Summary: A post Endgame moment in time.
For Gine on her birthday. Happy Birthday my dear friend. I hope you have a perfect day to remember.
Disclaimer: CBS/Paramount owns everything. No infringement intended.
The sun was shining brightly; the balmy air touched by a gentle cooling breeze that carried the scent of jasmine and freshly mown grass. Taking a deep breath, Kathryn kicked her feet out in front of her and, tugging on the chains of the swing, she propelled herself forward. The increasing momentum carried her back and forth until, at full stretch, she was almost parallel to the ground, toes pointing towards the sky.
For a breathless instant, she hovered there, weightless, motionless, then gravity took hold, and she flew backwards, the ground rushing past in a blur, until she was looking directly down at the grass and the bald strip of scuffed earth beneath her. Kicking her legs forward again and leaning back, she drove herself faster and higher.
A broad grin lit her face and she closed her eyes, concentrating on the sensations so well remembered from her childhood – the delicious drag of inertia, the lurch in her stomach just before she dropped backwards and that wonderful sense of freedom, as if one could fly. She felt like laughing and crying at the same time.
Opening her eyes, she looked up at the cloudless sky, her vision blurring as her eyes filled with happy tears. Where had all the years gone? It felt like eons ago but at the same time, like yesterday. Life had been so simple then, her small childhood world, calm and contained; a precious time that she still held close to her heart.
Whoosh! She swept past the ground again and then, body straight as an arrow, she headed towards the sky once more, her shirt billowing and her hair flying behind her. She was free as a bird – Goldenbird – and laughing, she kicked harder, her mind filled with a vivid memory of doing this as a child. She and Phoebe, swinging side by side, their father, laughing as he pushed them in turn, each of them daring the other to go higher, faster. Kathryn’s smile broadened and she let the joy of reliving that memory fill her to the brim.
Kathryn leant into the momentum again, shooting forward, suspended in mid-air for heartbeat with nothing between her and the great expanse of blue. As she hovered, it felt as though she was the only person in the universe and, although separate, completely in touch with everything around her. It made her feel small yet not insignificant; like a tiny but vital component of a huge living being. Her heart thudded in her chest, the beat pulsing to the rhythm of the world around her. The thought was humbling but in a good way and filled her with a sense of purpose. She smiled as she looked towards the heavens.
It was almost a perfect day.
They’d been home from the Delta Quadrant for more than three months now, but Kathryn’s debriefings had ended only a week ago. Much to her delight and relief, everyone was free. It had been a clean sweep – the Maquis exonerated and their commissions upheld; the Equinox crew censured but allowed to continue their Starfleet careers; Tom Paris recommissioned, his years on Voyager accepted in lieu of his sentence and the rest of the crew given commendations and promotions as recommended by their captain.
Kathryn’s debriefing had been intense and harrowing but in the end, she’d been cleared of any misconduct, although, due to her tinkering with the Prime Directive in both the past and the future, a promotion would be a long time in the offing. For the foreseeable future she would remain a captain but there would be no more ships to command; however, neither of these outcomes concerned her. If her life took a different path to the Admiral Janeway from the alternate timeline, that was more than fine with her. Remaining a planet-bound captain left her time to live a life unfettered by the demands of the Admiralty. She would be able to pursue some important personal goals and spend guilt-free, quality time with her friends and family. The latter, much to her surprise, had unintentionally expanded upon her arrival on Earth. Her Aunt Martha had been living with her mother for several years but on Voyager’s return, they’d also added another member to the Janeway clan.
After the dust had settled on the day of their arrival, Icheb was the only crewmember left with nowhere to go. Sam and Greskrendrek had offered to take him with them – Icheb and Naomi were close – but while Greskrendrek was based on DS9, it made it impossible for Icheb to pursue his studies at the Academy. Kathryn had merely glanced at her mother and, without question, Gretchen had taken the boy under her wing. Swooping in, she’d gathered him and his belongings together and taken him back to Indiana to live. He had been with them ever since.
He was now enrolled at StarfleetAcademy and in quarters on campus, but he still spent his weekends in Indiana. Kathryn had unofficially adopted him and he seemed more than happy with the arrangement. She smiled as she thought of the poor boy’s first encounter with the doting and affectionate elder Janeways. It had taken him sometime to get used to the idea but he’d quickly warmed to his surrogate grandmothers and Kathryn had a sneaking suspicion that he enjoyed the fuss they made of him.
As for the rest of the crew, the Doctor and Seven, after her brief and doomed relationship with Chakotay, were on Jupiter Station working with Professor Zimmerman. Tom and B’Elanna were designing ships for Starfleet and looking for a house to buy, although it was apparent that Owen was more than happy for them to stay with him. He’d fallen, head over heels in love with his new grandchild and daughter in law.
Harry had been promoted to lieutenant and was awaiting a new assignment. In the meantime, he and Libby, his fiancé, were back together and making preparations for their marriage. Their relationship had taken up where they’d left off, almost as if the intervening seven years hadn’t happened. Kathryn was very happy for them.
Tuvok was on Vulcan; he’d responded well to the fal-tor-voh and word from T’Pel was that he’d make a full recovery.
Lastly, Chakotay was on Trebus tracking down family and friends. He was due back any day now and Kathryn was anxious to see him. They’d been in constant contact since he’d been gone and, as the old adage promised, absence had made the heart grow fonder. They were closer now than they’d ever been, mistakes forgotten and faults forgiven. Her smile broadened as she went soaring towards the sky again, her heart taking flight as she thought of him.
