"How do you know that's where I keep it?"
"Oh I can't tell you."
"And why not?"
"The Temporal Prime Directive."
Her smile was radiant as she took another sip of cider and Chakotay just leaned back and laughed. No matter how long she pestered him, he wasn't planning to reveal the events of his day. But he was enjoying watching her wheedle. His thoughts were interrupted by the chirp of her comm badge.
"Bridge to the Captain," they heard Harry say. She tapped it.
"Go ahead, Harry."
"Captain, I think you and the Commander should get up here. I've got something you need to see." They glanced curiously at each other, setting their glasses down.
"We're on our way," she replied as their conversation was cut short for the second time that night.
"Report," she demanded when they emerged from the turbo lift, heading straight for the OPS console.
"I was running scans of the ship and I noticed something odd. I should have seen it sooner, Captain. I'm sorry." Harry, with obvious remorse pulled up an internal schematic and indicated a section. "It's like it's just not there. That whole corridor of deck six." The captain looked over at Chakotay—his eyes looked as though they would pop out at any minute.
"Harry, where are the gel packs on deck six?" He demanded, his voice almost frantic.
"The only gel packs on deck six are in that section, right next to the weapons locker in that same corridor. Why?" Chakotay ignored his question and pulled Kathryn aside, cursing under his breath.
"Chakotay to the Doctor," he said tapping his badge.
"Go ahead Commander."
"Doctor I need you to replicate a chronoton infused serum, at least two and a hypo spray casing that can withstand a temporal barrier." Kathryn was about to interject when he continued. "I'm transporting the Captain to you—inoculate her with one and give her the remaining in the hypo spray. Do you understand?"
"Yes of course I understand, would you mind telling me what—"
"That will be all Doctor; she'll be there in a minute." He turned back to see Kathryn, hands on her hips and an eyebrow raised.
"Would you care to explain—" she started but he wasn't ready for chit-chat or explanations yet.
"You asked me what happened and now you're gonna get the chance to find out. Once you've been inoculated, meet me in that corridor on deck six." He called for a site to site transport and as she vanished he said, "Be careful." Turning his attention back to Harry as he walked for the turbo lift he asked, "Are all crew members accounted for?"
"Good. I don't want anybody on deck six, evacuate the entire section. Keep them away from that corridor." He called as the turbo lift doors closed. Once he was alone he slammed his hand against the wall. "Damn!" He yelled.
'How did we miss one? Were we that distracted? How did no one realize?' He thought to himself. Though his mind was filled with questions, he couldn't seem to focus enough to figure out any answers.
The hallway was quiet, almost eerily quiet as he walked toward the invisible barrier he was sure he'd find. And he did, just before the forgotten panel hiding the gel packs. Nothing in this area seemed to be amiss. He didn't see any crew members and silently wondered if he'd stumbled into the past or the future. Other than the weapons locker there was only one room in this hallway, unused crew quarters and curiosity got the best of him.
'Maybe I can find out what time frame this is,' he told himself as he overrode the door lock and stepped inside.
The room was dark and he could see whatever time frame it was, it still wasn't in use. He quickly glanced around and took note that the computers and replicator seemed to be offline.
'So much for that thought.'
He let out a sigh, wondering silently how they'd get out of this when he heard a noise. His head spun around toward the couch. There was someone there, he could hear shuffling and then he could see a small hand on the arm of the couch as a small dark auburn head rose from its hiding spot. She stood slowly, scared of who had found her. Once she caught sight of him she ran at him, tears streaming down her small face.
"Daddy!" her soft voice cried as she launched herself into his arms. He was so taken aback he didn't know how else to respond but let her hug him. "I knew you'd find me. I knew you would." Chakotay slowly pulled her back to take a good look at the child. She was human, at least six. Her hair was reddish with dark tones, her face—he gasped. Her face was Kathryn's. The curve of her chin, her nose, the shape of her eyes. Through the dark of the room, once she'd opened her eyes he could plainly see his own, that deep brown and his dimples resting on gentle golden skin.
He was having difficulty finding his breath, let alone the ability to speak when the doors opened. He stood abruptly, pushing the girl lightly behind his legs.
'Why did I insist she come with me?' he cursed himself, not sure how she'd react.
