It's not surprising when Beverly Crusher turns up at her door. Kathryn's been halfway expecting this meeting since the moment she destroyed the Array and sealed her ship's fate. Sealed Beverly's fate.
No, that's not the surprise. The surprise is that she's carrying a bottle of wine.
Kathryn looks at the bottle. "I'm sorry, Doctor, but I'm not feeling much cause for celebration."
"Good," Beverly says, sweeping into the room, the scent of her shampoo faint but pleasant as she brushes past Kathryn's shoulder. "I wasn't planning on celebrating much of anything."
She's waiting when Kathryn turns around and steps away from the sensor, letting the door slide shut behind them. Calling herself confused is putting it mildly and Kathryn' suspects there must be some non-verbal clue she's missing that would explain it all. The suspicion brings a moment of debate as to whether or not she should ask when Beverly takes the question entirely off the table.
"It's been my experience the more a captain cares about their crew, the less likely they are to interact with said crew." Beverly hefts the bottle. "Seven years of that was enough for one lifetime, so this time I intend on nipping that particular trait in the bud."
Kathryn laughs. She can guess precisely who Beverly is referring to, even if Beverly is disinclined to put a name to him. "Planning to be with us for a while, Doctor?" She doesn't need the sadness in Beverly's eyes to realize how much bitterness had crept into the words.
She sighs, shaking her head. "My apologies, Doctor," she says, going in search of glasses. "I seem to be indulging my maudlin side tonight."
"Considering the decisions you've been forced to make as of late, I don't think the crew would blame you anymore than I do," Beverly hesitates, then with reluctance in her voice adds, "Most of them at least."
"I think you're being generous in your estimate, Doctor." Kathryn gives up on the search and replicates some instead. They'll need to institute replicator rationing along with a host of other limitations--energy will be at a premium before long and Science will need to start looking for possible alternate sources.
Voyager isn't equipped for this sort of long term mission.
"I don't think I am," Beverly says. "They miss their families, yes, but missing hearth and home does not translate into blaming their commanding officer."
Kathryn smiles, plucking the glasses from the replicator. "You're being remarkably forgiving about the whole situation."
Making a noncommittal noise, Beverly sits down. "I've been in worse."
"Including the Delta Quadrant as I recall," Kathryn says, sitting across from her.
"Briefly," Beverly nods. "Nothing that would be of any use to you now."
"No, but I seem to be in the market for a Chief Medical Officer," Kathryn says. "Think you might be willing to do something about that?"
"Well, with my experiment shot to hell, I do seem to have time on my hands," Beverly says. "I think I could be persuaded. Though there is the small matter of a staff." She makes a face, then grins. "I don't suppose someone in Engineering has any experience reprogramming medical holograms?"
Kathryn chuckles. "Yes, his bedside manner does leave a lot to be desired. I'll put it on the list, but I'll warn you, it may take a while." She looks at the wine. "And we may need more of that. What vintage did you replicate by the way?"
"I didn't. This was a going away present from Jean-Luc," she says with a small, fond smile. "He worries about me taking time for myself." She presents the bottle and her eyes light with laughter. "He prescribed a glass and a good book every evening to finish out my day. Didn't want me overworking myself."
Kathryn's had limited dealings with Jean-Luc Picard and can't imagine the austere Frenchman as the mother hen Beverly's tone implies, but she can believe it. Such are the intimate secrets a decade old friendship brings; there are, after all, more than a few things about Tuvok that would astonish her crew were she to reveal them.
She can believe it.
"Good advice," she says, taking the bottle. "Chateau Picard, mm?"
"I'm told it was an excellent vintage." Beverly looks around. "Do you have a corkscrew?"
Kathryn sighs and stands. "At this rate, I'll be running out of replicator rations by lunch and I haven't even implemented them yet."
"I'll lend you some of mine," Beverly promises. "As long as you promise to bump the priority on the EMH's reprogramming."
Kathryn grins, going to the replicator again. "Perhaps we should just program you a whole department."
