aka Mother Knows Best.
Summary: A post Endgame J/C story told through the eyes of Gretchen Janeway.
Happy Birthday Miz. I hope you had a wonderful day.
Disclaimer: CBS/Paramount owns everything. No infringement intended.
Gretchen Janeway stood proudly by her daughter’s side, one hand clutched protectively around Kathryn’s upper arm and the other, holding her hand, their fingers woven together in a strong and loving clasp.
With eyes glued to her daughter’s every move, Gretchen refused to relinquish her hold. She wasn’t going anywhere – not unless someone made her – and even then, they’d be in for a fight. Having Kathryn by her side was a dream come true and she couldn’t bear the thought of letting her out of sight for fear that she might disappear again.
These foolish thoughts tumbled unchecked through her mind, rolling past bubbles of joy, tickling the feathery wisps of disbelief and wrapping themselves in great blanketing clouds of satisfaction. After seven long and lonely years, Kathryn was home – safe and sound at last – and for Gretchen, that was all that mattered.
Voyager’s precipitous and spectacular return had thrown Starfleet into a tailspin. Those families and friends within easy commuting distance of San Francisco had dropped everything to be there, descending en masse to greet their newly-arrived loved ones.
Gretchen had been in such a state after Owen’s call that she couldn’t even remember if she’d locked the front door on her way out. With Phoebe off-planet and at least another day’s travel away from Earth, her only thought had been to get to Starfleet Headquarters as quickly as possible. She’d just grabbed her bag and bolted out the door. Owen had met her at the transport station at Headquarters and filled her in on the still sketchy particulars of Voyager’s arrival. Initially, Gretchen recalled only a few of the details; the ins and outs seemed superfluous at that point – her mind awash with joy and fighting to grasp the one resounding fact that Kathryn was home. It was all that mattered.
Within an hour and amidst hastily arranged fanfare, the lost ship Voyager landed at the Presidio. Once on solid ground, stunned crew and their relatives were beamed to Starfleet’s Ballroom – the only venue large enough to house the returnees and their families. And this was where they were now; a crowd of several hundred people, all brimming with joy and delight.
So far the day had been one that was filled with wonder and profound happiness, made sweeter because of the unexpectedness of it all.
With potential decades of travel ahead, Voyager’s last transmission had them positioned some thirty-thousand light years from Earth, and for Gretchen it had been a grudgingly accepted – though painful fact – that she would most likely never see her daughter again in this lifetime. To have her home so suddenly was as close to a miracle as the elder Janeway had ever experienced.
When Owen had told her that Voyager was back and virtually on Earth’s doorstep, the surge of relief had been intense beyond measure. Gretchen’s heart was still pounding – fuelled by happiness and relief – and it felt wonderful. For so long sadness and loss had dulled its beat – the pain, at times, almost intolerable.
* * *
Seven years ago, when two Starfleet officers arrived at her door with news of Voyager’s loss, her anguish had been blinding in its intensity. Her memories of the months following the heart-breaking news were scant and disjointed. Each day ground out in a haze of debilitating grief. It seemed cruel beyond words that she and Phoebe should have to endure the loss of yet another so dear to them.
Time marched on, however, and as the months lumbered past, the constant inner-scream of disbelief quieted and moments of heart-wrenching and breathless sorrow became less frequent until both were able to function almost normally. She and Phoebe got used to living with the soreness of heart and wearying pain of loss.
Then – like a bolt out of the blue – word came that Voyager had not been destroyed; Kathryn and her crew were alive but stranded in the Delta Quadrant, thousands of light years from home. The elation of knowing that her daughter was alive had been a swamping salve to Gretchen’s battered heart, but the joy was quickly tempered with the knowledge that Kathryn would not make it back to Earth in her mother’s lifetime.
The fates, however, had smiled on them at last.
Kathryn was home and Gretchen could at last rejoice.
* * *
Sensing her mother’s gaze, Kathryn turned, smiling gently as Gretchen chafed her hand up and down her arm.
To touch Kathryn again was something Gretchen had yearned for more times than she cared to contemplate. The lonely hours spent sitting in her missing daughter’s room now seemed a world away and she squeezed her arm again, smiling warmly – mere words too inadequate to express her feelings.
