Cherishing the Connection
Disclaimer: I do not own the characters from Star Trek Voyager. The rights to those characters and to the show belong to the creators of the show and Paramount.
Additional thanks to Camryn and Belanna for the pictures used here.
The soft skin was slick from the bath, and the flailing legs made it even more difficult to get the tiny diaper on the newborn. Kathryn found herself unable to think of the squirming baby on the bed as her own. Of course she took responsibility for her, but the maternal instinct she had always thought would be present when she had a baby was almost non-existent. There were twinges, times when the baby nuzzled against her while nursing, and mewed softly in contentment. Times when she believed the baby knew her as her mother and instinctively loved her. These were the moments when she could return that love and bask in the fleeting idea that her own existence was worth something, that someone would be willing to receive the love she had to give, but then the feeling would disappear, vanish into the haze of guilt and loneliness she felt, and the baby would once again become just another member of the crew she had to get home.
Finally, succeeding in diapering the baby, Kathryn pulled down the light, pink summer dress the little one was wearing and lifted her up from the bed, carrying her to the baby carrier which sat on the coffee table and placing her in it. Gently, she fastened the straps that kept the baby in place, ever afraid of hurting the fragile creature in her charge. She had enjoyed babies when she was younger, but somehow caring for one of her own seemed fraught with danger. She felt ill prepared and constantly worried that she was going to do something to harm the child without even knowing it. Once the baby was securely cocooned in the seat, Kathryn sat staring at the being in front of her as a sense of hopelessness filled her. The little girl deserved better, she deserved a mother who hadn’t made mistakes and who hadn’t hurt her father as Kathryn had hurt Chakotay. Being kept from duty gave Kathryn hours to think about Chakotay’s words as they rang in her ears and pieced her heart again and again. “I won’t let you control my heart,” he’d said. “When did she start being so controlling?” she wondered. “When had controlling the damage become all she could think about?” She figured that it was a slow process beginning with the destruction of the Caretakers array and culminating in the baby’s birth. She had slowly become the captain, letting Kathryn die, except…when she had slept with Chakotay. That was Kathryn. The captain had no place or claim in their relationship. But, the captain had ended it and forced Kathryn to go through the pregnancy alone, even though the man she loved and who loved her was more than willing to go through it with her. It was strange to talk about herself as two separate entities, but at times she felt as though that was the most honest way to encapsulate who she was, and perhaps, she reasoned, this was why she was afraid to be a mother. She didn’t want the captain raising the baby, but was afraid that Kathryn would be unable to do it alone, and so she let the captain persona give her strength to face each new day in the company of the infant. She let her command courage guide her through the motions, as Kathryn lay injured and bleeding in the part of her heart that held on to Chakotay’s disdain and hatred.
Sighing, she readied herself to face the new day, screwing on her captain’s mask, and fixing her hair. It was 0700 now, Ensign Kim would be coming by to watch the baby while she took her medically ordered hour on the holideck. Kathryn knew that the ensign would take the baby to see Chakotay and in some part of her mind, she relished the knowledge that the little one in front of her would be getting some attention from someone who could truly show her how much he loved her. Tears began to course down Kathryn’s cheeks as she realized just how wonderful Chakotay probably was with his daughter. She imagined him holding her close, singing to her, kissing her head, and letting the baby nap on his chest, drifting off to sleep in time with the beat of his heart. With pain, Kathryn remembered that on the nights they stayed together, the steady rhythm of his heart had lulled her to sleep many a time. She felt a pang at the realization that she would never know about the infant’s relationship with her father.
At the thought, Kathryn had the urge to hold the little one close, if only for a minute, just to reassure her that she was loved by both her parents and that everything would be all right. In the back of Kathryn’s mind was also the reality that she wanted to be close to Chakotay, if only through the baby, to touch what he had touched, to love what they had made together. Gently, tearfully, she undid the straps of the carrier and cautiously supporting the small head, brought the baby to lie with her head on her shoulder. Once safely nestled there, the little girl curled into her mother’s body, far more comfortable with the feel of her mother’s skin than her mother was with the feel of her small body. As Kathryn tentatively stroked the baby’s back, the comfortable mewing began again, and more tears slid down Kathryn’s cheeks as she realized that the being she was holding trusted and loved her no matter what reservations Kathryn had about doing the same in return.
The door chime startled both of them out of the moment and the baby whimpered as Kathryn jumped in surprise at the sound. Unconsciously soothing the little one with her touch, Kathryn called out “Come,’ in the best command voice she could muster, her throat still thick with unshed tears. As the door slid open, it revealed a nervous Harry Kim, who waited until the captain nodded before stepping into her quarters and over to where she and the baby sat on the couch.
“Captain, “ he addressed her with a nod.
“Harry, how are you?” she said shakily.