"I've been thinking about poaching from Science," Beverly replies. "From my understanding, Lieutenant Paris is the only member of the crew with any medical training and you'll be needing him on the bridge." She 's smiling when Kathryn turns around, the kind of devious grin that promises trouble down the line.
Kathryn's looking forward to the payoff. "Taking liberties already, Doctor?"
"Well, Medical does enjoy a certain level of independence from the Command structure," Beverly picks up a glass as Kathryn works at uncorking the wine. It's easier said than done and she nearly loses her grip on the bottle more than once before finally working it free. "I'm merely taking advantage of that."
"I suppose I should get used to that," Kathryn fills both glasses and sits again. She sighs heavily, staring past Beverly as the enormity of the situation settles onto her shoulders once more. "I suppose I should get used to a lot of things."
"But seventy-five years isn't one of them." Beverly raises her glass. "To shameless shortcuts and captains that are creative enough and determined enough to find them."
Kathryn looks at the glass in her hand, then forces a smile. "And doctors who come through in a pinch."
It's coffee the next time. Of course, being it's Kathryn at Beverly's door, it had to be coffee and Kathryn's woman enough to admit it. Or she would be if Beverly hadn't smiled when the door slid open.
But smile she does, albeit a dimmer version than her usual, and Kathryn just presents one of her mugs. "You missed dinner. Neelix is beside himself with worry."
"That's because I'm the only person aboard who likes that damn stew of his," Beverly says, and her voice is thick, stuffy with unshed tears, but she's still smiling and Kathryn decides to take that as a good sign. "Come in."
"Thank you." Kathryn takes a fortifying sip of her own coffee, almost humming with pleasure as she does so, before following instruction and stepping into the room. "I can understand how you eat it, but how you enjoy it is utterly beyond me, Beverly."
"So is your relationship with this stuff," Beverly brandishes her mug. "It's just coffee."
"Careful, Doctor," Kathryn warns, holding up a hand. "That's dangerously close to blasphemy on this ship."
Beverly shakes her head. She settles on the sofa, her body angled toward Kathryn, and nods at the empty space beside her. "Thank you."
Taking seat, Kathryn plays at innocent. It's worth it for the way Beverly smiles into her mug. "Hmm? Well, it was either bring you coffee or let Neelix invade with militant cheer and a bucket of Leola root."
Beverly shudders. "The soup I can handle, but I like my morale right where it is at the moment."
"It's his birthday, isn't it?" Kathryn asks. The first time this happened, they'd only been in the Delta Quadrant a few months. They'd been dodging Kazon at every turn and her evening conversations with her chief medical officer had been relegated to intraship messages dashed off on the run. She'd missed dinner and, therefore, hadn't noticed Beverly's absence until a worried Neelix had tracked her down a day later.
She's prepared this year, had known it was coming, and Beverly hadn't been able to disappear quite so easily.
Beverly nods. "Yes." She brings her legs up, wrapping her arms around them and resting the mug atop one knee. "It's ironic, really. He spent some time traveling with an alien" It's a mild way of putting it, but Kathryn doesn't call her on it. She's read the reports on the Traveler and she's not sure she could put it into words either. "I was so worried while he was gone, nut now I'm the one out here and if he hadn't come home--"
"You might be able to see him," Kathryn finishes. She puts her mug aside and edges a little closer to Beverly. "I'm sorry. I can't imagine how difficult this must be for you." It's one of the things that keeps her awake at night. She misses Mark, but she's had time to look at that relationship and come to terms. Mark is gone and, in truth, would have been with or without the Delta Quadrant, but Wesley is Beverly's son. Beverly, Tuvok, Joe Carey--she thinks of all of them and, each time, makes her promise to get them home anew.
She doesn't say that now. She won't. This is Beverly's wound and Beverly's pain and she won't make either one about her. It certainly isn't why she's here. She reaches out to curl her fingers around Beverly's, holding tight in the silence as she promises yet again.
Beverly's shoulders shake a little, but she doesn't make a sound. Kathryn leans forward, pressing her forehead against Beverly's and draws both of Beverly's hands into her lap.
