Summary: One possible conclusion to the story “Ties That Bind.” I suggest you read that story first. In this universe, J and C never get together after Voyager’s return and, as their lives come to an end, their daughter, Olivia, struggles to understand their unusual relationship. J and C friendship. No C/7 here. Warning! Main character deaths.
A/N: This story begins thirty-five years after Voyager’s return to the Alpha Quadrant. The first scene occurs about a year after Chakotay’s death at age 85 and is followed by annual conversations for five years (2414-18).
Spring 2414 Indiana, the Janeway homestead
For mid-May, the Indiana sun was cool, its heat tempered by a layer of clouds, so Kathryn Janeway retreated to the farmhouse’s screened porch and watched her grandson play catch with his father. She and her daughter, Olivia, were wrapped in fleece blankets, and Kathryn nursed a cooling cup of coffee.
“Dad would love to be out there playing catch,” Olivia observed. “But, he would have already devised a competition, like how many tosses they could make before someone drops the ball, just to make it more fun. Wouldn’t he?”
“Probably,” her mother replied.
“Are you listening to me?”
“Yes, I am. Chakotay would love to be playing catch and would already have a competition in place.”
Kathryn frowned. “I’m pretty sure that’s all you said.”
“I mean, you have no further comment about Dad?”
“You wanted a comment?” She shifted to study her daughter’s face for a moment. “He was a fun guy to have around?”
Olivia huffed, tossing the blanket aside and standing up. “That’s all you have to say? He was fun to have around?”
Kathryn carefully placed the mug on the side table, gathered the blanket around her shoulders, and joined her daughter at the porch railing, sliding her arm around the younger woman’s waist. “Is something bothering you today?”
“It’s . . . it’s your birthday and you’re eighty years old. I’ve already lost Dad—”
“And you think I must be on death’s door, too?”
Olivia sighed. “Death is so final. It means that all the unanswered questions are going to haunt me forever.”
“So ask the questions. If I know the answers, I’ll tell you.”
“I wish that were true.”
“I’ll tell you what I know.” At Olivia’s silence, she continued, “Your father told me a great deal about his life over the years, maybe some things he never shared with you.”
“My questions aren’t about his childhood or his early years in Starfleet. Not even Voyager, really, or after.”
“Then what?” Kathryn wondered, noticing the blush on her daughter’s cheeks. “Let me guess. You want to ask about our relationship.”
“Don’t dismiss this this the way you always do, Mother. I know all kids from non-nuclear families want their parents to be together as a family unit, but I gave up on that dream years ago.”
“So you say.”
“It bugs me that I’m different. That our family is different. I need to work through all of this while I still have one of you to talk with about it.”
“‘Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.'” Kathryn gazed into the distance, the Tolstoy quote hanging between them. “There were never any secrets kept from you, sweetie. Your father and I discussed your conception with you, and we both believed that we had told you everything that there was to know, everything you needed to know, to understand what happened.” She shivered and returned to the swing, where a heat vent in the floor moderated the cold. “Ask me anything.”
“Did you ever love him?” Olivia kept her back to her mother, as if her question were too personal or an invasion of privacy for her to ask. “And I don’t mean on Quarra. I know you loved him there.”
“She loved him there. That Kathryn was passionately in love with your father.”
The younger woman’s temper flared. “She was you.”
“No, she wasn’t.”
“She was elementally you.”
“No, she wasn’t.” Kathryn picked up her coffee and stared into it, unwilling to taste it when it was so obviously cold and bitter. “I can understand why you think we were the same person. You’ve seen the pictures, read the logs that The Doctor salvaged. She looked like me. She had my scientific knowledge. Her personality and sense of humor were very close to mine.
“But people are the sum total of their experience, Olivia, and most of what makes me who I am, who I was then, had been neatly erased from my memory. And the same was true for your father.”
The hunching of Olivia’s shoulders revealed her tension. “Dad told me he loved you.”
“Did he?” The silence between them stretched until Kathryn had to continue. “I suppose we shared a special type of love, beyond definition. He was my best friend, the one person I knew would do everything in his power to keep from letting me down. And I would rather die than disappoint him. I loved him in the same way.”
“But no passion?”
“You’re talking about physical love. Romantic love. Intercourse.” Kathryn waited, hoping for some sort of response, but getting none. “Do you want to discuss the different kinds of love? Or can I just say that I loved him for who he was, as much as I could, no questions asked? No demands made?” She scowled into the coffee mug, wishing she could escape to the kitchen for a refill.
