DISCLAIMER: Paramount owns 'em, we play. No money earned.
NOTES: I went to see a friend in a local hospice the other day. When I was looking out of the window, I got the idea for this story. This story isn't as morbid as it sounds!
WARNING: This story deals with someone dying. DO NOT read if you have recently suffered a bereavement, or are nursing or visiting a terminally ill friend/relative, or if you are still coming to terms with a less recent bereavement. It is truly not my wish to hurt anyone.

The Visit
By alastria7

Admiral Janeway sat by the large patio doors, closed against the chill outside, staring out into the garden. There was a large paved area just beyond the doors housing a few wooden chairs and a bird table and beyond that a row of conifers, small and dainty, lined up to precision, like soldiers in a row. Behind the conifers the grass swept upward in a bank, with further and much larger trees scattered about on top; her `horizon'. It was with slight regret that Kathryn had come to learn that the sun only reached this top area, bathing everything out of reach to her in its golden richness.

A commotion was happening in front of her and her attention was drawn to the bird table just beyond the glass, where two feathered beings were in contest about who should win the prize of the nuts. As she watched, it seemed that neither was winning as each successfully fought the other off, just as the nuts came within reach.

Kathryn watched and smiled at the birds' antics for a while but she could not resist for long: slowly her eyes climbed up the grassy bank once again as she planned her escape, just like she'd done a million times before from this chair. `Just up the bank and over the top, just a little way, not far. you can do it.'

A large puddle had formed on the uneven patio, from the rain that had fallen earlier in the day: Kathryn's attention was drawn to it as the wind ruffled the surface and the reflections caught her eye. She stared, mesmerised, as she appeared to be looking deep into the water, and what she found there was a scene she knew only too well. She sighed and quietly allowed her nightmare to resurface. As she watched, simply an observer after all these years, Justin (her one- time fiancÚ) and her father lay side by side within their crashed shuttlecraft, submerged and sinking in the water. She had already been standing near the large body of water when she realised things were going wrong with the stricken shuttle.

In the here and now, Kathryn reached her hand out to the puddle in the same way she had done so very many years ago. She recalled how she had been forced to watch from the bank, looking through the window of the craft as they sank, seeing them both die. She had screamed at them as though that very act might have saved them, but it didn't and they had died anyway, and she had been spared to re- live their fate in both sleep and waking hours ever since. `Survivor Guilt', she supposed.

Something was different this time, Kathryn noted as she watched. Justin opened his eyes and looked up at her through the swirling waters: "Not long now, Kathy," he called, as her father looked her way too and smiled - that same half-smile that she herself was known for. She smiled back at them for a while, until the wind ruffled the puddle again and their images vanished.

"B'Elanna? I can't find Kathryn's gift," shouted Annika from their bedroom.

A voice sailed up the stairs from the kitchen, "I put it on the hall chair, by the coatstand honey, it must still be. Jared! would you please stop doing that," complained B'Elanna to her 28 year old son as he brushed past her like a whirlwind. "What's your hurry, kiddo? You don't just walk? Like everyone else?"

Jared answered by halting in his flight, turning to face his mother and kissing her cheek, looking repentant and adorable, as always. His mother gazed into his brilliant blue eyes, fondly wondering how his wife (who he had left back at home for this trip) put up with him as she reached up to brush a wayward lock of auburn hair back into place. She smiled; she could never stay mad at this kid. Now Kathy, she was another matter.

"Well, its not here," B'Elanna's wife shouted from the vicinity of the coatstand, just inside the front door.

"You looking for this?" offered Jared, holding up a brightly coloured package to B'Elanna. "I was taking it to the shuttlecar. Are you three nearly ready?"

"Uh, I think so," answered B'Elanna before heading off to the foot of the stairs. Seeing Annika standing there she said, "It's OK Anni, Jay's got it," then she slid an arm around her wife's waist and stood beside her looking up the stairs. "Kathy? Now!" she called.

"Coming mother," answered the rebel, and actually managed to prove it by appearing at the top of the stairs smiling, looking younger than her 26 years. "I wish Miral were coming too," lamented Kathy as she ran delicately down the stairs.

"I understand. I miss her too," replied Annika," but she insisted on spending this Christmas with her father and his family. We shall see her for New Year."

"Yeah, but Aunt Kathryn might not wait that long."

B'Elanna felt the arm around her waist tighten in response to Kathy's words. At that moment, Jared poked his head around the front door and said, "Don't you worry about Aunt Kathryn - she's too stubborn to die! Shuttlecar's packed, are we going?"

