By Eydie Munroe
Disclaimer: It's been 11 years, but somehow Paramount (and now CBS, apparently) still owns them. Since they don't want to seem to do anything with them anymore, I'm taking the Voyager crew out to play. But I promise to give them only cookies and milk, and to have them home by eleven.
Note: This story was heavily inspired by the story "It Came Upon A Midnight Clear" by Mindy.
The rest of their shore leave went by in a blur. They each found that spending so much time together at the beginning of their relationship was the best thing they could have done, and not having to worry about appearances or professionalism in the initial hours seemed to take care of her uneasiness. Surprisingly, it was Kathryn who grabbed Chakotay's hand just as they were beamed back, still clutching it when they appeared in the transporter room.
After being cleared for duty by the Doctor, Kathryn decided to throw an impromptu dinner in her quarters for the senior staff that evening. They were surprised at first, wondering what had made her do it after keeping to herself for so long. And she had been nervous about having them around. But the conversation came easily to everyone, and before they knew it, it was after midnight. It was also her first chance to see Delara since handing her over to B'Elanna a few days before. She handled it better than Chakotay thought she would, showing her warm maternal side but avoiding the emotional traps she'd been caught in before. He reminded himself that she, and her hormonal levels, were returning to normal.
She got up an hour earlier than usual the next morning, taking the time to read through the latest status reports and bring herself up to speed before returning to the bridge. It was the first time she tried coffee since giving birth, and she found that Chakotay had been wrong – a third of a cup, and she started to notice her fingers trembling as they pressed the buttons on her terminal. With a shake of her head, she recycled the cup and ordered her new standby, actually stopping to inhale the scent of warm lemon before taking a sip. That man… she thought to herself, a laugh in her head going along with it.
"Bridge to Janeway."
Kathryn looked up, wondering why Chakotay was on the bridge before she was. "Go ahead."
"We just received a message from President Teekra. He's ready to beam aboard."
"Have him escorted to the conference room when he arrives," she told him, "and ask Tom and B'Elanna to meet us there."
"Acknowledged. Chakotay out."
She got up and walked into the bedroom to retrieve her uniform jacket. When she picked it up off the foot of the bed and turned around, she caught the image in the vanity's large mirror, and took a moment to examine herself. Even though it had only been a handful of days, she was already well on her way back to her regular figure, though she knew it would take some work to get right back to a size four. More importantly though, she looked more rested than she had in months, and there was a smile on her face that had been mostly absent in recent weeks. But her hair was a mess – unconsciously scratching her head while she read meant it needed to be fixed.
The necklace that Chakotay had given her was sitting on the shelf next to where she set the brush down, and she picked it up to take another look at it. The stone felt warm in her hand, the chain soft as it dangled over her fingers. In the future she would only wear it on special occasions to try and make sure that she never lost it, but for her first day back at work, and the day that they would leave Alkira for good, it was comforting. She allowed herself to hold onto the stone a moment more, then reached behind her neck to fasten it and tucked it in under her turtleneck, smiling to herself as the stone again naturally nestled in next to her heart. It was against regulations, but she didn't care. No one would ever see it anyway.
Teekra was humming to himself and looking out the portals when she arrived in the briefing room; seeing his world from above never ceased to amaze him. He turned at the sound of the door opening, instantly breaking into happy laughter. "Kathryn, my friend!" he greeted her, his arms wide open with warmth.
This time, she walked up to him and took both of his hands in hers, knowing that she was going to miss this man's spirit very much. "It's so good to see you again, Teekra."
He looked her up and down, gesturing to her abandoned midsection. "You have had the baby, Commander Chakotay tells me."
She nodded, her hand instinctively moving to cover it. "I did. A little girl named Delara."
"It is indeed a blessing!" he expounded. "She is well?"
"She's just fine," she confirmed with a smile.
His happiness faded. "I am so sad that you're leaving today. We have truly enjoyed having you and your crew visit us." The president lit up a little bit again. "And we're honoured that such a unique experience as your sur… sur…"
"Surrogacy," she helped him.
"Surrogacy." He processed the word, then incorporated it into what he was saying. "That your surrogacy was completed on our world."