They were standing with Alynna Nechayev and Admiral Hayes but Gretchen wasn’t paying them any mind. Her whole world was filled with Kathryn and she’d be damned if she was going to let her out of her sight again.
This hastily organised reunion of family and friends had left everyone a little dazed. It would take some time for the enormity of the situation to sink in, but as an Admiral’s wife, Gretchen was well practiced at policing her outward emotions. Beneath the calm and controlled façade however, it was different story. She was a jittering mess; her emotions were galloping all over the place – leaving her torn between whether she wanted to laugh or cry – having done so much of both over the last seven years.
Her mind was a swirl of disjointed and convoluted thoughts that refused to be brought to order. However, through the frenzied din sang the joyous mantra that thrummed in time with her heartbeat – ‘she’s home, she’s safe, she’s home, she’s safe.’
Filled with an overwhelming sense of relief and happiness, she found it assuaged by a small nugget of regret. She’d missed so much of Kathryn’s life. There had been a seven-year hiatus in their intermingling existence and she worried that she wouldn’t know the woman who had returned to her after the trials and traumas of this odyssey.
Taking a deep breath, she chided herself for her foolish thoughts and tugged Kathryn a little closer. This wasn’t a day for regrets or sadness; it was a day of celebration and gratitude. Deep gratitude. But whom did one thank? Her daughter’s future self? The Klingons? The Borg?
It was time to put a gag on her rambling inner monologue so, taking a deep breath, she brought her mind back to the present and studied her daughter openly.
Kathryn looked well. Tired but well. A lot better than she’d expected – especially after hearing snippets of what had transpired over the last few days and the circumstances behind their final surge for home. They’d been visited by a Kathryn from the future, encountered the Borg Queen, dashed frantically through the Collective’s transwarp conduits to the Alpha Quadrant and then exploded through the remnants of a Borg sphere emerging relatively unscathed into the waiting arms of a Starfleet armada. It had been too extraordinary for words, but considering what else they’d endured over the last seven years, Gretchen supposed that it might have seemed run-of-the-mill to such a resilient crew?.
Still looking at her daughter, she took in every minuscule detail. They had seen one another on viewscreens many times over the last few months but upon scrutinising her closely, Gretchen could see the subtle changes in Kathryn’s face. There were lines where once there’d been none – a set to her jaw that spoke of determination and many a hard-won battle, and a deep-seated weariness that clouded the depths of her eyes.
Her daughter had aged, but that wasn’t surprising; so had she. Seven years was a healthy portion of anyone’s lifetime and so much had happened in the interim. Earth and the Federation had travelled a difficult road during the seven years of Voyager’s absence. They’d had to contend with the Dominion War and the losses and destruction associated with that deadly conflict. For all concerned it had been a troubled and trying time.
Presently, Hayes was droning on and on about God knows what and Gretchen wanted to get Kathryn away from there. Starfleet headquarters was a place that evoked so many conflicting emotions for her. There were too many memories – some of them happy, but so many of them sad.
Edward’s old office was not far from here, and seeing the faces of many of his contemporaries only brought back the dull throb of grief she still felt at his loss. Her relationship with Starfleet had been one of both love and hate for so long now that her only way of coping had been to keep her distance. After receiving news of Voyager’s loss, Gretchen had made a concerted effort to avoid any contact with the place. It was a policy that had worked quite well up until three and a half years ago when word had come through that Voyager was in the Delta Quadrant – that bittersweet moment courtesy of an institution to which she was bound through circumstance, not choice. She hadn’t been alone in her joyous grief. Owen Paris had been in a similar situation with his boy Tom – alive but a lifetime away. So many other families were affected too, most of them she’d come to know well and hold dear over the last three years.
Finding out that their loved ones were alive had been a double-edged sword for many friends and family. Such wonderful news for some, but for those who had moved on with their lives, it had come as a bitter blow. For many who had since grieved and found closure, the knowledge that Voyager’s crew were alive had led to shattering scenes of remorse.
Gretchen would never forget the look on Mark’s face the day he arrived on her doorstep after hearing the news. He’d been devastated. Where there should have been joy with word of Kathryn’s survival, all he’d felt was overwhelming guilt for not having waited.