"Kathryn, go back to the bridge," he ordered once he found his voice. He had no intention of letting her see this particular apparent glimpse of their future.
"Excuse me, Commander. I think your ordering me around today is about over. Now tell me what the hell is going on." She was livid and baffled. She met his eyes and could see him pleading with her but she ignored and took a step inside the room. The girl hidden behind him peeked around his legs and broke free from his grasp making a beeline for the Captain.
"Mommy!" The girl launched herself onto Kathryn in much the same way she had moments ago and Kathryn's eyes grew wide. She looked down from the girl attached to her leg to the man who stood resigned in front of her, awe still evident on his own face. Chakotay pushed aside his shock and knelt down next to the girl.
"Can you tell me what happened?" he asked softly, laying a hand on her back.
"Miral and I were playing hide and seek when the ship shook. We didn't hear any shouts or see any ships so I tried to tell her to stay here," she looked at Kathryn. "Like you told me to stay put whenever something goes wrong until you or Daddy come find me. But she wouldn't listen and when she tried to leave she disappeared. So I hid behind the couch, I stayed here like you told me to." Kathryn was furiously trying to read her first officers expression and understand the situation
'She called me Mommy. How can that be? She looks like me. That hair, her face—it's like looking at myself when I was seven.' Then she saw her eyes—they were not hers, they were dark. A deep gentle brown. 'I know those eyes,' she told herself as it all started sinking in.
"Oh my…" she gasped taking a step back. 'Temporal anomaly.'
"Why don't you sit over on the couch and let me talk…to the Captain." He said gently, ushering her over while he watched a million emotions racing across Kathryn's face. He nodded toward the bedroom and she met him there. They stood in silence for a minute, both trying to reconcile their own emotional turmoil with their daughter sitting in the other room.
"Let me start at the beginning. The ship was fractured into different time frames, thirty-seven. The serum the Doctor gave me let me pass through them, like you just did. The oldest was where I found you—before you made it to the Badlands. The latest had a twenty or thirty something Naomi and Icheb in Astrometrics. I had to convince you to help me put the ship back together by injecting the gel packs with the serum and forcing it back into temporal alignment. I don't know how we missed this one or how it even worked without it—but she must be from a future timeline."
"A future timeline when you and I have a daughter." Her voice broke on the last word and she turned away from him to hide the feelings she still couldn't understand. He reached out to touch her shoulder but decided against it.
"I think that's a conversation that can wait until later. We need to get her back to her timeline. But I don't think we can leave her here by herself. She's scared." She spun back around to face him.
"We can't go parading our daughter around the ship, Commander. In case you haven't noticed, she's quite the blend of both of us." The irritation was seething out of her. "If the crew doesn't already think there's something between us, they sure as hell will now." He stepped toward her and took her by the shoulders.
"Kathryn, that's not important right now. That anomaly hit us hours ago—who knows how long she's been in here all by herself. The replicators aren't working, she probably hasn't eaten and she's terrified. We don't know when we'll be able to send her home and until we can, she's our responsibility—parameters or not." She sighed, hanging her head. She knew he was right. He released her, rubbing her arm encouragingly and they walked out to the other room, sitting on either side of the girl.
"We have some questions that might confuse you a little." Chakotay started. "But I promise everything will be okay, alright?" She nodded silently and he took a deep breath. "What's your name, Sweetheart?" Sure enough, she gave him a puzzled look.
"Taya. Taya Gretchen Janeway." She whispered shyly. "After you and Grandma." Kathryn let out a barely audible gasp.
"How old are you, Taya?" She asked the girl softly.
"I just turned eight." She paused. "Why are you asking me—don't you remember?" They both could hear the fear creeping into her voice, but he had one more.
"Do you remember what year it is?"
"2386. Almost 2387." Both Kathryn and Chakotay exchanged amazed glances. After some fast calculations they understood just how soon this future was approaching.
"Taya, you remember when the ship shook?" Chakotay asked and she nodded. "The ship was thrown into a bunch of different time periods. Some from a long time ago, when your mommy and I first met and some that haven't happened yet. We tried to put the ship back but we missed part of it. The rest of the ship is in 2377, Sweetie, you haven't been born yet." Her face turned to panic and Kathryn, sensing her distress pulled her into her lap.
