By Maquis Leader
Author’s note: Set before they got the letters from home. This was originally written for the Picnic Prose contest using the picture to set the story.
Chakotay frowned at the display on the holodeck controls. He’d been patient, but it was five minutes into his time. “Computer, who’s using Holodeck 1?”
Wonderful, the one person he couldn’t chew out. Scanning the display again, he saw the privacy lock wasn’t engaged. “Janeway-I. Sounds harmless enough.” Opening the holodeck door, he stepped inside.
He was inside the den or living room of a house. Outside the large windows he saw a blue sky and a cornfield. Janeway-I. I for Indiana. Maybe I can use her backyard as a gym.
Setting his gym bag down, Chakotay started for the doorway into the next room. It was a kitchen and Kathryn was standing at the counter mixing something. “Kathryn.”
She spun around in surprise, knocking a container off the counter as she did so. “Chakotay!”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.” He bent to pick up the container for her. “You’re into my time, but we can… probably… share…” Baby formula?
“Give me that!” She snatched it out of his hand. “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize I was over my time. I must’ve forgotten to set the alarm.”
“It’s all right, I – “ A baby cry echoed through the house and his head snapped up.
“Computer, end program!” Kathryn called out.
“Computer, belay that order!” He turned and headed for the sound.
“Chakotay, no.” She stepped in front of him. Her cheeks were stained bright red.
He stepped around her and she clutched at his arm. The crying continued, growing louder and more urgent. Chakotay looked at her hand on his arm, then into her eyes. Reluctantly, Kathryn let go.
At the top of the stairs, he followed the sound to one of the bedrooms. The room was decorated with teddy bears and rabbits. In a wooden cradle, a baby lay crying.
The baby fussed and fretted, crying in hunger. Golden skin and raven hair contrasted sharply with the white blankets. Carefully, Chakotay scooped the baby up. “Shah… shah…” When he stroked a soft cheek, the baby turned toward him and mewled.
“Here.” Kathryn handed him the bottle of formula she’d been mixing.
Latching onto the nipple, the infant began suckling hungrily. Dark brown eyes gazed up seriously at Chakotay.
“I can’t have a baby, you know. I mean, I can! But – I can’t!” She realized she was babbling, but his silence unnerved her. “I want one, sometimes. I – so I made one.”
“I can see that.” He ran a fingertip over the baby’s dark skin.
“I used the medical records. Had your DNA and mine – “ Chakotay looked up at her, and she couldn’t meet the black velvet eyes. “I hated my skin. All pale and freckles. And my hair was a horrible red. I hated it, too.”
“I –“ The flush crawled down her neck and across her bare shoulders. “You have beautiful coloring, Chakotay.” I can never tell when you’re embarrassed!
“Coloring?” His tattoo creased as he arched an eyebrow.
“Your skin is – and your hair – “ Kathryn sat down in the rocker and buried her face in her hands. “ I’m sorry. You must be so angry with me.”
“No.” He rubbed the baby’s nose with his own, earning a milky laugh between swallows.
“I just come here sometimes and pretend.” Her voice dropped as tears choked her. “Pretend to be home with my family.”
“Did you make a father, too?” That’s all he needed, an outraged holographic husband.
“No.” She’d chickened out before making a hologram of Chakotay. Thank God!
“You have a baby, but no father. That’s not a complete family.”
“It’s the 24th century, Chakotay. A lot of women have children alone.” Kathryn smiled at his archaic notions. “Men do too.”
“Children need both parents.” He smiled back at her, knowing exactly what she was thinking. “I’ve thought about it, too. But if I have a baby, I’d have to have a wife. I don’t want a make believe wife.”
Noticing the gray t-shirt and shorts for the first time, Kathryn realized he had come to the holodeck to run his boxing program. “I’m sorry about going over my time. I can shut the program down so you can box.”
“If you don’t mind. I’d like to hold the baby awhile longer.” He settled on the loveseat by the window.
“I don’t mind.” She moved to sit next to him.
“Boy or girl?”
“Boy.” She fluffed the baby’s dark hair lovingly.
“What’s his name?”
“He doesn’t have one.” Embarrassed again, she hurried to explain. “He’s just sweetheart, baby, darling – you know.” I’m afraid to get too attached.
Chakotay smiled and laughed. “Guess it doesn’t matter.” He offered a finger to the hand that waved in the air next to the bottle. Pulling the tiny fist to his lips, he kissed it. “Hello, little man.”
The baby spit the nipple out and gurgled up at him. Kathryn reached to take him, but Chakotay deftly settled the infant on his shoulder and began patting his back. A loud burp made them both laugh.
“Now there’s a skill I didn’t know they taught in the Maquis.” She teased. “Baby burping.”
“Right after how to build a photon torpedo with duct tape and a tricorder.” He grinned. “I’ve got nieces and nephews. This isn’t the first… time…” His voice trailed off and his grin faded away.
“I’m sorry.” Her heart ached for him. His sister and her husband and children had been murdered in the Cardassian attack on Trebus.
“After five years, you’d think I’d remember.” He shifted the baby on his shoulder. “Did you program him to spit up?”
“No. I cheated.” Kathryn laughed. “None of the nasty stuff.”
“Good.” Chakotay leaned back and laid the baby on his chest. One arm went around Kathryn’s shoulders and pulled her closer.
Snuggling her face against his neck, she rubbed the baby’s back as he pushed himself up on his pudgy arms, smiling and gurgling at them.
“This is nice.” He tickled a chubby cheek, making the baby laugh.
“Notice the dimples?” She traced one curving dimple. “I told the computer to mix my DNA and yours and make the baby a boy. First try – I knew he was perfect.”
“We made a beautiful baby.” One tiny hand grabbed for Kathryn’s hair and stuffed it in his mouth. “Though not a smart one, it appears.”
“Shush!” She pulled her hair loose and offered a small stuffed toy in exchange. “Babies put everything in their mouth.”
He watched her play with the baby for a few minutes. Kathryn was relaxed and smiling for the first time in months, but there was a longing in her eyes. “Kathryn, if you want a baby – “
“Don’t” She laid her fingers over his lips. “Don’t break the spell.”
He kissed her fingertips. She smiled and placed her fingers to her own lips before settling her head back on his shoulder. The baby yawned and laid back down on Chakotay’s chest for a nap.
“Someday…” She whispered.