“He said that Quarra ruined your chances for a future together, that what happened on the planet and the struggle over my birth drove a wedge between you that could never be overcome.”
Kathryn caught her breath, but then, after a moment of consideration, shook her head. “He didn’t tell you that.”
“I beg your pardon?” Her daughter turned and gave her a look that was so much her own “glare” that Kathryn had to bite back a smile.
“This is your guilt talking, I think, Olivia.”
“He wrote about it in his logs.”
“Ah, and that’s where he ‘told’ you, in his logs. His private musings.” She frowned, imagining what he might have written. “No doubt he ranted and raved about our predicament after Quarra, especially before Voyager returned to Earth. But we worked through those problems, and there was no lasting resentment from them. We truly put all that behind us once we were home and enjoyed parenting you together.”
“You don’t know what he wrote, Mother.”
“I have a pretty good idea. I know that we write many things as we think through a problem, things that we sort through. The one thing I can tell you, without hesitation, is that it had no lasting impact on our relationship, not ultimately. Put that assumption to rest.” She toyed with the fringe on the blanket. “What happened on Quarra was not real; it wasn’t your father who fell in love with me. I wasn’t the woman who fell in love with your father. We remembered none of it, so, in reality, it didn’t happen. What happened there couldn’t affect our ‘chances,’ as you call it.”
“It did happen, I’m proof of that, and the struggle about me, that was real, too.”
“Oh, it was real, all right.” Kathryn frowned, pushing aside the bitter memories of those months that she and Chakotay fought so hard about whether to proceed with the pregnancy. “It was just one of many confrontations. We argued about many things and got past them, found common ground.”
“What happened out there made it impossible for you and Dad to be together, right? Your fight over having me ended any chance you had.”
Kathryn stood up. “I need some hot coffee.”
“First, answer the question.”
“Inside. Let me refill my coffee.” In the kitchen, Kathryn busied herself with the routine of preparing her signature drink, measuring and grinding the coffee beans, heating the water, using the coffee press to fill her insulated mug. After a deep draft of the fresh brew, she sat down at the table, still lost in thought.
Olivia watched, realizing that her mother was considering what she should say, what to tell her daughter about her father. She sat down across from her and waited.
“I was twenty-three when my father died,” Kathryn started, without explanation. “I thought I knew all about my parents’ relationship. After all, I’d lived with them for most of my life, I’d seen them deal with all sorts of challenges, I’d heard them argue and make up dozens of times. But I quickly realized, as I watched my mother grieve over his death, that I actually knew very little of their reality, of their silent understandings, their compromises, their marital ethic.” She reached forward and squeezed her daughter’s hand. “How much harder it must be for you to understand Chakotay and me, when you had so few chances to see us together.”
“I saw you plenty.”
“Yes, and you saw how deep our friendship was, how well we worked together and found common ground. Focus on that, not Quarra. You must put Quarra aside.”
“That’s where I was conceived.”
“Physically, yes, but the people who conceived you don’t exist. They never did. They were an aberration.”
“No, sweetie, no ‘buts.’ What happened after we left Quarra didn’t ‘ruin our chances’ any more than all of the other trials and challenges we went through in the Delta Quadrant. That argument was more personal, more emotional, but it was also just more—more of the same sort of conflict we worked through all the time.”
“So, if you hadn’t been caught in the Delta Quadrant? There would have been a chance that you would have been together?”
“Probably not. Your father was Maquis and I was Starfleet. I would have arrested him and taken him to prison.”
“So, without his time in the Maquis, then?”
“I was engaged to be married when I met Chakotay.”
“So, if you hadn’t been engaged?”
“Stop!” Kathryn laughed out loud. “Don’t you see how ridiculous this is?”
Olivia buried her face in her hands, her voice muffled as she said, “Can’t you please just give me a straight answer?”
“I’m doing the best I can. We cared about each other deeply, truly, the way committed, intimate friends love each other. But the very experiences that drew us to each other as friends also made it impossible for us to be a couple in the way that you, our child, would want us to be.”
Olivia stared at her in disbelief. “The answer can’t be both ‘yes’ and ‘no,’ Mother.”
“But that, my darling girl, is what the answer is.”
Olivia brought her fist down on the table and then stood, turning to leave the house without a single word. When her mother saw her join her family in their backyard play, she rubbed her forehead and decided that it would be a good idea to take something for the headache that was blooming behind her eyes.