Gretchen and Aunt Martha were out for the day and, for the first time in ages, Kathryn had the house to herself.
After her mother and Aunt had left, Kathryn had stood for a time on the back porch, gazing out over the wonderfully familiar landscape. It was as though she was seeing it with new eyes and, filled with a sense of excitement, she’d contemplated her unknown future. With her heart full and without any thought as to where she was going, she’d stepped off the porch and headed towards the hills in the distance.
There was no one to tell her what to do, nowhere she had to be and nothing that needed to be done. She was free as a bird. Her exuberance was almost frightening in its intensity; she hadn’t felt like this in years. With the debriefings behind her and thankful for the positive outcome for all concerned, the oppressive weight of responsibility had finally lifted from her shoulders. She felt she could breathe for the first time in over seven years. Her mind unburdened and with the wind at her back, she’d taken off, running through the fields until she was gasping.
Chuckling and gulping great lung fulls of air, she’d stood on a rise, looking back towards her home. It was then that she’d noticed the old swings at the bottom of the garden. Although they’d been maintained for Phoebe’s son and daughter, it had been close to forty years since Kathryn had been near them and, in that moment, she knew exactly what she had to do. As she and Phoebe had done as children, Kathryn tore down the hill at break-neck speed, her hair flying behind her and arms spread wide like wings. As she reached her goal, she grabbed hold of the chain to stop her forward momentum, then leapt onto her favourite swing and taken flight.
She kicked hard again, sailing through the air but this time she hung her head back behind her. Looking at the world upside down, she laughed aloud. Her hair whipped around her face and a delightful frisson of fear tickled her belly as she whooshed backwards, lying parallel to the ground, her head lower than the seat of the swing and her hair almost touching the blades of grass as she zoomed past. Just as she hit the top of her swing, there was a noise. It sounded like someone laughing and Kathryn snapped upright in her seat. Her breath caught. Standing several metres in front of her was a very familiar and welcome visitor.
“Chakotay!!” She sailed towards him.
He watched, smiling as she swung away from him again.
Kathryn allowed the swing to slow.
With his hands low on his hips, he waited until it was safe to approach. Kathryn’s eyes never left his as he made is way towards her and she was almost at a standstill when he gripped the chains just above her hands, bent down and kissed her on the lips. It wasn’t what she’d expected and grabbed the front of his shirt to stop herself from toppling over backwards.
“Hello, Kathryn.” He grinned, his dark eyes dancing.
“Hello to you too, stranger.” She stood up but didn’t let go of the chain or his shirtfront. With only inches between them and her eyes bright with love and life, her smile broadened. “That was some hello. Do you greet all your ex-captains like that?”
“Only the good looking ones.”
She laughed and shook her head. “I’m sure Captain Bennett would be relieved to hear that.”
Chakotay screwed up his nose as he thought of the corpulent and rather repugnant commanding officer of his first tour. “Thank you for that mental image. Now I need to scour my brain.”
“Hey, don’t blame me; I’m not the one going around kissing people willy-nilly.”
“You could be.”
“Is that a dare?”
“More like a suggestion.”
“I’ll take it under advisement.”
His chuckled and swayed closer, caressing her cheek with gentle fingers. Kathryn raised her eyebrows and glanced at his hand as he pulled it away slowly.
That same hand covered hers on the chain and he whispered. “I’ve wanted to do that for a long time.”
Kathryn’s grip on his shirt tightened. “Only that?”
“Oh no, I’ve got an entire catalogue of things that I want to do, but I thought I’d start with the family friendly ones before I moved onto those not suitable for public consumption.”
Kathryn’s eyes widened and her mouth opened in surprise at his brazenness, but she snapped it shut again and huffed a laugh. “Who are you and where is my dutiful and deferential first officer?”
“I’m not your first officer anymore, Kathryn.”
“And I’m not your captain.”
“Isn’t it wonderful?” Kathryn tugged on his shirt, pulling him closer. “Do you want to fly, Chakotay?”
His eyes darkened and his lips hovered close to hers. “It depends what sort of flying you have in mind.”
Without missing a beat, Kathryn pulled him an inch closer and their lips met. It was a gentle kiss, her lips soft and welcoming, his warm and inviting. Kathryn’s hand slid up over his shoulder and held the back of his head as their mouths melded. Chakotay’s arm wrapped around her and pulled her flush against him, their kiss deepening. Their bodies moulded together, mouths opened and tongues touched. The soft breeze blew around them as their hands caressed willing bodies and soft sighs carried on the wind. They slowly pulled apart, their faces rubbing together gently as they dropped light kisses on chins, lips and necks.
Kathryn sighed. “That was mmmm…”
Smiling Chakotay nodded. “I couldn’t have said it better.” He pulled back a little and looked at her, his eyes sparking with mischief. “You mentioned flying?”
“I did?” A corresponding spark lit her gaze and she pressed tighter against him. “Oh, I did.” And with that she pushed him towards the other swing. “Climb on board, Commander. I bet I can go higher than you can. Are you ready to take flight?”
“I’m already flying, but I can’t think of anything else I’d rather do.”
“I’ll change your mind about that later, but for now… race ya!”
Grinning, Kathryn kicked her legs forward, quickly gaining speed and height. Swooping forward, she pointed her toes towards the sky, hovered for a breathless instant and then whooshed backwards. Turning, she locked eyes with her first officer, friend and soon-to-be lover and smiled. They were moving together, matching height and speed, and Kathryn thought to herself, how typical.
He smiled in return and reached towards her. Their fingers touched and her heart soared.
It was a perfect day.