B'Elanna, Jared and Kathy headed for the shuttlecar and Annika stayed behind to lock up. She cast her eyes around the house, checking everything was safe, and then allowed her gaze to rest on a picture of a certain Captain Janeway in uniform, smiling and strong. "See you soon, my friend," she promised to the picture, before she locked up the house and went to join the others.

A sound was happening somewhere in the room, a sound that had mystified Kathryn from day one. It was similar to the sound of water being drawn through a tap, but fading in a controlled and long drawn out way: it happened once every 15 minutes, regularly. Kathryn didn't like to ask what it was, although her curiosity was great. There needed to be one thing to think about here, one problem to focus her mind upon solving.

"Admiral?" Kathryn's cleaner, Cally, paused at the door before entering. She had heard a great deal about this patient, about her courage and tenacity, and she afforded her every respect.

Kathryn turned her head and studied the young girl in the doorway and gave her a crooked grin; Cally was learning that this grin was the old lady's trademark. "Go away," barked the Admiral jovially, as the grin widened.

"Well, OK then," answered Cally brightly, as she entered the room and went about her usual chores.

"Some special people are visiting me today. People I miss; people who may miss me when."

"Friends or family?" asked Cally, cleaning the mirror over the basin.

"A little bit of both really, although we're not related by blood. I used to be their Captain and I still am their friend.

"Captain of a starship, I've heard," continued Cally as she cleaned the sink, "and not just any starship - had to be the one that had the great adventure in the Delta Quadrant. It's thanks to you that we now have trade and friendships built up between Alpha and Delta." The patient snorted a smile at her. "You've had quite a life, haven't you?" Cally paused, "If you ever want to talk about any of it, I'm more than happy to listen."

"That's sweet of you, Cally. Another day, perhaps? I'm rather tired today."

Cally looked over to the Admiral, who had returned her attention to the garden once more. "Of course," she replied. She then plumped up the pillows, tidied some padds lying by the bed and excused herself, saying a quiet goodbye.

Alone again, Kathryn's eyes fed off the garden: life was happening out there, right in front of her eyes. If she just reached out she could almost touch it. As it was, she touched the glass in front of her instead.

`Too much time to think, Kathy; never was good for you. It's a Taurean trait, so they say', she told herself as she tried to think of reading a book, but the garden continued to hold her hostage. Looking out at the grass she contemplated the state of her body - sick, tired and worn out, it frustrated her badly.

`You brought your little ship and its crew home, fighting all the way; you even fought the Borg and survived, but, ahhh, Kathy - you can't fight this.' Of all the people she ever thought would defeat her one day, she never considered it would be her own body that would lay in wait and finish her off. She smiled at the thought. "I succeeded where the Borg Queen failed," she said aloud and laughing, seeing the funny side of it all.

Suddenly tired, she tried to stand and make her way back to her bed but somehow she found herself on the floor, a little confused. Lying there she reached for the alert around her neck and pressed it. `No point in panicking,' she thought, `help's on its way.'

The Hansen-Torres family was just pulling into the shuttleport. "Did you remember the flowers Jay," asked Annika of her son.

"I thought you had that covered," Jared said to his sister, beside him in the back seat. At her shaking head, he looked back to his mother in the front of the shuttlecar and said, "Sorry, I guess they're still in the kitchen, in the bowl."

"There should be somewhere we can get some roses in here," suggested B'Elanna. "Kathryn always liked roses."

B'Elanna went quiet and Annika realised her wife was once again enveloped in her memories. There had been a memorable day aboard Voyager when B'Elanna had called by the Captain's quarters one evening and had been surprised to find the whole place decked in roses. Surprised, she had asked, "Chakotay?"

"Nope - me," replied Kathryn. "I love roses and I'll be hanged if I'm going to wait around until someone shows up who's going to send them to me!"

"Well, good for you."

Annika interrupted B'Elanna's reverie by gently shaking her arm. "Then we'll find her some roses," she told her as they secured the shuttlecar and entered the hospital.

"I'm afraid there's been a decline in Admiral Janeway's condition. We don't expect her to last beyond the next few hours."

"Oh, God," whispered B'Elanna, turning her face away from the male Doctor to look into Annika's eyes, for she knew that in Annika she would find someone to share the incredible pain she was feeling. Her wife connected with all the memories they both held dear and then Seven enveloped B'Elanna in her strong arms as the two women stood, consoling each other. The doctor they had sought out to enquire after Kathryn's current status stood watching them, helplessly.

"You should dry your eyes, Lanna. Kathryn wouldn't want to see you in this state."

"She hates liars," B'Elanna said, in a voice suddenly strong as she lifted her head up from Annika's shoulder, "and I won't cover the way I feel in front of her. Let's go." The children had been standing a little way off, watching their parents and they now moved forwards, at Annika's beckoning, and (the flowers forgotten) the sad group headed off towards Kathryn's room.