"We're going to fix it—don't you worry. We'll get you home." She reassured, smoothing the girls long hair.
"But what about Miral and Kole? Are they going to be okay? Where did they go?"
"They'll be waiting for you when you get back. Your friends will be just fine." Chakotay promised.
"Miral's my friend—Kole's my little brother. He's six." She thought for a minute while her parents looked in wonder at each other. "So does that mean that Kole is with you in 2386?"
"That's exactly what it means." Kathryn assured her.
"I'm going to call the Doctor for the right amount of serum to give her," he told Kathryn and excused himself to the hallway. Once on the other side of the barrier he tapped his badge. "Chakotay to Sickbay."
"Doctor, what dosage of the serum would you give to an eight year old human female?"
"An eight year old human? If we had one on board I would reduce it by half. What is the meaning of this, Commander?"
"Chakotay out," he responded firmly, walking back in the room. "Can I see the hypo spray?" he asked Kathryn and she handed it to him. "Taya, we're going to give you some medicine so you can go through the rest of the ship. It won't hurt, Mommy and I both had some so we could come see you, okay?"
"Okay," she replied softly, exposing her neck for the injection.
"We should go to sickbay and have the Doctor check her out to be safe. Then we can stop in the Mess Hall," Kathryn said.
"I'm really hungry. I haven't been able to eat since this morning. I tried the replicator after Miral disappeared but it wasn't working. Nothing was working."
"I'm sure you're hungry. We'll take care of that. Meanwhile I think I'll round the senior staff and see if we can't figure this whole thing out," Chakotay offered, standing up and extending his hand to the girl. She stood, but wobbled a little.
"Daddy I'm tired. I know you say I'm too big, but can you carry me, just this once?" Chakotay felt his heart jump into his throat as he agreed and lifted the small girl into his arms. Her hands met around his neck and her head rested on his chest. He met Kathryn's gaze, seeing a tear falling as she took in the sight of her daughter—their daughter in his arms. He shifted the weight and reached out cupping her cheek and wiping away the tear. He could tell all the irritation was gone and though he couldn't be certain he was almost sure he could feel the walls crashing down.
She was half asleep by the time they made it to Sickbay, passing by several confused crewman along the way.
"Ah, Captain. I assume someone will finally tell me what's going on here." The Doctor stated, his voice dripping with arrogance. "Who is this?" He demanded when he'd turned and caught sight of the girl. Chakotay laid her down on a biobed as she came around.
"Her name is Taya," Kathryn explained. "She's a little displaced in time at the moment. Can you run some scans and make sure she's not in any danger?" He pulled out his tricorder and started only to stop upon receiving his first reading.
"I think you'd better see this, both of you," he began.
"Doc, if it's DNA, we're already quite aware, thank you." Chakotay interjected. "There's really no doubt about those genes." The Doctor, taking in her features nodded in agreement. "Chakotay to Bridge."
"Yes, Commander." Tuvok's voice came through the comm.
"I'd like the senior staff to meet the Captain and I in sickbay. Call for all stop, I believe we're going to be here for a little while."
"Aye, sir. Bridge out." Chakotay turned back to the biobed as the Doctor was putting his tricorder away.
"Well Captain, Commander. Your daughter, though mildly dehydrated is in perfect health. I recommend a good meal, plenty of fluids and a good night's sleep."
"Thank you, Doc—" Kathryn was cut short when the doors opened allowing access to Tom, B'Elanna, Harry and Tuvok.
"Oh my God!" B'Elanna exclaimed.
"What the—" started Harry as Tom let out a long low whistle. Everyone else gaped while Tuvok raised a questioning eyebrow. Taya, enjoying the sight beamed at the newcomers.
"Aunt B'Elanna! Uncle Tom!" She shrieked before she realized. This threw everyone for a loop and Kathryn placed a hand on her arm. "They don't know me yet, do they?" she whispered to Kathryn who shook her head.
"No, not yet. Don't worry." The incoming group stepped aside, still staring while Seven entered. Everyone was silent for a moment, looking from Taya to the Captain and Commander.
