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A Single Twist of Fate

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USS Voyager – 2371 three weeks after Caretaker

"I'm not sure how else to say this, Captain." The Doctor stated closing his tricorder. "Congratulations. You're pregnant." The Captain's eyes widened and her head snapped up in astonishment.

"Is this some kind of joke, Doctor?"

"No joke, I assure you." He observed her alarmed state with a curious gaze. "Approximately eleven weeks. I'm surprised you hadn't noticed before now, I take it this wasn't a planned pregnancy." Janeway closed her eyes and ran the calculations in her head. A baby. Eleven weeks. Somehow she couldn't wrap her mind around the concept given all that had transpired in the last few weeks. Being thrown into the Delta Quadrant, losing a third of her crew, dealing with the merging of the Maquis with her own crew, facing the guilt at stranding everyone on the ship a lifetime away from their homes and families…and now this. Eleven weeks, that couldn't be right.

"Doctor, could you be mistaken about the fetal age?" Her mind was working overtime; three months ago she had been en route back to Earth after Voyager's dry run. She had been on a two week mission but the entire trip had taken a month and given the state of their relationship when she'd shipped out, she was sure something wasn't right.

Kathryn was hastily throwing uniforms into her suitcase and avoiding the glare that was coming from the man across the room who was leaning against the doorframe with his arms crossed.

"I don't know what you want me to say, Mark." She told him as she made her way over to the bookshelf, grabbing a few books and adding them to the growing pile. "I'm going to marry you – I don't see why you need me to set a date now. I've got to report to headquarters in four hours and I haven't hardly finished packing and I still have to review my crew manifest." Mark ran a hand through his hair and let out a groan. This argument was anything but new and over the last few months with her flitting about the galaxy it seemed to be the most prominent conversation they've had.

"Kath, I love you, I want to be with you but these days I can't help but wonder if you agreed to marry me just to pacify me." He took a step closer, removing the PADDs from her hands and placing them on her bed. He wrapped his hands around her shoulders, rubbing them gently. "I just want to know you're as committed to this as I am. I'm sorry if you feel like I'm pushing."

"You know I love you, Mark. You've known me for thirty years, better than most people. Can't you see I just need some more time?" Once the words left her mouth she regretted them, knowing this particular divergence all too well.

"We've been engaged for years, twelve if I'm counting. I've been very patient, I know everything you've had to overcome, but I can't just sit back anymore and wait." He released his hold on her and turned defiantly toward the door. "Use this mission to do some thinking about what you want, because once you get back we're finishing this conversation once and for all!" His last sentence came out as more of an uncharacteristic hiss instead of the scream she'd hoped for. Mark was anything but a violent man, he'd always shown the utmost care for her heart but she knew she'd driven him to nearly the brink of madness. But try as she might and as much as she truly did have a genuine love for Mark she couldn't resign herself to committing to something as simple as a wedding date. She sat down for a moment on the edge of the bed trying to understand why she wasn't more upset at his ultimatum. Shouldn't she be livid that he would resort to such drastic measures? Shouldn't she be heartbroken and desperate for him, chasing him out of her apartment and down the hall? Instead she stood, straightened her uniform and finished packing.

"Captain I'm quite certain of the embryo's development. If you'd like I can calculate a fairly precise conception date to help you narrow it down," the Doctor offered but she waved her hand in protest.

"No. Believe me, that won't be necessary," she replied with a frown. She leaned back onto the biobed and regulated her breathing as she felt a panic attack setting in. "Doctor, I assume I can trust your utmost discretion on this matter, correct?"

"Yes of course, Captain." He gave her a puzzled glance knowing that at eleven weeks discretion wasn't going to be an issue for very long.

"Can you extract and run a DNA scan on the fetus?" She bristled when the physicians questioning glance elevated to include raised eyebrows. She sighed and rubbed away a headache that she didn't feel yet, but knew was imminent then schooled her features and locked her eyes with his. "I wasn't on Earth eleven weeks ago, Doctor. My fiancé, however was."