"Only two at a time, please," informed a nurse, stretching a protective hand out across the doorway. Kathryn's ex-crew stood back to let their children go in first, although Annika did have to cast an encouraging look towards the slightly apprehensive Kathy.

"What do I say?" questioned the young woman.

B'Elanna answered, "Well, `hello Aunt Kathy' would be a good start, don't you think? Look, I know she's dying, but it's still her. Talk to her - not the illness, huh?"

"OK, mother," said Kathy and (her courage renewed by her mother's words) she took Jared's arm and walked into the room.

"Doctor? Do you have a minute?" Annika asked and, on receipt of a nod, she and B'Elanna followed the Doctor into his nearby office where they were seated and given a glass of water each.

"There's absolutely nothing more that can be done?" questioned Annika, although the question could have come from either of them.

"Nothing, Mrs Hansen-Torres. There is no cure yet for this type of cancer. It's the only side-effect we've ever known to the frequent use of transporters. One in five thousand will get it. I'm so sorry."

"Does your research cover findings from the Delta Quadrant?" asked B'Elanna, suddenly hopeful that there may be another avenue to explore.

"It does indeed. Delta have brought us some amazing medicine and I suspect we have done the same for them, but even our pooled knowledge cannot help Kathryn. Not yet."

"I had to ask," replied B'Elanna smiling wanly.

"Just as someone else did, earlier."

"Who, Doctor?" asked Annika.

"A man named Amal Cotay. He spent a little time with Kathryn this morning and then came in to ask me the same thing you are asking me now. And then there was that Vulcan gentleman yesterday. People certainly care about this woman."

B'Elanna nodded and rose from her seat. "Well, Doctor, you must be a busy man and we won't keep you any longer. Thank you," she said as she stretched out her hand to shake his.

A man who felt very inadequate in his professional capacity sometimes, grasped each of the two women's hand in turn and then watched as the they left the room. `We lose patients in the hospital every day; with all the advancements in medicine, there are still things that escape us,' he thought, but it didn't make him feel any better.

"Hello, Aunt Kathy," said Kathryn's namesake, lightly.

"Hello, darling." The reply startled Kathy. She had never heard her `aunt' sound so weak, and had never seen her look so unresponsive. The smile was trying to surface but the face looked so tired.

Kathy sat on the right side of the bed, Jared on the left, and Kathy immediately picked up Kathryn's hand and cradled it in hers. They remained silent for a few moments, Kathy worried by the laboured breathing she heard coming from the woman on the bed.

Kathryn became aware that she had visitors again, after drifting a little, and she rallied her strength to speak to (what she still called) the children. "Kathy, you were always so like me, the daughter I never had. Be strong, my darling and know that if you want to get somewhere in life, it's sometimes necessary to fight back. It's OK to be a rebel! I always was. Just make sure your principles are sound."

Looking at someone she knew she was going to miss for the rest of her life, Kathy said, "I'll remember. I've had a good teacher." Then she added, "I love you." It didn't seem enough, but it was acknowledged by a smile.

"You're very quiet," Kathryn said with difficulty to Jared. "Not like you, Jay."

"You know I'm not coping with this, don't you."

With all her weakness, Kathryn laughed, "Ha! Direct as ever; I guess you get that from both of your mothers; they both have it in them."

Self-consciously, Jared leant forward and kissed his `aunt', a tear falling silently on her cheek as he withdrew. "I have to go."

"I know."

Turning at the door to look back over at Kathryn, he said, "Goodbye, Aunt Kathy," obviously for the last time and, as the emotion overcame him, he turned and left.

"Tell Cheryl to look after him, Kathy; she's a good wife to him," said Kathryn slowly. Now, be a sweetheart and go get your mothers' will you?"

Kathy took her cue to leave and kissed Kathryn's forehead. She fooled herself into believing that she could always call back in quickly before they all left. Leaving the room, she turned right to walk up the corridor, grateful this wasn't her first visit and that she knew her way around. Entering the waiting room, she was surprised to find only her mothers and no sign of Jared.

"Where's Jay?" asked B'Elanna, looking up when she heard Kathy.

"I thought he'd be here. He was pretty upset. I guess we'll see him at the shuttlecar later. She's asking for you, both of you."

Annika got to her feet. "Will you wait here?" she asked of her daughter, who nodded and then sat. "B'Elanna?" she prompted, as her wife remained sitting, looking at the door as though it was a difficult object that she would prefer not to attempt to go through. "Come on," Annika said soothingly as she reached down and helped B'Elanna to her feet. "Let's not keep the Admiral waiting."