"Well, I'm pretty sure the betting pool just became obsolete," Tom said breaking the silence. He took a step forward, offering his hand to Taya. "My name's Tom Paris, what's yours?" She took his hand and rolled her eyes, and act reminiscent of the former Janeway.
"I'm Taya Janeway. You don't know me yet, but I already know you. You're Miral's daddy. She's my best friend. You're married to Aunt B'Elanna." She pointed at B'Elanna while everyone else stared in shock.
"Miral is my mother's name," B'Elanna stated quietly, taking a step forward. Taya nodded profusely.
"That's right. We were both named after our grandmothers. She's Miral Kathryn, like Mommy. And I'm Taya Gretchen, like Mommy's mom. But Miral's a little older than me." At this revelation Kathryn caught Chakotay's eyes. That could only mean one thing. Chakotay flipped open a tricorder and discreetly moved to scan B'Elanna's midsection. His eyes bulged as she showed it to Kathryn. Tom, realizing what they were doing reached out for it and his shock reached a whole new level.
"Okay," Kathryn spoke up. "Before this meeting derails," she offered a sympathetic look at the Paris'. "You two can have some time when we're finished." She began to explain to them the events of Chakotay's temporal experience while he sat on the biobed next to Taya who was listening intently to every word. "…it was an oversight on both our parts and now we're left with Taya from 2386 and we have to figure out how to get her home and that section of the ship back."
"Captain, it seems to me that we just need to inject the gel pack and reinitiate the warp pulse. But we'll be working through the night making repairs to the deflector dish." B'Elanna threw an exasperated look at Chakotay and continued. "Once that's completed I can run some tests and we can do it sometime tomorrow."
"Then that will have to do." Kathryn said. "Seven, work with B'Elanna on this. Tuvok you've got the Bridge. Keep us at all stop until we can make this right. I want all of deck six to remain evacuated and off limits until further notice. The Commander and I will take care of our…guest." B'Elanna snorted, but quickly composed herself. "Believe me; this was as much of a shock to us as I'm sure it is to all of you."
"Oh, I don't know, Captain." Tom spoke up. "I bet the two of you were more shocked than the rest of us. I don't remember either of you coming to me to place bets on your relationship." The comment earned him a jab in the side from his wife and a stern glare from the resident Vulcan.
"The Captain and I are going to have to deal with enough speculation—I'm hoping we can count on your discretion on this matter. I'd sight the Temporal Prime Directive but I'm afraid we're passed that at this point." Chakotay looked around the room and took Taya's hand in his. "We are still your commanding officers—child or not."
"Captain, Commander," Harry stepped forward, cautiously. "With all due respect, I don't think you understand. Your personal life is your own and we wouldn't respect you any less no matter how it turned or turns out. I know sometimes we joke and place bets, but maybe that's more than anything because we hope you'll get the hint. I for one am excited about little Taya here. And in a few years, I can't wait to get to know her." Taya beamed.
"Thanks, Uncle Harry!"
"Yeah," B'Elanna spoke up. "We've never meant any offense by it. We love you guys; we just kind of expected it at some point." Chakotay stole a glance over at Kathryn and was shocked to see her eyes misty with unshed tears. He reached down and picked up Taya.
"Thank you all, for your support. You have your orders, now this little lady needs to eat and get to bed." He gestured towards the door. "Keep us updated." The team scattered and the Doctor walked back into his office, but the Captain was rooted to her spot. "Kathryn, are you okay?"
"I…" she began, her mind jumbled with thoughts of protocols and parameters, late night talks and stolen glances. Deciding this could wait, she steeled herself and wiped the wetness from her eyes. Clearing her throat she said, "I'm fine. Let's get this little one some dinner."
An hour later after a hearty dinner and only a few curious glances the trio was walking hand in hand to Kathryn's quarters. Once they'd replicated her some pajamas she climbed into Kathryn's bed, Chakotay sat on the edge while Kathryn leaned against the wall.
"Daddy?" Taya asked, her voice laced with exhaustion.
"Will you tell me a story?" Chakotay, feeling a bit put on the spot could only think of one. He peered over at Kathryn who he could tell was wondering if he'd oblige. He took a deep breath and a huge gamble—hoping their current situation would be able to withstand it.