Voyager was on its way back to Earth following a rough test run of the bio-neural circuitry and had been granted a two-day respite on Deep Space 4 for which Captain Janeway was very much appreciative. Her sister had been able to meet up with her and Janeway was grateful for the distraction. She'd managed to keep the issue of Mark and their relationship at bay due to the drama of the ship being dead in space and their rescue by the USS Hood. Now that she had just shy of forty-eight hours with nothing official to do, she felt her mix of emotions and indecision bubbling to the surface. Thankfully as the doors to her temporary room opened and the welcome sight of Phoebe Janeway walked through, she simply pushed it back down deep and gathered her sister in her arms.

"Sis!" Phoebe exclaimed, squeezing her sister tight. "God, I haven't seen you in months!"

"I know, it's been too long," she told her as they sat down on the couch.

"Nice digs, Starfleet really knows how to take care of their own," Phoebe said looking around at the large suite Kathryn had been assigned for her brief stay.

"Don't I know it. Your bedroom is over there," she pointed to her right, then indicated a room opposite. "Mine's there. It's ours until we ship back out."

"So what do we have planned for our little stay here?" Phoebe picked up a station brochure off the coffee table and began leafing through it. "I know it's no DS9 but I happen to know there's still plenty to occupy our time." Kathryn contemplated this and strategically eyed her sister.

"I need a distraction. These last few weeks have been hell and I'm not looking forward to what awaits me at home." She stood, purposeful and determined. "I'm going to shower, change into something that doesn't make me feel the least bit like Starfleet and then you are going to buy me a drink." She vanished into the bathroom off her bedroom and Phoebe followed, curiosity abounding.

"You got into it with Mark again, didn't you?" She asked pointedly while Kathryn stood in the buff under the sonic shower. She didn't respond verbally, only turned her head and nodded. "Well, you have been stringing him along for the better part of your life. If you don't want to marry him, don't feel guilty about it, just cut him loose." Kathryn grabbed her robe and shot Phoebe a death glare that would bring an Ensign to his knees but did little to deter a fellow Janeway. Storming to the bedroom Phoebe was hot on her heels. "He's comfortable. He's safe, I get that, believe me. I know the appeal that has for you, but don't you deserve a little…heat? Some passion?" Pulling on her undergarments Kathryn made another valiant attempt at the glare, her eyes filled with pain.

"I had heat and passion once and look where that got me!" She spat, pulling her dress off the hanger so quickly she was almost certain she tore it. Phoebe just bowed her head and sighed, wishing she'd never brought it up. "What I had with Justin…you don't find that twice in a lifetime and I'd rather not spend the rest of mine alone." She pulled the straps of the dress up and turned so Phoebe could zip it from behind. She ignored the pained look on her sister's face and began a scant application of makeup. "Now," she began with both hands firmly placed on her hips. "Are you going to buy me a drink, or am I going to be drowning my frustrations alone?" Phoebe looped her arm through Kathryn's and they left for the station's bar.

Kathryn awoke the next morning alone and completely naked and if she was being honest with herself, still a little intoxicated from the previous night. It took her a minute to get her bearings and remember exactly where she was and why she was but once she took into account her lack of nightwear, tenderness of her breasts and unmistakable raw feeling between her legs she let out an audible groan. She finally opened her eyes and was thankful that there was no one in bed with her, though she knew now that hadn't been the case last night. She closed her eyes as tight as she could trying to bring memories of the night to the forefront of her mind but she couldn't remember anything after Phoebe had coerced her into that fifth shot.

"This is why I never get drunk," her voice croaked, her throat dry as a desert. Moving to sit only intensified the almost audible battle that was being waged between her temples. She stood, slowly and pulled her robe on her, noticing as she did the steady stream of clothing that continued from the side of her bed out to the couch and she winced. This was not like her. She'd never cheated on anybody and she couldn't determine if she felt better about the fact that she had no memory of it. Not that that would make it any easier to explain to Mark. "Oh, God. Mark." As if it had just dawned on her she brought a hand to her temple. As if on cue, the guilt began to set in and she guided herself to the couch. There was no way to explain it to Mark, she couldn't. She didn't want to lose him and she didn't want to hurt him. She certainly hadn't planned on…this.