"You two took your time," growled Kathryn slowly and with obvious difficulty, although a smile flickered in the background.

"I told you we shouldn't keep her waiting," reminded Annika, smiling at B'Elanna before she approached Kathryn. Leaning down, she kissed her friend and then settled down beside her in Kathy's old seat.

B'Elanna came up to the bed more slowly and sat on the left, where Jared had been. She looked at her friend, who turned to gaze back. "You know," B'Elanna said, "I look at you and, these days, I can't recall a time when I didn't know you. It just seems like you've always been there;" a tear fell down her right cheek, "and somehow I thought you always would be." B'Elanna took Kathryn's right hand gently and held on.

"Doesn't matter how hard you hold on now, this shuttle's leaving kiddo. Nothing I can do about it." Kathryn managed a tired smile at such a dear friend.

"You've never been known for doing what you're told. Why should you listen now?"

"Oh, this one's," Kathryn breathed in deeply, "bigger than me."

"Then you must comply, Kathryn."

The Admiral looked over towards her other friend, delighted to see the famous eyebrow arched high above her left eye and a smile upon her face. It had seemed strange at first to see Annika without her Borg eyebrow and other metallic accompaniments, but it hadn't taken long to get used to it. "Comply? Yes. I guess I must," agreed Kathryn, who suddenly looked puzzled. "Seven?" she asked.

"Yes, Captain," replied Annika, keeping in the timeframe the Admiral had gone back to.

"You should really try to get on with B'Elanna," said 'The Captain' slowly. "Oh, I know you've had your difficulties, but I think you'll really like her once you get to know her. She's a wonderful person, and so are you. Try? For me?"

"I'll try, Captain," said Annika, fighting to keep her voice even.

Suddenly the Admiral stirred in the bed, and pulled her head off the pillow, looking straight down the bed towards the end of the room. B'Elanna and Annika watched as their friend's eyes lit up and appeared to recognise someone; they both turned around to see who had joined them but, apart from the three of them, the room was empty. When they turned back, Kathryn's head was lying on the pillow and a smile as wide as a new moon was on her lips; her face was still and her eyes had a strange quality to them. Then they heard the unmistakable sound and the both knew she was gone.

For several minutes, B'Elanna cried over Kathryn's right arm, neither trying to stop or come away. Throughout, Annika remained upright, gently stroking the back of the Admiral's hand with her thumb, an occasional tear escaping.

At length, B'Elanna looked up at Annika. "We forgot to give her the gift."

"I don't think so, " said Annika gently, looking back at Kathryn's peaceful features. "We gave her a near-lifetime's friendship; gave her three children to love and coo over as though they were her own; made her a godmother to her namesake, and were present to witness her greatest adventure yet. That's the gift we had for you, Admiral," she said, still looking at Kathryn's face.

Annika stood and leaned down to stroke her friend's hair and then pulled her index finger and thumb over her eyes, to close them. She then kissed Kathryn for the last time and walked to the end of the bed, turning to wait for B'Elanna.

B'Elanna kissed Kathryn's hand, and then held it to her, resting her cheek against it while she stared into the face she had known for so long. "You were right, I couldn't hold on. Goodbye old friend," she said at length, lifting her head to look at Kathryn one last time. "Oh, and by the way, I love you. And that'll never change, whether you're with me or not." She gently returned the hand to the bed and joined Annika at the doorway, to look back one last time.

Cheryl looked triumphantly up at Jared, shining and smiling at him in a way he had never seen from her before. But then, she had never given birth before, either. "She's perfect, Jay, sleepy and perfect," she said, raising her eyebrows and cocking her head in the direction of the space beside her."

Jared sat on the bed beside his slim, auburn-haired wife, and pulled the baby blanket away from his little daughter's head. She had a little tiny thatch of red hair right in the middle of her head and, when she opened her eyes to look at her father for the first time, her eyes were blue - but then he knew that all babies began with blue eyes, at least according to the `old wives'. "I'd like to continue in what's becoming a family tradition, if that's all right with you," Jared asked of his wife. "I'd like to call her Kathryn."

"Hmmmn. Kathryn Annabel?"

Jared thought for a moment and then smiled widely. "Kathryn Annabel," he agreed. He touched his little daughter's hand and she reached around and gripped his finger, holding on strongly. "Hello, Kathryn Annabel," he greeted. "I wonder what your future holds?"

B'Elanna and Annika watched the scene from outside the doorway leaning in, not wanting to intrude on what was essentially Jay's and Cheryl's moment. Annika reached sideways and found her wife's hand and, still staring at their family's latest addition, she whispered: "Kathryn Annabel - she would have liked that."

The End

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