"Okay." He pulled the covers over her and adjusted his seat on the bed. "Once upon a time there was an angry warrior who lived in life in conflict with the rest of his tribe." He quickly shifted his gaze toward Kathryn—her eyes were filling again but he continued. "He couldn't find peace, even with the help of his spirit guide. For a long time he struggled with his anger and fighting was the only thing that made him happy. Everyone thought he was a hero but he knew he wasn't at peace…"
"This is my favorite part," Taya whispered with a yawn and both parents smiled.
"One day he was captured by a woman warrior's tribe. She asked him to join her—to help make her tribe stronger. The woman warrior was brave, beautiful and very wise. The angry warrior swore to himself to stay by her side, to help her in any way he could. From then on, her needs would come first. And in that way the warrior began to know the true meaning of peace." He reached out and ran his hand along Taya's face as a smile grew.
"I love you, Daddy. I love you, Mommy." Her eyelids fluttered and her breathing became steady. Chakotay closed his eyes, soaking in the moment, and then leaned down to kiss her forehead.
"We love you too, Taya." He called for the lights and escorted a crying Kathryn back to the living room. Once they were out of earshot her sobs were no longer silent and he wrapped his arms around her. "Shh, it's okay." He ushered her to the couch, wiping away her tears. "Can we talk about it?" His words were gentle and soothing.
"I'm not even sure what to say. Or where to start." She admitted once she composed herself. His hand was softly rubbing her back; the other held her hands in his. "She's beautiful. Perfect."
"She is, isn't she?"
"I wasn't sure I'd ever have children. I have always wanted them." She bowed her head. "I never thought we'd have—but I'd dreamed…" She let her voice trail off and Chakotay's expression softened.
"Did you?" His breath hitched. Did she really have the same feelings he'd been hoping for for years?
"I never thought it would really happen, I couldn't allow it." She sighed. "I guess my reasoning has been a bit flawed—the way the crew have accepted her… Was I just protecting myself?"
"I think you were trying to protect all of us. But I don't want or need to be protected from this." He gestured to them both and then the bedroom. "Five years ago I told you that legend because I thought we'd start a life on New Earth. Obviously that isn't the way it happened but it's always been true, Kathryn. You are my peace, that will never change." He wiped away a few stray tears, the radiant smile shining through them lightened his heart.
"Chakotay," she whispered. "I told you once that I can't imagine a day without you. With everything we've been through I still can't imagine it. What would I do if I ever lost you? I've lost so much already—but you…"
"I can't promise that nothing will ever happen to me, you can't promise that either. But if the perfect little girl in the other room is any consolation I can promise you at least nine years." He smirked and she laughed in response. "As I've said many times before, we can't sacrifice the present waiting for a future that might never happen." He took a deep breath, scooted closer and cupped her face in his hands. "I love you, Kathryn. That won't change no matter how long we put this off, and it hasn't changed in light of recent events, but I would be honored to have this future with you." With his words her heart seemed to stop and speed up all in the same moment. She'd dreamt of those words for years, she'd been terrified of them just as long. But sitting there, their future asleep in the next room she knew it was all she wanted.
"I love you. Whether it's on Voyager, Earth or wherever else we end up, I want to end up there with you." Without wasting another second he pulled her to him and met her lips with his own, the intensity of their connection was overwhelming. With tears running down their cheeks they deepened the kiss, leaning into each other. He pulled back, kissed her again chastely and pulled her into his arms. They were both reveling in the contact when a scream erupted from the bedroom.
"Mommy!" They heard Taya yell and they both jumped and rushed in to her side. Kathryn took her in her arms, whispering and soothing her.
"I'm right here, it's okay. We're right here." She rubbed her back and smoothed her hair.
"I had a bad dream about Miral," she cried. "She never came back." Kathryn shot a desperate glance at Chakotay. "Please, can I sleep with you? I don't wanna be alone again." She pleaded with them and Chakotay nodded.
"Sure we will." Kathryn promised. "You wait here and give us a couple minutes, okay?"
"Okay." She laid back down rubbing her eyes.
"Are you sure?" He asked when they were out of the room.
"Yes, I'm sure." She smiled shyly at him. "She needs us." She placed her hand on his chest; an act she'd made so many times before that now was laced with unspoken intimacy. He reached and held her hand there a moment.