Only months before, he’d married a lovely woman and – in Gretchen’s opinion, a much better match for him than Kathryn – but Mark had been so torn. He still loved her and always would. In his own words, Kathryn Janeway was not the sort of woman one fell out of love with easily and she would hold a place in his heart forever.
Since childhood, Kathryn had been the love of his life, but he’d made a choice and would honour it. Gretchen had gently suggested that he write to Kathryn and tell her that he was happy and content. As far as the elder Janeway was concerned, this was something that her daughter would have wanted for him and it would also leave the way open for her Kathryn to move on with her life.
Nevertheless, Gretchen knew that her daughter was loyal to a fault and would not have entertained the thought of being unfaithful to her fiance. With news of his marriage however, she was now free to make some sort of life for herself, despite being so far from home.
When Starfleet informed the families that they could send messages, there had been a frenzy of activity as they composed their letters. Hundreds of family members converged on Starfleet headquarters to get firsthand news of the missing. It was the first time Gretchen had met many of the other families – an odd mix of people, mostly Starfleet. But there were several Maquis families – although not many – amongst them as well. So few had survived the terrible massacre on Tevlik. In a way, this made them more exceptional and their long trek to Earth more poignant.
The Starfleet families went to great lengths to make them feel welcome; the shared grief of lost loved ones facilitated the bonding process. In the end, it mattered little if one’s affiliation was Starfleet or Maquis; both factions’ families shared the same grief. Voyager was comprised of spouses, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters and lovers all stranded years from home and that common thread was enough to bind them together.
As much as the combined crew had melded and become a family, so had those who had been left behind. Together they’d supported one another – sharing the joys, the trials and the sorrows in the lives of relatives onboard and those left behind.
After that initial communication with Voyager, they’d lost touch for a time and it was almost another two years before they’d made contact again. However, once regular transmissions were established, it became a monthly ritual for families to gather at Starfleet headquarters to await news. On the rare occasions that communications were lost or missed, they would all be thrown into a state of panic and dread – forced to endure the unpleasant sensation until the following month, when they would again wait anxiously for word through the short burst of hyperspace communications from that distant part of the galaxy.
Gretchen heard someone once refer to it as a roller coaster ride. It was an apt description and she was the first to admit that the emotional ups and downs of the last few years had taken their toll, but she would never regret getting to know the families of the other Voyager crew. They’d been to hell and back together, forging the raging rivers of extreme joy and wrenching heartbreak as one. The losses, though, were the hardest to bear.
Each family felt deeply for those affected, but at the same time grateful not to be the ones receiving tragic news. In the back of everyone’s mind though, was a fear that their turn might come in some future communication. Only weeks ago, Gretchen had held a grieving Sophie Carey in her arms after the tragic news of Joe’s death.
Unsurprisingly, over time the elder Janeway had become the surrogate matriarch of the Alpha Quadrant Voyager families and – as the captain’s mother – the person they looked to for guidance and strength.
From this moment forward though, the gatherings would be of a different flavour, the anguished wait gladly traded for the joy of families reunited. It was more than they could have ever asked for.
* * *
Hayes and Nechayev had finally left and Gretchen now had her daughter’s undivided attention.
Kathryn leaned forward and kissed her mother’s cheek, then heaved a happy sigh. “I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to be here.”
Gretchen touched her daughter’s cheek in return; she still couldn’t quite believe it was true. “Do you want to go home, Kathryn?”
She edged closer to her mother, the nearness a much longed-for comfort. “I can’t yet, Mom. I have to make sure that everyone is taken care of first.”
“Starfleet has that well in hand; no one will be without somewhere to stay.”
“I know, but I need to make certain that they’re settled and safe. I won’t be able to relax until I know for sure.” She shrugged and smiled apologetically. “It’s just too soon to let go.”
Gretchen understood all too well the responsibility and commitment to those in one’s care. “We can stay as long as you like, dear. As long as you like.”
“Thank you, Mom. I knew you’d understand.”
Kathryn breathed a sigh of relief.
Everything would be all right. It had to be.
Over the next two hours, Gretchen spent time meeting crewmembers who in turn introduced their families to Kathryn. She couldn’t have been prouder of her daughter than during these introductions. They laughed a lot and cried a little, the emotions almost overwhelming at times.
