and still as he watched her replicate coffee and choose a seat on the other side of the room. She looked worn and thin and he wondered if it has anything to do with him. Quietly observing her, he debated whether to speak to her or not. Clearly she had no desire to talk with him or she would have by now but he may never have this chance again. He replicated fresh coffee and joined her.
“Mind if I join you?”
The voice coming out of the darkness jolted Kathryn back to reality. She recognized the voice and it wasn’t the one she longed to hear. She braced and forced herself to turn and face him. She has successfully avoided him in the three weeks since their return and she wasn’t happy about meeting him now.
“I figured you could use a refill by now.” He put a fresh cup of coffee on the table.
“Have you been watching me, Lieutenant?” she tried to keep her voice even and professional.
“If you want a truthful answer, you better check the rank at the door.”
“All right Mike, have a seat.” Kathryn sipped her coffee waiting for him to speak first. When she finally looked up he was watching her. The soft brown eyes held a sadness she knew all too well in her own heart.
“I was on the other side of the room when you came in.”
“I didn’t realize anyone else was here.”
“I know. You’ve carefully avoided me for weeks.”
Kathryn didn’t answer. She had no idea what to say to him. She knew her silence had hurt him almost as much as her stiff dismissal must have, but she didn’t know what else to do. It had been a major mistake, as good as it felt it wasn’t right.
“I miss her, Kathryn.” Her silence was conformation enough; Mike turned the conversation to common ground.
“She’s where she belongs, she needs to be with …..” Kathryn stopped, her eyes filling with tears. She put down the cup and forced herself to smile at him. “Yeah, me too.”
“Funny how someone so tiny can just take right over.”
“She certainly had you wrapped around her finger in short order.” Kathryn laughed
“Oh and you were so different?” Mike laughed.
“I was merely trying to ensure her survival, just as I would anyone else we might come across in distress.”
“Sure you were.” He smiled.
Kathryn rolled her eyes and they laughed long and hard.
“Can I tell you something? Mike took both of her hands in his. “Straight, no bullshit?”
“Mike...” Kathryn bit her lip. “First let me apologize. The way I’ve acted since we came back is inexcusable.” Kathryn smiled. “I’m afraid you’ve discovered my weakness, first hand.”
“Kathryn Janeway has a weakness? No I can’t believe that.” He laughed. “Not one she admits to anyway.”
“Not if I can help it but … and if you tell anyone I’ll…”
“Put me out an air lock?”
“No, but I might have to deny it—I am the Captain after all.”
“Not till you walk out that door.”
“Guess I better do all my confessing right now.” Kathryn sighed. “You might have noticed I’m very bad at this. I can face the Borg, the Hirogen, even Nechayev doesn’t scare me, but let a man show his feelings for me and I panic.”
“So, I heard. It’s OK, I sort of blind sided you down there.”
“Yeah, I’ll say you did. Not that I minded exactly...”
“I noticed that too.” He smiled. He could see how hard this was for her and he didn’t really want to make her uncomfortable, but he wanted to make his point. “OK, my turn.”
“It’s OK. Just this once, let me tell you and I promise I’ll never bring it up again.”
“All right.” Kathryn took a deep breath. “Say what’s on your mind.”
“You should have children, Kathryn.”
It wasn’t exactly what she expected to hear; she looked up in surprise.
“I don’t think I’ll ever forget the way you looked when you held her. You will be a wonderful mother.”
“I can’t do that, I’m the Captain.” When she finally found her voice to answer him, the argument sounded weak even to her own ears.
“It doesn’t hold water, Kathryn. Being captain doesn’t mean you have to stop being a woman, it doesn’t mean you can’t have a life or share that life with someone you love.”
“It’s a luxury I can’t afford.”
“I think you’re wrong. Having a family isn’t going to make you less of a Captain and its bound to make you a more fulfilled person. Reach out and takes what’s being offered.
“I know we should have talked about this sooner, I’m sorry we should have discussed this when we first got back. Mike, even if I thought about doing that…”
“I know, Kathryn. Not with me.—Oh, I won’t pretend that I wouldn’t jump at the chance, if I thought there was even the slightest one. I meant what I said down there but I know you don’t hold those feeling for me.”
Chakotay stood just inside the doorway. He didn’t mean to spy on them. He had come here looking for Kathryn. He was concerned about this bout of insomnia, it had been much worse than usual since her return, no matter how much she denied it. He had checked with the computer just to be sure she was sleeping and it directed him here. When he saw them together, holding hands across the table he wanted to leave but he couldn’t make himself go.
At first Kathryn had seemed distressed, but then they talked in soft even tones. What ever they shared made her laugh; Chakotay loved the sound of her laughter. His heart was torn as he watched. He desperately wanted Kathryn to be happy, but he always hoped that happiness would come with him. Chakotay stepped back into the corridor, forcing himself to leave and give them the privacy they deserved.
