Disclaimer: Star Trek Voyager and its characters are not mine. No infringement intended.
Summary: A Janeway/coffee story with a dash of J and C friendship. Written for Tanya as part of VAMB’s 2011 Secret Santa exchange.
The Coffee Club
The Janeway family farm
Kathryn Janeway, age four, sits at the kitchen table, swinging her legs as she carefully sets the table with her porcelain tea set. Four tiny cups and saucers define the dimensions of her smaller “table,” a carefully arranged square, and in the middle is a slightly larger platter with tiny portions of buttered toast and irregular cookie fragments. Imaginary friends face her like the ladies at her mother’s bridge club, patiently waiting for the ceremony to begin.
“I’m ready, Mommy.” She looks up, her blue eyes flashing with excitement, as her mother brings a small flowered tea pot to the table.
“Be careful, Kit. The pot is pretty warm,” her mother began, “and-.”
“And don’t spill. I know.”
The tea pot does not hold tea, however, for Kathryn is already a coffee aficionado. At her direction, Gretchen has mixed equal portions of cream and hot coffee and added a generous measure of sugar, filling the small container full—perhaps 300 milliliters of liquid. This coffee party will keep Kathryn busy for an hour, while her mother completes some household chores. This morning, Gretchen is scrapbooking Kathryn’s fourth birthday party and finishing a quilt for the new baby that is due to arrive in a few months.
Kathryn serves her quests by pouring a few drops of sweet coffee into their cups and serving the tiny treats onto matching plates. She keeps up a running conversation about any number of topics that interest her: counting to 100 by twos, fives, or tens; Ladadog’s latest trick of rolling over on command; the likelihood of her father coming home that afternoon to take her to the park to swing. Of course, she sips her guests’ coffee as well as her own, while Lad lounges beneath her chair lest any food should fall to the floor.
Gretchen enjoys listening to her daughter’s chatter as she works, a happy hour of domestic tranquility, until the coffee pot runs dry. The talking stops, and Gretchen braces herself for the upcoming battle.
“Mommy, I need more coffee, please.” The childish voice is confident and melodious.
“No more coffee, Kitten.”
“I said ‘please,'” the child reminded her.
“I know you did, but too much coffee will keep you from taking your nap this afternoon.” As soon as the words were out of her mouth, Gretchen regretted them, for she knew what her daughter would not react well.
“I don’t need naps, Mommy. I’m not a baby anymore.” Kathryn huffed, insulted.
Time to offer an olive branch. “Let me fill the teapot with apple juice, instead.”
Kathryn shook her head. “All we have left is cookies, and they don’t taste good with apple juice.”
“I want coffee, please,” Kathryn demanded, her tone a perfect match for her father’s when he barked an order over the communication link.
Gretchen sighed and stood up. “No more coffee. You can pretend the milk is coffee, if you like.”
There was a pause as Kathryn’s face settled into resolve. “Daddy would let me have more coffee.”
Gretchen repressed a smile. Lately, Kathryn thought Edward was her personal servant who was pledged to indulge her every whim, and no wonder. He felt guilty about his long absences from home and tended to spoil them both at every opportunity. He probably would give Kathryn all the coffee she wanted, let her skip her afternoon nap, and then retreat to his study when she became cranky that evening, letting Gretchen deal with her sleeplessness. But even Edward knew that they had to present a united front when their little schemer tried to play both sides against the middle.
“Daddy knows that little girls shouldn’t have too much coffee.”
“Then I’ll have nothing,” she pouted, leaning back in her chair with arms crossed. Gretchen shrugged and returned to her task.
After a suitable period of pouting, Kathryn picked up the remaining cookie pieces and dropped them to the floor, watching Lad slurp them up or catch them midair. When the treats were gone, she climbed down from her perch and threw an arm over the dog’s shoulders, letting him clean the crumbs from her face and shirt as she buried her face in his neck.
“No apple juice or milk for us, Lad,” she whispered. “For us, it’s coffee, or nothing.”
The Delta Quadrant, soon after the events of “Basics, Part 2″ in Season 3
“This brew from Xlanxis has a pretty high caffeine level,” Chakotay pointed out as he sipped the beverage from a steaming mug. “And it’s bitter, too, like coffee.”
Kathryn Janeway wrinkled her nose. “It’s orange and smells like moldy carpet. And, anyway, if I just wanted caffeine, I’d have the doctor fix up a daily dose in a hypospray.”