"I'll go change next door, I'll be right back." Once he'd gone she changed and readied herself for bed. A few minutes later he arrived wearing a t-shirt and pajama pants to find her leaning almost nervously against the table. He walked over and wrapped his arms around her. "You ready?" She nodded against his chest and he kissed the top of her head. "To be honest, I never imagined my first night sleeping with you we'd have our eight year old daughter in the middle," he told her, dimples in full force. She laughed a little and kissed him.
"We'll remedy that soon," she replied with a seductive grin.
"That sounds wonderful," he began, his smile growing. "But I don't think I'd trade this moment for anything." He pulled her face to his and brushed his lips to hers, holding her tight.
"Come on," she took him by the hand. "Let's get some sleep." She led him into her room where a very sleepy Taya was sitting up on the bed, still agitated from her dream. They each crawled in on either side of her and she laid her head on Kathryn's chest, her arms wrapped firmly around her waist. As the girl drifted back to sleep, Chakotay pulled them close and looked into Kathryn's eyes. He brushed a hand through her hair with a relaxed sigh as they drifted off to sleep.
The next morning Kathryn woke up slowly, an underlying feeling of peace brought a smile to her face even when she wasn't certain where it came from. As she laid there, her eyes closed, she felt the warmth of a small body against her stomach. Her senses finally awakening, her hand registered the softness of someone's back. She stilled herself as she allowed the previous day's events to reach the forefront of her mind. Temporal anomaly, Taya, her daughter, Chakotay's daughter, a kiss… She finally opened her eyes and a misty smile pushed at the corners of her face. Taya had shifted in the night and was cuddled up in Chakotay's arms, the picture of which melted her heart. Before she could contemplate how to get up without waking them his eyes opened and brown met blue. In an instant, the realization that this was the sight they'd see every morning charged the space between them. Through her smile she bit her lower lip, fending off tears of joy. With his free hand he captured her cheek, rubbing a tender finger across her lip.
"I think we need to have B'Elanna look into taking down that wall between our quarters," he whispered. And then as if reading her mind he said, "I don't intend to ever wake up apart from you again." At the sound of his voice Taya groaned and sat up slowly, affording Chakotay room enough to lean over and lightly kiss Kathryn's lips. "Any regrets?" he asked quietly when they parted. She looked from him to the girl between them and shook her head, lacing their hands together.
"Not a one."
"Is it still 2377?" Taya wondered, rubbing the sleep from her eyes. Kathryn sat up and lifted the girl into her lap, placing a kiss on her forehead.
"It is, but not for too much longer," she replied, a hint of sadness creeping into her voice.
"Why don't I fix us some breakfast and then we can check in and see about sending you back home?" Chakotay suggested while the girls climbed out of bed.
"Sounds good. I think I'll take a quick shower and get ready." She grabbed a fresh uniform and slipped into the bathroom. The other two left the room, Chakotay walked to the replicator and Taya found her clean clothes and escaped to the bedroom to change. When she emerged he set a plate of eggs, bacon and toast with orange juice on the table.
"Go ahead and start eating. I'm going to go change—I'll be right back, okay?" he asked.
"Okay." When she saw him walking towards the door she asked, "aren't your clothes in the bedroom? Where are you going?" He walked back to her and took her chin in his thumb and forefinger.
"Not yet, but they will be soon." He kissed her nose. "Thanks to you." She smiled proudly though not entirely understanding what he meant. The door chimed a minute or two after he'd left and thinking it was Chakotay she bolted to answer it.
"Aunt B'Elanna, Hi!" She greeted the woman cheerily and skirted back to the table. B'Elanna glanced around the room and stepped cautiously inside.
"Hi, Taya. Where's the, where's your Mom?" She amended as the doors closed behind her.
"She's in the shower. Daddy just left to get changed. But he said he won't have to soon cuz all his stuff will be in here." The honest statement took B'Elanna by surprise but she smiled at the thought. "He said it's because I helped."
"I'm sure you did," she told the girl knowing she was right—this was probably the only thing that would have knocked some sense into her commanding officers.
"So, is Miral in your belly now?" Taya asked innocently. "Like Kole was in Mommy's belly?"