After an analgesic, a shower and a change of clothes she sat down at the comm panel, pressing in the all too familiar coordinates for Mark's office and a moment later he appeared on the screen.

"Kath, this is a surprise," his smile was vague and she could see he was treading carefully. "You're not due back for another week, right?"

"A little more than a week, and then I'm afraid I'm going to be gone again soon, I can't tell you all the details, but we've had to change some plans around." She noticed an obvious change in his demeanor, he was expecting the worst and she didn't want to prolong it anymore. "So I've decided that when I get home, we'll set a date. There've been some developments between the Maquis and well, for lack of my ability to go into detail I'll just say that I'm a little more involved in a small part of it than I want to be, but once that whole mess is done and we've…recovered what's ours, we can get married." His smile returned in full force and the guilt she'd been trying to shovel off of her since she woke up lessened a barely perceptible amount. "Would that be okay?"

"Nothing would make me happier," he assured her.

"We can discuss details when I get home next week." She felt bile rise in her throat but forced it back long enough to add, "I love you. I'll talk to you soon." She nearly cut the transmission before he could return the sentiments and she bolted back for the bathroom. Leaning over porcelain she vowed to never let her sister take charge of her late night beverages again.

"I see," the Doctor's tone was quiet and not at all judgmental as he closed the arms of the surgical bay over her and began running the necessary tests. Once completed he retracted the device and helped her sit up, pressing a hypo spray to her neck. "Some fortified vitamins, I'd advise taking them every day and ensuring that you're getting the proper nutrition." He replaced the hypo on the tray and tapped a few controls on his panel. "Preliminary scans show the fetus to be fully human and perfectly healthy. It'll take a while to cross reference the baby's DNA with any we may have on record and even then, I'm afraid you're likely to not find a match. If we were in contact with Starfleet that would be a different story, but as we are stuck out here…" He paused noticing the menacing glare she was hurling at him.

"Thank you, Doctor. And thank you again for you…discretion in this matter." The captain slid off the biobed and without a second glance was out of sickbay and headed back to the bridge. Of all the things that could have gone wrong, of all the situations she could have found herself in, this one topped them all. One night, one night of sheer abandon, one she still couldn't even remember and now that night will be with her for the rest of her life. She wanted to cry, but Starfleet Captain's don't cry. Hell, Starfleet captains don't have drunken one night stands on random space stations and then get pregnant, she told herself. She braced herself on the walls of the turbo lift and called the computer to halt. Taking a few moments to regulate her breathing she leaned her head back, closed her eyes and used every ounce of her training to block out the onslaught of unbidden emotions coursing through her. Her jaw clenched and her features tightened, I can do this – I'll deal with this later. When I'm not on duty, when I'm safely in my quarters. She ordered the computer to resume, confident that her mask was hiding all as it so often did. Or so she thought.

A few hours later her first officer leaned toward her over their shared console and gently laid his hand on her forearm as he whispered, "Captain." A few seconds later she forced her thoughts clear and turned to him.

"Yes, Commander?" She replied, still a little preoccupied. Her thoughts had been betraying her for the better part of the shift and rendered her almost immobile.

"Is everything okay? You seem a little distracted today," his voice was soothing and there was genuine concern behind it. Janeway steeled her expression as best she could and after taking a cursory glance around the bridge she propelled herself upwards using her armrests.

"Of course, I'm just fine. But you're right, I am distracted. I'll be in my ready room." She turned toward the door, thankful that in about thirty seconds she could let the dam break in private. "Commander you have the bridge." She tried to make it look like she wasn't running the distance to her office but Chakotay noticed her expedience and he turned to look at Tuvok who was manning tactical. The unemotional Vulcan simply raised a curious eyebrow as if to say, there's more to it and then resumed his diagnostics.