“It’s actually pretty popular with the coffee drinkers among the crew,” he persisted, “and the flavor grows on you.”
“They have no real taste, then.” She raised a brow. “I accept no substitutes for coffee—unless I’m desperate. And, for now, I have enough replicator rations to meet my coffee needs.”
“Has anyone ever told you that you might be a little bit picky about coffee?”
She laughed. “Oh, my, yes. My mother claims I went directly from mother’s milk to espresso with just three glasses of milk in between.”
“And, if I remember correctly, the only place it’s grown to suit you is on Earth.”
“It doesn’t transplant well, and, anyway, the Federation doesn’t approve of importing new plants and animals to alien planets because it almost always ends in disaster, but you know that.”
He finished his drink and placed it on the table between them, their dinner dishes having been replicated moments earlier.
“I’m surprised you didn’t bring coffee beans with you.”
“I didn’t need to. The replicator does a decent job, especially since our mission was supposed to take three weeks or so.”
“So they didn’t even load the usual diplomatic supply packet before you left?”
Kathryn frowned. “The what?”
“You know. The supplies for diplomatic receptions.”
“I doubt it, but they might have.” She thought, with a familiar pang of regret, that Cavit, her original first officer, probably would have known. “Why do you ask?”
He grinned. “Because the diplomatic packet has several pounds of coffee beans that are to be used when aliens want to taste something specific to Earth. They enjoy the whole ceremony, you know, the grinding of the beans, the brewing of the coffee.”
She stood up. “How did I forget about this?”
“You have had a lot of more important things on your mind the last three years.”
“Nothing is more important than coffee beans, Commander.”
Chakotay’s grin widened. “Shall we go look?”
Kathryn was already heading for her desk to pull up the ship’s initial supply manifest. “Give me a minute to check this out.”
Chakotay hadn’t seen the captain this excited in quite some time, and he hoped that the packet had been loaded and not overlooked. Now that Kathryn had her hopes up, she might come down hard if she were disappointed.
“Here it is!” she exclaimed, as her face lit up with joy. “Cargo bay one. Let me download the exact location and we’ll go check it out.”
“Where about in cargo bay one?” he wondered, looking over her shoulder. Cargo bay one had been through a lot in recent months, and he worried that the diplomatic packet might have been a victim of careless inventory management. “You realize that it might have been lost or destroyed.”
“You might be right.” She sighed as she downloaded the location onto a PADD. “But we won’t know for sure until we look.”
“I just don’t want you to be disappointed,” he said as they left her quarters together.
“Don’t worry,” she replied, patting his arm. “I won’t send you out an airlock if it’s gone.”
“I wish I could be 100% sure of that, but this is coffee we’re talking about.”
The initial search was unsuccessful. Everything in the cargo bay had been rearranged years earlier to allow for the construction of Kes’s airponics bay, and he doubted that anyone had bothered to keep track of a small black case full of odd supplies.
“It would have been about here,” Chakotay said, gesturing at some wildly flowering plants that now filled the shelf.
“Right where the hull breach occurred during the Kazon attack,” Kathryn agreed, her voice sad. “Oh, well.”
“Don’t give up yet. That attack happened long after the cargo bay had been rearranged.” He put his hands on his hips and looked around. “It’s a relatively small box, so it could have been shoved anywhere.”
They began a systematic search of the rest of the cargo bay, finding any number of handy supplies, but not the supplies they were looking for. After an hour, Kathryn threw up her hands in defeat.
“We might as well give up and get back to work.”
“Give up on what?” Kes asked as she entered the bay to tend her plants.
“We were looking for the diplomatic supply box,” Chakotay explained. “About this long and this tall, it would have been on this shelf over here, about eye level.”
“The little black box with the Federation symbol on the top?”
Chakotay nodded. “Probably. It would have had some samples of various supplies from the major Federation planets.”
“Tea leaves, grains, and beans?” Kes wondered.
“Yes, that’s it. Do you know where it is?” Kathryn asked, her excitement mounting. “Chakotay thinks it might have contained coffee beans.”
The young Ocampan looked worried. “I’m afraid I might have used those supplies as mulch or fertilizer.”
Silence filled the cargo bay.
Kes continued, “The box is over here, in one of the storage drawers. It was a nice sized box, not too big, and I thought I might use it to hold a gift sometime.”
Kathryn pulled out the box, opened it, and sighed, turning it upside down to demonstrate how empty it was. “I know coffee grounds make good mulch, but I didn’t think the beans could be used as fertilizer—too much caffeine.”