The Ayala boys had brought Kathryn flowers and presented them to her shyly while their father looked on, beaming with pride; the Kims had hugged her so many times that there had to be bruises. And the garrulous Delaney family had hailed her a hero – loudly and often. Gretchen had to put her foot down and stop their boys from hoisting Kathryn onto their shoulders and marching her through the Starfleet grounds.
Finally, the crowd began to disperse, each crewmember reporting to their captain before they left – to thank her and wish her a heartfelt farewell. Kathryn hugged them all and sent them on their way with instructions to contact her if they needed anything, anything at all.
Finally, Tom and B’Elanna – with Miral in Owen’s arms – came to say their goodbyes, followed by Harry and his parents. Gretchen felt Kathryn press closer to her side and knew that these were some of the people dearest to her daughter and that the parting would be difficult.
Tuvok had said his farewells earlier and was already on his way back to Vulcan to be with his family, the cure for his neurological condition now at hand.
Reg Barclay had insisted that the Doctor stay with him and they’d also departed; only the remaining Senior staff were left and although they were only a comm. call away and within easy transport distance of one another, the goodbyes were painful and sad.
Harry was the first to leave. He kissed Kathryn’s cheek, and then stood back and saluted. Blinking back tears, Kathryn hauled him into a fierce hug before shooing him on his way and making him promise to call her the following day.
The young Paris and Torres couple were next and there were tears – B’Elanna swiping angrily at hers and blaming post-partum hormones. Tom was misty-eyed as well, but, true to form, had organised a get-together in a few days time and had already gathered everyone’s contact information to ensure that the lines of communication were open to all.
Seven was next to take her leave. She would be staying with her Aunt and taking Icheb with her. Kathryn insisted that if she or the young man needed to contact her, that she was available anytime. Seven had seemed a little tentative at first but stepped forward bravely and kissed Kathryn’s cheek before striding across the ballroom to her Aunt’s side and leaving without a backward glance.
The only person left was Chakotay.
During the evening, Gretchen had watched his and Kathryn’s interactions carefully. There was something going on between the two but she couldn’t quite put her finger on what it was. They were dear friends; Kathryn’s letters over the years had been filled with his exploits and stories, and Gretchen had come to know him well through her daughter’s eyes. It was obvious that they were close and if she didn’t know better, she would have thought they were lovers. But there was also something cumbersome and awkward between them that made them behave as though they were strangers.
Gretchen watched – bemused and a little sad – as Chakotay bid Kathryn a halting and touching farewell. He was almost standing to attention as he looked past her shoulder and wished her well.
Kathryn was aloof, muttering her thanks and hope that he would have a pleasant leave. She made it seem so final and Gretchen was baffled as to why.
Then – in what seemed a last-ditch effort to break through Kathryn’s detachment – Chakotay took her hand and bowed over it ever so slightly, his eyes darkly intense as he studied her face.
Gretchen had the feeling that if they’d been alone, he might have thrown caution to the wind, hauled Kathryn into his arms, and kissed the living daylights out of her – or more.
Instead, Kathryn slowly pulled her hand from his and he reluctantly relinquished his hold.
Gretchen’s throat burned with unshed tears as she watched his heart-broken retreat. Her daughter’s behaviour was inexplicable, the tortured look on her face blatant proof that she felt just as deeply for this man as he did for her, yet she was pushing him away. Gretchen didn’t understand why – and neither did Chakotay by the devastated look on his face.
Finally, he turned away from Kathryn and upon hiding his disappointment, addressed Gretchen.
“Good bye, Mrs. Janeway, it was a pleasure to meet you.”
Gretchen knew she had to do something. The ‘relationship’ – or whatever it was – couldn’t end here. Kathryn could gripe about it later, but for now, it was a mother’s prerogative to rectify the situation.
Taking Chakotay’s hand so that he couldn’t escape, she pressed him for information. “Where are you staying, Chakotay? I know Sekaya isn’t here yet; do you have somewhere to go?”
“I’m staying with Ayala – along with a group of other Maquis.”
“That must be a crowd. I have a better idea; you can come with us.” Gretchen peered past his shoulder and pretended to look for other stragglers. “There’s plenty of room and if there’s anyone else needing a place to stay, we have space to spare.”
Gretchen was delighted to see his eyes light up at the suggestion.
“Mom, I think Chakotay might have plans,” Kathryn warned.