"He's my little brother."
"Oh. Yes, I suppose Miral is in my belly now." B'Elanna shifted uncomfortably, still a bit unnerved by the unexpected pregnancy.
"She's my best friend, you know." The girl said in between bites. "She has a temper sometimes but Daddy always says she got that from you." This made B'Elanna laugh and she nodded in agreement.
"He's probably right."
As if the girl could sense her trepidation she set her fork down and leaned toward her saying, "she loves you a lot. You're a really good Mommy." B'Elanna's breath caught in her throat and she felt her face flush as her fears faded a little. Chakotay walked back in the room, washed up and in a clean uniform. He saw the emotion on his friend's face and placed a hand on the small of her back.
"You okay?" He asked with concern. She steeled herself and nodded.
"Yeah. I am now." She laughed nervously. "Must be these pregnancy hormones." Chakotay gave her a side hug and retreated to replicate the rest of their breakfast. "I stopped by to let you know we replaced the deflector dish and Seven and I ran some simulations. We're all ready to initiate the warp pulse whenever you're ready and have injected the gel pack."
"That's great!" Kathryn exclaimed making her way out of the bathroom and grabbing a cup of coffee from Chakotay's outstretched hand, accepting his kiss on her cheek. The pair sat down on either side of Taya in front of their respective plates of food. "We'll meet you and Seven in engineering at 0900, after we've finished breakfast and had a little time."
"Understood, Captain." Kathryn laid a hand on her chief engineer's arm and squeezed slightly.
"I never did get a chance to congratulate you last night. You and Tom will make wonderful parents," she said in genuine earnest.
"Thank you, Captain," she replied. "And if my calculations last night were accurate, I'll be reciprocating those sentiments in a few months" she said with a smirk, taking both of her commanding officers by surprise. Sure, Taya sitting there was living proof but neither of them had really reconciled their impending physical intimacy, pregnancy and the eight year old girl before them.
"I guess you will," came Kathryn's barely audible reply.
"We'' enjoy your breakfast. We'll see you in a couple hours." And with that she politely excused herself leaving them to their meal and family time.
"When I get back to 2386 will you remember me being here?" Taya wondered, a puzzled look spreading across her face.
"Taya, sweetie," Kathryn began. "I don't think your father and I will ever forget you."
"A temporal loop!" Chakotay all but shouted. "I can't believe it!" Both Janeways looked at him like he was mad until it registered with Kathryn. "You see it, don't you? If she hadn't come back we would probably never have come to our senses."
"And yet in coming back she made her own existence possible." As a reflex her hand rubbed the bridge of her nose. "Temporal Mechanics—I feel a headache coming on."
"Well, if you do remember, can you try not to be angry with me for being gone so long? I didn't exactly do it on purpose." Both exchanged an amused and knowing glance and tried to suppress their laughter.
At 0900 on the dot the trio walked into main engineering after a quick stop in sickbay for the hypo spray to inject the skipped gel pack. Word of Taya's visit and parentage had spread quickly earning them inquisitive glances and bright smiles from all they passed. Anyone she recognized she met with a friendly greeting as if they'd known each other for years.
Naomi, after hearing there was another child on board had sought them out to welcome her. After deeming the young Khtarian girl her future babysitter and hinting at a future relationship with a certain former Borg Chakotay had taken Taya aside and warned her that knowing too much about what's going to happen could be a bad thing she'd apologized and done her best to keep her predictions to herself.
"And how are you this morning, Miss Janeway?" Tom asked, greeting them when they approached the core.
"Ready to go home, Uncle Tom." She responded politely with a subtle curtsey.
"We'll walk her down and inject the serum," Chakotay explained. "Once that's done and we're at a safe distance I'll comm you and you can initiate the pulse."
"Aye, Commander." Seven replied. "We will wait to hear from you."
"Take care of yourself, Taya." B'Elanna said, kneeling down and taking the girl in a hug. "And thank you." Everyone looking on seemed confused by the exchange but Taya just hugged her back. When she stood and saw their puzzled looks she shrugged and said, "I'll explain it later. She knows what I mean." After a few more goodbyes they solemnly made their way to the corridor on deck six and through the barrier.
