Happy birthday, Opal, with much love.
Betaed by the talented and generous Gates Hepburn. All mistakes, clearly, are mine.
"There's something on your mind." Beverly settled in comfortably on the sofa, legs tucked under, and patted the space beside her with a leisurely tap of her fingers.
Candlelight had a way of making her hair appear redder; something Kathryn had never been able to figure out. She always expected the gold to be more evident in the yellowish light.
Letting the invitation go unnoticed for the moment, Kathryn moved to the replicator to refill their wine. She shook her head in an effort to force away the unease. "I'm all right."
Beverly's eyebrow shot up. "I don't believe I implied anything different." Her tone was gentle and teasing. Confronting Kathryn directly caused her to dig her heels in, even when she didn't want to, hadn't planned to, and it made no sense. It was almost a reflex.
"Let's try it this way. You were quiet during dinner." She raised her hand to stave off Kathryn's protest. "You were good company, and I know you enjoyed it. I'm not saying that."
Shedding light on one of Kathryn's tells was always a debatable choice. Although she was learning to be more direct about her needs and wants, there were still times when she retreated into silence, and body language was Beverly's best friend.
"You're chattier when you're genuinely happy." If she wanted Kathryn to be open and honest, it had to work both ways. "You were a bit subdued, that's all."
"I don't know what's wrong."
It felt good to say the words and the rush of relief reminded her why it was useless to keep things from Beverly.
Standing alone, staring at the wine in her hand, wasn't helpful. She crossed the room and settled into her spot.
Unconsciously, Kathryn wiggled a little into the sofa, getting comfortable, as she did every time. It was incredibly sweet, something Beverly had never mentioned and never would. She waited patiently for Kathryn to elaborate.
"I just feel...I don't know. Restless? It's silly. I have everything I've ever wanted." Kathryn smiled and the love that suffused her body as she looked at the woman beside her took her breath away for a second. "I'm not complaining."
"I know." Tilting her head, Beverly studied Kathryn's wrinkled brow. "It's your birthday though. You might be entitled to complain?" She took a sip of wine and savoured it in her mouth for a moment.
"I'm not." About this, Kathryn was emphatic. "It was wonderful. You, tonight; it was so romantic and such a lovely surprise. I really thought we were done with the celebrating." While it was good to be loved, it was exhausting to be fêted. Only Beverly would understand how welcome and wonderful a quiet dinner alone together was.
Kathryn continued her list, her waving free hand another indication of her distress. "My mom and the party yesterday, seeing everybody, Phoebe and her family, Mark and Carla, Tom and B'Elanna, Seven, all the crew, even Chakotay."
Beverly nodded, smiling. Gretchen had planned the surprise and they'd pulled it off. Kathryn had had no idea. "He loves you."
"He does. He's an incredible friend, and a good man. He's ridiculously happy for us."
It was true. Chakotay had been genuinely delighted, if a little shocked, when she'd ended up with Beverly. In his usual thoughtful manner, he'd spent some time sitting with the idea, then come back to Kathryn to give his blessing and express his understanding. In some ways he and Beverly were very much alike.
"I have everything I want." The plaintive note in her own voice made Kathryn frown.
"Do you though?" Beverly stroked her hand, entwining their fingers then freeing them to play hers against Kathryn's palm. "If there's something more, something missing?"
"No. No." Kathryn stiffened. To have her think that was horrifying. "This is-- You're--" She shook her head quickly.
"Okay. It's all right." Beverly took her hands and squeezed, waiting for Kathryn to look at her. "I wasn't thinking there was a problem with us." She brushed the hair from Kathryn's forehead and stroked her hand down the back of Kathryn's neck.
To her surprise, Kathryn leaned forward and buried her face in Beverly's shoulder. "I keep thinking about what you said."
"What I said?" Beverly's hands rubbed lightly on Kathryn's shoulders, registering the telltale tension, and her mind ran quickly over the last few hours. "What did I say?"
"Last night. At the party. About Wesley." Kathryn chided herself but she didn't raise her head. The subtle scent of Beverly's shampoo wove a soothing web.
Beverly had to search. "About his being gone so much?" That had been the most significant and emotional part of the conversation with Tuvok and Samantha Wildman. When to hold on and when to let go - they were issues that bonded parents no matter the species.
Kathryn shook her head and paused. "About how being a mother brings a meaning to your life that you don't think would otherwise be there."
Beverly knew she was a few steps behind. She pondered for a moment, smoothing a hand lazily down Kathryn's spine then back up, stroking under the material of her top against the smooth, cool skin of her back.
"That's me though, and I meant that I think I would have missed out on something if I hadn't had him." Was Kathryn feeling threatened somehow? "There's plenty of meaning in the other areas of my life. I wasn't- oh."
Amazed, she freed her hand from beneath Kathryn's shirt and pushed steadily against her shoulders, gently forcing eye contact. When she had her, Beverly grinned. "My Kathryn, are you thinking about babies?"
"No. No." Kathryn shrugged.
"Maybe. I don't know."
She sighed in frustration. "Yes."
Surprise danced across the back of her neck, and Beverly chuckled with delight in spite of herself. She didn't want to be insensitive to Kathryn's struggle, but...
"Really? But why is that a hard thing to face? I don't understand. It's not something we've talked about, true, but it's, well, wonderful actually."