Evidently undeterred, his enthusiasm was endearing. “No, actually, I don’t have any plans. Sekaya isn’t due to arrive for a week and until debriefings start, I have nothing organised.”
Standing side-by-side, Gretchen felt Kathryn stiffen – fingers digging into her forearm – but the elder Janeway pretended she didn’t notice and kept her face composed, her eyes focused on Chakotay’s happy smile.
After letting go of Gretchen’s hand, he turned to Kathryn. It was then that his smile faded.
“Perhaps I’d better stay with Ayala; they might need me around.” All the delight disappeared and he came to attention again, this time looking over Gretchen’s shoulder as he spoke. “Thank you for the invitation, Mrs Janeway. I’ll see you at the reunion. Goodbye.”
Without looking at Kathryn again, he turned and was gone.
Gretchen spun towards her daughter – ready to demand an explanation – but the shattered look on Kathryn’s face made her hold her tongue.
They were the only ones left in the hall now and the lights were being dimmed in readiness to lock the doors.
Gretchen took Kathryn by the shoulders and stared into her daughter’s sad eyes. “Why, Kathryn? He loves you! Can’t you see that? It’s obvious to everyone else. Why are you pushing him away?”
“I have my reasons. Please don’t ask.”
“Who’s going to ask, if I don’t? You love him too.” It was a statement not a question.
Kathryn didn’t answer but turned towards the doorway through which he’d just left and nodded once.
Gretchen’s heart broke as she watched a single tear tip over Kathryn’s lashes and spill down her cheek.
Her motherly instinct was pressing her to haul Kathryn into her arms and comfort her but that wasn’t what she needed.
Standing tall, she ordered, “Go after him. Now!”
“If you don’t, then I will.” Gretchen started towards the door.
“Mother, don’t!” Kathryn put a restraining hand on her mother’s arm.
“Tell me why not.”
“Because he’s in love with someone else.”
Gretchen was astonished, not to mention disbelieving. “Unless that person was perched on your shoulder all evening, I can assure you, he only has eyes for you.”
“She told me that he and Seven… And I heard the rumours.”
“Seven? She’s a child. And ‘rumours’? Kathryn, surely you know better.”
“She marries him, Mother.”
“According to whom?”
“According to me.”
Gretchen was taken aback for a moment, but then the penny dropped. “This ‘me’ was the ‘you’ from the future?”
Kathryn nodded. “She had no reason to lie.”
“She had every reason in the world.”
Kathryn’s head snapped towards her mother and she frowned.
Gretchen shook her head and wrapped her arm around her daughter’s shoulder. “Just think about it, Kathryn. Who knows you better than anyone else?”
“You.” Kathryn quirked her eyebrow at her mother.
Chuckling, Gretchen shook her head. “Apart from me.”
“A month ago, I might have said Chakotay, but I guess you mean me.”
“Yes, and what are you renowned for, apart from caffeine addiction?”
“I gather you’re not referring to my good looks and charm?”
“Not this time.”
“Okay, I’m stubborn as a Klingon.”
“And set in your ways.”
“All right, I’ll grant that – but only because you’re my mother and I love you.”
“I love you too, dear. But more importantly, you love that man out there and I imagine you have known for a long time but refused to do anything about it. Sticking like Starfleet glue to those damnable regulations and protocols.”
The look on Kathryn’s face told the story and Gretchen shook her head. “You are your father’s daughter.”
“That wasn’t meant as a compliment – this time.”
Kathryn took a deep breath. “Why would the Admiral tell me something like that if it wasn’t true – knowing that it would break my heart?”
“It got you here, didn’t it?”
The realisation slowly dawned on Kathryn. Her older self was a conniving old biddy. She’d used the truth about Tuvok’s illness to manipulate Kathryn – it was the only thing that she could verify – and once she was convinced of the veracity of that, the rest was taken as gospel. The Admiral knew that Kathryn would never ask Chakotay outright if he was seeing Seven or what his intentions were in regard to the young Borg woman. And there was no way to prove how many crew would be lost in the intervening years – the number twenty-two no doubt plucked out of the ether for added impact.
Kathryn was indignant. She’d been had.