Kes frowned. “Are we talking about little brown beans with a crease on one side?”
Chakotay nodded. “Very bitter, too.”
“Just a minute.” The Ocampan hurried to another shelf and pointed at a large box above her head. “If you pull that down, I’ll look inside. There were a couple of items I couldn’t use, but I didn’t think I should throw them out.”
“I’m not getting my hopes up again,” Janeway muttered as Chakotay pulled down the box and opened it.
Kes rummaged through the contents for a few minutes and then pulled out a small container. “I ground some of these up for fertilizer, but then realized they were not helpful. I’m afraid this is all that’s left.”
Kathryn took the small container, a huge grin transforming her face. “This is it! Coffee beans!”
“But not many,” Chakotay warned. “Maybe enough for one pot.”
Kathryn refused to be discouraged. “Thank you, Kes. This means a lot to me. You have no idea how much.”
The Ocampan smiled. “I think I might. I’m sorry I wasted some of it, Captain.”
“At least you didn’t throw out what was left.”
“I should have realized what it was.”
“Not to worry, Kes,” the captain reassured her, putting an arm around her shoulders. “I’m happy to have this. I’m not complaining.”
Chakotay returned with Kathryn to her quarters and watched as she sealed the beans in an airtight container.
“I’ll save these for a really special occasion,” she said, her eyes shining. “Who could have imagined that after all these months, there were still coffee beans on board the ship?”
“It’s practically a miracle,” he agreed, “but I’m wondering . . . aren’t they stale?”
“Probably, but who cares?” She was too thrilled to let anything dampen her spirits. “Stale real coffee is better than replicated coffee any day, and it’s much better than any of Neelix’s substitutes, believe me.”
The Alpha Quadrant during “Timeless,” just before Harry and Chakotay steal the Delta Flyer and begin their search for Voyager
Somewhere in Alaska
“You want coffee with that pie?” the waitress asked. The café was a run-down neighborhood joint that the working men frequented before and after their shifts in the nearby mines, hot food served fast and without much adornment.
Chakotay looked up from his pecan pie and shook his head. “Gave up coffee fifteen years ago.”
“Fifteen years?” she smiled, thinking he was joking. “To the day?”
“Actually, it’s about a few weeks short of fifteen years.”
She leaned over, resting her elbow on the counter while her palm cradled her face. “That last cup must have been pretty special for you to remember the exact day for many years.”
“You have no idea,” he replied, looking up at her with eyes so tortured that she drew in a breath of surprise. “In many ways, my life ended that day, and I’ve tried, every day since, to forgive myself for what happened. Now, if you’d just leave me to my pie, I’d appreciate it.”
“Sure.” The waitress realized that she would get no further information from the man. A few days later, a Starfleet investigator would interview her about hinm, but all she could think to tell them was that he suffered.
Chakotay toyed with the pie and thought about that last day in the Delta Quadrant.
Fifteen years earlier, hours before Voyager used the Quantum Slipstream Drive
The briefing had gone well. The senior staff accepted the captain’s decision to use the drive, even though they knew it was as likely to be a disaster as it was to be a success, and perhaps more likely to be a disaster. The briefing room was silent as the staff members thought about their roles in the upcoming attempt and hoped that they would not let the rest of the crew down. No one was more worried than Harry Kim, who would ultimately guide Voyager to safety or to her doom. As the room emptied, Kim paused, as if to say something, and then turned, his eyes haunted.
“Commander,” Janeway said, “would you join me for a few minutes in the ready room?”
Chakotay nodded and told Harry to proceed to the shuttle bay and start the Delta Flyer’s preflight checklist. “I’ll be right along.”
As he followed his captain’s slim figure across the bridge to her office, he couldn’t help but think about their dinner together the night before.
He’d barely masked his surprise when he walked into her quarters to find candlelight, flowers, china, and crystal. She told him that they were celebrating their last night in the Delta Quadrant, but the setting also screamed romance and a promise for a change in the future. A few minutes later, her admonition that they’d “waited long enough” was accompanied by an affection squeeze of his shoulder and a whisper in his ear that made him break out in gooseflesh. He was sure that her comment had multiple meanings; he was sure of it. The whole dinner had been a prelude to seduction, and Chakotay had been so happy that he’d almost never fallen asleep once they said goodnight.
These memories were on his mind as the ready room doors closed and Kathryn picked up two items from her desk.
“Remember this?” she asked, holding up a small airtight container.