Once on the other side of the ready room doors Janeway fell into the closest chair using all of her will power to keep a flood of tears at bay. A few escaped down her cheek and she wiped them away quickly. How can I do this, she thought. I can't be a mother and the captain. I'll never have enough time for either and one of them will suffer. I promised to get this crew home, I can't ask them to sacrifice for my benefit. But this baby is coming, I can't abandon it. She retreated to the upper level and sat on the couch with her hands wrapped tightly around her knees. She had just started to panic about how she'd ever explain the child's conception to anyone when the chime announced a visitor. Grabbing an errant PADD and shifting herself, or more so her face out of direct sight and wiping the last tears away she called for them to enter. Chakotay walked in slowly and found her sitting with her knees hunched up to her chin staring at some point in space beyond the data PADD she held upside down in front of her and he tried hard not to laugh at the sight. Uncertain of her state of mind he knew he didn't want to offend her, so he carefully stepped up and sat down next to her, gently turning the PADD in her hand and offering her a heartfelt dimpled smile. Realizing her error she quirked up the corner of her mouth at him before laying her head on her crossed arms.

"Would you like to talk about it?" Chakotay offered and she considered, taking in the deep soothing brown of his eyes and the devastating indentations framing his mouth she almost lost her breath.

"I'm sure I could use a sounding board, and it would give me a trial run, but I'm your captain. I'm supposed to be larger than life and I'm not sure the crew or I am ready for me to be brought down a peg or two," she almost gasped as the words fell unhindered out of her mouth with an honesty that left her unsettled. Chakotay, however only nodded but didn't seem put off by the statement.

"I'm sure if we had a ship's counselor your job would be easier. Unfortunately that isn't the case here." He tugged lightly on his ear and shifted, looking mildly uncomfortable. "I understand I'm probably not your first choice to talk to, I just thought you might need to vent to someone." He looked toward the door leading back to the bridge. "If you'd like I can go resume my station and send Tuvok in here. I know you're much closer to him." She reached out and placed a hand on his arm and gave it a light squeeze while she shook her head.

"It's not that, Commander. Actually I think Tuvok is the last person I'd feel comfortable discussing this with." She tossed the PADD back to the table and rose from her spot exhaling heavily as she did. "Have you ever made a mistake, not just a simple one, but something that managed to shape the course of the rest of your life?"

"Captain if you're still going on about destroying that array…" She raised a hand in objection.

"Not this time, I assure you. This…this could be worse." She turned to stare at the passing stars wrapping her arms around her midsection and bidding the tears sneaking to the corner of her eyes to remain there. "You know I have a fiancé back on Earth. Mark. We've been together a long time, he's known me almost my whole life." She paused and swiped at one of the insubordinate drops careening down her cheek. "It took me twelve years to finally agree to set a date. Three months ago before I left for the Badlands we got in a huge fight about exactly that." Chakotay sat there emotionless, trying to understand where she was going with her story, but thankful she was allowing him to see this side of her. She ran her hands through her hair, unable to make the next words come out of her mouth. "I can't do this." She turned from the viewport and walked back down to her desk, her hands rubbing her temples the whole way. "Thank you…for listening, but I need to process this." He stood and walked down next to her, placing a hand on her shoulder.

"Captain, why don't you take the rest of your shift off? There's obviously a lot on your mind. Tuvok and I can handle it and I promise we'll call you if there's any trouble at all." She peered up at him, still only an arm's length away, her eyes filled with shame and longing for someone to tell her it was going to be okay. With a great and heavy sigh she pushed herself back from the desk, letting her head droop. His hand found the small of her back and sent a shot of adrenaline through her body and she tingled at his proximity and the protectiveness the gesture conveyed. She felt herself slightly flush and silently agreed that going to the quiet of her quarters was probably the best place for her and she allowed him to usher her wordlessly to the turbo lift. "You know I'm here if you need anything. Always." He shot at her as the lift doors were closing and before the doors sealed he caught a nod and a very faint smile and then turned back to the bridge.