At the time, she’d been vulnerable; reeling from the shock of finding the Borg hub and being confronted with her very own Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come – losing sight of the fact that her older self had only one goal in mind, and that was to get Voyager home sixteen years early. The old crone would have done and said anything to achieve her objective; she was the genuine article after all and it was exactly what Kathryn would have done under the same circumstances.
Knowing that Kathryn would die first before letting anything happen to Chakotay, Seven or Tuvok, the Admiral had used the three people dearest to her heart to manipulate her into doing exactly what she wanted. She certainly didn’t get any less single-minded as she got older.
Kathryn stared at the darkened doorway again and then back at her mother.
“I’m a bitch.”
“No, you’re not, dear. But I think you might become one if you don’t go after him and live the life that you are meant to. Perhaps that was what the Admiral was trying to tell you. She’d let it all slip away and look where she ended up. It’s time to put that Janeway stubbornness to good use and go and get your man.”
Kathryn took a deep breath and looked at her mother again. “What if you’re wrong?”
“Then you can hit me over the head with Phoebe when she gets home. But I’m not wrong; listen to your mother, we always know best.”
“All right, but I’m holding you to your word. You get a walloping with Phoebe if this goes sour.”
Suddenly Kathryn didn’t look terribly captain-like and Gretchen smiled, pulling her daughter into her arms and holding her tight. “Go. No more excuses. Just tell him how you feel and it will be all right.”
Kathryn hugged her mother, closing her eyes as she breathed in the wonderfully familiar scent. It took her back years. It had always been the same, willing arms filled with love and acceptance.
After one last squeeze, Kathryn pulled away and headed for the door. She turned back, but Gretchen shooed her. “I’ll be fine and I’ll see you at home – in the morning.”
Gretchen watched proudly as her daughter strode out of the hall – determination written in the tilt of her head and resolve marking every step.
Tonight was definitely a time for celebration.
Gretchen rolled over and opened her eyes. The sun had just risen and it was time to get the day started. She’d heard Kathryn arrive home in the early hours of the morning and couldn’t wait to find out if things had gone as well as she expected. For her daughter’s sake, she hoped they had. Love had never been kind to Kathryn and more than anyone, she deserved some happiness.
Tiptoeing up the hall, Gretchen popped her head around Kathryn’s bedroom door and frowned. The bed was empty and it hadn’t been slept in. She checked the rest of the bedrooms, but they were all empty as well. For one horrifying moment, the thought occurred to her that she’d dreamed Kathryn’s return. But once she got to the bottom of the stairs, she was reassured by the stack of cargo containers cluttering up the entranceway.
Where could Kathryn be? The living room was clear, but through the window, a movement on the front veranda caught her eye. The porch swing was swaying. As quietly as she could, Gretchen opened the front door and crept up the veranda.
A broad smile broke across her face – there would be no wallopings in the Janeway household today; Phoebe was safe.
Curled into Chakotay’s loving embrace, Kathryn and her man were sound asleep on the porch swing. He was spooned against her – his arms wrapped protectively around her middle, keeping her safe – their faces relaxed and peaceful in repose.
Not wanting to disturb them, Gretchen congratulated herself and took one last lingering look before turning away.
A creaking board spoiled her getaway and she froze on the spot.
Kathryn opened one eye and smiled up at her mother. “Hi, Mom.”
“Good morning, dear.” Gretchen smiled back, then frowned – raising an inquiring eyebrow as her eyes met those of her daughter’s evident beau. “Chakotay, it’s nice to see you again. And so soon.”
“Mrs. Janeway, I hope you don’t mind…I… Kathryn and I…we…”
Gretchen waited for the stuttering explanation but couldn’t maintain her dour expression any longer and chuckled.
“It’s all right, son. I couldn’t be happier for you.” She whispered conspiratorially, “Who do you think sent her after you?” and smiled at his obvious relief. “Now, rest you two. Kathryn, your room is made up – if both of you would be more comfortable.”
“We’re fine right here, thanks, Mom. I want to see the sun on the hills.”
Gretchen nodded her understanding and sighed happily before making her way back to the front door. Turning towards them again, she intended to say something more, but grinned instead.
Kathryn and her Chakotay – their arms wrapped around one another – were kissing, the final chapters of this love story about to unfold.
For Gretchen, this was simply what it was all about. Living and loving. As she pulled the door open, she glanced at them one last time and whispered into the clear bright morning,