“The diplomatic coffee beans?” He was amazed. “How did you resist the temptation all these years?”
“Oh, I can be very good at resisting temptation when I have to be,” she answered, a saucy gleam in her eye. “Besides, I’ve been waiting for this moment to use them. If you’ll grind the beans with this little device, I’ll get the French press.”
“Do you want me to grind all of them or save back a few for another time?”
“Use them all. We both know that this attempt at the slipstream drive is probably a one-way proposition.” She plopped the coffee pot on the table. “Either we make it to the Alpha Quadrant, or we won’t be having coffee again.”
He glanced up at her in alarm. “When you put it that way—”
“Not to worry. I’m sure we can pull this off.”
He finished grinding the beans just as she arrived with the hot water.
“Smell that aroma, would you? Does anything smell better than fresh ground coffee?”
“That’s a poor second in my book.” She poured the water and ground coffee into the press and sat back to let the mixture brew. “I can actually feel the excitement in the air, can’t you? The crew is eager to get started.”
“Excited and nervous.”
She pressed the plunger down and then poured the brew into two small china cups, handing one to Chakotay. He tried to repress the sense of foreboding in his stomach.
“Chakotay, I don’t know how to thank you for all your support and loyalty over the last five years.” She looked up at him with tears shining in her eyes. “I’m truly humbled by it.”
“I appreciate your limitless courage and determination. I don’t know how you do it.”
Kathryn swallowed hard and gazed into the coffee cup cradled in her hands. “I’m afraid this is too great a risk after all, Chakotay, that we should just disassemble the drive and hedge our bets.”
Surprised at her rare admission of doubt, he said, “I’m convinced that we can do this if everything goes as we expect it to.” He held up his cup in a toast. “This is our last cup of coffee together until we acquire more on Earth.”
“That’s right,” she agreed. “Our last cup until we’re home. And when we get there, we’ll share our first cup together.”
“That’s a promise I’ll be happy to keep.”
The memory of that promise haunted him, for there was no shared cup of coffee in their future. He and Harry survived by some miracle, but Voyager disappeared into thin air, taking with it every person he cared about in the universe.
For many years, just the aroma of fresh-brewed coffee made him sick to his stomach, and the thought of actually tasting it was impossible to imagine. He gradually taught himself to tolerate the beverage, even as he avoided it. He’d promised her that he’d had his last cup until they shared another together on Earth, and since that could never happen, he would never have coffee again.
“You look like you lost your best friend,” the waitress said as she picked up his empty plate and shoved a shot of bourbon in front of him. “You could use this.”
“Thanks.” Chakotay tossed back the liquor, relishing the burn of alcohol in his throat. “And you’re right. I have lost my best friend.”
He checked the time and realized that he was late. Harry and Tessa were waiting for him. It was time to steal the Delta Flyer and correct their mistake.
Delta Quadrant, just after Harry and Chakotay “reset” the past
Kathryn Janeway walked out of the messhall just as Harry Kim began to listen to the message he’d sent to himself from the future. She was still trying to come to terms with what had happened—the failure of the drive, the crash of Voyager, the rescue staged from some point in the future—because, in her mind, there had been no break in time. They’d managed to get out of the slipstream without damage.
“How did he take the news?”
She looked up and smiled. Of course, Chakotay would be waiting in the hallway to check up on her. “I’m not sure. Initially, he felt bad that his calculations forced Voyager out of the slipstream too soon, but then he was elated that the ship hadn’t crashed, as it did in the other timeline.”
“We’re all glad about that.”
“You worked with him, of course. It was a team effort.”
He shrugged. “Just correcting a mistake, that’s all.”
They strolled toward the turbolift, lost in thought, and then Chakotay chuckled.
“What’s so funny?”
“I was just thinking about how we promised each other this morning that our next cup of coffee would be shared on Earth, remember? Well, because you used up all the diplomatic beans, that will have to come true.”
Kathryn grinned. “I guess so, but I don’t regret using those coffee beans. I enjoyed that cup of coffee, didn’t you?”
“I sure did. In fact, as a reminder of that promise, I made you this.” He opened his hand an gave her a small clear cube.
“What is it?” She examined the cube and discovered that two coffee beans had been preserved in it. “Are these two of the diplomatic coffee beans?”
He nodded. “When I ground the coffee, I kept a couple out in case we needed a reminder of where you’ll have that next cup of coffee.”
“And who I will share it with,” she whispered. “I’m going to put this on my bedside table where I’ll see it every day. I just hope we survive long enough to get home.”