Once they were back in the room Chakotay lifted Taya up in his arms giving her a fierce hug. "For the rest of your life…you have no idea how grateful I am for you. You might not understand it now, but someday you will." He kissed her temple, unwilling to let her go just yet while Kathryn fought back tears. "I love you, Taya Gretchen Janeway." She placed a sweet kiss on his cheek before he finally returned her to her feet.
"I love you too, Daddy."
Kathryn was struggling as she got on her knees next to her and Chakotay placed a comforting hand on her shoulder. She ran a hand through the girl's hair, memorizing her features, never wanting to forget.
"I never thought I'd get to have a baby," she began. "I hoped for a long time and I'd just about lost hope and then you showed up and I couldn't believe how instantly I loved you." She threw her arms around Taya, brushing the hair from her ears to whisper, "thank you for helping me see what I was too afraid to see." She placed a kiss on the girl's forehead, hugging her once more.
"I love you." Taya told her when they finally parted. Once she stood Chakotay put a supportive arm around Kathryn's waist.
"You have your comm badge, right?" He asked and she nodded. "Keep trying it in a few minutes—I'm not sure how you'll know you're back but if we remember, we'll be looking for you. Okay?"
"Okay, Daddy. I'll wait right here."
"Good," Kathryn said. "Then we'll see you in a few minutes."
"Bye, Taya," Chakotay forced between uneasy breaths.
"Bye!" she responded, waving excitedly as they walked out into the hall. Kathryn took the panel down and injected the gel pack while Chakotay waited silently on the other side of the barrier. When she finished she came up in front of him and wrapped her arms around his waist. He brought his forehead to rest against hers as a single tear slid down his cheek.
"How is it that one temporal anomaly, one simple mistake and one eight year old girl can somehow give me everything I've ever wanted for the last seven years?" He asked her softly.
"In the same way it laid bare all my fears, insecurities and lost hopes for the future. By showing me how wrong I've been in pushing you away, I promise to never do it again." He pushed forward and let his lips quiet hers with a gentle kiss.
"Are you ready?" He asked when they parted and she slowly nodded against his forehead. Without breaking the contact he tapped his comm badge. "Chakotay to Engineering. Initiate the pulse." He held her close as they felt the ship rock slightly. After a minute they both turned toward the door and exhaled heavily the breaths they'd been holding in and they entered the room. The computer and replicators were the first sign of congruence as they both stared at the spot on the floor where their daughter had stood just moments before and tears welled up in their eyes. He pulled her tighter and with a wry smile he whispered, "She'll be here—in about eleven months." He kissed her temple and she smiled up at him.
"I'm counting on it, but in the mean time I think we have some practicing to do." She pulled his head closer, meeting his lips with a tender and passionate kiss.
"We found her, Captain," Harry's voice said over the comm. "You were right, Deck six." Kathryn and Chakotay breathed a heavy sigh of relief and passed the weapons locker, walking through the door of the unused quarters. Over the years the room had been a safe haven for the couple whenever they needed some time of reflection. This room is where their life started and they entered it once more and found Taya who'd been missing almost twenty hours, sitting on the couch. At the sight of them she ran and threw her arms around their legs.
"You're not mad, are you? Remember it wasn't my fault," she pleaded.
"Not mad," Kathryn reassured her. "Never mad. We just missed you."
"Is Miral okay?" She asked frantically and Chakotay picked her up with a groan.
"She's just fine. Just like we said she would be." He promised. "But if you have another nightmare maybe you can sleep in our bed…"
"…Just this once," Kathryn warned as they made their way hand in hand down the corridor.
Chakotay stared in awe at the tiny face looking up at him. The Doctor had cleaned her up and wrapped her in a blanket before handing the newborn off to her father. He leaned over, gently kissing her soft forehead, walking back to his wife's side. Kathryn had tears flowing down her face as he placed the girl on her chest.
"Meet Taya Gretchen Janeway," he whispered in her ear, wrapping his arm around her shoulder. "…Again." They both smiled brightly as they gazed adoringly at their first born child.
"She's perfect," she said fingering the dark auburn hair lightly scattered on the girl's head. Chakotay squeezed Kathryn's shoulder and turned her chin to kiss her lips.
"She always was."