"It's too soon." Kathryn smiled sheepishly and brushed a piece of Beverly's hair from her eyes, loving her even more for understanding. "We've only been married six months."
"We've been together, committed, in love for much longer than that," Beverly pointed out.
Kathryn squirmed. Vulnerable was a state she didn't do well. She liked being on solid ground before she talked.
It didn't matter with Beverly, she reminded herself.
"I didn't know...we never said. You've been down this path already. I didn't think it mattered to me. It's sudden, I know. But it won't go away." Kathryn's voice was quieter at the end.
It was scary, saying it out loud, but thrilling. Here was one of the best things about being with Beverly - for the first time in her life, Kathryn didn't have to have all the answers. Sometimes she didn't even know the questions. Beverly didn't care.
Kathryn stayed in Beverly's arms, cuddled against her, relaxing a little. "I'm away a lot."
"You're very busy as well. Our careers..."
"But it's not an either-or decision."
"No." Kathryn held one of Beverly's hands in hers, playing idly with her fingers, a gesture both of anxiety and comfort.
"How would we...?" Beverly was curious.
Kathryn blushed. "I thought Chakotay might help us. Or maybe Jean-Luc? We'd have to talk about it."
"There's something else." She pulled away and took a long swig of her wine.
"I thought there was." Beverly nodded seriously, keeping her face composed. It wasn't easy; Kathryn was adorable when she was like this and her own stomach was fluttery. Kathryn was thinking about babies.
"You're going to make me say it, aren't you?" A bit of a growl.
"I am," Beverly agreed.
"I might want to carry it myself." It felt like an enormous admission. Maybe it was. Kathryn's sigh released more tension than she'd known she was carrying.
Beverly's smile was wide. "This hypothetical baby that we won't be having, you mean?"
She had the grace to blush. "Right, yes. If you don't mind..."
"I loved being pregnant." Her fingers slid unconsciously across her abdomen. "I loved it enough that I'd like to see you have the opportunity, if it's something that interests you." The idea of Kathryn carrying a child for them made her throat ache unexpectedly and Beverly was suddenly quiet, contemplating the picture that made.
"I think it does." Were they really discussing this, seriously discussing it?
Was it so odd if they were? Kathryn settled in beside her again and took advantage of the silence to consider it. Having blurted it all out, the fear was lessening and a baby was slowly seeming less impossible.
With Beverly there was none of the guilt or confusion that had plagued her feelings for other people. They fit in a way that was secure and comfortable but fun and exciting.
Thinking about what they'd created together made her happy. Their shared love of science and research meant her mind was always stimulated. The tenderness and passion that had been between them from the beginning meant her body was generally thrumming with desire or basking in satisfaction. It was the most connected she'd ever been to another person, and to her surprise, the most herself she'd ever been as well.
For the longest time it felt too good to be true, and she'd fought it on those grounds alone. Now she accepted it more gracefully, and woke up every day with a sense of anticipation.
It was a foundation that would welcome and nurture a child.
"It's not so strange." She voiced the last part of her thoughts out loud.
"No." Beverly ran her fingers lightly along Kathryn's neck, watching her work it through. "It's not just pregnancy though, or even a baby. It's almost twenty years of your life where you'll consider someone else's needs, every time you want to do something."
She smiled warmly. "Not that you don't do that with me already, but it's different. They break your heart, over and over. Even once they're grown, you never stop looking out for them, wanting the best for them. I remember reading somewhere that to have a child was to decide you'd go through the rest of your life with your heart walking around outside your body. I think that's an excellent description."
It was impossible to fully prepare another person but she wanted to be as fair and honest as she could. But even her caution couldn't still the waves of excitement that tripped up and down her spine.
Kathryn had virtually erased the loneliness that Beverly had long accepted as a stable feature of her life. They'd understood each other from the beginning and formed a fast friendship, the depth of which had surprised them both.
When over time it became clear there was more between them than that, Beverly hadn't been nearly as surprised as the people around her, which was odd. She'd always thought she could never be with a woman, and had made decisions based on that belief, but she'd fallen so deeply and fully in love with Kathryn's spirit that the connection to her body was as exciting and engaging as anything she'd ever had with a man.
That was the key, really, the connection. It was a relationship that was more than strong enough to support a child.
Kathryn interrupted her reverie, drawing her back to the present.
"That's me," she said shyly. "What about you? What do you think? It's your decision as well and I want us to make it together." That was how they did things.
Beverly paused for a moment, remembering. Kathryn was right. It wasn't something to take lightly. She pulled away from her excitement and forced herself to consider the issue rationally.
"I wanted more children, very much, but there was always a good reason to wait." She raised her shoulders slowly. "Or so I believed. I thought I was waiting for the never-ending grief to go away, then I thought I was waiting for Wes to get a little older, or my career to be more established, or to accomplish more of my personal goals..." Beverly drifted off.
Curiosity pulled Kathryn from her own struggle. "Now what do you think?"
Stroking her cheek with gentle fingers, Beverly leaned in and kissed the mouth she loved, softly, then with more depth. Kathryn's fingers tangled in her hair, urging her on until they were breathless.
She broke away with a shuddery sigh, wondering yet again how she'd gotten so lucky. Resting her forehead against Kathryn's, she blinked back the tears of happiness that threatened.
"Now I think I was waiting for you."