Chakotay went back to his quarters. He needed to sleep but he knew he wouldn’t. He replicated a cup of tea and stared out the viewport at the streaking stars. He let the door chime three times before he walked over and press it open.
“Hi.” She stood in the light of the corridor. “Can I come in?”
“Sure.” He stepped back. “You should be sleeping.”
“So should you.”
He followed her back to the couch. Kathryn sat and reached for his hand; she drew him down beside her.
“I know you were in the messhall; Mike saw you leave.”
“I’m sorry I didn’t mean to intrude. I was concerned about you not sleeping.”
“Chakotay, It’s OK. I know you weren’t spying on me. I just wanted to explain.”
“You don’t have to explain, Kathryn.”
“But I want to.”
“We were talking about-Lily-- the baby – mostly. She really got to Mike..” Kathryn laughed “Hell, she really got to me too.”
“I know. I saw you when you got back and you might have told me all about her.” He smiled “About fifty times or so.”
“Yeah, I guess I bored you more than once about her.”
“I wasn’t bored, Kathryn. You were enthralled with that child and I’m glad you shared it with me.”
“Yes, but, well, there’s more- something I didn’t tell you…” Kathryn looked away. “something about Mike and me.”
“You don’t have to explain.” Chakotay was sure he was ready to handle having his suspicions confirmed.
“Chakotay, something odd happened to us down there. I was very affected by that child, she so was small and helpless and I wanted to protect her to bring her home. Mike was affected too. I think it hit home—you know he really misses his boys. Tom, well he was more frightened by her than anything.” Kathryn smiled. “So, over the course of the time that we were there, Mike and I shared her care.”
“You told me this before, Kathryn.”
“What I didn’t tell you was that the whole thing dragged up feelings I had long buried.” Kathryn drew a breath, drawing this out wasn’t helping. “Mike and I became closer…. I don’t know, we were out of reach of Voyager. The command relationship wasn’t as important as survival … we’ll you know well how that goes.” Kathryn smile remembering their time away from Voyager.
“Oh boy, that sounds like every time I spend a few weeks away I fall… “ Kathryn shook her head, this just wasn’t going well.
“I know you better than that, Kathryn. You don’t have to explain this to me.”
“Yes, I do. For my own sanity I need to explain this to you and maybe I can understand.” She collected herself and started again. “We were more relaxed around the baby, but it still took me by surprise—I never suspected and certainly I never saw Mike that way before. This is not coming out right.”
“Just tell me what you want to say, Kathryn.”
“We-- he kissed me—no…” She shook her head. “that sounds one sided; it wasn’t. I wanted him to kiss me … and he obviously wanted the same. Actually he came very close to kissing me and in the end –I kissed him. It’s been—well, I …” Kathryn looked at him. Chakotay tried to mask the pain that flashed in his eyes. “I’m sorry.”
“You don’t have to be sorry.” It was killing him but he had to force himself to say the right words; the words that would allow her to be happy.
“But I am. I was wrapped up in the fantasy like a little girl playing house. I wanted this little family to be real, but it wasn’t real.”
“You can have a real family, Kathryn.
“Maybe, but I don’t think I’m ready to jump in with both feet so quickly, children are still a slightly distant concern…”
“It won’t interfere with the ship, if you and Mike want a family. I’ll always be here to back you up.”
“Oh, Chakotay, I’m doing this very badly. I’ve never been good at talking about my feelings.” She shook her head. “You look so sad, I didn’t…”
“This isn’t about me. Kathryn, you have a right to live your life. No matter who you choose to share it with, I will be happy for you.”
“Chakotay, thank you.” She brought her hand up to gently cup his cheeks. “But it’s not Mike I want to share my life with, not Mike’s children I want to bear.” She smiled as the confusion cleared and the pain lifted in his eyes. “What I’m trying--- so very badly, to say is…..I love you, Chakotay and if you are willing to give this a try—to put up with me—well.”
Kathryn tilted her head and gave him a crooked smile, there was hope in her eyes and maybe a little fear; his heart swelled. He leaned close and she stretched up to meet him, their lips pressing softly together. The kiss was slow and gently, it held back none of the years of longing while it expressed the promise of their future. He broke the kiss pulled her body tightly against his and breathing his love into her hair.
On a planet left far behind, a baby cried. A woman stumbled through the darkness, reaching out to comfort her. As she rocked the child she remembered her empty barren life before this gift was bestowed on her. She walked to the window glancing up at the stars. Malki had told her of the star people and how they had cherished and nurtured this tiny unwanted life. They had preserved this miracle for her and gazing up at the heavens, she wished them equal happiness.
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