Kathryn patted his arm. "So am I, Teekra."
The doors to the bridge hissed open before she could say anything else and admitted Tom and B'Elanna. The baby was bundled in her mother's arms, a dark blue receiving blanket draped over her as B'Elanna carried her. "Hello Mr. President," Tom greeted him warmly. "It's good to see you again."
If Teekra could have been any happier, he would have burst into a supernova. "Congratulations to you, my friends!" he exclaimed, with a volume that was deceptively soft. "You are now a family!"
B'Elanna looked down at her sleeping daughter's face with pride. "We sure are."
Tom rested his hand on her back. "Mr. President, meet Miss Delara Alkira Paris."
The Alkirian leader was caught completely off guard, but swam with pride knowing that this child would take a piece of her birthplace with her for the rest of her life. He leaned forward to peer down at the infant, taking in all the details of the little girl. "She's very beautiful, Lieutenant," he complimented. "Truly a reflection of you."
The engineer blushed. "Thank you, Mr. President."
From her vantage point, Kathryn couldn't help but smile. Even though she had been nervous and hesitant in the beginning, B'Elanna seemed to be a natural, and it was endearing. "I have brought a gift for you," she heard the president say. He turned and picked up a small box that had been sitting in the middle of the conference table and held it out for them to take.
Tom took the baby from his wife, laying her against his shoulder and bouncing her a little when he heard her starting to mewl. B'Elanna rested the box in one hand and lifted the lid, finding a multi-coloured rounded base inside. She turned it over in her hands as she examined it, but couldn't figure it out. "What is it?"
"It's a colour player," the president explained, reaching over to press a button embedded in the side of it. As soon as he did, the base started to glow like a night light and shift colours, and soft, unfamiliar music started to play. "This is a traditional gift for Alkirian children. Since colour is so integral to our brain development, it starts a young one early in their development."
B'Elanna started to smile as she listened to it, noticing that the baby had grown quiet. Tom turned slightly so she could see Delara, who had fallen asleep on his shoulder, her lips resting against her tiny fist. "Thank you, sir. It's a wonderful gift."
Teekra turned to the captain, who was happily watching the exchange in front of her. "And I have something special for you, Captain." He reached into his jacket and pulled out a small, flat package that had been hidden in a beautiful piece of red and gold artisan fabric.
Her curiosity piqued, Kathryn opened up the cloth to find a type of picture frame inside, image side down. She turned it over, and gasped. Clear as if they had been there again, it was a picture of her and Chakotay, petting the baby riskorri that had perched itself on her pregnant belly. "How – how did you…"
The president grinned at her. "One of the technologies we do possess, Captain, is the ability to transfer any of our memories into a number of different forms. This was such a unique moment in our history that I thought you might appreciate having an additional memory of it."
She looked up from the picture. "Alkira will always hold so many memories for me." She extended her hand to him. "Thank you, Teekra."
He took her tiny hand in both of his. "You and your crew will remain in our memories as well. I know that it is unlikely, but I do hope that there's a way you can come back and visit us again one day."
Kathryn smiled at him. "So do I."
"Goodbye, my friend. Safe journey to you."
The captain settled into her seat on the bridge a few minutes later, still carrying her gift from Teekra. When Chakotay asked her about it, she wordlessly handed it over to him to look at. "That's incredible," he commented.
She nodded, a wistful smile on her face. "They are an amazing people, Chakotay. I'm going to miss them."
He reached across the console and briefly took her hand, giving it a gentle squeeze. "I think we all will." He gave her a subtle wink, then let go of her hand and passed the photograph back to her. "Are you ready to go?"
Rather than answer him directly, she drew a deep breath and turned forward in her seat. "Contact the orbital traffic regulator," she ordered.
"Channel open," Tuvok's reply came back.
"This is Voyager," she announced to the unseen attendant. "We are ready for departure."
"Leave is granted," the attendant replied instantly. "Safe journey to you, Voyager."
"Thank you. Voyager out." Shifting in her seat, she took one last look at Alkira. "Ensign Baytart, take us out. Set a course for the Alpha Quadrant – warp six."