“I have complete faith in you, Kathryn.”
“Even after this slipstream fiasco?”
“I’d say it was partially successful. We are ten years closer to home now.”
“Only because you and Harry rescued us.”
“No need to thank us,” he replied. “I’m sure it was our pleasure.”
The Alpha Quadrant, one week after Voyager’s return
Starfleet Headquarters, San Francisco, CA
Kathryn Janeway and Chakotay had just completed their first full day on Earth—in debriefings—and were slowly making their way to their temporary quarters on the grounds of Starfleet Headquarters. Starfleet had kept the crew on the ship for the first week as they went over the events of their return and took stock of many of the changes made during their seven-year journey. Crew members with families close by were allowed to see their loved ones for a short time on the ship, with a promise of a longer visit in a few days’ time.
“Two hours with Mom and Phoebe just wasn’t enough,” Kathryn complained. “And yet, I feel guilty because so many of the crew have been unable to see any of their relatives yet.”
“We’re lucky they let families beam aboard the ship, at all.”
“I keep telling myself that we’re lucky, Chakotay, but sometimes I wonder.”
“Are you telling me you’d rather be in the Delta Quadrant?”
“I’m telling you that I want to skip all these meetings and debriefings.”
“I thought you disliked time travel.”
“I could make an exception right now. Just skip ahead a few months and get on with our lives.”
They walked into the Visiting Officer’s Quarters where the desk clerk waved them down.
“Captain Janeway, you have a package.”
“You’re kidding!” She looked at Chakotay. “No one knows where we’re staying. How could I get a delivery?”
He took the box from the clerk. “Let’s go see what it is.”
Kathryn was barely inside her quarters when she took the box and began to tear it open. The first thing she found was a dark brown gift card. “‘Congratulations on your return to Earth and welcome to the coffee of the month club.'”
“How about that?” Chakotay grinned. “Real coffee on your first day on Earth.”
“You did this, didn’t you?” she looked up at him with affection shining in her eyes.
“I thought it would be the perfect welcome home gift.”
“You were right.” She pulled out the large container of freshly roasted beans and studied the label. “These beans are from Sumatra. One of my favorite coffees.”
“You’ll get a different type bean every month.”
“Let’s fix a pot right now.” She dashed to her galley and found the equipment needed to grind and brew the coffee. Chakotay ground the beans, and Kathryn brewed a large pot, enough for several large mugs each.
“I’m going so charged up with caffeine that I won’t be able to sleep tonight,” he complained, but Kathryn was caught up in the experience. She stood stock still with the coffee mug under her nose as she took deep breaths, a look a bliss on her face. “Maybe I should leave you two alone,” he grinned.
“Don’t you dare. I happen to know that the coffee we had in the debriefings today was replicated, so this is, officially, our first real coffee on Earth. We promised to drink it together. Remember?”
She started to taste the coffee, but then stopped. “We should have a toast, don’t you think? Something appropriate for the occasion?”
“How about this?” Chakotay thought a moment. “I expected you to get us home, but I didn’t realize it would take two of you to do it.”
“Not funny,” she muttered, narrowing her eyes. “The admirals are determined to punish me for what that woman did.”
“Okay, then how about this one. To the journey.”
“Nope. Harry used that on the ship. It has to be something new.”
He took a moment to study her face. She already looked more relaxed than he’d seen her in years, since New Earth, in fact, and he liked what he saw. He’d always been aware of the electricity between them, especially the night before they attempted the slipstream drive. She had thought that they might be home in hours, and he sensed that she was promising him something more once they were home. He had to find out if his sixth sense had been correct.
“All right, I have it,” he finally said. “To a lifetime of shared coffee.”
“I guess I’m saying that I’d like our partnership to continue.”
“Starfleet has already told you that you have to leave the service, so how-?”
“I was thinking of a more personal partnership.”
She stared at him in utter confusion. “But what about-? I mean, aren’t you and-? Haven’t you started a relationship-?”
“With Seven of Nine?”
“Seven came to see me the other day. She has ‘reassessed the advisability of a liaison’ and has decided that it is ‘no longer in our best interests.’ She assures me I’ll adjust.”
The corner of Kathryn’s mouth twitched as she repressed a grin. “Is that the way she said it?”
“More or less.” He shook his head. “I wish her well, but I’m glad to be able to explore a different liaison, if you get my drift.”
Kathryn smiled. “So, a toast to a lifetime of shared coffee? I can drink to that.”
And so they did.