and now we dread stillness; we suspect it was the land
that always moved, not our ships;
itwastheland said: Janeway, Picard, hot beverages. That's what those fandoms are about, right?
Technically, she could blow him off. Though there is some part of her who will never cease to be surprised by the fact, the great Jean-Luc Picard, Captain of the Enterprise, and Kathryn Janeway, the small-town girl from Indiana, hold the same rank; by necessity, this is a request and not an order. And maybe he knows that, because the last thing in the message is, I have acquired a fine blend of arabica for the occasion, and that’s - well, that’s Jean-Luc Picard. Austere, thoughtful, kind. She goes to see him.
"Kathryn," he says, warmly, as she walks into his office on a perfect spring morning in San Francisco. "It is wonderful to see you again. Will you have something to drink?”
"Thank you," she says, matching his warmth, because here is is and it’s wonderful to see him, too - the man who recommended her for her first command, and taught her how to begin. She’s been spending time with people like him, recently: her old Academy instructors; her mother; even her elementary school teachers, when she was back home visiting. People who could look after her.
"Coffee, black," he tells the replicator, "and Earl Grey for me. Kathryn, shall we sit by the window? I find my old bones enjoy the sun."
She smiles at that and sits with him at the little table beneath the great curved window, built to echo the observation deck on a starship. Below them, the city of San Francisco spills colourful and bright, with fast-moving shuttles rising from the docks into the blue. She’s missed this so much it hurts to breathe.
"How’s it going?" Picard asks, glancing quickly at her. Perhaps he’s guessed a little of what she’s thinking.
"It’s going," she says at last. "I’m glad they’ve finally got tired of ticker-tape and ceremonial receptions." She supposes she couldn’t blame them: Voyager’s successful homecoming was as much a Pathfinder success as that of her own crew, and they deserved the limelight. But when it was over, she still wanted to go home. "I’m trying to reorient myself."
"Yes," Picard says, carefully. "I understand you’re considering resigning your commission."
She looks at him sharply. “How did you…”
"Netyanev." Picard smiles briefly. "Kathryn, I won’t lie - I’ve been tasked with attempting to talk you out of it. But I can afford to be lax in my duty at this stage in my career."
His smile is wicked. Helplessly, Kathryn is warmed by that. “Jean-Luc,” she says, suddenly emboldened to first-name terms. “There was a war while we were gone. The Federation went to war. And it’s not the one I was fighting when I left Earth.”
Picard shakes his head, then nods; he understands.
"I was sitting up a couple of weeks ago," she tells him. "I couldn’t sleep. I was reading up on the Dominion, and what’s left of the Maquis. I read about what happened at Deep Space Nine. And, you know, you know, a starship captain can’t read everything that crosses her desk. She skims; she gets the gist; she trusts her people to know the detail when the detail is needed. And then I thought… no. No, I want time. I want to go home and read everything line by line. I want… I need time, Jean-Luc. Time to live. Just to be. I can’t be the woman who skimmed three years of the Dominion war and threw herself back into the fray.”
"The war is over," he says, softly, but she knows he knows that’s not the point. In a different tone, he adds: "A leave of absence?"
"I’ve thought about that," she says. "And… maybe. Maybe. But a long one. I want to - I want to read. Maybe write my memoirs. I want to sign a lease, Jean-Luc, and get a dog. I want to babysit for Tom and B’Elanna’s little girl. I want to ask Seven to stay for a week. A month, if she wants."
"Seven?" Picard frowns. "Ah. Your Borg drone."
She wants to snap at him then, to tick him off for that dismissive tone. But then she looks at him looking at her with his kind, dark eyes, occupying a body from which, inch by inch, the Borg circuitry was wrenched. She realises, all at once, that Jean-Luc Picard may be the only person on Earth who can understand, even a little, who and what Seven is, and resolves to do something with that. That’s nothing to do with command, she says to herself, firmly: that’s just being who she is, Kathryn Janeway from a small town where everyone knows everyone. “You should meet her,” she says firmly. “I’ll ask her to stay and ask you to dinner.”
Picard smiles. “I’ll accept with pleasure.”
"I’ll even get some of that dish soap you call tea," she says, motioning at his cup, and he laughs.
"Agreed," he says. "And then come back to us, Kathryn. In your own time."
"Time," she agrees. And then, tentatively, "A starship - it’s like a small town."
It’s half-question, half-statement, and Picard gives her a half-nod in answer; he motions to the window as he does it, to the great geostationary space docks above San Francisco, to the ships glittering like daylight stars.
"Welcome home," he says quietly, and rises to bring her more coffee.
This is perfection.