Captain Kathryn Janeway tossed her long gray-streaked
chestnut braid over her shoulder, rolled her stiff shoulders and
stood up.
     "Okay, Keshia.  You take the con for awhile."
     "Aye, aye, Aunt Kathryn."  Janeway smiled.  Somehow, the
children never could get the hang of ranks, and Keshia Torres-Kim
was special.  She'd inherited the beauty and brilliance of both
her parents - the delicate ridges on her forehead just enhanced
her warm dark eyes and golden skin.  
     "If we get an answer, tell me immediately."
     "I will, Auntie."  Janeway's skirt swished as she walked to
the turbo-lift.  When did uniforms become silly, she wondered.
     "Deck five."
     Chakotay was in the nursery again.  He looked up from his
task and smiled. 
     "Hello, Kathryn.  I'm just changing my grandson."
     "Last I looked, he was *my* grandson."  She picked the baby
up, kissed him and sat down in the rocking chair to cuddle him.
     "How's Nana's little angel, huh?  Who's a beautiful boy?" 
Dignity?  Who needed dignity?  There was a baby to play with.
     "They're all my grandchildren, and they are all going to
call me grandpa...where ever they end up.  And so will their
brothers and sisters."
     "Do you ever regret that none are actually yours?"
     The soft light glinted off the golden ring on Chakotay's
right hand as he picked up a baby girl with cafe' au lait skin
and pointed ears.  The ring's twin was orbiting a lovely planet
70 years away.  He shook his head.
     "No.  I think...I would still have been the children's Uncle
no matter what."  It was true.  The children (some were in their
twenties now, but they were still the children) called the other
adults Aunt This and Uncle That, but Chakotay was simply Uncle to
all of them.  And he loved that role.             
     "You and Tom never wanted children?"
     "We didn't have time to find out.  I was surprised when you
and Jack decided to have children."
     She remembered that.  It was twenty-five years ago, right
after Harry and B'Elanna lost their first baby.  She was
surprised herself.  The two of them had gone through so much -
the hormones and the painstaking engineering and B'Elanna's
difficult pregnancy.  She'd actually run engineering from a chair
the last two months.  And then...the baby was stillborn.  And all
they could talk about was trying again.  They had Kesia on their
third try. And Janeway had a human husband who very much wanted
to raise a child.  She smiled at that thought.  
     Jack Pellon was quiet and gentle and she loved him more than
she'd ever loved Mark at home.  Her son Tommy was nothing like
his namesake.  He'd inherited his father's chocalate skin and
black hair and both their loves of science.  He was in the botany
lab now with his wife Irene, the daughter of Jenny Delaney and
Ensign Batehart.  Raymond in her arms was their second child. 
But Chakotay was surprised.  He seemed to have had an image of
Janeway as the warrior woman, not the mother.
     "Didn't think I had it in me, did you?"
     "I'm glad you did.  You make a lovely grandmother, Kathryn."
     "Do you ever think that maybe we could have made a
     "We have.  We've been best friends for thirty years." 
Janeway smiled.  They rocked the babies in silence for awhile. 
Then T'Palna began to fuss.  Chakotay checked her diaper, and
when that proved dry, replicated her some Vulcan mother's milk of
the proper temperature.  Yes, Tuvok and Vorik's daughter was
     "Anyway, there was Tom.  So long as he was around, I
couldn't love anyone else.  And when he died, I knew I would
never love anyone that way again.  It took a long time to stop
missing him."
     "I remember.  You were mourning a long time for him.  At one
point, I was afraid you'd follow him."
     "I couldn't cross over uninvited.  And he didn't want me to. 
He told me so.  He was in my dreams for months afterwards,
telling me to get off my butt and start living again."
     Janeway laughed softly so she wouldn't wake her grandson.
"Good advice.  Did you really think it was him?"
     "I was never sure, but it was good advice, so I took it. 
And eventually, I stopped missing him so much."
     "We were all happy when you started dating again."
     "I never stopped loving Tom.  But I was alive and Adame
Ayalla was there.  It was good for both of us.  He missed his
wife and sons and we could give each other comfort and companion-
ship.  There's a lot to be said for companionship.  Look at this
little lady's fathers."
     After Kes died, Tuvok and Vorik decided it was logical that
the only two Vulcans on board should mate.  Vorik proved to be an
excellent stepfather for Kes and Tuvok's child, and the two, with
the help of The Doctor, had several children of their own.  Palan
aged more slowly than Occampas normally did, but he'd died last
year, having lived his entire life on board the ship.  That's why
they'd conceived T'Palna.  Still, they were more companions than
lovers.  Tuvok still maintained his bond with his wife.
     "Besides, I've always had this fantasy that Tom was still
with us, watching us.  That's why we found that wormhole five 
years ago. The one that got us five years away from home."
     "You think so?"
     "Oh, yes.  He told me in a dream."  Chakotay smiled. 
Janeway prized that smile - there was a time when she'd thought
she'd never see it again.  
     "Home.  For the last thirty or more years, this has been
home.  This is where I raised a family and buried friends.  This
is where the children grew up.  This old bucket is held together
by spit and chewing gum and B'Elanna's will.  I wonder what
they'll do with it when we get back."  
     "I wonder what we'll find there.  Have we lost it all to the
Borg?  Or the Dominion?  Or the Cardassians?"
     "You still hate the Cardassians, don't you, Chakotay?"
     "Not as much.  I don't think about them anymore.  I just
     "Maybe there's a Ferengi running Starfleet."
     "Right.  And a Bajorran running the Federation."  They
laughed, but she wondered.  Things can change so much.  Look at
her.  Look at her ship.  They were not Federation any more, or
Starfleet, or Maquis.  They were a large family who didn't bother
with any rank more formal than "Aunt Kathryn", who wore bright
dresses instead of dark uniforms and spent much of her time
playing with her grandchildren.  How would they fit in what the
Federation would have become?  How would the *children* fit? 
None of them had ever lived anywhere else.  
       Both Chakotay and T'Palna were asleep.  She looked
at her best friend.  Now in his seventies, his hair was snow-
white and his tattoo was lost in wrinkles.  And she knew he was
happy.  She'd never forget the day Tom died, crashing in a blaze
of fire and rain on that lovely planet, or how Chakotay had
mourned.  That was so long ago now.  Tom sometimes smirked in her
dreams - always the golden young man who lived to pilot and died
as he lived.  Maybe he was guiding her ship.  
     The past thirty years had been good.  They'd paid a price
for their happiness, just as Harry and B'Elanna paid for their
family, but nothing is perfect.  Good is good enough.  She kissed
her grandson.
     "Aunt Kathryn!  We have contact!  I have a message!" 
Chakotay woke with a start and both babies started whimpering.
     "Shhh, Keshia.   We're with the babies.   What does it say?"
     "'Welcome home, Voyager.'"

copyright 1997 

Debra Fran Baker dfbaker@panix.com