“Fine, thank you, and yourself?”
“Fine,” she said, in a voice not even she believed.
“Good,” he smiled, not believing her, but respecting her enough to allow the answer to stand. “Are you ready to go to the holodeck?” he asked, not wiling to take the baby from her unless she relinquished it.
“Yes,” she said, “Doctor’s orders, and you know how he gets when he thinks one of us isn’t paying attention to his medical ‘suggestions,’” she laughed, trying to joke, but her tone was too flat and she knew it, leaving the moment awkward.
“Yes,” said Harry with a forced smile, moving from foot to foot while waiting for her to hand him the child. Kathryn saw his shifting and wondered why he was so uncomfortable, until she felt the little one squirm against her and remembered that he was supposed to take the baby for the hour. Slowly and reluctantly, Kathryn lifted the infant from her shoulder and placed her back in the carrier. Whether her reluctance was from a desire to hold the baby for a while longer, or from the fear of picking her up again, not even she knew. But Harry Kim hoped that she was at last bonding with the baby.
As the captain picked up her velocity equipment and her gym bag, Harry picked up the carrier, nodded farewell to the captain and promised to have her daughter back in an hour and a half. Kathryn cringed, at the phrase, “your daughter,” and wondered at the addition of the extra half an hour, but didn’t question it, as she figured the reason for the extra time would only cause more tears to fall.
Once outside the captain’s doors, Harry turned and rang the chime for the very next set of quarters, feeling the lead weight in his heart grow larger as he did so. Every day, at precisely this time, he took the captain and commander’s daughter to see her father. He figured the captain knew where he brought the baby, and yet, she had not objected even when he had asked for the extra half-hour today. He took that as a positive sign and had been smiling when he left her quarters. But his heart always grew heavy when he brought the child to the commander. The man retained his command presence on the bridge and was still open and warm with everyone who came to see him, but in the privacy of his own quarters, Harry saw a different man, a man who only gazed upon a daughter he loved as much as life itself for an hour a day, and whose soul mate had torn out his heart. Everyone knew what had happened between the command team. Of course, they didn’t know the exact words that were spoken, or the actions that were taken, but even Tuvok could feel the pain that hung over the couple and which shrouded their daughter in uncertainty and unrest.
As they had every day, since the ritual had begun, the doors slid open at Harry and the baby’s arrival without a sound from inside. Harry had been surprised the first time this had occurred, but soon realized that the commander had programmed the doors to his quarters to open when his daughter’s bio-signature was in front of them. Harry stepped inside and looked around for Chakotay. He found the big man on the couch. The lights were dim, but he could still make out the streaks that lined the commander’s cheeks. His heart contracted painfully once again for the friend that was going through an agony that he could not begin to understand.
“Commander,” Harry whispered, “I brought the baby to see you. She’s awake today. Just woke up before we got here. She must have known she was coming to see her father.” Chakotay turned at the sound of his voice and Harry could tell that the commander was trying to smile, but he didn’t quite make it and the expression on his face ended in more of a grimace. The man’s eyes remained bright with unshed tears as he approached the carrier in Harry’s left hand and peered down into it.
“Hello, beautiful” he whispered to the baby, reaching down to unhook her from the seat as Harry continued to hold the handle of the carrier. Once the baby was securely nestled against his chest, he straightened looked the ensign in the eye. His voice shook, as he addressed the young man. “Thank you, Harry…I’ll have her ready for you in an hour. I know her mother wouldn’t appreciate being handed a baby with a dirty diaper. Kathryn…the captain was never one for the messy stuff.” His voice trailed off, as he tried to ignore the ache in his heart at the idea of Kathryn playing with their daughter in her quarters without him. He relished the visits with his little one, but she reminded him so much of her mother that it was all he could do to hold it together until Harry left.
“You’re welcome, sir, and make that an hour and a half today. I told the captain I was going to take the baby for an extra few minutes to give her a bit more rest. She didn’t seem to mind.”
Chakotay’s face lit up in a slightly more convincing smile this time, as he realized that he would have even just a little bit more time with the little girl that was the light of his existence. He hadn’t suspected that Harry knew just how much every minute with his daughter meant to him. The fact that the ensign cared enough to risk Kathryn’s glare just to give him those few moments was too much for to Chakotay to bear, but he was able to turn towards the replicator to order a bottle quickly enough that Harry didn’t see his tears. Pretending to fiddle with the controls, he bought himself an extra few moments to compose his emotions before turning to look over his shoulder and looking at Harry as he said, “0830 hours then.” Nodding, Harry made his way to the doors and as they slid open to allow him to exit, he looked back once more as the commander moved with his daughter from the replicator and took a seat on the couch, cradling her close as he watched her drink the bottle, gurgling swallows mixing with the sound of his tears.
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