It's all she intends to do, but somehow she ends up reclining against the sofa with Beverly wrapped in an embrace. Hot tears land on her neck and Kathryn says nothing about it.
She just lets Beverly cry.
Kathryn can't help the way her eyebrows rise with the word. She's surprised. Not by Beverly turning up at her door, that's an every day occurrence, but by the squat brown bottles in her hands.
"I didn't think you drank the stuff," she adds, realizing she's still standing in the entrance to her quarters, keeping the door open and Beverly in the hall. Her cheeks heat as she backs up to let Beverly in. "You've never mentioned it before."
"And I haven't now." Beverly passes one of the bottles to her. "This is not here and we are not drinking it."
Understanding dawns and Kathryn raises the bottle for closer inspection. "This isn't--"
"Well, it's not precisely engine room hooch," Beverly says, eyes lighting with mischief, "but it is a Voyager vintage." She raises the bottle in a jaunty toast. "And no I won't tell you who it is. Doctor-patient confidentiality forbids it."
"Do I want to know how your oath came into it?"
"The first attempts did have unfortunate results," Beverly shrugs, twisting off the cap. "I offered a few suggestions to ensure no one ended up killing themselves or one of their friends." She puts the bottle to her lips and takes a generous sip, licking her lower lip to catch stray drops.
It's damned distracting and Kathryn realizes she's staring. She shakes her head and makes herself look at the bottle. "Engine room hooch. You realize I should launch an investigation immediately."
"But you're not going to."
"And I'm not going to because?"
Beverly offers her own bottle and Kathryn takes it without question. "Because."
Because. Because Beverly's watching her with warm, heavy-lidded eyes that are pleased in a way that has nothing to do with alcohol and Kathryn can't help but drink deeply.
It's raw, kicking like a mule, but warm beneath it all and it spreads down through her like a liquid fire. "Oh," she says, handing the bottle back. "That is excellent." She looks at her own bottle. "I can't be bribed, of course."
"Of course," Beverly agrees, smiling. "Which is why I'm not here and I'm certainly not sharing this with you."
"Capital thinking, Doctor Crusher," Kathryn says. She loosens her hair, shaking it out, and then sits down to kick off her boots. "And since you aren't here plying me with good liquor I'm not going to ask why you came."
Beverly sits and does the same. "Chakotay was worried about you."
"He told you about the letter from Mark."
"Yes, he seemed to think I should know and was surprised when I didn't." Beverly puts her bottle on the coffee table and then looks at her. "So was I."
"I didn't know how to tell you," Kathryn says, soft. "A Dear John letter transmitted over thousands of light years--it seemed so ridiculous." And then so ridiculously convenient. "I didn't know what to do with it." Her first instinct had been to run to Beverly and not to seek the comfort of the broken-hearted.
Far from it. Her heart hasn't been broken for quite some time.
Even knowing Mark is happy with someone else doesn't stop the guilt. Not when she's been waiting for something like this--waiting for permission.
They both have been.
They laugh and Kathryn reaches for her bottle. "You may need to contact your source for more of this. I'm not nearly drunk enough for this conversation."
"Neither am I," Beverly says, taking her bottle out of Kathryn's hand. "Let's do something about that, shall we?"
"This isn't talking," Kathryn says, sometime later when her hair is a wreck and her lips swollen from Beverly's kisses.
"But it is intoxicating, isn't it?" Beverly lays kisses along Kathryn's jaw, pausing to murmur, "We'll talk later—when you've forgotten about feeling guilty for falling in love with me."
She sounds so smug about it that Kathryn can't stop her laughter. "Confident, aren't we, Doctor?"
"Taking certain liberties, Captain," Beverly returns, pressing Kathryn back into the sofa and smiling wide. "I seem to remember you liking that about me."
Kathryn pulls Beverly to her for another kiss. "I certainly have no complaints."
It's coffee again the next time; if only because Kathryn Janeway before her morning cup is as hospitable as a Klingon targ.
To be fair, the same can be said of Beverly.